Humidification and De-Humidification Part II — Products

PhotoGrid_1444846718650  IMG_20150207_114434There are two kinds of humidification devices, passive and active. I’ll cover the active ones first because I do not have any to show you. The link just below will take you to a few.

Active humidifiers are for big humidors, stand-up cabinets, walk-ins, and such that have the room to hold them. I do not have a humidor large enough for even a small active system. These should have a fan that circulates the air in the humidor so the rh is the same throughout. The fan might not be on all the time, but it should cycle on and off.

I didn’t mention this in part I, but it happens that moist air is lighter than dry air so if you have a big humidor (doesn’t matter for the desktop or even end-table furniture types) and you don’t circulate the air, the water vapor it the box will float towards the top and the rh (remember “relative humidity” from Part I) near the top will be higher than near the bottom.

Active systems use (we hope) accurate and stable rh detection to determine the moisture level in the humidor and when it drops too low, the humidor begins to blow tiny water droplets into the air. These tiny droplets evaporate almost instantly (at least that’s the idea) and become water vapor raising the rh. Once in a while, depending on how often they must be on, you fill the water tank.

From what I can see all of these devices rely on the fact that in most homes, the rh of the air is lower than where we want it for our cigars. Active humidifiers do not have any means of lowering the rh in the humidor if it is too high. If you have to do this, an active de-humidifier is even larger than a small humidifier. Here’s a link to the smallest one I could find. I don’t think that these are generally good for cigars. Most operate by refrigerating hollow coils of metal (the one pictured in the link above says it doesn’t do this, but it doesn’t say how it works either). When air passes over the cold coils, its moisture condenses on them (remember carrying capacity and temperature from Part I) and then drips into a little container. The problem is that chilling the coils (or anything) takes energy and that produces heat. Along with water, heat is also extracted from the air passing over the coils. That means these devices pump out heat somewhere. Unless you have modified your humidor with a port and can connect it up to the de-humidifier to dump the heat outside the box, you will be warming your cigars perhaps more than you want. Of course if your place is both cold and damp all the time (perhaps you live in an Scottish castle?) and you have a walk-in big enough for one of these things, then the heat gives you a double bonus! Lucky there are passive-dehumidifiers that work pretty well for large-ish spaces like cabinets and even closet sized walk-ins. Here is one de-humidifier that might work for larger cabinets. Not exactly active, it uses silicon beads (see below) but also tells you when they have become damp enough to need drying. You plug this in to dry the beads out.

Passive systems include those picutred above. On the lower left of the first picture are all the variations I use. The stocking is filled with scent-free silicon kitty litter crystals. A bag of these is shown on the lower right. This stuff costs about $15 for 7 pounds at a pet store. ALL my use together comes to about 4 pounds, and since they never needs replacing (sometimes drying) I’ve got lots… This litter is just small silicon beads pictured in the glass ramekin in the middle of the picture. Notice how some of the beads in the picture are translucent. These are moistened beads and so this bottle (the bottles are always full but I spilled beads out to show them to you) is one of my “wet” or “breath out” bottles. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Now silicon beads happen to breath water-vapor in and out at about 65-70% rh. They weren’t designed to do this, they just happen to be that way. When the rh goes up, they absorb a little vapor, when it goes down, they release it. I put about 3 pounds of these beads into stockings (my girl friend is very generous with her old stockings) and then into my 40 quart coolidor (which holds about 20 boxes of cigars). Big stockings are stabilizers. I never wet or dry those, and they were all dry to start. I use the bottles (pill bottles with small holes drilled all over them and filled with beads) to bring the rh in the coolidor up or down. If the rh in my home is on the low side I put bottles (4-6) with moist (not soaking wet) beads into the coolidor. If it is high, I put bottles of dry beads in there. I keep separate bottles of moist/dry beads so I can just swap them out. To dry the beads, I dump them into a shallow pan and put them in an oven at about 250F for an hour or so until all the beads are solid white in color. I do this maybe twice a winter if the weather is really wet. I also use the smaller bottles in my smaller tabletop humidors. Same idea. Wet when the rh is low outside, dry when its high with a small sock of dry beads in the lid for a stabilizer. This isn’t a lot of work by the way. I only have to “do anything” about the beads every few months if even that.

Also in the picture are a couple of “DryMistat” sticks. These use ethelyne glycol and water (you fill them once in a while) and the mixture is also supposed to breath at about 70%. But the ethelyne glycol also evaporates (slowly) and so once a year or so I have to put more in the tube. To do this I  buy a few once in a while and use them to fill the others. Evaporating ethlyene glycol is odorless and colorless so it doesn’t affect the cigars. I use some velcro to stick these to the inside of the lids of my humidors (second picture). Finally, I also use Boveda packs sometimes especially when traveling. I have a small travel humidor, but it only holds 4 cigars. Easier to take a quart sized ziplock that holds 10 cigars or more and throw a Bovida pack into it.

What I do not have to show you are Heartfelt beads. These are made from modified silicon beads with other mineral salts (like lithium chloride) bound up with them. The salt plus silicon combination does a better job of breathing and can take in, store, and let out more water vapor than the silicon alone. Because they are more efficient, you don’t need as much of it to do the job, but I do not know if they can be fully dried out for de-humidification purposes. I don’t see why not.

In summary here, silicon beads are cheap but you need a lot of them to get the job done. Heartfelt are more efficient, but I don’t know how much more and they are somewhat expensive. DryMistat sticks work but are also expensive. Bovida is supposed to be two way, but I don’t see it doing as good a job at pulling moisture out of the air as putting it in. Most cigar smokers are familiar with these devices. They all work pretty well to put water vapor into the air and most of the time this is mostly what we need because the inside of our homes, especially when we use any heat, usually has a lower rh than the outside. If you live in a place where the windows are open all the time, then the inside pretty much is the same rh as the outside. The odd thing happens if you cool your house. Cooling should raise the rh very high, but air conditioners are also de-humidifiers and pull water out of the air dumping it outside with their waste heat. Air conditioned air is often very dry!

PhotoGrid_1444841145838So mostly we want to humidify. But sometimes we do want to de-humidify. We want to take [some] water vapor out of the air in our humidors. None of the two-way products above do this as well as they put water in. I have found this one product that does do that job (pictured). DampRid is sort of a flaky powder, anhydrous calcium chloride. ‘Anhydrous’ means it has no water in it. This stuff really sucks down moisture. I put a tablespoon in a bowl (why the bowl in a minute) and put that in a small tupperware container along with one of my digital hygrometers reading 68%. In about 6 hours the rh in the container was lower than the hygrometer would measure — my cheap hygrometers only go down to about 32%. According to the DampRid site it won’t pull the humidity down to zero but they don’t say where it stops. I know that in a small container (like a humidor) it would probably go pretty low.

