Cigar Review. Ezra Zion FHK

Admittedly, Ezra Zion is a brand that is fairly new to me. Not to say that I haven’t tried some of their other cigars (Tantrum Pa and All My Ex’s) were both very good cigars but I did not review them at the time of enjoying them. I will eventually go back and do that for sure. After having the 2 previously mentioned sticks, I was impressed enough to pick up the FHK without knowing anything about it. I ordered this through the great folks at www.cigarfederation.com/store with a few other brands that were unfamiliar to me. Couldn’t beat the price and the free shipping at the time.

20161212_153831-021

The Ezra Zion FHK (Fathers of Hoover and Kelly) pays tribute to the 2 owners fathers which I respect and tells you a bit about who they are. I have not been in contact with them other than brief likes and comments on social media but researching the brand reveals a lot of great comments and reviews. This cigar is available in 4 different sizes. I had the box pressed 6 x 52 Belicoso. This cigar features a Mexican San Andreas wrapper with an Indonesian binder and Brazilian/Indonesian filler.

First impression is that this is a beautiful cigar. The dark brown wrapper has small veins and barely visible seams. There are 2 bands on this cigar. Both are black and gold and add a touch of elegance to the cigar. I picked up notes of wood, barnyard, leather and coffee from the foot. This wasn’t a very fragrant cigar and initially I didn’t pick up much from the cigar until I cut the cap. I used a straight guillotine cut and lit it with a match. I did touch it up with a dual flame to get it nice and toasted.

Right off the bat the draw was extremely tight and this continued to be a problem from start to finish. This almost always ruins the review process but I stuck with it. I got very little air through it, and the smoke production was almost zero. This surprised me because I know that Ezra Zion is known for it’s quality and construction. That being said, I have had bad draws from almost every cigar manufacture I have tried and these things happen. It makes for a frustrating experience but the show must go on right?

The initial notes I picked up were primarily woodsy, leather, a little pepper and a dark chocolate bitterness. Not bitterness in the sense of bad, but the bitterness that is found in rich, dark chocolate which I enjoy a lot. I fought through the draw with multiple small, quick puffs and finally got a bit of smoke to flow. I broke down and ran a draw poker through it and not much changed unfortunately. As I continued through the first third, the blend stayed pretty much the same without any radical changes in flavors. This was not a bad thing as the blend was flavorful and smooth. The ash held tight for over 1 inch and the burn was almost perfect. I was inside my garage with the heater blowing and it had little effect on the performance. Take that away and I would say the burn would be razor sharp and even all the way around.

20161213_165216-011

As I started into the second third, I picked up some subtle variations with a little more of the chocolate, maybe even coffee notes, with some pepper and the same woodsy flavor from the start. It is medium in strength and is very smooth. Nothing harsh and the profile is very consistent with a few shifts. The draw opened up for a bit and was a nice change from trying to suck the ash through the cap, but sadly returned to being tight again shortly after. I ran the poker through it again and it helped a little.

20161213_171049-011

As I started the final third, the draw finally broke and made the last bit of this cigar very enjoyable. I was able to pick up more of the pepper notes which blended well with the wood, leather and coffee. I read other reviews that claimed to pick up a ton of different notes that I certainly didn’t but that doesn’t mean much. We all taste things differently.

Overall, taking the tight draw out of the equation, this was a very good cigar. I enjoyed the blends a lot and I am a fan of the woodsy flavor that holds throughout the entire 1 hour 50 minutes. The strength increased a little in the final third but this could be due to the tight draw opening up and allowing more flow. This is a great cigar for beginners who want to increase their palates and move into a more complex blend. I also think that experienced smokers would enjoy this cigar. It isn’t super complex and there are no huge shifts in flavors but it is interesting enough to hold your attention.

20161213_180615-011

I would smoke this cigar again and I think it is certainly a cigar that I would be comfortable buying a 5 pack of. The appearance, construction and burn on this cigar was top notch. Another solid stick from Ezra Zion.

As you can see from the last 2 pics, the draw opened up and I smoked this stick to a nub.

20161213_181258-011

How do you define a truly great cigar…Part 2

I wanted to do a short follow up piece to the one I did a few days back. When it comes to cigars, every person will experience every cigar differently. This is a wonderful part of enjoying cigars. There is something intriguing about the entire process of cigars when you stop to truly think about it. The product in your hand represents a lot of different things that started in a field and grew into a wonderful plant that was harvested and through a very long process, sometimes involving years and years of trial and error and attention to every detail, carefully rolled by very talented and skilled individuals, packaged and shipped from other countries and making its way onto the shelf of your local humidor and kept under ideal conditions before finally making its way to you. The people that make cigars have dedicated their lives to this process. Some have been in the family business for generations, while others came into cigars some way or the other and set their own path to start a brand and make their own cigars. That takes a lot of courage, commitment, time, and money. When I look at a cigar I see a work of art. With so many people smoking cigars, every stick they put out means their name and reputation is on the line. Not to mention, people like myself that take the time to review and critique everything from looks, to taste, to performance, to packaging. It’s a tough business and with the new FDA regulations, things have only gotten tougher. Hopefully we can reverse course on this soon but who knows.

From a consumer standpoint, there is no better time to try so many amazing cigars. I have never had a true Cuban cigar, and honestly I don’t care if I ever do. Why? Because we have so many great cigars already on the market here. Because they have been the “forbidden fruit” for so long, there is such a huge interest in them. I won’t say I would never smoke one if given the chance but I really am fine if I never do. I have found a handful of boutique brands that I have in my rotation and that list continues to grow. My hope is that by doing reviews, others can take that information to their local shop and make an educated decision to purchase without having to guess and wonder about it. How many sticks did I drop good money on because the guy behind the counter said, “this is a great smoke” mostly because that is the newest thing on the market and you see all the pretty ads hyping them in the magazines and online. They aren’t always wrong, and I am sure there are people out there that would 100% agree. They tried it and they loved it.

At the end of the day, what makes a cigar truly great is…you. You can read every review and all the different things other people say they tasted and the experience they had but ultimately it comes down to your personal taste. Many things go into a cigar review. When I review a cigar, I am almost ritualistic in my approach. I will not review a cigar when I am with other people or in a lounge/bar setting. Too many factors can change the experience. And I have found that something as simple as having a few of the same cigars in the humidor and doing a review on one, coming back to it weeks or months later, it is completely different. Time and aging, seasoning if you will, changes the entire profile from what you remember. Another huge factor about cigars is the atmosphere and mood around you. Everything is better when you are having a great night out with friends and/or family. Drinks may be flowing, your favorite music is on, everyone is laughing and having a great time. My money says that you will likely enjoy any cigar you happen to be smoking. I am willing to bet that under those conditions, cigars that I didn’t care for much in a review would be completely different at that moment.

