The 2014 Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival

Last weekend we flew out to Denver, Colorado to go to the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival.  Friday evening we drove up to a cigar store called Havana Manor where they were having a My Father Cigars and Tatuaje event. It still amazes me that I can walk into a cigar store 2000 miles from home and know a bunch of people. It was a who’s who of the cigar industry there and we had the pleasure of catching up with friends, and if I tried to list names I’d miss someone.  I picked up some L’Atelier cigars and smoked a LAT54 which was delicious. It was a nice time and we met some great folks in addition to those we knew already, and we’d see everyone at the event the next day. The store was expansive, they had two walk-in humidors in the retail area up front, and several large lounge areas in the back. It was a really impressive store.  After a day of travel, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.

 

 

I’ve been hearing great things about this festival for a few years, and we made the decision earlier this year to make the trek to Colorado from Pennsylvania to attend the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival.  We were invited by Joe Liggett, of Smoker Friendly, who sponsored the event. Joe did an amazing job of organizing this event. There were about 2000 attendees, falling into three categories, General Admission, VIP and Executive VIP.General admission attendees took hope over 40 cigars, and the more costly levels received many more super premium cigars. There somewhere along the lines of 40 cigar companies, a bunch of beer and liquor companies and all kinds of other interesting vendors.  We saw one vendor, Twisted Custom Cutz, with ashtrays made from wine and spirit bottles cut length-wise which were really cool. The event ran from 1:00 (noon for the VIP ticket holders) until 7:00 which left plenty of time to visit all the vendors and enjoy the festival. It looked like it was really going to storm at one point, but after a few drops it passed without incident, the band played on, the cigars were smoked and the food, which was really good, was eaten.  We took a bunch of pictures, which are in the slideshow below, and videos which I will post over the coming weeks.  I’ve included a video here with Joe Liggett which we shot as the event was getting set up and I put on Facebook right away.  I highly recommend this event, it’s easily one of the best in the country.

 

Click on one picture to open a slideshow.

 

As I said, it’s a really fun event, the area is beautiful, the weather was great, and there were a lot of great vendors there.  After the event, Drew Estate hosted a herf and gave out hats and more cigars. I enjoyed a Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo El Martillo and had a nice time talking to Willie Herrera, who’s assumed the roll of head blender at Drew Estate recently.  I had run into his predecessor, Nick Melillo, earlier in the day.  There were so many great cigar makers, and I made some new friends and visited with some old ones.  I don’t think that cigars tasted any different in Colorado, I smoked a Villiger Cuellar Connecticut Kremé to start the day which was really good, a geat Joya Red and a Nimmy D Toro. I was careful not to over do it being unaccustomed to the altitude. I kept hydrated, but the difference in the air from home was noticeable. Thanks again to Joe and Smoker Friendly for inviting us to attend this wonderful event! As I said, stay tuned for videos from some of the vendors at the event.

 

That’s all for today, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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The Woman of the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival

Since we fly home late tonight and want to get some Colorado sightseeing in today I’ll keep this brief and write a full report when we get home. The Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival was awesome. There were a bunch of terrific vendors there and I got a bunch of video interviews that will be featured over the coming weeks. Stay tuned. Today’s post features a couple pictures of the most beautiful woman I saw at the festival, and my videographer and inspiration, my wife Jennifer.

 

I’ll fill in captions later as posting via mobile devices is taxing my patience!

Until the next time,

CigarCraig

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Visiting Chicago – Casa de Montecristo and a Camacho Ecuador

When we left off I was in Chicago and I mentioned I was going to visit Casa de Montecristo in Countryside, IL.  I set the GPS in the car, which, for some reason, didn’t take the street number for me. I decided to wing it, and set off anyway. I got about ten miles down I-294 and the GPS had lost it. The lady in the dashboard kept telling me to take the next left, then recalculated, take the next left….I was on a highway with no left turns!  She didn’t know what she was doing! I pulled off the next exit and parked in a McDonalds and turned the crazy lady off and see if the iPhone Google Maps app would help me out.  I apparently had gotten of at the right exit, because in a few turns I pulled into the Casa de Montecristo lot.

