When I lit up a Montecristo Especial #1 recently for one of the magazine’s Connoisseur Corner’s contributions, I had an identical sensation. I remembered the first “Monte” Especial I ever smoked. It was in Paris in 1985, and my wife, bless her heart, had responded to my request for a box of cigars by picking up the Montes on her way through a duty free shop as she returned home from a business trip.
I didn’t know much about cigars then. I was fresh out of Mexico and Central America, trying to make a go of it as a freelancer in Paris while she labored away for Citibank in their corporate offices in Paris. Given the fact that every young American freelancer with dreams of Ernest Hemingway or making it as foreign correspondent in Europe, seemed to be there ahead of me, I had opted for the former dream and was working on a novel. My humidor was a plastic bag with dampened paper towels inside. I’d smoked during my days in Central America, but cigars were still a largely unexplored universe for me.
My writing room wasn’t exactly a garret with a window, but it was a classic Parisian apartment with floor to ceiling windows and a roll-up steel window shutter. I could sit there facing my old IBM PC decked out with the newest version of WordPerfect, writing away the morning, and turning sideways occasionally to gaze out across the rooftops of nearby apartment buildings, the round tile chimneys framing the usually cloudy sky. At some point, almost every morning, I would light a cigar.
That day was like most days. But the cigar wasn’t. I lit up the Especial #1 and was immediately taken with its smoothness, and the richness of the smoke. The elegant panatela shape seemed to be perfect. It wasn’t a heavy, or full-bodied smoke, but the length and the thinness provided a long, satisfying smoke.
There would many other cigars during the three years we lived in Paris. The novels, two of them actually, got finished, and eventually and regretfully, relegated to a personal library shelf. But the memories of those first serious cigars remain, always waiting to trigger the visions of those glorious days.