September, 1991. The world was a very different place. The world was still in the midst of the Cold War as the Soviet Union was in its death throes, its member nations breaking off. Soviet troops, some 11,000, were to be withdrawn from Cuba, along with the Soviet aid that had kept that nation afloat.
It was far from an ideal time for a person to make their first trip to Cuba, but there I was, ready to spend a week touring Cuba's cigar factories and tobacco fields for a cover story for Wine Spectator.
Cigar Aficionado did not exist.
I write this only days after returning from my most recent trip to Cuba, a homecoming of sorts. It had been about ten years since my last visit, too long a time to spend away from the birthplace of the premium cigar industry. I most recently spent a few days on the island, smoking its wonderful cigars, speaking to its beautiful people, and returning to El Laguito, the mother factory for Cohiba cigars.
That visit to El Laguito, a majestic former school where cigars are made slowly, carefully, was emotional for me. For it brought back memories to that day nearly 20 years ago when I first stepped inside, smoking Cuba's most famous cigars. For it was on that visit, when I walked inside those tiny rooms where cigars are made, that I felt inspired to create a cigar magazine. To create Cigar Aficionado. That was the trip when I decided that before I died, I wanted to have a cigar magazine.
We shot a short video while we were there. You can watch it by clicking here.
Cuba, and in particular El Laguito, will always hold a special place in my heart. I can't tell you how glad I am that I returned, and I can guarantee you that it will not be ten years before I visit again.