CasadeMontecristo1

To everyone who told me Casa de Montecristo was a must visit on my Chicago visit, thank you! The store is beautiful, and the staff is very attentive. Fred showed me around and introduced me to one of the regulars, Conor. Oddly, a gentleman named Justin who I had met the day before at TESA was there making a purchase on his way out of town, he had come in from St. Louis for the previous day’s event and to celebrate his birthday.  Strange walking into a strange shop 750 miles from home and seeing a familiar face, but I shouldn’t really be surprised by now, it happens more times than not, it seems.  The store has cabinet humidors lining the walls for singles, an glass excaparate with  bins of unbanded cigars, a walk-in humidor for boxes, and a “vintage room” off the walk-in humidor.  After a tour of the facilities, I picked out a couple cigars I hadn’t smoked before and had been looking for, the Camacho Ecuador in the Figurado size and the Matilde Renacer in the Robusto size.  I could have shopped for hours, but I neither need more cigars, nor do I have the budget for Illinois prices.

 

I was ushered downstairs in the only cigar-friendly elevator in the country to the VIP lounge.  Apparently they allow out of towners in the lounge, not that there aren’t nice, comfy chairs upstairs in the store area.  The VIP Lounge is quite luxurious. In addition to the comfy leather chairs, there are booths and a bar, where members can store their own libations and have access to complimentary coffee, sodas and water.  I pulled up a stool next to Conor and we had a wonderful time swapping stories. He had had a cigar brand and we knew a lot of the same people and had visited a lot of the same places.  Once again, you can walk into a strange cigar shop just about anywhere and meet a friend you didn’t know.  As an aside, Conor is hosting a charity event next month,  check out www.chicigarmeetup.com for all the information if you are in the Chicago area or plan to be there.  I lit up the Camacho Ecuador which was a very nice cigar. It burned perfectly and had a great draw and the flavor was very enjoyable.  Conor kindly gifted me a cigar out of the escaparate, a Pete Johnson blend that he said was the original blend of the Black Jar release.  This was a nice smoke as well, however I had to finish it in the car on the way back to the hotel.  The VIP lounge also includes a theater and a meeting room, along with a bunch of TVs and lockers for not only cigars but booze.  I can’t recommend the Casa de Montecristo enough if you find yourself in the Chicago area. I’m sure glad I decided to seek it out and spend my afternoon there.  Great company, great smokes and great facility.

 

Diesel_Unlimited_d5Tonight I took a walk with a Diesel Unlimited d.5 that I think came from last year’s IPCPR. This cigar is made by A.J. Fernandez for Meier and Dutch and has been on the market for several years. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve sampled this line extension before, but it kind of jumped into my hand as I was looking for tonight’s cigar.  The Unlimited has an oily Honduran ligero wrapper and the filler is Nicaraguan tobaccos from Esteli and Condega and Mexican San Andrés.  This cigar was rich and heavy in flavor and quite satisfying. I would reach for this often, it’s a solid cigar.

 

I need to get ready to travel again, I’m really looking forward to attending the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival in Colorado, and will attempt to report from the event, or shortly after. Until then,

 

CigarCraig

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Visiting Chicago – Smokey Bear Cigars and TESA Cigars

2014-08-17 11.10.10Here I am in the windy city and I’ve been enjoying the camaraderie and hanging out with some great cigar friends.  I know I said I was going to try posting from the field, but the places and events were not conducive to getting any good video, and frankly I was having too much fun smoking and socializing. You’ll have to put up with my normal style Sunday post, I guess!  I have been fortunate to find some local cigar events here in Chicago that I managed to impose myself upon.  Today I may venture out to the Casa de Montecristo, which everyone tells me I have to visit. We’ll see, driving around here is a serious time and patience investment, but the people here seem very nice. We are here for the Fest for Beatles Fans, and my wife is working at the show with her clients who are all Beatles related authors. It’s a rather interesting cross-section of people, but the passion they have for the Beatles is similar to the passion we have for cigars, and both passions bring people together.

