Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Something may be brewing in the Dominican Republic, and it's not coffee

The premium cigar business is not the type of industry that lends itself to investigative journalism, nor is Cigar Advisor's function much more than to bring you industry news, commentary, cigar reviews, and other pertinent information.

Nonetheless, sitting around in New Orleans during the IPCPR, a couple of us concluded the time was right for something big to happen within the industry (lifting of the Cuban embargo notwithstanding). As the conversation continued, we speculated about the possibilities of a major retailer or brand acquisition that would be a real coup to a major distributor.

Conversation and speculation aside, in Santiago, The Dominican Republic the other day, an associate of ours saw Rene Castaneda, Vice President of Miami Cigar & Company, Don José Pepin Garcia, and Jamie Garcia with Guillermo Leon and Jose Blanco of La Aurora.

Of course, that's no surprise. Miami Cigar has become a serious customer of the Garcias with the success of their Nestor Miranda Collection. However, there's also a social networking connection to this story which may or may not be of any significance.

While doing a Facebook search for Don Pepin's daughter, Janny Garcia, one of her photos came up. Wearing a cute red dress, Janny is standing between her father and Nestor Miranda. This shot, I'm guessing, was most likely taken in Señor Miranda's office at about the time they were ready to release the Nestor Miranda Special Selection cigars.

On the other hand, could something more significant be afoot beyond Don Pepin just making cigars for Nestor Miranda? Perhaps some sort of distribution pact or, even more significantly, the acquisition of Pepin's company by La Aurora?

After mentioning this to a good friend of mine in the industry, he felt there were other companies that would more likely be candidates for such a move. However, if you factor-in the distribution of E/O Brands (601, Cubao, Mi Barrio - all made by Pepin), it would appear that Miami Cigar is more likely to walk-off with the prize.

In any event, something's going to happen, and I'm willing to go all-in by suggesting it will probably be the latter scenario. If I'm wrong, no harm done I suppose; I've acquired a taste for crow.

Finally, at this writing, Janny hasn't accepted my request to friend-up yet, but I hope she will. If what I predict really happens, I'd like to be one of the first to congratulate her.

~ G.K.

P.S. Wouldn't you know it, within 5-minutes after this posting, I discovered that Janny Garcia had already accepted my Facebook friend request.

Friday, September 18, 2009

If you're not interested in talking cigars, please keep your tweets to yourself

I'm in a ranting mood today. Maybe it's because I've been fighting off a sinus cold for the past week and haven't been able to relax with a good cigar. That would make any avid cigar smoker a little cranky.

So here's where my head's at today. As many of you know, Cigar Advisor has a Twitter page. This Twitter social networking thingamajig is a fantastic communication tool, and it can be a lot of fun, too. I wish I could post a lot more often, too, but since most of my tweets are done from work, I can only afford so much tweeting time, but I do have my TwitterFox running continually in case I want to chime in.

Just about every day I receive emails alerting me that a fellow "twitizen" (as I've dubbed them) is following me. It's nice to see that in spite of my low tweet-to-tweet ratio that someone out there actually cares enough to tweet their very best.

However, and more often lately, the follows are coming from all kinds of people who, when I click through to their Twitter page, seem to have little or no interest in cigars or cigar culture. They're online marketers, mostly work-at-home types, who just want to sell me their goods, services, advice, inspiration, and the fact of the matter is, I ain't buyin.'

Now I have no problem with the followers who are rock musicians, or jazz lovers, or wine and spirits gurus, food gurus, baseball fans, poker players, etc. In return, I follow many of them because I share a genuine interest in those subjects. Moreover, they usually have the word "cigars" listed under their profiles, so at least I KNOW we share an affinity for the leaf.

To be fair, some of the online marketers do mention cigars in their profiles. But here's an example of what I'm talking about: "we've helped tens of thousands of men and women worldwide build successful home businesses." COME ON, folks! Many of these twitizens show thousands of followers on their pages. How nice. Therefore I assume they're also all very successful, and I wish them the best.

Then you have the hotties who think I'm going to follow them because they take a good sexy photo. P'LEEEEEZ! If I really want to meet a girl who wants to pretend she likes me, I can go to a strip club and see her in 3D.

So here's the deal: If you want to follow my Twitter page, hey, that's great. I'll almost always send a little thank you note, even if I'm not following in return. It's the least I can do. Like this blog, the Cigar Advisor Twitter is predicated on our mutual love and enjoyment of premium handmade cigars, cigar-related issues and culture. If you're a cigar smoker, you know what I'm talking about and my Twitterland door is always open. But if all you're really interested in selling me a bill of goods or a pig in a poke, KEEP OUT and BEWARE OF DOG.

~ Gary Korb

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The power of the poker

This past Sunday night, Labor Day eve, I decided to smoke the third of three Havanas that were gifted to me by a friend not too long ago. The cigar in question was a Romeo y Julieta Cedros De Luxe No.1, and pretty tasty, too. The only problem was the cigar had a weak draw.

