Sunday, August 29, 2010


A critic, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is as follows:

1a:  one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique
    b one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances 

2. :  one given to harsh or captious judgment 

I put that there to remind us all what exactly a critic is. It was, some time ago, only relevant to the newspapers or magazines. You had your wine critics, your food critics, your movie critics, and your "insert noun here" critic. With the invention of the internet, many of these established critics have gone on to flex their opinions in the digital world. However, with the advent of the internet, it was quickly surmised that anyone could be a critic as long as they were willing to shell out a couple of bucks a month for a domain / hosting and a couple hours dedicated to writing. 

Critics have always bothered me. I have been in conversations with people about what my website is about and, during which, they ask "are you a critic?" I politely tell them no. I am rather an opinionated and curious journalist. This distinction is important. The reason why I refuse to dub myself under the "critic" moniker is because of #2 above in the definition of critic. To be a critic once meant exactly what #1 states: to give a reasoned opinion on a matter. It was done with courtesy and respect on both parties. Today, being a critic means the license to kill version of being a complete fucking asshole. And, in this two part rant, I'll explain why.

In the field that I'm in (beverages and cigars), there are so many out there that will absolutely lambaste products with absolutely no regard to anyone or anything. This breaks my goddamn heart. As you may already know by now (thanks to my gratuitious ranting), I'm going for my masters in Brewing and Distilling Science. In less than a week, actually. With the rough and cursory knowledge I've garnered from talking to people in the industry (both beverage and cigar), as well as visiting distilleries and shops, I know how much work goes into making the products we take for granted. That cigar you're smoking? That tobacco isn't a week old. It's not a month old. Not a year old. No. The tobacco in that cigar is probably older than your car. That tobacco was planted when Katrina first hit New Orleans. It was a wee babe when Pope John Paul II died. That tobacco is probably 5 years old. Someone, 5 years ago, had the foresight to plant the leaf that you're burning. The one that's burning.

Right. Now.

That cigar you're furiously typing up a scathing review of? The tobacco in it is older than some people. It is older than entire maternity wards. A generation may have been born during that cigar's lifetime. But you decide to be a dick.

That scotch you're drinking with it? That introductory level scotch you decided to try. Guess what? It was put into a barrel shortly after Microsoft 98 came out. It saw Google launch. The person that put it in a cask probably saw Saving Private Ryan the night before. That scotch, the one you're mulling over giving a 79 or an 80? It saw gas at $1.25 a gallon in the States. 

Critics, for the sake of objective review, ignore these things. They ignore the work, the planning. They refuse to take into effect the struggles it took to formulate the recipe or the blend. The work it took to get label approval. The fact that the whisk(e)y or cigar chosen was #126 of #334 blends or barrels. It's the equivalent of deeming a person moral or immoral just by looking at them. You are content to barely scratch the surface of a complex person; solely judging on face value. Many feel that this disassociation is necessary. I think that's bullshit. A critic can callously destroy years of work sitting in your office. With the swift stroke of a pen (or, realistically, a keyboard), a critic can annihilate years of work and planning. Entire lines of product can become financial disasters because a critic, say, smoked only an inch of the cigar (I'm looking at you, Cigar Aficionado), tossed it, and then gave it an 85. 

You probably don't believe me. You may think "give me proof". All in due time, my friends. All in due time. Check the next portion for some hard evidence. I'm bringing critics to trial.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Illusione Cuchillos Cubanos 40 - Friday, Aug. 20th

While I am a short and fat man, the cigars I generally go for aren't short and fat. I've got enough of that in every day life. I typically go for either long and thin (lancero!) or short and thin (corona!). It's rare that I pick up a cigar over, say, 52-54 ring gauge. Any more than that and it just gets awkward to smoke and difficult to keep in my mouth when I want to flip pages on the deck.

Also, being budget minded (read: I'm half Scottish), I'm a big fan of cheap cigars. Not bad cigars, which is a completely different category, but cheap cigars. So when I found out that Dion had put out the Chuchillos Cubanos line of mixed premium filler (long and medium instead of medium and short) in sizes that really are my huckleberry, I was stunned. How did I let a budget cigar by an awesome manufacturer in thinner ring gauges slip by? Why didn't my Scottish Radar go off? Damn thing must be broken. I found out about it pretty much a week before the IPCPR and I began calling/emailing places down in NOLA to pick some up to smoke. But Dion got my back.

When I ran into Dion at IPCPR, he told me to stop by the booth because he had a pack of Cuchillos Cubanos for me. I tried to pay for them (I always feel bad) but he wouldn't hear of it. I stopped by briefly to pick them up on the first day because I wanted to smoke them at the Cigar Press party with him. I felt bad nabbing them and jetting but I got to talk to him later on anyway so I didn't feel too bad. Also, I stopped by the booth several times. Dion was busy so it was mostly to take pictures but, soothed my aching integrity. Anyway, at the Cigar Press party I burned through four out of the five in the pack (2 for me, 2 for my mooching cameraman). I really liked them at the party but at that point I'd burned about four cigars already so I didn't want to do a write-up when I got back. So I decided I'd review the last one for you now. Alright alright, let's do dis. First, some pictures!

Sweet box. I want to add tildes to the title but the Blogger ones aren't spaced right.

We're gonna need a bigger box.


I really like the packaging on these. The box got kinda squished in my pocket but it kept the cigar(s) in good condition. And the graphic on the front is cool. Anyway, review:

First quarter: This cigar is what I refer to as a "ninja cigar". When you first light it up, it starts off pretty mild and mellow. It's easy-going with relatively light flavors of leather. Then, just as you get settled in to read and you're not paying attention....BAM! The Chuck Norris of spice roundhouse kicks your tongue into a previous epoch. Your tongue is bombarded with so much zesty spice it's tasting things in the 1800s. It's so delicious. It's all red pepper and black pepper. I make it sound super heavy on the spice but it's just right, really. It's not overbearing and it doesn't overwhelm. It's just the right amount...but sneaky.

Half-way: The spice fades a touch to make way for some delicious leather. It's like smoking a spicy chamois. How can you argue with that?

Third quarter: Spice has backed off in its intensity and fervor. It's now slowed down to a more leathery, creamy, and spicy beastie. It's starting to get another flavor too...

Fourth quarter: ...and that flavor is toast. I swear to the gods above, you get to the nub and the thing tastes like toast with jalapeno jelly and a glass of milk. In...y'know...smoking terms. Whatever, I tried. It's hard to explain smoking flavors without referencing food but it makes it sound awkward.

