Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tobacco Talk

I don't put much stock in cigar reviews. Including my own. Having spent much time researching the topic from the top down and the bottom up, I am now convinced that no two men are experiencing the same things when they smoke a cigar, so there's little point in talking the subject to death, then, is there? But here I go again.

Significantly, just as quantum physics suggests to us that we are not completely the same person from moment to moment, neither are our cigars. Quantum relativity applies to the pursuit of cigar tasting, and therefore, there can never be a general description of a cigar but only a description of someone's perception of a specific cigar at a certain moment. Take Nish Patel's XEN for example. It remains one of my all time favorite sticks, and yet sometimes - not often, often enough that I would remark on it - I get one that just doesn't do for me. Most of the time XEN is a suprememly satisfying hot blast of white pepper, but other times I just feel like I'm suddenly smoking cereal, you know what I mean? I used to blame the stick itself, as do a lot of people that like to criticize Rocky Patel products for perceived inconsistency.

But then I realized - it's not Rocky and Nish, it's not the stick, it's me. My perception of a cigar differs greatly depending on the state of my metabolism and a score of variables, and I'm sure it does for you, too. Think of this next time you complain that you "got a bad stick" or when you try a cigar only once and then make big sweeping declarations about how the entire brand sucks.

I'm gradually teaching myself to better gauge what is the right cigar for the right moment. And I'm also learning to know when to let go, and just throw a cigar away that isn't working out. Easy come, easy go, baby.

Rocky Patel's Royale is like the XEN's deeper, more complex brother, like The Motorcycle Boy to Rusty James. They even look and feel the same - super silky, slightly squishy, and shaped probably from the same box press. I'm enjoying these more and more lately in the mornings. As with the XEN, it's a fine "breakfast cigar" with a flawless draw. It's all about the draw to me, but evidently that's the last thing on some people's minds. (Probably because they're frantically herfing their sticks down so hard anyway that such sensitive considerations are irrelevant.)

A recent new surprise for me was Don Pepin Garcia's Tabacos Baez. I selected it at random from the humidor at Habana Cafe & Cigar Factory, but figured it to be a sort of middle-of-the-road Oliva-ish type affair. Nope. It's very flavorful, packs quite a buzz for such a mellow stick, and honestly I didn't even know it was a Don Pepin Garcia product until I got it home. Not sure what he's trying to do with this line, but I approve regardless.

I first tried Ventura's Project 805 back in Clearwater, but on recent road trips to Ocala have become reacquainted with its style. It's a complex, nutty, peppery favorite, and is made with andullo tobacco. I'll let Ventura explain:

Andullo has been enjoyed by the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean for at least 500 years. Traditionally users carve a pipe out of petrified Andullo, sprinkle fresh Andullo flakes into the pipe and smoke it.

Though the tobacco is colloquially referred to as Andullo, it is the process not the leaf that makes the Andullo tobacco unique. Typical cigar tobacco leaf processing includes tying together freshly picked tobacco leaves and hanging these bunches in a barn to cure, after which leaf is placed into 1-ton stacks (Pilons) to ferment. The Andullo process is different. Tobacco leaf from the Rabito and Quin Diaz tobacco plants is harvested and piled into a series of palm seed pods called Yagua. When filled, the palm seed pods are wrapped in a thick, natural rope compressing the Andullo into a dense, rigid, 6-foot long bar nearly 5-inches in diameter. Stacked in a barn, and rotated at regular intervals, the Andullo ferments in the yagua for up to 2 years. When fermentation is finally complete, the resulting product is a leathery, dark, aromatic, earthy sweet all-natural tobacco leaf.

The moisture content and natural aromas make it perfect tobacco for cigars, though it has never been used in premium cigars until now.

Alec Bradley's Nica Puro, the cigar that could do no wrong last year, is suddenly for me the cigar that can do no right. I'm just not feelin' 'em lately, and wonder why I don't get the same joy from them that I once did. But again, this serves to illustrate that it's not the cigar's fault, it's me who's changed. Having said that, the Nica Puros I get at Cigar Factory are toros, and they were always robustos and torpedos that I used to obtain elsewhere. So the vitola really does matter. Some cigar makers even make a slightly different blend for each vitola, which can be maddening. I'm currently taking a breather from Nica Puro but will return to it at a later date (especially if I can zip back to Sarasota and pick up the robustos.)

But the real big news in cigarland for me is the discovery of Gulfport's handrolled customs - particularly the barberpoles. I had some decent barberpoles in Ybor a couple months ago, but the ones from Cigar Factory are brilliant and the Tamayo ones I get at La Habana Cigar Club are almost as good but slightly smaller. I'm in talks with local rollers and distributors for the long-awaited JSH Cigar, and I just might do a barberpole design for one of the products. As soon as I know more, of course, you'll see me babbling about it here and on Twitter...

1 comment:

  1. I got my first electronic cigarette kit at VaporFi, and I enjoy it a lot.