Category Archives: Stores

Epic Cigars, Literally and Figuratively, a Tatuaje and an Event

Tatuaje_ReservaBroadleaf_J21It’s been a busy couple of days, so I figured I’d start the second half of the week right with what I hoped would be a great cigar.  Last summer at the IPCPR show I stopped into Pete Johnson’s booth where he had Tatuaje, L’Atelier, and his other brands represented, and oddly it wasn’t mobbed. In previous years Pete was pretty hard to get a minute with, so I made a point to visit his booth early. I’m just getting started talking with him when a representative of the IPCPR interrupts to introduce a journalist from the middle east somewhere, who proceeded to talk to Pete for a half an hour with me standing right there, then brought in the middle east distributor who went on for another 15 minutes. I patiently waited, but chastised the previously mentioned IPCPR representative later. Members of the media interrupting retailers and vendors is a big no-no, but it’s OK to interrupt other media members. This is part of the reason I have relinquished my IPCPR membership. Point is, I finally got to talk to Pete for a while, which I greatly appreciated, and he showed us the Reserva Broadleaf series, a collection containing the original 6 Seleccion de Cazador sizes, along with J21, SW, K222 and Cojonu 2003 all with a Connecticut Broadleaf Wrapper. The whole Tatuaje_ReservaBroadleafcollection can be purchased for just under $1200, or they are available separately in bundles of ten. Pete gifted me the J21 size, ironically I had just written about the Habano version in a Prime-Living article. The J21 is a standard 5″ x 50 robusto, obviously wrapped in Connecticut Broadleaf with Nicaraguan binder and fillers. I’m not clear on whether this is rolled in Miami or Nicaragua, but it hardly matters, it’s a stellar smoke! Holy crap did I enjoy this cigar! It hit all the points I like, great burn and draw, perfect ash, and flavor like crazy. Dark cocoa and espresso all day long, with some nice spice. I loved it, and I probably put down a half-inch nub. Just what I needed, another $10+ cigar that I fall in love with.

 

BnBFriday evening I took a ride into the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia to visit BnB Cigars where they were having an Epic Cigars event. I try not to miss Dean Parsons when he comes to town, he and Mick, his sales manager and right hand man, were on hand. For a small shop, BnB has a great selection of boutique cigars as well as your standard, bread and butter cigars, packed into display cases around the shop. There’s a cozy lounge in the back too.  Vince does a great job keeping the place stocked with interesting cigars that you don’t see many places around here. I’m a big fan of the Epic line of cigars, which are made in the Dominican Republic in the same factory that Kristoff cigars come from. I picked up some of the new Maduro Fuerte, I figured it would be a safe bet since I love the regular maduro EpicMaduroFuerteline. I also wanted to try the production version of the San Andres with the Epic “E” in light-colored tobacco leaf in place of the band, and pick up some more of the Connecticut Shade La Rubia.  I smoked an Epic Maduro while I was there hanging out, which comes in a 6½ x 54 size called the Compinche, which means “buddy”.  Like the regular Maduro line, this has a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper, Cameroon binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers, with more ligero than the standard Maduro line. I loved the cigar, but I didn’t find it to be too strong, at least for my tastes. It burned well, and had some very nice flavors consistent with what I love about the Epic Maduro, and that Cameroon binder ads an interesting flavor to the blend.

 

Epic_San Andres_Gran OlaYesterday afternoon I camped out on the back porch with the Flyers game on the tablet and smoked the Epic  limited edition Project E San Andrés Gran Ola, also in the 6½” x 54 size. It’s fortunate that I smoked the cigar through the first two periods of the game and I wasn’t smoking it in the last 6 seconds when the Flyers, once again, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I might have done unspeakable things to the cigar in frustration, and that wouldn’t have been a fitting end to the cigar. This is also appropriate because Dean Parsons played professional hockey in his native epic_hockeyCanada, so he would understand.  The San Andrés wrapper is not a dark, maduro processed wrapper, it’s more of a milk chocolate-brown, with the E that must irritate the folks at the factory who are tasked with its application. I snipped off the fanned pigtail cap and lit it up, thoroughly enjoying the interesting flavors. I would put this at the upper end of medium with some light spice and creamy coffee notes. I found no flavor change whatsoever when I hit the band, in case anyone wondered. Yet another winner from Dean and Epic Cigars! Very nice smoke, but disappointing hockey game.

