Cigar Literature

There’s something special about reading beautifully illustrated books about cigars.  These wonderful editions never fail to amaze me in that I always find countless bit of information about cigars that I didn’t know before I sat down to read.  I’m also amazed at the beautiful Photography and the results these artists can achieve in making my mouth water at the thought of smoking cigars that seem to jump off the page.

One book that I’m in the process of buying is, “An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars.”  This, so called, Cigar Bible was written by Min Ron Nee and first came out in 2005.  What I’ve been told and what I’ve read about this first edition is that it is a wonderful reference book and a must have for anyone with an extreme passion for Cuban cigars.

What I find so seductive about these types of books are being able to see and read about a lot of the cigars I haven’t smoked…. Yet……. There will be some I will never get my hands on and that makes the reading all the more exciting.  Some collectors have gigantic walk in humidors that have been photographed and put on display for all of us cigar maniacs to drool over and I, for one, couldn’t be more grateful

Many people have car magazines and put pictures of their favorite Ferrari on their walls to give them inspiration.  How many posters of Raquel Welch do you think were sold?  I’ve seen posters about fine wines, different shaped pastas, castles, rare guitars and even cheeses gracing the walls of my friends and family.  I just had about 400 cigar bands folded and glued onto a black matte piece of cardboard and then framed.  I have a very talented wife!

If cigars are what you love then you can find unlimited cigar art, magazines and information that will keep you quiet and occupied for the next 50 years.

The Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto

I’ve been such a robusto fan for the last few years, and to be honest, a lover of bigger cigars that I haven’t been paying as much attention to some of the shorter Cubans as maybe I should.  I was at a coffee house today enjoying an espresso with a good buddy when he handed me a Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto and , well, what could I say!  Thanks seemed to be appropriate!!

The smoking laws being what they are these days dictated that we take our coffees and move a respectable distance down the street to a park bench near by.  My friend manages his humidors like a doting parent and really knows how to take care of his cigars, I saw that this petit robusto was in immaculate condition, the wrapper was very smooth and the construction felt firm but not overly hard.  After I clipped the cap, the pre-light draw was easy with a beautiful tobacco taste and somewhat herbal aftertaste which also left a slight tingle to my lips.  The weather was warm and this was going to be a fine meditative hour or so.

Since I hadn’t smoked one of these in some time I was expecting this to be a re-visiting of the Epicure #2 but from the first puff I was reminded that this is a different story altogether.  The first flavor I got was a strong but pleasant leather taste with toasted tobacco and for a while this little cigar stayed in that neighborhood until the second third when it developed into a more complex sweet dark chocolate. I told myself that I was going to be very still and careful so I could see how the grey white ash behaved.  The wonderful long leaf tobacco burned very evenly and it wasn’t until well into the final third when the ash finally toppled over.

We sat and finished our cigars, talked about sports, Tiger Woods and his incredible triumphant return and the up-coming trout season, then it was time to go but not before I made a silent promise to myself to stock up on some of these great little cigars as soon as possible!

Wednesday, A 2 cigar Day!!!!

Not sure why but yesterday was one of those days when 1 cigar just didn’t cut it, I needed MORE !!!  Not that the cigar I started out with let me down in any way, just the opposite, it was an amazing experience.

Yesterday afternoon I lit up an H. Upmann No 2 and was thrilled beyond belief.  Trevor at The vancouver Cigar Company has a few boxes right now that are very beautiful.  I was lucky to pick up 5 of these cigars just before Christmas and every one has been perfect in every way starting out at perfect construction, beautiful white ash and incredible taste.  This was a picture perfect cigar smoking experience!!! The cigar lasted for about an our and a half as I watched a few episodes of Deadwood ( great series BTW ) and the cigar went along with the Wild West vibe perfectly.

After dinner I wondered if the Umann was just one of those ideal situations and nothing could top it so over to the humidor I went again!  I was going over to see my friend, Jimmy and look at his new irons he had fitted so I thought that the Juan Lopez Seleccion No 2 would be a good companion.  As you can see, it was a No 2 kind of day.

