The first introduction I had to cigars was back in 1998 in college while I was drinking with friends of my parents. My neighbor brought out a cigar and we shared it while he taught me the finer points of smoking cigars. They’re meant to be enjoyed, meant to be taken slowly and only smoke them when you have time. No walking or doing things while smoking cigars, he said.
That first cigar was my introduction to a world of relaxation and experience unlike anything I could have repeated at the age of 18. I thought about it from time to time, reflecting on sitting around the front yard and with a cooler full of beer while we listened to old country and blues. The feelings I’d had begun to develop at the time were counter to my fast paced college behavior but right in line with my philosophy on how life should be lived, according to images I’d seen in Wine Spectator magazine. Understand I’m barely eighteen at this time, but living a rich, lavish life on low income and being in college didn’t exactly mesh. But from time to time I made the effort to visit The Smoke Ring, in Clear Lake, TX and pick up a cigar or two until the habit became a hobby.
The first cigar that truly captured more than just ritual attention was the Cuesta Rey #60, a short dark torpedo that, for the first time in my life, exploded with flavor across my tongue. I’d done some research and began to learn the distinctive properties of a cigar, from construction to flavor profile, country of origin and all the things newbie cigar smokers shouldn’t concern themselves with until they’ve established this as a hobby. I’d immersed myself in the lifestyle, using cigars as a way to relax once a week, always the same day at the end of my work day, much to my ex’s initial chagrin, until she’d accepted it and even my father (who smoked three packs a day) had finally caved as this became a powerful ritual whereby I went outside with my beverage of choice and carefully clipped the cap off the cigar, toasted the foot, sat back in my chair and took that first draw, bringing a myriad of flavors across my inexperienced tongue.
The second cigar I remember making an impression on my palate was much more robust. Padron, probably the only 6000 of theirs I’ve ever smoked. (I prefer the 4000 or if time permits, the 7000.) I had smoked that particular cigar one night while drinking cognac. We stayed up late and while the cognac was smooth, the cigar was strong for me at the time.
I’d gone from cigar to cigar, picking up mostly larger brands put out by Altadis or General at the time, staying loyal to them because I didn’t know better about the industry, not thinking it was like any other where there are giants that put out good products but tinier boutiques who are far better because of limited (cough) release or supply. Padron being one of them.
Fast forward several years later and I’d become a Padron junkie. I’d developed a far better palate and my smoking experience transformed into something almost zen like as I’d come into Grants Tobacconist once a week at least, pick out two Padron 4000s and sit down with the regulars there, BS for a few hours and smoke both cigars.
My first foray into boutique was Tatuaje. I’d picked up on a suggestion by my tobacconist, La Riqueza, The #2 to be exact, because it offered about an hour or so of smoking time and a distinct definitely NOT Padron like experience. Then I knew I was hooked on trying different things.
If I were to suggest a few cigars everyone starting out should try, the list of top three would be simple:
1. Tatuaje 7th Reserva – This is THE cigar that got me smoking smaller vitolas. Plenty of flavor on each draw, consistency with every stick and rich flavors of coffee and savory spices I can still taste though it’s been six months since my last one.
2. Don Cervantes Tres Maduro – Yes, this over the Camacho Triple
Maduro because my palate enjoys the complexity of cocoa and dark chocolate along with the sweet smell of the smoke as it burns evenly. I did a full review of this cigar and that can be found here.
3: C4 by Viaje – These are fairly easy to find in shops that carry the Viaje line but honestly, the cigars smoke like a steak dinner so make sure you eat. Full flavor, with enough complexity for experienced
cigar connoisseurs to pick up the subtle notes while newbie cigar smokers can enjoy the tastes across the palate.
The characters in my upcoming paranormal romance Burning for Derrick are also avid cigar aficionados, often filling their humidors with expensive stick and inexpensive gems alike. What would you suggest new smokers try? Look for Burning for Derrick coming from Ardent Books soon!
Summer is upon us and that means more sunlight which means more smoking time! Spending the evenings with a cigar and glass of Larceny bourbon is the perfect way for me to unwind after the first half of my work day. Let me explain. As a writer, my day is split into two halves: The first shift in the afternoon, and the second shift consisting of writing. That being said, my downtime is extremely important. Something I’ve noticed however is what’s in my normal rotation hasn’t changed that much. For months due to convenience (and I just like them!) I’ve been smoking Alec Bradley Tempus seconds. For the price I paid for a bundle, to keep my humidor full, not a bad thing . But I like variety. In fact I crave it. Last year I’d picked up an ORTSAC sampler from Cigarplace.biz . This sampler along with the Pinar Del Rio sampler jolted new flavors into my palate and a good range of inexpensive cigars into my humidor. Now while these cigars are great, they’re not on my normal high end list of cigars to smoke, but then again, that list is a short one and not meant for every day consumption. Even if I could, I’m not sure I’d smoke a ACC S. E. 12 or ACC S. E. 18 day in and day out.
That’s why I like the Masterpiece Platinum and Tres Maduro by ACC Cigars, (who also make ACC Special Edition, because those cigars are complex and make me think and enjoy my time smoking on a so much deeper level than say Montecristo’s Media Noche. The Media Noche is a solid Maduro, but that’s all it is to my palate. After time I grew bored with the Tempus Seconds. I’ve smoked a LOT of them and love the dark coffee flavors and richness of probably my favorite cigar from Alec Bradley. Recently I discovered Tampa Humidor, who carries Alec Bradley Prensado 2nds, at the same price as the Tempus, so I snagged a box. Thanks to a surplus in budget, I also picked up the Drew Estate sampler from CigarPlace It always amazes me at cigar smokers who can smoke the same thing day in and day out. I’m a creature who craves variety, and not smoking for the sake of smoking. Of course these same people I’ve noticed tend not to experiment, which is fine . Cigar smoking has very few rules. Like what you smoke, smoke what you like I tend to lean toward higher end cigars with more complexity. I won’t lie however. The Padrón Thousand series tastes the same every single time and is a solid, well constructed cigar. I’ll reach for that cigar every single time with the understanding that it’s a Padrón kind of day. The characters in my upcoming release Burning for Derrick are also avid cigar smokers as a way to take away the stress from their lives. Derrick and his brother Max share a common theme in their dealings in espionage, which breeds many issues including nightmares and the need to find peace in downtime. Both men enjoy the silence and smoke from a great cigar and keep a wide variety of cigars in their over sized humidors. What are staples in your humidor? Be sure to look for Burning for Derrick, my upcoming paranormal romance release from Ardent Books, coming soon!