Even my dreams weigh heavy at day's end,
they line up with my bills and body,
remind me what could have been done better,
what could have been completed, put away.
There is such knowledge in the world, today,
did I learn any of it? Is smarter
how I go to bed tonight? Did I see
a new argument, or did my mind bend?
I've been sitting all day: my aches and pains send
sporadic stimuli to my brain, breathes
a rhythm only my back knows – harder
my chair grew. After this day, I am drained.
But, before bed, I bring out a cigar,
bathe in its blue smoke, scrub off the day's scars.
This will be three reviews for three different audiences.
1. Review for the Seasoned Smoker Knowledgeable about Cigars:
you smoke cigars, and are interested in the history of this fine hobby,
Zino Davidoff needs no preamble. This book is full of anecdotes,
advice, and humour by a name all but unmatched in cigars. You need this
book. Even in translation the wit, poetry, and philosophy of this man
First published in 1967, it
contains but the briefest of hints about what the Castro cigar market
would be: Davidoff admits to other countries making good cigars, but to
him, the Havana is king. I wrote down about fifty great quotes out of
this book, and half remember about fifty more I'll catch on my next read
through. If it can be faulted, it is for two things: Davidoff's
personal preference of Havanas is communicated as objective superiority,
and, at 92 pages, it is too short of a book. This book has given me
many phrases with which to describe our hobby, and you need this book.
2. Review for the New Smoker of Smoker Unconcerned with Cigar History:
Zino Davidoff's many roles are: inventor of the humidor; tobacconist
for royalty, pre-revolution Bolsheviks, and the rich or famous; and
connoisseur extraordinaire. He fills this lyrical little tome with witty
words about his passion: a life well lived. For him, a love of cigars
is the signifier and signified of an enjoyed life. Like a good pet, at
the end of the day, the cigar treats you the same way whether your day
has been blessed or cursed. The book alternates between advice,
philosophy, and humorous anecdotes. Read the following excerpts, then
purchase this splendid book.
If you love cigars, this
book needs to be on your shelf. In it, Davidoff clearly lays out his
personal preferences, general cigar etiquette, and the important factors
of cigar smoking in a poetic, funny, and honest fashion that can help
the new smoker organize their thoughts. These things have not changed.
However, some of the specifics have changed in the last 45 years, but
the passages that are too specific to his time are brief.
3. Review for the Non-Smoker:
book offers a glimpse into the philosophy of one of the hobby's most
famous proponents. If you're interested why people smoke, this book will
not answer that question because it is a personal choice. To quote
Davidoff, “We never know exactly why we smoke.” However, we have ideas
why we do, and this book presents some of those ideas in an amusing
"If tobacco is a lost cult, if the
cigar is surrounded by a mystery that alludes us, it is necessary to
bow before the mystery. We never know exactly why we smoke."
know how to smoke is to recover certain forgotten rhythms, to
re-establish communication with the self. If there is a secret of the
cigar, it is to be found in the slow movements, the dignified,
measured smoking. The movements are more than mannerisms; they are
"The cigar should never be treated
like a cigarette. It is something that commands respect. It is the
king of the tobacco products and should be treated according to its
"How can one say that the cigar -- nothing
but an object -- has a soul?"
"In a recent book, _Du
Miel aux cendres_, [Claude Levi-Strauss] explains that tobacco has
always been an instrument of communication with the
"If I have acquired over the course
of the years some bit of philosophical perspective, it is again to
the cigar that I am in debt."
"I have had to refuse
service to valets because no honest man will have his servant choose
"I discovered Cuba's perfume and her
sensual warmth as an immature adolescent discovers an ardent,
George Sand: "The cigars numbs
sorrow and fills the solitary hours with a million gracious images."
"Such is the respect that I hold
for the British royal family that I refuse to give them the advice
Edward VII proffered to a young lord in his entourage: pierce the
cigar with a lance and, after lighting it, wave it in the air."
any case, the cigar is even more attractive in its nudity."
a cigar holder? No, please do not. Who would want to drink a good
wine through a straw?"
"You do not fit a cigar into
your schedule; you give it a moment and it occupies your time and
Paraphrasing the "Terry Report"
better known today as _Smoking and Health_: "Surface of
resorption for the cigarette (that is to say, with inhalation), fifty
square meters of membranes. Surface of resorption for the cigar
(smoke rests in the mouth), one hundred square
"Respect the ash -- as you do the rest
of the cigar -- but do not make it an object of worship, giving it
importance it does not merit. It is pretty to contemplate. It is the
point of departure for the smoky spirals, the generator of dreams and
oblivion. But it also represents pleasure that is past."
you have smoked a cigar, don't pick up a cigarette. After even an
average cigar, the best of cigarettes is bland, useless,
disappointing. The pleasure of the cigar, don't forget, is not found
only in the smoking. It precedes is and lingers long after the fire
is out." (Mr. Davidoff was a cigarette smoker as well)
in a box, case, in your hand or mouth, treat your cigar with care.