 

CI Ad in Newspaper CouponsMy wife was clipping coupons today from the Sunday paper and came across this one from Cigars International. I’m not promoting this deal at all (although it’s not a bad deal), just thought it was interesting that it appeared in the regular coupons part of a major news paper. I wonder how long this kind of thing will be allowed? We haven’t seen cigarette advertising in what, 30 years? More? Certainly the anti smoking folks must see this and wish they had gotten the item on the bottom part of the ad so they could call for help when they fell over in shock from seeing *gasp* tobacco…I’m sure this kind of ad is forbidden in Australia, where they have plain packaging and curtains covering the cigars in shops. It could happen here, my friends, stay vigilant and keep pressing your elected officials to try to prevent them from ruining a good thing!

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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CigarCraig’s Holiday Contest Number Two: Xikar Xidris Lighter and Holt’s Contest Winner

Mi Querida_Muy Gordo GrandeOK, OK, I know, I said I was going to post the winner of contest number one earlier, but I slacked off Friday and went to visit a shop in Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia), PA called BnB Cigars (not to be confused with BnB Tobacco, different company altogether). I’ve met Vince, the manager of this shop on several occasions and consider him a friend, he’s been a long time reader and I was long overdue paying him a visit. Vince as stocked this shop with the most impressive selection of boutique cigars I’ve seen. He’s got the largest RoMaCraft selection anywhere, just a ridiculous depth of product. He also knows way more about some of the really geeky boutique stuff and will be my go to info source on such things, I think. I walked out with a handful of cigars that I had read about, but never seen in the wild. But the motivation to pay this great little shop a visit was my old friend Steve Saka was dropping by, and I had to pick up some more Mi Queridas and smoke them along with Steve and the fine folks there CraigNSteve@BnBat BnB. I smoked the Mi Querida in the larger Muy Gordo Grande size, the 6″ x 56 and loved it. It was a bit smoother than the smaller ring gauges, obviously, which was OK with my for a multiple cigar evening. I also managed to get my hands on Steve’s new 4″ x 48 Gordita size in the Mi Querida line. If it compares to the line like the Short Churchill compares to the Sobremesa line it will be a winner. It’s always educational and entertaining hanging out with Steve, and I was glad to finally get to visit this terrific shop. Thanks to Vince for the hospitality (including a great cup of Twin Engine Coffee that, along with the cigar, prevented me from sleeping most of the night!), definitely a must visit shop in the Philly area (and online, they ship!).

Contest!

Today’s holiday giveaway is a new Xikar Xidris single flame torch lighter courtesy of the fine folks at Xikar. This one is the very sporty yellow and black version. When Xikar sent me two of these to try out I was honestly torn between this one and the tan with gun-metal, and opted for the tan because I needed a “classy” as opposed to “sporty” lighter in my portfolio. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been using the Xidris lighter exclusively for the past several Xikar Xidris Yellowmonths and it works great. It’s my go to lighter, it’s got a great heft, yet not too heavy as to pull your pants town, and lights every time, unless it runs out of gas, which isn’t very often because it has a generous fuel tank and a window so you can see when it’s low. Anyway, one lucky reader will win this beautiful and functional yellow and black Xikar Xidris lighter. So leave a comment like usual, I will be picking a winner on Wednesday this time for sure, so stay tuned (spoiler alert: contest number 3 looms). Thanks to Xikar for sending these lighters along for me to try, and going along with my giveaway plans!

 

Winner!

I’ve consulted with Random.org’s random number generator and, after taking out a couple of comments that weren’t eligible, it was determined that the winner of the Holt’s $20 Gift Card is Tommy D. Please send me your details so I can pass them on to Holt’s so they can get you your gift card! Thanks to Lexi at Holt’s for making this possible! I like to visit the center city Philly store when ever I’m nearby, and they might even be carrying Sobremesa and Mi Querida sometime soon!  Thanks to everyone who entered, and good luck in the upcoming contests!

 

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

 

CigarCraig

 

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Nat Sherman Timeless and Metropolitan Cigars and Secret Santa

The Nat Sherman company started out in 1930 with a tobacco store in the garment district of Manhattan, at the height of the Great Depression. Over time, the Nat Sherman store became a destination for tobacco lovers, hosting celebrity clientele such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and John F. Kennedy Jr., as well as being considered “neutral ground” by members of organized crime families. The company remains family owned with the third generation of Shermans running the business, along with Michael Herklots,VP of retail and brand development.  Nat Sherman is an iconic brand, and their flagship store is a Townhouse on 42nd street which is a must visit if you find yourself in New York City. I remember getting the catalog from Nat Sherman in the early 80s, not sure how I got on the mailing list, but I was a fan of their MCD cigarettes. Of course, at the time the cigars were quite the luxury item, not that the cigarettes weren’t, they were probably a very exorbitant $2.50 a pack. I was in a “smoke less, but smoke better” place, I guess, plus I had very few expenses while living with my parents and working three jobs.

