Box Press Podcast

Who Moves On? Cigar Smoking World Championship 2021 U.S. Semifinals | Ep. 48

How long can you make a cigar last? Watch cigar smokers go head to head in the U.S. Semifinals of the Cigar Smoking World Championship (CSWC). Coined the Slowest Race on Earth, this international competition is all about “slow smoking” cigars. Learn cigar smoking strategies from contenders with Box Press Host Rob Gagner at Club Leaf & Bean, a private cigar club just south of Pittsburgh, PA.

Watch 10-Minute Highlight of Semifinals

A well-humidified cigar burns more slowly and evenly. Extend your own smoking experience by storing cigars at the ideal RH in your humidor with Boveda, a global partner of CSWC. Shop Boveda for cigars here.


– [Rob Gagner, Boveda] It’s a competition that takes time, patience, and a steady hand, and intense focus. The slower you smoke, the better off you’ll do. Welcome to the slowest race on Earth-the 2021 Cigar Smoking World Championships. For this episode of Box Press, we visit Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And our first stop was at Club Leaf & Bean where they’re putting on the U.S. Semifinals. Now slow smoking a cigar is usually a sign of someone trying to appreciate the flavors and complexity of a stick. But here, they’re competing to see how slow they can smoke the cigar and also not incur penalties like breaking your ash and burning your cigar ring. At first mention, it sounds outrageous, but it is real. The smoker who takes the longest to finish their cigar is the winner.

– [Fred] I didn’t make fun of it, but I’m just like, okay, this is just kind of weird. Like we understand longest ash, but this was just like, okay, how slow can I go? But then the more you get into it you start thinking, well, what is that time? Should I puff every minute? Every two minutes? Every three minutes?

– [CHRIS] It’s not normal. You’re not sitting down with a drink and a cigar. You’re paying attention to your ash, you’re paying attention to is the thing lit. On paper you look at it and you’re like, hey, you know, this sounds pretty simple. And then you go to do it and you’re like, it’s a lot harder than you thought.

– [John] I saw somebody do three hours and I guess that was the world champion last year or something. And I was like, I don’t know how you get three hours out of one of these cigars.

– [Chris] How the hell do you get three hours out of this cigar? That’s I mean, without going out?

– [Fred] This is crazy small. When you start talking about, you know, how slow can you smoke it. The guys that are doing two and a half hours, they’re in a different world. They somehow have just, you know, and I think it’s skill and I think there’s going to be some luck.

– [Joel] I got one to an hour and a half the other day, but the first two matches did not light it.

– I have noticed some of them just go out without warning.

– [Fred] This just went out because I was talking. This just went out. There you go. I’m out.

– [Boveda Rob] You were actually keeping it going pretty well.

– [Fred] I thought I was, but I wasn’t paying, I wasn’t really watching the heat or anything like that, but yeah, you can lose it in a second. The one I just had was the first one that went out on me before the 40-minute mark, you know, before getting the ash, that’s the first one that went out. So now that just scared me for tomorrow. Thank you very much.

– [John] I practiced a couple of times for the event. Not too much. I’ve been smoking cigars so long now. I feel like I’ve been training my whole life. So practicing the match and you know, trying to keep it up and straight, like is what I’ve been trying to do.

– [Joel] I think I’m going to focus on my own cigar and if I have a chance to make them laugh, that makes them shake their cigar, maybe ash early, that’s what I’m going to do.

– [Chris] I think every cigar smokes a little differently. Sure, I’ll look around just to see how everybody’s doing, but I don’t necessarily know that adjusting what I’m going to do would work.

– [Fred] Anybody has a chance at this. I think any average person that’s smoking a couple of cigars a week should absolutely just do it for the fun of it and try it and see how it goes. And you can be really good at it. You might get lucky, but yeah, I actually think it’ll take off. I think when people understand it and they get past this, oh, it’s a World Cigar Smoking Championship. It sounds intimidating and in reality, anybody, anybody could win. You get one minute to cut and light your cigar and you get two matches. After one minute, you can no longer cut it, you can no longer touch it up, you can’t light it, you can’t do anything else. Obviously, if the cigar goes out, you’re out of the contest at that point.

– [CSWC Announcer] We are going to start the clock and you will have one minute, two matches. Mark, go ahead. Start the clock. Guys, good luck. Cigar Smoking World Championship 2021 underway. You’ve got that cigar. Get them lit. Five minutes, no talking please.

– [Fred] The next one is really the dealing with the ash. So you can’t drop the ash for 41 minutes. At the 41-minute mark, you can now ash the cigar without any penalty. When you get all the way down to the band, you cannot burn the band. If you burn the band, it’s a penalty and it’s a significant penalty and it could make the difference with some guys I’ve seen on some of the qualifiers where it took a guy from second down to sixth because he tried to push it through it. I have a good construction, and everything’s going good, and the environment is good, then it’s not too bad. You just hold steady and a lot of people will just hold it up like this and they hold it by the band. And they’ll just keep theirs like this and they’ll take a puff like this.

– [Boveda Rob] Anthony, you were the first one out. What was your time?

– [Anthony] Um, 19 minutes.

– [Boveda Rob] 19 minutes. How does it feel?

– [Anthony] It feels great.

– [Boveda Rob] Is it? It feels great. So did you have any plan at all or were you just like, hey, as long as I make it.

– [Anthony] I was going slow, but a little too slow.

– [Boveda Rob] Yeah, a little too slow. I’d have to say so. Nice job. I hope you do it again. Do you think you’re going to do it again?

– [Anthony] I will.

– [Boveda Rob] Alright. Nice. Second, third, fourth time, maybe smoking a cigar and he competed. You could do it. You’ve made it past the 40 minute mark. You’re what? Maybe halfway to the band?

