I am kicked back listening to my second favorite Led Zeppelin album, ‘Physical Graffiti’. The song ‘Kashmir’ is currently playing. It is one of my favorite rock and roll songs of all time. Crosby, Stills and Nash did a song 6 years earlier entitled, Marrakesh Express’ which moves me in somewhat the same way. The song is more joyful but both capture my imagination.

I’ve been to Marrakesh but New Delhi was as close as I ever got to Kashmir. To my way of thinking these places evoke the best of those wonderful ’60s memories – the hippies traipsing off to India and all that – right before the counterculture collapsed (remember Altamont?).

Culturally speaking, the ’60s didn’t begin until ’64 which was when The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and didn’t end until Nixon’s impeachment in ’74. Although the Free Concert at Altamont in ’69 surely initiated the end of the era when the unwarranted violence there arguably drove the first serious spike through the heart of the love generation.

But as usual, I digress. Music, while not as powerful as scent, still triggers powerful memories in the forms of thoughts and ideas; not nostalgia for days gone by. Screw the past. The ’60s mostly sucked. And you don’t have to look much further than the body count – half my childhood friends (literally) never survived the lifestyle.

Back to the present. I just exchanged emails with my good friend, Mike in Singapore. The topic was cigars. I pinged him on his recommendations. After all he is my cigar guru. He knows more about great cigars than well, anyone. And he has on more than one occasion most generously sent me an assortment of some of the finest cigars I’ve ever smoked. One of the more memorable was a stick of the almost incomparable (and rare) Cuban Partagas Lusitania. A flavor* memory I will take to my grave.

Cigars, dear readers are not about the smoke, nicotine, or addiction. Cigars at their truly finest are as much of a culinary experience as eating the best provincial French food. If you’re lucky, and the cigar is truly good, then at some point, after enough of the oils have been drawn into the cigar, you hit what I call the sweet spot. The better the cigar, the longer the sweet spot. Let’s just say its analogous to eating the best porterhouse steak on the planet.

Mike gave me a lengthy list so over the next several days I’ll be doing research to find the best cigar in the list that represents to me which I perceive having the best value proposition. By that I mean I want the best flavor for the best price. All twenty dollar cigars are not equal. And the same is true all the way up and down the ladder. And some eight dollar cigars are better than a twenty dollar cigar. No shit.

And another lesson my friends – in case you didn’t know – is the contents of a typical box of 20 cigars follows a bell curve. 10 will meet expectations, 3-5 will exceed expectations, and 3-5 will not. And I’ve found that to be true at all price points. Hint – the Cubans, especially given the rise in demand have not kept up with their quality control.

So, you might have read that my only daughter – my pride and joy, the apple of my eye – is getting married at the end of this month. And I want to share a cigar with her husband and some of the other guests. (Besides, I want to honor Happy Hour each day in the best way possible and that’s with a noble cigar in hand.)

And you might have also read in my ‘Past, Present, and Future’ post that there will be some guests that I’d much rather stab with a sharp piece of cutlery than share a cigar with. But courtesy – my courtesy – demands that I share, even with those guests I’d much rather prefer to murder.

But I have decided to be smart about it. My decision calls to mind a rather humorous and wonderful interview I read many years ago that Rolling Stone magazine had with Robert Smith, the leader of the Cure.

Mr. Smith said in the course of the interview that he had two phones in his house: One for good conversations and the other for bad conversations. I still smile when I think about the  brilliance of that approach to separation.

As for me, I’ll have a box of great cigars and another box of not so great cigars. And I too will separate accordingly.

*If I remember the cigar was something like 7″ long and skinny (like maybe a 38 ring gauge?). And because it was so skinny – I am prejudiced towards fatter smokes because I think the fatter they are the more preferential they are towards complexity – I didn’t expect much as say I would from one of the Cohiba Behikes. But I was wrong. Way wrong. The sweet spot of that cigar ran the entire length of the stick. Something I have never before experienced. I smoked it down to where I couldn’t hold it anymore; to where it burned my fingers. Awesome. Simply awesome.

PS – In case you were wondering – my favorite Led Zeppelin album is their first one; which I find to quite possibly be the greatest rock and roll album of all time.

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