Category Archives: Cigars

…the Hoyo de Monterrey Grand Epicure Edicion Limitada shows great promise.

Having recently bought a new humidor as well as a batch of exciting cigars, I decided to try the Hoyo de Monterrey 2013 Special Edition before it really had time to acclimatize in its new surroundings. Impatient, I know, but so what? Amongst the first Cubans I ever tried, this brand has ever since been one of my absolute favourites. Usually showing a more creamy and sweet taste-profile than other Cubans they could be considered on the light side, but in my opinion they will still give you a very enjoyable and complex experience that I really like.

Hoyo de Monterrey Grand Epicure Edicion Limitada 2013

This cigar is of course handmade, and with its 55 ring gauge a fat delicacy. Beautiful, dark chocolate wrapper with some rather discreet veins. Feeling tightly rolled but still slightly spongy to the touch that I attribute to the cigar not really being in its right element yet. Giving off a pleasantly intense aroma of sweet, dark chocolate and leather, with an easy pre-light draw tasting of creamy chocolate.

The first puff startled with some bitterness and acidity, which quickly vanished and was substituted by dark chocolate and a delicious creamy sweetness. Taking a few puffs and savouring the taste will give you a similar experience to trying a good whisky or a nice wine – a flavour with a start, middle and finish. One of the interesting things about cigars are the fact that it could be likened to a whisky where the taste changes every 15 sips or so. The beginning of this one showed lots of dark chocolate mixed with a creamy sweetness and roasted coffe-notes, finishing with some leather and tingling black pepper.

The middle third gives evidence of a slightly uneven roll, showing unattractive flaky ashes as the smoke progressed. The taste mellowing out a little, going into a distinctive honey-like sweetness while keeping the creaminess and tuning down the pepper quite a bit. However, make no mistake, this stick contains a lot of tobacco and for someone like me who maybe smokes a few cigars a month it started to give me a head-spin.

Going into the final third the flavor turned towards earth, wood and leather, mixed with the occasional glimpse of the earlier sweetness. The return of a distinct black pepper note makes the experience deliciously complex and enjoyable all the way to the end.
The burn in this case was uneven and it had to be topped-up twice. I blame this not on the cigar per se, but rather on my impatience in smoking it before it was ready to be enjoyed. I trust that this will be fixed after being allowed to rest in the humidor for some time. I also belive that there is potential for further development after some time in storage. Looking forward to trying this again after half a year or so.

…the Montecristo 520 Edicion Limitada 2012 needs some time in storage.

I have been buying some limited edition Cubans lately, and the Montecristo 520 Edicion Limitada 2012 is the newest arrival. Of course it needed a tasting right away, so tonight I´ve been sitting on the patio puffing away. Autumn is clearly coming, and the evening chill just about permitted sitting outside for the hour+ it took to smoke this impressively sized cigar. Quite thick with a ring gauge of 55. The 520 in the name is referring to the anniversary of the arrival of Cuban tobacco in Europe, brought back by Columbus.

Montecristo Edicion Limitada 2012

The cigar is very well made, firm and fully packed. The wrapper has a pleasant oiliness and this particular one with some prominent veins. Fairly light smell of tobacco, and the pre-light draw with just a mild tobacco taste with some hints of leather. All very promising. The burn was slightly uneven but didn´t need any top-ups. Tastewise I was a bit surprised at the initial harshness, something that lingered all through the cigar. A strong, almost chili-like pepper character, stinging at the back of the throat. There wasn´t that much change in the taste profile during the smoking, and it mostly kept up a strong spiciness that overwhelmed any attempts at complexity. For someone like me who´s not very used to medium to full-bodied cigars this was a pretty heady smoke, almost making my head spin at the end. Summing it up this one was not an altogether pleasant smoke. A bit too strong and harsh for my tastes. It might be that I´m not used to this type of cigar, or else they might need some more maturing to reach full potential. I believe in the latter option and look forward to trying them again in a year or so. There´s a whole box of them, so that´s not going to be a problem.

…I should explain how a health-care professional can think it´s ok to smoke.

In my line of work, smoking is by right considered one of the most vile habits a person could acquire. All through medical school you learn about the health hazards connected to the use of tobacco. While practicing medicine you see time and again how this is not empty propaganda, but translates into real life suffering and death. So, why would someone with this knowledge and experience ever want to come near a tobacco product? Well, the truth is that it´s not that simple.

