After a state visit to that most roguish of former colonies, The Proprietor returns, heartened that there are ever-increasing signs of civility to be found owing to the prevalence of cigars. Pray silence...
Well what a couple of weeks it has been for cigar lovers the world over.
Politics has overtaken us in Her Majesty's United Kingdom, so no-more-important a time to be enjoying the calming influence of the Romeo y Julieta Churchill, to remind us of the cigar’s eponym and the travails facing our great leaders. If only more of them smoked cigars maybe the world would be a better place!
The reason why you will have missed my proprietor’s note recently is that I have been on a state visit to the United States of America. Mainly to view the remarkable National Parks of California (many of which we have to thank that liberator of Cuba, T. Roosevelt for), but also to survey the cigar shops and lounges of Las Vegas and Santa Monica.
For the country which first invented the concept of prohibitive smoking legislation - I am delighted to report that the cigar scene has never been in better shape. Everywhere I went there were shops selling good ranges of (non-Cuban) brands and the specialist lounges in Vegas were something to behold. Arriving at the Bellagio and asking where I can smoke a Tabernacle - answer ‘anywhere in the resort sir’. America remains the land of the Free!
And my friends - thus the debate around New World vs Cuban cigars continues to rage. The simple fact is that thanks to the excellent tastes of my American cousins, non-Cubans are now frankly three things - delicious, flawless and yes…. Wait for it… cheap!
I also believe the extraordinary range is thrilling. The difference between a Flor Dominicana and an Arturo Fuente is significant and the inventiveness of some of these new brands such as My Father or Rockey Patel is fabulous. I will admit to going a bit nuts and at one point I was testing three in one go. A fellow lounger approached me to shake my hand, slightly shaking his head at the eccentric tie-wearing Englishman puffing away with such focus.
I was also very impressed with the hospitality of the managers of the shops I visited. For various reasons some seem to be structured as clubs - which makes them even more convivial. People dropped in and out during the morning; coming in for a quick catch up or a more thoughtful smoke. Everyone an instant comrade-in-arms, all-welcoming and filled with opinions on what the best cigar of the moment is. Cigar Box in Vegas and Hollywood Smoke in Santa Monica were two excellent examples of establishments with huge ranges of aged cigars and a most enjoyable environment.
Given the recent prices rises of Cuban cigars it’s almost worth the cost of a trip to the U.S. just to buy delicious New World cigars and bring them (50 per person) home. There is no doubt that all collections should be varied and having a few boxes of Padron 7000s at the back of your humidor is as important as having a Sassicia or a Grange or an Opus X in your wine cellar along with all that Bordeaux.
I find that with collecting cigars and maturing them, I build a sort of diary of my life. I look at the box date from several years ago and think about what I was doing then, what was happening in the world, what has happened to me in that time too. Those I have collected over the last few weeks will be a happy reminder as to why the U.K. and the U.S. are connected at the hip both culturally and in how we enjoy good cigars. I may even consider the embargo a good thing if it has resulted in this explosion of quality and range from outside our beloved Cuba.
Whilst writing this I am enjoying a Trinidad Esmerelda. It’s a good size and ring gauge, and has a perfect snick-in-the-end taste. It’s smooth, light and evolves delightfully as you smoke it. I feel a bit as if I have come ‘home’. After all those really pretty punchy Nicaraguans and Dominicans, I am reminded that Cubans are still the kings of taste and flavour - but since I landed back I have let a Padron creep into my daily ration from time to time and am the happier for it.
So yes - Cigar-keep.com will eventually expand to non-Cubans. But in good time. We want to master the Cuban world first, be the ultimate resource and community and once that is complete we can gently expand our coverage. However, only hand-made premium brands will be our genre, so please do feel free to keep posting your photos and videos of whatever you are enjoying.
Cigar Keep, like those boxes at the back of your humidor, is also maturing, but at lightning speed. We are designed as a community in the metaverse to enable us all, the world over, to enjoy the company and opinions of fellow cigar smokers. We have grand plans for a 'Stick Exchange', a new way to taste and classify cigars, events, tutorials and better user experiences so that more and more of us can participate in this new and stimulating world. All of you who have generously paid to subscribe are helping us in this important journey and we thank you for that support.
So please do spread the word, keep giving us your feedback and posting your videos, reviews and photos for us all to share.
Have a great weekend and I hope to see you on our regular meets in the smoking room soon.