Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007
I usually make a practice of staying away from places where my presence is not appreciated. When the city council of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was considering a citywide smoking ban last year—to include all bars, restaurants and even the park along the Susquehanna River—I wrote a letter to the Patriot-News. I stated that I would take my Friday night cigars, my socializing and my money across the river to towns and establishments where I could enjoy the view of the Harrisburg skyline as a backdrop to the river. Although I am not claiming credit, the city council restricted its smoking ban to city government buildings.
When Philadelphia recently enacted a similar ban, I eliminated that city as a venue for my attendance at jazz concerts. If Florida, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Arizona or California wants to ban, restrict or outrageously tax tobacco, do not hold Cigar Aficionado events in those states. Cigar Aficionado should vote with the collective wallets of Big Smoke attendees and boycott those locations in favor of cigar-friendly venues. Perhaps they won't be "big" smokes, but numerous regional events may increase overall attendance and make a financial statement to the Smoke Police by rewarding cigar-friendly locales at their expense.
To commemorate last year's Great American Smokeout, most hospitals in central Pennsylvania banned smoking in vehicles on hospital parking lots. Should the trend continue, expect smoking to be illegal in your own house when minor children or grandchildren are present. Now is the time to make a stand to protect yet another disappearing freedom. Otherwise, we will be reduced to crying in our single-malt Scotches at the local cigar shop, the only legal place smoking may be permitted.
Tony Gonzalez Sr.
I want to tell you about someone very important in my life. A little over five years ago, I met the woman of my dreams. Her name is Danika. She is smart, beautiful, and cares a thousand times more about others than herself. She means the world to me. Shortly after meeting her, the time came that most single men detestÉmeeting the parents!
I remember the day as if it was yesterday. We pulled up the drive, put the car in park and she said to me, "Now don't be nervous, my dad can be pretty intimidating." Instantaneously my heart rate skyrocketed. After entering the house and going through the proper introductions (sweaty palms and all), I was asked, "Chris, would you like to join me for a cigar on the deck?" Now, I had grown up in a household where smoking was everything but acceptable. My mother to this day still tries to make me feel guilty for enjoying one of life's true pleasures.
Contemplating the situation, I agreed. He handed me a few choices and I selected the one that, in my ignorance, looked to be the best. It was a Macanudo Robusto. We sat on the deck, smoked the cigars and watched the autumn leaves fall, all the while getting to know one another. It was the best day!
As my relationship with Danika progressed, so did my relationship with her father. He would get me cigars every time we visited. I almost didn't realize it, but my love for cigars was growing with my love for her and her family.
He has become a very big influence on my life. I go to him for advice in business, love and life. And no matter how hard the situation may be, he is always there with wise words and a great cigar for reflection.
I recently became the husband of that amazing woman. Her father and I enjoyed a Cuban Romeo y Julieta that he purchased for me in Scotland. It was the best day of my life, not just because I married the woman of my dreams, but because of the time I shared smoking with my father-in-law.
I have been a subscriber to your fantastic magazine for a few years now and, like that first meeting of the parents, my heart beats faster every time I open the mailbox and the gift of Cigar Aficionado is waiting for me inside. As I look forward to every new issue, I continue to trust that your publication will be a beacon for everyone who loves a great smoke.
Chris W. Menke
Mason City, Iowa
Today I received the latest issue of Cigar Aficionado and yesterday a box of cigars. So what better than to get out of work early, sit on my back porch of our third-floor apartment that overlooks our beautiful small upstate New York village and partake in both? Here in New York you don't get too many sunny days, so you best take advantage of them when you have the chance.
What I love about "Out of the Humidor" is that they are stories by and about ordinary people. And that is me. My story is common and I thought I would share it with you. I am 26 years old. I started smoking cigars when I was 18 and was introduced to H. Upmanns by my older brother and his college roommates. Over the last year, after receiving a subscription to Cigar Aficionado, I have become more knowledgeable about good cigars. It has been a lot of fun introducing my friends to quality cigars, which has led to our informal cigar club, "Long Ashes."
What I have been reflecting on as I read this issue's letters is the fact that men and women will and can do what they want. My wife and I don't have a lot of money in the world's eye, but what we always have is a good smoke, good coffee and good wholesome food. The other day my wife came home with Starbucks coffee ice cream, so I paired that with my favorite coffee and was delighted with the tastes. I also love that we take time to walk three blocks to buy the best fresh homemade bread in town.
I love that even though we don't have much of the stuff that many others deem necessary for living and survival, we do without, and you can be guaranteed that we will always be going for walks, reading Cigar Aficionado, smoking good-quality cigars and having good friends around us to enjoy life with.
Long ashes to you and your readers.
Owego, New York
I read every month about the personal stories that grace your pages, and without fail, they make me recall a number of fine cigar moments that I have had over the years. I started smoking machine-made cigars back in the '70s while working as a foreman in a General Motors plant in Michigan—mostly for something to do—but when I discovered quality, handmade cigars, I started smoking, and collecting, in earnest.
I recall one evening at the fishing cabin while on vacation on Drummond Island in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I had taken my family for their favorite vacation. I have three wonderful boys (youngsters then) who adore fishing out on Lake Huron, and I had invited my wife's cousin and his fiancée up from Milwaukee to meet us for the week. He promised to bring the winners of the bratwurst/mettwurst competitions held that summer, as well as the winners from the local microbrew competition. He also told me that he was bringing along his cigars, so I decided to bring my entire humidor just in case.
