Cigars and cigar smoking have come a long way since explorer Christopher Columbus and his men discovered the natives of Hispaniola smoking rolled up sticks of tobacco in the 1490s.
In the early days of the 20th century, cigars were associated with affluence, power, social standing and almost always with rich white men.
But that all changed in the early 1990s, when the so-called Cigar Boom saw not only an explosion in cigar smoking, but a stunning expansion in WHO was smoking cigars — women, young adults, movie stars, athletes, people of color and the less affluent. Everyone seemed to be enjoying a good cigar, at social events, restaurants, bars, backyard barbecues and special cigar events.
The boom was stoked by the introduction in 1992 of Cigar Aficionado, a slick, thick magazine entirely devoted to cigars and cigar smokers and their lifestyles, often with a celebrity cigar smoker gracing the cover.
The boom brought in literally millions of people who wouldn’t normally smoke cigars, so the demand skyrocketed, putting a strain not only on the existing stores of cigars, but forcing cigar makers and distributors to up the ante by importing more cigars and rushing the process of growing, harvesting, curing and rolling tobacco.
The boom also created a market for new cigar makers and distributors, who often cut corners to feed the demands of a rapidly growing cigar public. That resulted in a flood of cheap sub-standard cigars.
The boom subsided in the late ’90s, forcing the fly-by-nighters to fold and the premium companies, the old world cigar makers who stuck by centuries-old traditions and techniques and high-quality standards, to not only survive but to thrive as smokers who remained loyal to the premium brands continued beyond the fad.
And despite tighter regulations, more public no-smoking rules and health concerns, cigar smoking is enjoying a mini-renaissance, not to the levels of the ’90s, but still healthy enough to call a resurgence. A recent study noted that total cigar imports to the U.S. rose 21 percent last year and there were over 1,275 new blends that hit the market, giving everyone from the neophyte to the experienced smoker a wide range of smoking choices.
Social media, blogs, websites and more cigar-centric print media are in part fueling this resurgence as people share their experiences, thoughts and latest trends with each other.
Also contributing to this mini-boom is the re-emergence of cigar lounges, safe havens where cigar smokers can relax and enjoy a good smoke with like-minded people in a comfortable environment.
And you’ll find the only cigar lounge on the Monterey Peninsula just a block from historic Cannery Row: The Humidor, which has moved to 765 Wave St. in Monterey, just above the The Whaling Station restaurant.
The goal of The Humidor is to foster a community of people who can share the cigar experience in a unique and inviting lounge environment—a kind of “cigar sanctuary.”
In that comfortable lounge environment, The Humidor focuses on the craft and artisanal aspects of cigars, offering a wide range of hand-rolled premium cigars from top cigar makers, a temperature-controlled walk-in humidor, big-screens TVs, comfortable leather chairs, private and public lounges, a game room, media center, high-speed WiFi and individual, personalized humidified lockers for members of its The Peninsula Club.
It’s only a block away from a Cannery Row, but a world away from your worries.
Call (831) 375-7833 or go to thehumidorlounge.com to for more information or to sign up for The Peninsula Club.
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