Saturday, February 26, 2011

Smoking cigars and the discriminating palate

Puerto Vallarta Cigar Factory.
Cigar smoking is very sophisticated and, in moderation, poses few health risks.

No, seriously. And I have just the story to prove the former.

We're on a cruise with stops in places in Mexico where one can buy Cuban cigars -- mostly fake, but, with proper care, authentic ones can be had. Of course, such ships have wood-paneled salons set aside for the handful of passengers who are discriminating enough to smoke the occasional cigar, enjoy a good cognac and share a story or two. Meanwhile, the other passengers are stuck in the equivalent of steerage, swilling Bud Light and eating at the buffet.

That's usually true -- except, it turns out, on this boat, where cigar smokers are banished to the 13th deck above the pool -- outside. Even in the tropics, evenings can be breezy and a tad nippy, neither of which is conducive to burning a stick and enjoying like-minded companionship. Ah, well, it'll be OK.

First night at the "cigar bar," I meet an English gent named Dave from Dover, a former pub owner who's now a civil servant counting the days until retirement. I enjoy an enormous CAO MX2 (that's a cigar) while he smokes small Belgian cigars, and I show up late for dinner with Kathleen. Dave and I meet up again a night or two later and he schools me on "malts" -- single-malt Scotch. It's lovely.

At one of our ports I buy a few cigars and am told by one of the experts at the store that a mild cigar can be enhanced by dipping its end in cognac. I'm really getting hoity toity now, for sure.

Anyway, that evening, it's particularly breezy but Dave shows up and I order a cognac from the bar -- VSOP, of course -- eager to show off my new-found expertise. I dip the tip of my cigar in the cognac and then proceed to go through an entire book of matches attempting to light the thing. It's too windy, I think -- it just won't fire up. Dave is amused and brings over his lighter, even cupping it around his hands and holding it for me. After many misfires, it lights up from the inside out, eventually starting to burn normally but never igniting the area that had been dipped in the liquor. I'm perplexed and more than a little embarrassed.

I get home and do some Internet research. Turns out, you're supposed to dip the unlit end in the cognac -- not the end you light. Dave, I am quite sure, will be telling this story to his English friends for many years to come.

Cheers, Dave. Glad I could be of assistance.

P.S. Dave's malt recommendations were Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila.


  1. This is such a great post.

  2. It was great to read your valuable post, I am looking forward for more of your writings.

  3. If i opt for buying cigar online then how much shipping charges i have to pay? Please tell me i have never purchased from online store.

  4. It really depends on the web site and the type of order you make. Most sites have special that have no additional shipping fee. Regular orders usually have a small fee. However, since cigars are relatively light, shipping is cheap, and the total cost per cigar is usually significantly lower than what one would pay in a brick-and-mortar store (plus, unfairly, web sites aren't obligated to charge state sales taxes). The best sites are Thompson Cigar, Famous Smoke Shop and Best Cigar Prices.

  5. I was looking for this kind of stuff only. Because I don't get time to visit every time a store for purchasing cigars. And If I buy online then I can avail discount as well. So, buying cigars online is a better option.

    little cigars