IT’S easy to become blasé about the next cigar ‘cab off the rank.’
It used to be an unusual occurrence that a new Cuban cigar came to the market. Anything new caused much excitement among cigar lovers and we eagerly awaited the chance to try something different and out of the ordinary.
But these days, with the plethora of Regional Editions from around the world and multiple re-aligning, downsizing or, in some cases, expanding of popular brands, there seems to be a new cigar out of Havana every couple of months.
The latest that prompted these thoughts was the Cohiba Short Year of The Tiger, released in very special humidors across 18 worldwide cities. This one is unusual, for while the humidor itself is vamped up to the max and even the cigars are given an extra flourish with a gold foot band – the Cohiba Short is a cigar that already exists – and it’s machine-made. As we say, an unusual choice for Cuba’s flagship brand.
A newcomer to the world of fine cigars must be utterly baffled by the range of sticks continually coming onto the market. Inevitably, true cigar nerds are always talking about the latest releases and are keen to exchange information about how they smoke. If you are a newbie, to hear a conversation of this sort must be like being dropped into a roomful of wine buffs pontificating about various grape varietals or the finest terroir.
The key to feeling at home with this level of cigar geekery is first not to worry too much about it. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow cigar smokers any immediately burning questions, however naïve they may seem. There are no stupid questions and we’re a welcoming bunch. For Heaven’s sake, don’t pretend you know what you are talking about if you don’t, because you’ll simply be found out and that will make you look foolish and others distrustful of you.
Be open-minded, curious and an interested listener and the cigar world will come to you. We would also recommend you browse cigar literature, which will subliminally teach you more than you may realise. There are some classics out there, mostly old but gold books from authors keen to highlight the history and provenance of key brands. But if you would like a bang up-to-date take on the lifestyle associated with cigar smoking – and have a damn good laugh to boot – look no further than Nick Hammond’s travelogue Around The World in 80 Cigars – The Travels of An Epicure. It’s a modern classic, great fun, and Sautter has plenty of signed copies available.
Finally, remember that your biggest teacher is your palate. Sampling differing leaves, blends and countries is the only way to truly educate yourself – you can only learn so much through books. Because our senses of taste and smell are so evocative, powerful memories are evoked through cigar experiences. Build up that mental library and you will find something to enjoy wherever you are and whatever situation you find yourself in.