Vice 101: Cigars and Simple Pleasures


Stephen F. Dennstedt

Vice 101. How is that for a provocative title? Interesting how one man’s vice is another man’s pleasure. Maybe it has something to do with our American Judaeo-Christian culture. Why are certain simple pleasures labeled as vices (which often translates to mean sins)? I write about my vices often in this blog—my simple pleasures. I never apologize for them because they make me HAPPY.

My sinful pleasures are few: Cigars, Scotch Whisky and beautiful women. My other pleasures are more benign by cultural (social) norms: Photography, Writing, Travelling, Food and Dogs. That I indulge my pleasures, in some eyes, makes my lifestyle hedonistic. Don’t like it, then don’t do it. I on the other hand have reached an age where I enjoy them without guilt.

Spending time in Yucatan allows me to indulge my passion for good cigars—Cuban cigars. They’re not cheap even in Mexico and you have to watch out for fakes. What the touts sell in the Mercado and around the tourist hangouts are fakes. Some are fair smokes and others are just plain lousy. What they all have in common is their high tourist prices. Once you light one and take your first puff you know immediately if it’s authentic Cuban or not.


Cuban Romeo y Julieta Churchill Short Cigar

I buy mine at a 5-Star tourist hotel here in Merida—they are absolutely authentic but very pricey (335 Mexican pesos or $16.36 USD per stick). Today’s purchase was five Romeo y Julieta cigars direct from Havana. The size is a Churchill-Short (which I would call a Robusto). Nice moderate ring size (diameter) and length. Beautifully constructed with an even burn and lots of smoke. Flavour and aroma are both extraordinary. Smoked with a rich coffee in the morning or a fine Scotch whisky in the evening leaves your palate wanting more. The world claims Cuba makes the best but I would argue that Nicaragua has the edge.

I smoked my first cigars as a young nineteen year old Marine Corps Sergeant serving a combat tour in Vietnam. Marines and cigars just go together (they always have). For me, smoking a premium cigar is a meditation. Meditation is all about the breath and the same can be said for smoking a cigar. It’s not about the nicotine and inhaling—it’s about the flavour and appreciation. A good cigar is an acquired taste like Scotch whisky, Cognac, Wine or Sushi. You may not appreciate its complexities at first blush but give it time—it will grow on you. Or don’t and miss out on one of life’s great experiences.

The above photo (inset) of me, indulging in a Cuban Cohiba cigar, was taken in Trinidad, Cuba three years ago. I smoked a lot of cigars in Cuba during my monthlong visit: Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and PUNCH. They were all good and surprisingly expensive even in Cuba. One of my favorite cigars, however, is the Mombacho manufactured in Granada, Nicaragua. Every day I went to their factory, Mombacho Cigars of Nicaragua, and smoked in their lounge—drinking world-class rum and sampling their handmade sticks of delight.


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