I think of this question a lot. It is at the core of the Cigar Jukebox podcast and the blog. However, what is “cigar culture?” Why is it important?
To me, cigar culture is that feeling you get when you are sitting around a table, or campfire, enjoying a cigar with other cigar lovers. It is about talking about cigars with other people, sometimes complete strangers, and forming a connection. It is a sense of community.
Unfortunately, society is becoming more and more individualised. That sense of community is lost and cigars become more and more an individual experience. This is evident in Australia where regulations have forced out cigar shops, which are the lifeblood of cigar culture.
Cigar shops are places where strangers, and friends, can come together over a cigar and have something in common to connect over. Cigar shops are not merely retail outlets, but meeting places. A person can walk into a cigar shop alone and connect with total strangers. It is where everyone is treated like family and the biggest honor you can bestow on someone is gifting that person a cigar that “you just have to smoke.”
The reason I wax romantic about cigar shops is that I truly believe that a well run and inviting cigar shop is at the core of a vibrant and fulfilling cigar culture……and I miss them. I miss walking into Golden Leaf in Minneapolis, seeing the person behind the counter chomping on a Padron and taking me through his humidor to introduce me to all of his cigar jewels. I miss walking up to a table of a couple people smoking and listening to them excitedly tell me how their favorite cigar is the best and how I need to pick one up. I miss having weekly meet ups there with cigar friends of mine, having us all smoke the same brand and talk about what flavors we are picking up. I miss it all and I want to build that community in Australia.
In Australia, I am not alone. Cigar retailers like Naffa at Cigar Hut are putting together events for people to come together. Peter and Jess at Gentleman’s Cabinet and Samuel Spurr at Unico Desde 1979 are also putting on events and are making cigars more accessible and less intimidating for people.
For me, I have a podcast and a blog……an attempt to create a digital meeting place. A place for cigar smokers across the world to gather together and create the largest weekly cigar meet up in the world. The goal is to build cigar culture and a sense of community for those like me who miss sitting around at the local cigar shop.
Come join me. Leave a comment. Write me an email. Check out the Facebook page and leave a post. Listen to the podcast with friends over a cigar. Check out the links and listen to other people in the cigar industry who are also creating that sense of community.
Most importantly, go to your local cigar shop and have a cigar. Give them your business and support their efforts to bring people together over a cigar. Attend a local cigar event and let them know how important a vibrant cigar culture is to you. The most important aspect of a cigar is creating connections with other people. Without that sense of community, a cigar is just a rolled up pile of tobacco…..but when you share that time with someone else, whether in person or in spirit over Facebook, Twitter or listening to a podcast….a cigar becomes an experience unlike any other.