DampRid is fantastic for dry boxing! Many smokers like to store their cigars near 70% rh, but smoke them closer to 60% because they burn better. The problem is that merely putting a cigar in an empty box (no humidifiers) won’t do anything if the rh in the air is higher than you want the cigar to be when you smoke it. A cigar can’t get drier than the air around it. The process can also take a while. Take a cigar in a 70% humidor and put it in a box where the air is 60% and the cigar can take a couple of days (depending on the temperature) to reach the lower humidity. A tupperware or small humidor with a little DampRid in a small cup and nothing else will dry a cigar for smoking in a few hours.

The reason you put DampRid in a little bowl or cup or something is that when the product pulls enough water from the air it liquifies (all the calcium chloride dissolves) and stops working. This dissolving process takes a while though unless your air is really wet. I see that a tablespoon of the stuff will regulate my humidor air for a few weeks at least maybe longer. If it ever goes completely liquid (it hasn’t come close in a week so far) I’ll try boiling off the water and see if I can reconstitute the stuff. Meanwhile, even if I can’t this is not an expensive product. $5 buys about a pound which should be enough for 6 months.

Meanwhile, what I’m doing is putting 2 tablespoons in a small ramekin and putting that in the corner of my humidors. I put 6 tablespoons (in a small mug) in my coolidor too. I left all the humidification devices in the humidors and coolidor because I want them to balance out the DampRid. The DampRid seems to pull the rh in all my boxes down about 5-7% (remember all my humidification stuff is in them too). Between the humidifiers and the DampRid, the environment balances out pretty well so far. It never seems to be “too high” any more, but it can sometimes be “too low”! If a few “very dry days” come along I’ll take the DampRid out of the boxes. Meanwhile I’ll keep monitoring them all and let you know what happens.

I’ve been playing with different passive humidifiers for years, but I’ve only had the DampRid in the last few weeks. It certainly works but I don’t yet know how convenient it will be in the long term. But none of this stuff, even all of it together, does a perfect job. Luckily, our cigars are pretty rugged. If the rh in your humidors floats around between 62% and 72% every day the cigars are doing fine.

My humidors are inexpensive Chinese made boxes. My 150 count humidor (for example) cost me about $100. They do OK, but a $2000 hand-made box (like this one) would probably do much better. Be that as it may, I’m not going to afford one any time soon. I’ll keep playing around with all of these products and let you know how it is going from time to time.

May all your cigars be good ones!

Humidification and Dehumidification: Keeping Cigars Healthy

Part I. Relative Humidity and Hygrometers

PhotoGrid_1445017190985The need for humidification or dehumidification is familiar to all cigar smokers who keep any cigars (perhaps in plastic bags) longer than a few weeks. Cigars smoke and taste best when they have just the right amount of moisture in their leaves. If cigars are too moist they don’t burn right and they can split at the foot when moisture expands in the leaves behind the burning coal. The expanding water swells the tobacco and often splits the wrapper. If cigars are too dry, they smoke too quickly and have little taste other than burning ash.

In part I I’m going to talk about what “relative humidity” (from now on “rh”) is and why we measure it. I’m also going to talk a bit about hygrometers, the tool we use to measure rh.

We live in an ocean of air, and this air can carry in it dissolved water. Water dissolved in air is “water vapor” and is invisible except when we look a long way out to the horizon. Air that is saturated or nearly saturated with water becomes like a very thin fog and obscures objects and colors. When there is little or no water in air we can see detail and vibrant colors to much greater distances.

Air can hold different amounts of water at different temperatures. This chart illustrates the water carrying capacity of air. The chart shows what’s called “absolute humidity”, the actual amount of water in a cubic meter (or foot or yard or inch) of air. As temperature drops, the carrying capacity of air drops too. Air pressure also matters, but the air pressure over the surface of the Earth is so uniform that for most earth-bound purposes it makes a very small difference.

Rh is the percentage of water actually in the air compared to what it could carry. Look at the third chart down. If the temperature is 80F, the chart shows that a thousand cubic feet of air (that would be a 10’x10’x10′ box) can hold 1.6 pounds of water. If that much water were actually dissolved in air of that temperature, that would be 100% relative humidity. The air is carrying as much water as it can possibly dissolve at that temperature. At 60F air can hold only 0.8 pounds of water in a thousand cubic feet. That means that 0.8 pounds of water is 100% relative humidity at 60F.

Now suppose we have some actual air in our thousand cubic foot box at 80F. Somehow we learn that this air only has 0.8 pounds of water in it. That’s half (1.6/2) as much water as it could hold at that temperature. That air has an rh of 50%, half its water carrying capacity. The same would be true of our 60F air if it contained 0.4 pounds of water. At 60F 0.4 pounds of water per thousand cubic feet is half that (temperature) air’s carrying capacity, also 50%.

Cigars have some water mixed up with all the other things within them. There is still water in the cells of the leaf and bound up with all the oils and other things that give the leaf its flavor. Our cigars are best smoked when there is a certain amount of water in them, not too little, and not too much. We can measure the actual content of water in a cigar but it turns out this is a very expensive (costly instrument) thing to do. There is another way. We can take a cigar and weigh it on a very delicate and accurate scale. Then we put the cigar in an oven and dry it until there is no water left. We weigh it again, and the difference between the first and second weighing is the amount of water that was in the cigar. Of course, now the cigar is a dried out unsmokable shadow of its former self, so this technique is out, it destroys our cigars!

But we are lucky. Rh is easy and less expensive to measure and it happens to give a very good indication of cigar conditions. Here’s why. Suppose we take two cigars and put them into two boxes containing air with no water in it. In one box we raise the temperature to 80F and the other to 60F. The water in the cigar in the hotter box will evaporate much faster than will the water in the cigar in the cooler box. To keep the cigars at their optimum moisture will require more water (in pounds or grams) in the hotter box than in the cooler one. It turns out that the water we need in each box happens to be the amount in air holding about 65% of the water it could carry! This works at temperatures from about 60F to 80F. If we find some way of keeping the air in our humidors at around 65% rh there is the right amount of water in the humidor air to keep our cigars healthy at reasonable temperatures.

