My love of the leaf

Posted By on January 19, 2017

MollyI get asked this question all the time, “When did you start smoking cigars?” I usually offer up one of my typical smart-ass responses like, when I realized they weren’t going to smoke themselves. Helping select a cigar for a newbie connoisseur the other day got me thinking about my first venture into the world of premium cigars and why I found them so fascinating. I was an occasional cigarette smoker throughout High School, and by that I mean I would light them up while slugging back cheap brews during corn field parties. Yes, we partied in open corn fields. Huge bon-fires, cold beer and shots of anything with Schnapps on the label is what country kids did to pass the time growing up in a town where the most exciting thing to ever happen was the installation of a traffic light. We smoked cigarettes like most young people did as an act of rebellion to showcase how cool we all thought we were. Hell, everyone in the Breakfast Club smoked so we did to! I was amazingly cool as you might have guessed by the way.

I never took up cigs past graduation because it just wasn’t my thing. By then I had found beer! Wonderful glorious beer! That was my vice until I found Bourbon so I didn’t succumb to the allure of tobacco products like chew, snuff or Skoal Bandits. It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I gave true premium handmade cigars a try. And I was instantly hooked. None of my friends enjoyed cigars, my dad and grandfathers didn’t smoke cigars so where exactly did I get my appreciation for those miraculous little tubes of 3rd world plant? To the best of what I can recall (remember I told you I discovered beer at a young age so many of my cognitive functions are not what they once were) I was living in Milwaukee and as part of my job had to make a sales call on a North side cigar shop. I walked into the store and was instantly embraced by the smells of cigars and Turkish coffee. Done. That did it for me.

I popped back into the shop a few days later after doing some internet searches about cigars feeling like I could attempt to tackle this new thing and not look like a completely ignorant fool. I actually ended up looking like only a partial completely ignorant fool for the record book. Like any good shop owner, he recognized my utter lack of experience and was gracious enough to spend as much time as I needed to pick out a few cigars he thought I may like. After grabbing a few sticks and finding a spot to sit down, he set me up with a cup of coffee and my love affair with cigars and cigar lounges was born. A surgeon, an off duty police offer, a taxi cab driver and me all enjoying an afternoon of conversation with a cigar. All I could think was that this must really be an amazing magical thing to bring patrons from as vast of backgrounds as you can imagine together for a short time to enjoy each other’s company. All because of some rolled up tobacco leaves?

Rich CigarI bought every book I could find, read every blog that existed, which was not much back then, and tried to get my hands on anything that helped me learn more about this new past-time I had discovered. Lucky for me I was entering my new hobby at the backside of the Cigar Boom so there was a lot of great information, but unlucky for me was that not every cigar out there was very good. The boom of the 90’s created such a high demand for premium cigars that anything and everything was pushed into the market place because profit preceded quality and every douchebag in the word thought they were cool if the wandered around with an expensive cigar in tote. It didn’t matter if you had no pedigree to your brand, it was going to sell to many of these fly by night aficionados. I was able to find some good cigars by frequenting local shops and quickly learned what to avoid. I became a big fan of Puros Indios by Rolando Ryes, Onyx Reserve, La Gloria Cuba from Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and almost everything from Rocky Patel’s original Indian brand. Most of those you can still pick up from online retailers but my tastes have changed over the years so I now have many other favorites.

It wasn’t until around 2004 or 2005 (again, beer brain) that I started finding some other guys that enjoyed cigars as much as I did. Trust me, over the years I tried to get EVERY one of my friends hooked on those handmade happy treats but most were just content to mooch off me whenever we got together. They were all glad to know that I would have plenty of quality smokes to pass around whenever a group of us gathered and many sought me out knowing I would need to duck out eventually to have one. I can’t even begin to count how many cigars I’ve given away over the years at weddings, baby showers, Packer tailgate parties etc etc etc. I guess they never had their “a-ha” moment like I did that would forever make them lovers of the leaf. Definitely not from my lack of trying.
Finally discovering a small group of cigar nuts in Northeast Wisconsin was one of the best things that happened along my cigar journey since I was at last surrounded by tobacco junkies that had as much or more affection for premium cigars as I did. That’s you guys by the way.

