Category Archives: Trip Report

Drew Estate Connecticut River Valley Barn Smoker 2017

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining about 650 folks at Drew Estate‘s annual Connecticut River Valley Barn Smoker. This takes place at the Foster Family Farm in South Windsor, Connecticut. This is one of the farms where the Liga Privada T-52 wrapper leaf is grown. The event was from 10am to 5pm, and included a four station educational tour which included the curing barn, where Jonathan Drew talked about the differences between processing the stalk cut tobacco in Connecticut and the way they do it in Nicaragua. Another station had Pedro Gomez talking about the seeds and seedlings, the third had Willy Herrera and Henry talking about blending, and the fourth had the owners of the farm discussing the crop in the field there, and the sad fact that once in a while a hail storm comes through and ruins the whole crop. Videos and photos are included below. After the tour, it was time to eat, and a very nice lunch was catered by Bears’s Smokehouse which consisted of Barbecue pork and beef brisket, slaw, beans, mac and cheese and rolls which was delicious. There was also craft beer on hand, I don’t drink, so I didn’t take notice of the details, and samplings of John Drew Brands spirits. After the food was served, they had raffle drawings and an auction with proceeds going to Operation: Cigars For Warriors, for which they raised over $16,000! This was a great event, with your admission you were able to purchase a pack of ten cigars, which cost $10 at the door, since FDA regulations say they can’t “give away” cigars, clever work around. The cigars included a Liga Privada “A”, a Liga Privada Velvet Rat, a Liga Privada No. 9, a Liga Privada T52, a Nica Rustica El Brujito, an Undercrown toro, a FSG toro, a Kentucky Fire Cured Flying Pig, a Herrera Estali, and a Pappy Van Winkle. I took a few of my own and enjoyed an Undercrown toro and a Nica Rustica El Brujito at the event. Afterwards some folks met up at Puros Cigar Shop in East Hartford where some more fraternization occurred. I had the pleasure of hanging out with my friends Brian and Vince from BnB Cigars in Chestnut Hill, PA, and I also so several people I knew from the Philadelphia area. A good time was had by all, the weather was great, and the event was well done!  Thanks to Joe at Drew Estate for inviting me, it was great seeing all my Drew Estate friends!

 

Check out the videos below, and the photos, and don’t forget to go back to Wednesday’s post and enter to win some cool stuff from the folks at El Artista Cigars!

 

Until the next time,

CigarCraig

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Some Thoughts on IPCPR 2017 and a Few Minutes with Steve Saka

I’m back from the annual trade show and trying to get organized. First and foremost, I’d like to extend my thanks to  The Wooden Indian in Havertown, PA for their support, I couldn’t have attended without Dave’s help. They will be having their annual pig roast supporting Drew Estate Charities on September 16, and I think this will be an event not to be missed. The Wooden Indian raises more money for Drew Estate Charities than any other shop in the country, and I heard that from Jonathan Drew with my own ears. Trust me when I say that if you are a Drew Estate fan, you won’t want to miss this event. Again, thanks to Dave for helping me attend this years IPCPR show.

 

Gala1All in all I thought the IPCPR did a great job with this years show, considering a relatively late change of venue. General Cigar Co. sponsored the opening gala Monday night and absolutely killed it. Open bar, loads of food (carving stations! They had frickin carving stations!) DJ and places to sit and relax. While there seemed to be fewer other manufacturers there as there have been in the past, I saw a full compliment of Perdomos in attendance, family and staff alike. To the Perdomo’s credit, they were also present at the hotel bar where many congregated in the off hours and fully were a part of the IPCPR trade show. Altadis sponsored the breakfast Breakfast 1meeting on Tuesday with a tote bag with cigars and info for each attendee. I personally was less than thrilled with the keynote speaker, Rudy Giuliani.  His nearly one hour speech was far too political, did way too much bashing of the former administration, and made bad analogies and offered poor council in my opinion. I have a hard and fast rule in a cigar lounge, no talking politics or religion.  I regret staying through the whole thing, honestly. I’m sure my views on this my not be popular, but it is what it is. I liked Ron White’s keynote speech in 2011 a thousand times more. Other than getting started on that down note ( for me, at least) the show was it’s normal labyrinth of vendors, most of which were relevant to the industry. I question the one vendor with cell phone external battery cases that had a team of aggressive salespeople insisting that you tell them what phone you have so they could sell you a case. I heard one report of them breaking someone’s case removing it to demonstrate theirs. The second time I was harassed I just told them I had a flip phone and kept walking. Now that I think about it, I only saw them the first day, so perhaps the IPCPR dealt with them. I’ll share more thoughts on the show in future posts, but it seemed like while retailer attendance may have been low, several people I talked to were happy with the orders that were written.

