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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

Dear Marvin,

When you smoke cigars you never know who you might run into. As a landscape and wildlife photographer, I travel quite extensively to some of the most beautiful places on earth. During a recent trip to Aspen, Colorado, to shoot wildflowers at the Maroon Bells wilderness area, my photographic sidekick, Tom Kennedy, and I found ourselves on the receiving end of cigar praise from a most esteemed aficionado.

We had just used up the good morning light and put away several rolls of film. It was time to celebrate with a couple of fine cigars. As we headed down the trail to the truck, our tripods slung over our shoulders, we passed by a man wearing dark sunglasses. We really didn't pay much attention, until we heard him talking (the voice was very familiar). Ten paces later we both looked at each other, then gazed back up the trail; "Jack Nicholson!" we said in stereo.

Upon reaching the truck we dug into our cache and pulled out two Joya De Nicaraguas and a pint bottle of Red Hook's Double Black Stout (a very nice combination), walked back to the trail head and sat on a big rock to toast a fine day of shooting. Not too far into our cigars we noticed Mr. Nicholson checking us out from afar, probably thinking of us as a couple of paparazzi. Not being the case, we continued to enjoy our cigars and made no move to grab our cameras. He then continued down the trail and right up to the base of the rock where we sat. Politely we tipped our cigars. He stood there looking us up and down, placed his hands in his pockets and with that unmistakable style and voice said, "Excellent, gentlemen. Excellent!"

Robert E. Long II
Lake Forest, California

***

Editor's note: I received this copy of a letter from Rich Andresen of Dallas, Texas. I wanted to share it with you.

To: Steve Bartolin, president
The Broadmoor
cc: Marvin Shanken
I recently spent four nights at the Broadmoor. After hearing so much for so long about the Broadmoor, I am pleased to say that it met or exceeded my expectations in all areas, except one. The service is exceptional, the food is four-star and the surroundings are majestic. Truly a "class act." However, I am sorry to say that I find your policy regarding smoking to be arbitrary and not at all in keeping with your image.

Most establishments which have a reputation for fine food, fine wines and in general the finer things in life, have an appreciation for fine cigars as well. I am very surprised and disappointed that the Broadmoor does not.

However, allowing the smoking of cigarettes and disallowing the smoking of cigars goes beyond a lack of culture; it is an outright insult. Put simply, cigarettes stink. They are full of chemicals and paper which produce an acrid and irritating smoke. Cigars, on the other hand, are not made with paper or chemicals, and produce a fragrant, rich aroma. Yet to take the provincial and arbitrary position that cigarette smoking is acceptable and cigar smoking is not, I think you need to reexamine your policy in this area.

I went into your Terrace Lounge to have some Port with the company of friends after a truly fine meal in the Tavern. When I lit a rather expensive and very fine cigar, I was asked to leave! And the people all around were smoking nasty smelling cigarettes and were treated with dignity. This is utterly ridiculous. I would suggest that you consider smoking in general as something you allow or disallow in various areas of the Broadmoor.

Contrary to what you may expect from my feelings expressed so far, I would have no problem with a no-smoking policy in any of the restaurants or other areas which may be designated non-smoking, including non-smoking rooms. However, I can't respect a bar which permits cigarette smoking and bans cigar smoking. Where is the logic in this? Is someone in a cigarette smoke-filled bar going to complain about cigars? You might consider a smoking section or even a cigar smoking section where cigarettes are not allowed, but banning cigars altogether is arbitrary and actually quite unbelievable, especially at a fine establishment like the Broadmoor. You might even consider a special bar, lounge or other area for cigar lovers, specializing in fine Ports, Cognacs and single malt Scotches along with a selection of fine cigars. You might be very surprised at how many of your customers (including the ladies) would appreciate this. You would no doubt receive mention in Cigar Aficionado magazine as well. I have enclosed a copy of this beautiful magazine for your enjoyment.

I must ask you to give some serious thought to this policy. It is outdated, arbitrary and very offensive. As much as I like everything else about the Broadmoor, I find this completely unacceptable and an obstacle to my future patronage. I would also like to suggest that until you change this policy, that you make your policy in this clear in your advertising.

Rich Andresen
Dallas, Texas

Editor's note: Rich, America needs more thoughtful, discriminating people like you. Thanks for politely expressing "our" view.

