“What’s that smell?”

I have a confession to make…. I smoke cigars.

No, I’m not talking about White Owls, Dutch Masters or anything else that can be purchased at a convenience store and used by the younger generation as paraphernalia. I’m also not talking about that nasty pile of strip-house sweepings like “Backwoods” or even (shudder) those sweetened cigars with the plastic whistle on the end.

No, I have become a fan of real, hand-made, long-filler cigars made from Cuban-style tobacco, wrapped in aged wrapper leaf from the Connecticut Valley and lovingly aged by some well-trained senor in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua or Honduras. If gas wasn’t so expensive I’d go to Smithfield, NC just to hang out in the huge humididor sales room at the J&R Outlet, sit in the leather chairs they have there and spring for at least a single of a Montechristo White Robusto or an El Rey del Mundo. J&R Cigars makes it possible for a person on a Coca-cola budget to have a champagne level cigar every now and then. Bless them.

Despite what a lot of folks think it was not my cousin Dick that started me smoking cigars. That blame lies squarely on the shoulders of my former boss, Glen Allen, who’s now Chief of Police in Clayton, NC. Glen would offer up a La Finca cigar every now and then when something good was going on and after I learned how to cut an end and light a “stogie” the right way Mr. Nick O’Teen finally found a way to get my attention years after I quit “dipping” and “chewing”. Smoking cigarettes was never a problem as I found out in college that I’m allergic to flue-cured tobacco smoke (which results in MASSIVE sinus infections) and which also means that I’m a happy person now that restaurants and public buildings are smoke free. Cigar smokers are different because unless you work somewhere really unusual you don’t smoke a cigar at work. As a matter of fact, “cigar” and “work” really don’t go together in the same sentence very well. If you can’t enjoy a cigar then there’s no reason to smoke one. That’s why you never hear someone say that they’re going on a cigar break.

Of course, this enjoyment of fine imported tobacco products doesn’t make four women very happy: those being my wife, my daughters and my doctor. I’m starting to get used to hearing every other Saturday “What’s that smell?” (“Nothing. Just burning some old tires.”) or “Were you smoking a cigar?” (“No. Rabbit-grass.”) I try to be nice so I keep these comments to myself…most of the time. My usual comment that “cigars are like Bill Clinton…you don’t inhale” usually don’t get laughs from my wife either.
However, I do owe Dick a thanks (yeah, I know…that sounds strange but it’s his name…) for cluing me in on the J&R Alternatives brands of cigars which, along with the Consuegra and Bock & Ca. brands can allow someone like me that has more bills than a duck farm to get a really good quality imported cigar to enjoy. Consuegra Governors and J&R Alternative Montechristo Eduardo Robustos are the favorite “budget” cigars that I’ve found so far. As far as the “real deal” Montechristo Whites, El Rey del Mundos, Bolivars and H. Uppman are my favorites. However, these are limited to grabbing a five-pack every once in a while or relying on the “kindness of cigar smokers” for one every now and then.
There’s something of a wonderful combination of a lawn tractor, freshly cut grass and a good cigar as well. It’s right up there with the combination of French fries, a hot dog, onions and the paper bags used at road-side grills. For a lot of men, this is as much sensory fun as a dog has riding down the road with its head out the window.
So, for those of you who know me well that see me one day with a good cigar enjoying it, please don’t ruin the experience for me asking if it’s “cherry flavored”. You probably won’t like my answer.

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