Miami International Airport, 7:30 a.m., Sunday morning. I step up to a kiosk, scan my passport and answer a few questions. A few minutes of work and I have my boarding pass. I step into a short line, and after a brief wait my pass is stamped and I'm sent on my way. Total time spent? Fifteen minutes.
It's early in the morning, and the air is already warm and heavy with the promise of ever more sunshine. Sitting on the balcony of Camp David Ranch, a cup of strong coffee to my right and a smoldering cigar to my left, I'm looking down at the city of Santiago stretching out beneath me like a wide carpet studded with homes and buildings of varying size. To the left is a vast expanse of green, with fewer pockmarks of man. Fires burn in the distance, the winds carrying the smoke to my right, parallel to the range of gray mountains that loom in the distance. It's a gorgeous sight.
Smoking cigars is a rewarding hobby, one that has given me immense amounts of pleasure. I know many of you feel the same way. The other day, over a cigar, I was thinking about certain experiences that take cigar smoking to an even higher level, things that I hope many of you have already done....or will do soon. With that in mind, I present this Cigar Smoker's Bucket List.
New Year's resolutions. Most of us make them. Some of us keep them. Many break them. Whatever the final outcome, there's something about seeing January on a calendar that inspires people to change the way they do things.
As I sit here typing, my morning coffee to my right, lit cigar smoldering in the ashtray, I'm thinking about what's to come in 2017. Here are a few of my resolutions:
I love "As," and I'm not talking ABCs. I'm talking about the massive cigars that take a long, long time to smoke.
In the world of Cuban cigars, where sizes are quite specific, the "A" is a gran corona, a cigar measuring 9 1/4 inches with a 47 ring gauge. In the non-Cuban cigar world, "As" can be a little longer, shorter or fatter. What they all share in common is considerable length with relatively slim girth; cigars the width of Churchills that are about two inches longer. They're built for the patient, and they can be absolutely delicious.
Last Friday night in New York City, at the Grand Havana Room. The lounge area had been transformed into dinner space, a podium brought to the front. The gathering was a special one, an event to raise funds for the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, and this year it was done in honor of Carlos Fuente Sr., who died in August.
On Sunday I fly out to Las Vegas with the editorial team from Cigar Aficionado to attend the annual IPCPR trade show. It's trade show No. 22 for me, which is hard to believe, and I'm looking forward to it as always. I haven't missed one yet.
The scene: a luxurious cigar bar in New York City. The year: 1996. A young editor with a head full of black hair is smoking a 50 ring gauge cigar.
Flash forward 20 years. The editor is standing in the same spot. His black hair is now salt-and-pepper. The cigar in his hand, a 60 ring gauge behemoth with a flat head and an ultra-black wrapper, is familiar to modern-day cigar lovers but would have looked entirely alien back in 1996. The cigar bar? Precisely the same as it was two decades ago.
I picked up the phone in my hotel and pressed zero. A pleasant voice answered.
"Hola. Necesito un cenicero, por favor," I said. I was looking for an ashtray. My room in the Meliá Cohiba didn't have one.
"No cenicero, señor," came the voice, before switching effortlessly to English. My poor Spanish had betrayed me. "There is no smoking in the rooms here."
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