Cigars not just for old men anymore
Even with all the huffing and puffing about smoking bans, cigars just seem to keep getting hotter.
"Cigar smoking is going through a huge Renaissance," said Larry Houff, owner of BLS Tobacco in Austin. "It started in 2000, dipped for a little bit and is coming back again."
That's worldwide, he said, not just southeast Minnesota and northern Iowa.
"Cigars and golf are huge," Houff said after a recent trip to Florida. "I think I was the only guy on the course without a cigar."
Still many people come into his store wondering, "What am I looking for? What do I want to spend and on what type of cigar?," he said.
Here's a quick schooling on what's hot:
Hard-core cigar connoisseurs won't touch the stuff, said George Wazwaz, manager at Tony's Smoke Shop in Rochester, but flavored cigars are hot.
They appeal to newcomers and cigar smokers who are looking for something different, said Kris Wood, manager at Tobacco Discounts in Rochester. Vanilla, honey, rum and Kahlua soaked cigars have just a hint of sweet, he said.
The flavor mostly stays on your lips, Wazwaz added, but you do smell it while smoking.
Cojimar cigars come in flavors like cherry tip, rum, sugar, honey, and vanilla, Wazwaz said. He recommends the Havana Honeys, which come in vanilla, rum and blackberry and Kahlua cigars, which have a coffee liqueur aftertaste and come in 10-packs of cigarette-size cigars.
"To me it's like in the convenience store," said Ari Kolas, owner of Apollo Liquor and Smokeshop in Rochester. "Every few weeks a new favor of Snapple comes out. Same in liquor. There's always new flavors of rum. It brings people into the business and helps get rid of the stigma of an old man smoking a stinky old stogie. Flavored cigars are pleasant to smoke and have a nice aroma."
Another trend in premium cigar brands like Partagas and Macanudo, as in coffee, are richer, full-flavor blends, Kolas said.
When is it appropriate to light up a cigar?
Cigars to celebrate a baby's birth are always popular. You'll also see cigars at groom and bachelor parties as well.
Just as people pair food with wine, you can pair cigars with different things also, Kolas said.
"Cigars are a celebration of life and good things," Kolas said, adding. "There's nothing better than to sit back on the deck, smoke a cigar and reflect on the day and enjoy life."
Cigars also go hand in hand with golf and billiards, and certain establishments, like Cafe Havana in Minneapolis have martini and cigar bars, Kolas said.
"Some young folks are connoisseurs of cigars," Houff said. He knows of at least one regional cigar club, based in Albert Lea.
Cigarillos, are smaller cigars, meant for a 10-minute smoke just to get the flavor in your mouth, Kolas said. That's opposed to the big, old fashioned cigars that last an hour and a half or more, he said.
"Taxes effect us more than anything," Kolas said.
However, Houff said he tries to discourage people from mail ordering cigars through the Internet. "You will get caught up to and have to pay taxes," he said.
Instead, stores like his try to cover all ends of the spectrum with high end, low end and mid range cigars, Houff said.
"I have noticed we don't sell as many boxes as weused to," Houff said. "Guys who used to buy a box of 20 will buy about five at a time. They're spending about the same."
A high rated cigar that will burn mild and won't tunnel runs about $4 to $5 after taxes, Houff said.
Hard, leather cases that hold two to five cigars are in demand right now, Houff said. "There's nothing worse than to come in and spend money on cigars then go to golf course and break your cigar in your golf bag," Houff said.
The leather cases also keep cigars a little warm and humid, so they will stay fresher, Houff said.
A good quality lighter is a nice accessory as well, he said. You can be on the golf course on a breezy day and the flame won't blow out, Houff said.
What's to come
In the process of remodeling the BLS Tobacco store in Austin, Houff plans to move the humidor to the back of the store and create a lounge area in the front with leather chairs, a floor ashtray from the 1930s and crystal ashtrays, he said.
"You can sit down and relax and have a cigar," Houff said.
Source: Post-Bulletin (subscription)