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I had always wanted to try a Cohiba Robusto, especially after reading Jorge Torres' letter in your March/April 1997 issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine. The only setback is that one of these cigars cost Malaysian Ringgit 92 to purchase (U.S. equivalent is $38). A bit ridiculous to spend such money on just one cigar (although it's not just any cigar), especially with my salary.
I was blessed one day by a kind gentleman who works as a manager in a cigar shop called Little Havana, who decided to share with me one of his Cohiba Robustos, given to him by a friend. Words could not express my joy. This gentleman, whose name is Edward, said that he had left this cigar in his drawer for over two months and it may have dried up. I suggested that he leave it in his shop's huge, built-in humidor to restore it before I could collect it from him. Having read many books on cigar restoration--that is, be careful not to shock the cigar --I assumed a manager of such an outlet should know better.
When I drove 25 miles to pick up the cigar, I was shocked to notice a large portion of the wrapper leaf towards the tip of the cigar was destroyed, as well as four cracks and a couple of small holes in different places on the cigar. My heart sank, since from my previous experience I have noted that smoking a cigar with even a small crack can be unpleasant, as air will run in, making the draw difficult and, to add injury to insult, the crack will keep growing bigger while you smoke (due to the heat, I think). I thanked him for his kindness, took the cigar and went home wondering what to do with it.
Then an idea hit me. After my brother and I smoked a Cuban Partagas each that night, I decided to make use of the stub's wrapper leaf to restore my precious Cohiba. But where do I go for vegetable glue? I remembered in those days my mom used to make glue for us to be used in our schoolwork. I decided to ask her what substance the glue was made from. To my pleasant surprise she said that she would make it from tapioca flour. Voila! Vegetable glue! I asked her to make some.
That night I used a sharp blade to separate the wrapper leaves from our Partagas stubs and used the vegetable glue to patch all the cracks, holes and the large tear. The glue worked like a charm; it was odorless and easy to use. The next day my brother blessed me with a holiday trip (which we had planned earlier) to a lovely beach resort called the Andaman. That night we had an excellent Teppanyaki meal in the hotel's Japanese restaurant. We sat by the lounge while my brother lit up his Partagas Robusto and I lit my precious, rescued Cohiba Robusto. The cigar could never have come at a better time than an occasion like this. Overlooking a lovely, lit-up jungle with tall trees by the beach, this was the finest cigar I had ever tasted in my life! The surgery to the cigar was a success!
For those who wish to rescue a cigar that has cracks or the wrapper leaf unraveling, the following is the formula for the vegetable glue. Please note this formula is a family secret, but to cigar aficionados around the world, you are part of the family.
The formula: One tablespoonful of tapioca flour. Place it in a mug and add steaming hot water very gradually while stirring it continuously. The glue should be right when you reach half a mug. The glue should not be too thick nor too watery. It should be slightly thick.
I ended the cigar telling my brother, if I were a wealthy man I would smoke only Cohiba Robustos.
Andrew S. William
Kuala Lumpur, West Malaysia
I am now convinced that I can truly relax with a good cigar. It happened while I was waiting for a bachelor party to begin at the Grand Wailea Resort in Wailea, Maui, Hawaii. I didn't know many people, so I planned to show up fashionably late.
I walked through the plush grounds down to a bench overlooking a perfect beach and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The sun had set about 10 minutes earlier, so there was a still pinkish-orange glow on the distant horizon. After taking my seat, I took out a Joya de Nicaragua corona I brought from Denver. It was in perfect shape, thanks to the tropical humidity on Maui.
There on the bench, I cut my cigar that had survived so many thousands of miles. The evening was perfect, and despite being just 100 yards from the crashing surf, it took only one match to get the cigar going. Soon the air was filled with not only the great smell of the ocean, but that great smell we all love: the just-lit cigar.
The island of Kaho'olawe was right in front of me, right across the channel, and the island of Lana'i was somewhere off the right of me. The sounds of the surf provided the sound track, palm trees with young coconuts swayed overhead, and a few hundred yards down the beach, dancers took part in the early stages of a luau.
The cigar was smooth and mellow, with tastes of oak and butter and hints of spice. This was probably the first time I was actually able to distinguish different tastes--the setting probably helped.
About 25 minutes into my memorable smoke, the stars came out: thousands of them, stretching from the horizon to infinity. I watched the smoke curl its way towards the heavens, and realized how great the time was.
After the cigar was down to the stage we all dread, I soaked up the final moments of the experience and then headed through the meticulous grounds and pools of the resort and met up with the bachelor party group. They were smoking cigars, but there's such a difference between just smoking one and enjoying one.
The next day, when I told my wife about the night, I explained that I had likely one of the best cigar-smoking experiences I would ever have.