 

Michael Herklots of @natshermanThursday evening I had the pleasure of attending an event at my local CigarCigars store with Michael Herklots where he led a tasting of the Nat Sherman Timeless Dominican by having everyone smoke puros of the four filler components.  I arrived late, but was on hand to see the participants trying various combinations together, with two or three little cigars in their mouths at once. It was interesting to see some components smoked together appeared to taste really bad, but the combination of all four tasted really good. The Timeless Dominican, the first cigar that Michael blended when he joined the company, is made at the Quesada factory and comes in about nine sizes, and has Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers and a Nat Sherman Timeless Dominican RobustoHonduran binder. I smoked the robusto size and was very happy with it. Aesthetically, it had a great burn and ash, there was a very thin black line at the perfectly straight boundary between ash and wrapper. The ash had to be almost forcibly removed. It had a load of great flavors, and was a medium to full-bodied cigar. I left satisfied, although I wished the cigar were larger! I solved that by purchasing a couple in the Churchill size, which I look forward to sampling.

 

NatSherman_TimelessNicaragua_660Logically, I followed up the Timeless Dominican with a Timeless Nicaragua. I bought a few of these in the 660 size, with the box press that they use on the Nicaraguan line (as opposed to the round Dominican), it seemed less girthy. Obviously, this is a 6″ x 60 cigar, and its a Nicaraguan puro, with a dark Nicaraguan Habano wrapper that was very appealing to me. This cigar didn’t have the razor-sharp burn that its Dominican counterpart did, but it evened itself out after a while. The cigar had some of my favorite cocoa/coffee flavors along with a woody/meaty component. I liked it. Fortunately, when I go to an event I generally buy more than one of each cigar for a variety of reasons. Mostly so I have at least one to take home if I decide to smoke one at the event, where it’s hard to fairly judge a cigar, and because ya can’t buy just one, am I right? Anyway, another winner from the Iconic Nat Sherman.

 

NatSherman_MetropolitanHabano_ToroI love watching hockey, but I hate  Saturday and Sunday afternoon games as they seem to get in the way of getting things done. I suppose I should embrace them as an excuse to relax on the weekend afternoons, which is why I grabbed a cigar and the tablet and watched the game on the back porch (which has been enclosed for the winter). Continuing the theme, I selected a Nat Sherman Metropolitan Habano toro. The Metropolitan series comes in Habano, Maduro and Connecticut, with the later two being made in the Dominican Republic, and this Habano from Nicaragua. I broke tradition and chose this over the Maduro, as it just looked so good and I really wanted to smoke it.  I’d save the Maduro for later. The Metropolitan Habano was my favorite so far. It had a great sweet, medium bodied flavor and hit me just right. I think these are priced in the $6 range too and worth every penny. This is one of those cigars that I would buy two of for every one $12 cigar all day long. It burned perfectly and lasted through the second period and half way through the third. Good game, great cigar.

 

NatSherman_MetropolitanMaduro_UniversityFinally I got around to that Metropolitan Maduro for my evening walk. This one has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, comes in about eight sizes consistent in shapes and names with the Connecticut shade counterpart. I selected the 6″ x 50 University. This cigar was on the milder side of medium, and it had more of a savory maduro flavor than the sweet. It was different enough to be interesting and pleasurable, but perhaps would be better suited to warmer weather. Again the construction was great and it burned with the nice flat burn that I appreciate as all the components are burning at the same rate. Perhaps I should have stuck to my maduro first tradition as this cigar might have been better earlier in the day, but that Habano was so good…

 

So it’s been brought to my attention that I am a little late to be trying to organize a Secret Santa, but, I’m an optimist, and if anyone is interested in participating, e-mail me (craig@cigarcraig.com) your mailing address before Sunday, December 11, 2016 and I’ll match people up and send out assignments ASAP. We’ll keep it simple, four cigars, with no expectation of having it delivered by Dec. 25, we’ll shoot for New Years. We can still have some fun with this, how’s that sound? I do have a couple of tricks up my sleeve for some giveaways, so don’t despair! 

