My First Cigar

How did you get into cigars?  We all have a story that explains how we started smoking premium cigars.  Here’s my first cigar story:

Before I was introduced to ‘premium cigars’ I had occasionally smoked “drug store” cigars.  I vaguely remember smoking a few cigars back in my college days in the 1970’s.  Then in 1985 I bought a can of 25 Dutch Masters “It’s a Boy” cigars for the birth of our first son.  I still have the Dutch Masters can and one of the cigars in my humidor as a keepsake. 

In 1996 I took a job with a General Contractor and the owner assigned me his GMC pickup as my company truck.  His father had been driving the truck delivering parts, tools, materials, and supplies to our job sites.  He (his father) had exiled from Cuba in 1962 and was an avid/daily cigar smoker.  The truck reeked with the stench of cigars!  I would park the truck with the windows open in an attempt to dissipate the overwhelming cigar stench.  As the smell dissipated, that smell reminded me of my childhood when I would visit my dad’s work back in the 1960’s.  My dad was a traffic manager for a lumber, hardware, and sporting goods distributor.  They had 4 big (over the road) diesel trucks.  As a small boy, it was exciting for me to climb up into the cab of those trucks.  They all had the smell of cigars because all his drivers smoked cigars while on the road.  We also had 2 uncles who smoked cigars at all the family gatherings.  So, that smell of cigars brought back fond memories of my childhood. 

Every day I would drive that company truck, it reminded me of my childhood.  I thought as long as the truck had that impregnated smell, I would smoke a Dutch Masters during the drive home.  Not knowing anything about cigars, I stopped at a drug store and bought a 5-pack of Dutch Masters.  I would light a cigar after work for the drive home.  The cigar lasted longer than the drive home, so I would park the truck on the street and walk in through the side gate and finish my Dutch Masters on the patio.  I remember thinking how relaxing the cigar(s) made me feel. 

After a few more 5-packs and smoking a cigar on the drive home, my parents came to visit.  Our sons were pre-school age which explains why my parents like to visit.  During the Thanksgiving weekend, my dad wanted to go try his luck at a local casino.  I drove him to Barley’s Casino on Sunset & Green Valley Parkway.  When we got there, I said, You go ahead inside and try your luck.  I’m going to wait outside and smoke a cigar.  While smoking my Dutch Master cigar, a man walked by and said, “What are you smoking?”  I reached into my coat pocket, pulled out the 5-pack of Dutch Masters and said:  “Dutch Masters” . . . want one?”  He very politely said NO but went on to tell me about the premium hand-made cigars he liked to smoke.  Obviously, he was a cigar enthusiast and shared his love for premium cigars.  He also said how he would like to open a cigar store or lounge.  I found what he had to say about cigars fascinating.  Just to clarify how little I knew about cigars, I asked him:  “Where do you get those premium cigars?” He said:  “You have to find a tobacconist or a cigar store.”  Duuuhh!

The next day I looked through the Yellow Pages (1996, no internet) and found a few cigar stores.  After work I went by the local cigar store with a walk-in humidor.  I was amazed!  The number of different sizes and brands of cigars was overwhelming!   I did not know about the “Cigar Boom” that was going on in the world!   So, I picked up an assortment of the more affordable cigars to try. 

As I was trying different cigars, it occurred to me that there is a lot more to cigars than I ever imagined.  I continued visiting different cigar stores and trying a hand full of different (affordable) cigars for the next few months.  One of the cigar stores with “the largest walk-in humidor in Nevada” had a pamphlet called “THE JOURNEY OF A TRULY GREAT HAND MADE CIGAR” written by Carlos Fuente.  When I got home, I lit one of the new cigars and read that 8-page pamphlet cover to cover.  It was my first introduction to the story and history of premium cigars. 

The next visit to that cigar store, I asked if they had any other pamphlets for more information about the history and story of fine cigars.  The owner’s wife gave me an assortment of promotional cards for different cigar brands.  They were only advertisements for the various cigar brands.  Not what I was searching for.  The next time I went to that cigar store, I asked if she had something with more information about cigars.  She sold me a book called “THE GOOD CIGAR” by H. Paul Jeffers and Kevin Gordon.  Every evening after dinner I would light a cigar and read that book.  After reading that first book, I went on a search for more books about cigars.  I ended up going to a used bookstore and found a couple more cigar books.  The information and history of cigars was fascinating to me.  I read each book cover to cover while enjoying my after-dinner cigar. 

My nightly ritual of smoking a cigar on the patio earned me the nick name “Stinky” because my wife hated that smell.  She would say:  “Are you done out there, Stinky?” 

I continued searching for more books on the subject of cigars.   Over the years, I collected more than 70 book titles on the subject!  And read every one cover to cover.   Then in 1997, we got a computer and the internet.  I searched for and found more information on cigars.  Soon I found some bulletin boards where other cigar enthusiasts would post about their passion for cigars.  Most guys who posted on those bulletin boards had a nick name.  Of course, I used “Stinky” as my nick name.  

Soon I realized my newfound passion for fine cigars had become a hobby for me.  It was fun to interact with other cigar enthusiasts online.  I also started finding other local cigar enthusiasts.  Because of the skyrocketing cost of cigars, I wanted to start a local cigar club.  I figured we could buy boxes online, split the box purchase, and save a lot verses the escalating local costs for cigars.  I shared my idea with my wife and told her I didn’t want to call it “Las Vegas Cigar Club” nor “Nevada Cigar Club” but something different.  She quickly replied with:  “Why don’t you call it “Stinky’s Cigar Club?”   Good idea, honey!  I wrote some guidelines and shared with some of my buddies. 

The cigar club never got off the ground, but I did find a lot of local guys who also enjoyed getting together to enjoy cigars.   We would get together after work at different cigar friendly lounges.  At that time, most guys did not have e-mail.  I used a Fax Blast to share the time & location of our cigar gatherings.  Eventually we started using e-mail and ended up meeting somewhere every Wednesday after work for many years. 

It was these weekly Wednesday cigar nights where I decided to make a better ashtray.  The ashtrays were too small and the mess on the table was always more than the ashtrays could hold.  I remember asking the hostess at Main Street Station* if we could have a soup bowl to empty the little cigarette ashtrays into during our cigar night.  She wasn’t very fond of our “stinky” group of cigar smokers and gave me a Rubbermaid trash can with a plastic liner.  It got me thinking.  Eventually I made the first Stinky Ashtray around 2004.  And the rest is history.

Main Street Station* (downtown Las Vegas) had an antique Pullman Train Car setup in the lobby of their Steak House for smokers.  All though it was located downtown, we always got a pretty good turnout because it was a nice setting to smoke cigars and have a cocktail if you wanted one. 


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