Yeah, these cigars are pretty sweet. My cameraman liked 'em too. The consensus we came up with is that they're an all day cigar: they're easy going enough to smoke them all day but they won't leave you bored. Oh..and the price? It's about $20 for 5. Yeah, this 5.25 x 40 shorty is a favorite now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What I Learned at IPCPR


Today I finally stopped taking painkillers. Seems like the antibiotics have done their job and thoroughly kicked ass in the dense jungles known as My Kidneys. I've been taking it pretty easy since I got home from the IPCPR because, like the antibiotics I'm on, it kicked ass. My ass. Heartily. I've been smoking some cigars (Villiger Exports, nothing complicated) and ruminating on my experiences at the IPCPR. I've come up with quite a few things. If you'll bear with me, I'd like to share them with you.

Lesson #1:

Since I started smoking in '05, I've had a hard time keeping my hands off any cigar publication known to man. If it has even the briefest mention of cigars (like Golf Aficionado!) I'll usually pore over it. Thus, I've seen pictures of the manufacturers. Prominently displayed on full page ads, their lower bodies cloaked in mounds of tobacco and their heads shrouded in a permanent cloud of fragrant cigar smoke; I've seen 'em all. Rocky. Pete. Dion. Jose Blanco. Nestor Miranda. Ernesto Perez-Carillo (who is a seriously intimidating looking dude). Jonathan Drew. Marvin! Everyone. I've seen their faces. And over time, I've built them up to be huge. Not even rock-stars. More demi-gods. And I practically worshiped them. But, after the IPCPR, I've learned one thing:

They're just normal people.

I talked to a lot of people at the show. Every. Single. Manufacturer was humble and gracious. They were willing to chat, to shake hands. They joked and smoked. They shot the shit with their friends and people they've never even met before. Pete Johnson was talking to a group of guys and I was talking to my cameraman outside of their little pow-wow. He says "Hey! You want a smoke?" I turn around absolutely STUNNED. I stutter a bit and he gives a wry smirk. The guys chuckle and he reaches into a huge steamer trunk and pulls out a Tat black, handing one to both me and my camera man. The circle parts and we step in, absorbing the conversation. In the Pepin booth, he smiled quietly and raised his cup of coffee in my direction as I pored over the new releases. Dion shook my hand with a firm and practiced grip, smiling like a kid in a candy store. He patted me on the back and said how great it was to finally meet me. Guillermo Leon broke into a huge-ass smile when I finally shook his hand and said how cool it was to meet up after talking on Twitter. After meeting Jon Huber I got to walk and talk with him back to the CAO booth, chatting the entire time about social media and it's meaning to the cigar industry.

The most important thing I learned at the IPCPR, the big thing, the thing I PROBABLY should have saved for the end of this article, is that the cigar manufacturers are not just normal people...they're really nice people as well. They're honest, down to earth, generous, and kind people. I got the chance to meet so many people I once considered closer to Hercules than human and they were all great people. Blew my mind.

Lesson #2:

I didn't really want to cover this because everyone and their brother is covering it at this point but I've got an anecdote I'd like to share. At one booth (I won't say which), I stopped by on the third day to chat. I came into the booth and they saw my tag. My tag said "Exhibitor" because, technically, Drew Estate was kind enough to let me go on their docket. But, as with every booth I hit, I said hey, told them my name and explained the exhibitor tag. I'd typically give them my business card and say that while Drew Estates got me there, I was covering the event privately. I said that I run a cigar review website and opinions blog.

The face of one of the guys changed IMMEDIATELY. It went from a skeptical "what is our competitor doing here" to a dull resignation. He turned around and went to a small alcove where they stored the samples and began dutifully filling a bag. I felt HORRIBLE. Truth be told, I really felt pretty bad when people would give me samples. I couldn't really avoid it because, let's face it, I paid my way to New Orleans to pretty much be a walking, talking free press machine (or at least that's how some companies saw me). I'd chat with people, get to know them and their brand, talk shop or current events a bit. Some of them liked me enough that they thought it was worth their time to give me samples. I didn't ASK for any, I guess they just wanted me to review them. So this guy is shoving cigars into the bag and I'm horrified. The look of resignation on his face hurts not just my feelings but my integrity. Is that what I am to people? I calmly and politely it was ok, I wasn't looking for samples at all. He insisted a bit but then held off. As I continued talking with them (we got talking about dominoes, my soon to be weakness), his face brightened quite a bit. He and his associate turned with a flourish and went back to the cabinet. They put a few more in there and handed it to me. I tried to beg off but they wouldn't take no for an answer. They said "smoke it in good health and let us know what you think".

I tell you that story to tell you my feelings on being a blogger. Being a blogger is, to be absolutely truthful, FUCKING FANTASTIC. I love being able to share my opinion in such an open forum as the internet. Being able to interact with people with the same passions as I do is a wonderful feeling. If you've ever chatted with me on Twitter, you know that I can be pretty damn passionate about both cigars and alcohol. They're what I love. My smoking ritual involves torching a cigar out on the deck and reading the latest copy of whatever alcohol magazine I have: Whisky magazine, Malt Advocate, Imbibe. I live and breathe alcohol and tobacco. Hell, I'm 2/3 of the way to being an honorary member of the ATF (and my collection of shotguns is growing). That said...that's what blogging SHOULD be about. You should feel downright ashamed if you entered into this environment hoping for free shit. Would I be lying to say that I don't get free stuff. You betcha. But if you've looked at my website, I review EVERYTHING sent to me. That's why it takes so long. Good or bad, I revel in reviewing it. This blog isn't about garnering free stuff or financial compensation. Hell, I specifically state I DON'T want advertising on my front page. What this blog is about is recording my feelings on spirits and cigars, as well as broadening my palate. And the kicker is you get to come along for the ride with me. Simple as that.

Lesson #3:

This is for those of you who are going to be first-timers at the show.

When I originally found out that I'd be able to go to the IPCPR, I began planning. I copied off the list of vendors that will be there and marked off who I wanted to see. I printed off a huge copy of the map and got markers ready to color code it. A week before I got there, I decided to abandon it. It was the best choice I've ever made.

When you get to the convention floor for the first time, any and all plans you have immediately make a break for the nearest exit like their hair is on fire and the only thing that can put it out is freedom. It's almost like the first time you get drunk. You're amazed that you can feel that way legally. You kinda wobble about a bit, trying desperately to figure out what's happening to your vision. Rooms take on funky dimensions and spin a bit. It's what I affectionately dubbed "Cigar Shock". The floor was HUGE and PACKED. If you're as passionate about cigars as I am, you get in there and your mind goes limp like a ragdoll. Cognitive thoughts are impossible. Motor actions are barely plausible. Breathing and staring is your body's primary focus. Every nerve in your body cries out "SWEET JESUS YES". All other bodily functions cease to matter aside from the continued flow of oxygen to the brain and the occasional blinking to keep your eyes from turning into Ritz crackers. I was rather glad I had a cameraman. Together we were able to be semi-presentable on the first day.

Lesson #4:

Never go to New Orleans in the summer ever again.

