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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:  What is the Anatomy of a Cigar?
A1: It is always helpful to know which end is which and what everything is called. The majority of cigars come with one open end (the foot) which is the end that you will light. The other end (the head) is the end that you must cut, and through which you will draw air and delicious smoke. To make life easier, the band is most often placed near the head.

Q2:  What are the parts of Cigar?
A2: A cigar is normally composed of three types of tobacco; the Wrapper (which holds everything together) the Filler (the guts), and the Binder (which holds the filler together).

Q3:  What is the Filler?
A3: The filler can be from any part of the tobacco plant, with the top of the plant usually producing the strongest flavor, while the bottom produces the tobacco with the best burning properties. Most cigars have blended fillers (fillers from varying parts of the plant and varying sources) to achieve the correct taste and burning qualities.

Q4:  What is a “premium” cigar?
A4: The term “premium”, when applied to cigars, indicates that it is hand made, not normally a mass market style of cigar. In order to be classified as such, it will have the following characteristics: Premium cigars are constructed from three parts; The filler, the binder, and the wrapper. The filler is the interior of the cigar. When a cigar is examined from the open end, the filler can be seen as the leaves that are twisted in spirals within the center of the cigar. When the term “long filler” is used, it means that the filler was constructed from full leaves. These leaves are picked, stored, and aged intact, and are obviously handled with great care. Rolling long filler cigars takes great skill to insure that it burns evenly and smoothly. The second type of filler is short filler. Short filler consists of loose clippings of leaves that are leftover from the long filler production, or leaves that broke anywhere along the cultivation process. Premium short filler cigars are made from 100% tobacco leaves, but just not the same leaf from end to end. Short filler cigars are still technically considered to be “premium”, so long as the cigar is still completely hand made, and is constructed only from pure, untreated or unhomogenized tobacco. The next part of the cigar consists of several layers of leaves that encircle the spirals of filler. These layers are termed “binder”. As the name implies, it forms the filler into a circular shape, so that the next, and final component, the wrapper, can be applied.

Q5: What am I getting when I Buy a “Puro”?
A5: A puro is a cigar that was made entirely from the tobaccos of one county. An example of the most well known Puros are Cuban cigars. In Cuba, the filler, binder, and wrapper is all grown in Cuba. Cigar manufacturers who make Puros consider it a great honor to be able to achieve a such a level of sufficiency, as it gives them more control over the consistency and quality of the finished product. The difficulty in acquiring the necessary native ingredients in producing a puro make them very rare indeed. Other than Cuban cigars, which are unavailable in the American market, there are only a handful of Puros out there. The Breton Corojo Vintage, Corojo2000, and the Opus X are all excellent quality Dominican Puros.

Q6:  What are the basic shapes of premium cigars?
A6: There are 2 shapes of cigars, Parejos and Figurados. A Parejos is a straight sided cigar. A Figurado is an exotic, irregular shape.

Q7:  What do the two numbers mean when applied to cigar sizes?
A7: They are the length and ring gauge (diameter). The length is measured in inches. The ring gauge is measured in units of 1/64th’s of an inch. For example, a cigar that is called “8 x 48″ is 8 inches long and 48/64ths of an inch in diameter.

Q8:  What are the names of the opposite ends of the cigar called?
A8: The end you cut and smoke though is the “cap”. The end you light is called a “tuck” or “foot”.

Q9:  Does the cigar’s name indicate its dimension?
A9: Sometimes they do. There are some basic shapes that fall within certain size parameters. These shapes are given names, so that there is some degree of uniformity in the industry. These descriptive dimensions are approximate, but here are some guidelines: Short is less than 5.5 inches. Long is greater than 6.5 inches. Thin is less than 42 ring size. Thick is greater than 47 ring. The group below are the most common shapes.

