CCP 062 | Fidel Castro
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The recent passing of Fidel Castro has the media reiterating what the cigar community has been saying about lifting the embargo for Cubans. Only Congress has the power to make the repeal so changes can happen along with the legislation. Caps Natural has been releasing good lunch break time smokes like the PDR 1878. It’s very mild and medium, and the perfect size for a tester topped with a natural wrapper. A definite step-up from its previous releases, the Flor de las Antillas Maduro by My Father Cigars is a full-body cigar at under $10. It has a bit more spice from its predecessors with a hint of cocoa in the first draw. You’d expect more punch coming out because of the spiciness, but all in all it’s a very pleasant smoke.

Listen to the podcast here:

Fidel Castro | Alabama Football | Peter James | Cigar Cafe Radio

I’m Lane and I’m hanging out here at Cigars & More in Birmingham with Harris. What’s up, man?  

Started out smoking a new cigar, a PDR 1878 Capa Natural.

I have that in a short Gorda at home. I have been looking at smoking that. I smoked a PDR Capa Maduro on Thanksgiving. I’m digging PDR lately. They’re not making bad cigars.

I agree. They don’t seem to get a ton of press, good or bad. They’re vertically integrated, growing most of their tobacco during the whole process.

The first one that I had was the AFR-75. They just took off from there. They gave us the huge sampler at the trade show. This whole box of basically their entire lineup, but they’re all in these little short Gorda sizes. It’s not a heavy ring gauge, it’s probably 50 or 52.They’re three and three quarter inches or four inches long. They’re good lunch break type smoke.

It’s the perfect taster size.

I’ve been happy with everything that I’ve had on PDR for the last six months.  

This one’s starting out very mild and medium.

It’s got a natural wrapper. It’s got a white band.  

It doesn’t look intimidating.

That is Churchill size. That is intimidating.  

Yeah.

I’m smoking the Flor de Las Antillas Maduro. I know that Sean is a big fan of the Flor de Las Antillas. This is my first Maduro. Is this a new release that they’d come out with?  

Brand new. They launched it at the IPCPR, but they just only shipped a few weeks ago. We had them on the shelf for a week. They’re the same prices as regular Flor de Las Antillas.

Less than $10? It’s right in my wheelhouse. The first draw, I had some cocoa in it. It’s a little spicy. It’s probably medium plus. It’s not super full-bodied. I expected a little more punch from it than I actually got. It’s very pleasant. It’s probably one of the fuller-bodied sticks I have smoked.

It’s definitely a step up from the regular Flor de Las Antillas.

What have you been out to? You had Birmingham Magazine in here?

Birmingham Magazines did an article on cigar culture in Birmingham. They interviewed me and some other people with cigar shops around town. They came over, did a photo shoot, took pictures. Even the photographer who came in was like, “I like smoking an occasional cigar. I had no idea that places like this existed in Birmingham. I live downtown. I feel like there are a lot of people in Birmingham who just don’t realize this even exists.”

There’s three of them in this four-mile stretch down Highway 280. This is the best one but there are a couple others. Vitola in Mountain Brook isn’t far from here. Neither are the stores in Trussville and Hoover.

There’s probably eight or nine, maybe ten total stores in Birmingham. There’s a decent number, but there’s not that many compared to Atlanta. Atlanta has a hundred.

Was that Cigar City Club? Isn’t that down where they’re doing their grand opening right now? 

Are they?

All the reps have been talking about that up in Atlanta.

I’ve heard about that place. Great restaurant, great bar, good cigar selection.

I’ve seen stuff pop-up on it with Chris Carey, Sean Hardiman, and Don Williams.  

We can all hang out there. I live in Atlanta near there. That concept seems to be growing in popularity of a full-blown cigar club. You start to see those pop up like Burn-Barracito blend.

CCP 060 | Fidel Castro
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Fidel Castro: The concept seems to be growing in popularity of a full-blown cigar club.

Even your bar here is a microcosm of that.  

