Shaking up the cigar world, recent events have shed some light into the current US political administration’s reestablishment of diplomatic relationships with Cuba. We might start seeing the first hints of legislation easing the trade embargo. This means more Cuban cigars could come our way, specifically the rare releases. For the mean time, we can still delight in the comforts of our own trusted cigars available around as we give you reviews of some of the must-trys. With so many things happening in the cigar world, the comfort is in knowing you can still enjoy some of the best out there.
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The Cigar Cafe Podcast 2 | Procigar Festival | Cuban Embargo | Cigar Reviews
Welcome back. This is your first time. We’re glad to have you join us, too. Harris, thanks for having me back in the shop. What’s going on?
There are a lot of interesting things going on in the cigar world with the Cuban cigar embargo and some new cigars coming out. Procigar Festival was just wrapping up. A lot of other things are going on.
If you missed our show, we should probably catch you up a little bit. We started this show to cover the cigar lifestyle and to us that lifestyle revolves around enjoying some of the finer things in life and enjoying those things with the people that you’re close to. We’re looking forward to bringing guests that are pretty relevant in the cigar world, and I think we hinted we’d like to be able to surprise some of our readers at some point. Harris, I guess to get things kicked off, what are you smoking?
I lit up the Vintage Double Age Perdomo that’s about 6×60-ring gauge. I’m going to be here smoking it for quite a bit longer than our show. It’s fairly full-bodied. It’s starting off a little bit slow, but it’s burning well and it’s producing quite a bit of smoke. Hopefully here in the next couple of inches or so, I’ll start to get some of that pepper and cocoa that I’m expecting to get out of it.
That’s one of my favorites. I really like that.
I haven’t had this Vitola, but I’ve had a couple of these in the past. I know that one of the things that we discussed was the emergence in the cigar market of boutique and small batch cigars and that shaking things up over the last five to ten years. Even more recently, there’s been another recent news event that has a chance to shake up the cigar world with the current us political administration reestablishing diplomatic relationships with Cuba. We’re starting to see the first hints of legislation easing the trade embargo with our long-estranged neighbor 90 miles to our South. Have you been keeping up with the Bills that have recently been introduced in both the House and the Senate?
I have been, Lane. There has been a lot of activity lately with that, first of all with President Obama’s Executive Order that loosen travel restrictions and now you can bring back up to $100 in cigars or alcohol if you travel to Cuba. Recently there have been bills introduced in the House and Senate that would totally lift that embargo. I think most people think right now it’s still too early. They probably won’t make it through. It is pretty big news that we’re starting to see those bills introduced that people are talking about.
Obviously, we’ve got policymakers who are in staunch opposition to this. It’s definitely premature to assume that we’re looking at this being resolved this year. It’s optimistic and it’s something cigar smokers would like to see. Marco Rubio is certainly one of the most vocal opponents of reestablishing any relationship with Cuba, including trade.
Most of these Bills that are coming up do still have the conditions in there that Cuba still does have to open up certain things to do with elections and other things. In 1996, they passed the Helms-Burton Act, which stated that a complete lifting of the embargo is dependent on Cuba holding free and fair elections if political prisoners are released and the country guarantees the rights of workers and free speech. With that in place right now, there’s a good bit to get past, they would have to look into all that or pass a new bill that would override that.
Obviously, we have seen some exchange of political prisoners at this point. I think we’re definitely still ways off from seeing real democratic elections in Cuba even though other states that have historically been seen as communist have changed some of those things. That seems to be a place where Cuba’s is still pretty held strongly by the Castro family.
We’ve seen a little bit of the response from the Castro brothers. Basically so far, they don’t plan to change anything they’re doing, so I don’t know that anything will happen until they’re no longer with us.
Has there been any bias in your stores about if and when they may become available?
There has been quite a bit of buzz, just with the news of the bills and things happening in Cuba. We had quite a few people coming in each day asking if we are selling Cuban cigars yet and when will we sell them. A lot of people are confused about exactly what changed. A lot of it has been us trying to educate people on what did change. There’s more interest in it than I thought there would be. I think that’s a good sign for the cigar industry that whenever the embargo is lifted, we’ll probably see a lot of new people trying cigars.
I’ve seen a couple of instances when I’d be on tailgating where there would be a random guy wandering the quad and he would show up supposedly peddling a box of Cohiba Siglos before usually trying to sell them for $20 a piece or something like that. One of the things you mentioned was that people would be able to bring back up to $100 worth of cigars with legitimizing the market. What does that really amount to? Is that going to be four or five cigars or are we going to get back to normal pricing where we’re looking at $5, $10 a stick?
The cigars from Cuba, I think most everything will be in the $10 to $20 range and then some of their special releases will be in the $30 to $50 range. I think most of them will end up being on the more expensive end just because the supply will be very hard to get.
With the current laws in place, we’re not really able to discuss whether or not we’ve ever smoked Cuban cigars or what Cuban cigars we might like. Assuming that were to change, are there any Cuban cigars that you are interested in trying?
