My quest for cigar knowledge began with my first two cigars. One was very good (a Cuban I was told), and the other very bad (also supposedly a Cuban). This led me to wonder what makes one cigar better than another. As a layperson, I always believed a Cuban cigar was the best, so then how could I have smoked a “bad Cuban?” It didn’t take long to find an abundance of internet articles about counterfeit Cuban cigars, and this really spurred my curiosity. With Cuban cigars as a starting point I was led through the world of growing, blending, rolling, and selling not only Cuban cigars and tobacco, but cigars from all over the world. Reading all this material was exhilarating, intimidating, and endlessly fascinating. I was determined to find out what made a cigar great.
It wasn’t until I smoked my first great cigar that I was able to begin finding some answers. I had been reading about Tatuaje cigars and how Pete Johnson and Don Pepin Garcia had set out to recreate a Non-Cuban (NC) cigar that captured the best elements of a great Cuban cigar (CC). I jumped at the chance to smoke a cigar that was, by all consensus, considered to be truly great. Living in Los Angeles gave me access to many high-end cigar retailers and a local cigar store full of Tatuaje vitolas. I bought three Cojonu 2003 cigars and, as I had read, let them sit a few days in my 70/70 humidor (I was doing everything by the virtual book). When the much-anticipated time came, I sat back, lit the cigar, and had an experience that was nothing short of an epiphany…now THIS is what a good cigar is supposed to taste like! The aroma and flavor was divine. The first flavor that hit me was pepper and I remember stating out loud how spicy it was. Then the complexity came through like a symphony of flavors that were almost visible. It was at that moment that I was determined to smoke every good cigar that I could get my hands on. But the question still remained, what makes one cigar better than another? Not content to rely on the opinions of others, I have since been on a quest for my own answers by gaining knowledge first hand. This was the birth of the Empirical Cigar Smoker.
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