Got a call to go down to LA tomorrow for a few days.  Back home Thursday… I’m always up for a trip to California since its a lot warmer than Vancouver right now but more than that, I’m very excited to visit a few tobacco shops to see if I can get my hands on a few cigars.

Canada has some of the highest sin tax in the world and Canadians end up paying twenty five dollars or more for a cigar that Americans pay six dollars for.. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but its true.  I’ll be going to Santa Monica and from what I’ve read, there are a few cigar stores that have a nice selection of Dominicans, Hondurans and others that aren’t even available in Canada.

One that I’ll be looking for is the Arturo Fuente Opus X.  Wow, what a great cigar, and from what I read, it is a cigar that isn’t available at all times of year so I guess ya gotta be there at the right time and the right place.

Last point I want to make is…… Will I be taking any Cohibas with me???? Nope, no way!!!!

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Tomorrow morning will be early, cool and probably windy out on the boat outside of Vancouver, where crab traps will be dropped and then trolling for salmon will be next on the agenda.  I’ll drop by the “Seastar”, moored by the Bayshore, where Preston the captain, will take us out for a morning of sports fishing.

There are a lot of different guys that offer fishing expeditions for a fair price and a lot of action but Preston Steele is probably the guy that they all call when they want to find out where the action is on the water.  Over the years, we’ve eaten a lot of Dungeness crab that Preston has caught and no one knows more than him on how to get them and prepare them for a real tasty meal.  His boat is comfortable and very seaworthy, fast and agile in the water.  Why would you call anyone else in this area?

As I think about what I’ll wear for tomorrow’s action, my mind also thinks about what cigar to take along.  There’s no point in taking along a large expensive Cuban cigar since there’ll be wind and wind is a quality cigar’s greatest enemy.  The burn is always uneven and then the cigar takes on a whole new flavor, which is always bitter and unpleasant.

So…………..

The perfect cigar, or cigars,  for a morning in the wind will be the Cohiba mini.  This tiny cigar has an incredible taste for something so small.  They’re really quite tiny and if you can get more than 12 minutes of smoking time out of one, I’d be very surprised.  There are a lot of larger ring gauge Cuban cigars out there that have more power and strength which makes this little cigar a real surprise in that the richness of the smoke has a quality that makes it very easy to believe that it comes from Cohiba.

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Much has been written about the Cohiba Behike since last year’s release of the beautiful trio of larger ring gauge cigars containing the medio tiempo leaf.  Initially the Behike was introduced in 2006 and rolled, exclusively by one roller, or in this case the “torcedora”, Norma Fernandez.  The original Behike at a 52 ring gauge and 7 1/2 inches long was in a humidor of 40 cigars and only 100 numbered humidors.  Thats a lot of rolling …. and rolling….. The more I hear and read about this woman, the more impressed I am by her stature in the Cuban cigar industry.  She was given the task of blending and designing the cigar that became the most expensive in the world.  Originally these cigars were around $440 each but I’m guessing that when auctions come up in our future, we’ll be seeing these initial prices skyrocket.

I smoked a few of the Behike 52′s last summer and creamy and sweet were the first two descriptions of the flavors, this cigar had in it’s profile, popped into my mind.  I had a wonderful time smoking this smallest of the three and although my mind was always on the price, I felt that I truly had something special burning in my hand.  I remember looking at the 52′s wrapper and remarking to myself that I had never seen a cigar so perfectly rolled, so smooth and free of any large veins and with a color and sheen that easily showed that Cohiba had raised the bar in cigar production.

The Behike 54, which I smoked a few months later had all of the wonderful visible characteristics of the smaller 52 but with flavors that had more power, more complexity and more evolution as the cigar progressed.  The 52 and the 54 had slight similar flavors but the richness of the 54′s chocolate and creamy coffee notes had me guessing which other Cohiba cigar, or cigars, this middle child could be compared to.  The Maduro series always captivates me whenever I smoke one, the Genios being my favorite and for a while I found myself comparing, very slightly, some of what I was tasting in the Behike 54 to that other series… But only for a moment, these are very different lines in Cuba’s prestigious brand and the similarities are few.

The Behike 56 was again a beautifully constructed cigar and, as before, I felt a bit of sadness as I clipped off the pigtail cap and lit the foot.  I feel great pride and adoration for cigars like the Behike whenever I lift the lid of my humidor and gaze upon them as they rest and age, surrounded by the beautiful aroma of Cuban tobacco and Spanish cedar.  But really, why do we go through all the trouble of obtaining fine cigars, quality humidors, hygrometers that give you accurate moisture readings without actually smoking these handmade Cuban products?

