Tag Archives: cigar store

An Espinosa Comfortably Numb Cigar at Cigars International Superstore in Hamburg PA

Espinosa CIYesterday was a big day at the Cigars International Superstore in Hamburg, PA.  Erik Espinosa was on hand all day selling his cigars there, and there was a line wrapping around the building of people waiting to but their CigarFest tickets. I understand that tickets sold out in under a minute on-line, and I also was told that people started lining up at 4pm Friday! The crazy part of this (or one of them) was that it was brutally cold out, the very crowded CI store looked like a ski lodge with all the people bundled up.  I understand that Espinosa Comfortably NumbCigarFest is a big event, something like 3000 people per day over two days, with many making a weekend of it, but that kind of crowd isn’t my bag.  But a lot of people dig it, so more power to them!  I made for a crowded store, it was hard to find a seat, what with people leaving their coats and stuff on seats and tables and socializing elsewhere, which is in very bad form, in my opinion. Some patrons like to sit and relax, some like to wander and socialize, but you can’t have it both ways.  We found a table by the door, which was constantly opening so it wasn’t very comfortable. I had bought a selection of Espinosa cigars, and lit up a CI exclusive that was recommended to be by a CI staff member called Comfortably Numb Vo,. 1. The band on this is in the classic Bob Masse ’60s Comfortably Numbconcert poster style, very psychedelic. This 6″ x 52 Toro has an Ecuador Habano wrapper, Corojo binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The wrapper is milk-chocolate-brown with very fine veins, it’s an attractive cigar.  I was very surprised with this cigar, pleasantly so. It was perfect for early in the day, the flavors were smooth and creamy, with some sweetness akin to a coffee with cream and sugar (which paired nicely with the cup of black coffee I enjoyed). I really should have grabbed another handful of these, but I had spent too much there already! Great cigar.

 

Espinosa CI 2Erik Espinosa is one of those guys in the cigar industry that I don’t know as well as some, however, when I walked into the store he walked up behind me and greeted me like an old friend, as did Juan Cancel from Cubariqueno Cigar Co. and Jose Galvez, our local Espinosa sales guy. While I haven’t smoked a ton of Espinosa branded cigars, Some brands made at his La Zona factory in Esteli are among my favorites.  Cornelius & Anthony, La Sirena are in my list of go tos, and I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Arandoza cigars too, and I’ve bought plenty of 601 La Bombas in the past, going back to EO brands days. One of the cigars I bought was the 601 Steel, which was an exclusive for Famous Smoke Shop, oddly enough. At some point that exclusivity agreement ended, and CI took on the line.  Considering CI is headquartered in Bethlehem, PA, which was known for it’s steel mills, it makes sense 601_Steel_Girderfor CI to carry it. It’s a reasonably priced cigar, and while it’s billed as full-bodied, I didn’t find it to be that at all.  It struck me as medium at best, but what do I know. It’s listed as having a dark Habano Oscuro wrapper and Nicaraguan fillers and binder. I didn’t find the wrapper to be all that dark.  It had a nice flavor, burned a little off, but OK, and was a perfectly nice smoke.  I also picked up some Murciualago (with red bands and silver, a Dread, and another event exclusive that looks like an Ecuador Connecticut wrapped cigar.  I’ll get to some of them in the near future. We left the shop after the one cigar, it was just to noisy and crowded for my liking. It was nice of Matt Cook, who’s the Director of Retail Operations, to stop by and say hello. I probably wouldn’t know Matt if we didn’t have a mutual friend.

 

In related news, it was announced this week that Thompson Cigars has been acquired by the parent company of Cigars International.

Scandinavian Tobacco Group today signed an agreement to acquire the business of Thompson and Co. of Tampa, Inc.  “Thompson”). The purchase price amounts to USD 62 million and the acquisition will be financed by existing cash at hand. The closing of the deal is expected to take place by the end of March 2018.