I settled into his garage on a lawn chair as he showed me every club… twice…. and once again I was met with a beautiful taste of Havana.  I’ve always thought that if there was ever an “old school” tasting cigar, the Juan Lopez would be it!  In my humble opinion I believe this to be a cigar with no shortage of leather flavor with a bit of cedar as well.  This cigar doesn’t evolve as much as others in the same price range but there’s something very satisfying and relaxing about it.  The 16 yr old Lagavulin, comfortable lawn chair and Jimmy’s stories and plans about how his game was going to improve also relaxed me a great deal.

It was just the kind of cigar day that we all dream about and some times the planets line up and our taste buds reveal how good life can be!

Aged Cuban Cigars.. Quite a Trick

I have a number of different kinds of Cuban cigars from Espelendidos to H. Upmann tubos and every day I want to smoke at least one of them.  Problem is that when I have something that tastes great I have a difficult time letting them sit in the humidor for any length of time.  I think that maybe having 1,000 cigars or more may just be the trick.  Quite a trick though!!  That would probably be the easiest way to let them age since you would have such a large selection to choose from on a daily basis.

Right now I’m having difficulty holding on to some Ramon Allones Specially Selected from Feb 07.  I realize that 3 year old cigars aren’t very aged when you consider that some people can hang on to them for decades but these particular Ramon Allones are mellowing more and more each month and right about now they taste incredible.  I seem to want to smoke them daily.  I have some Partagas Series D #4 that are from ’06 and the same thing happens to me whenever I think about them.  I want to rush over and light one whenever I see them.

Another problem is that I just got a new humidor with a glass front and all of my Cubans are proudly displayed in individual sections.  Seeing them just may make this problem of mine worse.  Maybe covering the humidor with some sort of cloth would stop me from being tempted…..

Probably not!!!!!!!!

Makeshift Cigar Humidor

Quite often there are times when we travel and spend time away from home.  The safe warm feeling we all get from being close to our humidor has to be put aside but what about the cigars we wish to take along with us in our travels?  Many shops will sell you humidors that are smaller in size but I’ve found they just don’t seem to carry enough for, lets say, a 2 or 3 week trip.  I happen to travel a lot and along with my golf clubs and clothing I want to make sure I have enough cigars with me to smoke whenever I want.  How can you golf on a beautiful course in fine weather without a beautiful cigar?  Short answer, you can’t!  I have a 1 cigar humidor tube that I have in my golf bag and if I go out at night I have one that will keep 2 Cubans safe and readily available.

Here is what I use when I leave home.  I use a plastic box (Tupperware, rubbermaid or whatever you choose)  that has a small hole cut into the top to make sure that the cigars can breathe and don’t become over humidified and possibly damaged with too much moisture.  I then take a heavy plastic zip-lock bag and put in as many cigars as I wish to take with me ( I’ve had as many as 12 ).  The next item is a small pice of moistened terrycloth that I have tightly bundled with an elastic to insure that it stays damp for a length of time. Place the cigars in the bag which is always kept open , make sure the cloth ( or whatever you find convenient ) stays away from the opening and never touches the cigars directly and then snap the top of the box shut.

If this will go into checked luggage and get bounced around by baggage handlers at airports you may want to seal the zip-lock bag, pack the cigars carefully in your clothing and insure that the cigar’s wrappers don’t get damaged.  When you get to your destination you can then open the zip-lock and insure that the cigars stay moist. Happy travels!

Winston Churchill Without His Cigar

As a young boy of 17 , Yousuf Karsh, came to canada from Armenia and began a life that no one would could have possible imagined.  He came from a country and a people that had been persecuted beyond belief so this was a change that he along with many Armenians drastically needed when they came to both Canada and the U.S.  Yousuf’s uncle sponsored the Immigration of the boy and “photographer’s assistant” was written on his papers.   He loved his new country, made new friends and after a while went to study with a great photographer in Boston.

