“Clothes make the man,” so the saying goes, and it's true. When you look good, you feel good. You convey an air of confidence and success that women find attractive. If you work at a job that doesn't require a jacket & tie, a lot of guys might envy you, since most men, at least those with so-called "white collar" jobs, are required to dress-up Monday through Friday. Suffice it to say, most jobs call for a "uniform" of some kind. Whether you're a construction worker, a police officer, a chef, or the CFO of an international banking firm, like it or not, we are generally defined by our appearance. When you meet someone for the first time, what you're wearing resonates big-time with their initial impression.
The fact of the matter is, at some point in your life – be it at a business meeting, a family affair, a date, dinner at a 4-star restaurant, etc. – you're going to have to wear at least a sport coat or blazer. Whatever the reason or occasion is for wearing a sport jacket, there are two you absolutely should have hanging in your closet: a two-button navy blazer, and a grey tweed sport coat. Both are classic, which means they go with just about anything, anytime, anywhere.
The navy blazer is the most versatile because you can wear it with a silk tie and chinos, or a faded pair of jeans. The grey tweed is generally a little more casual; good for weekends, countryside drives, cocktail parties, or just plain old hanging out. It's also suitable for wearing with jeans and casual slacks. Go with a lightweight tweed; it's more practical, especially during the warmer summer months.
One of the most important things when it comes to buying a sport coat, or any attire for that matter is, buy the finest-tailored clothing. It's usually more expensive, but well-made clothing not only fits better, it lasts longer. Since the navy blazer and grey tweed jacket are timeless, you might as well splurge and buy the best. It will pay for itself over time. Plus, unless you find a perfect fit off the rack, the jackets will be tailored to your physique.
You don't have to shop at Brooks Brothers or Saks Fifth Avenue either. Smaller boutique shops can be almost as expensive, but offer more personalized service. Besides, there's always a sale going on. Popular men's shops like Jos. A. Bank and Men's Wearhouse frequently offer freebies with purchases, so you might get a two-for-one deal and really save. *MORE
Rich in Cuban culture, the city of Tampa has played a major role in the history of handmade cigars since 1866 when Vicente Martinez bought 40 acres of land and founded Ybor City. Out of the hundreds of cigar factories that existed in Ybor City and West Tampa, only about two dozen are still standing. Thanks to the efforts of some of the cigar industry's leading manufacturers, several of the city's original factories have been restored, while several new Tampa-based boutique cigar companies have moved in, keeping the city's cigar-making tradition alive to this day. In the Beginning
The cigar industry in Tampa began in 1886 when Vicente Martinez Ybor, visiting from Key West, bought 40 acres of land and founded Ybor City. From that beginning and for more than 50 years thereafter, Ybor City became the "Cigar Capitol of the World."
Ybor City was populated by a mix of Italians, Cubans and Spaniards. They came from Cuba or from Key West, FL, which was another large cigar manufacturing area until labor problems brought owners north looking for a new start.
While the V.M. Ybor cigar factory was the first factory to be built, it was the second factory to actually produce cigars. One notable event that took place at the factory was when Jose Marti gave a speech on its front steps in 1893. He was in Ybor City raising funds for the Cuban Revolution. The honor of the first production cigar factory goes to Sanchez and Haya. The factory started production on April 13th, 1886, producing the first Clear Havana cigars in Ybor City. The term "Clear Havana" means that the cigar's blend was comprised of all Cuban tobacco. Today we would call that a Cuban "puro." By the end of their first year, Sanchez and Haya were producing 500,000 Clear Havana cigars per month.
Actually, until the Cuban embargo, 100% of the cigars made in Tampa used Cuban tobacco. Two or three years after the embargo, supplies of Cuban tobacco were exhausted. Since they could no longer purchase Cuban tobacco, the smaller companies wanted to get out of manufacturing. These companies were either bought up by larger competitors or simply went out of business. Once Cuban farmers began to flee from their homeland, larger companies started to explore other tobacco growing areas such as Cameroon, Africa, the Connecticut Valley, as well as Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
As things progressed, the rising cost of tobacco and labor caused the majority of cigar companies to move out of Tampa and relocate to countries where it was cheaper to operate. During Ybor City's cigar making heyday, there were hundreds of factories, manufacturing millions of cigars, for thousands of brands each year. Some of those brand names have survived through the years such as Bering, Cuesta Rey, Garcia y Vega and Don Vicente. Industry Icons
Three families that helped shape the cigar industry in Ybor City and beyond, still call Tampa, Florida home. J.C. Newman
Founded in 1895, by Julius Caesar Newman, J.C. Newman came to Tampa in 1954 from Cleveland, Ohio. They moved into the Regensburg factory which was built in 1910. It was one of the last and largest cigar factories ever built in Tampa. Its nickname was El Reloj, Spanish for "The Clock." The factory building has a large clock tower with bells that were used by the Ybor community to keep track of the time. The bell tower eventually fell into disrepair, and in 2002 the Newman's restored the bells which now chime again after decades of silence. Arturo Fuente
Last year, Arturo Fuente cigars celebrated 100 years of tradition. Arturo Fuente started the business from the back of his Ybor City house in 1912. His sons Arturo and Carlos were with him from "day one." Since then, Carlos and his son Carlos "Carlito" Fuente, Jr have moved their operations to the Dominican Republic. Carlos' brother, Arturo, stayed in Ybor City and opened a retail operation that is now run by fourth generation family members.
Another building, the "Charles The Great" cigar factory in Ybor City, is also owned by the Fuente family. Starting in 2010, the Fuente's began a historic restoration of the building that will be completed in 2014. Oliva Tobacco Company
Not to be confused with Oliva Cigars in Estelí Nicaragua, the Oliva Tobacco Company has been a family owned business in Tampa since 1934. The Oliva family owns farmland in the Caribbean as well as South and Central America. While you may not have heard of them before, they supply premium tobacco to many major cigar manufacturers.
Even if you haven't heard of the Olivas, you certainly know their product. Their tobacco is used in cigars made by Altadis (Montecristo Classic, Romeo y Julieta Reserva, Trinidad), J.C. Newman (Cuesta Rey Centro Fino, Diamond Crown Maximus), Arturo Fuente (green bands, Don Carlos), La Riqueza (#1 and #2), Drew Estate (Liga Privada) and others made by Rocky Patel, Don Pepin, Tatuaje, My Father and General Cigar to name a few more. A smoking ban imposed on the Cigar Capitol of the World?
On July 1, 2003, smoking was banned statewide in all enclosed workplaces in Florida. Exempted were private residences, retail tobacco shops, designated smoking rooms in hotels/motels and stand-alone bars with no more than 10% of revenue from food sales.
Fortunately, the Tampa Bay area has several dozen great cigar lounges to choose from. Moreover, with its excellent weather, outdoor smoking isn't much of a problem. Unfortunately, a few landmark restaurants that were great destinations for a fine meal and an after-dinner cigar became off limits. Modern Times
Out of the hundreds of cigar factories that existed in Ybor City and West Tampa, only about two dozen are still standing. Besides the factories mentioned above, others have changed owners many times over the years. For example, the V.M. Ybor factory is now owned by the Church of Scientology, and is used as both an administration building and a place of assembly.
If you walk up and down Ybor City's 7th Ave or "La Setima," you will come across storefront businesses with cigar rollers showing off their skills in the windows. These are the Mom & Pop stores keeping the tradition of hand-rolled cigars alive in the community.
In addition to these small storefronts, some national and international manufacturers also call the Tampa Bay area home. In mid 2010, Davidoff of Geneva moved their headquarters from Stamford, CT to Pinellas Park, FL, and in late 2011 the Blanco Cigar Company moved their headquarters from Chicago, IL to Clearwater, FL. During the past couple of years, several new Tampa based boutique cigar companies have come on the scene. They are Ares Contreras with Pride Cigars, Matt Urbano with Urbano Cigars, Dr. Giacomo Guggino with Giacomo Cigars, and the team of Felix Lopez and Steven Tabak with Lopez-Tabak Tobacalero's La Vida Cigars.
Although these brands all have manufacturing facilities in either Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic, I like to think that these newer companies also help maintain Tampa's cigar tradition.
Speaking of tradition, Ybor City knows how to celebrate it in style. Some of the old mutual aid societies such as the L'Unione Italiana and the El Circulo Cubano or Cuban Club, still hold functions and are available for private parties. These two clubs continue to meet in the original buildings constructed in the early 1900's and are remarkably well-maintained. The Ybor City Museum Society has done an excellent job in preserving the legacy of Tampa's "Cigar Capitol" status. The museum features many displays and an actual "casita" or cigar roller's home that you can walk through. The historical collection is housed in the old Ferlita Bakery. Along with cigar related items, the museum documents the culture of Ybor City's past. In addition to the museum, the Society has held the Ybor City Heritage and Cigar Festival there for the past 14 years. At the festival, not only can you visit the museum, you can also meet up with manufacturers and retailers to celebrate with music, food and cigars. If you're a cigar smoker and interested in history, add a trip to Tampa to your "bucket list." Visit Ybor City and imagine what life was like in the past as you explore the architecture of the old factories and other surviving buildings. After that, stop in at one of the cigar lounges on 7th Avenue and pick up a favorite cigar, or better yet, a fresh, handrolled smoke with your choice of beverage and enjoy one of life's greatest pleasures in one of the cigar world's most unique and fascinating locations. *MORE
At a time when the American landscape is becoming less and less "smoker friendly," there are still a number of cities where cigar lovers can find a haven to partake. Veteran cigar blogger and cigar reviewer, Barry Stein, in his straight-shootin' style, describes what he believes are the five best American cities to enjoy fine cigars with your fellow cigar-smoking comrades in comfort. One thing almost universally accepted about cigars is that they’re the great equalizer; they allow people from different backgrounds, beliefs, and social standing to come together without labels or judgment. As a matter of fact, many of my friends and professional contacts have been made during the time I've spent in cigar lounges around the globe. I remember being in a lounge in Israel smoking with a group consisting of both Israelis and Palestinians, where political differences were forgotten, and the laughter was raucous. I reflect on that experience quite often.
Having spent so much time on the road, I'm often asked where my favorite place was to smoke, and what was the best cigar city…but to answer that would be unfair, because (to paraphrase an old friend), 'the best place to smoke, is the place that you enjoy the most.' True. However, this doesn’t prevent me from sharing my opinion When I moved from New York City to Miami in early 2012, I expected my new hometown to be the epicenter of the cigar world. What hit me was a bit of a culture shock. While at any given time you could run into the power players of the cigar industry, Miami doesn't have the same vibe as other cities I've visited. There is more of a sense of tradition here, which seems to go against the grain of the part of America that has embraced the boutique brands. Humidors seem to lack the diversity found in some of my favorite cities, and the majority of smokers seem to have more brand loyalty than in other places I have visited. There are no places in Europe that would make my list. The smoking bans that are in place stateside are also in place in a lot of European cities. During a recent jaunt to Switzerland I was looking forward to visiting Davidoff of Geneva, but was disappointed to find that you couldn’t smoke inside - which quickly put a damper on things. And while Cuban cigars are often looked at as "The Holy Grail" of cigars, they just lack the consistency and quality for which they were once so coveted. I often found myself looking forward to my return home and enjoying my comfort sticks made in Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic.
The Swiss Federal Assembly began enforcing a law in May 2010 prohibiting smoking in enclosed, publicly-accessible areas. There are a few exceptions for bars and restaurants – where smoking is only permitted in separate, ventilated rooms or in establishments smaller than 80 square meters (861 square feet). More than half of Switzerland’s 27 cantons have imposed even stricter laws, which don’t allow for those smaller rooms. In September 2012, Swiss voters turned down a rigorous ban on smoking in all enclosed public places via national referendum.. New York: I lived there for 42 years. I know this place like the back of my hand. But what makes New York really stand out is that it truly is the "city that never sleeps." There are a handful of shops that you can find open at 1:00 in the morning for a cigar; and despite draconian tobacco laws, you can smoke in a lounge, but not at the beach or a park. If events are your thing, there is one almost weekly within an hour's drive of the city. And because of the importance of the location there is always a manufacturer present with a company rep. Philadelphia: having no tobacco tax once made this city a haven for a cigar smoker from New York, which had a 75% OTP tax. It's also been the home of some super stores with incredible staffs. The city itself adds to the mystique, since the historic districts allow you to take a stroll down the street as our forefathers did while enjoying a cigar.
OTP stands for “Other Tobacco Products”…but beyond that, it’s up to each state to define what products, exactly, fall under that definition (such as cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, etc.). New York sets theirs as 75% of wholesale price. Atlanta: This city is home to a lot of great restaurants, and a few even have smoking lounges. Add to the fact that if you enjoy being in a gentleman’s club, you can smoke inside as you enjoy the "talent" on stage. And lastly, it is home to a club called Prohibition where you need to know the password to get through the door. Once inside, you've stepped into the past with a bar that you can smoke in. This alone is enough to put Atlanta on the map. Washington DC: I’ll spare you any Monica Lewinsky jokes, as the greater DC area is home to one of the oldest shops in America, as well as home to the yearly "Little Puff" event which takes place on the rooftop of a steakhouse overlooking the Capitol. The recently-opened Civil Lounge also makes this city a true haven for any cigar connoisseur.
At the center of the scandal? Rumor has it, a Gurkha Grand Reserve. Chattanooga: Rounding out my list is a city that is known for its choo-choo. But what scores its place on my Top-5 list is Burns Tobacconist, which has two iconic shops located within the city limits. What makes it stand out is the fact that at a Chattanooga Lookouts baseball game (the AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers), you can watch the action from right field and smoke a cigar.
Upset that your city did not make my list? Take consolation in knowing that it hurt me deeply to leave off more than a handful. But as I said earlier, the best cigar city is the one in which you enjoy your cigars the most. *MORE
Love is a many-splendored thing; but as Matt Booth has found out the hard way, “splendor” is a very subjective term. Especially if a lover’s splendor involves some hot, hot heat from the bowels of depravity. Let’s just say that Marvin Gaye never sang a love song about Cleveland, if you catch our drift. If you ever see Booth walk with a limp, read this article and you’ll know why. (Warning: adult content.) One fateful day, early on in my blossoming career in the premium tobacco industry, I witnessed firsthand an epic and brutally provocative conversation between two of my contemporaries in the business. The earth of this conversation was argumentative and, in my mind’s eye, logical on both sides. The debate took place in a humble Travelodge suite in Northern California between a young salesman and his superior, both of whom shall remain nameless within this article for the sake of privacy. I will refer to these two individuals by names that, in my opinion, properly represent their stance in the conversation.
Just as all my work here is the examination of the landscape of interpersonal relationships and love within the humanoid sector, likewise was their conversation. The crux of the debate was this aberrant, but poignant question: What acts between two consenting (or not so consenting – if you happen to be in to that kind of party) partners can be considered the communication of true loving feelings and what acts, if any, falls outside the boundaries of an expression of love. As they argued into the night, the young man (hippie/freak-show/new school) challenged his manager (old school/strong-mode) asserting that if someone wants to lay down a plastic tarp, defecate on his/her partner’s chest and commence to masturbating them in their own feces – and this was how these two (or more, ehhh) people intended to love each other – then this act was indeed an act of love. Our life veteran (old school) simply stated that this, and acts of this nature were simply “some other shit” and not acts of love. In this episode we will delve into what I like to call “Dookie Love” and other such acts of deviant sexual behavior in an attempt to find some common ground between the chest-pooping modernized sex aficionados and those of a far more traditional view on sex in hopes of deciphering whether the intimate interactions you’ve been sharing with your partner(s) is love, or simply put - some other shit. It is difficult to say just how far back the practice of Dookie Love (or other such acts) goes. During previous chapters in the timeline of life, it is, not surprisingly, difficult to find any official information regarding such sexual behaviors as the world was a far less “open-minded” place. Historically, even far less deviant acts, like ATM (that is less deviant, right?), were considered taboo. As recently as the 1950s the hip shaking of Elvis Presley was cut from television broadcasts as it was deemed inappropriate and provocative. With that said, it has to be assumed that any record of medieval chest pooping and such would be buried deep in the archives human sexuality. Only somewhat recently in our “modernized” and “progressive” society has it become more acceptable to push the boundaries of what may have never even crossed the minds of your parents while engaged in the act of matrimonial (or not so matrimonial) coitus. Whether you select to partake or not – just look at it this way, that pleasant young lady that bags your grandmother’s groceries every Sunday down at the local market might be baking her mom an apple pie right now, homemade with love. That same wholesome young girl from the corner market may also (in the privacy of her own home or in the auditorium of your local underground swinger/freak show sex club) currently be hanging upside down from the rafters, utilizing a stainless steel spiked leather harness whilst a live pheasant is being forcefully jammed up her petite and wholesome brown eye. My point, my esteemed brothers and sisters of the leaf, is that you never know what is going on behind someone’s bedroom door.
Now if that isn’t enough to have you look at every single person you come across sideways – let’s move on. Upon a recent visit to the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood, for research purposes of course, I unearthed a plethora of fine merchandise. I had to assume that the trinkets and gadgets offered for sale within this fine establishment were intended as tools to help people facilitate and communicate what they believed to be love with their partner(s). I frolicked amongst a fantastic selection of latex facemasks, mastodon-gauged scepters of faux-flesh and even electric shock kits. While browsing the selection there, I sought the assistance of the staff and began asking many questions, such as but not limited to: “Where exactly would you insert something like this?” and “Is there a multiple item discount?”. Many times I found myself simply asking, “Good God man, why??” Had even I fallen off?
Am I now a dinosaur of traditional and less than cutting edge practices?
Marvin Gaye never sang to me about any of these apparatus. How can these be valid tools (shudder) on the shuffleboard of romance?
I felt that it was my duty to my readership here that I investigate further. I loaded the black bags filled with all of my newly acquired merchandise into my privately owned vehicle and trundled off down the road heading home. I felt the wind in my hair whilst my knees clamored with nervous energy. I then thought – whomever shall I call to help me make sense of all of this? I first anxiously dialed a one Mr. Dylan Austin (esteemed Director of Marketing for fancy cigar brands such as Camacho and *cough cough* Room101) I then attempted to try my good friend Mr. Jim Young (president of fancy cigar brands such as Davidoff USA) and good friend Douglas Laue (CFO of fancy cigar brands such as Davidoff USA) again; I was sent to voicemail – I called my contemporaries within the industry, bloggers and consumers alike. The people I reached (I am sure) assumed that I, Matt Booth, was simply “at it again”, creating more of my signature antics for my own or our mutual entertainment. Nevertheless, I had become the little boy who cried wolf. Distraught and alone, I drug the large and cumbersome murdered-out satchels across the threshold of my living quarters. What happened over the course of the next two weeks behind that closed door will not make the prime time spotlight of my featured article here. Just know that I spared no expense (physically, psychologically and monetarily) to explore this subject matter to the end all – be all depths of depravity and self-respectless rock bottom necessary to perpetrate every possible scenario against myself - All in the name of journalism. My goal? Bringing an understanding of this topic to light for my readership, obviously. The self-rape I subjected myself to was all encompassing and more than likely due to several adverse physical side effects that were a direct result of my experiments, impossible to recreate or perpetrate against myself again. I had fed myself from the bottom of the waters of the river Sodom, and my palate (cigar term everybody! Do you see the connection! Yessss!) was satiated with this vermin-esque finish (and again!). I suppose my point would be this: Love is a beautiful thing – if you are fortunate enough to find it in your lifetime wrap very heavy chains around it and don’t let it out of your sight. Make babies with someone you love and afford your offspring opportunities that you never had as a child – out of love. Find your equal, your partner and your best friend to hold and to cherish for the rest of your days. Don’t pee on them, embrace them like a decent human being. Chances are if you have the urge to bring scat play into the bedroom your copulation communication probably has more to do with loathing yourself (self-defecation?) than actually loving someone else. Maybe mom didn’t love you enough – or perhaps your dad loved you a little too much. Whatever the case may be, I’m sure there is help out there for you and I hope that my work here may have potentially shed some light through the darkness of the confusion you face every day in your forest of sexual dysfunction. It was a long and arduous road my little chitlins, but I have concluded, at the expense of the very fibers that somehow hold together the frays of my own personal sanity, that love is beautiful and clean – let’s all work together to keep it that way. *MORE
In my time in the customer service department I would frequently speak with wives or friends of cigar smokers trying to find a birthday, wedding, or Christmas gift for their loved one. Often they would ask how long cigars can last before they go stale. Even some regular cigar smokers would ask this every once in a while, and it always left me a little speechless when a cigar smoker asked me. You would think someone who picked up cigars as a hobby would know that cigars actually never really go “stale.” Let me explain…
The only way cigars go stale is when they are stored improperly. If a cigar dries out, it will start losing its nicotine content and flavor in about 2 months. Even if you try to re-humidify it, which would take forever, it’s a lost cause. I had a customer say he found a box from 3 years ago that he had simply forgotten to put in his humidor. He asked me if they would still be good to smoke if there was any way to salvage them. Sadly, the answer was an emphatic no. However, if properly stored, a cigar can last decades and still be ready to light and enjoy.
Keep in mind that even though a cigar can last a long time in proper storage, the flavor profile of the cigar will change, mostly for the better. Maduros tend to get smoother, Connecticut wraps get a little more mellow and velvety, and Ligero starts to lose its power after about 1-2 years, turning from a powerhouse into a flavorful medium-full bodied smoke. A great example is when I visited Nat Sherman in NYC one afternoon. They showed me around the member’s only section, which featured a humidor that looked more like a dresser. Inside were all pre-embargo Cuban cigars gifted to Nat Sherman by the Fuente family after they fled Cuba. Hundreds of Cuban cigars, just sitting there behind glass, off limits to the public with only about 3 smoked. All were kept in pristine condition. Even though the cigars were over 50 years old they were all in perfect smoking condition, looking as though they were rolled just last week.
In fact, most of the cigars that you buy usually are aged in the factory for a minimum of 60 days, if not a few years, according to the manufacturer's specifications. They then age even further while sitting in the warehouse of the retailer you are purchasing from. Sometimes boxes can sit for 2-3 years on top of a manufacturers aging period before they ship to your house. So next time you think your cigars have gotten stale because they sat in your humidor too long, they probably got better.*MORE
Heat, moisture, and organic material are a surefire recipe for the growth of mold. Unfortunately, these conditions also describe a cigar humidor that is properly maintained. Indeed, to care for cigars is to walk a razor's edge: too much heat and humidity, and you risk developing mold and tobacco beetles. Not enough moisture, and you risk your cigars drying out and becoming stale.
In this article, we'll focus on restoring your humidor to its former glory after developing mold.
The first thing to know is that mold spores are literally everywhere, so it's not worthwhile to think of them as the enemy. Only under the right conditions – plenty of heat, humidity, and organic material – do they develop into the visible colonies that can plague cigars and humidors. The recommended threshold for heat and humidity is 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 72% humidity, but cigars can be stored long-term at a Rh of 60% or even 55%. Once these conditions are exceeded, that's when the spores begin to manifest as the colorful splotches that cause off-flavors and aromas in a cigar.
Mold grows relatively slowly, so if you check your humidor on a regular basis, you're likely to first notice a musty smell. Whether you're in those early stages or you have a full-blown mold outbreak on your hands, the sooner you mitigate the problem, the better.
Begin by emptying your humidor. Brush any mold off your cigars, and place them in a cool, dry environment while you clean your humidor. Next, take the humidor outside and carefully brush any growing mold from the humidor, so as not to cause staining on the interior wood surfaces.
Once complete, it's time to kill the spores. Using a light solution of distilled water and isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, wipe down all of the humidor's interior surfaces, and leave it open while it dries. This will kill any visible mold, but remember that most of the mold is not actually visible.
Another proven tactic is to lightly sand the interior surfaces with a fine grit sandpaper. Just make sure to wipe down after sanding to clean up any dust.
Your humidor may require several such treatments to completely remove all existing mold, and even then, there may still be a funky, musty smell. Place a paper plate of baking soda into the humidor to absorb these smells, changing as necessary.
Even then, some smells may linger. These will dissipate over time, especially if you commit to maintaining proper humidity and temperature, and keep it filled with plenty of cigars.
It's time to re-season your now-dry humidor by wiping down the walls with a new sponge and distilled water.*MORE
Here's something to ponder when you've got nothing better to do. Chances are you know how big your property is in acres, square yards or feet, but do you know how big it is in furlongs? You've probably heard the term in the context of horseracing. And now that we're in the midst of The Sport of Kings run for the Triple Crown, it's useful to know the meaning and origin of this term.
Let's start with distance: A Furlong is equal to one-eighth of a mile, or 220 yards, or 660 feet; take your pick. Taking it one step further, if a horserace is paced for five furlongs, the horses will run a distance of 1 kilometer.
As for the origin of the word Furlong, it dates back to the early Anglo-Saxon days and comes from two Old English words: furh ("furrow"), and lang ("long). In medieval times, people farmed on communal fields that were divided into long strips of land. Each strip was a furlong in length (220 yards) by a width of 22 yards. Therefore, a furlong was the length of the furrow in one acre of a plowed, open field. Today, most city blocks are one furlong long.
For the Romans, a furlong was regarded as the equivalent to a Roman stade, or stadium, which was 625 feet in length. There were 8 stade to a mile, or 1,000 "paces," which is where the numerical term mille (for 1,000) comes from. A distance of three miles was called a league, or the distance the average man could walk in one hour. Since one pace was equal to 5 feet, the Roman mile was based on a distance of 5,000 feet. Pretty close, but no cigar.
Even after the Roman Empire's demise, Medieval Europe continued to use the Roman system up until the turn of the 14th century. Due to complications in trade and taxation calculations, in 1300 England finally decreed a standardized list of measures. For distance and length, you now had the foot, the yard, the rod (or "pole"), which measured 5½ yards (or 16½ ft.), the furlong, at 40 rods, and because the mile had been standardized to 5,280 feet, it was now equal to 8 furlongs.
If you do the math: 40 rods/furlong x 16½ feet/rod = 660 ft. (or 1 furlong). Multiply 660 ft. by 8 and you get 5,280 ft. Voila!
Under the British "Weights and Measures Act of 1985," the furlong, including other traditional units of measure, was eradicated in the UK. So, the only place you'll still hear the term furlong used on a regular basis is in The Sport of Kings.*MORE
When it comes to men's style, simplicity is the name of the game. Broadly speaking, we're just not interested in spending hours primping before work or any other occasion – the easier, the better. This goes doubly so for wearing a suit, which for lots of guys is a hassle in itself. But what many men fail to realize is that elevating a formal look from "good" to "wow!" is as easy as choosing the right knot for their necktie. The compliments alone will be worth it!
Choosing the right necktie knot starts with understanding the variables involved. These include the size of one's neck and face, the style of shirt collar, and the thickness of the tie itself. There is also the occasion to consider: formal occasions call for large, stately symmetrical knots, whereas smaller and asymmetrical knots work well in less-formal settings.
If you're not familiar with the different types of necktie knots, then you probably tie a "four-in-one-hand" knot. This slim, asymmetrical knot has been passed down for generations from father to son without regard for any of the factors mentioned above. It is ideal for narrower or buttoned collars, thin ties, and thin to medium-sized faces and necks, but appears comically small on larger men, wider collars, and with thicker ties.
For most men, an easy upgrade is the "Half-Windsor" knot. This symmetrical, triangular knot will work with a basic dress shirt, most faces and necks, and an average-sized tie. The Half-Windsor projects a more classic, established look than the four-in-one-hand knot, which can appear boyish.
So-called "spread-collar" shirts require an even-broader knot, and therefore a wider tie. In this situation, a good go-to is the Windsor (or Full Windsor), a large, symmetrical triangular knot. This combination of shirt and tie will appear oversized on thin men and boys, but will flatter broader-framed or heavier men. The look projects masculine confidence that's ideal for an interview or the boardroom, but decidedly out-of-of place in an informal setting.
For most men, having two of the aforementioned three knots in the rotation should prove plenty. There is no shortage of tutorials for tying these basic knots on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet. However, if you'd like to go deeper down the rabbit hole, you could purchase Thomas Fink and Yong Mao's classic 85 Ways to Tie a Tie and learn how and when to tie a Grantchester, Pratt (or Nicky), Small, St. Andrews, Oriental, Kelvin, Plattsburgh, Cavendish, or dozens of other knots. *MORE
Jeremy Yow investigates the role of social media in the world of premium cigars. Like many niches, social media is actually expanding the industry as a whole and connecting us to a whole new crowd of people that has been otherwise untouched in the past. Consumers can find out about new cigars being produced, the latest news, reviews, forum conversations, contests, and retailer specials and stock with a few clicks of a button or touch screen. Admit it – you’re dependent on social media, aren’t you? How do I know? Aside from the fact that you’re reading an online magazine, it is very likely that you stumbled upon this publication via a post on Facebook or Google+, a Tweet, an email, or a link provided by someone on a blog or forum. However you found this article, now that you are here, you are using social media as you read this. Welcome to the Social Age, my fellow dependent! The signs will show themselves if you review your morning routine in your head. Like me, you probably wake up and check your phone for texts or emails. You hit Facebook or Twitter for any updates, and only then do you go brew a fresh pot of coffee. I bet you’re even reading this article at work. The constant yearn for information, entertainment, and communication with the world drives us to use the internet like never before. In years past, we relied on newspapers, telegraphs and letters, which later became radio, telephone, and television to gather information. While these methods sped up the process of getting information, they pale in comparison to the Wi-Fi and mobile data that power our smartphones. Like many niches, the cigar industry is also impacted by social media. Social media is actually expanding the industry as a whole and connecting us to a whole new crowd of people that has been otherwise untouched in the past. Consumers can find out about new cigars being produced, the latest news, reviews, forum conversations, contests, and retailer specials and stock with a few clicks of a button or touch screen. In fact, several shops or cities have cigar festivals dedicated to the bonding that takes place among cigar smokers via social media. Places like Chattanooga, TN and Washington, D.C. have annual Tweet-Ups where smokers, reps, owners, and bloggers all congregate to celebrate their love for a good cigar. At the same time, the industry faces its fair share of potential problems via social media as well. Think of how consumers' buying habits can be affected by a few unfavorable cigar reviews or how comments made in a forum can spark controversy and contempt. There are those who exploit the generosity of B/SOTLs in trades or sales arranged online. I've seen communities swallowed whole by groupthink, their members seemingly compelled to praise or condemn a brand or cigar maker based not on merit, but on the opinions of others. The scenarios go on and on So what does any of this mean? Well, it is unlikely that the use of social media is going to decrease anytime soon, so it only makes sense for both the producer and the consumer to make the most of it. With access to almost limitless information comes a greater need to manage and organize it, hence the trend towards developing programs and apps that do exactly that. We are already starting to see apps developed specifically for certain cigar sites and companies and I am sure more will surface. Direct communication between cigar companies and consumers can also lead to many developments in the industry, including direct feedback on what types of blends smokers are most interested in, identifying and resolving product issues quickly, and helping consumers locate specific cigars they may otherwise have difficulty finding. Maybe it will also convince makers to reverse the big ring gauge craze and put more lanceros out on the market! (Wishful thinking, I know!) As the interaction between companies and consumers increases, the cigar community will continue to attract new members. Hopefully, the larger and more diverse the consumer base, the more people there will be to ensure a vibrant market and defend our rights as cigar smokers. Cigar smoking is no longer reserved for the "boys club" or rich investment bankers; its appeal reaches people of all income brackets and backgrounds. From the "poor college student" to the "blue collar worker” to doctors and lawyers, people from a variety of backgrounds are getting into the hobby. Much of this can be attributed to the wealth of information about and the strong sense of family within the cigar community. It can also be credited to the ability to market in new ways to large groups of people instantaneously. Plus, customers can search reviews to find strengths and profiles of cigars similar to the ones they already like, and can make a more informed choice next time they buy. With the power to connect more cigar hobbyists than ever before, not to mention the ability to make or break a cigar brand, social media is a double edged sword. However, the fact remains that it is a powerful tool for the future of any industry, cigars included. With social media platforms and their capabilities growing exponentially, embracing it can only benefit the consumer. The Social Age has arrived, and it is here to stay.*MORE
Jonathan Drew shares the story of how one tory and one song unlocked a whole different meaning for him, and a room full of friends: “finally all together in one place sharing cigars, drinks, hamburgers - and the stories of our lives.” JD drops some wisdom on why we, as cigar smokers, are so often referred to as a “brotherhood” – it’s what cigar smoking is all about, that's what life is all about - camaraderie, friendship, love for our brothers and sisters. "Everything I'm not made me everything I am" - KANYE WEST.
If I can learn anything from anyone, I tend to like them. I know it's a relatively low standard at first glance, but ... It's who I am.
Recently, I have been writing a lot about the past 14 years of running our factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. A lot of hard times and pain rolled up in that factory. So many conversations and memories trapped within the cooling room walls - just bustin’ the seams of my brain box, fighting to come out. But even with the struggle, these brutal days were the best ones of my life. So many people who have influenced my values, beliefs and wisdom in so many ways...
Some of these people were transient, just passin’ thru those green hills of Northern Nicaragua. Others never left my side. Either way, I can sincerely say that all of them have helped shape who I am as a man. It's these personal and powerful reflections that led me to write my fourth monthly column for Cigar Advisor - "JUST A FRIEND". As a fat, awkward, class clown growing up in New York, I guess I identified with a rap artist that some of you may have heard of - named Biz Markie. If the name doesn't ring a bell, maybe the song "Just a Friend" does ... ("Girl, you got what I need, but you say he's just a friend"). Please feel free to hum it out loud while you continue reading. ("Oh baby, you!")