 

Friday after helping my wife get her booth set up, I headed to Smokey Bear Cigars in Evergreen Park. The GPS said it would take about an hour, but with traffic it was closer to two.  I was certainly ready for a cigar when I got there.  They were having a Toraño event, and Jack Toraño, who grew up in the Chicago area before going to Miami, was there with his wife Cecelia.  Of course, I bought some Toraño cigars and lit up a Master Maduro Toro Gordo.  The shop has a generous walk in humidor with a really good selection. I saw some cigars that I haven’t seen in shops before.  They were loaded for bear (ha) and had a good amount of traffic too. they also have a nice lounge where I sat down with Jack and his wife and caught up a little.  The cigar was a beautiful rich, dark and tasty. I followed it with an Exodus 1959 Gold robusto, which has been a favorite for about ten years. The Toroaños have been making great cigars for a long time, and continue to do so.  I love being in a strange city and visiting a shop I’ve never been to before and hanging out with friends.  I’m pretty sure if Jack hadn’t been there I would have had a good time, as Pam, the owner, is running a good lounge and shop.  Too bad it’s so hard to get to from Pennsylvania!

 

 

Saturday I left the car parked an embarked on the Chicago Transit Authorities Blue line to go to TESA Cigars. I’ve heard of this shop, I’ve ridden past their factory in Esteli, and I’ve also heard of a third (or first, as he tells it) Chris Kelly in the cigar business.  The other two are Chris Kelly and Chris Kelly, in case you are wondering.  Anyway, after navigating the “L” I arrived at the shop, which is in an odd, area. It’s about a block away from Oprah’s studios, but there isn’t really much around from what I could tell.  It’s a nice shop though. Their own brand dominates the humidor, along with a nice selection of other cigars, including an impressive selection of Drew Estate products.  Tom Navarro, whom I’ve know for a few years, helped arrange a herf there and about 20 people were there, many from the Tatuaje Saints and Sinners message board, and the BOTL message board.  I purchased, and smoked a TESA Cabinet 315 Robusto, which was a nice, well balanced cigar that had a load of rich flavor without a lot of spice. The 315 has a Habano wrapper and fillers from Jalapa and Esteli, and is finished off with a curled pigtail cap. Taxes are a bit crazy in the Chicago area, so this PA, no cigar tax, guy was pretty sticker shocked.  Chris does a nice job blending the cigars to be smooth and delicious, which was further evidenced by a corona he gave me that he had recently brought back from Nicaragua and wasn’t saying much about the blend. I’ll be interested in smoking more from this line, as the sample he gave me was very tasty and well made.  It was great meeting everyone, and, as always, a stranger walks into a group and finds new friends instantly, it’s a special thing.  I was also privileged to meet a Facebook friend, C.W. Harris, who Jose Blanco was kind enough connect me with, and is how I found out this event was going on.  I had TESA on my list anyway, but it was extra special to meet up with Tom, C.W., Chris and the rest of the gang there (and I’m terrible with names, there was Justin and Scott, and Ed, David and a raft of others….they need name tags at these things!)

 

 

Well, I think I’m going to see if I can find Casa de Montecristo and go have a cigar or two there this afternoon, then we drive back to  PA tomorrow, work three days, then fly to Colorado for the Rocky Mountain Cigar Fest.  Let me know if you’re going to that event, which I’m looking forward to.  I’ll try doing the “Live blog” thing from there, but I can’t make any guarantees. Until the next time,

CigarCraig

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A CAO Flathead, an MBombay, and Some La Flor Dominicana Cigars at Cigar Mojo

We’re getting ready to take a road trip to Chicago for the weekend. My wife’s working the Fest for Beatles Fans and I’m going to explore some cigar shops.  Again, if you are in the area, let me know and we’ll try to connect! I’m already planning to get to Smokey Bear in Evergreen Park on Friday, and TESA Cigars on Saturday afternoon for some events.  I’m going to try something new for me, posting “live” blog posts, so there may be several posts instead of one big one on Sunday.  Since ditching my dumb phone for an iPhone, I’m going to experiment a little with it. We’ll see how it goes and I beg your indulgence.

