The Blowin' Smoke Podcast Cretins' Prime Nine 2014 - Our favorite new cigars from the past year. This is our humble addition to all the year end lists listing list listifications, and we like to think of the Cretin Prime Nine as a combination of the best, sexiest, favorite, and most memorable handmade lovelies we were lucky enough to get our hands on. Remember, there is no way for the lowly Cretins to have smoked, let alone even seen at whatever retail source or mooch target they acquire their cigars from, every single new release last year. So, your results may vary. You'll cheer for some...bitch about others, and likely (justifiably) question the intelligence of the Cretin collective as you immerse yourself our most sacred selections. Knock yourself out! After you settle down, pop a Xanax, and down a few Jager Bombs, make it a point, if you haven't already, to seek these fine cigars out and take them for a spin. Support their makers and the retailers that are fighting every day to continue providing us with this amazing indulgence that brings so many of us together every day.
The Cretins were asked to submit their top five favorite new cigars from the past year, in order, as well as some brief commentary on their selections. Positions were scored. Points were tallied and we came up with our 2014 Prime Nine. Saddle up!
The Blowin' Smoke Cretins Prime Nine for 2014
#9 - Herrera Esteli Norteńo
The Norteńo was the first release from Drew Estate following Willy Herrera being named Master Blender in June. Featuring a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around a Honduran binder and "extensively aged" fillers from the Esteli and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua, "Norteńo by Willy Herrera promised a full bodied smoke and the Cretins liked it. Cretins said: "Spicy and complex." "Fantastic cigar with a long lasting finish."
#8 - Warped El Oso
If you like saying "Made in the USA," with your fine cigars, check out the Warped El Oso. From Little Havana in Miami and the famed El Titan de Bronze factory, Warped El Oso, or "papa," is made in the true Cuban technique and blended Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper around an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler. This combination clicked with the Cretins enough to score the eighth spot on our list this year. Cretins said: "Honey and spice, and everything nice." "The most surprising good cigar of the year." "This is a company to watch."
#7 - Island Jim #2
Somebody once said...and I am paraphrasing, "Be yourself. Unless you can be Island Jim. Always be Island Jim." The Cretins agree, and, although we can't quite pull off the yellow sunglasses, or the long hair for that matter, we can aspire to have fun at what we do for a living. If you know Island Jim, you feel like he just loves what he is doing right now. And what he is doing is working. With the continuing growth and success of the Leaf by Oscar line, Island Jim is keeping the fun going with the release of #2...a torpedo with a unique wrapper color assembly that resembles a #2 pencil. This Island Jim is not to be confused with the Island Jim cigar that was part of Eddie Ortega's unique "Wild Bunch" series. This new Island Jim, like the Leaf by Oscar line, also comes out of Oscar Valladares Tobacco and Company factory in Honduras. The "and company" part includes Island Jim. Grab this one if you see it. They were going very fast here in the Burgh at Island Jim's store...Leaf & Bean in the Strip District. The makeup of the Island Jim #2 has not been disclosed as of this writing...not even to the Cretins who said: "Unique in several ways. A great smoke." "Island Jim has another hit alongside the Leaf series." "I can't wait to see what Island Jim and Oscar some up with next."
#6 - Seńorial by José Blanco
Ask anybody who has ever had the pleasure to meet José Blanco and you'll likely hear the same thing. José is one of the nicest people in the cigar business. What they will also tell you is that his presence raises the collective cigar IQ of everyone in the room. Following the success of the CyB line with Drew Estate and Joya de Nicaragua's Dr. Cuenca, and his departure, José created Las Cumbres Tobaco and began work on what would become Seńorial through his cousin Jochi Blanco's factory, Tabacalera La Palma in the Dominican Republic. Seńorial has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a binder from Esteli, Nicaragua, and filler of Dominican Piluto Cubano and Dominican Corojo. The result is a complex smoke with a subtle sweetness underneath a rich, fuller flavor and strength profile. Cretins said: "One of the best made cigars I've ever smoked." "A classic cigar." "What you think a cigar should taste like."
#5 - 1502 Nicaragua
Maybe it's the hair gel. Maybe it's the red denim jeans. Maybe it's that intangible seductive man-crush something something that surrounds Enrique Sanchez. We don't know. What we do know is he has some fantastic blending going on at 1502 Cigars. Following up the success of the Emerald, Ruby, and Black Gold lines is another uniquely flavorful and very well constructed 1502 Nicaraguan. As the Cretins continue debating the best of the first three, along comes the Nicaragua to reboot the argument again. Enrique says the Nicaragua nestles in between the Emerald and the Ruby on the strength scale. The 1502 Nicaragua is a puro featuring tobacco from the four main growing regions of the country...Esteli, Jalapa, Condega, and Ometepe. Cretins said: "A worthy follow up to the Emerald, Ruby, and Black Gold." "This puro delivers what you'd expect from Nicaragua, but with a balance of strength and spice that only Enrique can deliver." "Another score from 1502. Now, I need a box, dammit!"
#4 - New World by A.J. Fernandez
A.J. Fernandez does amazing things with tobacco. Odds are some of your favorite cigars were made in his factory even if they don't bear his name. New World celebrates the discovery of tobacco by the Christopher Columbus expedition in 1492, and it also marks the first collaboration with his father, Ismael Fernandez. So, A.J.'s people say this cigar is very special to him. We say bring in some uncles or second cousins too if it delivers more cigars as good as the New World. Hell, would you consider an Adopt-A-Cretin program?? New World by A.J. Fernandez is a Nicaraguan puro with a dark wrapper, binder from Jalapa, and filler from Ometepe, Condega and Esteli. New World has a complex flavor balancing spicy and sweet with a boldness that builds throughout. Cretins said: "Please, sir, I want some more." "Leather, pepper, earth, coffee, unsweetened molasses blended to almost perfection cigar to cigar." "A fantastic cigar and at a fantastic price point."
#3 - Nomad C-276
Fred Rewey, @GodFadr, of Nomad Cigar Company is one boutique cigar maker that really gets it. While he looks at his place behind the scenes in the cigar business as a journey of sorts...learning, improving, creating, and learning some more each step of the way, he also knows that building relationships with us consumers is as important as producing a high quality product, and I think he is one of the best at it. While the processes in Fred's mind frighten me quite a bit, I know his brain is always working. He is very active on social media. He ties them all into unique contests, giveaways, swag promotions, appearances, interviews, and a healthy amount of self deprecation that continues to bring new fans to Nomad. Fred's behind the scenes journey into tobacco, blending, and experimenting has been releasing some incredibly good cigars to seal the deal, keep it real, and impress the hell out of his minions. The Nomad C-276 made fans of last year's Nomad S-307 punch their grandmothers. The flavor and complexity just keeps coming in waves with the C-276. The wrapper is Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro. The binder is Nicaraguan, and the filler is made up of five different Nicaraguan leaves. Oh, and guess where it's made? Tobacalera AJ Fernandez. Cretins said: "Complex and flavorful." "Quality, tasty...this will be smoked often." "A new go to cigar for a consistent flavorful smoke." "The C-276 never disappoints." "The Nomad C-276 dazzles." "Like your favorite shirt...always good." "A ton of flavor with some spice on the retrohale."
#2 - Nomad Connecticut Fuerte
If the idea of a Connecticut wrapped cigar makes you roll your eyes or even yawn, you need to smoke the Nomad Connecticut Fuerte. With his second placing on this year's Cretin Prime 9, Fred Rewey decided to bring another Connecticut cigar to market, but wanted it to be different...not just another Connecticut...that makes you roll your eyes and yawn. He admits he thought it would be easy because, phfft, it's Connecticut, right? Turns out, it was a bitch, and it became more of a challenge. Lucky for us, Fred kept at it, sought out a variety of quality tobaccos and finally nailed it. The Nomad Connecticut Fuerte is not going to blow your head off with power, but it will deliver flavors and complexity you don't experience with a Connecticut...until now. They're not boring anymore! Yay! The Nomad Connecticut Fuerte has an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper (duh!), an Ecuadorian Habano binder, and the filler is Dominican and Nicaraguan. Cretins said: "A lot of complexity and strength, relative to wrapper, for one amazing cigar that smokes perfectly and evenly." "Notes of cocoa, coffee, cedar, and just a hint of spice." "This is THE Connecticut that all others should be compared to. Simply amazing." "Irony. Delicious irony." "Well done, GodFadr. Well done." "All around best Connecticut cigar released this year." "Wonderful cream and muted pepper notes while still giving just a bit of earth tones without being grassy like the majority of Dominicans."
#1 - Luchador
Deja Vu all over again! This Leccia cat has been here before. Winning both the number one AND number two spots last year with the Leccia Black and Leccia White respectively, his follow-up release, Luchador, hit the market and the Cretins with all the subtlety of a roundhouse kick. The Leccia Luchador ran away with this one as Cretin votes tallied a final score that was double the next highest score. Whatever Sam is tuning into when he is blending, it's working. The Luchador was also the cigar that defeated the Leccia Black in the Blowin' Smoke Podcast Cigar Match after a crazy 19 wins and one tie. If you're not careful, the Luchador will kick you in the nerts, but it will talk dirty to you while it does. Bold, rich and chewy with spicy and sweet trading punches. The longer you smoke the Luchador, the more intense the experience. Hands down, the most impressive according to the Cretins. Luchador has a San Andrés wrapper, an Ecuadorian Habano binder, and a filler of Pennsylvania ligero, Honduras ligero, and Ometepe, Nicaraguan. One! Two! Three! Win! Cretins said: "Another home run for Sam!" " Perfect balance of power and flavor." "Complex and deep flavors sting but not over powering." "Sweet to spicy and bright to dark flavors." " Luchador blows me away EVERY time I spark one." "A top rope body slam." "My favorite cigar of the year."
Congratulations, Sam Leccia & Leccia Tobacco!
So, there it is. The Cretins Prime Nine for 2014 in all its glory. Congratulations to all those who made the list! Let's do it again next year.
But wait! We have to mention some great cigars that landed right on the bubble of the Prime 9. Check out these fantastic cigars too (Just pay additional shipping and processing): Tatuaje Tattoo -- E.P. Carrillo La Historia -- 262 Allegiance -- Camacho Ecuador -- Corona Project by Rodrigo
The Blowin' Smoke Podcast Cretins' Prime Nine 2013 - Our favorite new cigars from the past year. With all the end of the year lists out there, we like to think of the Cretin Prime Nine as a combination of the best, sexiest, favorite, and most memorable handmade lovelies we were lucky enough to get our hands on. There is no way for the lowly Cretins to have smoked, let alone even seen, every single new release last year. So, your results may vary, and you'll probably cheer and bitch as you immerse yourself our most sacred selections. Knock yourself out! More importantly, grab these highly regarded cigars, if you haven't already, and take them for a spin. Support their makers and the retailers that are fighting every day to continue providing us with this amazing indulgence that brings so many of us together every day.
The Cretins were asked to submit their top five favorite new cigars from the past year, in order, as well as some brief commentary on their selections. Positions were scored. Points were tallied and we came up with our 2013 Prime Nine...which included a couple ties too.
The Blowin' Smoke Cretins Prime Nine for 2013
#9 - TIE -- EPC Short Run 2013 & Padilla Vintage Reserve
EPC Short Run - Popping up every spring is a new E.P. Carrillo Short Run, each a limited release. This year, it caught the attention of the Cretins enough to break into the 2013 Prime Nine. Three sizes hit shelves...Corona Gorda, Double Robusto, and Robusto, with just 1,500 boxes each. For 2013, the EPC Short Run featured an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. Cretins said: "Balanced, complex, amazing." "An excellent example of an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. Sweet and nutty with a light spice." "A very well balanced cigar."
Padilla Vintage Reserve - After some restructuring and rebranding, Ernesto Padilla hit 2013 running with some exciting changes and offerings. His manufacturing and distribution relationship with Oliva Cigar Company had grown, new cigars were making waves, and his attitude and colorful character appeared to be in high gear. Announced in June, the Vintage Reserve features a rich Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper around aged Cuban seed Corojo and Nicaraguan Habano. Cretins said: "The levels of flavor build upon each other." "A wonderful profile of cedar and toast...a nice spice through the retrohale as notes of vanilla and a honey-like sweetness build." "Long finish, creamy with notes of bitter coffee toward the end."
#8 - TIE -- H. Upmann Legacy & Nomad Fugitive II
H. Upmann Legacy - When the H. Upmann Legacy Corona was featured as the Cigar of the Day on an episode of the Blowin' Smoke Podcast, the Cretins were very impressed with the flavor profile and even more impressed that it came from Altadis. The Legacy blend of an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler pushed through like it was a small batch boutique cigar with such a unique flavor profile that was a real departure from what many had come to expect from the great big boys...that being the perception of new bands on the same cigars. We hope to see and smoke more cigars like the H. Upmann Legacy from the big guys. Cretins said: "I made this little gem last almost 100 minutes!" "The price point just pushes it over the top." "I never thought I would put an Altadis product on my list, but it surprised me, and it will surprise you." "Mild to medium smoke...great flavor!"
Nomad Fugitive II - Born in 2012, Nomad Cigar Company, headed by Fred "@GodFadr" Rewey, is one of the fastest growing, most talked about boutique brands out there. Following the initial Nomad lineup of a mild Dominican blend, Fred started 2013 with the new Fugitive II...a kicked up reblending of his limited edition Fugitive LE. While the overall blend remains a secret, we do know the wrapper is Ecuadorian Habano and that little kick is a hit. Don't look now, but this isn't the only Nomad appearance in this Prime Nine. Cretins said: "Fred has found a slice of gold from the Dominican Republic." "The perfecto shape is a nice change-up. The flavor is slightly sweet and creamy...great with coffee." "Quality, flavorful cigar in a fantastic shape."
