Private Blind Smoke in Singapore. Cigar events are prohibited in Singapore. There are only a handful of tobacconists in the city-state with 6 million inhabitants. Tobacco taxes are high, with 427 SGD per kilo of tobacco (280 Euro). Cigar lounges are almost impossible to find and there are fewer and fewer places to enjoy a cigar. Yet there is a growing and vibrant cigar scene in Singapore due to social media. And of course, like anywhere else, there are people with prejudice and preferences.
There are Cuban smokers who claim Cubans are the best. There are avid Non-Cuban smokers who claim that Cubans aren’t good. All in a friendly, fun-poking tone. But those discussions led to a nice gathering last night. On the outdoor patio of one of the cigar-friendly bars in Singapore, a group of brothers of the leaf came together. To hang out and have a good time, but also to do a blind smoke.
What is a blind smoke?
One of the guys from the group sourced 24 cigars. 8 Cuban cigars, 8 Nicaraguan cigars, and 8 Dominican cigars. He removed the rings and replaced them with blank rings with just a number. The 8 contestants that participated in the blind smoke scored the cigars on looks, draw, smoke, burn and flavor. The idea behind this is that it is interesting to see how influential a cigar ring is. How a brand name, or origin, changes your perspective of a cigar before you even light it. And with a group of hardcore Habanos smokers and a few serious Non-Cuban fans, the results could shock even the participants.
Years ago, we participated in a blind smoke in The Hague, The Netherlands. The approximately 50 participants smoked three cigars blind. Those were the Bolivar Royal Corona, Oliva V Robusto, and the PDR Small Batch Robusto. The results were surprising for some of the cigar aficionados and opened their minds. One of the participants said, “really, that horrible cigar was the Cuban?”. The overall score of the Oliva was an 8, the PDR got a 7. And the Bolivar? That only scored a 5.5 out of 10.
Last night’s event
About 25 local cigar smokers showed up. Some for support and a good time, some out of curiosity. Only 7 smokers could enter the blind smoke due to the limited number of equal cigars. The cigars had to be sourced from private collections. The group was a beautiful mixture of smokers. From Cuban minded smokers with decades of experience and several trips to Cuba under their belt to new aficionados who picked up the hobby three months ago.
After a few hours with banter, laughs, great Japanese whisky and lots of Guinness the results were announced. And the cigars were revealed. Cigar A was a Jas Sum Kral Toothpick Habano, the Bcigar a dark Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure 2, and cigar C was the Dominican cigar: Flores y Rodriguez Wide Churchill.
That it’s hard to recognize cigars was pretty clear. One of the more experienced smokers of the group lit Cigar A first and said: “This is Cuban”. Then he lit cigar C and said: “no, this is the Cuban”. And he’s an avid Cuban smoker that only smoked one Non-Cuban cigar in his life, an Opus X after seeing the Handrolled documentary. And that only two out of the seven guessed all countries correctly says enough. But special kudos to the gentleman who’s a partner in the Character Whisky & Cigar Bar in Bangkok. He didn’t smoke the cigars, but just from looking at them and smelling them, he guessed all three correctly.
The cigars were scored on looks (10%), burn (10%), smoke (10%), draw (20%) and flavor (50%). The scores were then averaged and the winner of the night was the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure 2. The average score of the Cuban classic was close to a 7.5. The Jas Sum Kral Toothpick Habano followed close with an average of 7.1. And the Flores y Rodriguez averaged 6.6. We have to add, that cigar got both the highest and the lowest score for flavor, from a 2 to a 9. With that, it was the most controversial cigar of the night.
All in all, it was a great event and helps people to snap out of prejudice. Avid New World smokers try Cuban cigars and might find that their prejudice might be unfounded. And the “Cubans are the best, nothing can stand up to Cubans” smokers are faced with the facts that other countries are making fantastic cigars too. It would be wonderful to see lounges all over the world, except in countries where Cuban cigars are prohibited, started to do blind tasting events like the one last night in Singapore. All of the people involved in last night’s event said: “let’s do it again”.