There are days when the world has thrown shit at me all day and shows no sign of stopping. That is probably not the best time for me to give a non-biased, truthful review. So I pick up something I know I have enjoyed greatly before and is a proven go-to for me, pair it with a nice drink of choice and tell the world, “You can pick this back up later, but for now, Fuck you, this is MY time and I will enjoy this”. And it always works. When you find cigars that can do that…You my friend, have found your truly great cigar.

Until next time. Long ashes and full glasses. Peace.

Las Mareas…The Tides.

I’ve tried surfing a couple of times in my life when I lived in Eastern Alabama or as most people refer to it Pensacola Florida. I can tell you that the beaches there are not know for their huge waves but it was a nice thing to try now and again. I can certainly understand how people get passionate about it.

If you know anything about Crowned Heads cigars and Jon Huber, you know that cigars is certainly a passion for him. Many of their cigars are named from inspiration, be it music, places or in this case, surfing.

The Crowned Heads Las Mareas is made in the My Fathers Cigars factory in Nicaragua. This cigar features tobaccos from the Garcia family farms in and around Esteli, Nicaragua. The wrapper is Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 with Nicaraguan binder and filler. I have the tuberia 4 1/2 x 48 size but it is available in 4 sizes.

20161208_183024-011

The cigar has a rustic look with a black band with white writing which contrast nicely with the brown of the wrapper. It is well constructed and looks great. From the foot I was able to pick up some earth tones with light hints of straw and leather. I used a straight cut and the cold draw was good with little resistance and notes of wood and hay.

I used good old wooden matches to get things moving and the first draw brought notes of cedar, some pepper and a sort of floral flavor that I can’t quite pinpoint. I am getting a nice amount of smoke off of this cigar. First third is a solid medium in strength and flavor. Nothing too complex but very smooth.

The second third I get a little more cedar notes with leather, grain and a hint of chocolate or cocoa. The flavor profile is enjoyable, nothing really complex or over the top but smooth and creamy.

The final third really brought more of the same until the very end of the cigar where the spice really came back to the forefront and finished strong. Nothing to harsh but certainly noticeable.

20161208_185800-011

Overall, I enjoyed the Las Mareas by Crowned Heads. This was a solid cigar that took me just over 1 hour and 10 minutes to finish. I only had water while trying this stick but I think it would pair nicely with a nice bourbon or rum. The spice from either would compliment this cigar well. I have a couple of the other sizes in my humidor and look forward to seeing how they compare.

I would say this is a good medium-full bodied cigar that is worth trying. Another solid cigar from Crowned Heads.

20161208_183012-011

How do you define a truly great cigar?

There are A LOT of cigars out there. There are A LOT of really good cigars, A LOT of decent cigars and A LOT of mediocre cigars out there. I think that without a doubt the majority of us will agree on that point if nothing else. When I started with cigars I tried everything that I could get my hands on basically, and I fell for the big brand advertising online and in the magazines telling me just how great this new cigar was going to be and I went out in search of it and paid too much money only to get it home, light it up and go “Eh, not really all that great”. Then I thought, well, the people advertising and promoting these have been smoking WAYYYYY longer than I have, maybe it’s not the cigar at all, maybe my palate just isn’t up to par. And the vicious circle continued for awhile. Then I tried my first boutique cigar and it hit me, this is what I have been searching for. I started researching these hidden gems and learning about the companies, the brands, and the people behind them. It became a passion for me, and it still is today. Along with this new research came the wave of all new cigars to try, so many so that I had to purchase a new beautiful humidor to house them and segregate them from the “big box brands” everyone raves about. In a way, I have become a cigar snob. I really thought I was building a nice collection of great smokes with the humidor of big name brands I have. (They are available for purchase at a great price if anyone would be interested, just throwing that out there)

I have a very hard time putting money down on big brands anymore because the market is saturated with mediocre cigars and the majority come from a handful of big name factories. I am not saying that there aren’t so truly wonderful, consistently great sticks on the market. I have a select few names that if I need to, I will pick up and have no worries with what I am smoking. In the rare occasion that I am traveling without my own or I end up in a place I haven’t been before, I always spend money locally and will make a purchase in the local shop. (For anyone that is new to cigars, this is not a written rule, but it is a courtesy to always make a purchase of some sort when visiting a new lounge or shop if you plan to smoke there) If they carry boutiques, I am going for them, but if not, I can always find something that will get me through. It’s just courtesy. If they have a house blend, sure why not. I did that at Primings in Nashville and it was a fantastic stick. (Free plug for them, lol)

One thing I have found through all of this, is that boutiques have made me super picky about what I like and what I will spend money on. As of now I have only a handful of brands that I will purchase on a regular basis. Well that limits you from trying a lot of great cigars. No, it means I know the difference between mediocre bullshit and quality. Nothing is stopping me from trying anything except the choice I make to put my money down or not. I do not ask cigar companies to send me samples to review, I do not review the next trendy cigars, I have not been to IPCPR (although I would love to go for different reasons), but if someone sends me a cigar and ask me to review it for them I certainly won’t tell them no. I also won’t sell myself out and give it a high review if I didn’t enjoy it simply because there is some obligation to the manufacture who sent it. Unfortunately there is too much of that already and it’s the reason I had many cigars I didn’t care much about.

So, all of this leads me. As I said in previous reviews about Felix Assouline, I was told about this company from a BOTL awhile back and just never really got around to ordering online. They are not available in my local go to shops so it just fell off the radar. One day I saw a very cool post of the II Saints cigar and I made the decision to place the order. Just so happens that the online store was down. Bummer. No, not really. The man himself, Felix reached out to me via Messenger and we went back and forth for a bit and he took my order personally and took care of me. It was a blessing in disguise because how often, in this day and age of digital, online ordering, do we actually get to interact with the owner of a company? On Monday I received a message with my tracking info, an apology for the store being down and a thank you for doing business with FAC. WOW! Again, not often we get that these days, but the thing that really blew me away was that Felix told me he was sending me something special for my troubles. Great I thought. It really wasn’t much trouble but I certainly appreciate it regardless. Little did I know that I would be receiving something TRULY special.

My order came in and I opened the box and as ordered were all of the cigars with one exception. There was one extra that I didn’t recognize from the website. After some messages with Felix, I found out that this gem was from his personal stock of a 17 year old cigar that he had made for himself and select friends and customers. Well I must say, I was truly honored. I thanked him and told him I would save that for a very special occasion. His response was, I would appreciate it if you would review it for me! Needless to say I am honored and told him I would. I was a little skeptical about it because in my mind I am still very green to this and still working on developing my palate. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this cigar. Felix never gave me much input about it as to try and sway me in any direction. All I knew after smoking 3 of the other brands he made, all of which were fantastic, this was 17 years old and from his private stock, so I anticipated a truly great cigar.