***

Dear Marvin,

I am writing to you in the hope that, by publishing this letter, some sort of etiquette on helping yourself from one's host cigar box can be established.

The facts are simple: The first guests to a drinks party I was giving were about to arrive and I had just a slight hesitation about leaving my see-through acrylic humidor in its usual place, in the sitting room. I thought to myself that since I had invited only friends, most of them colleagues from the diplomatic community in Tel Aviv and some of them neighbors from the highly sophisticated Israeli bohemia of Jaffa, there was no reason to assume that anything could go wrong.

In fact, the worst happened. Around the time the party was supposed to end, I saw one of my Jaffa neighbors puffing (obviously with great delight) what looked suspiciously like a Cohiba Robusto. I said to him that I was happy that I had found a fellow cigar lover among my friends. He told me, candidly, that he had taken his own cigars with him but that, "Cohiba is of course much better."

The point is that my humidor had quite a few Cohibas but only one robusto left, the one I have been dreaming of finding that perfect situation that "deserved" it! (Even on my 40th birthday I opted for a Lancero because the dinner was not outstanding, although quite excellent.)

The only partially comforting thought that has kept at large murderous intents has been the hope that the recipient of my unsolicited generosity reads Cigar Aficionado.

Jorge Torres-Pereira
Jaffa, Israel

***

Dear Marvin,

Family coming to visit? Beware! Lock up your humidor. Here's why.

It was last summer and my brother-in-law, wife and I flew to California to visit their dad. It had been a while since we all had been together and we were looking forward to a good time filled with good food, drink and golf. The weekend surpassed our expectations, which included a quick jaunt to the Monterey Peninsula. However, the last evening of the trip was about to be marred by my cigar inexperience.

My father-in-law had been at his office all day, and assuming that it would be OK to have a cigar from his humidor, I proceeded to evaluate which I thought would be a good smoke. The previous year I had been experimenting and enjoying cigar smoking, although it was infrequent and collegiate. I am sure that some of the selections I had chosen during that year had the owners of smoke shops laughing their asses off after I had left.

Consequently, I choose a cigar because it had a good-looking box and had a name that made it sound prestigious. I knew nothing of its history, its properties or value. Without a second thought I lit up what, even to my inexperienced palate, evaluated as a pretty damn good cigar! Upon my father-in-law's arrival home, he was greeted with the most glorious aroma.

The details that followed I cannot quite recall (I believe it is my psyche attempting to block out my stupidity). As it turned out, I had helped myself to one of Mr. Davidoff's last legacies from the land of Cuba. A Davidoff Dom Perignon. My father-in-law had painstakingly kept these beauties alive and well for the past two decades. He himself limited their smoking to one a decade!

Talk about a good reason for locking up your humidor. After this incident I committed to becoming more knowledgeable and experienced regarding cigars. My primary source of information was Cigar Aficionado with a little help from the local smoking club and shop. Thanks to that, I've had a chance to apologize to my father-in-law, who is an avid reader, a true aficionado and one hell of a guy.

Thank you for the education and this opportunity to apologize for the error of my ways.

R.S.
Darnestown, Maryland

***

Dear Marvin,

It was a beautiful day as I left the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. I stopped at 4th Avenue and 4th Street and lit my cigar while waiting for the walk signal. A young lady, with lots of hardware drilled into her nose, looked at me and snarled "disgusting." As my blue cigar smoke swirled upward, bound for the ozone layer, the light changed. She stridently stomped into the intersection and was narrowly missed by a driver running the red light.

Daryl Hawkins
Hopkins, Minnesota

***

Dear Marvin,

I am a practicing Catholic, a cigar smoker and a devotee, like Fr. H Jay Setter, of the French horn and chamber music.

Reading of his defense of cigars as not being a vice, I was reminded of a story that a cigar smoking priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, who is now in training for the Vatican diplomatic corps, told me. When he was a seminarian in Rome, he learned that Pius X, who was the pope from 1903 to 1914, called a bishop onto the carpet to reprimand him for his scandalous misbehavior with wine, women and song, and to correct his wrongs patiently.