Hygrometers (pictured above) are what we use to measure rh. We keep them inside our humidors and we can see the rh inside the box when we look at those with outside mounted display or lift the lid to look inside. Of course once you lift the lid the rh in your humidor changes in a few seconds to match the air in your room, but the analog hygrometers change slowly and the digital ones are made to respond slowly and change only every ten seconds giving you time to look at the numbers when you open your humidor. There are two common types of hygrometer, analog (the dial) and digital (the numbers). Cheap analog hygrometers often come with small humidors, either showing on the front or magnetically attached to the inside of the lid. They do work, but they aren’t very accurate. A reading of 65% might be anything between 60% and 70%. There are ways to check these devices and I will get into that in a bit. The only real advantage to analog hygrometers is the “analog look”. They can be art.

The other common type of hygrometer is an inexpensive digital like the one pictured (about $20 on Amazon), and while they may look more accurate, the one in the picture says 65% after all, they are really not much more accurate than the cheap analog ones. That 65% reading tells me the real rh is somewhere between 60% and 70% the same as the analog! You can buy more accurate hygrometers of either type but they are more expensive. For $50 or $60 I believe you can buy digital hygrometers accurate to +/-2%. The most accurate analog hygrometers use boar’s hair as the element that stretches (more humid) or shrinks (drier) to move the dial. They typically cost hundreds of dollars but they are nice works of mechanical art! There are better analog devices in the $100 range. For that price you can get a really good digital, though the “analog look” is really nice!

There is a bright side to the inaccuracy story. Even a cheap hygrometer, although inaccurate, is pretty consistently inaccurate. That means if it reads too low it will read too low all the time. Although the consistency varies with the temperature, within the small range we like to keep our cigars, say 65F to 75F or so, the hygrometers are pretty consistent. So if you know that your hygrometer reads low or high, you can know to about +/-2% what the real rh is. Some hygrometers, digital and analog, have a little set button or wheel that lets you program the rh when you actually know what it is. If the real rh is 75% and the hygrometer reads 71% you can change the hygrometer. But not all hygrometers have this feature, and certainly not the most inexpensive ones. So what do you do?

Take a small bowl (a ramekin is great) and put a few tablespoons of salt in it. Add some water to the salt, just enough to wet it but not dissolve it. If you put your little bowl of wet salt and your hygrometer into a ziplock bag or small air tight tupperware container. In a little while (24 hours is more than enough) the salt/water mix will bring the rh in the container to 75% at any reasonable cigar temperature. Look at the hygrometer (preferably while the bag/container is still sealed). If it reads 72% you know it is always going to be about 3% low. If it says 79%, it’s 4% high. Now you can know, with a little more confidence, the real rh in the humidor. If your hygrometer reads 4% high, a reading of 68% means the real rh is 64%, etc.

So we’ve learned what relative humidity is, why it works to measure it, and how we do that.
Here’s a link to another hygrometer tutorial with pointers to some nice instruments.

In part II I’ll describe some different products I use to keep the rh [near] where I want it!

How to Retro-hale

Picture of me blowing smokeI’m surprised by how many people tell me they cannot retro-hale. Not only that they don’t quite know how to do it, but that they have tried and are incapable of it. Unless you come from another planet, or your sinuses are completely and permanently blocked so that you cannot, ever, breath through your nose, not being able to retro-hale is plainly impossible.

There is, in human beings (and in fact most all of the air-breathing vertebrate animals) a connection between the nose and the mouth. It is this connection that enables you to breath with your mouth closed. Air enters (or leaves) your nose, goes into (or out of) your mouth, and from there into (or out of) your trachea, the tube that goes from the back of your mouth to your lungs. Here is a diagram of the connection.

Retro-haling is something that, as cigar smokers, we want to be able to do. By pushing smoke out through your nose the aromatic molecules in the smoke are more fully sensed and appreciated. You don’t need to retro-hale to smell your cigar of course. First there is smoke in the air around the cigar that we can smell, and some of the smoke in your mouth will drift into your nose (though the holes in the roof of your mouth) whether you retro-hale or not. Retro-haling can be harsh on the nose especially with a peppery cigar. As a consequence most people who do retro-hale don’t do it on every puff, and they also learn to control the process so that only some of the smoke is pushed out through the nose.

Why many cigar smokers cannot retro-hale

Now it turns out that many people exhale, that is empty their lungs of air, before or during the act of taking a puff of a cigar. It is that habit, and nothing more, that makes retro-haling impossible. To retro-hale you need some air in your lungs. If your lungs are empty and your mouth is filled with smoke, you must take some air into your lungs before you can blow anything out through your nose. This is problematic with cigars because once there is smoke in your mouth, taking in air forces that smoke (at least some of it) into your lungs, something that most cigar smokers do not (for many good reasons) want to do. So the big secret to retro-haling is having some air in your lungs (and keeping it there) before you take a puff of the cigar.

Here are the simple steps to retro-haling

1. Take a breath. Get some air in your lungs.

2. Take a good puff of your cigar without exhaling while you do it.

3. Close your mouth.

4. Exhale with your mouth closed.

If there is any smoke in your mouth, it can only get out one way, through your nose! Congratulations! You have just retro-haled!

Controlling the process

As noted above, cigar smoke can be harsh on the nose. Cigar smokers control the retro-hale process in two ways.

First, take only a little smoke into your mouth.

Second, take a good puff but let some of the smoke out through your mouth before closing it and exhaling the rest through your nose.

The second method is usually preferred because you have more control over what is pushed out through your nose. The process takes a little practice — about 5 minutes worth! Give it a try and enhance your cigar experience!

May all of your cigars be good ones!

Common Sense Cigar Pairing Part III the Magic of Rum

my early favorites
Three of my early favorites still with me.

In part I I discussed some general pairing principles. Part II covered non-alcoholic and some alcoholic pairings.

There is something magical about rum. All the other flavorful spirits begin to degrade when a bottle is opened and one begins to drink from it. The less whiskey in the bottle, the greater the surface to volume ratio and that means the air in the bottle has a more rapid effect on what remains. Mostly that’s bad. Wine degrades most quickly. Once opened, a dry wine will improve for a day as it breaths, but then rapidly spoiles over the next week unless one does something to preserve it. Sweet wines fare a bit better. Perhaps the sugar helps to maintain them for a month or a little longer. Rye, scotch, bourbon and the brandies all degrade but over months, even longer if they are kept fairly cool. Here it is probably the alcohol content that helps to preserve them. Rums are different. Not only do they last for months, possibly even years, but even warm temperatures don’t seem to bother them very much. Some claim that rums get better with age, and the warmer the climate around them the better.