That's about it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Guest Post : Black Horse Pub and Brewery

Well, well, well. It looks like my camera guy is finally making the moves to steal my job. Last night the crafty bastard emailed me a write-up to a brewpub he found on his sojourn back to New York from New Orleans. By car. Since he was crazy enough to drive that far and still write this up, I guess I'm obligated to post it. So here's a review of the Black Horse Pub and Brewery and the beers contained within its hallowed, beer-soaked halls:

Driving back to NY from the IPCPR in New Orleans, I made a pitstop at a local pub/brewery in Clarksville, TN - just outside of the better-known Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne. I hddn't had a real meal all day, so when I came across Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, conveniently located in Clarksville's downtown, I figured I'd hold down a bar stool for a little while. Conveniently, they offered a sampler flight for their full line of beers, brewed right there in the building.

Belgian white -- Slightly creamier than expected, very smooth. Definitely a step up from Blue Moon.

Raspberry -- I'm generally not a fan of flavored/fruity beers, but it was pretty refreshing on a day that had a 118 heat index when I left Memphis...

Blackhorse Ale -- Good pepper notes here, but otherwise not a whole lot going on. Not the beer I would hang my hat (and name) on if I were them.

Vanilla Ale -- Like medicinal candy. Maybe it would be good if paired with the right dessert, but I couldn't bring myself to finish this.

McGee Pale Ale -- Nice and malty. Not as much kick as I look for in a pale ale, but definitely a solid choice. I would happily have a pint of this on a hot night.

Barnstormer Red Ale - After stouts, I'm partial to red ales, and this didn't disappoint. Rich but highly quaffable. The Barnstormer got drained in one pull; probably should've taken it slower (especially on an empty stomach) so that I would have more to say...I guess I'll just have to come back to Tennessee to try this again.

Coalminer Stout Ale -- I had been looking forward to this since the beginning of the flight. Notes of coffee here - very fullbodied, creamy, and a great head on the pint that they poured. Everything a stout should be.

Normally I would've gone for a pint each of the red and the stout, you know, to put them through their paces. Sadly, given the late hour, I had to settle for just the Coalminer. Best part - only $3.25 a pint.

The burger that went along with this was damn good too...gave me enough fuel to drive the rest of the way to bourbon country.

Well there you have it. There's the first In With Bacchus guest post by Pat Kelly, freelance correspondent. And cameraman. That's right, bub. You're second fiddle here. And I'm on to you...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

IPCPR: Day 4

Miss Day 1? For shame! Catch up here.
Miss Day 2? You are a terrible human being. Get up to date here.
Miss Day 3? Nice things: we can't have them. See what you missed here

It's still raining and I'm popping antibiotics and painkillers like Rush Limbaugh. We're on day three of the show and day four (out of five) for my IPCPR vacation. It's still raining and it's still oppressively humid. I'm not complaining though. I'm enjoying every minute. My hotel is a five minutes walk from the convention center and it gives me time to build up my excitement to hazardous levels. You can always tell you're getting close to the convention center by two things. One is the pervasive smell of cigar smoke ringing the center like a fragrant halo. The other is the sheer amount of cigar butts littering the ground as you get closer to the epicenter. By the hotel you see an occasional cigar butt, swollen and burst in the rain. But as you get closer it's like one of the plagues. Butts are in every planter, in every bush, and strewn about the sidewalk and gutters. It almost makes me sad to see so much wasted tobacco but what can I do? They've been consigned to a damp existence at this point.

I get into the center and get a call from my cameraman. He's running a bit late as he has to stop at Walgreens to get new batteries. The camera we're using is a veritable energy hog; using two AAs for every 100~ish photos. I tell him to bring me an iced tea. He wisely brings my favorite tea in the entire world: Arizona Sweet Tea in the $.99 can. Yummers. I meet him outside of the Drew Estates booth, pound the tea, and begin the day. Ready? Here we go.

Drew Estates: You thought I was going to skip Drew Estates, didn't you? That slaps me on the knee. Drew Estates actually has quite a few things coming out and there's definitely something for everyone. For the traditional smokers, hold onto your socks because they're releasing the Dirty Rat for commercial release. The 5 type blend crammed into one delicious corona comes in boxes of 12 with a MSRP of $12 a stick. Frankly, I'll probably be buying a box of those delicious little bastards. Also, the Liga line is getting some new sizes. In the T52 stalk cut line, look for a belicoso (6 x 52), a corona doble ( 7 x 54) and the piece de resistance, the T52 Flying Pig (4.125 x 60). There's also hints at a Liga Privada JD #4 but the specs on it are super duper secret. I'll do a bit of research.

For the flavored smoker, there'll be some extensions of the Acid line as well. The Blondie gets a Belicoso size (5 x 54) as opposed to the normal Blondie which is 4 x 38. As for new additions, look for the Kuba in a maduro wrapper and the brand new Toast, a 6 x 50 maduro wrapped beauty.

Finally, remember how in yesterday's post I said that I was chatting with some guys about hookah? Well, Drew Estates has partnered with Starbuzz, a maker of premium shisha to market an Acid line of shisha tobacco. I got to try the Red (which was slightly cinnamon-y) and the Purple (which was berry-like and very fragrant). Both were pretty outstanding and very complex.

The Drew Estates booth was definitely crazy this year. The Subculture studios had been absolutely busting ass decorating the booth. They spent something like 3 months hand-painting a whole range of shoes with Drew Estates brands and motifs on them. It earned them the nickname of "Shoe Estates" from some, which I found delightfully entertaining in a self-depreciating humor kinda way. The entire time the booth was bumping a lot of Bob Marley from speakers hidden behind those walls. It was pretty funny to watch Bob Marley on speakers duel with the Jazz group at the AVO/Davidoff booth next door. I was honestly hoping that the jazz group would take up the initiative and maybe play ALONG with Bob but that was hoping for a lot, I suppose.

Padron Cigars: Stopped in to say hello to the Padrons and deliver a greeting from Isy of Uptown Cigar. I got talking to one of the Padron daughters, Kassandra. We were chatting it up for a good bit. She just started smoking cigars (imagine that, a Padron that didn't smoke) and we were talking about the strength of Padron as compared to other cigars. Nice to talk shop with her. She informed me that the newest release is the Padron Family Reserve 46, made to celebrate 46 years of manufacturing fine cigars. It is a box pressed 5.5 x 56 cigar that looks distinctly like a very small chocolate bar. She also informed me that the Padron Family Reserve 44 will see a larger distribution as well.