The pope offered the errant bishop a cigar from the papal humidor on his desk. The bishop declined the offer with the protestation, "I do not have that vice, Your Holiness," to which His Holiness replied, "If cigars were a vice, I would not offer you one, for you have quite enough vices already."

After his death, Pope Pius X was canonized a saint and is now known as St. Pius X. According to Catholic belief, a saint is a holy person who is now in heaven. Although Pope Pius X may not have become St. Pius X because he smoked cigars, smoking cigars apparently did not keep him from being a holy man who is now in heaven. Indeed, cigars may have helped him be holy.

Let us salute not only Fr. H but also St. Pius X, whom we may regard as the patron saint of us cigar aficionados.

T. Gavin King
Claremore, Oklahoma

***

Dear Marvin,

I used to know nothing of cigar smoking except for the fact that my dad smoked a hand-rolled cigar on occasion. My first real introduction to the experience was after I had become an officer in the military.

A few times a year the regiment would sit down to a mess dinner where one could give a moment of silence for our fallen comrades, reflect on the proud history and fine traditions of the regiment, enjoy an excellent meal, and be at ease with fellow officers while still being respectful of rank and position.

At the end of the meal, a steward would pass by, offering digestives, snuff, cigars and cigarettes to those who wanted. I took a cigar but soon realized that it was not of the quality my dad smoked, lacking the bouquet and flavor that I had remembered from his smoking. Noticing that some of the other officers had provided for their own cigars, I took it upon myself at that moment to educate myself properly and obtain a selection of fine hand-rolled cigars.

At the next mess dinner I arrived completely equipped and at the end of the dinner enjoyed a very good cigar. What I found particularly interesting was the amount of attention I suddenly received from others seated around me as I went through the process of clipping and lighting my cigar (an El Rey del Mundo lonsdale). By the end of the evening, I had interested two or three of my fellow officers to try cigar smoking themselves.

What we have all realized more than anything is that a cigar is completely at home in the officer's mess, as it complements the entire experience. It also provides yet another opportunity for the regiment's officers to sit together, enjoy each other's company and relate their adventures. Cigars have been a part of a soldier's kit for centuries and will continue to be so for many more. I am glad that I have taken up the hobby in moderation, and plan to enjoy cigars for many years to come. Your magazine is an excellent companion to a returning passion among people, and I salute your efforts.

Capt. Andrew B. Godefroy
Montreal, Quebec

***

Dear Marvin,

I live in Japan and have been here for six years. It's a wonderful place to live and can be very exciting at times. But several weeks ago I was in a motorcycle accident in Tokyo. A car did a U-turn in front of me and I was unable to avoid him. I bounced off his rear end and went sliding for about 15 feet. I was properly attired for riding but ended up damaging my knee pretty badly, and my wonderful VFR750 was destroyed. I'm not quite sure which upset me more: my bike destroyed or me bleeding all over the pavement. I was rushed to a hospital, but this is a bad thing in Japan. Japanese hospitals don't really have a good reputation for providing the proper care, and as I can only speak Japanese at a basic level, it was a real problem.

I got to the hospital and was sent to surgery immediately. I was given local anesthesia, so I was awake during the operation. I can't begin to explain what was going through my head, laying there for over four hours as doctors and nurses were working on me, and me not being able to talk to them. It turned out that my kneecap was broken into two pieces and the surgeon put it back together with pins (it will be great fun walking through airport metal detectors). It could have been much worse than what it turned out to be. I felt I was lucky to be alive.

The following week in the hospital, my best friend, Dave, showed up with a couple of cigars (he lives in Tokyo as well). He wheeled me from the hospital to a nearby bench where we enjoyed a quiet moment smoking. The following week I was able to go home to my wife and children. Dave came over with his wife and we had a wonderful dinner and I decided that I wanted to celebrate the fact that I was alive.

Two years ago, Dave and I went to the "Dinner of the Century" party that you held in Paris. That in itself was an occasion to remember. I had saved the Cohiba A that was handed out there for a special occasion. It has been sitting in my humidor in perfect condition since then. I figured that this was the right time to enjoy the A. It was wonderful to be there, with my kids running around me, smoking the Cohiba A with my best friend, drinking Scotch until about 2 a.m., discussing the wonders of life.

Thanks for the cigar, Marvin.

