First of all, I would like to congratulate everyone associated with Cigar Aficionado for 20 years of great smokes, great drinks and great conversation. I came to cigars near the tail end of the great “cigar boom” of the 1990s and, like probably many of your readers, relied on your publication the way an earlier generation relied on the Farmer’s Almanac. Before the explosion of Internet blogs and cigar forums, I trusted the magazine to keep me informed on industry trends, cigar-related legislation and simply what to look for when I went to my local tobacconist. Though Cigar Aficionado has more company today, it is still the first and best source for living “the good life” available anywhere.
Much has changed in 20 years (like the fact that the 20th anniversary issue is part of my digital subscription!) and I couldn’t help but notice, sadly, how many within the pages of the anniversary issue—from cover celebrities to Gay Talese—now admit to smoking cigars infrequently or not at all. Punitive taxation has made our pastime more expensive, but even when we are willing to spend a little more for our passion more and more of us find it a solitary indulgence. The camaraderie that has always been so much a part of the cigar lifestyle is fading. Twenty years later the faddists have moved on, the public health outcry has spooked all but the bravest—leaving many of our favorite haunts shuttered.
I enjoyed my first cigar with my younger brother. We have enjoyed many since, and many more have marked important events in our lives. And I think we have educated our friends and family, one nonsmoker at a time, on the relationship-building power of a cigar and the peace and contemplation it invites. We belong to a fraternity that would have been a footnote without the fine folks at Cigar Aficionado, as well as the many cigar families that practiced the craft of generations without today’s rock star celebrity. Your contributions have not gone unnoticed. Keep fighting the good fight, and we will do the same.
Sean K. Conroy
Saint Albans, West Virginia
I have been enjoying your magazine for several years now, and always look forward to its arrival. After reading the 20th anniversary issue I was moved to let you know what a great publication you have, and how thoroughly I enjoyed this issue. I especially enjoyed reading your interview with Gordon Mott. Thank you for your dedication and passion, which is evident in each magazine you print.
I received the current issue of Cigar Aficionado and finally got to sit down to read it. Your interview with Mr. Gordon Mott was very interesting. I especially liked how you talk about how our government and some cities in this great country of ours have restricted us from the freedom of smoking cigars in public places and some outdoor locales. I’m fortunate enough to live in a state where those laws have not been passed yet and hopefully never will. As I write this letter I’m sitting in my garage enjoying a Casa Magna. One thing that I do have in common with you and 99 percent of all the smokers I know is the relaxation of smoking a cigar and the peace that it brings.
I just finished reading your 20th anniversary issue from cover to cover! This collector’s issue should be required reading for anyone who wants to learn about the history of the cigar industry. For the past 20 years I have made a very comfortable living selling cigar accessories and cigars to cigar retailers throughout the Midwest. I was fortunate to enter the cigar industry at the same time you acted on your dream to created Cigar Aficionado. The magazine helped make me a success and helped me put two kids through college (my daughter is in her last year of law school at the University of Illinois and my son will be attending law school at the University of Illinois in 2013). I am still plugging away in the cigar industry. I even had the honor of recently being pictured in Cigar Aficionado’s famous photo gallery Moments to Remember section. My thanks to you Marvin and your entire staff. Keep on smoking!
Buffalo Grove, Illinois
As someone who enjoys a good cigar, and a subscriber to Cigar Aficionado, I do not necessarily consider myself a connoisseur of the “finer” cigars available in the market. However, that is not the purpose of this letter. My purpose is to ask a question.
One can go into virtually any store in the land, except perhaps a bakery and shops of that type, and find items made in China. China is just as communist as Cuba and vice versa, yet we have open trade agreements with them. Why is it not possible to raise, just a little bit, the embargo against Cuba and allow the importation of say two items: cigars and rum? In return we can export to Cuba such things as plumbing supplies and electrical goods. They need automobiles, but one step at a time here. In the years since the embargo was put in place, we have gotten deeper and deeper into commercial intercourse with the Chinese. A very recent opinion written by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, points to an aggressive China now and in the future. And yet we continue to receive on our shores containers filled with Chinese goods. Why can’t we get cigars from Cuba? How long has it been since Cuba showed any inclination toward any aggression? What’s wrong with this picture?
Editor’s Note: See the Editors Letter in this issue.
I’ve been a cigar smoker for almost 30 years, and a faithful subscriber to Cigar Aficionado just two issues shy of its first edition. As I look forward to reading every issue, I have to say that I especially look forward to reading your subscribers’ letters in “out of the humidor” sharing their wonderful memories that were made all the more special because of the simple act of lighting up a cigar. Every time I read this section of the magazine, I frequently reminisce about my own special experiences, however, one in particular will always remain momentous in my life.
When my daughter was born 13 years ago this month, my father was extremely proud to be a grandfather for the first time. When I was a kid his generation left the diaper changing and stroller pushing to the moms. You cannot imagine my astonishment seeing my dad at age 67 proudly doing these things for my daughter.
About a month after my daughter was born, my father called me at work to ask if I had any cigars stashed at his house—of course I did! After I told him where they were he asked me to invite my brother-in-law Jimmy over for a small celebration in honor of my daughter’s birth.
Jimmy arrived just as we were all finishing dinner with my grandfather. My father showed us all to the unfinished room in the basement where he kept his work bench and his countless bottles of homemade wine, jars of tomato sauce and many other home-made items. He had finished the basement years ago when I was a baby. Just like any other traditional Italian-American family, we did all of our living (cooking, eating, entertaining) in the basement. Since it was the end of October it was too cold to sit outside.
As we followed him inside the room, my father proudly showed us to a small table barely big enough to fit four people. My father had set up the table with a table cloth, an ashtray, my box of cigars (Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente), wine glasses and select bottles of his own homemade wine that he saved for special occasions. My father was smiling ear to ear and was excited for all of us to sit at the table. He was so happy and reminded me of a little kid that just found out he is going to Disney World for the first time.
We closed the door and my dad had turned on a fan which he installed in the room to take out the humidity and vent outside. That night it served as ventilation for the cigar smoke. While my grandfather was pouring the wine, my brother-in-law and I were clipping the cigars for all of us. My father and grandfather were not cigar smokers nor did they typically allow anyone to smoke in their homes. However, for this special occasion, all rules went out the window. They knew Jimmy and I enjoyed smoking cigars, so they both wanted to smoke with us. I have to say, they surprised me once more as they smoked the cigars as if they had been smoking them all their lives. The four of us spent the rest of the night smoking cigars, tasting and arguing who made a better wine, my father or my grandfather. We laughed many laughs and we made many toasts to my newborn daughter Gianna.
The smoke filled the room regardless of the fan. I’m sure it went outside the room to the rest of the house but my mother never complained knowing the mini celebration we were having.
Sadly, my father and grandfather have since passed away. But to this day, every time I light up a cigar or read the stories from other readers in Cigar Aficionado, I am immediately brought back to my special memory: that small room 13 years ago when I shared great cigars and wonderful wine enjoying a very special time with three very special people whom I will never forget.
Rahway, New Jersey