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Friday , November 25 , 2011
 
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Cigar club
A member at the
Cigar Club in Mumbai

Prefer a brown hand-rolled Cuban to a Dominican Republic cigar? You can air your thoughts about your choice over a power puff with like-minded people at Calcutta’s first Cigar Club, which launches on Friday.

That Calcutta is the chosen second after the first club opened in Mumbai in late 2008 is no surprise. “I have lived in Calcutta for six months and I know that the cigar-smoking culture is synonymous with the strong heritage the city boasts of,” said Daniel Carroll, the founder of the club, which went international with Dubai and Shanghai this year. Singapore and New York are in queue.

Tentatively ticked on the calendar as the last Friday of the month, the first few meet-ups will happen at Rainey Court Residency, a new boutique hotel on Ballygunge Circular Road (opposite Azad Hind Dhaba).

“Now is the right time because cigar consumption goes up in winter the best months are November to March and fellow cigar-lovers have been telling me they can’t wait to light one up and puff away, with a drink to go along,” smiled Banibroto Banerjee, founder member of the Calcutta chapter, and the owner of the hotel which will double as the venue for the meetings. But in keeping with the “strictly informal” nature of the club, members can also choose to meet at residence lawns or terrace-gardens, as is the case in Mumbai.

Membership by invitation only leans toward “senior people” like bankers, advocates and lawyers, bureaucrats and the consulate crowd. No surprise again, since cigars are still believed to be a lasting symbol of class and wealth or an “aspirational habit”, as the founders put it.

The Cigar Club has only one rule: no business cards allowed. “It’s a fun platform where like-minded people can meet, talk, smoke and drink. There is no agenda, no speeches, no presentation, no business cards being forced down the throat, trying to sell them something,” explained Daniel.

“Around 120 Calcuttans have expressed interest already,” said Banibroto, an indication of the interest cigars have sparked since the Mumbai wing opened with only three members. Three years later, it is 700-plus strong.

And not just puff daddies, even women are sending out smoke signals. “Twenty per cent of the members at any given meet-up are women,” signed off Daniel.

HOLY SMOKE

Squeeze a cigar before buying one. It should be evenly rolled, not too tight.

Smell it to get the aroma of the leaf.

Size matters. A 5” cigar with a smaller ringage would work well as an after-meal; for the golf course, a 7” will take you through the hours on the greens.

When smoking, a cigar should neither be moist nor too dry. Never inhale; twirl the smoke in the mouth to savour it.

Some of the popular brands available at Calcutta’s social clubs are Andre Garcia (RCGC) and ITC’s Armenteros (The Tollygunge Club and CC&FC).

The popularity of Cuban cigars stems from the fact that they are banned in the US.

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