Sunil Khatri
Tokyo, Japan

***

Dear Marvin,

It was earlier this summer when I lost a very close and dear friend in an airplane crash. He was what you could call my second father. I revered and respected the man as I do my own father. He was extremely successful in what he did and always pushed me to be the same. His passion for life, his wife and his two children was and still is indescribable. His passion for his friends was the same way; he would either give you 100 percent of his energy or nothing at all. Steve Ruma lived his life by one simple principle which he would repeat again and again: "That anything worth doing, is worth doing to excess!"

It is this simple edict that I will always remember Steve by, because this is how he lived: to excess. So when I was in my local cigar shop a few days ago and my tobacconist, Howie, said that he had one last Fuente Fuente Opus X double corona left, I told him I wanted it no matter the price, which happened to be over $20. At first I couldn't believe my luck; I had found the most sought-after cigar in the United States today. As I drove home I started to think, what is a 20-year-old college student doing buying $20 cigars? I remembered Steve, and knew he would have done the same thing if he had loved cigars. Steve would have, however, found a way to get the entire box. He taught me that if you have a passion, then that passion is worth pursuing with all of your energy and dedication. This is not so much about cigars as it is about not compromising for one minute what you love to do, just because it may cost $20. This Thanksgiving I'm going to sit down with my dad and smoke this beautiful Opus X and remember Steven Ruma the only way I know how: "to excess."

Christopher P. Williams
East Boothbay, Maine

***

Dear Marvin,

Happy Thanksgiving! Words often spoken this time of year, but what do they mean? Today is Thanksgiving, and I'd like to tell you what those words mean to me.

I'm a security officer at a small college in upstate New York. Although campus is closed today for the holiday, I'm here working. Since it's so quiet, I have a few minutes to think, thumb through the new issue and reflect on fond memories while enjoying a Macanudo Cafe Cristal.

The pointed white ash on my cigar looks not unlike the snow-dusted peaks of the Catskill Mountains peeking above the orchard in front of me. The trees are now almost leafless and several deer gracefully graze on what's left of the fallen fruit. Just a few weeks ago, the air here was filled with the sweet scent of apples. From my patrol car this morning, I spotted 12 turkey hens pecking in a field in a remote corner of campus. A wonderful, beautiful irony. Yes, I am thankful for the serene setting in which I now work and live. Not long ago, I was surrounded by the maniacal hubbub of Manhattan. New York City is the greatest city in the world, and it's where I learned to appreciate fine wines and cigars. But, I'm thankful I'm in a peaceful place like this at this time in my life.

On a warm, sunny day last spring, my English professor and I strolled across campus (I was a student then), enjoying our Macanudos and each other's company. It was a good time. We laughed and talked about our days in New York City. Also a refugee from the Big Apple, she's one of my favorite people with whom to share a cigar. I'm thankful to know such a wonderful woman and to have such warm memories.

Today is the first Thanksgiving my family won't all be together. We've spoken by telephone to extend our holiday wishes, but for various reasons we are in different parts of the country. Still, I'm thankful that I have a family and that we're all healthy.

In a few hours I'll be going to a dear friend's home to share a traditional holiday dinner. I'm thankful for such caring and generous friends.

I'm thankful that I was raised to appreciate, in moderation, the finer things in life.

And I'm thankful that I am a charter subscriber of the finest magazine available, anywhere, on any subject.

Yes Marvin, it truly is a Happy Thanksgiving.

Ron Holloway
Kingston, New York

 

***

Dear Marvin,

We always read tales of the wealthy person smoking a cigar and leisurely pulling down some Cognac. Articles in your magazine are filled with stories about the rich and famous. However, we do not hear the story of the "Generation X" (I hate that term) smoker. Know why? Because there are so few of us.

I have blue spiked hair. I play guitar in a punk rock band. My vocabulary is littered with four-letter words. I have utter contempt for authority. I am your token 19-year-old punk rocker. Leather jacket with studs and spikes. My left hand often forms a middle finger. My right hand, however, tends to hold firmly onto a Dunhill or an Excalibur or, when money's short, a Padron. I'm afraid I don't ride horses, fly private jets or drive a nice car to my job as a lawyer. I work many odd jobs and scream dreams of anarchy into a microphone for a living. On tour I sleep on top of speakers in the back of a van that is falling apart. Yet somehow I savor a cigar equally to those featured in the magazine (actually, I prefer to call it a journal, but that's just me).

