Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend Cigars

By Gary Korb

With the exception of a few obnoxious thunderstorms on Sunday, for the most part, the weather in the Lehigh Valley and at down the New Jersey Shore was ideal over the Memorial Day Holiday weekend for smoking cigars.

I had the day off on Friday, which was a sunny, warm and lazy kind of day. After spending the better part of the kids-free afternoon with my wife, I decided it was time to get down to business and light-up.

I officially started the holiday weekend with a Cojones Robusto. If you know what that means in Spanish slang, you might presume the cigar was pretty "ballsy." Yes, it's a spicy cigar, especially those first few puffs, then it rounds out nicely to a well-balanced, full-flavored cigar. The one I had last Friday had been in my humidor for about six months and had mellowed beautifully. The blend consists of a Hybrid Broadleaf wrapper with a Dominican Olor Ligero binder and a diverse, all-Ligero longfiller blend of Dominican Olor, Piloto Cubano, Dominican Seco Cubano and Nicaraguan tobaccos. (Highly recommended if you like the spicy stuff.) Sold primarily in local retail cigar stores, you can find more information on Cojones cigars at Cigahs.com.

Friday evening after putting the kids to bed, I sat out on the deck and had an Arturo Fuente 8-5-8 Flor Fina Maduro. This current box has been one of the best I've had. The wrappers are especially sweet, and as I was approaching the halfway mark I had come to the realization that a cigar like this is the primary reason people smoke premium cigars in the first place. It was just perfect in every way.

Saturday morning we packed up and headed for my parents' place at the Jersey Shore. I brought with me the following cigars: An Avo XO Intermezzo, a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Toro, a CAO Sopranos Associate, a Famous Nicaraguan 3000 Grande Robusto, a Cusano Corojo 1997 Robusto, and another Fuente 8-5-8 Flor Fina Maduro.

I had the Cusano Corojo 1997 at the pool late Saturday morning. I've been on a Corojo wrapper kick lately, and this cigar has always proven to be very flavorful and consistent. That afternoon, my brother joined me for a smoke out on the terrace. I had the Avo XO Intermezzo (one of my desert island cigars) while he enjoyed the Fuente 8-5-8 Flor Fina Maduro.

I didn’t get to have another cigar until after lunch on Sunday, and with the ocean breeze picking up I wanted something that would stand up to the elements, so I fired-up the Famous N3K Grande Robusto. These cigars tend to be pretty heady, but it was just right for the afternoon and I had no burn problems despite the windy conditions.

As guests of a family friend, Sunday evening we attended a Bar-B-Q at Hollywood Country Club in Deal, NJ. Although I'm sure we could have walked out onto the course and smoked, I noticed that no one was lighting-up, even though all the food and tables were outside. I figured this might have been because so many children were present, so I made discretion the better part of valor and refrained.

We drove home Sunday night, and for Memorial Day I looked at what I had left over from the weekend and chose the Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Toro. Now that was the perfect ending for a wonderful weekend. I hope you all had similarly wonderful cigar smoking experiences.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pennsylvania cigar smokers must take action now!

This is the week that state legislators in Pennsylvania began debating Governor Rendell's tobacco tax increase proposal. So today I'm reaching out to every cigar smoker in Pennsylvania for help.

As an example of what can happen when tobacco taxes are levied on the retailer, New York State's enormous tobacco tax increase eventually forced Famous Smoke Shop to leave New York City after 61 years and move to Pennsylvania in 2000 where the tax climate was more hospitable. Now, if Governor Rendell's proposal is allowed to pass, it may similarly force retailers to move out of his state while taking scores of jobs (a/k/a taxpaying workers) along with them.

If you want to take action - and the sooner the better - there are a couple of ways to make your voice heard. If you click on the following link, it will help you quickly find your PA state representative's phone number and email address:
www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/find.cfm

There is also a Pennsylvania Cigar Tax Hotline you can call at 1-877-978-9993. A live operator will answer, ask for your zip code, and your call will be put through to your state representative's office. If you get their answering machine, you must leave a message stating that you're opposed to the Governor's proposed tobacco tax increase. Please have your opposition statement ready and make it strong.

It's going to take a big state-wide offense to stop this bill that will significantly increase the cost of your cigars, not to mention the heavy burden it will impose on Pennsylvania tobacco retailers at every level. Time is of the essence. If you haven't taken action, please do so immediately and pass the information above on to other Pennsylvania cigar smokers you know.

Your influence counts - use it!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Another one bites the dust: Minnesota OK's smoking ban

By Gary Korb

Just as I was packing up to go home last night, I received the following message from one of my readers, Stephen F. in Minnesota.