Rocky Patel: The Rocky booth was paaaaaacked. And for good reason. Not only did Rocky have new cigars but he had a literal smorgasbord there. Seriously. He had food and beverages for everyone. Rocky had trays of sandwiches and chafing dishes full of taquitos and meatballs. I took the liberty of nabbing a taquito and parading around with it in my mouth like it was a cigar. I made one guy laugh so hard he started choking on something and a few other guys at a table nearby were almost in tears while asking me if "I needed a light". I love cheeky shenanigans. There was also Pilsener Urquelle on tap, wine, and rum as well but I refrained from drinking (gasp) because I'm unfortunately sick. A shame, because it was a rum I'd never had. Rocky and Nish were walking around the booth the entire time and I really wanted to talk to him but he was pretty busy. Besides, I don't think he'd enjoy the fact that one of my favorite smoking challenges is"Edge Maduro Races" with my camera guy. Just a hunch though.

Anyway, Rocky is coming out with a few new things. On the premium side, there's Rocky's 15th Anniversary. While it's been making the rounds on the blogs lately it was officially released at the show for retailers. The 15th sports an Ecuadorian Habano with Nicaraguan fillers. Comes in a corona gorda (6 x 46), robusto (5 x 50), toro (6.5 x 52) and a torpedo (6.125 x 52). There's also the Cargo, a Nicaraguan puro through and through. Comes in toro (6.5 x 52) and super toro (6 x 58) with boxes of 25 as well as 500! As far as bundles, Rocky has the "Outback Cigar Co. Inc.", or Outback. With a Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper (no info on the binder/filler), it comes in a robusto (5 x 50), toro (6.5 x 52), torpedo (6 x 52) and the Fifty-Eight (6.125 x 52). Apparently a milder cigar according to Jamie Millard, the Sales Manager I talked to (as well as the literature). I've got samples of all three so I'll let you know how they go. Bro.

Note: I'm not sure if EO is putting anything new out at this point because I only got info on the Rocky stuff. I hope they are because the Murcielago and 601 Blue Labels are pretty fantastic. I'll put another one on the "investigate" list.

Felipe Gregorio: Sat around and shot the shit with the salesguy at the Felipe Gregorio booth. It was here that I learned probably the greatest thing ever. Did you know the IPCPR has a chaplain? I didn't. But the good father stopped by while at the booth and lit up with us. Nothing like smoking with a man of the cloth. It was definitely another highlight.

Felipe has three things coming out: the W20, the Vallejuelo, and the Minotaur. The W20 is their 20th anniversary cigar, wrapped in a Habana 2000 wrapper. Not too shabby, eh? The Vallejuelo is Ecuadorian Habano wrapped around a healthy dose of ligero (not sure what country, I forgot to ask). The Minotaur is a big, beefy rosado wrapped bastard. I say it's beefy only in the fact that it's got a high price tag and it probably won't be seen a lot in the States (France bound, mostly).

HBI: I know, I know. You're thinking "What the hell Bacchus?" Yeah, alright, they sell mostly skins (rolling papers). But damn it, sometimes you just want to smoke a hand-rolled cigarette (that's not a joke). I'm partial to one and their Raw papers are pretty damn nice. They also sell Three Castles Virginia rolling tobacco which I've heard is pretty good with a clean, bright Virginia taste. But that's not what I'm writing to you about. What I'm writing to you is actually something I discovered that they were doing that should probably get a lot more attention than it does.

They're selling tobacco seeds.

Under the Raw line, HBI is selling packets of 100 seeds in three different types: two burley and one habano. This is GREAT. While no, the homegrown stuff won't be as good as the stuff, say, Pepin or Padron, or Drew is putting out, the fact that someone has taken the initiative to say "Well, if there's huge taxes on tobacco, let's help people grow it themselves" is a goddamn great thing. I managed to get some packets of seeds (along with a hearty supply of rolling papers at the urging of Niki Crowder, the woman I talked to). I'll be buying a pot and soil while in Scotland and growing some 'baccy. Damn tootin!

At this point we broke for lunch. In all fairness, you probably need a break too. So here ya go:

Muppets make everything better.

Menendez Amerino: An interesting company to be truthful. They deal mainly in 100% Brazilian cigars, cigarillos, and filtered cigars. Their two main brands are Dona Flor (which consists of the Dona Flor, The Dona Flor Selecao, and Dona Flor Reserva Especiale) and the Alonson Menendez. Both come in a variety of sizes. They also have Dona Flor and Gabriela cigarillos and Royal Choice filtered little cigars. A huge catalog with a variety of packages. I've got some samples so I'll let you know how they smoke in the coming weeks.

Cuban Crafters: I've heard of Cuban Crafters but I hadn't had any of them. I knew them mainly through their Don Kiki line (in which Isy just gifted me a few) but it was nice to finally get the low-down on things. As for new products coming out, they've got quite a few. The Guantanamera 310 comes in a variety of sizes: robusto (5 x 52), toro and torpedo (6 x 52) and churchill (7 x 52). It's a Cuban seed filler with a Desflorado wrapper. Comes packed in boxes of 25. The Cuban Crafters Medina 1959 Miami Edition are hand-rolled in the CC Miami factory using Habano long-filler and binder with Cuban-seed wrapper. Comes in: robusto ( 5 x 50), Churchill ( 7 x 50), Torpedo ( 6.5 x 52), Lancero (7.5 x 38) and Corona gorda (6.5 x 64) in boxes of 25.  They're also releasing a Cuban Crafters Cubano Claro which is made from Nicaraguan habano filler and binder with a Deslforado wrapper. Comes in a shitload of sizes at 20 (with one at 24) per box. Lastly is the Cupido Tuxedo which I'm assuming is like their Cupido line with a maduro wrapper (the specifics aren't shared). Comes in 25 count boxes in four sizes: torpedo (6 x 52), churchill (7 x 48), toro (6 x 50), and robusto (5 x 50).

Perdomo: For some reason when we stopped by the Perdomo booth there were HUGE pictures of guns. I guess it was advertisements for selling those padded hard cases but it was pretty shocking to see huge pictures of what looked like an Uzi with scope and extended barrel and another gun. It was kinda surreal. Regardless, I actually got to shake hands with Nick Perdomo again. I say again because I first met Nick awhile back at an event at Uptown. I got to talk with Nick and smoke a fresh rolled that a roller made right before my eyes. It was pretty great. I still even have a box signed by him, an empty box of my favorite Perdomo, the Champagne. The Originals, bitch! No 10th Anniversary in here. Anywho, I think the only new stuff they had was the Cuban Bullet v. 2.0 (the actual name). I didn't really get a chance to talk to anyone here because everyone was busy (I just managed to sneak in a handshake with Nick) so I'm not sure of the specifics. But if he keeps cranking out the Champagnes, the Habanos, and the Lot 23s, I'm perfectly content.

Battleground Cigars: This rivaled the Torano booth for my photographers favorite. He's a huge Civil War buff so he kinda nerded out at this booth. I don't know shit above what public school taught me about the Civil War but I know I love smoking cigars. They had vitolas under many of the generals (like Stonewall Jackson and Pickett) as well as Old Powderkeg brand as well. If you want to talk Civil War, I'll refer you to my cameraman. You can find him here.

