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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96

Editor's note: Since the publication of our Summer 1996 issue, many readers have written to us in response to an Out of the Humidor letter written by Jim Gordon of Morris Plains, New Jersey. In his letter, Mr. Gordon writes, "I have an awful lot of trouble believing that modern American women are and have been enjoying cigars since long before all of us men caught on... I invite anyone to take a closer look at that woman smoker next time you see her... Does she really appear to be savoring the subtle array of flavors that a fine cigar can offer? Is she engaged in informed discussion with her companions about her favorite smokes and what she likes about them, or is she holding back coughs and tears..." Here is what some of our readers had to say:

***

Dear Marvin,

I just finished reading most of the Summer issue of Cigar Aficionado. As my husband passed me the issue to read (we fight over who gets it first!), he looked at me with knowing eyes. As I read through the "Dear Marvin" letters, I knew why he gave me that look when I got to the letter from Jim Gordon of Morris Plains, New Jersey.

Congratulations to Jim for giving men everywhere a nice black eye! I'll admit, I haven't been enjoying cigars for very long (and neither has my husband, who loves the fact that he has someone so close to him who shares this affection for fine cigars, Cognac, Port and microbrews) but I certainly don't smoke them for anyone but me! Cigars are very expensive, a hassle to carry with you, a hassle to keep, not to mention the cost of all the accessories that go with it. And I'd do all this to impress guys like Jim?!

I do have my own humidor, and surprised my husband with a 150-cigar, custom-made exotic humidor for his birthday. (Jealous, Jim?) I don't run across very many men who have this view. Look at the rest of the "Dear Marvin" letters; most men are thrilled to have women who share in their love for cigars. I don't have many men treat me any differently when I light up a cigar--usually they want to talk to anyone about cigars--because they love cigars. Not because they're male or female.

The most attention I get is from women. They casually start conversations with me to find out about cigars. How I started with them and what kind I prefer. I encourage them (especially if they're smoking a cigarette!). I try to tell them they don't have to smoke a small cigar or even a panatela-- they might like the taste of a larger, more full-bodied smoke. I've got a box of Fuente 858s and a box of Montesino Diplimaticos in the humidor now, not to mention the 50 assorted cigars I brought home from the Dallas Big Smoke!

I just wanted to point out to Jim (and other cavemen) that a cigar aficionado is just that--male or female. Those who don't really enjoy it, won't last. Hey, that's more cigars for those of us that do! But do consider how many men smoke cigars for attention. And Jim, at least you did get a rebuttal to your letter. That's a good thing. Now, here's to an inch-long ash
in your eye.

Thanks for the room to vent, Marvin, and a wonderful coffee table quality place to do it!

Linda Leser
Dallas, Texas

***

Dear Marvin,

I am writing in response to Jim Gordon's letter. Mr. Gordon seems upset that there has been an increase in publicity on the topic of women and cigars. Mr. Gordon feels that women are "faking" their enjoyment of cigars and that, in reality, they are choking and holding back their tears while enduring this unpleasantness.

Wake up, Mr. Gordon.

Recently there has been a large increase in the number of new cigar smokers, in part due to its newfound publicity and many "smoker nights" throughout the country. Many of these new smokers are women, and we enjoy a good cigar just as much as the next man. Mr. Gordon also states that women don't "savor the subtle array of flavors" in a cigar and that we can't involve ourselves in intelligent aficionado discussions. Mr. Gordon, how many women aficionados have you conversed with? Could not this statement be made about some of the neophyte male cigar smokers as well? With anything new, isn't there a period of learning and development of finer distinctions?

As a final note I would like to ask Mr. Gordon why he is so outraged at the recent visibility of women aficionados. Does he feel that women shouldn't smoke cigars? If so, then he should just state that opinion plainly, rather than trying to pin inaccurate and offensive motivations on those of us who just want to enjoy a good cigar.