The first few puffs of the Behike 56 were mild but complex, again revealing what I had tasted in the 52 and 54 but it didn’t seem to have the strength as the middle size cigar. Here is where I will probably get in trouble with a lot of you who have smoked the 56.  I will be the first to admit that in order to be an authority on the subject of judging this cigar, perhaps smoking 15 or 20 ….. Or 1,500 to 2,000 of these large ring gauge cigars would be a proper place to start but I’m simply offering what I noticed.  The 56′s flavors evolved very nicely as the cigar burned into the second third but I kept remembering what the 54 had to offer and I wondered if I am alone with my observations in comparing the two.  The one thing I DID notice was that the 56 might have needed more time in the humidor, more so than the smaller two.  Of course, any Cuban cigar only improves with age but I remembered being quite blissful during the smoking period of the 52 and 54.  The 56 had me asking myself more questions about it’s youthfulness and wondering what it’s future would reveal after a year or two of rest.

Volumes could be filled with everyone’s opinions of these three cigars, and I’m only one person, but the more I read about last year’s Cohiba release, the more I see that I may not be alone with what I’ve discovered.  The one thing I DO know is that I feel very fortunate in knowing that I’m able to buy, smoke and lose myself in the flavors of the Behike whenever I feel wealthy enough to go to the Vancouver Cigar Company and pick up a few.  I feel sad whenever I read about people getting counterfeits of this cigar but feel fortunate that I have a reputable source for a cigar of this calibre.

If you have any opinions you’d like to share, please leave a comment..

Thank you,

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Ever wonder if a Cohiba tastes better in Cuba??? Would the moist tropical air affect the taste and give you more than if you were smoking the same cigar, let’s say, in Montana?? Probably !!! But if thats the case then it would probably taste the same in Miami since its only a handful of miles away.  I love Miami with it’s beaches, sun and stone crab.. I could go on for a while about stone crab but this is a cigar blog!

While smoking cigars with a few buddies a few days back, the topic of how cigars taste in Cuba came up and all who had been there seem to agree that cigars have an incredible taste in the country of their origin.  I guess to some degree I have to go along with that because I remember smoking cigars from the Siglo series, the Maduro series and Non-Cohiba Cuban cigars.  To be honest, they were all great but I was drinking a lot of rum from breakfast onward so everything was great.

I DO remember that cigars tended to burn a bit slower in Cuba, not much, but definitely noticeable.  The air is heavy and moist, warm and to die for.  Holidays tend to do that to you, your senses are heightened and everything is beautiful.  Maybe not having a care in the world and no cel phone has a lot to do with it! My cel stayed in the hotel room safe and got turned back on when we landed in Canada.

Lately I’ve been hearing a bit about Monsdales… Can anyone shed a bit of light on those cigars??

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I’ve smoked a lot of Siglo I’s, IV’s and a handful of the Siglo VI’s but for some reason, through the years’ the Siglo V is a cigar that I’ve spent only a little time with.  Don’t ask me why, its just worked out that way.  A shame, if you ask me, it may be one of the best in the Siglo line, very grassy, herbal and of extreme quality.

At least thats what hit me last night as I smoked one on the deck after dinner.  Last night was a bit of a cool night in Vancouver, so the gas heater had to be lit and all improved, as far as comfort goes.. Cooler nights are on their way and I was trying to get a bit more acclimatized to what is in our future, for the next few months.  We don’t have extreme winters so we are a lot better off than the rest of Canada.  Friends of mine occasionally visit throughout the winter, we golf, we try to catch a steelhead, but most of all we enjoy great cigars under the warm natural gas glow of the deck heater.

Getting back to the Siglo V, I found that last night’s cigar had everything I want in a cigar.  This being 2011 meant that the ’09 Cohiba had 2 years of age and the draw, the even burn and the flavors were absolutely perfect.  I paired this beauty with my favorite beverage, Oban, a fine fine single malt.  I get a kick out of the burst of caramel that happens on your taste buds after a sip of this Scotch and enjoyed 3 of them with the hour and a half that the cigar burned.

I’m one of these guys that loves to go to my humidor and check on my cigars after an experience like this, I make sure that the humidity is right, make sure that all cigars are lined up with the bands facing up and making sure that there are no non-cubans right next to Cubans.. Things get a bit obsessive after a Scotch or two and seeing that I only have a few Siglo V’s left made me wonder why I don’t own more…. First thing on tomorrow’s to do list will be a bit of a cigar shopping trip.

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I’m a guy that will always be on the hunt for a good cigar at a great price and quite often I check on Craigslist, here in Vancouver, to see if anyone is selling off any of theirs at a good price.  Now and then I find some real hidden treasure but I don’t believe I thought I’d find aged cigars so close to home like I did yesterday.