Like me, Biz Markie was also from New York and came up in the mid to late 80's. He was the cousin of Big Daddy Kane, who was a hard core rapper that later reached even greater status after having sex with Madonna and was even in her book.
His cousin Biz Markie, however, was not as well respected as Kane. While Kane was dropping iconic hard core songs of politics and struggle, Biz Markie was making songs like "Pickin Boogers”,"Vapors", and "Just a Friend."
My kind of dude. Who'd a thought that Biz's 1989 song would have the power to influence SNACKi, over here, to name our "go-to stick" from the new KENTUCKY FIRE CURED line of cigars after it...? Guess it really did have a lasting effect on me, but there is more to the story.
It was during a 2012 cigar event at The Leaf Cigar Bar in Easton, Pennsylvania when the song came on ... and everyone, including "Fat Chops", yours truly, was singing all the words together. Well actually, we weren't just singing, we were outright screaming. "Oh baby...!" You see, this event was heavily attended by many people who I have met throughout my travels, and most I've known for years. We were just so thrilled to reunite together at The Leaf that night - and then it hit me...
The "Just a Friend" song unlocked a whole different meaning for me and everyone in the room that rainy night. We were friends, finally all together in one place sharing cigars, drinks, hamburgers - and the stories of our lives. That's what cigar smoking is all about, that's what life is all about - camaraderie, friendship, love for our brothers and sisters The next slice-of-life chapter behind the "Just a Friend" size of our new brand, KENTUCKY FIRE CURED actually took place after the name was fully agreed upon by the Drew Estate team - but is still significant. It happened in our town of Estelí, Nicaragua, where all Drew Estate cigars are made. One of our head guys at the factory, Chino, had received some very bad news while visiting the doctor with his pregnant wife. It was the 7th month of the pregnancy (and their wedding anniversary to boot) when the doc told him that they were going to lose the child - it was imminent. The blow was crushing and we were all destroyed.
Our guy, Chino, who has been with me since 1999 is like a little brother. When he invited me to come to the service at his church, which happens to be perched up in the mountain, I was definitely appreciative. Nervous and sad, angry and bitter, emotions from every angle wisped thru me due to this injustice. As I approached the church I saw Chino standing in the entrance way with his wife, Candy. They were melancholy, eyes red, standing on the dirt floor of a half built church and leaning on a brick frame of a door. They were down for sure, but the dignity that radiated from them was sound.
As we walked inside the church the Pastor greeted us, and again, I was self conscious about the dirt floors. I guess it has been a while since I was in a place with a dirt floor, so the impact was heavy on me. Then the music started and six girls began to sing the most beautiful song I have ever heard. Within minutes I saw Chino and Candy swaying with the music, and the healing power was amongst us. Candy’s hands were raised as she sang along with every word. The emotion broke me down and tears filled my eyes. To my surprise they were both smiling, holding hands and healing right in front of me. A thing of beauty in the deep hills of Northern Nicaragua that makes one proud to have made such friends. This, I quietly thought to myself, is what life is all about: loyalty, camaraderie and friendship.
For some reason all of this made me reflect upon this "Just a Friend" name that we chose for a brand that's based in Southern Hospitality. Heck, we weren't in the South of the US, couldn't be further ... But the feelings were the same. Just a Friend stands for everything Drew Estate is about. Maybe not the exact lyrics that Biz Markie dropped that summer of 1989, maybe not a girl or any person in particular. But something more important, and profound that the cigar community shares with each other as we puff and bullshit about our lives, our problems and our victories together. Cigars are all about friendship. *MORE
Last month, we reviewed the unique selling proposition, ideation and the suit of armor needed to protect your “next big thing.” So are you now ready to put it all on the line for the sweet taste of success? Xikar’s Kurt van Keppel has some time in the aircraft with this part of the process – and he’ll walk you through it, so you don’t have to feel the pain. Last time you saw this space, I was focusing on the key components of the ideation phase of entrepreneurship. First was, "what's YOUR problem?!" Every innovation starts with a unique solution to a problem - the 'unique selling proposition' or "USP," according to that Marketing class you may (or may not) remember. If your solution is truly unique and highly desirable, it alone may be sufficient to create a successful product. Truth: that's not a common occurrence. Secondly, we discussed that an additional suit of armor is often necessary to protect and grow the product. Patents, low price and great service are examples of 'competitive advantages.’ Last time we talked, you – the entrepreneur - were getting your new idea or prototype product ready for that rigorous "shark tank" testing. The next step is deciding whether to partner with an existing distributor, or go it alone. This decision requires careful analysis and soul searching of the risk-reward relationship inherent in both scenarios.
You are already familiar with risk analysis: lenders and investors do it with every investment. The higher the risk they perceive, the higher the return must be. Or, in the case of a lender, the higher the loan cost they will charge. So, it’s decision time - you may decide you can't take a high level of risk and instead choose to share your profits with a distributor, as he already has the infrastructure to deliver fast results through an established sales network. Frankly, that isn’t an unsafe bet; the broader the scope of distribution, the faster the results! At a minimum, a distributor may buy your product and distribute under your brand marketing efforts. At a maximum, he may license the product from you and handle the entire sales and marketing under his own brands. As you can guess, the reward needed increases as your distribution partner's risk increases with his investment in your brand. If you 'go it alone,’ however, you are the investor - the lender to yourself.
You lend yourself the investment in dollars and sweat, in exchange for the full opportunity. This is extraordinarily risky! Truth: Less than 5% of startups succeed. And only a fraction of those succeed beyond the entrepreneur's original income: that's a terrible return on investment, particularly given the risk.
And that risk is huge. You may not have to give up everything, but you better be ready and willing to. You will have to invest both time and money - there's no way to avoid it. Truth: Time is more rare than money (it’s ever-diminishing); and you will almost certainly give up all of your free time, and perhaps all of your savings too! Here’s the kicker: If you’re lucky enough to be a part of that fraction of that 5% - you'll still need money for cash flow, particularly at the point where you must buy product in anticipation of sales. Whether that's the first sale or part of ongoing sales, this is a period of real cash crunch. Ever hear the phrase "cash is king and profit is prince?" It describes this situation really well. But more on that math later. I was a very good employee, but not very good at working for someone else.
If you're like me, this rings true - you may have to, or want to do this on your own. If so, you’ll need two things - first, a market - and then production. Fiction: “In life, there are no shortcuts.” To get the market, call your prospective buyer. Just pick up the phone! Yes, it's that simple, provided you use the right approach. A great way to say it is, "I have a unique new product that focus groups of your target consumer love. What is the best way for me to show it to you?" Essentially, you are asking whether to use a broker to pitch your product or make a direct appointment to do it yourself. The bigger the customer, the more likely they will want you to use a broker - and they will gladly recommend which ones, saving you some legwork! They do this because the broker helps them vet opportunities. If they want to see it immediately and impersonally ("why don’t you send me one to look at"), hesitate. Your product may sell itself, but you want to give the pitch: "I happen to be in (Chicago, Bentonville, Kansas City, etc.) next week. How about I stop in for 10 minutes with a sample and the background market research for you?”
If you called me, I would agree to 10 minutes, but would block out 30 in case I really like it. Once you have your appointment and are on your way in, review and remember this for your pitch: Features, Advantages, Benefits (FAB). Though they should really be presented BAF - because the buyer cares about his benefits first. So, tell your story from his perspective; satisfy his (or her) wants and needs. Money – that’s what I want!
Let assume the pitch was a success. So now that you have your initial purchase orders, money quickly becomes available to you in a variety of forms and costs. Truth: Do everything you can on a shoe-string budget to get to that first big order. Now is the time to cautiously assess "nice to have" versus "need to have" expenses (a patent = need to have, advertising = nice to have). Ask your vendors to give you terms, perhaps even price their product/service payable as you make more successful sales. They will probably want a premium for this, and that's OK - cash is king, profit is prince!
Your bank will be your first and cheapest money source. They will lend against your assets to the extent that they are marketable (usually around 50% of your inventory cost and 75% of your accounts receivable). However, your cash flow budget may show you that you still need more money than the bank will lend. Your next potential cash source at this stage should be friends, family and others who are looking for a better return than the markets currently provide. If they’re willing to take a chance on you, you should expect to pay them a much higher-than-bank interest rate in return (between 10% and 20%, and perhaps even an opportunity to own part of the business, depending on the amount of requested investment). Truth: be sure to engage an attorney to help you draft or review the loan documents. There are also strict SEC laws surrounding the marketing of business shares to private individuals - check with your lawyer on that, too.
At this stage, you may find you need even more money - or cannot find an alternative funding source. This may lead you to the worlds of Venture Capital and Private Equity. VC's invest in startups; PE's usually invest in ongoing firms. If you’re not sure where to start, your banker will have a list he can recommend to you. These funds will make much higher investments, but will take much higher returns - both 20% return on capital investment as well as an option to buy into shares at a reduced price. A good friend of mine who is part of a PE group once told me, "You don't want my kind of money if you can find it elsewhere!"
If you have a unique new product, I hope this helps you get started. Next time, we’ll review the "4 P's of Marketing" and how they apply to the entrepreneur. As a parting thought, here's a quick picture of how the cash-flow cycle can be negative while profit is positive, and therefore why the rich aren't always as rich as you may think. Remember we talked about cash, profit kings, and princes? Let’s do the numbers:
Say you sell $100 dollars (easy math here) worth of your product in year one, which cost you $60. You have $40 left over to pay your expenses, which totaled $30, so your income is $10. From that, your partner old Uncle Sam gets $3.50, and you also pay the bank $2.40 interest fees, leaving you $4.10 to take home. However, on January 1 of year two, you must now buy inventory against your anticipated 25% growth rate, adding $15 to inventory cash costs - ($25 sales growth x 60% cost of goods). Yet, clearly you can't afford that, because you only "took home" $4.10! This is only slightly simplified for brevity - you won't spend $15 on January 1. But, another truth: you will spend it, and you will need to finance it.
That's exactly why cash is king over profit. The solution is to spend frugally and wisely, grow slowly, and find a good banker or a partner/distributor who takes on the capital risk.
This is also why the "rich" aren't always rich. It's also why (WARNING: potentially political statement here) raising taxes on the "rich" can have a negative effect on economic growth - at least among the "rich" who are entrepreneurs or small business owners. Since the vast majority of American business is small businesses, I’m still holding out to see a better solution. Good luck!
Kurt Van Keppel*MORE
Sought for its robust flavor and complexity, the Corojo leaf was developed during the 1930's by Diego Rodriguez in Cuba's famed Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing region. Using selective breeding, Rodriguez created the Corojo seed from the Criollo seed. This month we take a closer look at the origins of this flavorful leaf whose name comes from the Santa Ines del Corojo Vega, a.k.a. the "El Corojo" plantation, not far from the town of San Luis y Martinez in Pinar del Rio. With the myriad variety of wrapper leaves available for premium handmade cigars these days, there's one leaf to which tobacco growers, blenders and cigar smokers alike have been drawn: Corojo. One reason for this is Corojo is the famed leaf of Cuba's finest cigars made between the 1930's and the 1990's.
Sought for its robust flavor and complexity, the Corojo leaf was developed during the 1930's by Diego Rodriguez in Cuba's famed Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing region. Using selective breeding, Rodriguez created the Corojo seed from the Criollo seed. The leaf's name comes from the Santa Ines del Corojo Vega, a.k.a. the "El Corojo" plantation, not far from the town of San Luis y Martinez in Pinar del Rio. The farm got its El Corojo name and logo from a palm tree that Rodriguez found growing on the plantation. This palm tree is clearly illustrated on boxes of HC Cigars which are blended by Jesus Fuego. Rodriguez's goal was to produce a superior-quality wrapper for making Cuban cigars, but it didn't happen overnight; Rodriguez had been working the farm since the early 1920's. Rodriguez matured his Corojo plants under shade, as Connecticut leaf wrapper is, using a tapado or cheesecloth tent that filters the light and heat of the blistering Cuban sun. The result was a plant that produced eight to nine pairs of leaves with very fine veins and ripened to a dark brown, uniform color. Ultimately favored for its distinctively sweet/spicy/peppery character and remarkable smoothness, from the 1930's through the 1990's Señor Rodriguez's Corojo wrapper was used exclusively on all Cuban cigars. As ideal as Corojo was for making Cuban cigars, the leaf was so delicate that it was susceptible to the dreaded Blue mold and Black shank, among other devastating tobacco diseases. By the 1990's the Cubans had all but ceased growing both Corojo and Criollo leaf. The seeds for these tobaccos were replaced by crossbred seeds that were resistant to disease. By comparison, the color, elasticity, flavor, and aroma of these new breeds was every bit as good for use as top-grade wrapper.
The first of these new hybrid seeds was Habana 2000. Popular during the 1990's, it was a crossbreed of authentic Corojo seed and Bell 61-10, used for making Cuban cigarettes. Though it is still used in some cigars, due to fermentation issues and burn problems, Habana 2K eventually faded into the mist.
Following Habana 2K were Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99. Allegedly hybrids of Cuban and Connecticut seeds, these wrappers have been much more successful. One of the Central America's largest suppliers of tobacco, Plasencia, grows the hybrid strains of Corojo and Criollo leaf on their plantations in Honduras and Nicaragua. Nestor Plasencia, Jr. uses this tobacco in his Plasencia Reserva Organica cigars. Since the tobaccos are organically-grown, no chemicals or pesticides can be used on the plants. As a result, Nestor has to use seeds that are disease resistant. Hybrid Corojo is not only highly resistant to Black Shank, it also yields a darker and sweeter tasting leaf. Used mainly for wrapper, in some cases hybrid Corojo is also used as filler, which adds a little extra zing to the blend. Other manufacturers that have used Corojo and Criollo to create some of the world's most highly-rated cigars are La Aurora, CAO, and Alec Bradley Cigars, to name but a few.
Perhaps the most recognized grower of "authentic" Cuban-seed Corojo and Criollo tobaccos is Camacho Cigars, who have been using it since the 1960's. Grown by the Eiroa family in the Jamastran Valley of Honduras where the soil and climate are ideal for growing these tobaccos, their first Corojo seeds were acquired directly from Diego Rodriguez's grandson, Daniel. As a result, Camacho cigars are as close to smoking a classic, pre-embargo Cuban cigar as it gets. Though their Corojo leaf is also susceptible to disease, the company maintains that the seed has adapted well to the fertile soil of the JamastranValley resulting in a tobacco leaf that's naturally robust and full-bodied. Though he and his family left after Castro nationalized the cigar industry, today Diego Rodriguez's El Corojo plantation continues to produce tobacco for Cuban Cigars. In a 1995 interview, Diego's granddaughter, Adelaida Perez Fuentes said, "When my family left Cuba in 1960, we took the memories of El Corojo with us." "The government took everything from us. What were we to do?"*MORE
Of all the positions played in the world of sports, why would anyone with a sane and rational thinking mind make the choice to become an ice hockey goaltender? The answer is simple – there is nothing sane or rational about the men who stand between the pipes of doom. Cigar Advisor exposes the psychotic nature of goaltenders, the crazies who strap on the tools of ignorance for no good reasons we can come up with. Lunatic legends like Patrick Roy, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, and Gump Worsley take us to the dark side, while Flyers Hall of Famer, Bernie Parent goes one on one with our very own Tommy Zman. From the maskless cage dwellers of yesteryear, to the modern netminding nutjobs, we take a look at the vocation with no good explanation. Psychosis: an abnormal condition or derangement that refers to an abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality".
It has often been said that the position of goaltender is played by people with multiple screws loose in their cerebellum. Goalies are branded as being quirky, weird, crazy, hyper or distant and aloof - or as my Italian friend best puts it, “They just ain’t right in the friggin head.” You might think I’m over generalizing just a tad, I mean, is it really fair to say that all goaltenders are certified psyche ward candidates? Well, as one who played the position at a very high level for a good twelve years of my life, I can honesty tell you there’s a reason why I bathe with my clothes on and eat steak dinners through a straw. As a teen, I played the position on several high level travel teams, culminating with my final year on ice as a member of the New Jersey Rockets, the 1979 United States Junior B National Champions. I played against young Herculean thugs that could fire a puck in the hundred-mile an hour range and I had the scars to prove it – both physically and mentally. While in high school, I had so many bruises of the purple and green variety on my arms that my teachers thought for sure I was a junkie. Oh, I was a junkie all right, a Jason mask wielding, puck sucking junkie, much to my mother’s dismay. Goaltenders are a fraternity, a breed apart that bear the weight of the world on their shoulders when entering that six by four foot cage. The job is to stop a rock-hard projectile of vulcanized rubber from entering the goal, and when they fail to do so (at the professional level), 20,000 people in an opposing arena cheer in mass delirium. Some vocation, huh? You see, goalies are considered to be the back bone of any team, the last line of defense whose actions can either preserve a much-needed team victory, or have him labeled as the “goat”, depressed and despondent for days on end. And, while the inherent physical dangers of the position are astounding, it is the mental pressures that can fuck with a man ‘til his final days on earth. Come on, Zman, if it’s really as bad as you say, why would anyone “choose” to do it? And THAT, is something I have struggled with lo these many years. What would make a man strap on his equipment, aptly referred to as the “tools of ignorance”, and accept the pressures of possible horrific failure, or worse yet, being maimed or even killed? In a recent sit down with NHL Hall of Fame Goaltender Bernie Parent, I asked him what it was like in the early 70’s to face Chicago’s Bobby Hull, a man with forearms like Mighty Joe Young, who possessed a Howitzer-like slap shot once clocked at 120 mph? “You cannot play the position if you have any fear,” the ex-Flyer great remarked, “Fear is what caused many a goalie to quit the game. But the only guy that had me on edge was Hull. There were times he would come down the wing about 20 feet above the circle and I’d think to myself, God, please let the son of a bitch just score!” And while Bernie chuckled with tongue planted firmly in his cheek, he was probably just “half” kidding. Back in those days, the equipment was archaic, paling in comparison to today’s light weight composite armor, also used in fortifying M1 tanks. And while the risk of serious injury was indeed greater than today, you can times that by 100 for the netminders of the 1960’s and earlier. Now those lunatics played the game without any facial protection, whatsoever. For almost a century, ice hockey goaltenders played without masks, something that is inconceivable by any time period’s standards. But it was a man named Jacques Plante, one of the greatest to ever flaunt the tools of fools, who would change the game forever. In his career with the Montreal Canadiens, Plante had a collection of injuries that were a medical journal writer’s dream. He suffered through four broken noses, two shattered cheek bones, and a fractured skull, all until a game on November 1, 1959 in New York’s MadisonSquareGarden, when the Ranger’s Andy Bathgate ripped a shot into Plante’s unprotected puss, splitting him open like a butcher on a rump roast. The Canadiens back stop rushed to the locker room, only to return to the ice twenty minutes later with his faced heavily stitched, while donning a crude mask that he made for himself to use in practices only. Although in a daze, preceded by the swallowing of a gallon of his own blood, Jacques finished the game, beating the Rangers 3-1, and from that moment on, one by one, goalies began to wear a face mask. So you ask me if goalies are all certifiable. Black Hawks great, Glenn Hall used to vomit his guts up before every game he ever played. Hall was once quoted as saying, “It’s the only way I can support my family - if I could do it another way, I wouldn’t be playing goal.” Montreal’s Patrick Roy would have conversations with his goal posts between stoppage’s of play. Between periods of each game, journeyman netminder Gary Smith would completely undress from all his equipment, shower, then redress for the start of the next period. New York Rangers renowned nut-job, Gilles Gratton insisted that being a goalie was strictly karmic, punishment for bad deeds in a prior life. He actually told his coach that he refused to start in goal one night because the moon was in the wrong place in the sky. Canadiens great, Gump Worsley said, “Goaltending?... The only job worse is a javelin catcher at a track-and- field meet.” And then there was ten year NHL veteran, Wilf Cude who when asked by his wife how a particular goal had beaten him, he hurled his steak dinner at her head - prompting his immediate search for a brand new profession. Yes, people, I can assure you that the men who guard them pipes be insane - nuts, whacked, loony, psychotic - certifiably bat-shit fucking crazy. I hope I’ve made myself painfully clear on the subject matter. And as for me, well, I’m doing just fine these days… all except for the involuntary barking during a full moon and the urge to play lawn darts in the nude, I’m living a productive life. Thanks for asking.
- Tommy Zman*MORE
Our inner pirate found a boat pro and said, “Cap’n, we’ve scraped together 200 grand and want you to find us a couple of killer boats to sail the high seas.” Sure, it’s a fantasy – but our captain’s picks are not. If you’re in the market for a boat, or even in fantasy land like us – come sail away with Cigar Advisor and see the vessels that would even make Blackbeard jealous. Yachting author R.D. Culler once wrote that "boats, like whiskey, are all good."
Even so, some boats - like some whiskeys - are better than others. That’s why Cigar Advisor asked me, an avid sailor who’s been messing about in boats since I could handle a tiller, to come up with a list of the best new sailboats for under $200,000.
The biggest mistake is to buy the wrong boat – not the wrong brand or model necessarily, but the wrong type of boat. The first thing you need to do is think about what kind of sailing is realistic for you and then chose the boat that matches your skills and ambitions. To simplify things a bit, I’ve divided the list into two broad categories – daysailers and cruisers.
Daysailer vs. Cruiser
The daysailer is a boat for that weekend jaunt across the bay or the hour-long sunset cruise after a hard day at the office. You will want ease of sail handling and plenty of room in the cockpit to stretch your legs and entertain guests. Accommodations below deck are typically Spartan at best (sitting, not standing, headroom). After all, you’re not planning on crossing oceans, right?
However, if you want to do some occasional cruising – coastal or beyond the horizon, you’ll want comfortable sleeping berths for the skipper, first mate and/or guests, a galley for cooking meals underway and a vessel designed to handle a wider range of weather conditions. Look for a good amount of storage, water and fuel capacity for longer trips, a reliable engine and plenty of secure and conveniently placed handholds above and below deck. Under $75,000:
Daysailer: Harbor 20. This sporty, fun and handsome daysailer has made a splash in recent years on both U.S. coasts. And with good reason - the Harbor 20’s elegant simplicity makes it a joy to sail solo or with a small family. All the control lines are led into the cockpit, putting everything at your fingertips. The self-tacking jib takes any unnecessary drama out of sailing upwind. As an option, there’s a whisper-quiet electric motor that folds into the hull to reduce drag. Several Harbor 20 class associations have popped up across theU.S., so racing is also an option. Estimated sail away price: $37,000.
Hunter Marine, along with chief rival Catalina Yachts, basically wrote the book on mass-market sailboats in the 1970s and Hunter continues to put out a respectable line at affordable prices. Calling the Hunter 27 a “blue water” vessel would be a stretch, but she’s definitely up to shorter coastal hops in decent weather. There’s adequate standing headroom for most (6’2”), sleeping accommodations for three or four adults, a small but serviceable galley and a working head. The Hunter 27 is powered by an Elco Electric motor with a range of 20 miles. There are two keel options, a “shoal” for gunkholing in shallow water and a standard keel for more stability in open water. Estimated sail away price: $74,000. $75,000 - $150,000:
Alerion 28 Express
There’s no question – the Alerion 28 is a real head-turner, and the best of both worlds – traditional lines that give her the look of a classic gentleman’s yacht, but an abbreviated underside that speak to speed and performance. She’s got everything you’d want in a daysailer – lots of space in the cockpit, a self-tacking jib and sleek saildrive with the option for electric propulsion for precise (and quiet) maneuvering in and out of the dock or for those times when the wind gods let you down. Estimated sail away price: $145,000.
Beneteau First 30
Few boat builders have done more to raise the bar on design and quality over the past few decades than has French maker Beneteau. One glance at the First 30 and you’re more likely to think ocean racer than family cruiser – that’s because Beneteau contracted designer Juan Kouyoumdjian, himself a two-time Volvo Ocean Race winner, for the design. Down below, the First 30 has a smart layout, 6’ of headroom, a head, galley and full navigation station. Beneteau offers an optional shoal keel if you plan to go cruising in thin water – though it means sacrificing some of the boat’s superior sailing qualities. Estimated sail away price: $135,000. $150,000 - $200,000:
If boats were cars, the M29 would be a classic roadster – looks that could kill with plenty of speed and maneuverability. With its wisp of a coach roof and gobs of deck space, the M29 is inspired by famed design house Sparkman & Stevens. Below the waterline is a sleek, modern fin keel, spade rudder and saildrive. The M29 has control lines led aft to the spacious cockpit and a self-tacking jib, just like the other daysailers mentioned above. Below deck there’s a head, but no galley and just about enough space for two adults to sleep. Estimated sail away price: $200,000. Tartan 3400
Tartan is another legendary name in fiberglass production boats. The 3400 is an evolution of an earlier 34’ Tartan that has already taken its place as a modern classic. In short, there’s a lot of cruising boat here for the money. The accommodations are airy and comfortable for a boat of this size, with open space, a galley that is easy to use underway, a full head and navigation station. The 3400 has a 27hp Yanmar diesel, an engine that’s synonymous with reliability. She’s got everything you need for a family to go cruising for days or weeks at a time. Estimated sail away price: $200,000. Before we leave you, it's worth noting that fiberglass doesn't rot or rust, and since most pleasure yachts after the 1960s have been made from glass, there's a virtually limitless supply of pre-owned boats. So, if this list is out of your price range, there are plenty of deals to be had in the second-hand market. *MORE
Chances are, you recently heard the question: “does anyone have a knife?!” In this month’s MANual, we put you in the know as to why and how that little lifesaver should be in your pants’ pocket. Whether you might need to be opening, trimming, slicing or dicing, you never know when a proper knife will come in handy – but you know that it will. See why the pocket knife should be on the list of every man’s essentials. Every man has a morning routine, something along the lines of a quick shower followed by minor grooming, dressing, and just before walking out the door, filling his pockets. For the minimalist, it is the wallet, the phone, keys, and - for those in-the-know - a pocketknife.
While knives come in all shapes and sizes, the classic pocket knife finds use in everyday life. Sure, the Swiss Army knife is a household name, but with its variety of tools, it is unnecessarily bulky and uncomfortable in the pocket. Multi-tools like this are useful in certain situations; however, a standard single blade knife should be a part of every man’s routine.
The Wenger Giant Knife (illustrate) is the largest Swiss Army knife in the game, boasting the ability to handle 141 functions. In addition to the standard blade, can opener and toothpick, it includes a fold-out laser pointer, 4 golf tools, 3 fishing tools, no less than a dozen different screwdrivers, rivet setter, magnifying glass, wrench, tire tread gauge and a cigar cutter among its 87 implements. Oh, yeah - and tweezers. Some may argue against the usefulness of carrying one daily, but we have all been in situations where you will inevitably be forced to ask, “Does anyone have a knife?!” Whether you are opening, trimming, slicing or dicing, you never know when a proper knife will come in handy.
The pocketknife has a long history that dates back to the iron-age, a period in which the use of steel and iron became widespread. From weapons to decor, the use of iron expanded many industries of the day. It is here that the world caught its first glimpse of the modern day pocketknife. Today, the pocketknife is synonymous with the Swiss Army knife, a multi-tool that was provided to the Swiss infantry in the field. It allowed a single tool to handle basic tasks around the camp from opening canned food to cutting open bags and machine maintenance. However, a good ol’ fashioned pocketknife can simply be a lightweight, single blade that stores within itself through a spring mechanism. Many of the finest knives are built right here in the US of A and when purchasing, quality goes a long way.
When you go from the person asking for a knife to the person who whips it out, you’ll begin to find more and more uses as it becomes routine. Take, for instance, your day off: you have a chance to get a few things done around the house, both inside and out. After your aforementioned morning routine, you are locked and loaded with your trusty pocketknife.
The name most people associate with a pocketknife these days isn’t Bear Grylls – it’s Aron Ralston. He’s the one who, while climbing in Utah, was trapped when an 800-pound boulder fell on his arm and trapped him in a canyon. Five days later, with food and water running out, he braced himself against the boulder to break his bones snap - then used his pocket knife to amputate his own arm, freeing himself. He capped that feat off by rappelling down a 65 foot wall and walking until he was found by hikers. Hopefully, your pocketknife usage is more tame than his. First order of business is the mail. The letter opener used to be a staple in many homes, but as paper mail fell victim to growing communication technologies, so did the letter opener. However, packages and bills still show up to the house. Rather than rip it apart like Dr. Bruce Banner, slide your pocket knife across the top; you’ll save the risk of ripping apart the inserted mail and find a clean pile of disposable envelopes. This also works great for the sealed packaging found on those whiskey stones you ordered. With the energy you’ve taken to sort through bills, you find it's time to eat. With knife still in hand, you take out a Red Delicious apple. Kitchen knives are frequently too large or too dull, and just don't cut it. You trusty pocket knife is the perfect choice, and you’ll find that the visceral satisfaction of using an ancient, shiny, finely-honed tool makes that fruit taste that much better. Now that you’ve built up some energy, it’s time to head outside. You head into the back shed and notice the door hinge is a little loose. Rather than sort through an array of driver heads of various sizes, the quick-fix is already in your pocket. Pull out the old knife, tighten it up and be on your way. With most of the morning still ahead, you find some time to wet a line. If there is one ideal place for the use of the pocket knife, it is in the outdoors, especially on the water. From cutting line to pulling out hooks, the trusty pocket knife can save your fingers from unwanted lure wounds and keeps that fishing line out of your mouth. Its use is infinite in the wild. Over time, the elements of fishing can take a toll on any knife, which is why quality is key in your purchase, or at the very least a designated outdoor knife.
Sometimes your everyday knife becomes an outdoor knife – like a guy by the name of Jason Hobbs, who used a pocket knife to fight off a mountain lion that attacked his 6-year-old son Rivers, at Big BendNational Park in Texas.
Hobbs was able to fight the lion off by stabbing at it with a pocket knife. Seventeen stitches and a few rabies shots later, everyone was a-ok. Upon arriving back home, you decide that some front porch time is in order. While you may think rocking on the front porch is a time to rest the knife, a good stick and your imagination will allow you to whittle just about anything. Whittling is an art form that you may find to be a new hobby, allowing your creative juices to flow.
Of course, with a full day’s use of a knife, a good cleaning is in order. Cleaning should be done on a near-daily basis. If you use the knife with food, it is especially important to clean it before and after use. You have several options here, but the simplest is to run the knife through warm water, apply a mild soap, rinse, and dry it with a towel. Once dry, apply lubricant to the moving parts (a dab of WD-40 on the hinges will do the trick). Regardless of the cleaning method, lubrication is crucial to the longevity of your knife.
Here's a quick how-to on whittling...
1. Choose your wood. Make it big enough to work with, but small enough that you can hold it in your hand comfortably.
2. Decide what you'd like to whittle - beginners usually start with a stick and make something easy, like a campfire skewer.
3. Knife in one hand, wood in the other - and always cut AWAY from you, with your hands and fingers behind the blade.
4. Start shaving away at the wood and whittle your masterpiece! A gentleman’s knife can be a part of his everyday life, and you never know when it may come in handy for others. Make sure you store your knife in a place that is low in humidity and easily accessible. Whether it’s the top dresser drawer, the shed or the tacklebox, it should always be ready for action. So now, the next time you hear “Does anyone have a knife?” you can reply with a grin… “here.”*MORE
Arnold Palmer once said, “I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone's golf game: It's called an eraser." While we’re not about to screw with Arnie’s logic – the man’s got a drink named after him, for gods sakes – there’s more than one way to do it. And it’s all in the Cigar Advisor Golf Gear Guide! It’s high-tech you can use. Drivers, irons, hybrids, putters and threads…what you need to help lower your score, and look good doing it. Blazingly bright colors. Elegantly simple stylishness. Adjustability to custom suit. High tech you can use. At first blush, it sounds like we’re talking men’s fashions or advances in smart phones, but those are actually the refreshingly flamboyant and innovative themes that describe the most exciting new golf gear now streaming into pro shops and sporting goods outlets across America.
As the old saying goes, the most important shot in golf is your next shot, and the most important purchases you make this year, other than premium cigars, are likely to be the next pieces of equipment or apparel that help lower your scores and give you the aura of the player you know in your heart you are, or can someday be. Herewith is a carefully selected look at what’s helpfully hot for 2013: DRIVERS
Nike’s VR S Covert driver ($300) with the 460 cc red head was one of the smash hits of the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show and the choice of world number one ranked Rory McIlroy. Cobra’s AMP Cell Pro driver ($300) offers an even more dazzling array of head colors in red, orange, blue, and gray, as well as explosive distance, accuracy, and forgiveness that’s impressed amateurs in golf magazine sponsored club tests.
But when it comes to adjustability to custom suit, nothing beats industry leader Taylor Made’s R1 ($400) with the white head crown that allows you to change the loft, lie, face angle, and swing weight with a few turns of the included screwdriver. If you’re a weekend golfer determined to banish that dreaded slice, try Cobra’s AMP Cell Offset driver ($250) with the niched hosel that promotes a draw and enhances distance. IRONS
To paraphrase Ben Hogan, if you want to make more pars and birdies, you need to hit your ball closer to the hole. Low handicappers can do just that with Titleist’s AP2 712 irons ($1,100) with dense tungsten steel side weights in the forged carbon steel club heads. Superior ball strikers may prefer Mizuno’s MP-64 irons ($1,000) which boast the feel of classic blades with the forgiveness and accuracy of a beautifully balanced cavity backed club.