John H. Garo was a friend of Yousuf’s uncle and in Garo’s studio the young man, over the next 3 years, learned about art, the different complicated processes of photography, people skills and even how to be a bartender when clients came over.  Garo would only take photos with natural light and demanded that of all of his assistants.  The old photographer also insisted that young Yousuf capture people as they revealed very human qualities.

Yousuf returned to Canada and with a will and determination for fame and fortune, went to Ottawa and became a photographer and friend of, then Canadian Prime Minister,  William Lyon Mackenzie King.  During this time in Ottawa Yousuf developed a passion for theatre and discovered that artificial light would become a valuable tool in his photographic sessions.  Now this young photographer was the brightest and the best in Canada and when Churchill came to Ottawa in Dec. 30, 1941 to deliver his famous “Chicken Speech”, Yousuf had his equipment set up in King’s office for a brief photography session with the famous British statesman.

This was something that Churchill hadn’t expected but decided that 10 minutes or so out of his day wouldn’t be a problem.  As Churchill sat against a wood paneled wall he had his signature cigar in his hand and the young photographer asked him to set it down out of the lens’ view.  Churchill responded, “No way” but Yousuf somehow politely wrangled it out of the Old man’s hand, set it in an ashtray of King’s desk and snapped one of the most famous pictures of Churchill ever taken.

Churchill doesn’t look very happy in the shot but this was during world war 2 when he needed help from both Canada and the U.S. and came over to North America to rally some support.  In the photo you can see that Churchill had a lot on his mind or was he just angry that his cigar had been taken away from him?

A perfectly good cigar burns away in an ashtray!!

A perfectly good cigar burns away in an ashtray!!

Top 10 Favorite Cuban Cigars

Now as I was thinking about doing this list I was thinking back over the years about all of the beautiful experiences I’ve had smoking Cubans and the thought occurred to me that there is no way I can have only 10 favorites.  Not only that, but there are days when I’d rather smoke a Hoyo de Monterrey than a Partagas but I guess I realize now that I just have to go with what I’m feeling today, tomorrow is another day and maybe I’ll do this again in the future.

1 )  Cohiba Esplendido– I’m sorry if I’m being predictable here but I simply haven’t found a Cuban I love more.  The construction is always perfect, draw is easy and the flavors are numerous, sometimes subtle and always outstanding.  There are many reasons why this is one of the most popular cigars on the planet!

2 )  Cohiba Robusto–  There isn’t a better Robusto out of Cuba today.  This is another example of perfect construction, color and complexity that Cuba has to offer.  Starts out with nuances grass and black pepper and then evolves into a beautiful sweet chocolate and coffee.  Outstanding!!

3 )  H. Upmann Magnum 50–  Number 3 was a difficult choice but for now I can’t think of a more enjoyable double robusto to smoke.  Almost 2 hours of pure pleasure with a grey white ash, easy draw, sweet fruity tobacco flavors.

4 )  Partagas Lusitania–  A majestic Prominente that is mild to medium in strength, starting off with a bit of an herbal peppery taste which becomes smooth and creamy as it burns.  2 hours of incredible pleasure!

5 ) Bolivar Royal Corona–  A favorite with many lovers of Cuban tobacco.  This fantastic Robusto is slightly more powerful with a definite earthy overtone that is full bodied and very satisfying every time I have the pleasure of lighting one up.

6 )  H Upmann Magnum 48–  This little blockbuster comes in at 4 1/3 inches and a 48 ring gauge.  Sweet coffee and dried fruit present throughout.  This is a new cigar for Upmann and I, for one, hope they continue to produce it for a great number of years to come.  A must try!!

7 ) Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure #2–  Well, since we’re on the topic of sweet I guess it’s time to mention this fabulous Robusto that has become one of the most popular from the Hoyo brand.  Once again I’m showing my hand by revealing my passion for sweet tasting cigars and this one has that in spades.  A bit more coffee and chocolate than the magnum.  Some would argue that I haven’t placed this robusto high enough in this list!