We speak of relaxing with a cigar and wine, but I tell you there is no better feeling than having a Davidoff on your breath while running through a mosh pit and wreaking havoc. After a good NOFX or Rancid show, the crowd hangs around with the band smoking cigarettes. I smoke an Ashton Maduro.

Punk bands don't earn that much. We can pack a room with 300 people and clear 50 bucks (between four people) if we're lucky. We get ripped off by management and bouncers quite a bit. We play for the fun of it, so we don't have much cash. Between living and eating, only a few dollars remain. It took me half a year of saving to get a humidor and I still had to make sacrifices. Cigars are important to me. They are never an ordinary experience; they are always a treat. I can't have them every day. I'd love to, but I can't. But every time I cut the end of a cigar, I do so cognitively, for it is an experience to be savored. If that isn't appreciating the cigar, I don't know what is.

The punk movement stresses unity. The cigar is a catalyst for this. I walk into the local cigar shop with my blue hair and receive stares from the conservative regulars. But the fact that I am a serious smoker allows me to converse with them on a human level. Their jackets and ties and my spiked hair do not get in the way of a common communication. The cigar enables me to talk to people who I would never talk to under other circumstances. Cigars provide this utopia. I light up a Dunhill, you light up a Dunhill; what's the difference between us?

I won't wear a suit or have a lot of cash, but I am a cigar aficionado indeed. I enjoy cigars so much that I've been known to pay for mine with change I find lying around my house. Yes, I've paid for cigars with pennies. There is a new generation of aficionados coming. We have pink mohawks and sing loud abrasive punk rock. We drink awful beer and sneak in an El Sublimado on our birthdays. Punk rockers smoking and appreciating a fine cigar. We're coming. Watch out.

David Bernick
Boston, Massachusetts

***

Dear Marvin,

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your publication Cigar Aficionado and I look forward to each new informative issue. I also wanted to share with you how varied the cross section of the cigar loving public is and is becoming.

First, let me state that I have enjoyed premium cigars for years and have some idea as to what tastes good to me and is also within my price range so as to give me the "best for the buck." I am a third-generation lover of cigars, and I am a weight lifter and runner (not jogger). I live on mostly fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and occasional seafood as my only flesh meat.

There are many of us that are lone smokers that prefer to be outdoors when lighting up and would never entertain the thought of inhaling. I never consume alcohol and am very considerate of others that may have a problem with what I like to smoke, as I know that the time I choose to light up are very happy ones, so the maintenance of the happy ambiance is important for my overall enjoyment. I do limit myself to one glorious premium cigar daily, which pushes my monthly smoke budget to around $180. Premium cigars are my reward each day for getting things done and I do view them as a kind of kinetic meditation. Some of the greatest free thinkers of our times pondered great thoughts while contemplating with their favorite roll; Thomas Edison is but one example.

I do have fond memories of visiting cigar factories with my dad when I was a boy and how the Moser Cigar Factory on Braman Avenue in Fort Myers, Florida, was somewhat like a shrine back in the 1950s, with several busy experts, hard at their craft. If my memory serves me correct, I think they used to use a form of pine resin that was obtained fresh from the factory grounds to secure the end.

I enjoy the fact that I have this reward to look forward to at day's end, and to have my sailboat anchored in a quiet lagoon, dinner over, cup of steaming Constant Comment tea, full moon, lots of stars, wife and dog, great cigar, ahhh--life is good. In a world that is becoming more and more hectic, it is very important to slow down, relax and smell the wrapper.

Keep up the good work, as I can well imagine the effort it takes to put out a publication that is thicker than my telephone book.

Chas. H. Foster
Fort Myers, Florida

***

Dear Marvin,

I am 26 years old, a husband and a father of three beautiful children. I was introduced to cigars about 2 1/2 years ago and have been smoking on average one cigar a week. At first my wife disapproved of this art, not because she disliked the idea of me smoking them, but was concerned about our very impressionable children.

With this in mind, I asked if she would approve of me visiting my grandfather on Friday nights so I could enjoy a good smoke with him. Friday nights are reserved for poker, which has been an ongoing tradition for as long as I can remember, and one I have been a part of the last two years. Needless to say I was granted approval.

