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Out of the Humidor

The Editors
From the Print Edition:
John F. Kennedy, Nov/Dec 98

(continued from page 9)

Tim McEwen
Novi, Michigan

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I recently returned from Cuba and can't resist making a few observations, not only about that country, but the cigar industry in general.

Despite all the hype coming from Cigar Aficionado and the media, I have felt for several years now that the cigar industry is mired in deep ka ka. The reason stems from my conviction that I haven't had a truly fine cigar in over two years--not one, and I can get anything I want, including authentic first-rate Cuban cigars. Where are the heavy, oily, perfect long-ashed cigars laced with tasty hints of chocolate, roasted nuts, coffee, cocoa, and nutmeg spices that we all used to smoke? It is my experience that these cigars have become distant memories.

For the last 30 years, I have experimented with smoking different cigars in the same way I am always seeking out new wines. Then, four years ago, I discovered Avo and became convinced that I would never smoke anything but Avo unless it were Cuban. Now, about every three months, I buy one more Avo just to check in, smoke maybe one inch, and then throw it out. Avo has gone from being one of the best cigars in the world to being harsh, bitter, astringent, and smelling like ammonia. The only brand that I feel has held the line somewhat on quality is Macanudo, which I have returned to as a relatively safe haven.

What is occurring in the cigar industry is similar to bottling a wine on Tuesday and selling it on Wednesday, with consequences just as predictable.

Cigar company stocks have crashed, so I know consumption is down. Most of my friends have simply quit smoking cigars, and I smoke far less than I did two years ago. And it has nothing to do with all these yakking do-gooders either. It's all about quality.

Of course, I can't help but be amused at all these young peckerwoods that don't know a good cigar from a good woman. They tout their fake Cohibas whose labels jump out like neon lights across a crowded room. But woe be the cigar industry if they think their future lies in these faddists.

Yes, there were plenty of pretty good cigars in Cuba. And to my way of thinking, Cuban cigars will always be superior for the same reason that certain wine regions in the world simply have the best soil and growing conditions that can't be duplicated. But even in Cuba, in the motherland of cigar aficionados, I had cigars that were less than note-worthy and often made my eyes bug out trying to draw them, even those that I purchased in the factory, including the much-touted Trinidad.


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