20161206_163316-011

The CSB Vintage Habano 98′. First things first. It’s right at 18 years old. I have a son that was born in 98′ so this thing is ancient for a cigar right? As you can see from the pic, the cellophane has turned orange but when you remove this cigar, it is just as fresh and smells like it was just taken off the rolling table. This particular cigar (as with all of FAC cigars) are made with tobaccos grown by them on the farms in the Jamastran Valley in Honduras and in Jalapa Nicaragua. This is a full bodied, full flavor cigar.

20161206_1633371

Wrapper: Jalapa Habano Crillo 98′ Binder and Filler: Jamastran Honduras. Since I had tried 3 other cigars from Felix with Jamastran tobacco in them, the notes from the foot were not as foreign to me as it was the first time I smelled it. This tobacco is unlike anything I have tried in any other brand. There is a scent and a flavor profile to it that is so hard to pinpoint but to me, it reminds me of almost a pine or evergreen. I may be completely off base with that description but that is the closest thing I can come up with. I pick up notes of barnyard, earth, leather and a sweetness like dark chocolate or cocoa. The cigar, as stated, for being almost 18 years old, looked great. Rustic, dark brown wrapper with small veins. The band was a simple golden orange color with CSB lettering. Nothing fancy or flashy. That was left to the cigar.

I decided to change it up and used my Xikar hole punch to get things going. I started with a wooden match to heat the foot and followed up with a dual flame just to finish it off. Initial draw of this cigar was simply one of the most unique flavor profiles I have had in a cigar. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what I was tasting as I was not expecting that I had. After a few puffs, I was able to wrap my head around that Jamastran flavor profile which is very woodsy, almost evergreen-ish, with some pepper like spice, earth and a sweetness at the end that blended amazingly with the profile. The pepper stuck with me for a bit but was never harsh. This was the TRULY GREAT cigar I knew was out there and I thought I had found it a couple of times, but this cigar raised the bar for me. Thick, greyish, white, smoke poured off of this cigar and the ash, as you can see held for the entire first third of the cigar. It only fell because I made it.

20161206_172120-011

The second third brought me more of the same wonderful flavors I had been experiencing. The pepper dropped off and I was met with more of the chocolate/cocoa or espresso flavor, but they were not so noticeable that it made the cigar sweet. It remained a full flavored, full bodied cigar, but the subtle hints of sweetness really smoothed the second third out. Again, the ash held throughout, the draw was simply perfect, the burn lines were sharp and only got a little off when I stepped outdoors for a minute. (Keep in mind that it is in the 30’s and I am in a heated garage).

The final third brought all of the flavors together for me. Earth, leather, pepper, sweetness, and of course that wonderful woodsy flavor. The profile of this cigar never got fully away from where it started but changed enough to keep you very interested in where it was headed. As you can see, I nubbed this cigar for all the right reasons. Even going that far down with it, I never hit any nicotine bitterness nor did it burn super hot. These are 2 factors that really speak to the quality of the tobacco and the construction of the cigar. I did not pair this cigar with anything except water so I got the full profile of only the cigar. Wise decision but I can easily see this blending with a great Scotch or Bourbon. This cigar would make spoiled milk shine, ok maybe that’s pushing it a little…If you get the chance to score one of these (see below) be sure to let me know what you think.

20161206_180543-011

What else can I say about this work of art? Felix Assouline has some terrific cigars in his portfolio and I was completely sold on all 3 of the cigars I had tried prior to this. After going back and forth with him about a number of different things, I will say this, he truly outdid himself with this cigar and I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to try it. I am truly honored that he asked me to review it and I hope I did it justice. If you follow him on Facebook and join the family, tell him you read this review. I am sure that he will take care of you and you may just get lucky and score one yourself. (Facebook Felix Assouline Family) Let him know I sent you.

I apologize for the long post but something like this doesn’t come along often.

At the end of the day, everyone enjoys a great cigar and we all have our favorite sticks. The great thing is that we don’t all like the same exact thing and even better, we don’t have to. I encourage everyone to try all the new cigars you want and venture out of your comfort zone. You may be surprised at what is out there but be careful, once you find it, it may ruin many others that you thought were great. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace.

 

CSB Habano Oscuro by Felix Assouline

As I sit down with a nice Woodford Reserve Double Aged bourbon neat and some Johnny Cash playing I decided to write the review for the second Felix Assouline cigar I received on Thursday. I can tell you without a doubt or incentive to say so, these truly are world class cigars and if these are not on your list of go-to cigars, you really owe it to yourself to visit the website and pick out a few. The price point for these cigars are far below other cigars that claim to be what these cigars actually deliver. Here is a quick link to the store. http://felixassouline.com/store/

Wait, you are still here? Get back on that link and place your order, you can read this review anytime. Go, NOW! You can leave me a message and thank me later.

So I sat down and enjoyed this beautiful CSB Habano Oscuro work of art yesterday. As you can see from the pics, this a beautiful cigar. (Photo editing may have changed the color some depending on what you are viewing it on)

20161203_121019-021

This cigar is Nicaraguan that is Medium to Full bodied with a Ecuador Connecticut / Jalapa Habano Criollo 98 wrapper, with Jamastran Binder and Filler. The wrapper is rustic brown color with nice veins and tight seams. There are no soft spots anywhere on this cigar. The band art is gold with black. Simple yet classy.

As I removed the cellophane wrapper I get notes of barnyard hay, earth, and a touch of wood (kind of sawdust like).

I opted for a straight guillotine cut and matches to light it. I touched it up with my Xikar dual torch to get it going. (One thing to keep in mind during this review, the weather was wet, damp and cold so I was forced into my garage where a propane heater elevated the temp to a nice, dry, 70 degrees Fahrenheit). This fact will come into play later in the review.

As I took my first draw on the CSB I picked up the very familiar Jamastran that was in the II Saints the day before but it was very different in this blend. I will say that I was caught off guard at just how flavorful this cigar is. A wonderful blend of wood, earth, and some notable pepper hit my palate. The combination of the exceptionally aged wrapper mixed with the Jamastran filler is something to experience. As with the II Saints, I am sure more experienced palates would be able to pick up specific flavor profiles but for me, all I will say is that it was a damn good blend. Complex and full flavored, but smooth with a creamy finish. As I made my way through the first third I started to have some burn issues. I attribute this to the environment I was in. I stepped outside for a bit and the cigar performed very differently. As the cold and damp started to set in again, I went back inside the garage and it changed again. I had to touch it up to get it going again and we were right back on track.