  • Robusto: Short and thick
  • Lonsdale: Thin and long
  • Corona: Medium length and medium gauge
  • Churchill: Long and thick
  • Cigarillo: Short and thin

Please note that these are only generic shape names. For example, a Robusto from one brand may have slightly different dimensions than a Robusto from another brand.
There are other shapes that fall between and around these basics:

  • Toro: Somewhere between Robusto and Churchill.
  • Panatela: A skinny Lonsdale.
  • Rothchild: Somewhere between a Robusto and a Corona.
  • Presidente: Either a little larger or smaller than a Churchill

Cigar makers can also add one of these common adjectives to the name. They can help you to envision the size. Gorda, Grande, Gran, Larga, Extra, Doble, or Double always mean they are adding on to the size. Petite, Slim, Finos, or Demi indicate some sort of reduction to the size. For example a “Corona Grande” is a long Corona, and would be close to a Lonsdale. On top of all this we will now add the Figurados. Here are the basic definitions. Note, you will find more disparity here among brands than you can imagine. When you are dealing with Parejos, you can be positive that Robustos from different brands will always resemble each other to some degree. However, with Figurados, almost anything goes. One company’s Piramid will be another’s Torpedo or Perfecto. These are the most common descriptions for the shape names on today’s market. Remember, all dimensions described are approximations.

  • Torpedo: The cap is a sharp point, the foot is open. The shape does not begin to taper until the last 2 inches near the cap. The foot will measure between 46 to 54 in ring size. The length can range from 5 to 7 inches.
  • Piramide: The cap is round, the foot is open. The cigar will immediately taper from the foot right down to the cap. For this reason, many Piramides will be described with two ring sizes. For example, 7 x 36-50. This means that it is a seven inch cigar, and the tuck is 50 ring, and it drops down to 36 by the time it reaches the cap.
  • Triangulo: Similar to a Piramide, but the cap is pointed.
  • Belicoso: Similar to a torpedo, but usually a little shorter. Also, the taper will occur even more quickly than the torpedo, typically occurring within the last 3/4″ near the cap.
  • Perfecto: The perfecto will have both ends closed. The cap can be round or pointed. The tuck is typically tapered to the width of a cigarette. On some brands, you light the foot as is, and with others, if it is more than 3/8″, you clip off a bit to expose the filler. The sides can be straight, or there can be a bulge in the first half of the cigar near the foot. The length of a perfecto can vary from 4-8″
  • Diadema: Traditionally, this is a giant perfecto, measuring at least 8″ long. However, it is can be used to name any huge scale version of the Figurados described above.
  • Culebra: Three panetelas twisted around each other and held together with either ribbon or a large cigar band. The segments of a traditional Culebra will be composed of all ligero filler, not mild seco and volado fillers of a regular Panetela. You must separate them before smoking. Do not attempt to straighten out the wavy shape. Smoke them in the curved way that they have been cured.

Q10:  What do the cigar ratings mean?
A:10 We use the ratings from one of the most trusted sources, Cigar Aficionado.
Cigar Aficionado’s ratings are scored on the 100-point scale:
95-100 – classic
90- 94 – outstanding
80-89 – very good to excellent
70-79 – average to good commercial quality
Below 70 – don’t waste your money

Q11:  How do I open the end cap?
A11: The most common way is with a cigar cutter. This means you will clip the rounded end cap off.

Q12:  Is there a correct way to light a cigar?
A:12 Your goal is light the end as evenly as possible. When lighting the cigar, it is best when you apply as little of the flame to the end of the cigar as possible. This will prevent the tobacco from getting charred, or carbonized, and imparting an unpleasant taste unto it. To do this, hold the flame about 2 inches away from the cigar, and slowly draw long puffs of air through the cigar. The flame should jump up to the cigar. With each new puff, rotate the cigar about a quarter of a turn. Continue this for 4-5 puffs and then inspect your work. If there is a tiny unlit spot, you can blow on it to accelerate the glowing coal to drift over to it. Then, take one or two steady puffs and then leave the cigar alone for at least 2 minutes, as the first 1/8th to 3/16th of ash builds. You have laid the foundation of a cigar that will burn perfectly.

