My parents were both born in the Netherlands, I often remember as far back as I can my grandfather relaxing first in the house they lived in and later in an apartment with a drink in his hand usually whiskey I think and a dutch cigar. Jerome Boogerman, my grandfather on my mother's side usually smoked a dutch cigar maybe an agio or a schimelpennik its one of the best memories I have growing up. I always remember the smell of his cigar and that he always knew how to relax and take time out to be with family. I don’t recall my grandfather ever smoking premium cigars as we know them today but after he passed away I was looking through old family photos and was amazed by the places he had visited when he was younger. I have photographs of him in Curacao, Brazil, Aruba, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda and yes Havana Cuba. These photos I find very interesting because most of these places with the exception of Bermuda and Cuba were largely undeveloped back then during the forty’s and early fifty’s. Havana was in its prime in the fifty’s so I'm sure my grandfather enjoyed his share of Cuban cigars. I never really asked him about things like that I was too young to know anything else about cigars, I didn’t even know about Cuba and its production of great cigars but I wish I could have another conversation with him and ask him about the past preferably while the two of us were holding a glass of whiskey and enjoying a fine cigar but that cannot happen. I myself have always smoked a cigarette now and then and remember after high school smoking black and mild or dutch meharis or agio while fishing but I did not know anything about premium hand made cigars until recently. I met a friend at a local brewpub here in Kalamazoo Michigan and he was smoking a great smelling cigar, I'm not sure what it was but knowing him better now I would say it was an H. Upmann, La Gloria or a Fuente. On a birthday he was going to celebrate a few years back I couldn’t think of what to get him until I passed a tinderbox store in the local mall here and I ended up choosing a CAO Extreme Anniversaire Torpedo which I think I paid about nine dollars for, I also bought myself a CAO Cameroon Torpedo. We went out for our weekly beers at the brewpub and I presented the cigar to him and he immediately commended me on my good choice. For some reason, we didn’t smoke them that night, and I know we did not smoke them together because I asked him a few weeks later what he thought of it because I told him that I really loved the CAO I bought for myself and planned on buying a few more for weekend camping trips and such. That CAO was the first premium cigar I ever had and since then cigars have become a major passion for me. I constantly seek out knowledge of cigars whether it be about new brands or the history and techniques that go into the production of handmade cigars. I have educated myself to know the differences between wrappers and binders and the different fillers used, to the differences between a cigar of different size and shape to which country it is produced in. I have found that one maker's cigar can be completely different depending on the size and ring gauge. I prefer the larger ring gauge cigars 50- to 58 or so (60 is a bit too big) because the diameter allows the blender to create more complex flavors with the use of different fillers some from as many as six different countries like the CAO Odyssey. Also, I have found that the different shapes play a role in the flavor as well. A cigar made in the Perfecto shape can change flavor as it goes from small to large gauge. A longer cigar can offer a cooler smoke but since I usually spend most of my time in local bars (that still allow cigar smoking) I tend to go for the Robusto size that doesn’t take as much time. During the summer months here in Michigan I can enjoy a larger cigar outdoors. My friend Rob and I have been brewing our own beer now for a couple of years and its been somewhat of a tradition for us to buy a six-pack of the style of beer that we are brewing and to have a nice big cigar to smoke. I don’t really have a favorite brand or size cigar that I always buy, I love to try something new. There are not too many cigars that I have had that I did not like except maybe for some very cheap seconds or so. I have encountered a few that have had very bad draw problems, flaky ash which I learned can be because of lack of certain minerals in the soil, (potassium I think) and the occasional uneven burn but overall they have been very good. I also find myself going back and trying something I haven’t had in a long time or going back to the traditional time tested brands like H. Upmann’s Vintage Cameroon, punch, Fuente and La Gloria. I don’t make much money, probably about as much as a typical college student even though college for me was a long time ago, even so, I have never been one to skimp on the finer things in life. I have no problem paying 15 to 20 dollars for a fine cigar but I have also found that you do not have to spend that much to find a fine cigar, it just takes some searching out. When it comes to expensive cigars I prefer quite a few, Fuente Opus X, Hemingways, and the Anejo, Zino Platinums, Gurka and Hansotia Symphony’s, Padron 1964 Anniversary Series, CAO sopranos, La Aurora preferidos, Pryme by Alec Bradley, Montecristo, and Trinidad. Lately I have really been hooked on anything made by Jose Pepin Garcia. I really enjoy anything he is involved in making, Padilla, Tatuaje Cabaiguan and of course his own brands such as the series JJ made with his son, the El Rey Los Habanos, Vegas Cubanos, and the JFR. Some of my other favorites that are Les expensive include the CAO MX2, the Italia, and the Cameroon, Oliva Series G, the Cubana Limitado by Fonseca was a nice surprise, the Nicaraguan made Tatuaje’s and the Rocky Patel Edge Corojo. This weekend I have a couple of cigars I've been keeping in the humidor for a night out at a local cigar lounge that I usually can't afford to go to often so I hope to try the new Cohiba Black or the new Macanudo vintage 2000. I have often dreamt of opening my own upscale cigar lounge but with the state of even being able to smoke at all anywhere up in the air, it would probably be very risky. Here in Michigan we still are allowed to smoke in certain bars but talk about making it illegal is always out there and recently a bill is out to raise the taxes again which would make my 5 dollar cigar an 8 dollar one, it won't make me give up what I love, but unfortunately, I could make me turn to buying off the internet instead of seeing john at the local smokes on Burdick store I frequent once a week or so. The problem with all these anti-smoking laws is that I think they unfairly lump cigars in with cigarettes. To the uneducated, a cigar is seen as much worse than a cigarette. I don’t know how many times I've received criticism from other bar patrons (in the smoking section) for my cigar, I am courteous, I try to wait until no one is sitting nearby but it's amazing that 150 people can all be smoking cigarettes at the same time and still single me out as the bad guy. Much education is needed so that people will differentiate cigars from cigarettes. I will not put out my cigar for anyone, especially someone smoking a cigarette.