The night is perfect and wanting only for the companionship of a good cigar. Our host has stocked and aged an impressive selection, and one exists to suit the taste of every guest—the experienced smoker and neophyte alike. The enjoyment afforded by a fine cigar is—for some of us—unmatched by any other experience of the evening.
NO EMBARGO ON ENJOYMENT
Variability is a common trait of some cigar brands, and truth be told, many Cuban cigars are no longer the superiors of their legally obtained brethren. But tradition endures, and for sheer strength, flavor, and making an impressive presentation, Havana’s finest are hard to beat. The host’s humidor will always contain an assortment of Cuban staples, which, however they are obtained, include this “A List” of delicious contraband.
Romeo y Julieta Churchill
This Churchill with the gold band—created for Sir Winston by R&J—is the Patek Philippe of cigars. Its rich, cedar aroma seduces even the nonsmoker. Also available in sexy aluminum tubes, ensuring safe and relatively airtight transport in the unthinkable event that an event’s invitation says BYOC. Enjoy with Johnnie Walker Blue Label for a memorable smoke.
91¼4 inches of pure pleasure, and appropriate for any formal celebration. Six master rollers produce a mere 5,500 annually. Make sure you have a large snifter of Cognac that falls readily in hand and plenty of time. Black tie optional.
Montecristo No. 2
This Pyramid is made from “. . . a selection and blend of the highest grade tobaccos procurable in the Island of Cuba.” So says the quotation proffered by Menendez y Garcia on the lining of the well-known butter-yellow box, and we can’t disagree. Hence the reason this classic Cuban Pyramid is the best-selling Havana worldwide.
Cohiba Siglo IV
The instantly recognized—and most counterfeited—Cuban brand with the distinctive checkered band. This Toro offers intense flavors and finish appealing to serious smokers; we have seen the non-adept turn green with more than just envy. An extremely satisfying smoke—more so with a great rum.
Bolivar Petit Belicoso
When you find a dark, oily boxload of the oft-variable Bolivar, you have found one of the most satisfying cigars on the planet. This Pyramid is potent and not for shrinking violets. Enjoy one with a weighty California cabernet.
Partagas Serie D. No. 4
Our favorite Cuban Robusto is the ideal cigar when you must limit your time but not your smoking pleasure. Full-bodied flavor with a nice kick. The fat 50-ring gauge and distinctive red label are appreciated worldwide.
Punch Double Corona
This big, attractive Cuban will be a popular choice when you invite seasoned smokers to select from your cabinet. The oily wrapper of the box-pressed Punch makes this a slow burning cigar for guests in no rush to go home.
Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona
The other Double Corona for smokers with time on their hands. When is tee time?
Davidoff Dom Perignon
Although production of this Churchill ceased in 1987 with the passing of Zino Davidoff, it is remembered by connoisseurs as the finest Cuban ever made. They are occasionally available through dealers and at auction to those who wish to sample the rare delights of this legendary $300 cigar.
AVAILABLE OVER THE COUNTER, WITHOUT A PRESCRIPTION
It’s no secret that the best cigars are not solely the product of that totalitarian sliver off the Florida coast. As with French wines, serious smokers have acknowledged the quality of the free-world upstarts from the Americas. If Cuban cigars disappeared overnight, today’s smokers would not be left empty-handed
as our forebears were after the Bay of Pigs.
Fuente Opus X
Rare as hen’s teeth but a much better smoke, the Pyramid is our favorite Opus X. The band is jewelry in its own right, and will likely end up on the fingers of less abstemious guests.
La Aurora Preferidos No. 1
Its design is a miracle of the rolling art. The uninitiated will marvel at the curious Perfecto shape—a fat 58 ring gauge tapering to pointed ends—while the lucky guest will marvel at the smooth flavor and satisfying hand feel of this substantial smoke.
The Geneva-based patriarchs of perfection can always be counted on to produce the most beautifully rolled cigars in the world. Consistent from box to box, the cigar’s flavor is rich and buttery and delicate enough for occasional smokers. Try the Anniversario or Special R with a nice Sauterne.
Partagas “AA” 150 Signature Series
The 150 Signature Series with its 18-year-old Cameroon wrapper achieved cult status immediately after being introduced in 1995, and though no longer manufactured, they are sometimes available from dealers. Find the “AA,” and guests will always recall the largesse of their generous host, who has naturally poured a vintage port to accompany the cigars.
The virgin sun-grown series offers a smooth, medium-bodied smoke in eight sizes. The Belicoco No. 1 and tiny Enchantment are our favorites when time is of the essence. Blended by Carlos Fuente Jr. for Ashton, and an excellent alternative to Cuban fare.
Cohiba XV (Extra Vigoroso)
Similar in name only to its Havana predecessor, this dark, higher-strength version of the regular Dominican-made Cohiba is sweetly intense but not overpowering. Enjoy the 60-ring gauge XV 660, a Pyramid, with a great bourbon or rum.
P.G. Reserva Exclusiva
This red-boxed boutique cigar from Paul Garmirian uses eight-to-10-year-old tobaccos and is full-flavored, rich, and rare. The oily Belicoso Maduro oozes with spice and is a must-try with sherry or an ancient Madeira.
Padron 1964 Anniversary Series
We love these Maduros: rich, medium- bodied smokes that can be had in 10 sizes. Smooth enough for the occasional cigar lover but appreciated by the connoisseur. The firm, box-pressed shape feels great between the fingers and the Torpedo is our favorite.
This is the best-selling non-Cuban cigar for a reason: Its puro leaf blend appeals to the experienced palate with spicy, Cuban-like flavors. The Figurado is outstanding.
Even the most exquisite cigar is improved through the use of three articles the dedicated smoker is equipped with.
S.T. Dupont Cigar Lighter
This lighter produces that distinctive “ching”—audible from across a noisy room—sounding a note that its owner is serious about cigars. Its beauty is unmatched with designs in silver, gold, and countless cloisonné inlays. A (hopefully) lifelong acquisition. The cigar model is designed with a double burner to provide a wider flame.
Zino Cigar Cutter
Its Sheffield Steel blades are self-sharpening and execute a flawless cut. The compact shape travels nicely. There are far more expensive cutters available, but alas, none better. A sensible design where the primacy of function triumphs.
As automobiles seem to run better when they are freshly waxed, so a cigar seems to smoke better when the perfect ash is finally cast off into a worthy receptacle. Whether it’s antique or modern, glass, ceramic, or precious metal, a beautiful ashtray should be the final resting place of the remains.
Smoking notes compiled at the hospitable premises of Joey’s Cigars, Encino, Calif.