As I went into the second third, the blend remained consistent with added notes of cocoa and a faint hint of spice like a cinnamon or nutmeg. This addition smoothed it out even more than before which was a nice change on the palate. A bit more of a burn issue so I went outside again and the cigar started to even itself out. It is not liking the warm, dry air in the garage. I have to agree with it as I would much rather be outdoors myself. As photo proof to the construction and quality of this cigar, even with burn issues and 2 touch ups, the shot below shows how the cigar came around and straightened itself out.

20161203_161305-011

As I went into the final third, back inside to defrost a bit and enjoy the last of this great smoke. The flavor profile that is started with makes a strong return and the pepper notes really picked up. The first 2 thirds gave me a medium strength smoke but it turns more towards a full bodied smoke at the last third. The flavor and strength ramp up some but surprisingly it stays very smooth and has no harsh notes anywhere throughout this cigar. The cocoa and spice take a backseat to the woodsy, earthy and peppery notes but the complexity of this cigar really shine at the end.

Again, as someone that is still developing my palate, this cigar was complex and flavorful to me and kept me interested from start to finish. Some of you may pick up a lot more notes that I was able to identify but smoking this cigar was great for me. Because I have never smoked this cigar prior, I chose to pair it with only water to enjoy the flavors. I could easily see this being a fantastic pairing with my beloved bourbon or a great scotch (where I am even more of newbie).

So there it is. The CSB Habano Oscuro by Felix Assouline. This is a terrific cigar that is priced well enough to be an everyday smoke (Between $6 and $8 on the website!) I have smoked cigars in the $12 to $15 range that weren’t in the same stadium as this cigar. Box worthy for sure and one you will want to have in rotation. This is my second FAC cigar and they are 2 for 2 for me. Very impressed with both I have tried.

Here is the link again if you waited. http://felixassouline.com/store/ Be sure to tell him you heard about them from the blog.

I hope you enjoyed the review. As always, comments, thoughts, questions and your own reviews are always welcome here. Up next…The Havana Sunrise by Felix Assouline. Until then, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace!

 

Havana Sunrise Reserve…Felix Assouline Review

So this is my third review of Felix Assouline. I typically don’t do so many reviews back to back but the opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it. The thing about FAC cigars is that each cigar is very  different from the others so getting 6 different cigars makes it interesting. I was going to review a different brand but the first 2 FAC’s I had were so good I had to keep it going. With that said, I present the Havana Sunrise Reserve Blaze. This cigar is available in 5 sizes and is priced nicely between $5 and $8.00. This price point is fantastic for a cigar of this quality.

The Havana Sunrise Reserve Blaze is a 56 x 6 Medium to Full bodied, Nicaraguan cigar with a Habano Criollo 98′ wrapper, Indonesian binder and the Nicaragua / Honduras filler. It is  a box pressed cigar that is a nice cocoa brown with small veins and tight seams.

I pick up notes of barnyard hay, wood and cocoa, almost like dark chocolate from the foot. Going with my usual straight guillotine cut and matches to start with a dual torch to finish toasting the foot we are off and running with this one.

First third: Right off the bat I am met with a perfect, easy draw that allows tons of smoke into my palate and I am hit with a flood of pepper! Wow! This has some bite to it and being from Louisiana, I absolutely love the spice. Tons of thick, white smoke come off of this cigar as I work through the first few puffs. The pepper remain but cocoa and some leather balance it out nicely. The weather was absolutely beautiful outside, sunny and about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

The transition into the second third brings the same spicy, woodsy blend with hints of leather hints and a touch of coffee or espresso possibly. As I move into the second third a bit more, there is more of a woodsy profile (oak maybe) but the blend remains complex and flavorful. Still picking up pepper but not as prominent.

As I move into the final third, the burn has been sharp, ash has been holding over 1 1/2 inches even with a slight breeze and it produces a large amount of white smoke with each puff. The draw is still perfect and easy. I still have that peppery, woodsy profile with hints of leather and earth. The changes were not dramatic and the original flavor profile stayed with this cigar throughout the 1 hour 25 minutes.

Overall, I really loved the heat and spice profile from this stick. The pepper was a nice change of pace and made this cigar stand out. I found it easy to smoke, medium to full strength with a full flavor profile. If you do not like spice or pepper, DO NOT smoke this cigar. You will not enjoy it. On the other hand, if you want something bold but not too strong with a great flavor and some heat, look no further. The Blaze stand up to its name and for me is easily a box worthy cigar that I would put into my rotation. As you can see from the pic, I didn’t want to put it down.

20161204_141005-011

Another top notch cigar by Felix Assouline. I can’t believe it took me so long to come around to them, but there is no turning back from here. This company has easily jumped into my top 5 cigar manufactures. If you have not tried them, put them on your Christmas wish list, or just treat yourself to one or two. You can thank me later.

http://felixassouline.com/store/ Just in case you want to take me up on that sampler offer http://felixassouline.com/store/Robusto-Perfecto.html

Hope you enjoyed the review. Feel free to comment, ask questions or drop your own review experience here. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses. Peace

20161204_125023-011received_10211672543757262-011

Felix Assouline Cigars…II Saints Review

 

Who is Felix Assouline you ask?

Felix Assouline (Taken from their website)

Felix first started out in the cigar business in 1997 on the retail side. His first store in Dania Beach, Florida sold all the premium brands and launched him into 3 additional stores in South Florida over a 6 year span. During that time he also ran a successful wholesale cigar business. Felix’s passion for a great smoking cigar drove him to try every cigar he possible could and as he did, he developed an intricate knowledge of cigar construction and how different leaves affected the flavor of the cigar.

With that insight, Felix opened his own factory in Danli, Honduras in 2004 and began making his own cigars. Felix introduced 2 successful brands, one of which being the original EGO, which received a 90 rating in Smoke Magazine in the September 2006 issue.

In 2007, Felix decided to sell everything and focus all his attention on his greatest love, his family. After enjoying incredible family moments for 6 years, he decided it was time to get back into the cigar business. This time, Felix wanted to focus all his efforts on fulfilling a dream of creating his own blends to achieve one goal: create the best premium cigars on the market…

The story is much more involved and I hope to do a spotlight on Felix and FAC in the upcoming weeks but for now I want to spend some time on reviewing a few of their world class cigars.

I was told about FAC through a BOTL on social media and he spoke very highly of all of their cigars. As life got busy I sort of forgot about them until I saw a post online for the II Saints cigar. Felix replied to one of my comments and directed me to the online store which happened to be down that day. We struck up a conversation and I placed an order via DM and we have chatted a couple of times since. Felix is a great man and very down to earth. I received my order yesterday and could not wait to try them all. First thing I noticed was the construction of the cigars. These are some of the most well constructed cigars I have seen. Right away you can see the quality of the cigar and the artwork of not only the bands but the sticks themselves.