Middle and high handicappers will enjoy best results with irons that don’t look like butter knives or shiver on mishits. Among the top choices: Mizuno’s JPX-825 Pro forged irons ($700), which rate high among amateur testers in terms of feel and predictable distance, and Cobra’s AMP Cell irons ($700) that weld a hot, thin face to a softer body to create a ball striking experience similar to that of the Cobra AMP Cell driver. HYBRIDS
Let’s once and for all get over the guilt and shame about struggling to hit 2 irons, 3 irons, even 4 irons. Over 60 percent of last year’s PGA Tour tournament winners used hybrids; more to the point for amateur golfers, so did 90 percent of Champions Tour and LPGA Tour players. Hybrid pioneer Adams Golf claims their new Idea Tech V4 ($200) with velocity slots is “as hot as your driver.” Their Idea Super S ($150), with lofts ranging from 15 degrees to 28 degrees, is still the leading hybrid on the pro tours. PUTTERS
Your putter is by far the most personal club in your bag, but each man can find his own mallet or blade among traditional short shafted models such as the Tropical Abaco Rife with the multi-colored “prism effect” gunmetal finish ($130), the range of Odessey models ($179), and the Scotty Cameron Newport 1.5 with the flare neck ($350). But to get really personal, we prefer the Kirk Currie models with adjustable weightings ($45 and up), and in the long shafted category, David Lee’s unique Gravity Golf putters (prices on request). APPAREL & ACCESSORIES
Dress a better game by donning the warm weather threads of 2012 Masters champ and PGA Tour driving distance leader Bubba Watson in his new line of Oakley apparel that features Saturday and Sunday outfits with solid color white and tan slacks and white or boldly striped shirts, plus a pair of Oakley’s signature wrap around shades (various prices). When it turns cold again, consider thin layer battery-powered jackets and vests by Mobile Warming Gear (starting at $160).
Too Much Information (TMI) can be the bane of any golfer, but you can get all you want and ultimately need with CamCaddy ($30), a lightweight stand designed to hold your smart phone while you take practice tee videos of your swing that can be emailed directly to your teaching pro. For those who revel in TMI about spin rates, launch angle, etc., consider FlightScope’s X2 launch monitor, which retails for $11,000, or roughly one-third the price of the TrakMan system used by tour pros.*MORE
If you think a sharp knife is dangerous, just try using a dull one. We've all been there: you're in the kitchen chopping tomatoes or butterflying a steak, when you notice that the knife isn't cutting as cleanly as it used to. "No big deal," you think, and grab the honing steel from the butcher's block.
Sooner or later, though, the steel fails to improve your knife's edge, and you find yourself assuming improper technique in order to gain more leverage. With all that extra pressure exerted on the blade, a slip or miscalculation could cost you a finger or worse.
Because knife sharpening is an extremely broad topic, I'll limit my remarks to stainless steel kitchen knives. And let's be honest, if you own and regularly use carbon steel kitchen or other classes of knives, you probably already know how to properly sharpen and care for them.
Back to our kitchen scenario: what is a frustrated cook to do with his dull stainless steel blades, when steeling them no longer works? Sharpen them, of course!
The first thing to understand is the difference between sharpening and steeling. Sharpening is the process of removing metal from the blade, thus creating a new edge. There are several different kinds of edges, also called "grinds," but in the case of kitchen knives, it's typically a "saber grind." This grind's bevel begins about halfway down both sides of the blade, which then angle to form a "V" shape.
Steeling, on the other hand does not actually remove material, but rather serves to restore the integrity of the blade by removing microscopic bends and folds along its edge. Steeling should be done with every use of your knife, while sharpening is done less frequently.
To sharpen a stainless steel, you'll need a whetstone or other abrasive designed for the purpose. Whetstones come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and grits, but generally, they'll be two-sided, with a coarse grit on one side, and a fine grit on the other.
Place your dry whetstone on a paper towel to keep it in place. Using two hands, then run one side of the blade against the stone at a 22 1/2 degree angle (half a 45 degree angle) 10 times. Forward or backwards doesn't matter, as long as you're consistent.
When you're done, flip it over, and do the same thing on the other side of the blade, ensuring that you hold the 22 1/2 degree angle.
After working both sides of the blade, it's time to turn the whetstone over and sharpen the blade on the finer grit. Repeat the same steps as above, making certain to hold a consistent angle.
Next is steeling the blade. Start by holding the steel against a cutting board. Then run then entire length of the blade ten times across the steel, maintaining a constant 22 1/2 degree angle (remember, it's just half of a 45 degree angle). Do the same on the other side of the blade. Once finished, rinse it well to remove any residual metal particles.
If you haven't sharpened your knife, you may need to repeat the process. Once you have a good, sharp edge, you'll be amazed at how much easier and safer cutting is.*MORE
What happens when you take all the filters off your search engine, and just plug in “awesome”? You get an assortment of items like our Wicked Cool Shit – ten great things that may not change your life, but will leave you better than we found you. This month, it’s our “Travel & Booze” edition – ways to get there, and ways to enjoy a cold one once you’ve arrived. Epiphany Eyewear Smart Glasses
It’s long been said that glasses make you look smart – but this is ridiculous. Considering they put a man on the moon with less potent computing power, think about what these specs will do for you…inside the frames is a powerful mobile computer and HD digital video camera, operated with a one-button video recording control (storage is available in as much as 32GB, features a long-lasting battery and connectivity through micro-USB.)
So what does one do with such powerful technology? Post videos on Facebook, naturally. The lenses also have a control to adjust the tint, making them lighter or darker depending on your location/if you wear your sunglasses at night…so you can, so you can…– well, you take it from there. And for those times when you’ve said, “you should have seen…”, now they can – the glasses can stream HD video and audio through the YouGen.TV app, and directly onto your Facebook wall, from your POV. Which could get weird fast, if that sentence ends, “you should have seen the chick I brought home from the bar last night.” The FlaskTie
Truth be told, you should own one tie – even if it’s only seen on you when you’re dragged to weddings and funerals. So whether you’re starting the reception early or need a little liquid courage casket-side, take the opportunity to make these occasions truly special by slapping on a FlaskTie. Designed with a hidden bladder in the fat end of the tie, the sweet nectars are accessible by a self-sealing straw - which is especially handy, as you wouldn’t be able to pass off the oaky-shaded drips of Johnny Red on your shirt as “tears of joy.” Speaking of color, any of the 5 available patterns will accessorize well with that single suit you own (also seen only at said weddings and funerals); but in addition to being a solid fashion statement, the FlaskTie is “the world’s most covert flask.” So if it’s a graveside gin that will help you soak up the moment of Me-Maw’s passing, send her off with about 6 fluid ounces of any stiff drink. Martin Personal Jet Pack
“Since the beginning of time man has dreamed of flying as free as a bird. Today, that dream is a reality…” If the birds you see are routinely flying with a couple hundred pounds of turbofans and a gas engine strapped to their back, then sure. Martin is readying the world’s first “practical” jet pack, because, well, science has been promising us a jet pack for over 60 years – and goddammit, we intend to collect. Easy to deploy and flyable in reasonable weather conditions, power starts with a gas engine driving twin ducted fans which produce enough thrust to lift the aircraft and a pilot in vertical takeoff and landing, and sustained flight. It even has an automated hover function. Of course, there’s the always-present jetpack “what if?”: “What if the engine shits the bed while I’m 400 feet in the air?” Lucky for you, they included a ballistic parachute and crumple-zoned undercarriage, which means the splatter will be significantly more controlled when you return to Earth the hard way. The GrOpener
Rather than get into an extended Archimedian discussion about fulcrums and pivot points, let’s just say that this bottle opener is the balls. We’ll admit - the name kind of threw us, as something that sounds like the act of fondling is not often associated with opening a cold one. Which is maybe where the name came from. But any creepiness aside, the GrOpener is our runner-up for “most fun you can have with your hands.” Do it once, and you’ll want to walk into strangers’ houses and open all their beers, too. Your GrOpening hand will be getting more action than when you were 17 and in the backseat of your dad’s car on date night. The creation of Mark Manger of Denver, Colorado, and made in the USA, it was inspired by the stick & screw openers he worked with while slinging bottles in Africa in the mid-90′s. The GrOpener uses the same leverage principle, but is unique in that this tool uses motion and force from the act of grabbing the bottle to also remove the cap. Also unique: the GrOpener is designed in a way that accommodates amputees, stroke victims and others who may only have full use of one hand. To that, we say “cheers.” Tactical Apocalypse Survival Kit (TASK)
Because we’re all just on standby for an impending apocalypse, zombie or otherwise, you must be properly prepared. The T.A.S.K. (Tactical Apocalypse Survival Kit) has been designed by the experts at Lansky, and should fulfill the role of basics in your bug-out bag. So name the survival situation – you should be ready with more than a “duck and cover” strategy, right? So if your situation calls for, let’s say, a battle axe – no problem! There’s one in there, along with a multi-tool, easy-grip knife and multiple sharpeners to keep your steel sharp for the End of Days (or visit from your in-laws). The T.A.S.K. also features LifeStraw Water Purification, allowing you to quench your doomsday-inspired thirst by drinking directly from a lake or river; firesteel, compass, paracord bracelet and a tactical LED flashlight - as you want to be sure you see them before they see you. Primal Bells
Your gym buds say you lift like a beast? Or maybe you like to work out in dungeons…that’s cool. There’s now some gear for that: the Onnit Primal Bell Chimp. Weighing in at 1 pood (36 lb), it’s a directional kettlebell that will allow you to take your workout to, literally, full-on beast mode. Primal Bells are made from high-grade, rust and chip-resistant coated iron; the images you see were 3D scanned from an extremely pissed-off primate, and then sculpted into the iron for “perfect balance for a professional quality workout.” An enlarged handle lets you improve your paw’s grip strength over a run-of-the-mill bell, and the bottom is flattened so that 36 lb savage sits solid on the floor. Of your dungeon. Bottoms Up Beer Dispenser
We’ve never been much on magic tricks…maybe because of that odd clown experience at a particular childhood birthday party in ‘81. But upon viewing the Bottoms Up in action, we believe again. The system is meant to replace the faucet on your existing draft beer system – which means no more wandering out to the garage, standing in front of the 30-year old fridge with the tap handle sticking out of the front, pouring a beer and spilling half of it on your lawn mower. All you need to do is run your lines to the base unit, and set the specially-designed Bottoms Up draft cup down, and…magic words optional…it fills up. Place the base unit anywhere – these guys built one into a couch – and you’re off to the races. How it works: the cup has a hole in the bottom, sealed with an FDA-approved rubber magnet and metallic ring. When the cup is seated on the dispenser, the nozzle pushes up on the magnet to break the seal and the cup is filled. Pick up the cup and the magnet reseals the cup for leak-free imbibery. Abracadabra! Shark personal submarine
The Seabreacher J is half-watercraft/half-submarine, submersible to 6’ and travels at up to 20 mph under the surface. More than just a jet ski on experimental PEDs, power comes by way of a Rotax engine, available in 155hp or 215hp supercharged options – and can be registered as a conventional powerboat in most countries. Underneath the ½ inch acrylic canopy, you strap into a 5 point racing harness, survey the layout from the snorkel mounted video camera and dash mounted display, fire up the on-board spare air & communication systems, and your transformation into “killer from the deep” is complete. Step up to the larger models (Seabreachers X & Y) and you can honestly tell your friends, “you’re going to need a bigger boat.” Airow Gun - Bow MountPaintball
It’s the sound you dread on the field of paintball battle - pssst – your CO2 is empty. You have a dozen guys bearing down on you with itchy trigger fingers, ready to light up their guns and paint your junk the moment you even twitch. You don’t have to take it lying down anymore. Unleash hell the Middle Ages way, with the Bow-Mount Paintball Airow Gun. Using the draw of your compound or recurve bow, you can sling .68-caliber ‘balls up to 280 feet per second accurately and, unlike your gun-toting friends, you don’t need to worry about running out of CO2 or compressed air. Or better yet – as the Airow Gun is super-quiet, go all Assassin’s Creed and be your team’s secret weapon on the course. Stock Car Racing Simulator
While it’s not quite the same as buckling into a full-on 800+hp NASCAR, it’s about as close as you’re going to get out of a simulator. Electric actuators built into the bottom of the car cause the simulator to roll and pitch, giving you the real-feel of actual racing conditions (without the G-forces thankfully) like entering a turn or moving up the speedway banking. Pit stops? It even raises and lowers during tire changes, thanks to the same kind of platform used in museum simulators. The only break from a real race car’s spartan interior (there is no speedometer in a stock car, fyi) are the two paddle shifters, instead of a standard 4-speed gearbox. No worries, though, as the experience of 5-Time blowing by you at 190 is transmitted in 5.1 surround sound. A 22" wide-screen LCD monitor gives you a heads up in the cockpit so you can slam, bump, nudge and rub your way around 21 different tracks. Because rubbin’, son, is racin’.*MORE
Four Spanish galleons, a team of support boats and 20,000,000 pesos worth of Mexican silver found their way to the bottom of the ocean in a 1733 hurricane. Even a Spanish Armada is no match for the fight that Mother Nature can provide. Follow the trip of the Capitana El Rubi’s treasure from surface, to sea floor and back again Diving the Fleet of 1733
Four Spanish galleons…18 smaller merchant boats…a veritable fortune of 20,000,000 pesos worth of Mexican silver, gold, tobacco and other valuables such as wines, liquors and ironwork scribbled into their manifests. A flotilla of this size traversed the high seas between Spain and the New World on a regular basis; but even armed to the teeth with 60 cannons on the main gunship alone, the fleet would be no match for the war-making capabilities of the sea.
The Florida coast is littered with the debris and remains of many a ship that once called Spain her home. And just off the coast of the Keys lies a particular collection of sunken galleons known today as the “1733 Fleet.” According to the history decoded through salvage and archeological expeditions to the site, it would seem that the tales of swashbuckling adventurers and courageous seafarers [jp1] we read about as children are true: men aboard grand vessels who tangled with stiff ocean winds and the dangers of the deep. In July of 1733, a fleet of ships left Havana [jp2] on their return voyage to Spain, carrying their haul of treasures back to the seat of the Spanish Empire. One day into the trip, the fleet encountered a disastrous hurricane. Nearly all the ships were lost (one managed to escape the weather and make it back to Cuba), though the Spanish Navy did an excellent job recovering the massive cargo in the years following the wreck. However, as some intrepid divers would find out hundreds of years later, the treasure that still remained was not only measurable in bullion, but as some of the most beautiful underwater sights in North America.
Mostly relegated to the filing cabinets of history, details on the 1733 Fleet were filed away and all but forgotten until the 20th century. Thousands of artifacts have been recovered from the 1733 Fleet, which now serve as a living history about the life and times of those who ran the trade route from the Caribbean to Spain.
Havana in the 1700’s was the hub for Spanish trade in the West Indies, seeing traders from all over the Caribbean. It was also the place you were warned about: think “sin city.” The History
On Friday, July 13th, 1733, having just filled their holds with goods and treasures from the New World colony, the Nueve España fleet left Havana Harbor. Commanded by Lieutenant-General Rodrigo de Torres aboard the flagship Capitana El Rubi, the flota unfurled their mainsails sporting their signature red crosses and picked up the Gulfstream. They made the turn to the east on the 14th after seeing the Florida Keys off their bow. The winds, troublingly, began to shift; and sensing the danger, Torres ordered his ships to immediately turn back toward Cuba to avoid damage from the approaching storm. His decision would be in vain – a hurricane overtook the area, ravaging the fleet. One ship (the El Africa) would escape with minimal damage, and sail on to Spain; a few others would limp back to port. The remaining vessels - driven back to the west by the storm - were sunk, or ran aground along an eighty mile stretch of the upper Keys by Sunday .
Sailors are a superstitious lot. "No voyage should begin on a Friday," as ancient maritime traditions have held that it would bring bad luck to the trip, thanks to evil sea witches (really). And on a Friday the 13th? Forget it: that would double the jinx factor. It's rumored that insurer Lloyd’s of London refused to cover any ship that set sail on a Friday the 13th. Captains of ocean liners would come up with excuses to delay leaving port until after midnight, so that it was technically the 14th. It's also said that the United States Navy won't launch a ship on Friday the 13th. As for the captains that taunted maritime traditions, legends tell of many who found themselves pretty un-shipshape just a few days into their sail - or never even heard from again. So when do you go? "The seventeenth and the twenty-ninth of any month are good days to set sail, particularly if your voyage will last many months.”
A letter written by Spain’s Naval Commissioner, Don Alonso Herrera Barragan, to the President of the Council of Trade at Cadiz, described the event from the view of the Capitana El Ruby: “...the 14th we discovered the land of the Keys of Florida. At 9:00 that night the wind began to rise out of the north. It continued to freshen to the point where we all knew a hurricane was imminent. We found ourselves close to the expressed Keys, with the wind and seas so strong we were unable to govern ourselves, and each new gust came upon us with renewed major force. On the 15th, signs were made (among the ships of the fleet) to try to arrive back to the Havana, but we were unable to do so for the wind went around to the south without slacking its force or lessening the seas. By 10:30 that night we had all grounded in the expressed Keys at a distance of 28 leagues in length. This Capitana grounded on the one called Cayo Largo, two and one-half leagues from shore. I make assurance to Your Lordship that it was fortunate that we grounded for if the contrary had occurred we would have all drowned because the hold was full of water and we were unable to pump it out...” Though there were many survivors, a majority of the vessels were irreparably damaged. Stranded sailors built crude shelters from wreckage that had washed up on shore. Rescue boats loaded with supplies, divers, and salvage equipment arrived not long after, providing comfort to the men; soldiers accompanied them, to protect what had now become a recovery operation. The salvage of the wrecked ships began just a few days after the storm. A few of the ships were re-floated with little difficulty. Those that couldn’t were burned to the waterline, which enabled rescue divers to descend into the cargo holds to salvage the goods. The process took nearly two years and hundreds of divers and recovery workers, all under the wary eye of the Spanish Navy: guard ships were placed around the wreckage to prevent looters from stealing the King’s goods. Once the final calculation of salvaged materials was made, the ships were left to their watery graves. Any remaining treasure was scattered across the sea floor by tropical storms that followed, destroying the rest of the already-sunken fleet.
When a final calculation of salvaged materials was made, more gold and silver was recovered than had been listed on the original manifests, the tell-tale evidence of contraband aboard the homeward-bound vessels. In the 1960s, a group of divers relocated the long forgotten ships, reintroducing them to the modern world. To the chagrin of treasure hunters, very few valuables were recovered from the wreckage (there was very little to be had – the Spaniards were very thorough 230 years earlier). But after further analysis, a much different kind of treasure was discovered…the wrecks that had previously been a proud Spanish fleet had turned into one of the oldest artificial reefs in North America. Over the years, the sunken galleons had come to support complex ecosystems. Marine life was now thriving in and around these massive ships. Visiting the Ships Today
Each of the wrecks are spread along an 80-mile stretch of the Florida Keys, so tourists and divers have a wide array of diving adventures to choose from. The northernmost ship wreck, the Populo, is located under the jurisdiction of the Biscayne National Park and is nestled in a beautiful ecosystem of white sand, coral reef and marine life. Divers visiting the Populo not only swim alongside a piece of living history, but a breathtaking slice of nature as well. Make the dive and you can look forward to swimming with grouper, angelfish, sea urchins and fire coral, just a sample of the flora and fauna.
In 1968 the State of Florida initiated a salvage contract program overseen by State appointed agents with archaeological oversight. The 1733 sites represent some of the oldest artificial reefs in North America, supporting complex ecosystems of marine life that have thrived generation after generation over the centuries. The real “treasure” of the 1733 fleet is the opportunity to visit the living remains of ships from an era long gone. The El Rubi is grounded just inside of the reef line northeast of the Upper Matecumbe Key. Lieutenant-General Torres’ flagship held a healthy helping of King Philip V’s treasure: more than two thousand boxes of gold and silver coins, hundreds of ingots and various spices from Havana. The ship’s cargo was mostly recovered during the rescue efforts, and was eventually rediscovered by diver Art McKee in 1938. The wreckage of the ship was used to curate one of the world’s first museums devoted to a shipwreck, McKee’s Museum of Sunken Treasure located on Plantation Key in Treasure Harbor, Florida.
Quite a few dive shops and vessels will take you out to the wrecks to dive these breathtaking sights. The historical relevance of the 1733 fleet, along with the beautiful ecosystems that developed around the wreckage of these vessels, is a one-of-a-kind pair that both adventurers and historians alike must experience at least once.
If you plan to make the trip, Frank Feliciano has some solid wisdom for you at sunkentreasure.com: “anyone who plans to visit these sites should check into the Florida Statutes, which protect these wrecks. Some of the sites have been staked by modern treasure divers, others are the property of the State of Florida.”
So what can you see? Frank says, “I have dived on most of the [wrecks] and can tell you there are ballast piles at the locations - and in some cases, there are still huge beams among the ballast rocks. The sites are awesome to look at, they photograph well…and there are still coins washing up on the shore in the area of some of these wrecks. Good luck and happy hunting - don't forget your Dive Flag!”*MORE
Have you ever bought or been given a cigar covered with plume? Are you sure it wasn't mold? CigarAdvisor Executive Editor Lou Tenney recounts an experience at his local tobacconist in which the shop employee tried to pass off moldy cigars as cigars covered in plume. Small-Town PA, Summer 2004
Slumped idly over the cash register, George looked less like a tobacconist, and more like a slack-jawed Shar-Pei. I negotiated my way out of the crowded humidor and carefully fanned out a selection of cigars on the counter.
Aloof as ever, he acknowledged them with an almost-imperceptible head nod.
The words were barely audible above the din; dozens of men stood talking and laughing loudly, each holding a lit cigar in one hand and a plastic beer cup in the other. A dense haze swirled lazily about, spilling out of the shop's front door and into the street.
Funny, how a cigar event can transform an unassuming smoke shop into a raging kegger for every cigar smoker within 50 miles. "Hey Lou. Did you find everything OK?"
The question was rhetorical, the sort of congenial formality that functions just above punctuation. Of course I found everything OK, George. I'm here two nights a week, and the humidor is the size of a walk-in closet.
"Yeah, I guess I'll just take these. Is this enough to get the free Robustos?"
"Yeah, you get two," he said, sliding my cigars into a clear bag. "I have Corojo, Maduro, and Sumatra," he said, referring to each cigar by its wrapper leaf. "Whad'ya want?" "I'll take two Sumatras." The Corojo and Maduro were good, but the Sumatra – well, the Sumatra was something really special: sweet and a little strong, but not too heavy.
George fumbled beneath the counter and produced a bundle of cigars. He extracted two and reached for the bag.
"Actually, I'm gonna smoke one. You can put the other in the bag." He retrieved one of the cigars with his sausage-like fingers and handed it to me.
Reaching for the tethered "house cutter," my enthusiasm came crashing down like a Soviet satellite. "What the hell is this?" I asked, pointing at the white patches haphazardly covering the reddish wrapper. "Does this cigar have psoriasis?"
George chuckled condescendingly. "What do you mean? You've never seen bloom before?" "Bloom?" I asked, indignantly. "Bro, this cigar looks like it needs some lotion."
"Yeah – when stronger cigars are well-aged, the oils crystallize and rise to the surface of the wrapper leaf. I should charge you more!" he laughed. "Just brush it off and smoke it."
"Dude, I know what bloom is," I protested. "It's also called plume, but this ain't it. Look at it!" I insisted, shoving the cigar in his face. "This stick is fuzzier than a hatched chick. I'm already vaccinated against polio, but thanks anyway."
George's smug grin began to fade. "SHH!" he hushed, scanning the room, his finger in front of his mouth. "What, you think it's mold?" he quietly demanded, incensed by the suggestion.
"Are you kidding me? You mean you work in a cigar shop and can't tell the difference? Let me see that bundle." George surrendered the bundle. Predictably, half of the cigars were covered in patches of white to off-white fuzz. I picked out an especially egregious offender.
"See this?" I asked, wiping at one of the splotches. "This is mold. Look how it stains the wrapper. It's even on my finger! Plume would just wipe away cleanly."
Unmoved, George met the explanation with a vacant stare.
"Besides, you just got these in for the event, right?" I added. "Yeah, so?" he answered skeptically.
"So? Plume develops over months or years of untouched aging. When cigars are handled, any nascent plume is destroyed. Even under the most ideal conditions, these cigars are too young to have developed plume."
"But I just smoked one," he retorted, "and it was delicious. Bloom on a cigar has an unmistakable taste."
"Then you must like the taste of mold, because plume doesn't affect the taste. It's just a visual indicator of a well-aged cigar. Sure, the cigar would have the mellow evenness of extensive aging, but an otherwise-identical cigar without plume would taste exactly the same." "Bullshit, you don't know what you're talking about."
"Yeah? Grab that magnifying glass there and get ready to go to school, Georgie Boy."
I fixed the lens just above an especially well-developed colony of mold.
"See, look at this spot. Does that look like crystals to you?"
"For god's sake, look closer. This colony practically has hi-rise buildings. See how it looks like skinny little stalks with round structures on top of them? Those are the spores. Mold is a living thing – a fungus, actually. This mold is white, but it can be gray, green, yellowish – even blue." "Hmm," George grunted," noting the line forming behind me. "Alright, fine. Here are two new ones. I guess I'll give this bundle back to the manufacturer."
Atta' boy, George. Passing out moldy cigars, even unintentionally, is just bad form.
I thanked him, grabbed a beer and joined my friends, where we discussed the mold question at length. Turns out they had similar misconceptions about mold and plume/bloom.
Given recommended ideals for proper humidity (≤ 70% RH) and temperature (≤ 70° F), we store our cigars on a perilous razor's edge. The next time you find yourself in a shop or just perusing your own collection, take a careful look at your cigars. Mold can spread quickly, and if unchecked, could ruin an entire collection. Maintaining your humidor properly and spot checking your cigars goes a long way toward protecting you.
Bottom line, it's nice to do business with companies you can trust, but in the end, it always pays to be an educated consumer. *MORE
Let’s face it – though you’re a freak for good sound (or “audiophile”), you can’t drag a turntable with you everywhere. But your digital tunes don’t have to sound like they’re playing back out of the bottom of a tin can stuffed with wet socks, either. Our tech suggestions help you turn the tunes feeding your secret ABBA fetish into a full-bodied, chest-pounding “Dancing Queen” adventure. We won’t judge. Much. Compression is not always bad. Uma Thurman zipped into her leather Kill Bill bodysuit is one good example. Sausage – one of the top five foods on earth – is another. But stuffing a lot of music into a confined space produces a less desirable result. The convenience of carrying 1,500 songs around in your phone is made possible by digital compression, which literally removes some parts of the file to make it fit. The result is music that sounds flat and antiseptic to the ear. Ideally, we’d all like to enjoy the full, warm sound of a classic LP, but still be able to carry our entire music library in our pockets; fortunately, sound engineers have been hard at work getting these strange bedfellows together.
If you’re looking to improve the sound quality of your digital library, these are the technologies you’ll want to invest in: Lossless Compression
Audiophiles are now downloading their music in FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) or Apple Lossless files. These protocols still reduce music files by nearly 50% of their original size, making them easier to store, but rather than throwing out the removed info, as in MP3 files, the Lossless protocol restores the information for playback, kind of like adding water to a sponge.
The information that is removed is probably better expressed as resolution. In a digital image, it would look like pixelation - using bigger blocks of data makes it look/sound chunky instead of smooth and detailed. And you have to reduce the wave to rough form to get it small. We have to make the sound fine-grained again so it smoothes out. It is possible to rip your own CDs and albums into lossless format. You can also directly purchase and download lossless tracks through sites like HDTracks.com, Rhino.com and Magnatune.com, to name a few. One caveat, though: not all audio devices are set up to handle lossless files. Make sure your home receiver or handheld device is compatible with the format before you go hog-wild with downloads. DAC (Digital to Analog Converter)
All digital music is converted back to analog before we hear it. Your handheld device has a small, inefficient DAC in it. Your CD player (if you still own such a dinosaur) has a slightly better one. But sound engineers are cooking up ever better converters that go the extra mile – the best DACs can reproduce the expansive sound of classic vinyl from the crushed up ball of digital data we call a music file. When you’re shopping for a new home receiver in the future, look for units that have built-in DACs that bypass the one your other components and devices are using. DACs made by Burr/Brown, Sabre and Wolfson are high-quality options that most companies will boast about in their literature.
If you’re attached to your old receiver, many companies are now making component DACs that can be added to an existing system. Audiophile companies like NAD, Cambridge and Peachtree are creating component DACs that look and sound oh, so sexy. Finally, even travelers or desk-bound paper-pushers can get in on the act. Compact DACs currently on the market work as combination amplifiers/converters to improve your listening experience via headphones and desktop speaker systems.
Don’t put cheap tires on a Lamborghini. If you’re going to invest in a quality DAC, buy quality cables. These can be high-markup items at many retail stores, but Monster and Audioquest products are well-made and merit the expenditure. Wi-Fi Streaming
Getting cables out of the way altogether is the ultimate in luxury. Unfortunately, wireless technology is still more of a convenience measure than a quality listening option. Variables like bitrates, bandwidth, transfer speed, etc. will not only affect the quality of your sound, but trying to figure out what the heck they mean will make your head spin. Apple, naturally, has come up with convenient and highly functional products like AirPlay, Apple TV and AirPort to help your music travel invisibly. Sonos and Bose have leapt to the forefront in terms of making wireless speaker systems that actually sound good. Bluetooth is becoming a more common feature for home and car audio systems, allowing for flexible streaming options that let you take your music with you everywhere you go.
In all honesty, wireless streaming is just emerging from the crawling stage into walking. The popularity of streaming media means that audiophile companies are working day and night to make your music files run and, eventually, fly.
Right now, I get the sense that it's more finding a way to get the DACs into the machines. They're pretty darn small right now (see the Dragonfly), so I don't think they're going to be getting better, maybe just smaller and more common as customers grow to embrace them as necessary for good quality. One Thing
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the various challenge presented by digital audio, but there’s one product that does such an elegant job of putting big sound in a small box that it must be mentioned.
The Dragonfly, made by Audioquest, is a digital to analog converter, a pre-amp and a headphone amp all in one. It is the exact size and shape of a thumb drive, with a USB connection on one end, and a minijack output on the other. The tiny but powerful Sabre DAC inside does the audio equivalent of turning a TV dinner into Cordon Bleu, and it’s small, flexible and good-looking. It has been rightfully lionized by the techie press.
Dragonfly is the latest mini-marvel in the world of digital sound, but it won’t be the last. Keep your eyes peeled and you ears open for the latest way to let the genie out of the bottle in style.
Audiophile magazine named the Dragonfly as their Computer Audio Component of the Year: http://www.stereophile.com/content/istereophileis-products-2012-computer-audio-component-year Money quote: "It's a thumb in the eye of those tea-pinky tyrants who would tell the rest of us what is and is not high end. I can think of no more recommendable product in digital audio."*MORE
This month, Nick Perdomo describes in precise detail what it takes to produce the richest tasting tobacco plants. Like most things, it's not as easy as it looks, nor is it cheap; but it you do it right, the rewards are priceless. Working with cooperation with the weather, using some old school smarts, a little modern technology, and excellent timing, every decision is critical for producing a harvest that's worthy of becoming premium handmade cigars. Last month I told you about how we combine tried-and-true "old school" methods with the latest in farming technology to get the biggest, healthiest and richest-tasting yields from our tobacco crops. In this third and final chapter I'll take you through the growing, aging and blending process that makes Perdomo cigars a cut above in quality, flavor, and smoker satisfaction. Growing tobacco: Doing it right
It may sound cliché, but you know the expression, "you reap what you sow?" When it comes to growing tobacco timing is everything. You can't grow tobacco year-round. There's a season for it. You have to watch that season, like the rainy season, the climate, etc. Every decision is critical. Take a cigar's particular flavor characteristics; for example, like how the pre-light tastes. The way we cure tobacco, we do things right from beginning to end, and that makes it special regardless of the retail price point.
