Friday, May 29, 2009

This ain't no disco


If you've been following my adventures lately, then you know that last week I had the privilege of attending the annual "Pajama & Lingerie" party at the Playboy mansion, where I was invited to represent Famous Smoke Shop. I was joined by George Sosa, Natl. Sales Manager for Alec Bradley Cigars, and together we spent the better part of the night gifting cigars to the guests. Here again, I'd like to thank www.WebmasterAccess.com for allowing us to be part of their event.

Whenever I told somebody I was going to this party their eyes widened. After all the Playboy "image" and sex are inseparable. But what was it really like being at a mansion party?

To start, the mansion staff are totally professional. From the ice sculpture of the Playboy bunny logo, to the sound, lighting, food, even the paint on the painted ladies, everything has to be perfect to create the ideal party atmosphere.

We arrived at 5:30 to setup and by 8:00 PM the guests began to arrive. The crowd was a mix of Playmates and other Playboy Entertainment employees, Cybergirls, and adult video website "personalities" and producers. But there were also plenty of other guests, many from all over the country, who were not in "the business."

Being surrounded by so many gorgeous girls was invigorating to say the least, but turning them on to premium cigars had its advantages, too. There were lots of girls who would come by and say, "I've never smoked a cigar before. What do you do?" So I would show them how to clip and light the cigar, and most of them really dug it. There were also plenty of guys who had never smoked cigars before.

The experienced cigar smokers (most of whom were only too eager to tell us that they only smoked Cubans), got to discover some great new cigars, especially the Alec Bradley Tempus, Maxx and Overture selections. The Occidental Rsv. Connecticut cigars were also a big hit. Many were coming back for seconds on just about everything on the table, which also included Siboney, and Alec Bradley Medalist cigars. Of course, I handed out hundreds of Famous Smoke Shop business cards, so I'll have see how many guests got "hooked" and hope some orders come in.

I should also mention that in addition to the cigars, XiKAR, Inc. was kind enough to supply us with specially-made Genesis lighters and X1 cigar cutters with the Playboy printed logo on them. (I brought one back for Arthur as a souvenir.)

Just before 10:00 P.M. Mr. Hefner made a brief appearance for a photo op. I was busy at the cigar table, but George got a shot of him (see below). I originally expected to see more "A-List" celebs, but learned that the party was taking place at the same time as the Cannes Film Festival. Needless to say, there was plenty to stare at. The "painted ladies" were incredible. The painting, which is called "Trompe L'Oeil," was so good that the girls actually looked covered (and I use that term lightly) until they get really close.

Well, rather than ramble on about the experience, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Visit the Playboy Mansion Party photo gallery at CigarAvisor.com to see it all.

~ Gary Korb

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Nestor Miranda Special Selection Robusto Redux

Since it was Memorial Day Weekend, I had planned on smoking a lot more cigars, and was hoping to write about one of those instead, but time and the weather down at the Jersey shore just didn't cooperate. I actually wrote about this cigar in September last year based on a sample from last year's IPCPR show in Las Vegas. That cigar was made by Guillermo Rico of Gran Habano, but the blend changed hands to Pepin Garcia (solely for practical business reasons) and kept pretty much the same flavor profile with a little more of that signature Don Pepin kick to it.

I smoked this Nestor Miranda Special Selection Robusto on Friday night out on the patio after my boys were tucked into bed. Prior to that, just for fun, I asked the guys to sniff the unlit cigar. Kids are so honest, I was curious what they would say. The verdict was, "Smells like burnt bark with sweetness." Actually, they weren't that far off.

This version was rolled in a Rosado wrapper and I paired it with a glass of The Macallen 12 year-old single malt. What I love about these well-built cigars is how chewy they are, too. You can really bite down on them. The cigar burnt perfectly with a firm ash and produced a sweet-woody flavor. I wouldn't call it "bark-like" but it was definitely woody and went well with the scotch. The smoke was very consistent and I finally let it go at about three-quarters-of-an-inch.

I've smoked a lot of these Nestor Miranda Special Selection cigars since their release, and they've become one of my new favorites for their consistency in construction and flavor. They're medium-to-full in body, building to a robust, full-flavored smoke after the second act. I highly recommend these cigars, but they are often hard to find in stock. Be patient if you have to backorder them; they're worth the wait.

They're also available in Maduro, which reminds me: I've been sampling the Nestor Miranda 20th Anniversary Selection cigars and will be writing a review of them shortly. They're rolled to a 7" x 56 with a pigtail at the head. I smoked the Rosado and should be getting to the Maduro sometime this week, so stay tuned for those reviews.

If you had the chance to smoke something great this past weekend, please share by leaving a comment.

~ Gary Korb

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cigars 2.0

In our insanely connected world, information seems to travel faster than ever before. Want proof?

