Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
John Travolta, Jan/Feb 99
(continued from page 2)
I have to say, no matter how tattered or dehydrated this Paratagas was, it had to be one of the finest cigars I ever had! This was just another story of how a fine cigar can make any situation better.
Todd M. Frey
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The letter from William S. Bishop in the December (1998) issue of Cigar Aficionado was very interesting because there is much truth to what he says. Anyone who has been smoking cigars for any length of time (I am 41 years old and have been smoking cigars "seriously" for at least 14 years) knows the reality of what he is saying. As recently as the early '90s, very good, properly aged cigars were plentiful. The unmistakable aroma of aged tobacco--which was released as soon as the cigar was lit--is almost entirely missing today. I remember lighting up a Licenciados President or Las Cabrillas, which were cheap then, at a party and watching people who were not even cigar smokers taking in the bouquet with pleasure and commenting upon it. Casa Blancas, which had a wonderful cedar taste and smell, are nothing now--like the other two just mentioned. These earlier cigars were cured and rolled "pre-cigar boom." And there were plenty of other low-priced cigars which could be bought and enjoyed easily.
I had my first hint of what was coming two years ago, in London at the Davidoff shop, when I bought some Cuban Cohibas and Partagas Serie D No. 4s that, as expensive as they were, I had to throw away after smoking about half of them. In Havana, the situation is only slightly better, and a person had better examine all the cigars available, look and feel closely, and choose among which brands the cigar zeitgeist had traveled to. Cuban cigars are still the best in the world, but a person really has to know and love cigars to be able to sort through the different brands and choose the best (the current Partagas Serie D No. 4 look pretty beautiful but since they were just being packed into their boxes at the Partagas factory, they were unavailable at the cigar store there). So a person buys the Romeo y Julieta Exhibicion No. 4 and puts them away for a while. The point being that the really classic cigars that William Bishop is referring to are harder and harder to come by. Only as more serious cigar smokers continue to buy and smoke less because of the overall decline in quality combined with the ever-rising prices, will the cigar industry wake up and realize they are setting up a very bad situation. I avoid cigar bars like the plague because of the sight of young idiots with their cigars of the moment or their fake Cubans, who barely even know which end to light. I even smoke my old pipe occasionally when I get frustrated.
As far as your rating system is concerned, you are right, taste is subjective. But your rating system is way too generous to bad cigars. I do not have time to look through all my back issues of Cigar Aficionado, but I do not remember your magazine ever giving a cigar a rating below 70 (which you say means "don't waste your money"). I feel you should stiffen your criteria in judging a good cigar because I feel it does not reflect the reality of what is out there.
Brooklyn, New York
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