So, a topic of discussion came up on the Friends of Habanos forum (FOH) a bit ago, and it’s something that’s recurringly come up over the years. “Cigar gurus”, and the passion that they can sometimes evoke from people.
Some swear by their “gurus”. And I’m talking cigars here, so we’re looking at Min Ron Nee, James Suckling, Simon Chase, Hamlet Jaime Paredes, and various other personalities, be it in books, video form, photo blogs, etc. Obviously, that’s not an all-inclusive list, and I don’t wish to debate those names – they’re just some of the most well-known names in the cigar world recently, just for the purpose of discussion.
Unfortunately, just as much as some follow every word of these gents for example, there are others out there who just as voraciously talk down about them. Granted, most understand that once you publish a book, create a video, etc., you’re putting yourself out there for public discussion as much as consumption, and constructive criticism is a part of that game. But, in this day and age of the internet, and the anonymity that it affords, some take the constructive aspect out of that, and are just…pricks, for lack of a more refined word.
They’re passionate debates. Some in the discussions have close friendships with many of these “gurus”, and thus are defensive on their friends’ behalves. Others have a bit of cigar jealously going on perhaps, some hateful envy, or just simply don’t know how other to state their opposition of said gurus’ perspective without putting spiteful and rudely-speculative comments into the conversations.
Some people on forums, no matter the subject matter, just DON’T KNOW how to have a courteous and respectful conversation with anyone, and are just socially retarded.
Especially in this day and age of blogs (lol, welcome, by the way!) and YouTube, if an everyday joe wants to start an online blog or show, they easily can. It doesn’t cost much more than your time and effort. I’m of the viewpoint of many others here – if it adds more to our hobby, if it informs just one more new cigar smoker, if it makes the journey better or easier for anyone, if it adds something to the cigar world, then GREAT. Have at it. Please have broad shoulders though – depending on how polarizing you are, if you get a thousand positive comments, expect a thousand negative ones too. Please realize there are always going to be detractors, differing views, “haters”, contrarians on the other side of the conversation. And please understand that if you’re going to profess the statements of a previous “guru” as your own, if you’re not edumacated enough on the subject matter itself, if you just repeat something you heard somewhere else (correct or not) and you have no personal experience or proper knowledge to add to the conversation, then you’re gonna get called out on it. If you “set a stage” so to speak, and surround yourself with “big pimpin’” items and a set behind you, people are gonna see right through that and you’re going to polarize them.
And fans of these experts / gurus are sometimes on the wrong rationale in the conversation, too. Unless you know the person personally, and/or have some other inside info to share, just since an expert has an online show and “works in a cigar store” doesn’t mean that his or her opinion gets to trumps anyone’s. I’ve met people who worked in cigar stores who knew less about the subject matter than I or some others have forgot. People who worked in, for example, private (non-LCDH) cigar stores for 10+ years and tried to tell a 3-month-into-the-hobby-buddy-of-mine, who had more than an ounce of common sense, that the warranty seals on Cuban boxes were “optional accessories” when he saw a stack of what appeared to be counterfeit Cohiba Espy’s. I’ve seen other people simply acting as shills for various cigar manufacturers in their YouTube videos, and spouting the “company line” rather than giving an actual review or, gawd forbid, a real opinion.
So… “has a show and works in a cigar store” shouldn’t trump automatically, that’s for damn sure. There are many passionate and EXTREMELY knowledgeable people in the hobby (and, yes, on many forums) who couldn’t give a DAMN to do a blog, YouTube videos, articles for a cigar magazine, etc.
I have a huge issue with people who are self-professed “experts”, or who thrive on the “guru” title and status that others may have afforded them. I grew up being taught to be affable and confident, to take charge when needed, but to be courteous and humble, in everything I do. So when I see flagrant egos come into the picture, I’ve always had an issue with that, like with someone calling themselves a Doctor on a subject when they have no degree, no background, no real specialty training, nothing more exacting than perhaps another average joe. Someone who demands respect and admiration by a title, rather than earning it modestly.
The various online cigar forums, for example, have TONS of discussions of long-time-member and long-time-cigar-smoker recommendations and opinions (’cause they are mostly just that after all, opinions – full “facts” are hard to come by with this hobby, due to variable palates and personal preferences) on aging cigars, flavour profiles, tastes, etc., etc. Some of these people couldn’t care less to do videos or a blog either – doesn’t mean their opinions are moot.
I believe it comes down to this. We are EACH our OWN cigar guru. There’s a number of other people who have said it before me, and I fully agree with their thoughts – in this hobby, due to its nature of being so heavily reliant on individual palates and personal perception, there are no full guru or expert opinions. We are our own experts on our own palate. Yes, there are many things where some of us can give a heavily qualified opinion on – aging cigars, coolerdor / humidor set-up, bands / packaging / counterfeits, general flavour profiles, etc., etc. And it’s up to any individual person to take all those opinions with a grain of salt, and extrapolate what will best work for him/her based on his/her individual setups, palate, storage, etc., etc.
But no one can be a guru to all. We’re all simply GUIDES for each other, until each person has hit their own threshold of being experienced enough to be their own “guru.”
Enjoy the voyage.
2 thoughts on “Gurus versus Guides…”
… where did you come up with such an idea?
Nicely written my friend, and I mainly agree with you and your assessment. I have said for years that there are no professional smokers…!
Where I differ with you some, is in the premies that all those wishing to advance the knowledge of the cigar community are “a okay.”
There are many sorts in all walks of life. Certainly some do not come with altruistic motives. I have seen some ugly events transpire, merely because a guru was questioned or denied… This is of course anecdotal information and I don’t expect those that have not witnessed such events to believe them blindly. I would just add, to what you intimated to in your blog, that not all ‘gurus’ will have “your” best interests at heart.
Furthermore, and I say this as one who has been referred to as a guru himself, and rejects the premise; no one who professes to know better, should be left unscrutinized or unquestioned as a result of status, guru status or otherwise.
There are certainly some experts in certain areas of our hobby. They typically self identify, but they should certainly provide some sort of evidence of their claim! I refer mainly to aspects of cigar smoking and collecting that can be evidenced beyond that of simply stating opinions as facts. Contributions to the community are admirable… but the contribution of junk science, myth, folklore and forwarding and/or parroting of unsubstantiated ‘guru theories’ does more damage to the community than good. Bad information therefore is bad information, and good intent, does not reduce the damage that the information can cause!
Your friend, Piggy
Well said, Ray. I guess I’m just less polarizing than you!!!! LOL.
I thought you would like my putting this discussion / thought point here.
And who in their right mind would refer to you as a guru?!!?! On grand hypothesizing theorums in essays, DEFINITELY!!! Just teasing ya, Red Man!!!!