Signature House Blend: A division of Superior Cigars U.S.A. I can't find much information on it (the booth didn't have pamphlets since they just redid their marketing). Alls I know is they look good and they have a huge variety of barber-pole cigars. They're meant to be sold as "house blends" for retailers but the packaging looks pretty damn nice for that. I'll contact them and get you more info so check back here.

Torano: My cameraman's other favorite place and one of mine as well. Torano has three new cigars coming out. First is the Single Region. Much like Tatuaje's La Verite, it is tobacco from a single farm from a single year. They're a Nicaraguan puro with a Criollo '98 wrapper (from jalapa), a binder from Jalapa, and a filler from el Estero Farm in Jalapa. It comes in a robusto (5 x 52) a toro grande (6 x 54) and a churchill (7 x 50). Next is the Master, by Carlos Torano. With a Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and an Esteli/Jalapa filler, it comes in a 5 x 50 robusto, a 7 x 50 churchill, and a 6.25 x 52 torpedo. Finally is the Brigade, a bundle cigar. An Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper with a Nica filler and binder, it comes in the robusto, toro, churchill and torpedo. I have samples of all three so I'll put a review up once I've burned through 'em.

My Father Cigars: When I got to the My Father Cigar booth everyone was just lounging about with no one in sight. This isn't because people weren't buying. It's because people already bought. Apparently, Pepin SOLD OUT of stock on the first day. So he just got to chill with Janny and Jaime. Anyway, the Garcia's have three releases. Two are the release of two La Relobas. La Reloba Seleccion Sumatra is a Sumatran wrapped Nicaraguan filled and bound cigar. The Seleccion Habana is a Habano wrapper around Nica. binder and filler. Both are offered in robusto (5 x 50), toro (6.25 x 52), torpedo (6.125 x 52) and corona (5.625 x 46). The next is the Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial, a broad leaf wrapper around a Nica. binder and filler. Offered in robusto (5.25 x 52), toro (6 x 54), belicoso (5.5 x 52), petit robusto (4.5 x 50), and toro gordo (6 x 60). Oh, and how can I forget. There's also the My Father Limited Edition, a cigar made by both Jaime and Pepin Garcia.

Tatuaje: Pete's got some tricks up his sleeve for this year. This year's Halloween release is...DA FAAAAACE. The Face gets its own really sweet "spooky box", along with a paired cutter and lighter thanks to S.T. Dupont. His Tat line-up also gets new sizes too (mostly shorter ones which make me super happy). Finally, Pete has agreed to take on distribution of the Schrader cigar, which is a Dominican blended especially for the Schrader wine company as well as the Para Te, which is a Dominican that Pete has also agreed to take on. I got to talk to Pete (albeit briefly) and I've come to the conclusion that I really...really want to go drinking with Pete. He seems like a bourbon kinda guy.

Illusione: Oh Dion, you're so crazy. Dion has decided to be super crazy and extend the wrapper selection on his ~hl~ line. It gets a new maduro wrapper...and a claro wrapper as well. Seriously, a claro wrapper? That's ballsy. I've only seen one candela/claro wrapped cigar and that's the 8-5-8 Flora Fina by Fuente. We'll see what it's like when they release. He also decided to do the Singulare which will change blends/vitola every year as Dion sees fit. The Eperney also gets "Le Matin" or "The Morning", which is a boxed press variety.

Lastly, when you check the photos, you'll see that there's some more CAO pics. That's because we went back to the booth to make sure we had the correct run-down. I also managed to have a power-talk with Jon Huber, CAO's Director of Lifestyle Marketing. He's a great guy and a pleasure to talk to. We talked about the professional/business usage of Twitter (which he was reluctant to do but eventually caved to participating). My cameraman described him as "like the Tony Stark of the cigar world" which is probably the coolest thing he's ever called anyone.

Well, that's about it as far as event coverage. I've been ruminating on the show since I got back and I've still got one more post I'd like to do on IPCPR just to sum things up. Hope you enjoyed my (late) coverage. Sorry about that. I'll try not to get sick next time. Oh, and indulge in pictures:

What did I learn at IPCPR?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

IPCPR: Day 3

Miss Day 1? For shame! Catch up here.
Miss Day 2? You are a terrible human being. Get up to date here.

In New York, if it's humid and it rains, the humidity gets better. Generally, the rain saturates the air, causing more water to condense from gas phase (humidity). It hits the pavement and, once the rain stops, slowly dries. When it cools at night, more comes out and is dissipated. When it warms the next day, there is less humidity. Everyone is happy.

Toto, we are no longer in New York.

The rain only serves to make it even more impossible to sweat. Coating you in a fine mist of "fuck you", you now can't even sweat right. Perspiration beads in your hair, on your arms, everywhere; slowly falling off and blending in with the rain around you. So you're soaked and continue to be for at least a few hours after you get out of the rain. This is what I wake up to.

My body, in its infinite and unpredictable wisdom, decides to say "fuck it" and turns off my immune system. Between dealing with the rapid and unavoidable overheating of my entire body and the intake of what would amount to several cigars worth of ambient smoke (on top of what I was smoking), it just couldn't handle it. So I wake up this morning to rain. And a kidney infection.

But the battlefield painters of the Civil War didn't stay home from Gettysburg just because of a cold. The reporters in the field from WWII (like Ernie Pyle) didn't take a break for a sore throat. So I popped one of my painkillers, got the home phone number of my doctor ready for later, and hit the show. Dedication. It's what I do.

Here are the show notes:

Cusano: Got talking with Jeff Aronson, Cusano's first employee who joined them back in '95. Jeff is a stand-up guy. I would totally go drinking with Jeff. Only five minutes after meeting him we were busting balls like we'd known each other for years. Great guy. He gave me the low-down on the Cusano lineup, from their bundles (Cusano blends of popular General Cigar lines) to their new stuff. Look for the Cusano 15th Anniversary to come out (in boxes of 15). A heady lancero with a Dom. wrapper, it looks absolutely excellent. Also, look for more from their Cuvee line in the form of the Cuvee Cusano Signature. They look really tasty. Cusano is also a part of DomRey, who now own (EDIT: They just distribute them. Whoops) the Agio and Panter brands. I finally got to try some of the Panter stuff and they were surprisingly good. The Blue (a more mild) and the Sprint (a more full bodied) were actually pretty decent smokes for dry cures. The Dessert wasn't that good, I have to say. It lost a lot of flavor to the filter.

Stopped at the Social Smoke booth where I got to try some of their mint hookah tobacco. It was delicious. I find myself really enjoying the hookah. I got talking to some other guys about hookah tobacco (which'll be in the next post) and we shared the sentiment of how awesome hookah is socially and economically. For $15, you can share a hookah for a few hours with a couple of friends and shoot the shit. It makes me want to travel to the Middle East just to sit around, drink mint tea, and smoke hookah. That's legit, right? Traveling to a region just to smoke?