 

SakasquatchI’ve known Steve Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust for 20 years and actually found myself near the spot we first met face to face in Caesars Palace near Cleopatra’s Barge back in 1997. Knowing Steve that long has given me some advantages over the years but I never push that and generally keep a respectful distance at the show as he always seems to be busy, which is a good thing for him. In keeping with his “Sakasquatch” theme, I snapped a picture with the night vision camera ( like they use in all the best squatch hunting shows!) and titled it “The elusive Sakasquatch in his natural environment”. I guess one would have to have watched one of those shows to get the joke. My only regret is not having tagged “Finding Bigfoot” on the Instagram post. However, as the show closed on Thursday and I was getting ready to make my exit, I came across Steve engaged in an interesting activity that I thought was unique and wanted to share. I’ll be surprised if any other cigar media outlet has this kind of information. Check out the video below.

 

 

ProtocolAfter a nap on Friday following a red-eye flight home, I sat down with a Protocol Corona Gorda which was fantastic, and I wanted to try out a couple of gifts I received from a couple of companies whose products I am I huge fan. I have a couple great desktop humidors from Adorini, and they have a punch cutter that has two sizes of punch and a magnetic closure. The larger punch is bigger than I’ve ever seen, slightly over 1/2″ in diameter.  I’ll be putting this through it’s paces, I can’t wait to use it on a CAO Flathead 660. Cigar Oasis celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and gifted me a Jetline dual flame lighter (with a flip out punch on the bottom). Fortunately it made it through TSA undisturbed in a checked bag. Put a Cigar Oasis in an Adorini humidor and you never have to worry about your cigars. The Protocol was excellent, and Juan and Bill hooked me up pretty good with samples, which are resting from their journey. More on Cubariqueño in a future post.

 

That’s enough for today, I need to try to get back into going to work mode for tomorrow, it sucks going back after a week of fun. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Nica Rustica Belly Release Party in Louisville, KY

JShepherdWhen we heard about the Nica Rustica Belly Release Party put on by Cox’s Smokers Outlet in Lousiville, Kentucky, my wife realized it fell the night before she was planning a silent retreat at the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani. She suggested I take a couple days off work and drive there with her, then fly back the next day.  We set out Thursday around 4:30 in the morning and made the ten-plus hour drive.  Once we checked in to our hotel, took a power nap, and refreshed from the drive, we headed over to J. Shepherd Cigars for a little pregame.  They were having a bit of an event, with specials on Drew Estate, Viaje and Leccia cigars, so I bought a few Viaje’s since I really haven’t jumped into the Viaje pool yet, just dipped a toe in here and there.  I got a couple Oro Reserva and a couple Summerfests and we hung out on the front porch.  I lit up one of the Summerfests and couldn’t complain about it. It was a nice, medium bodies cigar, which was good, because we hadn’t really eaten a whole lot all day, choosing to snack in the car as opposed to wasting time stopping for food.  It’s fortunate that it was a beautiful day, as there is no indoor smoking allowed in Louisville! The J Shepherd show was nice enough, although it looked like either they recent;y moved in, of summmerfestjust got a shipment, as there were boxes on the one side of the store. The walk in humidor was large and had a nice selection of boutique cigars, and some items were priced higher than I’m used to (I’m spoiled in PA, no cigar tax), but some items were inexplicable close to what I see here.  We met a couple people on the front porch while I enjoyed that Viaje Summerfest, a couple guys we saw later at the event, and Mike, a very friendly and hospitable local who we really had a nice conversation with.  He even set us up with a rootbeer and cream soda, as we abstain from the generously offered Bourbon.  I’m told that J. Shepherd is the best shop in the area, and, at the risk of offending the owner, who wasn’t there at the time, it really could be a lot less cluttered and better organized, as I was a little glad that we had to go outside to smoke, and the gentlemen we met were very friendly.

