There are a few things in life that melt into our memory. These things are considered unforgettable.
It was the cool of the early evening on a small Caribbean island (I'll leave nameless). I had just finished another six-day week at the project assigned to me. The VP of our international division had surprised me with a gift of my first Cuban cigar -- a Punch Churchill fresh from Havana. I'd placed it in my humidor for safekeeping.
A few weeks later, this perfect Saturday evening came. Sitting there on the porch of my condo, overlooking the Atlantic, with many little islands within my sight, I decided now was the time.
With a CD of old, soft jazz playing and a stout from Scotland, I lit the Punch. What followed was more than an hour of pure, uninterrupted pleasure. Picture it: palm trees swaying in the light breeze, a jazz sax and piano softly playing, and a view only God could make. This was truly one of those memorable and unforgettable times.
Some of my appreciation of this moment in time must go to my great-grandfather. He was employed by a tobacco import company in Switzerland during the early 1900s. My grandfather told me of times when his father would wake in the early hours of the morning to test the cigars given to him. Then he would write his report.
This appreciation for fine cigars left our family with him. Not until I came along 45 years later did it rekindle. In the '70s, I was assigned a project in Miami. One night, after a difficult day, I found myself in Little Havana at a small tobacco shop. There I purchased a panetela-size cigar. I remember how that cigar made that day and the days to follow a little easier.
More than 25 years would pass before I would enjoy this pleasure again. I was assigned a project in Alabama. One day, I found myself in a small walk-in humidor at a tobacco shop, surrounded by scores of cigars. The friendly shop owner saw the confusion on my face and suggested a Romeo & Julieta Anniversary.
That evening, I returned to the project site after everyone was gone and lit the most wonderful cigar. The aroma brought back all memories from 25 years before.
It was then that I decided to subscribe to Cigar Aficionado and begin the journey of learning how to further enjoy this personal pleasure.
So as I sit here in this island paradise this evening, I want to say thanks to your fine publication that keeps this personal pleasure alive for all of us, a special thanks to the VP of our division who provided the Cuban that made this evening so unforgettable, and a very heartfelt thanks to my great-grandfather for the legacy he left our family.
I've just read your magazine for the first time after asking my local newsagent to order it for me, and I have found it to be very well written and informative.
Living in Melbourne, Australia, I had all but forgotten that you can't legally buy or smoke Cuban cigars in the United States, and I just thought I'd drop you a short note to offer some sympathy. I hope the day that the restrictions are lifted is not too far away.
I am now 22 years of age, and although I have always enjoyed cigars, they were typically poor-quality, machine-made products that I was smoking from time to time, bought from local convenience stores.
It wasn't until I was in Cuba for two weeks a couple of months ago that my eyes were really opened up, and I discovered a whole world of fine premium cigars just waiting to be experienced. I spent those two weeks in Cuba drinking Mojitos and trying various brands and styles of cigars with my wife, and when I returned home I brought back a box of Ramon Allones Specially Selected. Had I realized just how expensive quality cigars are here, I would have brought even more home.
Thanks to that trip, I've uncovered a new passion, and I recently joined the Australian and New Zealand Cigar Society. I hope that one day the U.S. restrictions will be removed, and more young people like myself will have the chance to discover one of life's great pleasures. Until then, keep fighting for your rights as cigar smokers.
Although I am presently passing away the days here at the federal prison in Otisville, New York, I am still a devoted reader and subscriber of both your great magazines, Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator. Having carried a single-digit handicap for many years, I truly want to thank you for your June issue covering golf. I have been fortunate to have had the pleasure of playing Seminole more than a few times, and reading your article brought back such fond memories for me. I was pleased to see Maidstone, in New York state, mentioned by one of your architects as one of his top five favorite courses. I have also played Maidstone on more than one occasion and would highly recommend you try to have your rematch there with Gary [Player] and Ernie [Els]. Please keep the golf articles coming. Having been a collector of fine wines and an avid golfer, not to mention a great cigar now and then, I greatly appreciate it kindly.
I am 24 years old and a great fan of your magazine. It is my favorite magazine. However, I am currently serving a four-year sentence for bribery, and my finances no longer allow me to afford Cigar Aficionado. I love cigars and I love the aim of the magazine toward living the good life. I know that once this is behind me, I will be able to enjoy cigars -- my passion and my greatest form of relaxation -- again. I started enjoying cigars in college and I am a great fan of maduros. Mr. Shanken, could you please send me three or four recent back issues of Cigar Aficionado? I would greatly appreciate it.
Buena Vista, Colorado
Dear Julian, I'll send you some back issues, but you must promise me you'll straighten out your life. You're much too young to throw your life away. My best, Marvin
I am a recently married man in his late 20s. I'm writing you because I am in need of some advice, some marriage advice. Marriage has been a learning process up to this point. My current situation is a predicament that no marriage counselor could answer, only Cigar Aficionado. How do I graciously accept a counterfeit Cuban from anyone, and in my case, the in-laws?
My in-laws, God bless their hearts, know I love cigars and bought me a box of Cuban Montecristo No. 2s on a recent trip to Canada. I don't know how much they paid, but I know it was over $350. I was excited at first, thinking it might be possible they could be legit. It's my understanding that the cigars were bought in a sealed box with all the appropriate markings. And apparently, at the cigar shop, there were other Americans doing the same, and there were even returning customers. I didn't actually get to see the box or any of the documentation since they tossed it before coming across the border. The only record of the cigars they did keep was the bands. However, after perusing your online counterfeit gallery, I'm fairly confident they are not genuine.
The situation with the in-laws is somewhat avoidable. I don't see them that often; however, when I do, the conversation inevitably leads to "how much I love those cigars." I've been holding them off with "they still aren't ready to smoke." I can't keep this strategy up forever. Plus, during the summer, my father-in-law is going to want to smoke one with me.
I am new to this whole marriage business. I can't tell my in-laws they were swindled out of 350-plus dollars. I also don't want them buying counterfeit cigars for me in the future. Is there an approach that won't cause a crisis? I don't want to come across as ungrateful. I've avoided situations like these before when someone wants to share what he thinks is a Cuban. I've kept my mouth closed so as to not spoil the moment, as we all act like it's the best cigar ever. I'm tired of doing this. How do I deal with these situations? I'd like to hear some suggestions. Please help!
Editor's note: Proceed very, very slowly. First, find out the name of the shop. I say that for one reason: we've gotten very mediocre yet genuine Cubans from Canada, even from La Casa del Habano outlets. Second, if the source appears suspect, let the in-laws know, and walk them through our counterfeit gallery. I'd rather know my son-in-law was a forthright guy.