I decided to try the cigar that sparked my interest in the first place, the II Saints. This cigar is available in 5 sizes but I chose one in particular and for a very specific reason. The La Petite Mort 5 x 52. Why you ask? If any of you follow me online you know that I am a music head. I love all types of music (well mostly) and if you are fans of Metal you may have heard of a band from Flint called King 810. Their sophomore album is titled La Petite Mort or A Conversation With God. For that reason alone I had to go with it. I exchanged a couple of messages with Felix and he asked me if I knew what La Petite Mort meant in French and I said yes and told him. He said “Yes, but the French use it in a much different way”. I found that it means “the brief loss or weakening of consciousness” and in modern usage refers specifically to “the sensation of orgasm as likened to death”. The expression comes from French, in which it literally means “the little death”. When you smoke this cigar in this votive you will clearly appreciate this history lesson. LOL.

Made in Nicaragua the II Saints features a beautiful dark brown Jamastran Criollo 98 wrapper with a Jamastran binder and Jamastran / Jalapa filler. Never heard of Jamastran? I hadn’t either so here is a little info on that.

“II Saints is produced in our factory in Esteli, Nicaragua with Tobaccos grown from our farm in Jamastran, Honduras.
The valley in Jamastran is known for its flavorful tobaccos which feature a sweetness and strength inherent in each puff. II Saints Cigars are all box pressed like most of our brands. II Saints feature a Lijero dark wrapper marking the cigar as a unique find in the cigar world.”

20161202_121951-01

So before I get too far into this let me preface this by saying that I had every intent of giving a detailed review on this cigar, however…Apparently my palate needs some serious work and expansion because this cigar was unlike ANYTHING I have ever tasted before. Holy     $!#@. As you can see from the photos, the cigar is a beautiful dark brown with an awesome band (shown above credit halfwheel) and it smells of barnyard hay, earth and a faint sweetness. I used a Xikar guillotine cut and matches to get it started, finished with a Xikar dual flame to finish. The first draw hit the me with a ton of flavor. There were certainly notes that I have had in other Nicaraguan cigars but the Jamastran adds and different level to this cigar. I can’t pinpoint what it is or really how to explain it so you just have to try it for yourself. There is a spice that hits the tongue and lingers for awhile but is balanced by a sweetness that makes it creamy and smooth. It is certainly full bodied and full flavor for sure. I was surprised at how complex and different this cigar truly was. As I made my way through the first third, the flavor remained the same throughout. Tons of flavor, sharp burn line, draw was good with a bit of resistance, and a good amount of white smoke.

As I moved into the second third, it turned just a bit to more of a woodsy/spicy blend. I didn’t pick up as much sweetness but the flavor was still complex and kept me interested. Ash held for more than 1 inch before I initially dropped it. I was in my garage with the heat on due to the cold weather and the cigar seemed to need that extra air to keep it going. The burn line stayed completely even throughout the cigar which demonstrates the quality of the construction of this cigar.

20161202_191518-011

Moving to the final third of this beauty and it stayed true to the first 2 thirds. A bit of the sweetness returned and the flavor never truly changed but it was complex enough to remain enjoyable for the entire smoke.

Warning: I found myself not wanting to put it down for long trying to figure out what I was tasting and I will say this, as a medium to full bodied smoker, this cigar does pack a punch and will test you if you are not use to full bodied smokes. Take your time with it. You have been warned. I did not get sick but this stick is very capable of it if you rush it or are not use to a smoke this strong.

Final thoughts. I really enjoyed this cigar. It was full bodied and has a lot of flavor from start to finish. I smoked this cigar down to less than 1 inch and the flavor profile remained true to the end. The blend is complex and tasty and people with a more experienced palate may be able to pinpoint all of the flavors, I could not. I will say that the Jamastran / Jalapa filler adds a level of flavor that sets this cigar apart from anything I have tried and I was not the least bit upset by that. I would recommend this cigar to anyone. Felix Assouline has a reputation of making World Class Cigars and I have heard this from many people I respect in the community. Again, proceed with caution on this one as far as strength goes but it is a Box worthy smoke for me for sure.

Hope you enjoyed the review and as always, I welcome comments, other reviews, questions etc. Now the challenge is, which one to try next? Felix sent me a special gift and asked me to review it so maybe we go with that one next. As always with cigars, so many great choices, so little time to smoke them all! I can think of worse problems. Have a great one folks. Peace!

         20161202_121617-0120161201_194239-01

It’s not a cigar…It’s a 1502

I  heard the brand 1502 being talked about in a few shops and online but I had never gotten the opportunity to try them. After exchanging a few comments with Enrique of 1502 on social media and placing an order through Cigar Federation, I finally had the opportunity to try 2 from their line-up.

First up was the 1502 Emerald. 6.5 x 52 box pressed torpedo. Made by Global Premium Cigars  Country of Origin: Nicaragua Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Corojo Binder: Nicaraguan Filler: Nicaraguan (Esteli, Condega) & Mexican (San Andreas)

Looking at the cigar it is caramel brown in color with a nice Emerald green (duh) and gold wrapper, and had minimal veins and super tight seams. I picked up notes of pepper and wood from the foot. Straight cut and match to start the burn, touched up with a dual flame torch.

The draw was very nice with a touch of resistance and produced a lot of smoke. Pepper (maybe a mix of black pepper and cedar) mixed with a coffee or cocoa blend hit my palate. As I move through the first third, I find the cocoa has a slight dark chocolate bitterness (in the good dark chocolate way) that evens out the pepper and spice nicely.

Going into the second third, the earthy, spice (cedar and pepper) take over and remained through the final third of this cigar. I found this to be a nice smooth blend throughout the entire cigar and it was a mild to medium strength cigar to me.

The ash never got more than 1/2 to 3/4 inches and the burn was even and sharp. I had no issues keeping it lit with no touchups required. With so many great cigars coming out of Nicaragua these days, adding the Mexican San Andreas sets the flavor profile of this cigar apart. It has a nice cedar woodsy flavor mixed with some spice. I really enjoyed this cigar and I think it would be a nice addition to any humidor. If you are newer to cigars and want something with a slight kick and flavor, I would recommend trying this cigar. Total time was 1 hour 50 minutes. Paired with Water. 20161128_1937051

Up next was the 1502 Black Gold Toro. 6 x 50 Wrapper: Sun Grown Maduro Binder and Filler: Nicaraguan

As the name suggest, this cigar is a dark brown maduro wrapper with a Black and Gold band. It also has barley visible seams and the foot is partially covered. It smells of leather and spice with earth notes. Guillotine cut and match lit with dual flame touch up produced a nice draw with some resistance and lots of smoke.

I am met with a lot of cocoa and spice to start out the first third. The cocoa was almost like an espresso with a bit of spice mixed in. The burn was a little jagged and uneven but not too bad.