Q13:  How come my cigar does not always burn evenly?
A13: Usually uneven burns are a result of poor lighting technique. Therefore, patience should be applied during the lighting to insure that the cigar burns properly, and does not “tunnel” or “canoe”. Your cigar is tunneling when the inner filler is burning down, and the outer layers, including the wrapper and binder, are still unlit. This will taste unpleasant, as you are not smoking the balanced blend. It will ultimately go out, as the inner core suffocates from lack of air. If your cigar tunnels you can try to fix it by using your cutter and clipping down the unburned exterior and then try to relight the cigar. A problem that is more common than tunneling is canoeing. This is when your cigar is imitating a canoe, by one half burning slower than the other. It can be caused by improperly lighting the cigar, or by smoking too quickly, puffing away like mad. The best way to fix this is to leave the cigar alone and let the slow side catch up as soon as you notice it is happening. The sooner you “back off”, the sooner the cigar will even up. If you ignore it, it will get more and more pronounced. I do not recommend “flash burning” the slow half, as it will usually leave a burning taste on the rest of the cigar as you smoke it. Both of these syndromes can be prevented by correctly lighting the cigar. Very windy conditions can also make the cigar canoe to tunnel. Unfortunately, this is out of your control and is no mark against your ignition techniques.

Q14:  Can I use any type of flame?
A14: The goal is to use a flame that is free of impurities. The historical method was to use a splint of cedar, known as a “spill”, to light the cigar. More practical and handy are wooden matches or mechanical lighters that use butane, both of which burn clean. Paper matches are undesirable because they have two elements that can taint the taste of the cigar. First, many paper matches are dyed with a pigment. Second, they are often treated with an accelerant chemical, which you can see as it boils off the first 1/4″ of the match right after it is struck. By the time this chemical has boiled off, the match is too short to light the cigar. When using wooden matches, I recommend that you use two matches at once, spread approximately 1/4″ apart. This will create a flame broad enough to light the whole end in one attempt. Rarely can you get the entire cigar lit with just one match, and if you need to start a second match you have already started the cigar off on an uneven burn. Other than a thin cedar spill, these are the only two sources for flame that I would advise. Never use a candle, or a lighter that used any fuel other than butane. And certainly never use a gas stove or stick your head into a campfire, as you risk lighting you hair up when you lean over it.

Q15:  When do I tap the ash?
A15: The ash is very sturdy and will hold up at least 3/4″ of an inch, or more. Therefore, you should not be so concerned as to look for the ashtray after every puff, as you can damage the cigar by constantly trying to tap off a fresh ash. It can be easily knocked off about every 1/2″ or so.

Q16:  How many different types of tobacco are there?
A16: There are literally hundreds of strains of tobacco plants. They are grown on almost every continent, although only a handful are suitable for premium cigar production. Most of these are Cuban seed varieties that have been cultivated in other countries. The leaves from most Cuban seed varieties often reach 14-18 inches in length.

Q17:  What does Ligero, Seco, and Volado mean?
A17: These are the classifications of leaf types that a single plant, regardless of its variety, will yield. Every tobacco plant for cigar applications has these three leaf types. Each is from a different part of the plant. Every cigar should have some combination of these leaves to burn correctly. The “ligero” leaves (pronounced lee-hair-oh) are taken from the top third of the plant. These offer the strength to the cigar’s flavor. The leaves from the middle third of the plant are called “seco” (pronounced say-ko). These have a mild flavor, and contribute to overall aroma. Finally, at the bottom third of the plant, are the “volado” leaves. These have little flavor, but are a necessary part of the blend due to their excellent burning characteristics. Ligero and seco leaves do not burn very well and need the help of the volado leaf to keep the cigar lit and burning smoothly. When a manufacturer is creating a blend, they will take some combination of these classifications, from various strains of plants, to produce the flavor they prefer.

Q18:  What is Maduro?
A18: Maduro, directly translated from Spanish, means “mature” or “ripe”. On a cigar, it applies to the wrapper leaf that is medium or dark brown. The two most common styles of maduro are Colorado (medium brown), and Oscuro (dark brown, almost black). There are several methods used to achieve these shades, depending on the hybrid of plant. Some are fermented for longer periods of time, while others are merely left on the plant unpicked until the very end of the plant’s annual growing cycle. Most maduro shaded wrappers are grown in Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Cameroon.

Q19:  What does “shade grown” or “sungrown” mean?
A19: Shade grown means that tapadas, which are large white fabric sheets, similar to cheesecloth, are suspended 6-10 feet above the entire crop to shield the leaves from direct exposure to sunlight. The opposite of this is to allow the leaves to grow without any protection, directly in the sunlight. The implementation of either procedure will yield completely different wrappers, as the exposure to the sun will affect the amount of sugars and oils the plant produces, the thickness of the veins in the leaf, and ultimately, its color. A common shade grown wrapper color is of a “Claro” color. This has a pale “coffee with cream” color. Many companies will often alternatively refer to this shade as “natural”. A common sun grown wrapper color is “Maduro”, which has a hue of dark or black coffee.

