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It was about a decade ago, me and two other friends were sitting in my apartment. One of them pulled out a box of Cuban cigars that his mother had brought back with her from a recent vacation. We each took one in hand and committed every wrong there is to commit: we bit off the tips, we took long and very frequent drags, we inhaled the smoke...it was a terrible experience. Putting it down after only a few minutes, feeling very nauseous, I wondered how anyone could enjoy such a vile product.
Ten years later, just a few months ago, I decided that I should try smoking a cigar one more time but this time around doing it the right way. I did a bit of research, went to a local tobacconist with a friend and purchased a Don Tomas Maduro. The woman at the counter cut the end off for me with a guillotine cutter. Would you look at that? A clean cut tip to smoke from. Much cleaner than biting!
With a B.B. King concert album playing in the background we puffed away at our stogies. As I had learned from my research I took my time and relaxed, puffing on the cigar every few moments in between conversation, letting the smoke fill my mouth, taking the time to taste it before exhaling it all out. None of it went in my lungs this time around! What a much more enjoyable experience this was compared to all those years ago. From that moment on I continued my journey of learning about and enjoying cigars. I made frequent stops at a tobacconist trying different cigars like Joya de Nicaragua, CAO, Partagas, Oliva...the list continued to grow. Wanting cigars on hand I took the next step, accessorizing. Getting started as a cigar smoker isnít necessarily cheap but it doesnít have to break the bank either. Between local tobacconists like Thomas Hinds and online retailers like CheapHumidors.com I got everything I needed: ashtrays, butane torch lighters, cutters and, of course, a humidor. Oh and cigars to put in the humidor!
So what is it about cigars? Itís a lot of things. I love the social aspect of smoking a cigar with friends, listening to music and talking about anything and everything. I love the relaxing and leisurely pace that a cigar sets, you just donít feel like youíre in a rush when youíre sitting around with a cigar in hand. I enjoy the texture of a cigar, that soft oily wrapper and the aromas it gives off. Even that cedar smell that hits me when I open up my humidor gives me a smile. And I enjoy the taste, moving the smoke around my mouth trying to pick up hints of flavour like pepper. Itís not just any one thing, itís the whole package. Even setting up my first humidor was a fun process! Doing the salt test and calibrating the hygrometer, seasoning the inside of the humidor, checking on it everyday making sure everything was just right. When I sit down to smoke a cigar it signals to my mind and body a time to relax, a time to think and contemplate, a time to enjoy the company of friends and your surroundings. Now that itís summer, there is nothing I enjoy more than sitting out in the yard after a long day of work, putting on some blues music, lighting up a nice cigar, relax and let the stresses of life disappear if only for 30 minutes or an hour.
Itís only been a few months but Iím learning something new everyday about brands, tobacco production, ring gauges, etiquette, and with each cigar Iím slowly developing my palate. I might not be an expert but I know what I like. I like smoking fine cigars.
Jean Gaultier is the blogger-in-chief of the Countryside Gentleman, a blog geared towards men based out of Manitoba, Canada. Follow Jean Gaultier on Twitter @countrysidegent. To read the Countryside Gentleman visit http://countrysidegentleman.blogspot.com.