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Rum & Cigars

Few things go together better than a glass of good rum and the right cigar, except maybe more rum.


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Old 12-31-2008, 05:52 PM   #1
KINGSTON
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Default What makes a Good cigar Great?

How do you judge a good cigar? What makes you say, "Wow". What makes you want to tell others to try it? How much do ratings influence you? Does a HOT brand make you want to smoke what every one else is smoking? What makes a great cigar a GREAT cigar?

Some things I have sceen..

Many people STILL walk in to cigar shops with their ratings from Cigar Aficionado as their buying guide.

Many cigar smokers never cared for Tatuaje or Pepin till Cigar Aficionado started rating their brands.

Many 'Cuban Cigar Aficionados' only smoke Cubans once in a blue moon.

Many cigar smokers wouldn't light up an Opus X or a Padron 64 unless their smoking in public. (It's all about the label).

Are you one of those 'Guys' that buy Bundled cigars and one brand name stick. Buy claim that you only smoke the best.

so.........................

Why do you smoke what you smoke (BE HONEST)?
and......... What makes a Good cigar GREAT??????
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Old 01-01-2009, 12:39 AM   #2
Hank Koestner
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I smoke many different types of cigars for the FLAVOR. Construction and performance is important also. I choose to spend my spare money on rum and cigars, as these are my indulgences. I read seven different publications, and use these ratings to help choose new cigars. I also go by the recommendations of other cigar smokers, and the people who post on this forum. As a matter of fact, the personal recommendations are the most important. That is why I have 50 or more different types of cigars, and over 100 bottles of rum. I like variety. I could care less about appearances, so the band on my cigar does not matter.
A great cigar is made by flavor complexity, smoothness, construction and performance. Price is not a great concern, but value is. There are excellent $5cigars, and overpriced $20 cigars that don't deliver.
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Old 01-01-2009, 02:32 AM   #3
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The first cigars I smoked that really got my attention were Bances. That's right, a brand of what was then, and still is today, really cheap cigars.
Back then, there was no internet or cigar magazine. You went to a cigar store and the guy literally sold you what he wanted you to buy. Of course, as a newbie, I liked almost everything except candela wrapped stuff. Amazingly, for a number of months after I started smoking there were still clear Havana smokes available one way or another, but things changed. I stopped smoking cigars for a while....it just wasn't on my radar, but returned to smoking in 1977 because my work took me to England twice a year, and the lure of Havana cigars caused me to buy a few on every trip. I went to JJ Foxx and Harrods to buy them. It was fun.

When I'd get home, I'd buy domestic cigars and smoke them in between trips.
The Havanas, when they were good, which they often enough were, tasted great to me, but at some point I settled on HdM Excaliburs (#III, Maduro) as a steady smoke for the usual reasons. Now we're in the mid eighties. I smoked on and off for ten years, mostly those HDMs and an occasional ISOM stick when I could get them, but in the mid 90s I returned to England (a different job) for work again. This time, with some spare jingle in my pocket, I went on a buying spree. I was truly profligate, and made arrangements to get my purchases shipped home in a very safe manner.
This entailed loosing the branding. They still tasted great when I got them home, and anyway, cabinet cigars never came with bands anyway. So the branding really meant very little from that point of view.

Sure, branding matters and some people will always go for the prestige smokes. And you know, if everything else is equal, the more expensive product damn well should be better. But I have, like Hank, smoked some great relatively inexpensive cigars, (the SLR Corona Especial has replaced the HDM III as an every day affordable smoke) and some really disappointing highly touted smokes.

Needless to say, with the instant communication available today, and the endless gossip of the internet, rather ordinary topics like "cigars," (smokes....pipes, smelly objects after all) can assume cult status, and you get the specter of silly ads like the Opus X retouched ones that tout a product that can't possibly live up to the hype.
I don't deny that I like reading the magazines, but CA especially has called so many shots wrong for me that I can only use their ratings as a jumping off point. I don't like any of them enough to subscribe to them, and I am a guy who gets probably 15 magazines a month on topics of interest to me. And something else, which I said above, is that cigars from the same box can taste remarkably different to me on different days. So I take ratings, even my own, with a grain of salt. I could care less what label i9s on my cigar. I smoke 95% of them in private, alone on my porch, on my boat or in my garage shop. I just like the ones that taste good to me. Sometimes, those can be quite expensive, but they don't have to be. I buy absolutely anything Pepin only at a discount. I think they charge way to much for most of his cigars, not that I don't like them, but well, you get the drift. There are so many Pepin brands, I have begun to think you need to be wary of the price differences in his smokes. I am a recent convert to his stuff, I admit. But then, I'm a recent convert to premium "American" cigars.

In my opinion, the magazines and hype are mostly for the benefit of new smokers. Most cigar magazines aren't worth buying. CA heads the list, but is hardly alone. When I read overview articles they write off topic on items I am educated on, I am usually given over to either laughter or annoyance.
There is little in the world I find as out of touch as cigar marketing is to who I am and how I view myself. As the world changes and re-prices itself, value and integrity will become more valuable than luxury branding. The cigar business will get off it's high horse and rediscover that what this country needs is a good 2 dollar cigar. I can't wait until Cuba opens up again and they get to compete in the open market with the rest,

There is nothing inherintly more complex about growing great tobacco than there is in growing a great tomato....or good sugar cane. The gentleman farmer ads of guys in starched white shirts with three cigars in their pockets
tenderly holding the leaf in a blue sky, green leaf world makes me want to laugh. They don't appear to sweat in the sun.

