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FHM January 2000 Issue - letters page

For the Christmas office outing, our boss is taking myself and a couple of colleagues for a night at a local cigar club. Unfortunately, other than teenage experimentation with a café creme, I am completely clueless about the whole cheroot-puffing experience. My attempts usually end in me embarrassingly coughing up a lung, or sporting a ludicrous squint and grimace a la Hannibal from the A-Team. How can I get through this evening without looking like a complete amateur?
Bryan Reeves, Chelmsford, Essex

Kenneth Harry Putt answers:
Young men starting on cigars are easily misled; indeed, I've played japes on a few myself. Seasoned smokers will sometimes dump a huge cigar on new recruits, knowing that it'll either take two hours to smoke or they'll be spewing their ring within minutes. There is technique to cigar smoking so you don't look a fool. Of course, French noblemen in the eighteenth century had the right idea - their lady partners would prepare their cigars for them. Courtesans were trained to test the cigar was soft and pliable, and would cut and light it for their man. Best of all they would moisten the cigar by placing as much of its length as possible into their mouths, and gently licking it - rather like a more chaste version of Monica Lewinsky's modern-day technique. However, if your girlfriend is unwilling to learn this, follow these steps...

Selecting a cigar
The amateur should start with a small cigar - the very respectable Petit Corona comes highly recommended. And at around £6, it's also cheaper than the top Havana cigar, a Cohiba Esplendidos: a cool £25 a pop, and probably double that in a bar.
Making a clean break
Biting off the end doesn't work - the cigar's cap, the eighth of an inch where the leaves twist together, should be sliced straight with a guillotine cutter. If the centre is pierced, the heat and oils will be focused down the filler, and the draw will be very poor.
The cigar's three parts
The outer "skin" is called the wrapper, traditionally the most flavourful leaf: folklore has it the best cigars were rolled on young Cuban virgins damp thighs. Next down is the binder, a lower quality of leaf, then the filler - all the bits and crap.
Lighting
Don't dip the end in your brandy, like in films - it'll just taste of brandy. Instead, use a large cooking match or odourless butane lighter, ensuring the whole of the foot of the cigar is alight or it will burn unevenly. The fatter the cigar, the longer this will take.
Grip
Hold the cigar lightly between the index finger and your middle finger. Clamping it in the mouth while talking can be difficult, but it's easier with a cigar holder. Without regular draws, your cigar will go out - in which case knock off the ash and relight.
Smoking
Don't inhale the smoke - the pleasure is in tasting the composition of tobacco flavours in the mouth for a couple of seconds. Don't knock the ash off like a cigarette, but allow it to fall. It should be white, with its evenness showing how well the Havana was rolled.
Sit back and enjoy
Take with a glass of brandy or port, and don't blow smoke rings - it's a pompous Hollywood flippancy. Finally, the band - which traditionally protects the gentleman's gloves - should only be removed after the cigar has warmed, so the leaves don't tear.

FHM March 2000 Issue - letters page

Dear Bon Viveur Dad,
To amuse myself in my dotage - and also indulge my private fantasy that I'll one day be a country gent - I've decided I'm going to start my own wine cellar. But I don't have the first clue, and I'm convinced it's not just a question of buying some Bulgarian plonk and keeping it under your bed. For instance, which wines are going to go vinegary over the years, and which are going to mature into something that tastes superb and is hopefully worth something? And can you keep the bottles in the cupboard under the sink, or do you need an atmosphere-regulated rack in a cobweb-filled cellar?
E J McNae, Edinburgh

Kenneth Harry Putt replies...
While many pretenders store a little claret or lay down a pipe of port for future generations, you should be aware that investment is the worst motivation for starting a cellar. Only rare and expensive wines - certain red and white Bordeaux, or the odd Burgundy - are likely to increase in value. Instead, the benefits are almost exclusively in taste, as the wine's "primary" flavours develop. The tannins in red wines soften, releasing the fruit and flavour subtleties; in white wines, the acidity softens and integrates. The most important consideration in deciding which wines to lay down is how is delicious and well-made they are in the first place. Supermarket wines barely have time to settle down after bottling, so potentially interesting flavours never have a chance to emerge. Badly made or inexpensive wines - some Bulgarians spring to mind - do not improve in the bottle and go vinegary. In terms of storage, today's central heating makes houses far too warm to keep wine successfully. If, like me, you don't have a cellar, you might consider leaving them in the garden shed. Alternatively, many wine merchants offer to store bottles for a small charge. However, never forget the bottle and corkscrew you should keep under the bed - for seduction emergencies... The following vinos are all good to be laid down - all supplied by top wine merchant Morris & Verdin (0171 357 8866)...

WHITES

Riesling Muenchberg 1996, Ostertag Grand Cru
Made with the Grand Cru (best grape), this dry, citrus French vintage is perfect with duck.
Price: £18

Winninger Uhlem Riesling 1998, Lowenstein
Picked late, this dry German vintage has a strong aromas and an exotic flavour - best left to 2015 for full effect.
Price: £19.80

Chardonnay "Le Bouge" 1997, Au Bon Climat
From the Bien Nacido Vineyard in California, this slightly acid wine is best laid down for 2-4 years.
Price: £19.90

Pouilly Fuisse "Terroir de Vergisson" 1997, Merlin
One of the best burgundies, its acid taste coming from a blend of young and old French vines.
Price: £18

REDS

"Woolshed" Merlot/Cabernet 1998, Gunn Estate
Tasting of both cherries and vanilla, this is one of the best reds from the emerging New Zealand vineyards.
Price: £11.50

Syrah Reserve 1997, Bien Nacido Vineyard
All the way from Santa Barbara, California, this extremely fruity wine is probably the best wine for laying down.
Price: £18

Saumur Champigny Cuvee Lisagarthe 1996
Straight from the Loire in France, this deep black-purple wine has an oaky flavour which perfects after a few years.
Price: £13

Copyright FHM 2000

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