Q20:  Why are wrapper leaves so special?
A20: The wrapper is a very delicate leaf, and is only one layer thick around the cigar. It contributes a large percentage to the overall flavor of the cigar. Wrapper leaves can be grown in many places on the globe, and each variety contributes its own characteristics towards the cigar’s flavor. A wrapper leaf is evaluated on the thinness of its veins, its oily sheen, its even coloring, and most importantly, its unblemished appearance. There are about a dozen or so colors, all variations of these basic ones, listed from lightest to darkest:
Candela (which is still green), Double Claro, Claro, Colorado, Colorado Maduro, Colorado Rosado, Maduro, and Oscuro. In order to achieve and maintain these desired characteristics, the leaves are often carefully and skillfully handled several hundred times from picking, curing, stripping, aging, and rolling. Binder leaves are often wrapper leaves that have been rejected due to some sort of cosmetic imperfection.

Q21:  How is tobacco cured?
A21: Curing tobacco is a sensitive process that depends on techniques and traditions that are hundreds of years old. Following the harvest, tobacco is removed from the fields and placed in large bulk piles within a curing shed. This shed will have several barn doors in the front and rear, and many doorways running along the sides. There are also vents on the upper portions of the structure. The purpose of all these openings is to control the interior temperature and humidity. By opening or closing the apertures, workers are able to counterbalance the effect of wind and sun exposure on the structure. Each bulk is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Inside these piles, heat is created as a by-product of the chemical reactions taking place. The core temperature is monitored daily and the piles are rotated inside out frequently to prevent the raw tobacco from cooking. This part of the fermentation is referred to as “sweating”. These bulks may be turned many times during the following months until this stage is complete. It is during this sweating process that the tobacco releases ammonia and other undesirables elements. The tobacco is then put into rectangular bails, each about 150 pounds, and stored for a minimum of one year. Many producers will store it for much longer periods of 3-5 years. After this curing and aging period, the tobacco is judged suitable and shipped to the fabrica for rolling.

Q22:  Do premium cigars need to be kept in a humidor?
A22: A premium cigar, by definition, is handmade and in most cases, constructed with long-filler tobacco. It is 100% pure tobacco leaves throughout its construction. Unlike cigarettes or machine made cigars, they have no chemicals that are added that will keep them from drying out. Therefore, they must be stored at the correct humidity level to preserve its moisture content, or they will dry out and crumble. The cigars must be kept at 70-72% humidity level to prevent them from drying out. This is best achieved by keeping them in a humidor. The humidor should have a Spanish cedar lining, to enhance the aroma and promote the aging of the cigar. If you are on a budget, there are cigar jars, made of glass, that will do an adequate job. If you are really in a pinch you can use Tupperware, or a similar style food storage container. All of these storage devices must have a humidification element that releases moisture into the storage chamber.

Q23:  What are characteristics of a good humidor?
A23: There are several key points that all good humidors share. It is important that you chose the right one in order to protect your precious and delicate cigars. First, is the interior lining. It should be made of Spanish cedar. A very small percentage of humidors on the market use a mahogany interior as an acceptable alternative. The next important feature to look for is the seal between the lid and the rim of the box. It should be a tight seal, but it can not be purely airtight. Lids that are very heavy, relative to the rest of the box, help to promote a sufficient seal. An indicator of a good seal is when the lid is closed you should feel / hear a small whoosh. Another critical element to look at is the hinges on the lid. They must be heavy duty, and be secured with good anchoring. Often, as described earlier, the lids can be very heavy, and the hinging must be sturdy enough to support the stress that a heavy lid will put on them. Often, people will say that the most critical part of a humidor is the humidification element. However, I disagree. It is actually the only component than can actually be replaced, therefore, it is more important to have good seals and hinges, for without them, even the best humidification element will not keep the cigars in peak condition. These key features are what make a humidor.