Your pleasure depends on it."
"Don't forget, a cigar
is a companion, and a rare one that will never slip away. You can
call upon it at any time. But different cigars suit different
circumstances or situations."
"A cigar cannot truly
be enjoyed without contemplation, without thinking. You cannot smoke
anything at any time, in any place. A cigar should fit your mood,
habits, personality, surroundings."
Flavored Cigars] are a humiliating form of candy for adults."
not smoke a cigar when working. If you do, you will smoke badly –
and what is worse? You will smoke badly when writing, when thinking
of something else. The cigar is exacting. It gives its all only to
those who are consecrated to it, body and soul. Such an expression is
not too strong."
Robert T Lewis: "The
day has been difficult or pleasant or lyrical or savage. The man has
fought, loved, and perhaps suffered. The weight of all the day's
events and decisions is on his shoulders, and, with it, the
consequences. These he may now measure or conjecture about. But he
may also, for a moment, return to himself, return to his own
contemplation. The blue smoke of a well-chosen cigar disappears into
the air, a symbol, perhaps, of the vanity and precariousness of all
things. No other object or person is capable of giving him such an
opportunity to indulge in introspection, to contemplate his own being
which is of such little significance in relation to the greater
"The Corona is the king of cigars.
Its five and one quarter inches in length constitutes the ideal size.
Its diameter is so calculated that the flow of smoke is perfect. It
embodies all that is necessary for the connoisseur -- the perfume,
the aroma, the essential vapors. Each man has the right (and the
duty) to defend his favorite Corona."
gives to the smoker the maximum of pleasure, a quantity of abundant,
"Double Corona -- Sometimes termed
a "chair rung," this super cigar varies in size from eight
to nine inches. It is often associated with those men who are
searching for a special effect, or possess the complex of a tycoon,
of little Caesars. It is true that the size harmonizes well with a
champagne bucket." (This is a complex, double-sided attack by
Davidoff who hates people "searching for a special effect",
and people who drink anything but water while smoking – it ruins
the experience of giving yourself, "body and soul," to the
cigar. In essence, he thinks most people who smoke big cigars are
"All of this is, to say the least, a
matter of taste. What is most important is to be sure of your taste.
In the midst of all these ifs is one sure thing: whatever your
tastes, your habits, your needs, there is a cigar which will be
right, one that is adapted to your constitution, which harmonizes
with your mood. There is no more faithful servant than a Havana. To
learn to choose a cigar which is right for you is to exercise your
talent for self-awareness. To find the cigar which suits you is a
And the famous quote: "A
well-chosen cigar is like armor and is useful against the torments of
life. A little blue smoke mysteriously removes anxiety."
"Three Spainards, unknown to
me, absolutely confounded me one day at my shop in Geneva. 'Show us,'
one of them said, 'your very best Havanas.' I opened several boxes.
They smoked for a while in silence. Each took a different selection.
Then the first, opening his eyes, said: 'Cape de Vinales, tobacco of
Palicios.' The second: 'Cape de Vinales, tobacco of San Luis.' And
the third: 'Cape d'Isabel Maria, tobacco of the Semi Vuelta.'
That had been all. They left
enchanted after having purchased several boxes. I never saw them
again. But the certainty of their identification struck me so
forcefully that on a trip to Cuba, I checked them out. They were not
mistaken. Never had I met such connoisseurs. There probably aren't
any others quite so expert.
This anecdote gives an idea of the
degree of sensibility that can be obtained. Recognizing the
plantation from which the fermented leaf had been gathered is a
miracle. But to know how to identify a good cigar, one made by an
expert, is the work of all enlightened smokers."
father's store was a small one and all the family made cigarettes by
hand, cigarettes with gold tips and filled with blond tobacco
imported from Turkey. This store was not like any other. From time to
time, bizarre gentlemen with conspiratorial looks would gather there.
They were conspirators. And just like the liberator of Cuba, Jose
Marti, exiled in Florida, used to send messages rolled in cigars, so
the enemies of the Czars in Kiev carried out their plans behind a
cigar smoke-screen. Eventually the conspiratorial ring was discovered
and I, with my family, left Russia in a covered wagon. In Geneva my
father opened a small workshop and began again to build up a trade.
Other exiles came to the shop. They were feverishly preparing for a
revolution. One of them greatly impressed me. He had a thin face,
brilliant eyes, and spoke in a loud voice. He also took cigars and
didn't pay for them. My father never tried to recover the money. On a
bill which I have kept as a souvenir are stamped the words Not Paid
and the name of this customer -- Vladimir Ulyanov. Not until later
was he known as Lenin."
Paderewski told me that when a violinist plucked certain strings of
his Stradivarius, all the Stradivari in the surrounding area vibrated
in their cases. In the period corresponding to the Cuban summer,
Havanas everywhere in the world, kept under the right conditions,