Thursday, August 20, 2009

My own cigars now intimidate me

(The last time that Arnold and I shared a cigar was, well, a long time ago.)

Last evening, I entered the realm of the cigar review. Mike's Cigars, where I buy cigars online, saw my blog of a week ago and asked if I would try my hand at writing reviews of cigars they would send me for their website. The other day I received eight cigars of three different brands, and so now the ball is in my court. Over the years, I have read many cigar reviews in the mags, so I thought this would be fun.

But last night I realized how intimidating this can be. I first read some reviews already written for Mike's website to sample the possibilities: "notes of wheat and oats, lightly sweet, fresh and surprising"; "of wood & ginger, with coffee & toasted nut undertones and a little tang on the finish"; "sweetness steeps up and blends with the current flavors to give a cocoa or coffee flavor"; or "begins to build in flavor and I can taste what I believe is wood and earth, possibly with a little leather on the back of my tongue". Are you kidding me? What the hell? Are they describing the taste of a cigar or a creme brulee? Forget that I already told you these were descriptions of cigars. Just read them, and then tell me in the Comments below what you think they might be describing.

Thompson Cigar Logo 234x60
I have been smoking cigars for about eight years now, and I have never tasted any of those flavors. Have I been smoking the wrong cigars? Is my palette not sophisticated enough to detect the flavors that are really there? Am I just too boring or pessimistic a person to see the world the way others do? Do you need to imagine you are sucking on a Hershey's bar while you smoke one of these sticks? Or, should I just pretend that I am Hemingway or Dickens and write a flowery vignette (minus the sex) from a previous century, then send it to Mike's and just tell them, "oh yea, that is my review of a Licenciados 5x50 Wavell". Would anyone know the difference?

So I smoked last night's assignment, took some notes, and thought about the damn thing all night in bed. Most of the time, I felt like I was describing a California Cabernet rather than a rolled up hunk of tobacco leaves that caught fire. But I noticed one very important thing from last evening's experience. With every single puff, I was studying the cigar, thinking about the flavor, examining the ash and the burn of the tobacco, and watching the smoke intently. It was a wonderful, sensuous hour, and the most enjoyable smoke I have had in weeks. It was not the best cigar I have smoked in weeks, but the experience was extremely memorable. Maybe when you have to concentrate (and I mean focus like a laser) on something you are doing in life that you find enjoyable or important, you enjoy and appreciate it even more.

This was an epiphany for me of sorts. Take more time to savor every well-prepared meal as if you were going to have to put it to words, every sip of good wine, every beautiful vista, every moment spent with a good friend, every moment spent reading to your child in bed. Maybe if we approached these events in this more "rigorous" way, rather than let them pass almost unnoticed, we would respect life more, need less, and live better.


  1. Ok. I love playing "let's pretend". If I did not know those were cigar descriptions I would think they were describing a very creative, although somewhat bizarre box of assorted chocolates.

  2. Your comment about focusing is applicable to anything in life. Things are more memorable if we CONCENTRATE. Concentration is like a river and the more force it has, the better it can cut new memory channels.

    Unfortunately, the mind is all too often like an alluvial plain. The water wanders here and there and nothing is remembered. Mine included. P.D. Ouspensky was on to something with his remembering exercises.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your cigar column.

  3. Ben, so true, and I agree completely. It just took that recent cigar to remind me of all that.