Thursday, April 13, 2006

Big Mike

Mark Twain on Cigars

My friends for some years now have remarked that I am an inveterate consumer of tobacco. That is true, but my habits with regard to tobacco have changed. I have no doubt that you will say, when I have explained to you what my present purpose is, that my taste has deteriorated, but I do not so regard it. Let me tell you briefly the history of my personal relation to tobacco. It began, I think, when I was a lad, and took the form of a quid, which I became expert in tucking under my tongue. Afterward I learned the delights of the pipe, and I suppose there was no other youngster of my age who could more deftly cut plug tobacco so as to make it available for pipe-smoking. Well, time ran on, and there came a time when I was able to gratify one of my youthful ambitions -- I could buy the choicest Havana cigars without seriously interfering with my income. I smoked a good many, changing off from the Havana cigars to the pipe in the course of a day's smoking. At last it occurred to me that something was lacking in the Havana cigar. It did not quite fulfill my youthful anticipations. I experimented. I bought what was called a seed-leaf cigar with a Connecticut wrapper. After a while I became satiated of these, and I searched for something else. The Pittsburgh stogy was recommended to me. It certainly had the merit of cheapness, if that be a merit in tobacco, and I experimented with the stogy. Then, once more, I changed off, so that I might acquire the subtler flavor of the Wheeling toby. Now that palled, and I looked around New York in the hope of finding cigars which would seem to most people vile, but which, I am sure, would be ambrosial to me. I couldn't find any. They put into my hands some of those little things that cost ten cents a box, but they are a delusion. I said to a friend, "I want to know if you can direct me to an honest tobacco merchant who will tell me what is the worst cigar in the New York market, excepting those made for Chinese consumption -- I want real tobacco. If you will do this and I find the man is as good as his word, I will guarantee him a regular market for a fair amount of his cigars." We found a tobacco dealer who would tell the truth -- who, if a cigar was bad, would boldly say so. He produced what he called the very worst cigars he had ever had in his shop. He let me experiment with one then and there. The test was satisfactory. This was, after all, the real thing. I negotiated for a box of them and took them away with me, so that I might be sure of having them handy when I want them. I discovered that the "worst cigars," so called, are the best for me, after all.

excerpted from Mark Twain's Speeches, 1910

- Big Mike

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

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Cigars and Alcohol

The traditional match for a good cigar is often a strong spirit - perhaps the subtle sweetness of an aged rum or brandy, or the heady, smoky nose of a fine single malt Scotch or whiskey are faithful and true cigar companions. But what about the often overlooked cigar pairing - beer?

Pairing any strongly flavored comestibles isn't easy, and there are of course both good and bad choices to be made. You probably wouldn't enjoy a cigar with a crisp Hefeweizen any more than you might drink a tannic red Chianti wine with raw oysters in lemon vinaigrette. Give me that refreshing pale Hefeweizen with those oysters and that's a good match. And if you want to drink that young Chianti, fire up the pasta pot and load on the Bolognese sauce. A hearty Italian dinner would also be a fine time to pop a rich deep stout with the strength to carry its own weight under the load of acidic tomatoes and savory, spicy chunks of sausage.

The average non-beer drinker may not know the difference between, say, a lambic, a wheat beer and a smoked porter, and wouldn't have a clue what foods or what other beers they would and wouldn't pair well with. "Beer's beer, and it all tastes like Budweiser, right?" Similarly, the average non-cigar smoker can't make heads or tells of taste differences between, say, an earthy Mexican puro, a smoky-sweet Honduran maduro or the rich and complex savor of a classic Cuban. Of course, there are distinct differences, but it can take time to educate your palate enough to be able to taste and appreciate the flavors and aromas. They do exist, and they are appreciated by cigar lovers in much the same way that the different flavor profiles of various beers can be enjoyed. Pairing them together is a feat that takes some thinking about which flavors and textures will best complement the others. Of course, to some a cigar will simply taste like a burning leaf. And to others, a beer will always taste like a Bud, and nothing more. But there is a lot more to beer, and a lot more to cigars, as fans of either will happily tell you.

The immediate effect of a cigar on your taste buds is potent. If you plan to eat or drink during or immediately after smoking a cigar, your choices need to be made carefully to avoid a mismatch. The smoky, cedary bouquet of a strong cigar can linger on your palate for hours, and it will continue to contribute to whatever you are eating or drinking. Paired properly with the right food and beverage, say a dark barley wine or a peaty single malt scotch, this match may be made in heaven. The peaty-rich nose and the finish of perfectly ripe apricots offered by a barley wine, in combination with a cigar's potent contribution of a creamy smooth taste with hints of cedar and spice, can be a wonderful combination.

The bottom line is that you can match cigars with beer, wine, food or spirits - all you have to know is what combinations you do and don't enjoy, which is simply knowledge gained through experimentation. It goes without saying that your own taste buds are the final arbiter of what is right on your table.

- Big Mike

Monday, April 10, 2006

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Cigar Boxes

It is said that the real tobacco taste comes with a cigar that lasts its aroma longer. Because of their special preparation, cigars are very fragile and needs a special storage to give you the lifetime smoking taste. Therefore, a variety of cigar boxes are available to keep the cigar fresh and classy.

Cigar BoxesGenerally made of wood, a cigar box can come in many shapes and sizes. It can also hold cigars from five or six items to a complete pack containing hundreds of cigars. Cigar boxes serve both the purpose of protecting and preserving the contents. It also displays cigars in an attractive & elegant setting. For giving gifts, cigar boxes make an excellent choice.

Types of Cigar BoxesNowadays, cigar boxes are made very similar to cigar humidors that feature climate-controlling system. The climate controlling system optimizes the temperature and humidity to protect the cigar’s original fragrance and look. For a better look, cigar boxes are hand-crafted to suit the exact d├ęcor of the buyer’s home.

Antique cigar boxes are also in vogue these days. They are also available in a large variety. In fact, cigars Aficionado are spending in hefty prices for containers that date back to the turn of the century or even earlier.

Online Cigar BoxesOnline cigar stores are the perfect place to buy some attractive cigar boxes. In a discounted price, these cigar stores offer boxes at reduced rates, and they can often be shipped to the customer overnight. Besides, cigar boxes, these stores also provide you other cigar accessories to compliment a cigar box in many brands and styles of lighters, cutters and ashtrays.

Cigar Boxes as GiftsFor gifting purpose, cigar boxes are a perfect choice. With their great looks and design, they can surely earn praises from cigar aficionado. So, just click the mouse and choose your kind of cigar box. Select the one that matches your persona and style well.

- Big Mike