Out of the Humidor

| By CA Readers | From Brad Paisley, March/April 2012

Dear Marvin,

I thoroughly enjoyed the December 2011 Havana issue. I was able to dream of a cigar vacation in a warm climate through Cigar Aficionado vicariously. Some of our Cuban American friends are not so comfortable with the idea of freely trading with Cuba. Of course, their reasons are political and that is understandable.

This last issue (February 2012) hits the mark with the Top 25 award that will send me searching for some of the great cigars that made the list. I always find it interesting when cigars that cost under $10 make the list right along with others that cost up to three times as much.

The “Top 25 at a Glance” list on page 65 is perfect to copy and use as a cheat sheet next time I’m at a tobacco store, or just to keep handy when I’m searching on the Internet. The list of “Bargain Cigars of 2011” on pages 75 and 76 is also a great reference of highly rated cigars at a low price. Good thinking!

I read the article about the Fuente family with a thirst. I am a big fan of their line of cigars (when I can find them), and was struck by the number of crises the family endured to keep their little cigar company in business. A lot of sweat and sacrifice went into building their company. We can enjoy the fruits of their labor with a lot less effort than the Fuente family put forth in order to get their fine cigars to us.

The interview with Sean Hannity was pretty interesting—I didn’t even know he smoked cigars. I thought the only conservative commentator that took up the hobby was quite a bit chubbier than Hannity.

There’s lots more in the February issue, it’s a keeper. Sincere thanks for publishing such a high quality magazine that focuses on the good life that even peons like me can enjoy—along with a fine cigar for less than $10! Overall, Cigar Aficionado is an interesting, useful publication that is more of a reference book than a magazine.

Mike Tarone
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Dear Marvin,

I am far from being an aficionado, but I love cigars and have been a subscriber to Cigar Aficionado for several years.

I have an observation about the size of cigars, based first on my own taste, and I think substantiated by looking at your Top 25 cigars. I prefer cigars that are about 6” by 50+ ring size—they seem to smoke the best, taste the best, last just the right amount of time and somehow just feel right in my hand. When I draw, they seem to deliver just the right amount of smoke.

Smaller, thinner cigars, or longer cigars just don’t hold the same attraction.

Each year I look at your Top 25, and this approximate size seems to dominate the list. This year, I did the math and, interestingly, the average length was 5.98 inches, and the average ring size is 51.56. Am I on to something here? It certainly appears that the best cigars each year fit that profile. Does this size yield the best cigar? Or is there something about that size beyond taste—the feel, the draw, the length of time enjoying a fine cigar—that adds to the pleasure? I would be very interested to hear what you and your experts have to say about this.

By the way, thanks for Cigar Aficionado—I look forward to it, and find there are few things more relaxing than a fine cigar accompanied by a great whisky.

Dan Hand
Howell, Michigan

Editor’s Note: Interesting analysis. We agree that thicker cigars allow better blending options. We’ll look into it.
The following letters highlight how our issue on Havana polarized our readers. Some will never forgive or forget. Some will welcome the day Americans can travel there. It’s quite a contrast between the two points of view.

Dear Marvin,

Just wanted to thank you for the great reporting on the insider’s guide on discovering Havana, in the December 2011 issue. The timing was perfect, your article inspired us to plan our holiday vacation to Cuba. As Canadians we visited Cuba several times during the last 25 years. We always stayed in Varadero because we loved the beaches and the great hospitality. As you stated in your article, the Cubans are wonderful people. This time however I made the trip to Havana. We visited the old city as well as some of the restaurants and cigar shops. Your recommendations were greatly appreciated.

We stopped at La Casa del Habano, Hotel Melia Habana, where we purchased our cigars. The staff was very helpful and accommodating with the selection of the right cigars. They offered us free smokes and fine scotch, we did buy at least 8 boxes, the famous Behike 52 and 54, Partagás Serie P No. 2, Serie D No. 4, Cohiba Siglo VI, Montecristos and Punch. I was like a kid in a toy store and was very happy to share this joy with my sons and brother-in-law. We were there from December 23 until January 2nd. We had a wonderful vacation and Cuba is a must for all cigar aficionados. My friends are leaving for Havana on February 1st. They were just as inspired as I was after I shared your magazine and some of the cigars with them.

Thank you again for providing us with such a fine publication.

Virgil J. Girosan
Montreal, Canada.

Dear Marvin,

I look forward to opening my mailbox and receiving your wonderful magazine and will continue to do so, but I must say, I was repulsed by your effort to sell the failed welfare state, Castro’s sick socialist utopia, Cuba, in your December 2011 issue.

Who was responsible for this? They need to be fired! As a very patriotic American, son of a WWII vet and cigar lover it made me want to vomit as I read the Cuban propaganda. Cuba a nice place to visit? Maybe for some frozen Canadians who have bought into the socialist utopia welfare state that our current class warfare leader, Obama, is trying to sell again. Those Cuban Americans that escaped the communist oppression and murder of Castro should cancel their subscriptions. I know that I would.

I know Cuban cigar makers make some of the best cigars in the world but the Cuban people bought into what Castro started selling 50 years ago and they deserve the poverty and squalor they currently live in. When Castro and all his murderous henchmen are dead and after a few generations of freedom-loving people, Cuba will be worth visiting again.

Best regards,
Max Ellzey
Franklin, Tennessee

Dear Marvin,

The recent issue of Cigar Aficionado made Havana seem like a dreamland; a paradise purposely stuck in a bespoken time of
chivalry and elegance. I’ve been a cigar smoker for nearly 30 years and would love to be able to visit there. One day. Maybe.
However, the quickest way to change it from utopia to inferno is to open the doors to American capitalism. In the time it takes you to write your next Editor’s Note, there will be a Starbucks on every corner and a littered McDonald’s wrapper in every gutter. Do we really want to see a place as special as Havana turn into an ugly strip mall?

Don’t get me wrong, capitalism has its place. It has lots of positives to it. But to let it run amok means cheap manufacturing and unsafe business practices. After all, capitalism is all about making a buck, not about getting, and keeping, customers. If we allow it to run over the boarders of our neighbor to the south, Havana will soon be home to hazardous buildings, made with subpar Chinese steel and lazy, thoughtless and incompetent workers.

If you want our smoking bans to find a crack in which to leak, then lift the embargo. Whatever trends we have here will eventually find a grounding there. Soon American visitors will demand no smoking sections in every restaurant and hotel, if not outright smoking bans. The complaining will crescendo and for fear of losing the new American influx of tourist dollars, Havana will do whatever it takes to keep the naysayers coming.

I say leave the embargo in place. If we want Havana to retain its beauty, mystery, history and quality then let’s not allow American businesses free run of the place. Let’s not allow the bulldozer of profit open reign. Let’s not allow our deviousness a foothold. So much of what America touches begins to reek of dishonesty, like a career politician or a get-rich-quick scheme.

Let’s keep the U.S. out of Cuba and let Havana stay special.

Alan Kleinfeld
Charleston, South Carolina