Last edited by Lew Barrett; 01-01-2009 at 02:42 AM.
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Old 01-01-2009, 11:40 AM   #4
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For me, a good cigar is one that is well balanced with flavors and nuance throughout the smoke that is enjoyable. In my own enjoyment, the entire experience is what most often elevates good to great. If everything is working well with the cigar (whether it's a drink accompanying, a good conversation & overall atmosphere at the time etc.) but the experience is a memorable one, then I'd rate the experience along with the cigar, "great".
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Old 01-01-2009, 06:07 PM   #5
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Granted, the publications all promote thier advertisers, but I do find some direction from them. Some of the articles are very informative. It is easier to weed through if you know what you like. I can see where they can take advantage of new smokers, though. The best recommendations always come from other cigar lovers.
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Old 01-02-2009, 05:42 PM   #6
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In rereading my post, I see that I was on a tear. What I mean to suggest is that cigar smoking is an activity dating back hundreds of years. A good smoke is not, and never was, a singular activity of just the rich and successful, or people wanting to look that way.

I think Kingston's question was in two parts, and a bit broader than "what do we look for in a good cigar?" All of us who enjoy the leaf for what it is....tasty and nicotine laden, know why we smoke and have learned over time what sort of brands and models we like. The only real way I have experienced to learn this is through a bit of trial and error....experimentation, as Ed might say.

I'll get the matter of quality out of the way first. Some of the things I like in a good smoke: a pleasant draw, an even burn (the construction issues) a medium to full bodied cigar that lets me know "I'm smoking." That's just me. I love nuttiness (Padron?) and a bit of sweetness in my smoke, but not necessarily on my lips. I like a cigar's flavor and characteristics to develop through the smoke, from the first powerful and numbing puffs, to the hopefully, nutty, creamy middle and thence to the flavorful conclusion. I think, in one way or another, we can all agree that there are specific tastes and flavors we prefer, and these are fundamentally the questions of taste in the most liberally interpreted meaning of the word.

However, I keyed on the aspects of snob appeal, branding, and image (that I always key on!) that I felt were implicit in Kingston's question. And I trust I sense in that respect what he is driving at. The industry (and perhaps even many of it's clients) has at points along the way exploited the notion of cigars as lifestyle, objects of status and quality that refined people collect and consume as a reflection of their good taste. Being a person of good taste is lovely, but I think some aspects of the pandering entirely miss the point if I am the person they are trying to sell. Crudely put, I don't need a DuPont lighter, the very finest silk smoking jacket (sometimes a cheap bib would be nice) or all the confusing, endless and mostly disappointing accessories. I do need a good method for storing cigars, as they are perishable. I do enjoy smoking a good cigar in the company of friends, because like a good glass of rum, it helps promote conversation and lubricates the tongue. Ultimately, I need a good place to smoke, too, something that is increasingly difficult to find, and if the growth in interest also promotes that, then I will gladly tolerate a bit of marketing fluff in exchange. These used to be called "men's clubs" but seem to have gone out of favor. Within today's restrictive environment, rekindling the notions of a club house at which to smoke and swap lies does seem worth pursuing.

But I prefer to avoid some of the elements suggested by the cigar "lifestyle"
as related to the objects themselves. Even the notion of a "cigar lifestyle" strikes me as a rather thin device on which to build an existence.

What am I trying to say? The products speak for themselves. The hype and the rest actually gets in the way of enjoyment and value for me. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, after all!

I hope I have stimulated some controversy without causing people any need to attack me personally!

Last edited by Lew Barrett; 01-02-2009 at 05:46 PM.
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Old 01-03-2009, 11:46 PM   #7
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I like a cigar that is rich in flavour with a pleasant smooth taste. It can be strong but preferably one that can change, otherwise it becomes a boring smoke.

When I first started around 1990, it was mostly non-Cuban, as Cubans in the Toronto shops were very expensive and I always had friends travelling to the US to pick up my favs at the time, Royal Jamaica Gran Coronas and Punch Pitas, both in the Maduro (selected them initially from ratings).

Once in a while I'd treat my self to a Cuban usually a Monty 4 which was to me a better smoke at the time but too expensive. As Cuba became a more popular tourist destination in the 1990's for Canadians, I would get friends to bring back a box or two. Today, almost all cigars I smoke now are Cuban as they are now more easilly accessible for me.

When I select a cigar to buy its usually from past experience or from recomendations rather than ratings. I tend to pay more attention to the production year in which the cigar was made. I also try to buy from brands I am most familiar with and am now trying less known cigars within that brand I like. With the cigar board I'm with, I'm able to get small quantities to try through group buys which is very helpful. On this board there are about 30 guys who are from the Greater Toronto Area and we get together fairly often and talk mostly about Cuban cigars; and if you haven't tried a certain cigar it is usually given to you to try.

As for ratings, I glance at them for curiosity, but never make a purchasing decision based on a rating.
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Old 01-16-2009, 04:23 PM   #8
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Cigar Aficionado releases their Top 25 Cigars of the Year list....

Number 1# Casa Magana from Fonseca
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Old 01-16-2009, 09:00 PM   #9
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Yes, an interesting choice for #1. I have tried it and it is a very good cigar, but I don't know that it would be # 1 one based on some of the others in the top 10. It is an excellent cigar for the price, at $5.25.
I was gifted a couple of the Padron 80 for Christmas, and it would easily take # 1 instead of #2 IMHO, but it also runs $25 a copy.
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Old 01-17-2009, 02:32 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hank Koestner View Post
Yes, an interesting choice for #1. I have tried it and it is a very good cigar, but I don't know that it would be # 1 one based on some of the others in the top 10. It is an excellent cigar for the price, at $5.25.
I was gifted a couple of the Padron 80 for Christmas, and it would easily take # 1 instead of #2 IMHO, but it also runs $25 a copy.
I dote on that cigar, Hank!
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