"It's official - Minnesota has banned smoking in most public places beginning October 1. Governor Pawlenty signed the bill on May 15."

Stephen also sent me a link to an article titled, "When and where the smoking ban applies" from startribune.com.

According to the article, the ban goes into effect on October 1, 2007 when smoking will be verboten in "restaurants, bars, bingo halls, and most other indoor public places and workplaces."

Even though outdoor smoking will be permitted, if you light-up on the patio of a restaurant or bar, you will not be allowed food or drink service.

For those who frequent or work at tribal casinos, small family farms, cigar stores and other tobacco shops, it's anything goes, including designated hotel and motel rooms. You can also smoke if you've been committed to a psychiatric ward, are living in a home for disabled veterans (in Washington County), or participating in a scientific study. Smoking will also be permitted at Native American ceremonies or theatre productions.

Well, it could have been worse. OK, who's next?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An 'R' Rating for Smoking?

By Gary Korb

Recently, an AP article out of Los Angeles was circulated with the headline, "That cigar could get movie an 'R' rating." In short, MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman wants his ratings board to take into account smoking scenes that not only show underage smoking, but "smoking by adults as well." Therefore, smoking would be among the MPAA's list of "vices" along with sex, violence and language.

As a movie fanatic and a former film student, my Libertarian bones shudder at the thought. Didn't we read not that long ago about the BBC editing out scenes of characters smoking in animated cartoons?

The article reported: "Some critics of Hollywood's depictions of tobacco in films have urged that movies that show smoking be assigned an R rating, which would restrict those younger than 17 from seeing them."

They're referring to people like Kori Titus, spokesperson for Breathe California, a group that opposes images of tobacco use in movies, and believes that such images may encourage young people to start smoking. Moreover, Ms. Titus, who was quoted as saying, "What [the MPAA is] proposing does not go far enough and is not going to make a difference," probably won't be satisfied until they ban smoking entirely from motion pictures and the earth as well.

Didn't the producers of Casino Royale prevent actor Daniel Craig from smoking cigars in the recent Bond pic? I do remember it being pretty violent, though.

I paid a visit to the MPAA.org ratings page, and following are their guidelines for an R-rating:
R - Restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) - "In the opinion of the Rating Board, this film definitely contains some adult material. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about this film before they allow their children to accompany them. An R-rated film may include strong language, violence, nudity, drug abuse, other elements, or a combination of the above, so parents are counseled in advance to take this advisory rating very seriously."

Besides, you don't have to go to the movies to see extreme behavior. Just last night, The O'Reilly Factor broadcast video of a thug pummeling a 91-year-old man almost to death as others looked on and did nothing. Of course, it was highly newsworthy, but you get the point.

If a movie has smoking scenes in it, why stop at 'R.' Why not just make it 'NC-17' which says "this is a film that most parents will consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17" - the age at which adolescents can't purchase tobaccos in most states.

It's bad enough we have the government raising tobacco taxes and passing anti-smoking legislation almost on a daily basis. Is liberal Hollywood now getting in on the act? I thought they of all people would leave the smokers alone.

Like anything else, the more fuss you make over restricting something the more people want it. It's human nature, like American cigar smokers who buy Cuban cigars on the black market. If kids want to something, they'll find a way to get it. Ms. Titus was right about that - it probably won't make a difference.

The MPAA ratings may help some parents as a guide, but it's the parents' responsibility to teach their children what's good and what's not good for them. And so what if you keep the kids out of the theatre? The DVD will be out in a few months, anyway, if they haven't already downloaded it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Camacho Triple Maduro cigars only a few weeks away

By Gary Korb (and Christian Eiroa)

Little over a month ago, I posted a an announcement about Camacho's new Triple Maduro cigar series. Then yesterday, in anticipation of their official release next month, I received the following message from Christian Eiroa, president of Camacho Cigars, which I'd like to share with you:

"Within the next few weeks we will begin to deliver my newest creation, the Camacho Triple Maduro - a blend that has taken me nine months to develop.

I can proudly say that next to the Diploma, this is my proudest creation. I am absolutely enamored with the look, feel and taste of this cigar. Especially knowing what it took to make a cigar with an all maduro tobacco blend.

I only hope that those of you who try this cigar are able to enjoy and appreciate what an achievement this has been. So, if you happen upon one of these cigars, please take your time to sit back and relax and know that this cigar was blended by one of the biggest fans of tobacco.

