James Suckling

James Suckling
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Off to Experience Cuba's Sweet Tobacco of Change

Posted: Jan 27, 2009 11:02am ET
I am buying a few extra things today, like medicine and photo equipment, getting ready for an extended trip to Cuba. Simple things like vitamins or camera batteries can be hard to find on the island, even in the best of times. I leave tomorrow on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Havana. I am excited to get back to Cuba's capital. A lot has happened since I was last there in the autumn. We have a new president who has openly stated that he is going to change the U.S. policy towards Cuba, and the island is celebrating 50 years of its revolution. It's an important point in Cuba's history in many ways.

Winter's Dilemma

Posted: Jan 5, 2009 10:39am ET
Happy New Year. I have been spending a little over a week in Southern California and I have not had a cigar the whole time. I am Jonesing for one now. The problem is the environment. I have been staying with my parents in Palm Springs and Carlsbad, and there is no smoking allowed there—­ never was! And the weather has been so cold (for Southern California mind you!) that it has not been conducive to outdoor smoking, either.

Dancing with the Devil?

Posted: Dec 8, 2008 11:33am ET
I was afraid to smoke. I wasn't sure how I would feel, or if it would leave some lasting effect. But I was sort of edgy when the Partagas Serie D No. 4 was lit up on Saturday after a long dinner with a winemaker and his friends in Tuscany. There were even feelings of guilt. Like I was doing something I shouldn't be doing.

Smoking in Bed

Posted: Nov 24, 2008 11:55am ET
Do you ever dream about smoking cigars? I must admit that I normally don't. I dream about many other things. And I prefer to dream about one thing in particular. But cigars normally don¹t come to mind as I am dozing away at night.

This weekend, though, I dreamed about cigars. I am not sure what my former psychiatrist would say about this. I was seeing her for other reasons than smoking. But I haven't seen her in a couple of years. So it doesn't matter. She would have said something obtuse, or asked a bunch of useless questions. Talking to her was essentially like talking to a mirror.

Hard Times in Cuba's Tobacco Country

Posted: Oct 16, 2008 5:02pm ET
Life is tough in the countryside in Cuba. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn't know.

I spent most of Tuesday visiting some tobacco plantations. Most were in the Vuelta Abajo, or Vegas Finas part of the tobacco area near the towns of San Luis and San Juan y Martinez. But I also went to a plantation near the town of Piloto called Finca Vista Hermosa.

Another Day in Cuba

Posted: Oct 14, 2008 9:38am ET
I am heading out to Pinar del Río today. I am not sure what I will see, but it should be interesting to say the least. Everyone I speak to says that the area east of Pinar, or the Semi-Vuelta, was absolutely hammered by the two hurricanes in September. This is why there is a shortage of agricultural products in Havana. I was told the other night that "tomatoes do not exist anymore in Havana" when I ordered a tomato salad at the restaurant La Fontana. Everyone in Havana is complaining about prices as well, from the high price of gasoline to the cost of chicken or some other food.

Back In Havana

Posted: Oct 13, 2008 11:55am ET
I am spending Sunday afternoon in Havana with a San Cristobal de La Habana El Morro. The Churchill-sized smoke is delivering very balanced tea and milk character with hints of flowers and cedar. It's a friendly, easy-going smoke that just wants to make you happy. Nothing aggressive or challenging here. It's like having tea with my grandmother.

Blue Smoke to Fight the Blues

Posted: Oct 10, 2008 8:06pm ET
As I write this, I am smoking a cigar sitting on the terrace of the Raleigh Hotel in Miami and contemplating life. Yes, you can still smoke in some places in Florida!

I am traveling tomorrow to a place that is about as far away as you can get from the awful news of the stock market meltdown. It is a place where money is not king. It is a sleepy island with warm souls and sunny weather, where time passes without much change, where a smoldering cigar can measure eternity. Of course, you guessed it ---Cuba.

A Green Cigar Fit For A Prince

Posted: Sep 10, 2008 3:59pm ET
If we were smoking cigars 50 years ago in the United States, we were most likely lighting up green ones. Yes, those disgusting looking light, lime-green smokes called candela. I have no idea why they were so popular in the States then. Some old-timers say that it is because people thought the cigars were actually sweeter or fresher if they had the sick-making green wrapper. Most of the cigars shipped to the United States from Cuba were candela before the Cuban Revolution just about a half a century ago, and the fashion soon subsided after the U.S. trade embargo was created against Cuba in early 1963.

When the Cat is Away the Mice Play

Posted: Aug 13, 2008 11:02am ET
I never thought about it. Sure. I have seen the work beetles can do to a box of cigars. They can drill tiny holes in your smokes for days, even years, until they finally turn to dust. But mice? Yes mice!

A couple of days ago I was at home in Tuscany and I went down to get some cigars to smoke to follow a classical music concert in Cortona (by the way, it was with violinist Joshua Bell, who is amazing). I noticed mice droppings in the large free-standing cedar cabinet where I keep my cigars in my wine cellar. So I decided to take a closer look, and to my horror the furry bastards had eaten a partial box of 1993 Cohiba Siglo 1 and 1985 Hoyo de Monterrey Gourmet. I had no idea that mice ate cigars.

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