There's nothing more satisfying to me than seeing tobacco grow. Not many people know this, but it's a weed. That's one of the reasons the growing period is short. After the seedlings are planted it's ready to pick within 105 to 112 days. If you get out to the fields at about 5:30 to 6 in the morning, you can almost see tobacco grow as the plants respond to the rising sun; it's incredible. As I explained in Part 2, a lot of care goes into growing tobacco; you have to take a totally different approach than you would with a different type of agricultural plant. The grounds have to be fertile; you to have to have great sun exposure and perfect climatic conditions; perfect water, perfect ground - the whole nine yards. If you over water a plant, it dies; if you under water a plant it dies. If it doesn't have the right amount of sun exposure it'll get blue mold. Yet, as tough as it is to grow, I love it. Since we started growing our own crops, I think I've come to love the farming aspect of tobacco about as much as I love making cigars because it's something totally different. I really feel so much like a farmer these days. And when I'm not on tour or home in Miami, I'm out in the fields all day long. Sucker Control
Ask any experienced tobacco farmer about the growing process and he'll tell you that tobacco plants require a tremendous amount of care daily. One of the most important details that we do is pick suckers off of the plants. "Suckers" are small leaves that sprout along the entire length of the plant in-between the larger tobacco leaves. The reason they're called suckers is because they rob the nutrients from the larger leaves and literally suck the life out of the plant. The traditional method of removing suckers from the plant is done by hand. The problem with suckers is that when you remove the first one, another sucker will develop right behind it, thus requiring another removal by hand. Because suckers continue to regenerate, this traditional form of removal may have to be done five to six times. The downside to this, in addition to being time consuming is, every time you send teams in to remove sucker leaves you can cause damage to the bigger leaves, and in some cases spread an infection from one plant to another. Modern technology allows us to treat each plant one time and helps us avoid damaging the larger leaves. We have this new liquid; it's actually a fatty acid that we put on the tobacco plant. You apply a little of this fatty acid with a little straw-like tube on the sucker which petrifies and kills it. One additional advantage to using the liquid is, in the old days, if you had blue mold and you were picking suckers, as noted above, you'd just pass the blue mold virus on to the next plant. There are some older farmers who don't think it's worth it, and so, doing it by hand is still good enough for them. Suffice it to say, you can be the greatest cigar maker in the world and have the best techniques, but if you don't use the right seed, soil, fertilizer, or water, the tobacco just won't make the grade. How soil, water and climate affect a cigar's flavor
Sometimes you get lucky and find grounds that don’t need fertilizer. You take a sample and it’s absolutely perfect; it's bionic, therefore, it needs nothing. Then you take a sample about 10 feet away and it will need boron, magnesium, and nitrogen, for example. You really have to have "the right stuff," and Nicaragua provides it all. The water we use from the river beds is excellent. As I mentioned earlier, when you're out in the field it's so serene you feel like you're the only person on earth. You look around and see this big, beautiful valley with a horizon that looks like an endless mountain chain. From a farmer's point of view, the valley is even more beautiful because it blocks the wind. A closer look at the ground reveals these oblong stones with thousands of holes in them. They're volcanic rock and they're all different shapes because they were still partially molten when the volcano spit them out. They're very heavy and incredibly dense. Over the eons, the smaller rocks decomposed into the ground, which is why much of Nicaragua's soil is so rich and fertile. As for the big rocks, whenever we plow a new farm we remove truckloads of them To ensure consistency, our agronomists have a meeting every morning. They discuss exactly what plan of attack they'll use for each farm that day. Sunny mornings are best, because we want the earth to heat up as quickly as possible. If we have an overcast morning where the humidity is over 70%, there's a chance the plants could pick up blue mold. We immediately begin spray with a product to make sure that blue mold doesn't affect the plants. Because the spores are carried by the wind, on those cloudy, humid days, blue mold can appear within a few hours.
This is why we purposely grow during the dry season. We water only the root base of the plant because we don't want any of the leaves to be touched. This form of irrigation is called "inundation." The only time we wet a leaf is when its going through curing and fermentation. It's amazing; tobacco is the only plant in the world that when you add water it becomes elastic after its dead, and you need that elasticity to make cigars. If you take any other weed or plant, once it's dead, that's it. Aging
Once the tobacco has been picked, it must be cured and aged. The minimum age of the tobacco in our cigars is three to six years old. During that entire period you're watching it constantly. The unique thing about Perdomo is we're growing tobacco exclusively for our cigars, unlike your typical farmer who is growing it only for sale. Many growers will use every leaf of tobacco they can harvest, including the sand leaves which have been touching the ground picking up remnants of the fertilizers. These "sand leaves" cause bitterness in a cigar, even if they have gone through all of the fermentation and aging process. You can keep that cigar for 10 years and it's never going to lose that acrid taste. At Perdomo, we discard all of the sand leaves, ensuring each cigar is perfectly blended to give you rich, complex, balanced flavors. Blending leaves
Short of giving away any family secrets, I can tell you this much about how we use the tobacco we grow in our cigars. Jalapa leaf is a very good blending tobacco. Because it's thinner is helps in combustion, plus, it has a very sweet flavor and aroma. It can be used as wrapper or binder and works well with Condega, too, which has some power but a more earthy flavor. Then, you get your strength tobacco from Estelí. When you blend all that together you get a cigar that has its own sweetness, strength, and aroma. When we grow filler tobacco we want thick, robust leaves with a lot of texture. We want our leaves to be hardy, thick, and oily, with a lot of resin, what we call grasa, or "grease." It's that beautiful oil and resin that constitutes the flavor and aroma in a good cigar. Why We Like Tobacco
Why do we, as human beings, enjoy tobacco? Like most of the food we eat, tobacco has starch, sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins. So, it's not surprising that we have this natural fondness for it. We like things that have great flavor and aroma. If you take a leaf from a rose and smoke it, it's going to be rancid. But a tobacco leaf has flavor. It goes with our DNA, and it works.
When I look at all of the hard work we put in at Perdomo to make our cigars truly distinctive, I get a lot of pleasure out of it; not just because it's my factory, but it's my culture, and it's in my blood. *MORE
One of the most horrific experiences is discovering that your cigars are dried-out. Lest we not forget that keeping your cigars at the proper temperature and humidity will keep them fresh and supple, should your cigars appear to be dry, there is a solution. However, the state of dryness you find them in will determine if they can be revived or not.
If the cigars are hard, like kindling, you may as well move them to the woodpile. However, if there's even a hint of moisture left in them, they may be salvageable. The best way to test this is to gently pinch the cigar at the foot. If it crumbles or cracks you've got trouble.
Much of the flavor in a cigar comes from the oils in the tobacco. When these oils are allowed to evaporate, any other moisture in the cigar will go with it. Even if you are able to revive the cigars in question, they may lose some or all of their natural bouquet, so, you've been warned.
Re-hydrating cigars takes patience, so be prepared to wait a while before you can smoke them again. In some cases, this can take months. Ideally, you want to allow a slow absorption of moisture.
What to do
Place the dry cigars in a spare humidor or other tightly-sealed container with an appropriately-sized humidifier that is only about 25% charged. It helps to have a well-calibrated digital hygrometer/thermometer in there as well, so you can see how much relative humidity (RH) and temperature your cigars are getting. Start by placing the cigars as far away from the humidifier as possible; then move them a little closer to the device about every 3 to 5 days. I also suggest you use a clear, crystal-based humidifier. Not only do they produce a more consistent humidity, but you can actually see how much water has dissipated. Check the humidifier every few days until it's almost dried-out. If so, move on to the next step.
Add distilled water to the humidifier - about 1/3 to 1/2 full - and let the cigars rest for another week or two. Once they feel like they're coming back a little, fully refill the humidifier and let your cigars continue to rest until they are re-humidified to your satisfaction.
At each stage, always remember to place the cigars away from the humidifier and move them closer each time you refill it. Rotating them every few days will help, too. If your cigars still haven't returned to "normal" at this point, at least you can say you tried. *MORE
What is a humidor? Breaking it down to its most basic components, it's a humidified box or cabinet designed to keep premium handmade cigars fresh for an indefinite period of time. Of course, there are humidors and there are humidors. When you envision a humidor, you probably think of the traditional wooden box with Spanish cedar walls, a humidifier of some sort, and a hygrometer. Moreover, a traditional humidor can run anywhere from $49.95 to $4,995.00.
There's also another alternative: the "Coolerdor." It's not as pretty as your traditional humidor, but it does a great job of keeping your cigars fresh for a fraction of the price of even the cheapest humidor, which you wouldn't want to buy anyway.
Though I can't say when the first coolerdor was made, I can tell you that there are thousands of them being used by cigar smokers, maybe tens of thousands, for any number of reasons: from the low cost of making one, to a reliable unit that can sustain your overstock cigars.
So, let's get into how to make a coolerdor. As you would before buying any humidor, you have to decide how much room you'll need to hold your cigars. You should also take into account if you'll be storing loose (or single) cigars, boxed cigars, or a combination of the two.
The term "coolerdor" speaks to a humidor made from a beer cooler, but you can also use a plastic storage bin (a.k.a. a "Tupperdor"). A beer cooler offers a better seal and insulation, but a storage bin will do the job just as well. Here's what you'll need:
A large beer cooler or plastic storage bin/tub.
A humidifier designed to humidify about 250 cigars (preferably a crystal-based model).
A digital hygrometer to keep tabs on your temperature and humidity.
A calibration kit to ensure the hygrometer is accurate.
Distilled water for filling and refilling the humidifier.
Optional: Empty Spanish cedar cigar boxes for holding single cigars (with or without a lid), or Spanish cedar strips (in case you want to line the interior of your 'dor like a traditional cigar humidor.)
Once you have all the parts, you set up your coolerdor pretty much as you would a traditional humidor.
Calibrate the hygrometer with a good calibration kit (I recommend Boveda.) This will take up to 6 hours, so do that first.
Completely fill the humidifier with distilled water and make sure all of the water has been absorbed.
Affix the humidifier in the center of the 'dor's lid. (Note that depending on the size of your coolerdor you may need more than one humidifier.)
Place the hygrometer in the spot of your choosing: a corner under the lid, one of the walls of the box, on the bottom, or on top of one of the cigar boxes, but not too close to the humidifier.
Place your cigar boxes, sealed, open, or closed in the 'dor, put on the lid, and you're done. (Hint: After adding your cigars, try moving it around every few days and take readings before you decide where you want it to be permanently situated.)
Check the humidifier and hygrometer regularly, and recharge your humidifier as needed.
One advantage to making a coolerdor is that no pre-seasoning is required, which can take days with a traditional humidor. You can also store your cigars in their factory boxes, creating a mini-warehouse of sorts for your stash. This also helps keep the cigars insulated.
As a traditionalist, I keep my loose cigars in traditional, wooden, cedar-lined humidors. Extra boxes are placed in my coolerdor and eventually moved to one of my humidors as room allows. Come to think of it, the cigars I keep in the coolerdor are probably just as fresh, if not more so than the cigars I keep in my humidors. If I had known about making my coolerdor sooner, I would only need one humidor instead of five! *MORE
As you continue to clip your cigars with the same cigar cutter, after a while you may notice one or all of the following:
The caps are beginning to shred instead of slicing-off cleanly
The cutter doesn't open and close as smoothly as it used to
The cutter is starting to build up some brownish gunk on the blades.
If you think that tossing it in the trash can is the solution, whoa, not so fast! All your cutter may need a good cleaning. Even if you use a cheapo, freebie cigar cutter, a decent cleaning will help improve its performance. It's easy to do, works on every type of cutter, including scissors, and takes about five minutes. All you need are cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol, and some graphite lubricant.
Daub a swab with rubbing alcohol and carefully rub all of the metal surfaces on the cutter. Any tars on the blades will come right up. If the swab gets too dirty, use a fresh swab and continue.
Use a dry swab to absorb any leftover alcohol and complete the cleaning.
Do the above as many times as it takes to get all the gunk off the blade/s.
Place a very small amount of graphite lubricant on both sides of the blade/s and begin opening and closing the cutter. You will notice a marked improvement in movement.
Wipe off any excess lube with a clean cotton swab.
For cigar smokers who use Xikar "X-type" cutters: Because the blades are so sharp on these cutters it takes a long time for them to dull, so cleaning is usually the most you have to do. With the bottom of the cutter (the narrow end) facing up, apply a very small amount of graphite oil where the blades are held together by the hex screw. You can also apply a little bit of lube under the open/close button. You'll notice that the cutter now opens much more quickly. This method can also be used for similarly designed cigar cutters.
Finally, in case you were a little sloppy, make sure you have completely removed all traces of lubricant on any of the exposed areas of the cutter. That's pretty much it. You may have just saved yourself from having to purchase a new cutter. Instead, use that money to pick up a few good cigars. *MORE
When it comes to certain professions, trades, sports, or hobbies (like smoking premium cigars), when done by a professional or someone who's very experienced, it usually looks a lot easier than it is. However, in the case of smoking cigars, nothing could be simpler or more pleasurable when done right. Keeping in mind that every cigar smoker has their own way of smoking a cigar, the following will show you how to clip, toast, light and puff away to your delight with the best of them.
The Right Tools
Now that you've got your cigar, make sure you've got the right tools. All you need is a cutter (preferably a double blade), a lighter (preferably a torch flame), and an ashtray with wide saddles for comfortably resting your cigar between puffs.
With your thumb and forefinger, hold the cigar at the neck or on the band with the closed end, or "cap," facing up. Hold the cigar steady, open your cutter and clip anywhere from 1/16 to 1/8 of the cap. If done correctly, the cap will practically pop-off, then the blades close behind it. Be careful not to cut too deeply or you risk the wrapper unraveling on you. If you're not sure, it's better to cut less at first, then more. Place the clipped end of the cigar in your mouth and test the draw. Air should flow easily through the shaft.
Toasting & Lighting
Hold the cigar in front of you so you can see the end (or "foot") of the cigar. Take your lighter and carefully toast the foot by holding the lighter close enough to blacken the foot, yet without touching the flame to the tobacco. Now, gently blow on the foot. It will start to glow bright red. If you notice some black areas, continue toasting those spots, then blow again until the entire foot is glowing. At this point, the cigar is lit and you can begin puffing.
You can also toast and light your cigar in two stages: Though I personally prefer the method I described above, here's an alternative:
Toast the foot until the entire surface is blackened. Place the cigar in your mouth, point it down to about a 45-degree angle, and hold the flame under the foot, again without touching the tobacco. As you hold the flame, slowly turn the cigar in the direction of the wrapper (look at the seam of the wrapper to see which way it was rolled: clockwise or counterclockwise), and begin to puff. You may see the flame jump as you light it. Once you have it going, take the cigar out of your mouth and blow gently on the foot to ensure it's completely lit.
Some cigar smokers put their flame right to the foot without toasting. To each his own, but the advantage to charring the foot is it permits the flavors in the tobaccos to caramelize, resulting in a more flavorful start and a cleaner burn.
Now for the really fun part: enjoying the flavor and aroma of your cigar. Slowly draw the smoke into your mouth and taste the flavors. Whatever you do, DO NOT INHALE. If you do, you will soon find out why that's a no-no as you bow deeply to the God of Porcelain. Try not to rush your cigar, too. Let it rest for about a minute between puffs. This will allow the cigar to cool a little and let the flavors caramelize, so the next puff will be consistent with the preceding one. Continually puffing on your cigar will not only build up more heat, which can cause the wrapper to crack, it will also produce more tars and bitterness as you get to the "sweet spot" of the cigar.
Finally, make sure you give yourself enough time to relax and enjoy your cigar in its entirety. For most cigars, about an hour is plenty of time. *MORE
For many cigar enthusiasts, writing cigar reviews is something of a personal hobby. Think of a journal – by making details notes about what you smoke, you're creating a snapshot of yourself as a cigar smoker in time. Months or years from now, you can look back on the cigars you were smoking and what you wrote about them, and see how your palate has developed.
For others, writing cigar reviews is more like a public service. These cigar smokers rate and review cigars based on their passion alone, with the sole payment coming in the form of comments, likes, shares, and general credibility among the cigar community, especially within their immediate and extended social media circles.
Still others rate and review cigars for actual profit. This may be in the form of advertising revenues, a paid editorial gig, or even free samples from manufacturers, who recognize the value in soliciting the opinion of widely-read cigar reviewers.
In short, there are as many ways to review a cigar as there are reasons to write a review in the first place. Whether you choose to establish a rubric for "grading" cigars with a numerical rating, or invoke "cigarspeak" in your review, is ultimately your decision, but be aware that there are many strong opinions on both sides of the argument.
Step 1: Pick a cigar. It can be anything – an old favorite, a new release, even an un-banded cigar.
Step 2: Visually inspect the cigar, noting the color and condition of the wrapper. Are there large veins or seams in the wrapper? How well is the cap applied?
Step 3: Smell the wrapper and foot of the cigar, and make notes. This is also a good time to inspect the construction: does it have any soft spots? Does it feel heavier or lighter than you expected?
Step 4: Cut the cap and, before lighting, draw on the cigar. Note any flavors you detect.
Step 5: Light the cigar and jot down your initial impressions, including the flavors, aromas, smoke texture, amount of smoke produced, intensity of flavor, strength (nicotine), and anything else you may notice.
Step 6: Imagine the cigar cut into thirds. Write down your thoughts on each third of the cigar, including flavors, aromas, body, strength, flavor intensity, burn line, ash color and quality, and how these change while you smoke.
Step 7: After you've finished your cigar, it's time to distill your notes into a written review. Some choose a linear, chronological review, while others take a different approach. Be creative or play it straight, it's up to you!*MORE
It’s like a horror movie:
“Hello? Honey? Is anyone home? Helloooo? Nice, house to myself.”
Nobody is home, so you take this opportunity to smoke a cigar in peace. You walk down a dimly lit hallway, floorboards creaking with every slow, unsuspecting step you take. You round the corner and you see it on the counter. Your humidor; sitting there like the golden idol on the pedestal in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. You creep towards it, mouth watering for the perfect cigar. The cigar you’ve been waiting all day to have. Placing your hands on your sacred humidor, you flip open the lid, reach your hand in and grab your treat. But what is this? A hole? And another! What is this? Holes are riddled throughout your cigar! You drop to your knees and let out a scream: “WHYYYYYY?!?!”
Pretty tragic story, right? I know, I should be a screen writer. I had you on the edge of your seat, admit it. Anyway, this is the handiwork of the dastardly cigar beetle - and it can be a real nuisance to any cigar smoker or collector. It can turn your entire inventory of hundreds of cigars to a pile of broken tobacco leaves if you have enough of them to terrorize you. The worst part is it is hard to inspect for cigar beetles and their eggs at the manufacturing plants simply because they can be hard to see. One beetle that is carrying eggs, or just a few eggs on a tobacco leaf, can turn into dozens; thus wreaking havoc if they hatch. This is when it becomes a tragedy: once you introduce those beetles to your humidor, they can multiply and destroy your collection.
So what happens when you meet this tiny foe? Well, fear not, as your cigars can be protected during a possible break-in through freezing. That’s right, freezing your cigars will kill off any beetles that may do harm to your cigars. This is how I usually go about the process: first, identify which cigars are damaged. If they are still in the cellophane, your other cigars are 99% safe from beetles because it is hard for beetles to escape the sealed plastic. Simply throw the affected cigars away and keep the ones that look fine. However, we always recommend, especially if the cigars have been removed from their cellophane and have been introduced to your humidor, to toss any infested cigars, and freeze the remaining.
To do this, place all of your cigars from your humidor in an air tight bag, preferably a sandwich bag, and try to remove most of the air from the bag. Place the bag in your refrigerator and let it sit for at least 4 hours. From there, move the bag to a freezer and let it sit for no less than 8 hours (overnight). It is recommended to let them sit in the freezer for a full day just to make sure all the beetles are dead. After this time, transfer them back to a refrigerator for a couple more hours to start warming them up, and then bring them to room temperature. It takes a long time simply because you must gradually cool down and then warm up the cigars to prevent swelling and cracking of the cigars.
At this point, your cigars are good to go, but you do need to make sure your humidor is safe as well. You should never freeze your humidor because it is obviously designed to hold water. If you freeze it, the water will certainly freeze and can crack and warp the wood, rendering your humidor useless. The best way to protect your humidor it to vacuum out any excess tobacco leaves and debris, and then wipe down your humidor with a cloth dampened with distilled water to clean it. As long as you make sure there is no debris, there should not be any more cigar beetles.
The best way to deal with cigar beetles though is to simply take preventative measures against them by following the 70-70 rule. Do not allow your humidor to reach over 70% humidity and 70 degrees. If you’re at or above 70% humidity, once your humidor temperature reaches 75 degrees or higher you begin to run the risk of beetle eggs hatching. By keeping your humidor at the sweet spot of around 67% humidity and out of direct sunlight at room temperature, you should not experience this problem. *MORE
There is nothing rawer than how they fought in the old days…a no holds barred, full contact, fight to the death! But these sticks up the stakes: Three sticks enter, one leaves the ancient field of combat…or in this month’s case, strength: mild, mild-medium, medium-full and full. And we need you to choose your warriors. Welcome to the Battle! Still looking for those "ratings" pages full of inflated numbers, slanted cigar reviews and stupid phrases like "pleasant subset" or "humble notes"? Nope, nope, nope. Ain't happening - we're just here to give you the facts on each stick and leave the ratings up to the readers like you. So why did we pick these cigars for this month's Battle? Because we can, that's why. As for the descriptions you see, those are based off of the flavor, body and strength the fillers and wrappers have, and so on...and a little bit of personal experience, too. So we pick the smokes, lay them out by category and let them fight it out.
For the ratings, that's where you come in - each of these cigars goes into the Judge's Club sampler for this month. [More on that after we introduce our competitors.]
This Battle is a test of strength: Mild, Mild-Medium, Medium-Full and Full. Four levels of intensity here - and to experience each, we think, is like doing battle with different warriors throughout history. Don't be fooled, however - a knight of King Arthur's Court isn't any less savage than a full-blown Viking Berserker - he's just a little more...refined. So it is with cigars in each of our rounds. Are you prepared to feel the honed steel of the honorable Samurai, or the viciousness of ancient Rome's dusty Gladiators? You'll see that, like our warriors, strength and intensity come in many forms and flavors - and each of them, unique. Judges Club
You be the judge - and pick the winners !
Each month, we roll all of our Battle competitors into one sweet cigar sample called the 'Judges Club' for you to try out and rank yourself, right here at Cigar Advisor. That's right - we don't rank 'em, you do. So based on what you taste all we ask is for you to choose the king of the hill from each group.
We've made it easy and affordable for you to join the Battle with these smokes right now: order this month's "Judge Club" sampler to get all twelve sticks for only $XX.XX! That's Big Savings off the regular price.
See, how its works is, you buy the sampler for $39.99 plus shipping today...you smoke the smokes, and you vote the smokes - then we kick you back Free Shipping on your future orders for 30 days from the day you complete your voting in all 4 rounds of the battle back here at Cigar Advisor.
Free shipping is Not Included in your first order of the Battle sampler. Mild – the Knights of Europe
Gran Habano Connecticut #1 - Edward the Black Prince Just as the Gran Habano is a delicate balance of Nicaraguan longfillers and aromatic CT wrapper, the Black Prince was a balance of ruthlessness and chivalry – while he treated the captured King John of France very well, he thought nothing of liquidating the rank and file of John’s defeated army.
Baccarat - William Marshal
Baccarat cigars are a sort of William Marshal, who made his bones by kicking armored ass in Middle Ages tournaments – proficient with every weapon in the arsenal. They have the mojo of an all-Honduran-grown core, but with a sweet cap found on traditional Cubans. Both are a champion of the people.
CAO Gold - El Cid, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar His nickname means ‘the master’ - and Rodrigo took it upon himself to attack whomever he pleased, whether the King of Spain liked it or not. So it is with CAO Gold; it stands out independently from the rest of the CAO sticks by virtue of milder flavor and melloweraroma. Mild-Medium – the Samurai
Oliva Reserve Connecticut - Date Masamune
Masamune and Oliva both strike fear into their opponents – as they both could be unpredictable when challenged. The Oliva is “Connecticut mellow” until it has the opportunity to strike with its Nicaraguan tobacco filler, unleashing a dash of pepper…just as Masamune did when waging war.
Perdomo Lot 23 - Oda Nobunaga
There was no samurai stronger or more cunning that Oda Nobunaga, who was responsible for introducing firearms to unleash hell on his opponents. Nick Perdomo does the same with the Lot 23, unloading a barrel-full of aged Corojo and Criollo tobaccos in one hearty puff of smoke.
The Edge Lite - Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Hideyoshi & Rocky are both innovators: the samurai constructed the massive Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most recognizable landmarks; Rocky has created a rich, aged Nicaraguan & Honduran Ligero longfiller cigar wrapped in Ecuadorian CT that stands up to history. Medium-Full – the Gladiators
Alec Bradley Black Market - Flamma
Flamma enjoyed a fight, just as the Black Market does today - freed from his shackles four times, Flamma chose instead to stay and battle. The AB’s Honduran Jamastran and Panamanian longfillers, Sumatra binder, and semi-sweet cured Jalapa wrapper just may be a blend you’ll fight to the death over.
Liga Undercrown – Spartacus
The Spartacus of the bunch, Liga has thrown the cigar world into a full-blown revolt with its unique Otapan-Mata Fina-T52 CT Habano blend. Just as Spartacus defeated whole legions sent to kill him, the Undercrown has a complex fighting style that has rolled over its opponents.
RyJ Reserva Real – Spiculus
Just as we’ve all been longtime friends with RyJ, Spiculus was tight with the Emperor Nero. The Reserva’s Nicaraguan binders and Honduran-Nicaraguan fuller blend are good friends to have by your side…if you dare to step into the arena. Full – the Vikings
Camacho Triple Maduro - Ragnar Lodbrok
Both can be characterized as always on the move and always unpredictable for his enemies…
Camacho rolled Maduro tobaccos into the wrapper, filler, and binder for a full-bodied experience that will inspire you to raid and plunder villages, just as Ragnar Lodbrok used his ships to devastate France.
Joya de Nicaragua de Antaño Dark Corojo - Ivar Ragnarsson
This version of JdN gets as full-Berserker as Ivar “the Boneless” – the embodiment of Nicaraguan power, this mature-leaf puro builds in strength just as the Viking a warrior who fought in an uncontrollable state of fury. This is a cigar that just may make you want to tear your shirt off and run around with an axe.
601 La Bomba - Leif Eriksson
Leif Eriksson just didn’t give a fuck: he discovered America, and said “meh – looks boring.” This 601 Nicaraguan puro of Ligero in a Habano wrapper does much the same to your palate, with similar disregard for your safety. Like Leif, you’ll want to wear a helmet. Judges Club Sampler You Be the Judge!
Each month we'll roll out a sweet new "Judges Club" sampler for your smoking enjoyment. Try them out and come right back here to Cigar Advisor to let everyone know what you think. Four categories, three cigars in each and you are the judge. Buy the sampler for $39.99 plus shipping today. The regular price for this Beast is $81.29. Save over 50%! You smoke the smokes, and you vote the smokes - then we kick you back Free Shipping on your future orders for 30 days from the day you complete your voting in all 4 rounds of the battle back here at Cigar Advisor.
Buy 'Em | Smoke 'Em | Pick your winners *MORE
Rum, the liquor used in the Mojito, had its origins born out of necessity; a necessity of the slaves who worked the sugar cane fields of Barbados during the 17th century and needed a drink at the end of the day. The slaves found they could ferment molasses, a typically discarded by-product of sugar distillation, into a fairly potent concoction. Over time, rum came to be distilled to remove impurities and the rum we know and love today became the preeminent liquor of the Caribbean and Latin America. Necessity is the mother is of invention, and this holds particularly true through the annals of history with folks, who, like The Rev, enjoy a good drink every now and again...mostly now and again and again in my case. Rum, the liquor used in the Mojito, had its origins born out of necessity; a necessity of the slaves who worked the sugar cane fields of Barbados during the 17th century, and needed a drink at the end of the day. The slaves found they could ferment molasses, a typically discarded by-product of sugar distillation, into a fairly potent concoction. Over time, rum came to be distilled to remove impurities and the rum we know and love today became the preeminent liquor of the Caribbean and Latin America. My favorite way to enjoy rum in the summer is in Mojitos, which are fairly similar to a Deep South favorite, the mint julep. Needing a way to enjoy rum in the sweltering heat of 19th century Cuba, the present-day version of the Mojito was born. As the Rev is a traditionalist, I present a close-to-original version of the drink. You will need 2 ounces of light rum, a lime, some mint leaves (spearmint is my preference), good organic minimally refined cane sugar (sold at your favorite big-box market), ice cold soda water, and ice.
And now, here's Rev’s handwritten bar book. Take it away!
Pour rum into long drink glass;
Wash lime, cut in half, cut one half into 4 wedges;
Add 3 of the 4 lime wedges to rum in the glass;
Strip mint leaves off 2 of the stems and add to rum in the glass;
Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar to rum in the glass;
Mash the lime and the mint using a muddler;
Add ice cubes, fill with soda water.
Use 4th lime wedge to decorate rim of glass.
Use 3rd stem of mint to decorate the glass This is a hot weather drink, my friends. I suggest smoking a mild to medium-bodied cigar so the smoke complements the drink and vice versa. A La Requeza or (for my taste) a Tatuaje La Vierate 2009 are the go-to cigars for this drink. Celebrate invention’s mother, necessity, and try a Mojito.*MORE
Highland Games athletes – alsoknown as “heavies,” or “throwers” - are some of the strongest and most agile men in the world. Meet Myles Wetzel, a Highland Games athlete: a blend of strongman, track athlete and weight lifter. “We must be able to throw large, heavy objects a long ways - and be crazy enough to try.” If this sounds like you, he has a few tips for you – along with a few warnings – before you decide to step onto the field of honor. Maybe you’ve heard about us. In some circles we are known as “heavies,” in some others as “throwers;” and to still others, we are simply known as Highland Games athletes. Regardless of the name, we are some of the strongest and most agile men in the world.
A Highland games athlete is a blend of strongman, track athlete and weight lifter. We must be able to throw large, heavy objects a long ways - and be crazy enough to try. The timid, weak and frail need not apply. Most of the athletes in my sport are very large, powerful men. There are exceptions to every rule, but not many in this sport. You have to be big to move big things fast and far. While I am about 6'4", 290 pounds, in this sport there are even larger: my buddy Jumbo is 6’7 and a “lean” 340 pounds. And although I have broken the Alabama and Florida records in the deadlift, going over 700 pounds, that merely qualifies you to play in this crowd. Five hundred-fifty pound front squats, 400 inclines - while being able to dunk a basketball - are the norm. So if you’re planning on stepping on the field of honor and tossing something, you have to be more than strong: you have to be fast, explosive strong.
Perhaps you have seen the world’s strongest men competitions on TV; well, we are their cousins, the world’s most agile strongmen. Some of the athletes try to cross over, but it is just a daunting task to be proficient in 7 events at one time. I’d like to tell you about them, and what I do to prepare for each one. The Highland games date back hundreds of years to Scotland. The clans had battled enough and realized that they were losing all the best warriors to settle their arguments; so they came up with a sporting way to decide a victor without death. Today, the games have evolved into 7 heavy events, and combine a mixture of movement, strength, power, and coordination to determine the overall best athlete. We no longer compete to settle arguments, but for prizes, money and honor. Stone Throw
The first event in the games is the stone throw. One legend has it that at a game in Scotland, the athletes could not find a stone of the proper size, so they threw a cannon ball. This event has since evolved into the modern shot put that is now an Olympic event. But in the Highland Games, there was no such evolution; we still use a stone that is at least 16 pounds, although many times they are much heavier. When training for this event, I like to have a big incline bench press. I'm not confident unless I am blasting up over 350 pounds, but I have done well over 400. I then have to harness that strength and use it to launch that stone. Yes, I have already had my rotator cuff reattached and my labrum sewn back into one piece - I am on a first name basis with my orthopedist. This is a big boy sport. Fifty-Six Pounds - Distance
After the stone throw, we get the 56-pound weight for distance. This is simply a block of steel with a ring attached to it for a handle. Nobody is ever ready to pick up this imposing beast and try to dance with it. The athlete will spin like he has a discus and toss the implement. The best can manage over 45 feet; the average person, less than 10. Most intelligent people pick it up and set it down, muttering as they walk away. Big is the order of the day here; you just don’t play with something this big without some serious hind end. There is nothing in the world like this event, and nothing in your workout can prepare you for it.
A word to the wise: keep your health insurance paid up if you think you're ready to rumble with the 56. This bad boy cost me a year with a torn quadriceps. Twenty-Eight Pounds - Distance
The third event is a 28-pound weight throw—very similar to the 56 toss, but half the weight. The goal is to see who is still strong, as well as fast. Distances over 90 feet are seen here by the big guns. After you dance with the 56, a measly 28 feels like a walk in the park. This is where all my footwork drills pay off. I have to have fast feet and get speed in order to make the weight fly. A big guy who lumbers around just won’t cut it. Scottish Hammer
The final event of the morning is the Scottish hammer, which is a 22–pound weight attached to the end of a 50-inch stick. The feet remain stationary, making this event a test of the athlete's core and upper body strength.
With his back to the field, the athlete grips the implement with two hands. He winds it around and around his body to gain momentum, and then hoists it up and over his left shoulder using just his abdominals, shoulders and arms.
Try to imagine it: while holding this 22-pound weight-on-a-stick, you must stay relaxed enough to let your arms hang long and loose. Gaining speed with each wind, you explode with power to drive it over a hundred feet. That’s right, we're going to make 22 pounds fly over a hundred feet, all while keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground.
This event is truly the core workout from hell: I tore my hamstring so badly that it bruised all the way into my shoe. Recharge...for the Caber Toss
After the morning's events, the boys get to sit down to have lunch and rest. We are provided drinks and some light fare, but this is no time to sit and eat big and get lethargic. The crowds are now really gathering, as they know that after lunch, it is caber time–that big telephone pole-looking implement that is the signature event of the games. The big men warm back up again and prepare to perform an athletic feat with a tree which, until recently, was in someone’s yard. Usually a cedar, the big guys will use a caber that is about 20 feet long; it has the small end smoothed out for the athletes' hands. With the limbs and bark shaved off, it can weigh up to 150 pounds.
Do you remember all those times they told you to lift with your legs, not your back? Well, this is where we break that rule. Athletes lift the caber from the bottom, balance it on end, and then run and toss it forward into the air, end-over-end, for accuracy. This is not a distance or height event; instead, we are trying to make the caber go straight up and over when we turn it. If the stick falls to one side or the other, it is less than perfection, and judged accordingly. Expect to pay the price, as your chiropractor will be soon be a familiar face to you. A lower back operation and 12 epidurals are proof that this one wore on me a little. Nothing could prepare me for trying to run with a tree, but loving to deadlift helped. It is an amazing thing to have pulled over 700 pounds in the dead and still feel like you don’t have enough power.