There’s a lot more to the press release, which is at many of my colleague’s sites, but I’m going to offer my unsolicited $0.02. Over the last year or so Cigars International’s mail order division had a major problem with a new computer system, which damaged their brand significantly in the eyes of the consumer.  I’m sure many retailers in both the brick and mortar and mail order spaces rejoiced. Thompson has been selling cigars for over 100 years, I ordered a special out of a magazine add in 1996 and am still on the mailing list, and have gotten plenty of phone calls from them (I wrote about their auction site back in 2012, the story is here), and never was a fan of dealing with them. Other’s have had great experiences, and, given the history, many must like them. So from my biased perspective, a company that had big problems buys a company with a questionable marketing reputation?  I don’t get it, but the people spending the $62 million are much smarter than I am.  I’ve never had an issue with CI, granted I live close by, and it’s nice to visit their stores, but I like visiting most stores (see last weeks post!).  With plans to also open a superstore in Texas announced by CI, and Altadis’ parent company and Davidoff  buying and opening stores all over the place, clearly the trend is to go direct to consumer.  Will Swisher be looking to go this route? What’s the future hold for the mom & pop shops? Kinda sounds like how Walmart killed small business a little, doesn’t it?

 

That’s all for now.  To those afflicted, enjoy Super Bowl Sunday! I know as a resident of the Philadelphia are I should be excited, but I’m not a football fan. The Flyers better get their shit together though! I have some of Bernie Parent’s cigars that I want to smoke in honor of a Stanley Cup win one of these days!  Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Smoking Some “Comfort Food” Cigars and a Weird Retail Experience

I’ve been defaulting to some favorite cigars over the last week, just needing the comfort of an old friend. Winter blues? Other stuff going on in life?  Whatever it is, I’ve been gravitating toward cigars I really like. This week it was a La Sirena Devine, in honor of La Sirena founder Arielle and her husband welcoming their first child.  Great cigar made at La Zona, supplies are dwindling, might be time to restock!  Then I went to a Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo El Martillo in honor of that company’s 50th anniversary.  I followed that up with a Tabernacle Toro from Foundation Cigar Co., I love the rich broadleaf yumminess of the Tabernacle line. Yesterday I had a small window of opportunity between running around and having the grandkids over, so I dug out an oldie, but goodie.  I bought a box of the Chateau Real Maduro Small Club Coronas for some ridiculous price as they were phasing them out of production. I recall this being around 2010 or thereabouts.  I was poking around my archives looking for verification, and ran across my interview with George Hamilton, the Hollywood icon with a penchant for tanning.  I got to re-reading it…what a treat it was to talk to George on the phone, I still have his number…I can’t believe that was so long ago.  Anyway, it’s just a damned shame Drew Estate discontinued  the Chateau Real line. The Connecticut shade wrapper version was a nice, mild smoke, and I enjoyed the crap out of the San Andrés maduro version, I had a box of the perfectos too. Fortunately, eight years in the humidor have been kind to these, as it burned perfectly, and tasted rich, clean and was perfect for the time I had, 45 minutes or so.  I miss these, and hoard the last couple I have in a miserly fashion.