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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A Cain F Lancero, an Aging Room Event and a La Boheme Cigar

Cain F LanceroThursday evening I had  a craving for a favorite, so I picked out a Cain F Tubed Lancero form a box I picked up a few years ago, and have been rationing out sparingly. Ten count boxes are great, but they don’t last long, ya know? I have been a little concerned about these cigars. A few weeks ago I smoked a tubed Cain Habano that had been buried in the humidor for several years. I was deeply disappointed in the flavor of the Habano, it was heavily cedar flavored, obviously from sitting for so ling in the cedar lined tubo. Cedar is one of those flavors that I recognize in a cigar, but isn’t particularly a favorite of mine, you know by now that I’m a pushover for bittersweet chocolate and coffee. Anyway, I wanted to check on the Cain F Lanceros to see if I needed to un-tube them for further storage, as it would be a shame if these spectacular cigars changed flavor. I determined that I can leave these along for the foreseeable future. the Cain F Lancero is probably my hands down favorite lancero. The specifics on this cigar: 32% Esteli Ligero, 25% Condega Ligero and 25% Jalapa Ligero in a 7″ x 38 non-pigtailed format. Simple math tells us that there’s another 18% of something in there, I have to assume it’s a neutral seco leaf to keep all that ligero burning.  It’s got a refined combination of sweetness, spice and some earthiness that really works for me. Sadly, these went out of production in 2014, but I think there are still some out there, at least in the non-tubo variety. They were very fairly priced in the $6 range.

 

Friday I went to the CigarCigars store two miles from my house for an Aging Room event with Mr. Rafael Nodal in attendance. This store is know for having events on Thursdays from noon to three, and I’m quite pleased that they’ve started having some evening events that I can actually make it to, which they have been doing recently. I went in hoping that they would have the new Oliveros All Aging Room Bin No. 1 G-MajorStars which I really liked, but, sadly, they only had Aging Room and La Boheme offered. I picked up some Havaos, some La Bohemes and a couple of the Bin No. 1 G-Major, which I smoked while there.  The Aging Room Bin No. 1 G-Major is a giant cigar, 6¼” x 63, I know, 63?  I wanted to ask Rafael why 63 ring gauge, but he was busy talking politics with the regulars. The cigar features an Ecuador Habano wrapper and Dominican Habano fillers from 1999 and 2001. It has a huge band, but fortunately it has a smaller band underneath so I could remember what it was I was smoking. It was a nice, rich smoke with great refined flavor.  It had  lot going on with some spice a creaminess. It did require some touch ups as the burn wasn’t as perfect as I’d like in a cigar at this price-point, but we are talking about a natural product here, it didn’t retract too much from the experience. Rafael is one of the nicest guys in the industry, and very patriotic. I was happy to spend a few minutes with him in my neighborhood. Thanks to Steve and the CigarCigars folks for having events at times I can attend! It’s a little bit of a catch 22, you know. I need to go to work to have money to spend at the events, if I bag work to go to daytime events, I don’t have money to spend at them! Overly dramatic, of course, but you get the jist.

 

LaBoheme_MusicaYesterday afternoon was beautiful for late November in PA. How often can you be outside in a t-shirt this time of year? That changed dramatically in the evening, but the afternoon was perfect for sitting on the porch with a cigar and the Flyers hockey game. I chose one of the La Boheme Musico cigars I just picked up, it’s another big cigar, 6¼” x 60, and smoked well beyond the disappointing hockey game. This cigar has an Ecuador Habano wrapper and Dominican fillers much like the Bin No. 1, obviously with less age on the fillers. I thought it was a fine smoke, like the Bin No. 1 without the refinement that the aged fillers bring. I’d smoke this again in a heartbeat, preferably while watching a winning effort by the home team! For the most part, I’ve had good luck with the Boutique Blends stable of cigars, and most of what comes out of Jochi Blanco’s Tabacalera La Palma. Sure I’ve had a clunker here and there, and for some reason many of the Aging Room cigars I’ve had have been way stronger than I was prepared for. Good smokes though, I’m happy to have some in the humidor.

 

Here’s a little plug for my friends at Custom Tobacco, who I met with at the IPCPR show three years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long, but I wrote about their Briarmont cigar in November of 2013, and liked it a lot, even if it hadn’t had a CigarCraig.com logo on the band!  They do some really nice work if you are interested in custom banded quality cigars. Adam and Rachel are top-notch and will certainly take care of you. This is an unsolicited plug. There are other companies I’ve run across that do similar things, Bobalu and CigarCountry come to mind, all of them offer a little different twist. I can personally vouch for the quality of Custom Tobacco, and the people behind it.

