I am an American currently working in Pristina, Kosovo, as a civilian police officer for the United Nations. A little over a year ago, I was in Virginia going through the assessment process to qualify for this assignment. The process included physical endurance, physical agility and defensive tactics tests, firearms qualification and a psychological interview. Seventy other retired or active police officers were going through this assessment. Most of them were able to complete all phases in most of the areas with little effort. The psychological interview was another matter, as there is little you can do to prepare. This leads to some apprehension. In my case, I have been through many of these interviews, and I wasn't too concerned. The last time was in the year 2000, when I was in Texas going through the assessment process for my first mission to Kosovo.
Soon it was my turn to meet the psychologist. I was pleasantly surprised when I recognized him as the same psychologist who interviewed me for my previous mission. His eyes also widened as we shook hands and recognition set in. As most of these interviews go, we just chatted about what I'd been up to and how my previous mission went. Then he asked me what I liked to do to relax. Without hesitation, I replied that I enjoyed smoking cigars with my neighbor Jim, who happened to have a beautiful wife who enjoyed cooking. After a great dinner, Jim and I would sit out on the patio and smoke a cigar while handling all the world's problems. The psychologist was grinning as I was explaining and then asked me, "What's your favorite cigar?" Jim had just introduced me to Ashtons, and I still had fresh in my mind the taste and aroma. "Ashtons," I said. When he heard this, the psychologist opened his briefcase, drew out an Ashton and handed it to me, saying, "Good luck to you and keep safe." I took the cigar, shook his hand, thanked him and left the office.
I related this story to Jim, who recently attended the [Cigar Aficionado] "Big Smoke" in Las Vegas. Jim told my story to the Ashton representative, who was amused and handed Jim a handful of Ashtons to pass on to me! It's a great life.
Palm Desert, California
I'm a private investigator based in New York City who enjoys the excitement of riding motorcycles in my free time. Once, I received a case which involved conducting surveillance on someone who also owns a bike and rides. So being that we both rode bikes, I monitored his actions via motorcycle and found out that he was just as much a cigar lover as I was. By monitoring him, I observed that he stopped at some of the most trendy and hottest spots to light up that New York City and surrounding areas have to offer, those that are left. What was great about this gig was, I was getting paid to smoke a cigar and ride my bike for a good period of time. So the moral of the story was the subject ended up being clean and I ended up seeing him again at one of the locations I learned about through him. We ended up talking with each other, although he didn't know I knew all about him. Then he introduced me to someone whom I had a great love affair with for a few months. So to this day, every time I smell the sweet aroma of a cigar, I think of this wild and crazy story that just puts a great, big grin on my face. I got paid, road my bike and had great sex, all because of someone that just wanted to go out and smoke some cigars! What a great country we live in! A cigar...what a great bonding tool!
New York, New York
I'm a recent convert to cigars and I enjoy your magazine a great deal. In the five or six months I've been smoking cigars, I have managed to pick up quite a few issues and read all the tobacco-related material. I've found a number of books on the subject and have read through them as well. There is a huge discrepancy in the descriptions of the body (mild to full) of a given cigar from one taster to the next.
I understand the subjective nature of the exercise, so I can see how "medium-full" to one taster may be "full" to another. But neither description is of any use to an inexperienced purchaser when the same cigar is described as "light or mild" and "robust or full" by different sources.
Your publication seems to most closely match my personal tasting experiences, so I would like to make a suggestion. I favor milder cigars, which I understand from various sources is not generally what an experienced smoker favors. I realize these are your bread-and-butter customers, as well as the mainstays of the industry. However, it would be very helpful (and more economical) to have an issue every year or two dedicated to helping mild to medium fans find well-constructed, consistently high-quality smokes. It may be that years from now I'll appreciate fuller-bodied or spicier cigars more, but due to stomach and heartburn issues, I rather doubt it. In the meantime, I and other newbies that I hang out with would like to have an idea of what would be good introductory cigars before we lay down our money. (I do have a good local tobacconist that I can rely on, but most local tobacconists' recommendations are as inconsistent as the guides and books I've read.)
Editor's note: Andy, we choose our cigars for the tastings based on what's in the marketplace, and we rate all of them together. You can find many highly rated "mild" cigars in those tastings, even though they may not be the top scorer in a category. Keep reading; you'll find them. And keep looking for a tobacconist that you trust.