The beautiful and nostalgic aroma of cigar smoke has been with me all my life. As a child, I remember vividly my uncle’s casual yet commanding presence, a highball in one hand and, in the other, an exotic and strange, yet compelling cigar. He would be the only one enjoying puffing cheerfully on one of these at family gatherings and was considered vaguely eccentric, but always approachable and jolly. It’s these memories of him and his ever-present cigars that are seared in my olfactory memories.
That being said, I’ve always felt a bit intimidated by the cigar. No one was there to instruct me on how to most enjoy such a thing. As a consequence, I never really paid that much attention to the cigar between all the decades that have passed between now and my childhood.
Recently a dear old friend and I were reconnecting after many years apart over a bottle of Redbreast 15yr, (another delicacy I’ve grown to love). Well into the evening, he produced two slender cigars. It was a clear night sitting comfortably on his patio with a soothing fire burning in the pit, emitting a warming glow. Or maybe that was the whiskey. I reached out to receive his gift. Rolling it around in my fingers, then holding it close to inhale its dry aroma, I searched for that smell I remember so fondly from childhood. It was a perfect moment and yet I had no idea how to fully experience and enjoy this gift I’d been given.
I watched my friend carefully and tried to observe how to prepare for the experience. I saw him casually remove the ornate band, roll the cigar in his fingers feeling the texture. He then placed the rear of cigar in a cutter and snipped the cap from the body. It was a forceful and deliberate cut that looked like muscle memory in it’s confidence. He held it to his lips and applied a butane flame to the foot of the cigar as he pulled air through it, making it glow ruby red in the dark of the evening. A couple of puffs and the satisfying and beautifully masculine aroma was swirling around us, flooding me with memories of my uncle. Now it was my turn. I slowly and deliberately tried to repeat his movements. This is an enjoyment that I’ve come to fully appreciate and am grateful to have. The very act of preparing the cigar is a beautiful and necessary ritual. It requires full attention and asks us to slow down. To be deliberate and contemplate our enjoyment. We don’t have many opportunities to do this, particularly with those we love in friendship. A cigar gives us this chance to savor, to be purposeful in our relaxation, to consider both the present moment shared and a moment to reflect on our past. And to create a new, rich, memory.