It happens to the biggest premium cigar aficionados out there: things start to get a little stale. Not "stale" in the sense of dried-out. That can happen, of course, but it's not likely to, if your humidor is set at the standard sixty-seven to seventy-four percent relative humidity range, and as long as the air temperature inside the box is between sixty-nine and seventy-four degrees. (It is, isn't it?) No, this kind of stale has more to do with you than it does with the cigar. You feel like your premium cigar habit is in a bit of a rut, and you think it's time to try something new.
Luckily, cigars come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and tastes, so if you've had enough of sweetish, almost-chocolaty oscuros you can move to the other end of the taste/color scale and try the pale-khaki-colored, dry, delightfully astringent tastes you'll find there. If you've gotten into the habit of smoking long cigars that usually take around the same amount of time, every time, switch it up with some panatelas or cigarillos. If you're in bad enough rut, it might even be time to make your own premium cigar sampler, going out of your way to pick cigars that don't fit your usual taste profile.
But as above, so below: the premium cigar industry itself occasionally finds itself in the same sort of predicament. The standard shapes, sizes and tastes are already hitting their popularity plateau, and no one's sure what the next breakthrough possibility is. At these times, makers of premium cigars often turn to one of the most reliable sources of business and cultural innovation: the past.
In the 1990s, when the premium cigar industry rebounded from a case of terminal stagnancy and even became, for the moment, somewhat trendy (while inspiring something of a late-1990s backlash as well), such a turn to the past for new ideas happened with the chocolaty, oily oscuro cigar mentioned above. These dark cigars occupy one extreme of the taste-color continuum--the informal rule by which light-colored, tan cigars are the driest and bitterest (features for which cigar aficionados prize them, as bitter hops make certain beers a once-in-a-lifetime experience), while, as cigar wrappers darken, the taste contained inside tends to get sweeter. The oscuro is like the bottom key on a piano, the lowest bass note on a guitar. It denotes how sweet and how dark a cigar can get.
But by the time of the so-called early 1990s "cigar boom," oscuros were unpopular and very hard to find. This probably has more to do with an overall contraction in the market than with the oscuro itself, a kind of cigar that can be delightfully well-made as any other. With fewer people overall smoking cigars, flavors that had always been acquired tastes even among cigar fans were less likely to sell, and premium cigar makers stopped rolling them.
By the mid-1990s, though, you could find oscuros again--just as you can today, with the premium cigar industry continuing to function at a level far exceeding that of its 1991 state.
More recently, another nearly-extinct species of cigar has been recreated and is in the midst of repopulating cigar shops and online stores near you. The Salomon--a big cigar that comes in between perfectos and diademas in terms of its size--is tapered at both ends, and has always been popular in Cuba. Its unusual shape means that premium cigar makers have a difficult time finding rollers with the requisite talent and experience to make Salomons. But that hasn't stopped La Flor Dominicana and Rocky Patel from adding new Salomon-sized models to their premium cigar lines--or from making quite an impression on taste-panelists and Cigar Aficionado (and other industry) reviewers alike.
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