Back in the 18th, 19th, and even into the 20th century the British navy gave every sailor a “rum ration”, I suppose as a pick-me-up and “at-a-boy” morale booster. Before they tried rum, they tried wines (spoiled rapidly) and brandy which lasted longer, but still not for the months a ship might be at sea in varying climates. Not only did rum not spoil, but sailors claimed it got better — or they got less discriminating! I have had open bottles of rum for as much as a year without noticing any degradation in the product.

Another thing about rums is how many there are. As compared to other spirits, there are few laws governing what can or cannot be called a “rum”. The French have more rules than anyone else. Rums carrying the French certification are labled “rhums” and are called “agricoles” or “agricultural rhums”. The rules govern feedstock (sugar cane or cane juice) as well as how they are blended, and aged. There are some sugar cane rums that do not meet the French standards, perhaps because something is added to the final blend, or different distillate generations are mixed together to create a final product.

But rum wasn’t originally made from sugar cane which was too valuable to ferment. Instead it was the by-product of sugar production, molasses, originally considered waste, that was first fermented and turned into rum. The great majority of rums today begin with molasses or a mix of molasses and cane juice. These are called “industrial rums” by the French, but no matter the possibly derrogatory intent of the term, most of the world’s favored rums are molasses-based.

Many of rum’s flavors come from the ageing barrels. The wood is oak, but many (if not most) rums are aged in barrels previously used for other products including wine (especially ports and sherries), bourbon, and even scotch, and there are rums aged in multiple barrels (or blended from different barrels) to add yet more layers of flavor. Sometimes the interior of the barrels is charred or roasted which adds caramel and vanilla notes to the rum. But apart from sugars that come from what the barrels previously contained (or caramelized in the wood charring process) pure rum is not particularly sweet. Despite being made from sugar or molasses, there is no sugar in the distillates that are blended and aged. The really sweet rums are sweet because sugar is added to them as a part of the blending process. Not only sugar (in greater or lesser quantities) but sometimes other flavorings (orange, vanilla), colorings, and possibly products to add creaminess to the texture. The rules do not forbid these additives but they are supposed to be noted on lables. Generally, they are not!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention dunder pits, a flavor-enhancing technique unique (as far as I know) to rums. Many rum producers do not simply discard the wash (cane or molasses feed-stock) remaining after distillation. Instead, they throw it into a pit where it mixes with many previous wash generations. Inside these pits, the warm climate of most rum producing countries coupled with the yeasts present in all the wash generations continue to produce chemical changes. These changes produce hundreds of aromatic esters not to be found in the fermentation product of a fresh wash. Some portion of this dunder is mixed back with each fresh batch of feed-stock enriching the fermentation and the distillate! Banana and other ripe fruit notes in rums can emerge from this mix.

There has been some interesting discussion about added sugar in rum and a few sites have put up lists of rums and the extra sugar they contain. A few of them are linked here from alcademics, The Rum Project, and a good article (with more links) explaining how the tests are conducted can be found at thefatrumpirate website. To put some perspective on this however a 1 liter bottle of Coca Cola has 108 grams of sugar, 4-5 times the amount in even the most heavily sugared rums. The debate in the rum community is not so much over the presence of sugar (though other additives are more universally frowned upon) but the lack of honest labling of the final product. But good or bad, the enormous variety of rums available at all prices stems partly from the variety (and quantity) of additives added during the final blending steps. In fact, one experiment demonstrates how sugar alone, added in different quantities, completely changes a rum. Of course more sugar makes the rum smoother, but as the sugar content is increased, different flavor notes also emerge. A producer might take the same aged product, add different amounts of sugar, and come up with 4 or 5 different rums!

This variety of flavors and sweetness levels (ranging from fairly dry [Barbancourt, Old Monk] to very sweet [Diplomatico R.E. and many others]) sets the stage for hundreds of possible cigar pairings even with reasonably priced quality rums. Not all rums are inexpensive of course, but there are far more good rums at reasonable prices ($50 or less) than high-quality cognacs, scotches, bourbons, and ryes.

Apart from an occasional beer outside on a hot day, the first alcoholic drinks I paired with cigars were cognac and Irish Mist. I first paired cognac (and brandies) with cigars almost 40 years ago. In those days I wasn’t smoking very often, perhaps three or four machine-made cigars (ever try a Black Watch?) a year. It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I discovered premium hand rolled cigars, but even then, and until about 5 years ago (it’s 2015 now) I wasn’t smoking very much. It wasn’t that I liked cognac so much by itself and I can remember drinking it without a cigar in my hand on only a few occasions. But cognac does go well with cigars. It pulls out sweetness in cigars as well as black coffee notes and sometimes dark fruits. The cigar seems to make the cognac a little sweeter too, But the whole effect is rather subtle. I have to think about it alot to notice what I’m getting from both the cognac and the cigar.

It was 20 or more years ago that I was introduced to Irish Mist, a liqueur composed of Irish Whiskey, honey, and some other unspecified spices. As such it is a completely artificial product. Before Irish Mist I’d tasted other liqueurs like Drambuie, Grand Marnier, and Bennedictine. They were all way too sweet for me. Irish Mist is different. It is sweet, certainly sweet enough to be a liqueur, but not as sweet as the others. I liked it right away. There is nothing subtle about the effect of Irish Mist on cigars. You can’t help tasting honey in the cigar after a sip. Other cigar flavors complimented by a honey like sweetness are also elevated, dark fruit and coffee notes among them.

After some years of smoking and pairing the two products began to get repetitive. Good cognac was expensive (I like my whiskey smooth), and Irish Mist, while inexpensive, provided no variety. I began to ask around the cigar forums for suggestions. The scotches, ryes, and bourbons came up but I’ve tried a few over the years and never developed a taste for them. Then someone suggested rums reasoning that “they come from the same part of the world as cigars…” That was enough of an idea to try them at least. Pyrat XO was a reputedly decent “premium rum” available from a small retailer nearby. I poured myself a small glass and took a sip while smoking a cigar. The Pyrat is sweet and very orangy. It is one of the “sweeter rums” and has extra sugar (24g/l)and flavoring (orange at least) But it isn’t quite as sweet as Irish Mist. The bright fruit flavors in the Pyrat didn’t do much for the cigar, but the sweetness was just right. Differences from one cigar to another stood out against the rum while the sweetness compensated for woody and earthy cigar flavors but let them come through. I was on my way to exploring rums.

