I don't smoke now but I used to, until my mid-40's. I'll tell you something, if our Lord in heaven told me I'm in my last days I'd walk straight to the smokeshop. I used to smoke cigarettes and in the early years, I liked plain end cigarettes. Once in Plattsburgh, New York when I was about 20 I bought a small metal machine to roll cigarettes, it was called (stamped on the metal) Top. (Think about the name for a minute). The best cigarettes I ever had were made in that machine. I liked Export "A" tobaaco, made by the old Quebec concern, Macdonald Tobacco Company, later bought by RJ Reynolds Tobacco of Winston-Salem, NC and now owned by Japan Tobacco Company. Export "A" came in different strengths, I liked the green label which was the strongest. This was Canadian (Ontario-grown) cured Virginia tobacco, quite different than cigar or pipe tobaccos and different again from American Burley and Turkish cigarette blends. Cigarettes are very dangerous to one's health, I knew it even then, but youth has its ways and I got started on it and it took me years finally to stop. Still, I hope it didn't hurt me too much, I used to smoke about 10-12 a day and not too much on weekends and I stopped twice in my 30's (once for 3 years) before the final withdrawal. In later years I switched to lighter-tasting cigarettes but in the early days I liked and could "handle" the full-bore taste of the unfiltered Export "A". I recall the taste well but find it hard to describe, it wasn't spicy like traditional U.S. cigaret tobacco was but kind of earthy and loamy with a heavy edge of tarry creosote-like flavour. I used to roll them with Zig-Zag papers in the Top machine and I liked them best on camping trips in the Laurentians by a fire at night. In those years there was no thought of whiskey but we were of age to buy quarts of Molson Export Ale or O'Keefe Ale, we chilled them at the lake edge, our waters even in summer are never very warm and that beer and tobacco, in that time, watching the smoke from the campfires drift over the red canoes drying overturned on the sand, was an experience I'll never forget. Today it takes on a wistful tone because I don't live near the Laurentians and I don't smoke and I ride a bicycle for exercise instead of canoeing but the experience is indelible in my mind.
Chapter two of my early smoking career was discovering Luckies, Camels and Kents and sampling them with bourbon whiskey in the Plattsburgh bars. Great combination it was (again looked at, um, holistically, i.e., being young, a little dumb, trying new things and having fun). But I never got the taste in the end for the U.S. cigaret (except when drinking bourbon in the States when the combination seemed normal and pleasurable) so I stuck with our Canadian Virginia blends until I gave the damn things up.
Sometimes when in the States and I smell a strong U.S. cigarette it brings me right back to Your Father's Office in Plattsburgh, NY in 1971 and the taste of Old Forester or Grandad in those heavy shot glasses you used to find in places like that. A cute chick behind the bar gave me one of those glasses just before the long drive back to Montreal and I still have it. The professional tasters have their copitas and snifters and what all but for the real bourbon experience I pour a shot in my old Plattsburgh heavy-based glass and knock it back with a PBR, yessir and the only things missing are the bar chicks, the cigarettes, and being 20 - other than that nothing has changed.