We’re like a mini version. It’s a big trend, even around the country, of cigar shops adding liquor license, if they can. There are so many restrictions, even for us in Birmingham. This is probably our only store we could actually do it at. In other stores, the local cities have rules that would keep us from doing that.

You’re twelve feet outside of the nearest municipality here.  

We’re surrounded by three cities. We’re an island. You can do anything in the county. No rules. Have you talked to Sean? What’s he been smoking? I haven’t heard. I sent him a lot of things.

Did he smoke anything when he went to Florida? I know that he took the kids down there for football.

He got me to send him a big batch of cigars for that. He had all kinds of things. He had some Davidoffs. He had a good variety, a little bit of everything. One of my new favorites is the Oscar. We just got it in, and we sold out of it everywhere. It’s full body and strong, but a great new one.

I smoked a Nat Sherman Timeless, which I smoke all the time. I smoked the Rocky Patel Platinum Limited Edition Habano. It had a nice spice to it. That was a good stick. That’s a little more full-bodied than what I’ve got going on right now.

We’ve got the new Diamond Crown Black Diamond. Those have officially launched.

Going back to Sean, has he gotten his care package from Bobby Newman yet?

I forgot to ask him about it.

Somewhere I have his cell phone number on a business card.

I need to ask him about that. Normally, I’m on top of that. I’m surprised I forgot it.

I kept trying to bump into him at the trade show and never got where we were both in the same place at the same time. I ran into him once, but he was tied up. After that, I never saw him again.

He’s great. He’s one of the nicest guys in the cigar industry. When he was on the show, he was talking about how they’re the number one or the number two producer of cigars in Nicaragua by volume.

In the cigar world, Fidel Castro just passed away. It’s been funny hearing CNN regurgitate all the things that we’ve been saying about how congress is the only one with the power to repeal the actual embargo. The Trump administration isn’t going to have the power to unilaterally repeal all of that. We can make some changes here and there, but it’s a legislative change that has to happen in that.

We’ve heard Trump publicly come out that he would not be in support of that unless they’re going to change some of the ways they treat their people, which is fair.

That seems to fall in line with what the cigar industry believes as a whole. There lots of people in the cigar industry that have parents and grandparents that were directly impacted back in the ‘60s. They’re not happy. There have been people trying to treat Castro’s death as any other foreign dignitary death. They aren’t thrilled about these “Rest in peace, Castro” posts and t-shirts. They’re like, “This guy took my family’s livelihood.” 

They ended up fleeing with nothing. Most of those people who fled are in their 80sand 90snow.

I’ve seen everybody from reps to George Sosa, from Alec Bradley, Christian Eiroa, his cousin Emer, vocally speaking out against people who are making these posts treating Fidel Castro like he was just another political leader from some foreign country.

The whole Cuban population in the US, mostly in Miami, they’re definitely not fans of Castro, to say the least. It’d be interesting to see what happens now that he is gone if things do change.

Is there going to be more pressure for there to be valid elections and anything like that? Raoul’s in charge right now.

He’s been more open to that in the last few years. He’s officially in charge now. I saw several cruise lines have recently announced multiple ships doing cruises from Miami or Fort Lauderdale. The tourism keeps increasing. Hilton and Starwood and some of these other US-based hotel chains, they’re being allowed by the Cuban government to operate hotels but they can’t own them. The government will still own the hotels but they are allowing them to fully operate them. I don’t understand how that works.

Third party contractors of their own hotel chains?  

That’s what it sounded like. I don’t think in the past they’ve allowed that type of thing.

I was talking to my boss at work about it. I had to explain to him. He’s not a cigar guy. He’s indicated that he might be interested in getting some exposure to it, but he asked about the whole Cuba thing and if they were better. I said, “Better is subjective. Cuban flavor profile doesn’t match with the American cigar smoker anymore, for the most part. If the embargo was 100% lifted tomorrow, there’d be no way that they can keep up with the US demand. Ten years down the road, when we send our ISO quality guys and our Six Sigma experts to come in and impose some modern farming techniques and improve efficiencies, they might be producing a whole lot of cigars, but tomorrow, no.”

