The Art of the Good Cigar

A Matter of Taste

Cigar Talk: Pre-Embargo Hype?

Posted by herfergrrl on July 6, 2009

Only somewhat tongue-in-cheek, here is a list entitled “Why Pre-Embargo Cuban Cigars Suck”.

1. If you like them, you’re totally screwed. You can’t get any more. Your tears will flavor all those lesser sticks for years.

2. If you don’t like them, you’re totally screwed. You probably paid a ridiculous amount for that stick. And guess what – there are better smokes out there for that amount of money. And you’re gonna feel like an idiot because you knew that already.

3. You just burned up a piece of cigar history like a selfish asshole. It’s kind of like beating up and mugging a dignified elder statesman for your personal smoking pleasure. And now don’t you feel bad? No? Well, okay, me neither.

Even if they’ve been very well kept, old cigars taste like old cigars. There is a papery mustiness to them, and a delicacy of taste and aroma that may not appeal to palates that enjoy a heartier, heavier smoke. A keen palate may rave about the subtlety of the aroma and the intricacy of structure that is like fragile but still beautiful lace, communing with the wise and whispering ghost of what must have been incredible raw power in its heyday. But if you’re used to smoking the best and the strongest of the modern cigars, you may just wrinkle your nose and go “huh? What’s all this fuss about? I’d rather have a Tatuaje.”

And that’s the very best of the older lot; not all will survive the test of time. Occasionally you’re just gonna wrinkle your nose and go, “Damn, I think I’m smoking my grandmother’s underwear” when all there is left is age and mustiness. Or you’ll be smoking nothing at all, because whatever there was in the cigar to begin with has faded completely and vanished into the years. That’s a pretty sad disappointment if you’ve paid enough for such a stick to fund a whole box of Tatuajes.

If you want an inexpensive taste of some of the “front notes” of an older cigar, one of the Cigar Asylum inmates (Garbandz) suggested the Bucanero line after tasting some of the older Dunhills. I agree with his pick. They are cheap enough to be “yard gars”, and while they definitely do not have the subtlety or structure of a true vintage cigar, you will be able to get a pretty good preview of the “taste of age”. The underlying structure is a lot tighter and fresher, and all the subtleties are missing. But if you make funny faces after smoking a Bucanero, you may not enjoy those same notes in a much more expensive vintage cigar either. The comparison is not perfect by any means, but it is a cheap way to get a preview of at least one of the flavor elements you are likely to find in an older stick.

If you find yourself enjoying the “taste of age”, and also appreciate great subtlety and complexity in a cigar, you might really enjoy some of the older sticks. If you don’t personally like those things in your piece of smoke, you probably don’t want to waste a lot of money on the much older cigars unless you’re more of a collector than a smoker.

There is something amazingly decadent about setting fire to an irreplaceable piece of cigar history, and that can certainly be part of the enjoyment of your smoke. But don’t buy into the mystique and decide that these are the best cigars in the world if you haven’t even smoked one yet.

I have smoked a fair number of them, and while some of them are absolutely delicious, complex, lingering and still amazingly powerful and flavorful despite their age, there are many good smokes out there that provide an equally enjoyable albeit completely different experience. And those are consistently repeatable experiences, which will save you from crying into your next few cigars because you can’t get any more of the delicious and irreplaceable piece of cigar history that you just burned up.

In summary, smoke’em if you like’em (and can easily afford’em), but don’t feel too terribly bad if you never get your hands on any. They can be amazingly good, but so can a lot of other sticks that are much easier to get hold of. So take this as your reality check and never mind the mystique and the hype.

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