The only desired result is that YOU enjoy this cigar after every puff. Never mind what others say or comment; make this YOUR cigar for which YOU and ONLY YOU will tell you how much you love it.

However, please keep in mind that in order to maximize your enjoyment of this cigar, they must be kept in the perfect environment! This tobacco and this blend are unlike anything else you have smoked, if you rush the smoking of this cigar you are seriously cheating yourself out of one fantastic smoke. Just make sure the cigars are neither too dry nor too moist.

Only 300,000 were made this year. Please be sure to contact your favorite cigar store and reserve a box ASAP. "

Thank you,
Christian Eiroa

I'm expecting some Camacho Triple Maduro samples to arrive shortly, so look for my review on CigarAdvisor.com in the weeks ahead. - GK

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

New York smokers "clash" with Gov. Spitzer

by Gary Korb

I want to echo the sentiments of a recent article posted by Rich Perelman at www.CigarCyclopedia.com titled, "New York CLASH fighting real prohibition:"

Led by founder, Audrey Silk, CLASH, which stands for Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, is looking for help in its fight against New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer's move to ban the sale of tobacco products not only during the upcoming New York State Fair, but on the Fairgrounds, as well. (FYI, CLASH is the smokers' rights group that sued the state and city of New York over the smoking bans in 2003.)

"Today it's New York – on the state's Fairgrounds, tomorrow it's the rest of the country as we've learned from smoking bans – legislation that every city/state wanted to emulate immediately after New York did it," said Ms. Silk. "We find lawmakers from all over trying to be beat each other out as next to do it! For the glory they think it buys them. It's stunning."

The article goes on to note that both cigar vendors and customers are at risk, and Ms. Silk is appealing to smokers not only in New York State, but from all over the country to "step up."

"The issue is not even a discussion about smoking, it's the denial of the SALE of cigars and other tobacco products!," added Ms. Silk. "It's a free commerce and a free will issue."

I strongly suggest you read the article in its entirety to learn more about CLASH and to fully understand the impact this legislation could have. Additionally, I have reprinted the contact information here for those of you who would like to get personally involved and/or contribute to CLASH's efforts:

Ms. Silk and NYC C.L.A.S.H. can be reached at:
PO Box 1036
Brooklyn, NY 11234

The phone number is 917-888-9317, or you can send an email to nycclash@nycclash.com.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Cigar Review: Macanudo Vintage 2000 VIII

By Gary Korb

Country of origin: Dominican Republic
Size/Strength: 5½" x 50 / Mild
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Shade (2004)
Filler: Dominican Piloto Cubano
Binder: Mexican San Andreas (Medio Tiempo)

I was going through my list of unpublished cigar reviews the other day and came across a review I wrote for the Macanudo Vintage 2000 VIII. I believe that at the time I wrote it these cigars were not available for sale online, but they are now.

This mild cigar is truly outstanding in every respect, taking its rightful place among the renowned Macanudo Vintage Series. Made with a 2004-vintage U.S. Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, this limited edition cigar also has Dominican-grown Piloto Cubano filler and a naturally sweet, "medio tiempo" Mexican San Andreas binder (aged 50% longer on the plant for extra flavor.)

The smoke was ultra-smooth, perfectly-balanced, and very aromatic. Moreover, unlike the mainline Macanudo cigars, this cigar was much more flavorful, while maintaining that classic, luxuriously mellow Macanudo cedar-aged character. Another marvelous job by master blender, Daniél Nuñez.

You can read my complete review and tasting score of the Macanudo Vintage 2000 VIII by clicking here.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Chat-a-tat-tat

By Gary Korb

If you've been following this blog, you may remember that last night I joined the gang at cigarzilla.net for their Thursday night chat. I don't really do a lot of chatting online, but it was a great experience, and look forward to doing it again soon.

The first thing I'd like to do is thank "tacHammer" once again for inviting me, as well as the other guys who participated, including "Zman," roadgypsy," and "Fletchman" among all the others who showed up.

During the hour-and-a-half I spent with them, we covered a lot of ground. We chatted about Perdomo Lot 23 cigars, Camacho Coyolar Puro cigars, Famous N3K cigars, La Gloria Cubana Reserve Figurados, MAXX, La Flor Dominicana Double Ligeros, even Tabamex cigars, and other cigars too numerous to mention. We also talked about some of the top blenders like Hendrik Kelner, Ernesto Carrillo, Daniel Nuñez and Benji Menendez.

