“If there are no cigars in Heaven, then I’m not going!” -Mark Twain
Cigars in Heaven
Cigar Czar CHETAN SETH says selecting a good cigar is like selecting a fine wine, and can be a long journey. But he’s a veteran of this road. Here is his expert advise to help the beginner along the way.IF you’re going to be a cigar smoker, directly start with a Cuban. These are top of the line. All other cigars from America, Holland, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua, pale in comparison. They are 20 per cent less in quality, taste and production. Like blended whiskies are before a single malt! And if you’re beginning with a Cuban cigar, then begin with a Habano Grand Marque.
Habano is a cigar that is manufactured in Cuba and exported by that country’s sole agency, M/s. Habanos S.A., to the rest of the world. They get their name from the port of Havana, capital of Cuba, where an unique blend of sun, soil and human skill go into the manufacture of cigars. Internationally, Cuban cigars were always known as Havanas, but now they are being identified as Habanos.
A Grand Marque is a classic Habano. There are 15 Grand Marques. Cohiba, Cuaba, H. Upmann, Montecristo, Bolivar, El Rey Del Mundo, Trinidad, Punch, Rafael Gonzalez, Vegas Robaina, Hoyo de Monterry, Ramon Alones, Romeo y Julieta, Partagas and Sancho Panza. These are distinguished by their flavour and character, which are inimitable. It isn’t easy to describe something as subjective as the flavour of a Grand Marque. The best way to educate your palate is to sample different Habanos and find a taste that suits you.
Most beginners are intimidated by the vast choice. Then they learn that each Grand Marque comes in different sizes and lengths. And that altogether, there are 250 such descriptions. So how does a beginner make his choice? The answer is by individual taste. It is true, the business of selecting cigars and wines is almost the same. Everything depends on your taste. Experiment, don’t be opposed to having various cigars until you get hooked onto one. They all taste different.
The cigar school I went to in Cuba, taught me with a picture of the tongue how absorption of smoke in the mouth gives you taste. Cuban cigars are aged minimum five years. From the time the leaves of the tobacco plant are harvested, then cured, fermented, aired and packed, aged, filled, bound and wrapped, the process takes five years. And the five years is what gives a cigar its flavour. Cigars are a wonderful, manly habit.
Read more in Uppercrust, India’s food, wine and lifestyle magazine edited by Farzana Contractor