Is the Embargo on Cuba a Good Thing?

January 20, 2009 · Posted in Cigar Industry, Featured · 2 Comments 

Cigar Aficionado doesn’t think so. In their latest issue, which hasn’t arrived at my house yet, they argue for lifting our embargo on Cuba. Here’s a little taste of what they have to say:

We believe it is time to end the trade embargo and open the doors of Cuba to Americans. We don’t gloss over the widespread and justified condemnation of some of Cuba’s domestic policies that have limited political freedoms and human rights. But after 50 years of isolating Cuba to try to achieve change there, we think it’s time to try something else, and we believe that opening up the island to American visitors, and thus our influence, will help produce the kind of changes we want much quicker than any other policy.

To tell you the truth, I am conflicted about this issue. Obviously, opening up Cuba would give me more access to what are suppose to be the world’s best cigars. That would be a plus.

On the other hand lifting the embargo could be construed as a tacit acceptance of a brutal communist dictatorship. That would be a negative.

Here’s my thoughts – right now – on lifting the embargo on Cuba:

What destroyed the Soviet Union? Ever since the beginning of the Cold War our presidents would meet with the current Soviet leader and they would talk mainly about arms. Then something changed.

During the ’80s Gorbachev actually allowed for individual rights to become a part of those discussions. I firmly believe that the death of communism really started at this point because communism, at its essence, is about the superiority of the collective over the individual. Once the leader of communism allowed for the mere existence of individual freedom their flawed and dangerous system was allowed to implode.

All of this brings me to the current arguments for lifting the embargo on Cuba. The theory goes that once America’s embargo is lifted on Cuba we’ll be able to go in there and change hearts and minds. That Americanism will shine a light into every shadowy corner of communism and freedom will light up that island off the coast of Southern Florida.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that would happen. Changing a system, neigh, a people, isn’t something that happens through cross-cultural exchange. No matter how many baseball games we play with Cubans or how many cigars we share they will still be Cubans and we will still be Americans. And Cubans, at least the ones that are in power, are strident communists.

Really, the only thing working in favor for lifting the embargo is our own selfishness. We want free access to their cigars, their resorts, and their beaches. At no time do I see how we would work with Cubans to improve their lives and, if some neighbors are any example, Cubans’ lives will not improve from an embargo-less Cuba.

What? Think I’m wrong? Then look at Mexico. How are Mexicans doing? They have a de facto socialist country and, according to our military, they’re just about as bad off as Pakistan. Last time I looked their country was more than open to America; we’re very close trading partners and average Mexicans have horrible lives.

Which brings me back to my point: lifting the embargo will not improve one Cuban life long term. The only thing that will improve life in Cuba long term would be a dramatic infusion of American entrepreneurialism.

So while I would personally benefit from lifting our embargo on Cuba I don’t see how Cubans would benefit. Cubans will only see an improvement in their lives when their leaders acknowledge and work to protect individual liberties. Without that as a precondition I would not be in favor of lifting the embargo on Cuba.

Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 for 2008

January 11, 2009 · Posted in Cigar Industry · Comment 

Cigar Aficionado, the publication that set me on my road to cigardom, has come out with its annual Top 25 list. Their list is a very good list because they do multiple tastings with multiple people reviewing each cigar. The top cigar for 2008 was the Casa Magna, a cigar made by Manuel Quesada and Nestor Plasencia.

The exciting thing about this cigar is that anyone can try it because it only costs $5.25 (MSRP). I would love to smoke this cigar myself.

Everyone have a happy Sunday and don’t forget to watch 24.

Don’t Judge a Cigar by the Way it Looks

December 1, 2008 · Posted in Cigar 101 · 1 Comment 

I will occasionally take a peek at Cigar Aficionado‘s site because it is a great resource. Today, I went on there and saw that they had a new cigar of the week featuring a Cuban cigar called Cuaba. It’s a pretty big perfecto that received a score of 92 points from the experts.

But Holy crap! This cigar is ugly!

Even though this is an ugly cigar supposedly it is very good.

Even though this is an ugly cigar supposedly it is very good.

I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder but, in the end, all that matters is that the cigar functions well and tastes good.

Does Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke New York City Mark the end of an Era?

November 18, 2008 · Posted in Assault on Cigars · Comment 

I have never been to one of these things before but, now that I look at the lineup, I can easily see why people go. For the low price of $240 for a ticket you get cigars from nearly thirty cigar makers, food, and all the spirits that you can keep down. Want to see the lineup of cigar makers and spirits? CLICK HERE.

One of the major reasons why I am writing this is because I found it extremely sad that Cigar Aficionado had to include this line: “We are in compliance with the NYS guidelines.” How very sad indeed.

Cigar Aficionado had to include this line: “We are in compliance with the NYS guidelines.”

New York use to be the epicenter of illicit fun. When prohibition swept across the land speakeasies popped up all over New York. Didn’t the people from the great state of New York (and basically every other state in this country) that people like to enjoy their freedoms?

Guess not. Now, one of the only times you can smoke a cigar in a major city is when Cigar Aficionado throws an event. I can’t remember which city it was, I think it was Chicago, but in order for the city to allow cigar smokers their right to smoke a legal product Cigar Aficionado had to get special permission to have their party.

All of this is headed in a very scary direction. I guess that since we are in the minority our “leaders” feel safe enough squashing our rights for the “betterment” of a few whiners who hate the idea of adults enjoying cigars in their presence. My God.

A year ago we dodged a bullet with S-CHIP but our bodies have already been sliced by thousands of little laws and codes banning our presence in that restaurant or that building. We are bleeding out now and unless something miraculous happens I don’t know how much longer cigars will even be legal products.

Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines 2008

November 7, 2008 · Posted in Drinks · Comment 

It’s that time of year when things get ranked. What were the best movies? What are the best cars? And what are the best wines of 2008?

Even though I am not a big wine drinker, I like bourbon myself, I appreciate the connection between cigars and wine. They are both things that demand connoisseurship. If you are not willing to put in the time to understand what it is you are drinking (or smoking) then you will never be able to fully appreciate those finer things in life.

So, for those of you cigar smokers who love a great glass of wine with your cigars, Wine Spectator, the sister publication of Cigar Aficionado, is coming out with a Top 100 list and will begin unveiling their list soon.

And if you don’t know the difference between tannins and terroir (I’m still a little fuzzy) this Top 100 list is a good place to start understanding what makes a wine great.