Notes from a noob
I live in Southern California near the happiest place on earth.
Ten years ago I was a cuban snob, but only smoked one after a night of drinking, and knew very little about it. When I quit drinking I tried smoking a little, but didn't enjoy it.
3 months ago, a friend got some CC (Cohiba) from the island itself. After getting a few sticks from him I noticed how dry they were. I promptly stuck them in tupperware with a moist paper towel separated from the sticks by a plastic baggie. Several weeks later we tried smoking them and they were way too moist and tight. You might want to stop reading if you are easily horrified.
One friend stuck it in the microwave to try to dry it out. It actually worked pretty well, but I don't know what it did to the flavor. I tried poking a BBQ skewer through the middle with limited success.
I removed the paper towel to try drying them out a little and tried again in a week. Still too tight. I finally just left the 3/4 stick outside for a day and fired it up again. Smoked 1/2 of it before tiring and left it outside for another day before I finished it. I think I did this with a couple of smokes.
All this puffing and little satisfaction gave me the desire to just get something I could smoke. The corner liquor store has a small walk in humi, so I was in business. I remember my favorite CC being RyJ, so I picked up a churchill. (I knew it wasn't from an ISOM, but didn't realize it was actually a different company).
What can I say, but .... ahhhh man that was a nice smoke. I think I realized right then and there that humidity is the most important factor in enjoying a cigar or not.
So, every Saturday morning I would go to the store, buy my afternoon smoke and relaaaaaaaax. I remember ISOM Punch being a little too strong for me so I avoided those. Tried an AF(a little too spicy), Partagas maduro (yummm, but too loose and quick) and a few others. I was really starting to like this. Did a little browsing on the web and decided I was ready to try a really good cigar on a week day no less. Ended up with a short Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 that I paid too much for. I remember this as being the first cigar that had a caramel flavor to it.
Next up was the RyJ Reserve maduro. Not enough flavor for me. I was sucking away like crazy and smoked it to the nub which left me feeling a little sick, but not satisfied.
Now I'm starting to really enjoy this. I need to get a humidor and start stocking up. I started off with an old cigar box I just wet down periodically to keep the humidity up before I bought some of those cheap round humidifiers and I had an old hygrometer to keep track of it. Found a couple of internet samplers (JRCigars with the aluminum travel humi and a couple of 4 packs with a colibri lighter (which sucks). I got the Onyx reserve toro and LGC Wavell maduro. I still haven't tried any of those as I am waiting for them to recover from their dry shipping.
A friend recommended a cigar lounge to me and after looking at some reviews decided I wanted to try an Ashton Heritage Corona Gorda. So without knowing much more than that I walked out of that store with the aforementioned Ashton, Oliva G maduro torpedo, Oliva O maduro robusto, Rocky Patel Decade churchill? and Tatuaje Regios. And this store doesn't have any advertising or ratings on their cigars. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.
The Ashton was the best cigar I had ever smoked and opened up a whole new level of ciger enjoyment. In doing some research on the smokes I bought, I discovered I had some pretty decent sticks.
Found another lounge closer to work and started smoking at lunch instead of eating. I told the owner I wanted a mild to medium bodied cigar with a lot of flavor and complexity, and he kept steering me to stronger cigars, saying, "If you want the flavor, you need to have some strength". First up is the Tatuaje Havana VI Angeles. I knew I wanted to try this after doing some research and reading it was a black cherry bomb. This is one great smoke. I don't know about the black cherries, but the flavor and amount of smoke were awesome. I felt this was a little too strong for me (at lunch on an empty stomach) but the taste it left in my mouth and the smell it left on my hands/clothes has been the best. I think I actually liked this more than smoking the cigar (and I enjoyed smoking the cigar).
Well, I'm definitely looking for thinner RG and shorter smokes for lunch, but buying longer and thicker smokes for home. The next memorable stick came from lounge #1 at lunch and was the Tatuaje Noella. Nice thick smoke and flavor and same great aftertaste (not finish) and residual scent.
Favorite cigar so far: Tatuaje Havana VI West Coast. Seems like every time I smoke something else, I say to myself, "Hmmm, I coulda had a Tat." Two exceptions: Illusione cg:4 and Oliva MB III robusto.
I think I may be beyond the mild-medium phase, but it seems pretty quick to me. I thought I would have to train myself to like the fuller smokes. Now I have to restrain myself from smoking every day. Currently trying 2 days smoking, one day off.
The high cigar tax in CA has me ordering more online. Seems like I listen to all the hype as I've ordered Opus X - two sticks in an 8 stick AF sampler for $52 seemed like a decent deal to me - Padron 1964 maduro (a single 1926 #9 for a special occasion), Oliva Serie V and more Tatuajes. First box purchase: Oliva MB III robusto for $114 delivered.
From what I recall, I am enjoying smoking the NC cigars today much more than the CC of 10 years ago. I am already over capacity of 2 cigar boxes and the travel humidor with the extras in baggies with humidipacks. I hope that humidor arrives soon. Today I bought a used 12 bottle wine cooler as it can get pretty hot in our house in the summer and I want to protect those smokes. For anyone still reading, thanks for listening and I look forward to starting some trading relationships.