When I came in, Saylor was smoking a cigar and talking with a small group of his regulars. The Olympic broadcast switched to an interview with Michelle Obama. And the room became suddenly hollow, reflective.
I asked the group what they thought of the first lady. “My mom works at the Pentagon,” one young man offered. “And I met her once. She seems really — insincere.”
Saylor didn’t take the bait.
“I’m not really into politics, so I really shouldn’t say.”
He is, however, into cigars. Seriously. “I read things online, or I’ll get in contact with distributors” to learn about the trade, he explained. “But mainly I read online, because I like studying. And I like trying new stuff. So when somebody comes in, I can tell them what it tastes like even if I haven’t tried it.”
Saylor told me about the smoke he had just lit, a Diesel ”Crucible” that he said was part of a new 2012 line.
“It’s rolled by AJ Fernandez. He’s one of my favorite rollers,” he said, mulling his words like an older aficionado. ”It’s about 12 bucks, but it’s really good.”
“Anything from AJ is really nice. I’m a full-bodied smoker, so it’s Don Pepin and AJ. Don Pepin’s stuff is really peppery and really spicy, and I really like that. Sometimes you want full body. But sometimes you want full flavor. That’s when I turn to AJ. It’s not too much pepper, but it’s full of flavor.” (RELATED: Cigar Hunter: Dante’s favorite stogie? Hell yes!)
I bought a Crucible from Saylor — $12.00 even, with a house 10% discount — and we smoked the 6.5-inch by 52 stogies together. True to form, he interrupted our discussion every time a new customer came in.
Fernandez made the Diesel Crucible a fantastic, well-rolled and cosmetically beautiful cigar. It draws like a champ. But he also did something unusual by wrapping it with a “medio tiempo” leaf — one of the rarest in the world. You find it usually in more exclusive — and often more expensive — vitolas like the Cuban Cohiba Behike. (RELATED: Cigar Hunter: Havana comes to Northern Africa)
Tobacco plants generally produce three kinds of leaves: the spicy ligero at the top of the plant, the aromatic seco in the middle and the milder volado near the bottom. But some plants — as few as 10 percent, according to some experts — have a fourth set of leaves at the very top, nearer to the sun. These medio tiempo leaves, just a few per plant, are far smaller, concentrating their aroma and flavor in a tinier package. And they’re fermented for a longer period of time than leaves from the rest of the plant.
Diesel also boasts that it blended a super-secret Honduran specimen into the Crucible, which may account for the intense chocolate bomb I tasted when I lit it up. My mind jumped to the Schokoladenmuseum that the Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli runs in the West German city of Cologne. Tasting the front end of this cigar was like sticking my tongue into the museum’s giant smooth milk chocolate fountain.