– [Fish/Michael] Roughly speaking.

– [Boveda Rob] Roughly. When do you think you will ash?

– [Fish/Michael] The ash protects the burn, but at a certain point in time there’s so much ash it restricts the airflow that it chokes it out. We’re going to have that bright red in there. I think I’ll leave it on to a degree. So as long as I have that red in there.

– [Boveda Rob] Other than being by the rowdy table, you guys have been pretty quiet, pretty steady.

– That’s right.

– [Boveda Rob] Exactly. Do you know when you think you want to ash it? Do you have a strategy?

– Instincts.

– [Boveda Rob] Instincts? Got it. A lot of smoke going on still. There’s a lot of guys still left. A third of them are still left. It’s anybody’s game at this point. Are you measuring how many minutes you puff in between?

– Yes. So actually that fell.

– [Boveda Rob] Good. Okay.

– So yeah, I can run the clock on how long I draw.

– [Boveda Rob] Okay. So that’s part of it?

– Yes. It’s all about math, baby.

– [Boveda Rob] How much time do you think you got until you reach the band?

– Maybe 15 minutes.

– [Boveda Rob] Okay. We’ll see. We’ll check back in 15 minutes. See what you do. You went out what?

– 110. It went out.

– Did you band out? No, no. It went out.

– [Boveda Rob] Did you nail the light?

– Yes, I nailed the light.

– [Boveda Rob] You got the light?

– Yeah. I got right down to the band and it went out. Like, just stopped. That was a good cigar.

– [Boveda Rob] Yeah?

– Yeah. Absolutely.

– [Boveda Rob] Did you practice before this competition?

– I had two. I had one, I was at 53 minutes. Legit, it was like that far down and then went out. Last night, I was at 14 minutes and it went out.

– [Boveda Rob] 14 Minutes.

– Like a light switch it just went out.

– [Boveda Rob] So it went out?

– No, it’s still burning. I was at the label.

– [Boveda Rob] You were? Did you let it touch the label? Did it burn?

– No, it was right at the label. The label started turning brown. He was right there. I said, I’m out.

– [Boveda Rob] So you recorded your time at what?

– I think it was at 105.

– [Boveda Rob] 105? Not a bad time.

– Not a bad time. I will practice and hopefully get back into next year.

– It’s out.

– [CSWC Announcers] We have three contestants left.

– And then there were three.

– [Boveda Rob] Did the band get burned on the left?

– It’s over with a 15-minute penalty. 127.51, you burned the band. 127.51. Sorry.

– [Boveda Rob] It’s down to two.

– [Boveda Rob] Out? 128.29

– [Boveda Rob] Thanks, Max! That was awesome. You came in third, but you burned the band. How did that happen?

– [Kevin] I was so focused on keeping it lit, I lost track of the rest of the cigar.

– [Boveda Rob] Do you think you would have called it earlier if you had known? Or would be you still gone for first?

– [Boveda Rob] Yes. I think I would have went for third. If I knew that the guy behind me was way ahead, I would have called it.

– [Boveda Rob] It happens. You can’t control it always. So you gotta know when to do it. You gotta know when to fold them. So how does it feel to win out of 28 guys?

– [Aaron] Exciting, very exciting.

– We were golfing on Tuesday and I said, Hey, you should do this competition. And he said, what is it? No practice, he came in and won the whole thing.

– [Boveda Rob] Wow. For tomorrow’s U.S. Finals, what are you going to take away from this to get you through the finals?

– [Aaron] Focus and slow and steady.

– [Boveda Rob] You are very focused over here. Very focused. Congratulations.

– [Aaron] Thank you very much

– [Boveda Rob] Nice work!

What Cigar Are They Smoking?

There’s an official CSWC Rocky Patel cigar, the Mareva (or Petit Corona) vitola. Now Marevas normally smoke in just 30 minutes, which makes them a good cigar choice for lunch breaks or dog walks. The average smoke time for the CSWC Rocky Patel, however, is almost 90 minutes. The longest smoking time recorded for this stick is 198 minutes!

The CSWC Mareva placed ninth on Cigar Journal magazine’s Top 25 Cigars of 2020. The blend is available in smoke shops and online in three vitolas—the competition-sized Mareva as well as as a Robusto and a Toro.

Tasting notes: Along with the intense aromas of roasted coffee beans, almonds and earth, as well as a noticeable cacao sweetness, this cigar offers a broad spectrum. Later, perceptible acidic and bitter notes are added. It has a razor-sharp burn.


Are There Rules to Slow Smoking a Cigar in Competition?

There are many. You can pick your own cigar from the box. You must use the official Les Fines Lames cigar cutter. You get two long matches to light your cigar once. No talking for the first five minutes. You’re penalized for breaking the ash and burning the wrapper. The winner is the die-hard who smokes the cigar for the longest time without turning it off. Check out the 2021 CSWC complete list of rules here.

Who Can Compete in the Cigar Smoking World Championship?

Anyone can enter the competition. The first step is to register for a regional CSWC event. Although the future sites have yet to be scheduled, you can find updates on the CSWC news website.

In, 2021, 13 qualifying rounds were held at smoke clubs and lounges across the U.S. For international Boveda fans, there were qualifying events in more than 30 countries, too. The winner from each country attended the grand finale in Split, Croatia, in September 2021.

You Might Also Like:

Slow and Low—CSWC Smoke Off: Boveda’s Rob Gagner Versus SOTL Ben Wills

Do YOU Have What It Takes To Be A Cigar Smoking World Champion?! 

For My Humidor | Pierre Jourdon, Les Fines Lames Cigar Cutters