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Greg Cunningham
Charlottesville, Virginia


Dear Marvin,

In your August 1997 Cigar Aficionado, Doug Shaw of Carl Junction, Missouri, ended his letter with: "If a guy can do better that that, please tell me how."

Well, just a few months ago, I'd been married all of eight or nine hours to my new beautiful Brazilian bride, and the scene at my home was intoxicating: the deck surrounded with Latin torches, flames flickering in a soft spring breeze; two grills billowing smoke for the last two hours with the smells and morsels of Brazilian cuisine tantalizing every taste bud. My best friend and his family were there, over in the lounge chair my grown son sat with his girlfriend in his lap, other good friends were all around in gaiety and laughter. Sitting beside me was my brother, five years my elder. We watched his Brazilian wife, guitar in hand, as she and my new bride sang love songs to us in their native tongue. I sat there, floating on a cloud with my favorite brew in hand, when my brother, without a word, looked at me, grinned and handed me a beautiful, hand-rolled Dominican cigar. The next hour was nothing short of pure, relaxing ecstasy! Doug, I wasn't there for yours, but I sure wish you could have been there for mine.

After kicking the awful cigarette habit, I can now enjoy good cigars. I'm a police officer in a moderate-size city, and after a day of dealing with criminals, I like to come home to my waiting wife, shed my gear, throw on some old shorts and sit out in the quiet of the night with my wife while looking into the stars and drawing on a good cigar. I have to laugh at myself sometimes when I'm on patrol and I catch myself wishing the shift was over just so I could get my hands on that cigar. When I do enjoy these late-night rendezvous, my wedding day Churrasco always fondly sweeps through my mind.

You folks at Cigar Aficionado are first-class. Muito obrigado.

Dean Charlton
High Point, North Carolina

Dear Marvin,

I am an attorney with a large communications corporation based in New York City. We also have offices on the West Coast, where I frequently travel. Several months ago I was in San Francisco for a three-day meeting. One evening, I went out to dinner with two gentlemen associates (from the San Francisco office). We went to a splendid restaurant on the Wharf. At the conclusion of dinner, we went outside to the dockside lounge for a drink. One of the gentlemen I was with asked me if I would be offended if he lit a cigar (which was very considerate knowing I was a nonsmoker).

Well, I truly cannot tell you if it was the atmosphere, the B&B, or a combination of both, but I suddenly had an urge to try a cigar! It took me a few minutes, but I gathered enough courage to ask Jim if I could try one. The next thing I knew, I was gently blowing puffy clouds of delicious smoke into the sea air and enjoying it more than I could ever imagine! In a few short minutes, I went from a nonsmoker to someone who can cut a cigar, properly light it and, most important, savor it. I will never forget my first H. Upmann Corona.

When I returned home two days later, there was a box of H. Upmann Petit Coronas, along with a sterling silver cutter, beautifully gift-wrapped on my desk. Later that evening, after a long day's work and take-out dinner at the office, I returned home. The first thing I did was kick off my heels, peel off my stockings, open a bottle of Chardonnay and light up on my terrace overlooking the Great South Bay of Long Island. Since then I enjoy those evenings perhaps two or three times a week and have purchased a humidor and have added some Macanudos, Don Diegos and Onyx to the collection. Now, all I have to do is gain enough courage to inform my wonderful fiancé, who is a huge nonsmoking proponent. I love him dearly, but I also love my cigars.Wish me luck!

Pamela M.
Long Island, New York


Dear Marvin,

So often we hear the adage, "You get what you pay for." The implication being, of course, that the costlier the product, the better the product. In discussing the pricing of cigars with dealers and friends, I have found this notion to be especially prevalent; on many occasions, for example, a cigar dealer has dissuaded me from choosing among relatively inexpensive cigars, suggesting that "the quality demanded by the discriminating palate" is much more likely to be found among the higher-priced, so-called "premium" cigars.

Cigar Aficionado's blind ratings of cigars, however, tell quite a different story. As a scientific researcher, I could not keep myself from running some statistical analyses on these ratings (please forgive me) to see whether there really is any correlation between cigar price and quality. Using the ratings of cigars available in the United States from your last four issues (361 in all) and analyzing them by cigar type, by country of origin and by combining all of the ratings together, the results consistently show that there is, in fact, virtually no correlation between cigar price and quality.

