A new year is a time for new ideas--especially a new year like 2009, as we catch our breath before a new presidential administration, a (likely) new economic order, a new Super Bowl, and (soon enough) a new decade. January is the time for new Congresses, new Presidents; new stock at the local store; new advertising campaigns (often unveiled during Super Bowl Sunday). And any person with a hobby, or obsession, tends to seize on January as the month in which to re-evaluate and chart new directions--even small businesses do it, not to mention athletes, Sunday painters and stamp collectors. So why not cigar aficionados, too?
Here, in the spirit of New Year's, are some suggested resolutions for every passionate cigar smoker to consider:
1. Enjoy yourself. After all, it's a short life, so be thankful for every smoke.
2. Try something new. Variety is the spice of life. If you've only really smoked mild cigars up till now, buy yourself a cigar sampler of strong, bold-tasting claros from several different premium cigar makers. If, on the other hand, for you the only good cigar is a rank and overpowering one, try something a bit lighter. Challenge your taste buds to appreciate--and your brain to notice--tastes that are outside your normal range. (Remember, taste is as much a matter of imagination as it is of raw sensation.) And there are lots of other ways to vary things up: try a different brand (or several different brands); smoke a cigar of a size you're not used to (a Churchill instead of a cigarillo, or the other way around); try smoking with food, coffee or alcohol if you haven't yet (bold, simple tastes are best--dry cheese being an excellent choice); etc.
3. Try something old. Remember your first cigar, or your first favorite cigar? Maybe you've been around the block since then, and haven't smoked any of those early favorites in a while. Well, try them again. As in revisiting a favorite book from your teenage years, you'll learn something about how your tastes have changed.
4. Support the little guy. As any interview with a cigar industry veteran will attest, there are plenty of excellent smaller premium cigar companies that just haven't gotten the media exposure they deserve. So when you order your cigars, take some thought for the hard-working smaller premium cigar makers. Perhaps even order a do-it-yourself sampler of cigars from companies you don't know well. You can always go back to those tried-and-true favorites later.
5. Give something back. In 2007 and 2008, we already saw the launch of more than one charity program tailored especially to cigar lovers. For example, there's the Cigars For Troops program, which brings a moment's tobacco-induced relaxation to America's hard-working, constantly endangered soldiers. If that's not your style, consider finding another way to share your good fortune with those who have less.
6. Treat yourself. Maybe there's a cigar you've always wanted to try, but it's just a bit out of your price range. Well, pick a date when you know you'll be needing a reward--perhaps just after that big deadline at work--and buy yourself a cigar that's just a bit nicer than what you ordinarily afford.
7. Play well with others. The calendar year is now dotted with cigar festivals and cigar-related events, such as the Ybor City festival in Miami and Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke[s]. (These days there's more than one Big Smoke; there may even be one near you.) So get out there and share your love of cigars with others!
8. Get over the Cubans already. Given the changing political winds, you may be hoping for a swift end to the Cuban trade embargo which has prevented Americans from enjoying a good Cuban cigar legally since 1962. But this law's fate is ambiguous at best--some powerful constituencies still favor it--and the new administration is unlikely to pursue action on the embargo in the immediate future, given its many other legislative priorities. So rather than sighing for the Cuban cigars you can't smoke, try the great cigars of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras and Brazil--countries where some of the great cigar makers of Cuban history emigrated after Castro came to power. There are a lot of great cigars out there. Get smoking.
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