Monday, January 5, 2015

The waiting is the hardest part. Or: Aging cigars is not fun for those of us with limited patience

Right now,* Valentino and I are transporting goods across state lines. (Teehee!)
 
We really are the world's most innocuous mules. I have nothing stashed in my bouffant hairdo** a la Marge Simpson. Valentino has nothing sewn into his jacket. (I was going to go with another image, one more traditional in the smuggling world, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Hi, Mom!)
 
Instead of being supercool and in the midst of a car chase with guns ablazin', we're driving along Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, minding speed limits and listening to 70s on 7.  (I love Sirius/XM radio.)
 
And a backseat full of these:
In boxes, obviously. Not a back seat full of loose cigars.
We spent a couple of afternoons/evenings at Island Jim Robinson's Leaf and Bean this past week, but couldn't actually smoke any of his signature cigars. They were totally sold out. He told us some had been produced and were sitting in Honduras, silently aging.***  He stressed that he wouldn't have them shipped to himself or anyone else until they were practically perfect in every way. (I'm paraphrasing, obvs. I just can't see Jim quoting Mary Poppins.) 
 
Then we saw on Facebook (my major source for news) that the cigars were wide awake and U.S.-bound.

They were on their way here!!
THEN! Our friend Bobby from Broadway Cigars said, Hey, 10 boxes please! And through a series of cryptic messages, we wound up with a backseat full of boxes. 
 
The interesting point here, and there actually is a point, is this: Cigar makers want to make sure every cigar is as perfect as possible. Our friend Paul Joyal, he of J Grotto cigars, told us he was out of the Anniversary Series double perfecto, an amazing cigar in its own right. We saw them at Jim's place, and at Broadway Cigars, but Paul himself didn't have any in his own shop. 
(He's going to kill me for using this picture!)
The J Grotto double perfecto in PA!
 
Were they hand rolled and ready to go? Yep. 
 
Would they be travelling to the US? Nope. 
 
"I'd rather they be perfect," he said. "It's not a financial decision. It's a quality decision."
 
Valentino and I like to say, "You're only as good as your last envelope," meaning people remember the last thing you did for them, the last plate you served them at a restaurant, whatever. The metaphor crosses into a zillion professions--although I'm fond of the saying's mob ties. 
 
If you have a bad cigar, especially if it's your first time with that premium cigar, you might not go back to it, especially with so many other options on the market. Boutique cigar crafters make the right decision when they hold off until the cigar has enough aging under its belt.

Cigars International says in their article, "Properly Aging Cigars," "Aging is often what makes a good cigar a great one."

We actually know this from experience.

For his birthday, I bought Valentino a box of his own blend of cigars, thanks to George Rico, head honcho at Gran Habano Cigars. So cool (both George and the ability to create your own blend). Valentino chose the filler, binder, and wrapper, by using their  super-fun blending kit, which contains "10-20 puritos of each tobacco leaf available at the time...detailed menu of the tobaccos included, and a blending sheet," according to the feature article on cigar.com, from whence the kit comes.

The choices...
So he puffed away on the puritos, mixing and matching, trying to figure out his most favorite.

The choosing...
(Thanks for taking the pictures, Nathalie!)
Then, because Valentino is Valentino, much research ensued, including lots of discussions with our cigar pals in-the-know, including Mr. J Grotto himself. Finally, he settled on a blend.  And a few months later, this arrived:

Yes, those are angels you hear singing.

More angels singing.
This is the sticker that held the paper covering the cigars together.
(Weird sentence. Too lazy to fix it.)
(We do not promise perfection here. Just a few laughs.)

By all that's right and holy, he should have fallen in love with them on first puff.

That does not look like a man in love with his cigar.
Not the cigar's fault. It needs more time to, as we incorrectly say, "marinate."

Here's a general guideline, from Cigar Secrets:
  • "3 weeks stabilizes the mechanical tensions and moisture of a cigar, making it smoke better, particularly if it was shipped ‘green’
  • 3 months allows the oils to begin their natural dissipation so that the flavors of the blend ‘marry’ [Hahaha. I should have said "marryinate."]
  • 3 years (in a temperature/humidity controlled environment) allows some more complex chemical processes of true aging to take place, creating deep, rich and subtle layers of flavor
  • Beyond 3 years – Carefully stored, cigars just keep getting better and better"****
At the launch of the J Grotto Anniversary series, Valentino had a nice chat with Philip Zanghi, of Debonaire Cigars, about how fermentation during the aging process reduces the ammonia and other chemicals that make, if smoked too soon, the cigar taste like ass.***** Longer-aged cigars result in mellowed acridity.

So, yes, we know he shouldn't have smoked the Cabellero #1 so soon upon its arrival, but come on. That's like buying an edible gift early on in the shopping season and not eating it.

[source]
At least Island Jim and Paul Joyle keep their cigars in another country to ensure proper aging. Lucky bastards. Although I bet they would leave the edible Christmas gifts alone too. What are you guys? Robots? Sheesh.

Anyway, the moral of the story is this: We will certainly entertain offers to mule cigars for you, if necessary. For a price, of course. Like, maybe, some Christmas gifts you're still holding onto... nom nom nom. Please just don't make us wait too long.

Will's not happy with the Idiot Handler who took the lousy picture.
He says it doesn't show the extent or importance of his work.

 
 
*Hahaha. As if I could finish a blog post in the same year I started it.
 
**I wish I could even keep a bouffant bouffanted for more than 13 seconds. 
 
***Shhhh. The Island Jims are sleeping.

****Naturally, there are exceptions. But that's a post for another time!

*****My interpretation, obvs.

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