Some things have been changing recently; my work location has changed, and I'm finally making a serious push to get my driver's license (at 32 years old... a bit late to the game). My schedule has been fluctuating quite a bit, and I've found myself pretty tired in the afternoons, often succumbing to unexpected daytime naps... the result, of course, being less time to sit down and devote enough time to tasting and reviewing cigars.
Of course, I reached the conclusion a month or two back, that I could not let my passion for cigars consume me to the point where I was pushing myself to turn out too many reviews too quickly, thereby making my passion a chore. And yet, I don't want to take so much time between posts here that this entire venture into exploring the world of premium cigars, and taking you all along for the ride, slowly fizzles out. I'm still working to find just the right balance there.
Tonight is a little different, though. Instead of doing an actual review, I decided to put a little more focus on the other parts of this site, as well. Tonight's blog entry is really just going to be a kind of stream-of-consciousness style post, where I'm going to try and just keep writing, and see where my brain carries things.
Obviously, though, the focus of this site is premium cigars, so you can be sure I'm smoking while I write. To quench your curiosity, I'm smoking a mild torpedo tonight, a La Vieja Habana by Drew Estate. It's a cheap stick (I don't know if there's a hard and agreed-upon number that's generally used to categorize a cigar as “cheap,” but, personally, if I refer to a cigar as “cheap,” it generally falls under the $5/stick price range), but still satisfying for a low-key, casual smoke. There's some real barnyard-y scents to it... but here, I said I wasn't going to do a full review.
I've been kind of reflecting on my love of cigars lately; compared with a lot of other smokers, I'm still pretty damned new to this. I'd had the occasional smoke during celebratory gatherings before (where friends provided Factory Throwouts No. 49 Sweets), but it was really not until almost the end of 2015 when Charlie, one of my best friends in the Navy, offered me an Ashton Classic one day while we were out on his balcony. The smooth, creamy, vanilla flavor of it was so much more impressive to me than were the sweet-tipped Factory Throwouts, and I quickly began visiting the local smoke shop to just start trying different cigars to find where my tastes were. Actually, I never really stopped going after cigars I've never tried before, and I'm often excited to try something totally new, even though I've found plenty of reliable favorites along the way.
A friend asked me the other day what my favorite cigar was, and after a lot of thought, I just had to tell him, it depends: on how I feel, on the weather; on where I am; on what I'm drinking with it; on what music I have on... I still don't know that I could definitively call one cigar my “favorite.”
That said, I do very much enjoy Cuban Cohibas, Alec Bradley Mundial, Drew Estate Liga Privadas, and, of course, the Viking Cigar blends from Norway. Really, I could generate an entire catalogue of “favorites” if I sat here long enough.
Anyway... so, I count November/December 2015 as the true start of my exploration of the cigar world; which puts this passion at a little over a year and a half old, and yet it has essentially become an integral part of my life, and, indeed, my identity. I earned my Consumer Tobacconist Certification through Tobacconist University only a few short months ago, but I constantly have friends and coworkers asking me about cigars... which ones are good for new smokers; where to get favorite sticks; how to properly condition their humidors... I feel like I'm just bragging, now, which is not my intent. What I mean to get at, is this: this is a passion that lasts, and grows daily, because I have had both the opportunity and the absolute pleasure of sharing it with others. Ultimately, anything you're passionate about, quickly becomes dull and unexciting when you experience it alone. It is in the sharing of it that your passion blossoms and grows, and that, ultimately, is the driving force behind this entire website. This site is still quite new; many of you reading this, are people I know personally and count as friends. I hope there are some of you reading this I have not met, because it means I'm getting to share my love of the leaf with new people, as well.
I've recently had the pleasure of becoming part of a growing community of cigar lovers here in Honolulu, which is hands-down one of the friendliest and most welcoming groups of people I've ever encountered. I suffer from Major Depressive and Generalized Anxiety Disorders, and it can be extremely overwhelming to get myself out of the apartment to engage with people I hardly know, but heading out to the local cigar shop (Tobaccos of Hawaii, for those in the area!) has not only been a simple matter of “it's Saturday, I'm going,” but has actually helped me to begin to conquer that crippling social anxiety and get out and enjoy my weekends. In that sense, you might say that tobacco, specifically premium cigars, are my anti-depressant.
Of course, I'm willing to bet that actual anti-depressants are probably far less expensive than all the cigars, and of course, cigar accessories, that I buy.
Actually, one hobby can sometimes lead to another, and my Instagram (also SevenHumidors) has become an outlet for a new and growing product photography habit. Obviously, I'm not a professional, by any means. For f---'s sake, I'm using my phone to take pictures. But I like to think I've gotten some pretty decent IG shots of my smoking experiences.
Of course, now that I work in a new location where I can't have my phone, I also can't take pictures in the smoke pit, so my IG's been mostly silent the past couple weeks. The simple shots I take at my kitchen counter for my reviews just aren't on the same level as my IG shots (many of which are featured in the “Photos” section of this site!)
Cigar smoking has also introduced me to another habit, which I managed to resist even longer than smoking: coffee. At one of the late-night cigar events at ToH, one of the local sales reps was sharing some Cuban coffee. I'd always hated coffee, but I figured, what the hell? One more try. And it was actually very good.
It occurred to me, that some people try cigars, and have a very bad first or even second experience, and never go back to it. I may have written off coffee so many years ago for the same reason. And now, as I try different blends, I'm discovering that there's some I love, and some I can't stand; but I don't universally dislike coffee as I've believed for most of my life.
I guess that's another way that cigars have impacted and influenced my life.
It's kind of a reflection of how smoking a cigar forces you to stop, to slow down and just relax for a bit, and to appreciate the little things, like subtle nuances in the flavor profiles; or the way a well-constructed cigar self-corrects when it starts burning unevenly; or the nightly presence of the Constellation Orion overhead during nightly smokes; or the company of good, dear friends. I've found that since I picked up cigar smoking, I've come to appreciate more and more little things in life. And I've found that I actually have more time to let myself relax and just be than I ever thought I had. It's made my time with myself more meaningful, as well as my time with others. And being able to share this passion for cigars with others, whether they're as passionate about cigars as I am, or just occasional smokers, is one of the greatest blessings in life; it has taken a small enjoyment and turned it into a critical part of who I am.
And I sincerely hope that you have some passion in your life that is just as meaningful for you; or, if you don't, that you find it, whatever it is, and chase it.