 

From there we went to Louisville Water Tower Park, an 1860 era water works along the Ohio River.  What a beautiful venue, and the weather couldn’t have been better.  Jonathan Drew was there well before the 7:00 PM start time, and the line was already growing. The unfortunate part of this event was that the first two hours or more was just people standing in line to talk to JD. We got through the line early, and of course we got a chance to visit with  Gary (JD’s dad), Pedro Gomez, and Zev and Ben from the DE sales force.  With the $35 ticket price we each got a Nica Rustica Belly, and Undercrown Toro and a Kentucky Fire Cured Hamhock, as well as an Undercrown Manifesto, along with a dinner of Nicaraguan fare, short ribs, pork, rice, beans, etc.  The food was delicious, and we got to chat with some of the locals, including Tom Person from Commonwealth Cedar Spills. They also had a wide variety of Drew Estate cigars available for sale, including bundles of the new Belly, which I took advantage of the opportunity and purchased. Every purchase received a raffle ticket, and the evening concluded, like at many events, with a raffle. Many of the prizes were shirts, hats and cutters, with some ashtrays (my name was drawn for one of those big, pewter MUWAT ashtrays, which will class up the patio smoking lounge. The big prizes were a box of Pappy VanWinkle cigars and one of two existing boxes of the Nasty Fritas, the Papas Fritas mixed fill blend in their little cone shaped Nasty size.  JD added one last prize at the end, which was a shirt, a cutter and the winners choice of any box in the DE line (I wonder if the winner of that knew about the 100 count Liga Privada No.9 Parejo boxes?) Cox’s Smokers Outlet did a great job of putting this event together. Despite costing me a bunch of cash (CAD: Cigar Acquisition Disorder. I need to find a treatment program…), it was an excellent event, I’m quite glad we made the trip.

 

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Yesterday I swung by The Wooden Indian in Havertown, PA, where they were celebrating their 10th Anniversary. Nick Perdomo Jr., his son Nick III, and Joe Winder from Perdomo Cigars were on hand, as well as Rich from Xikar, Kosta from SMoKE Manayunk, Alex perdomoMayer from House of Emilio, and Alan Price from Cigar Rights of America. It was quite the turnout for one of the best shops in the Philadelphia area. Dave and his staff do a great job. I smoked one of the Perdomo Double Aged 12 Year Vintage Maduro since I hadn’t tried that before. This cigar is another barrel aged cigar, which is one of the trendy catch phrases in the cigar industry today. It was a very good smoke, rich, sweet and chocolaty/coffee flavors that I enjoy, and perfectly made. Since there was a Buy 4, get 1 promotion, I had to pick up some of the Perdomo 20th Anniversary Maduros in the Corona Grande size that I like so much (and enjoyed on my evening walk later).  Once again, CAD rears it’s ugly head. Congrats to Dave and the Wooden Indian family on their first decade, and I hope I can be at the 20th anniversary celebration.

 

cigarsThat’s it for today, it’s been a long week of travel and herfing.  Time to get some work done around the house and get ready to start smoking samples from the IPCPR show and posting about them.  On that note, I did smoke a few show samples this week that deserve mention. The CAO Flathead Steel Horse: The Flathead blend in the round, in a 5½” 58, is a wonderful addition to a tasty line. Thesample I smoked was ready to go, burned great, tasted great.  Like the rest of the line, a large bore punch is the way to go as the cap is flat and doesn’t play well with other cutter styles. Freyja from La Cumbres Tobacco: This toro from Emma Viktorsson is sneaky, it starts mild and before I knew it I was feeling the effects.  Great flavor and performance. A must-try.  Finally, the Undercrown Shade: This is a terrific Connecticut shade wrapped cigar. There are a bunch of full flavored shade wrapped cigars out there and this is another one.  Great cigar, but I didn’t really find it to be much different than some other great cigars in that category. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great cigar, it’s just hard to find much unique about it. I’d buy it over many in that genre.

