Review by Mick Parson, TSP Cigar Editor
Sometimes the descriptions people write in describing
cigars are helpful, sometimes not. I've been holding onto a Carmine Pietro 1931 “Buddy Boy” (5 1/2 x 54) until
I had time to sit down for a proper smoke and a proper review. The advertising description of this stick says that it begins
with “complex coffee and cocoa” flavors and later incorporates a sense of leather, almonds, and various spices.
I was looking forward to a robust, friendly and flavorful cigar.
The stick lit reasonably well, and the ash is a
respectable packed gray. But the flavor, far from coffee, cocoa and almonds, is more like dry wood and charcoal. It feels
machine wrapped, which made drawing in the smoke a bit more difficult than it needed to be. I didn't want to give up on it,
though, so I kept on, waiting for these other sensations and flavors to wash over me. And I waited. And waited. The smoke
itself lacks the aromatic quality that I like and really just ... eh ... well ... stinks. Think dry dirty ass. Think the smell
of burning cat hair.
The problem with this cigar may have been in the
packaging or in the fact that I waited too long to smoke it; but I've done the same with similarly priced and sized cigars
and was still able to glean some enjoyment out of it. I paid $6.79 for this particular stick and I'm starting to come to grips
with the fact that I was cheated. If the advertising description of this stick is at all useful, it speaks to high intention
but bad follow-through. And with the price of cigars going up, you're better off spending the money on something that will
return on the investment. Carmine Pietro 1931 is not one of those. You're better off smoking Basics.
Review: Padron Delicias (46 x 4 7/8)
by TSP Cigar Editor Mick Parsons
I tend to like flavorful cigars – NO, I'm not talking about the fruity flavored
shit neophytes buy at the corner gas station – I'm talking about cigars that are robust enough that when it's gone,
I immediately mourn if I don't have another for later. Robust cigars, strong coffee, a respectable (albeit affordable) scotch,
and a well-crafted beer are cornerstones to what I consider to be a barely lingering sense of humanity ... at least for me.
I can live on pinto beans and rice. I can live on bologna sandwiches.
But a good cigar that doesn't make me regret the money it costs settles something
deep in my soul.
The Padron Delicias is a respectably robust cigar that stands up well. Since I
have to drive 40 minutes to find anything resembling a humidor, and since at least half of what that humidor stocks is either
trendy crap or cheap sticks that dry out before I get them home, when I'm able to find a cigar that makes both the trip and
the money worth expending I get a little giddy.
That's right. I said giddy.
The natural wrapper is tight, the leaves are packed near perfectly. The burn is
slow and steady, and the ash is a soft gray color that reminds me of warm wool. I don't often have the time to sit and commit
to more than panetela, and it was the same when I smoked the Padron; I wasn't able to finish smoking it in one sitting. But
when I returned to it the following day, it was still robust, not too dry, and there was no problems in the lighting or the
smoking. I was a little sad to finish it.
But then again, most of the truly good things in life have a short shelf life
… which is why it's crucial to enjoy them while you can. I plan on buying more of these so I can relive the moment in
By Mick Parsons, Cigar Lounge Editor, The Smoking Poet
“If to live in this style is to be eccentric, it must be confessed that
there is something good in eccentricity.” ~Jules Verne
My wife loves me but hates my cigars. That's the word she uses, too. Hate. I could
go into all the reasons why, but the important ones are private and not mine to talk about. The rest are undoubtedly familiar
to my cigar smoking sisters and brothers. The smell. The smell. The smell. And while I avoid smoking around her (I still try
and sneak a smoke in the house when she's not home), I still end up “stinking like [my] damned cigars.” To her
credit, she has neither booted me from the house nor found my stash of cigars and made them “disappear” like she
keeps trying to do to with one of my favorite t-shirts. (It's a green Cape Cod t-shirt that I bought in a consignment shop around
ten years ago. I have, in fact, never been to Cape Cod.)
If the United States has gone overboard in it's anti-smoking fervor, then cigar
and pipe smokers are truly one of the more henpecked minorities. State bans on smoking and incremental increases in the tax
on tobacco have made even the entirely-too-expensive Stop Smoking Aids seem cheap. The other day while I was driving one town
over to interview someone for a news article, I listened to a commercial for one such device: the one that's cool amongst
the nicotine-deniers these days, the fake ciggy that tastes like a real cigarette and even smokes – but it doesn't have
the nasty tar. Or the process-added chemicals that actually make cigarettes more harmful. One of the selling points –
the most important one because the announcer mentioned it last – was that quitting smoking would stop you from feeling
like an outcast. Really.