#7 - Nomad Rambler
Making its second brand appearance in the 2013 Prime Nine, it's the Nomad Rambler. Born by request, according to Fred Rewey. While traveling around the country promoting Nomad, folks kept asking for a traditional robusto in the line-up. He listened, and the Nomad blend in the 5 X 50 format really shines. Cretins said: "Very earthy taste with a nice spice and fresh leather on the retrohale." "The flavor is excellent and well balanced." "Smooth, consistent, and very creamy."
#6 - 262 Revere Lonsdale
Clint Aaron and the crew at 262 Cigars continue to impress with flavorful blends and consistency. While the 262 Revere scored the top spot last year on the Cretins Prime Nine, Clint released two line extensions of the Revere in 2013 and the Cretins were eager for their arrival. The Lonsdale was actually blended and released in May strictly for J. Shepherd Cigars in Kentucky in ten count boxes. Limited to only 100 boxes, the 262 Revere Lonsdale is a, perhaps, hard to find Nicaraguan puro treat with a cute little twisty cap in the Revere stable. Cretins said: "Each Revere size delivers a tasty, but unique flavor tweak from the next." "Good natural tobacco flavor." "Some coffee notes with slightly less pepper than the original Revere." "A delicious stop along the way to Lancero'ville."
#5 - Leaf & Bean by Oscar Maduro
There are stories about how the Leaf & Bean by Oscar was born, both the cigar and its unique packaging. We refer you to "Island" Jim Robinson of Leaf & Bean in the famous strip district of Pittsburgh to give you fine details. In short, Island Jim met Oscar while on cigar trips to Honduras over a number of years. A friendship grew. Oscar decided to start his own cigar factory, Island Jim was immediately on board asking Oscar to make a private blend for his Leaf & Bean. The first release of 1,500 were sold in less than a week! Soon, Island Jim had sold nearly 40,000 in just three months! Available initially in Connecticut, Corojo, and Maduro, and now in Sumatra, many folks have their favorite. The Leaf & Bean by Oscar Maduro scored enough Cretin points to land in this year's number five spot. Impressive! Cretins said: "One of the best maduros I've ever smoked." "A wonderful oily wrapper and an earthy flavor that paired great with a Mexican Coke." "Rich, bold flavors. Great construction. A real treat." "Best enjoyed on a barber chair."
#4 - Nomad S-307
Making its third brand appearance on this Prime Nine is the latest release from Nomad Cigar Company...the S-307. This is the first full production Nicaraguan cigar following the limited edition Esteli Lot 1386. Cut loose in November, the S-307 made waves and found fans very quickly. Manufactured at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez, it's box pressed, kicked up and magically delicious. Fred "@GodFadr" Rewey has certainly demonstrated the ability of Nomad Cigar Company to diversify its portfolio. The wrapper is Ecuadorian Sumatra around an Ecuadorian Habano binder, and Nicaraguan filler. You may be tempted to eat the S-307 as they look that good, but we suggest you smoke them instead. Cretins said: "THIS is a flavor bomb." "Easily my favorite of the Nomads...good tasty smoke." "A fantastic stick!" "A spicy retrohale with notes of black pepper, wood, and nuts with some cocoa thrown in...very enjoyable." "Try this for breakfast. Boom!"
#3 - 262 Revere Lancero
The second line extension release under the Revere badge, and the only one as a full production cigar, the 262 Revere Lancero sent both the lancero sluts and 262 fans into a frenzy to get their hands on them. Clint Aaron, perhaps, first mentioned plans for the Revere Lancero on the Blowin' Smoke Podcast episode 164 (48:00 mark) on September 8, 2012, at the time the Revere line was being rolled out in its initial three sizes. He also hinted at what likely became the Revere Lonsdale which is in our number 6 spot. The Revere Lancero hit some delays in its release and by the time the first shipment landed, they were already in short supply. Again, each size in the Nicaraguan puro Revere blend gives you a different flavor experience. Clint is a lancero fan and it shows. Cretins said: "This is how a cigar was meant to taste." "The most pepper of the line, but well balanced with notes of earth and coffee." "I love the wrapper flavor of this lancero, and the construction is great." Lancero sluts rejoice!" "It's like AeroPress(ing) your favorite coffee beans."
#2 - Leccia White
The return of Sam Leccia to the industry in 2013 was one of the most talked about and anticipated cigar happenings of the year. Sam came back with a renewed vigor and the results of a lot of time and hard work while away from the spotlight. To say his fans AND his competition were happy to see him back is a colossal understatement. His booth at IPCPR was jammed with retailers wanting the new Leccia Tobacco releases on their shelves yesterday. Yes, releases...as in plural. Maybe not satisfied to jump back in with a more simple single release, or maybe just too damned excited to have two delicious yet distinctly different blends in the pipeline, Sam reentered the cigar scene with the Leccia White and the Leccia Black. The Leccia White received very high marks from the Cretins with many specific mentions of the 4 X 46 Petit Rothschild, nicknamed "Little Buddy" by Leccia himself as one of his favorites in the lineup. The Leccia White is made in Nicaragua and has a sun grown African Cameroon wrapper around an Ecuador binder, and filler comprised of Nicaraguan Ligero, Dominican and Pennsylvania Seco. The result is fantastic and a solid #2 in our Cretin Prime Nine! Cretins said: "This cigar absolutely blows me away!" "The 'Little Buddy' is packed with flavor in a great size." "Complex and nuanced." "Something special with the 'Little Buddy'...a very unique flavor I'd never experienced before." "Tremendous flavor, complexity and just enough of a kick to keep you focused to the nub...oops, did I say that?""
#1 - Leccia Black
The Leccia Black is the hands down, runaway, numero uno, points winner in the 2013 Cretin Prime Nine! This line quickly jumped out in front and never looked back in the minds of the Cretins. The differences between the Leccia White and the Leccia Black couldn't be more...well.... It's all in the blend, baby, and according to Sam, he was turned on to some unique tobacco during his blending that's description was sort of lost in translation at the time. He knew he wanted to use it, but its distinct characteristics needed just the right blend of other tobaccos to bring out its flavor without it being too much. Leccia calls that tobacco "Dark Fire" and the result is a sweet and smoky profile that is reminiscent of barbecue, whiskey, or a campfire. The Leccia Black is made in the Dominican Republic and is wrapped in a dark Habano leaf with Nicaraguan binder and a flavor orgy of Nicaraguan and Dominican ligeros, Brazilian viso, and just the right amount of that dark fired tobacco rounding out the filler. There have been debates over White or Black...even rumors of fisticuffs outside the Blowin' Smoke Podcast world studios, but in the end, the Leccia Black is the indisputable winner of the Cretins' number one cigar of 2013! Cretins said: "An awesome blend of earthy flavors reminds me of summertime." "Pepper and natural tobacco nuances are prevalent, but that delicious fire cured leaf make this cigar special." "Om Nom!" "That smoky aroma takes it over the edge for me." "Only you can prevent forest fires!" "That BBQ uniqueness compliments the slight spice very well." "A perfect balance to the flavor profile." "The Leccia Black is easy to get lost in your thoughts with any time of day...very enjoyable." Congratulations, Sam Leccia & Leccia Tobacco!
So, there it is. The Cretins Prime Nine for 2013 in all its glory. Congratulations to all those who made the list! Let's do it again next year.
But wait! We would be remiss if we did not mention some of the great cigars that landed near the bubble. Check out these fantastic cigars too (Just pay additional shipping and processing): RoMa Craft Tobac Intemperance BA XXI A.W.S. IV -- Fratello -- Cubanacan Habano -- Herrera Esteli -- Cabal -- Leaf & Bean by Oscar Connecticut
If you're like me, you love Christmas music...eventually. The songs and sounds of the season are usually what push me into the "mood" and ready for a few days of reflection and being a little kid a heart. (It also helps to have a 4 year old.) But that's eventually.
When the Christmas music starts while I am still picking my kids' Halloween sour gummi worm stash out of my teeth, I get annoyed. When multiple radio stations flip to an all Christmas music format weeks before I have face planted my mom's Thanksgiving pumpkin pie AND I spend an average of three hours a day in the car, I get bat shit crazy annoyed. When I get bat shit crazy annoyed in the car being bombarded with Christmas music for three hours a day, I make up my own words to entertain myself and prevent the innocent slaughter of nearby motorists. When I make up my own words to classic Christmas songs, they generally include layers of linguistic four letter delights, filthy flavor combinations, and extra helpings of "sack" references. Ball sacks, to be specific.
Earlier today, during one particularly colorful rendition of "Let It Snow," I paused to shoot a 5 Hour Energy (pink lemonade...thanks for asking), and considered recording some of my vocal interpretations to, perhaps, enhance your family's tree trimming or chestnut roasting activities this holiday season. Then, I had a better idea. Actually, my attorney had a better idea.
So, some texts went out with a simple request...and texts came back with simple (minded) replies.
Are you ready? Get the melody in your head...for I am pleased to present to you...
The Twelve Days of Cretins
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Blowin' Smoke Podcast Cretins gave to me:
So there I was sitting in a cigar bar, smoking away on a tasty Cuban stick, thinking about life, cigars and why this whole cigar thing is so damn special. Then it slowly dawned on me: Cigar smoking alone and especially with other people is a deeply spiritual experience. You might think "Come on now, we are just sitting together, talking BS and herfing away on our cigars, right?"
Yes and No. We are gathering together and practice something that could be classified as spiritual. We are not trailing endlessly on our worries, hopes and fears, not even our aspirations or desires. We are here, in the Now!
We enjoy each other’s company, the taste of a fine cigar, laughing, sharing and just being there!
We do something deeply spiritual that is good for the soul. Smoking cigars calms us down and enables us to communicate on a whole different level. We are welcoming people who we would otherwise never even talk to, who we would just walk by on the street or at work. We are including, rather than excluding, opening up to the fact that there is just the here and now, just a few good people and good cigars.
That, my friends, is the secret behind cigars and the community that seems to effortlessly build itself around some old leaves and a bit of smoke.
We are doing something that we as humans are supposed to do: Share and enjoy the human experience. Cigars put us into a place that connects us to ourselves and our social environment. We connect on a level that we rarely find somewhere else in our purpose driven lives. We just hang out, just exist.
We lose our roles that we usually play, forget about our stress and worries. We're just right there.
Cigars magically transport us to that place where it is not only necessary to just relax and enjoy, but where being in exactly that place is the only purpose, and where participating, even silently, is the only way of doing it.
We even travel beyond time and space. The proof: Who has not experienced the distortion of time that goes on when herfing away with friends? You're checking your watch and wooooow - you should be home for hours already! We travel long distances just to smoke a cigar with complete strangers. We overcome our fears and prejudices, and travel beyond borders and beyond ideas about race, politics, religion and society. We just get together and hang out together. We experience something rather than just waiting for stuff to happen.
With a cigar we don't ask "Is this good enough?", "Am I experiencing enough?" We deny any pressure entry into this experience. We don't care too much about tomorrow or yesterday. We’re just there. The cigar experience just doesn’t seem to allow us to trail off into other spaces and places.
Every cigar that we light is a doorway into the spiritual. It makes it easy for us to go right through. Since we are not alone, we get the courage to go right through and just stay in that place for while and just be. It takes us closer to our calm center of existence and we readily go there, because that is the place where we would like to hang out more. Because deep inside we know that this is the place where we actually should be ... And nowhere else.
So actually it is not the cigar, its taste or look or feel - it is where it is taking us in time and space.
It creates experience, friendship, openness, love. All the things that we as humans crave to experience - and experience more and more of it. It is not the cigar - it is what it does with us!
Maybe it is just the Mojito talking and/or the nicotine ... but there you are.
Dr. Jochen Konrad is a German dating and relationship specialist - seen on TV and in various magazines in Germany. He us currently touring the eastern US to promote his books - and of course: To smoke cigars and meet good people!
I've known Tom Lazuka for a many years. First, as a sales rep for Camacho Cigars, and now as the brand owner of Asylum Cigars. Tom and I (and some other fortunate cigar goons) spent some late nights smoking cigars, drinking, and talking cigars, the industry, and its people during several Western Pennsylvania Cigar Crawls...where Tom has always been a big supporter and a good friend.
This cat has some great stories...not all of them cigar related...and if you have the opportunity to enjoy a brew with him, you'll probably hear a few. I am very happy to see his success continue to grow! Let's do it...
#1 - Tell us the story of how you got involved in the cigar industry.
TL: A good friend of mine, Mike Perales, who has been an independant rep for over 20 years, told me about an opening with Colibri and said it would be a great way for me to break into the premium business. I interviewed and got the job with Colibri, was there for a few years and then started with Camacho. From there the relationship with Christian grew and here we are today.
#2 - When and how did the idea for Asylum come about, and is there a story behind the name?
TL: In 2012, Christian introduced me to Kevin Baxter and we started coming up with names for a brand. We chose Asylum because the industry itself is a bit crazy at times, but the true meaning is that the Brick and Mortar shops is where people go to seek their asylum and escape the mayhem in their lives.
