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Return of a classic: Cigars making a comeback

For Enrique Serrano, nothing is better than a cold Michelob Ultra and an Ashton cigar after 18 holes of holes of golf.

"I only get the Ashton if I have a good day," said Serrano, 32. "There is a sense of accomplishment after a good round of golf, and the Ashton makes it even better."

As vices go, there may not be a stronger bond than that between a man and his cigars.

"I can't smoke cigars in the house. My wife will not allow it," the Eastsider said. "She says she doesn't like the smell, but I think it smells great. The only time I get to smoke one is on the golf course or at special events."

Cigars and cigar shops are springing up in all parts of El Paso again. After the cigar boom more than 10 years ago, cigars seem to be making a comeback.

"Cigars are like champagne," said Brad Maynard, owner of three cigar shops in El Paso. "I guess champagne and cigars are part of the victory celebration."

Maynard, who just opened K.P. Cigars at 1709 Weston Brent, off Lee Trevino, to go along with Kern Place Cigars on Cincinnati Avenue

"The tobacco in the cigar is so much better than the tobacco they put in a cigarette," he said. "There are no additives; it is all natural tobacco. One company, Rocky Patel, actually goes through the trouble of trying to get the nicotine out of the cigars."

Most cigar stores sell premium cigar brands such as Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta, Maduro, Saint Luis Rey and Padron.

"Padron was one of the growers in Cuba," Maynard said. "We have people coming in here asking for Cubans all the time, and a lot of your growers like Arturo Fuente and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo all were growers in Cuba, and they've had years and years to work on their soils and their products. They are raising some really fantastic stuff. Most of the cigars we have now can hold their own against Cubans any day of the week."

Premium cigars range in price from $3 to $14.

For the novice cigar smoker, Maynard recommends something mild with a nice taste.

"It all depends on the person and what they like," he said. "It can be anything from a mild to a full-bodied cigar."

He said Maduros have a little more flavor and taste a tad stronger because they're in a natural wrapper.

"What I usually try to do is not so much start them on a mild cigar, but start them out on a cigar that has a real decent taste to it," Maynard said. "Maybe something that is a little stronger but has a smooth draw so it doesn't bite them. Sometimes mild cigars tend to be on the harsh side and not that flavorful."

Robert Garcia, owner of the The Cigar Store at 6254 Edgemere, in the Bassett Village shopping center, has been in the cigar business since 1985.

"The cigar boom in the '90s was great," he said. "During that period of time there were quite a few good and bad cigars, which always happens in boom times. But eventually the cream rose, and the old brands, which had been there with great consistency, survived."

Those original brands include Arturo Fuente, who makes Ashton cigars, Partagas, Macanudo, Montecristo, Cohiba and Don Diego.

"Some new brands survived the boom, but these are the traditional cigars," Garcia said. "One of the new niche markets is the flavored cigars, which are popular. But these are being filled by the original people."

Garcia said customers can get all kinds of flavored cigars, such as cherry, vanilla, mandarin, cognac and amaretto.

Like Maynard, Garcia equates cigar smoking with success.

"Red Auerbach made it popular," he said of the former Boston Celtics owner and coach. "If we achieve our goal, celebrating with a cigar might be the thing to do. That is the way a lot of people equate success."

Source: El Paso Times