An Insider's Look at Cigar Lounge Culture
Smoking a cigar may be a niche hobby, but the cigar community wastes no time being put off by outsiders. Isn’t it enough that smoking has been so restricted to the point of making us feel like outlaws? Never mind all that. When I get my hands on a primo wrapper with the perfect blume, I want to sit where I can indulge a nice, open draw without criticism and judgment. Paired with a unique handcrafted scotch whiskey, I can let the cares and woes of what feels like a much smaller world behind when I am one with the cigar lounge culture.
The Cigar Lounge Caters to Your Inner Wants
Have we not been restricted enough with the lock downs and social distancing? We are social animals, and I prefer nothing more than entering the cigar lounge for the taste of the ultimate pleasure in what feels like a timeless excursion away from the uninitiated. The cigar lounge is the modern-day social club providing an exclusively exceptional space where the flavors and aromas spark the relaxation I have been waiting to savor, whether alone or with my fellow aficionados.
Since cigars offer occasions to share, the cigar culture is one that chooses to interact, unwind, recline and engage in the mature, smoker-friendly ambiance. Chill doesn’t even begin to describe it. Different cigar lounges provide for different features, whether it might be lush accommodations, music or large screen television for entertainment, computer access or patio seating. Each man and, yes, occasionally women may indulge a passion for their cigar delicacy of choice.
Rich and Balanced Cigars Carefully Stored in Humidors
Invariably, there are humidors, some have walk-in access, from which to make your selections. I like that I can purchase and smoke premium cigars in-house, and in some cigar lounges, I can even get a tasty bite to eat.
Smoking as a habit leaves a lot to be desired. Unlike cigarettes, a cigar is 100 percent tobacco leaf. There are flavor profiles to be appreciated. There is the practice of rolling the cigar and the process involved that a particular cigar has undergone to even end up in the humidor. It is not just a cigar “club.” It is the culture inherently behind it all that makes it a superior experience. There is an art and culture to smoking cigars, no doubt.
Smoking Cigars is Nothing to Be Rushed
Cigar smokers have classically cultivated the habit of inspiring a touch of class, elegance and sophistication. I can take my time with an exotic cigar that has me relighting it several times because the conversation is so engaging. At the cigar lounge, I can smoke as much as I want to without it disrupting anyone else or being frowned upon by a critical society.
Cigar Lounge Etiquette
I enjoy taking my time first clipping the cigar, and then indulging in the aroma, previewing all the notes, the taste, sometimes even licking the wrapper. This stage is like the overture to the opera, a glimpse of what I am about to experience.
It just depends on the selection and as long as I am not making my ash a part of someone’s life and I never smash a finished stogie in the ash tray, I know I am not causing my fellow cigar smokers to bristle. I simply let a stub extinguish naturally from its own moisture content without spoiling the aroma.
The cigar lounge culture is courteous keeping their talk to a relaxing level. Those standouts who still unconsciously bellow in an inappropriate cell phone call would oblige us all much better if they would just take it outside. We have not come to the cigar lounge to have a bad time, after all.
Rather, we seek to be enveloped in the sweet ease of a well-curated lounge where we can anticipate reviving the centuries-old art of the pleasurable cigar within the company and conversation of strangers as well as the regulars. At the cigar lounge, it is a place to get into one’s own skin and dig it there.
Getting in Touch with Your SensesIt seems odd to be a bit of the introvert yet enjoy socializing at the cigar lounge. It must be the shared passion of interesting and meaningful exchange while appreciating a well-crafted cigar. Sometimes, I find a lounge that will take me back to being young and with my father. Sometimes I want to break out the dominoes with my dog at my feet.
There is a powerful touch of nostalgia that bubbles up when you are in a cigar lounge. I think it is the same for others getting carried away on memories. That’s when you know you have found a comfortable space that answers to your soul.
Don’t get me wrong; the cigar lounge is not to be treated like the neighbor’s garage. This is my den, but it is not the mancave. The whole point of the cigar lounge is to be in business, and that is why I buy my sticks from the lounge and smoke them there.