#3 - You obviously have a very close relationship with Christian Eiroa. How has that relationship played a part in the development of Asylum outside of the obvious factors such as tobacco and manufacturing.
TL: My relationship with Christian goes way beyond tobacco. Over the years we have formed a friendship that is more than just an employee/boss relationship. Christian's experience as well as my own, have given us the insights to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that other new companies many not foresee. Christian gives me the freedom to make my own decisions with Asylum and to be creative with it. At this point, we can read each other's minds so there isn't much we have to discuss.
#4 - Give us the official breakdown of the different Asylum lines...sizes, blends, etc., and which one you would nominate to be the Asylum brand ambassador out of them all.
TL: There are currently three Asylum lines: Asylum Premium, Asylum 13 and Schizo.
Asylum Premium - Available in four sizes: 44x4, 50x6, 54x5 torpedo, 60x6. This Nicaraguan puro has a dark Habano wrapper with a maduro binder giving it a nice rich finish and Estelli and Jalapa fillers. Asylum Premium is medium to full bodied cigar. Cigar Aficionado has rated this cigar 91 and 90 in the last two issues.
Asylum 13 - Available in four sizes: 50x5, 60x6, 70x7, 80x6. Also a Nicaraguan puro with the same wrapper as the Asylum Premium and different binders and fillers. Asylum 13 is a bit peppery on the lips and is full bodied. This is the best seller of the Asylum lines. Asylum 13 also did a fifth cigar called the Ogre. This is a maduro and candela barber pole available in the 70x7 size. Its very smooth and has gotten great feedback!
Schizo - Available in five sizes: 50x5, 50x6, 60x6, Torpedo and 70x7. This is a Nicaraguan puro, medium bodied and is a cuban sandwich cigar. Available in 20 count bundles for the price conscious consumer.
The 70x7 is definitely the brand ambassador for Asylum. When you see it on the shelf, you take a second look and give it a try.
#5 - What's cooking in Tom's kitchen? What can we look forward to next from Asylum, or perhaps a new brand?
TL: Asylum 13 Authentic Corojo - We decided to make an Asylum 13 out of Honduras using the 100% Authentic Corojo seed tobacco that the Eiroa family is known for growing. Corojo is one of my favorite tobaccos so it was a no brainer for me. It will be available in 50x5, 60x6, 70x6 and 80x6 sizes. The price point is the same as the original Asylum 13. The Authentic Corojo will launch at the end of April or beginning of May.
We'll also be releasing the Straight Jacket. It is a short production run that is a very full bodied Nicaraguan puro. Straight Jacket will be available in May also. It wiil be priced $9 to $12 retail, and vailable in 50x5, 54x6, 60x6 and 70x7.
Some say he is a man of mystery. Some say he is an international fashion model with homes in Paris, Milan, and New York that goes by the name "Gustave." Some say his hugs impart magical healing powers on loan from the holy monks of Ometepe. All I know is he has become a great friend, and he makes some fantastic cigars. After weeks of negotiations with "his people," I am really excited to have Clint Aaron of 262 Cigars for this Quick 6. Let's do it!
#1 The hits just keep on comin'! The 262 Revere, the latest in the 262 stable, really took off following its pre-release at IPCPR 2012 landing on a number of 2012 "best of" lists including the #1 spot on the Blowin' Smoke Podcast Cretins' Prime 9. When Revere was in development, what was your mindset? Did you have any feelings, premonitions, or fortune cookies that told you you were really on to something?
CA: Revere was kind of unique. I wanted a Nicaraguan puro that was well balanced and packed with a lot of flavor. What I didn't want, was an overly peppery, intense cigar that left you crying in the fetal position. I'm alway nervous every time we bring a cigar to market. It reminds me of asking a girl to a dance. What's her response going to be? Do I have something in my teeth? Did I remember to put on deodorant? Is she really a man? I knew we were on to something when I shared some pre-released samples to some retailers and they placed orders without ever seeing the final packaging or pricing.
#2 How has your approach toward or your process of developing a new blend changed since your very first release?
CA: This is kind of a trick question. Do the means justify the end? Or does the end justify the means? With the Paradigm, I knew that I wanted a cigar with that profile. However, being new to the industry, I wasn't 100% sure which leaves and ratios to use to obtain that. It was a lot of trial and error and a lot of phone calls to the masters. Now I approach it with a loose concept and go from there. For example, I knew I wanted a Nicaraguan puro, but I've never liked an over the top pepper-bomb. With that in mind, we worked backwards. This has always been my approach though, "at the end of the day it doesn't matter how you get the finished product. What matters is that you have the product and people enjoy it."
#3 262 fans are anxious to know and get their hands on what's next. Fill us in on what you're working on behind the scenes, and what the timetable is to start seeing them at your friendly neighborhood cigar store.
CA: REVERE Lancero is in the works. I'm making final adjustments to the blend and letting them rest. This should be ready by July/Aug. I also have another project that I'm working on with a late autumn delivery. It's a seasonal blend and will not be full production. Right now we're looking at doing 2,000 10 count boxes. (This is all subject to change.)
#4 You are on the road A LOT promoting 262, making those very important personal connections, and dishing out the hugs. What are the five best things about being on the road? What are the five worst things? And what are the five most important things you've learned on the road?
CA: The five best things are (in no particular order): 1. Meeting all of the crazies from Twitter. 2. Being away from Emerson (my wife's dog). 3. The conversations and stories. I swear there is an Uncle Si in every shop. 4. Eating the local food and drinking the local beer. 5. Crossing paths with other reps. We all have the same stories about the same shops, and it's great sharing those war stories.
The five worst things are (in no particular order): 1. Being away from my wife. 2. Being out of touch with reality. 3. A different hotel every night. 4. One of my speakers is blown in my car, so that's friggin' annoying! 5. The extra 20 lbs I'm carrying due to #4 in Part A of this question.
The five most important things I've learned (in no particular order): 1. No just means not right now. 2. It takes brass balls to sell cigars. 3. Speed traps are all over and cops don't care. 4. Sales shouldn't be as intimidating as everybody makes it out to be. It's all about being yourself. 5. Be sure to do the math when you pack your drawers. A 10 day trip means packing at least that many and a couple for backup.
#5 "262'sdays" began quite innocently one morning with a 262 Paradigm (I think), a cup of coffee, and a long commute, but has taken off as a...as a...as a thing all its own. How has the 262'sday thing become a part of 262 Cigars and what you do as the boss, the face of, and the road warrior of the brand?
CA: 262sdays has morphed into this uncontrollable beast. It's on at least 3 platforms of social media and has become something that makes us look forward to Tuesday. Shops are dubbing Tuesday as 262sday and running promos and in-store specials on Tuesdays. It has forced me to keep a phone charger on me at all times because I try to retweet and re-post any that I see. It makes it tough because some are tagged with different spellings and abbreviations. The ones (hashtags) that I'm on the lookout for are #262sday or #262sdays.
#6 Imagine you have developed a cigar just for your own personal enjoyment...not for sale. What would you name that cigar, and what three famous people, living or dead, would you love to smoke that cigar with and why?
CA: I would probably name it Katy Perry. Actually, I don't know that I would name it if it were just for me and not for sale. I would love to smoke a cigar with George Burns because he is that iconic figure that was always seen with a cigar. I would also love to smoke one with Ted Nugent. I don't really need a reason for this. He's a bad mamma jamma. I would also love to smoke a cigar with Michael Richards. I know he went crazy a few years back, but he's so witty and seems fairly down to earth. I think he truly appreciates cigars and the love that goes into making each one.
I've had the distinct pleasure of getting to know George Rodriguez here in the 'Burgh, not only as the Founder & President of the exceptional boutique cigar brand Rodrigo Cigars, but as a friend. I am thrilled to see Rodrigo Cigars scoring high marks and earning a growing fan base. It's about time I tossed George into a Quick 6. Let's do it!
#1 What the hell are you doing?
GR: Lots going on! First on the company side - Rodrigo is building its executive team and board of directors. I've been recruiting some incredible leadership talent. These guys are players in their respective industries and they are also passionate cigar smokers. We are working on new ways to expand the relationship between smokers, shops and Rodrigo. For Rodrigo it's all about connecting people over great smokes.
We now have an awesome distribution channel with Emilio Cigars. This relationship has opened many doors to new shops in the past few months and we expect an outstanding IPCPR show along side our colleagues at House of Emilio.
New blends! The long awaited Corona Project Sumatra and Broadleaf. Haven't decided which to release yet. We also have the Cinco 5 Brazilian Arapiraca (codename #HYFR). Both of these will be limited releases coming out just in time for better cigar smoking weather. And we're still making improvements to the core lines; Habano Clasico and Boutique Blend now sport Cuban Triple Caps (Tres Vueltas). This is a very nice detail on any cigar and the Rodrigo smokers are definitely worth the extra effort of creating a cigar to be admired with the eyes and the palette.
#2 Maybe I got ahead of myself there. How did Rodrigo cigars happen?
GR: That's a long story that is detailed on RodrigoCigars.com/our_story, but I can tell you that it was a matter of intention, desire and the universe working its ways to bring people together for a purpose. I took a chance and followed my passion. I believe it's so important in life to get outside of your comfort zone because that's where real life is, that's where you're going to grow, that's where you find freedom... and that's what I mean when I say "smoke well, live rich."
#3 The Rodrigo Habano Classico, Boutique Blend, and La Fortaleza have all been very well received...and the La Fortaleza hit #3 in the 2012 Cretins Prime Nine! Tell us about each line...their tobacco, sizes, and something personal for you about each of them.
Habano Clasico was my first release and it's a cigar that continues to amaze me and it converts new fans everyday. It's actually a hybrid Habano/Sumatra wrapper that has tons of flavor, complexity and balance. Smoke this cigar first thing and your day will be outstanding! I plan on making this cigar forever. How many cigar makers can say that their first blend is as timeless as that?! And as you know, the lancero has been known to induce addictive behaviors, so fair warning ;)
Boutique Blend came next and honestly this cigar was made in response to the large RG craze. There's the G4 G5 G6, (54, 56, 60 respectively). When planning this blend I knew I didn't want just another one note large RG cigar. I wanted to keep the complexity going like we did with Habano Clasico. So we added some interesting tobaccos, all grade A, and used an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. If you've smoked the CyB you'll taste similar notes. Extremely enjoyable flavors... and don't forget the retrohale on this one - think "french toast".
After gaining some confidence with my first two releases, La Fortaleza was my first chance to really step it up. It started as a DR puro but that proved too difficult to keep up with. The yield from the DR San Vicente wasn't good enough. In the end, six fantastic tobaccos were sourced for this cigar. Sumatra Ecuador wrapper, DR Olor binder, Habano 2000, Corojo, Criollo 98 and a sixth varietal that I can't disclose. All ligero primings but an incredibly smooth and enjoyable blend. Most people don't believe it's a Dominican cigar but this is the blend that is really putting us on the map. Traditional vitolas starting with the corona "Absoluto", robusto extra "Forte", churchill "Elegante" and the large 6x55 "Cinco 5".
#4 What do you enjoy most in the process of bringing a new cigar to market? The least?
GR: I enjoy the creative process the most. Just getting inspired from whatever cigar I'm smoking and the music I'm listening to while I'm on a long drive. I can come up with a hundred ideas while I'm in the zone like this. When I have something good in mind then I go to William Ventura and his son Henderson and we let the tobacco drive the rest of the project. Blending is the most fun of all, especially when you have some great tobaccos to work with.
I guess I really can't say I dislike anything in particular about this business but it gets a little crazy for me when I'm trying to make cigars, develop packaging and sell them. I'm a terrible multi-tasker (just ask my wife!) and cigar makers have to wear many hats and be in many places at the same time!
#5 The Rodrigo laboratory is in the Dominican. What do you say to folks who may dismiss a Dominican cigar out of hand as being mild?
GR: I hand them a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chisel and tell them to call me in the morning.
But I'm always happy to talk about what's going on in DR. Now, I can only speak for the growers that I work with, but I can tell you that there are some extremely passionate folks that are cultivating tobacco in "small batch mode" using only Cuban seed. They plant one varietal per farm so there's very little cross pollination. This gives us a very distinct crop using traditional Cuban seeds like Habano Vuelto Abajo and Corojo Original. The tobacco is cured over 45-60 days without heat. This is crucial because if the curing isn't right then you can't make up for it down the road. Lots of farms in Nicaragua and DR heat their tobacco to speed the process over 15 days but we don't like to use that stuff because it tends to produce a harsh smoke that hits you in the back of the throat. It may feel like a nice strong robust smoke but it's not very enjoyable long term. As you may know, DR is still the largest producer of cigars and therefore it is home to many of the "Budweisers" of our industry. Large scale operations tend to grow lots of different tobacco on large farms and the tobacco can get somewhat homogenized in my opinion. This is great for consistency and mass production but not for distinctive tobacco like what we have in Rodrigo and other great boutique cigars coming out of DR today.
#6 When you are in Pittsburgh, the three things you have to do are...?
GR: That's easy...
1. Take in the view from Mt. Washington.
2. Eat at Primanti Bros in The Strip.
3. After you're done with your sandwich, stroll down to Penn and 22nd and smoke a Rodrigo at the world famous Leaf & Bean!
I am very happy that Fred Rewey, AKA "GodFadr," of Nomad Cigar Company was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule to be the focus of our new "Quick 6."
…and away we go.
#1 - In the beginning… Where did the GodFadr, Fred Rewey, come from to get to cigar brand owner?
