Members of the cigar cult in the modern era are on a constant search for a good place to light up. Someplace rich in natural ambiance and free from man’s laws. With a Tatuaje Havana IV in my pocket today’s search has come to an end. Walking into the Will Rogers Memorial Park from the corner of the five points in the heart of Beverly Hills one is fittingly greeted by a globe topped lamppost. The path forks to the right leading to the park’s unofficial mascot, an imperious vagrant. He stands unusually tall with a Tobacco leaf tan, managing to be both shirtless yet hooded. Music blasts from his boom box fueling his Mick Jagger infused Tae Bo routine.
Trees lean south with their leaves reaching for the beach. A three tiered pool with a classical fountain in the middle tier serves as both hub and showpiece. Dogs & their masters crisscross the park in a constant smiling, panting tug of war. A tired mini pinscher appears ready to throw in the towel. With an insouciant stride a leggy California blond with a massive dog the same color as the tree flowers they pass under travel with a refreshing disregard for time. As I record the details with words amateur photographers capture them on film. The park sprawls out in the shadow of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Vertical striped overhangs cover a hotel balcony like they did parlor patios where gentlemen puffed on their cigars.
I sit down on one of the benches that create a perimeter around the fountain and retrieve the Tatuaje Havana IV. Will Rogers was at the peak of his fame in the 1930’s, a dark but fascinating time for cigars. Nothing was immune to schizophrenic economics of the decade driven by mechanization and the Depression. The rise of the machine made cigar forced handmade manufacturers to compete by placing their wares in wooden and sometimes metal boxes that rival today’s most luxurious humidors. Down on their luck men made due with machine mades that will always have that peculiar mixture of being both too tight and too airy. The Tatuaje could not be more different. It is a perfectly constructed 5.6″ x 46 corona. The period after lighting a cigar always brings on tunnel vision as I concentrate on the quality of the burn. It begins with the unmasked punch of pure tobacco leaves with a cedar undercurrent. My film of concentration is pierced as a fish flips out of the fountain water. I peer over to see them patrolling like submarines. It’s an especially apt comparison because I had no idea there were any fish in the fountain until one surfaced like those marvelous constructions upon which the fate of nations depended. This brings me back to the superior construction in my hand. The even fire burn gives off stronger aromatic cedar and a classic toasted character.
Palm trees shot up from the emerald grasses of the park marking the divide between park and cool blue sky. Smoke from the Tatuaje rose up towards their sky scraping fronds. One of the trees that ringed the fountain bore an area of corroded bark and this segment bore the same whitish gray color and soft crinkled texture of the cigar ash. It brought me a serenity that only cigar smokers know and those who deride our passion can never truly comprehend. The tree grows from the soil like the tobacco plants that produced the cigar I was smoking and are family members in the natural world. Every time we light a cigar we are brought into communion with the natural world regardless of the setting. A distinct almond flavor gives an unexpected complexity to flavor blend. In its later stage the Tatuaje Havana gives the gift of butter and cedar. Approaching the finish my mouth waters with almond butter warmed by fresh toast. It finishes the way like it began, bold and alive with fire but never scorching the tongue.