Christina D. Rosetti
Jersey City, New Jersey

***

Dear Marvin,

This is a response to the "man" from New Jersey. I am a 25-year-old woman, and a regular cigar smoker. My women friends and I fully enjoy smoking our cigars, not only in private, but also in public. We absolutely do not smoke cigars for attention, only for the pleasure. My friends and I consider ourselves to be cigar aficionados as much as any man has a right to consider himself to be one. I have met many other women who are also cigar smokers; some enjoy them more than the men smokers that I've met. I find that with any cigar smoker I meet, we have an instant bond and a very interesting subject to discuss.

I commend Cigar Aficionado for printing articles and promoting women cigar smokers. I only wish there were more. If it wasn't for "men" like the one from New Jersey, I am quite sure that there would be many more women open to trying and enjoying fine cigars. The last thing we cigar smokers need is to have other smokers put us down or turn us off. So to all the women reading out there, let's light up in salute to ourselves.

Lily A. De Vaul
Napa, California

***

Dear Marvin,

I would like to respond to Mr. Jim Gordon. Mr. Gordon expressed his doubts about the fact that women in general truly enjoy smoking cigars. My husband and I find this kind of thinking amusing, and both agreed that I should express my feelings on this matter.

First of all, I have had a passion for fine cigars long before the recent popularity of cigar clubs and cigar magazines. Back in the mid-1970s I was fortunate enough to have a college roommate who was Cuban. After a few months in the dorm, she liked and trusted me enough to reveal what was in the big wooden case under her bed--a bounty from the homeland. This delighted me because as a high school girl I used to love the smell of the janitor's cigar as he came into our building to clean. I learned a lot from that roommate, a lot about one of the great pleasures of life--smoking fine cigars.

Now nearly 20 years later, I own my own $1,119 humidor loaded with the best of the best. I have many girlfriends who share my enthusiasm, several of whom have gone to the Dominican Republic to see how cigars are actually made. Last year for my birthday, my parents gave me a box of 150th Signature Series Partagas. None of my lady friends nor I has a great deal of money. Surely we wouldn't spend so much time and money on these things if they made us "hold back coughs and tears," as Mr. Gordon suggests. We make it a priority because we truly like it.

It is just my opinion, but maybe Mr. Gordon needs to open up his mind a bit; maybe then he wouldn't feel so threatened by this reality. Isn't it possible for women's olfactory and gustatory senses to enjoy the same pleasures as men's do? Oh, and not to open up another can of worms, but my girlfriends and I also enjoy a good ball game, a fine Scotch and great sex!

Name Withheld
Detroit, Michigan

***

Dear Marvin,

I'd like to respond to a letter published in your last issue, from the gentleman (and I use the term loosely) who feels that "cigar aficionadA's" might just be "impostors."

I am a 42-year-old executive for a major computer training company in the D.C. area, and a single mom! I always have a very full day, which includes the second worst commute in the nation, the Beltway, so when I need to relax, I smoke a cigar!

I was a cigarette smoker for many years and in 1974 was employed at the New York Zoological Society (Bronx Zoo). After the gates closed at the end of a busy day (when the crowds were overwhelming), my associates and I gathered back in our office to count up the day's receipts. I was inevitably out of cigarettes. My co-workers, all retired New York City cops, would never offer to buy me cigarettes because they were bad for your health--they always offered for me to sample their cigars! Well, needless to say, I've been hooked since then. (I quit smoking cigarettes over five years ago).

I am the woman who has had the guts to light up a cigar in public for years; I've been trendy for a long time, and personally I have enjoyed all the attention. I have on occasion had men approach me, asking that I please talk to their wives, hoping that I could help convert them.

Imagine my fiancé's relief when on our first date, he asked if I minded if he lit up. I said, "Hey no problem, I'll join you," and we both shared a great smoke (Hoyo de Monterrey Sultans).

After a busy day at the office and that three-hour commute, I really appreciate the relaxation and solitude I experience from lighting up a fine cigar. And in response to that doubting Thomas who wrote that letter: Hey, I might not own my own humidor, but I'm a female cigar smoker and proud of it!

