I looked suitably disappointed, while my heart sang. Since my bitch of a grandmother cut off my most important allowance, some little économises have become necessary. As I know you are unencumbered by such issues, I feel no compulsion to let you into my little secret (okay, fine: They’re called Roberto Duran). I left buoyed by the new discovery. But I was worried by an obvious problem. With the junkyard dogs of healthism snapping at us narrowing bands of viveurs, who would be around to buy them?
And yet an answer was soon forthcoming. A few weeks later, I found myself walking across the playing fields of Eton. My British cousins send their kids there. They like to say we married into them, although the accountants might beg to differ. The occasion was the school’s open day, the Fourth of June (by the way, if you think it ever falls on that date, then you’ve already lost at the endless game that is England). When I spent a term there in the ’90s, the day was a riot of drinking and teenage lunges directed at the willing cream of British maidenhood. Now sanitized to death, it’s been left with all the class of a cook-off in suburban Ohio. Thank God I had with me a Por Larrañaga. This is the ultimate in dependable smokes, quietly produced by the longest-running cigar house in Cuba.
My young cousin asked after the cigar with great self-assurance. I kindly said that he couldn’t be expected to know it. Por Larrañaga is not a grande maison and never seen between the fingers of hip-hop musicians. Still, I gave him the name. “Oh, yes,” he said brightly. “They’re at the western tip of the island.” He went on to give me the vitola, the ring gauge, the wrapper and filler. “Likely shade-grown,” he finally threw in. I looked at him in astonishment. “I have read two cigar atlases, you know,” he said reassuringly. The kid was 14! The same damned age when I nearly puked on that Cohiba! It was as much as I could do not to clap that precocious little cub around the ear. But I know when I’m beat. I gave up the cigar and it disappeared for sampling into a huddle of tailcoats behind the tent. I knew then that the next generation was secure, and that even I had done my bit.