The fun thing about this method of infusing cigars with rum under heat and pressure is that it violates just about every cigar purist's rule of keeping cigars, which are:
- Always keep cigars at exactly the proper humidity of 70%
- Always keep cigars at the precise temperature of 70 degrees F (21.1 degrees C)
- Expensive cigars are always better than cheap cigars, so buy the most expensive cigars you can afford
Let's get to it, shall we?
Step 1: What You Will Need
- 50 to 80 cheap cigars
- 750ml bottle of cheap 151-proof rum
- 2 large cookie sheets
- 1-gallon ZipLock bags (quantity as needed) or clean ammo box with good seals
- Gas oven with pilot light OR suitable hot box OR proofing box
There are lots of places to buy cheap cigars. The place I use is an online cigar place. I don't want to mention the name which as a "J" and an "R" and the word "cigars" in the web site name, but you can probably find a suitable vendor. I have bought from my source many many times and the product is always great.
The particular cigars I will be using this time are "Presidents" 7.12 x 44 cigars. The numbers mean that the cigar is 7.12 inches long and has a cigar ring size of 44. These are nice long-burning 2-hour campfire cigars with a very dark rich "maduro" wrapper. You can chop them in half for shorter smokes or to share with people who just want to try one out. I pay $49.95 for 50 cigars including shipping. That's about $1 each. You can find them at the place I buy them from if you Google "RBPR3 cigar" without the quotes.
Cheap 151-Proof Rum
Get yourself a bottle of the cheapest 151-proof rum you can find. I don't want to mention store names, but I get my cheap 151 rum at the very popular chain beverage company that sells beverages and more. They carry a brand called "Potter's Brand" which is a generic or house brand 151-proof rum for about $12 for a 750 ml bottle. They have light and dark, but it doesn't matter which one you choose even though I usually choose the dark. Don't use the popular brand of rum for this recipe because it is too expensive and you won't get to drink it anyway. For 50 to 80 cigars, I use a full 750ml bottle of rum.
We have two large cookie sheets that are made of heavy aluminum with rolled edges. I think they are from a restaurant supply house. These are what you will roll your cigars around in to soak up all the rum, so they need to be sturdy. If you don't have these, you can find another way to evenly saturate the cigars later on.
1-Gallon ZipLock Bags
You will need 1 bag for every 10 cigars. You can also use an ammo box, but it must be clean and have good seals. I think plastic bags are easier.
Gas Oven with Pilot Light OR Suitable Hot Box OR Proofing Box
At a previous house we lived in, we had a beautiful iconic old O'Keefe & Merritt stove that was made in 1949, and it had enormous pilot light flames inside the ovens. I used this oven to cook my cigars until we moved and had to leave it behind. The pilot lights kept the temperature of the ovens at right around 130 degrees F (54.4 degrees C). Our stove had two ovens, so when would make cigars, I would put a piece of tape over the oven knob so someone didn't accidentally turn on the oven and burn my cigars or cause the ammo can to explode from the pressure, and ruin the cigars.
Now I use a proofing box that I made with a foam ice chest cooler, a dimmer switch, and a light bulb, a small wall wart and computer fan, and a cheap $2.90 metric-only digital thermometer from Deal Extreme. If you have an electric oven or a gas oven with electronic ignition, your oven won't work because there's no pilot light, so you may need to rig up a hot box or bread proofing box with an incandescent light bulb and a dimmer light switch, but I'll leave that build up to you. You can check out the pictures of my proofing box.
Step 2: Peel the Cigars
Carefully remove the cellophane wrappers and bands from each cigar if they are so equipped.
I make my own bands, which I will show you later in this Instructable, but you may want to save the bands to put back on later. The problem with leaving the bands on is that the alcohol in the run makes the dye run. I just take them off.
I used to have my kids peel the cigars, and I'd give them a fresh cigar and a new pack of matches for their trouble. But now that the kids are no longer in elementary school, they are busy with their friends and stuff and they have no time to smoke cigars...so now I have to peel the cigars myself.
Step 3: Place the Cigars Into the Cookie Sheets
Lay the peeled cigars into the cookie sheets as efficiently as possible. You should get them all to fit if possible. You may need to do them in two batches if they won't all fit at once.
Here I have 25 cigars in each cookie sheet.
Step 4: Pour on the Rum
If you prefer slightly sweeter cigars (like Swisher Sweets, etc.), combine 1/4 cup of white sugar with 1/4 cup of water and boil to dissolve the crystals, then add it to the rum. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla if desired, but I personally don't do either one of these things.
Divide your rum by the number cookie sheets, in my case 2, then drizzle the rum onto each cookie sheet of cigars. In my case, I pour half the bottle into each cookie sheet.
Roll the cigars around so they soak up the rum as evenly as possible. Keep rolling the cigars around until the cigars are saturated with the rum, and there is no more rum visible...some rum will evaporate as you will learn from the strong alcohol vapors, and the rest will be absorbed into the cigars. It will take about 30 minutes for all the rum to soak in and/or evaporate.
WARNING: Ethanol vapors can cause intoxication in humans if inhaled, so use proper ventilation. Or not.
