The Smoking Corner

The Smoking Corner

It started 10 years ago gathered around a truck bed outside a friends house. The other guys involved were all ministry majors, like me, and the idea of puffing on anything was such a foreign concept. And if we were going to light up anything on that night, it would be kept just between us.

I remember it like yesterday, being taught how to smoke a cigar from guys who were enjoying there first cigar that night, too. I was handed an unmarked cigar and told it was a cuban (a fake cuban). I cut it, lit it, and enjoyed it. From that point forward, I was sold.

Fast forward, a couple of years. As this group of guys continued to evolve and loose a few members here, and gain a few members there, we decided to put a name to our weekly ventures. We called ourselves, The Ecumenical Counsel. We were men from all different walks of life, and completely different faiths and religions. And our time together was spent in deep conversations about life, culture, philosophy, religion, faith, girls, and politics. We grew in our thoughts, beliefs and faith, each with a cigar in our hand.

After many smoke-filled nights, the group dissolved as guys graduated and went their respected ways. Yet, the guys who were remained continued to desire that time together in conversations, they desired that sense of brotherhood. Me, especially, I longed for night with close friends who would challenge me and mold me into a better man and worshiper.

But, it wasn’t till I began working at a smoke shop that I really started to understand the significance behind cigar smoking. At the time, I was managing a cigar shop and working at a local church, while going to school. In the back of the shop there was a membership-only lounge, but because of the membership prices, the only men who could afford it were wealthy, business men who had money to spend and time to waste. As the manager, my job was to drop anything I was doing when a member came in to the lounge, and welcome them.

There was one man in particular that changed my perspective on everything. He was in there almost everyday after work, enjoying his favorite cigar and a glass of top shelf scotch. As I went in to greet him, he handed me a glass of the scotch and told me, “We need to finish this today.” We sat down, I lit up a cigar because I had a feeling this conversation was going to be a little drawn out.

He began talking about work, life, his marriage (which was lacking), his kids, or anything else he could conjure up from his thoughts. Soon into the conversation, I realized that I have only said 3 or 4 words thus far. But, that didn’t stop him from talking and talking and talking. Then it hit me. This man who was confiding in me, just needed someone to talk to. He was lacking in male camaraderie. And somehow, though he was in his late 50’s, married with 4 kids, working for a giant, multi-million dollar corporation, he was looking to me, a twenty-something, single, college-student, to fulfill that need of brotherhood.

To Smoke or Not To Smoke?

So people are unable to understand it, cigar smoking. So many times, I’ve been asked, “Can’t you have those conversations without tobacco involved?” Probably. However, without it, there would be nothing anchoring anyone gathered around the table. They would have no commitment to conversation, or time spent together. It would be like going to a feast that is lacking a “main course.” It’s a ritual.

Something that I have always preached to fellow cigar smokers is that it is not about putting a variety of leafs in your mouth, lighting them up, and having bad breath the next morning. It’s about the experience. Whether it’s just you and a cigar, on your back porch enjoying the night sky and faint sounds in the distance; or, it’s a group of friends, joining together after time apart, so they can catch up, grow together and stretch each other intellectually, spiritually and mentally. Cigar smoking is an experience, every time.

One particular thing that fascinates me about cigar smoking is the process of developing a cigar, from growing the leaves in a field to laying in a box in your local smoke shop. Many of the cigars we smoke today took its beginning seven to ten years ago (some even more than that). From they fields, they were laid in a warehouse to await their chance to be rolled. Then, one person, having done this for many years, took this tobacco and like an artist looking at a blank canvas, began to measure out leaves, cut and mold the body of the tobacco. And after working toward perfection, one cigar is formed completely by hand. It is laid in a box with 19 other colleagues and ended up in your hands.

Man has always been captivated the ability to create and design, engineer and build, conceive an idea and make it real. We respect those that are great, and are focused on making ourselves greater. But the same respect that an artist may have for the sunset, I have for a finely rolled cigar. It is only one person who has taken great effort and a great amount of time into constructing this cigar. And they did so that I may have an experience like above all others. This is their work of art to be enjoyed.

But You’re a Pastor!

When I was sitting in the lounge that day, enjoying this brief moment of ministry, he finally stopped and asked me, “So what do you?”

I told him, “Well, I am a Youth Pastor, too?”

