Part of the Rehman Rashid series of reviews
THERE are but three things the Internet is good for:
1. Information retrieval;
2. Interpersonal communication; and,
3. Buying and selling stuff.
All three synergise most harmoniously for cigar smokers. Were it not for the WWWeb, non-Cuban cigars would surely not constitute half my personal stash of cherished cigars.
In the most plangent irony of the international world of cigars, residents of the United States still cannot legally do business in Cuban cigars on their territory. Hence, the past half-century of the Cuban embargo has seen the rise and rise of cigar manufacturing in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and elsewhere.
With the huge US market as a driver, there’s no doubting the heights of quality non-Cuban cigars have reached in recent decades. Still, the best of the rest can rival the best, but the best of the best are Cuban, and it was cause for a certain smugness that, for all their global dominance as the unitary superpower, the Yanks couldn’t get the Habanos we could.
Then along came the Internet, and the tables turned. The Americans might have to break their law for Cuban cigars, but they had unlimited access to the growing constellation of non-Cuban marcas the rest of us had never heard of and couldn’t get our hands on even if we had.
The situation’s slowly correcting itself — Padron, Arturo Fuente and Avo are cropping up more frequently in Malaysian retailers, among the Davidoffs and Dunhills that for long were the only non-Cubans available. But I don’t expect the likes of Puros Indios will ever be heard of here.
This doesn’t bother me because I know where and how to get them, but I’m thankful for the various strokes of good luck that got them to me in the first place. Had it not been for the Internet, it would not have happened. Six years since that first encounter, Puros Indios still account for one of every three cigars I smoke. Don Rolando Reyes’ unique “four-nation blend” cloaked in their Ecuador Sumatran wrappers has become, for me, a best friend.
There’s just something about that blend that is absolutely distinct. There’s nothing like them (the Toro Especial especially.) Make no mistake, I adore my Habanos — my Trinidads, Hoyos, Bolivars, Paratagases and Upmanns. But they are enjoyed as one would flirt with perfumed and bosomy empress dowagers in crystal ballrooms: a heady flutter; rich cuisine; high-maintenance sex, best kept as an occasional indulgence.
A Puros Indios, mate, is a mate; the guy who commiserates with you when the party’s over, helps you get your shit together and realise what a lucky dog you are. You might say, for me, Old Man Reyes’ blend has given me the happy endings to a hoary host of hapless horror stories.
And the legendary PI price point! At well under USD100 per 25-count box, Puros Indios are amazingly affordable for their flavour, construction and near-miraculous consistency.
Perhaps this is because they tend to be lightly packed. These cigars aren’t dense; they draw effortlessly. There are advantages to this — they make for great sippin’ smokes — but I’d pay twice as much for a denser Puros Indios, one with a bit more traction in the draw, for I believe such a cigar would rank among the best in the world.
The company making Puros Indios recently rebranded itself “Reyes Family Cigars”, introducing a portfolio of new brands and blends. To my delight, however, the famously irascible Don Rolando, now 87, remains adamant about not screwing with his signature blend, nor Puros Indios’ position as the flagship of their expanding armada of products.
Annoying as this might be for those of RFC who want to venture more adventurously afield, the Old Man has my whole-hearted support. Ain’t no school like the old school, that’s for damn sure. And he’s older than the school.