I met some friends at a local cigar bar in Raleigh (Havana Deluxe) to kick off a pub crawl for my friend’s bachelor party. Joe drove up from Jacksonville, NC where he lives and works as a USMC 2nd LT based at Camp Lejeune. He and about 10 other Marines stormed Raleigh like the beaches of Iwo Jima, leaving a trail of broken jaws and broken hearts in their wake. Fortunately after a long night of celebration all were present and accounted for.
When Joe told me he was at a cigar bar downtown I was surprised not to have heard of it. He had, in fact, stumbled onto a hidden gem. I’m not sure how he found it, but I wouldn’t have had I not been looking for it. A very unassuming entrance with modest signage reading “Havana Deluxe” leads to a dark, rich environment. The smell of leather and cigar smoke dominate the air. On top of a great atmosphere, they have a pretty solid bourbon selection to choose from as well.
I walked in and after exchanging pleasantries with some jarheads, went straight to the humidor to grab an inexpensive cigar and then ordered a Woodford Reserve at the bar. After lighting my cigar, I sat down and took a sip of the Woodford. I had to do a double-take at first because I thought I had been given a different bourbon, but then I realized how much the cigar had changed the taste profile of the Woodford Reserve. This time, I picked up on a rich caramel sweetness that is typically not present in Woodford Reserve. I enjoyed my Woodford considerably more than I typically do as the taste went from run of the mill to word class.
I in no way consider myself a cigar connoisseur, but I do enjoy a good stogie from time to time, especially when it is accompanying a nice glass of bourbon. When you find yourself at a cigar shop just ask the guy behind the counter to recommend something that goes well with bourbon. Typically clerks at cigars shops are pretty knowledgeable, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy a good cigar. For instance, the 2008 cigar of the year was the Casa Magna Colorado Robusto which retails for about $5. When smoking, like drinking, I recommend that you simply find something you like, which does not necessarily have to be what the rest of the world claims to enjoy. It’s always a good idea to try new things, but it’s also good to have a baseline to compare from. For the novice, I recommend buying 5-10 different cigars that range from mild to bold in their flavor descriptions, without spending an excessive amount of money because chances are you will not like them all. From those, find level of boldness that suits you the best and next time you are looking at cigars you will know one you like and can ask someone to make a recommend one that is similar. Then start pairing different cigars with different bourbons and see what happens. It is a great way to experience new and exciting flavors every time you drink.
For some reason, cigar smoking and drinking bourbon, or dare I say Scotch, just seem to go hand in hand. I don’t know what has given us this impression. Maybe movies or photos from history, but there is some solace in knowing that some important decisions and deals have been made while partaking in these vices. So when you want to sit down with a old friend and solve the worlds problems, grab a couple of stogies from the humidor, leave the watch and the phone where you can’t reach them, and keep the bottle handy.