A few years ago I started to get more serious about smoking cigars. I always liked cigars but was not too into them. Every so often I would be given one or would buy one. Boo was my once-a-year supplier. Every year at my mother-in-law’s Christmas party he would bring one for me. When my wife and I first started to date and got married, most times we went out we closed the night with a stop at a cigar shop and a walk while we puffed away on our stogies – those were the days!!! But I did not know what I was smoking, if it was good, if it was well preserved and all of the other apparently important elements that define “serious” cigar smoking.
About 5 years ago I was in Argentina for work and I decide to visit my sister at her farms for the weekend. We had dinner with Don Placido, her father-in-law – he passed on couple of years ago. He smoked cigars for 60 years. He smoked all sort of cigars, from most corners of the world that produced them. So … I go to Don Placido all proud of myself and tell him that I am getting into cigar smoking and I am a “great smoker”. He takes a look at me in a very condescending way and tells me I know absolutely nothing about cigar smoking; I was humbled. Instead of getting all personal about it I asked if he would point me to some good cigars. He suggests I visit a cigar shop in Buenos Aires , Hermes, where he gets his smokes. The sticks are cuban tobacco and leaf but hand wrapped in Argentina. When you go to the shop you can see the ladies wrapping them before your eyes. I go to the shop, of course, and tell them that Don Placido recommended the place and I want a few sticks “like Romeo and Julieta”. They immediately set me up.
Needless to say this cigars are great. According to Don Placido these are the best cigars he had ever smoked bar none. But … what did the old man know, he only smoked for 60 years. I brought a few back for friends and for me to have. I gave one of them to a friend of mine, that although not an expert, he knows a lot more than I about cigars. He thought these were AWESOME cigars. Maybe the old man knew something!! Finally, over a company dinner one night, I gave one of the other executives one of the cuban/argentinian sticks. Now … this guy smokes on a regular basis. He has a room in his house he converted to a smoking room/humidor. When I offered him the unassuming cigar he was a little skeptical. He looked upon my extended arm holding the cigar and was not so sure about it. If I remember correctly, I think he sort of growled at the cigar. He took a step back but finally took the cigar.
As he started to puff on the cigar his face changed, and it went from disgust to surprise in a matter of seconds. He could not stop puffing. He puffed and looked at the cigar in disbelief. After a few puffs he turned and looked at me. He paused … he was going to say something … his mouth moved but no sound came out … and he went back to puffing. A good 45 minutes later, when we finished the cigar he finally turned to me again and expressed how pleased he was with the cigar. Do you have more? He asked. I had couple more sticks on my pocket which I gave to him. And the next day, I brought from my cache a few more sticks for him to age. I remember with great pleasure the night and his expressions.
I continued to smoke the same cuban/argentinian cigars almost exclusively. I took over the supply of Christmas’ party smokes from Boo. And I made sure I had a supply of them at hand at every function I attended where smoking may occur. That is dedication my friends. There were only a few times were I smoked other sticks.
Last year I started expanding my horizons and started smoking other brands and trying other types beyond cuban seed and leaf. I discovered a new world of cigars from other parts of Central America beyond Cuba and I started to educate myself on what that meant. Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemala started to have new found meaning to me. Padron, Ashton, A. Fuentes, Rocky Patel and Gurka became new words in my vocabulary. As I normally do when I want to become well versed in something and decide that anonymous uneducated enjoyment will not do, I read and research as much as I can. Unfortunately I do not have all the time I want on a daily basis, but I have all the time I need over the course of my life. And part of enjoying these type of things for me is taking the time to learn and savor.
I drunk wine from an early age. I always enjoyed it. About 10 years ago I also started to get serious about it. I read and tried and researched and tasted as much as I could. And only after so many years I finally started to developed a palate worth mentioning. I am still not an expert. For example, my sister’s husband knows a great deal more than I. And a buddy of mine who owns a wine/cigar shop is 100 times more an expert than I will ever be. But I am proud of my developing wine connoisseur abilities and the road that took me here. I am taking the same road with cigar smoking. It will take me years before I can say I know even the slightest bit about cigars. And I will enjoy every single one of those years as I smoke one stick at a time one puff at a time.