I’ve been fortunate to be introduced to the world of Clear Havanas over the past few years. Clear Havanas are cigars that were rolled in the United States, entirely from Cuban tobacco. The term refers to the fact that the tobacco “cleared” Customs and then went to the factories. I live in the Tampa, Florida area, which was known as the “Cigar City” since the city was founded as a home to the cigar industry which moved here in 1879 (for history, see http://www.cigarsoftampa.com/history.html ). Clear Havanas were made all over the United States. Many were machine made, and for the most part the colorful empty boxes and empty factories are all that remains of this part of cigar history.
However, I’ve been fortunate to meet a local friend, Nick, who has a small business and hobby called Gotham Cigar Museum. Nick scouts out old boxes of Clear Havanas and has created a web site full of pictures, history, and some of these old treasures for sale (http://gothamcigarmuseum.com/ ). He’s a generous friend and each time we get together, he brings some of his old treasures and shares them freely.
Last week I got together with Nick and my buddy Chris at Cigar Cave in Palm Harbor. Nick had a very special box of Peter Schuyler Perfectos. He estimated that these were from the 1920s. They were completely sealed and wrapped in Christmas paper! We had a great evening, Nick slowly and carefully opening the packaging and box, to reveal a gorgeous set of cigars. Opening this box was like opening a treasure chest, we had no idea whether we would find tasty cigars, or moldy, beetle ridden cigar carcasses. Each was carefully wrapped in foil with an inner waxed paper lining. Nick was able to determine via the tax stamps that this cigar was boxed in 1929. An 83 year old cigar!
I posted a series of photos of this box and our evening on Instagram (http://web.stagram.com/n/professortwain/ ) and Nick has posted several videos of this outstanding evening of cigar adventure (http://www.youtube.com/user/gothamcigarmuseum?feature=watch ).
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Now, time for a review of the smoke! When we opened the box, the aroma was of mild, clean tobacco. There was no hint of mold or mildew and the box felt of normal weight. Old boxes that are dried out will feel light, and if over humidified will smell of mildew. Upon unwrapping the foil, the cigar had a beautiful perfect shape. It had just the right amount of give on a squeeze. I used an antique v-cutter on the head. The wrapper was flawless and the cigar had a slight smell of clean tobacco. The small perfecto foot lit easily, and burned beautifully. From the very beginning, the cigar had a clean tobacco taste, with an interesting undercurrent of cooking spices. This cooking spice flavor remained as a strong aftertaste after each puff. I’d say that the flavor was similar to nutmeg. There was a sweetness to the cigar, and no harshness at any point.
I’ve smoked a number of Clear Havanas from the pre 1950s period, and each was unique. This Peter Schuyler maintained this same flavor profile of clean tobacco and cooking spice throughout. It did not develop new tastes, and did not really have much complexity. It was simple and good throughout. The smoke was voluminous and the burn was pure and good to the very end. I nubbed this cigar.
Enjoying this cigar with Nick and Chris was nearly a 2 hour experience. We savored every puff, talked about cigar history, and shared our experiences with aged cigars and shared friends in the cigar community. I hope that all of my Cigarian brothers have the opportunity to smoke some Clear Havanas, and if they can do so in great company, that will be even better.
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I have purchased the final four cigars and the box and packaging from Nick. So, if any of you come to Florida, I’m prepared to share!