In a world where many of the pleasures in life can be looked down upon, it’s refreshing to find that people do still enjoy their guilty pleasures. Forgottenbeeblog talks to Paul AllsoBrook @paulallso, about his passion for cigar smoking.
FB 1/ Tell me where your interest in cigar smoking stemmed from?
My interest in cigars is all my wife’s fault! Up until last year I was a complete non smoker. So why now I hear you cry? I have always enjoyed the smell of someone else’s cigar. My wife Karen’s late Father (never met him unfortunately) enjoyed a cigar at Christmas, so she enjoys the smell as well. Anyway, we were in town one day passing a shop that sold cigars, and Karen mentioned she would like to buy me one (our wedding anniversary was coming up). There were about 6 or 7 different brands for sale, so we choose one at random. That was the day the MONSTER was born!
FB 2/ Where do you purchase your cigars from? And why?
Nowadays I buy all my cigars on-line. The shop where I first purchased my first cigar, like I said was very limited to what it was selling. The internet has opened a whole new world. The shops out there sell a wide range, all sizes and all prices.
FB 3/ Do any of your friends or family join you in cigar smoking or is it purely your hobby? What do they think about your hobby?
Most of my friends are non smokers but some have had a quick puff on one. One of my brothers (I have three) has pinched the odd cigar. My Mum and Dad (bless em) quit smoking more than 20 years ago and can’t understand why on earth I have started. So most nights I go in my man cave (alright it’s my garage) and light up. I don’t smoke in the house.
It would be nice to meet up with fellow cigar smokers and put the world to rights, but there doesn’t seem to be many cigar smokers round here. I do use forums and twitter to see what other folk are smoking. It seems to me that in this country cigar smoking is perceived as a rich mans hobby. Trust me I ain’t rich!
FB 4/ Which country makes the best cigars? And what is the most expensive cigar you have?
They do say that Cubans are the best cigars (who are they and who am I to argue)? I have spent £15 on a Cuban and £3 on a cigar from Nicaragua and enjoyed that more. So it’s all down to individual tastes and the size of their wallet. You can get cigars from all over the world, but I mainly smoke cigars from either : Nicaragua, Honduras or Dominica. My most expensive cigar I have at the moment is sitting in my humidor (bought by a good friend) which is a Cohiba Robusto, a Cuban. This is about £19 a pop; they ain’t cheap, that’s why I never bought it.
FB 5/ Do you have a large cigar collection? And is there a particular way you have to store them?
I guess at the moment I have about 100 cigars! How many I hear you cry? Like I said “A monster has been born”. Because I’m a ‘newbie’ it’s hard to know what you like and dislike. So I tend to order sample packs, out of a pack of say about 20 I may only like one or two so I will order more of those. Then of course there are review sites & twitter , if I see a certain cigar being raved about I will try a couple, before you know it your numbers build up. Once a new order arrives I like to ‘rest’ them in my humidors for a couple of weeks . A humidor is a box that should keep a constant humidity. At the moment I have three, (the meerkats belong to the wife, honest)!
FB 6/ Is there a piece of equipment you could personally not live without as part of your hobby?
This is all the gear I use to smoke a cigar! Not all at the same time of course. But it has all been used at some point. It’s nice to have a choice although I do have my favourite items.
FB 7/ Do you have certain brands for special occasions and which ones would be your everyday cigars and why?
Of a normal day (when I’m not at work) I will properly get through 3/4 cigars . On average it’s takes about an hour to smoke one cigar. Morning, walking the dogs, afternoon ‘pottering about’ and after evening meal in the ‘mancave’ (garage). Like I said earlier some cigars aren’t cheap, so morning cigar might be a ‘Flor de Oliva’, a nice cheap bundle cigar. Afternoon perhaps an ‘Ave Maria’ or an ‘Alec Bradley’ – American Classic. My evening cigar is when I like to try something new (the ones folks are raving about or one out of my sample packs). This in turn perhaps turns into my afternoon smoke. If we go out for the night (and allowed to smoke) I will take out a tried and tested smoke!
FB 8/ The bands on cigars are like small works of art! Are these collectable or do you simply throw them away?
Most cigars have a band around the cigar. This is a piece of paper identifying what cigar it is. Some can be just a simple ring with the name on or some can be a real work of art. I don’t collect them as such but what I like to do is every time I try a new cigar I stick the band in my ‘cigar log’ with a small description about the cigar. Did I enjoy it? How was the smoke? How was the draw? The cigar is then marked out of 10, not found a 10 yet! I have recently moved into my new cigar den so I have started to decorate it with my bands. There is one cigar I came across that really started me off on my cigar quest. This was the “Ave Maria”. This has to be one of the best bands ever, to me this is really a fantastic work of art.
