23 Oct 2013
Chances are you, like me, are recognized among your friends as somewhat of an expert on cigars. Granted I’m using the word “expert” as a relative term here. And chances are, from time to time, these friends—ranging from occasional smokers to non-smokers—will ask you to recommend cigars for gifts.
This happens to me fairly regularly. The request goes something like this: “Hey, Patrick. You know a lot about cigars. Well I have a [relative, family member, etc.] I want to buy a few smokes for. [He/she] smokes cigars. Can you provide some recommendations?” This request usually comes around Christmas, a birthday, a wedding, a graduation, or the birth of a child. Such timing is a little funny to me because it’s been a long time since I’ve associated cigars with celebrations. I don’t need—and I usually don’t have—a reason to fire up a smoke.
At any rate, I’m always happy to oblige requests like these. Even if, in my head, my first reaction is, “You know I have a website loaded with searchable information, tips, etc., right? Did you happen to look there before asking me?” Of course I never actually say that.
So then I start to pepper this requester with questions. What does this person normally like to smoke? How often do they smoke? Do they own a humidor, or did you just see him/her smoking a cigar at a wedding once? How many cigars did you want to buy? How much are you looking to spend?
As I’m asking these questions, I realize the requester had given no thought to any of this, and has little knowledge of the third party’s perceived interest in cigars. I realize the requester was hoping I’d say, “Go here and buy them this,” and that would be the end of it. And as I think aloud about this, I start to better understand why so many cigar companies are now offering so many pre-packaged gift sets of smokes.
With little knowledge of the third party for whom I’m recommending cigars, and usually working within the confines of a restricted budget, I never suggest a box purchase. I’ll either point to a few legit online samplers of five or ten cigars or, time permitting, I’ll accompany the requester to a local tobacconist and help them select cigars I know almost any cigar smoker will like.
That’s exactly what I did a few days ago when a co-worker asked me to help him pick a few smokes for his stepfather. We strolled over to Iwan Ries & Co., a shop in Chicago’s Loop that’s been open for business since 1857. I actually really enjoyed talking with my co-worker about cigars, answering his questions, and picking out some excellent smokes. I left the shop with the satisfaction of helping someone else—and with a nice little sampler of my own.
photo credit: Stogie Guys