In my late teens I smoked a random cigar here and there, maybe once a year when it was gifted to me or otherwise had the opportunity to smoke. By my mid 20's I was living in Florida and there was a liquor store around the corner from my place with a small walk in humidor. I bought Alec Bradley Prensado's, and other cigars I can't remember the names of once a week or so. My roomate at the time was getting into it as well, so we split a sampler from "an online vendor on NC cigars". The first cigar that I actually liked on a conscious level was the La Gloria Cubana Serie R Maduro (NC).
After some time I moved back to NJ and the cigar "buzz" subsided for years.....for years until I was gifted a Padron. My brother had gone to a wedding, which they gave out cigars. Not being a smoker himself, he gave it to me. From what I remember, it wasn't all too impressive...smooth, but the construction was shotty... and there's no way it was because I smoked it in a hottub 😏.
Shortly after, I kind of got, "the itch". I bought a single here and there from a local shop and after a couple of months I said to myself, "I think I'm going to be a cigar guy.". So, I bought myself a 15" x 12" x 11" storage container to make a tupperdor out of. Cleaned it with baking soda mixed with water, smeered it on the inside, washed it out, stuffed it with newspaper, and left it out in the sun on a hot day (by advise of some forum I can't remember).
I bought premade and build-your-own samplers from an online NC vendor. La Gloria Cuba, Don Pepin, Gurkha, Diesel, Padilla, Julius Casear... no real direction, just trying different things, basking in the novelty of a new hobby. Drew Estate Undercrown was a middle-ground between "what I consider anyways" and low end an high end NCs. Eventually my taste found some direction, by the awakening experience of smoking my first Liga Privada No.9... or maybe rather just moved up in price cap, who really knows. I moved on to brands like Cohiba(NC), Fuente Opus X, Ave Maria, Liga Privada... My Father Flor De Las Antillas and the like.
One day, I guess a year into my new hobby, I met a friend of a friend at a social event who was smoking a cigar. I struck up conversation by asking him what he was smoking... his response was "a cigar". "Well obviously man" I though to myself. It was a 8-9-8 if I remember correctly. We talked and eventually he turned me onto FOH. Having found this forum prior and was untrusting, in hindsight it was a rather fortuitous encounter... I put in an order for a handful of singles a week or so later.... pretty much the rest is history.
Once in a while I'll go back to an old favorite NC, but find they lack in dimension and overcompensate with pepper-spice and always wind up tossing them halfway through. Sad they lost their glamour, but life goes on to better things when you let go of the past 😄