I genuinely enjoyed cigars at one time and had a humidor full of good Cuban cigars when I moved out of my marital home. Interestingly, they never made it off of the moving van. Neither did my Jimmy Lile folding knife…The Gent model…but that’s another blog story. I'm about to light up a cheapie in the photo above. LFG's mom and I were out at a great bed and breakfast near Charlottesville...along with two of our favorite long weekend comrades back then. Hanky and Panky.
There was a time before the cigar fad became an absurd craze, when Cuban cigars really were better. And any regular smoker could discern and appreciate the Cuban experience. I used to smuggle Cuban cigars in from Europe like a mad man. I’ve long since given up cigars…from any source.
One of my non-Cuban favorites though; was Arturo Fuentes’s Short Story. These little babies were perfect for a quick smoke when LFG’s mom would put me out on the patio for my exiled ritual. I do kinda miss a good cigar.When the cigar craze was at the height of absurdity, the little Short Story cigars were hard to come by mainly for one reason. The shape of this little torpedo was such that only the most skilled hand rollers could turn them out with consistent morphological quality and skilled rollers were in short supply.
Mavis Toussaint Cindarella Fuentes, pictured above, rolled mine specially and would always send me a little love note in my box. Nothing like a little love in your box.
I remember my first visit to 19 St. James’s Street…James J. Fox. Robert Lewis began selling cigars over two hundred years ago from 19 St. James’s and J.J. Fox merged their operation with Lewis in the early 1990’s. One’s first time for many things is epic…leastways for me.
Fox still had the rather simple typewritten announcement inside the front door, announcing that the shop would be closed on Churchill’s funeral day, in honor of their most famous patron.
And you can go downstairs and sample a smoke the same way Churchill did…even sitting in his chair.
Of course there are other fellas in addition to Winnie with iconic cigar corollaries…
The other man in white…Mark Twain.
Kipling…I still need to write a ditty about the Beerbohm-Kipling squabble.
JFK…who if legend is accurate, ordered Pierre Salinger to procure one thousand little Cuban cigars before he signed the Cuban embargo executive order which is still in place today. Brilliant no? We export our entire manufacturing economy to another communist country yet God forbid we send a quart of milk or import one stalk of sugarcane from Cuba. Shut up.
And of course the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, was an ardent cigar and cigarette devotee. (And obviously a devotee of horizontal striped socks) He founded the Marlborough Club in Pall Mall as a result of not being allowed to smoke cigars in the reading room of White’s Club in St. James.
A pissed off horizontal sock wearing Royal with social standing and enough bon vivant-ishness to desire his cigars whenever and wherever…and suddenly you have a new gentleman’s club…all because of a cigar.
I’m thinking that the Prince of Wales probably had Knollys send over to Robert Lewis’s for his supply of cigars. Some for home, some for the Marlborough Club and some for travel. Wonder if he kept any in his private dining room upstairs at Rules?
But then the Cuban cigar procurement process became complex. Twenty five years ago you could walk in and avoid Cuban confusion. One hundred percent of the Cuban inventory in most reputable European cigar shops was hand rolled.
Cuban grown from Cuban seed and Cuban wrappered Cuban tobacco…probably rolled by gals like these Cuban pieceworkers.
Kinda like buying Levis back then. There might have been three choices of Levis when I was a teenager. Not much to be confused about…501s for me. And to this day, I avoid denim doubting by simply focusing on my standing order of 501s. But it got silly…kinda like the whole cigar craze got silly. There are fifty versions of Levi's to confuse you upon demand. Cuban cigar quality in general declined probably for no other reason than supply not meeting demand. Cigars from other growing regions closed the quality/value gap significantly. Then the predatory marketing bullshit began. You needed a Cuban cigar doctorate to sort out the truth. “Made in Cuba with Dominican tobacco and a Cuban wrapper”…or vice versa…“Dominican grown from Cuban seed…machine rolled in Cuba.” It just became unworthy of the effort. And by the way, I always thought that Cohibas were overrated and rolled too tightly, even the ones I smoked in London over twenty years ago.
I’m a redneck from South Carolina. This has long since been established. So when I say that something is base and in poor form, you gotta consider the rather low floor of gentility from which I declare such things.
But I’ve always thought that those guys weekend/golf outing and God forbid, the wedding photos in the back of Cigar Aficionado Magazine are absurd. Nobody looks good with a cigar hanging out of their mouth. Nobody.
These guys look like turd salesmen with samples in their mouths. When you torque it up with the alpha-testo-puffery manifest in those group shots of rental tuxedos and Meyer Wolfsheim cufflinks, you can include my ass out. The cigar craze got to the point where I’d look at people on the golf course or in the queue to buy the goods in my store here in Old Town and think there’s no way all of these people are smoking these things and really, genuinely enjoying them.
But there is a cigar that captivates me thoroughly. Cigar shell cordovan. I think anyone’s first go at a pair of shell cordovan shoes should be an Alden Color Number 8 move. Probably the classic tassel loafer to start. But after that, why not a cigar?
Really--after you’ve stabled a couple of shell cordovan thoroughbreds, you might want to consider a cigar colored shell contrivance. The boys at Horween report that the cigar shells are probably fewer in production than any other hue they contrive. I think it’s the most stunning.
So here’s the Alden full strap loafer. Fully manifesting it’s preening cigarness.
The lines on the full strap are clean and sleek. Kinda like me after my once weekly shower.
The ridges and crinkles that begin to show after a day or two of wearing are one of a kind, part and parcel manifestations of cordo-uniqueness. You never know how the fibrin striations are going to play out and henceforth, become an immutable patinated badge of your pair, and your pair only. You just don’t get that with cowhide.
And these babies don’t make your breath stink or cause irregular epithelial cell growth in your pie hole.
Coming in at about the same price as a box of twenty five hand rolled Cubans at J.J. Fox, I’d opt for pedal cigar adornment these days.
The full strap goes with everything. You can wear ‘em with a pair of shorts in the summer and then roll in to the Handlin’ on Sunday morning sporting the same shoddings, glossed with a thin coat of contrition. And not a bad choice to accompany The Brethren flannel jammies I say.
The cigar color is chocolaty enough to be different from Horween #8 while possessing the deep pool of cordovanessence that informs any gawker that this ain’t cowhide.
So let me shut this drivel down and go to the office. 2011 is unfolding in a maniacally blessed way and there’s consulting esoterica that little ADG must ply today in prep for another flurry of travel. Atlanta, San Antonio and some back to nature conference center in New England will see me within the next month.