Jameson Cigars: I don't actually think they're releasing anything new but I finally got to meet Brad Mayo. He's cool. I like him. And he's got some killer cigars, from what I hear. Do I need to say any more?

CAO: Their big release is their La Traviata Maduro. The same La Traviata blend wrapped in a maduro wrapper. However, for me, their big release isn't the La Traviata Maduro. Or their Brazilia Corcovado (4.25 x 60). Or even their LX2 Gordo (6 x 60). Nope. It's the fact that they're extending their range of smaller, tinned cigars. The Brazilia Cariocas are so good. There's tinned cigars in everything but the America, including the original Traviata. Yummers! Oh...and one more thing.


CAO negotiated the rights to distribution in the United States. For awhile, Dunhill wasn't being imported to the States which made me a sad, sad panda.

Camacho: I know that there's a new Room 101 coming out but that's about it. The booth was packed and almost everyone was busy so I didn't get a whole lot of info from there. I'll do some digging though. Or, y' could check out Stogie Review. But I'll dig anyway.

Bossner: First off, there's a cigar named Don Willi. If this isn't intriguing enough, it's named after Willi Tokarev, a Russian singer. If that's not good enough, the man sports a moustache that would make Tom Selleck weep and shit his pants in fear. I'm of the opinion that Don Willi isn't the man but rather the 'stache. The body is but merely a host for the demi-god of facial hairriffic aspects. The cigar comes in both Dominican and Nicaraguan varieties, with a Connecticut wrapper on the Dominican and an Ecuadorian maduro on the Nicaraguan. I've also heard that these cigars are like Rogaine for the upper lip. But that's just hearsay.


Have a video to sooth your aching eyes.

Ok, break time's over. Back to it!

Berger and Argenti: On top of the well received Entubar and Clasico, they're releasing the budget-minded Mooch. They're also extending the Entubar line with the Quad Maduro. All of them look delicious. I had a picture of the Quad Maduros but the glare on them made it almost impossible to see. Blame my camera guy.

Great Wall: This, to me, was one of the more interesting booths at the show in terms of new stuff. A company based in China that imports its wrapper, binder, and filler leaves (mostly from Indonesia), cigars of a variety of shapes and types are rolled in China and then exported. The lines range from premium hand-rolled cigars to machine-made cheapies and also filtered cigars. I'd be lying through the teeth if I said I didn't want to try their offerings. Note: Site is in Chinese. Use Babelfish to translate.

Cigar Family: The Fuentes have decided to add on to the Diamond Crown line by adding on the Julius Caeser (which the fucking spelled wrong and it pisses me off). However, that's not the cool part. The cool part of their new additions (because these I can afford) are the additions to the Flor de Ybor City line. The original lineup, wrapped in one of three wrappers (Connecticut shade, Connecticut broadleaf maduro, or Ecuadorian sun grown) now has another sister line, the Ybor Gold "Broadway Series". Each vitola is named after a special aspect of the history of Ybor city. Some names include the Bolita (after the lottery in the late 1800s/early 1900s), the Lector (the reader that would entertain rollers as they worked), and the Carrito 413 (a double name of both the streetcars of Ybor City and the date of manufacture for the first handrolled cigar in Ybor City). Details on composition are unavailable but I'll do some investigation on this one too.

Cuban Stock: I can't actually say what's new from here because I've never heard of them before. But their cigars look delicious. They have a lot of cigars covering a broad range of price points. From the looks of things they use a majority of Dominican filler, binder, and wrapper with a few exceptions to the rule. They offer a lot in their Cuban Stock line (includin both boxed, premium and bundle), Chubby (appropriately named fat-as-hell ring gauge cigars) as well as some exclusive and limited stuff (appropriately titled Exclusivo). I talked to Yaniv Levy, the President of the company and he said that, by far, the "Everyday Joe" line of short-filler corojo wrapped kick-around cigars. I don't know if my cameraman got a picture of it but their Cuban Stock bundled short perfectos looked sublime. I got a sample from Yaniv that I'll review soon.

Villiger Stokkebye: I just absorbed Villiger, really. It was great to talk to (and thank) the guys that make my favorite beater cigar: the Villiger Export Natural. It's not the most glamorous cigar but you don't need to humidify it, cut it, or baby it. It's a rough and tumble little bastard that you can chew the shit out of, smoke like a chimney, and ditch half-way through when it gets too cold out. It will still love you. I was pleased to hear that in addition to their Villiger 1888 premiums they're rolling out the La Libertad, a Peruvian wrapped and bound cigar with Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. I got a sample so stay tuned for a review on this one. I'll also probably be ordering some more of their dry cured cigars to try. They have a dry cured culebra that needs a good home.

Miura Cigars: Hadn't heard about Miura either so I'll just give a run-down on what they've got. They've got two semi-premiums and a sandwich. The first is the Directo de Fabrica which has a Nic and Panamanian filler with a Nic. binder. Comes in wrappers of: Ecuadorian Connect., Braz. Maduro, Panamanian Rosado, and Nic. Habano. A variety of vitolas including some barber-pole wrapped cigars. Next is the Novillos, which is the same stats as the Fabrica (no Rosado though). These are their fat bastard cigars with ring gauges of 60 and 62. They're short and chubby, just like me! Yay! Finally are the Havana Sandwiches (WHAT'S THAT SANDVICH?). Indonesian wrapped, Nica. bound, and filled with Nica and Peruvian tobaccos. Looking at mostly big honkin' sizes (Churchill, super Chruchill, and 7" torpedo). Mixed filler too.

Exclusive Cigars: The highlight of Day 2. By sheer coincidence I got a short interview with Glen Case, the Big Pappa of Exclusive Cigars (that's President in layman's/non-insane terms). We talked about my favorite topic: following your passion. Glen was originally in the banking industry and he HATED it. So he decided to bail on that bullshit and pursue what he loved: cigars. So he got in contact with a manufacturer, blended the tobacco himself, created the logo, printed it on a dot matrix printer himself, bagged, AND shipped from his house. All. On. His. Own. He originally created bundled cigars but his brand really took off with the introduction of the Kristoff (which is how I knew of him). While I'm not sure what he's got new, I do know that Glen is a fantastic person that I admire. I sure as shit ain't running a website because I'll be rolling in the dough. Sadly, I've never had anything of his lines so, along with the Villiger stuff, this will probably be one thing I order before I leave. Them Kristoffs look pretty...pretty gooooood.

Note: We also went back to La Aurora to thank Amaury for the invite to the Guillermo Leon party. The pictures from the day before didn't come out so hot (stupid camera) so we snapped some new ones.