FR: Like your typical cigar manufacturer, I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The state provides a rich tobacco heritage...oh, wait, that will never work. Although I was born in the great cheese state, I have lived in numerous locations that could only be rivaled by a Phish roadie.
Seriously though, I have lived all over (both nationally and internationally) and have several friends that are great cigar makers. They certainly influenced me in deciding to go into the industry. I have always tried to turn my hobbies into a business - I believe you need to love what you do. Cigar making seemed a natural evolution to taking a passion and trying to turn it into something bigger by pushing myself. In the end, it's the true story of a passionate cigar aficionado trying his hand at long-standing art.
#2 - Nomad Cigar Company hit the scene in 2012. Describe the journey from concept to making your first sale.
FR: It probably took two years to find a cigar/blend/style etc that worked for me. Frankly, the cigar world is full of great cigars. There are a lot to choose from and at some pretty amazing prices. Starting up a new company is not easy.
Most startups have to compromise tobacco quality to stay competitive - I was not willing to do that. In turn, that meant holding out for better tobacco and getting very aggressive on pricing (can you say "profits?"). I was in it for the long haul, so I was not really concerned with the latter. Deliver a quality stick and maybe you can make your mark.
The sales were very "grass roots" at first. People heard about my first stick (The Fugitive) and starting seeking me out. It didn't even have the bands on yet. When some pretty prominent people in the industry wanted them in their personal humidors, I knew I was on to something.
#3 - Your website, NomadCigarCompany.com shows five cigars currently in your arsenal. Tell us about them. Are they different sizes of the same blend or is each size a unique blend?
FR: There are actually seven now (I am releasing two new sizes this month). Each cigar is predominately the same blend. There are always some slight modifications in percentages to accommodate for size. Each has the signature Ecuadorian Habano 2000 wrapper (no one says "2000" anymore, but I think it is still worthy of its full name). The Binder is Dominican and the Filler is largely Dominican with a bit of Nicaraguan ligero to push the medium up a bit.
The two new sizes are a traditional Robusto (5x50) and a 6" Figurado.
#4 - You recently partnered with Emilio Cigars to handle your distribution. I assume, being a small boutique company, that that will allow you to focus more on future plans and new product development. What is in the pipeline for Nomad Cigars in 2013?
FR: The partnership will help Nomad keep up with demand and allow me to focus on new products, quality control, and cover marketing of the brand. We get requests every day from people wanting to try (or get more of) the sticks. I know it is a good problem to have, but I really want to take advantage of the explosive press we received so fast. We have great reviews, numerous top 10's, and some great recognition for some key players very high in the industry. That is all very flattering, but if you can't get the stick in enough hands, it is all for nothing to some extent. Gary brings that needed distribution to the table and probably cuts 2-3 years off Nomad's growth.
I believe, at this pace, 2013 will be the true "coming out party" for Nomad...2-4 new sizes and possibly a whole new blend addition.
#5 - You have voiced very strong opinions about supporting local brick and mortar tobacconists, but online sales are a big piece of the pie too. Share those opinions with us and how Nomad Cigar Company is focused going and growing forward.
FR: I am a big supporter of brick and mortar shops. I think, in a lot of ways, they are really the heart of the industry. Some manufacturers forget that. That said, I think the guy that is nowhere near a brick and mortar need not be forgotten.
I really don't have a problem with "online" or even "catalog" sales - as long as the brick and mortar stores have the ability to stay competitive. Some online places (or catalogs) are able to sell cigars at lower prices than even the brick and mortars can buy them - that is not right - and the manufacturer can help avoid that.
My decision, for Nomad Cigar Company, was to not sell directly from my company website. In the short term, that can really hurt a boutique start-up. You need traction to get into shops, but if you don't sell direct, how do you get traction? I suppose I pulled the plug a bit early on principal - but numerous retailers (and some makers) applauded the stance from a little guy. I would still allow Nomads (and want someone) online to sell them to people in remote locations - I just don't want to hurt all the shops working hard just to get a quick online or catalog buck.
#6 - Celebrity endorsements and strategic product placement in major media and entertainment can mean big things for a company like Nomad Cigars. Given the choice, where would you rather see Nomad Cigars prominently placed: "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" -- "Finding Bigfoot" -- or "Duck Dynasty" and why?
FR: Embarrassingly enough, I had to look two of the three up online. After watching one full episode of each (ok, I never made it through Honey Boo Boo), I would have to go with "Duck Dynasty." Love the beards and these guys look like they could be a lot of fun. Nomad Cigar Company, at the core, has always been about having fun. Sure, create a quality stick, but have fun in the process. (No, I didn't really mail a live kitten.) I think we take ourselves too seriously sometimes. The cigar world is rich in heritage, heart, and passion - but at the end of the day, we smoke for a momentary reflection on life in general, have fun with friends, or solve the worlds problems. Oftentimes all during the same cigar outing.
With the end of every year, we are pelted with a barrage of lists. Which celebrities kicked the bucket. The most popular baby names. Worst Christmas gifts. The top this, and the best that. Whatever your hobby or line of work, you're bound to see lists associated with those as well. Around here we talk about cigars...and bacon...and boobs...goats, booze, Pabst, sports, guns, spackle, coffee, cornhole, cars, and whatever Cosmo is telling the ladies about...like yo-yo balls. Whatever it is -- drive through hookers or rocky mountain oysters -- we smoke cigars while we talk about it.
So, why not? Why not a Cretin year end cigar list? I mean, we all know cigars are very subjective, so wouldn't a collaborative list have more value than just some shlub with a blog and a hand out? We thought so too. So, eleven shlubs...er Cretins were asked to submit their personal top five favorite cigars of 2012 in order. Cigars they have smoked and shelled out their money for. Ten responded. (Cretin Jeff will suffer severe sanctions.) Point values were assigned to positions. Submitted ties split points. Honorable mentions were assigned half points. Final count ties were placed according to their MSRP with the lowest placing highest, etc....and what hast thou Cretins wrought? Here they are from #9 to the top spot #1...
The Blowin' Smoke Cretins Prime Nine for 2012
#9 - Tatuaje Baby Face
Tatuaje has a little fun every Halloween buy releasing some unique and very limited cigars under as a Monster series featuring "monster movie" inspired names and neat-o packaging. For 2012, it was the highly anticipated Little Monsters...smaller sizes of previously released larger monsters. The 4 3/8 X 50 Baby Face stood out to score a slot on the Cretins Prime Nine 2012. Baby Face features a Mexican San Andres wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. It is made at the My Father Cigars S.A. factory. The zip you'd expect from a Pete Johnson - Pepin cigar plus the full, robust character of the Mexican wrapper. Cretins said: "My favorite of the Little Monsters."
#8 - Ortega Serie D Natural
Marking the only brand to crack the Cretin Prime Nine 2012 TWICE, Eddie Ortega scores again with the Serie D Natural. Now, the Cretins have debated the "betterishness" of the two...the Natural or the Maduro, and the only thing we can say is their respective scores on the Prime Nine of 2012 were very close. Swapping the maduro wrapper for an Ecuador Habano Rosado brings a solid, nuanced smoke with good flavor complexity. Best if you do your own side-by-side. Eddie would appreciate that...and maybe buy himself one of those tuxedo t-shirts. Cretins said: "Best summed up as the flavors of old school Padron Anniversary naturals."
#7 - CLE Corojo
Did anybody think for a minute that Christian Eiroa would let us down? Following the sale of Camacho to the Oettinger Davidoff Group in 2008, Eiroa stayed on as President of Camacho, but many sensed that would be short lived. With the ok from Davidoff, he formed Tabacaleras Unidas and launched CLE Cigar Company as his personal return to the market, and the first brand under the Tabacaleras Unidas umbrella. Unless you've lived under a rock for the last 10-15 years, you know that the Eiroas know corojo and Honduras very intimately. So, no surprise that CLE would roll out a corojo Honduran puro to remind us. Rich on flavor, but not an ass-kicker. Excellent price point. Look for more great stuff to come from Christian Eiroa.
#6 - Ortega Serie D Maduro
It seems the cigar industry has experienced a lot of folks striking out on their own lately, and this guy certainly did it right. Eddie Ortega embraced social media and was showing up all over the country to promote his first release of his Ortega brand. Eddie projects a working class image with his faded t-shirt and jeans, and his inviting life-is-good grin. His Serie D Maduro line says hard-working, rugged, and I've got your back with a Mexican San Andreas wrapper and Nicaraguan guts. Bold, complex, flavorful, and great bang for your buck. Cretins said: "Love the box press...solid, great flavor." -- "First try (at) Leaf & Bean Strip District. Have been enjoying them ever since." -- "...stock is low. Time to buy more." Specific mention: No. 6, No. 7, and No. 12.
#5 - Crowned Heads Headley Grange Estupendos
The sophomore release from Crowned Heads shows what happens when you mix passion for the industry with a master blender like EP Carrillo. Named after the former poorhouse in East Hampshire, England, turned music recording scene in the 60's and 70's (and currently caught up in a trademark legal dispute over use of the name), the Crowned Heads wanted to create a cigar as unique as the sound of John Bonham's drums in Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks" which was recorded there. When we light this one, we think whole lotta love. Cretins said: "Like Cirillo said, post coital cuddling." Well, okay, then.
#4 - 1502 Ruby
The 1502 line made a big impact with the Cretins in a short time, and the Ruby edged out the Black Gold...the strongest in the current 1502 stable...for Prime Nine honors. Enrique, the man behind 1502, has kept his line up very simple and much aligned to his, and maybe your, daily cigar selection process. The 1502 Ruby falls in the middle, or as Enrique's after-a-sammich afternoon smoke, with medium body, great complexity, and packed with Nicaraguan flavor. If you don't know what that Nicaraguan flavor is exactly, the 1502 Ruby will learn ya. Ecuador wrapped and Nicaragua stuffed. Cretins said: "I can't get enough of this cigar." -- "...flavor holds up even after smoking a fuller bodied cigar." Specific mention of the Robusto.
#3 - Rodrigo La Fortaleza
George Rodriguez set out to create a Dominican cigar that would make other Dominican cigars its bitch. Along with William Ventura's Tabacalera Ventura in the Dominican Republic, George done good. While the Cretins agreed that the various sizes delivered some distinct character differences, the end result of all was a fuller bodied, flavorful smoke that might smack your ass and call you Sally, and definitely have you rethink your notion of Dominican tobacco. Cretins said: "Nine inches and dark Need I say more?" -- "George is so dreamy." -- "Rich and robust. A real treat." Specific mentions of the A and Absoluto.
#2 - Oliva Serie V Melanio
If you are like a lot of the Cretins, you've probably herfed your way through the Oliva line up over the years and you probably found your preference shifting along the way until you felt very much at home with the Serie V. Character, flavor, strength, and consistency. Then crazy Uncle Melanio showed up claiming he had V roots and maybe better hair. You scoffed at the special band toupee, figured he was a poseur from the G clan you used to see as a kid at family reunions until crazy Uncle Melanio took you for a ride on his motorcycle, showed you porn, gave you scotch, and slipped you a few bucks when the other Vs weren't looking. Yeah, Melanio is a V...just a little more fun. Cretins said: "Great aroma, flavors of oak, cedar, breadiness, and pepper...nice complexity and flavor development." -- "Great all around smoke." -- "A Serie V with some extra 'yeah, baby' and a box press!" Specific mentions of the Robusto and Petit Corona.
#1 - 262 Revere
Since their debut, Clint Aaron and his team at 262 Cigars has delivered one hit after another, and the 2012 release of Revere is the latest to ride into the end zone. Revere is a Nicaraguan puro with a Jalapa wrapper and double binder. Rich, robust, complex, solid. Clint loves dishing out hugs on the road, and the Revere is a big flavor hug with some grab-ass on the finish. Cretins said: "The entire line never disappoints...ever." -- "...delicious smokes." -- "Take the Paradigm and ramp it up a notch." -- "Great spice, perfect price." -- "Hold me." Specific mentions of the Robusto and Corona. Congratulations, 262 Cigars!
So, there it is. The first ever Blowin' Smoke Cretins Prime Nine Cigars 2012. Comments? Drop us an email through the contact link above. Remember, we didn't smoke every cigar born in 2012. That's next to impossible...although it's an attractive goal. But we did smoke every cigar that was submitted and we paid for each of them. You're welcome.
Before we go, here are a few fine cigars that landed near the bubble: RoMa Craft Intemperance BA XXI -- Tatuaje Mummy -- Tatuaje Fausto -- La Aurora Preferidos Diamond -- and La Duena
So, there I was in 2010 lighting up my first cigar that would introduce me to a new world of relaxation, enjoyment and great friends...which also coincided with a buddy’s recommendation to download The Blowin’ Smoke Podcast. OK, so 2010 had some "in the gutter” moments, but there is a cigar world out there that I am now happy to be a part of! I will never forget my first episode. It was during the long run the Cain F. Habano 550 had in the Cigar Match. So my very next trip to my local West Virginia brick & mortar, I grabbed one only to see the store owner standing in front me with a frustrated look on his face! He snatched the 550 right out of my hand and said “put that back son….that will blow the back of your #@*! head off” and handed me something that I now think would make a decent morning cigar! My taste in Cigars has matured in a short time yet I have not, and I am blaming The Blowin’ Smoke Podcast for both!