Moving into the second third the earth notes come in nicely and there is a subtle sweetness added to the blend. I am not sure I can pinpoint it but it reminds me of dried fruit of some sort. It is complex enough to make it interesting but not overwhelming and it is flavorful for sure. I find it to have a lot of flavor but is medium to full in strength.

As I get into the final third, I still have the dried fruit flavor with the espresso or cocoa flavor mixing with the spice. The spice hangs on for a bit. The burn and draw were both good throughout and no touch ups were needed.

This was a good cigar that leans towards the full flavored and full bodied strength. As a fan of the maduro, I would smoke this cigar again. I would certainly pick up a 5 pack and put it into my rotation. Total smoke time was 1 hour 45 minutes. Paired with Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

20161128_1935561

I have a Blue Sapphire in the humidor and I hope to review it soon. At the price point, it isn’t an everyday smoke so I am hanging on to it for a nice occasion.

I will say that I enjoyed both of these cigars a lot. They were a nice change in flavor and strength and I would smoke them again for sure. They make an XO which I would love to try as I am a huge fan of the Balmoral Anejo XO, both of which are 18 year aged. I would be interested to compare the 2.

Feel free to check them out at http://www.globalpremiumcigars.com/ and leave your comments and reviews here.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the reviews. Until next time…Peace.

Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio Cigars

Where do I start with this one? My love for boutique cigars started with the Crowned Heads brand and I started doing some research. I came across the BLTC website and clicked on it. Something about the imagery, the feel, the vibe, the grunge intrigued me about this brand. As I read more about their cigars the more I knew I had to try them. So I made some calls and checked all the stores listed online and only 1 small place told me they had them. Time to load the wife into the car and bribe her with a night out for dinner and some casino fun, with a small pit stop along the way. We arrived at the Wooden Match (awesome old train station converted into a humidor and restaurant) and I bought what they had in stock. I threw caution to the wind and hoped that I actually liked the cigars but if not, well I guess some friends were getting some cigars gifted to them. Lucky for me these cigars were everything I hoped they would be and then some. With names like Salvation, Redemption, Benediction, Last Rites, and Lawless…how could I go wrong? The hardest part was figuring out which one to smoke first. Lawless it was and with that, my love for Black Label was born. These cigars were unlike anything I had tried before and that was a good thing! I started looking online for reviews and seeing what other people thought about them and to my surprise, there wasn’t a lot of info available. How could that be I thought? Such a great product from a great brand (in my eyes anyway) and then it made sense. Boutique brand that is pushing the envelope, not doing very commercial packaging and kinda had that “Outlaw” feel to what is accepted. This made me like them even more.

As I tried the rest of the cigars I had gotten, I did some research on the people behind the brand, James and Angela Brown and Stephanie Harris. I won’t give much away in this post because I am hoping to feature them as this blog grows and I want to do a feature piece on them, but I was amazed at where they came from, how they got started and the passion and courage they had breaking into the industry. When we talk about brands and cigars, seldom do we stop to think about the people behind them and their stories. This is something I am hoping to change because to me, the people are the true story and the cigars are their way of telling the world about themselves. Artistry and expression in the form of a cigar. It wasn’t very long ago that one of my favorite cigar shops held a Black Label, Black Works event and I was able to meet James and enjoy a couple of cigars with him and talk about all of this. You could not ask to meet a nicer, more down to earth guy.

So…Black Works Studio. Yeah about that. Founded by James, Angela and crew and out of their Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, come some of the best boutique cigars to hit the market. As if BLTC weren’t enough already, the BLK WKS come out swinging and they don’t miss! For those that know James or follow on social media, you have seen the references to the Wu-Tang Clan and you will also notice the reference with the Killer Bee cigars, and so forth. I can appreciate that as I was and still am a big fan of when hip hop was great and totally unlike most of the non-sense that is currently being sold as “good music”. This year I have picked up the Green Hornets, Killer Bees, Bishops Blend (contender for Cigar of the Year in my opinion), Rorschach, and I am picking up my Santa Muerte cigars tomorrow and I cannot wait to try them. I have not reviewed these cigars as of yet but I can say this with all honesty…Try them all! Bishops Blend is a standout for me. Even before the hype and the ratings from Halfwheel (Great rating and well deserved 94) and others, this cigar was way at the top of my list of must have cigars. Everything that is produced in this factory is outstanding. Nomad is produced there also and if you haven’t tried the Martial Law, well, you need to have that in your life. By the third draw of the first third I was looking for a box of these.

My goal is to be able to take a trip down to Esteli within the next year and visit the factory and hang out with James and the crew for a few days. That would be an amazing experience and for those that agree, you can reach out to James and Angela and she will forward you the itinerary and the pricing. I would love to get a group of us together and make the trip so if you are interested, hit me up.

Although I want to do a more in-depth post about these 2 amazing brands, I wanted to do something now and showcase some of the great products they have on the market. I know that Cigars on State, Cigar Federation and some others have them in stock. I also know that they both ship and have great deals available. I hope that you will take the time to enjoy some of their cigars and that you would drop some comments or reviews here and let others know what you think.

I can tell you that without a doubt both of these brands are a staple in my humidor and anything they put out is a great choice for a “go to” cigar. Now that it’s getting colder out and being outside isn’t always ideal, the Rorschach is the perfect choice for an outstanding smoke when you don’t have much time. For a cigar of this quality to come in under $5 it’s a no-brainer for me.

As always, please share and leave your thoughts, comments and questions here. Until next time, long ashes. Peace.

Killer Bees, Bishops Blend and Last Rites.

News and info

20161009_140715-011

Leaf by Oscar Coroja and smoked ribs

Hope everyone had a great weekend full of great smokes and good times. I just wanted to drop in and let you know that I am working on some good stuff behind the scenes and talking with some great people that are going to be featured here very soon. Getting a lot of support and encouragement along the way but I need your help. Please spread the word and share us on social media. I can’t do this without followers and I want to make this a place that people want to come and spend a little time reading and engaging.

I scored some great smokes this weekend and I am looking forward to trying them and reviewing them here very soon. I am also looking for some reviewers and bloggers that may want to join in and help with reviews, articles, etc.

I am going to start a boutique spotlight feature starting very soon dedicated to the companies, people behind the companies and the products they make. This is something I am very much looking forward to doing because never in a million years did I ever think I would have people I look up to in the industry reach out and offer to help with this project. If you are a fan of any certain brand/s, drop me a comment about who they are and we can try to arrange a piece on them. Also, let them know about us so if they want to be featured, we can set them up. I have a list of great companies already and I am just waiting on the getting the info so I can start.