After going back to the hotel and nabbing a shower, I knew it was time to call the doctor. A quick call at about 9pm meant I had to get my medicine at a local 24 hour pharmacy before the Twitter Brothers of the Leaf Cocktail Hour, put on by the fine fellows at Stogie Review. While I couldn't drink at Dos Jefe's (antibiotics and booze is bad, mmmmk?), a glass of water was all I needed. It was great to finally meet Brian, Jerry, and Walt. I also got to schmooze with the fine fellows at The 7th Reserve. I somehow was quick enough on the draw to end up with one of the mammoth TBOTLCH Swag Bags of Doom. This behemoth contained samples of MANY of the new lines from participating cigar manufacturers. I overheard someone there saying that with a bag of that caliber, you didn't need to visit the booths during the show. But hell, I love seeing people that I've only seen in magazines.

Well, here's to a belly full of cranberry juice, cigar smoke, antibiotics, and dedication. It is filling. Oh, right. HAVE SOME PICTURES!

On to Day 4!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

IPCPR: Day 2

Miss Day 1? For shame! Catch up here.

It's hot. So very, very hot. You step outside and your clothing immediately sticks to you like a bad lamination job. It's 90 in the shade. The good news is the humidity is perfect...for keeping cigars moist. Too moist, actually. Outside is like trying to lead a life in a perpetual sauna. But inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention's pleasantly cool. Gentle wafts of cigar smoke billow out of the main room like the welcome embrace of a loved one. This is the first day that the convention floor is open and it's open season for many eager cigar aficionados, retailers, and even exhibitors. It's a chance, for everyone, to see what's new. And by jove, that's what I did. So here it is, the day 1 summary. Ready? Here we go.

Old School Cigars: An interesting boutique blend that I'd heard about but never had seen in the flesh. I got a chance to shoot the shit with Danny, the vice president. Very nice guy. He explained a bit about his brand and it was cool to see the passion behind it. Made for them by Camacho, they have several brands under the Old School name: the Old School Originals, Stixx, GR8, and the Randello (which I tried). The Randello was a pleasantly spicy and robust cigar that had both power and balance. Nice stuff. The Randello Robusto was $6, which I think is a fair price for the cigar.

La Aurora: La Aurora has some pretty awesome stuff coming out. I spent a goodly amount of time talking with the La Aurora Twitter guru, Amaury Abreu. La Aurora / Miami Cigars has released the La Aurora Corojo, which looked tasty as hell. There's also word that they're in the process of tweaking the lancero blend for the La Aurora 107. Nestor is releasing the Art Deco, which is a veritable smorgasbord of corojo, criollo, and habano of different ages, blended and manufactured in the Pepin factory. However, the piece de resistance is the Guillermo Leon cigar. The cool part about it is the double binder of both Cameroon and Corojo (for clean and sweet tobacco taste as well as some punch). Interesting to see how it works. I have a sample and my cameraman has already smoked it. He said it was delicious, with a leathery taste and sweet spice to it. Nom.

General Cigar Co.: General has quite a bit in the works.

Macanudo gets a few newbies to their line-up: the Grand Cru and the Vintage '97 Maduro. While I'm not entirely sure what's in the Grand Cru (I do have a sample that they graciously provided), the Vintage '97 is what I want to talk about. It has these funky bands on them that only a select few of them will get. It's a metal band that helps "gauge the appropriate humidity of the cigar", according to the rep. If the band is too loose, the cigar is underhumidified. If it's too tight, it's over-humidified. An interesting idea but honestly a little far-fetched. I've heard that they'll be about $8 which is pretty steep for a piece of steel wrapped around a Macanudo. But maybe I'll be proven wrong.

La Gloria Cubana gets the Artesanos de Obelisco, a pyramide shaped vitola with a curiously aged looking band. The specs on it are as follows: Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper with a  Connecticut broadleaf binder all delicately snuggling Dominican and Nicaraguan filler. It also gets the La Gloria Serie N, which is mostly Nica with, I think, an Ecuadorian wrapper.

I think there was something else from them but I didn't get to see it. Their massive booth was pretty busy. Although I did manage to receive a fresh-rolled La Gloria from the very kind roller there. The man loved his Diet Coke, I'll give him that.

Altadis: The highlight of this entire booth was the Warlock, simply because I am a huge damn nerd and it entertained the hell out of me. I don't even know what the specs on it are because everyone was busy but it was just mesermizingly nerdy so that's all I remember from the booth. Whoops. EDIT: Some more info on the Warlock. It's an Omar Ortez with an Ecuadorian Cubano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder around Dom. and Nica fillers.

Xikar: They came out with a few lines of new cutters/lighters. The first is the Mayan collection which, honestly, is self-explanatory. I'm not much for the pseudo-tribal kinda vibe so I wasn't feeling it, honestly. However, I WAS feeling the Drew Estate collab. stuff they were going, including the Acid cutter (which, despite the fact that I'm not a huge Acid fan, was very well done) as well as the Liga Privada lighters which I would buy in a heartbeat. Cool stuff.

Hammer and Sickle: You're just gonna have to wait on this one. I'm doing an entire post dedicated to this one. Sit tight.

*insert break for lunch at Mulate's here*

J. Fuego: Two things here: the release of the 777 Maduro (same as the 777 except a maduro wrapper). However, what I really found awesome were the Origens, a 100% corojo cigar that comes both in boxes but also in small hand-rolled cheroot like bastards, called Originals. They look very, very tasty.

Ashton: The biggest deal here is the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor. A Pepin cigar comprised of a Mexican Cuban-seed wrapper with Nicaraguan filler, everyone at the booth (including the employees) seemed excited about this thing. Although, if I got to sit around and smoke them all day, I'd probably be pretty excited about them too. Also, the specials booklet I picked up looks distinctly like a Holt's catalog. I wonder why...

Also stopped by the Illusione table to see Dion, who was extremely generous and gifted me a pack of Cuchillos Cubanos (because I'm an idiot and didn't hear about them somehow). They were goooooood. I'll save his stuff for a later date.

After the IPCPR we took a brief respite then headed off to two parties. The first up was the official launch of the La Aurora Guillermo Leon, which took place down on Bourbon Street. It was absolutely fantastic. A fat kid can't say no to a catered event with an open bar. Senor Leon gave a short introduction to his brand as well as his goals, which was well-received. He's a nice guy, that Guillermo. Also, very busy.

The last party of the night was the Cigar Press party at Don Leoncio's on Canal. Dion Giolito, Jon Huber, Thor Nielson, and Pete Johnson all took turns spinning tunes (and gulping cold beers in the stifling heat).

All in all, a fun first day. I'll have the second day up tomorrow and the third day up...uh....y'know what, just stay tuned. I'm doing the best I can here. Don't forget this is free, ya bastards!

Oh, have some photos:

On to Day 3!

