I believe it was Lorena Bobbitt who once said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. In any event, something strange has happened in America over the past few years. Yogurt-slurping, pavement-pounding Yuppies have discovered the naughty pleasures of a fine cigar, and have earmarked a significant proportion of their fabled disposable income for hand-rolled, fragrant cylinders that symbolize their growing affluence.
Like other cyclical passions, the cigar has spawned an economic boomlet in information for the consumer and equipment for the connoisseur. In addition to the remarkably successful magazine Cigar Aficionado, as well as traveling luxury product showcases in various cities (including Miami), books are beginning to appear to cater to cigar consumers. Anwer Bati's The Cigar Companion is an example of such books.
A handsome, compact volume, The Cigar Companion resembles those hardbound guides the culturally conscious carry to art museums. Beginning with a history of cigar manufacturing, the book explains how the tobacco is grown, how cigars are rolled, how they are sized, and how best to store them. Advice is given on how to evaluate, cut, and light a cigar. In the back of the book we learn about the best cigar merchants and how to order from them through the mail.
The bulk of the book, however, is given over to "The Cigar Directory," a pictorial presentation of the various brands of cigars. Each cigar is lovingly photographed and identified according to origin. Each is graded by taste, fragrance, and quality. Included also are photographs of the unwrapped bands and options of lengths and ring sizes. A brief text explains the history of the company that produced the cigars.
As everyone knows, Cuba produces the best cigars on the planet, and as we know all too well, Cuban cigars cannot be legally obtained in the United States. However, The Cigar Companion presents Cubans alongside those from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Honduras, and other places where cigar production exploded following America's Cuban embargo. Thus, we can learn what to buy when abroad, or maintain familiarity with what Cuba has to offer in hopes that the embargo will one day be lifted.
As the book indicates, while cigarettes are often consumed at moments of tension or unease, a cigar is smoked at leisure, a fragrant punctuation mark to a relaxing evening. The Cigar Companion would make a fine present to the cigar smoker in your family-just make sure he reads it on the porch.