Definitely. I think for the most part, what’s regularly available from Cuba compared to let’s regularly available here now is pretty similar quality-wise. What we have access to now is as good or better from Cuba, but I think what I am interested in are trying some of the rare releases from Cuba. They do seasonal releases and regional releases that are special blends and special tobaccos. I think those are the ones I’d be excited about trying.
The ones that I’m mostly interested in trying are cigarmakers that have historically been associated with Cuba, the Cohibas, the Partagas, those cigarmakers who will then be able to open up additional cigar lines to us. I think I largely agree with you that the industry has shifted and compensated to make up for that, but the rest of the world does have Cuban tobacco available to them. It’s still supporting itself without us, so I think I’ll enjoy getting to try a number of them when and if that becomes a reality.
I think it would be interesting too that probably some of these other cigar makers from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Honduras, they’ll start blending with Cuban tobacco along with Nicaraguan tobacco. That will be interesting to see what blends come up that we haven’t even thought of.
I think it would be pretty cool with Rocky Patel or Nick Perdomo was to buy a tobacco farm in Cuba when it became a viable option and see what they produced out of the same plots of Earth where post-embargo, Cuban tobacco is grown now. Harris, anything else new and exciting and the cigar world right now?
There are a few new releases coming out, a few other interesting things going on in the cigar world. Caldwell Cigars is adding a new car called the Holy Braille to their releases. Robert Caldwell posted a picture of a bundle of Holly Braille. It’s a three-pack that contained 5×50 Robusto cigars. It’s an interesting new one. Rich, bold, smooth, sweet cigar is what they’re saying about it. It’s a limited release that is based on the Jay-Z song featuring Justin Timberlake. The verse that talks about is actually Timberlake’s with Caldwell changing the last part from the holy grail to holy braille. That’ll be interesting. It looks like that’s mainly going to be an event-only cigar. The Procigar Festival was going. That’s a big cigar festival with all of the Dominican cigar manufacturers where they have everybody down. They release new cigars. Everybody tries out the cigars. They have big parties at night, tour factories during the day. That’s open to anyone. Anyone can go down there for that. It’s always a big cigar event this time a year, so that was going on.
The Pope of Greenwich Village was unveiled from Drew Estate. It’s their latest creation that is part of Smoke Inn’s Microblend Series. Smoke Inn is a chain of stores in Florida that are known for doing these special microblends and small batch release cigars with different cigar companies. They’ve done one with Padron that was very popular. This one is from Drew Estate and it’s going to be released in the next month. It’s known for being a little bit spicy on other things. Altadis USA announces Trinidad Lost blends. It’s an interesting one. They had several Trinidad blends in their aging vaults that they’ve decided to release. These have been in their vault for years. It’s a blend with the Java Island Shaker and wrapper, Dominican Olor binder, and filler from the Dominican Republic. That’s going to be another small batch release. It’s looking pretty interesting.
I’m definitely a fan of that Dominican Olor binder and filler.
That’s always a good one. Patrick Vivalo is leaving Rocky Patel. Have you heard anything about that?
No, that’s news to me. In fact, I had just read it. Have you got any more specifics on that?
I really don’t. Patrick is a friend of ours and he’s been doing a lot of the marketing and different names for Rocky Patel the last few years. It looks like he’s headed out on his own to start his own cigar company.
I look forward to trying some of those out when they’re released.
He’s someone who has a lot of experience in the cigar industry.
We certainly wish him well and look forward to the cigars that he’s going to be turning out on his own. Did you come up with a list of cigars to suggest that our audience try?
I did. The first one that I think is extremely interesting and it’s a new arrival to our stores that are shipping right now the stores across the country is the Winston Churchill from Davidoff, which most guys who know Davidoff, they’re familiar with the Winston Churchill blend. It’s been around for a while, but Davidoff decided to take it, re-blend it and rebrand it. They brought it under the Davidoff White label brand of theirs, so it’s no longer off on its own. The re-blended version is a great medium to full bodied cigar. Quite a few of our customers have been trying it this week and last week. Everybody’s had great things to say about it. It’s an extremely smooth cigar but has a little more to it. Sometimes people say Davidoff’s blends are too mild, so Davidoff in their new releases has been tending to go more of the medium to full body route, more complex.
I really enjoyed the Churchill’s when they first came out. I used to smoke them on the golf course and it was a good middle of the day, out in the sun types cigar and I think that’s something I’d like to come back and try again if they’re mixing up their blend.
The other good news on it too is they lowered the price a little bit in the $10 to $18 range depending on the sizes, $4 to $5 less than the previous ones.
My medium to full-bodied cigar that I wanted to talk about is the Padron 1926. That’s a cigar that I don’t smoke often. They tend to be somewhere around the $20 price point. That’s not something that I’ll smoke on a weekly or even a monthly basis. Every time I go to the beach, I tend to grab one, sit out in the sand one day. They pack quite a punch. They’ve been a long-time favorite of mine.