Completing the day are the two height events. Both are contested on what looks like football goalposts, except that the cross bar is adjustable. The Sheaf
We toss the sheaf first - an event evolved from the days when we filled the barn with hay. This sheaf is a 16-pound burlap bag filled with twine. The athlete first sticks that bag with a 3-tine pitchfork, then uses his lower back and torso to toss it up and over the bar. Our technique takes years to perfect, and requires a relationship with the fork (I love my fork, and it loves me back by making that bag go up and over the bar).
I have really come to relish this event, holding the world record in every age group as a Master. To train, I use some Olympic lifting—snatches earn you the quick, explosive power needed here. But be warned: many a bicep tendon has left for the day in the sheaf. I have suffered several partial tears myself, turning my entire arm purple. Fifty-Six Pounds - Height
The last event of the day is the 56 for height. That same block of steel from this morning is now going to be contested to see how high we can throw it. By the time I get to this event, I have been on the field for hours. I am running on fumes and have to go up against gravity with the brute again. The weight never changes, it is always the same, brutal 56 pounds. This is a pure display of lower back mojo and power. With one hand, athletes let the implement swing down between their legs. Then, using their lower back and shoulders, they launch it up and over the bar.
Squatting 700+ pounds took me up well over 16 feet in this event. You'd better be big and you'd better be nasty strong, because bold talk and bravado are not going to make this thing fly high. Poseurs can stay safely to the side. You can imagine the lower back and hamstring maladies that come with this fun: the posterior chain will be taxed for every ounce of power in the tank. As the spectators fade away, the evening creeps in. I begin to decompress and unwind from the day. There was so much living done in those eight hours, it takes a long time to go over it all. I love that time.
I start to relax and the pain of each event begins to set in like rigor mortis. Bags of ice are strapped to my body as I quietly revel in the glory and honor of a day well-fought. I am feeling great and terrible at the same time. Alone with just my thoughts and hurt, I ask myself, “So you wanted to be a Highland Games athlete?” The Tally
With the day now complete, the points are added up and the places, announced. The winner gets a weapon of death: a sword worthy of Conan is awarded in honor of this day to one lucky and hard-working contestant.
Not many men in this world win a Highland Games day (let alone one event), but I can tell you this: I don’t care what is happening anywhere in the world; for that moment, you’re a king. It is rare air, and to be celebrated and digested.*MORE
On October 18, 2007, my wife and two kids were enjoying a meal around the kitchen table like it was any other Thursday. I, on the other hand, was glued to CSPAN-LIVE counting votes and praying that the handmade cigar industry would survive. The moment was surreal: whether it knew it or not, my federal government was threatening to destroy my business, an industry rooted in tradition and passion, and the simple joy of smoking a great cigar. On October 18, 2007, my wife and two kids were enjoying a meal around the kitchen table like it was any other Thursday. I, on the other hand, was glued to CSPAN-LIVE counting votes and praying that the handmade cigar industry would survive. The moment was surreal: whether it knew it or not, my federal government was threatening to destroy my business, an industry rooted in tradition and passion, and the simple joy of smoking a great cigar.
The measure being voted on was an attempted override of the President’s veto of a bill called SCHIP (States Children Health Insurance Program), a state-based health insurance program for children of families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
The proposed expansion of this federal program was funded, in part, by a draconian increase on the excise tax of handmade cigars. The tax would increase from the then-current maximum of $0.05 per cigar to an inconceivably astronomical maximum of $10.00 per cigar. Yes, you read that correctly—that's a 20,000% increase! If the veto were overridden, the handmade cigar industry would likely collapse. Estimates by industry experts projected that production would be cut by at least 50%, and that many small- to medium-sized manufacturers and distributors would likely go out of business. In addition, retail tobacconists across the country would likely close in large numbers.
By the end of the family meal, the veto override failed by just 15 votes. Out of almost 435 votes, we “won” the vote by just 15. While the handmade cigar industry survived this Pearl Harbor-style attack by our own federal government, the government has been waging war on us ever since. The cigar industry was accustomed to fighting legislative battles at the state and municipal level. We were not remotely prepared for the onslaught from the federal government. The SCHIP bill was eventually pushed back until the Obama administration took over in 2009. Just a few weeks after inauguration of the President, SCHIP became law with a cap of $0.41 per cigar. While it was much more favorable than the original $10.00 cap, the cigar industry nevertheless sustained a 700% tax increase. To put this in perspective, under the previous regime, if a distributor had 100,000 cigars in inventory, it would have to pay the federal government a $5,000 floor tax ($0.05 per cigar) to store the cigars in its warehouse. Under the new SCHIP, the distributor now had to pay the federal government $41,000 ($0.41 per cigar) to store those same cigars. For those of us making a living in the industry, SCHIP changed everything. While it is not my intention to get political in this article, it is only fair to say that I am from the conservative end of the spectrum. However, as we in the cigar industry became more engaged in the federal lobbying effort, it became clear that we needed friends from both sides of the aisle. As some of my colleagues can attest, warming up to this concept was no easy feat for me.
One such bipartisan outreach came when a group of conservative Cuban-Americans met with Representative Charlie Rangel (D), the then-Chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, at a home in Coral Gables, Florida. Offering him our support so that he could assist us with our federal tax challenges was completely alien to me, and Representative Rangel was quite blunt. He told us that our taxes would be going up no matter what we did. If we got organized as an industry, he said, we may be able to keep the tax at a livable rate. In our political culture today, “lobbying” or “lobbyists” are routinely painted as the primary source of all evil in Washington. Time and again we hear politicians of both parties deride lobbyists or “special interests.” Newsflash: Representatives and Senators need lobbyists to educate them on the impact of their decisions. I will never forget the initial reaction of various politicians when the $10.00 SCHIP tax was first proposed. The politicians thought that only rich people smoked handmade cigars. They literally said that cigar smokers could afford to pay $10.00 extra for a handmade cigar. They were beyond ignorant about our industry. Their portrayal of cigar smokers was an old and tired stereotype. It became abundantly clear that a massive educational process (a/k/a lobbying) would be needed at the federal level. When the SCHIP dust settled in early 2009, it felt like the handmade cigar industry had narrowly escaped its demise. However, shame on us for not being ready; just four years earlier, at the end of 2004, the federal government had telegraphed its views on cigars and its willingness to tax us unfairly with the "Tobacco Quota Buyout."
Since the days of FDR’s New Deal, the federal government had enforced a tobacco production quota in the United States in order to raise the price of tobacco above the market level. The government's arbitrary “support price” was maintained by allocating production quotas among individual farms based proportionately on their history of producing tobacco. In other words, they artificially limited the supply by increasing the price. Fast forward to the 21st century and the sales of U.S.-grown tobacco had declined sharply. Thus, a decision was made to end the quota system in 2005. In so doing, the government decided to compensate the quota holders to the tune of $10 billion over ten years. Guess where the money comes from? Answer: Assessments (a/k/a taxes) on manufacturers and importers of tobacco products marketed in the U.S., including handmade cigars. As if that were not bad enough, here’s the real kicker: none of us in the handmade cigar business ever used or benefited from the tobacco grown in the United States!
Both SCHIP and the Tobacco Quota Buyout included federal taxes on handmade premium cigars and we had absolutely nothing to do with the issues being addressed in the legislation. Children’s health is not affected by handmade cigars, and children don’t smoke handmade cigars. When is the last time you caught your teenager or young child smoking a stogie? It doesn’t happen. Regardless of the anti-tobacco propaganda, we in the handmade cigar business do not target or appeal to children, nor do we tolerate any underage smoking. SCHIP is up for renewal at the end of 2013. Thus, we are gearing up for another existential tax fight in 2013. The Tobacco Quota Buyout is consistently allocating a larger share of the yearly payments to the cigar category which in turn raises our taxes. On a yearly basis, we are fighting massive tobacco tax increases at the state level. New York is now at 75% of the wholesale price, Minnesota is at 70%, and Colorado is at 40%, just to name a few. For those of us who enjoy a good cigar, Taxmaggedon (to borrow a phrase) is real and can crush our industry. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and doing business in several countries outside the U.S. When you travel to places like Canada, the U.K., and Australia, you catch a glimpse of what the cigar industry could look like in this country. Each of those countries has exorbitant tax rates on cigars. In Canada, for instance, one of our cigars that sells for $7.00 in Florida (a non-tobacco tax State) will sell anywhere from $15-$18.00 in Canada. Cigars in these high-tax countries are enjoyed only by the very well-off, and even they are particular about how often they can smoke such a high-priced product.
Taxes are not nearly the only threat to our industry. We have the federal regulatory threat of the FDA as well as myriad state and municipal smoking bans throughout the country. However, taxing handmade cigars at a punitive level has the potential to destroy our industry overnight. Four years ago, 15 votes was the difference between life and death for the cigar industry. How long can we survive on this razor’s edge? I’m lucky enough to be the fourth generation of my family in the handmade cigar industry. Today, I have a fourteen year old son and an eleven year old daughter who would like to work with their father in this industry that I love. I’m sure many of you look forward to the day when your son or daughter becomes an adult and can share a special moment with you enjoying a good cigar. To make sure this happens, we have to fight for what we are passionate about.
I hope that all cigar smokers will unite with us in the industry and take the fight wherever it’s needed. In the meantime, Make Time to Burn. *MORE
Even after an accident that left him partially paralyzed, my dad never wanted us to grow up afraid of anything. Whether flying an airplane, developing cigar blends, or striking out on my own, this lesson, more than any other, has defined me as a person and as a cigar maker. My earliest childhood memory is from November 18th, 1976. It was my mother’s birthday, and I was just over four years old, living in Danlí, Honduras.
Our house was a perfect two-story shoebox, surrounded by fields and out-buildings. Inside sat my father, tying his bootlaces at the edge of his bed. He wore his blue jeans and a white V-neck T-shirt. I crawled onto his back and pressed my head between his thick, black hair and sinewy shoulders.
Our next door neighbors were Estelo Padrón–truly the greatest manufacturer I will ever know–and Nestor Plasencia, a major cigar figure in both Nicaragua and Honduras.
After completing my MBA I moved back into this very room. Memories washed over me with the resonant certainty of ocean waves: the constant squelching of the VHF radio, the Zenith TV remote I'd smell incessantly, Topo Gigio singing the Good Night song before the station went off-air...
My father never overate and was always extremely active, with the lean physique of a working man. Unlike me, desserts are not his poison–only Flor de Caña rum, that is his poison! "Where are you going?"
"To the jungle!" he replied, standing up and setting me back down on the bed.
He tucked a .38 revolver into his back pocket and left the room for work. It was to be the only time I would clearly remember him walking: less than a year later, he survived an airplane accident that fractured his back, leaving him partially paralyzed.
I remember the day of the accident exactly as it happened; I believe it was September 20th, 1977. My sister and I had just returned from school. We received a call from our Tía Karime that he had suffered an accident and then we turned on the radio and heard the news. I was jumping up and down on the bed thinking how cool it must have been to jump out with a parachute. At just 5 years old, I did not grasp the seriousness of the matter.
You cannot take anything for granted in Honduras: Danlí is a very poor town, and large cats prowl the jungle freely.
Years later, I caught my father smiling in his sleep. I asked him about it, and he told me that he dreamt he was flying. Isn't that incredible?
The school, “Escuela San Luis,” is still there today. Back then our schedule was 8-12, then 2-4. It was great because we would get to nap–a ritual we still maintain today with office hours.
Tía is Spanish for "Aunt." At the time, my father was growing over 1,600 acres of a Connecticut seed variety named "Moonlight." The strain was popular for green-colored Candela wrappers, and used primarily for Bering cigars, a popular brand during the 1960s and 70s. The farms were in the Jamastran and TalangaValleys. His days were long, beginning around 4:30 AM.
After checking the pilones in the bodegas just behind our house, he'd fly to all four different farms on a daily basis.
The Jamastran, Talanga, and Tegucigalpa farms formed an equilateral triangle consisting of three 50 mile legs, as the crow flies. The dirt roads at the time were long and treacherous, plagued by mud slides and myriad other obstacles. Driving any of these legs would normally take four solid hours; the Cessna 185 Skywagon cut each leg to a mere 25 minutes.
Prior to being aged, dark air-cured cigar tobacco is carefully-sorted and arranged into piles called pilones. Moisture and pressure within the pilones generate heat, causing a natural process of fermentation during which the tobacco releases ammonia and other undesirable compounds. The result is tobacco that is palatable to smoke.
This is what we call the warehouses where the tobacco is fermented. Ater checking the pilones in the bodegas just behind our house, he'd fly to all four different farms on a daily basis. In order to land, we'd have to call ahead by radio to make sure the workers blocked off the highway. On one particularly rainy day, we were forced to land on a soccer field. The landing was fine, but when we took off, we had to ask the players to give us a push. The propeller sprayed those poor guys with mud from head to toe. While admittedly funny from our perspective, the players thought it was hilarious, and actually lined up to give us a push the next time.
There was a whole collection of airplanes for long trips, short trips, and crop dusting. I loved walking around the hangars and sitting inside the airplanes, which included three yellow Piper Pawnee crop dusters. On several occasions I would ride just behind the pilot’s seat while he would dust. I would even go with him from one farm to another. The only permission needed was a simple call on the radio from the pilot:
“Don Julio, the kid is in the airplane again, is he allowed to go up with me?”
My father would always agree. Even after his accident, he did not want us to grow up afraid of anything.
Besides the Cessna and Pipers, our fleet included an Aero Commander 690 A (turboprop) and Shrike 500 Commander (twin piston). Both were used for longer trips, mostly we had them because my father became the Central American dealer for them. On other days, we'd happen to catch the airplane landing. After asking the pilot to stop, we'd lay flat on the wings and hold on as tight as we could while he taxied back to the hanger.
My love of flying is tied closely to those experiences, although I must admit that I took my first lessons partly out of rebellion. Still, I came to enjoy it more that I could have expected, and immediately found a connection with my father.
Looking back on those days now, growing up tobacco was completely nuts- I mean, can you imagine a five or six year old just hopping on a plane like that?- But I loved it. My father was always fearless and aggressive. He was also tough and old fashioned: no matter what the complication or weather, he always found a way to make it home for dinner at 7:00pm and in bed by 8:00pm
My father did not want us to grow up afraid of anything.
My cousin Generoso "Genito," Eiroa was my idol growing up, and the inspiration for this and many other crazy stunts.
I still make it a point to buzz over the farm in Honduras just to make him upset. The last time I did it, the local battalion sent a squad over with trucks and everything trying to locate where i had dropped the drugs. My father was not happy at all about this one! Today we only grow Criollo '98 and the authentic criollo seed. At 75, he still spends his days checking pilones and visiting the farms all day long. The roads are better now, and the farming is limited only to Jamastran. The seeds, too, have changed. Today we only grow Criollo '98 and the Authentic Corojo Seed.
This is the example he set for me; it's an example I draw on frequently with my own children. Today, I am the one that has carried him on my back on more than one occasion. I don't carry a .38, but I do fly airplanes to visit a different kind of jungle. We land on runways though, not highways, and as much as I try, I cannot convince my wife to allow the boys to hop on any random crop dusting trips. At the time, my father was growing over 1,00 acres of a Connecticut seed variety named "moonlight."*MORE
The path to success is littered with good ideas. Make sure yours doesn’t get stranded there, too. Xikar co-founder, Kurt van Keppel, has a series of tips and tests for the budding entrepreneur: does it solve the “why” of buy? Does the market show a demand for it? Did you test it on a focus group? Would your product make it on “Shark Tank?” And most importantly, are you willing to sacrifice for success? Everyone has great business ideas. Each time you think, "Why can't I?" or "Wouldn't it be cool if?..." you might be pregnant with a good product or business idea. Fifteen years ago, I thought, "Wouldn't it be easier if I squeeze my cigar cutter closed with my palm rather than my finger tips?" And if that cutter had a pivot point, wouldn't that leverage make the cut even more powerful? Those questions defined a problem, which our Xi cutter solved. Fortunately, many others agreed with the solution, even if they didn't know they had a problem (thank you)! It's best if the solution is unique, even patentable, since those lend immediate market interest and protection. When the product isn't unique, it must at least have a unique meaning, or "position" in the consumer's mind. For example, think about pocket knives, which have been around for hundreds of years. Yet the new position created by tactical knives like Spyderco reinvigorated the entire category.
But the road to success is littered with good, unique solutions. In today's competitive marketplace, products must carry competitive protection, a suit of armor. Great service is one such protection (low price is another). That, and because "do unto others" is part of our essence, which is why we have a lifetime warranty on our products. Entrepreneurs should solve the "why" of buy - and not just the "what." In order for an idea to become a business, the solution it provides must have an appeal that others are willing to pay for. The great show, "Shark Tank" explores exactly that - and in my opinion, does a great service to inventors participating and watching - because it dramatically demonstrates the tough judgment of the market. Many inventors fall in love with an idea never stopping to consider whether others might be equally attracted. They ought to ask themselves and others, "Would this make it on Shark Tank?" XIKAR is fortunate to receive product inventors' ideas, and some, like our Ashtray Can, have obvious appeal. This product quickly passed our review process, then moved to an accelerated launch, and now provides the inventor a nice royalty (if you have a new product idea, please send me an email). Others like the "Monica" cutter didn't pass. If you are old enough to remember Monica Lewinsky, you can imagine why! The key to understandin the market for your solution is to test it.
The test should be unbiased, as close to the marketplace as possible. If you don't have a product, discuss the "problem," with friends, acquaintances, even strangers. (I don't suggest discussing your solution at this stage. While very, very few people have the ability or low morals to seal steal your idea, this phase is still young enough that, if that happens, they could potentially get it to market before you). Record their responses, and mold your solution according to those responsible in a way that feels logical to you. We did exactly this when in 2003 we decided to enter the lighter market. We made the assumption that lighters are just like cars: moving parts, with an engine that burns fuel. Cars also have a warranty. That warranty, however, is usually limited by certain terms and conditions, based upon the expected performance and longevity of its individual components. So we asked specific questions surrounding problems with lighters and their warranties. XIKAR already had a solution in our lifetime warranty, but needed to know if our solution was also unique – and as it turned out, it was! “XIKAR for Life” is the position that gave our first lighters unique meaning. Even with very positive responses, the test isn't over. Simply put, the marketplace is by far the best test. It is the shark tank. Show your first prototype to a group of your target consumer. What do they think of it? How much would they pay for it? Feel free to describe the features of it, but be careful to stay clear of selling the advantages and benefits - you can't be there to make every sale! And since you can't, you want unbiased feedback before investing any more funds. Early in our business life, we would take a product to market at this stage. And if response was positive, we would then go into full production; since demand during the cigar boom was so high, we were very anxious to get the sales. Fortunately, we didn't make many mistakes. For instance, I can surely say that our endeavor into pocketknives led to some beautiful product and taught us volumes about blade and handle materials, edge grinds, and even introduced us to some current vendors. However, deeper research would have revealed that gentlemen's knives were on the wane, particularly after 9/11. Deeper serious study might have gained the same knowledge without the financial side track.
Today, we take one further test step - we order a "sample run" of sufficient units to test in a dozen stores around the country. This real, live test takes place with our standard retail package and in-store advertising. It therefore tells us all we need to know - whether a consumer sees the same solution we envision. Our Ashtray Can, and more recently, our Vitara lighter, passed the test. On the other hand, a lighter and a cutter we thought would pass didn't. Congratulations! Your solution (and invention) is now a product. The market responded and demands the product. Are you in business? Maybe. The answer really depends on your financial situation and skills related to running the business you want to be in. Prior to XIKAR, my career experience included sales and marketing management, and new product launches for several top consumer products companies. Scott's [Scott Almsberger, XIKAR co-founder and Chief Design Officer] included sales, relationship management, factory management and of course a lot of product design. We were well suited to start and run XIKAR on our own. Had we not been good candidates for our own jobs, I'm not sure that would have stopped us - so please heed this warning I have come to realize: inventing a product and running a business are completely different. Getting a new product to market carries both financial and business risk (a lot more on that in a later article). Inventors who are not prepared for both stand to lose their finances and their market space as the business overwhelms them, and the market competitors pass them by. Business startups can be boot-strapped. We did it with a unique, patented product in a marketplace that was booming at the time. And, I gave up my salary and home (moved my wife, two young children and two beagles in with my mother in law) for two years. I like to say that not all entrepreneurs have to give everything up, but they have to be ready to! Partnerships with existing brand marketers and distributors provide a great alternative for most entrepreneurs to launch their products and enjoy immediate market penetration. Sales and profits that correspond with that far outweigh the startup years of a solo effort. Sure, the inventor gives up a portion of the profit. But often the economics are still better for the speed of profits and the lack of risk.
We are constantly looking for new products, as are all the other distributors in our trade, and in every trade! Consumers walk into cigar shops and say, "What's new?" I walk into a cigar shop, and the owner (always) says, "What's new?" The Ashtray Can inventor is a great example of how well this can work. I recently saw an invention that will be perfectly suited for the checkout at Wal-Mart, grocery and other big chains. The inventor is a salesman in a tech company, and a mutual friend suggested him to me. So, I passed him to a buddy whose company sells to Wal-Mart, Target and grocery stores, and I think they are both going to make a lot of money on this deal! In my case, I was compelled by a new product solution to take to market. I was compelled to start a business because I was "a good employee, but not very good at working for someone else." If this sounds familiar, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. I hope you have a great product idea, and get it to market. Or, I hope you have a great solution, and let me, or another company know about it!
- Kurt van Keppel*MORE
The Mustang was red hot, and Chevrolet counter punched with the Camaro. But 1967 brought an all-new Plymouth Barracuda designed to outswim its rivals in the ever-expanding muscle car pond. Not the fastest, or the most collectable Barracuda by today’s standards...though what it is often forgotten is the ‘Cuda’s styling appeal and its monstrous victories in super stock drag racing. After all, what kind of car comes with a sticker that says, “not for use on public roads”? The Plymouth Barracuda – arguably, America’s first pony car - was introduced on April 1, 1964. Actually a rebadged, high-performance Valiant, Barracuda beat the Ford Falcon-based Mustang to market by two weeks; but even with the head start, the initial Barracuda was not exactly a glorious statement of Chrysler’s muscle car performance history. Then 1967 brought an all-new Barracuda designed to outswim and tangle with rivals in the expanding muscle car pond. This second of three generations of Barracuda was still not the fastest, nor is it considered the most collectable Barracuda in 2013. Generation 2 of the Barracuda is often forgotten despite both its styling appeal and monstrous victories in super stock drag racing. Like Ford’s Mustang, three distinct body styles were introduced for the 1967 model year: a notchback coupe, a fastback and a convertible. But in contrast to Mustang (and Camaro), the Barracuda utilized European design cues. More important to auto enthusiasts was Chrysler’s decision to expand the width of the engine compartment by two inches; this room was crucial for squeezing in Mopar's top of the line 383 V8, and was now the perfect opportunity to up the high performance game. For 1967, only 1,841 383-equipped race derived Formula S Barracudas were delivered, complete with redline tires. A split-back bench seat was standard, with buckets optional. The Rallye gauges package included a 150-mph speedometer; a combination gauge for engine temperature, oil pressure, fuel level and amps; and a choice of a clock, a tachometer, or a vacuum gauge labeled "Performance Indicator.” Hop in, and you discover plenty of room for what was supposed to be a compact: The flat, low-slung buckets allow easy ingress and egress and outstanding headroom, but won't help a bit in corners. Insert the key teeth-up into the ignition, and twist. The reduction starter makes a racket; once that's quelled, you're left with a lopey idle different in character than Ford or GM, sounding plenty aggressive. Punching the throttle, it is a blast to make that Performance Indicator vacuum gauge jump. The ultimate 1968 Barracuda was the mating of the second generation body with the famed 426 Hemi engine. Right off the dealer lot, the Super Stock fish could cover the quarter mile in the 10’s. Chrysler made approximately 50 fastback Barracudas for Super Stock drag racing. Built in conjunction with Hurst Performance, they featured lightweight items such as Chemcor side glass, fiberglass front fenders, scooped hood, and lightweight seats. An included sticker indicated that the car was not for use on public roads.
Rumors are once again flying about the possible return of the fast fish; this time badged “SRT Barracuda” for the 2015 model year. This time, it looks like they may actually be true. There's tremendous promise lurking in the engine bay.
Cup your hand under the shifter, thumb the button, and pull back into “D” - big-block torque renders acceleration in the Barracuda absolutely effortless. Unlike older cars, the Barracuda seeks to hardwire itself into your cerebral cortex--just think of a speed and you're practically there. It feels ready for a midnight cross-desert blast to the far-flung locale of your choice. *MORE
Estelí, Nicaragua: 4:45 AM. The air is crisp, the sky clear, and the sun has just begun to reveal itself. Nick Perdomo Jr. takes in the breathtaking view of the horizon as he walks through one of his tobacco fields. Imbued with pastel shades of blue, grey and pink, the cloud cover hangs over the lower part of the mountains like a long silky blanket just barely touching the valley below. It's the middle of the tobacco growing season, and Nick has come out to see how his beautiful, rich tobacco plants are doing... Estelí, Nicaragua: 4:45 AM. The air is crisp, the sky clear, and the sun has just begun to reveal itself. Nick Perdomo Jr. takes in the breathtaking view of the horizon as he walks through one of his tobacco fields. Imbued with pastel shades of blue, grey and pink, the cloud cover hangs over the lower part of the mountains like a long silky blanket just barely touching the valley below. It's the middle of the tobacco growing season, and Nick has come out to see how his beautiful, rich tobacco plants are doing. The fertile black soil contrasts beautifully against the vibrant green tobacco leaves that surround him. He lights a cigar and smiles as he watches the leaves rise up towards the sun. Welcome to the world of Perdomo Cigars. Nick Perdomo and his father Nick Sr., worked together for 14 years building a completely vertical cigar manufacturing company that prides itself, not only in making the finest premium handmade cigars in the world, but a true family business. "I loved my Dad," said Nick "He was, and still is, my hero. It was an absolute joy to work with him,"
In the beginning...
It all started in February of 1998. The day was typically hot and sunny in Estelí. I was sitting in my office with my late dad, Nick Sr., at an old wooden table sampling cigars, and they wouldn't burn. One after the other, these things were like fire suits. Frustrated, I looked at my Dad and said, "That's it. I'm tired of it. We're going to do this ourselves." He looked back at me with his big brown eyes and agreed that it was a great idea. We were buying most of our tobacco from brokers at that time, and this one particular broker did me wrong; about $300,000 wrong. It was his tobacco that we used to make the fire-proof cigars. After some investigation we found out that they used pure nitrogen in the ground to accelerate the growth of the leaf. Believe me, things like this are not unusual in this business. There are some really great brokers out there, but then there are a few that aren't really great either.
Take fermentation for example. You can ferment the leaf as much as you want, but once the tobacco stops heating up, the cellular structure is completely fermented. At that point, you hit the wall. Tobacco must be properly cured, aged, and fermented, and in the end should blend perfectly. With all that nitrogen they used in that brokered tobacco, there was no way those cigars would ever smoke right. And that's when I said, "Enough, we can't continue doing this." It was time for our company to control its own destiny. Looking back on it now, I feel like I should thank this guy. It was a hard lesson, but it's what would fundamentally change Perdomo Cigars for the better in the late 1990's. Starting-off on the right foot
My philosophy is, if you're going to do something, you might as well go full bore, which is pretty much how we've done everything.
The first thing we did was start looking for good grounds to plant. I wasn't interested in buying a couple of acres, or doing a little plot thing. So, I calculated how much tobacco we needed to take us within 12 to 14 months of production. For the tobacco we didn't grow, we would deal only with the most highly reputable brokers we had been working with for years. Today, 95% of the tobacco used in our cigars is grown solely by us. We only broker a little Connecticut shade wrapper. In 1999, we finally found 14 acres of good land in Pueblo Nuevo, just north of Estelí in the Condega region, but we didn't begin growing tobacco until later that year. The advantages of having three fertile valleys
Before I get into how we developed our farm in Estelí, I want to tell you about the geography of Nicaragua, and why it's so ideal for growing tobacco.
The valleys in Nicaragua are all fertile, and each serves a different purpose. What's sets Nicaragua apart from any other country (outside of Cuba before 1959), is that the regions are so far apart, they produce different types of tobacco with their own distinctive flavors. Estelí is known for its great "strength" tobacco. It's high in the valley, about 2800 ft., so you have tons of sun exposure and very thick, coarse grounds that are pitch black with soil that's dense and cakey. It's ideal for Ligero, Viso, heavy binders and heavy sun grown wrappers. Estelí can only produce a limited amount of wrapper though, because the region has a tendency for high velocity winds, especially in January and February, which is the middle of the growing season. All that aside, the final product consists of the most tasty, powerful fillers; there lies the secret behind great Nicaraguan tobacco, and why it distinguishes itself way ahead of Honduran, Dominican, and even Cuban tobacco, for that matter. From there you head north and go further down the valley about 500 ft into the Condega region. The atmosphere is entirely different. It has lots of cloud cover, and the soil is very coarse, semi-cakey, and highly mineral laden. As a result, it produces leaves with a thinner texture and power, but not nearly as much power as Estelí, making it ideal for binders and sun grown wrappers. 95% of the tobacco in Perdomo cigars is grown exclusively on Perdomo's farms.
Continuing north for about an-hour-and-a-half, you enter the Jalapa valley. By now you've dropped down to about 2000 ft. The soil there is a very thin, sandy loam, much like you would find in Cuba. The tobacco leaves are reddish and produce more of an aromatic, sweet tobacco. If I gave you a hand of tobacco grown in Jalapa and told you to smell it, you'd notice that it smells like fresh honey-wheat bread. A hand from Estelí would smell very strong, while a hand from Condega would have a little of both, strength and sweetness. That's the beauty of Nicaraguan tobacco. All I can add to that is, when God said, "I'm going to produce cigar tobacco," it wasn't Cuba, it was Nicaragua. The old man and the seed
Now that the pieces were beginning to fall into place, I needed to learn about growing tobacco. I knew the art and culture of it; after all, I grew up in it…
I remember walking with my father through the dusky curing barns, the rich, powerful aromas of the pilones, the honey-like aroma of tobacco aging in old oak casks. Sometimes my father would grab a hand of fermented tobacco, spread it apart and have me stick my face in it. All of those earthy, robust and sweet aromas hitting you at once. It's exhilarating. I can still hear the clattering of the rollers in the factory, heads tilted downward as their chavetas cut perfect arcs across each delicate wrapper leaf. …I needed to learn more about the science of growing tobacco, so we hired an agronomist who still works for us today. A big part of his job was taking soil samples from all over the farm to a testing lab he worked with in Honduras. Through him I learned a lot about soil, minerals, ph balance, etc.
In 2003, we hired Aristides Garcia as our Pre-Industry Manager. At the time he was already retired, but having been a good friend of my Dad and uncle back in Cuba, Aristides jumped at the chance to work with us in Nicaragua. His knowledge of tobacco cultivation spans 67 years, and as the person in charge of all our fermentation, leaf classification, and aging, Aristides manages over 400 workers. In my opinion, Aristides is the best man in the world growing tobacco; not only from a seed standpoint, but from an agronomy standpoint. Whether it's curing, sorting, selection, fermentation, whatever, this guy is amazing. He even looks like an old tobacco man with his straw hat, creased, sun-tanned face, and a cigar perpetually in his mouth. At 83 years-old, he smokes 20 cigars a day, he can raise a 100 pound bale of tobacco over his head, and between all of his duties, he probably walks about 10 miles a day. One of the more entertaining things about Aristides is he says "ALABAO" a lot. That's his word, "ALABAO Chico!" He says it almost every other word. It's a well-known Cuban expression for "WOW!" If you ask him something like, "Aristides, how's the tobacco today," or "How's everything going?" he'll say "ALABAO!" That's actually how we came up with the name for our Perdomo Alabao cigars.
Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba in 1931, Aristides was raised on a tobacco farm, and learned everything he knows about the agricultural process from his father. By the time he was 20, Aristides was one of Cuba's leading specialists in crop management. Later on, the Cuban government appointed him as the Director of tobacco agricultural and processing operations in San Juan y Martinez, San Luis, and Pinar del Rio. What I love about Aristides is, he's an open book. Next to my Dad, I've probably learned more about tobacco from him than anyone. If I were to bring someone down and tell him, "This is my friend 'so-and-so.' He's going to be staying here for two months," Aristides would teach you everything he knew from when he was a kid all the way on. Most older tobacco people have a lot of knowledge, but they tend to be closed-minded; they don't want to teach people, and he has. But I'm not fooling myself. After all, he's 83 years old and in great shape, but he's not going to be around forever. So, what we've done is build a team of knowledgeable people who are learning from him every day. As great as Aristides is, we have a lot of outstanding people behind him; so when he finally decides to retire, we'll be in good shape with the people he's mentored, and the company can continue to move forward. If you build it, the tobacco will cure
Eventually, I decided to build my first curing barns, but I wanted to do something entirely different. I was going to build them on my own property. People thought I was out of my mind, but the logic was, we could load the tobacco on a truck and bring it into the barn where we could monitor it 24 hours a day. We built three barns, each capable of storing a very large amount of crop. The barns are 85ft wide by 130ft long covering over three acres of land. I think they may be the biggest curing barns in Central America.
After our first season we grew a fantastic crop of tobacco. Not only was it a fantastic first crop, it burned fantastic, it tasted good, it was consistent, and I said, "This is awesome, this is what we have to keep doing."