I can’t tell you how excited I was to be asked to give my thoughts on the new pre-release Los Regalos Quetzal by Emilio Cigars, mostly because I am a pretty big fan of their AF1 & AF2 cigars already! The Los Regalos I had was a beautiful 6x60 (I think). Now, I don’t typically reach for the larger size sticks because I don’t feel bigger is necessarily better, and lucky for me, neither does my wife!
I love trying new cigars as well as different beverages to compliment them. Most often I like a micro-brew, good liquor on ice, or a great coffee (my current favorite being the Torcedor Cabinet Blend). For this cigar, I couldn’t decide so I went with a WV-made 6yr. aged bourbon and the best coffee on the planet…yes BOTH beverages….I don’t do well with choices...and throughout the smoke, both brought out slightly different nuances in this cigar (first time in my life I have ever written the word “nuances”).
The wrapper on the Los Regalos Quetzal is just perfect…not as oily as some but very nice to look at, a real work of art. I don’t know why, but I always spend some time smelling an unlit cigar and the ones I’ve tried from Emilio Cigars just make my mouth nearly water before they get lit. I don’t know what they do, but they do it right. I’ve heard some people call it “barnyard smell”, but that is an injustice to the pre-light aroma experience as I see it. The cigar lit quickly and I can honestly say I never had to pick up my lighter again….there wasn’t a burn issue noted or touch up needed. The draw was fairly easy, not effortless but easy...easy is not always good, or is it? I don’t usually pay much attention to the smoke itself but I would say it produced an average amount of very white smoke.
I have never made sense of some of the flavors people talk about getting from a cigar but damn it…this is the first time I’ve written anything about a cigar so I was going to figure out something to compare it to. I’m not sure what I was supposed to taste here but the best I can compare it to is a light oaky bourbon flavor with believe it or not …mint….I tasted a hint of mint for the first time in any cigar. And it is GOOD…I tasted it with both the coffee and the bourbon after each puff! Now if you’re looking for a “Pepper Bomb”, this isn’t the one for you but flavor it has and it is unique. The flavor was consistent throughout, all the way down to the nub…and, if you smoke the size I had, make yourself comfortable 'cause you’re going to be at it a while. And again, I never touched my lighter after I first lit it. Strength?, well I struggle with that one as it gets all mixed up with flavor for me but I would say a touch above medium...and I’m a medium kinda guy. If you are an “Ash Man” you will like this one….perfect, and hung on there for a long time. I say Ash “Man” cause every couple of weeks on The Blowin' Smoke Podcast, I find out "What The Chicks Are Reading," but so far, I haven’t heard what the chicks are smoking!
Overall, this is a great smoke! Keep in mind, I had HIGH expectations given that it was from Emilio Cigars…for me this one rates just behind the AF1 & AF2, but I think that will change once I get my hands on a smaller size. And I can’t wait to do just that. If you like the larger cigars…this will be a hands down favorite for you I’m sure of it. So, go ahead and add it to your list of “must try” cigars!
I appreciate the opportunity to share a cigar experience with some friends. I can’t imagine all the cigars, like The Los Regalos Quetzal, I would have missed out on if it wasn’t for The Blowin’ Smoke Podcast. The podcast keeps getting better & better…from “pull my finger” episodes in the beginning, to the “pull my Hair” episodes of today….Until next time!
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~ Shawn Mylar is on Twitter @ShawnfromWV and he claims all the news stories & jokes you have ever heard about WV are true! Including the most recent Buckhannon McDonalds bathroom disaster caused by El Freako himself!
As I sit here tonight, recovering from a long short week at work, I realize how lucky we, the Brothers and Sisters of the Leaf, are right now to be living in Pittsburgh. We may not be the biggest city in the country, but we have a thriving cigar community that I will put up against any other.
I wish there was enough time in the day to attend all three events, but I was only able to make it to Leaf and Bean. Enrique was a gracious host, eager to not only tell you about his cigars, but to become your friend in the process. He took the time to explain each blend in detail, as well as why he chose specific tobacco for each one. His passion for the leaf was on display throughout the conversation.
For those of you who have never been to Pittsburgh, allow me to tell you a little bit about these three shops. They are each different in their own way, but they all have one thing in common, a true love for the leaf.
I'll start with Allegheny Smokeworks, located in a little town called Blawnox. To me, this shop reminds me of a classic cigar shop. It's got all the working class attitude that is often associated with Pittsburgh. It has a well stocked humidor with all the standards, as well as some hidden gems scattered throughout. It also has a great selection of pipes and pipe tobacco.
Next up is Smoke Cigar Shop and Lounge in Collier Township. This is the newest addition to our wealth of cigar shops. Mame Kendall has put together a nice selection of boutique cigars that really stands out to me. Her shop has a couple of nice seating areas along with several large screen TV's, making it very easy to relax away a Saturday or any afternoon.
Last, but not least, is Leaf and Bean. Located in the Strip District, it is the most eclectic of the bunch. No matching chairs here folks. If you're lucky, you'll be able to grab one of the barber chairs in the back corner. It definitely has the most character, and is run by the biggest character of them all, Jim Robinson. With a full coffee bar and live music on the weekends, it is a place for both smokers and non-smokers alike. It's also the only one with outdoor seating to take full advantage of beautiful summer days or fall nights.
Keep in mind, when I said we have a thriving cigar community, I meant it. These are only a few of the many shops that are scattered around Pittsburgh and the surrounding communities. From Slippery Rock Cigars to Leaning House, from Bloom's to Ichabod's, to Penn-Ohio Cigars, and more, they come in all shapes and sizes. You're sure to find one that fits your bill. And if you're really lucky, you just might catch Klafter's / Cigar Express Warehouse during the hours that they are open to the public. You never know what is buried in their humidors.
Speaking of Slippery Rock Cigars, those of you in the know will recognize them as a sponsor of the Blowin Smoke Podcast, as well as the host shop for the Annual Big Ass Birthday Party. Joe Durso opens his doors to us once a year. Why? We may never know. But then again, maybe there is a reason it's only once a year. From mainstream cigars to the boutiques, Joe's got a great selection, so you're sure to find something to please your palate. And if you hang around long enough, you just might spot a Cretin or two coming through the door. Of course, that may be enough reason to grab your cigars and run.
One thing to remember about all of these shops, you'll never be a stranger in any of them. From the owners to the clientele, you're always welcomed and treated like an old friend. Of course, if you know Pittsburgh at all, we're all that way. So if you're ever in town, look these shops up, or better yet, contact me. I'll be happy to meet up with you and show you around.
# # #
~ Kevin S. is a regular Cretin on the Blowin' Smoke Podcast. An admitted "boutique slut," he enjoys sunsets, long walks on the beach, and curling up with the latest issue of Cosmo...or not. Follow Kevin on Twitter HERE.
I am a biker. While I am not hardcore, a biker in the most strict sense of the term, meaning I also own a car, I do not ride in the snow, nor as often as I would like, and I do not enjoy wrenching bikes, I am still a biker.
Over the last several years, work, family, and other responsibilities have really cut into my seat time, so when an opportunity to ride comes up, I try to jump on it even if it's a 30 minute loop around town. It's therapeutic. Riding a motorcycle clears your head, and the old saying that it sometimes takes a whole tank of gas to completely clear your head, is spot on. A Sunday drive in your car can be very relaxing, but it doesn't clear your head. You're too cocooned, too distracted.
On a bike, your head better be clear, or at least a lot less distracted, or you'll be dead. That's what bikers crave...clearing all the unnecessary, unwanted, toxic, trivial, stressful bullshit out of your awareness, and replacing it with the ride.
From the press of the starter and first twist of the throttle, anticipation comes over you like that little bit of drool you get in line at Krispy Kreme. You know it's coming. You squeeze that clutch and feel a little nudge forward as you tap your left foot down into first. It's time.
For me, I can shed a half a day's stress with one green light run through the gears. After that, if you're lucky enough to have the time, it just gets better. As you settle in, adjust your ass so the seams in your underpants aren't rubbing too much, check your trip to see how far you can go before you need gas, and flex your hands to mold those gloves just right, the crap just starts fading from your mind.
Here is where things get interesting, at least for me. The longer I ride, the more de-stressed I become, and the less garbage is on my mind. I replace home, work, money, and stupid people tensions with the ride...the feel of the machine, the visuals, the wind in my face, and the smell of the outdoors and even the roadkill.
So, it really isn't completely accurate to say motorcycle riding clears my head. Something has to be there, right? I have to think even if I'm in the most motorcycle zen-like place. Something will be conscious to me other than the mechanics of the ride itself. Maybe it's more realistic to say a motorcycle ride clears my head of the stuff I don't want in there, or need to escape from, and replaces those things with a sort of random slide show of stuff that I usually have no idea where they came from or what triggered them. They are fleeting, easy to digest, and pretty harmless.
Last weekend, I took a last minute, two-day motorcycle ride with a good friend through the mountains across the northern tier of Pennsylvania. Imagine the sun and shadows over the hills, the sweeping curves in the two-lane roads, the peaks and valleys, the tiny little towns with just the sound of the wind in your face and the low rumble of a v-twin exhaust, and join me as I share with you some of the things that popped into and out of my head during our twenty hours in the saddle.
An ice cold chocolate milk would be awesome right now...and whatever happened to the damn rabbit...
This cooler cloudy day means less bug guts on the windshield.
This here's the queen of my double-wide trailer with the polyester curtains and the redwood deeeeck...
That lady nursing her baby in the parking lot at Sheetz was kinda cute...
Excuse me while I whip this out...
Oooo, I just got a whiff of cigar smoke...I'm in the middle of nowhere, who is herfin'?
Cunnilingus had to have been a bitch for Toucan Sam, just sayin'...
...dine at just one American pink taco stand...
Damn, it's humid today. Do you know what relative humidity is...it's the sweat on your nutz when you're caught porking your sister...
Erase, erase, erase...
Shooo-bee-doo-bee-doo...I've got you, under my skin...
Look at that mutha-f'in goat right there! That's a big-ass goat. We should have stopped to take a picture of the goat...
Son-of-a...I forgot to put sunscreen on AGAIN!!!
For dinner tonight...I need bacon, definitely something with bacon...
Shooo-bee-doo-bee-doo...hey, would ya look at the boobs on that redneck...
Shooo-bee-doo-bee-doo...Shooo-bee-doo-bee-doo...I got chunks o' guys like you in my stool...Shooo-bee-doo-bee-doo...
There I was, thinking "What the hell am I doing?” Sitting on a plane for 8 hours, breathing
other people’s flatulence, just to ride a bus for 15 hours, breathing other people’s flatulence
AND cigar smoke! Crazy, right? But it turned out to be one of the best times I’ve had in many
I first heard about the Crawl some 5 or 6 years ago when I started listening to the Blowin’
Smoke Podcast. This was one of the things that come up in one’s life where one hears about
it, and one immediately knows that this is something to actually really do. Like travelling to
Easter Island, cooking a Turducken, or swimming with the dolphins. So I send Rob an email:
“One day, I’ll be on the Crawl with you guys!”
So there I was - about one hour outside Sharon, PA - on my way to the Crawl hotel and I had
that stupid grin on my face that lasted until at least a few days after the Crawl.
From a cultural scientist’s point of view, it is pretty obvious what we all did there on the
Crawl: A group of people sharing a common activity (smoking cigars) which they enjoy a lot,
that gives them a good reason to get together on a recurring event (Crawl) to fortify their
social bonds, (re)enforce their identity as a group, and enjoy the social components of said
event. One could even argue that a cigar is in a way similar to food, which is a very unifying
and important cultural phenomenon, providing much more than just calories to satisfy our
bodies’ needs for energy.
But there is more to it: The Brotherhood of the Leaf, of course, does exactly those things I just
described, but the Crawl made it clear that this “Brotherhood” is something very unique
amongst many other groups of people with a common interest. There are not many groups
that can pride themselves in being so open, so welcoming and warmhearted as cigar smokers
– all over the world we can sit together and as soon as cigars are lit, we have a common
ground to just enjoy each other’s company, talk about more or less important things –
independent of race, social status, gender or any other things that we usually take as an excuse
NOT to meet each other and/or communicate.
Just look at my case: A (weird) German dude just told a group of Americans, that he would be
there and join them for a crazy weekend on a bus with cigars. I could have been just another
idiot from the internet, making up a story, and never showing up. But Rob trusted me to show
up without any hesitation – this is the BOTL at work: The trust on one hand and the desire to
follow through on the other. This is the stuff that we are made of, and that is why the BOTL is a
very good group to join. Of course there are cigars, the rituals and BSing around them, etc.
etc. – but what it boils down to is the human factor that makes is most enjoyable.
So here are a few things I learned:
- Never bring a credit card on the Crawl when you know exactly that you are limited to
50 cigars to bring home!
- The V-cut is the way to cut!
- Never take a laxative and a sleeping pill at the same time!
- Clothes (and other apparel) can be smellier than I ever expected!
- Americans, which I suspected to be very nice people anyway, are just the best!
(Including that one Canadian guy, of course!)
- I tried lots of new cigars I haven’t tried before – resulting a completely new lineup of
- Never underestimate the power of the BOTL!
So now I am in Germany, already missing the camaraderie and BSing with my 50 new
friends. And to say it with the words of a famous Austrian philosopher: “I’ll be back!"
# # #
~ Jochen Konrad is a Cigar Smoker, Cultural Scientist, World Traveller, Dating Guru, Coach, and Opera Afficionado. His passion is to find the perfect places to enjoy a fine cigar, meet good people, and travel as much as humanly possible.
