Saturday, June 02, 2012

Zino Davidoff's The Connoisseur's Book of the Cigar


This will be three reviews for three different audiences.

1. Review for the Seasoned Smoker Knowledgeable about Cigars:

If you smoke cigars, and are interested in the history of this fine hobby, Zino Davidoff needs no preamble. This book is full of anecdotes, advice, and humour by a name all but unmatched in cigars. You need this book. Even in translation the wit, poetry, and philosophy of this man still communicates.

First published in 1967, it contains but the briefest of hints about what the Castro cigar market would be: Davidoff admits to other countries making good cigars, but to him, the Havana is king. I wrote down about fifty great quotes out of this book, and half remember about fifty more I'll catch on my next read through. If it can be faulted, it is for two things: Davidoff's personal preference of Havanas is communicated as objective superiority, and, at 92 pages, it is too short of a book. This book has given me many phrases with which to describe our hobby, and you need this book.

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2. Review for the New Smoker of Smoker Unconcerned with Cigar History:

Among Zino Davidoff's many roles are: inventor of the humidor; tobacconist for royalty, pre-revolution Bolsheviks, and the rich or famous; and connoisseur extraordinaire. He fills this lyrical little tome with witty words about his passion: a life well lived. For him, a love of cigars is the signifier and signified of an enjoyed life. Like a good pet, at the end of the day, the cigar treats you the same way whether your day has been blessed or cursed. The book alternates between advice, philosophy, and humorous anecdotes. Read the five following excerpts, then purchase this splendid book:

"If tobacco is a lost cult, if the cigar is surrounded by a mystery that alludes us, it is necessary to bow before the mystery. We never know exactly why we smoke."

"I have had to refuse service to valets because no honest man will have his servant choose his cigars."

"All of this is, to say the least, a matter of taste. What is most important is to be sure of your taste. In the midst of all these ifs is one sure thing: whatever your tastes, your habits, your needs, there is a cigar which will be right, one that is adapted to your constitution, which harmonizes with your mood. There is no more faithful servant than a Havana. To learn to choose a cigar which is right for you is to exercise your talent for self-awareness. To find the cigar which suits you is a particular joy."

"A well-chosen cigar is like armor and is useful against the torments of life. A little blue smoke mysteriously removes anxiety."

"The cigar is exacting. It gives its all only to those who are consecrated to it, body and soul. Such an expression is not too strong."

There are many more quotes that I copied out of this book to remember and ruminate on, but the point is this: If you love cigars, this book needs to be on your shelf. In it, Davidoff clearly lays out his personal preferences, general cigar etiquette, and the important factors of cigar smoking in a poetic, funny, and honest fashion that can help the new smoker organize their thoughts. These things have not changed. However, some of the specifics have changed in the last 45 years, but the passages that are too specific to his time are brief.

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3. Review for the Non-Smoker:

This book offers a glimpse into the philosophy of one of the hobby's most famous proponents. If you're interested why people smoke, this book will not answer that question because it is a personal choice. To quote Davidoff, “We never know exactly why we smoke.” However, we have ideas why we do, and this book presents some of those ideas in an amusing intelligent manner.

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