While running around yesterday, we found ourselves in center city Philadelphia on Walnut Street. I feel compelled to stop in the Holt’s location on Walnut Street when I’m there, and I will finally admit that I’m disappointed in one way or another almost every time I visit, and I’m going to resist the urge to compulsively visit in the future. Yesterday’s experience was this: my wife and I are looking around and I’m picking out a few cigars, usually I opt for Holt’s exclusives or Fuentes, but this time I had a couple Mi Queridas in my hand, not that I didn’t have any at home, but more like I didn’t have enough at home. My wife says to me something along the lines of, “I wonder if they got any Muestra de Saka Unicorns?”, and goes and asks the guys working the counter. I overhear the Holts1272018purchaseexchange, and when she comes back I asked her if the guy really just told her that they don’t generally carry his stuff. That’s what he told her! Now, I’m wondering if this guy is treating a woman in a cigar shop like she doesn’t know anything (or hasn’t known Steve and Cindy Saka for 20 years), isn’t familiar with the Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust product line and provenance, or what. For the first time I’m considering putting the cigars I had in my hand back in the box and walking out, and if it had been any other cigars but a friend’s cigars, I would have. The “we don’t carry his stuff” guy ended up in the back of the  store and I asked him if I had heard right that he told my wife that “we don’t carry his stuff”, he confirmed that, so I offered to educate him on Saka’s cigars, showing him the several boxes of Sobremesas and Mi Quedridas that they “didn’t carry”. He back peddled, and sarcastically thanked me for the education. I wanted to tell him perhaps I misinterpreted his “we don’t carry his stuff” as “I don’t know what I’m talking about”, but I held my tongue. I’ve worked in retail, and being a douche is not the way to endear oneself to the customers. I picked out a couple of Cromagnons and an Aquataine, in keeping with the buying friend’s cigars theme, and checked out.  Maybe I was being a dick, but my wife asked an educated question, and it was simply out of curiosity as to whether Holt’s, as a purveyor of Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust cigars, received any of the Unicorns and, if so, what the plan was for them. They could have just said no, they didn’t get them, and been respectful. This is not the first time I’ve experienced the arrogance of the staff there either, there was a guy who worked there who I found genuine and friendly, and he was promoted to the front office. I’ve even had a scenario where I pointed out a moldy box of La Gloria Cubanas and was told it was plume and it was good (as the clerk wiped the cigars off) I have worked with Holts.com on several occasions, and purchased from them many times, with great success and satisfaction. I just don’t think I need to stop in the store every time I’m in the area anymore.  It’s unusual for me to be negative, but I couldn’t let this one go, it was a bad way to treat customers.

That’s enough from me for now. Until the next time,

CigarCraig

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News: Best Cigar Prices Cigar Lounge, Store and Blog

Best Cigar Prices announced this week that it is opening a lounge and retail store at their Drums, PA location (looks like I’ll have to take a drive north one of these days!).  Best Cigar Prices has been around a long time, I can remember getting their e-mail specials in plain text in the late 90s, under the name New Global Marketing. They’ve come a long way.  CigarCraig.com is proud to advertise for Best Cigar Prices, and you can get 20% off orders of $125 or more with the code CraigDeal20.  Here is the press release:

DRUMS, PA. (PRWEB) JANUARY 24, 2018

Established in 1997, Best Cigar Prices has come a long way from its starting point of operating out of the trunk of a car in upstate New York. Now based in Drums, PA at its 25,000 sq. ft. headquarters since 2011, the company has made leaps and bounds in becoming the premier cigar source on the web, and the retail space is the next logical step for this fast-growing business.

However, they’re not looking to be “just another cigar shop.” Far from it, according to BCP Director of Merchandising Jeff Brown. “Our vision is to deliver a state-of-the-art cigar lounge experience unlike any in the area,” said Brown. “We want our customers to feel like their every need has been taken into consideration when they step foot into our store, and so far I think we’ve hit that mark.”

In addition to the typical cigar store amenities such as a Spanish Cedar-lined walk-in humidor, large cocktail bar, and comfortable, smoke-friendly indoor and outdoor lounge spaces for patrons to enjoy, Best Cigar Prices’ retail operation will have quite a few accommodations that will set it apart from the pack.

Aside from the business’s high-tech approach to the traditional lounge environment with touch-screen browsing stations, monitors giving shoppers a direct view of orders being processed inside the humidor, and ample wireless charging stations throughout, perhaps the most obvious advantage is the fact that the store is directly connected to the company’s massive humidor warehouse. Customers at the store will have direct access to one of the largest cigar and accessory inventories in the country, with over 7,000 unique items from more than 600 top brands including flavored cigars, cigar humidors, lighters, and cutters from Padron, Rocky Patel, Montecristo, and many more.

