This time last year (27th December 2020), I made my first blog post announcing a cigar challenge.
I must admit, when starting it, I never thought I would get to this point, smoking my way through the whole A-Z of cigars in the book ‘The Cigar Companion: The Connoisseur’s Guide ‘. Over one year, I smoked one cigar from 43x different cigar brands in total, plus a few additional ones. You can see that full list here with links to each blog post.
I thought I would gather and share some thoughts on the overall experience to celebrate this achievement!
1) I didn’t appreciate how dated ‘The Cigar Companion’ was. It was first published in 1997, so many of the cigar brands mentioned by Anwer Bati and the late great Simon Chase aren’t available anymore. I couldn’t work out why these particular cigar brands stopped producing cigars, whether it was just the nature of the market changing or whether the brand was not delivering quality cigars, who knows.
Here is a list of the 28x cigar brands I could not track down –
- Casa Blanca
- V Centennial
- Cuba Aliados
- Don Pepe
- Don Ramos
- Felipe Gregorio
- Habana Gold
- J R Cigars
- Jose Benito
- La Corona
- Mocha Supreme
- Paul Garmirian
- Primo Del Rey
- Royal Jamaica
- Santa Damiana
- Temple Hall
If anyone knows of the whereabouts of these cigars, do let me know!
2) Blogging about cigars is hard work. It was great during the lockdown as it gave me something to do in my spare time. But, as soon as lockdowns were lifted, it became a bit of a slog and part of a ritual I had to go through whenever I smoked one of the cigars from the A-Z, which took away from the cigar smoking experience ala the relaxation aspect to it. I did not appreciate that before jumping into the world of blogging – so I salute those cigar blogs that do. However, I wanted to get to the end of the A-Z and was committed to completing the challenge. Will I be blogging in the future? Possibly, this has become a virtual diary and cigar history. I love that I now have my own A-Z list of cigars with ratings. It’s become so handy when I want to remember what I have smoked previously.
3) I didn’t become a cigar aficionado. While that was the aim, I don’t think I would ever consider myself a cigar aficionado. I suspect you’d need to complete one of those Masters courses from Hunters and Frankau to become one. I recently did the test and only got 50% of the questions right. That is probably more than I would have achieved last year, to be fair! 🙂
4) I now know what I like and don’t like when it comes to the cigars I smoke. I surprised myself at how immediate that feeling became, which led me to become much more critical in my thinking when smoking such a vast range of cigars. I’ve also got better at picking up flavour notes, which felt impossible at first.
5) I have grown to love a full-bodied, full-strength cigar. If you have been following me on my social media, you’ll probably know those to be the Late Hour, Liga Privada No.9 and a Partagas Series E No.2.
Here is a more extensive list of cigars and ratings. All of these I have and would smoke again, these include some of the cigars I smoked away from the cigar challenge. This time last year I didn’t even know these all existed, so to have found some all time favourite cigars, makes the whole challenge something worthwhile.
|Drew Estate||Liga Privada: No9||10/10|
|Camacho||Camacho: Corojo Robusto||9/10|
|Davidoff||Davidoff: Winston Churchill The Late Hour Churchill Cigar||9/10|
|Montecristo||Montecristo 80th Aniversario||9/10|
|My Father||My Father: Le Bijou 1922 Torpedo||9/10|
|Partagas||Partagas: Series E No.2||9/10|
|Hoyo de Monterrey||Hoyo de Monterrey: Epicure No. 2||8.5/10|
|Padron||Padron: 1964 Anniversary Series Principe||8.5/10|
|Plasencia||Plasencia: Alma Fuerte Sixto II||8.5/10|
6) I have become more confident when smoking in public. I no longer try to hide away when smoking a cigar on a nice walk outside – which I admit, I used to do a lot. Is there such a thing as a self conscious cigar smoker? Well that was me, but not so much now.
7) I love a cigar bar, terrace and smoking lounge. Now, whenever I step into a walk-in humidor, I recognise so many cigar brands. Before, this stuff overwhelmed me, which has been a massive win from this challenge. For every future trip, I will now always look up where the nearest cigar venues are, so I can make a visit. I also don’t feel as awkward walking into them now.
8) Non-Cuban /New World cigars are pretty decent! I was a bit of a Cuban cigar snob, or so I thought before starting this cigar challenge. I think that’s because it was all I knew, but I found I experimented more and more with Non-Cuban /New World cigars over time. The Cigar Companion wasn’t great, as it covered a lot of Cuban cigars but not many New World ones. Luckily I got a lot of my New World recommendations from social media. I was also curious to find out what others preferences were…
My takeaway is that Cuban cigars are absolute quality, and you can almost certainly be guaranteed of a terrific smoke. The Non-Cuban / New World cigars are more interesting as they are more experimental somehow.
9) My wishlist of cigars has got bigger. There are so many cigars out there I want to try, Wikipedia states there are over 553 cigar brands out there!
10) I didn’t appreciate how big and awesome the cigar community is! Over the past year, I have had some wonderful conversations with folk from across the globe through my blog and social media. Thank you all for your advice, guidance and support.
There is a vast range of cigar folk out there, complete newbies that have been reaching out to me to ask for advice on what to smoke first, those in between, then the experts who are truly at the top of their game.
There are so many different forums that the cigar community interact in, I was blown away by all the different cigar communities out there – the discords, the reddits, the Twitter community, the YouTubers, the Instagrammers, the TikTokers, the list goes on, and that’s all just virtually. It’s also been great to be a part of the many virtual cigar sessions out there – the Sautters, the CGars Ltd, the RobertGraham events and the Light ’em Up community.
I have also had many folks ask to meet up in person for a cigar. I’ll be honest, I would love to, but I am too bleeding scared. I think it’s because I’m not sure I would be that interesting to meet in real life, and I’m not sure how extensive my cigar knowledge is when I speak instead of type. It’s probably some kind of imposter syndrome. Cigars have become such a massive passion for me, but I realise I have a lot to learn. The more I learn, the more I realise I know nothing about cigars. It’s such a strange feeling.
So what’s in store for the year ahead?
If 2021 was all about getting a better understanding of what cigars are out there, I’d love 2022 to be the year where I finally meet some of the cigar community in real life.
I want to continue smoking my new favourite cigars, whilst trying others… I have just purchased a great cigar that I am due to smoke to celebrate the New Year with and I have also just started to purchase some of the cigars from Cigar Journal’s ‘Cigar Of The Year’ 2021 that I am keen to try out. So watch this space > londoncigarsmoker.com