Allow me to introduce the players. My grandfather, who is 92 years young and has been smoking and sipping brandy most of his adult life. My father, a real estate broker who has worked hard all his life to provide the best for his family. My uncle Carlos, a.k.a. "Mr. Nickname," who has dubbed me "Castro chico," or young Castro. (I believe my beard and cigar combination have something to do with that.) Finally, my uncle Raul, a.k.a. "The Enforcer," only because legends say his best friend was made from 100 percent cowhide and he would wear it around his waist.

As time went on I, along with my cigars, had become an intricate part of the poker tradition. This had nothing to do with my record losing streak, but due to the size and aroma of the cigars I would smoke on these semi-religious occasions. Unfortunately, due to the demands of my business, I had been unable to participate in a Friday night ceremony for several months. As the months passed my father would call and ask, sometimes insist, if I would be attending another poker night, because my grandfather has been asking for his "Castro chico." Then, after missing approximately four months, I had managed to attend another poker night, but by now Father Time had begun taking control of my grandfather's eyesight and he couldn't recognize me as I walked in. I approached him carefully, hoping he would be able to focus in on my features, but no luck. When I gazed around and noticed the different expressions, I realized why my father had insisted as he did. Quickly, I reached into my shirt pocket and placed an Onyx No. 750 in my mouth and almost instantaneously my grandfather called out "Castro chico!" Holding back the tears I gently kissed him on the cheek and we commenced with the ritual. At that crucial moment I came to understand the finer points of life, family and an excellent cigar.

Rafael C. Sanchez
San Antonio, Texas

***

Dear Marvin,

The contagious effect of a cigar never ceases to amaze me. I have just returned from the Hootie and the Blowfish concert here in Dallas. My best friend and I are avid cigar enthusiasts, and chose general admission lawn seating tickets so we could enjoy the show and smoke our newly purchased Fuente Fuente Opus X double coronas.

When we arrived at the show, the ushers were asking that we sit as close to the people near us as possible because of the large crowd. My friend and I were naturally concerned that our cigar smoking was going to cause problems and complaints, but we went for the light-up anyway. There we were: a beautiful September night, good food and drink, great music and two towering cigars.

We could see the faces of people cringe and frown, but we couldn't hear what they were saying as we puffed away when the lights went down. Within minutes, the person behind us said with great excitement, "Can I buy a cigar from you? What a great way to enjoy the night!" My friend and I have a long-honored tradition that we always carry extra cigars and never accept money for one. We gave our new friend a cigar, and our enjoyment got larger. Moments later the ladies to our left were curious and we gave them a cigar that they shared. The woman to my right leaned over and said that she loved the smell of my cigar, and I gave her the Opus X wrapper for her reference to buy for her husband.

Before we knew it, the surrounding participants on blankets were all enjoying the cigars, the music and the beverages. Hootie played slightly longer than the smoke of my double corona, but the memories of the night will last for a long time.

Thanks, Cigar Aficionado, for creating the public awareness that allows us all to enjoy events without having to sacrifice the pleasure of our cigar smoking.

Matt Manero
Comfleet

***

Dear Marvin,

I am the owner of a funeral home in a largely populated Cuban area in New Jersey and an avid cigar smoker and reader of Cigar Aficionado. One afternoon, two individuals came in to price pre-arranged funeral arrangements for their father. After some discussion of the type of funeral services they wanted, I left the arrangement office to make a phone call.

When I returned, one of the daughters had my current copy of Cigar Aficionado in hand. She questioned me on how long the publication has been in print.

Being of Cuban heritage, they were well versed in cigars and stated that their father was also a cigar smoker. They told stories of their father and how they missed the smell of cigars in their house since he could not smoke since becoming ill. I asked if they minded if I smoked during the conclusion of our discussion. They welcomed the opportunity to savor the aroma of a good cigar once again.

At the conclusion of our talk, they stated they had been at two other funeral homes in the area and decided to use our funeral home because of my love of cigars. They requested that their father's last Cuban cigar be buried with him. I assured them that the cigar would go with him.

Mark Bannworth
Bannworth Funeral Home
Elizabeth, New Jersey

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