That is an interesting point. From what we hear, if they’re not doing all the modern farming techniques, they should be. If they were to transition to that, could they increase that output? Maybe.

My wife would like to go before things get fairly modernized. I don’t think she’s interested if it turns into another Dominican Republic or Bahamas or Jamaica. She wants to see it as it is.

That’s what I keep hearing from people around the cigar industry. A lot of guys who have stores have gone on trips just to see it and go to the factories. Right now, it’s still the way it started. You can tell where it’s starting to change because of the influx of tourists, but now’s the time to go because ten years from now, it will be just like anywhere else. It won’t be special.

We love the Caribbean. We love the islands that we visited. Cuba is currently different and unique. 

It’s like a time capsule. I’d like to go too.

I don’t know when we’ll go because I don’t think we’re talking about planning a trip like that for next year. Maybe the year after that or something like that if it hasn’t totally completely changed by then.

It’s probably reasonable to do a cruise that loops down. One of the cruises that went all the way around the island and went to each port, that was pretty cool.

That’s the Carnival-based cruises. It’s owned by Carnival.

You would see a lot of different parts of the island.

It goes to Havana and then it comes around the south side of the island and the east end, Santiago. There are four or five stops on this long skinny slender island. You get to see not just one town, which happens a lot on cruises. They take you to one island and they stop at one town. You’ve got six or eight hours, if you’re lucky, you get an overnight port.

I was looking at a map of Cuba. It’s interesting looking at the names of cities, and regions, and how many of those have been used for cigar names. Even this one I’m smoking, PDR. Their name comes from Pinar del Rio. That’s where they got that from. There are so many names that all came from there.

CCP 060 | Fidel Castro
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Fidel Castro: It’s interesting looking at the names of cities, regions and everything, and how many of those have been used for cigar names.

Are there any events that you got coming up? I know you’ve been talking about happy hour specials at the bar. Have you got any reps coming in to take advantage of the new bar space?

We’re starting to get a few things set up. Jonathan from Oliva is coming in. This is our first week of normal schedule. This is the beginning of trying to get in our routine of everything. He’s going to come to specials, promoting the bar too.

He used to work at one of your shops, didn’t he? 

Yeah, for a long time. He worked at the Trussville store and then H-280. When we started Vitola, he helped us get everything set up. He worked there for a few months and then worked to work for Oliva. It was probably four to five years. At the beginning, it was part-time and then at the end, full-time.

The last time I saw him was when I wandered into Patton Creek one night. Kyle was there. Jason Jackson was there. When I got there, it was Jonathan’s birthday. He was there too, so we sat around. They were all catching up with each other, Jason made-to-offer watches and cigars and a little bit of everything.

Jason was around four to five years too before he went to Altadis.

You’re like a feeder league for cigar reps in the area.

I guess so. It’s been a good thing. It’s nice that they live local. When we first started, there were no locals here or reps. We have two now. We had three for a while before Jason left. It makes a big difference because those guys are just hanging out all the time.

Have you seen what I’ve been doing on game days online? 

No.

I change my profile picture to a temporary profile picture of Rob Nat dressed up as a mouth-breathing Bama homer. He’s got a fake mullet and a moustache and a Bama shirt.

When did he do this?

It was a couple of years ago. It was at a different cigar shop. I set my temporary profile picture every game day now and have it just automatically turn off the next morning. Since I started doing it, Bama is undefeated on the weeks where I do it. It’s only weird if it doesn’t work. I like to refer to him as being my old ironic treasure troll right now.

I’m sure he loves that.

He hates it.  

I follow his posts a little bit on Facebook. He’s been struggling this season.

He does seem a little. There’s more melancholy than raves this year. He seems to be getting to be a little detached. He certainly has opinions but he seems less willing to just boil them up.  

He was in town.

He was. He came for the game. He went to the Iron Bowl. Ward was chastising him about not texting him when he was there.  