Keep in touch with Jochen on Twitter, Facebook (Jochen Konrad) or via Email (jochen dot konrad at arcor dot de)
I don’t really read cigar reviews. Reviews are generally fairly useless for me. I have yet to find a blogger with a palate similar to my own. So, any tasting notes just don’t help me decide if I want to try a smoke or not. That said, part of what lies below is a cigar review, but what I have tried to do is incorporate the experience of smoking...the musings we all have as we kick back with a choice stogie. As I herf, some of the most profound and asinine thoughts flow with ease out of my mind and mouth like the smoke from the cigar I’m enjoying. So, be prepared for either the most useless piece of crap you’ll have read today, or a little entertainment.
Now put on your chaps and whip out your sticks ‘cause here we go…
I recently splurged and purchased the Intemperance Volstead Sampler from RoMa Craft Tobac. You can read more about RoMa Craft Tobac via their website www.RoMaCraftTobac.com and by following them on Twitter at @RoMaCraft. The sampler contains eight cigars. That's two in each vitola with one in each of two wrappers...an Ecuadorian Connecticut and a Brazilian Arapiraca. I wanted to compare each wrapper and, since I’m drugged up on pain killers and muscle relaxers due to a ruptured disc, I chose the smallest vitola...the 4 x 46 Petito. I figured, if I started to pass out due to modern pharmaceuticals, I could at least finish these little guys.
Note: In the photos below, the unsmoked cigar on the left is the Intemperance BA XXI Intrigue with a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper. On the right is the Intemperance EC XVIII Charity with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. They are reversed in the ashes photo.
I always get excited when I’m about to smoke something new for the first time and, as you can see, these suckers are striking, almost pornographic with that little bit of exposed foot poking out.
First up, the Charity - Ecuadorian Connecticut Wrapper
The wrapper smells of hay and bread, and the exposed foot gives off scents of cocoa and hay. The contrast of the caramel colored wrapper and the exposed dark chocolate of the binder and filler is really sexy. Like a bit of exposed thigh through the slit of a skirt. As I run my fingers over the body of the cigar, I’d say it's definitely an athletic thigh…sigh.
Enough foreplay, let’s light this bitch up!
Right off the bat there is an amazing sweetness that finishes slightly tart. I love tarts (in the British sense). Unfortunately, this tart is a bit tight… on the draw.
Once I hit the wrapper, there is an immediate rush of black pepper in the midst of all that tart sweetness. I’m reminded of a dark chocolate bar with chilies. As the 1st inch completes, more typical CT flavors emerge...creaminess with a touch of bitterness. The sweetness has moved to the background and there is a malty finish. The retrohale is hay and black pepper. The sweetness darkens in the 2nd inch, taking on a dark molasses-like flavor and there is an unexpected bready finish. This little lady has finally opened up to me and is producing a respectable amount of smoke. The retrohale has flavors of hops and the same bready note from the finish.
I’ve got Ruben Gonzalez playing in the background. I love this kind of old school Cuban music. Between the pain killers, muscle relaxers, and the cigar, I feel like dancing. Do you think my neighbor would mind a fat man in black latex chaps dancing in the driveway?
The Charity goes well with coffee. The smoke brings out chocolate notes in the coffee, and the coffee brings out a caramelly sweetness in the smoke.
The 3rd inch starts with a slight uptick in the bitterness...not unpleasant though.
BY ALL THAT’S HOLY! The combination of Percocet, muscle relaxers, and steroids are resulting in a portal to hell opening up in my ass! I just covered my car is ass ash! Time for a trip to the nuclear waste dump…
Ok, so as you can imagine at this point, I have to relight my smoke. Good news. This Charity is a very charitable lady and relights with no tarry bitterness.
The 3rd inch into the 4th develops a piney note while the retrohale mellows to a slight woody flavor with a mild pepper finish.
I very much enjoyed the Intemperance Charity. In 2011, E.P. Carrillo re-invigorated the Connecticut cigar market with their New Wave Connecticut. In 2012, the guys at RoMaCraft Tobac have taken the game that much farther.
Next, the Intrigue - Brazil Arapiraca Wrapper
This wrapper has a strong barnyard smell (who you call’n chicken shit?!), and the foot is pure alfalfa. Although the Intrigue is the exact same vitola as the Charity, it looks very different. This wrapper is dark and slightly oily. Except for a textural difference, the unfinished foot blends in with the wrapper. Not so sexy. Oh well. Like the Charity, the Intrigue is solid in the hand like a tootsie roll.
The Intrigue starts with black pepper and woody notes. The retrohale is has a very nice initial burnt sugar sweetness followed with earth and woodiness. Once I hit the wrapper, I get a hickory bbq savoriness with a short finish. The hickory bbq is carried over to the retrohale with an added lingering chili spice. The draw is perfect. As the 1st inch closes, there is a subtle, complex sweetness from the combination of anise and chili notes wrapped around an earthy core. The retrohale is simple by comparison with a straight forward tobacco and earth leaving a short sweet finish.
This Intrigue is a very relaxing smoke. The variance of complexity and simplicity between the palate and retrohale is melodic, seductive. The 2nd inch has a great combination of cedar and anise flavors. The retrohale is cedary with a subtle yet coating sweetness. This little lady is a siren of smoke.
I do not ascribe to the belief in humanity’s inherent goodness. I do believe in humanity’s innate ability to know goodness in thought and action.
The 3rd inch is where all the action is. It starts with a lingering herbal pepperiness on my lips, like arugula. Yes, I said arugula. There are alternating flavors of baker’s chocolate, cedar, caramel sweetness, and herbaceousness. All this with a tannic finish…and now for my “O” face. (grunt)
As I enter the 4th inch, my smoking load is spent. I have had all my senses aroused and satisfied.
The Intrigue lived up to its name and then some. She kept me guessing all the way to bliss.
The Intemperance Charity and Intrigue are well worth your consideration at an MSRP of $5.00 a stick. If you don’t at least like these smokes, you’re an idiot…or you have a very different palate than mine.
My taste buds, take ’em or leave ’em.
# # #
~ Peter D. likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain. He's not into yoga, and has one and a half a brain. He likes making love dressed as Capt. Midnight in the dunes while wearing a cape. He's the love that you've looked for. Don't bother running, you cant escape. Follow Peter on Twitter HERE.
I'm thrilled that Gary Griffith of Emilio Cigars has jumped in for our next installment of "Quick 6." Let's go! (Psst. El Freako really digs the AF2. Sshhh.)
1) Tell us how you came to be a cigar brand owner.
GG: I have had the good fortune of meeting so many wonderful people in this industry that I suppose it was a natural thing that at some point I would try my hand at creating a cigar with one of them. When my first blend was well received, and I was encouraged to continue working at this by manufacturers I created the Emilio Brand.
2) Which one of your cigars holds a special place in your heart above the others and why?
GG: I hold the Grimalkin, soon to be renamed La Musa, very dear. I have a wonderful young friend who is an artist and has supported me in so many ways I could not ever repay her for that I dedicated this line to her. I have watched her fight and struggle to succeed in life, and, despite her own struggles, always have time to show me care and give me encouragement. She is unquestionably the person I hold dearest in life. I always called her my little Muse, so when the name change was needed the La Musa naming, suggested by a good friend, made all the sense in the world.
3) Describe how, for you, the beginnings of or the inspiration for a new blend happens?
GG: I like to play with tobaccos as opposed to going into a project with a fixed end result in mind. This just feels right to me. It doesn't always work out though, since every manufacturer works differently, and you have to find a way of working with them that fits the comfort zone of both parties.
4) Talking industry trends, what do you see as a positive trend, and what do you see as a negative trend right now, and why?
GG: I certainly see the emergence of so many new and wonderful boutique brands as a very positive trend in the industry. I believe the consumer deserves for us to create the very best possible products. As small production brands we are able to use tobaccos that simply are not available in the quantities needed for the bigger players. As to a negative, I see apathy on the part of consumers, retailers, and manufacturers in regards to regulatory threats as a real downer. People need to be actively engaged and quit relying on the various industry organizations to speak on their behalf.
5) What is next in the pipeline for fans of Emilio Cigars?
GG: If all goes according to plan our next release will be our first mild but flavorful cigar - the Emilio AF Suave.
6) If you could invite just six people to your ultimate herf, who would they be, and why?
GG: Obviously I'm gonna go contrary to popular wisdom here and say it would be a group of new smokers, those who need and want education and enlightenment. They are our future, and we should give all we can to encourage their enthusiasm.
Power Q) Fill in the blanks. "The best place you've never eaten is _______________. Order the _______________. Trust me."
~ Gary Griffith is the Owner & President of Emilio Cigars. He considers himself passionately curious evidenced by past careers in research & development in the precious metals industry, the jewelry business, real estate, construction, and now fine cigars. Gary has also invested much time and energy in various forms of public service believing that everyone should.
Keep up with Gary Griffith and Emilio Cigars on their website HERE, on Twitter HERE, and on Facebook HERE.
1) Tell us about your very first cigar experience.
SW: I smoked my first cigar on New Year's 2005 on a cruise. Myself and 3 of my
lifelong friends took the wives and girlfriends on a New Year's cruise and
one of my buddies that had been into cigars for a while suggested we go to the
piano bar and grab some drinks and smoke a cigar. I picked out a Fuente
Double Chateau from the counter top humidor (only because the name sounded
familiar), and sat down with my buddies and a snifter of brandy. An hour
later, I was hooked!!
2) How did the birth of El Primer Mundo Cigars come about?
SW: After falling in love with cigars, I started a cigar social group in Atlanta,
and started doing small cigar events in different parts of the city. I
eventually started thinking of doing a cigar just for my events. I had come
in contact with a few different manufacturers in doing my events. This
eventually led to an opportunity to visit Nestor Plasencia's factory in
Esteli, Nicaragua, to work on my first blend. I flew to Nicaragua in January
of 2006 to work on my first cigar which was the Red Label which has a
criollo maduro wrapper. After finishing the blend for the Red Label, we used
the same binder and filler and wrapped it in a Connecticut shade wrapper. I
left Nicaragua with the Red Label and Blue Label done. It would be months
later before I actually put the cigars into production, and in October of
that year (2006), I got placement with my first retailer.
3) Describe your most memorable moment or experience since becoming a brand
SW: My most memorable moment is probably the 2010 IPCPR convention in New
Orleans. I'd just launched the Liga Miami and the on the second day of the
show I got swamped at my booth with orders. I thought holy shit! This was
an incredible day. Then I thought holy shit! I don't have enough cigars!!
4) Describe each line under the El Primer Mundo mark as if they were a
featured dish at an exclusive 5-star restaurant (that would never let me
SW: Wow... Ok... Well, I'm from New Orleans, so my take on the menu may be a
little different... I'll try though.
The Blue Label - would probably be a blackened redfish. It's a lighter dish
but it has more kick than you would expect.
The Red Label - would probably be a nice marbled ribeye. It has nice cocoa
notes with a good mouth feel and a slight charred undertone.
The Black Label - would be an Etouffee(Crawfish or Shrimp.. your choice). It's going to be somewhat hearty with a subtle spice and a nice core
The Liga Miami - would be jambalaya. It's a hearty dish that gives you a
nice mix of spice, sweetness, and meatiness with the andouille and chicken.
The Epifania - would be a carpetbagger steak. It's a nice 11 oz well aged and
seasoned filet mignon stuffed with fried oysters, drizzled with a little
hollandaise sauce. It's nice and hearty with enough spice, light sweetness,
and good mouth feel.
5) What is your opinion of social media, and what role does it play for you
and El Primer Mundo?
SW: Social media is a wonderful platform! It's been a critical part of the
growth of the EPM brand and my ability to connect and communicate with cigar
smokers. I love being able to interact with cigar enthusiast instantly and
share information and get feedback. It's a critical part of my day and I look
forward to communicating with the BOTL's on a daily basis!!!
6) What can we cigar goons look forward to next from Sean Williams and El Primer Mundo Cigars?
SW: I have a couple of new lines coming out this year. Specifically, I have a new
line coming out of the Calle Ocho factory in Miami that I'm really excited
about. I'm staying with the Ecuadorian wrapper but doing a special size
cigar with a good mix of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos in the filler.
I'll give you guys a heads up before it hits the streets!
Power Q - Take it to the bank. ____________ will win the NCAA
Men's Basketball Championship.
~ Sean Williams is the Founder & President of El Primer Mundo Cigars. When not engulfed in cigar activities, and spending time with his family, he enjoys music, travel, food, bourbon, and sports.
Keep up with Sean and El Primer Mundo Cigars on their website HERE, on Twitter HERE, and on Facebook HERE.
Life is good, the old adage states, and it is at the Raulerson's household.
Spring is around the corner, and with it the promise of warmer days, barbeques, and of course, the delicious cigar, smoked outside while playing dominos with family and friends.
Vacation plans are forming for the year. Cold weather will soon be ushered back to the north by warm southernly winds, and no more weather-necessitated, scurrying to hazy smoke filled rooms for the enjoyment of the leaf.
Although smoke filled rooms are a comfort and a social event in their own rite, nothing compares to enjoying a delicious cigar outdoors while surrounded by friends and the vernal gifts of Nature...longer and brighter days, warm breezes, and spring-time cocktails. My favorite vernal cocktail is the mint julep...a staple, especially enjoyed in Kentucky, is the quintessential drink of springtime in the South.
