Visiting Chicago – Smokey Bear Cigars and TESA Cigars

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


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



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



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




Filed under Review, Stores, Trip Report

6 Responses to Visiting Chicago – Smokey Bear Cigars and TESA Cigars

  1. Have a great time @ RMCF. That event is on my bucket list. Maybe next year as work gets in the way this year! You’ll have to pass along pointers as to what ticket one should purchase as well as places to stay and visit. Looking forward to your report of the event!

  2. It was great meeting you at Smokey Bear!

    Calvin Woods
    Torano Family Cigars

  3. Dan Colley

    I’m planning a trip to Oregon next summer and I hope that I will be able to coincide that trip with the RMCF, assuming that the government hasn’t taken our cigars away from us by then. I say that “tongue in cheek”, but there are some omens.

    Anyway, it sounds like you are having a good visit in Chicago. The people in that city are, in my opinion, some of the nicest urbanites in the country !!! I think I may have mentioned that I have a brother who lived there for a while. He was an air traffic controller at O’Hare. My visits there were always a lot of fun.

    I hope you have a safe trip home then out west to the Festival next week. I also am looking forward to your run-down of the event.

  4. Brian Vaughn

    Craig it was a pleasure meeting you at Tesa. I hope the rest of your stay in Chicago was good!

  5. güncel haber

    Craig it was a pleasure meeting you at Tesa. I hope the rest of your stay in Chicago was good!.

  6. David

    Cigar craig good to meet you at Smokey Bear! Glad you had a great time at my favorite shops in Chicago there and Tesa.
    David vault gold winner!

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