Everyone has a varied past that got them to this point in their lives, which is why I find it amazing that our devotion to the leaf can bring us all together to share this passion. Which makes me wonder where your appreciation for cigars came from? You just read my boring story, so tell me your tale. I’ll even reward you for your efforts. Whether it’s a heartwarming tale of father son bonding over a White Owl or smoking an “It’s a Boy or Girl” cigar from the birth of your fist child that got you hooked. I’ll read through all the replies and pick a winner that will receive a couple sticks from The Cigar Soldier. What is easier than that? Share your story as a comment below or on Facebook and you just might win. Good luck!

The Cigar Soldier

About the author

The Cigar Soldier is the founding father and President of The Brotherhood of the Leaf, an internet community of cigar enthusiasts and Northeast Wisconsin’s only true membership based cigar club. As the main writer for Cigar Night, his rants can sting, stir or inspire your emotions, as he leaves no topic of enjoying the cigar lifestyle off his hit list.


7 Responses to “My love of the leaf”

  1. Luke Russell says:

    My story is not as eloquent as yours, Garth, but here goes…

    I started smoking cigars to rebel. Initially, I smoked some real dog turds, but it didn’t matter because I was doing it to piss off those that thought it was a sure “ticket to hell.” Then I upped my game; in a moment of pure craziness, I thought I would try something besides the bundle of cigars that I was getting for $20. I spent $3 on one cigar. Wow, it was the most amazing smoke! I thought tobacco was tobacco; who knew? Slowly I started upping my game and branching out from my dollar sticks. Unfortunately for me, those sticks that brought me so much pleasure at a mere 100 cents apiece soon became unsmokeable, and Gurkha became my new best friend. At a few bucks a piece, they were heavenly. I knew there was a God.

    Then I made the mistake of buying a $6 cigar. Yea, it was great. Out went the Gurkhas I purchased online and in came better cigars from more reputable sources. My taste for fine cigars continued its upward climb, and I discovered something else, cigar lounges. Who knew there was a place you could sit and smoke a great cigar and shoot the shit with other guys? A place where you are only a stranger for a short period of time. Now, my rebellion has turned into a passion. It is seldom I travel without stopping in a cigar lounge to light up a fatty and swap stories with the locals.

  2. From falling out of a golf cart to running the coolest business in Northeast Wisconsin. You’ve come a long way!

  3. Steve Christopher says:

    I guess my appreciation of cigars started when I was a child at family gatherings. After the great pot luck meal, someone would pass around a few gars. What wonderful aromas filled the air. Especially compared to the smell of cigarettes of the time. When I got old enough to smoke I began my life long experience of cigar smoking. As the years passed I learned that the hand rolled delights were and are part of or some of the best moments of life. Keepem burning, Hood.
    Steve Christopher

  4. Good stuff Steve. I have many memories that are highlighted by cigars being apart of the good times.

  5. Donna Semrau says:

    I started out enjoying the aroma of cigars at weddings when my Uncle Ray smoked cigars. My Grandfather also smoked the cigarettes that were actually little cigars with filters. Guess I was destined to enjoy them.
    I smoked cigarettes in my early years like most. Because everyone else did. I quit when I was 21 and married.
    Scott started smoking cigars on ,”SPECIAL OCCASIONS.” This was maybe 5 times a year. Eventually Special occasions turned into everyday. I still LOVE the smell of cigars and enjoy the new friendships I’ve made all over the country in cigar lounges. Especially here in Green Bay!!??

  6. Elwood says:

    Mother insisted when I was five

  7. Thanks Neil and Donna!

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