I also want to feature local cigar and pipe shops. If you have a favorite, drop me a comment. Tell us what makes them special to you. This helps us get a feel for where we are being seen and puts others in touch with awesome shops to support if they travel to your area. I am spoiled because I have a few major players in our area, but we also have some great local spots with some really awesome people. As an Ambassador for Cigar Rights of America (check them out at www.cigarrights.org and become a member) I am getting to travel to a few shops in and around my area and it’s always cool to experience new places and meet new people. Brothers and Sisters of the Leaf are some of the best people you will ever meet. I have always been amazed at how friendly, open, and downright generous people in this community are. We want to support those places!

New logo in the works. Looking to do a simple Vintage type logo that we can use here and on social media so people can start to recognize us as we build a brand. Maybe we can look at merch later down the road. We shall see how it goes.

So anyway, please check back often, spread the word and drop some comments. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I may do a dedicated page for the blog as we start to grow. Thanks for the support and stay smokey friends! Peace

 

So what are some Boutique Brands? What is your Favorite Boutique and why?

 

So tonight I want to open it up to anyone that reads and/or follows the blog. What is your favorite boutique and what makes it special? Loaded question isn’t it? With so many fantastic boutique cigars on the market today how can you possibly choose A favorite cigar? I can honestly say that I could not narrow it down to one certain cigar. Every time I try a new brand or new cigar by brands I already know, its like they just keep getting better. Then I go back to cigars I haven’t had in awhile and its like trying it again for the first time and it is better than I remembered it. How many of you can say that about the last big box brand you had? Granted I have had some good big name cigars that were impressive to a point, but to go through the entire line up and say without a doubt that each one was as consistent as the first or better, I would have a hard time. I can think of probably 2 major brands that I can honestly say, I have never had a cigar from them that I didn’t like.

So some of the boutique brands that I want to feature here tonight are brands that I have either personally tried, or they have come Highly recommended by friends and people I interact with on a regular basis. Some I will be ordering very soon since I have found a website that carries a very good boutique selection and are super awesome to deal with. That would be the great folks at www.cigarfederation.com (Free plug because they rock). I encourage you to visit their site and throw all of your money at them because they don’t sell anything but the best. Their Color Project stuff I hear is off the charts good. I am hoping to get some of them soon! They also carry every one of the brands I am going to mention. (I have no affiliation with them, not sponsored or employed by them, just showing love to those that deserve it)

Ok, brands. These are also companies that I hope will allow us to feature them on a weekly spotlight we are looking to start very soon. I have 2 companies lined up now, just working out the details.

1502 Cigars. Have not tried them yet, highly recommended to me by several people I know and trust.

Balmoral Cigars. Personal top 5 cigars for me. 18 year aged given to me by my wife on our anniversary and after the first third I called my friends at www.cigarsonstate.com (Clark Summit Pa free plug cause they rock too) where she found them and ordered a box without hesitation. You won’t regret dropping the cash on this stick.

BLK WKS Black Works Studio. Created by James and Angela Brown of Black Label Trading Company. They are dropping so many fantastic sticks, I am considering a second mortgage on my house. Killer Bees, Green Hornets, NBK, Bishops Blend, Boondock Saints, Sindustry, Rorschach, phew what did I miss? Everyone I have tried has been head bangers. The vibe and feel of the brand, James is one of the coolest, down to earth people you will meet and they are making INCREDIBLE cigars.

Black Label Trading Company – The one that started it all for me and my love for boutique cigars. Lawless, Redemption, Deliverance, Benediction, Morphine, Last Rites and more. Fantastic brand. Love their vibe, love the feel to the brand, and love their cigars even more. Lifetime fan for sure. Some of my favorite go to cigars on a regular basis.

Caldwell Cigars – Caldwell has released some great cigars that I have enjoyed a lot. Blind Mans Bluff, Eastern Standard, The King is Dead, are all really good cigars. He just did a collaboration with Jon Drew called All Out Kings. I have not tried it yet but I hear good things about it.

Crowned Heads – Jon Huber and crew make some of the best cigars on the planet in my opinion. Based in Nashville, the music vibe and theme for their cigars, along with the blends they are doing are just incredible. My first cigar from them was the Mason Dixon and I have been hooked every since. Headley Grange, Jericho Hill, JD Howard, Four Kicks, La Imperiosa, Las Mareas, are some of the many great cigars they make.

Crux – Hearing a lot about this brand as of late. I have only had one of their cigars and I really enjoyed it. I am hoping to try more of what they have out. #GoCruxYourself

Ezra Zion – I have not tried these however, I found them in stock online and they are mine! Do not try to order them I am calling dibs now and I licked everyone of them! Back off! I have been searching for them at a few local spots and they are always gone. I am guessing there is a reason for that. They come highly recommended.

Illusione – What a mysterious brand. Visit their website and see for yourself. Very intriguing company. I have heard some great things about their cigars. Looking forward to trying them very soon.

Nat Sherman – New York New York. I just killed that Sinatra impression…turn your speakers up and you will hear for yourself! I have had a few of these and they are terrific cigars. I actually have 2 or 3 in the humidor that I have been eyeing for the last few days. Maybe this weekend my friends. Start spreading the news… Yep, I did that.

Nomad – Fred Rewey is not your typical cigar maker. Says it right on his website. And boy am I happy about that fact! This guy is KILLING it. When I met James Brown last month he recommended the Martial Law which just so happened to be in stock, so I took it home. The next day I cut the cap and took a cold draw, what the what???? I couldn’t light it fast enough. The initial draw hit my taste buds and back of my throat like a dose of cayenne pepper from my home state of Louisiana, and then blended so perfectly and smooth. Next up was the C-276. Another fantastic stick that I really, really enjoyed. I found more Nomad online and plan to try many more from them soon.

Room 101 – Started by Matt Booth I have tried a few 101 cigars. Payback, Johnny Tobacconaut, Daruma Gold and the San Andres. All of which I enjoyed very much. The big Payback was a bit on the larger ring gauge spectrum for me but it was a great smoke. Matt also makes some incredible jewelry. Think West Coast meets Far East tradition. I recently won a nice Xikar Room 101 cutter that I use on a regular now. Thanks Matt, Xikar and Famous Smoke Shop for that!

Surrogates – I heard about them through my brother in law recently and started doing some research. So far I am seeing nothing but great reviews and looking forward to picking some up to review and try.

Tatuaje – What can you say? This company is so highly regarded in the boutique world and for damn good reason. Pete Johnson has created some of the best cigars at the My Father Cigar Factory in Nicaragua. I had a 10th Anniversary on a cruise recently that I enjoyed, Tatuaje Black, Fausto, Havana VI, and Tattoo are all wonderful sticks.

So there you have it. These are just a FEW of the many, many great boutique brands that you will find out there. Like I said, I started with these because I am either very familiar with them, smoke them regularly, or they have been very highly recommended. I am talking with a few other brands now that I am hoping to feature very soon. I hope you got some info from this. Please feel free to comment, share and drop us your favorite brands. ALL are welcome here and we would love to do a feature piece on each and every one of them in the future. Please send them to the page and have them contact us at the top of the page. Until next time, smoke em if you got em. Peace!

