How Awesome is My Wife?

She's so awesome that, when relatives who drew my name for the Christmas gift exchange wanted to buy me some cigars, they asked her what kind to get, and she knew!

Reason one hundred and one!

The Taste of Cuba in My Future?

For reasons still unclear to me, a friend of ours told me yesterday that a friend of hers in Canada was sending her a box of Cuban cigars. I was surprised, impressed, jealous. And hopeful.

I fought the urge to ask her if I could buy one from her. But I didn't because I'm not sure why she told me. Was she telling me just because she knew that I, an occasional cigar connoisseur, would find the information interesting? Or was she telling me with the implication that I might get to partake of this rare gift?

I didn't (and still don't) know, so I didn't say anything except, "That's cool" with as interested a tone as I dared, because I didn't want to put her in the awkward position of having to say no if she had other plans for them than selling (or giving?) me one.

Time will tell. It would be very cool to smoke a cigaro cubano again. (I've had two before -- a Cohiba that Bird brought back for me from his Mexican honeymoon and an unlabeled stogie Blo got from missionary-to-Mexico and frequent Thinkling commenter Thor. The first was excellent, one of the best cigars I've ever had. The second was good, but suffered from improper storage between Thor's hands and my own. Curse you, Blo, you magnificent spectre!)

Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em

My parents are moving to Tampa, and they went down there last week to look for a place to live and familiarize themselves with the area. While there, they went to "the place where they make cigars." I can't be any more specific than that; that's what my dad called it. While we were in Houston, I happened to be having lunch with my brother when my dad called my cell from The Place Where They Make Cigars. He asked what kind I like. [Burns voice:] Exxxxcellent.

He gave them to me this week, a Cohiba (Dominican, of course) and a Macanudo, both robustos. I also brought a Punch back from Houston that I didn't have time to smoke on vacation. And my father-in-law brought me a cigar from their trip to the Virgin Islands (don't know the brand; the label says "Virgin Islands," so I guess it's just some kind of souvenir cigar).

So now I have some good cigars I need to smoke, and I need to smoke them fairly soon, because I don't keep up with my humidor well enough to maintain them over the long haul. I'm sure I'll find some reason to get outside, chill for a while, and have a nice smoke.

I finished a chapter in the novel? -- stogie time!

The Pistons are killing the Lakers? -- light it up!

Macy ate her vegetables? -- I'm celebrating with a smoke!

Grace has poo-poo? -- I'll be outside for a little while, dear. Now, where'd I put my cutter . . .

Yesterday evening when I finished mowing the lawn, I took a load off in one of our Adirondack (sp?) chairs, sipping a Diet Pepsi, and toking on that nice, fat Cohiba my dad brought me. The sun was low, a nice breeze was coming in. It felt nice. Ain't nothin' like a good cigar.

Thank you, Lord, for tobacco . . .

Cuban Cigars

An friend emails The Thinklings:

Does anyone know what the big deal over Cuban cigars is? I talked to friend of mine in Iraq and he said he can get them uber cheap.

Thought I'd ask the Entmoot crowd.

Putting aside the ethical question of bringing in contraband to the States that is illegal under our current embargo against Cuba, I have to say that in my experience, which I admit is limited, the promise of "cheap" Cuban cigars usually results with cheap cigars that aren't really Cuban. If I knew this friend's contact, I would suggest he buy one and then track down one of the several Internet "Spot a Fake" sites to compare the bands.

I'm also dubious about Cuban cigars being plentiful enough in Iraq to be cheap. (Unless someone snatched them from one of Saddam's palaces or a government office or something, in which case I still find it hard to believe America's finest wouldn't have already puffed them away or at least kept them as souvenirs.)

But I could be wrong.

Here was my response:

If he can get them "uber cheap" and he can get them in Iraq, chances are they are fake.

But if they are real, how does he plan on getting more than a couple through customs?

I've only had two Cuban cigars in my life. One was one of the best cigars I ever had; the other was not very good, but I think because it had not been stored properly.

According to those in the know, Cuban cigars are the height of cigar excellence. Rush Limbaugh says God made the soil and atmosphere in Cuba for cigars, just like He made certain places in California or Italy the ideal place for wineries.

If it's possible to get some, why not? Just don't get in trouble.

But there are plenty of legal cigars you can get stateside that are excellent. If you're not a seasoned cigar smoker, chances are you won't be able to tell the difference anyway.

This is where someone chastizes me for saying "why not?" to smuggling Cubans. Cigars, that is, not actual Cuban persons.

Although that may be less wrong . . .

Lord of the Stogies

I am very, very, very excited about the Thinklings' someteenth annual Ent-Moot (which officially begins in about three hours). I have yet to go get my meatstuffs, but I did go out this morning to Houston's LoneStar Tobacco, a neat little tobacconist that has served the Northwest Houston tobacco aficionados for many years.

I smoke, on average, about 7-8 cigars a year. It's an indulgence, not a habit. But 3-4 cigars of that yearly total come on the night of Ent-Moot!

