It's been almost two weeks since Gordon Mott and I returned from our trip to Cuba. We sat down this morning for a chat and compared notes. Here are some small details about the Cuban cigar industry and Cuba in general that we thought you'd enjoy. Gordon is going to follow up with some more items later on.
Spending last week in Cuba gave me the opportunity to smoke many of the island's current production cigars. Gordon Mott and I puffed away each and every day, starting early in the morning (I joked that our Cuban breakfast was a Cohiba and a cup of Cuban coffee) and ending sometimes fairly late in the evening.
I work in New York City, and I root for the New York Yankees, so you would be forgiven for assuming that I work in an environment surrounded by others who share my allegiance for the boys in pinstripes. Not so. In an odd twist of fate, I recently found my baseball fandom far more appreciated in Havana, Cuba, then here in the city that never sleeps.
I had just finished a memorable dinner at El Aljibe, the must-see Cuban restaurant specializing in savory roast chicken, black beans and rice, when the urge hit me—I really wanted a cigar. I reached into my shirt pocket for a Montecristo Petit Edmundo, removed it from its metal tube and clipped off its head. A few flicks of my lighter and the heady aroma of good Cuban tobacco began wafting around the dining room.
The secret ingredient to Cuba’s superb new cigar brand, Cohiba Behike BHK, is a rare kind of tobacco called medio tiempo. While you may have heard the name before, it’s likely that you don’t know precisely what it is—it has been described improperly.
The waves were crashing high over the Malecón seawall on Tuesday morning as I stepped out of my hotel here in Havana. A cold front was blowing through, and the mercury had dropped to 50 degrees. For the locals it was a seriously cold day, but for a visiting Yankee like myself it was just a cool breeze. No chill could bring a frown to my face—I was heading to El Laguito.
Any cigar aficionado writing out his bucket list needs to include one item right near the top—buying a Cuban cigar in Havana. I live my life surrounded by cigars, but when I walk into a humidor that's loaded with fine Cubans I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Today was like Christmas over and over again.
Sixty ring gauge smokes have been on my mind lately. They're everywhere you look, and they're the hot new thing in cigar shops.
Most premium cigar companies now offer something (or many things) in a 60 ring gauge, a size that was once unheard of in the cigar world. Back in 1992, when Cigar Aficionado was created, 50 ring gauges were about the maximum you could find in most cigars. Sure, there was the occasional oddity, such as the Casa Blanca Half Jeroboam (I believe Robert DeNiro smoked one to great effect in the remake of Cape Fear) and Cuba Aliados always had a few incredibly fat figurados, but most cigar brands were no thicker than 50 ring. Diamond Crown pushed the boundary by launching an all 54-ring gauge line in the 1990s, but today 54s seem downright slim compared to a 60.
I love cigar dinners. Always have. Whether it's a black-tie affair with vintage wines and four-star cuisine, a business casual meal at a steakhouse, or a casual get together, let me smoke a cigar at the dinner table and I'm likely to be happy.
Years ago, long before I worked at Cigar Aficionado, I went to a party at a friend's house. A member of his family had just given birth, and it was time to celebrate. A tent was put up in the backyard, long tables brought out and huge bowls of pasta with red sauce and sausage were passed around, with plenty of red wine and loud conversation. After cake and coffee, after the meal was cleared away and the sun had set, someone passed out cigars. The men lit up, laughter ensued, and a new child was welcomed into this world the way it had been done time and time again, surrounded by relatives bonding over a smoke.
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