His cocked eyebrow, and look of shock was followed by, “A pastor? And you smoke cigar?”

It is quite often that I receive that same response when people discover the love of cigars I have. It is as if being in ministry automatically excludes any clergymen from enjoying this side of art. However, history has proven over and over again that many theologians and clergy have spent a great deal of time surrounded by the smell of tobacco as it is exhaled from their lips (Theology and Pipe Smoking article, click here).

C.S. Lewis while making no bones about his faith and beliefs also made no secret of the fact that he enjoyed a good drink and a cigar, much to the consternation of many modern evangelicals.” (Phil Webb, Why I Smoke a Pipe)

The only thing that I think is wrong about cigar smoking is that Black and Milds are still being sold.

But, I have to say one thing. Some of the great ministry that I have been a part of in my life has been over a glass of scotch and cigar. That day in the cigar lounge changed customer’s perspective of me, and only made it more possible for me to share the love of Christ with those members. And believe it not, many lives were changed in that lounge, but most will never know that.

The Modern Gentleman: The Smoking Corner

What you will find here is a love for the art of cigar and pipe smoking. So many times has Tim and I read cigar reviews on numerous websites and magazines, and then questioned whether we were any “good” at cigar smoking because weren’t able to identify that same things the reviewers did. “A taste of cedar? Hint of coffee and chocolate? Those were in there?” we would ask ourselves.

So many young men new to the game (and even some seasoned professionals) smoke cigars while not knowing exactly what they are doing, or how to fully experience the art as it is intended to be experienced. And, they are finding themselves in the same boat that we have spent most of our cigar smoking life. And they jump ship early, missing out on the magnificent experience that this art offers. Hopefully, that is where we would come in.

We don’t have the taste-buds of professionals, but we know what taste good and what tastes like licking a driveway. We can recognize specific tastes in each stick, but can understand what makes a great cigar and what tastes like Black and Milds (can you tell of my hatred for B&M yet?). We feel that we have the taste buds of the unprofessional smoker, which makes up the majority of the cigar business: the college student looking for something to smoke while studying for finals, the guys night out, a simple smoke to ease the Mondays, poker night, etc. It seems as though the unprofessional smoker is often overlooked.

For example, I like to wander into cigar stores when I get the chance. And, when one of the salesmen approach me to help find a cigar, I ask them one questions, “Well, what do you recommend? I like Maduros with a little taste of spiciness.” The majority of the time, they take me to a cigar that fits the profile but not my wallet. Many of us experience the same thing in our local cigar shop. We don’t know what we are looking for, we just want something good and enjoyable. Yet, we don’t want to spend tons of money. Then, we feel pressured because they are pointing out $10, $14, even $23 cigars, and you’re going to have pay if you want a good cigar, right? Wrong!

One of the worst cigars I have ever tasted, almost making me throw up in my mouth, was a Graycliff Blue Label Chairman (valued $20.50/stick). In fact, I had a second one to make sure it wasn’t just a one-time experience… it was a first-time experience, and a second-time experience!

Now, there are great cigars out there, and you will pay a pretty penny for them if you want them. But, there are great cigars that will give you an amazing experience and leave enough money in your pocket to buy your favorite drink. And, if your local cigar shop is trying to sell you top dollar cigars, run! They only want your money. I would stress to my employees, “Smoke the cigars. Know the cigars. Give your customers an experience.” I wanted my employees to sale what they knew was good, not what we made the most money off of. Believe it or not, everyone who walked through the door trusted them, because it was about an experience, not price.

At The Modern Gentleman, Tim and I want to share the same thing. We want you to have the great experience you can have when enjoying a fine piece of tobacco. We’ll give you tips, ideas, techniques, pairings, environments, talking topics, opinions, pricing, comparisons and reviews; all the things you need to help you enjoy the art of smoking more for yourself.

Don’t jump ship early.

As many people have said before, tobacco is an acquired taste. It’s not for everyone, but for those who have opened the door to the art, lets talk. Maybe you haven’t had the “wow” experience, yet. Maybe you don’t know what to look for. Maybe you get intimidated when walking into a humidor and see 100’s of labels. Don’t jump ship to early. Let’s talk.

Cigar smoking is an experience, not a habit. It is something you share with the people closest to you. It is something that moves your soul. It is something that makes you a better thinker. It is an experience. Tim and I want to share our experience with you. Let’s smoke.

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