How To Herf

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How To Herf

I’m AWOL again this week, so no Tower of Burn. Yeah, I know, but it’s proven to be nearly impossible to do a cigar review on the road. Next week it will be back for sure. In the meantime, I thought it’d be a good time to discuss one of our cherished cigar institutions, the Herf.

The idea to write a little bit about herfing came to me after I was asked for the third time by as many people about the subject, all in the space of a week. What’s a herf? What happens at a herf? How do I throw a “cigar party”? They asked. I was a little surprised. I just assumed people knew what I was talking about when I threw the term around. I have to wonder how often I was on the receiving end of the smile-and-nod. To clear it all up, I will address all three questions.

What’s a Herf?
If (dare I say, when) “Herf” is added to the dictionary, allowing the term to graduate from the school of cigar geek jargon and enter the vast world of proper English words, I image the entry will look a little like this:

Herf /hurf/ n. 1. A gathering of people for the purpose of smoking cigars. 2. A group of people smoking cigars. 3. A sound made by a cat whist coughing up a hairball. v. 1. To smoke cigars with other cigar smokers. 2. To smoke many cigars in a short period of time.

Regarding the history of the word, I’ve seen all sorts of clever stories involving foreign word etymologies and people of yore with unfortunate names and a penchant for tobacco. But the tale I’m inclined to believe is that it was coined on the alt.smokers.cigar forum some time in 1996. At one point I spent hours reading through threads on that newsgroup trying to get to the bottom of it. I found that several people claimed to have said “herf” first, and with different meanings. One likely candidate used the term in place of “draw”, while another used it as shorthand for a group of people. Who’s right? Who knows. What’s important is what it means now.

In answer to the first question, what is a herf, technically, it’s nothing more than a gathering of people for the purpose of smoking cigars. What sets it apart from the average cigar shop visit is that a herf usually takes place somewhere other than a cigar shop. In a cigar-friendly bar, or at someone’s house, for example. Accordingly, the participants bring the cigars they’re planning on smoking with them. (That being said, I have attended herfs at cigar shops.)

What Happens at a Herf?
The answer to this question varies from one event to the next, it’s up to host and the attendees what happens. The one thing you can be assured is that aromatic qualities of numerous cigars will be set free with the assistance of fire. At most herfs I have attended, a good deal of trading and gifting takes place. Something about the atmosphere inspires generosity, and encourages the enthusiast to light up a rarity. And of course, when get a group of cigar smokers together, you can bet food and drink are close at hand.

On occasion, more elaborate events take place at a herf, such as box passes, poker or domino games, long ash competitions, raffles and cigars-for-troops collections. For someone who hasn’t been to one before it can sound intimidating. The thing to keep in mind is that these extra curricular activities are rarely mandatory, and you will be welcome to drop by even if all you do do is smoke your favorite cigar and make some friends.

How Do I Host a Herf?
Hosting a herf isn’t much different hosting any sort of party. The major difference is that it works better if everyone you invite smokes cigars and you hold it in a place that will not be adversely affected by the perpetual cloud of premium tobacco smoke. And bonus, because it’s a herf, you don’t have provide the cigars (other than your own), but it’s a good idea to have some food and beverages on hand. Cigar smokers are always looking for new and interesting places to light up their favorite sticks, if you provide them with that, the rest is gravy.

Hot Herfin’ Tips From You
Have some herfing tips and/or experiences you’d like to share? Or perhaps I missed something? Feel free to make use of our top-notch comment functionality (now with hyper-threading!) and share the love!

enjoying cigars since 1997

12 thoughts on “How To Herf

  1. Herfing is a great concept. Being able to meet up with a mass amount of B & SOTL is totally awesome . I was skeptical about herfing but must say when getting together with people that enjoy a fine cigar is a great idea. I say if you have yet to do this your missing out on some great times!!!

    So do it !!!

  2. Nice particularly like “3. A sound made by a cat whist coughing up a hairball” maybe i need to find a photo of a cat coughing up a fur ball and put that on the front of my garage (now that its clean enough to use) when im smoking!

  3. I once held a Herf…I was the only person there who smoked cigars. Wish i was better at making friends.

  4. I’ve hosted many a herf…six years ago the tradition of “The Tiki Bar” started in my backyard with a couple friends, some cigars and a bottle of Scotch. Before I moved across the country, we had about 6 regulars (and a couple occasionals) and everyone was encouraged to contribute. I kept a variety of rums and bourbons; other brought Scotch or other varieties of libation for us to try. I brought out my stereo and everyone was free to bring their iPod to contribute to the music. Mostly we sat around and talked; we talked about the cigars we were smoking and the ones we had smoked since the last meeting. We tried to figure out why politicians from both parties are such idiots. Occasionally we would bring out the felt table-topper and cards and play a round of poker.

    The Tiki Bar tradition is kept alive by my friends in Cali and by me in my blog. I occasionally Skype in with them too: virtual herf!!!

    The main thing about herfing is this: enjoying the time with your friends. You may not agree on every cigar or on politics or on what movies are worth watching, but you can discuss it, argue about it, and walk away at the end of the night still friends.

  5. Brian:

    When I did some research on the question of a “herf,” a few years ago, in response to a query by Colin Ganley, what I found agreed with what you have written; with one addition. A “herf” is normally organized via the internet (I assumed it to be e-mails, Bulletin Board postings, etc)

  6. Without using the term “Herf” I guess I’ve had a few, at the house on the patio with a few friends and at the local cigar friendly pool hall with friends(which is located next to a cigar shop). I never new what the term meant until a few years ago. Nice article

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