Cigar Aficionado

Blue Smoke to Fight the Blues

As I write this, I am smoking a cigar sitting on the terrace of the Raleigh Hotel in Miami and contemplating life. Yes, you can still smoke in some places in Florida!

I am traveling tomorrow to a place that is about as far away as you can get from the awful news of the stock market meltdown. It is a place where money is not king. It is a sleepy island with warm souls and sunny weather, where time passes without much change, where a smoldering cigar can measure eternity. Of course, you guessed it ---Cuba.

Granted, Cuba has its own problems (politics aside) following two hurricanes that hammered the island in September. I have heard that the situation is very bad outside of Havana. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and food is scarce. Reports of the storms destroying the tobacco industry are apparently far fetched since the storm hit the part south of the best cigar tobacco growing areas in Pinar del Rio, or the Semi-Vuelta. But I want to see it for myself. So stay tuned.  I will file blogs regularly from Havana beginning on Monday.

It¹s going to be sort of strange to be in Havana after spending a few days in Montreal for a charity wine dinner earlier in the week. Watching the stock market plummet every day can really get you down. And although I don¹t really have much money in the market any more, the bad news really gets to you. Thank God for a good smoke.

I spent most of last weekend in Montreal with some friends, and we made regular visits to the La Casa del Habano, the Cuban cigar shop/ lounge. Every day after lunch my buddy and I would stroll over to the shop and pick out  a smoke. One day he would buy, the next I would. It started to be a ritual. In fact, I miss it now as I write this, Wish he was in Miami or going to Havana with me.

The Casa in Montreal is a great hang. It has room for about a dozen or so people to sit in soft and comfortable leather chairs and sofas, kick back, and enjoy a well-made espresso or cocktail. The girls who work there are friendly and pretty. And, perhaps more important, the selection of cigars is excellent and well kept, and ­ only Cubans.

I smoked a number of cigars over the sojourn in Montreal. My favorite was the recently released Ediciones Limitadas 2008 Cuaba Pirámides. It hasn¹t changed a bit since I first smoked it last February in Havana. It is the best Cuaba since the special humidor Salomones, which was released in the late 1990s. It is super refined and long with light coffee and nutty character, yet it¹s full and very, very flavorful. It last for minutes on the palate and delivers the same rich flavor from the moment you light it until it finally goes out. I'd score it 93 points, non blind. I also smoked a Montecristo Petit Edmundo that was fabulously rich and spicy. Right on the money. The only dull smoke I had was a Regional Edition Por Laranaga Robusto for the Hong Kong market. It had little or no flavor. 87 points, non blind.

I am curious: what have you been smoking this week?  I hope they were good ones. God knows we all deserve a good smoke. And I thank him for the solace from a good cigar. Have a good weekend.

"James, I finished last nite a Cohiba Behike that was given to me by a friend of ours in Grand Cayman. I must say 2 years in the humidor has done it well. Today, I think I will start with a hoyo epicure especiale and later a bolivar royal corona. If you see Valerio in Havana, tell him I said hello. I should be seeing him soon." —October 11, 2008 11:07 AM
"I had a Petit Edmundo two weeks ago in Prague and loved it. I have to thank you James, because I had been wanting to try one ever since reading your account of it a few months ago. I got it at La Casa del Habano there in Prague, the one next to La Casa Argentina (the steakhouse). Have you been to that Casa Habano? --Fernand" —October 11, 2008 00:01 AM
"James, I smoked a Cohiba Maduro 5 Secretos which was an excellent full flavored smoke. Its the best after dinner smoke which can easily replace your coffee with its rich complex flavors. Its small, yet requires 1 hours of full attention. Just a delicious masterpiece. By the way, next time you are in Canada and maybe Toronto let me know and I can take you to a nice rooftop downtown Toronto for a smoke with other cigar buddies." —October 10, 2008 22:56 PM