Cigar and beverage Pairing Menus will be made available to visitors of the lounge and updated regularly to recommend specific cigars with particular brands or styles of whiskeys, craft beers, and other spirits that complement their unique tasting profiles. “Everyone knows that Romeo y Julieta 1875 is a great, classic cigar, but what is the best drink to go with it?” Brown remarked.

Plans to have a conveyor running from the warehouse to the store will guarantee that cigar-lovers in search of items that are not stocked on store shelves will have their order in under five minutes, complete with a countdown timer that will display real-time order progress.

The store will be fully staffed by educated cigar professionals who specialize in the often-difficult task of making cigar gift recommendations, but will also offer self-serve kiosks for those that know what they want and don’t need help from an associate. Alternately, customers will be able to place orders remotely via phone or online and then pick it up at a designated time, similar to a food “to go” order.

The Best Cigar Prices retail store had its official “soft” opening yesterday, with the official Grand Opening scheduled for September of this year. In the words of company CEO Greg Fox, “Our customers have a deep appreciation for the artisan nature of the products we carry and often form lasting bonds with each other that might not be possible without the unifying factor of a fine cigar. We’re beyond excited to bring this new level of comfort, convenience, and camaraderie to them,” adding, “it’s their support that has allowed us to thrive and this is the least we can do to say ‘thank you’.”

Fox also alluded to other “surprises” that Best Cigar Prices customers can look forward to, including the possibility of a large-scale cigar event held at the new store at some point in the near future.

Also this week on the Best Cigar Prices blog, they published their “Why Do You Smoke Cigars?”article, featuring myself and 10 of my fellow blogger types.

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

CigarCraig

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EP Carillo Classic Series Dusk Solidos Cigar

EPCarillo_Dusk_SolidosYesterday I finally had the chance to revisit the EP Carillo Dusk. I smoked this a year and a half ago and really liked it, and was spending a few hours at the cigar store and this cigar caught my eye.  I’ve been terrible about sampling the EP Carillo range, there have only been a couple I’ve tried, which is weird considering my admiration for Ernesto’s past work (and present, the La Gloria Cubana Coleccion Reserva was one of my most memorable cigars of 2017).  I’m trying to remedy that, and am going to try to remember to pick up something from the EC range when I’m in the shop.  I met up with a couple friends at the local CigarCigars branch to kill some time, and started off with the EP Carillo Classic Series Dusk Solidos , the 6″x 60  offering.  I had previously smokes and enjoyed the “Obscure” double corona, so I figured I’d work my way down. I used my Adorini punch on this one, the 13mm side worked very well to open it up.  I smoked a second one later that I straight cut and I think I liked the punch better for this one.  Why, you ask? Only because there were a couple “flyaway” bits of cap that were a little annoying on the straight cut. This cigar has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (which drew my eye to the cigar in the first place), an Ecuador binder and Nicaraguan fillers. I lit this cigar up around 11 am, and didn’t find it to strong for the time of day, I actually thought it would be stronger. I was not disappointed by this cigar. The burn and draw were spot on, which is a testament to the conditions in the humidor. The first time I visited this shop a few years back the humidor was not great, there were cigars with wrappers coming off, some moldy cigars, ever-all it was off-putting. Over the years they have gotten it under control and it’s now a very nice humidor and shop, I don’t mind visiting there at all, and it’s 2 miles from home. Back to the cigar.  It’s good. Lots of rich espresso notes with some cocoa, just war I like. I ended up smoking the second one on my evening walk because I was talking and trying to get the Flyers game on the lounge TV, which turned out to be no easy feat. They have Dish Network which doesn’t seem to have the channel that the games are broadcast on, but Apple TV provided a workaround. I wanted to give the cigar my full attention.  It’s very good, and I look forward to meandering my way through some other EPC offerings. I think I smoked my first one in 2011, so I have some catching up to do. It was great hanging out with Bruce and Mike for an afternoon!