I woke up and was very excited that Kim Mitchell was playing at the PNE… I wrote an entry about that yesterday morning on this blog and after I hit the publish button I went to Craigslist to see if anyone had cigars to sell.. Bingo!!!! A very short ad describing cigars for sale came up and I emailed the address given, I got an answer right away only to find out that a few doors down from where I live, an older woman was getting rid of about 30 cigars for $100…. What????

After getting her phone number, I gave her a call and we were both quite pleased and surprised to find out that we were neighbors.. I walked over… In a city of this size you have no idea who some of your neighbors are and quite often we just don’t make the effort to get to know those who live close to us.  Life is changing, things get more complicated and I believe that we humans tend to cocoon more and more so maybe we live more guarded lives.. I guess I do that as well now…..As I walked into the entry of her home I was met with the smell that reminded me of Havana, you know the one, it is the aroma of a home that has seen many a burning cigar.. I was becoming very excited, I had no idea there was a cigar smoker who lived so close to me.. How could I have missed this?

This very pleasant woman, who could have been in her 80′s, explained that her husband, who smoked cigars all his life, had died and she was getting rid of his possessions before putting up their house for sale.  Her realtor told her that she would have to do a big house cleaning and paint the interior of the home before the sign would be stuck into the front lawn.  She also explained that the “wooden box” where he kept his cigars would be also thrown in as part of the deal… blink…… Ummmm, Ok…. Now my heart rate starts to go up 20 beats or so as she tells me to have a seat and drink some tea as she shuffles into another room to retrieve the “wooden box”..

I wasn’t sure what to expect but was very excited to see her return with a beautiful humidor that had the capacity to hold, I guessed, about 75 cigars.. This “wooden box” had the most beautiful barnyard smell come out of it after I opened the lid and inside were an impressive collection of cigars covered in plume… Good Lord.. What laid in front of me were Montecristo No 2′s, Partagas Lusitanias,  2 Cuaba Salomons, 4 H. Upmann Magnum 50′s, 3 Montecristo A’s, a few Romeo Churchills and the rest of the nicely aged cigars had that familiar black, white and gold band that we all love so much… I had to sit down and try to contain myself. I didn’t say anything for a while as she went to the kitchen to get more tea.

You know that dizzy feeling you get when you realize something has just happened but you’re not sure that it just happened and that maybe you shouldn’t have had those mushrooms sprinkled on top of that salad that those hippies just made for you….. Yeah, yeah, thats the feeling…

When she returned, I asked her if the smell of cigars bothered her and she told me that she loved the aroma so I reached into my pocket for my clipper and lit a Robusto adorned with that lovely yellow band.. The clouds parted, I was bathed in a warm comfortable glow as the first puff hit my olfactory nerves which told me that I now knew how the first guy felt as he picked up that rock which told him that the California gold rush was about to begin.  Just a few doors down???? I have a nose like a Steelhead when it comes to cigar smoke.. Why didn’t I ever smell cigar smoke so close to my home before???

I didn’t say much as I listened to this woman talk to her cat but decided that I would be a good neighbor and offer to cut her lawn as she was selling her house and moving out of our part of town.. This made her very happy and as I paid her the five 20 dollar bills she told me that the next time I came over, she’d let me pick a few cigars out of another “wooden box” that she was planning on giving to her brother…….. Heart rate goes up again……

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This morning after breakfast I decided to go through one of the humidors that I rarely visit and to my surprise, I found an old Cohiba Secretos under a few Cohiba Robustos that I had been saving.  I’m not sure where this little guy came from but something in my distant memory tells me that this cigar was purchased in 2007 when this series first came out.  This is not a large cigar at 4 3/8 inches long with a 40 ring gauge so I decided that a trip to the back deck with a cup of coffee and the newspaper would be a great idea.

My neighbor was doing some lawn work and grumbling about his lawn mower, all the rain this spring, some neighborhood kids spray painting his front fence, the crow’s nest in the chestnut tree beside his house, his income tax problems, a flat tire his wife got yesterday afternoon and his concerns about the Stanley Cup playoffs while I clipped off the cap of the little maduro and felt nothing but contentment as I reached for my torch.

When this Maduro series came out, Cohiba introduced a five year old aged wrapper and now this being 2011, I was holding on to a little blast of rich chocolate with a 9 year old wrapper..  A blast of rich dark chocolate was the first thing I noticed after a few puffs but 10 minutes later this reyes mellowed considerably and a richer creamier chocolate appeared.. I wish I had the patience to hold on to cigars for this length of time all the time but I’m just not that kind of person.  Whenever I buy a box of new Cubans, I’m always seeing a great number of cigars to give to friends and smoke one after another until I’m seeing 9 or so left and then the feeling of panic sets in and I go into a hoarding mode..

