The bus stops here: The Macanudo American Passion Tour comes to Greensboro
Jay Lewis has the coolest job in the world. Every day he travels in style and luxury in a 45-foot bus equipped with fine Italian leather seating, a mirrored ceiling, two Sony flat-screen TVs that get 150 channels, a Sony surround-sound system with a 200-CD changer, a DVD player and a VCR, a dual air conditioning system with filtration and ionization, and a 30 cubic foot built-in humidor stocked with some of the world’s finest cigars.
Jay is an ambassador for Macanudo cigars on tour with the Macanudo American Passion Tour 2005. In layman’s terms he’s a marketing representative that’s got the gravy and the biscuit to sop it up with.
Today he’s at Charlie’s Tobacco on Battleground Road and in the large, mobile traveling cigar lounge he’s greeting customers and inviting them to try a Macanudo cigar. After they make a tough decision between the CafÃ©, Maduro, and Robust, Jay gives the cigar a cut, shows the customer how to properly light it, and chats with them as they chill out in the soft, leather seats. Although cigars are available for purchase in the store, Jay’s not selling anything. He’s just making folks feel right at home.
‘“Oh, this is scrumptious,’” says Connie Carney as she takes a puff on a Maduro that Jay lights for her. A cigar aficionado herself, Connie was at the tobacco shop earlier in the day buying some cigars for her father’s birthday. She heard that the Macanudo bus would be there later on and she just had to come back.
Gary Cooper (no, not that Gary Cooper) sits back enjoying a cigar as well. He spends 50 to 60 dollars a week on cigars, he says, and is a cigar club member at Charlie’s Tobacco.
Macanudo is a part of General Cigar Co. in New York, an cigar enterprise that includes other premium brands such as Partagas, Cohiba, Punch and La Gloria Cubana to name a few. The cigars on tour are available in 12 sizes ranging from Ascot, a four and three-sixteenths inches long cigar with a ring gauge of 32 that lends itself to a 15 to 20 minute smoke, to the Prince of Wales at eight inches long and a ring gauge of 52 that can last up to two hours.
The size of cigar, Jay says, should coincide with the amount of time you plan on smoking. A short drive across town might necessitate an Ascot while a game of golf may better fit with a large cigar.
Some cigar smokers believe that cigar size affects taste. As a cigar is smoked, flavors change as the length shortens. However, with premium cigars you still get the same full flavor with a small stogie as you do a large one. Length should be primarily based on what you feel most comfortable with and which cigar you feel fits you best.
A premium cigar is one made from whole leaves and wrapped by hand, which is what gives these cigars a uniform taste and aroma. ‘“A good cigar can be stood on its ash,’” says Jay, referring to the long leaf tobacco that doesn’t fall from the cigar like filler tobaccos do.
Macanudo’s CafÃ© cigar is a light bodied cigar, yet still very flavorful. The Connecticut shade wrapper, grown under cheesecloth, gives the cigar it’s mild flavor and aroma and is combined with fillers from the Dominican Republic and Mexico, then bound in a Mexican San Andrean leaf. It’s perfect for a smoke after a light lunch or on an empty stomach.
The Maduro, also filled with Dominican and Mexican tobaccos, is bound in a Connecticut leaf with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper grown in full sun to give it a darker color and stronger taste. This cigar is medium bodied and has a very rich and creamy taste.
The Macanudo Robust is bound in a Connecticut shade wrapper for a smooth flavor but contains stronger Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers in addition to the lighter Dominican and is bound in a Connecticut broadleaf. The result is a fuller bodied cigar with spicy notes, more suitable after a heavy meal.
Before lighting any premium cigar it must first be cut. A proper cut can determine the enjoyment or dissatisfaction of a cigar. The method of cutting, Jay says, is an individual choice. There is the guillotine cut, using either a single or double blade instrument, or a pair of cigar scissors. These cuts expose a greater amount of leaf, but care must be taken not to cut beyond the cap or the cigar can unravel while smoking. Some prefer to cut using a tabletop method by placing the guillotine flat on a table and putting the end of the cigar in the cutting area, resting it on the table so as not to cut beyond the cap.
Other methods are the punch or bullet cut, which makes a perfect hole in the end of the cap, and the V cut, which takes a slice out of the cap in the form of a V.
After cutting you are ready to light. To get an even burn, the cigar should be held at a 45 degree angle and the flame of the lighter should almost touch the open end of the cigar, or ‘foot.’ Move the lighter in a circular motion until the foot has an even glow, or ‘cherry.’ Next, place the cigar in your mouth and light again, rotating the cigar and gently puffing. This method of lighting produces a nice even burn as the cigar is smoked.
Everyone has his or her own personal preferences when enjoying a cigar. However, here are some basic rules of cigar smoking etiquette:
‘• Cigar smokers should always be considerate of others. Ask before lighting up. A large part of cigar smoking is about dignity and character.
‘• Do not inhale the smoke or blow it through your nose. Inhaling cigar smoke is not only bad for your health, but mutes the senses causing one to not be able to taste and enjoy the full flavor of the cigar.
‘• Puff slowly, about one to three puffs per minute. This keeps the cigar cool and therefore keeps tars from building up as fast and ruining the flavor. Upon each puff hold the smoke in your mouth a few seconds and then blow it out, savor the flavor like with wine.
‘• Do not immediately knock off the ash. Long ashes help insulate and keep the cigar cool.
‘• Do not chew the cigar or get the end of it too wet. Take it out of your mouth between puffs. It ruins the flavor and is bad etiquette.
‘• Do not crush the cigar to put it out. Instead, let it burn out on its own. This keeps it from smelling smoky and looking ugly. Remember: act distinguished.
‘• When selecting a cigar it should be soft to the touch. If the wrapper is cracked it is too dry and will burn too hot and improperly.
‘• When sharing cigars with friends always let them select first.
‘• When smoking with your boss or someone with higher authority than you, never select a cigar larger than that which they are smoking. In some countries it is dishonorable to smoke a cigar larger than someone in authority over you. The same would apply for smoking with the groom at a wedding.
Selecting the perfect cigar can be a rewarding treat. Don’t be afraid to try different brands and sizes as you experiment. Cigars vary in flavor depending on the country, region and soils in which the tobaccos are grown and can have natural tastes ranging from spices to coffee to nuts and so on. Most importantly, relax and enjoy.
And Jay, come back to Greensboro real soon!