 

Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

 

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A Quick Trip to New York City with Some Cigars and a Party

IMG_0610We had an exciting couple of days cigar-wise this week! After fighting with the cold that prevented me from enjoying much of anything for a few days, my wife and I took off Monday morning for the Big Apple, New York City. Of course, there are a lot of great cigar spots in the city. We took a walk toward one of my usual spots, De La Concha. Unfortunately, the shop is closed for renovations and will reopen sometime in the first quarter of IMG_06092015 as Davidoff of Geneva 6th Avenue. They had a temporary store across the street in a nonsmoking building so stopping in for a smoke wasn’t an option.

 

After wandering around some more, and checking in to our hotel on Times Square, we walked a few blocks down 42nd Street to the Nat Sherman Townhouse. Juan greeted us and showed me around, pointing out their cigarette selection, pipes, accessories and finally the humidor. Their humidor is nearly half filled with Nat Sherman cigars, and rounded out with an impressive selection from Padrons to Liga Privada. I noted some La Sirenas and Quesadas and many other great cigars you’d IMG_0611expect. I selected a Nat Sherman Epoca in the Breva corona size and sat down in a comfy leather chair. The shop is a gorgeous space, open to the second floor where the offices are. It’s beautiful. The staff is amazingly attentive and knowledgeable as well. The Epoca was a treat. It billowed sweet smoke and had a very unique exotic spice about mid way through. I rather regret only buying the one cigar to smoke, but I’ll try to find some in PA where pricing should be a little easier to take. It was an exceptional cigar. As we were getting ready to leave Michael Herklots stopped to say hello.

 

Monday evening we had the pleasure of attending a party at The Liberty Warehouse in Brooklyn to celebrate our friends Mitchell and Karyn Orchant’s birthdays, specifically Mitchell’s 50th. Mitchell and Karyn share the same birthday, however Karyn is much younger than her husband. The venue is amazing, overlooking the Statue of Liberty, and was lavishly decorated. There was loads of great food and a bar, and the entertainment for the evening was  the Stan Rubin Orchestra, a 13 piece band playing all the big band classics. It was a beautiful evening so it wasn’t unpleasant to be outside, where there was seating and fire pits.  There were loads of Mitchell’s US friends there, including many I knew from the cigar industry and the old Usenet days. Cigars were plentiful and welcome inside. I started with a  Ramon Allones Specially Selected, and closed the evening with new Inka Secret Blend for the US market.  This cigar was a 6″x 60 Peruvian puro. I’ve smoked the C-Gars Ltd. UK blends before and really liked them, and this version was also very good. I will revisit these in a couple of weeks, but this is a cigar to watch out for, and as soon as I know where these will be available I’ll let you know.  I’m a sucker for cigars with Peruvian tobacco in the blend. It was wonderful to catch up with old friends. Mitchell really knows how to throw a party, it was quite a soiree. Thank you, again, to Mitchell and Karyn for a wonderful evening!

 

 

Tuesday we wandered around Manhattan and made our way to Martinez Cigars on 29th Street.  This is a very small storefront where they are actively making the cigars. There were three men rolling, one pair and a gentleman that does his own bunching and wrapping.  They have aging room in the basement where they age the cigars for six months after they are rolled. I bought a few of the cigars, and smoked a Flatiron No. 6 robusto. This cigar was terrifically constructed. It had some very interesting flavors that I’d characterize as “old school”, not unlike the Epoca from Nat Sherman.  The burn was straight and even and it produced loads of smoke. If you find yourself in the city, stop in and have a smoke and watch the rollers practicing their art.  We wandered back toward Times Square, where I believe you aren’t allowed to smoke, and got some dirty looks. Oh well, I was outside. If they were worried about the children seeing smoking, perhaps they should consider the paradox of Disney and Sesame Street characters wandering around along with patriotic women wearing nothing but a bikini bottom and body paint. Anyway, great cigars, great couple of days!

 

That’s it for now. I’ve managed to beat the cold for the most part, so I should get back to the normal program for Sunday’s post!  Until then,

 

CigarCraig

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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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