Apparently, we're all victims of peer pressure on some after school special. You
know the kind I'm talking about. Where all rapists are clearly rapists (“stranger danger”) and not your next door
neighbor and all the drug dealers are black – or, at the very least miscegenated. (I heard this word whispered by a
convenient store clerk in Pecos, Texas. Although it's a horrible word, that someone thought to conjugate it tickled me, just
The thing is, if I wanted to smoke something that tasted either like three day
old ass or rolled up notebook paper, I could shred some dirty boxers or buy a pack of wide-lined paper for cheaper for far
less money get the same level of enjoyment.
Believe me: I am not one of those who will soft sell on the issue of nicotine.
Nicotine and caffeine have fueled more of my all-night typing sessions than scotch, bourbon, and all the various recreational
pharmaceuticals I ingested in my early to mid-20's put together. (For the record: drugs aren't all that bad. But the fact
is, most people on drugs are annoying. And no, this isn't one of those Charlie Sheen “Some people can't handle their
crack socially” spiels. That most people can't handle their drugs is simply a fact. So is the fact that people tend
to take drugs for all the wrong reasons. People medicate either 1.) under a doctor's care or 2) because they think it's fun
to wake up in a piss-smelling gutter, with no memory of the night before, wearing nothing but pair of ill-fitting ballet shoes.
And NO, this didn't happen to me. But I did have to pick him up from NOPP.)
I like nicotine. If they could make nicotine gum a bit less disgusting and come
down on the price, I'd chew it when I'm at the bar. But the gum is disgusting ... and NO, the mint flavor isn't any less disgusting,
thanks very much ... and it's overpriced, even for a Cessation Aid. I love it when the commercials called the snake oil they're
selling “cessation aids.” It sounds like some unknown Civil War STD. Nicotine sounds like the name of a band I
All the people I've seen who are trying to quit smoking are cigarette smokers.
And who can blame them? Ciggys taste like crap and cost too much. If you want to spend money for Dunhills, go right ahead
... but in my opinion cigarettes became unsmokable after Camel stopped making filterless. And if you really think that filter
does anything about tar, consider: has the number of lung cancer cases gone up, gone down, or stayed about the same, percentage
wise, since filters were introduced?
The nice thing about a cigar is that when it's a good cigar, you don't need to
smoke 20 of them a day. You have to make the time, give yourself something to look forward to. You almost have to plan for
it, the way non-smokers plan their lives around “The Biggest Loser.” (And don't even get me started on what's
wrong with this show. This is a point that my wife and I also have different opinions on. “The Biggest Loser”
is on TV so that skinny people can laugh at fat people. Period. And the fact that the point is for the “contestants”
to lose weight only augments the laughter of skinny bitches who probably can't do a sit-up, either.) A good cigar is a ritual,
and one that has far more use to it than most rituals we hold onto.
I can't make my wife understand this aspect of it. I just try not to smoke around her.
She really doesn't give me a hard time about it unless she can smell it, and I try to make sure she doesn't have to smell
too much of it. But being (trying to, at least) considerate of my wife's feelings is a different thing altogether than being
banned from bars, and from having to pay more for a good stick when there are more health-related problems in this country
that have to do with candy bars and the processed food we buy at the grocery store. I cook my meals, asshole, and I pick up
tips from cooking shows. Because the quality of the things I take into myself matters, whether it's food, booze, or cigars.
Because too much of anything is bad, but too little of the good and proper things in life is a tragedy. And while I (try to)
pay attention to my wife's feelings on the matter of my cigar smoke, don't assume that has anything to do with you.
by Jack Dollar
Just got done smoking a belated birthday cigar.