Here's what I have procured for tonight's festivities (perhaps saving one for New Year's Eve or something):

La Unica #200

La Aroma de Cuba Gran Cru

Romeo y Julieta Double Corona (this is one choice cigar!)

Punch Chateau L (Punch is my absolute favorite cigar brand)

Four cigars, I'll smoke them all

Four cigars to help unwind us

Four cigars to make smoke rings

That at the Ent-Moot bind us.

Another Festivus Day Miracle!

While conducting a completely unrelated search via Google, I discovered some guy's blog devoted entirely to cigars! Awesome, simply awesome.

Check out My Cigar Blog: A Malaysian's Journey in Search of the Perfect Cigar for news of notes in the world of cigar production, as well as some nifty reviews.

Pretty cool.

Rush Limbaugh on Why the Best Cigars Come From Cuba

"I don't care what anybody says. I know it's a matter of taste, but as far as I'm concerned, this is something that not even the Communists have been able to screw up. It's the best tobacco in the world. There's no comparison. This is not to put anybody else's down. I've looked into it. I've studied it. It's like Bordeaux grapes. You can try growing them in California, but they're not the same. They've taken Cuban seed to Jamaica and Honduras, but it just isn't the same."

-- from a Cigar Aficionado interview

A Stogie Primer

I am by no means a real cigar aficionado. I am an occasional cigar smoker, a sporadic hobbyist. On average, I have smoked about 7 cigars a year for the last 8 years.

But I love stogies and have learned a few things. Here are some random thoughts listed out for the benefit of beginning smokers:

1. When shopping for cigars, look for a local tobacconist with a walk-in humidor. Glass-case humidors might be fine and dandy, but they are the sign of a tobacconist who doesn't take cigar storage or provision that seriously, and often the humidity and temperature aren't maintained in cases. If a tobacconist has a walk-in, it means he is buying large quantities of cigars and has a vested interested in keeping them properly maintained.

2. When browsing for cigars, a couple rules of thumb: Generally speaking, the darker the leaf, the "heavier" the draw, the more bitter the taste. The lighter the leaf, the lighter the draw, the softer the taste.

3. Some things to do when looking at cigars:

Never sniff them. You will look like an idiot. I don't think even six-stogies-a-day professional "tasters" can tell anything from sniffing a cigar. This is for movies only.

You can get a good sense of how good a cigar will be by its "give." Squeezee the cigar very lightly; don't crush it. Just press very lightly with your thumb. If it is vaguely sponge-y, it has been well maintained. Cigars should be kept somewhat moist in the humidor. If it feels hard or brittle, move along. It will be too dry to enjoy.

Look for large veins in the leaf wrapper. If you find any, pass it up. Cigars with large veins in the wrappers more often than not to do not burn evenly. You will end up with a weird "overbite"-looking cigar. Not cool.

4. Don't buy Swisher Sweets. These are fine if you're a junior high kid sneaking a smoke. Or for lighting fireworks. In general, avoid grocery store machine-made cigars. If you must, a good beginner's cigar that is machine made is Garcia y Vega's English Corona. Wal-Mart sells them in 5-packs, I think. IMHO, the best machine-made cigar out there. (You can generally tell if a cigar is machine made or not if it has a pre-punched hole. Hand-rolled cigars are the way to go, and they will not have a hole punched in the end.)

5. Buy a punch or a cutter. Chewing the end of your cigar off is for old dudes and Mark Twain. You can get a cheap punch or a plastic-cased cutter for about three bucks. A punch will give you a little hole, making the draw tighter. A cutter will essentially slice off the draw end of your cigar, making it look identical with the burn end. (You can slice off less if you try, though.) A cut cigar will have a looser, larger draw.

6. Don't inhale. When I subscribed to Cigar Aficionado magazine, I remember encountering a poll of cigar smokers asking them if they inhaled. Less than 5% did, I think. You don?t smoke cigars like cigarettes. Consequently, they are not addictive and pose little to no health risk for moderate smokers (according to former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop).

7. If you can help it, light your cigar with wooden matches. Butane and other lighters may taint your cigar with a light ?gasoline? taste. It?s probably not that noticeable, though. Whatever you use to light, don?t hold it too close to the cigar. To light: Let the flame lick the end, rotate your cigar as you draw.

8. If you don?t plan on smoking your cigar(s) right away, or you have purchased several at once, store them in a humidor. Real humidors can be a bit expensive, so only invest if you plan on committing to smoking long-term. You can put together a cheap and makeshift humidor with Tupperware and a little bit of sponge. Wet about 1?x 1? piece of sponge until its fully moist, but not dripping wet. Place it in a little dish or smaller plastic cup (to keep your cigars from getting wet), and then place that dish or cup inside a larger Tupperware container. Put in your cigar(s), seal it up, and you should be good to go. Keep your humidor in a relatively warm place ? not hot, and definitely not cold. Check the sponge frequently to make sure it is still moist. If you want to act like you?re a pro, use distilled water.

9. For some good cigar brand tips, see this post from the Thinklings Archives.

10. Did I mention don?t inhale?