To backup for a moment, the ISOM I smoked several weeks earlier from the same friend, a long home-aged Fonseca No.1, also suffered from a tight draw. Shortly after smoking it I called him to say thanks. When I mentioned the draw problem to him, he told me he had similar problems and used a draw poker to loosen it up. I told him I neglected to do so because I'm not a big proponent of using draw pokers and eventually gave up on the cigar, opting for a 601 Blue Maduro as a replacement. Suffice it to say, the 601 was perfect in every way.

Getting back to the Romeo, it was obvious that the cigar had been rolled pretty tightly. The draw was not as tight as on the earlier Fonseca, but tight enough to be annoying after the first couple of inches. In an effort to not waste what I felt was a good experience in terms of flavor to this point, I got out my Havana Draw Enhancer (yes, coincidentally, that's the name!), which is made by Don Salvatore (see image above).

Very carefully, I proceeded to infiltrate the foot of the cigar, turning it slowly while continuing to apply pressure. Luckily I didn't puncture the cigar. After removing the poker the draw had opened up considerably, and although I had to do it again it a bit later, it saved the cigar.

As I mentioned above, I don't like having to use additional tools to make my cigars work, but there are always exceptions. The other reason I bring this up is, if you're going to use a draw poker, then I recommend the Draw Enhancer. The reason I like this particular tool is because it's very thin, has a flat head, is a little shorter than most pokers, and along the shaft are diamond shaped serrations that literally cut through the tobacco. I feel this design makes it a superior product, as I've had problems with the more common ice-pick design cigar pokers.

One other thing that may have helped was, since the cigar had smoked down a couple of inches, it was much more pliable, which made it easier to insert the poker into the cigar without harming it. Moreover, once I reached the point where I felt I better not push any further, I used a gentle "pull-push" reaming method, and could feel the serrations cutting through the blockage.

I rarely, if ever have draw problems with my cigars, but I'm glad I had this tool in my cigar accessories box. The moral of the story is, if you absolutely have to use a draw poker to loosen up your cigar, make sure you have one that's going to work properly.

~ Gary Korb

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Her First Cigar: A Mike Martinez Mystery

By Gary Korb

I TOOK HER VIRGINITY - in a manner of speaking, that is. I suppose the best thing to do would be to start at the beginning:
I had to get out of the rain, so I ducked into Tommy's Place to dry out over a scotch & soda. Cannonball Adderley was playing on jukebox. The place was a rat hole, but Tommy served hard drinks at cheap prices, and besides, I liked the atmosphere. That's when I noticed her. She was sitting at the end of the bar wearing a dress that advertised all her curves - all in the right places, too. I watched for a moment as she nursed her drink. She was one gone blonde, and the best kind of blonde - dirty blonde. I walked over and sat down on the empty stool beside her.
"Next one's on me," I said.
"You know how many times I've heard that line?" she said without looking up from her drink.
"Come on, the night's young, and the rain isn't letting up. Besides, what's a doll like you doing in a joint like this? A girl could get in trouble around here."
"I can take care of myself," she said as she turned toward me with a glare.
"I'm sure you can," I said, staring into her big green eyes. "I get the feeling you're running away from something, or more likely, some one."
"What are you, some kind of detective?"
"I guess you could say that."
"My father was a cop."
"Well, we have something in common then."
I turned away from her and took out a cigar along with my cutter and a Zippo lighter I picked-up during the war. She eyed the stogie and said, "He smoked cigars, too. I've always been curious about those things."
"Would you like to try one? I've got more. By the way, my name's Miguel. Miguel Martinez, but my friends call me Mike. I offered a handshake, which she reluctantly accepted.
"Soft hands," I said.
"Thanks," she said pulling her hand away.
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"You got a name?"
"Lucy. Lucy Taylor."
"Pleased to meet you Lucy Taylor. So how about that cigar?"
"What do I have to do?" she said pushing her hair back behind her shoulders.
"First you have to relax," I said as I took another cigar out of my case. Figured I'd start her off with a mild one, an Honduran with a Connecticut wrapper.
I slowly ran the cigar under her nose. "Sniff it."
"Mmm...It's sweet."
"And it gets sweeter, too, Baby," I said with a wink, and she smiled back.
I held the cigar in front of her and leveled the head up to my cutter. "First you have to cut the cap," I said as I squeezed the blades together.
Lucy watched as the little disc of tobacco fell into the ashtray. Suddenly she looked right at me. I returned her gaze as I flicked open the lighter. Her eyes widened as I turned the cigar slowly near the flame. "Next, you have to toast it," I said. She leaned toward me, our shoulders touching as a silky thread of blue smoke rose between us.
"Open up," I said as I gently placed the cigar between her lips. "Now puff."
I held the flame just under the end of the cigar, watching as it took on a crimson glow. A thin veil of smoke ebbed slowly from Lucy's pretty little lips now parted in the shape of a perfect O.
"Mmm...That was nice," she said as she leaned back revealing part of a tattoo on her left breast.
"Keep it and enjoy it," I said.
"I will. It's so smooth and creamy," she added.
"Now you've had your first cigar," I said as I lit mine, a Nicaraguan puro. "Say, why don't we finish these over at my place," I said, pushing my luck as always.
"No Mike, let's finish them here," she said as she placed her hand over mine. "Besides, the night's young, and the rain isn't letting up."

* * *