I see it as a form of etiquette while supporting the culture, the industry and giving a boost to the local economy. It is a win/win all around. Aside from that, I get the chance to try a wider range of cigars than I would ever have purchased on my own.
No Need to Avoid Your Desire to Explore
While cigar shops are closing and smoke-friendly establishments are all but gone, it feels as though it is a duty of mine to patronize the cigar lounges. They are few and far between, but the best culture places are typically hidden. This adds to their exclusivity when you must be “in the know” to find them.
In some states, the local jurisdiction makes it impossible to open a new cigar lounge, and that is not even considering serving alcohol. I shudder at the thought of going without. Places that have been grandfathered in are even more reason to make a point of patronizing them to keep them alive.
Branch Out and Visit Out of State Cigar Lounges
Take New York, for example. With all the pockets tucked inside a bustling metropolis, there is a rich Cuban cigar culture to be found at Fernandez in Harlem. Detroit has Uralli on Cass Avenue and 20 Minutes on Randolph Street. Tobacco Grove in Minneapolis is located on Wedgewood Lane.
Seattle offers a little place on Corson Avenue appropriately called Rain City Cuban Cigar. The locals give this boutique location only the highest praise for the best off-reservation prices. Despite all the turmoil of late, Portland, OR rises above with Tim’s Great Cuban Cigars. Tim makes it his commitment to know the local’s smokes and recommendations.
Boston continues to boast its strength in S&A Cuban Cigar Lounge where the locals believe Steve and friends must be the friendliest folks on the planet. Chicago has St. Lucias owned by a woman who provides a welcoming atmosphere for this gentlemen’s pastime in her Cuban cigar emporium. In addition to all the smoking accessories, the locals are spoiled by the imported glassware.
San Francisco would be a disappointment if it did not win hands down with a place called Wingtip. This local aesthetic housed in an historic building is also a signature clothing company. In addition, there is a master barber on site to offer shave and a haircut. Both the men and the ladies adore this place with a jazz bar upstairs that brings back the “old days.” However, this one is members only, but don't let that stop you from signing up just in case you happen by again.
The Las Vegas Cuban Cigar Outlet is located on Sahara Avenue, and Reno locals tend to make fun of being a separate state despite the Ruiz Cuban Cigars in Sparks, Nevada being a mere six minutes outside Vegas. Farther west in the Greater Los Angeles area is the Cuban Cigar Factory in Simi Valley, CA that locals consider a second home. Farther north near Palo Alto, there is a little shop on Bay Road in Redwood City. This one attracts both young and older patrons.
Nashville gains great praise for Primings Cuban Cigar Bar and Lounge known for their signature prohibition-style drinks. Atlanta’s Cuban Cigars and Coffee House is known for the proprietor’s kindness and deftness in Cuban cigar etiquette. New Orleans owes its own fair share of Cuban cigar influence to Smoke on the Water Cigars.
Rounding things off, there is the World Class Barber with a built-in cigar lounge in Dallas and The Briar Shoppe in Houston. This last one also supports pipe smokers with an impressive gallery of pipes to choose from.
These cigar lounges have a diverse following that is all-inclusive. Mixing with the locals in their neck of the woods to sit with a smoke and exchange in repartee is a wedge of heaven that cannot be duplicated. Each place is as unique as its people.
Soak Up the Local International Color
For an international traveler, you can gain a more robust cultural immersion visiting the lounges in unknown cities. Who wouldn’t want to feel as though they are part of a secret club of royal gentlemen? Places like Capella Bar and Cigar Lounge in Düsseldorf, Germany and the Kleber Cigar Lounge at the Peninsula Paris Hotel mere blocks from the Eiffel Tower are discreet offering an intimate atmosphere.
With some experience in cigar culture and etiquette, anyone is well on their way to local or international adventures in the comfort and inclusion exclusive to the unique atmosphere of cigar lounges. There is no better way to put your finger on the pulse of the locale in which the cigar lounge is situated.
Getting in with the herf in this way is a deeper connection than one might make in the local coffee shop. Whether you are a newbie in need of recommendations or a veteran of this hobby of luxury and sophistication usually accorded to dignitaries, ambassadors or royalty, you will surely find an affinity with your local cigar lounge.