Next month, I'll tell you more about what we do in order to grow those fantastic crops.*MORE
Established in 1968 by Cuban émigrés, Juan Francisco Bermejo and Simon Camacho, Joya de Nicaragua was originally founded under the name Nicaraguan Cigars S.A. Today the company is headed by Nicaraguan native, Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, Ph.D. Working with him is Sr. Vice President, José Blanco, former president of La Aurora Cigars. During the past five years Joya has made some significant changes for the better. Cigar Advisor Editor, Gary Korb, spoke with both gentlemen about the company's past and the keys to their robust revival. Joya de Nicaragua Cigars have the distinction of being the very first cigar factory in Nicaragua. Established in 1968, the company has dedicated itself to the art of producing many of the world's most celebrated handcrafted cigars for over 40 years. Among them are the critically-acclaimed Joya De Nicaragua® Antaño 1970, Dark Corojo, and CyB (short for "Cuenca & Blanco"). The latter is the first cigar from JdN CEO, Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, and Sr. Vice President, José Blanco, who joined the company in August of 2011. To gain a better understanding of how Joya de Nicaragua has remained at the top of a highly competitive industry, I spoke to both men about the company's past, present and future. But first, the Joya de Nicaragua back story
The original company was established in 1968 by Cuban émigrés, Juan Francisco Bermejo and Simon Camacho. Bermejo was a tobacco grower and broker who emigrated to Honduras 1961, and the first to grow Cuban seed Corojo in Honduran soil. By 1966 Bermejo was growing Cuban seed tobacco in Nicaragua for export to the U.S. Meanwhile, Camacho, who opened Miami's first cigar factory, was making cigars using tobacco brokered through Bermejo.
By 1968, Bermejo and Camacho had partnered-up and founded Nicaraguan Cigars S.A. In 1970 the company trademarked the name Joya De Nicaragua, and released its first cigar, the Joya De Nicaragua Corona. Between 1968 and 1979, the factory was producing nine million cigars per year, almost all of which were sold in the U.S.
Despite years of political upheaval, a socialist regime, a U.S. embargo, and a war between the Sandinistas and the Contras, the Joya de Nicaragua brand managed to survive with their bottom line virtually unscathed. But it wasn't until 1994, when Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca bought the company that the brand truly became an international success. Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca on Joya de Nicaragua, then and now
JdN's owner and CEO, Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, is a native of Nicaragua who holds Fullbright scholarships from the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of South Carolina, and a Ph.D in Economics from Vanderbilt University.
"Initially, I started my professional career as a Professor of Economics for graduate students in a Regional Business school, doing consulting work for many Central American businesses and Institutions. In the 1980´s I was the Nicaraguan Minister of Trade, and later became Minister of Budgeting and Planning. In the 1990's I decided to enter into various businesses and in 1994 bought Joya de Nicaragua where I have remained ever since."
As to whether anyone was making cigars in Nicaragua prior to the Cuban Revolution, Dr, Cuenca added, "Cigars have existed in this country since before 1492. When Cristobal Colon[Christopher Columbus] arrived at our coasts he found the native Indians smoking simple tobacco rolled in the form of a cigar." Suffice it to say, making cigars has been a fundamental part of native Nicaraguan culture for centuries. "They would make their own cigar with a variety of tobacco called “Chilcagre,” a home-grown type of native tobacco," said Cuenca. "But the first recognized cigar manufacturing operation in Nicaragua started in 1968 with Joya de Nicaragua.
During that same decade, the Somoza administration was already feeling pressure from the Sandinistas, who eventually deposed him in 1979. After taking power, the party was officially known as the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional or FSLN, and established a Council of State in May of 1980. At the time, U.S. president Jimmy Carter tried to work with the new Socialist regime, but with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, he thought it was in the country's best interest to help remove the Sandinistas from power. In January of 1981, Reagan suspended all aid to Nicaragua and sanctioned support of the Contras under the assertion that the Soviets and the Cubans were arming FSLN guerillas in El Salvador.
"Due to the U.S. embargo of Nicaragua, in 1984, production of Joya was taken over by Nestor Plasencia in Honduras, but it was a different cigar," said Dr. Cuenca. Nevertheless, the strategy worked. This way, the cigars could still be exported to the US market as a product "manufactured in Central America." Prior to Dr. Cuenca's purchase in 1994, Joya de Nicaragua wasn't organized like most corporations. There was no president; instead, the company was run by several figureheads. Moreover, due to the company being so loosely structured, there were many hurdles to jump. Fortunately, the cigar boom in the U.S. was reaching its peak, and the brand continued to amass strong sales. That being said, were it not for Dr. Cuenca's expertise in business and economics, the company may not have survived the aftermath of the boom.
"During those early years many indescribable events happened," said Dr. Cuenca. "But they are parts of the past. In my view, the only purpose they serve is the gaining of experience that we now enjoy in the present. We are not only the jewel of Nicaragua, we have become the spirit of Nicaragua." It wasn't until 2002 with the release of the Antaño 1970 that JdN had its first major breakthrough under the direction of Dr. Cuenca. Over 10 years later, the series remains one of the top cash cows in the JdN portfolio, and is considered by many cigars smokers to be a classic. In terms of the development of the Antaño 1970 blend and why it became an instant hit Dr. Cuenca explains:
"I wanted to create a cigar that was different from anything else that had ever been smoked during the previous boom years. I wanted to make a cigar that would indubitably show the differences between smoking a medium-body cigar, versus a full body strength, while at the same time offering the full-flavored enjoyment of smoking an authentic puro made from tobaccos of the same origin - all of which are very rich in flavours and tones. The reason it continues to be successful is because consumers took to it immediately and the blend hasn't changed. More importantly, it represented a turning point in the evolution of the cigar industry; especially for Nicaraguan cigars. That is our Antaños!"
Many years before the success of the Antaño 1970 puro, Joya de Nicaragua made cigars with tobaccos from different countries, but the essence of Joya's recognition has been the authenticity that comes from working exclusively with Nicaraguan tobaccos. On the other hand, that exclusivity turned the corner in 2011 when José Blanco joined the company. "We diverted from what had become our puro tradition when we decided to blend a cigar with five different tobacco origins, which is how the CyB selection was created," said Cuenca.
Speaking of Joya de Nicaragua's CyB selection, it was one of the most talked-about cigars of the 2012 IPCPR Trade Show and strong sales followed immediately upon its release. As more Nicaraguan cigars continue to accrue rave reviews from the premium cigar media and consumers, it's not a big leap to suggest that Nicaraguan cigars may have finally eclipsed Cuban cigars in quality, consistency and popularity. Dr. Cuenca agrees.
"It comes from the innate human desire for creativity and passion; the individual effort pushing evolution and linking it with our belief that nothing is static; and nothing is more dynamic and changing than manufacturing cigars. But it is also our self commitment to always look for the better! Those ingredients have been matched in our decision to work with Drew Estate. Since then we have had more exposure, and their creative thinking has had a big influence in the way we think about things." In a move to increase market share, especially in the United States, in January of 2008, Joya de Nicaragua announced that they had dropped their current distributor to work with Drew Estate.
"We felt it was imperative to introduce changes in our marketing and distribution strategies," said Dr. Cuenca. "Joya De Nicaragua is an exemplary Nicaraguan puro that has earned a privileged place with experienced cigar smokers. The task before us now is to have it achieve a market presence which is consistent not only with its value, but more importantly, its soul."
It was clear to Dr. Cuenca that Drew Estate understood his specific vision of the future for the brand.
"The fact that they had their own in-house sales force and marketing department were also important ingredients," he added. "The most obvious factor is the success they've already achieved by increasing our market share within the highly competitive U.S. marketplace." In August of 2011, Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. appointed José Blanco, former director of La Aurora Cigars, as its Senior Vice President. With over 30 years of marketing, public relations, and tobacco-blending experience he is primarily responsible for JdN's overall brand and blend development.
During his youth, the naturally outgoing Blanco began his career in the tobacco business by sorting tobacco on his father’s farm, and by the age of 16, he was smoking cigars on a regular basis.
In 1982 Blanco was hired by Empresa León Jimenes and spent the next 18 years in its core beer and cigarette divisions. By 1999 he was working in the company's premium cigar division, La Aurora S.A. His expertise in tobacco was crucial to the development of the company's Cien Años, Aurora 107, and 1495 Series. Señor Blanco retired from La Aurora S.A. in June of 2011, but it was short-lived. His passion for working with tobacco was so strong that when his good friend, Dr. Cuenca offered him the opportunity for them to work together, he couldn't resist "I have always been a fan of Nicaraguan tobacco, and while seeing a fast growing popularity in Nicaraguan cigars, the offer drew my attention," said Blanco. "After having had the privilege of working for a family-owned company at La Aurora, it felt great to be working for another family-owned company at Joya de Nicaragua. Furthermore, I saw growth potential for the brand, and from a business point of view, it was very attractive."
Blanco's chief responsibilities are threefold: Developing new line extensions by using tobaccos of different origins; to be more involved in social media as a marketing-tool; widen the company's distribution channels to find new markets and attract more customers.
When it was announced that Dr. Martinez Cuenca and José Blanco would be releasing a new brand which they both had a hand in blending, anticipation was high. It would also mark the beginning of a different profile for the company; a Joya de Nicaragua cigar made with tobaccos from countries other than Nicaragua. "The idea behind the CyB brand was the start of a collaboration between two cigar-lovers with different Central American origins - one Dominican, one Nicaraguan, said Blanco. "Using that concept, we would blend it using tobaccos grown in our native countries, respectively, as well as other countries such as Peru and Ecuador."
In his position as Senior Vice President, Blanco is both an administrator and a blender. When asked if he enjoys wearing one hat over another he says, "It's 50/50. I love blending and creating with great passion, but I also love being with people, doing events, seminars and the like. Ultimately (and personally), it all goes back to the blends I have created."
In terms of marketing strategy, Blanco believes there are a number of tactics that lead to success. Among the most important of these include the availability of the product as much as the availability of the face behind it. "Working directly with our customers and consumers, hosting events, having a strong social media presence, and being open-minded to new ideas; today, all of these things contribute greatly to good marketing and image growth," says Blanco. "Even though the brand is very important, a lot of consumers today want to see the person behind the brand, be it through in-store events or interacting with cigar smokers on Facebook and Twitter."
In addition to his duties at Joya de Nicaragua, Señor Blanco is one of a number of cigar industry professionals who, with help from Cigar Rights of America, have been especially outspoken about the very real possibility of tobacco becoming regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. When asked whether CRA's crusade would play a part in JdN's marketing, Blanco, who is never one to mince words said, "From a marketing standpoint it's a separate issue. I have always been and always will be outspoken and active with regard to federal regulation of tobacco. That includes smoking rights, taxation, and the involvement of FDA regulations. I do this as much for Joya as I do for the entire industry, as well as for our love for cigars, which is why I say it's a separate issue. Smoking premium cigars is not about health, it's about rights." Even with the impending threat of FDA regulation, as Señor Blanco looks into his crystal ball, he sees an even more profitable future for the Nicaraguan cigar industry as a whole.
"Without a doubt, in the last five years Nicaragua has been the fastest growing country in the industry," said Blanco. "And I believe that this popularity will stay strong and that it will grow into further markets outside of the US. I am also sure that Joya will keep growing as well, which it has already proven."*MORE
Our monthly travel maven, Rocky Patel, takes you on a virtual tour of New Orleans, as he points out the best hotels, eateries, clubs, and more in "The Big Easy.” As Rocky says, "One of the things that makes New Orleans such a fascinating city is that you can have as many as 20 different sensory experiences in one night." One of the best things about being a premium cigar manufacturer is that I get to do a lot of traveling. It's gotten to the point where I think I spend more time in an airline seat than I do in my bed. This month I'll share my impressions of New Orleans - a vibrant and colorful city with a great mix of culture, music, food, and history.
New Orleans has always been one of my favorite cities for its history and variety of cultures. All of this is evidenced by the city's people, cordial hospitality, music, and food - making it one of the most unique communities in the United States.
One of the things that makes New Orleans such a fascinating city is that you can have as many as 20 different sensory experiences in one night. You can casually wander from club to club, starting with a great rock band at The Famous Door, to a traditional jazz ensemble at The Spotted Cat, to a quiet little place where you might find someone playing solo piano, or accompanied by a guitar player.
Even if you've never visited New Orleans, you've probably heard of Bourbon Street. Because of its popularity, Bourbon Street is where you'll find most of the tourists hanging out. But Bourbon Street isn't the only place where the action is. Even more exciting, in my opinion, is Magazine Street; that's where the locals hangout. Located on the other side of Bourbon, Magazine is where you'll find art galleries, little, out of the way dive bars, some of the best local food and drink, plus every type of music from rock, to country, to jazz and everything in-between.
If you're a cigar smoker like me, New Orleans is one of the few American cities where many of the bars still permit smoking. The Ritz Carleton
921 Canal Street | New Orleans, LA 70112 (504) 524-1331
The Ritz Carleton is a very old and ornate hotel with a marvelous old world atmosphere. The lobbies are immense, while the rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed. One of the best restaurants in the Ritz is the M. Bistro. The food is spectacular, and among the M. Bistro's must-try specialties are their famous Rabbit Confit, Frogs Legs, and my personal favorite, Cajun Eggs Benedict. Hotel Monteleone
214 Royal Street | New Orleans, Louisiana 70130-2201
(504) 523 3341 or 1-866-338-4684 (toll-free)
Located just south of Bourbon Street, the Monteleone is one of the most unique luxury hotels in the city. Having recently completed a $70 million renovation, the hotel is stellar, from the cavernous marble-laden halls to the plush décor of the suites.
One of my favorite places to relax with a cigar in the Monteleone is at the Carousel Bar. Instead of tables, seating takes place on a completely refurbished antique carousel, garishly decorated with Mardi Gras masques. But the piece de resistance is, while you're enjoying a fine drink and a cigar, the bar revolves slowly giving you a continuous panoramic view of the room. The best way to describe it is, you feel like you're celebrating Mardi Gras inside a luxury hotel. In addition to the Carousel Bar, the Monteleone also offers a rooftop bar that's ideal for smoking and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter from a bird's-eye view. Magazine Street
Not everything that happens in NOLA happens on Bourbon Street. Located on the other side of Bourban, Magazine is where you'll find art galleries, little, out-of-the-way bars, some of the best local food and drink, plus every type of music from rock, to country, to jazz and everything in between.
209 Bourbon Street , New Orleans , LA 70130
Galatiore's is the ideal place for the truly ardent gourmet. Founded by Jean Galatoire in 1905, the recipes have been in the family for generations, dating back to the Galatiore's village of Pardies, France. The restaurant also has the atmosphere of a French family restaurant, and the service is beyond reproach.
If you like Pate de Foie Gras, Galatiore's has the best I've had anywhere - even in Paris. They offer several different types of Foie Gras and a modest selection of sauces to go with them. Other specialties that set Galatiore's apart are the Cajun Oysters en Brochette with pickled relish, their famed Oysters Rockefeller, and Trout Meunière.
The restaurant has two dining areas. They take reservations for the upstairs dining room, but if you want to eat downstairs, it's first come, first serve, no exceptions. 301 Tchoupitoulas St. | New Orleans, LA 70130 504.299.9777
Another one of the best eateries in the city where you'll find both authentic and esoteric Louisiana cuisine. Located in a 19th century French-Creole building in New Orleans’ central business district, the restaurant was created by world renown chef, John Besh, a native of New Orleans, and has three elaborately decorated dining rooms: the main dining room, lit by crystal chandeliers, a two-story wine room, and the Gravier room which offers a more intimate setting.
Some of the more popular specialties include Foie Gras Au Torchon with apple marmalade, hazelnut Florentine, and toasted brioche; Fried P&J Oysters with blue cheese, ranch, warm bacon and mizuna; Breaded Trout Pontchartrain with jumbo lump crab, wild mushrooms, and sauce hollandaise, and their 48 Hour Braised Shortrib with smoked apple and celeriac, roasted turnips and chanterelles.
This is high-end formal dining at its best, making for a true gourmet experience for ultimate foodies. 2 Poydras Street | New Orleans, LA 70130 (504) 584-3911
If you've never had barbequed oysters, you're in for a real treat at Drago's. Founded by Drago and Klara Cvitanovich in 1969, Drago's offers great seafood in a casual, family-style atmosphere at a reasonable price.
The restaurant's motto is "Home of the Original Charbroiled Oysters." The house specialty, they charbroil grill the oysters in their shells until blackened. Prepared using a garlic, butter and herb sauce with Parmesan and Romano cheese, the flavors are to die for. I just love watching the butter bubbling on top of the oysters when they're served. Squeeze some lime on them and it's one of the most decadent and savory things you've ever tasted. The Faubourg Marigny district, Frenchman Street in particular, has a nightlife scene all its own. It is also one of the most picturesque sections of the city. Originally an 18th century plantation owned by a wealthy Creole, the property was subdivided in 1806, and today the district has a very European look and feel. Old banks and local stores now serve as homes, and warehouses along the riverfront are now used by artisits and musicians as studios and performance venues. Cochon
930 Tchoupitoulas Street | New Orleans, LA 70130
For reservations online: http://www.cochonrestaurant.com/reservations/
If you want to try some of the most eclectic Cajun cuisine, add Cochon to your "must-try" restaurant list. The atmosphere is more casual and relaxed. Popular among the young and hip crowd, Cochon has a great bar scene, but it's the food that's absolutely amazing; it's a carnivore's heaven.
Their specialty is serving just about every kind of meat imaginable. I call it "eclectic fusion with Creole touches." There's plenty to choose from on the menu, too, such as Fried Alligator with Chili Garlic Aioli; Cane syrup Glazed Pork Cheeks with Mushrooms & Roasted Corn Grits; Mustard Crusted Ham Hock with Herb & Rice Salad, Catfish Courtbouillonand; and Pork & Black Eyed Pea Gumbo, to name a few. Acme Oyster House
French Quarter Location: 724 Iberville Street | New Orleans, LA 70130 504.522.5973
For a very traditional taste of New Orleans, the Acme Oyster House. You can kick back in a causal atmosphere enjoying buckets of oysters, cooked or raw, with a pitcher of beer. They're also known for their red beans and rice, seafood gumbo, crawfish puppies, jambalaya, large selection of Po-Boy sandwiches, and more. The Dark Side
The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and Voodoo Authentica can both be found in the heart of the French Quarter.
At the Museum you can learn about all THREE kinds of zombies, obtain your very own gris-gris love potion to help win over the object of your affection or even join a tour of the famous, haunted St. Louis Cemetery #1 (a.k.a the City of the Dead) including the tomb of New Orleans' most renowned practicioner of the Voodoo arts, Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau.
Voodoo Authentica Cultural Center and Collection holds an annual VoodooFest on Halloween, celebrating the history and culture of Voodoo while educating and entertaining visitors. House of Blues New Orleans Foundation Room
225 Decatur St. | New Orleans, LA70130
Foundation Room Lounge | (504) 310–4999 Ext. 32301
Hidden above The House of Blues nightclub, the Foundation Room is one of the most eclectic rooms in the world. It's more like a spa for the mind, than a nightclub. The décor is heavily Asian influenced; a mixture of Tibetan templedécor and furniture lined with rich vibrant fabrics from the Rajasthan region of India and one of the largest collections of original artwork. You're surrounded by rich purples, reds, and orange colors. It's really like stepping into another world.
There are plenty of soft, cushiony chairs, couches, and pillows to sink into; wood carvings accent the walls. Suffice it to say, The Foundation Room has a very Zen-Karmic-Buddhist vibe to it. It's rich, decadent, and you feel like you’re in an ancient mountaintop monastery somewhere in a remote part of Asia smoking a cigar. What the Foundation Room offers most of all is sheer serenity. If you want to hear the band, there's a small corridor that leads you to The House of Blues' balcony where you can look down over the entire club and watch the band, people dancing, drinking, having fun. It's quite a departure from the tranquility of The Foundation Room. Pat O'Brien's
718 St. Peter St. | New Orleans, La, 70116
1-800-597-4823 | 504-525-4823
Another famous landmark where tons of fun await you such as sing-a-longs, dancing, and college fight songs. Another thing that sets this New Orleans landmark apart from other cities is their Piano Lounge. Most of the songs performed are oldies rock 'n roll, classic rock, Top 40, R&B and country. The players also take requests. Make sure you squeeze Pat O'Brien's into your vacation schedule; it'll serve you memories for years to come. Be sure to venture away from the tourist areas. Check out the artsy and eclectic shops, bars, restaurants and people on Magazine Street and the Faubourg Marigny district.
The best time of year to visit New Orleans is when the weather is more comfortable. February and March are particularly good months to visit, especially if you want to partake in Mardi Gras. October and November are the other two best months to visit. It's just one of those fabulous towns where you can never run out of things to do. Moreover, it's one of the few cities that offers a lot of places where you can light up and enjoy your favorite cigars.*MORE
Benji Menendez – hailing from a lineage of legendary tobacco growers, and now a master blender for General Cigar – is the “Iron Chef” of tobacco. “It’s like developing a recipe,” he says. “You have to know the components before you can make the recipe and deliver the flavor you’re targeting. And once you decide what flavor you want, whether it’s a strong cigar, one that’s mild and aromatic, or something in between, then you are ready to start.” And that’s before we’ve even planted anything. So much has been said of cigar blending over the years, and when speaking about blending, many people have made it sound like a very simple process. While I am no expert at all things, not even after this, my 60th year in the cigar business, having grown up in Cuba on a tobacco farm, and watching my grandfather, father and uncles tend to the tobacco, i can tell you a thing or two about blending. It starts with the soil. THis is very important and very seldom spoken about when it comes to blending. Take this for example: Cuba has only 100 sq kilometers of the soil that makes up the gold standard for growing tobacco. One hundred square kilometers is relatively small when compared to the size of CUba; however, just as with wine, there are very specific growing regions for tobacco. Not all of the soil in California is optimal for cultivating wine grapes, just as not all soils in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Connecticut USA, Indonesia, Brazil, and other well-known tobacco-growing countries is ideal for tobacco. Sure, soil can be improved through fertalization, but it's the original, natural content of the soil that is so important. Some people believe that Cuban seed tobacco bears the characteristics of Cuban tobacco. That is not true. Cuban seed only gives a certain look to a cigar; it is the soil content that drives the flavor of the tobacco. So before you can even think about the types of tobacco you want to use in your blend, you have to start with the soil. Since the tobacco's flavor comes from the soil, you have to analyze the soil before you even think about planting. Without getting too detailed, in order for tobacco to thrive and deliver what we want it to, we have to have the right balance of acidity and pH. If the soil is too acidic, the tobacco will not absorb the nutrients. When the plant does not absorb the nutrients, it llacks flavor. Fertilizer can be and is often used to improve the soil, but the soil cannot be made tobacco-friendly with just fertilizer. The soil has to be in the range of what's ideal for tobacco before it can be used. Anyone who has tried to grow tobacco in the U.S. in their own yard can attest to this. With tobacco, you have to be on top of it every day. Another very important aspect of tobacco blending comes into play before the process even begins. YOu may have a beautiful crop in the field but you can quickly ruin it by using improper processing, fermentation, and aging methods. With tobacco, you have to be in top of it every day. I often say that a cigar is a living thing before you light it. Just as you would not leave a child to grow on his own without caring for him, tobacco requires your full attention. Bringing all of the tobacco's componants to a perfect fruition through processing, fermentation and aging is required before you can even begin to develop a great blend. It's the secrets and techniques that are handed down that contribute greatly to the tobacco's flavor. Now that we've ensured we're working with tobacco from fertile soil that has just the right balance between pH and acidity, and once the tobacco is meticulously aged, fermented and processed, we can move onto blending. I like to say blending is like developing a recipie. YOu have to know the components first before you can make the recipe and deliver the flavor you're targeting. Once you decide what flavor you want, whether it's a strong cigar, one that's mild and aromatic, or something between, then you are ready to start. People who blend tobacco have a knowledge base and a palate that they call upon when developing blends, just as a chef does when developing a recipe. Knowing the flavor profiles and strength of many varieties of tobacco is where it starts, but you still have to taste each tobacco individually. We traditionally pull a few leaves of the same tobacco together and smoke that single component to determine the overall taste. It's like we're confirming what our experience already tells us. This dosen't mean that we will stay with that exact tobacco for the blend, bit it provides a good jumping-off point. Once we decide on the type of tobacco we want to use, there is plenty of room for refinement. We play around with it. We use more or less of it, choose a leaf that's higher or lower on the plant. THe lower leaf on the plant, the less strength; the higher the leaf's positioning, the stronger it is. There are some excellent wrapper, binder and filler tobaccos but just as with cooking, some ingredients don't work together. With tobacco, there are some types that fight with each other and create a bad taste, so blending and refining is very important. To say that there are a great many variables and that there's a lot of trial and error in blending is an understatement. Don't forget that in blending there are three componants: wrapper, binder, and filler. My opinion is that weapper accounts for 60 percent of the taste. The remaining 40 percent comes from the combination of the filler and binder, so we have to marry all of the components together. Don't get me wrong: I am not the only person who develops our blends. Not by any stretch. I'm part of a team, and I'm proud of our team; they are great people, with great knowledge and I really enjoy working with them. The experience and the passion that our team brings to the table is, I believe, the best in the business. Once we arrive at a blend we like, we make several cigars of that same blend with those components and smoke them randomly. This is where a lot of people have seen me write directly on the cigar, because I don't want to know what I'm smoking- I want a completely blind test for myself. Afterwards, I choose all the cigars I like and narrow it down to select what I believe is the best of the blends. Taste is subjective, so we don't allow the opinions of just the people on my team to dictate the flavor of our new cigars. We have people in all areas of our company, tried and true cigar lovers that sample our blends and provide us with feedback. We often take it a step further by sending samples to members of our consumer testing panel to determine what they like about a particular blend. It's a matter of preference. Whenever I give someone a blend to test, I don't like an absolute "yes or no," on a cigar. This doesn't give me any information. Instead, I want to know what the person likes or dislikes specifically because otherwise, I cannot come up with a cigar that pleases them. We all have different palates. I drink scotch; others like gin or rum. It doesn't make anyone right or wrong, it's a matter of preference. This is why it's important for us to call upon our resources in developing our blends. When we get to the final stages, we either continue to make slight refinements, or we continue to test-smoke what we believe to be the final blend. Make no mistake about it; when we test blends, especially when it comes down to selecting the final blend, there are a lot of people with great opinions and lots of experience, and oftentimes, they clash. We've had many a heated argument about new blends, but until we reach a unanimous conclusion, we do not consider a blend to be final. Many people are surprised to hear that at General Cigar, we're democratic when it comes to finalizing our blends. Being privileged to work in a business that is still driven by passion and artisty allows us to take out time and agree on a blend before we share it with our retailos and consumers. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.*MORE
As far back as the silent film era, movies defined the good guys from the bad guys by the color of their hats. Today's movie bad guys are a lot more colorful. For example, no list of cigar-smoking bad guys would be complete without including one of the biggest badasses of all: Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant who becomes Miami's leading drug lord. Brian DePalma's 1983 crime classic is loaded with sex, drugs, violence, not to mention Tony's love for fine cigars. Unfortunately for Tony, greed is not good... 10. "Forrest Bondurant" - Lawless (Tim Hardy) - Talk about badasses! In director John Hillcoat's 2012 film, Tim Hardy ("Bane" in The Dark Knight Rises) plays Forrest Bondurant, the vicious cigar-chomping leader of a violent bootleggin' clan somewhere in downtown rural Virginia circa the 1920's. The film is so thick with blood and guts, it's hard to tell who's worse; Bondurant's outlaw gang or the sadistic lawman, Special Deputy Charles Rakes (Guy Pierce.) 9. "Logan" - X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)
As we saw in 2000's X-Men, James Howlett (Howl-ett get it?), better known as "Wolverine," a.k.a. "Logan," is a serious cigar smoker. One scene in Origins (2009)
takes place at the Weapons X Project lab in which Logan, lying on a steel table, will undergo his metamorphosis. During this process, a flashback of Logan's life through a number of war scenes includes the D-Day invasion at NormandyBeach. As the American soldiers swarm out of the landing craft, Howlett (in close-up) stuffs a fat cigar in his mouth. Well, at least Wolverine doesn't have to buy a cigar cutter. 8. "Frank Lucas" - American Gangster (Denzel Washington) - Denzel showed us just how badass he can be in Training Day. In Ridley Scott's American Gangster (2007), Washington, as Frank Lucas, reaches new heights of badass and power as a cigar-smoking, heroin-importing kingpin from Harlem with an exceptional Vietnamese connection. Lucas may love his cigars as much as he loves his profits…nah! 7. "Tommy Devito" - Goodfellas (Joe Pesci)
Some actors were just born to be badasses. In Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990), Joe Pesci plays the hot-headed Tommy Devito, Henry Hill's partner in crime, who longs to be a "made man" in a leading New York Mafia crime family. Tommy has an explosive violent streak, and when he isn't brutalizing someone, he enjoys Italian food, whiskey, cheap women, and smoking cigars. For his role, Pesci received an Oscar for "Best Supporting Actor." 6. Brigadier General "Jack Ripper"- Dr. Strangelove (Sterling Hayden)
Stanley Kubrick's 1964 masterpiece features one of the craziest badasses of all time. I mean, when a deranged, cigar-smoking Brigadier General, aptly named "Jack Ripper," turns a .50 caliber machine gun on his own men believing they're Russians pretending to be Americans, that's badass! The screenplay by 1960's bestselling author, Terry Southern, is one of the best satires on the Cold War ever set to film. 5. Hellboy (Ron Perlman): - It would seem to make sense that a badass like Hellboy, a good-guy demon rescued from the Nazis who fights against the forces of evil, would have a penchant for cigars. For one, it doesn't take him long to light-up. This first-installment of the film (released in 2004) offers plenty of action and smoke. Besides, what better way to celebrate saving the world from rebellious hideous creatures than with a good cigar? 4. "Captain Steven Hiller" - Independence Day (Will Smith)
Directed by Roland Emmerich. 1996. Will Smith plays a maverick Air Force pilot who has several confrontations with the aliens. Many of his lines are funny, too. After successfully completing his final mission and returning safely to Earth, Hiller lights up a big cigar, holds it out and says: "This is our victory dance." Then, referring to the cigar, he adds: " Not until the fat lady sings." David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) replies. Mm. Fat Lady. I gotcha." 3. Major "Dutch" Schaefer - Predator (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
Schwarzenegger's reputation as an avid cigar smoker precedes him. But any excuse to clench a cigar between his teeth in a movie is fine with him, like his character "Dutch" in 1987's Predator. Hired by the CIA, the cigar-smoking Major leads a special ops team into the heart of a Central American jungle to rescue the survivors of a helicopter crash. They find no survivors, but soon enough, something very alien, sinister and vicious eventually finds them. Mayhem and violence ensue. 2. "Blondie" - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Clint Eastwood)
One of most famous cinematic badass images comes from Sergio Leone's 1966 "spaghetti western," The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Clint Eastwood underplays Blondie to the hilt, and that little stogie in the corner of his mouth makes him look that much more intimidating. The cigars he smoked in the film were Parodis, which are still very popular in Italy. It's also been rumoured that Eastwood hated the taste of them. 1. "Tony Montana" - Scarface (Al Pacino)
How could you make a list of cigar-smoking badasses without including one of the biggest badasses of all: Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant who becomes Miami's leading drug lord. Brian DePalma's 1983 crime classic is loaded with sex, drugs, violence, not to mention Tony's love for fine cigars. Unfortunately for Tony, greed is not good.*MORE
In 1963, just before signing the Cuban embargo order, president John F. Kennedy snatches up all the Cuban cigars he can find in Washington. 20 years later two master thieves pull-off a heist in which some of their priceless booty reveals some very unexpected surprises. “Stanius, you’d better come see this.”
Stanius set the president’s speech aside. There was a gathering commotion just outside the young writer’s office and he followed the worried crowd of White House staffers into the lounge where Walter Cronkite addressed the nation on black and white television.
“This is Walter Cronkite in our newsroom and there has been an attempt, as perhaps you know now, on the life of President Kennedy. He was wounded in an automobile driving from Dallas Airport into downtown Dallas, along with Governor Connelly of Texas. They’ve been taken to Parkland Hospital there, where their condition is as yet unknown…” The spectators gasped. Stanius glanced around the room and saw shocked, frozen faces. Pale hands covered awestruck mouths. Tears welled, heads shook in disbelief. Hands were clasped in prayer. Telephones rang, tears began to fall. And this was his chance. Amid the chaos that was to ensue, this was his one and only chance.
Stanius disappeared from the room and headed down the hall for the president’s study. President Kennedy wounded, Stanius heard Cronkite’s voice again. Taken to the hospital, his condition yet unknown. Sweat beaded on the speechwriter’s forehead as he rounded a corner and slipped into the president’s study. He hoped the president would survive. Mr. Kennedy was a good man with nice children and a friendly wife and he had always been fair to Stanius. And even if Mr. Kennedy did survive, the White House would soon be filled with panic and uncertainty. And the most uncertain time would be now. Thus, it was probably the only opportunity for Stanius to get his hands on JFK’s prized cigars.
Stanius knew exactly where they were; he had often been invited to share a stogie with the president during those late night speech-writing touchups. As he slipped into the study he went for the oak desk’s lower left-hand drawer. He knew the story. Salinger goes to every tobacconist in Washington, D.C. the day before the president signs the order for the embargo and returns with 1,200 Cuban cigars. JFK went through those cigars faster than Stanius went through coffee – and as one of the U.S. President’s speechwriters, Stanius went through a lot of coffee. But JFK still had one left in that box in his drawer. The last of his stash that he was saving for a special occasion.
