Stagnation is the bane of cigar makers, just as it is for fashion designers and winemakers, says Robb Report cigars (and home entertainment) editor Brent Butterworth, who collaborated with contributing writer Richard Carleton Hacker to review some of the best new tobacco blends for “Cigars: From Morning to Midnight”, part of our 2006 Holiday Host Guide. Like their counterparts in the wine and fashion worlds, cigar makers constantly are adjusting or updating their offerings, says Butterworth. “It’s just like with wine,” he says. “They made great wines back at the turn of the century, but they have to keep stirring the pot to keep people interested.”
As illustrated by the selections that Butterworth and Hacker spotlight this month, the current trend is for cigar makers to reverse their individual trends: Brands that typically have produced heavy cigars are making lighter smokes, and vice versa. This role reversal has produced some exceptional cigars, the best of which, according to Butterworth’s palate, is Camacho’s latest, toned-down version of its Liberty. The new Liberty might taste lighter than its predecessors, but Butterworth and Hacker still classify it as a digestif, a cigar that should be smoked after dinner, preferably with a peaty single malt. “Camacho has had the bluster of being the strongest,” Butterworth says of the company’s penchant for producing the most-potent cigars. However, he believes that by breaking from form to produce this lighter offering, Camacho may have made its best cigar ever. “It’s almost as if the brand were a really good runner who all of a sudden cut the ball and chain from his foot,” says Butterworth.
In “Getting Medieval”, senior editor Sheila Gibson Stoodley writes about the Palio di Siena, a unique horse race in which the Tuscan city’s centuries-old feuds and rivalries play out on the track. However, the event’s underlying drama and myriad backstories will not be apparent to the casual spectator. “They’re not eager to share,” Gibson Stoodley says of the Siena residents who participate in the race’s festivities. “You’re welcome to show up as an outsider, but they’re not going to hand you a scorecard in English.” Viewing the Palio without any knowledge of the city’s culture, the race’s history, and the bribes and other secret dealings that took place in the days and hours leading up to the race is, says Gibson Stoodley, “like walking into a Yankees/Red Sox game and knowing nothing about the rivalry.” But, she adds, “the more you inquire, the more it rewards you.”
Gibson Stoodley also writes this month about the growing challenges facing connoisseurs of foie gras and Caspian Sea caviar in “A Matter of Taste”. Although she says she is surprised that, in the case of foie gras, laws are being considered that would ban its consumption, she recognizes that this delicacy and others long have been sources of controversy. “Eating has always been a moral issue,” she says. “Remember, gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.” But, she observes, what was once an issue of “you shouldn’t eat this because you’ll enjoy it too much” has become “you shouldn’t eat this because something suffered too much.” Gibson Stoodley points out that in regard to foie gras, at least, the efforts to ban it have had an ironic consequence. “Because of all these proposed laws,” she says, “more and more people are hearing about foie gras and trying it.”
How many people will try—and enjoy—flying very light jets remains to be seen, according to contributing writer Mary Grady, who discusses the imminent arrival of this new class of relatively inexpensive jet-propelled aircraft in “Light Speed”. “It may turn out to be the next great thing to fill the skies or the next big thing that never made it,” says Grady. However, she adds that the timing certainly is good for VLJs, which, through air taxi services, eventually could provide travelers with an alternative to departing from and landing at crowded and inconvenient airline hubs. “People now are flying everywhere they go,” she says, “but they’re getting fed up with all the delays, sitting in the airport. And now you can’t even carry a bag on a plane.”
The failures of some smaller VLJ companies could be construed as evidence that this type of aircraft will not fly—figuratively, at least. But as Grady explains, once aviation industry giant Cessna introduced its plane, the Citation Mustang, the very light concept gained considerable credibility. If the market indeed takes off, Grady does not foresee additional companies joining the eight that already are invested in this new means of air travel. “It’s hard to imagine there are more companies that would get involved,” she says. “Even if the highest estimates of demand were to come true, the companies that are already building or flight-testing VLJs could meet the demand.”
Readers seeking to add to their supplies of exquisite rings, necklaces, and earrings might enjoy the services of a private jewelry consultant, says contributing editor Jill Newman, author of “Rock-Solid Advisers”. “It’s such a fun way to buy jewelry,” she says. “It makes the whole process exciting and adventurous. Anyone can go into a store, but if you’re on the inside and know someone who can give you advice and introduce you to the president of Christie’s, that’s quite a service.”Newman also selected the innovative pearl jewelry for the photo feature “Pearl Essence”. A Frank Gehry necklace, her favorite among these designs, “almost looks like a fishing net collecting these pearls from the sea,” she says. “It’s a piece of gold mesh that’s like a soft fabric with pearls placed on it. It looks more like a scarf than a necklace. There’s something very unexpected and organic about the piece. It’s very fluid.”
Senior editor Laurie Kahle sees the current spate of transparent watches—the type of timepieces she selected for “Through the Looking Glass” —as representing a major advancement for the industry, even though this style departs from traditional designs. “Watchmaking has taken a refreshing, avant-garde direction that is resonating at even the most traditional strongholds of the craft,” says Kahle. Smaller, independent boutique brands initially capitalized on this unconventional design and used it to distinguish their watches from those of their more established competitors, she says.
Kahle also believes even the most conservative collector will be lured to these new designs. “This flaunting of the mechanisms and their complexity has given these timepieces a technical, modern, and masculine character,” she says. “This will appeal to new collectors as well as seasoned veterans who want something new and different.”