The new issue of Cigar Aficionado came back from the printer last week, and I still smile every time I see it. There’s a copy on the far left of my desk, there’s one in my bookshelf, another in my briefcase and one at home. Michael Jordan is there on the cover, smiling back at me, holding a half-smoked cigar. If you subscribe, it should make it to your mailbox very soon. You’ll see it on newsstands on October 31.
Every issue of Cigar Aficionado is important to me, but this one is special. Not just because it has one of the most famous people on the planet on the cover and an amazing 13-page Q&A with him on the inside. (To watch videos from the interview, click here.) It’s also because this issue celebrates 25 years of this wonderful magazine.
Planning for this issue began more than a year ago, and putting it together was a team effort. Everyone who works here played a role.
It’s humbling and fulfilling to sit here looking at this issue, for it makes me think back to where I was in 1992 when the first issue of Cigar Aficionado was printed. I was a business writer, working in the New York City suburb of Westchester for another magazine. I liked cigars but didn’t fully understand them. Smoke shops were intimidating. I wasn’t unhappy at my job, but I didn’t love it. I was also unaware of the birth of Cigar Aficionado.
Then in 1994, I saw an ad in the New York Times for Cigar Aficionado. It sounded intriguing, so I picked up a copy of the Summer 1994 issue (it was a quarterly back in those days), which had Fidel Castro on the cover. I read the entire book and then took some notes on the ratings section. I took my cheat sheet into a cigar store and began shopping.
That magazine opened my eyes to cigar brands I had never heard of before and afforded me the confidence and guidance to experience better cigars. I smoked, I tasted, I experimented. And I read. When I saw back issues of Cigar Aficionado in a cigar store, I bought them. I learned about how cigars were rolled, about the people behind the brands, that lots of wrapper tobacco was grown in Connecticut, the state where I was born, and how the combination of filler, binder and wrapper leaves make up handmade, premium cigars. It was a whole new world.
Then I began hounding Gordon Mott for a story assignment, first by phone, then by fax (it was a long time ago) and then by phone again. Gordon, who served as executive editor before me, finally accepted my pitch for a feature on CEOs who smoked cigars, a story that appeared in the summer 1995 issue, with Jack Nicholson on the cover. That story helped me get a foot in the door when the magazine was hiring in 1995, and after several interviews, I had a new job. That was 22 years ago.
To the right of my desk is a note, one that I wrote down not long after I was made executive editor of the magazine. It’s a simple mantra, one given to me by Marvin R. Shanken, the editor, publisher and founder of Cigar Aficionado. That message? “It’s All About The Reader.”
That note is the first thing I see every day when I sit down at my desk, and it’s an important reminder of why we are still here a quarter century after issue No. 1. That note reminds me that I was a reader of this magazine before I worked here, and that all of us here have a responsibility to the readers to put out a quality magazine, a magazine the readers have read and trusted for 25 years. It’s an honor.
I hope you all enjoy the new issue as much as I do.