There is no doubt whatsoever that tobacco can be very bad for you, but there are differences in what you use and how you do it. Most people who smoke cigarettes will inhale the smoke, exposing their lungs and bodies to a large number of potentially hazardous chemicals, many of which are strongly carcinogenic. The tobacco used in cigarettes is processed differently from that put into cigars. Cigarette smoke is acidic while cigar smoke is alkaline. This gives cigars and cigarettes different properties which in turn affects how they are smoked. Cigarette smoke needs to be inhaled to enable absorption of nicotine into the blood stream, which is not the case with cigars. The alkaline properties of cigar smoke actually makes it pretty uncomfortable to inhale, at least for persons who are not previous pipe- or cigarette smokers.

When you look at the studies that have been made on the health effects of cigar smoking, you quickly see that the study population is usually divided into different groups with different risk of developing smoke-related disease. The highest risk of adverse health effects is seen in those who has the highest consumption of tobacco, and also inhales the smoke. This is more common in persons who smoke both cigarettes and cigars, or has shifted from the former to the latter. The lowest risk is in the group who only smoke cigars and doesn´t inhale. This last group still has a higher risk for health problems than non-smokers, at least if they consume five or more cigars a day. If you don´t inhale the smoke at all, the risk for some tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer goes down significantly, but the risk for cancer of the mouth and larynx is still there. However, very little is known about health hazards for people who are occasional smokers, meaning less than one cigar a day. It seems reasonable to assume a connection between the risk of many of these diseases and the level of exposure, i e more smoking higher risk, less smoking lower risk. So, if you´re consuming 1 – 2 cigars a week, will that translate into a risk that needs to be taken into account? Nobody knows. Is such a risk greater than what you get from for example eating a lot of smoked food? Nobody really knows that either. So, my interpretation of the existing data is that we don´t know if there in fact is an increase in the risk of smoke-related disease for a person smoking less than one cigar a day (without inhaling). If there indeed is such an increased risk, I find it reasonable to believe that it is not very big.

It could be argued that it´s still stupid doing something like this if there is even a remote chance that it could be dangerous for you. Well, the same argument could be used against driving a car, eating a number of common foodstuffs or taking part in many a popular leisure activity. Sometimes we choose to do something that we like, in spite of it potentially not being 100% safe. This is just a part of being alive.

For my part, coming into contact with cigar smoking and actually finding it pleasant was rather surprising and not something I would have ever expected. To me it´s very similar to other areas of tasting – wine, whisky, fine food and so on – something that I´ve been enjoying for many years. Cigars are just another facet of this type of activity. As in other sorts of tastings, the nerd factor can´t entirely be disregarded. There is something appealing (at least to the male mind) in discovering an esoteric small batch bourbon and enjoying it´s finer points, and the same goes for the world of cigars.

So, if ever asked by friends or colleagues if I really think it´s ok to be smoking I would answer by paraphrasing former US President Bill Clinton. “Yes I´m smoking cigars, but I don´t inhale”. I´m 100% sure that one day something is going to kill me, but I don´t think it will be this.

…the new humidor looks really nice.

So, now it has arrived, the new Humidor ordered from these guys http://www.cigarrlagret.nu . I´ve spent the evening unpacking it and starting the priming with distilled water. As I´ve said before I´m quite a novice at this, so it´s good to have all of the great sites on the net where you can learn just about everything you need to know about cigars and cigar-smoking. This one, for example, has a lot of useful stuff http://www.cigaraficionado.com

Coiba Presidente

This one is supposed to fit about 300 cigars, which of course is much more than I currently own. Some extra space for future acquisitions is never out of the way, though. It looks kind of nice, and has a reasonable wife-approval factor (meaning no serious complaints so far). Along with the humidor I also bought two boxes of limited edition Cubans – the Romeo y Julieta Escudos Edicion Limitada 2007 and Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Roi 1999. A notch up from what I´ve tried before, obviously. The boxes are in a cool place waiting for the humidor to be primed and ready.

Romeo y Julieta Edicion Limitada 2007

Of course I couldn´t stop myself from trying one of the Romeo y Julietas, sitting in front of the house in the cool late evening, smoking it while drinking a cup of Brasilian coffee. This particular one felt a little spongy to the touch, quite unlike the A Turrent triple play I smoked the other day which was very firm and fully packed. Before lighting, the R y J had a pleasant earthy aroma with hints of leather. Beautiful wrapper with some fine veins, a bit darker than the other R y J´s I´ve tried but much lighter in colour than the A Turrent. It had an easy draw but burned a little irregularly, which might of course have been my fault. About midway I neglected it a little and had to top it up twice. For someone with my limited experience the taste was fairly full – strong coffee, dark chocolate and black pepper. The first third had some cedar notes which was overwhelmed by the stronger flavors as I got into the second and final third. All in all an enjoyable smoke leaving a long and rather complex after-taste. This one has of course already been stored for some time, but I´m still going to let the rest of the box sit in the humidor for later tasting.