Trish Gilliland
Centreville, Virginia

Editor's note: Got the message, Mr. Gordon? Above is a small sampling of the many letters we received on this subject. As we said in the very beginning of this magazine, we think that it's great that our cigar smoking community is growing, and all are welcome into our community.

***

Dear Marvin,

On Feb. 18, 1987, my beloved parents were killed in an automobile accident on the Atlantic City Expressway in New Jersey. I was required to inspect the towed wreckage of their car for any personal belongings I might wish to keep. In the trunk I found my dad's last Macanudo Portofino. He mostly smoked inexpensive cigars but kept the Portofino around for special occasions.

Despite the intense grief I experienced at the time, I managed to hold onto that cigar, and vowed that when my first child was born, I would smoke it and make a toast to Dad. Unfortunately, I was single at the time with no prospects.

Three years later I met a wonderful lady and we were married in 1991. On Nov. 9, 1994, my son, Andrew, was born at Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. After ensuring that mom and baby were resting comfortably, I took that cigar out onto the hospital lawn--you can't smoke in any hospital these days. It was evening, quite dark, and quiet. I smoked that Portofino, and was overcome with sadness at the thought that my dad would never see this beautiful thing that had just been created, his first grandson. I cried like a baby.

I have tried many cigars since that moment, but for some reason, I prefer Macanudo Portofinos. I like to think that it's because of the mild, consistent taste. Or maybe it's my love of things Jamaican. But somewhere in there is the link to my father and his memory, the father-son continuum. I think of my dad whenever I smoke one, even feel like him. For this I am grateful. He was a great guy, and I miss him every day.

Lawrence E. Ginsberg, M.D.
Houston, Texas

***

Dear Marvin,

I am a traveling businessman from Atlanta, Georgia, and I wanted to share an experience that I had. While awaiting my flight in the Fort Lauderdale Airport, I went to the airport lounge and found a small corner table to sit down and enjoy a smoke while reading my new issue of Cigar Aficionado. The lounge was three-fourths full of people. I opened my briefcase and pulled out my traveling cigar box, which contained several different brands of cigars that I had purchased from a Miami tobacco shop. I pulled out an Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 1 and sniffed it as I slipped the wrapper off. I then noticed that a gentleman from a few tables away approached me and asked me what brand of cigar I had in my hand. We talked about cigars for a moment and then a second gentleman from the same table came up and started talking about cigars. A few minutes later, two more gentlemen joined the group to talk about their cigar experiences. A few tables away was a woman sitting alone who saw me showing off all of my recently purchased cigars. She got my attention and asked me if I knew about the JFK humidor. Since I had just finished reading about the humidor in your Summer 1996 issue, I told her all about the humidor's history, original cost, etc. Then a man from another table in the lounge turned to me and said, "Which actor gave the humidor to JFK?", and I told him that it was Milton Berle. Within five minutes I had captured the attention of so many people in the lounge that I immediately got the urge to write this letter for your other readers.

My point is this: cigar smokers seem to be in their own fraternity. I have met many people in the past few months since I became a regular cigar smoker. This pastime is definitely a great way to start conversations or meet people, and I'm glad that cigar smoking is getting so popular. Many business people, especially salespeople, go to cocktail parties and other social events to seek out "potential prospects." Well, now you don't have to attend these events anymore. Just pull out a large cigar (double coronas are great) and you will gather attention for sure. And since a cigar can now be considered a business tool, I wonder if I can include this item on my expense reimbursement report! That would be wonderful, but I don't think that my company is going to buy that one.

At my office, I have a large cigar box with a Credo in it that sits on top of my desk (I don't have a humidor yet although I am looking for a nice-sized one.) I usually have a few cigars in this box and I am amazed at the amount of people that come by my desk just to "peek inside." I love the look on people's faces when I show them the real big ones like 54 ring Churchills or presidentes. It is definitely a big thrill.