I’ve since tried some 40 or more rums and one thing I’ve learned is to return to old favorites after a while. My rum taste having grown more discriminating, a few of my early favorites now taste artificial and heavily doctored. Angostura (1919 and 1824), Papa’s Pilar (light and dark), and Atlantico Private Cask are now off my list while a 20-year (if rums lables state years, they usually refer to the oldest rum in the blend) Mocambo,(very oaky and smokey) still remains one of my favorite cigar pairing rums as does Santa Teresa 1796 and Pampero Anniversario. I don’t think any of these last are pure (unsugared) but nor are they overly sweet and there doesn’t seem to be anything in them besides a little sugar. One of the more heavily sugared rums (30g/l), El Dorado 15-year (El Dorado is a rare exception listing the youngest rum in the blend on their lables) remains one of my favorites (along with everyone else). This rum has a funky background flavor (more on this below) that perfectly compensates the sweetness. El Dorado 12 year (35g/l) is likewise delicious but lacks this compensating funk. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva (35g/l) is delicious but liqueur sweet, while the Reserva version (20g/l) is very dry by comparison. Dos Maderas 5×5 (36g/l), with dry coffee and tobacco notes cutting the sugar, remains a great pairing rum for my palate.

I have discovered and enjoy a few of the purer rums, though I’ve yet to try a genuinely official agricole. Barbancourt 5-star, from the French community of Haiti is a cane juice rum but lacks the official French blessing, perhaps because it contains a few grams of sugar. It is only mildly sweet with subtly balanced flavors that well compliment almost any cigar. In fact, this inexpensive rum ($25 for a 750ml bottle in the U.S.) pairs well with everything from mild to strong cigars. Old Monk, an Indian rum once (thanks to the population of India) the largest selling rum in the world, has very little added sugar (3g/l). It is still distinctly sweet and there are warm spice aromas in it that make me wonder if there is anything else there (perhaps an ageing secret, but Indian cuisine has so many spices), but it pairs very nicely bringing out a brown sugar and roasted nut quality in a cigar. Brugall 1888 is a delicious and only slightly sugared “quiet rum”, distinctly more refined than the Barbancourt, but much more expensive at near $80/bottle. Like the Barbancourt, it compliments many cigars.

Pusser’s Navy Rum, 42% ABV and 6g/l sugar deserves its own paragraph. At $25/750ml bottle it is (along with the Barbancourt 5-star) the least expensive rum in my collection. Only lightly sugared (6g/l), it has the strangest flavor of all my rums. The blending formula is supposed to be the same (secret) used by the British Navy for a century and a half. There are supposed to be rums blended together from 7 different sources. Above I mentioned a funky background flavor I find in El Dorado 15. That same flavor (thefatrumpirate suggests I am tasting the product of a wooden pot still) dominates Pusser’s. It strikes me as something of a cross between mold and rotting vegetables. Some have called it “putrid”, but it is a flavor for which one can develop a taste. As for cigar pairing, Pusser’s brings out the vegetal and earthy flavors in a strong cigar, but it washes out everything in a mild one. All of my other rums contrast and compliment cigars with sweetness, coffee, tobacco, dark fruit (bright fruit in the case of Pyrat), and oak. By comparison, the strong vegetal component in Pusser’s highlights those notes in cigars while providing dramatic contrast to any sweetness present.

There are many more rums I want to try. Many of the best are simply not available to me locally or even at all in the U.S., while many that are available are just too expensive. I keep looking though and I will keep reporting as my palate evolves. Experiment! Find rums you like and try them with different cigars. Remember, if a drink and a cigar compliment one another to your palate, then it’s a good pairing!

Salud, and may all your cigars be good ones.

Common Sense Cigar Pairing Part II

some pairing options
A few non-rum related pairing options. Some of these I haven’t touched in years.

In part I I covered a few general principles. Here I’ll get into the effect of different drink categories. In part III I cover rums.

Non-Alcoholic Pairings

Cigar and alcohol pairings are legion, but some people can’t drink alcohol, many can’t drink it with every cigar, and others don’t particularly enjoy it in any form. Fear not! Remember, if it works for you, it’s a good pairing. I’ve already mentioned water and carbonated water. For a change up, try a little lemon in the water or even a little lemon and sugar; enough to be detectable, but not to make lemonade.

Coffee: I begin with coffee because everyone who smokes cigars and likes coffee thinks they go well together. Coffee is the closest thing I know to a universal pairing for cigars. Not only does everyone like it, it goes with every cigar! People like their coffee in different ways. Some prefer cream and sugar, some like one or the other but not both, and some like it black. But no matter how you like your coffee, if you do like it, it goes well with cigars. Coffee makes a “good pairing”. I happen to roast my own coffee. If you get into that hobby, you will find yourself sampling coffees from all over the world (another blog at some point). Like every flavor related hobby, the palate becomes more discriminating as you taste a wider variety and grow more sensitive to the flavor differences between them. Some coffee I like black, and others with just a little bit of sugar (and I mean a little like 1/8 teaspoon in an 8 ounce cup). The mild acidity and bitterness of coffee cleans the palate and sets up the contrast needed to taste sweetness, nuttiness, chocolate and roasted flavors in the cigar. I have yet to notice any difference that different coffees make to cigar flavors, but every coffee seems to work. When cigar blenders smell smoldering leaves to get some idea of the flavors they’ll impart to a blend, they use the aroma of roasted coffee beans to cleanse the nasal receptors. Whatever it is about coffee, it seems to work for everyone. What burning tobacco desensitizes in the nose, coffee restores particularly well.

Tea: I like tea even more than coffee. Black or green tea I drink about twice as much of it as coffee in a day. Neither goes as well with cigars as coffee. Like coffee, I think it’s the little bit of acidity and bitterness that makes tea an effective palate cleanser, but its aroma is not as good a nose contrast as coffee. Personally I think a good black tea like an English breakfast blend works better with cigars than green tea but for me neither does the job really well.

Non-carbonated sweet drinks: I’m thinking here of things like lemonade and fruit juices. I like a good glass of lemonade on a hot day as well as the next person, but I haven’t found it to be particularly good with cigars. That said, some non-carbonated sweet drinks, in particular acidic and not too sweet drinks (like some lemonaids) do a great job of palate cleansing.

