Out of the Humidor
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I am a recent convert to cigar smoking after 15 years of trying to give up cigarettes. I felt I must write to express a certain amount of dismay at the hysterical tone of many of the letters I read in Cigar Aficionado. While I realize that the plight of the cigar smoker in the United States has suffered many setbacks in recent years, portraying this group's fortunes as that of a discriminated-against underclass is more than I can take. In fact, it is like listening to a spoiled child complain about his lack of presents on Christmas morning. Nobody should have to work in a smoke-filled environment or eat next to someone puffing a double corona. For many people, cigar smoke stinks. That is not so hard to understand. In fact, I find the smell in my own living room, the morning after a smoke, quite disgusting.
Like you, I would welcome and encourage restaurants to provide for smokers because of the obvious link in enjoying the pleasures of alcohol, food and a good smoke. However, we are the minority, and we must respect that position. I will concede that individual bars and restaurants should have a choice of whether or not to provide a smoking environment, free of legislation, and thus let the clientele vote with their feet. My parents do just that with their restaurant in St. Louis, and as far as I know there have been no altercations between diametrically opposed factions.
A great cigar is a wonderful thing, but let's not get carried away.
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I recently had an unusual cigar-related experience that I would like to share. My wife and I occasionally attend polo matches in Greenwich, Connecticut, with a group of our friends. On this par-ticular day, we had magnificent weather for polo: sunny, in the low 80s with a slight breeze. Our group found a suitable spot on the sidelines, around midfield, which afforded the perfect vantage point to observe the afternoon's match. We spread out our blankets, set up our beach chairs and started to arrange the wonderful picnic spread we had prepared.
As is my custom, I also brought a few cigars in a traveling humidor, which I intended to enjoy during the course of the afternoon. With that thought in mind, I purposely arranged my chair so that no one would be sitting directly downwind from me. I am fully aware of, and have been subject to, the wrath of the occasional non-cigar smoker who feels compelled to demand that you extinguish your cigar and then proceeds to lecture you on what he or she believes is a totally inappropriate and unhealthy practice. Needless to say, I try to avoid such confrontations whenever possible.
On the field, a spirited match between two high-goal teams kept the group thoroughly entertained. Going into the final chukker, only a single goal separated the two squads.
After finishing lunch, I proceeded to light up one of my favorite cigars, a Davidoff 4000. Within a few moments, a few of my companions asked if they too could partake. Since I am usually the designated cigar provider at such events, I had anticipated the demand and planned accordingly. In no time, the group of us were enjoying a truly memorable afternoon--good food and drink, wonderful weather, close friends and, perhaps best of all, truly outstanding cigars.
The close-fought polo match came to an end, and our group began to pack up its belongings. I was still in a beach chair, attending to one of the baskets, when I noticed a distinguished, middle-aged couple walking purposely in my direction. I immediately stiffened in anticipation of the tongue-lashing that was sure to follow. They stopped directly in front of my chair and stared down. The woman said, "excuse me." I looked up sheepishly.
The woman said, "I would like to talk to you about your cigar smoking." I immediately cringed. She then thanked me for smoking during the polo match. At first I thought she was being sarcastic. However, she went on to explain that she and her husband are avid cigar smokers but had spent the afternoon with a group that would not have appreciated such activity. The woman explained that during the match, she and her husband had occasionally caught the scent of our cigars. The scent of distant cigar smoke had apparently provided them with a certain degree of satisfaction and made their afternoon that much more enjoyable. She asked what brand I was smoking. The woman smiled and nodded in appreciation when I showed her the band. They thanked me again, turned and walked across the field.
I watched the couple depart with a smile on my face. It had truly been a wonderful afternoon. This unexpected exchange with the stylish and appreciative couple, obviously true cigar aficionados, provided a memorable ending to the day's activities.