An Oliva Serie G Cameroon Robusto. A mild/medium cigar that supposedly has a ton of subtleties that are apparently just beyond
my palate. Still, it remains a favorite of mine, so perhaps I sell my taste buds short.
year I skipped this tradition of mine. One I'd been doing for years. I smoke cigars a good bit, but it's always special on
my birthday. A good time to reflect. Last year we found out on February 24th, a day before my birthday, that Hank had Cerebral
Palsy. We of course had our suspicions but that was the day of the official diagnosis. It
wasn't a year I felt I could reflect on. Or one I felt I wanted to reflect on.
We were, and still are, mid-crisis. Our home smacks of "triage unit". With a palpable sense of emergency and dread and medical
supplies up the wazoo, to boot.
But today I made time. Yesterday Hank stopped
screaming inconsolably after 36 hours straight and for the most of two weeks. This
was probably my most triumphant birthday stick ever. It was also my shortest because of my lack of cigar time. I got green
pretty quickly. But triumphant because Bec and I made it through another tough spot. Through the loss of a child and a best
friend. Through the estrangement of family and through restraining orders. Through a severely handicapped child and a precocious
infant. It's been a hell of a two year span.
I think the toughest of all has been learning
to accept help. That and to stay and fight for a relationship. I have long been a lone wolf with plenty of quit in me. I've
always liked my space and looked for a new chick at the first sign of trouble with my old one. I suppose it's called settling down.
There have been friends made in these two years
that I truly cherish. Both of the "cyber" and "real" variety. They've been a great source of support for me and I'm fairly
certain that they know who they are.
Maintaining my relationship with Bec is perhaps
the hardest things I've ever done for a great many reasons. I suppose buried within that fact is another one. That it's also my favorite. Even a restraining order couldn't keep
me away from her. (Once it was lawfully and legally dropped, that is.) Even my rekindled love affair with seedy motels couldn't
keep me from our little red house.
I was 33 I met and fell in love with Bec. I moved 3,000 miles to be with her. My world shifted in the list of ways I noted
before and more. All Christ had to do on his 33rd was die. I've got him beat by three years, three kids and three thousand
miles. But still I've learned to draw strength from him.
Well, my head's clearing and a warm, leathery, earthy
taste is still in my mouth. The Oliva was big, smelly, sweet and mild. Much like myself. The kids are asleep. The television
isn't holding Bec's attention like it was when I started writing this. Let's see if an old dog can get lucky, shall we?
And now I taste a buttery, cedar note. Good smoke.
Some people call him a space cowboy. Some call
him the gangster of love. All those people are wrong, however, as his name is Jack Dollar. Actually, that's not right either.
It's more a flimsy alias. He is a dinosaur. A remnant of America's racist and misogynistic past. He enjoys Bourbon, cigars,
baseball, and barefoot women—but only in the kitchen and preferably pregnant. Currently, he lives in the Pacific Northwest
in a little red house with a wife, five children, two cats and one hamster he can only assume is still alive in his daughter's
room. He is bigger than a breadbox and wears old man mall walking shoes. He is also in full agreement that third person bios
are just plain better.
The Cigar Basement
by Matt Perkins
Only one case of them
rested in El Sótano del Cigarro, in the back, by the strange booth in which an Al Capone-like statue sat.
A group of four girls in there
as well. We figured they were there as part of some bachelorette party, and yet Will Forner was the one who seemed surprised
that so many girls would choose a tiny cigar bar as a way to burn off some Saturday afternoon energy.
One of them, a small brunette,
continuously, with some sort of pink drink in her left hand, reached over Capone’s plastered neck, kissing his cheek
while a tall blonde friend snapped flashing photos that lit the entire corner up as though a thunderstorm had been brewing
inside the bar.
Will looked at me; we hadn’t
spoken in fifteen minutes. Jason Sandal and Jackie Tweed kept their eyes glued to the game on a flat-screen TV that was incredibly
hard for me to see (I had taken my contacts out, fearing they would become stiff and dry from the smoke, yet I did not have
my glasses on me).
The Hemingway was longer in
length than I expected it to be, but it burned quickly, making me wonder how such a cigar would bode outside on a cold winter
night, when I would normally succumb to the freezing temperatures of New England and pinch the tip of whatever I’d be
smoking in a large stack of snow atop a porch railing.
But the Hemingway, as I’ve
said, burned rather quickly, for good or ill. The wrapping, a much lighter brown than I was used to, did not flair and flutter
outward as the ember neared my teeth. The Churchill in Will’s hand was almost mocking; after nearly forty minutes of
puffing and blowing, the cigar did not seem to diminish.
