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Disclaimer:  Do your research on the effects of smoking on your health and consult with your doctor if necessary.

The pleasure of cigar smoking has been around for centuries, with the first depiction of a cigar dating back to the tenth century. With the adventures of Columbus in the fifteenth century, cigars made their way to Europe, thus bringing the tradition of smoking cigars to the rest of the world.

While tobacco has been linked to health risks such as cancer dating back to the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 1920’s that the first medical report linked smoking tobacco to lung cancer, and not until the 1950s and 60’s that it was confirmed that tobacco was considered to be a cause of a range of serious diseases. As you are doing your research, you will find in both the conclusion of the reports and the data sets that cigars are considered the same as cigarettes. You can determine this in statements such as the following excerpt from “Cigars: Health Effects and Trends Monograph 9,” published in Feb 1998 and last updated in Dec 2020.

The smoke from both cigars and cigarettes is formed largely from the incomplete combustion of tobacco, and therefore it comes as no surprise that cigar smoke is composed of the same toxic and carcinogenic constituents found in cigarette smoke.

Nowhere in this publication does it discuss the differences between cigars and cigarettes and how they are made. No mention of how cigars are 100% natural with no additional chemicals added as opposed to cigarettes. You will also notice that when looking at the data sets of this report and many other reports that the cigar smokers used in the studies, the majority are dual smokers, meaning they smoke cigars along with cigarettes or e-cigarettes. This problem is that conclusions are made regarding cigars with what can be considered skewed data.

So how do Cigars differ from Cigarettes? Well, as stated above, Cigarettes have additional chemicals added to them to increase the ease of flow of smoke into the lungs and to increase the addictiveness of cigars. It is common knowledge that cigarettes are highly addictive, as is common knowledge that the amount of nicotine in a cigar is vastly more significant than that of a cigarette. What is not as common is the awareness that cigars are 100% natural, as stated above, but also that nicotine isn’t as addictive of a chemical as we are led to believe.  But do your research; I myself have been smoking cigars since the spring of 1992 and have, at some points in my journey through cigars, smoked as many as 7 to 10 cigars a day. Never in my life have I felt the need to smoke one and that I would go “crazy” if I didn’t. I had felt that regularly when I went without coffee and had no caffeine. This, albeit a rather un-scientific conclusion, leads me to believe that nicotine may not be as addictive as caffeine is.

Now onto the title of this article, “Why I’m not a smoker, but I Smoke.”  Yes, I do smoke cigars, and I enjoy them daily; as stated above, I don’t feel the need to smoke one as brought on by addiction and have been able to step away from cigars for an extended period of time as I did in October of 2020 when I came down with COVID-19.

The reason I enjoy smoking cigars is multifold. I enjoy the flavors of a cigar and how well they pair with a nice wine, dinner, or after-dinner drink such as a cocktail or whiskey.  I appreciate how smoking a cigar forces you to slow down, which offers the opportunity to enjoy life or reflect on an upcoming day. I enjoy how cigars have a community built around them, and when sitting down with others, there is something that, regardless of our background, we have in common that we can share.  I like to call cigars the great equalizer.

Please understand that I used to smoke cigarettes, and in my journey through life, I’ve never met a person who smoked cigarettes and felt what I described above. In fact, most I have talked to describe smoking cigarettes as a “disgusting habit” and would love not to feel tethered to cigarettes. I’m not saying this is the case with all cigarette smokers, but I would venture to guess it is a majority of them. Cigarettes have been portrayed by society and advertising as a disgusting habit that kills, and studies have shown that the latter is true. In fact, most cigarette smokers feel a need to take a break, smoke their cigarette, describing it as getting their “nicotine feel,” and then return to what they were doing.

As you can see, there is a vast difference between cigarettes and cigars. The difference extends beyond just how they are made and the chemical content but also how they are viewed by those who partake in them. While I enjoy my cigar, smoking one will never take priority over sitting down to dinner, spending time with someone, or other meaningful engagement. Smoking a cigar can be a part of that; however, if the person or group I am with doesn’t enjoy a cigar, my cigar will wait.

In conclusion, I’m not a smoker, but I do smoke cigars. I smoke cigars for all the reasons above. So, if you meet someone who smokes cigars, please consider what you have read here, do your research, and make your conclusions accordingly.

One of the joys of writing reviews on cigars, whiskeys, and the pairings between them is that you will often have the opportunity to try a new cigar or whiskey and pair them that you may not otherwise have. That is the case with Don V by Oscar Valladares.

Cigar:

The Don V is a collaboration between Oscar and Vick Shah, who owns the Norwood Royal Cigar lounge in Chicago. The Vitola I had the opportunity to smoke was a Toro, Maduro in shade, and a Honduran Puro. One thing that stuck out to me throughout the smoke was that it was consistent in its earth, leather, and gamey notes with very subtle transitions of cocoa between the first and second third and coffee between the second and final third.

Whiskey:

Makers Mark Private Select starts as a Makers Mark 46 bourbon, but then the selection begins from a choice of any combination of five different staves to finish the bourbon. The particular expression for this pairing came in at 108.5 proof and was aged between 5 and 7 years. The nose presented caramel and black cherries, while the palate brought buttercream oils with black cherries and cocoa.

Pairing:

You are looking for a marriage of the flavors with any pairings between a cigar and a drink. This marriage will either present through a complementary pairing where similar notes complement each other and enhance those flavors. Contrast pairings are another form of pairing that differs from complementary, where flavors will contrast and balance each other. The final style, which presents a nice marriage between the flavors, will be a balanced pairing, where neither cigar nor drink will impact each other and offer just a pleasant rounded experience.

Through each third of the cigar, drawing from the cigar first and then the drink, I noticed subtle changes where the buttercream oils were toned down, allowing the vanilla and cherry notes to become slightly more prominent. This, however, was not the case when taking a sip from the drink and then the draw from the cigar. In this direction, there was no significant impact or change to the notes from the cigar.

In this pairing, we had a contrast and balance style of pairing. I found the cigar and the whiskey quite enjoyable on their own; however, because of the different styles presented in the pairing, I would give this pairing a 3 out of 5 stars. It was enjoyable. However, the cigar deserves a drink with a little more boldness to it to stand up to the cigar itself.