As Stanius knelt to open the door, he heard the voices of two men approaching so he paused, tried to think of an excuse for why he was in the study. A moment passed and the voices moved urgently down the corridor, leaving Stanius alone in the study. He opened the drawer and found the cigar box. Inside was the last of Jack’s Cuban cigars, but also a little surprise, something Stanius didn’t know existed – a gift from Che Guevara. On top was a note from the shaggy revolutionary: Since I have no greeting card, I have to write. Since to write to an enemy is difficult, I limit myself to extending my hand – Che.
Stanius always thought the Cuban leaders were a bunch of weirdoes with their fatigues and beards but for some reason Kennedy had kept Guevara’s gift. This would be worth much more than he had calculated – a healthy payday to be sure. Stanius closed the box, hurried back to his office, stashed it in his briefcase and then returned to the crowded lounge. No one noticed he had been absent.
Cronkite was still on TV, “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time. 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.” The room gasped, people turned and embrace each other and tears were shed for many days. 20 years later: 1983 Like Santa Claus holding a child’s wish list, Tercero checked the prizes item by item. An authentic Babe Ruth game jersey from the mid 1920’s, a pistol used by Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War, a Fedora Humphrey Bogart wore in Casablanca, a rare unpublished Hemingway manuscript, and a pair of unused tickets from the Titanic.
Tercero folded the list and gazed through the van window at the mansion across the street. “Quite a collection of precious American bullshit.” He chuckled. Americans were so proud of their pop culture and their nostalgia that they were willing to spend millions of dollars to own these pieces of what they would call ‘history.’
Redding flipped through the paperwork he had compiled: newspaper articles, auction house disclosures, tracking sheets from his own reconnaissance. “Add to Sternhardt’s list: a pair of high heels worn by Marilyn Monroe. Sternhardt paid $30,000 for them at the Surdyk’s auction last month.”
Tercero scoffed, inhaled the last of his cigarette and flicked the butt out the window. “Enough to feed five children for years and he spends it on a pair of women’s shoes.”
“They’re very nice shoes.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
Tercero and Redding had been tracking auction activity for years and had pinpointed Russell Sternhardt as one of the most active buyers of memorabilia. According to newspaper articles compiled by Redding, Sternhardt didn’t care where the items came from — auctions, museums, the black market — and he kept his collection in his mansion so he could show off his plunder to his elite friends and associates. And now Tercero believed they had chosen the perfect night to pounce.
The two thieves slumped in their seats until Sternhardt’s limousine passed. Redding eyed Tercero as the Cuban sat up, peered into the rearview mirror and started driving the van the opposite direction. Redding knew Tercero was some kind of Cuban ex-military and the third son of his family, hence the nickname Tercero. Redding didn’t even know the man’s real name. But he was pragmatic, organized and courageous. Bold. That was how Redding would describe this heist on the Sternhardt mansion: bold.
As Tercero drove the van around one corner, then another, he considered his partner. Redding had some Hispanic blood but Tercero didn’t know how much. He was some kind of a computer data thief. A master researcher, Redding knew how to access people’s personal information and exploit it for financial benefit or blackmail. He seemed to have some kind of official government training, but Tercero was not sure which government. They met years ago as petty thieves, and had been working together ever since.
Railroad tracks ran through the woods about a half mile from the mansion and that’s where Tercero parked. The night was dark and cold. There would be frost in the morning, but no snow. The ground was still dry, so it would be an easy walk.
“Get the duffel bag,” Tercero pointed towards the back of the van as he hopped out. He hung the strap of his own small black bag over his shoulder. Both men wore black gloves, black shirts and pants, black shoes. No need to darken their faces – there was little chance anyone would see them up close. And they both carried pistols, just in case.
The roof of the mansion was just in sight over the tree line but they weren’t headed there. Instead Redding pointed them to a small, abandoned brick building near the tracks, just a hundred yards from Sternhardt’s castle.
“It was supposedly some kind of depot back in the 30’s,” Redding explained as they walked to the building Railroad tracks ran through the woods about a half mile from the mansion and that's where Tercero parked. The windows had been sealed with concrete and the wooden door bolted shut with a cast iron brace. Tercero and Redding knelt in front of the door and Tercero produced a small, custom-built, battery-powered saw from his bag. He went to work on the brace as Redding paced around the building watching for any movement from the road, the trees, the air. The night was quiet, except for the gentle buzzing of Tercero’s saw.
“I’m in!” Tercero finally announced and Redding helped him slide the metal brace from the doorway. They shoved the wooden door open and entered the musty brick house. Tercero turned on his flashlight and scanned the small empty room. In the shadows, something moved.
“Rats,” Tercero muttered as a pair of black rodents scurried across the room and disappeared into a corner. Tercero thought he heard one of them hiss before he ignored the animals and shined his light through the rest of the room. “Looks like nothing more than a small, friendly train stop.”
Redding scoffed. “It’s not going to be right here in front of you.” He pointed to a wooden counter near the back of the shack, sitting beside a round, iron wood-burning stove. “There.” They walked behind the counter and right beside the stove Redding shined his light on a small metal trapdoor. He pulled the handle, then harder, and harder still until the door opened and revealed a cold, black hole in the ground.
Redding and Tercero smiled at each other.
“¡Puerta de oro coño!” Exclaimed Tercero as he shined his light into the hole and found the stone steps that lead down to the cavern.
Cold, dark, dry and endless. They pointed their lights down the long tunnel and started walking. “This is where they used to come in?” Tercero asked.
“That’s what my research said. They’d enter through the depot, speak the password to whoever waited at the counter and they’d be allowed entry into the secret tunnel.” “Old power lines running along the ceiling,” Tercero pointed with his light. “Must have had electric lamps down here to light their way.”
“They were classy people, despite their devious ways.”
“Yes, classy people can be quite devious.”
They traveled along the tunnel for a hundred yards until they reached a doorway. “There was probably another guard here,” Redding explained. “And a different password.”
“Well, speak the password and let us in before I freeze to death!”
Redding smiled. “It might be easier than that.” He tried the doorknob, the door opened. When the thieves stepped through the threshold and shone their lights, their jaws dropped. They stood frozen in shock at the sight before them.
Tercero stepped into the room and said to Redding, “Not at all what I was expecting.”
Sternhardt purchased the mansion in early 1950, just before the ‘I Like Ike’ years. The previous owner had been wealthy beyond imagination, a giant of industry and commerce. He had built the mansion in the 20’s and during Prohibition had used the guest house as a portal to an underground speakeasy.
“This is where many a privileged man came to get zozzled,” said Redding.
“Literally, an underground speakeasy,” Tercero observed as he scanned the dank, concrete basement with his flashlight. He imagined the camaraderie and bullshit that must have flown in this room. A stone bar lined one side of the room and behind it a cloudy mirror hung on the wall, decorated with a dusty American flag. Old bottles of bourbon and cider lined the bar and stools were overturned on the floor or lined against the side wall. The treasures in this room alone could be worth thousands. Near the bar, a stone staircase led to the ceiling where another trap door marked the entrance to the mansion’s guest house. “There!” Redding pointed Tercero to the stairs. Tercero popped the trapdoor and climbed into a small, dark alcove.
“What did your blueprints say to do next?” he called down to Redding, who looked up to him from the stairs. The previous owner had been wealthy beyond imagination, a giant of industry and commerce. He had built the mansion in the 20s and during Prohibition had used the guest house as a portal to an underground speakeasy. Tercero did as he was told, testing each wall until one budged slightly. He put his shoulder into it and the door slowly creaked open, spilling moonlight into the alcove from the room he was about to enter. Tercero peered into the crack and saw the door opened into the closet of a small bedroom. The closet doors were opened and Tercero could see the moon through the bedroom window. He stepped inside and waited quietly for Redding to join him.
“Shhhhh,” Tercero whispered. “Stand silent for a moment and make sure no one is here.”
“No one is here,” Redding insisted. “I’ve been casing this place for months, tracking Sternhardt’s routine nearly down to the minute. Tonight he meets with his investor group at 8:15 before heading to the Piedmont Lounge downtown for cigars and booze. He won’t be back until after midnight and his staff is dismissed at nine. He has no guests so the house should be empty, and the caretaker leaves with his dog every night at seven. We have almost three hours to work with.”
“We won’t need nearly that long,” Tercero said as they emerged from the closet and inspected the room. It was a small guest bedroom with a modest dresser, a small nightstand and a queen size bed. A substandard guestroom for such a large mansion, thought Tercero as he turned off his flashlight. The house was dark and they navigated using the dim moonlight.
Redding didn’t see the small table just outside the bedroom door and when he bumped into it, he knocked a row of books to the floor where they landed with a few cluttered slaps. Outside in the night, a dog barked. Tercero and Redding instinctively crouched to the floor and prepared to retreat back to the secret doorway but a moment later the dog stopped barking. Redding replaced the books and the men continued.
Soon they reached the guest house’s foyer where the front door opened to a covered brick walkway that led to the mansion. From here it was a straight walk to the mansion’s kitchen entrance. It was the only unobstructed entry into a castle surrounded by a 12 foot stone wall topped with electric wire and an army of security cameras. The secret underground tunnel was the only way in or out and Redding had studied old blueprints of the mansion along with newspaper articles detailing the existence of the Prohibition-era speakeasy.
Tercero opened the guest house door and walked into the night. He touched the pistol in his pocket and wondered what happened to that dog as they crouched and jogged across the walkway and stopped outside the kitchen door. A glass window allowed them to glimpse inside the dark house.
“How do we make our final entrance into the mansion?” Redding asked.
“We’re burglars. How do burglars normally enter a house?”
Redding shrugged. He hadn’t thought about this part of the plan.
Tercero removed a hand towel from his bag.
“Always carry a towel,” Tercero explained. “It’s the world’s most useful item.” He folded the towel and held it against the glass window. “You can use it as a pillow or to dry yourself off if you get wet. It can carry things, or be used as a bandage.” He made a fist and punched the towel, shattering the glass. “Or in this case,” he reached through the hole and unlocked the door, “as a spare key.” Tercero opened the guest house door and walked into the night. He touched the pistol in his pocket and wondered what happened to that dog as they crouched and jogged across the walkway and stopped outside the kitchen door. Tercero shook the glass pieces off his towel, folded it and placed it back in his bag as Redding grinned and admired Tercero’s ingenuity. “I’m going to remember that one!”
Headlights suddenly illuminated the walkway. Tercero and Redding fell to the ground and crawled behind the hedge that surrounded the mansion. Where is that dog? Tercero wondered as the headlights approached the guest house. Perhaps Redding had misunderstood Sternhardt’s schedule. Perhaps the millionaire was simply not feeling well and was returning home early. As a car approached the mansion, Tercero considered aborting the heist, scurrying back to the guest house and disappearing into the secret door.
He was worried that if they tried to leave now, the barking dog would return and give away their position. Tercero reached into his pocket and removed his pistol, a .45 automatic with his initials “AS” carved into the butt. But the car stopped just before it reached the mansion, and the driver’s door opened. “Harold!” a man’s voice called. “Harold! Come here!”
Tercero heard the dog yelp and from the shadows, the furry critter bounded toward the car and jumped into the front seat. The driver’s door closed, the car turned around and drove away, its headlights disappearing into the night and leaving Tercero and Redding alone in the dark.
Tercero put his gun away and turned to Redding, “I don’t know what that was about but it was too close.”
“Looks like the caretaker forgot his dog.”
“As long as there are no more surprises we should be able to finish this operation in less than thirty minutes. Let’s go.” Baseball was so popular in Cuba that Tercero remembered a time when Castro, as Comandante, took batting practice during a national game while dressed in his signature fatigues. Tercero had always appreciated the complexities of baseball and the utter impossibilities that unfolded throughout a season but it was not until he held a Babe Ruth game jersey in his hand that he understood the true power of the game. There was something about the dirt on the jersey, the faded pinstripes, the faint odor of sweat that made it seem...magical.
“We can’t linger,” Redding reminded him as they gathered the artifacts in Sternhardt’s collection. The top floor of the mansion was arranged like a museum, with a vast library of books on one end, a seemingly endless wall of literature, and a collection of rare American artifacts on the other side. The Ruth jersey, the Bogart hat, the Hemingway script, the Titanic tickets. It was all there, just as Redding had predicted. Sternhardt had been hitting all the major auctions and amassing this institution of Americana and now it was all in the hands of Tercero.
The Teddy Roosevelt pistol, a pair of Elvis cufflinks, and a box of cigars. Tercero recognized the box as the H. Upmann brand from his home country. He opened it and looked inside to see a neat arrangement of cigars, fairly well preserved, and a small note.
“I’ll be damned,” Tercero flashed the note to Redding. “A message from Ernesto Guevara himself to JFK. This must have served as Sternhardt’s certificate of authenticity.” He folded the note and along with a handful of the cigars stuck it in his pocket as a memento.
Beside the fireplace in a glass trophy case stood an attractive bolt-action rifle with shiny polished wood and glistening hardware. Tercero stood before the rifle, not believing his eyes. “That’s a Dragunov SVD, a high-power Russian-made sniper rifle. Haven’t seen one of those since...1963.” Tercero retired in Key West with one last Kennedy cigar. He kept a small cottage next to the beach and sat on his patio with one of his island's cigars and reflected on his years. He opened the case and took the rifle, adding it to their loot.
“Let’s get out of here, Tercero. We’re cutting it close.”
They made off with the entire collection and leaving behind nothing but a broken window and a few footprints. Sternhardt returned to his home just after midnight but by then it was too late. Two days later his entire collection was offloaded for millions to a European billionaire who went by the name Jean. Redding took his share and retired to South America, never to see Tercero again.
Jean soon dispersed the collection, negotiating top dollar for the individual pieces and making a fortune in the process. The Bogart hat went to a Saudi oil tycoon who was a huge fan of American movies, the Hemingway script to a museum in the Soviet Union. The Ruth jersey he gave as a gift to his father-in-law, who loved all things sports, and the Roosevelt pistol Jean kept for himself, hanging it in a frame in his office.
Not being a cigar smoker and having no use for the old box of Cuban cigars, Jean gave them to his pregnant sister’s husband Rudy, a boorish American, in his opinion. Upon the birth of the child, Rudy passed the cigars out to his buddies with “It’s a Boy!” ribbons tied to them.
Tercero retired to Key West with one last Kennedy cigar. He kept a small cottage near the beach and sat on his patio with one of his island’s cigars and reflected on his years. Long ago he had been hired by Castro to do one of the world’s most difficult jobs but once the mission was complete, the heat became overwhelming. Tercero defected, became a thief, retired and finally had a chance to sit and enjoy something he had dearly missed since being away from Cuba. Sternhardt’s artifacts had funded his retirement and except for a single cigar, Tercero kept only one other memento of his days in the underworld: the Dragunov SVD sniper rifle. When he first saw that rifle in Sternhardt’s mansion Tercero knew instantly it was something special. He had used a similar rifle during a high-risk, history-altering operation in 1963.
After he took the Dragunov home from Sternhardt’s and had a chance to look it over he noticed two letters carved on the rifle’s stock: AS. Antonio Sandoval, Tercero’s given name. This was Tercero’s rifle, the exact one he had used during his most famous mission in 1963, when he shot JFK from the grassy knoll in Dallas. No telling how that Oswald kid was involved, but it had been the perfect cover for Tercero, who considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. He puffed his cigar, savored the sunny weather, and this reunion with his memorable rifle.*MORE
Retrohaling is the process of expelling smoke so that it passes through the nasal cavity and past the olfactory receptors on its way out of your body. To call it “exhaling” or “blowing” smoke out through the nose is misleading because cigarette smokers also exhale smoke through the nose. The confusion arises because exhaling is the opposite of inhaling. And yet, most cigar smokers do not (and should not) inhale cigar smoke. Retrohaling bypasses the lungs completely... Retrohaling* is the process of expelling smoke so that it passes through the nasal cavity and past the olfactory receptors on its way out of your body. To call it “exhaling” or “blowing” smoke out through the nose is misleading because cigarette smokers also exhale smoke through the nose. The confusion arises because exhaling is the opposite of inhaling. And yet, most cigar smokers do not (and should not) inhale cigar smoke. Retrohaling bypasses the lungs completely.
What it is retrohaling?
Cigar makers have long noted that the flavors in a cigar change dramatically when smoke is expelled through the nose as compared to the normal practice of releasing it through the mouth. Just as food cannot be fully appreciated without its aroma, neither can a cigar display all its wonderful nuances without the interplay between the senses of taste and smell. I have heard the president of one cigar company say that, “Unless you have blown smoke out through your nose while smoking a cigar, you have never really tasted the cigar.” There is plenty of science to back up this assertion. Retronasal olfaction refers to sensations that arise from aromas that travel through the back of the throat into the nasal cavity. Channeling smoke up through the nasal cavity and expelling it through the nose bathes the olfactory receptors and drastically increases the number of aroma particles reaching the olfactory nerves.
Through retrohaling, cigar smokers can exploit this little known secret to provide themselves with a much fuller experience of a premium hand made cigar.
How to retrohale
To retrohale cigar smoke you first need to draw the smoke into your mouth, then close your mouth. With the smoke in your mouth and while holding your breath, open your throat and let the pressure in your lungs force the smoke out through your nose. It may help to use your diaphragm muscle to help you channel the air from your mouth through your nasal passage. To visualize this experience, pretend you are submerged under water. While underwater, you are holding your breath and you want to let some of the air out of your lungs. You simply allow the pressure in your lungs to push air out of your lungs through your nose.
Developing this technique usually takes a bit of practice. Until you get the hang of it, it may help to blow out most of the smoke from your mouth (70-80%) before closing your mouth and attempting to open up the back of your throat to retrohale the remaining smoke. Will retrohaling work for everyone?
Even if the technique of retrohaling is mastered perfectly, the amount of influence it will have on the flavor of a cigar will vary from person to person. For some cigar smokers, retrohaling will totally change the flavor of a cigar, while for others, it will have much less of an effect on flavor and may lead to only subtle differences. These variances are due to the structural differences of the organs of taste and smell from individual to individual. Should I retrohale every cigar?
Unless you are a very experienced cigar smoker and have a lot of practice retrohaling, I would not recommend retrohaling on full-bodied cigars. The smoke from strong cigars can irritate your nasal mucosa leading to a very unpleasant, almost painful sensation during retrohaling. (Think of wasabi in your nose and you’ll get the idea!) I would recommend retrohaling mild or medium cigars first, and if you enjoy that and do not feel any irritation, then try it with a stronger cigar.
I personally retrohale every cigar, even full-bodied ones, but I will often moderate the amount of smoke that I retrohale. On full-bodied cigars, I blow out most of the smoke through my mouth and retrohale only the last bit. Is retrohaling harmful to my nasal cavity?
If you are disposed to irritations of the nasal cavity such as allergies or sinus infections, I would recommend caution in trying to retrohale. If your nasal mucosa is overly sensitive, retrohaling may be very unpleasant and lead to further irritation.
Cigar smoking is not without risk; however, cigar smoke should be no more risky to the mucous membranes of the nose than to those in the mouth. The body’s mucous membranes are part of the immune system and serve to maintain the health of the underlying structures. Conclusion
Retrohaling is the key to experiencing all that a cigar has to offer. Once mastered, retrohaling can open up a wide world of pleasurable flavors and aromas to the cigar smoker and enhance the enjoyment of a hand made cigar.
* In 2007, I coined the term retrohale to clearly identify and distinguish this practice and to provide a basis for understanding how the process works. The term retrohale* is a contraction of two terms: retronasal olfaction and exhale.
About the Author
David "Doc" Diaz is the publisher and the editor of Stogie Fresh Cigar Publications. He has served as an educator, researcher and writer and has taught in the Health Education and Health Science field for over 30 years. He possesses an earned doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. Doc is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT), having received this certification from the Tobacconist University and is a member and Ambassador of Cigar Rights of America (CRA). *MORE
It’s the age-old puzzle that seems to have no solution - or at best a solution so elusive, so intangible, that most capsize at some stage of the attempt at capturing the un-capturable; the healthy and committed form of “adult” relationship. Matt Booth puts on his therapist hat and dispenses wisdom o’ love that may (or may not) keep the flame alive: “Stand by your man. Stand by your woman. Stand behind your Shetland pony. Whatever the case may be, don’t let the doubt monster rattle the very foundation that your relationship stands upon: faith.” Ahh yess… The age old puzzle that seems to have no solution - or at best a solution so elusive, so intangible, that most capsize at some stage of the attempt at capturing the un-capturable; the healthy and committed form of “adult” relationship. These aforementioned experiences have ultimately given me the skill set necessary to face the most treacherous of ill-footed terrain one can ever face – not only the dating world, but the world where men and women must coexist, cohabitate, and see out the last of their days together in unity and in hopes that they will be the exception to the rule – they will be a successful love story. In the coming months I will share with you some of my personal experiences – both lived and observed during my travels throughout this life that have helped me mold my methods, shape my tactics and hone my woodshed of mental and emotional implements for dealing and coping with such challenges to a razor sharp edge. The key element that eludes most of us when it comes to interpersonal relationships is that it’s just not that complicated. Scrape away all the bullshit and fodder and you are oftentimes left with simplicity. One plus one equals two type ish. People over-complicate, over-think, over-stress and in one fell swoop undermine the hope of ever having healthy interaction with their significant other. It matters not if you are married or dating, into man-on-man (ehhh?) or a lady that enjoys the ladies... HOLLA!
Perhaps you find your comforts in hooves and meaty hindquarters of barnyard animals (send pics but don't call). Or maybe you're the old fashioned type for the 2012 - just a lonely boy/girl looking for a lonely boy/girl to romance, copulate and ultimately settle down with. Reguardless of your immediate disposition or preferance, there is someone (or something) out there for all of us.
Knock down that hurdle of confusion in this race against ourselves and keep it simple- I assure you breakthroughs are ahead, should you impliment this tactic. Anal. You want it, she doesn’t – is this the end of the road for you two lovebirds? Oh wait! Maybe it’s time to compromise! Yes, finding a common ground between yourself and your partner can ultimately mean the difference between long-term bliss and someone getting their head sawed the eff off. It has been said that one does not have a true agreement until both parties are equally dissatisfied; and that’s just it, that is compromise. Get comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable and give a bit more than you would like to. So, maybe not straight to anal, but perhaps a thumb where no thumb has ever gone before – it’s a start and you just might learn something new about yourselves. Perhaps you’ll find that you’re a freak unleashed and ready to pull out all the stops. Perhaps, via this new experience that you have been so open-minded in trying, your partner discovers that what was once so enticing is no longer of such interest and you both move on to less brown pastures. You learn together, you grow together - all while experiencing new things and earning a greater level of respect and love for one another through the vehicle of compromise! My man George Michael said “you gotta have faith” – and I couldn’t agree more. Faith TO each other and faith IN each other will see you through both the brightest times and the darkest of days. Ultimate physical commitment to your mate is the one thing that, when broken, can never be repaired. No amount of scotch tape and Prada bags will ever mend the laceration that infidelity leaves behind. Now, when i say faith in each other- both go hand in hand. Many a partner has fallen victim to a lack of faith in their mate; and actions based on that lack of faith have just as often ultimately led to the undoing of that relationship. Stand by your man, stand by your woman, stand behind your shetland pony whatever the case may be, don't let the double monster rattle the very foundation that your relationship stands upon- faith. Has your partner ever come through the door after a long day of work with a bouquet of flowers in hand and asked you to pee on them? No matter if you say tomato or you say tomah-to, a mutual respect between yourself and your partner allows you to both call it how you see it and accept the way your significant other sees it as well. When you have a valid foundation of respect with your partner you can accomplish anything together. Remember that request to get peed on from earlier? To some, and possibly even you, this may seem like a bit of a stretch; however, when tow consenting adults who care for one another more than anything in the world commence to peeing on each other and whatever further acts of sexual depravity they can imagine, they do so without risk of eroding the integrity of their relationship because when you respect someone, you pee on them- that's love! Now, if you run around peeing on people-that's some other shit. The crucial element that must be in your modern day relationship wheelhouse if there is ever to be any hope of long-term survival is respect! My people, my brethren, my constituents – my brothers and sisters of the leaf: in the coming months I will bear all to you in an up front and candid manner. Potentially not meant for prime time. Potentially not meant to be said out loud in ear-shot of your mom. Whatever the case may be, my intention here is to bring light to and make light of the candy cane wonderland of relationships and relations (if you know what I’m sayin’ y’all) in an attempt to achieve a higher level of understanding, or simply just an understanding and, in some cases, get someone out of sleeping on the couch for an evening, a week – or even worse. It is my hope that through our meetings here, new doors will be opened, communication and relations may be revitalized (when and where necessary) and perhaps someone will actually get peed on (romantically of course). My approach may be a bit on the unconventional side, but if you have the intestinal fortitude to look beyond my method of delivery and see my messages for what they are, you will find a good deal of strong advice brimming from the top of my seemingly fiendish rhetoric. We will cover the cornerstones of successful relationship(s); delve into some freakish tales of both the lightweight and hardcore variety. I will find time to conduct a live broadcast in a bubble bath tub via Al Gore’s internets (ok, maybe that’s too much?) and…maybe, just maybe, we can save someone’s relationship by sparking up some conversation, communication and, of course, a little bit of copulation. Until the next…*MORE
History and smoking traditions have both dictated that cigars be paired exclusively with darker spirits: cognac, whisky, bourbon and scotch; even coffees and fine wines have gotten more respect as ideal cigar match-ups than tequila – especially an un-aged blanco. M.A. Morales, tequila guru, is here to call bullshit on all that and dare you to try something different. We’ve sampled his advice – and knowing what we know now, recommend you do the same. What does a cloistered tequila journalist do when his bourbon, whisky and rum drinking buddies finally invite him to a cigar pairing get together?
He brings his favorite blanco tequila and a selection of Nicaraguan cigars, of course!
I can hear you now
“Aren’t you supposed to take a pricey añejo or something? That’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight!”
Before you choke on your stogie in uncontrollable laughter, hear me out. For decades, smoking traditions have dictated that cigars be paired exclusively with darker spirits—cognac, sherry, whisky, bourbon, brandy, scotch, you name it.
Even coffee, espressos and fine wines have gotten more respect as ideal cigar match-ups than tequilas, let alone un-aged blanco tequilas.
But, as Pepe Cantu, the outspoken owner of the famed J & J Habanos in Cabo San Lucas once told me, “In the islands, it’s about rum and cigars. In the UK, it’s about scotch and cigars. In the US, it’s about bourbon and cigars. And in Mexico, it’s about tequila and cigars.” Before I go into why blancos are by far the most dynamic of all the different tequila expressions to pair with cigars, let me give you the lowdown on why coupling your favorite sticks with aged tequilas is almost a no-brainer.
Aged Tequilas Are Easy
By 1974, in a stroke of marketing genius, Casa Herradura invented the reposado category by doing the unexpected: resting tequila in used whisky barrels. But not just any barrels. Specifically, Jack Daniels barrels.
The result was tequila with a perfect balance of wood, fruit and spice notes to attract a segment of the market that they were missing—the Jack Daniels whisky drinking American public. It was such a hit that other distilleries soon followed suit.
Ironically, in 2007, Brown-Forman, one of the largest marketers and producers of wine and spirits in the US and the owners of Jack Daniels, bought Casa Herradura for an estimated $776 million. Since the 70’s and on into the early 90’s, once tequila’s official normas (the Mexican government’s rules and regulations of tequila production) were introduced, savvy and daring distillers have rested tequila in all sorts and sizes of barrels, from new and used to cognac and sherry. They’ve experimented with the length and time tequila is rested and some brands have even exceeded industry standards.
In 2006, while the normas formally recognized the Extra Añejo category, Herradura was once again the frontrunner having produced the legendary Selección Suprema years before. The fact is, reposados, añejos and now the extra añejo luxury category have long enjoyed a torrid and clandestine affair with cigars. With the myriad of flavor profiles and spectrum of subtleties from brand to brand, you can literally choose any aged tequila expression and your favorite corona or Churchill and have a ball. Whether you’re enjoying your first Cuban or settling in for a lively round of poker with the boys, reposados, añejos and extra añejos will always make you look good and heighten any cigar experience.
But, a blanco?
With just a little prep time, teaming up a blanco tequila with just the right cigar is a cinch.
As with any type of pairing, decide what you want to accomplish. Do you want to complement the cigar with the blanco’s particular characteristics, or…
Will opposites attract? Tequila is one of the most highly regulated spirits in the world. Because of constant innovations in agriculture and processing, and improvements in quality and flavor from advancements in distillation, acquiring a taste for un-aged tequilas is much easier now than, say, twenty years ago.
You’ll discover that a blanco tequila at a cigar pairing party is like a ninja at a gunfight
No one will suspect its awesomeness! Suggested Pairings *MORE
Award-winning photojournalist, Hope Dooner, takes you on a trip to Havana, Cuba. Filled with striking images of Havana life, the photographs were captured in two visits to the island nation; the first in 1998, and the second in 2012. See how much, if anything, has changed in 14 years as you discover the faces and places of what was once one of the world's most beautiful cities, and in some ways, still is. "Ivan"
Ivan introduced himself while puffing on this enormous cigar.
I noticed Irene from across the alley when her smile caught my eye. She seemed so kind and peaceful; her face glowed. She welcomed me to Havana and told me her name.
Theodore was my bicycle taxi driver. I like the way the taxi's mirror frames Theodore and his hip-looking sunglasses.
William was one of the happiest people I met in Havana. He was carrying a huge sack in one hand and boxes in the other.
Hope Dooner gets a freindly hug from one of her Cuban Subjects. "Flowers"
This lady seemed so content as she greeted passers-by, while sitting on some well-worn steps.
This red taxi is a great example of how the Cubans keep their cars. American cars from the 1940's and 50's are passed from one generation to the next, and rarely sold. Since no American cars or parts have been available to Cubans since the embargo, they have adapted household items to fix these vintage cars. One man was proud to tell me that he had dishwasher parts in his car! "Blue Door Alley"
This alley as such a treat. I love the colorful doors and the sunlight bouncing off the buildings.
From my hotel, I had a view of a busy street. I quickly grabbed my camera to get the car in motion. “Ancient Arches”
Even though the paint is chipping and the building is in disrepair, the arches recall the elegance of Havana's past.
I snapped this image while looking out of my hotel window. I especially liked the man’s arm resting on the window. Hope returned to Havana in January 2012, and upon her arrival, she discovered that her most famous subject, "Graciela," was still sitting in her doorway. Her eye for subjects and detail is evident as Hope takes you on a virtual tour of this stunning, yet sadly impoverished city that was once called "the Las Vegas" of the Caribbean.
This essay includes striking images of Havana life captured in both of Hope's visits. What is perhaps the most fascinating aspect about these photographs is, although many of them are separated by 14 years, it's evident that little, if anything, in Havana has changed. *MORE
Finding a smoke-friendly place isn’t easy – even in our nation’s capitol, where many a political deal has been cutover a fine cigar. Cigar Advisor’s personal ambassador & concierge, Rocky Patel, has done the legwork for you: the best places to stay…must-visit restaurants for Italian, Med Fusion and Indian eats…and the “virtual wonderland of booze” that are the top-notch bars in D.C. Grab a reservation and see why there never seems to be a recession in Washington. Working with Cigar Rights of America for the past several years, I've been able to spend a lot of time in one of my favorite cities, Washington, DC. What I love about Washington, besides its rich history, diverse architecture, and grand-scale memorials, is how the city has drawn people from all over the world, creating a wonderful melting pot of cultures. You almost can't avoid meeting people from all walks of life. Regardless of which party is in power, there never seems to be a recession in Washington, so it's always vibrant and full of energy. Washingtonians tend to dine out regularly, or relax over cocktails at the end of the day, often at some of the world's finest hotels, restaurants and bars. It's also a great city for cigar smokers. This month, I'll be sharing some of those places with you. Here are my keys to the city: HOTELS
Hotel Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square
806 15th Street NW, WashingtonDC, 20005
For reservations, contact: 202-730-8800
When in Washington, DC, one of my favorite places to stay is The Hotel Sofitel on Lafayette Square. Just a stone's throw to The White House, the Sofitel is a four-star hotel built inside a beautifully renovated structure originally built in 1880. The design is art deco meets modern chic contemporary, and the service is among the best anywhere.
If you like traditional French Cuisine or fusion, the ICI Urban Bistro is for you. The Bistro also has an outside patio where you can smoke cigars. If you want to stray outside the walls of the Sofitel, you're only a short walk from several other eateries in the neighborhood with open air terraces. The W Washington D.C.
515 15th Street NW
F St. Between 14th & 15th Street, Washington, D.C.20004
Contact: (202) 661-2400
One of the other hotels I frequent when in Washington is the W, right next to the White House. The W is the oldest hotel in Washington, and where a lot of "power players" like senators, congressmen and lobbyists stay and meet.
The style is Italian Renaissance meets hip contemporary. Besides spacious rooms, extra-comfy beds and first-class service, the W also has breathtaking rooftop views of The White House and other landmarks, especially at night. One of the places from which you can enjoy those views is the P.O.V. rooftop bar. The P.O.V. also has a beautiful outdoor terrace where you can soak in the sights and sounds of the city. Note, however, that smoking is not permitted on the terrace or anywhere inside the hotel. Hotel Palomar
2121 P Street, NW, Washington DC 20037
Reservations: (877) 866-3070
If you're into artsy and hip, I recommend the Palomar in Dupont Circle. The Palomar is a new boutique luxury hotel that encapsulates the multicultural and cosmopolitan nature of the city. It's close to Washington's best cultural and historic sites, as well as the restaurants, art galleries, museums, and night spots in Dupont Circle. You're also within walking distance of the GeorgetownUniversity scene, where you'll find plenty of great clubs, restaurants, and boutiques.
