Stogies Aren't For Fogeys
Author: Amelia Jeffers
A few years ago, I discovered scotch. Not that I wasn’t aware of it previously, but I discovered that a good sip of well-aged scotch (neat!) was remarkably enjoyable - particularly when savored by a cozy fire...with smoked almonds...dark chocolate, and maybe some pajamas and snow outside, but I digress. When the subject of cigars comes up, I imagine possibly cultivating an appreciation from a connoisseur perspective, though admittedly I have not yet tried. For now, the closest I have come is the fond remembrance of the scent of my dad’s occasional stogie or the sight of my neighbor on his riding lawn mower in shorts and visor, cigar between his teeth - a comical example of the stereotypical guy enjoying his smoke where he can…outside.
Cigars have made a major comeback in the past twenty years, after a period of economic boom created huge demand for luxury goods in the early nineties. Enthusiasts compare subtle notes of naturally-infused flavor and the artistry of hand rolled tobacco the way oenophiles discuss the impact of weather or oak on a specific vintage of wine. Popular social media influencers and magazines like Cigar Aficionado provide guidance for novices, as well as reviews of the latest releases from the highest rated-brands. Industry champion Aaron Sigmond (author of The Book of Cigars) has even developed a line of ready-to-wear clothing and home goods (think scented candles) called SIGARWEAR, featuring shirts with generous pockets to hold plenty of cigars.
Cuba is historically associated with the best cigars in the world, but you may be surprised to learn that 8 of the top 25 cigars in 2020 (as reviewed by the editors of Cigar Aficionado) hailed from Nicaragua - giving the Central American country a wide margin over the next-closest producer, the Dominican Republic. And the number one cigar on that list? From Nicaragua, the E.P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel sells for just $11 per stick - a far cry from the storied Royal Courtesan by cult-favorite, Gurkha Cigars that sells for a cool $1.36 million each. Filled with a rare Himalayan tobacco that is rolled carefully by artisans who have been blindfolded in order to reduce distractions, the coveted example is wrapped in gold leaf, sealed with a diamond-studded band, and infused with Remy Martin’s Black Pearl Louis XIII (just $224,000 per bottle).
Locally, cigar-lovers can shop or locker their favorite cigars at several upscale boutiques, including The Governor’s and Barclay Pipe and Cigar Lounges. With four locations in central Ohio, the small chain boasts large walk-in humidors and indoor and outdoor lounges. The Westerville location is actually a remodeled house, so you can get the relaxing experience of smoking at home, without the ramifications. Old-schoolers may be more familiar with House of Cigar. With years of services under their belt, the owners offer a premier selection of cigars and related paraphernalia at nearly a dozen Ohio locations. Some outlets offer a lockering service, as well.
Author’s note: The health consequences of smoking any form of tobacco are well understood. Despite urban myths, cigars are not healthier than cigarettes and have been linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and larynx, as well as lung and heart disease.