Experiencing a fine cigar alone can be a bit boring, but lighting up in the company of other enthusiasts makes puffing a bit sweeter. Just ask the members of Monocacy Cigar Lodge, a new club with the sole purpose of enjoying cigars and conversation with other stogie lovers in Frederick County.
At the club's first event Saturday, the air was thick with the smell of Ashtons, Nat Shermans, burgers and bratwurst as members mingled on the deck of the club president's home in Adamstown.
"The camaraderie is really what makes it enjoyable," said Tim DeBlois, a club member, said during the club's first "Cigar-B-Que."
The Monocacy Cigar Lodge is taking a cue from the Metropolitan Society, the oldest non-commercial private cigar club located in Fairfield, N.J., to create a luxurious place for members to enjoy cigars other than in their basements or garages, and in the company of others who share their vice.
Greg Elder, president of the Monocacy Cigar Lodge, said the club wants to find a central location in Frederick County that members can access 24 hours a day to meet, sit back and relax and watch sports in furnished smoking rooms.
The goal, he said, is to have a place by winter. For now, the Monocacy Cigar Lodge is focusing on building membership and publicity with more Cigar-B-Ques, a golf tournament on May 31 and cigar dinners in Urbana throughout the summer.
The club grew out of small, informal gatherings of cigar aficionados at local cigars shop
and lounges. By March, members wrote the club's bylaws, established a board of directors, a Web site and received nonprofit status in April. Membership is currently $50 per year.
Elder noted that more than 50 men and women have expressed interest in the club, including more than 30 cigar enthusiasts traveling from as far as Leesburg, Va., to the Cigar-B-Que Saturday.
Nearly a dozen people sat around Elder's outdoor dining table, covered with wooden and metal cigar boxes, hamburger buns and wine. Classic rock music played in the background and a game of horseshoes had already begun in the backyard. Craig Goodman of Point of Rocks sat near the table, smoking a robust Partagas cigar and following the group's conversation.
Goodman - who added cheerfully that his first name is "cigar" with the letter rearranged – said he has been a cigar smoker for nearly 15 years and mostly smokes at home in his basement. Goodman said his brother-in-law is a member of the Metropolitan Society.
"I always hoped that one day a similar group of people would form down here," he said, noting that it provides another place to smoke that does not infringe on other people's preferences.
Elder described the local community of cigar enthusiasts as more "grassroots" and casual than the high-fashion, chic cigar culture featured in popular cigar magazines such as "Cigar Aficionado."
However, smoking cigars is not a poor man's hobby, Elder noted, since one can pay $7 for a good stogie.
Some cigars can cost as much as a bottle of wine. For Monocacy Cigar Lodge members, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the types of cigars they enjoy –personal preference dictates their choices.
The amount of sun the tobacco plant absorbs and the soil conditions and different processes cigar-producing countries use affect how strong or mild the cigars are, DeBlois noted.
"There are literally thousands of types of tobacco," Elder said.