Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cigars I Have Known

Earlier this year, I gave up on keeping a humidor in my wine cellar - I'm never home enough to maintain it properly, and got weary of messing with it. I stop in at J. Shepherd's or Cox's or Oxmoor to pick up a smokin' stick just in case, on those occasions where I think I'm going to be doing any tobacco-tasting in the evening ahead.

And that's an important distinction to make between being a real smoker and being me: I just like tobacco tasting. I'm not out to suck down as many molecules of carcinogenic carbon as humanly possible, I'm simply enjoying and savoring an occasional taste of these fine and noble relics of a bygone era whose tradition is lost in translation in this sterile plastic emasculated world we currently find ourselves in.

With that in mind, here's what I've tasted lately:

Baccarat Churchill - Meant to grab the maduro version, but no matter, this was a very pleasant and easy smoke, mild but tasty. There are likely cheaper cigars that taste very similar, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a sucker for the casino-style packaging featuring a playing-card motif. (And Baccarat is the only game to play in a casino if you're seriously looking to make some money, which I always am.)

Indian Tabac Classic - I understood going in that this is supposed to be a discount-grade cigar; in fact, I got it in a discount variety grab-bag at the Cox's on Hubbards Lane. But damn, this was nearly unsmokable. It was rolled so tight I could barely get a draw off it. And in my repeated attempts to squash the thing out to make it smoke better, the too-dry wrapper started to come off, and the difference in taste was obvious. Clearly the wrapper was the only part of the stogie that tasted any good, and once I'd wrecked the wrapper, the cigar was pretty much crap. I suspect that I just got a bum specimen of this, but I probably won't be giving it another try unless another one just happens to turn up in another grab-bag.

Punch - Here's where I lose all credibility among cigar-snob hipsters. Punch is about as bottom-shelf as one can get without resorting to Black & Mild, Tiparillos, or those foul Remingtons I foolishly brought back from Florida. And yet they serve me well, as a token taste of tobacco when that's all that is needed to enhance a cocktail or to lubricate the screws in the back of my brain when I'm trying to get some writing done. They're cheap, they're tawdry, and you can buy 'em by the fistful. Me likey. Plus, they have some serious resonance in time that appeals to me, what with the built-in references to ancient puppetry, British humor, and Cuban history (the cigar was originated in 1840 by Manuel Lopez Fernandez.)

Drew Estate "Jucy Lucy" and "Dirt" - These petite little ladies are my usual go-to shorty-smoke for a parking-lot rendezvous after a big meal at Havana Rumba, or at the heated smoker's porch at the VFW hall. The walk-in humidor at Cox's in Middletown now carries these, thanks to a request from yours truly. Don't be confused by the goofy hippie "Acid" cigars that Drew Estate is famous for - these are part of the Drew Estate "Natural" line and they're serious-type smokes, chief.

- - JSH

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