Sweet Soda: Colas, root beer, and in particular Dr. Pepper (a cola with spices that taste like anise, cardamom, and allspice) have all made good cigar pairings for people who enjoy them. As noted before, the carbonation cleans both the tongue and nose receptors while the sweetness and other flavors provide some contrast that sets up cigar flavors. Usually it’s the darker more fully flavored sodas that work best. Dr. Pepper in particular (if you like it) is flavor rich and has a noticable effect on cigars. I don’t know anyone who prefers blonde sweet soda (like 7-Up) with their cigars, but they should at least make good palate cleaners. I’m not a big soda fan, but I have enjoyed colas and carbonated lemonaid with cigars. I’ve tried things like apple cider with cigars, but it doesn’t do anything for me. Remember though, where there is carbonation there is palate cleansing.

Dairy: I don’t see much dairy like milk or cream (other than as part of mixed drinks, see below) paired with cigars. Fat has a couple of influences on flavor. First it coats the molecules sensed by the taste buds so diminishes their impact. At the same time, it sticks to the tongue holding those same flavor molecules over the taste buds longer (a few seconds or more) than they are without the fat. This has the effect of prolonging contact between a taste molecule and a taste bud enhancing flavor. But while this is a known effect of fat on food flavors (the main reason fatty meats are more flavorful) I’m not sure it works with cigars because cigar smoke, which holds the tobacco’s flavor molecules sticks to the taste buds all by itself.

Alcoholic pairings

Mixed drinks: With one exception I don’t know of anyone who pairs cigars with mixed drinks other than perhaps rum and cola. If the drink is made with carbonated water (or perhaps champagne) it will have the usual palate cleaning effect. I don’t drink mixed drinks and so (again with one exception) don’t pair them with cigars. I cannot speak to them as cigar compliments. The exception for me and many others is a double pairing of coffee with some alcohol and then cigars. Irish coffee (Irish whiskey & cream) is the classic of course. In this case, it’s possible that the fat (cream) has an enhancing effect on the coffee-whiskey combination and that in turn works with the cigar. I think Irish whiskey in coffee works even without the cream because it doesn’t have a lot of rich flavors of its own and acts to enhance the sharpness and sweetness of the coffee. Lots of coffee-whiskey pairings also work. Combinations like brandy/cognac change the flavor of the coffee more than Irish whiskey, but they enhance the coffee and tobacco flavors present in the cigar with or without the coffee. I’ve also very sweet coffee pairings like Kaluha or chocolate liqueur. I challenge anyone to have a cup of coffee with an ounce of chocolate liqueur mixed in and not taste chocolate in the next cigar puff.

Beer: Beer is carbonated so it works well as a palate cleanser. Besides that I haven’t noticed much about cigar-beer pairings other than that they work out fine if you like the beer. I’m very particular about beer. I don’t like the Buds, Millers, Coors, or any of the other common and less expensive beers. My taste runs to richer micro-brewery beers, especially the darker ones, but I’ve enjoyed cigars with good India Pale Ales too. The thing about beer, for me, is that I like them when I’m outside and it’s hot, or with rich foods like pizza. I think beers go better with food than with cigars, but that’s just me. I’ve smoked many cigars with both good and bad (because there wasn’t anything else) beers but I haven’t come across a particularly strinking combination. For my palate, a good beer is great as a palate cleaner, but doesn’t seem to affect the flavor of a cigar very much otherwise. That being said, I have yet to try cigars with more extreme dark and thick beers.

Wine: Made dominantly from grapes (and sometimes other sweet fruits) wine is a generic term for some fermented fruit juice. Fermentations can go two ways. When you ferment a juice in the presence of oxygen (aerobic fermentation), you get vinegar. Vinegar is made from grapes and other fruits but is to acidic to drink. When sweet juice is fermented in the absence of oxygen (anerobic fermentation) you get alcohol. A fermentation step is common to every kind of drinkable alcohol. In the case of beer, the end result is (often after filtering) what comes out of the fermentation tank itself. In wine’s case, the fermentation product is aged in different kinds of wood barrels most commonly oak. The aging process produces all the magical chemical compounds (combinations of acid and alcohol called esthers) that, besides the grape used, give wine its flavor. The barrel wood contributes some of these flavors including flavors from other wines or alcoholic products previously aged in those same barrels! Using barrels from one product in the aging of another is one of the ways vintners infuse different flavors into the wine. These changes are allowed to occur over a few and sometimes many years. There is much more of course to the variety of wine flavors. Wine from different grapes can be mixed either before or after they age barrels of one age are sometimes mixed with others of different ages. Every choice in this process produces a different sort of wine.

People enjoy wine-cigar pairings with many kinds of wine and here as much as anything else what’s good depends on you. I don’t much like dry wine (the sort one has with main courses) and cigar pairings even though I like dry wines with my food. Rich dry reds are very acidic and seem to overwhelm cigar flavors. Dry whites do a good palate cleansing job but I haven’t found them particularly good at melding with the medium and strong cigars I like to smoke. Sweet wines, ports and sherries are another story. For me, ports pose the same problem as dry reds, their flavors go over the top of the cigar. But sherries work very well for me. Sherries have a strong wood and sweet smokey component to their flavor and these seem perfectly suited to complimenting the same flavors in the cigar. I’ve tried various sherries with cigars and in general the oakier the sherry the better it works.

Whiskeys: Here we enter into a gigantic world. Whiskies are different because their alcohol content is much higher (40% or more alcohol-by-volume [ABV]) than beers (8%-12% ABV) or wines (12% ABV). This has much more effect on the tongue and nose. Whiskey pairing cigar smokers learn that they can ready the nose for the cigar just by inhaling the alcohol and other molecules coming of the whiskey in the glass. Wine and beer flavors come mostly from the nose-tongue combination, but with whiskey, thanks to the evaporating alcohol lifting the aromatic molecules, there is often as much cigar-enhancing flavor in the scent alone.

Let me quickly review the whiskey making process. Like wine, the process begins with fermentaion into alcohol of the juice of some plant. If the plant juice isn’t particularly sweet, sugar is added (or plant starches are converted to sugars in a pre-fermentation process) because it’s the sugar that turns into alcohol. After fermentation the alcohol-juice mixture is distilled. The alcohol is driven off (by heating) along with the volitile aromatic and flavor molecules and concentrated. The amount of concentration and which concentrates (there are early/light, middle, and late/heavy distillates) are used in the blend explains some of the great variety of flavors in whiskeys. Other flavors are imparted by the kind of still used in the process. Each type of distillation imparts characteristic flavors. After the distillation and re-mixing, the liquid is, like wine, put into barrels and aged sometimes for many years. As with wine, this aging process produces new aromatic molecules. As with wine, barrels previously used to age different products (frequently wines or other whiskeys) impart particular flavors and barrels containing whiskey different ages may be mixed. In whiskey ageing the inside of barrels is sometimes deliberately charred adding smokey components to the flavor. The climate, temperature and humidity of the ageing room also contributes to the flavors of whiskey. These affect the speed of chemical change and the evaporation rate. Barrels breath. Not only to they let in a little air but alcohol and water evaporate through the wood. Most whiskeys are, like wine, aged in cool rooms, but bourbons (sometimes) and rums (most of the time) are aged in warm rooms.

