It’s different for everybody, my journey started in the mid 90’s during the cigar boom. I was self-employed and working 80 hours a week, business, family, mortgage, there never seemed to be time for me. A few close friends would gather on Friday night and drink scotch, I named it the Friday Night Scotch Society and each week we would go on an excursion, we would hang out in the lowlands now and again but mostly felt at home in the Spey Valley and the highlands. Each week we would travel down to our local liquor and Tobacco store, Ludwicks in San Anselmo, Ca. and chose a different single malt scotch, no internet, no reviews, no preconceived expectations and just pick something we hadn’t tried previously, it was a grand journey that continues to this day. Ludwicks also had a very nice Humidor that I passed and admired. On occasion I’d watch someone enter into that strange land, close the glass door and peruse the multitude of offerings, I was intrigued.
One day I had to find out what it was all about and ventured into the humidor for the first time. Somehow it felt like I had entered some forbidden room where I should have a key or a password to get in. The dazed and obvious ignorance to what I was doing must have seemed apparent to the proprietor and he came to rescue me from my floundering. Now I had smoked a swisher sweet on occasion and was never a cigarette smoker, but that as the extent of my smoking experience. He guided me around the humidor, pointing out this and that and the merits the cigars had and eventually I settled on an Ashton. This mild Dominican became my gateway drug. Without a humidor I only bought what I could smoke then or the next day. Ashton is manufactured by Arturo Fuente and it was only a matter of time before I started tasting Fuente’s offerings. The love of my life became the Don Carlos #3 and I was hooked.
Cigars are like music, they sing to you, but you have to listen to appreciate what they are saying. Some will take you on an operatic journey while others will leave you wondering what the hell you just listened too. The subtlety of a string Violin or the soaring riff from a lead guitar each have their merits, and as such you have to listen to all types of music, sometimes you’re in the mood for smooth jazz other times hard rock. At times I wonder over the history of music how musicians can come up with different songs and melodies and why it doesn’t all start sounding the same or repetative. Hand rolled cigars are just that, a live performance if you will, no two are ever the same. Because of the nature of the leaf and the human intervention nothing is exactly the same, so each cigar you hold, and smoke is like a personal live performance just for you.
Cigars were my way of stopping the world from spinning so fast during that self-employed time, I connected my experience with music. I created play lists apetaly named Don Carlos#1, #2 etc, I think I created 5-6 playlists that would last an hour, hour and a half. My vacation and escape from the world started soon after I fastened my headphones on and lit my ticket to another world. As the music played, I would close my eyes, my senses were razor focused, the flavor profile, the soft and pungent smoke wafting from the cigar was sometimes as good as the draw. The build up from first, second and third were sometimes the same song and other times like a fine crafted medley, and of course the tactile sense from holding the cigar and feeling the way the burn and heat bring it to life from its sleeping vegetative state.
When I smoke a cigar today, I am constantly reminded of why I started, I never take that time for granted. It’s a journey without a destination. It can be music to the soul if you are listening.