When the information is graphed, it is immediately apparent that the average quality of the rated cigars differs little across a wide range of prices, and the chances of finding a highly rated cigar among those costing just a few dollars are about the same as they are among those costing considerably more; similarly, the chances of finding a relatively poorly rated cigar are also about the same in the low and high price ranges. For the mathematically inclined, the "r-squared value" for this (linear) correlation is a minuscule 0.02, indicating that 98 percent of the pricing of these cigars is related to factors other than quality (as assessed by Cigar Aficionado's tasters). Of course, it is possible that cigars not included in these ratings may fare otherwise, but the large number of cigars included in this sample makes it unlikely that this would often be the case.

In short, where fine cigars are involved, costlier is not better. Routinely purchasing the lesser-priced cigars rated by Cigar Aficionado will not only give you many hours of great smoking pleasure, but will leave you with plenty of money left over for renewing your subscription to this excellent publication.

Jack G. Modell
Leeds, Alabama


Dear Marvin,

I consider myself a very fortunate man. My golf buddy/cigar compadre bought tickets for the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. We watched all the action as it unfolded on Friday and Saturday. I got to see the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus; the newest phenom, Tiger Woods; and all the fabulous pros in between.

I also met up with some friends from high school whom I had not seen in more than a year. Needless to say, my friends and I lit up some beautiful hand-rolled Dominicans over our two-day outing. During the rain delay on Friday, I enjoyed a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 2, lukewarm beer and good conversation.

On Saturday, I had waited to light my Montecruz Robusto until the afternoon. We were watching Davis Love III come down the ninth fairway. No sooner had I lit my stogie than one of the off-duty marshals started giving me a hard time about my cigar. He said, "Oh, no! You're one of those people!" as he waived his hands mockingly, blowing away the smoke. I told this ignorant gentleman (who was clearly high on his "marshal" powers) that I had every right to smoke a cigar in the open air and if he didn't like it, he should move. My friends shouted "Aire libre!" and whipped out their cigars and lit up in my defense.

It was about a half hour later, as our smokes were nearing an end, that we got to see Jack Nicklaus up close and personal and cheered him on with a "You the Man!" My love of golf and cigars have always gone hand in hand. The joy I derive from both of these activities should not have to take a back seat to anyone, especially a cranky, off-duty, overzealous marshal.

As I said earlier, I am a very lucky man. On Aug. 16, my wife, Sheryn, gave birth to a 10-pound, 1-ounce boy, Ryan Joseph, and I look forward to the day that I can walk down the fairway with him enjoying a good smoke, teaching him about the finer things in life: golf and cigars. Also, I would be remiss if I did not thank my friend, Ed, for giving me the opportunity to experience a U.S. Open.

Patrick J. Vincent
Marlton, New Jersey


Dear Marvin,

Myself and 14 friends were out on our annual golf excursion to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this May. On Saturday, May 3, we were dining at Umberto's restaurant at Barefoot Landing. The owner, Bob, was a great host and bent the rules slightly to accommodate 15 cigar smokers in the semi-enclosed porch, which was greatly appreciated.

This particular Saturday night was a special one in Myrtle Beach due to the grand opening of the new House of Blues Club and Restaurant. While we were eating, the waiter mentioned that the partners in House of Blues were also eating dinner at Umberto's. I noticed Jim Belushi sitting a couple of tables away from us. Knowing how much Jim enjoys a good cigar, I approached the table to briefly introduce myself and pass along a La Gloria Cubana Charlemagne to him. As I made my way back to my table, Jim called me back to his table and reciprocated with a La Gloria Cubana Wavell! We chatted briefly about how much we both enjoy the fine products of Ernesto Carillo and Co. and, of course, how difficult they can be to find.

The next day on the seventh tee of our morning round, I sparked the Wavell he gave me and promptly birdied the next two holes on my way to a victory over a good friend!

This story is just another example of the unbelievable camaraderie that exists among cigar smokers. Keep up the great work!

Pierce H. Foster Jr.
Greenwich, Connecticut

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