Cigar Aficionado

Smoke For Derby Day

There’s just something special about firing up a great cigar (or two) on Derby Day. This year, my wife and I celebrated in style with a great group at the home of our friends Tammy and Jay Harris, who treat the annual Run for the Roses as if it were a national holiday.

Tammy and Jay created the ideal setup for a springtime party—a band playing Dixie music, a generous spread of fried chicken with all the sides, including Tammy’s homemade (and ridiculously addictive) biscuits with salty Southern ham, plus a bartender with a heavy hand and a deft touch at making Mint Juleps.

We were in fine spirits, arriving at the appointed hour dressed in our Derby attire. Jay was wearing a festive tie, my wife, Manuela, and virtually all the women wore hats worthy of any Southern belle, and I even dusted off the old Panama hat, which usually sits in my closet. My buddy Russ, who broke out the seersucker for the event, handed me a Cohiba Siglo I early into the party.

The little Cohiba is one of my all-time favorite small cigars. Every time I smoke one I think back to my first, which I smoked in Pinar del Río back in 1996. This one was as great as that first--slightly spicy, just rich enough, and full of great flavor belying its tiny size. I've always enjoyed them.

Cigars were welcome at the party, and about half the men in attendance chose to light up at some point. I, naturally, chose to light up a few times, following the Siglo with a Fuente Fuente OpusX PerfecXion No. 2. This is our current No. 2 cigar of the year, and it performed admirably. It was big, bold and leathery, with the right amount of sweetness needed to balance out the hefty power of the Opus. I was two-for-two with the cigars on Derby Day.

It was a great party, and went on long after the race had concluded. With the combination of good friends, great food, free-flowing cigars and fine spirits, it was impossible not to have a good time.