“What?” asked Jason,
who did not look away from the TV. Jackie, meanwhile, had now focused his vision on the small brunette’s corner affair
with Mr. Capone.
“The cigar, man, this
thing is awful.”
“How can you say that?”
Jason asked, now looking at Will. “I had that last Saturday and it was great! We were here all night!”
“Right, you ass, but the
thing is I have to head out in a half hour.”
“Where are you going?”
“Picking my mother up
over at the station. She’s down from New Hampshire for the weekend.”
Jason eyed him. “Well
fine, then, give it to me and I’ll either hold it until you get back or I’ll finish it. This Cubana is starting
to burn out on me anyway. The thing just won’t stay lit. Waste of a twenty if you ask me. Webb, how’s the Hemingway?”
“Half way through, looks
like,” I said. “Smooth, but burns too fast.”
Jason nodded and sipped on an
aluminum bottle of beer the waitress had dropped on the table in front of him. I looked back at the girls, realizing how young
they probably were, and then to Jason, who was now placing his full attention on them.
El Sótano did not seem, to me
at least, like the top choice hot-spot for such a group of young ladies on a Saturday afternoon in Boston. The place evoked
strange memories I’d never had before of some kind of speakeasy, some old-style hideout where back-end business was
discussed, and it amazed me to think of how it was deemed “professional” at one point in time to sip on straight
scotch (as Will and I had been doing), glass after glass, and allowing the smoke of long cigars to infiltrate the nostrils
of the men involved in said business.
After two glasses I switched
to beer, having felt the effects immediately hit me behind the eyes; I became frustrated that I hadn’t eaten anything
that day, save a morning apple.
It couldn’t have been
later than three, maybe three-thirty in the afternoon. It was hard to tell, there were no windows in El Sótano, just strange
glowing bar lamps that hung from overhead, and a few lanterns.
I’d been staring at the
lamps, their emitting glow, when Jackie stood up and walked over to the girls and sat next to the brunette, who had been mid-pose
with Capone. I hadn't even thought about Jackie, and was more concerned that Jason would be the one to make a scene.
The blonde looked at him as
though he were evil, and the other two – a small, Italian-looking girl and another who wore her hair in dreadlocks and
dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt – didn’t even acknowledge that Jackie had arrived in their corner.
The brunette, who clearly had
consumed too many of her pink drinks, was now sipping away at her own aluminum bottle, spilling droplets out as she waved
her hand about, eventually wrapping an arm around Jackie’s neck.
“What the hell is he doing?”
Will asked. I looked back over and he was now rubbing the leg of the brunette, to which I immediately began to sweat. He was
going to cause a scene. I knew it.
I turned away, and decided I
need to use the bathroom. When I returned, Jackie was back at our table. I stared at him.
"Well, that was interesting,"
"What happened?" I asked.
"That girl, the one with the
flannel, she's the owner's daughter. Those are her cousins she's with. That other one, the brunette, it's her birthday."
"Did you get her number?" Will
"Any of them."
"No, I felt bad. I was trying
to hit on her . . . you know me. But the one in the flannel leaned over and told me to get the hell way before she had us
Jason's eyes widened and he
punched Jackie on the arm.
"Stay the hell in your seat,
ass!" he said. “I don’t want to get kicked out of this place. This is our Saturday hangout, this is our place,
and I don’t want to lose that because you couldn’t sit still.”
It was then that a roaring laughter
began to catch my ear. I had no idea what the source of it was, I just knew it was near the entrance of the bar. I seemed
to be the only one of us to look over, and there stood a man of average height, wearing what looked like an old newsboy hat.
His sideburns caught my attention.
They were bushy, but not that long. They looked . . . familiar. My vision was becoming more impaired as the Hemingway burned
down and the smoke continued to create foggy clouds, but I enjoyed it; I felt warm. The smoke was so mellow, and tasty. There
was no burning on my tongue and my mouth did not feel pain, as would happen with cheap dollar cigars from the nearby convenience
store. I enjoyed the sight of the smoke as I blew it out, letting it seep through my teeth, though careful not to inhale.