 

 

 

 

What is a Boutique Brand or Cigar?

This is a question that gets debated frequently in the cigar world and one that isn’t exactly very cut and dry to answer. There are some variations of the term that get used a lot and in my opinion misused in order to describe a “small batch” put out by larger cigar manufactures that we are told are “boutique blends”.

Right now the cigar industry is going through a new and exciting phase with the explosion of new, innovative, creative, masterful, artful, passionate people that are developing and creating some of the best cigars the world has ever seen. Sadly, many of them go undiscovered because these cigars don’t get the publicity of the big brands because the companies simply choose to invest their promotional and advertising dollars into high end, premium tobacco or more experienced torcedors that ensure the highest quality and craftsmanship. This new phase of cigar manufacturing and influx of great new products is being driven by Boutique brands.

So the term boutique, as I understand it in the industry (again much debate goes into this) defines a company that produces less than 1.5 million cigars per year. I have heard that number at 1 million to 1.5 million. The other thing that gets considered is the cultivation of the small batches of tobacco and the high attention to detail that the cigars are made into. So those 2 things alone can describe boutiques and small batch cigars. Confused yet?

Boutique cigars, to me, are a premium handmade cigar, but unlike regular premium cigars, are made in small batches with much greater detail. The tobacco is special and hand selected, grown in smaller batches and used to create a very complex, distinct flavor. They are typically harder to find, and not available in every cigar shop making them a sought after commodity for those of us that love them. The flavor and aroma of these cigars are not to be found in a regular premium cigar. For me, it’s more than just a cigar. It’s knowing the passion and artistry that was put into each cigar, the vibe of the brand, the artwork on the band, knowing how hard they can be to get your hands on, seeing the quality of the construction, knowing that you are not one of the sheepeople mindlessly smoking whatever they have been told is the “next great cigar” only to feel ripped off or trying to convince yourself that you actually liked the taste of shoe leather and ashtray. It’s about the experience and knowing that you have something that is special and most of the world will never experience it. The true hidden gems of the cigar industry.

Many times when I am in a cigar shop and pick up a boutique cigar and people ask me about it, I hear “never heard of it, how much is it?” I know right then that they are not usually someone that I can convince to try it so I don’t bother trying. Other times I get “Never heard of it, how is it?” Those are the ones that have a chance. Sometimes they opt for a more familiar choice, but they are thinking about trying it later on. Sometimes I just feel like being generous and I will just buy them one and watch them as they experience it for the first time. It’s almost magical to see their expressions as their senses come alive and they give you the “Damn, this is a good cigar”. Welcome to the world of true boutique cigars my friend. You are welcome. I certainly remember my first one and I no regular premium cigar had topped it yet. Not to say that there aren’t many great premiums out there because there are, and on occasion I do smoke them. Shhh.

Jonathan Drew posed the question in Cigar Advisor awhile back “At what point does a ‘Boutique Cigar Company’ lose it’s roots and become a ‘Corporate Cigar Company?’ The answer is the same as the question, ‘When does a person become old?’ The answer is defined by the person’s heart, their attitude and, in this case, in the market’s perception, quite honestly.”

I thought that was a brilliant take on the topic. Obviously, JD has become one of the largest cigar manufactures in the world, but the culture and cult like following of their many brands is something you find at a much smaller level with many current boutique brands. You can’t walk into a cigar shop today without finding something that Drew Estate produces or has a distribution deal with. One of my all time favorite cigars is the Balmoral Anejo XO and they have been around forever but are under the distribution of Drew Estate.

As these smaller companies continue to grow and word spreads, a few may strike some big distribution deals and get into heavy rotation with the big box stores. If that happens, it will be interesting to see how many of them keep their same high quality standards. I think for the most part many of them will do just fine. I also think some of them aren’t out there looking for that big deal and just love doing what they do.

How many of you have been to a cigar event that featured a big name cigar maker? They are always nice, willing to take a photo with you, sign an autograph on the box you purchased and all of that fun stuff. Nothing wrong with it at all. Been there, done that. It had that big brand feel to the entire experience. How many of you have had the chance to attend an event with the owner of a boutique brand? Night and day experience. The most down to earth, humble, nice, generous people you could ever hope to meet. It’s not just about the sales for the night, it’s about meeting the people that support their brands and enjoy their creations. They willingly give up their time to have real conversations about things outside of cigars. These are the people that I respect and admire in the business. They are creating such high quality works of art, in my opinion, with such passion and dedication that most of the successful guys seem to have lost. Don’t get me wrong, many of the most successful cigar makers are still very passionate and creative, but the feel is different. It’s almost like Ford Motor Company and Bugatti. Both make products they are passionate about, just at much different levels of quality and quantity.

Which leads me to my last point. Cost of a boutique vs. a regular premium cigar. Why such a big difference? Is there a big difference? Is a micro-brew more expensive than a Miller Lite? Why is that? They are both beer right? A boutique is just a premium cigar right? Wrong. The quality of the tobacco is much higher, the construction of each hand rolled cigar is on a different level, the blends are better, the flavor and aroma are unmatched. They also have higher shipping cost and to fewer stores. So if a boutique comes in at $9.50 per cigar vs. Big Brand Box Store with all of it’s marketing, mass production and lower shipping cost is on the shelf next to it at $7.95 how much cheaper is it vs. what you are actually paying for? Certainly the quality is going to be inferior to the boutique, the flavor won’t come close, the construction won’t be as good and at the end of the day you were left with a subpar smoke that passed the time, but did you honestly walk away from it going “That was a fantastic cigar and I enjoyed the hell out of this”? I know the answer because as someone that smoked many big brand cigars over the past few years I have had exactly 1 cigar that made me purchase more than a 5 pack. (Balmoral) On the flip side of that, I own more boutique cigars than anything else. Why, because they are effing incredible cigars, that’s why. If I had more money, no wife, a large humidor, and a house I could smoke in, I would be on TLC as the cigar hoarder and they would be trying to do an intervention on my a$$. Just kidding babe (I am already in trouble because I said I was doing stuff on boutiques and she got excited thinking it was clothing…my response was not to her approval) anyway…moving on.

Not sure if this cleared anything up but I would love to hear some feedback and suggestions. Please spread the word about us. I have some pretty exciting news coming up in the next day or so. Working out some details for some special guest, finalizing the format for the Boutique Spotlight section of the blog, getting some great support from many in the industry and on social media so stay tuned. Let’s make this thing blow up!

Thanks for stopping by. Light em if you got em. Peace!

20160925_163726_hdr-01