 

Tortuga Reserva Maduro No. 500I smoked another Tortuga Reserva Maduro El Coyote Negro, No. 500 yesterday too. The Frazer, PA CigarCigars shop has the better part of a box on a bottom shelf that has been there for some time. I grab a couple every time I go in, and I’m tempted to adopt the whole bunch and give them a good home, but what holds me back is that I really would like others to enjoy these, they just aren’t getting much of a chance down there at floor level. I also want to avoid seeing these on the deep discount table, that makes them look bad, and they are, in my humble opinion, exceptional cigars that deserve a better fate. I’m quite conflicted on this.  It’s not like they wouldn’t be shared if they were in my humidor, that’s for sure.  Maybe I’ll ask Steve, the manager, to throw a number at me…

 

Finally, here is an interesting infographic from the folks at Smokers Discounts. I imagine there isn’t anything new here for most of you, but there isn’t any bad advice, and the stats at the top are interesting, although I think the numbers probably include all cigars, not just the premium cigar we focus on here. I’d probably add a couple of parentheticals in the “picking the right cigar” part like don’t squeeze it enough to break it, and don’t wipe your nose all over it, especially before you buy it, but that;s just me.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

 

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The Cigar Authority’s 400th Show Quick Trip

TCA 400I’ve been listening to The Cigar Authority podcast for several years now, actually, I had been listening for a few years since being a guest on the show in October of 2013. Since it was a holiday weekend and nobody travels on Thanksgiving weekend, so my wife and Macha and I decided to take a little road trip to Salem, New Hampshire to crash she show. The show is recorded and webcast live from the new Studio 21 Podcast Cafe in 2 Guys Smokeshop. This was my first visit to this shop, I’d visited the Nashua store before. The shop is huge, with a nice downstairs lounge, an upstairs lounge, and the cafe. The walls of the shop are lined with humidors for singles, and, like the Nashua store only smaller in scale, there’s a large humidor stacked with Contendersunopened boxes. The selection is excellent, as is the staff. I picked up a couple Todos las Dias and The Wise Man Maduro and lit up a Wise Man while watching the show. I also picked up the 2 Guys Cigar of the Year Contenders pack, consisting of the eight cigars that are in the running for that honor. I plan to smoke them and cast my vote. Check it out on their site, it’s a hell of a deal and I have only smoke one of the cigars of the eight (actually two after today, that Wise Man Maduro was excellent). I’m looking forward to taking a week and smoking through the set.

 

CookiesWe brought some special cookies for the guys from our friends at Farmhouse Bakery in PA. We know what these guys like. Beautiful and delicious cookies and gluten free! Thanks to my wife, Jenn, for making that happen!

 

Sean, the barista makes impressive coffee creations, I kinda wish I’d tried the nitro, but the Cuban coffee was amazing. Some highlights of the visit personally was getting to catch up with Ed Sullivan, who I hadn’t seen since 1999, as well as Dave Garofalo, Mr. Jonathan and Barry Stein. Also met Dave from Cigar Hacks, another podcast that’s coming out. Macha was well Wisemanbehaved, you can hear here bark a couple of times if you listen to the show. I was surprised and honored to have been invited to join the show for the last segment, although I pretty much froze up on a couple of questions. If I’d have been smart I would have mentioned the CigarCraig’s Secret Santa. There’s still plenty of time to get in on it, by the way, email me your name and address if you want to join the fun. I smoked the Garofalo Maduro also which was very good, made by Perdomo, although time constraints and distractions left me unable to really concentrate on it. It was a good time, and I heartily recommend paying 2 Guys a visit if you find yourself in southern New Hampshire.

 

TurkeyI hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Sorry I skipped my usual Wednesday post, I spent the week smoking some of my favorite cigars, a Mi Querida, an Undercrown Sungrown, a Davidoff Winston Churchill The Late Hour, and following my Thursday feast with a Cornelius and Anthony Cornelius toro. All great cigars, I just had a hankering for some favs last week! Next week I’ll get adventurous again. So that’s all for now, until the next time,

CigarCraig

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