8 )  Vegas Robaina Clasicos–  I had the good fortune of finding a supply from The Vancouver Cigar Company that was almost 10 years old.  I couldn’t believe what the years of aging had done to this already beautiful cervantes.  This cigar began being a bit mild and creamy but then slowly got more complex revealing all of the “beans” including coffee and vanilla.

9 )  Partagas Series D #4–  Here again I want to put this higher up on the list and maybe next time I do a top 10 it’ll be 2.  A Robusto with flavors not unlike the Lusitania but with more consistent construction.  A bit of aging and this wonderful cigar mellows from powerful flavors to medium and, I’ve found, even mild.  Some would argue with me on that last point.  I have a real love affair with this one!

10 ) Trinidad Coloniales–  Here is a real finger burner.  Always fine construction, and always an elegant experience. This one has flavors of chocolate, a bit of leather and cedar to make it a perfect combination of tastes.

Now I want to say again, this is just how I feel today and I know as soon as I publish this post I’m going to be thinking about all of the Montecristo #2’s I’ve had.  And how could I not mention The San Cristobal de Habana, Juan Lopez, Punch ( there are so many more)….. It makes you dizzy to think about all that Cuba has to offer!!!!

Tomorrow is another day!!!!!!

Please leave a comment and tell me your favorites !

The Golden Era Of Cuban Cigars

I’ve given much thought to what will happen to the quality and price of Cuban cigars when the U.S. lifts the embargo that has been effect for so many years.  Some say that the quality will take a big hit, the price will be altered to make up for the supply and demand and we could be paying a lot more for our beloved Cubans.

There is no arguing that Cuban soil is different from other Caribbean countries and as hard as they try, the other countries simply do NOT have the ability to produce cigars that taste EXACTLY the same as Cubans.  Tobacco seeds were taken out of Cuba around the time of the revolution and new companies were formed and it was business as usual but to this day people around the world will stay loyal to and continue to pay the price, whatever price, it takes to keep their humidors filled with their favorite cigars from Cuba.

The 90’s were known as great years of cigar making and a lot of smokers will tell you that in terms of flavors and aroma, Cuba had it going on back then. But………. There is something I’ve said for years and I’ve found it to be a great truth, which is, ” The last thing you should ever feel in life is comfortable!”  Think about it, it seems just when you’ve found something you like, it tends to disappear.  Whenever you are in a situation that seems rosy, something changes.  This is what I feel about Cuban cigars as well.

My advise would be to smoke them, enjoy them and try to get to know all of the cigars available out of Cuba TODAY.  Get to know the different brands and how the differ from each other.  They are all quite beautiful and who knows what tomorrow will bring.  Life doesn’t last forever and this could be the golden era of Cuban cigars.

Cuban Cigars and Country Music

I seem to have lived many different lives and even today there is a part of me that wonders what new door will open and what new world will be revealed.  Being tied in one spot or connected to any kind of routine for any length of time has always made me feel uncomfortable and I’m always looking over the horizon to see what new opportunity awaits.  We are on this planet for such a short period of time so why not try to taste and savor every flavor that life has to offer.

I came originally from a ranch about 12 miles away from a very small town tucked into the bottom corner of the middle of nowhere.  As a kid I’d look up into the sky and see passenger jets flying overhead and I’d say to myself that when I grew up I’d be on those jets seeing every corner of the world.  On the other hand I had friends in this small town that couldn’t fathom the idea that there was anything else going on in the world and they only wanted to stay right where they were for the rest of their lives.  I had a close relationship with a lot of the kids I grew up with but, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand what it was that kept them from leaving and seeing for themselves what life would be like in a big city full of excitement and new options.

I knew how to play a musical instrument, my father was a musician and taught me all he knew, so after school I left home and began an adventure that lasted for decades and continues today.  I was able to finally get on those jets and see for myself what it was like to play on some of the world’s stages, record in beautiful recording studios with renown record producers, hear myself on the radio, see myself on television and entertain troops on a few different continents and live what I considered to be the dream of my youth.