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My husband is an appreciative subscriber to Cigar Aficionado, and I am an appreciative admirer of his taste in fine cigars. At times I am drafted into supplying specimens of the more difficult sort (you will understand why I request that you do not print my name), and I am happy to do this in the course of business trips outside the United States. Usually my quest for the local purveyor of fine cigars leads me to very elegant and charming surroundings, as on the Avenue Victor Hugo in Paris, where two excellent caves aux cigares can be found. However, a recent trip to Ottawa reminded me of the wisdom of not judging things by first appearance. Asking my hotel concierge for a nearby shop where Cuban cigars could be found, I was rather laconically directed to a store called Mags and Fags. After I remembered that "fags" is British for a smoke and not a derogatory comment upon sexual preference, I looked up the place. It was not encouraging: from the outside, it looked like a rather seedy convenience store with a jumble of poorly printed signs in the window and a general lack of tidiness. However, a small hand-printed note in the window said havana cigars, so I went in. Inside it was even more discouraging: several small boys were huddled over X-men comics, and a man in the corner was displaying all the signs of a casual consumer of soft-core porn. Two women in red jogging suits appeared to be the shopkeepers, one of whom was occupied with straightening out a lottery machine and its takings. I knew I wasn't in Alfred Dunhill. But having come so far, I bravely asked if they truly did have Havana cigars. I was glad I asked. A counter covered with expired magazines was instantly cleared, and I realized I had been leaning on a fully stocked humidor. One of the women opened the humidor and, taking my husband's carefully annotated list, promptly found Cohiba Robusto, Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona, Romeo y Julieta Churchill, and Montecristo No. 2. Not only that, she offered a running commentary upon his selections and noted her regret at not having Por Larrañaga to sell me.
So, if you are in Ottawa, look up Mags and Fags in the heart of downtown. Don't be put off by the name, the outside, the comics or the general disarray. Sometimes the most surprising things are found in the most unlikely places.
A Good Wife
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There are evidently some life-insurance companies that consider cigar smokers to be "nonsmokers" from the point of view of insurability and for setting premiums. Has your magazine published a list of these companies? If not, it might be something worth considering. "Cigar-friendly" insurance companies are at least as important as cigar-friendly restaurants.
David W. Witter
Editor's Note: We've published some names of cigar-friendly life-insurance companies before. Here are the names we already have, and I'm sure there are others. American General, Northwestern Mutual Life and Prudential are three top suppliers of life insurance without penalty to cigar smokers.
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Although I have never had so much as a cigarette and normally do not like cigarette smoke, I have a newfound appreciation for cigars. It was one male-dominated area I knew absolutely nothing about--until now.
My boyfriend is a cigar aficionado, and he really enjoys a good smoke. In fact, I am not sure what he likes better--choosing the cigar from his local tobacconist or the leisure time spent smoking it. My problem wasn't accepting his habit but a fear of kissing the smoker himself.
Since getting rid of my boyfriend was an option that was out of the question (even though he explained to me that he was late for our first date because he was hung up in the "smoking room" on his way over to meet me), and I would never make him stop his passion for cigars (the truth is I really enjoy the smell and the relaxing time spent together on long leisurely evenings after dinner), the only thing left to do was join him. (At the very least we would be kissing fairly.)
It's been an education. I've learned about sizes, types, tastes, the how-tos and what not to do. We venture into his favorite tobacco shop in Los Angeles (Wine Sellers) and spend at least an hour. There's nothing I'd rather do than share, be with, or watch my boyfriend enjoy his passion.
For all those men who can't stand women in "their domain," my boyfriend would like to disagree--he loves to share his cigar (obviously providing me with the half-smoked ones).
That's when I realized that a cigar was more than a smoke--that it was a rare pleasure. It's a wonderful aroma, a relaxing passion and a part of every good evening. I love to watch him as he starts his ritual on a brand new Montecristo. Wetting the end, cutting the perfect tip, using only wooden matches, lighting the end just right and ohh...that first puff. It is a ritual after dinner I love being a part of, and I feel privileged that he can share this with me. In fact, we've had quite a few laughs betting on the reactions of people around us as I, too, light up for a puff!
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