Monday, October 2, 2023

Italy: Tuscano Cigars

During our two week visit to southern Italy, I kept a casual eye out for cigar shops. I had brought along a few cigars to smoke, but not enough to last the trip. I also hoped to find a few Cuban cigars I was interested in trying. Although tobacco stores were ubiquitous wherever we went, actual retailers of fine cigars were rare. 

Throughout the country, the Tabaccheria, or “tabacchi," were ubiquitous and found every few blocks at a minumum. In these typically stall-like stores, a variety of tobacco products are sold. Rolling and pipe tobacco, "e-cigarettes," and standard cigarettes are very popular. There are selections of Italian cigars, most of which I am unfamiliar with. The most common were the ones from Tuscano, a name I had heard in the past at least. I frequently saw men walking through the towns with these rustic sticks in hand.

Toscanos are "charoot" type cigars made in Tuscany. Think Clint Eastwood in the old "spaghetti westerns" and you'll know the cigar. They are rough rolled, consisting of a wrapper, that doubles as the binder, and filler leaves. The tobaccos used are fermented Kentucky tobaccos grown in Italy. The slender cigars are wider in the middle and taper toward the ends. Traditionally they are cut in half and smoked, although after my first one, I skipped that step and smoked them "whole." The cigars are dry and do not require humidification. They are packaged 5 to a box.

The first one I tried was Toscano Classico. The approximately 6 x 38 stick has the strong aroma of a smokey campfire. I expected a harsh experience, but it was more of a medium bodied smoke and easy to smoke. The flavor was reminiscent of smoky BBQ and semi-sweet chocolate. My initial Toscano pairing was with an Aperal Spritz, a classic Italian afternoon aperitif, and some Amaretti di Loreto almond cookies. The combo made for an enjoyable afternoon after a morning of sightseeing. The cigar left behind a persistent smoked wood flavor in the mouth.

I also picked up a box of Tuscano Antico when I had some time to kill one afternoon in Rome. I smoked it in the plaza just outside of the Vatican while waiting for our group to assemble. (Smoking is prohibited within the Vatican City State.) These were described as having stronger pepper notes. The one I smoked was less sweet than the Classico and I found it somewhat bitter. 

Having smoked the cigar supply I had packed, and failing to find a place to restock by the end of our trip, I stuck with Tuscanos the last few days of the trip. I had a fun "Italian" pairing on one of the last evenings, consisting of a Tuscano Classica and Birra Moretti Italian-brewed beer. The cool beer was very refreshing on a hot and humid Rome evening. 

During our last day in Italy I found the Fincato La Casa del Habano in Rome selling both Cuban and other cigars, although with an extremely sparse inventory. Alas being the end of the trip I had no time to pick any up to smoke.


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