Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dark, Smoke-Filled Rooms

With SCHIP about to pass the House today on the back of an increase in the federal tobacco excise tax from $.39 to $1.00, I thought it would be a good time to shunt my rage and hate for Democrats and Congress into a post about why I like smoking cigars.

Especially since they're going to jump in price $.40 per stick. While that still sucks major moose taint, that's a LOT better than the original $3.00 per stick that was part of last year's bill. So I'm glad I avoided the flurry of "Get 'em now before they double in price!" offers that I've gotten recently and stuck to my main brands and amounts. That said, why do I enjoy sticking a burning wad of dried leaves in my pie hole?

It's a guy thing. And since guy things have been pretty much crapped on for the last 30 years, I enjoy taking part in a blatant guy thing.

It's relaxing. It takes time to smoke a cigar properly, so even if you're doing it while doing something else, it forces a little separation-from-task time.

It's a ritual. Choosing, storing, aging, cutting, and smoking a cigar all have their little tasks, signs, and portents.

It's social. Smoking a cigar alone is great. Smoking a cigar with a buddy or buddies is even better.

It's tasty. Believe it or not, each type of wad of burning dry leaves has a different flavor.

I prefer maduros or double maduros - these are the ones with the really dark wrappers. They tend to the stronger side of flavor, and will definitely leave you knowing that you've just smoked a cigar. My current favorites are Partagas Blacks - Partagas is a well-known brand and the Blacks are as strong and earthy/oily as one could want. Plus their newest offering, the Gigantes, are a ridiculous ring gauge, and last forever. I save these for weekends. My favorite everyday smoke is an Onyx Churchill. Not quite as dark or dense as a Partagas Black, it's still a solid maduro and a perfect size to last through a movie while sitting by the fireplace.

I am also a fan of the La Aroma de Cuba brand. These are milder and lighter with great size offerings, and I like to smoke these on summer or fall afternoons outside.

Now, while I will very occasionally drop $15 or even $25 on a stogie I am a big adherent to the "find a $4.00 cigar you like and stock up on them" school of thought. In that sense I'm told it's just like wine - you can spend as much as you want for it but there are perfectly fine wines for your table and cellar at perfectly reasonable prices. And while I really enjoy going to the local tobacco shops for browsing and trying new brands, nothing beats ordering online. Whether you order in bulk, by the box, or 5 at a time, you will almost never fail to find what you want at at least 40% off the brick & mortar price. Quite often 50% or more. Which is how I can afford to call Onyx Churchills ($7.80 down the street from me) my "every day smoke" because I regularly buy them online at $70 per box of 20. Even with shipping that's still under $4.00 per stick. Plus I get a cool box to store stuff in.

The three places I buy from are

Of course, if you're buying in bulk you'll probably want at least a little desktop humidor...

But that'll be another self-indulgent hobby post.


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