 

At CustomTobacco.com, you can create and purchase the unique, memorable and fun gift we all struggle to find: fully customized premium cigars, including a private label cigar band that can include any messaging, logos, color scheme, etc. We also offer a free concierge service in which customers can call or email us and we can both design the cigar band and help select the cigars free of charge. 2016 has been a great year for Custom Tobacco, with media outlets including Sports Illustrated, The Daily Beast, American Way (American Airlines’ Magazine) and the Los Angeles Business Journal highlighting our unique offering. With your continued support, we hope to make this our best holiday season yet.

customtobacco

 

That’s about it for now. I have a bunch of new cigars that I’ll be getting to in the next couple weeks, and I’m working on a new idea for this years contests. The FDA has made things difficult as far as getting boxes of cigars to give away, but I’ve got some other ideas up my sleeve. It’s just a matter of getting it all worked out. Of course, if you guys don’t want the chance to win goodies…

 

Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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A Room 101 Event and a Cavalier Geneva White Series Cigar

CI_DowntownSunday I had mentioned that we were going to Cigars International‘s Downtown Bethlehem store where Matt Booth was having a Room 101 event. We got there (it’s about an hour and a half drive), to find out there was a Celtic festival going on, making it difficult to find a place to park!  After driving around for another thirty minutes we finely found a place to park and made our way to the store. The Downtown store is a a small shop with a couple of chairs but a rather large selection. Fortunately, it was a nice day, and they had tables and chairs on the sidewalk. There was a lot of foot traffic, mostly oddly costumed folks in kilts and whatnot. They even had Celtic music playing on street side Room101_BigPayback_CT_Huesospeakers. And then there was Matt Booth. This was a cool event, as there weren’t lines of people there for the event, so there was a lot of good one on one time with Matt. He even had his attorney there, which, if you follow him on social media, is what he calls his young son, who is about as cute as can be. I bought a hand full of cigars and lit up a Room 101 Big Payback Connecticut Hueso, the 6″ x 60 gordo in the line. This was a very good cigar, and to my surprise, Matt was smoking one as well, in the robusto size, and said that it’s his recent go-to cigar. It was a nice, smooth and very flavorful cigar, quite a nice smoke for a beautiful afternoon in good company. I had gotten some of the Nicaraguan wrapped Big Paybacks too and almost regretted not getting more of the Connecticut, although I like the original Big Payback as well.  If you ever have occasion to spend some time with Matt Booth, jump on it, he’s one of the more interesting gentlemen in the cigar industry!

 

Room101_UncleLee_RanflaWhen I got home I lit up a  Room 101 Uncle Lee, a cigar Matt made to pay tribute to his uncle who introduced him to cigars. I only bought a couple of these as they only had a couple left, I would have bought a 10 count box if they hadn’t already sold out. The Uncle Lee is only made in the Ranfla size, the 6½ x 50 perfecto size that you find in Room 101’s Johnny Tobbaconaut line, the new Chief Cool Arrow, and the Namakubi line. This was a really interesting cigar with an Ecuador Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan Corojo binder and Honduran and Dominican Corojo fillers, so lots of Corojo. There was a flavor sensation akin to mint that wound it’s way through the smoke. This was a really nice cigar, I enjoyed the crap out of it, and may have to pick up a box. Matt mentioned that CI bought the remaining inventory, so they might be the only game in town for that cigar.  It was a really nice cigar day.

Room101_UncleLee

Cavalier of Geneva_WhiteSeries_DiplomateLast night I went into the IPCPR sample humidor and pulled out an interesting cigar from a booth we just happened upon on our last day at the show. Cavalier of Geneva is a Swiss cigar company, and their cigars feature a 24 carat gold diamond on the wrapper. I smoked the Cavalier of Geneva White Series Diplomate, a 5½ x 56 with a pigtail cap. the cigars feature a five country blend, Habano wrapper,  Connecticut binder and fillers from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Paraguay. The cigar was a nice, well-balanced smoke, on the milder side in strength, but medium in flavor. It burned well, and the gold embellishment on the wrapper had no effect in flavor or burn, but it was kind of neat to watch it burn. These were supposed to be available in the US as of August 1, and are being distributed by Dallas Texas-based CigarArt. I’m very interested in trying the maduro in this line, and I should have smoked it tonight, but, for whatever reason, I decided against it. The San Andrés Negra wrapper over Arapiraca binder sounds quite intriguing.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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