Q24:  Why must I use distilled water in my humidification element?
A24: Other than the initial charge of humidor solution, use only distilled water. Tap water and bottled spring water contain minerals that will collect and slowly “cake-up” on both the device and the interior of the humidor. These minerals turn into a whitish/tan crust, and eventually, will clog the pores of the humidification device and destroy the effectiveness of the humidor. Additionally, some tap waters often have a slight odor, that will taint the aroma of the cigars when compounded over months or years.

Q25:  How do I set up my humidor for the first time?
A25: When most people get their new humidor home, they are anxious to fill it up with their collection of smokes. If you do this without first re-humidifying the wood, you may ruin your cigars. Why? The wood has not had a chance to reach its equilibrium. So when you put your cigars in, the wood will absorb their moisture and you will be left with dry useless cigars. Not exactly the reason you bought a humidor, huh? To solve this problem, all humidors should be re-humidified before their first use.

  • Re-humidifying your humidor is easy, just follow these simple steps:
  • Place a shallow container filled with distilled water or activator solution in the bottom of the humidor
  • Place calibrated hygrometer inside humidor
  • Charge your humidification device
  • Place humidification device inside humidor

You have to check the relative humidity every day. Depending on a number of factors this can take a few days to a few weeks. When you get in the 70 range it is safe to store you smokes inside. As long as you constantly recharge your humidification device you will never have to wait to store your cigars again.
Some people suggest wiping down the inside of the humidor with a moist cloth to speed up the process. NEVER DO THIS! Under no circumstances do you want to get the wood wet as that may cause it to warp or crack, thus rendering the humidor useless.

Q26:  What happens to a cigar that was left out of the humidor?
A26: The answer depends on the environment that the cigar was exposed to and what protection the cigar had. Cigars often come with an individual plastic sleeve that surrounds them. This plastic protects the cigar from drying out for short periods of time. For example, on the ride home from a cigar store. A cigar with this sleeve that has been out of the humidor for a few hours, or even a day, will be not be drastically affected by the change in humidity. However, without this sleeve, the cigar, under low humidity conditions, can be ruined in as little as 45 minutes. These guidelines are only approximations, and it is strongly recommended that you protect a cigar by keeping it in a plastic bag until you can get it to the humidor. Do not tempt the fate. After a day or so, the cigar will begin to dry out. It can be restored by putting it back in the humidor and leaving it untouched. It will revive itself over time. Generally, it takes about 2-3 times longer for a cigar to regain its moistness as it did to lose it. For example, if a cigar was out of a humidor for 2 days, it may take 4, 5, or 6 days to recover, depending on the humidity of the environment it was exposed to. When attempting to revive the cigar in a humidor, it should put it as far away from the humidification device as you possible. Leave it undisturbed for as long as you can, and then you can slowly move it closer, until you deem it in a smokeable condition. It is most important to handle the dry cigar very gently. Remember, it is merely a leaf. If pinched, squeezed or dropped on the floor, its wrapper leaf may flake, crack, or split. Very little can be done to save it once this happens.

Q27:  How are cigars protected during shipping? Why don’t they dry out if it takes more than a day to transport them?
A27: The cigars are protected from humidity changes during shipping because they are bulk wrapped in protective layers of plastic, which retards the moisture’s escape.

Q28:  Is temperature control an issue? Can they be stored in a refrigerator, third floor attic or a basement?
A28: Temperature is only a factor in the extremes. Too much heat (sustained above 80 degrees for 3-4 days or longer) may invite a beetle infestation. This is the same type of bug that would invade pasta, cereal, raisins, and breads. Great care must be taken to prevent the cigars from being placed near a heat source, where this infestation is invited. On the other side of the spectrum, too much cold will dry out the cigars. Cold air is devoid of humidity and pulls moisture out of things that have it. This is why lips get chapped and skin dries out in the winter months. The same holds true for the cigars. Any home or office that maintains a temperature control between 60 and 75 degrees provides a suitable environment for cigars. The colder the room is, the more frequent the humidification device will need to be recharged with water. Storing cigars in the fridge or freezer is not recommended for two reasons. First, you must use a completely airtight container to prevent them from drying out. If the seal fails, or you accidentally do not tighten it completely, you have sentenced the cigars to a merciless death. Secondly, even if you have a good seal, the cold temperature will suspend the maturing and aging of the cigar, which although is not harmful, is not productive.