For the last 30 some years I’ve been involved in the Canadian Country Music scene and one of the more exciting weeks of the year is when different cities in Canada host the ” Canadian Country Music Awards.”  As years go by you see a lot of the same faces and catch up on what everyone is doing, where they’ve been playing shows and who they believe are the new hot up and coming artists.  This is a week long event and a lot of partying and drinking takes place in various night clubs, hotel room events hosted by different record labels, tour busses and hotel lobbies where all night jam sessions keep everything loud and exciting.

My favorite thing to do is visit a lot of my friends who tend to hang around the various smoking sections and I’m usually known as the cigar guy.  Cigars are an interesting conversation piece.  People will always have a story about a favorite uncle or family member who smoked them and I think those memories stay with people for a lifetime.  Its the aroma that triggers so many of the memories and because of cigars I’ve met people who I would have not ever spoken to otherwise.

A lot of these folks who hang out in the smoking sections are cigarette smokers and there is nothing I get a kick out of more than having them try whichever cigar I’m smoking at the time.  So many of them will instantly have a negative reaction to my suggestion because they usually have had bad experiences with cigars when they were kids after inhaling them and getting sick.  First thing I tell them is that cigars really do taste a lot different than how they smell and with a small effort and an open mind we can work together to eliminate or at least diminish these childhood memories.

Cigarette smokers have a difficult time NOT inhaling smoke so here is the best way to fight that urge.  I tell people to take fill their lungs with air before putting the cigar to their lips and then take a small puff and very slowly exhale all of the air and smoke through their mouth and nose.  What usually happens is that I get a look of surprise from the participants and 9 times out of 10 they want a second and third puff as well.  Another one of life’s doors open for these lovers of machine made, white paper tubes filled with finely chopped tobacco and it never ceases to feel like victory whenever I’m met with favorable results.

The Perfect Partagas Series D #4

I had a long busy day today and when I got home I thought maybe ordering in would be a good idea.  Cooking and cleaning weren’t real high up there on our list of fun things to do so, you know how it goes,  you have a drink or two and then the food arrives.  You wolf it down and after dinner it takes all you have just to get up away from the table.  Isn’t that always the time a pipe bursts in the basement.  Yup, thats the time all right… This was a special pipe though, sealed inside a wall made of drywall thats quickly becoming wet wall.

Now I know as much about plumbing as I do designing a new and improved automatic transmission for the space shuttle.   I try to find some sort of tap that will stop this water from running and causing more damage by the second, but no such luck.  I reach for my iphone to call the plumber, slip and end up dropping it into the lake thats forming at the foot of the stairs but quickly forget about that when my wife starts yelling for me to run into the yard because the dog has gotten a hold of the neighbor’s cat ( it has chased it and tried to eat it for 2 years and has finally caught it).

The neighbor’s 2 kids are screaming, my wife is screaming and somehow all of this has quickly become MY fault.  Of course it was my fault because I was in the basement trying to part the Red Sea like an idiot when I should have KNOWN the dog was finally going to run the race of his life and capture the prize, get first place and stand proudly on the podium while all of his peer group gathers round and places the gold medal around his neck as the theme From “Rocky” comes trumpeting out of the clouds.

By some great miracle the cat gets away and I run back down to the basement to see if there is anything  I can do.  Still nothing !!!  I gave up and sloshed back up the stairs and called a plumber who said that he’d be over right away.

Well…………

What would you do ??

I walked over to the humidor and chose a Partagas Series D#4 from a box dated January ’06.  I have some that are from ’09 but this was going to take some doing to make me feel better about plumbing issues, a whole new relationship with the neighbor’s kids and what all of this was going to cost.  Did I do the right thing??  I think so!!  In fact a glass of Scotch went nicely to help nurse my wounds.

The wrapper on this particular cigar has a slightly oily feel and look and the construction is perfect.  I sat on the steps out back and completely forgot about anything else for an hour and 20 minutes.  It was a drastic situation that required something special to erase all of the darkness that swooped down upon me like a dragon out of a Harry Potter movie.

God only knows what will happen tomorrow!