• Review sites like Stogie Review and Stogie Guys are rapidly supplanting traditional cigar media outlets
• Facebook, MySpace and YouTube allow the average cigar smoker to share his or her thoughts on cigars, accessories, and industry goings-on
• New, personal cigar blogs like A Cigar Smoker are popping up all the time
Twitter offers a more real time exchange of information and ideas than even cigar forums

I'm not proposing this as new information, but rather to frame an important question: How is this affecting the cigar industry? I think a couple things are happening.

First, it's giving a voice to the smaller manufacturers out there. In years past, brands like Tatuaje, Illusione, or Jesus Fuego wouldn't have stood a chance against General Cigar or Altadis brands without some serious venture capital.

Cigar smokers are now much more involved behind-the-scenes, because manufacturers and retailers have a new way to engage them. At times it can almost get gossipy - I'm not certain if this is a good thing.

Competition and quality are better than ever. If a company attempts to foist a dog rocket upon the unsuspecting cigar smoking public, word spreads like a virus. To remain profitable, manufacturers must focus on blending quality tobaccos to create quality brands.

Surely you can think of at least one more. Let me know in the comments section.

- Hayward Tenney

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Cigars Edition (A new home for my cigars)


Well, it finally happened: I ran out of humidor space. With cigars and boxes packed into my medium-sized box like so many circus clowns in a VW Beetle, it was time to upgrade.

So I came home Sunday with a new (to me) cigar humidor and could barely contain my excitement. Got it all set up, cleaned out, and the humidifier cranking. It was like Christmas in May - a brand new toy to play with!

I reserved some shelf space on the bottom as my "moochidor." This is where I keep un-banded "mystery cigars" whose origins are unknown, mostly samples inherited with the humidor. These will be passed out to the neighborhood moochers who come looking for a free cigar.

In the middle are some shelves of my "every day" and higher-end loose stock - Perdomo, Rocky Patel, CAO, Tatuaje, PadrĂ³n, OpusX, Davidoff, etc. Above that, two shelves are reserved for boxes.

I'm using a Moist-n-aire for humidification, same as we use in our store's display cases. It seems to be working well, but I might look into getting a small circulation fan or two to promote even humidity throughout.

This is the third (and hopefully LAST) upgrade in storage. I donated my old box to my father-in-law.

Do you need to upgrade, or have you done so recently?

- Hayward Tenney

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Bill W. Toro

You’re probably already asking yourself, what the heck are Bill W. cigars? First, let me tell you who Bill W. is. Bill is a regular Famous Smoke Shop customer who has become a good friend, and have referred to in prior blogs. (He was the one who suggested the Bitter Lemon for cleansing the palate, I recently wrote about.)

Bill was also one of the lucky guests at last year’s Famous Cigar Expo who won a Rocky Patel Cigar Trip to Honduras. The trip also included getting to blend your own cigar at the Plasencia factory. After several months of factory aging, the cigars were shipped to Bill and he was kind enough to give me one. At his suggestion, he told me to let it age-up some more. So yesterday, about six months later, I finally got around to smoking it in the store. I even paired it with Bitter Lemon. Later, somebody came in with a bottle of Sandeman Founders Reserve Port, and I smoked a good portion of the cigar with that, which was a nice match.

So why am I writing about a non-existent cigar? Because I promised Bill I would, and I have a habit of keeping my word. Besides, I thought it would be a good change of pace for this column, and frankly, considering Bill only had about an hour to select his tobaccos, he did a pretty good job. Here’s the blend he came up with:

Wrapper: Sun Grown Jalapa Ligero
Filler: Jamastran Ligero, Nicaragua Habano Ligero, Costa Rican Habano Viso
Binder: Costa Rican Jaltepec-seed Viso

The cigar was rolled to a 6” x 50 Toro, and the wrapper was attractively dark and oily. The cap was well made and clipped-off neatly. The sweet, woody pre-light flavor was a prelude to the smoke itself. Once lit, the cigar drew well and was unexpectedly mild, since I know Bill has acquired a taste for full-bodied cigars. Once it got going, the smoke was very creamy, dominated by a robust, yet very smooth woody-leathery flavors laced with an appealing sweetness in the mix, and carried a long finish.

For the most part, the cigar was well-balanced and consistent. By the end third act it became juicier and more full-flavored, taking on a spicier dimension while maintaining its sweet, woody base. The cigar had some minor burn problems along the way, but always righted itself. What was most surprising about this cigar was it smoked for about two hours. Even one of the other patrons was impressed.

So, there you have it - proof that even an regular guy from New Jersey can blend a darn good premium cigar. Congratulations Bill.

Ever blend your own cigar? If so, please leave a comment.

~ Gary Korb