Monday, August 9, 2010

IPCPR: Day 1

Have you ever seen the movie "The Aristocats"? It's a 1970's Disney animated show about a hoity-toity female cat and her family fraternizing with this beatnik cat in the city of Paris. In this movie has one of the best damn songs in the world. It's called "Everyone Wants To Be A Cat". Here it is:

Isn't that song just crazy awesome? Even if it's slightly racially insensitive (I'm looking at you, poor Siamese cat), the swing-y, jazzy sound to it is just plain crazy good. It is this song that I've had stuck in my head through the ENTIRETY of my tenure in the fine city of New Orleans.  All twelve hours of it.

I'm not sure what it is about this city but I really groove on it. Maybe it's the brass band music that pervasive up and down every street. Maybe it's the hearty guffaws and giggles of mirth from every doorway. Maybe it's the fact that you can walk down the street with an open container while smoking. I dunno. It's probably all of it.

Traveling here wasn't too difficult. The flights were pleasant (if cramped), the stewardesses were cool to talk to (was talking about Paterson's tax hikes with the stewardess on the Albany to Columbus leg), and the terminals were all air-conditioned and well stocked with magazines and coffee. Getting up at 3am (well, leaving at 3am because I didn't sleep) was a bit of a stretch but it wasn't that bad. The skies were clear and free from turbulence. All in all, relatively non-stressful.

Post-flight saw me finally crashing at the hotel for a few hours of desperately needed sleep. I wanted to go to the Henke Kelner "Cigars 101" seminar but I was just too damn tired. I woke up starving (I had McDonalds at 5am and it was now 5pm). We decided to sojourn to Acme Oyster House for a fish fry. Oh, and oysters on the half-shell. I'd never had them. The wait in line was long due to the fact that my cameraman was one turtle-slow bastard. After finally getting in, I settled in with one of the greatest cocktails ever made. A Sazerac. A Sazerac, New Orleans official cocktail as mandated by government, is a simple affair of roughly 2 oz. rye, a few dashes of Angostura bitters laced into a sugar cube, and absinthe. The resulting amalgamation of strong, fiery sweet rye with a light anise and herbal flavor is probably what God drinks with his Sunday brunch.  Here she is:

This hell-brew of awesome paired extremely well with a half dozen oysters on the half shell. And the charbroiled oysters. And the Seafood Special: catfish, oysters, shrimp (all fried) with sweet potato fries and hush puppies. Y'know what, just pair it with everything. IT WORKS, OK.

As we were getting ready to leave, I even saw CigarLaw, but I didn't say anything because I didn't want to be that creepy guy that addresses you in front of your friends by saying "I KNOW YOU FROM TWITTER." Let's be honest, the next line to that sentence should be "I'D LIKE TO WEAR YOUR SKIN LIKE A COAT." It's that creepy of an ice-breaker. To close out the night we stopped at an timeless and unyielding pinnacle of shopping luxury: CVS. Why did we stop at CVS? Because you can buy fucking booze at CVS here. Not only can you smoke in bars and drink on the street...but you can buy alcohol at every grocery store and pharmacy and what-have-you all across the city. Needless to say, I'm sitting here drinking a glass of Sazerac Rye and writing this.

Being in the city is damn near magical. The people are friendly. The music is loud and boisterous. The drinks flow the Big Miss and no one looks at you strange for drinking on the street. I mean, hell, I bought a bottle of Sazerac Rye, a lighter, and a pack of cigarettes (FOR SMOKING IN BARS) at 9:30pm. AT A CVS. I think I'm going to like it here.

On to Day 2!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


In less than 12 hours I'll be hopping aboard one of my two flights to New Orleans. I'm bringing my laptop with me so you'll get hot, fresh updates at the end of each day (providing I'm not too wiped out, then you might get it the next day). Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for any breaking news bulletins and watch out for (hopefully) nightly posts. If you've got anything you think I should check out or want me to check out for you, just drop me a line at my email, hit me up on Twitter, or even message the fan page on Facebook. Pipes, cigars, whatever, just drop me a line and I'll do my best to get over there.

Catch you on the flipside.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tabacalera Falto "El Josco"

When I first tried this cigar it wasn't, how can I say it, very good. It had some really weird notes to it (it tasted like a bitter, musty attic). I was generally concerned. While not all of the Falto stuff has been right up my alley I've gotten to the point where I kinda get the general gist of most of Luis' blends and such. And let me tell you, this was wayyyyyy off. It was like smoking water-damaged 70s shag carpet. I knew it couldn't be the cigar. It had to be me. So I chalked it up to a bad day: maybe allergies, maybe what I had for lunch. I decided to give the El Josco it's due the other day and I'm glad that I did. It's pretty...pretty goooood. Here are the notes:

First quarter: Starts out with a rush of spice. Not spicy, but spice. It's like liking an Arab caravan in Lawrence of Arabia. A touch of cardamom, a dash of mace. But the biggest contender was cinnamon. And it had a nuttiness to it as well. The best allegory I can come up with is this: have you ever been to a county fair (or ANYWHERE in NYC's Chinatown) and seen those saintly vendors that sell sugar-coated roasted nuts? Y'know, the ones that are shellacked in a cinnamon-y sweet goodness? The smell of which pervades a 100 foot radius, drawing people in like mesmerized flies to a bug zapper? It kinda tasted like that. It had a peanut nuttiness, cinnamon, and a particular sweetness from the tobacco that I found rather alluring.

Half-way: Unfortunately, much like that tiny package of nuts you buy, the flavor is fleeting. The cinnamon and sugar taste faded to leave just hints of cinnamon with plenty of nuts and an emergence of leather. For the record, those nut guys should sell the "Fat Boy Special", which should be a pound of those nuts. Those tiny little tubes are just not gonna cut it with those things. Anyway, at this point it's hovering around a medium which is cool because the main line is a little light. Nice, but lighter than I typically reach for.

Note: it's not exactly at 3/4ths in this picture but I had to snap it early due to the sun setting. Sorry.
 Third-quarter: Heavily leather, still peanut-y, and some cedar now. It's shaping up to be a solid medium bodied cigar. The burn on it was a bit roughshod at this point but it was a little windy out so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. It tunneled a touch even though I'd kept it at about 70% humidity for awhile. But still, not a bad cigar.

Would I reach for it? Maybe. Depends on the price. It's got more body to it, which is nice, and some nice flavor to it but I couldn't see myself paying more than $6.50 - $7 for this (NY prices).

EDIT: Just checked the MSRP on these El Joscos. They're $3.68 each but it looks like they're no longer in production. As a matter of fact, his MSRPs are insanely low. I'll see if he'll let me put them up online because frankly, they're so cheap I'd be all over buying boxes of most of his stuff.

At this point I'm winding down with the Falto cigar line. Unfortunately, mold claimed a few vitolas so I won't be able to review them (the Robustos and another size that I can't remember off the top of my head didn't make it). No fault of Luis' though. It's all me. I kept 'em too close to the humidity beads.