Cigars in Boston: Lighting Up at L.J. Peretti’s

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Posted January 17, 2014 by Diana Burmistrovich in Business
L.J. Peretti's mascot

Toying with the package of Parliaments in my pocket, I stood next to L.J. Peretti Company‘s cigar-smoking mascot Punch, wondering whether I would measure up to the thousands of tobacco aficionados he has seen go into his shop before me.

Upon entering the hole-in-the-wall renowned for both cigars in Boston and worldwide, the smell of savory pipe tobacco greeted me as I gazed upon the nearly floor-to-ceiling glass cases housing thousands of pipes, cigars, and tobacco blends. Yellow paint cans emblazoned with the L.J. Peretti logo were interspersed among imported tobaccos housed in glass jars. Except for some regulars smoking cigars in the makeshift lounge inside, distinguishing between the present and the past is a difficult task.

L.J. Peretti’s is a long-standing piece of Boston history, occupying the same corner on Park Street since 1870. Named one of the World’s Best Tobacconists by Forbes¬†Magazine in 2002,¬†the store hasn’t changed much since the days that saw former prime ministers of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill and Ramsay MacDonald and later, Walter Matthau, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Katherine Hepburn, and Mickey Rooney as regulars.

Ancient relics of days past remain: The brick floor of the original humidor keeps cigars moist while letters from happy customers of the past century line the workspace where pipes are fashioned out of dehydrated briar wood.

Current owner Stephen Willett continues the traditional craft work and customer care of original owner Robert A. Peretti. Willett, like Peretti before him, blends tobacco and carves pipes in-house, something he learned to do while apprenticing at the shop during graduate school. A tour of his workspace showed the wide range of private label pipes that the Peretti store continues to be famous for making.

Though L.J. Peretti no longer houses a massive team of Cubans to roll cigars in Boston as they did in-house during the late nineteenth century, Willett makes sure to carefully concoct combinations like a chemist. “The first thing people have to do is come in with a pipe and try a few [blends] so I can get a sense of what their palate is. Then they usually buy some standard blend, smoke it for a while, and tell me what they like or don’t like about it,” says Willett, leaning back into a chair chartreuse with age. “We tweak it. For some blends, it can take years to get it right. You don’t just throw the tobaccos together.”

tobacco, work, handmade, cigar, pipe

The workroom where the team at L.J. Peretti’s mixes tobaccos to create the custom blends for which they are renowned. Photo Credit: Diana Burmistrovich

The blends are created by mixing English, Burley, and Cavendish tobacco, using organic flavoring if the smoker desires a particular flavor. They recently released their eightieth annual Thanksgiving Day Blend, made with rum flavors and organic fruit juices.

This curated experience is not reserved for people with literal money to burn. For the inexperienced smoker, Willett suggests his 432 blend. The tobacco’s light, sweet, and aromatic nature isn’t nearly as refined as the expensive cigars or higher end blends that the store has to offer, but it is perfect for the new smoker looking for a taste of sophistication.

Serious smokers can appreciate L.J. Peretti’s robust collection of rare cigars and exclusive blends. Aside from carrying everything from the 45 Opux X to rare cigars from both Anejo and Davidoff, the store recently collaborated with Padron. This collaboration marked the first time in history that Padron has made a private label cigar, which resulted in the creation of the dark, rich, full-bodied 140th Anniversary cigar.

Through a glimpse of the past, L.J. Peretti perpetuates the future of tobacco smoking. As Willett rattles off names and descriptions of the shop’s frequenters, it is evident that he and the team at L.J. Peretti’s will continue to keep the fire burning on pipe culture and cigars in Boston.

 

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