I've always enjoyed reading Lew Rothman, whether it's ad copy in the JR Cigars catalog, or the occasional article in the cigar magazines. In addition to being a power player in the American cigar industry, he's got a hell of a sense of humor.
The Cigar Almanac is basically a catalog of cigars popular in the late 70s, most of which are no longer in production. And most of those that are still being made, like Arturo Fuente cigars, have changed quite substantially. Rothman says about Fuente:
Excellent machine made cigars from the top of the line to the bottom. Their hand made cigars are just O.K. Very good value throughout this cigar line, don't let their tasteless packaging turn you off this brand.
So it was, 26 years ago.
The first forty pages of the book consists of introductory material, including "The Cigar Industry Today," "Keeping Your Cigars Fresh," "How Much Should You Spend for a Box of Cigars?" and the like. A pictorial tour of the Partagas factory (Dominican Republic) concludes the introduction.
While this book is basically a nostalgic trip to a time when cigar smoking was the domain of old fogeys who chomped on drugstore Phillies, Rothman's writing is as funny as ever, even if his advice is somewhat out of date. Here, for example, he explains how to keep your newly purchased box of cigars fresh:
A. First take out enough cigars for the day. You don't want to spend your day unwinding wrappings off of mummified cigars six or eight times a day.
B. Take the home humidor you spent 50 Bucks for, and throw it in the garbage can.
C. Put your cigars (in, or out of the box) in a zip lock baggie, or whatever you call those plastic bags you can seal over and over again. Mush out the excess air before you close it up.
D. Throw the bag in the bottom of your refrigerator or in a plastic vegetable box, or both.
Before the advent of frost-free refrigeration, keeping cigars in the ice box was a fairly common practice. (FYI: Today's refrigerators will dessicate and destroy your smokes. Don't do it.)
And later, in the "Question and Answer" section:
Q: Does a long ash mean a cigar is good?
A: Do cattle with long tails make tastier steaks than those with short tails?
Q: Is it good to have a long ash on a cigar?
A: NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! A long ash hinders the passage of air to the cigar, makes it burn unevenly, and usually gives the cigar smoker a stiff neck from trying to balance it on the end of his cigar. Long ashes make people cross-eyed, get clothes, carpets, and sofas dirty, and if allowed to get long enough, become, for a period of time, the cigar smoker's only reason for living.
Q: My little hand made cigar man still makes me an all Havana cigar from tobaccos he bought before the embargo. What do you say to that?
A: You are an idiot.
Rothman includes for the sake of "completeness" an appendix of Cuban cigars, while maintaining that cigars made outside of Cuba are often just as good. But that statement might be best taken in conjunction with his admission in a recent Cigar magazine article: "The one and only thing I ever really, really excelled at was lying! I was the best liar there ever was."
Lew Rothman's Cigar Almanac has of course been out of print for many years. I borrowed this copy from a library in Cookesville, Tennessee that was willing to loan it long distance.
It's an interesting blast from the past, and still a fun book to page through. Just don't believe a word of it.