Mark Phillips
Atlanta, Georgia

***

Dear Marvin,

On Friday of last week, some friends and I stopped to have a drink and smoke a few fine cigars. On this night we chose a "gentlemen's club." In Austin, these clubs are very receptive to cigar smokers. In fact, I feel very comfortable with a big 50-plus cigar at these places. Despite their bad reputations, we Texans conduct quite a lot of business in these clubs. This night proved to be a disaster (but not for me).

Upon entering, we were greeted in the usual manner. We were given a private table in a VIP section (the only way to go). The table next to us was empty. We took our places and ordered our first round. It was not long before all of us were puffing away passionately on our various cigars (we all have different tastes) and that the unoccupied table next to us became occupied. To this we paid no attention.

What happened next was every cigar smoker's worst nightmare. While in the middle of a smooth draw on my Arturo Fuente Classic, a hand tapped me on the shoulder. An angry looking guy with a cigarette in his mouth asked if we could put out our awful smelling cigars. He claimed the smoke was causing him to choke! I was shocked. I was beside myself with wonder. "Excuse me," I retorted, "is that not a smoke-exuding instrument in your mouth?" He became aggressive and threatened to harm me if we did not take immediate action. He then stood up (along with his three burly comrades). I remained seated. "Would you care to smoke one?" I asked. I then held out a Classic to him. He swatted it away like a fly. I was steaming at this time. This man (I am not exaggerating) then began to roll up his sleeves. It was then that my friend recommended we find another table.

That was not necessary, because the club's doormen (bouncers) grabbed this ape and escorted him and his friends to the door, refusing them entry to the club ever again. We were then given a round of free drinks and our choice of cigars from the club's private humidor. It turns out that the manager is an avid cigar smoker and took it upon himself to fight for our rights as smokers. For that, I am thankful.

David M. Kennedy
Austin, Texas

***

Dear Marvin,

I was disappointed to read the letter in the Summer 1996 issue from our friend in Pennsylvania regarding his being rated for smoking cigars with Allstate. Although it is good information for your readers to know which companies are rating smokers in this manner, I was disappointed that he did not mention his current carrier.

I would like your readers to know that my primary company for writing business is Massachusetts Mutual Life out of Springfield, Massachusetts. Mass Mutual is one of the few that do not penalize us cigar smokers at the present time by throwing us into the same class as cigarette smokers. This company does, however, keep a user of any type of tobacco product from obtaining its preferred rate, but this is still a considerable advantage over those that rate cigar smokers with cigarette smokers.

Robert Littlefield III
Lubbock, Texas

Editor's note: Massachusetts Mutual was one of a number of insurance companies noted for their cigar friendly policies in an article on life insurance for cigar smokers in our Autumn 1995 issue, page 334.

***

Dear Marvin,

Cigar Aficionado is a very smooth, full-bodied magazine with a rich earthiness, and a pleasant sweetness that has a strong, lingering finish. I rate it a 97. Keep it coming.

Layne J. Albert
Houston, Texas

***

Dear Marvin,

Smokers of cigars seem to understand their place in the world. I consider myself a private individual and it is with some trepidation I write my first letter to an editor. On April 11, Lisa, my sister-in-law, brought a child by the name of Liam into our community. I realize this event by itself went unnoticed by the mass of humanity but certainly not by family and friends. We have been anticipating this event every day of her pregnancy. I am the father of three children and luckily my wife has had relatively normal deliveries. Lisa has not been so lucky. One year ago, Claire, her first child, was born premature and died after four short weeks.

Very early in Lisa's current pregnancy, I was able to lay my hands on two Cuban cigars and store them away for Patrick, Lisa's husband, and myself to celebrate the forthcoming occasion. As the months passed, I would think of Lisa and Pat; I would often check on the cigars and my thoughts turned to how perfect the cigar is for celebrating a child's birth. Of the millions of cigars smoked every day, the cigar we hold in our own hands is special to each of us aficionados. The anticipation created prior to smoking each cigar is not unlike any newborn; will they live a clean, honest and worthy life, will they meet and exceed their potential? We hope that with the proper care, each will be special and we will be rewarded with satisfaction.