Yes, spring is almost here! That glorious point when the earth positions the sun over our equator and starts the rotation towards the summer solstice. The time has come to take stock of the humidor's inventory and plan for the wonderful transition from the dark, cold shrouds of winter to the warm, breezy days of spring.
Each season brings its own herfing opportunities, but not many things in life compare to the new born feeling a warm spring evening, the burn of my favorite whiskey, and the luxurious smoke bellowing from a finely wrapped cigar can bring. And all my friends, with whom I share the spring experience with, can rest assured I have done my homework this winter.
While many people's New Year's resolutions revolve around working out, losing weight, and all manner of never lasting activities, I have been on a resolute quest. I have been busy scouring the local, and sometimes other state's, ABC stores in search of new bourbons to savor, all for the glorious goal of making the best mint julep this spring. I have not faltered in my mission. I have remained strong, stayed the narrow path, and my liver has fought the good fight! This year's mint juleps will be made from....well, you'll just have to wait and see, or taste, as the case will be.
Now is the time to shake off the blanket of Ol' Man Winter, and be thankful that, although not for our unrelenting march, we are not yet to the winter of our own lives. So, lift up your glasses, light up your cigars, and toast the coming of springtime. Long ashes and long legs!
# # #
~ Gary enjoys cigars and bourbon*...often together. He loves his wife and daughter, and his goal is to be called your friend. Any man with a lesser liver would be dead, and he is truly happy when it rains. Follow Gary on Twitter HERE.
*(Actually any alcohol will do, and $1 PBRs are heaven.)
With the big football championship game this weekend, odds are your preferred team isn't in the hunt for the trophy. You've probably created some alternative team temporary support algorythm in your head to justify rooting for one team over another just so you can avoid being a stick in the bean dip at your neighbor's game party. Whatever your method, it won't amount to squat if you don't factor in a little or a lot of cigar mojo.
I misjudged my cigar mojo last year at this time. I got sloppy. I didn't see the forest through the leaves. I lost the edge. I was holding on too tight, and it bit me in my black n gold ass. More on that in a minute.
For cigar mojo to be effective, you have to believe, and belief in the leaf undoubtedly comes to you quite unexpectedly, as it did for most of us. A moment of clarity. A chance meeting. A risk rewarded. A life-changing event. It really doesn't matter what IT was. Those are very personal things, like any faith. What did matter...what made the connection...the light bulb...the epiphany...was the cigar you had between your fingers at the time. We leaf believers and cigar mojo meisters can usually tell you what cigars we were smoking during big moments in our lives as if it was our personal Kennedy or September 11th moment.
Cigar mojo is directing your belief in the leaf toward a desired outcome. It's is very personal. It may make sense only to you. Cigar mojo can be simple, or it can be very complicated. It can be defeated by another's cigar mojo. Cigar mojo is powerful, never final, and must always be respected.
For example, let's assume you want the Patriots to lose because you just can't stand Tom Brady. He's a stud, and he porked Tara Reid. You're not, and you didn't. Your cigar mojo "may" tell you to smoke only cigars more attractive than Tom Brady during the game thereby cancelling out his studly effectiveness, OR you may smoke a shaggy foot cigar to symbolize Brady's mop top period and with you as a symbolic Madame Defarge. Let him eat turf. Two simple examples.
Let's turn it around. Maybe you like the Patriots and pretty boy Tom. (You probably also like chablis and little pink bunnies, but that's beside the point.) Your cigar mojo might be to smoke only Connecticut shade or Connecticut broadleaf wrapped cigars keeping the whole New England thing real. Your cigar mojo might direct you to smoke a Camacho Liberty bringing in the whole American Revolution, shot-heard-'round-the-world at Lexington, Mass. thing. Both are very valid cigar mojo implementations, but remember, cigar mojo is never final. A New York Giants fan with cigar mojo working could spark a Camacho Liberty against you. Remember Washginton crossing the Delaware to surprise attack the Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey? Where are the Giants really from? That's right, buttercup, and your cigar mojo was just given the Jimmy Hoffa treatment. (Another Giants reference hidden in there too.)
So, you just don't know which way the mojo will flow. Which brings me back to my personal cigar mojo experience in last year's big game. Early in the playoffs, I discovered a cigar mojo trend...a streak, if you will. When the Steelers were struggling...needed a big play...a Polamalu acrobatic anti-dandruff turnover...I had the edge. I discovered my playoff "Billy Baroo." The Vudu Robusto. Dark, spicy, tough, and, duh, symbolic. It worked. Only called upon in dire situations, the old Billy Baroo Vudu Robusto became my cigar mojo secret weapon.
Enter the big game. The heart is racing. Four-letter words are flying through the smoke of the Havana Room. It's tense. Things turn desperate. It was time...time for the old Billy Baroo...calling upon the cigar mojo wizards to shift the universe in my favor. I put down a perfectly good cigar and removed a Vudu Robusto from its protected hiding place, carefully punched the head, and commenced ignition. With the click of my torch, I believe I sealed my fate. I forgot cigar mojo is not static, but very dynamic, and I was made a fool. In my desire not to fuck with a streak, I overlooked the obvious. The playoffs were over. This was a different game. New rules were in effect, and I was using old cigar mojo.
You see, the Vudu Robusto is made by Rocky Patel. Rocky Patel is a Green Bay Packers fan.
Steelers 25 - Packers 31
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~ El Freako is the cigar smoking host of the Blowin' Smoke Podcast. He is sleep deprived, suffers from ADD, and is a cynical sonofabitch.
'Twas the day before Christmas, with Stillers on the tube,
and El Freako is pondering a yule tide "Whose Boobs?"
With coffee beside him all hot steamy and black,
he started reminiscing while scratching his sack.
What a year it has been, on the Blowin' Smoke show,
"I'm such a lucky bastard for the Cretins I know,
even though they're all weird in their own little way.
Hell, one humps a goat, but who hasn't, I say?"
They do always say it, and it is always true,
that it is about people, and friends old and new.
For cigars are a binder that many don't get.
Feel bad for those bastards. They haven't lived yet.
The memories kept coming, as El Freako sat there,
and he shifted his ass, and polluted the air.
His blessings are many. His fridge-idor is full.
But what about a Havana Room shiny brass pole?
El Freako is grateful for the listeners, the sponsors, and those ugly Cretin asses,
and wishes them all success and long ashes.
So here's to a bigger, longer, and better New Year
with teledildonics for all, and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Blowin' Smoke Podcast!
When Rob asked me to write something about pairing cigars and summer beers I was a little hesitant, but not because I don't like beer! I am one of those strange people that can drink a stout on a hot summer day and enjoy it. I drink whichever beer attracts my attention no matter the time of year. So, I had to really think what beers were considered to be summer beers. In addition, I have to admit, that…well….I don't always pair a cigar with beer. Scotch, coffee, bourbon, rum, wine…yes, but beer is not often my first choice, but when it is, it is usually a stout or a barleywine. But I humbly accepted this assignment because when there is beer involved, no mission is too big or too difficult to tackle.
I won't sit here on my deck (with a beer and cigar beside me) and tell you what to drink or smoke. At least not that much. (I also promise to make this a short article and not a seven volume set.) I'll talk more about beer styles and profiles and what may pair well with your smoke depending on your tastes.
So, what are summer beers? There are the wheat beers (like American wheat, German hefeweizen, and Belgium whit beers), India Pale Ales (IPA) and the self-named "summer ales" to name a few. Others look to lagers (almost all the big domestic beers) to quench that summer thirst. Each style of beer has its own flavor profile and suit themselves to a different cigar and drinker.
I find that all wheat beers have a little sweetness to them. German wheat beers may have hints of clove and banana. Belgium whits may have a peppery or spicy note like coriander and some fruitiness like orange. American wheats tend to be a little hoppier than their European cousins.
Summer Ales (at least the current ones that I have sampled) are slightly malty with a light hint of hops. They are usually a crisp beer that leaves little aftertaste and always pair well with a post-lawnmower session.
IPAs are very hoppy beers. The hop bitterness and hop floral notes are the forward tastes of the beer. Some do have a malty background that may help counterbalance the hops. India Pale Ale is my favorite beer style, but I do admit that they might be an acquired taste. Unfortunately, due to their assertiveness I have had a lot of problems finding a cigar that pairs well with them. Usually, I get a strange almost metallic or sour aftertaste when pairing a cigar with an IPA. However, in the spirit of research for Rob, I recently paired a Tatuaje Havana VI Corona Especial (the Red) with a Terrapin Rye IPA and was pretty happy. The tangy spice of the cigar matches well with the peppery spice of the Rye IPA. A medium or full bodied cigar with some good spice has a good chance of standing up to an IPA.
Lagers are a crisp, clean tasting beer. Craft beer lagers (Brooklyn for instance) are a little hoppier than their macro brewed cousins (Budweiser). For this reason, I think some of the same flavors that IPA’s bring to the table translate well with a lager. A medium bodied, spicy cigar should stand up to the hops. Be careful though. It would be easy to dominate the lager and lose a lot of its subtlety.
As with all things of taste, yours may vary. And I hope it does. I've only opened the door a crack on cigar and summer beer pairings. After all, the summer is just starting. Now you can say that you are doing "research" when the wife (or significant other) asks about the beer and cigar.
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~ Ken G. is a cigar smoking, home brewing man of mystery from Pittsburgh who enjoys cycling, loose women and shiny things.
First and foremost I'd like to take the opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to Rob for asking me to be a part of the Blowin' Smoke serious cigar shenanigans. I'd also like to convey how much I appreciate those of you who have been supportive of my cigar (and other) mischief by actively engaging me through Twitter and other social media outlets.
So, let's get right to it. Where does a woman fit in? Contrary to what many women may believe, women do have a place in the cigar industry/culture. I oftentimes say "Yeah, I can hang with the 'big boys,'"¯ but what does that actually mean? It simply means that I am able to enjoy the company of men (and women) while simultaneously enjoying a cigar. Yes, it's that simple. Unfortunately, I believe many women have a fear that if they smoke (cigars), men will no longer be attracted to them. As most of you know, this simply isn't the case, yet the stigma remains.
While men are often brash and unapologetically grotesque in the company of other men, there is no doubt that while smoking a cigar in the company of a woman, most men will feel the need to act more refined and choose their words more carefully (I think we all understand that no matter what circumstances exist, some men will always remain brash and unapologetically grotesque). The presence of a woman truly "raises the bar"¯ on the entire cigar smoking experience. On numerous occasions I have discovered myself to be in the company of men while enjoying a cigar at my local B&M. It's quite interesting to observe men around other men (and in my presence), because they'll start to tell a dirty joke and then stop to say "oh no, I can't say that, we have a lady present."¯ Of course my response to this is "come on, I like a dirty joke, let's hear it!"
Fact: women and cigars just pair well. Women often possess excellent sensory abilities, which allow them to pick up on the specific nuances of each cigar. I believe the societal expectation of "women in the kitchen"¯ has allowed women to be around food and drink more, which has in turn allowed us to develop a more discerning and refined palate. On a more personal note, I was initially very hesitant about smoking cigars for various reasons. As a society, we are simply inundated with anti-smoking fear inducing advertisements about the harms of smoking. After conquering this fear, and simply embracing the fact that humans are not immortal, I started enjoying cigars and have developed a passion for them that continues to grow and develop each day.
Triple Dog Dare: I triple dog dare you cigar smoking men out there to find a non-cigar smoking woman to enjoy one cigar. Your bone: A chance to win a 5 pack of cigars from my personal stash (oh la la). How to enter: submit a photograph of the woman smoking a cigar along with her first name, the cigar she smoked, and briefly what she thought about it. One winner will be randomly selected from all valid entries received. Contest ends May 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm.
(Editor's note: submit your entries by clicking the camera above, "Fan Pics", and follow instructions to submit. Must include email address.
Double D Dare: I double d dare you cigar smoking women to go to your local B&M and be in the company of men, and accept the fact that every man in that room has at some point thought about engaging in intercourse with you. The sooner you realize and reckon with this, the better your cigar smoking days will be.
I leave you with this: "Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke." Lynda Barry.
Until Next Time,
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~ Jess is a cigar smoking foodie, violinist, Human Resource professional Follow Jess: @jessbayne and check out her blog, Cigar Sucker.
El Freako sent me a message saying he had an idea for an article for his Blog’idor section and was wondering if I’d be interested in writing about it. His idea was paring cigars with weapons. I hadn’t really thought about this before since the indoor range I normally go to is non-smoking. This topic is also somewhat poignant since both our Second Amendment rights and our freedom to enjoy cigars is being attacked on an almost daily basis. After a little bit of thinking and looking through my humidors and gun safe this is what I’ve come up with. All of these weapons are from my personal collection and I’ve smoked all of these cigars before.
Let’s get things started off easy. My first pairing would be a .22 Long Rifle Ruger Mark II and an Oliva Connecticut Reserve (image below).
Neither of these would be scary to a beginner. The .22LR is low recoiling, doesn’t make a lot of noise, and is inexpensive to shoot. The Oliva isn’t powerful, is well constructed, and is reasonably priced. Of course there are many other .22LR pistols out there, this is just the one I chose to purchase. The same holds true when it comes to mild cigars. However this would be one of the cigars I would recommend a novice to start with.
The second paring steps things up a bit. It is a 9mm Kahr CW9 and a La Aurora 107 (image below).
These have two things in common. The first is they offer a step up in power and complexity without breaking the bank. The second is they are both over a century old. The 9mm was introduced in 1902 (109 years ago) and La Aurora has been around since 1903 (108 years ago). The examples I’ve chosen show off very modern implementations that show both the caliber and cigar company are still alive even after all this time.
