Mention the enjoyment of a fine hand-rolled cigar these days, and many if not most, will take a disdainful look at the person suggesting the enjoyment of something so unhealthy, smelly and unsightly. After all, the stereotype of the middle-aged, overweight, sweaty male, chomping on a stogie, will no doubt fulfill the image most non-smokers may have of your basic cigar smoker.
About 5% of American adults currently smoke cigars. 8% of those cigar smokers are male; about 2% are female – and that number is growing annually. For example, about 7.6% of all U.S. high school students smoke cigars; but 6.2% of all female high school students smoke cigars on a regular basis – more than three times as many adult females. These figures come directly from the CDC.
Take it for what it’s worth. From this point onward, this article is for those who remain open to new sensory, life experiences that have proven themselves for hundreds of years – and how to make the most of them.
What to Smoke
The selection today of quality, hand-rolled cigars is enormous. If you’re new to cigar smoking, my advice would be to try as many as you can so that you can ultimately settle down on what you truly like. And you won’t know until you come across it. Cigars come in all shapes, sizes, strengths, characteristics and flavors. Everyone’s tastes are unique – and cigars will be no exception.
My own personal favorites include:
In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with any of these. Each one has its own unique characteristics, aroma and flavors.
Any Padron, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Davidoff's The Late Hour for example, always have an easy draw, good even burn, and they put out plenty of smoke. The Partagas D5 is currently my favorite Cuban cigar. The Macanudo Gold Label is an exceptionally mild smoke with a velvety texture on the tongue and in the mouth.
The Cohiba Siglo VI isn't a bad smoke, but thanks to the recent extortionist pricing policy of Habanos S.A., the state-run tobacco company in Cuba, the Siglo VI is now going for about $130 a stick - and it is positively not worth the money. You're better off going with any of the other favorites I identified above. If you must smoke a Cuban, I would definitely recommend any Partagas Serie D.
If there is a particular cigar you think you’d like to try, but are unsure if you will like it – look-up the cigar online and read some reviews to get an idea of the flavor and aroma notes of it. But also don’t be afraid to try something completely unknown.
Pairing With Spirits and Other Beverages
For a straight spirits accompaniment, try a McCallum 12 or 18, Dalmore Cigar Malt, Knob Creek bourbon, Weller's 12-Year bourbon, Martel Blue Swift or cognac, or maybe even some 15 or 21-year Appleton Estate Jamaican rum (if you can find it), all on the rocks. Every different combination will be a rewarding experience.
Interestingly, one beverage that gets mentioned consistently as being excellent to pair with cigars is coffee - especially expresso. I have also often paired with craft soft drinks such as artisanal root beer, vanilla cream or black cherry soda, or cola – all with excellent results on a hot day. And yes, Coke works just fine - at least for me.
Pairing with Food
No Hard and Fast Rules
The main thing to keep in mind however is not to be reluctant to try as many different cigar-drink-food pairings as you can. They are as infinite and complex as wine and food pairing – and arguably more versatile. Don't forget, cigar tobacco - like wine - varies by climate, soil conditions, the aging and seasoning processes used, and the techniques used by the torcedors in a given location or country.
So give this a try. Sitting outside on a cool summer evening with a fine cigar, quality whiskey, and some cool jazz playing in the background..... it's quite hard to beat. I've had some of my most profound thoughts about life during these sessions. Cheers!
© 2023 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
This blog post is about three years late.
Almost five years ago, I did a blog post regarding jazz vocalist, Helen Carr, which can be found here. It was really only intended as a one-time post to provide some information about a little-remembered vocalist of whom very little information was known - despite the fact that she recorded with many significant jazz artists of the day, and still has two albums in print. That post prompted contact from Helen Carr’s niece, who lives in Washington state. I won’t mention her name here out of respect for her privacy.
During the course of our communications, she very graciously provided me with additional information and assistance regarding her aunt, which prompted me to do further research.
Despite some conflicting information on the Internet, Helen Carr died from complications resulting from cancer at 4:20am on Tuesday, September 20, 1960 at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, which is now part of Mount Sinai West, located two blocks west from Columbus Circle and Central Park South.
She did not die in an automobile accident as has sometimes been reported.
The mortuary handling her burial was the Joseph T. Kennedy Funeral Chapel at 941 Amsterdam Avenue, about seven blocks north of the hospital. For some reason however, arrangements were made to bury Helen Carr at Rose Hill Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey on September 24th. And that is where she is today.
It appears it was left to Helen’s son Gordon to handle all of the funeral arrangements. At the time, Gordon Carr was serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. He himself passed away in New York City in 1988 at the age of 42.
I made a trip out to Rose Hill Cemetery several years ago to see what additional information might be gleaned from the inscription on her gravestone. To this day for example, no record of Helen Carr’s birth can be found, and no one in her family today knows the actual date of her birth. I thought this information might be found on her gravestone.
However, when I got to her plot, I found that there is no gravestone. Helen Carr is buried in an unmarked grave.
So at this point in her life, it appeared that Helen and her son had each other - but it seems that was pretty much it. Consequently, lack of funds for a more elaborate burial may very well have been an issue. Nonetheless in surveying the situation out at the cemetery, I just knew we couldn’t let it stay this way.
I can imagine few things sadder than struggling and scraping to achieve the dreams and ambitions of your youth, only to die at the very young age of 37 - probably alone - and to be buried in a place where there’s nothing to mark your resting place. Surely Helen Carr deserved better than that.
So, I informed Helen’s niece of what I found, and we worked together to do the right thing. Without her support and approval as Helen’s closest living relative, we would never be where we are today.
© 2023 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
David Nogar worked in railroad operations for almost 50 years until retiring from the transportation business in early 2023.