By Tommy Zarzecki
That’s right, you heard me and I’ll say it again… It’s the best time EVER to be a cigar smoker!
Okay, please know that I just heard a collective "What chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?!" from about 10,000 of you, and I want you to be assured that I have not lost my proverbial marbles. Yes, I realize what’s going on with Smoke Nazi terrorism, health groups fixing unjustified data, taxes on top of taxes on top of taxes, and now the imminent danger of the FDA sticking their nose directly up our firm white ashes.

Trust me, my amigos of the leaf, I am quite cognizant of what’s going on in the world of premium tobacco, and the rancid hate that is directed towards any kind of smoking. To those who loathe smoke and tobacco, we are pariahs, the lowest form of anthropology to wriggle our slime encrusted carcasses across this mother earth. There are currently steaming piles of pungent poo sitting in cow pastures that are looked upon with more admiration than our worthless smoky existence. There is scum – then, there are smokers – possibly the most heinous and demonized collection of so-called humans, perhaps even one rung lower Jerry Springer Show guests.

"So Zman, with everything you just stated, you can still sit there with a straight face and say that THIS is the BEST time EVER to be a cigar smoker?"

Yes, I say, and quite emphatically, at that matter.

It seems since the S-Chip hit the fan just a couple of years ago, life has gotten tougher for us lovers of the leaf. Six dollar cigars are now nine dollar cigars and mom and pop cigar store owners, the back bone of the industry for over a century, are having a hard time competing against the big internet based companies who buy in volume and afford discounted pricing. Now in my opinion, that does not make the dot-coms bad guys whatsoever. This is America, people, a place where free trade is king, and the internet purveyors offer quantity, selection, and price. Now the brick and mortars offer great value as well – personal service, friendship, and atmosphere – but as the taxes continue to mount, survival gets more and more difficult for everyone. And now we have the threat of the FDA regulating cigars, an act that could put an end to this glorious passion that we all share. Can you even fathom NO cigars in view as you walk into shop where an employee can only show you photos from a catalog sheet? o more ornate cigar boxes and bands featuring the beautiful artwork that has been synonymous with this industry since the late 1800’s? In fact, the artwork would be replaced by grotesque imagery of charcoal blackened lungs, brains oozing blood, and other horrific sights straight from the SAW series of horror films.

 



"Okay Zman, you wanna explain exactly how THIS is the BEST time EVER to smoke cigars… you friggin mental case."

Hey, suck it up, man, all right? Yeah, things have gotten tough for the cigar industry, but incase you’ve been stuck all alone in a room with Khloe Kardashian for the past couple of years (yow, a fate worse than the SAW flicks) you may have noticed that things are tougher in every facet of our lives. While it’s a time to tighten up and buckle down, it’s also a time to look at the good things you do have in your life. More than ever we all need to recognize and appreciate the things that we DO have. And one of the things that we DO HAVE, is the finest collection of hand rolled, premium cigars the world has ever known. Today, in the year of 2011, there are more manufacturers blending more super quality cigars than at anytime in our history.

The selection of new and hybrid strains of tobacco is overwhelming, as the creation of cigar blends that didn’t exist more than a decade ago has quadrupled. Monikers like Corojo, Crillo, Habano, and San Andreas, to name a few, have entered the arena, and a new guard of master blenders have taken the world by storm. Christian Eiroa transformed Camacho Cigars from a barely talked about boutique, into a high-level brand, whose "authentic" Corojo leaf made smoking strong cigars all the rage. AJ Fernandez has stepped onto the scene offering us a bounty of new and tantalizing full bodied smokes like the Diesel, Man O War, Ave Maria, Rocky Patel Fusion, 5 Vegas AAA, and the new San Lotano. And then of course, we now have Don José Pepin Garica, a man who is changing the face of cigars with a multitude of different blends, flavor profiles, and complexities that we’ve never seen the likes of. I’d have to say that Pepin is the hottest name in the industry, as his brand spanking new factory in Esteli, Nicaragua is turning out one masterpiece after another. The Don is responsible for creating La Aroma de Cuba, 601, Tatuaje, My Father, San Cristobal, 5 Vegas Miami, and his own Black and Blue series – simply put, some of the most flavorful smokes I have ever placed my precious Polak lips upon. These blenders and other newcomers have developed a huge following, producing record sales in an industry plagued by haters the world over. Yes, in a time when smoking has almost become deemed a criminal act, we cigar lovers have the luxury of choosing from the largest selection of tantalizing tobacco treats that has ever been assembled.

Say, does anybody remember something from the mid to late 1990’s called the CIGAR BOOM? While the industry grew by leaps and bounds, and millions of new cigar smokers joined into the fray, we were also introduced to a mammoth collection of cigarbage, marketed by hucksters and neophytes who made claims like, "We have all Cuban torcedores… our master blender created the Opus X… our tobacco is aged 500 years in golden casks … Jesus himself inspects our cigars, yada, yada, yada. The bullshit ran deep during the boom, and under-aged cigars using cheap, inferior tobacco was being passed off as the purist and most premium leaf. I remember opening boxes of Don Nobodies where the stench of ammonia could have revived a 110 lb boxer from a Mike Tyson uppercut. My point? When the boom finally ended around the year 2,000, all of the phonies, fakes, posers, and losers faded into oblivion, leaving only the strong to survive and grow. The industry then became about "quality" over quantity, and today we brothers and sisters in leafiness have been rewarded for our patience with the best and largest section of hand rolled goodness there has ever been.

So we’ve got Smoke Nazis, lying politicians, tyrannical taxes, and the all-intrusive government breathing down our necks. Yeah, life is tough sometimes and you’ve gotta fight and stand up for what you love and believe in. And while the cigar industry faces a battle that won’t go away, it is fighting back by giving cigar lovers the smoke and ammunition we need to get through another day. Look around, people, there’s a plethora of amazing cigars to enjoy, and I am vowing to do just that. Oh yes, my friends, it is indeed the best time EVER to be a cigar smoker!

– Tommy Z

Tommy Zman. is truly an obsessive enjoyer of life. Growing up in the bowels of northern New Jersey, parented by an eccentric Polish father and a neurotic Italian mother, what else could this man possibly be other than a humorist? Zman’s a "real" guy – someone who considers himself a throwback to a time when men were kings of the castle, and smoking a cigar in public didn’t label you an outcast and a pariah. He’s totally old-school, a down to earth guy with traditional values. Visit Zman’s Blog: Rants From a Social Cromag, and see his work @ www.tommyzman.com Wanna reach the Zman? —> zmanmediagroup@optimum.net Find Tommy Zman on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

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