Living Ind

What Men Want

by Mary Tutwiler

For a smokin' Valentines day, turn up the heat

Women are so easy to please. Dark chocolate, a red red rose, a bottle of bubbly and she's putty in your hands. When it comes to Valentine's Day girls go for the blatantly conventional - so just remember to show up with something. Men, men on the other hand, dark and silent, never let on what they long for. You give them a tie and they go all moody on you.

If you want him to play Romeo y Julieta, you have to look where the men go, into the shrouded cave where they can retreat to play cards, watch the tube in peace, get their alligator boots shined, admire the action on high end lighters and smoke, gloriously smoke, to their heart's content.

"Perfecto," he'll say when you hand him an aged corona, perhaps a Padron from Nicaragua, redolent with nutty notes and a hint of coffee. For your especial robusto, splurge with a Zeno Platinum Master Edition, a creamy smoke with an aroma of exotic wood and a finish as subtle as a single malt. While Cuban cigars light up an illegal smile on aficionados' faces, the great and legally available cigars of Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic are rolled of tobacco grown from seeds smuggled out of Cuba when growers fled Castro's revolution. American tobacco (think Sir Walter Raleigh) from Connecticut is renowned as a wrapping leaf. The best cigars are hand rolled (think Carmen) and aged, like good brown liquor, for seven to 10 years.

Speaking of good brown liquor, one of the best accompaniments to the perfume of a Central American cigar is liquor distilled from the region's local sugar crop. That be rum.

A great aged rum can rival the best cognac, which has been traditionally paired with cigars. Look for Centenario, a Nicaraguan rum aged for 21 years. Rich, complex and silky smooth, this is sipping rum; pull out your best snifter, no pineapple juice, please. Ron Botran, an 18-year-old rum from Guatemela, or Rhum Clement VSOP, distilled on Martinique, both pair beautifully with good smokes.

All that's left is to don your best Panama hat, slip into a guayabera, raise the thermostat and cue up the Buena Vista Social Club. He'll think he's in the steamy tropics, and we all know, come Valentine's day, where there's smoke, there's usually fire.