Tag Archives: Cigars International

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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Some Tatuaje Cigars, a Cromagon, an Event and a Disappontment

Killing a little time with a little Tatuaje Verocu at Holts. - @holtscigar @tatuajeincThursday evening my wife and I went into Philly for a show, and stopped into Holts for a quick cigar before hand. I picked out a Tatuaje Verocu No. 5 and we hung out in the lounge and watched the beginning of the Flyers home opener. The Verocu No. 5 is a 4″ x 40 little guy, with tons of flavor. It has an Ecuador wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler and is a terrific little treat. It went great with a cup of black coffee, and a relaxing hour in Holt’s lounge. It had that great cocoa and strong, black coffee flavor I love, with a hint of spice. These are very good cigars. Pete Johnson happened to be doing an event at Holt’s other location the same night, and was going to be in the downtown store Friday. I was sorry I didn’t catch up with him, but we had a nice evening anyway.

 

Friday I decided to give a reasonably new cigar a second chance, since to first one had some construction issues. I’m not going to name names in fairness to the cigar, as my experiences may have been atypical, but I will talk about the experience. Clever readers who folow me on social media will be able to connect the dots. This cigar has been resting in the humidor, along with all the other cigars I regularly smoke, since it came home from the IPCPR back in July. Basically, it burned and smoked like it was wet. Perhaps this particular wrapper, which is touted as a new hybrid leaf, just holds a lot of moisture and needs to be dry boxed or stored at a lower humidity. It just seemed wet to me. It wouldn’t stay lit, and when it was it had that steamy quality to Tired of fighting with the last cigar, switching to a Dunhill Aged Maduro - @alfreddunhillthe smoke. It was one of those rare cigars that makes me wish I carried a back-up on my walks.  When I got home I did something I rarely do and abandoned it and lit up a short robusto from Dunhill, their new Aged Maduro.  This just looks like a delicious cigar, but it had a funky flavor that I wasn’t expecting. I’m going to give this one a second chance as maybe my palate was out of whack from the first cigar, it’s not fair to make a judgement under those circumstances.

 

At Cigars International in Hamburg smoking an Avion Perfecto at a Drew Estate Event! @drewestatecigar @cigarsinternational @tatuajeinc @jonathandrew1 @drewestatepedro @drewestatedave @herreraesteliYesterday I went up to Cigars International in Hamburg as they were having a big Drew Estate event, and it was a rainy, ugly fall day. The CI store there is a destination, and adult Disneyland, and it’s hard not to spend five hours there. I went up with Mike C., and met an old friend there, and said hello to a bunch of my Drew Estate friends. I couldn’t decide on a DE cigar to smoke, it seems I’ve smoked everything I wanted to smoke from them, and had plenty in my humidor at home, so Mike and I went off the menu and picked out a couple Tatuaje Avion 11, a 6¾ x 52 perfecto. This was a beautifully crafted cigar with an Ecuador wrapper again, and Nicaraguan binder and filler much like the aforementioned Verocu. It started off with a blast of spice, settled into a rich Fomorianespresso and cocoa flavor, and finished of with some more spice. I noted that the burn was just about perfect, with a nice, flat ember that I really enjoy, as it shows the care that went into blending a cigar in a way that all the components burn at the same rate, a rare feat. After that I picked up some RoMaCraft Cromagnon Fomorian candela robustos, to finish off the afternoon. While this probably should have come before a full-bodied cigar like the Avion, it still has the horsepower to keep up, and I like the refreshing kind of feeling the candela wrapper gives this cigar. Of course, Jonathan Drew was scheduled to be at this event, and hadn’t shown by the time we left. It was nice to see a lot of my DE friends though, and we had a nice afternoon of conversation and cigars.

 

That’s all for today, until the net 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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Azan White and Burgundy from Roberto Duran and a Drew Estate Event

While at the IPCPR show last month I managed to end up with samples of the Azan line of cigars from Roberto Duran.  The booth was busy the times I came across it, but a friend gave me some samples, and I think there was someone around the booth handing them out. These were highly recommended and I was looking forward to smoking them, but I really didn’t know much about them.  It turns out that Azan is an old Cuban trademark that has been out of production for so long nobody remembers it! Interestingly, the brand was created in Cuba by Chinese immigrants back in the 1920s.  So, after hearing from Gabriel Piñeres of Creativas, the PR firm that handles Azan, as well as Toraño Family cigars, I figured it would be prudent to smoke some of these up.

 

AzanWhite_CampanaI started with the White Premium Line Campana.  This is a traditional belicoso size at 5½ x 52 with a tapered head.  It was a very nice looking cigar, the Corojo wrapper was flawless and was smooth and symmetrical. It’s burn was perfect, just the way I like it with a straight, flat burn.  It was a very enjoyable cigar to smoke both in the aesthetics as well as the flavor.  The flavor was clean, smooth, with a nice spice and great, rich body.   I really enjoyed smoking this cigar and will be on the lookout for more.  I have a robusto remaining which may not last long.  This was a hidden gem and thanks to my friend Joe and whoever else handed me samples!