…that nostalgia is a lazy sleep and art comes from being awake and on your toes.

Two pretty hard days at work. Things doesn´t always go the way you want them to, and valuable energy is spent keeping your equilibrium. Met with my friend G. for dinner at a downtown restaurant, the conversation as usual more memorable than the food. The car is at the shop, so I walked home through the still warm summer evening. Then sitting outside at the little table in front of the house, enjoying the cool air and smoking another cigar. This time it´s a Cuban, Romeo y Julieta, a classic brand beginning it´s life in Cuba 1875, moving to the Dominican Republic after the revolution and now existing in both places. This is definitely a more powerful cigar than the Navarre I wrote about earlier. Legendary British PM Winston Churchill was one of it´s foremost devotees and gave name to their most famous vitola (meaning style/size of cigar). Smoking this could really make your head spin, but this summer has allowed me to develop a healthy tolerance.

Romeo y Julieta

During all this, Spotify allowed me the luxury of listening to one of the surprises of 2013, “The Next Day” by David Bowie. Not many would object to counting him out after the events of the past few years. Lacklustre albums, heart attacks and so on. You had to be a die-hard fan with a well developed streak of self deception to believe that he would ever do anything relevant again. But then again, after that career why would he need to? Who could really compete with someone starting to create music in the mid-sixties and staying at the top of their game and leading the development of pop music for the next 40 years or so?

David_Bowie_-_The_Next_Day

In a climate where nostalgia and the regurgitation of old glories is the norm, this album is truly remarkable. Songs like “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” would be career-makers for lesser bands. The relatively long period of silence had primed us for nothing at all, or at best a stab at the past. When the video of “Where are we now” suddenly appeared most of us heard a feeble artist looking back at his prime. The voice was weak and the lyrics backwards looking. Who could really blame him? Why would this guy need to prove himself again?
Then the album came and everyone was in awe. If a new group or artist would have created these songs they would immediately have been a sensation. Even for Bowie this was great. So many substantial songs. So much energy. So much creativity. I´m amazed that something as good as this can be brought into life by someone so old. A true game changer. Thank you, and thank you again.

…a book and a cigar can be a nice way of spending an evening.

Still very warm summer weather. After dinner I sat down on the patio behind the house starting a new book. I´ve recently finished the Neil Young autobiography (if that´s really what it should be called) “Waging Heavy Peace”. As a biography it´s quite unusual, no real structure and absolutely no chronology, but still a very entertaining and strangely enlightening read. It consists of a number of chapters of more or less flow of consiousness writings, that when put together in the reader´s mind will still give you an endearing and close-up view of the man. The style is very disarming and often close to naive. It´s a real treat, those who haven´t already read it should give it a go.

Waging heavy peace

The new book I´ve started is the latest offering from British novelist Ian McEwan. Well known for a series of novels with themes ranging from the rather macabre in the beginning of his career, to fairly popular and movie adapted ones like “Atonement”. His masterpiece in my view is “Saturday”, which chronicles an unfortunate series of events involving a London neurosurgeon and a small-time criminal. However, under the surface there are many layers to this intriguing story.

Sweet Tooth

The new one is called “Sweet Tooth” and tells the story of a young Cambridge student in the 70´s being groomed for the MI5. I´ve only read a few chapters and so far it´s a pretty easy read. No real feeling for where this one is heading. My friend G. didn´t like it that much, too lightweight, neither did the wife. His last one before this, “Solar”, was also sort of colourless, come to think of it. Well, I guess we´ll see.

During reading I índulged in my latest vice, cigar-smoking. We´ll deal with the rationale of a medical professional like myself taking up such a habit at the age of 50 some other time. For now, let´s just say that it was a highly enjoyable combination. The cigar in question was an Aramits Grand Robusto from Navarre, the only cigar-maker using exclusively French tobacco. Those interested can read more about it here http://cigare-navarre.com/en/.
It´s only the third time that I try one of these, and I must confess I really like them. Fairly light in colour and with a smooth and fine-veined wrapper (more about the anatomy of a cigar some other time). Burns well and has an easy draw, with light and elegant taste. It has a mild earthy tone with an almost perfume-like sweetness to it. As you reach the final half, light coffee-notes start to appear. A really good introduction for a novice like me, and one that I believe even the wife could enjoy. As a disclaimer, I must state that I´m absolutely not encouraging anybody to smoke. However, if you choose to and remember not to inhale you should do just fine.

Navarre cigar