CAO Sopranos Associate: A Cigar Is Not A Box

CAO Sopranos AssociateIn my ongoing quest to discover new and interesting cigars, I’ve learned one important lesson. You should never buy a box of cigars based on a single smoke. I came close to making that mistake recently with the CAO Sopranos Associate.

I love the Sopranos show, so a cigar-themed gimmick had a cheese appeal to me. The appeal was not enough to get me to lay down $10 a cigar, but it was enough to get me to look around and see what other cigar smokers thought about it. I found mostly positive reviews of the cigar online and it was even featured in Cigar Aficionado. In some testimonials the smokers lamented that they only bought one after a surprisingly good smoke. Good enough for me, it looked like it was worth a try, so I kept an eye out for it.

When I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I found a small supply in a local tobacco shop and I bought a few. That evening I smoked one with a young tawny port on a balcony overlooking the Oregon coast. It smoked like a dream. It had a beautiful draw, each puff rewarded me with a huge volume of smooth chocolaty smoke. I loved the hell out of it and made immediate plans to go back tobacco shop and buy the remaining 10 or so cigars.

A few nights later, some friends and I got together at Greater Trumps in Portland, Oregon for some cigars and some old port. Earlier that day I picked a bunch more (I didn’t quite clear them out- clearer heads prevailed) so I passed a few around, thinking I was really treating my friends. We were all in for a surprise. The cigars where strikingly lackluster. Good draw, as before, but the smoke was almost flavorless. Wow, did I feel like an idiot.

On a side note, it turns out the mildness wasn’t such a bad thing. My friends didn’t smoke cigars often, and this gave us the opportunity to have another completely different cigar later without being completely overloaded and hating life the next day.

A week or two later, I smoked one while watching the Sopranos. The cigars I had left over from my trip had spent the weeks in bottom of my humidor. This time it smoke seemed filmy (pun not intended, but heck, I’ll take it). Given my past experience with the cigar, it seems likely that the mouth feel was due to the unimpressive wine I decided to pair with it.

The point of all this is that I made a very amateurish mistake. I assumed that a single cigar was a good representation of the line, and I bought more of them than I should. (Fortunately, I didn’t spring for a box online. There’s still out there, and I was thinking about it.) Sometimes a line of cigars is that consistent, but I’ve run into too many cigars where this isn’t the case. (An Onyx experience comes to mind here.)

What really clinched the lesson for me was remember Walt from Stogie Review mentioning in one of his video clips (I think it was the Gurkha X-Fuerte review) that he didn’t like doing review based on a single cigar. He didn’t elaborate, but the truth is that cigars are so influenced by their environment a cigar from one humidor may be very different from another. Or even more importantly, cigars often have slight flaws that have a big impact on the quality of the smoke. The only way to get a good feel for a cigar is to sample several.

Because of these potential inconsistencies, before you buy a box of cigars, or decide to never smoke one again (hey, it could go either way) buy one more cigar and try it again. (Or at least go for the 5 or 10 pack instead of the full box.)

As for the cigar, I don’t think its a bad cigar. It’s a mild cigar that needs a good drink pairing. I would recommend carefully selecting that accompanying beverage. It’s quite pleasant with a ruby or young tawny port, or perhaps a stout or porter beer. Possibly a coffee drink (I’m thinking Spanish coffee, but that’s probably because I love Spanish coffees). Dark and rich is the key here. Lighter beers and wines may wind up making it an unpleasant experience.

Oh yeah, do me a favor- if this post prevents you from making an expensive cigar mistake, let me know! 🙂

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Why eBooks Are Bound to Reign Supreme

The Sony eBook ReaderMike Elgan clearly didn’t read my post on the Sony Reader before he wrote his Computer World article Why e-books are bound to fail. (Side note: Don’t you just hate it when they split an article across several linked pages? Is that crap usability or what?) I’m nailing at least 20 page views a day at this point, so you’d think he’d have heard the news: My wife is carrying on a love affair with my Sony Reader.

My wife is not some silly Sony Reader fangirl; in fact she kept trying to talk me out of buying it. Nor does she have advanced technical prowess. She’s capable with word, excel and an internet browser. And yet in spite of her lack of slide rule aptitude, she curls up every night with my Sony Reader. Yep, Mr. Elgan, she curls up with it. It’s actually a surprisingly easy thing to do. I thought you’d like to hear about it, as you twice mentioned your doubts on the “curling up” scenario.

Of course my wife’s behavior is purely anecdotal, but then so is the example of one book being only $1.25 cheaper on than Amazon. Many books are free on websites like Free beats any price you can find on Amazon. Of course, many of these free texts are classics, but classics are heavily read each year by both students and literature junkies.

As the price of the hardware comes down (and it will), a few lingering quirks are worked out (OK, there’s more than a few), and more eBooks become available at competitive prices. I absolutely believe you will begin to see eBook Readers take off. It already has in the technically-savvy bookworm community. The reduced price will help it spread into the academic and business/road warrior community, and eventually into the non-technical, novel reading community.

And even if I’m wrong, it’s only a matter of time before the feature creep of mobile phones, MP3 players and PDA’s expands to include improved eBook reading features. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of eInk. It’s too revolutionary. While you might be correct in the sense that none of current line of readers will become the next iPod, eBook readers are not going away.

UPDATE: I originally wrote this most of this post last night, and in a great ironic twist, I found my wife curled up with an analog reader. Yeah, a paper book. I was shocked. I asked her why she wasn’t hogging my reader. She said there “weren’t any nice books left on it.” She had polished off Infidel and The Science of Getting Rich (the original The Secret) and wasn’t interested in reading my Allan Quatermain novels. Looks like Sony will be getting a few more bucks from me soon.

UPDATE 2: I think I’ve found my next purchase. Chuck Palahniuk (a Portland/Pacific Northwest Author!) has a new book Rant on the Sony ebook website.

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Wedding Pictures Up, Finally

Well, I’ve made good on the wedding pictures I mentioned in the Wedding Highlights post from last week. I think it’s worth having a look just for the Candid Headshots gallery. That’ll teach people to make faces at my numerous disposable cameras! (For a small fee, I’ll be happy to take any offending picture down… 😈)

Now at some point, I need to sort out the bachelor party pictures… and I haven’t even touched the standard set of posed pictures everybody takes at their wedding… sounds like some tasks for another night.