Luxe Beat Ex­clu­sive: In­ter­view with “Ci­gar Czar” Richard Car­leton Hacker

Luxe Beat Ex­clu­sive

Luxe Beat Magazine - - Contents - By Kim­berly Fisher

If there is one per­son who knows a lot about cigars and cig­a­rettes, it’s Richard Car­leton Hacker. Known as one of the world’s fore­most au­thor­i­ties on the sub­jects of cigars and ci­gar smok­ing, he was given the nick­name “the ci­gar czar” by sev­eral me­dia out­lets. He has writ­ten more than five hun­dred ar­ti­cles on the topic for pub­li­ca­tions such as The Robb Re­port, Rob­b­vices, Col­lec­tion Mag­a­zine, The Tast­ing Panel, Somm Jour­nal and cigar­world. com. In 1994, he was knighted by the In­ter­na­tionales Tabak­skoliegium in Ger­many for his nu­mer­ous writ­ings on the sub­ject of tobacco.

His book, The Ul­ti­mate Ci­gar Book 4th Edi­tion, was first pub­lished in 1993, re­cently re­pub­lished and sold world­wide. The book is touted as the most com­pre­hen­sive, fac­tual and up-to-date book for the ci­gar smoker, but it’s also per­fect for those who just want to learn more about the fas­ci­nat­ing and pop­u­lar world of ci­gar smok­ing. We sat down with Richard and chat­ted about the life of a ci­gar afi­cionado.

Kim­berly Fisher: How did you get into cigars? When was the first time? Richard Car­leton Hacker:

I started smok­ing cigars dur­ing my se­nior year in col­lege. I had smoked a pipe (I have never smoked cig­a­rettes), but found cigars a whole new ex­pe­ri­ence. They felt com­fort­able in the hand and they looked good. Plus, like pipe tobacco, they were made of pure tobacco and noth­ing else — no ad­di­tives. And they were easy to clip and light. I started off with in­ex­pen­sive sto­gies, but once I lit up a hand-rolled pre­mium ci­gar, I never looked back. That’s when I formed my phi­los­o­phy that I would rather smoke one good ci­gar a month than seven me­diocre cigars a week.

KF: For some­one just start­ing off in cigars, what do you rec­om­mend? RCH:

Start with a mild ci­gar, like a Ma­canudo or a David­off An­niver­sario. Ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent brands and dif­fer­ent sizes. Don’t buy a whole box. In­stead, buy sin­gle cigars of in­di­vid­ual brands and ex­per­i­ment. It’s like go­ing to a wine bar and sam­pling dif­fer­ent va­ri­etals. Ask a to­bac­conist for his rec­om­men­da­tions as well. As for sizes, one of the most pop­u­lar is the ro­busto, which pro­vides plenty of fla­vor and will last about 30 to 45 min­utes. And re­mem­ber, with cigars, you don’t in­hale – you get all the fla­vor from the smoke, which you then ex­hale.

KF: You have trav­eled the world ex­plor­ing the making and history of cigars. Where have you been and what are some of your fa­vorite places? RCH:

I’ve been to ev­ery ma­jor ci­gar-making coun­try, in­clud­ing Cuba, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, Nicaragua, Hon­duras, Costa Rica and the U.S, of course — al­though we don’t make nearly a frac­tion of the cigars we did dur­ing the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies be­cause of la­bor costs.

I find it in­ter­est­ing that to­day the most el­e­gant pre­mium cigars are made in third word coun­tries, where la­bor is cheap. Of all the places I’ve vis­ited, among my fa­vorites is Cuba, be­cause of its great ci­gar-making tra­di­tion and — pol­i­tics aside — its peo­ple (who are as curious about us as we are about them), and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, as they sup­ply most of the world’s non-cuban cigars. Plus, I am a big fan of Do­mini­can food and rum.

KF: What do you think spawned the ci­gar craze in Amer­ica? RCH:

It was caused by in­di­vid­u­als who lit­er­ally had money to burn — that is, they had no qualms about light­ing up a ten-dol­lar ci­gar — and were look­ing for a new life­style ex­pe­ri­ence that was com­ple­men­tary to other as­pects in their lives, such as fine din­ing (cigars are a great di­ges­tif af­ter a meal) as well as whiskies and co­gnacs, which pair well with cigars. In ad­di­tion, ci­gar smok­ing is a very so­cial en­deavor. They in­vite con­ver­sa­tion, es­pe­cially with fel­low ci­gar smok­ers. It’s a very so­cial thing that breaks down all so­ci­o­log­i­cal, eth­nic and even po­lit­i­cal bar­ri­ers. Plus, cigars have al­ways re­tained an aura of suc­cess. And, they are re­lax­ing to smoke, an im­por­tant as­pect in to­day’s hec­tic world.

KF: What is your fa­vorite ci­gar? RCH:

Which­ever one I hap­pen to be smok­ing.

KF: In your book you list sev­eral types of ci­gar pair­ings. What is your typ­i­cal pair­ing? RCH:

It de­pends on my mood, but in­vari­ably it in­volves a stronger spirit rather than a lighter one. A sin­gle malt whiskey, such as a Ma­callan 18 Year Old and a Padron Fam­ily Re­serve or a Fuente Opusx is noth­ing short of per­fec­tion. I also like pair­ing cer­tain com­plex bour­bons, like Blan­ton’s, with Hon­duran cigars, and LBV ports with medium-strength cigars like the Do­mini­can Co­hiba or the Cuban H. Up­mann.

To learn more about cigars or Richard, please see:

richard­car­leton­hacker.com

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