A life must be lived and so must a cigar be smoked. Like any good life, the cigar is touched by many, from the grower, roller and distributor, to the buyer. As Pat and I enjoyed our cigars, we contemplated the drifting smoke and the memories and the special times of our lives. The scent and the time for solitude wake us to our past and we reflect on our fathers and grandfathers.

Alas, the cigar smoked, like the life lived, will be but a memory. Some lives may be double coronas while others petit; Claire, in her short life, taught us the quality of our life is the memory left with others. Pat and I welcome Liam and wish him a long and bright future.

Jeffrey Milling
Elmhurst, Illinois

***

Dear Marvin,

After hearing of the passing of George Burns, I decided I needed to share with you how George Burns changed my life as a cigar smoker. My wife, Martine, and I have been married for three years. Two years ago I found that smoking a cigar seemed to settle the tension that a full week of work brings. Much to my wife's displeasure, cigars gave me stress relief a few times a week.

One night while we were living in Southern California, we joined my best friend and his girlfriend for an evening at Wolfgang Puck's Spago. My wife was extremely excited to be dining at Spago, especially after meeting Wolfgang himself at the door. After a picture with the great chef, we were informed by the hostess they were setting our table. While we were being escorted to the table, our hostess said, "You will have to excuse the cigar smoking, but Wolfgang believes that anyone 99 years old should be able to do whatever they please." My wife practically went into shock; sitting next to us was George Burns, dressed in a tuxedo, with a table of friends.

My wife debated whether she should ask for a picture with the great one or not, but after he finished his cigar, she asked his valet if it would be all right if she took a picture. The valet told my wife to ask Mr. Burns. As she bent over his wheelchair, she rested her hand on the arm of the chair, and George Burns put his hand on top of hers and asked the valet to take the picture. Martine was almost in tears.

Ever since that day, cigar smoking has become much more acceptable at our house. I still can't smoke inside, but she has purchased for me a year's subscription to the Cigar Insider newsletter, a monogrammed Colibri lighter and a Paul Garmirian ashtray. Come to think of it, she smoked a Macanudo over Christmas!

Art Yano
Englewood, Colorado

***

Dear Marvin,

After reading the Summer 1996 issue of Cigar Aficionado, I felt compelled to write to you. My husband, Jim, to whom I have been happily married for a few years, decided to take up cigar smoking last year. He became interested in cigars when he inherited a beautiful humidor from his grandfather. My husband loved his grandfather very much and always remembers him fondly. He often reminisces about his grandfather's cigar smoking stories prior to Castro, and his true enjoyment of authentic Cubans. Jim considers his grandfather one of the greatest human beings that he has had the good fortune to have ever met in his life. When his grandfather passed away, Jim, who was only nine at the time, felt a tremendous sense of loss, especially because they never got to do some of the things of which his grandfather had often dreamed.

In the beginning, when Jim first brought up the idea of cigar smoking, I was less than enthusiastic; however, to my own amazement, my usual conservative and narrow-minded views toward this subject were beginning to soften. I began to see my husband in a new light. My perspective was changing rapidly and I embraced the idea of gaining more knowledge about cigars. This helped me gain insight into a very special and intimate part of Jim that I really love.

We began this venture by going to various cigar stores and purchasing five new brands each week. I would ask Jim while smoking each cigar to describe its flavor to me, and then I would record each evaluation. During our cigar auditions, we would share stories about our childhoods, work, family, and suddenly the room was filled with an endless array of new memories. Believe it or not, I started to appreciate Jim's cigar smoking and I began to see it as very masculine and extremely sexy. I really enjoy it when he and I sit together after dinner on our deck, watching the sunset, while Jim enjoys a Vintage Romeo y Julieta. The sweet aroma fills the air. That is what we consider our time, our palace and our little secret. All the problems of the real world seem so distant for the moment, as sanity and order is restored in the world.

No one needs to understand, but I strongly recommend for all wives and significant others to try this formula. I think even Jim's grandfather would approve.

Alexandra N. Horsch
Lake Bluff, Illinois

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