Sunday, October 12, 2014

The day Valentino's cigar life changed forever (with apologies to Dickens and A Christmas Carol)

Once upon a time, a man named Valentino happened into Mr. J's Havana Shop in West Warwick, RI. As usual, the proprietor greeted him warmly and they chatted about the Ghosts of Cigars Past and gazed at Cigars Future, which would be ghosts soon enough--just wisps of smoke, the unique perfume all that lingers, at least for a short time.

Like a kid in a candy store, Valentino chose his cigars carefully and deliberately.  And then Mark said, "I thought of you the minute this came in. You're going to love it."

And like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol, the moment the flame touched the fundadores gordo (7.5 x 46), his life changed forever. There was love in his heart, hope in his soul, and brilliance in his brain. Oh, I'm just kidding. That stuff has always been there. But smoking the nearly-perfect Joel Sherman 75th Anniversary from the Nat Sherman company intensified everything, making his world a little brighter, a little better.

The beginning of a new beginning.

Or so rumour has it, for I did not partake of this Most Excellent Adventure.

When we met up at the end of the day, he sang the praises of this Dominican filler and binder, with the light Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, happily showing me the other two he'd purchased--and would probably never smoke. After all, this limited edition (2,500 boxes, ten in a box) would surely sell out quickly, so these would be saved for very, very, very special occasions.*

We've always** been fans of the Nat Sherman company; they exude class and maintain an amazing level of consistency in all aspects of the business. My introduction to all things Nat Sherman came in the form of a Mr. J's Havana cigar dinner, at which the amazing Michael Herklots introduced us to the fine details of blending and creating a cigar, as well as giving us a clear overview of the cigar industry. Oh, and provided us with delicious cigars, of course.

If we travel with the Ghost of Cigars Past, we'd see me, on that day, realizing a cigar really is more than a cigar--it's a community, a way of life, a way to connect with like-minded strangers, an industry composed of small and large businesses that care about their customers, an industry where you can share a drink and a laugh with those business owners.

Fast forward a bit and in July, I started to get excited about the Joel Sherman when the company released the info on the 75th Anniversary during ICPCA. I even told you all about it here!

Because he loved this so much, we took a trip back to West Warwick and purchased a box. That meant I would get to enjoy the cigar too.  And enjoy it I did. Valentino had earlier proclaimed it in his top three of all time. My turn had come (by way of second-hand-smoke) and I'd decide whether or not this was all hyperbole.***

It was not hyperbole. In fact, whatever the highest level of anti-hyperbole would be called, it was that.  He had earlier described it as the most amazing flavors, which didn't blend together like a rock band, creating one unified sound, but more individual tastes playing nicely together, side by side, some coming up for a brief solo and then receding, like an orchestra.

The "crest on the front of the box...was inspired
by a bass drum Sherman played when he was younger." [source]

According to HalfWheel, "The first third starts out with a great base of creamy peanuts, along with nice flavors of cedar, leather, white chocolate, earth and white pepper on the retrohale. A slight sweetness comes and goes, while there is a very distinct lemon peel note that starts about halfway through the first third and continues to grow stronger as the cigar burns."

I definitely noticed a creaminess throughout, but keeping track of each delicious smell and taste seemed almost impossible on this first go-round, especially since we sat on the porch and the wind stole away with the delicious flavors meant for me.****

 About the second third, Brooks Whittington of HalfWheel said, "An interesting buttery creaminess starts to invade the profile of the Nat Sherman product during the second third, combining nicely with a sweetness that tastes quite a bit like vanilla to me. Other flavors of peanuts, coffee, leather, earth and cocoa flit in and out, while the lemon peel tartness from the first third has actually receded quite a bit by the halfway point."

I couldn't believe we only had one spare before we'd have to open the box and I didn't want to negotiate what would constitute a very, very, very special event worthy of a Joel Sherman. So I went to a favorite online retailer and, using a 17% off coupon code, I purchased another box. Now we owned 2! [Added January 7, 2015. I think we have four and a half boxes now. Yay!]

Whittington takes on the final third of the 75th Anniversary, stating that it "continues the trend of evolving flavors with a hay note taking over dominance from the buttery creaminess that was in the second third. Leather, earth, chocolate, espresso and even a little cinnamon are all on display."

We've, of course, accidentally driven 40 minutes out of our way (a few times) since the initial Joel Sherman purchase and each time we do, another box sits on the counter of Mr. J's. And each time that happens, we pick up another one or two, because one day, they won't be there and we really will have to decide what constitutes a Very Special Occasion, one worthy of this cigar.

Yesterday, Valentino showed a true level of friendship. He gifted Cabellero #2 one of these precious sticks.

"Smokin a gift from my good buddy Caballero #1...a Nat Sherman ( Joel Sherman 75th),"
said Cabellero #2 on Facebook, when he posted this picture.

But given how happy it made our friend, I'm happy knowing it went to a good home.


And as the Ghost of Cigars Present, which has revealed itself in the form of the Joel Sherman 75th Anniversary, said, just a nub of its former self, "My time with you is at an end, Valentino. Will you profit from what I've shown you of the good in most men's hearts?"*****

Valentino burns his fingertips, unwilling to bid adieu to his new friend, but finally acquiescing. We retreat into the house, done for the day, as no other cigar can follow this one. "His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him."******

*I can't actually think of an event that would call for this kind of celebratory cigar.

**For the past few years anyway.

***Not that I was doubting him, but, you know, I just wanted to make sure.

****I shake my fist at you, Nature! I hope you enjoyed it!

*****This is where the apology to Dickens occurs.

******Here, too.

1 comment:

  1. What vineyard in Europe did the grapes leaves come from to make this cigar with the incredibly complicated flavor?


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