I wanted my first cigar of 2012 to be special. The last three months of 2011 had involved a lot of work smoking—yes, people, the editors of Cigar Aficionado receive compensation for smoking cigars. For many of you, that describes a work situation that resembles Nirvana.
I’m not complaining either, but when your humidor is constantly filled with cigars bearing white-numbered bands, and you have no choice other than a decision to smoke #35, or #56, or #11, it does temper the absolute pleasure I associate with a great cigar-smoking moment.
So, when I have the chance to smoke purely for pleasure, I consider all the possibilities; the taste I want to enjoy, the size of cigar, the setting and the people I’m with. Until the elements and the stars are in perfect alignment, I can delay my immediate gratification.
The moment came right after New Year’s in Queretaro, Mexico. I was with my wife and daughter, a couple from New York who are our closest friends and our friends of more than 30 years who are helping us renovate a house in the city on Mexico’s central plateau, about two hours north of Mexico City.
My wife and I had spent the day mulling over tiles and wood floors, and imagining the finishing touches on some of the house’s freshly plastered walls. We ended up on a hotel’s rooftop bar shortly after sunset, still in shirtsleeves following a sunny, 75-degree January day.
The margaritas arrived with the salt gleaming around the edges of the glass. I knew the stars were aligned because the constellation Orion was right in front of me, just rising up over the tops of the many cathedral domes that dot the Queretaro skyline—the constellation is one that I associate closely with winters in Mexico.
My friend Matthew
offered me a 2003 Cohiba Robusto that he had received from a diplomat
friend of ours for his 60th birthday; I traded him a Edmundo Dantes
Conde 54, the new Mexican Regional Edition.
The Cohiba was already in prime smoking condition, mellowed out by eight years of aging. Like many Cuban cigars of the early 2000s, the cigar wasn’t overpowering, but showed the perfect balance of a well-aged cigar from a modest vintage—there was strong hints of leather with a smooth earthiness that had me holding that Robusto right down to the knuckle-burning stage, long enough to get through a second round of margaritas. We spent nearly two hours on the rooftop, finally heading home for dinner as the first cold breezes of a high-desert night chilled us.
It was a perfect cigar to start the New Year.