As wine flavors vary with the grape used, the dominant flavor in whiskey comes from the plant fermented. Scotch starts with malted (soaked to convert starch to sugar and then dried in peat-fired kilns) barley. Bourbon begins with corn, rye with rye, vodka with potato (originally, today it’s mostly artificial), and tequilia from agave. Wine (grape) distills into brandy (or cognac if from a certain region of France). Sugar and sugar derivatives like molasses distills into rum and there are many more. At least to me growing up in the U.S. the term ‘whiskey’ has usually meant one of the trio scotch, rye, bourbon. These days rum, vodka, gin (juniper), and distillates of rice wine are usually classed with the whiskeys so for my purposes all the distilled products of some fermentation will be whiskeys.

Liqueurs are related to the whiskeys. Usually liqueurs are made from some whiskey mixed with more sweetner and other flavors. They are heavily adulterated, very sweet, whiskeys. Lots of folks like to pair liqueurs with cigars. My first cigar pairing drink was a liqueur called Irish Mist, a combination of Irish Whiskey, honey, and a few other unspecified spices. Irish Mist is sweet, but not as sweet as other liqueurs. I found it struck just the right combination of sweetness and vegetal whiskey (like scotch, Irish Whiskey starts with barley) for my palate and I enjoyed a glass once in a while long before I began smoking cigars.

Aside from mixed drinks not much used for cigar pairing, the whiskeys quaffed in combination with cigars tend to be those that can be sipped, like cognac, rather than shot like tequila. Some prefer their sipping whiskey neat, that is un-diluted by water or ice. Scotch, bourbon, rye, and rum (neat or otherwise) account for most cigar pairings I’ve seen on social media. Each of these types is sold in a wide variety of qualities and price, and within the scotch, rye, and bourbons there several dozen offerings that are arguably among the best examples of their category. Typically these cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 and up. The cognacs and brandies are also a somewhat narrow and expensive group. By contrast, there are probably more kinds of rum, even good rums, than all the good scotches, bourbons, ryes, and maybe even brandies put together. The rums are so varied that I will put off discussion of them to part III.

Since I don’t drink scotch, rye, or bourbon I can’t speak to their cigar pairing qualities from personal experience. Scotch drinkers have told me that strong vegetal and earthy flavors in that category enhance similar flavors often found in cigars. I haven’t heard even that much from rye and bourbon drinking cigar smokers, but I hope some of them will contribute comments to this thread. I have paired my cigars with a few different cognacs and brandies. The effect there, for me, comes from coffee, dried dark fruit, and tobacco flavors of the cognac. These reinforce similar flavors in cigars while the strong alcohol component sets up the tongue and nose for the next puff.

In part III I’ll talk about rums.

Common Sense Cigar Pairing

group photo at Drew Estate
That’s me on the far right at Drew Estate in January 2015

Part I. A few things first

This is going to be a long-ish post about my experience pairing cigars with various drinks, mostly alcoholic. I hope what comes out of this will make sense to everybody. As with most writing that is largely opinion, hopefully based on some experience, your mileage may vary.

Let me start with a basic principle. The main reason we want to pair cigar smoking with some drink is to periodically cleanse our palates so that the flavors in the cigar stand out. Any flavor or set of flavors will fade in strength on repeated exposure without something to wash remnants of the molecules involved (in the cigar’s case that would be smoke) away from the taste buds. A drink with a strong aroma, especially an alcohol, acts to cleanse aroma receptors in the nose and sinus. Taste buds and scent receptors become desensitized if not cleaned and rested once in a while. For this there is nothing like clean water, or maybe, for extra zest, clean carbonated water. Plain water doesn’t do much for the nose, but carbon dioxide bubbles and alcohol clean both tongue and nose. Even when I pair with alcohol I like to have a glass of water around and just breathing in clean air will refresh the nasal receptors.

Cleansing is an important reason to pair cigars with a liquid. There are a few foods people have paired with cigars to good effect. Most of those I’ve heard about are sweet. Chocolate is frequently cited. But food typically mixes with or simply overwhelms the more subtle flavors of the smoke on the taste buds. It doesn’t clean them off. So liquids make sense. Besides cleansing though, we are looking at contrast and foods do provide that, but so do flavored liquids. Flavors have a funny effect on the taste buds and the sense of smell. If you alternate two or more complex combinations of flavors, they will have an effect on one another’s complexity. It’s that effect we’re after. A drink whose flavors change our cigar’s flavors in ways that we like. That’s what most people mean by a “good pairing”.

Good pairings between food and drink have been famous for centuries. It is usually the food being cleansed away and enhanced by the drink but going the other way is also possible. One sees certain cheeses being served along with rich sweet dessert wines. In this case the cheese is providing a refreshing taste and aroma contrast to enhance the next sip of wine. Of course there is a great variety of individual tastes and I’ll have more to say about that later. But risking an over generalization, there is some broad agreement about which drinks best pair with which foods. Richly flavored red wines go with well cooked and seasoned beef or a pepperoni & sausage pizza because the food flavors are pretty intense and the wine has to be equally intense to be tasted. It isn’t that a dry white wine tastes bad with steak, it just doesn’t seem to have any flavor of its own in between slices of intensely rich foods. It still cleanses the palate though! Pair a dark red Barolo or Cabernet with delicate fish or chicken and the opposite happens, the food can’t be tasted for the overwhelming flavors of the wine. Similar principles should apply to beer, but since carbonation does a great cleansing job all by itself pairing beer and food is more open-ended. Dark and heavy beers should go better with rich foods, but pale and lighter bodied beers work almost as well. The flavors in beer have less effect on food (unless they are unusually strong) because the carbonation sweeps them away along with everything else.