Q29:  Why do experts recommend aging cigars in a humidor before they smoke them?
A29: Seasoned cigar smokers feel that aged cigars taste better. The long term exposure to the Spanish cedar enhances the flavor of the cigar. Also, many cigars, usually of the stronger variety, will improve, as the oils bloom through to the surface of the wrapper. Many cigars are just fine when you buy them, and it is not a hard and fast rule that all cigars should be aged. However, all cigars will benefit from at least a few weeks or months in your personal humidor. If you plan on laying down the cigar for a long period, separate different brands with cedar dividers or the cedar sheets that often come in the boxes. This will prevent the cigars from tainting each other with their distinct aromas.

Q30:  What does Bloom mean?
A30: Bloom is a grayish fuzz that can appear on a well aged cigar. It is not mold, and it is completely harmless. It is a residue from the fermenting oils within the cigar, and is indicative that you have ideal storage conditions. You can identify it as bloom if it easily wipes off if you brush it gently with your finger. If you can not easily remove it, and it is more of a white color, it is probably mold. Mold will grow if the humidor is too moist. You must always be conscious of how much water you are adding to the humidification device. Mold will not grow quickly, so there are 2 signs that you can look for that will indicate that you are heading in a bad direction. The first indicator is damp, soggy cigars. These will be hard to smoke, and may even hiss or burst as you smoke them. The second sign is a foul, musty odor that greets you when you open the humidor. If you notice either of these symptoms you should cut back on the amount of water you are adding to the element, regardless of what your hygrometer (if you have one) says. It is probably not calibrated and is giving a false reading. If you spot mold on a cigar remove it immediately from the humidor, as it will spread to others.

Q31:  How do you know where the cigar is from, if it is made from tobaccos of different countries?
A31: A cigar’s country of origin is classified by where it was rolled, regardless of where the wrapper, binder, or filler is from. Typically, the filler tobacco is usually grown in the same country as where the cigar is made. This is not an absolute rule, as cigars rolled in the US, (typically, Miami or Tampa regions) must import all of their filler. Another exception is Honduran and Nicaraguan cigars, as their native grown fillers are often too harsh to be used exclusively, and are typically blended with Dominican filler in order to produce an acceptable smoke.

Q32:  What are the different tools used to cut the cap off the cigar?
A32: There are several methods of cutting the cigar. Here are the most common accessories on the market.
Cutters: A cutter is a guillotine style device used to slice the cap off of the cigar. It is the most common type, and is available as a single, double, and even triple blade. The single and double blades are the most common. Most double blades cutters are more expensive than the single blades, but they will last far longer, as they are self-sharpening. Most single blade cutters are disposable, and should be thrown away once they have stopped making a clean, sharp cut. If you buy an expensive gold or silver single blade cutter, be sure that the blade is replaceable, or else you will have just spent a lot of money on a disposable cutter.
Scissors/Clippers: These scissor-action clippers work the same way that the double blade cutter does. However, they are not self sharpening, and can crush or tear the head off the cigar if they are not kept at peak sharpness. They do not fit comfortably in a pocket, and therefore the lack of portability makes them attractive for home use only.
Wedge Cutter: These cut a “V” down the center of the cap, about an 1/8-1/4″ deep. Typically, they work very well on thin (less than 40 ring size) and tapered (torpedo shaped) cigars. They do not give a clean cut on the thicker heads.
Punch: A punch cuts a small circle into the cap. A well designed one can have an ejection spring to push out the cut tobacco. The punch does not work well on thin cigars. It works well on thick cigars, especially the oversized ones of 54 ring gauge or more. Often a guillotine cutter can not accommodate these mammoths. Also, the punch hole in these giants relieves you from having to put the whole cigar in between your lips, which can be uncomfortable on the jaw. Rather, you can “sip” the smoke through the punch opening.
Poker/Piercer: This is a pin-like rod that just pokes a hole in the cap. It does not allow a good draw, which can cause the cigar to burn improperly, or provide its full flavor. It also causes a build up of bitter tars at its opening, once you have been smoking the cigar for a while. Therefore, a piercer is not recommended on anything larger than a short, thin cigar.

 

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It is illegal to sell tobacco products to a person under 18.

It is illegal to purchase a tobacco product for use by a person under 18.
 
*Prices are subject to change without notice.