 

CAO_Flathead_BigBlockSunday was a spectacular day, and after a very busy morning of yard work I decided to spend the afternoon in the pool with a big cigar.  I picked up a CAO Flathead Big Block a while ago, the square pressed 7″ x 70 monster. I generally feel quite uncomfortable with the 70 ring gauge, but I like the Flatheads, so I thought I should try them all.  I gave this a couple punches with my Screwpop punch (by the way, I’m really looking forward to seeing the next generation of this punch. It looks like they took my advice in the redesign. Yeah, I’m taking credit, you heard it here first!  They also have another cigar cutter coming out that looks like it could be interesting) and just about emptied my lighter lighting that monster.  I spent close to two hours reading in the pool, smoking that big Flathead, and enjoying it quite a bit. The enormous size tempers the blend quite a bit, it lacked the punch of the smaller sizes, and needed a few corrections. I got out of the pool and smoked the cigar for another forty-five minutes, until I just plain got tired of it.  Great smoke, but I’ll stick to the smaller sizes.

 

MBombay_BrazilMataFinaMaduro_RobustoAfter a little Sunday afternoon nap and some dinner, I needed to take the dog for a walk, so I grabbed an MBombay Brazil Mata Fina Maduro robusto. The beautiful band dominates this cigar, and it needs to be removed very soon after lighting. this is a super little smoke, smooth and sweet, with a little extra something from the Peruvian tobacco in the blend.  I have been really impressed with cigars from the same factory in Costa Rico, which also makes the Atabey (which I have yet to sample, but we gave away some in the December contests courtesy of Dave Garofalo), the Byron and the Bandolero, all exceptional cigars. The MBombay burned perfectly, nice flat and even burn and a perfect draw. I am very excited to hear that a local shop is trying to bring these in, I’m quite taken with them.

 

LaFlorDominicana_DblLigeroMaduro_ChiselTuesday my youngest son and I went down to Cigar Mojo in King of Prussia, PA, for their La Flor Dominicana event. I’ve not smoked a lot of La Flor Dominicana cigars.  Not for any particular reason, I always liked them, I just never managed to pick any up.  Litto Gomez was on hand for the event, along with the local rep, Kyle.  I picked up a couple Double Ligero Maduros in the chisel shape, and some Colorado Oscuro No.3s (and a couple others I can’t bring to ind at the moment and am too lazy to go to the humidor to check) and lit up one of the Chisels.  I asked Litto what the best cutting method was and he suggested just giving it a squeeze which worked well. This is a formidable cigar, loaded with rich, dark flavor. I ended up giving it a bit of a scissor cut afterwhile to open the draw up a little, but other than that, it was a terrific smoke. I was able to have a really nice discussion with Litto, in spite of the fact that the place was packed, impressive for a Tuesday night. I’ve said it before, but the guys at Mojo do a great job. In less than a year they have built a really good shop and have excellent events. It was nice to run into Shaun, the proprietor of D&S Cigar Lounge in Lancaster,PA and Arline, who I met the first time I visited Cigar Mojo before they officially opened, there’s always a good bunch of folks there.  My son seemed to thoroughly the Colorado Oscuro he smoked, and he only smoked cigars occasionally.

 

LaFlorDominicana_ColoradoOscuro_No3

 

Since Christian (my son) enjoyed the La Flor Dominacana Colorado Oscuro last night, I figured I had better see what it was all about tonight. Since I had bought two, I took the second one for a walk and enjoyed the heck out of it.  I didn’t find it to be as strong as the Double Ligero Maduro Chisel, but the burn was much better and it was totally satisfying, and since I had a lot of stuff to do to get ready to go away, the 5″ x 50 size worked into my schedule perfectly. I have been remiss over the last few years where this brand is concerned, but I will work on sampling through the line in the future.  Nice smoke. La Flor Dominicana is one of the great survivors of the cigar boom of the ’90s.

 

That’s it for now, I have twelve hours of driving ahead of me tomorrow, so I need to get some rest! Stay tuned for my experimental posts over the next few days. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

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