After a long day of fishing northern Lake Huron, and after seeing my three little fishing buddies to bed, the men retired to the upper deck to drink ice-cold microbrews and smoke cigars while the ladies went to the lower deck to talk and do cross-stitch. Cousin Brian brought out his selection of cigars and we each opened an ice-cold Leinenkugel's beer. While his collection wasn't bad, I advised him to put his away for the trip back home while we smoked mine. He protested that he wanted to contribute (as if bringing three cases of microbrew and a case of fresh brats and metts weren't enough), but I wanted him to try a few cigars that I had been saving for just such an occasion. I had been squirreling away Fuente Fuente OpusX Double Coronas for a number of years, and I brought out two that had a good seven years in the humidor for sampling. The look on his face after only a few moments puffing away on those large stogies was priceless.
"Wow! What are these?" and "How can I get some?" was what I heard over and over again.
The Double Coronas had aged magnificently and were a perfect finish to top off the evening after a dinner of freshly caught and grilled chinook salmon. While sitting outside as a full moon the size of a small automobile lit up the shoreline and the calm North Channel waters, we discussed the fishing stories that we were going to make up for the benefit of our coworkers back home. To our surprise, and after the first night enjoying these great sticks, the ladies actually asked us to light up every night as we sat outside because the smoke would drift lazily down over the lower deck and surround them with an effective anti-mosquito cloud. We were only too glad to provide a public service.
I have had many special moments over the last three decades involving cigars, mostly because they feel like a small, intimate vacation from the world at large. They involve quietly reflective microcosms, and quite often the presence of very satisfying discussions with friends under the stars. While it is a shame that I must abide the draconian solutions imposed by the anti-smoking legions (or as I prefer to label them, the "unenlightened") in Ohio where I live, I can still listen to my teenagers recount their fishing encounters on the deck overlooking the water while enjoying my favorite smokes. It is certainly a disgrace that people cannot allow another individual the right to a cigar, or themselves the right to sit back to enjoy the aroma. But then, nothing says that I have to sample or enjoy NASCAR, or skiing, or scuba diving, for that matter. Perhaps some day they, too, will have their rights and enjoyments severely abridged, and if we're all lucky, they may remember how they acted in their reactionary ways and learn from their behavior. Perhaps, but not very likely.
On the plus side, I made the effort to obtain every single Cigar Aficionado issue back to Volume I, Issue 1, so I can stroll down memory lane to past issues. The upside to reaching a "certain age" is that I can read, and reread, articles from years ago and still enjoy them as if reading them for the first time.
Thanks for the memories, congratulations on your success, and here's wishing you continued success for the foreseeable future.
Michael E. "Mick" Susco
I was injured in an auto accident recently and suffered a sprained thumb. The insurance company dutifully listed my injury as a "pain in limb," then went on to list my medical history. Along with high cholesterol, they qualified my smoking three cigars a week as "tobacco use disorder." We all know smoking can cause cancer, but I really doubt that enjoying a few cigars a week needs to be in my medical file, much less an insurance database. The Orwellian 1984 has arrived.
Editor's note: Your "tobacco use disorder" does sound Orwellian. But it is just a sign of our times.
The search term "cigar" is more often than not included in my Internet research prior to visiting a city, and I was going to Dublin this time. I found one result that sounded interesting, "The Decent Cigar Emporium." Usually I'm just curious about the cigar vibe in a city, but this time I actually needed a good cigar store because my wife and I were to celebrate New Year's Eve in Dublin.
We arrived at a gray and rainy Dublin on the 30th of December. After checking in to our hotel, we met up with our London-based friends and defied the grim weather as gale winds howled through the street. We walked passed St. Stephen's Green onto Grafton Street, and after only a few steps I saw the sign for The Decent Cigar Emporium. The shoppers and the smokers picked sides, so I was by myself. The eventual compromise was that I would join them for that day on their shopping spree, and check out the cigar shop the next day. The following morning, I was at the store as soon as it opened. I walked up a narrow stairway that was decorated with cigar memorabilia until I reached the second floor and continued through a hall into what looked like a normal room converted to a cigar shop. The shopkeeper welcomed me and I told him that I wanted to browse and possibly buy some cigars for the New Year's festivity. For starters, I got a corona-sized OpusX. Then he pointed out a display on the counter filled with Partagas Presidentes. He took one out and I smelled it. The cigar had a beautiful bouquet with complex spices, yet it was fresh and the diadema shape was amazing. Only Grade 7 rollers can make these and there are rather few of them, but I wanted to smoke something special for the new year. Due to a silly law, however, it's not possible to smoke in the shop anymore, nor in a bar or restaurant. That posed a problem for my Partagas, so he pointed me towards the Morgan Bar, which has an outside smoking area.
The shopkeeper and I chatted for a while, but then I remembered that once upon a time I wrote a letter to you, Marvin, that you actually printed, and that particular issue of Cigar Aficionado was on the bookshelf. I pointed out the letter and, after hearing some wholesome Irish laughter, was asked to sign the magazine. Embarrassed in a pleasant way, I did so quickly because I only got 15 minutes of fame!