I have never really smoked. Up until very recently, the last time I smoked was one of my father’s Phillies panatella cigars over 50 years ago. I did it, because that’s just what boys did when they reached a certain age.
And I must say, it really did nothing for me – other than burn the lining of my mouth and make my tongue taste like I licked out a stale ashtray – the taste of which an entire bottle of Scope mouthwash would not ameliorate. Consequently, I remained a non-smoker for over 50 years.
That is, until I recently saw an Instagram post by my favorite blogger, freelance engager and all-around best pal, Lisa M. Barr. She was holding a Perez Carrillo cigar next to a glass of 12-year old Caol Ila single malt scotch with the simple observation, “End of a tough day, #perezcarrillocigars & #caolila12 makes everything much better.” I don't know. How can you argue with that?
© 2016 Lisa M. Barr All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
I never tried either. But Ms. Barr’s post made a believer out of me, and I knew immediately this was something I needed to check out. And who better to do it with than the owner of the lovely hand holding the stick and the author of that post?
And so after some minimal commiseration regarding our choice of venue, we elected to sample the wares of Club Macanudo (her suggestion, of course) in New York City. And a fine club it is indeed, located in Central Park East, outfitted with mahogany furnishings, soft leather chairs and sofas, and a fine menu of cigars, spirits and food.
Oh, and here’s a wonderful thing – they have a dress code. So no one gets in wearing tee shirts, athletic attire, sneakers, shorts, or the dreaded flip-flops. Not only is that attire prohibited, it is strictly prohibited. Needless to say, I started loving the place even before I walked through the front door.
Upon entering the establishment, one is immediately met with a very subtle aroma of smoke. It is however, not at all like walking into a smoky bar, as the tobacco consumed here is fine tobacco – not the cigarette variety one would find in your typical bar, where smoking is even still permitted. And the state-of-the art ventilation system does a remarkable job. There is no smoke in here – even though everyone is smoking. So you’re not going to leave here with a smoky smell in your hair or clothing.
The ambiance of the club is rich, quiet and refined. But there’s an added ‘clubby’ element in here, and similar venues like it. Modern, mainstream American culture today tends to view smokers almost as outcasts – as people who have a problem or an addiction that really should be curbed – and perhaps even shunned. The cigar aficionados at venues such as Club Macanudo of course, know better.
Most inviting interior views of the Club Macanudo at 26 East 63rd Street in Manhattan.
However, such disdain from the culturally uninformed in and of itself immediately creates a special bond among those who refuse to succumb to societal pressures and who continue to partake – even if they’ve never met one another before. And so, this place, and others like it, really is a ‘club’ in the truest sense of the word, and consequently a very refined place with which to engage in quality Social Interaction so necessary in the art of American flânerie.
The smoking ban in New York City went into effect in March 2003, followed in July by a state smoking ban that even further restricted smoking in public places. The cigar clubs and smoking rooms operating prior to 2003 have a ‘grandfathered’ exemption. But even traditional establishments such as Keens Chop House with their thousands of churchwarden pipes on the ceilings, had to go smokeless.
It is now extraordinarily difficult for new venues to open, given the plethora of agencies involved with applicable regulations along with the issuance of building permits, alcohol, tobacco and distribution licenses. So these establishments are in fact rather special, unique places.
Club Macanudo at 26 East 63rd Street is currently my favorite of these clubs. The Carnegie Club at 156 West 56th Street would be a close second, though both have very different characteristics. As for me, my preference is to do the Carnegie Club for a quiet, mellow late lunch, and default to Club Macanudo, which offers a more substantial food menu, for dinner.
The bar and lounge area at the Carnegie Club at 156 West 56th Street in Manhattan.
The cigar menus at these venues are often more varied and descriptive than wine lists at fine restaurants. Examples of such descriptions include, “Scent of clean, crisp hay with notes of nutmeg, spice and toasted almonds,” or, “Burst of full-flavored spice which settles into a medium body with subtle notes of cherry, pepper and cassis.”
I also became quite curious as to what a described ‘creamy’ texture felt like in a cigar.
Ms. Barr was more than happy to oblige my curiosity by ordering for me a Macanudo Gold Label cigar that, upon the first and subsequent draws, felt like velvet rolling around in my mouth. So that’s the sensation of a creamy cigar, eh? How could smoke even feel that way? A Phillies panatella it was not.
Having since become a novice aficionado, I still look back fondly on that cigar chosen by Lisa Barr, which nonetheless remains my most memorable smoke so far, as I continue upon a path of further exploration.
Finally, to enjoy such a smoke with a fine bourbon or a rye Manhattan cocktail, excellent cuisine, and particularly in the company of an engaging and sophisticated friend, is no doubt among the most sublime pleasures this life can offer. Ergo, my Social Interaction recommendation for the month.
By the way, in the final analysis, this reviewer's conclusion is……
Image on Left © 2016 Lisa M. Barr All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
Lisa M. Barr is an award-winning lifestyle and wedding blogger and writer, including the 2010 Bridetide.com Top Wedding Blog Winner and the Bridetide.com Top 100 Wedding Blog Winner the following year. She is also on the Board of Wish Upon a Wedding-NYC, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping couples in need.
Follow her on her Facebook page as Yours in Bridal, and on her Instagram pages @bridalease and @iamcoulturechaos. The scope of her knowledge and posts might open up a whole new world for you. I think this blog post here just might be a case in point.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
David Nogar worked in railroad operations for almost 50 years until retiring from the transportation business in early 2023.