Words by Greta Dunn
When you think of cigars, most people do not think about women. Men like George Burns, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and rapper Jay-Z, are a few names that come to mind. And there are many women who share a love of the leaf. As a matter of fact, there is a long history of women and cigars. It has been said the ancient Mayan woman were just as likely as their men to smoke tobacco. The word cigar derives from the Mayan word sikar, which means to smoke rolled tobacco leaves. The earliest evidence that women smoked these cigars comes from the fourteenth century and the Aztec culture. Women doctors used tobacco for spiritual and medicinal purposes and there are pictures of said women being handed flowers and smoking pipes. The beginnings are great and the culture has seen a big boom of women cigar smokers in the last 10 years.
Some may say women are not supposed to like cigars, and this cannot be further from the truth. My decision to smoke cigars was twofold, to get a better appreciation for the aroma, the taste, the ritual, and to learn more about the culture. I have learned smoking cigars provides me a level of relaxation I am not able to reach in other ways. The cigar, spirits, and the camaraderie that comes with them is soothing to the soul. I have met some dope souls because of this culture and while this is still a male dominated culture, women are making their marks.
In the last few years I have seen more women smoking cigars and embracing the culture as a whole. For some, it is all about the pictures. Some people are more focused on looking sexy with the cigar than it is to smoke the cigar. Others are not really into the culture, they actually go to lounges to meet men and give the appearance they are an avid smoker when that is not the case. While I never judge, it diminishes what cigar life is really about. For the rest of us, it is more than taking sexy pictures half clad in a bikini or even less, it is the understanding of cigar life. From seed to consumer, there are women who understand every aspect of cigar making and are sharing their knowledge in new spaces. There has also been a boom in women owned lounges which adds even more excitement to the industry.
A true cigar smoker can tell you when they started smoking cigars, what their first smoke was, and the feeling they get from smoking. For every aficionado, there are those who really do not understand the culture. For example, there are those who will tell you they only smoke Cubans. When I hear such things I chuckle.
Sometimes I give a full on belly laugh as this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. No one only smokes Cubans; at least not in the United States hence the reason I find this ridiculous.
My personal journey with cigars started in the nineties, but it was 2011 that made me the aficionado I am today. I was in Miami, I know, cliché, but I was with a good friend who was an avid cigar smoker and we were actively searching for a new cigar for him to smoke. He turns to me and says, “You never smoke with me.” To which I said, “I am not really a smoker, but I will try.” The cigar was the Alec Bradley Prensado. Unbeknownst to us, this beautifully made cigar was Cigar Aficionado’s 2011 Cigar of the Year. Very flavorful and aromatic, I could taste the chocolate, leather, and floral notes easily. The finish was both smooth and decadent and to this day this cigar is still heavy in my cigar rotation. In other words, I was hooked and I never looked back.
I have learned the art of pairing fine spirits like bourbon and scotch with my cigars. Sometimes I choose tequila other times wine may be the choice for the day. Every now and then I even pair with hot chocolate. My philosophy is to smoke what you like and pair it with your drink of choice. What others think about your choices has nothing to do with you. At the end of the day your cigar brings you whatever it is you are looking for. When I smoke, I find peace and joy. I can enjoy my time with other friends who share love for the leaf, or I can smoke alone.
I encourage everyone to try a cigar at least once. It is not like cigarette smoke, nor does it leave the same scent. While it can linger, because of the different notes it is never a terrible smell, but of course this is just my opinion. There are so many cigar choices and one for every type of palate. From the sweet to bold, from peppery to spicy, there literally is something for everyone. Some of my favorites include the CAO Amazon Basin, the Room 101 Daruma, and the Plasencia Reserva Original. All of these are full of flavor and great for beginners. I think I may go light one up, will you be joining me?