Taste Explorations: My First Cigar
My passion for wines and spirits started around four years ago in 2013 while working in a pub called The Duke of York in Barnet, North London. This was my second full time job in a pub and I was amazed at the size of the whisky selection. I spent hours taking down different bottles and reading the back labels and smelling what was inside each one. I couldn't stand the taste of the neat spirit to start with, but I was determined to 'look cool' by drinking whisky and so I started by adding some ice and soda, just like James Bond does in the books, and in time added less and less of each until I could happily appreciate a dram of unadulterated whisky. Some of the guys working in the pub were halfway through the WSET level 2 so I was working with people who had already developed some knowledge and interest in wines and spirits. With London on my doorstep there were endless possibilities of exploring new places and trying new things which suited my curious and experimental side immensely, this awoke my passion for all things that taste great. I have now completed my level 3 WSET and I have just landed the dream job of running a wine shop for the Oxford Wine Company.
In addition to my interest in wines and spirits, I've recently made the decision to get into cigars. Having worked in a few places that sell cigars I've always been rather embarrassed when asked for advice and the only answer I could come up with is "I really don't know much about them, sorry." I'd spent some time researching the history of cigars, how to smoke cigars and which cigar would be best for a novice to begin with. And so, on my first pay day of my new job I took the plunge and purchased my first cigar. It was a Don Ramos No.2 from Honduras, described as a light smoke perfect for someone new to cigars - which sounded pretty ideal. Honduras may not be as famed for its cigar production as some of its neighbouring countries, but with soils similar to those in Cuba, the tobacco produced is helping Honduras build a tidy little reputation for producing premium cigars.
For £9.50 this is not the cheapest you can find but it's definitely not on the expensive side. I didn't manage to get hold of a proper cigar cutter, but fear not, a sharp knife and chopping board worked just as well, as does lighting the cigar on a very low heat on the hob. My wife and I shared this cigar which is another great way to start out as you can share the experience with someone as well as not being faced with a possible daunting long solo smoke. The promise of a light smoke was certainly met: from previous attempts of smoking cigars I have found them to be quite overbearing and a bit too spicy, but when a little research is done to find a good starter cigar along with taking the time to smoke it properly, a cigar can definitely be a pleasurable and enjoyable experience. Flavours of cherries were making their on to the palate amongst the woody spicy notes, the smoke was not too thick, and the draw was nice and easy. Around half way through the smoke at the 'sweet spot' there was a hint of nuttiness and so my wife Jenny suggested we have a glass of sherry alongside our smoke. The result was awesome, the cigar smoke brought out bright fruit flavours in the Oloroso and the sherry accentuated the nuttiness of the cigar. The overall smoke time was around 20 minutes which suited us newbies well: had it been much longer we may have started to get a little overpowered and as such enjoyed it less.
I have to admit I wasn't a fan of the flavour in mouth the next morning but thankfully I had read a handy hint on the internet telling me to chew on a few fennel seeds to mask the flavour, which worked a charm (as did my Bloody Mary...)
To those wanting to try cigars, I encourage you to give it a go! Just take the time to put in a little research and try not to fall into the trap of more expensive must be better because for a bigger price you'll more than likely end up with a far richer, heavier smoke that you won't necessarily enjoy as much. And remember... DON'T INHALE!