WARNING 2: Ethanol vapors from 151 proof rum are very flammable, so do not use fire or sparks around the cookie sheets while the cigars are soaking!
Step 5: Pack the Cigars Into the ZipLock Bags or the Ammo Box
Now that the cigars have absorbed all the rum, place 12 or 13 cigars into each of the ZipLock bags until all the cigars are in bags. Seal the bags completely. I like to suck the extra air out of each bag so the cigars are nice and tight fitting and won't move around in the bag. I also like to write down the date that the batch was started, so I can know when 3 months time has elapsed.
If you are using an ammo box, stack them in the aluminum foil or plastic wrap lined ammo can as efficiently as possible. You should be able to fit 50 to 80 cigars in the standard sized ammo box.
If you are not lining your ammo box with foil or plastic wrap, you may want to put down a stack of dry paper towels in the bottom of the ammo box (maybe 10 sheets folded in half) and then a layer of waxed paper on top of that. Stack your cigars on top of this, and it will prevent your cigars from sticking to the bottom of the ammo box.
Step 6: Put Your Cigars in the Oven or Proofing Box
Next, slip the bags or ammo box into the oven or proofing box. Stack them so that they will all receive close to the same amount of heat.
Set your proofing box or oven with pilot light only to 130 degrees F (54.4 degrees C), which is just about perfect. Be sure to use an accurate thermometer to monitor the temperature. Again, I use the $2.90 digital thermometer from Deal Extreme, and I mounted it permanently in my proofing box. You will notice that I also put a piece of tape next to the thermometer that says "54.4 C" just to serve as a reminder.
Safety if You Use an Ammo Box:
For safety, you should slip the ammo box into a canvas bag like a tool bag or duffel bag, so in case it explodes it will not cause shrapnel to blow the oven door off and injure people.
If you do not place the ammo box into a canvas pouch, you will notice that the sides start to bulge out after a number of hours. This is actually good, because it means your cigars are under pretty high pressure, high heat and high humidity...perfect conditions for pressure cooking. However, it is potentially dangerous because of the danger of rupturing.
If you are using the family oven, put a piece of tape over the oven burner knob that says "CIGARS COOKING - DO NOT USE OVEN" or something like that.
WARNING: The ammo box may explode if subjected to temperatures that allow the rum to evaporate and build extreme pressures in the ammo can. Use caution when unloading the ammo box from the oven.
Step 7: Let Your Cigars Cook...the Longer, the Better!
I prefer to let my cigars cook at 130 degrees F or 54.4 degrees C for at least 3 months before I smoke them.
In fact, I store the unused cigars in the ZipLock bags or sealed ammo box in the heated proofing box all the time, even after the 3 months has passed. They get better and better the longer they cook!
You will note that the thermometer on mine currently says 55.1 degrees C because it will fluctuate, and that's OK.
No fair sneaking one early.
Step 8: Adjust Moisture Content If Needed
After 3 months has passed, if you try to smoke one of your cigars and it is hard to light or goes out easily, you will need to let them dry out a little bit.
To adjust the moisture content, put the cooked cigars back onto the cookie sheets and let them stand in the air for an hour or so. When they have reached what you think is their correct moisture level, put them back into the ZipLock bags or ammo box, seal it, and put it back into the oven or proofing box.
After some practice, you will be able to tell more easily when the moisture level is correct. This part is an art. Eventually I will figure out what the proper humidity level needs to be for these cigars, but for now it takes tweaking. As long as they are still moist and not dried out, and they light up OK and stay lit, they have the proper moisture level.
Step 9: Add Your Own Custom Cigar Bands
The way I do this is as follows:
- First, I design the bands in Adobe Illustrator. You could use any graphics program. There are cigar band templates (and pre-cut labels available for sale) at http://www.onlinelabels.com/OL380.htm but I have never tried them. At least you can use the templates they offer for free on that page.
- After I have designed the bands and laid the multiple bands out on a full sheet, I print the bands out on a color laser printer. You can't use an inkjet printer because the ink will be dissolved by the ethanol and water in the cigars. The toner is less susceptible to dissolving.
- After I have printed the sheets, I use the laser cutters at TechShop to cut out the label shapes using the outline from the artwork I created in Illustrator.
- Finally, I apply rubber cement or water-based contact cement to the ends of the bands (front side on one end, back side on the other). After the cement dries I wrap a band around each cigar and stick the dried contact cement to itself on the other end of the band, and put the cigars back into the ZipLock bag or ammo box and put them back into the proofing box.
Custom bands make the cigars extra special.
Step 10: Smoke Them With Your Friends and Enjoy
Your work is done, and now you can smoke your work of love and share them with friends.
I transport smaller quantities of cigars into the field in an old military night vision goggles case that I got on eBay. It works great. I removed the foam, and it can hold about 25 cigars. I keep a nice cigar cutter and a jet cigar lighter in the goggles case. I also have a Pelican case that works just as well. Whatever case you choose, make sure it is air-tight so that the moisture content of your cigars does not change.
Share these with your friends, and they will almost always ask you how you made them. Just tell them you learned how to make them on Instructables.com, and they can too!