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Swellboy on… the pleasures of cigar-smoking

The human condition improves when viewed from the unlit end of a good cigar

Swellboy on… the pleasures of cigar-smoking

Image: Brijesh Patel

December 23 2010
Nick Foulkes

I often wonder why I smoke cigars. There is a sort of folkloric quality about the activity that I rather like, setting fire to a bunch of leaves from the tropics and allowing the smoke to roll over my palate is, after all, a minority pastime. Indeed, that is the word that captures it: pastime. You see, I firmly believe that one of the purposes of a well-lived life is to accumulate as much specialist paraphernalia as is humanly possible. And as a source of paraphernalia, cigar smoking is right up there…

First, there are the lighters – naturally I have assembled an enviable collection of Duponts, selected on the basis of the clear bell-like tone that rings out when the top is flipped open. To me this music is as beautiful as the peal of bells that rings out from Westminster Abbey when an heir to the throne of Britain takes a spouse. The purposeful “kling” acts as an aural amuse bouche to the banquet for the senses that is a fine Havana cigar.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Before I apply the flame to the end of my tube of Cuban tobacco, I have to wield my cigar cutter – an instrument of surgical precision that I wear on the end of a long chain looped through the lapel. The scope for changing cutters and lighters is vast; for instance, a crocodile skin-covered cutter at Hermès recently caught my eye; and talking of exotic skins, if there is a bit of breeze, then I have the perfect excuse to use my blue flame shagreen-covered lighter that I bought at the Dunhill store on the Rue de La Paix a number of years ago.

But lighters and cutters are the least of the opportunities: there are ashtrays aplenty, humidors galore and cigar sleeves – the best ones are old Ducas in varying shades of brown and black croc.

Like any authentic leisure activity, whether it is fell walking, bowls, dressing up in period clothes to re-enact battles of the Civil War, or philately, my fondness for cigars and the associated trinketry has the useful effect of banishing from my mind the somewhat disconcerting spectre of the futility of human existence. I find that the human condition improves when viewed from the unlit end of a good Havana cigar.

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