Every man remembers his first cigar. Mine was a Romeo y Julieta, which is spanish for Romeo and Juliet. I was drunk on Foster’s tallboys during a college spring break cruise in the Bahamas, and I needed something to keep the buzz going. So my girlfriend and I strolled into the ship’s cigar lounge as if we had strolled into many cigar lounges before, picked a brand without any consultation, doggedly tried to light up, repeatedly failed to light up, shamefully asked the bartender to light us up, and accidentally inhaled at least five times. It was a really classy affair and I really wish you’d stop judging me.
I didn’t know shit then, and even though I’ve enjoyed many a stogie in the years since my first, I only know about a turd’s worth of shit now. Good thing, then, that there’s a flock of cigar sommeliers coming to save the day and show clueless, would-be aficionados the way. According to an NPR report, a growing number of hotels and restaurants around the world are bringing cigar specialists on staff—many of whom received their training at Tobacconist University in Princeton, New Jersey.
“We currently have over 350 certified retail tobacconists and more than 800 apprentices,” Tobacconist University founder Jorge Armentero told NPR. He’s currently developing a “certified cigar sommelier” degree, which he says is “a little more focused on retail service and cigar pairing.”
These sommeliers will tell you cigars are just as nuanced as wine. Giuseppe Reo, head honcho of the cigar program at London’s Wellesley hotel, told NPR that a cigar’s “flavor profile should change as you smoke it.” He recommends pairing a sparkling rosé with a milder Dominican tobacco known for its nutty flavor: “When a cigar has those rich pistachio notes, I want something with a little bit of sweetness and effervescence to bring out the creaminess of the tobacco.”
If only this guy worked for Royal Caribbean back in 2009. He totally would’ve known which cigar paired best with cheap beer and bad decisions.