This next pairing is probably unexpected for many of you because there is a lot of misunderstanding about the revolver. This pairing is a .38 Special Smith & Wesson 642 and the La Flor Dominicana Cheroot (image below).
Most people would probably look at them and say, “They’re both little so that means they are easy to shoot/smoke”. In both cases you’d be sorely wrong. These both need to be approached with care and with some shooting or smoking experience. Here is why. The revolver has an aluminum frame and is only about 15 ounces unloaded. The cigar is rumored to be made up completely of ligero tobacco. While the .38 Special isn’t known as a powerhouse, and is actually quite tame in larger framed revolvers, this aluminum framed snub nose revolver has some recoil and requires a strong grip to keep a hold on it. The same holds true with the cigar. Most people could handle a regular cheroot, but this all ligero blend requires a strong and full stomach before tackling.
My fourth pairing is the .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson 66 with a Fuente Opus X (image below). This pairing represents two of my long time favorites in weapons and cigars. The first handgun I bought was a .357 Magnum revolver (not this one but I still have it) and the Opus X is one of the first strong cigars that sparked my love of full bodied, full strength cigars. Most would think that only the very experienced should attempt to use either one of these, I would beg to differ. While I wouldn’t start someone out with either one, if you have a little experience then giving one of these a try, with competent supervision of course, could be a lot of fun.
Now here comes what would be one of my favorite pairings, a .45 ACP Kimber ProCarry and a San Lotano Habano (image below).
These represent what I would consider a great everyday pairing. I don’t live in a state that allows concealed carry, very easily that is, but if I could this Kimber would be the pistol I would carry almost every day. The .45 ACP is my favorite defensive cartridge. It punches a large hole and has a lot of mass, and the 1911 is my favorite design for a pistol. The San Lotano Habano fits right in there in my opinion. It has great flavor, near perfect construction, and a price won’t break the bank. I can’t think of a better pairing for a daily smoker/carrier.
Seeing as this is my article, and I love the 1911, and this year marks its 100th anniversary, I’m including a second pistol and cigar pairing for the same caliber. The .45 ACP Les Baer Premier II and a Padron 1964 Anniversario Madruo (image below).
These two go well together and have some things in common. The first is smoothness. When you pick up this pistol and check to make sure it is unloaded you notice how smooth the action of it is. Everything moves like it should. There isn’t any harshness to it. Exactly like the cigar. I’ve never smoked a Padron that was harsh or bitter, they have always tasted great. The other similarity is superb construction. This pistol, along with all of the pistols built by Les, are built like a bank vault. It is solidly made out of premium hand-fitted parts. Exactly like the Padron, which is hand-made out of premium aged tobacco.
The final pairing is a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson 29 and a La Flor Dominicana Salomon (image below).
These both are the big boys on the block. From its introduction in 1955 up until recent developments in handgun calibers (.50 S&W & .460 S&W) this was the most powerful caliber you could get in a production handgun. The cigar, while fairly new, comes from a long lineage of powerful cigars. Sometimes I find it quite relaxing to take some full power .44 Magnums to the range and blast away at targets. Just like lighting up a LFD Salomon with a glass of good bourbon is after a long day at work. Neither are something that a beginner should try. One unfortunate similarity is the expense of enjoying them. While the revolver wasn’t all that expensive, the ammo has become a lot more expensive in recent years. The original cost of the Salomon being $25+ out here in California and it being a onetime release, they are only going to get harder to find as time goes on.
I hope that these different pairings got you thinking a little bit. Maybe if you haven’t tried one of these cigars before you’ll try them now. If you’ve never fired a weapon before, maybe you’ll find a friend to take you or get you thinking about going to your local range to take a class. Also I would urge you to support the NRA and the CRA as they are both fighting to keep the government from infringing on our rights.
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~ Keith Hollar is a husband, computer geek, and blogger with a serious penchant for cigars, guns, cars, whiskey and craft brews...not necessarily together or in that order. Follow Keith: @Keith1911 and check out his cigar reviews at Tiki Bar Online.
I really enjoy smoking a good cigar. I’m also a baseball fan. I happen to be a Yankee fan but that is only because I grew up on Long Island and was ten years old when Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle pushed each other all summer to break the immortal Babe Ruth’s home run record. But it is the game itself that I love. It is a combination of chess and ballet and requires an individual to accomplish the most difficult feat in sport…to hit a round object with a cylindrical object. And now, after months of waiting and counting the days, the boys of summer have returned for that great ritual we call Spring Training.
I loved the game so much that I spent years with my son and his friends teaching and coaching and always sharing my love of the game. My son picked up on it and by the time he was 16 he knew more about it than I did. He became a much better player than I was and in fact will be starting his fourth season at The College at Brockport as a first baseman/designated hitter, where he currently holds two RBI records and is three homeruns away from tying the career home run record. You can look it up.
For those of us who live in the Northeast or Midwest, we have to find places inside to smoke our cigars. Spring Training will give me the opportunity to combine baseball and cigars. One of my favorite ways to enjoy a cigar is to smoke while watching a baseball game. When Max was young, and I wasn’t coaching at the time, I would lean on the fence in center field at our youth baseball complex to watch the 12 year olds play. It was the essence of relaxation. If it weren’t for the draconian anti-smoking laws I would be in downtown Buffalo watching our Triple A Buffalo Bisons…but that is not to be. In the next few weeks, the Brockport baseball team will head south to Florida for their version of Spring Training. I plan to follow them like a teenage girl would follow a limousine that contained Justin Bieber. The thought of watching baseball, watching my son play baseball, and to be able to sit back and smoke a cigar while I’m doing it absolutely thrills me. I am already thinking about which cigars I will pick to fill up my herf’dor. I will be driving from Buffalo to New Jersey for their first three games March 4-6…a seven hour, two cigar drive. The following Wednesday I’ll start my drive to Florida…a two day, four or five cigar drive. Then a week in Florida for ten games in seven days…it doesn’t get any better than this. There’s nothing better than leaning on a fence of a baseball field while smoking one of your favorite cigars. If you are lucky enough to be watching your son play at the same time, well my friends, it just got better.
I love baseball. Spring Training marks the time of year when we begin to look forward to those warm days and comfortable evenings when we can light up a cigar, enjoy a libation or not, enjoy the company of a good friend or family member, and appreciate the gifts that life brings to us. As Buster Olney, a baseball analyst and writer says, “And today will be better than yesterday.”
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~ Nathan Zimmerman is a recently retired School Psychologist with 25 of his last 33 years working in the Buffalo, NY, Public Schools. He is the father of two adult children and the former Herfmeister of the Buffalo Herf In The Snow (HITS). He enjoys Honduran cigars, (especially Villazon products such as JR Ultimates, El Rey del Mundo Rectangulares and Flor de Llanezas) and Ramon Allones Small Club Coronas and Specially Selecteds. Follow Nathan: @Z1batmang.
Every morning when I get into the office I watch a 7 minute snippet of Alec Baldwin giving a motivational speech in Glenngary Glen Ross. It's my way of getting amped up for the day. (Not that I need a reason to go out and bust my butt everyday.) As a boutique manufacturer, I am faced with a constant battle of fighting for shelf space. It's not always easy to go toe-to-toe with some of the guys that have been in the industry for generations. However, we are starting to see a paradigm shift in the humidors across the country. It seems like every store owner that I come into contact with is changing up their humidor to bring in boutiques. A lot of the stores are looking for "B&M exclusive" manufacturers to fill their shelf space.
It's this understanding that keeps us from becoming lunch for the big fish in the industry. Don't get me wrong, I don't want people to stop smoking what they like. I want people to add us to their repertoire. I heard somebody use this analogy once, "How many tools are enough? That's right, you can never have too many tools in your toolbox. We're not asking you take out tools; we're asking that you put us in there with the rest of your tools. Sometimes you need a wrench, other times a screwdriver, and sometimes a jackhammer. We just want you to be prepared." I'm guilty of only smoking a few brands as well. I find what I like to smoke, and I rarely branch out. Just recently I've made an effort to smoke at least 3 new cigars each week. Best case scenario is that I found something great. Worst case scenario is that I spent $8 on a cigar that I didn't care for. Either way, I was with friends enjoying myself and relaxing.
The beauty of being a smaller company is that we can devote more time to customer service. We're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes my call-backs don't happen as soon as I would like for them to happen. Sometimes it may take me a little bit longer to get out to see a store (until recently I was running around the Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West, and North East). But almost all of the store owners have my personal cell phone number and can contact me whenever they need something. We try to go out of our way to make the store owners feel great about having our product on their shelves. We have an interactive map on our website that points consumers to the retailers, include a hand-written note with each order, and have a "what can I do to help you" mentality among other things. I love B&Ms and cigar lounges because they are safe havens. They are places I can go to relax and unwind, so I want to see them stay around for years to come.
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~ Clint Aaron is the president of 262 Cigars, a petrol-head, master of all things 'Top Gear', cigar fanatic, obsessor of coffee, and lover of microbrews. He is known for loving his wife and tolerating her dog (Emerson). Some say he's been known to refer to Emerson as his arch nemesis. You can contact him at: www.SmokeTheRevolution.com or follow him @262Cigars.
We’ve all dealt with it. Some well-meaning, do-gooder looks at the cigar in your hand and says, “Ewwww! Why do you smoke those things?”
I don’t know about you, but instead of just sighing and shaking my head, I usually try to express myself in terms that I’m now convinced only cigar smokers understand.
I suppose each cigar smoker has his—or her—reasons for doing so. I can only speak for myself. Why do I smoke cigars?
The one word that pops into my mind most often is “brotherhood.” I’m one of those people who doesn’t have a lot of really close, longtime friends. You know...guys you went to college with or the best man at your wedding. But, I’ve met so many great guys while smoking cigars—guys who have become my best friends.
I’ll never forget the first time I arranged to meet someone in person that I “met” in a cigar podcast video chat room. My wife said I was going to get killed or abducted. Instead, I met one of the most remarkable people in my life. We now get together four or five times a year and even ventured to CigarFest together in 2010. You guessed it—my wife now calls it a “bromance.” Whatever…
My co-workers and friends don’t quite get it when I tell them I drove three hours each way on Saturday for the chance to sit around with a bunch of guys and smoke cigars for a couple of hours. But you understand, don’t you?
Why do we fire up a propane heater just to huddle in a freezing cold garage and stink to high heaven when we’re done? Well, sure it’s mostly just to be able to say we did it. But really it’s the brotherhood…the camaraderie.
I have a neighbor who has lived across the street from me for over a decade. We barely knew each other until we discovered we both enjoy cigars. Now we hang out several times a week, partner in a dart league and watch sports and drink beer together. Cigars did that.
I’ve met great guys from all around Michigan and surrounding states. I count among my cigar “friends,” some of the biggest names in the industry—even though I’ve never met many of them. Sure, some are herfin’ buddies but others are just names in a cigar forum, or Twitter followers and Facebook friends. But we have one thing that binds us together. And that one thing is something very few have in common and even fewer understand.
It’s hard to explain the magic that occurs when a group of like-minded “brothers of the leaf” gather together around cigars. Oh sure, there’s beer and sports and off-color humor. But, deep down, it’s the brotherhood; the feeling that these guys have got my back.
Then there are those nights out on the deck around the fire pit with three or four guys just sitting in silence, listening to the crickets, staring up at the sky, watching the smoke drift away, and with it, all the cares of your day. Sure it’s an overused phrase but, “It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
Alright, I know it’s sappy. Guys aren’t supposed to talk about this stuff. We don’t have feelings, right? Well, go screw yourself!
Ah! But often we smoke alone. What’s up with that?
Yes, I smoke cigars all by myself. You probably do too. Here in Michigan, we enjoy maybe five or six months of decent outdoor cigar smoking weather, two to three somewhat “manageable” months, and three to four months of weather unfit for Eskimos.
During the past 24 years, I’ve had a daily commute of about 30 minutes each way. That’s about 6,240 hours in the car. That equals 780 eight-hour work days. Assuming one works about 260 days a year, that’s three years worth of eight hour days. Alone. That’s a lot of time to think.
But my drive home each night is decompression time. I light up a cigar; put on a little music, and blow my stress out the window all the way home. In the summer this usually means I get to spend another 15-30 minutes out on the deck finishing my cigar. It’s the perfect end to a great day.
I truly believe that we cigar smokers, who generally don’t inhale, don’t smoke cigarettes and aren’t addicted to tobacco; who take the time to enjoy the finer things in life; who laugh with friends, celebrate our God-given freedoms, think deep thoughts and really stop to enjoy the beauty of the world around us, will outlive most of our detractors and have a lot more fun doing so.
Cigars help create an environment where guys can be guys and friends can bond, sometimes without saying a word. Taking the time to choose, clip, light and enjoy a cigar requires a dedicated amount of time and thought—as does a friendship. If you ignore it or abuse it, it will probably extinguish.
Keep your friends—and your cigars—close to you. Treat them with respect and they’ll never let you down.
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~ Craig Rich is a husband and father, advertising executive, shipwreck hunter and discoverer, scuba diver, writer, historian and genealogist who enjoys music, Guinness Stout & fine cigars. He is the author of the 2010 book, “For Those in Peril: Shipwrecks of Ottawa County Michigan.” You can contact him at: www.CraigRich.net or follow him @OldPirate.