Through the smoke I tried to
see the man who was laughing. He was standing at the bar now, talking with one of the bartenders, who'd opened a small green
box of cigars that had been hidden; no such box inhabited the case in the back of the room. This guy, I thought, must be the
But it couldn't have been the
owner. The girl in the flannel, I noticed, made no recognition of this man. Or, rather, she did not run up to him and hug
him the way I expected she would. Then again, she might have been trying to remain out of sight. No need to draw attention
to herself in front of her friends, right?
The man started to laugh again,
lighting what looked like his own Hemingway, and then sipping on a glass of scotch poured from a dark green bottle that was
not seen anywhere on the shelf. It must have also come from behind the counter somewhere.
"What the hell?" I said aloud.
"What?" Jason asked. "Webb,
you're killing that one, let it rest a bit, otherwise you'll be sucking on ash. The rest of us aren't even halfway through!"
I didn't bother to bring it
up; I figured the others wouldn't care so much about a strange new man, one we hadn’t seen in six months of visits to
El Sótano, who looked more and more familiar as I peered at him through the smoke. But I could not see his face. The brim
of his cap remained tilted over his eyes. The whole scene of it - the image of him standing there, cigar in mouth, glass in
hand, tilted hat. Who was this man?
Then it hit me. Capone. This
guy looked tremendously like the statue in the back of the room. That was it. I began to smile, almost laugh, but I didn't
want the others to see. That statue must have been a model of this guy; this must be the owner.
I finished my beer and again
had to use the bathroom. On my way to the door I kept my eyes forward, trying not to laugh at the connection I'd made. I could
see the girls out of the corner of my right eye, and the new stranger out of the left.
I washed my hands and opened
to door. Heading back to my seat I saw the others sitting there, still quiet, enjoying their cigars, and then I realized the
stranger by the bar was no longer there. He had left. It was astonishing. No one could have finished a cigar of that length
so quickly, even the quick-burning Hemingway. Granted, he could have slammed down the drink, but to finish the cigar he'd
just lit in a matter of minutes, it wasn't possible. I stood there staring.
What happened next haunted me
for the rest of the day. I looked over at the girls, who were still taking pictures. I figured the man - if he was in fact
the owner - would be over there, saying hello to his daughter. But when I looked over, I felt myself become stiff, almost
paralyzed. I wouldn't say I was scared by what I saw, just confused, bewildered, and, as I've said, haunted.
The Al Capone statue was gone.
Instead, there was now a small glass case that I had not seen before. It stood by the other, taller case, the one that held
most of the cigars one could order at the bar. But it was this smaller case that shook my curiosity.
I walked toward it, ignoring
the group of girls as they laughed and sipped their respective drinks. They seemed to take no notice of me as I neared them.
Inside the case, I saw a small empty green cigar box, and next to it, a tall, dark-green bottle of liquor called "Green Horizon”.
It was undoubtedly the bottle from which the man at the bar had been drinking.
As I stared in awe, I heard
one of the girls speak to me.
"Cool, isn't it?" she asked.
I looked over at her and nodded. It was the girl with jeans and the flannel shirt; the owner’s daughter. "They were
my grandfather's. He opened this place right after prohibition ended."
"Ah, very cool indeed," I said,
looking again in the case and saw a picture of what must have been the girl's grandfather.
But as I peered harder, the
hairs on my arms began to stretch upward. The man in the picture was the one I saw at the bar, laughing. I then realized how
stupid it was to think that there was anything suspicious about that at all. Her grandfather must have come in for a quick
drink and a smoke, most likely taking the cigar with him. I felt embarrassed that I could not think logically before. The
smoke and drink were beginning to get to me.
"Actually, wasn't that guy just
in here?” I asked. “Yeah he was, I just saw him, over there, laughing. The guy seemed great, and yeah, I saw him
drink from that same type of liquor and he picked a cigar from a green box just like that! He left in a hurry, huh?”
The girls at the table had stopped
their chatter and were all staring at me. The girl whom I'd been talking to looked offended. Then she began to laugh.
"Have another drink, bud," she
said. "Grandpa's been dead for thirty years."
Matt Perkins has worked for the last
five years as a news reporter and editor for various online and print publications. He graduated from the University of New
Hampshire with a BA in English/Journalism, and lives in Boston, Mass. He is currently writing his first novel.