Generally speaking, compared to foods, cigar flavors are rather subtle. Cigars can taste and smell like this or that, but normally (and not counting “flavored cigars”) these flavors are hints and reminders not the full-blown flavor or aroma you would get from the thing itself. In this way, cigar flavors are more like the subtle hints of non-grape flavors we get from wines, especially the reds. One reason the flavors are subtle in both wines and cigars is that there are only a few of the molecules that cause those flavors connecting with our taste buds. Alcohol is a palate cleanser at low concentrations but in higher concentrations it cleanses and numbs the taste buds at the same time. This is different from the wash-out effect of repeated exposure to a strong flavor withing intermittent cleansing. This is a general desensitization to most flavors. Tobacco smoke always desensitizes both the taste buds and the scent receptors of the nose lending some irony to our hobby. We are in this hobby to taste something that, unlike most foods, supresses taste and flavor. All the more reason to find a pairing that not only cleanses but enhances the subtle flavors of our cigars.

There is another principle I should mention. Principles aren’t as important as your palate! It isn’t even near 50/50. Whether or not a particular pairing works for you is more 90% individual and 10% principles. Nobody else has exactly your palate. Further, individual palates change with time and exposure to both sides of the pair. Further still we are talking about tasting a product, cigars, whose smoke numbs taste and  aroma receptors. We are not all desensitized in the same way.

Let me review how all of this flavor business works. We have only 5 different kinds of taste buds. Sour, sweet, bitter, salty, and some would add umami which is actually the taste of a particular amino acid, glutamate, associated with meatiness. In contrast to the tongue, the nose has receptors for hundreds of differently shaped aromatic chemicals, that is chemicals light enough to waft about in the air above our food, or in the case of cigars, cling to particles of smoke. It is the combination of the taste on the tongue and the scent on the nose that the brain turns into thousands of distinguishable flavors. People have slightly different numbers of the 5 sorts of taste buds, and they also have different numbers of scent receptors. So when we smoke a cigar, not only are different numbers and kinds of receptors stimulated in each of us, different numbers and kinds are also desensitized, and not necessarily the same ones! This combination of factors has the effect of ensuring that each individual’s response to a cigar and a pairing will be a little different.

All of this brings us to my first rule of cigar pairing. Start with what you like! There are those who claim that the ultimate cigar pairing whiskey is a good scotch. Why scotch? Well, it has a lot of vegetal and smokey flavors that compliment related flavors frequently found in cigars. But I for one have never been able to enjoy scotch. I’ve tried a few, I’ve tried to understand it, but so far, and up to now, I haven’t been able to appreciate it. It’s the same for me with bourbons and ryes. They don’t put me off as much as scotch, but I still feel like I have to struggle to like them while trying to understand their effect on a cigar. Hobbies are supposed to be fun as well as educational experiences. I try to keep an open mind and I am frequently reminded that my tastes have changed much over the years. Every once in a while I try a scotch, bourbon, or rye and perhaps someday my palate will evolve towards them, but when I’m not trying them purely for the sake of educating my palate, when I’m trying to see if a particular combination is a “good pairing”, I go with a drink I like, a drink whose subtlies I understand based on some time with it.

This brings us to my second rule of cigar pairing. Go with what you know! Which scotch (A), (B), or (C) goes better with cigar X? If you can’t tell the difference between the three drinks, you can’t pull out what is different about them, how can you evaluate them for different pairing qualities? One combination might enhance a cigar’s sweetness, while another brings out a flavor of mushrooms. If you like both qualities then both are good pairings for you. But if you can’t tell what’s different in two related drinks, how can you judge the effect of those differences on the smoke? Of course there’s no law that says you have to be able to do that. Remember rule 1. If you like a particular drink, and in particular if you like a particular combination of drink and smoke, that is really all you need. It’s nice to be able to taste the difference between one drink and a related one, but it isn’t necessary to do that just to enjoy the combination. If it works for you, it’s a good pairing!

So what does all of this mean? Is pairing nothing more than combining a cigar with a drink you like? If 90% of the process is nothing more than this, what else is there? Suppose you are a cola expert. You know colas so well that you can taste all the subtle differences between Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, and others. Some are sweeter, some perhaps more bitter. Some have a long after taste, others almost none. It is these differences that go into the other 10% of the pairing process. The extra sweetness of one cola might enhance some cigar flavors and mask others and the same goes for other distinct flavors you might find in your colas, while I don’t particularly notice any of them. That is the trick here, noticing what differences in the flavors of a particular drink category (colas in this case), or between categories (bourbons compared to rums), do to the flavor of the cigar.

Up to now, I’ve been talking about the drink, but before moving on to particular pairings, I should mention one thing about the cigar: You have to enjoy that too! A bad cigar (unaffectionately known as a “dog rocket”) or a cigar that just doesn’t have any flavors, or good flavors, to your palate isn’t going to be much enhanced by any pairing. For any cigar flavor to be enhanced by a drink, the flavor has to be there in the first place. Sometimes a drink will bring out a cigar flavor that you hadn’t noticed before and that’s good. But there has to be something in the cigar that sets up that flavor (usually aroma) receptor. A flavorless cigar isn’t much enhanced by anything.

In part II I begin exploring many drinks people like pairing with cigars. In part III I cover rums.

Blog Introduction

IMG_20150413_131239A new blog! As though you didn’t have enough to read… But this is a beginning, an educational experience for me, and perhaps, given some content also for you.

My goal here to start is to learn to post, learn to access my post, and then learn to share my post with a social network like Google+. In addition I’m going to learn how to add pictures and links. My first articles will be about cigars, rums, and cigar pairings, but eventually there will be other topics as well. Follow along and see what I learn…

I am Matthew Rapaport, father, grandfather, and writer. For most of my professional life I’ve worked producing custom enterprise software for large corporations. I’ve worked around a lot of databases, and in earlier times of my career served as data base analyst (DBA) as well as custom software developer mostly moving data to and from various databases and between companies. It’s getting harder to find a job now. Most large companies don’t want customized enterprise software any longer preferring packaged products.

Besides programming, I’ve also worked as a lab technician, non-profit developer (that’s code for fund-raiser), software trainer, and cook, the last now a hobby I’ve carried with me since childhood. Finally, and perhaps deepest down, I’m also a writer. John Wiley published one of my books way back in 2001 (“Computer Mediated Communications”) which was obsolete the day it was published as the public and commercial Internet completely eclipsed everything that went before. More recently I’ve published two philosophy books via Amazon Kindle and am currently working on a third. Maybe I’ll try fiction next!

I’m no longer married. My kids hate me for that. But I’m doing my best living with my girlfriend of 8 years now in a suburb near the West Coast of the U.S. just south of San Francisco.