I’m not sure how I was able to hold on to this cigar for this long but starting tomorrow, or maybe the day after I’m going to turn over a new leaf and buy MORE cigars…. Smoke LESS cigars and build up my reserve………… Yeah sure, and the Edmonton Oilers will win the Cup this year too!!!!

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Posted on 22-03-2011

There have been a few things I haven’t done this winter….. I haven’t smoked a Behike…. Last summer I tried them, loved them and decided that at least a year’s rest in my humidor would be the fate of my remaining Behikes..  I fell in love with the 52 after trying it last summer and in the fall the 54 was a great cigar…. But….. I know they can get better and I’m willing to invest the time…..

I haven’t been anywhere tropical and usually that doesn’t bother me all that much but last month I started losing my mind when I knew the Habanos festival was taking place in Havana… Without me being there…..  A lot of people will read about the day to day exploits of those attending that wonderful festival and many salivate all over their computer keypads as they read about all of the cigars being smoked in Cuba…. That doesn’t really bother me since I have 4 humidors that all have a nice selection of Cubans that are presently further fermenting….. Whenever I want one, I smoke one..  What bothered me was that I wanted to take part in many of the seminars available to festival goers….. Next year will be different !

What bothers me the most is that, although I’ve golfed all winter……. I haven’t been warm ONCE on the course !!  That is starting to really get on my nerves!  I can’t WAIT for a warm day when I can swing a club in a T-shirt… C’mon already!!!!!  I realize that the rest of my Canadian brothers and sisters are still shoveling snow from their driveways when I’m complaining about needing to wear too many articles of clothing on the course but I DON’T have a lot of body fat and this is getting old!!  Our winter is going on and on and although yesterday was the first day of spring, its seems like an eternity until we’ll be getting days that reach 15 degrees…

Oh well, thats my list of complaints for the day!!!!!  Tomorrow is another day!

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I’ve been hungrily devouring every word that the Cigar Aficionado guys have been posting on their daily blogs from the Habanos Festival from Havana.. Good Lord, I’ve been promising myself all last week that this will be the last time I read someone else’s blog as they tell us the day to day events from the Festival.. Next year I’ll be there…..

I’ve been to Havana and smoked their superlative cigars in the bars, restaurants and sidewalk cafes and I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it is to be in that city and soak up all of the sights, sounds and flavors that the city has to offer.  Although there are only 5 LCDH outlets in Havana, Cuban cigars seem to be everywhere in Havana but I tend to dig my heels in and only shop where I know that I’ll be getting the real thing….. Yes, there are a lot of cigars for sale but there are also a lot of BAD cigars that get sold to unsuspecting victims that want to taste the best.. Be careful.

I’m sitting on pins and needles waiting to taste the 1966 from Cohiba.  From all reports it is the best of all of the new cigars coming out this year and when you think about it, it really isn’t that much of a surprise since Cohiba gets the first pick of the tobacco leaves grown on that island.  Their rollers use great care in the preparation of Cohiba cigars and strict and attentive care is adopted when grading and packaging as well..

The Cohiba 1966 is being released to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Cohiba brand.. I can’t wait to get my hands on one!

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The Coronas Especiales from Cohiba is slightly small cigar with a 38 ring gauge and a length of 6 inches that sells in Canada these days at around $33.50.  This is a cigar that won’t take up too much of your time, almost an hour of smoking, but if aged can be as exciting as any cigar in the brand with notes of cedar, dark chocolate and strong coffee.

I just let one die a graceful death in the ashtray and I have to admit, as I was smoking this lovely cigar I kept comparing it to other Cohibas that I’ve smoked in the last year.  The Esplendidos has got to be, hands down, one of my favorite cigars of all time but this little aged, maybe 10 years or so, just as complex as the longer and larger ring gauge brother.

The smoothness was the first thing that caught my attention as this cigar burned into the first third and although a very small amount of grassiness appeared, I kept looking at the cigar’s band and wrapper to see if I indeed had an authentic Cohiba.  This cigar was a gift..  Sure enough, the band looked fine as did the wrapper and then the cigar started to build in intensity as it burned into the second third.

Cedar was starting to build into the equation but a very distinct 3 flavors ( chocolate, cedar coffee )kept coming up as the cigar burned down to the nub.  The finish was the only thing to alter and that it was a very clear taste of strong coffee but the coffee became stronger with each puff..

The taste stayed with me for a good hour after setting this cigar down and I’m yet reminded of how a cigar improves with years of aging.

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