FB 9/ Talk me through from beginning to end the enjoyment you get out of smoking a cigar? For example, choosing which cigar to smoke to the moment you extinguish it?
As I have mentioned, I am still a ‘newbie’ to cigars so the cigars I buy initially are bought on the basis of other smokers reviews, blogs etc. So for me to enjoy a cigar, I am looking for 4 main things:
1/ The draw, I like a nice easy draw (how hard you have to suck) You could have the best tasting cigar in the world but if the draw is like sucking a marble through a straw that ruins it for me.
2/ The taste, that is why I smoke, there are some great flavours out there. I try and pick the flavours I have read on the reviews, if it tastes like soggy old cardboard, that ain’t good!
3/ The smoke, I prefer loads of thick creamy smoke.
4/ The smell, it has to smell good, what’s the point of trying to enjoy a decent cigar if it smells of dirty old socks.
I suppose there could be a number 5 and that’s the ash, some ash hangs on, some don’t. It’s only an issue when the ash lands in your lap. It does happen from time to time, hopefully the same cigar doesn’t catch you out twice.
FB 10/ When it comes to birthdays and Christmas do people buy you cigars or cigar related products?
When it comes to Christmas, Birthdays, Anniversaries, if any body wants to buy me any cigar related products I will get a list drawn up. Seriously, if family or friends were going to buy me something I would hope they would discuss it with me. I would hate it for them to spend money on cigars that taste like old straw. My wife for our anniversary recently bought me a lovely cigar cutter (I did show her which one I wanted). For Christmas, she is buying me 2 boxes of cigars (again I pointed her in the right direction.) Bless her!
FB 11/ Would you say your hobby has become an obsession?
I would defo say that cigars are now a very big obsession. What started out as a random pick from a shop in town to where I am now is unbelievable! From my humidors to cutters, lighters and don’t start me on cigars. Someone introduced me to twitter (big mistake) if I see a cigar being raved about I have to have one, hence my collection. I started smoking in the garage, I have recently purchased a summer house, this is now my new ‘mancave’. My wife is very supportive of my ‘hobby’, but it has come at a cost. I am now on first name terms with the folks at Radley Handbags @Radley_London and Pandora Jewellery @PANDORA_UK.
FB 12/ What advice would you give to someone considering taking up cigar smoking?
What a very good question. If you would have asked me that a couple of years ago I would have said ‘don’t be an idiot’ but now?!
If you are going to start, perhaps ask advice from an already cigar smoker. What cigars they smoke, what you need and above all the cost! If you let it, it can be an expensive hobby.
FB 13/ Are you a member of a club or do you converse with other cigar smokers on the internet?
At the moment I am not a member of any clubs or organisations . The only way I get to hear about any cigars is through that fantastic tool, the internet. This is by either checking out the stores that I use or blog or review sites, such as @BlindMansPuff, @stogieguys and @NiceTightAsh. Most of the blog and review sites I use are USA based. Their cigar culture appears to more more relaxed with cigar stores and lounges on every other corner (I am sure they are not). Like I have said before I do use twitter. It’s always good when you post a photo and a few words and you get a RT or favourite, this then sometimes lead to a little ‘chat’ with someone.
FB 14/ Have you ever considered writing reviews on cigars and their related products?
Me writing reviews…gulp…! I don’t think so. I don’t consider myself with the correct knowledge. But saying that not long after, I had just started on this cigar mission of mine I came across this cigar that was the the right size, and more importantly the right price and the taste was ‘ok’. The store where I purchased it from had a review page, so I did a short review saying how impressed I was with it (this got printed). Fast forward a few months and I had gained a bit more experience and I smoked again the reviewed cigar! It was like smoking a very dry bit of straw. So, what do I know.
FB 15/ Thank you very much for taking the time to answer questions for ForgottenBeeBlog Paul. This is my final question. If you were on a desert island and had one cigar with you what would it be? And when would you smoke it?
Another good question!
I could say I would have the most expensive Cuban there is but what if it wasn’t to my taste (like some are) and hated it. So it would have to be a tried and tested cigar, at this moment in time that would have to be either: La Aurora 107, Camacho Corojo, La Gloria Cubana N series. I would cheat, declare 1, hide the other 2.
I would smoke it when just about to be rescued but knowing my luck I would have 1 match and that would fail to light….Bummer!
I’m off now as all this smoke is making this little Bee rather drowsy 😉 X