 

AzanBurgundy_RobustoI figured the logical thing to do the following evening was to smoke the Azan Burgundy line robusto.  This cigar is a little more rustic in appearance than the White line.  According to the website they use a lower grade of Corojo wrapper on this, and the appearance is a little lumpier. The flavor was nice. It shared a certain sweetness I came across in it’s classier sibling, and the burn and draw were just as good.  This is certainly a nice alternative to the White, which I can assume carries a higher price tag.  Laziness on my part leads to this assumption as I haven’t yet had the chance to shop these yet.  I can conclude that Roberto Duran is doing things right.  He’s reviving a historic brand with quality cigars that are smoking well.  I look forward to smoking more of both of these.

 

CI_HamburgSaturday brought yet another trip up to Hamburg, PA to the Cigars International store.  My friend Bacon Jams Bruce and I went up for the Drew Estate Event.  We smoked some fine cigars, including my favorites, the Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta #13 Lancero and an Undercrown Corona Viva.  I used some gift cards I received for my birthday to pick up the Xikar MTX multi tool/cigar scissors.  Thanks guys, you know who you are.  This tool will requite some practice, but I’ve hear and seen really good things about it.  My concern is that it’s too small and I’m worried about losing it. Perhaps I’ll put it on a lanyard and wear it ChrisStone_DE_LOLaround my neck!  Anyway, the Drew Estate event was well attended, but it didn’t look like the silent auction items were getting a lot of bid action. There was another custom carved humidor but Jessi Flores, the director of Subculture Studios that was a work of art.  The auction was again supporting TECHO. This isn’t a criticism, but an observation, but I really think a store like CI is a place people go looking for bargains, not necessarily the well heeled clientele that you find at some upscale shops.  I hope they raised a lot of money for this worthwhile charity.  Also there were the Operation: Cigars for Warriors folks, and the local Drew Estate Rep, Chris Stone, donated 10″ of his hair to Locks Of Love. JD_Bruce Well done, once again, to the generous cigar community.  I admit, my reason for going in the first place was to see the Drew Estate crew, and say hello to Jonathan Drew, who hobbled in around 6:30.  We had a nice little visit on my way out the door.  My apologies to the line of guys waiting to meet him.  He’s a good friend and a heck of a nice guy.  There were also the usual Drew Estate ambassadors and fans present, always nice to see that cast of characters.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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Birthday Cigars, a Contest Winner and Random Sunday Nonsense

I’ve been a slug this week.  We’ve had a busy week here with our youngest going to the National Outdoor Leadership School for 3 weeks, my birthday, along with my wife planning my party on Saturday, as well as it being a holiday weekend.  Autumn bums me out a little too, so the specter of summer ending is tough for me.  I’ve been just grabbing smokes without concern for writing about them and just enjoying them.  I’m old. You kids get the hell off my lawn!  Anyway, I’ll get back on track this week.

 

CC_CigarSafariBlend2013Thursday was my birthday, and I wanted to smoke something special. I couldn’t really decide what I wanted to smoke, so I went with one of the cigars I blended at Cigar Safari last May.  This is the third one of these I’ve smoked, and it’s an enjoyable smoke for me.  I used a San Andreas maduro wrapper over a Cameroon binder, along with fillers from Brazil and Nicaragua.  Obviously a cigar of your own blending is special, and there’s only seven of these left on the planet, so they are quite rare.  I enjoyed the heck out of the cigar, although if I were to do it again I would’t have selected the 6″ x 54 size. The 5×44 size I made two years ago was nice, I shouldn’t have gone quite so much larger.  I still love them and they are a special cigar to me.  It was a great way to celebrate my 50th birthday.

 

LaGloria_SerieR_BlackSaturday we went up to Cigars International in Hamburg, PA to have some cigars with some friends for a few hours.  I tried the newish La Gloria Cubana Serie R Black for the first time. The La Gloria Serie R Esteli is a brick and mortar only,  while the Black is just for online and catalog sales.  Buying this in a brick and mortar location of a major catalog merchant blurs the lines a little bit, but at least it gave me the chance to try this without springing for a five pack and shipping. It was a fine cigar.  I think the Esteli version is a richer cigar, a little deeper in flavor than the black.  Granted, this was smoked off the sales floor and hasn’t had the advantage of aging, but the Esteli samples haven’t really either.  Of course, I’m a La Gloria Cubana fan, and pretty much enjoy everything from the line.  I picked up some more of the Rabitos de Cocina and Serie Ns while there.I also smoked a Don Pepin Garcia Original Lancero, a gift from Graham of Over a Cigar podcast and The Cigar Lounger magazine.  This is a fantastic smoke.  I love the Lancero shape, it’s a perfect format for a social situation.  It needs to be smoked slowly, and a good one can be a distraction from conversation.  We had a great time at the Hamburg CI, managed to be the last people out of there sometime after 11.  I had friends from high school, as well as friends from the cigar world there and everyone had a great time.  Thanks to everyone who made it out.

 

 

baconjamsWednesday I offered a contest featuring The Bacon Jams from my friend Bruce at www.TheBaconJams.com.  I’m going to send a taster with the three flavors to the winner, and a couple cigars could fall into the box too, it’s happened before.  This seemed appropriate since yesterday was International Bacon Day.  I don’t know about you, but every day is a good day for bacon, and this Bacon Jam makes it easy to enjoy it’s bacony goodness.  The odds are better than most of my contests, and I have to say I’m a little disappointed in the response. I consulted Random.org, and the random number generator gave me the number 2.  So I am the winner….no that’s not right….jjo is the winner!  Please  send me your address and I’ll get this out as soon as I meet up with Bruce for a cigar or two this week.

 

Until the next time,

CigarCraig

 

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