It wasn’t until this year’s RTDA that the avuncular Mr. Hacker and I got the chance to bond a little, and that’s how I also learned of the 10th Anniversary Edition of his now world-famous cigar primer, The Ultimate Cigar Book (Third Edition). When I first started writing about cigars “professionally” (if you will), the Ultimate Cigar Book (First Edition) was an invaluable resource for me; I referred to it constantly and still do. I probably learned more about cigars from The Ultimate Cigar Book alone than any other single source – magazine and website articles notwithstanding.
So, with the holidays now on our doorstep, I thought I’d suggest The Ultimate Cigar Book (Third Edition) as an ideal gift for yourself, or anyone who’s avid about the world of premium cigars.
So much has happened in the cigar industry since its original 1993 publication, the current Ultimate Cigar Book edition is now 100 pages longer, not including the convenient “Cigar Notes” section at the back of the book for those who want to keep an observation log of their cigars.
The first two chapters alone, “In The Beginning” and “Cigar Making: From Seedling to Cedar” are worth the price of the book alone. Mr. Hacker starts with the history of tobacco going back even before Columbus, and takes us right up through today, including a wealth of information on Cuban cigars in particular. Here’s one nugget that I relished in Chapter 2, which goes into great detail of how tobacco is grown, cured and made into premium cigars:
“It is a little known fact that in the years just prior to the embargo, most of the Havana leaf that was being exported to the U.S. for stateside cigar making was taken only from the Remedios area [in central Cuba]. Cuba kept the high-grade Vuelta Abajo tobaccos [on the western coast] for their own brands. That helped establish the mystique of the Havana-made cigar, and is the reason why the taste of a good handmade long-leaf Havana has never been duplicated outside of Cuba.”
In Chapter 3, “Finding the Perfect Cigar,” Mr. Hacker takes you through the nitty-gritty of the cigars themselves. Sizes, shapes, ring gauges, how to identify the various wrappers used, the varieties of tobaccos used, how they look and taste, and vintage cigars; all leading up to helping you find the cigars that will give you the most pleasure.
Other important topics covered in the book include how to properly clip and light cigars, how to identify a genuine box of Havanas, the proper way to store your cigars, how to tell if your cigar is sick, and much more, all fully-illustrated throughout the book with hundreds of photos. One chapter is dedicated entirely to cigar accessories, another on what wines and liquors go best with a cigar. The final chapters cover such subjects as cigar celebrities including the likes of David Letterman, actors Joe Montagna and Jim Belushi, film directors John Millius and Sydney Pollack, and many others. There’s also a listing of the major premium cigar brands (including those from Cuba) that includes historical notes and tasting descriptions of each brand. My one criticism here is that several of the brands are no longer available. I hope that the next edition will be more up-to-date, but in fairness to the author, in 2003 many of these “dead” brands were still in existence.
The Ultimate Cigar Book concludes with a brief glossary of “CigarSpeak,” or terms with which cigar aficionados should familiarize themselves such as “binder,” “cap,” “figurado,” “head,” “foot,” “puros,” “sandwich filler,” and many more.
The Ultimate Cigar Book is fun, captivating, an easy read, and a must-have for every cigar smoker’s library. After you put it down, you’ll never look at or smoke a cigar the same way again, and you’ll be that much the better cigar smoker for it. œ
More information on Richard Carleton Hacker and his prowess on cigars, as well as pipes and spirits, you can visit his website at www.RichardCarletonHacker.com.
If you’d like to order The Ultimate Cigar Book (10th Anniversary Third Edition), you can order it from this link at Amazon.com, as well as sellers of fine books at a store near you.