I was re-reading the log today, and I noticed that I missed a couple of things. Sometimes there are three or four cross-conversations going on at once. It's like being at a poker table with 20 players. This probably happened while I occasionally went to look up info on the Famous Smoke Shop website for some of the cigars we talked about. So, to answer Fletchman's question about how long I've been at Famous, it will be six years in next month. I was also happy to see that many cigarzilla.net members are FSS customers, so thanks for your business.

By the end of the thread we got into a good discourse on the future of Cuban cigars being sold legally in the U.S. If I can share some excerpts, here's a taste, which I think exemplifies the feelings of many other cigar smokers I've spoken to on this subject:

(Fletchman) Gary - a lot of people are talking about the embargo being lifted soon - what's your opinion?
(FamousGary) I think if the embargo is lifted, you'll pay as much for Havanas on the open market as you do now on the black market. Remember, they're supplying everyone else in the world except us.
(roadgypsy) the cigar industry in Cuba isn't what it used to be
(tacHammer) nope
(Fletchman) I for one don't see it happening soon. I think if anything happens it will bring a lot of people who don't smoke cigars on a regular basis
(roadgypsy) and Cuba can't produce enough tobacco to keep up the demand they are buying tobacco now
(roadgypsy) the products coming out of central America are imo better than any Cuban cigar made
(Zman) the only problem will be to the rights to certain brands
(FamousGary) I read an article saying that even if the embargo were lifted tomorrow, and had open trade, even if the government went democratic, it will take almost 10 years just to repair Cuba's infrastructure.
(roadgypsy) we ought to buy Cuba and make it into an adult Disneyland
(tacHammer) lol
(Zman) They're still driving vintage cars from the 50's
(roadgypsy) casinos, [broads] and cigars
(FamousGary) Great idea. I think Dreamworks should take it over.
(roadgypsy) lol
(FamousGary) No. That's better. Steve Wynn not Spielberg

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Another fine night of Metro smoky pleasure

By Gary Korb

Last night I had the pleasure of joining the fine league of gentleman (and ladies) at the Metropolitan Cigar Society in Fairfield, New Jersey for a cigar tasting event featuring the MAXX by Alec Bradley cigars. Alec Bradley Cigars founder, Alan Rubin was there to introduce the cigars and tell the story behind them. The MAXX cigars served were "The Culture" (6½" x 54) and the "The Fixx" (5" x 58).

I hadn't visited the club since last summer, when it was still under construction, and the completed space is everything a private cigar club should be. The dining area, which they call "La Cubana," has been designed to look and feel like you're sitting in an old Havana courtyard, offering the ideal atmosphere for enjoying premium cigars, great food, and drink.

Even Alan was blown away by the surroundings, and he's been to some of the best cigar clubs in the country. I sat at Alan's table looking on as a number of members approached to compliment him on the cigars.

The MAXX selection, which was blended by Alan and Nestor Plasencia, is currently in my Top-5 list of full-bodied cigars. I'm featuring them as my "Pick of the Month" for the Famous Smoke Shop June catalog. Moreover, Alan will be among the participants at the Famous Smoke Shop Bar-B-Q scheduled for Saturday, June 30th.

I'll even let you in on a little secret I learned about MAXX. The blend is based on the cigars Nestor makes for his own personal use, so, it's very much like smoking a private estate cigar. I smoked The Culture, and I'm always amazed by its complex tapestry of dark, sweet, and earthy tobacco flavors. It's so consistent that even in the last couple of inches, the cigar never turns bitter or stronger.

Finally, I'd like to thank Bob, Rich, Ben and all the other MCS members for having me once again as their guest. If you live in the New York City Metro area and would like to learn more, visit The Metropolitan Cigar Society website. If you feel like joining, you can even download an application. The more the merrier.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Cigarzilla meets "Cigarasaurus"

By Gary Korb

I'm very pleased to announce that the folks at www.cigarzilla.net, "the web's best cigar forum and live chat," have invited me as their guest for their regular Thursday night chat this week. The fun starts tomorrow night, May 3rd at 8:00PM central time (9PM eastern/5PM pacific).

A shout-out goes to "tacHammer" who reached out last month asking me to participate. As a gesture of my appreciation, I've sent along some Famous Nicaraguan 3000 Torpedos, courtesy of Famous Smoke Shop, which CIGARZILLA will be giving away in the weeks ahead for their Free 5er Cigar Give-a-ways.

I'm really looking forward to chatting with all the http://www.cigarzilla.net/ members. I've checked in on the forum a couple times in the past few weeks, and they really have a great group. If you're not already a member and would like to join me and the rest of the CIGARZILLA community for this special forum, you can register now.

"See" you then.