Staying at the Palomar is like living in an art museum. Wherever you go in the hotel, you're surrounded by contemporary art and sculpture. The rooms are ornate with European detail, and they have the most comfortable beds.
The sundeck and pool are absolutely gorgeous. Bar service is available, plus you'll find cabanas, plenty of comfortable lounge chairs, and a heated pool. The fitness center is also located on the sundeck and has just about every type of exercise equipment imaginable. Since the sundeck is outside, you can relax by the pool with a cigar and a drink. RESTAURANTS
Moby Dick House of Kabob (Georgetown)
1070 31st St NW (between N Canal St & Blues Aly) Washington, DC 20007 http://www.mobysonline.com/
Call for reservations: 202-333-4400
I love this little hole-in-the-wall place that serves amazing Persian and other Middle Eastern food. Since kabobs are their specialty, I suggest the Kabob-E Kubideh, made with ground sirloin, grated onion, and Moby's exotic seasonings over rice. Add some fresh-squeezed lime, and it's awesome. Make sure you also order some Moostakhiar, a delicious yogurt and shallots sauce. It goes great with the rice and is simply phenomenal.
Another favorite of mine is the Khoresht Gheymeh Bademjan. Made with sautéed eggplant, yellow peas, chunks of beef, onion, tomato sauce, and exotic spices, the mixture is then braised and served with basmati rice.
I also suggest the Ghormeh Sabzi, which is a variety of greens that are stewed for a day and a half with chunks of veal and beef. Fresh cilantro, parsley, leeks and exotic spices are added, then it's braised and served with steamed basmati rice. You will be stuffed!
Everything at Moby Dick is cooked to order, the portions are big, and the prices are very reasonable. I highly recommend it for lunch. Absolutely a must-go when in D.C. Café Milano (Georgetown)
3251 Prospect Street, NW
(between N Potomac St & N Wisconsin Ave)
For reservations: (202) 333-6183
Café Milano serves absolutely fantastic Italian food in the heart of Georgetown. It's also a hotspot for celebrities. You'll see everyone from foreign dignitaries, to TV news people, to actors, congressmen and senators, even cabinet members. The last time I was at Milano, I saw former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, hanging out smoking a cigar with some congressmen.
When the weather is good, you can dine outside on one of two patios and enjoy a cigar. They have a great bar in the main dining room, too, well-stocked and spacious. The walls are covered with a variety of artwork, and the ceiling is painted with a giant map of the Washington Metro subway route.
As for the menu, I highly recommend the Veal Milanese for dinner. The veal chop is pounded and breaded in the Milanese tradition, and served with baby arugula and cherry tomato salad.
The best thing about Milano is you can sit back, relax and enjoy some of the finest Italian food anywhere. Every customer is given equal attention and service. So, even if you're not a celebrity, you'll be treated like one. Neyla (Georgetown)
3206 N. Street NW
For reservations call: 202-333.6353
For some of the most excellent Mediterranean food, check out Neyla, another "hot spot" in Georgetown for foodies. The decor is inspired by Romanesque Mediterranean villas--you'll feel like you're dining as the guest of a great Arab Sheik. There is also a beautiful outdoor seating area.
The beauty of Neyla is that they serve everything from Shawarma and Falafel to a great selection of mixed-grill offerings. What makes Neyla's menu so unique is its fusion of Arab, Turkish, Egyptian, Greek and French Mediterranean cultures. Everything is perfectly marinated, charcoal grilled, filled with tons of flavor, and exquisitely presented. The portions are ample and the prices, reasonable. Rasika (Penn Quarter)
633 D Street, NWWashington, DC20004
For reservations call: 202.637.1222
If there's one type of cuisine I know, it's Indian. So, when I’m in Washington, I always try to get in at least one meal at Rasika, in the Penn Quarter district. It's one of the best Modern Fusion Indian restaurants in the country; maybe even the best. Rasika has an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare and grill their specialties. For dining, you have a choice of their main dining room, a community table, or a private room. Rasika also has a very comfortable bar and lounge area.
The name Rasika comes from a Sanskrit word that means, "flavors." If I could sum up Rasika in one word it would be, "fabulous!" You'll find everything from Lobster Patia to Chicken Tikka Masala, to a marvelous selection of vegetarian dishes, homemade chutneys, breads and more. There's a must-do dish called Palak Chaat. Chaat is the most popular street food in Delhi and Bombay. Rasika takes a very novel approach, using crispy baby spinach, sweet yogurt, tamarind sauce and date sauce served over little crispy fried noodles. It's one of their signature dishes, and it will blow your mind with all of the different flavors.
Another favorite of mine are the Tandoori Lamb Chops. They're marinated in yogurt with 18 different spices including mace, cardamom, cashews, (cashews aren’t a spice) and ginger for 27 hours, then grilled. They melt in your mouth like butter. If lamb isn’t your thing, order the Chicken Makhani, which is first broiled, then marinated, grilled, and simmered in a tomato sauce with fenugreek. Try it with their Naan bread. It's absolutely fantastic.
If you want to dine at Rasika you absolutely must make a reservation; otherwise it will be almost impossible to get in. That's how hot this restaurant is. NIGHTCLUBS/BARS
Shelly's Back Room
1331 F Street NW, Washington, DC20004 http://www.shellysbackroom.com/
Phone: (202) 737- 3003
There are cigar bars, and then there are cigar bars. Shelly's Back Room (just a short walk from Rasika) is the only true cigar bar in Washington, D.C. Unlike other "cigar-friendly" bars in D.C., where they have a space cordoned-off for smoking, you can smoke anywhere in Shelly's.
Shelly's Back Room has a very traditional "old world" feel about it. There's plenty of wood, murals of Cuban life, low-key lighting, soft, comfortable couches and chairs that you can sink into, a fully-stocked bar and humidor, eight HD TVs, plus a state-of-the-art air filtration system. Lockers are also available for club members.
The menu at Shelly's offers a wide variety of reasonably-priced "bar food" such as burgers, wings, sausages, nachos, soups, salads and similar fare, plus pricier entrees like Angus NY Strip, Bacon-wrapped Shrimp, and Blackened Chicken Pasta.
If you're looking for the perfect atmosphere to relax and enjoy cigars, Shelly's Back Room is a must-do experience. Jack Rose Dining Saloon
2007 18th St NW, Washington, DC20009
Jack Rose Dining Saloon is located in the Adams Morgan district. You'll find a great menu and a number of rooms for dining and/or private events. Nicknamed "The Temple of Whiskey," the Dining Saloon bar stocks 1,400 different types of liquor. Among their 500 single malt scotches are rarities like Bruichladdich 1984 and Tullibardine 1993. You'll also find practically every variety of whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and tequila imaginable. Add their extensive wine list, plus dozens of draft beers, and you've got a virtual wonderland of booze.
Jack Rose also has a Tiki Bar and two cigar-friendly areas: an Open-Air Terrace and "The Prohibition Room," which is located in the basement of the Saloon. The Prohibition Room's décor evokes the old prohibition-era speakeasies, and even has its own back-alley entrance.
The food is primarily American Contemporary with a reasonably-priced menu that ranges from Roasted Quail, to House Smoked Trout, to Pepper NY Strip steak, Pennsylvania Pork Chop, Roasted Chicken and more. Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C.20005
http://www.ebbitt.com/main/home.cfm (can’t open this link)
The Old Ebbitt Grill is located near the White House, and is one of the most unique bars in the city, especially if you want to soak up some Washington history. Founded in 1856, it's one of the oldest bars in the country with the look and feel of an old library. Among its more notable guests over the years are past presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, John Harding and Teddy Roosevelt. Like the Café Milano, it's not unusual to see politicians, Washington insiders, news people, and celebrities in the Old Ebbitt.
In 1983, it was moved to what was once the old B.F. Keith's Theatre. The décor is Victorian with old, dark mahogany and velvet booths, while the bars are marble, brass and beveled glass. Some of the artifacts from the original location are still in place, like antique beer steins, a walrus head that allegedly was one of Teddy Roosevelt's hunting trophies, and wooden bears imported by Alexander Hamilton for his private bar.
In addition to the 19th century atmosphere, Old Ebbitt is also famous for its annual Oyster Riot, always held on the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving. It's so popular you have to buy tickets to get in.
The dress is casual and the food is classic American with a difference. All of the produce used is grown locally, so everything--including the meats--is extremely fresh and very high in quality. Washington DC is great year round, but the best time to visit is in the sspring when the cherry blossoms begin to bloom. The weather is warm enough to hop around many of the bars and restaurants that have outdoor seating, and you can smoke cigars while strolling past such landmarks at the Capital, the White House, the Smithsonian, and the beautiful memorials. I also find Washington;s mix of old-meets-new refreshing. If you've never had a chance to see our nation's capitol in-person, add it to your "must visit," vacation list.*MORE
Q. What does "Cuban Sandwich" mean when referring to cigars? I have done internet searches and came up with nothing but recipes.- Brian Buck A. For the answer to this question, I contacted one of my most knowledgeable resources, Rich Perelman at Cigarcyclopedia.com, who wrote:
"Every maker I have heard discuss sandwich-style cigars talks about a combination of short (NOT chopped) or medium-fill pieces inside some long-filler. That's where the term "mixed fill" comes from: short/medium and long-filler in the same cigar. The sandwich part, comes, I am told, from the method by which the short/medium fill pieces are placed in the middle of long-fill leaves like a hot dog resting inside a (long-filler) bun. Then the long-fill leaves are closed over and secured by the long-filler binder."
Actually, there are some really good Cuban Sandwich cigars out there, like the Arturo Fuente Curly Head cigar, Maroma cigars, and Spirit of Cuba cigars, to name a few.*MORE
Aaron Eckhart smokes cigars because they don’t alter personalities in the same way drinking alcohol does.
The actor loves cigars and is happy to admit they are his one vice. He would never consider smoking cigarettes because he believes they make people neurotic and alcohol had such a profound effect on his personality he was never a big fan of it. “By the third drink, you're all different people. With a cigar you're the same person from the start to the end. Whereas with drink and drugs you're either fighting or stealing each other's girlfriends or hating yourself. That was my alcohol experience,” he laughed to British newspaper The Guardian.
Aaron indulges in several cigars a day, although he recognises it’s a habit which polarises people. The star insists that most people learn to love them if they are around them enough, claiming women he has dated have even ended up smoking them themselves...Story continues at belfasttelegraph.co.uk...*MORE
At what point does a “Boutique Cigar Company” lose its roots and become a “Corporate Cigar Company”? Jonathan Drew answers that the same way he answers, “When does a person become old?” It’s defined in the person’s heart, their attitude and, in this case, perception. Go behind the scenes of Drew Estate Nicaragua & Cigar Safari for a look at how they do things: much differently. Most of my previous column (“Fuck Making The List, Make The Legend”) addressed the eighteen-year struggle of Drew Estate, as well as a tidbit about my personal history since our start at the World Trade Center in New York City.
In writing this second column for Cigar Advisor, I figured that it would be interesting to address why I still view Drew Estate as a “Boutique” premium cigar company, even though we have become one of the largest in the world, currently producing 92,000 hand rolled cigars per day, every day… One of the things that I cherish the most about my career of cigar making is spending time in Nicaragua with the full Drew Estate and Cigar Safari team. Since 1996, I have put my heart into that country and its people, and I never could have imagined how much they would have given back in return. Not only has Nicaragua become the home to Drew Estate, but it has become home to me personally as well. Throughout the years, I have spent close to 80% of my time there, and when you spend that much time in one place, believe me - you get to know it well. Attending various Cigar Safari trips with all sorts of veteran and newbie cigar smokers has become an important part of my life, as I will explain. Cigar Safari is a tour that we run for consumers in which we take them to Nicaragua to see the sights, experience the culture, and live the world of tobacco. The trip is four days, three nights, and during each tour I get to spend significant one-on-one time with everyone attending. I truly cherish these moments, as they allow me to unwind, get to know new cigar advocates, get feedback on how we’re doing as a company, and learn what Drew Estate can do to make the cigar smoking experience better for everyone throughout the world. If you’ve traveled with anyone before, especially to a new country, you know how much of a bonding experience that can provide. Imagine being able to show your new acquaintances something so near and dear to your heart, and something you’ve literally poured 100% of your blood, sweat, and tears into for almost twenty years. My heart swells with pride every single time I see the reactions of the attendees to our main Rolling Floor when they see it for the first time. The energy in that space is truly unparalleled; thousands of bodies moving perfectly in sync with one another, creating something so integral to our existence as a company… EPIC. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting our factory, you know what I’m talking about. I truly believe that the Drew Estate Rolling Floor is unlike any other in the world, not just within Nicaragua. Much of this has to do with the unique Drew Estate workforce and creative departments, such as the 5,000 sq ft “Subculture Studios”, made up of 36 graffiti artists who know how to get berserk with a spray can. On the Drew Estate Production Floor, we prefer to hire people with little to no experience. We have an extremely specific method that we use when producing cigars and we find that people who have prior experience rolling with a different method tend to fall back into old habits, even with extensive training. Can you imagine the amount of muscle memory that becomes ingrained in your brain when you roll 250 to 300 cigars per day? Those habits are next to impossible to break, which is why we hire employees who are fresh to rolling, then train them for years as they reach their respected potential. Not everyone becomes a Liga Privada team member, trust me. I think this is a major part of the reason our rolling floor has such a special energy, because the “Rolleros” and “Buncheros” are extremely unique... well, also, don’t forget the music that we blast all day long… ha ha ha. Another aspect of Drew Estate Nicaragua that I am very proud of is the paternal manner in which we treat our employees at every level of the workforce. While rolling, our staff is allowed to listen to their own music, talk to their friends, and generally enjoy themselves while they make beautiful cigars, of course. Again, there is a vibe and aura at our factory that is very unique, which everyone notices when visiting us on a Safari tour. Paying the highest wages to our workers, along with providing healthcare and other benefits such as life insurance, creates a “team relationship” that grows each day among the people who “actually make the cigars”. We are not talking salesmen here (no disrespect of course, but salesmen and marketing people don’t roll cigars, factory employees do!). I have surrounded myself with talented young professionals who have become my personal friends throughout my eighteen years in Nicaragua. I’m going to talk about a few of them below but, with over 1,450 employees at our factory, I’m definitely not addressing everyone in this article. First, I have to talk about Fat Boy, my man Jessi “Victims” Flores. Jessi has been with Drew Estate Nicaragua since 1999, after we met each other at a gas station when his fat ass jumped out of a shadow. We both had a passion for tobacco, hip-hop, graffiti, art, and all things Nicaragua. We soon combined these interests to concoct Subculture Studios, a graffiti-based art studio attached to our factory in Nicaragua (it was actually a tattoo shop in the center of Managua first). Because of the work of Jessi, Subculture Studios, and the 36 full time graffiti artists, we were recently recognized for our design work by receiving the “Outstanding Art” award for 2012 from Cigar Journal Magazine. Our Executive Director of Tobaccos and Production, known as the “Chief of the Broadleafs”, Nicholas Melillo, has been with the company for ten years now and has been a major asset in bringing our company to our current level of expertise and quality. Nick, an Italian kid from Connecticut, has been instrumental in creating blends to categorically change the traditional cigar market. Nick also manages all of our tobacco buying (somewhere in the “spend” neighborhood of 15 to 20 million USD yearly at this point), and has been made responsible for securing enough raw leaf to keep our operations running smoothly into the future. He is absolutely essential to our success as a company, as is Manuel Rubio and Jessenia Moncada, who we will discuss in a future article. In regards to Cigar Safari, one of the most important characters of them all is Pedro Gomez. Pedro is our Cigar Safari tour guide and, if any of you have been on a Cigar Safari, you know Pedro well! He’s become a bit of a legend over the years, as he seems to know EVERYONE in Nicaragua. In fact, I’ve heard Pedro addressed as the Mayor of Estelí (the city where our factory is located in Nicaragua) more than once by Cigar Safari attendees. Some Nicaraguans sincerely think that he may one day actually become Nicaragua’s president! Pedro will be moving to the U.S.A. in June 2013 to help lead our Events Department, visiting stores and final consumers who have gotten to know him over the past six years. This brings me to the beginning and the end. At what point does a “Boutique Cigar Company” lose its roots and become a “Corporate Cigar Company”? The answer is the same as the question, “When does a person become old?” The answer is defined in the person’s heart, their attitude and, in this case, in the market’s perception, quite honestly.
I never want to see Drew Estate as anything other than a “Boutique Cigar Company”, a company of innovation, a company not afraid to take risk, and most of all, a company who is made up of Hommies who keep it Local and Loco.*MORE
Jazz music has gone through many stages and evolutions during it's rich history. The genre features a wide variety of different styles and variations, and is enoyed by millions. A pure art form that remains best suited to the live setting of small, smoky clubs, the live experience cannot be replaced by technolgoical advancement. Lost in today’s world of pop songs and endless remakes is, perhaps, one of the purest representations of music in the world: Jazz. The word is actually a blanket term that is used to broadly describe a variety of distinctive styles: Bebop, Big Band Swing, Avant-Garde, Acid, Punk and Smooth are just a few of the iterations of the jazz family. While newcomers to the genre may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of variety, it is important to realize that all jazz styles have common threads. Improvisation, syncopation (a variety of off-beat rhythms), and blue notes are the pillars of most jazz music you will hear. If it sounds a little confusing, that’s because jazz itself is a style of music that was never meant to be pinned down in one definition. And that is the essence and beauty of jazz. Perhaps one of the best quotes about the genre is by the great jazzman Louis Armstrong: “What we play is life.” Though sometimes disputed, most purists believe that the origins of jazz are rooted in the black communities in the early 20th century Southern United States. The music was born out of an amalgamation of African, European and American musical traditions. The coming of the Jazz Age really announced the genre to the general population. Jazz sprouted up in many places: churches, at community gatherings, and even salons as other influences like Afro-Cuban rhythmic motifs were brought in from Havana and New Orleans. Like the makeup of the United States, jazz is a true melting pot of influences. The decadence and new values of the Roaring ‘20s were perfectly portrayed by two popular musicians of the era: Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson. (Call out: quick bios) Jazz became a sort of “rebel music” that polarized the young generation from the old. Gone were the days of restrictive, conservative music; improvisation and dance tunes were now prevalent throughout the land. From there, the evolution of jazz was so sudden and quick that it became hard to pin down; dozens of off-shoots began to be heard across the country. The snowball effect was incredible - Jazz became representative of a million different dialects and experiences that were unique to the musicians playing the notes themselves. In 1956, a young trumpeter named Miles Davis recorded a couple of tracks with noted producer Gil Evans and released the seminal album The Birth of the Cool. The title wasn’t just an important-sounding name; The Birth of the Cool is widely appreciated as one of the pioneer recordings of the cool jazz era. Davis and Evans would go on to be one of the most prolific pairings in the history of music. The birth of Cool Jazz, the break from up-tempo swing and decadence that had marked the genre prior, was a reflection of what were now more somber times. And that’s one of the true beauties of jazz. It evolves and adopts the themes of the day; it is a true reflection of the era. The Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s was responsible for a larger focus on African-style compositions. The 80s were marked with a style that was more akin to the funk and hip-hop music genres that were gaining in popularity. Other, more obscure styles like acid and punk jazz also came about. After almost a century of existence, jazz had already morphed into a beautiful myriad of styles that was already too deep to define. Today, the jazz world remains an avant-garde musical construction: the use of electronic instruments and similar influences are very evident in modern jazz recordings. Many are of the opinion that jazz is still best seen live at a club. The experience of seeing a band that is so completely in sync with one another - while improvising most of the notes - is truly something to behold. Jazz clubs are found throughout the country with each one offering a completely unique flavor. Jazz is expressionist art at its finest; a truly unique genre that will evolve for years to come. *MORE
Q: About a month ago I purchased a box of Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature cigars. I just lit-up the first one and noticed a bead of almost clear brown liquid, about the size of straight pin head, about one quarter of an inch from the burn. As the burn drew closer to the liquid, suddenly two sprouts shot straight up. They had an off-white color and were about one eighth of an inch long; they looked like the leaves of a tulip flower. Whoa! That put an end to that cigar, which cost over $6. Any idea what might have happened?- Dan N. in Portland, MI A: This is probably one of the most bizarre stories I've read in a long time. As far as the bead of liquid, I've smoked some cigars in which some of the juice from the tobacco would appear due to a small hole or crack in the wrapper. But this sprout thing sounds more like the liquid was actually water. Let me check with a friend of mine who is a Certified Master Tobacconist; maybe he'll know.So I forwarded Dan's message to Jorge Armenteros at Tobacconist University and here's what he replied:WTF?! Would love to have seen that...never heard of such a thing, but in the last year I have found [chewing] gum and what looked like a cigarette filter in a cigar. Two very prominent brands! So bad for business!
Many years ago, I found a chicken feather in the head of a cigar. Eeeee! Suffice it to say that if Jorge doesn't know, I doubt anyone else does. My hypothesis is - so don't take this as gospel - somehow a seed got into the bunch. There may have been just enough moisture for the seed to take root inside the cigar. When the ash got to the seedling, the heat opened up a space for the sprout to...sprout! I only wish you had taken a picture of it.Better luck with your future smokes, but for the record, I've never had a problem with most Arturo Fuente cigars, especially the Hemingway line, so go figure...this is one for the books. Let me know if it happens again, and get the shot!*MORE
What happens when we put three cigars in the ring to fight it out? We have a Battle! Three sticks enter, one stick leaves with the championship belt in its weight class…or in this month’s case, wrapper type: Cameroon, Connecticut, Corojo and Sumatra. And we need your help to pick the winners. Grab the details on how you do it, plus our Judge’s Club sampler – the best deal on cigars you’ll see all month. If you've been swiping through Cigar Advisor looking for those "ratings" screens full of inflated numbers, slanted cigar reviews and stupid phrases like "pleasant subset" or "humble notes"- you're out of luck. We don't do that here. Instead, we give you the facts on each stick and leave the review to readers like you. How did we pick the cigars for The Battle? We just happen to like 'em for one reason or another. As for the descriptions, we're going off of what flavors the fillers have, what taste the wrappers have, and so on...and a little bit of personal experience too. So we pick a few smokes, lay them out in a particular set of categories and let them fight it out.
For the reviews, that's where you come in - each of these cigars go into the Judges Club Sampler.
[More on that coming up.]
For this Battle, we're telling the tale of the tape by wrapper leaf: Cameroon, Connecticut, Corojo and Sumatra. Four totally different looks, feels, tastes and aromas; but because an honest fighter doesn't box outside his weight class, we've put them into a four of pugilism's more popular divisions. Now, we're not going to give you the rope-a-dope and tell you that just because one cigar is in a particular weight class, that it doesn't have skills - it just means that it's...different. The same way heavyweights rely on punching power, and lightweights rely on speed. Different- and every one of these smokes can go to the distance. Read on - you just might find a new sparring partner in this month's Battle. Get in the ring! Judge's Club
You be the judge- and pick the winners!
Each month, we roll all of our Battle competitors into one sweet cigar sampler called the "Judge’s Club," for you to try out and rank yourself, right here at Cigar Advisor. That's right- we don't just rank 'em, you do. And as with any good Battle, there can be only one... so based on your own personal experience with the cigar, all we ask is for you to choose the king of the hill from each group. Think of it as throwing your bet down on one competitor in a no-holds barres, 3-way cape match- out of the three cigars in each category, it's up to you to pick the winner.
We've made it incredibly easy and affordable for you to get in the ring with these smokes right now: order this month's "Judge's Club," sampler to get all twelve sticks for only $49.99! That's a BIG SAVINGS off the regular price, plus we'll even throw in free shipping on any and all of your orders from Cigar Advisor for the next 30 days!
Ready for your voice to be heard? hit the "Buy This Sampler," button now- and YOU be the judge! George Foreman once said Roy Jones, Jr. “hits like a heavyweight and moves like a lightweight.” So it is with Serie G…presented in mostly box-pressed shapes, each cigar is a blend of Nicaraguan Habano longfillers and binders. Medium body puts Serie G in our Middleweight class, but be warned – like Jones, it never throws a haymaker.
“Among the best of all time.” It’s said of both Arturo Fuente cigars and Felix Trinidad, one of the best Puerto Rican fighters in history. Fuente are handmade in the time-honored family tradition, and have become legend for their Dominican tobaccos – which offer a quick jab sequence as tight an in-your-face as Tito’s.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler had the highest KO % of all middleweight champions, ever – and one of the best chins in boxing history. Partagas has over 150 years of tradition originating in their native Cuba – and a rock-solid blend of Dominican Cuban-seed & Mexican fillers, making it an amazingly consistent cigar. Neither is to be taken lightly. It’s the Julio Cesar Chavez of this group – known for outstanding punching power and the relentless stalking of his opponents. Champagne is a flurry of complex flavors and smoke that ends nice and smooth…like a picture-perfect right hook.
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini was a champ with a whirlwind punching style. Avo Classic cigars have that same one-two punch of curing and aging to provide a consistent, mild to medium-bodied Dominican filler smoke that burns clean through all 15 rounds.
Like Floyd Mayweather Jr. in his lightweight days: a world title holder thanks to the jab and a solid right. Blended with Dominican fillers, a set-up jab of Mexican binders and U.S. Connecticut shade wrapper, Macanudo Café is a true contender as well. And as Mayweather is to boxing, you don’t have a conversation about cigars without Macanudo. The Edge is the Larry Holmes of Corojo…one of the greatest heavyweights of all time; it’s a whole new dimension in full-bodied cigars. And the Edge, just like the Easton Assassin’s left jab, has one of the most potent weapons in the cigar world: potent all-Ligero long-fillers.
Camacho Corojo cigars are fully-aged cigars with a distinctive 'Havana-like' flavor – so we can best compare them to heavyweight Joe Louis. Louis had a reputation as an honest, hardworking fighter; and Camacho is an honest, hardworking cigar made from genuine, first-generation Cuban seed (‘97 vintage) Corojo leaf grown in Honduras. It’s a robust, yet smooth experience…just like a Joe Louis fight
The first all box-pressed selection from Alec Bradley, and their most muscular to-date – this cigar is Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Made in Honduras, the blend’s Honduran and Nicaraguan longfillers bob and weave the palate. Prensado is as potent a smoke as Frazier’s left hook, his knockout weapon of choice; and both have been Undisputed World Heavyweight Champions. Just like Sugar Ray Leonard, Romeo y Julieta 1875 is a name known in every house. They’re also both known for being smooth, with excellent balance – and finishing with a left hook. In Sugar Ray’s case, it got him Olympic boxing gold; in RyJ’s, it’s the cedar-aged Dominican longfiller tobacco that will leave you with a standing 8-count.
If you were to sum up Manny Pacquiao in one word – it’s “aggressive.” Same with Serie R cigars…robust, power-packed smokes with a full-bodied, no-nonsense blend of Nicaraguan Ligero and Dominican Olor. Just like stepping into the ring with Pacquiao, it’s only for the more experienced who can go the distance.
Acid Kuba Kuba – the “Golden Boy” of ACID cigars, and still the best-selling in their 'blue label' series. Both have a relaxed style, and among the most flavorful, too: De La Hoya being chosen a perennial “Fighter of the Year,” and Kuba Kuba the choice of legions of fans in and out of the Battle ring. Judges Club Sampler
You Be The Judge!
Each month we'll roll out a sweet new "Judges Club" sampler for your smoking enjoyment. Try them out and come right back here to Cigar Advisor and let everyone know what you think. Four categories, three cigars in each and you are the judge. You get all twelve sticks for $49.99 and FREE SHIPPING on all of your Cigar Advisor orders for 30 days! It's easy...
Buy 'Em / Smoke 'Em / Pick Your Winners!*MORE
Many cigar lovers are well-acquainted with cigars from the “Big 3,” i.e. Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Mexico, on the other hand, has suffered a less-than-stellar reputation. As Lucas Woith explains, tough import restrictions and tariffs on tobacco in Mexico once limited most manufacturers to producing puros, or cigars made entirely of Mexican tobacco. Today that story is changing, as evidenced by the tobaccos and cigars being produced there. For years, American cigar enthusiasts have been familiar with cigars from the “Big 3” countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Casual cigar smokers rarely take the time to research where their cigar actually comes from, but one of the amazing things about the cigar industry is having the opportunity to try cigars that blend together tobacco from different regions and countries in perfect harmony, creating just the right flavor. Cigar enthusiasts who delve deeper soon realize there are many other countries which produce cigar tobacco. While tobacco is grown as far north as Canada and as far south as New Zealand, the best cigar tobacco comes from the regions between the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer. Countries such as Ecuador, Cameroon, Colombia, Brazil, and the United States provide tobaccos of varying flavors, adding greatly to the composition of many premium cigars. Among cigar- and cigar tobacco-producing nations, Mexico has suffered a less-than-stellar reputation. Until the mid-1990s, tough import restrictions and tariffs on tobacco in Mexico limited most manufacturers to producing puros, or cigars made entirely of Mexican tobacco. While it was not illegal to import tobacco to be used in cigar production, Mexican laws made it both costly and difficult to do so; applicants were required to supply exhaustive information to the Department of Agriculture on the tobacco crop, down to what types of fertilizers and pesticides were used. The process sometimes took up to six months, and many companies simply chose not to bother.
1994's North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eased restrictions somewhat, and companies such as A. Turrent took advantage. Still, difficulties persist even today, as explained by Nancy Hernandez, Exports Manager for Mexico's Puros Santa Clara:
We recently imported tobacco from Nicaragua and had to take several steps, including registering the shipment with the government, obtaining permits, and being on a special list of allowed importers, called the ‘Padron de Importadores.
Puros Santa Clara's brands include Capa Flor, Madrigal, and Veracruz, among others.
Despite the time-consuming import process, the quality and reputation of Mexican cigars have benefitted greatly. That's not to say that its tobacco isn't also world-class. The San Andreas region of Mexico, located in the southeastern part of the country on the Gulf, boasts some of the finest soil in the world for tobacco production. Enriched by the region's volcanoes, the soil yields leaf that is tough and is used by a number of cigar makers as a binder for maduro cigars. The Romeo y Julieta Viejo employs a Mexican wrapper, and is one worth trying for all cigar enthusiasts. Other brands such as Montecristo, Gispert, and Saint Luis Rey use Mexican wrappers on their cigars. The La Aroma De Cuba Mi Amor, produced in Nicaragua by Don Pepin Garcia, also uses a Mexican wrapper, and has earned nearly universal praise.
While it has also long been rumored that Padrón uses a Mexican wrapper on their 1000s and Anniversary series, the company has gone on record as saying that this is categorically not true. Mexico’s tobacco history extends back to the Mayans, who used to smoke tobacco in pipes, as well as in loosely-rolled bundles resembling a primitive cigar. Today there exist dozens of cigar makers in Mexico. Some still use nothing but Mexican tobacco in their cigars; others blend tobacco from various countries together. Brands such as A. Turrent, Te Amo, Mito de San Andreas, and Julio Cesar all either produce cigars in Mexico, or use Mexican tobacco extensively in their blends.
The A. Turrent Puro Corojo is made in Nicaragua but uses Mexican tobacco in the filler as well as for the binder. Contrary to the name, it is not a true puro, but it is a fantastic cigar that showcases the flavor and strength of Mexican tobacco very well. Of the companies that actually produce their cigars in Mexico, the most well known is probably Te Amo. Known throughout 1970s New York City as the “cab driver’s cigar,” it is commonly overlooked due to its reputation as a cheap cigar. Te Amo Cigars are made in Mexico by the Turrent family, one of the oldest families in the cigar industry. They have consistently produced some of the best tobacco in the world, and the leaf used for the Te Amo is no exception. These are quality cigars that have a great price point and are perfect to enjoy while playing a round of golf or working in the yard. Mexican tobacco and cigars are some of the hidden gems of the cigar industry and hopefully, before long, people will venture out of their comfort zones and try something different. That’s one of the best things about being a cigar lover: trying something new, something different, something that you may have never heard of, and falling in love with it. It happens every day in the cigar world.
A number of online retailers utilize Mexican-made cigars as exclusive house-blend cigars. They are cheaper than Dominican, Honduran, or Nicaraguan cigars, but offer great consistency and flavor, appealing to a wide range of cigar enthusiasts. Mexican tobacco and cigars are some of the hidden gems of the cigar industry and hopefully, before long, people will venture out of their comfort zones and try something different. That’s one of the best things about being a cigar lover: trying something new, something different, something that you may have never heard of, and falling in love with it. It happens every day in the cigar world.
We all have those friends who say, “I only smoke Cubans,” or “I only smoke Dominicans”. These people are missing out big time. Today, country of origin matters less than ever. What truly matters is the quality of the tobacco, the blend, and the construction. For your friends who have a strong allegiance to one country of origin or another, try a test. Get a Te Amo cigar, take off the band, and have them smoke it. If they have an open mind, they’ll likely enjoy it and be amazed when they find out where it’s made, as well as its price point. Despite the constant battle with cigar taxes, smoking bans, and FDA regulation, there has never been a better time to be a cigar enthusiast. With so many great brands and blends coming out these days, it’s hard to keep up. Try something new, and you just may discover a new favorite!*MORE