One of the joys of the year's end is rankings and retrospectives.
You know--The Best Movies, The Best Books. The Year's Most Heartrending Moments. The Best And Worst-Dressed.
From Time Magazine's Person of the Year to Pitchfork's top fifty albums, it's fun to have a chance to argue about what, in the past fifty-two weeks, has been really essential and what was just ephemeral. What novels of the past year will still matter in ten? What movies managed to outlast their sell-by date (The Dark Knight), and what movies didn't (Burn After Reading)? What cultural events are textbook-destined (and which will we all have forgotten by February)? Which sports battles and football-field upsets will provide years of fodder for commentary, and which will be effaced by the new year? And--perhaps most fun of all--what cultural phenomena can we turn our back on, forever, with grateful relief? (Britney and Dr. Phil, Heroes Season Three, campaign ads and Joe the Plumber, I'm looking at you.)
My list may not look the same as yours. But these kinds of lists give people an opportunity to discuss values--what criteria do we count as "good"? Why? What criteria do others prefer? They let us articulate what it is we find valuable in life: craftsmanship, integrity, fun, or - well, fill in the blanks for yourself.
The end of 2008 has induced the same kind of retrospective mood among cigar devotees--with the result that people who write for cigar publications and blogs are trying to argue out which of the cigars introduced during the past year provided the richest, most satisfying smoking experience. Without serving as final arbiter among such judgments, here are a few names that have popped up multiple times.
What cigars would end up on your list?
Jose "Don Pepin" Garcia landed on many observers' 2007 best-of lists with his version of the San Cristobal de la Habana cigar--a new version of a Cuban cigar long unavailable in the United States, but remade by Don Pepin with Nicaraguan tobacco and wrappers expressly for those of us whose governments (ahem) maintain trade embargos on Cuba. The same cigar maker impressed many smokers in 2008 with the Don Pepin Garcia My Father. Emulating the care and seriousness of the Cuban cigar is this cigar maker's characteristic--the Don Pepin slogan holds up the "art, tradition, and style of Cuba"--and such Cuban characteristics as the accordion-folds used with the filler tobaccos and the triple-capped heads enable the cigars to burn evenly. In the case of the My Father cigar, this craftsmanship is combined with a blend of tobaccos so fine that some have said it represents Don Pepin's classiest effort yet.
Davidoff, a world-class cigar-making firm from one of the most respected cigar-making countries (the Dominican Republic) in the world, offered its first maduro cigar in 2008. The wrapper is from a naturally dark Nicaraguan kind of leaf, so the cigar isn't as sweet-tasting as maduros tend to be. What it is is a whole new cigar with its own unique blend to go with the new kind of wrapper--and a cigar that's gotten acclaim from readers and taste-testers with its powerful taste. The company's foray into the world of the darker, somewhat-less-bitter world of the maduro appears to be a success, though at the moment, according to reports, there aren't any plans to market the new Davidoff Robusto Maduro R in any but its current 5-inch, 52-4ing gauge format.
Macanudo is, depending on how you count these things, either about to celebrate its fortieth birthday, or it's already done so--the company's first cigars date from 1971, and its development dates from 1968. Either way, why not begin the celebrating as early as possible? The Macanudo 1968 was released in July 2008 at a major trade show, and has won some cigar smokers' hearts with its extremely complex leather/coffee taste (complexity of taste being something Macanudo cigars, sometimes unfairly dismissed as "beginners' cigars," aren't always credited with) and flawless construction.
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