I love the 1926. That’s always, I think, one of the best of the best out there.
It is definitely a cigar that is worth $20 if you’re going to spend $20 on a cigar.
The mild creamy cigar that I have been smoking lately is the Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Champagne. I know you tried probably a few of these, Lane. It’s just always one of the best smooth, mild cigars, but it has good flavor. It’s not just not mild with no flavor. It seems to me one that everybody likes.
It doesn’t give up any of the complexity of some of Perdomo’s fuller-bodied sticks, but it absolutely tastes great and it’s a very approachable cigar. It’s something you can introduce new cigar smokers to. It’s something that somebody like you or me who’s been smoking cigars for years could be happy with. The mild bodied cigar that I’ve brought to talk about is the Nub Connecticut, which I haven’t had in a while, but I ran across one in my humidor and I smoked recently. I’m really a fan of the Nubs. It’s a good-sized cigar. They’re fairly thick ring gauges, but they’re short. They don’t take too long to smoke. I know that I talked about Cameroon’s a little bit last week, but the Connecticut is a great mild creamy cigar that, like I said about the Perdomo, is very approachable. You’ve got someone who says, “I want to smoke a cigar,” but maybe they don’t smoke cigars often. That Nub Connecticut’s a good starting point too.
One thing I love about that cigar too is it looks like a smaller cigar, the Nub size they’re known for, but they really a lot longer than you think they would.
It’s a good 45-minute or an hour cigar. It’s not super short. I know I certainly smoked smaller sticks that burned really quickly, but it does burn longer than it looks.
Another cigar off the beaten path, a little bit different cigar, have you seen the Filthy Hooligan by Alec Bradley? They release it every year for St. Patrick’s Day and it’s a bright green candela wrapper cigar. It really just stands out in the Humidor, but it has the same long-filler core as the Allen Bradley Black Market, which got a 90 rating, but they put a vibrant green Candela wrapper on it. It just really gives it an interesting taste, medium-bodied cigar. They only release 2000 boxes of. This time of year, that’s a great one to try for just something that is off the wall.
I may put that on my list for my yearly glass of Jameson coming up here. The unique cigar that I brought is the CAO Amazon Basin. Recently my boss’ boss picked up a box of this and he came in and he dropped off one at several of our desks. There are a bunch of us at the office that liked to smoke cigars and I’m sure there’s a bank joke that can be made there. We’ve all been a fan of those. They’re made entirely of a rare tobacco that’s grown only in a remote region of the Amazon rainforest and that tobacco is only harvested once every three years, so it’s not a cigar that’s always available. It’s a cool-looking car. It doesn’t have your typical ring on it that’s made out of paper with notes or anything on it. It’s just another ring of tobacco around the wrapper of the cigar and it’s unique both from the tobacco that’s being harvested from its appearance with tobacco’s harvested from five different countries in South America. It really lends a unique smoking experience.
That really has a unique look to it. That twisted tobacco band on it and rolled it up in little lines and twisted it around there. We have a lot of people talking about that cigar just being so unique.
I don’t smoke CAO’s often, but it was pretty good. I would look forward to smoking another one again.
I was thinking about cigars that the ladies would like to try. One that had a lot of ladies try lately is the Tatiana Groovy Blue. It’s berry-flavored soaked in vanilla, with Acacia honey and Cognac. These cigars, you can eat them. I tried them too. I really liked them too, but just a fantastic cigar from Tatiana. It’s always the joke around the stores is the guy that you could just take one and take a bite out of it.
It sounds like something you could have a drink with an umbrella in it too.
I think so, definitely.
I spend most of my life longing for the next beach trip, so I’ll have to put that on my list too.
Tatiana, they have several other flavors too. That’s what they’re known for, just some really unique flavors and has a really nice Vanilla and another one called Sweet Euphoria. It’s an infusion of aromatic dried fruit with a pinch of Pixie dust, they say/ I don’t know what that means, but that has a really nice taste to it also.
I know that you brought up a cigar earlier and the cigar that I wanted to suggest to some of our lady readers is also a Drew Estate. It’s the Java Mint. It’s like getting a mint chocolate chip ice cream in a cigar and I don’t want to suggest that that’s something that only women might enjoy, but I know certainly that’s something that my wife would enjoy. She tends to find cigars that have some cocoa notes and some of the smoother flavors like mint to be very appealing and cigars and every once in a while, I can get her to take a draw off of one of mine. I think that’s one that she’d probably be pretty happy with these.
I like these. They really taste like the thin mint Girl Scout cookie to me. When I smoked one of this it tastes exactly like tin mint cookie.
I have about half a box of thin mints stuck in my freezer and it’s amazing that they’ve lasted as long as they have. Harris, I appreciate you having me in the shop again and I look forward to our next podcast. Anything else you want to share with our audience?
I think that’s pretty much it. Check out TheCigarCafe.com for more information, more articles on these cigars and other ones.