Me, My Men & Cigars
Never mind roses, Libby Brodie’s boyfriend built her a cigar terrace
By Libby Brodie
July 6 2023
They might not want me to say this, but it was my parents who bought me my first cigar, when I was 15 years old. I was hosting a Murder Mystery dinner party with my friends and had given myself the role of the caddish boyfriend of the murder victim. I had the suit, the drawn-on pencil moustache, and the slicked back hair, but I was missing something that spoke of sophistication, luxury, and perhaps a bit of bad behaviour. It was then that they produced a slender cigar for my breast pocket.
I’m not sure if it was their intention that I light it, but I did, and was delighted to discover all the delicious smoke filled flavour, without the choking of inhalation, something that I had embarrassingly discovered at a recent house party when attempting to impress a friend’s older brother. I loved how it felt, I loved how it looked, I loved how it tasted, and I wanted to know more.
The next leap in my cigar education came during a trip to Miami. Some people may visit the beach while in Florida, but my boyfriend and I visited the cigar bars, testing out styles and sizes and spending our evenings watching the sunset from our balcony with a bottle of wine and our pick of the day. A romantic at heart, he was drawn to Romeo y Julieta, whereas I favoured a Cohiba. I would choose a Siglo, with its lighter, creamier smoke to pair with a buttery Chardonnay, or open a bottle of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon with a Cohiba Robusto’s woodsmoke and spice.
Rocking back on our chairs overlooking the city skyline, the cigar smoke curling into the twilight, it was a relaxing moment of peace after the bustle of the streets. I bought him an overly-expensive-given-my-salary humidor and we continued the tradition in London on his balcony overlooking the canals.
That relationship did not last, but my love of cigars did (and I regret not taking that excellent humidor with me on the way out). I have salved a broken heart with a cigar in a swimming pool in Singapore, wooed a lover by sharing one at the Groucho Club, sealed an investor deal with some on a windy terrace in New York, and celebrated countless birthdays, anniversaries, and Tuesdays with a well-chosen smoke.
Unlike my other love, wine, which inspires conviviality and community by the very nature of sharing a bottle, a cigar can be enjoyed solo. It allows contemplation, relaxation, a moment of calm. All very good and wise things I am sure, but for me, cigars are best enjoyed with friends. One of my most pleasurable evenings last summer was taking a gifted box of Rafael Edmond cigars, a brand I had not tried before, to a friend’s garden. Four of us sat outside under blankets, festoon lighting twinkling above us, and drank Chateau Musar 1997 to the sound of Tchaikovsky and raindrops falling on the decking’s roof. We smoked and talked late into the night, each marvelling at this new discovery (sadly one I have been unable to repeat as I cannot find where to buy them myself).
These are my ideal cigar moments: after a good meal, in pleasant company, accompanied by a well-made drink and uplifting conversation – and ideally outside. As much as I love the scent in the present, the next morning’s stale smoke in the house is a very different matter.
At home I had taken to leaning out of the living room window or even perching on the windowsill itself, something that seriously reduces the ability to be social at the same time. A couple of years ago I had built an extension onto my kitchen, and it had left me with a small interior courtyard just off the dining room, which was being used as a home for the previous year’s dying Christmas tree and an impressively strong selection of weeds.
On my first date with my boyfriend, we stood in this funny little nowhere space sharing a cigar and I described how I would love to have a dedicated area for my passion. It happily turned out that this man was both handy and proactive and within weeks he had set himself the task of building me one. The weeds and sad Christmas tree were cleared, and the paving slabs swept and cleaned. A wall of fairy lights was hung, and pots of greenery added. Being a social space, an L-shaped sofa and table were bought and, being England, so was a small awning to cover it. Hosting is now perfectly streamlined as guests transfer from apéritifs in the living room to a home cooked meal in the dining room and then go past the drinks trolly and out onto the terrace for digestifs and cigars. I’m writing this piece here now, with a blue sky above me, and later I’ll still be here with a small glass of cognac and a Cohiba Siglo. Now I just have to get myself a fancy humidor.
Libby Brodie is a wine writer, presenter, judge and “City AM” wine columnist. You can follow her on instagram @libbybrodie