Out of the Humidor

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My wife's imposition of martial law in our home prohibits the smoking of cigars indoors. My wife, Cynthia, claims an allergy to cigar smoke. My three-year-old, Joshua, says all cigars are "stinky," although he collects the labels as trophies of slain cigars. My one-year-old, Caitlin, has not cultivated a negative opinion...yet. I remain an outlaw in my castle, smoking only outdoors when the weather is kind.
Ironically, as a generous gesture of peace and love, a holiday gift from my wife was The Ultimate Cigar Book, signed and inscribed by author Richard Carleton Hacker at my wife's request.
I am allowed to read the book indoors.
Jonathan H. Kaufman, Esq
Port Washington, New York

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Dear Marvin:
I took up cigar smoking when I was in college (20 years ago). At 18, it was a bald-faced act of hero worship; I wanted to become a writer and my favorite novelist, Thomas Mann, loved his cigars. In recent years, as my income has risen a bit higher than it was in those days, I've been able to enjoy a slightly pricier range of smokes, though I'm afraid a regular diet of Cohibas is still a long way off for me.
Which brings me to the delightful experience I'm enjoying these days, which I would like to share with some fellow cigar smokers who read your magazine and just might be a tad envious. If they are I'll be pleased; it's been a while since I was the envy of anyone.
I work for the U.S. State Department (which has strict no-smoking rules, incidentally, but so far they haven't been able to ban it in my living room, though I'm sure that's in the works). My current assignment is the U. S. Embassy in Moscow. Now, Moscow can be a topsy-turvy place these days, but the city has wonderfully redeeming features that make it worthwhile being here--like the kiosks that now are just about everywhere. They sell almost everything you can think of, and if you know where to look, you can find Cuban cigars. Reasonably priced Cuban cigars, if you can believe that. A few months ago, I picked up a box of Havanas (I believe the brand was Fonseca) which, after a few days in my humidor, were a sheer delight, and the box of 25 cost me the equivalent of about $42. This and other Cuban brands are to be had in Moscow; all you have to know is where to look. And if the dollar-ruble exchange rate is good, you can get some real buys on them.
But I think it's also true that those who say the glory days of old Havana are gone, at least for now, are right. Having sampled a few Cuban leaves here and also in South America when I was stationed in Brazil, I can honestly say that the cigars being produced in Honduras and the Dominican Republic bat in the same league, and some of them (I'm thinking specifically of Arturo Fuente here) are actually better than some of the Cuban brands. Until the embargo against Cuba finally is lifted and everyone can freely make his own comparison, I am one cigar smoker who can assure those who feel deprived that the Cubans, while still the standard of course, are no longer the only game in town.
But finding them in Moscow kiosks is still a treat.
Kelley Dupuis
U.S. Embassy
Moscow, Russia
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