|Placer County Historical Society|
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
The best cigar merchants are those staffed by folks older that I. At sixty, that number is dwindling. I don’t want the proprietor to appear hip or suave or cooler than me. I want him to be professorial, or, if not professorial, maybe just of a different ilk than myself. But more than that, I want him to teach me something about cigars.
My local guy fits all the requirements and calls his store “the Tobacco Republic.” Located in an out-of-the-way berg called Loomis, California – 25 miles east of Sacramento, yet off I-80 – the Republic has a humidor the size of many folks’ dining rooms adjacent to a seating area where locals come to taste product and discuss the issues of the day, week or whatever’s buggin’ ‘em at the moment.
I like to browse the humidor but generally walk out with a couple of Rocky Patel “vintage” 1990 Maduros knowing that they will complement whatever my pallet yearns for on the spirit side of the cigar/whiskey equation.
Occasionally, owner Ron will gently probe: “What are you drinkin’ this evening?” and I’ll reply with some type of Scotch, bourbon or, lately, rye. He knows I’m a mild-to-medium twice-a-month kind of guy. “Then try this,” he’ll say and he’ll trot out something I’ve not heard of before. He talks about the wrapper, the binder and the various leaves that make the filler. He tells me about the history of the group that produces the stick and throws in a little knowledge of Caribbean and Central American politics.
I’m a sucker. I love the smell of the humidor and rarely, if ever, am I disappointed with the resultant stick.
My beloved old-time doctor retired due to health issues. Her replacement was not too many year my junior. In getting to know me, his new client, he asked about my lifestyle choices. “Drink any alcohol?”
“Only when I’m alone or with somebody.”
“Maybe twice a month depending upon the stresses associated with retirement.”
Somehow mention was made of my enjoyment of two-wheeled travel. He asked me where I’d been and I shared a link to my on-line presence. Then he laughed and said he’d always dreamed of touring the west on a Harley. I questioned him on brand of choice and he admitted, “That’s what I thought everyone rode.”
The examination followed including blood pressure, pulse and a bunch of unmentionables.
Upon conclusion, I asked him, “So, whadaya think, Doc?”
“Worst thing you do,” he said, “is riding that bike.”
Rightly or wrongly, I took that as approval of the occasional cigar and whiskey.
My computer crapped out today: Wouldn’t print and couldn’t access some on-line links I needed for a contract I was supposed to complete. My patience for technology is thin.
I headed over to “the Republic” to pick up a couple of Rocky Patels. A little mid-winter quality time in the back yard with my lab-mix, some Elijah Craig and a Rocky, seated in front of a blazing chiminea would probably put all things in good order.
The “try this” amounted to something from Cuba Rica. The Cuban economy has virtually fallen apart, Ron said. Many of the folks who roll cigars have left the island and work through out Central America. This particular group of cigars uses Cuban filler – he mentioned a couple of different leaves that I nodded about but completely forgot – Ecuadorian wrappers and yada, yada, yada. “Try these,” he said. “Only a couple of bucks more a stick. Let me know what you think.”
In America, we do many things well. We invent things like washers, dryers and Z-28s. We get highway systems. We practice agriculture to the point where we can feed much of the rest of the world. We do democracy – whether or not we’re all that enamored with the results of the latest election. (I happen to be okay with the outcome, but no matter.)
But we don’t do cigars.
In the gathering dusk, I am rubbing the little lab’s ears, nursing some Kentucky Bourbon and savoring the fruits of those Cuban ex-patriots, handsomely hand-rolled for my personal pleasure. It’s a good thing I got permission from the Doc.
Today’s Route: I-80, exit Horseshoe Bar Road. North ½ mile to Loomis. Right on Taylor. One block: Tobacco Republic, Ugly Mug Coffee Shop. Across street: Loomis Packing Sheds with great fresh fruit and local products year round. West on Taylor: a classic burger drive-in, an old-fashioned drug store and one of the finer nurseries in the area. Loomis is small town America and is worth a visit.
Tobacco Republic, the local cigar store: www.trcigar.com They do on-line sales. Today’s toke: www.viahavana.com Oh me, oh my: the Corojo is good!
Loomis Basin Chamber of Commerce: www.loomischamber.com
Local Produce at the packing shed: http://bluegooseproduce.com/
High Hand Nursery: www.highhand.com
Church of the Open Road Press