They used to smoke cigars.

Ward is a Bama fan. Jason didn’t talk to him until after the game.

That was a frustrating game. I watched it. It was an ugly game. It’s not what I expected it to be.

I’m not happy with the way Alabama’s playing the last couple of games. They’ve covered the spread but it hasn’t been pretty.

They haven’t looked as dominant as they were.

There have been injuries, but that happens. We’ve got plenty of depth and talent. Hopefully, we do what we should do and beat Florida and continue on undefeated into the playoffs. Word on the street is that my wife and I have tickets to the Peach Bowl and the hotel room is already booked.  

What’s the Peach Bowl?

That’s the first round of playoffs.

Who do you think Alabama will play if they make it to the playoffs?

I have to assume it’s probably likely that Washington is going to slide in.

It seems wrong that Washington would be there, but they’ve had a good season.

They have had a good season. They’ve only lost to USC.

Who have they played? Anybody good?

They played their pact 12 schedule. I don’t think that any of it’s been particularly great. They’re on one loss. Power fight team.  

It’s still hard to have only one loss no matter who you’re playing.

Clemson will probably slide in. I don’t know with the Big Ten. The Big Ten is very suspicious right now. Right now, our state’s right at number two. They didn’t clinch their division, and the team that did is about to play for the Big Ten Championship. If Penn State wins, they rank seventh right now.

They can hop in, it seems like.

Did they jump Ohio State because Ohio State isn’t playing?

I don’t think they will. It seems like the playoff committee loves Ohio State.

That forces the playoff committee to turn around and make a statement that they do or they don’t matter.  

If they do matter, then Penn State should jump.

Penn State beat Ohio State or did they have a better record? 

That’s Ohio State’s one loss. They beat them. That was unexpected. Nobody thought that would happen. That’s a big deal for the championships because if Penn State doesn’t make it.

Rivalry week was just fantastic football. I had a blast watching basically all the games that we sat. I was in a hotel room in Chattanooga. Third quarter of the Iron Bowl, we went downstairs and drank at the hotel bar angrily. I sat with some Tennessee fans. I picked Vandy to win that game. I told the Tennessee fans politely that I thought they could handle Vandy, so as not to cause a scene in Chattanooga.

I might get upset about that. What did Michigan drop to after losing?

I don’t know.

I’m trying to look that up. I don’t think they fell far. Did they drop to five or six or did they go further?

Michigan’s number five right now.

They just dropped right outside. Is there any way Michigan can make it back?

Michigan and Penn State are both two-loss teams. Wisconsin’s in it at number six. What is this even going to do? The Big Ten is four of the top seven teams. You got Quinton, Washington, Bama’s still undefeated.

SCC looks weak this year outside of Alabama. 

Ford is number fifteen. They’re eight and three. There’s no way that if they win the game this weekend that the SCC is even going to send anybody. Then what happens? Don’t they have a championship game? Don’t they have some crazy game that there’s some outlier chance that they can sneak into the playoff at some G5 school?

If that happens, it will be the end of the playoff committee. They’re just going to scrap it.

It will just be revelations. “We can’t have a service academy in the college football playoff.”

Tell me about this cutter you’re thinking about getting and your case. You got a new cigar case.

I’ve ordered a new cigar case. The case that Sean sold me earlier this year is cool. It’s very vintage. It’s very unique. Nobody has one, but it only holds two cigars. When I’m carrying a case full of cigars, I probably want to carry more than two, so I ordered one of those Peter James cases on the internet. I don’t know when it’s going to be here. I don’t think it shipped yet. They sell it with the option to pair an S.T. Dupont cutter and lighter, but they’re overpriced because they’re basically being resold. They have to get imported into Canada and then shipped back into the US.

Their prices are inflated on those. It’s made out of Italian leather. I just got the black one with the brown interior. They’re all handmade. They’ve got a cell phone pocket in the back of them now. They hold a couple of credit cards and an ID. I got a custom ash siesta rest. It’s a stand that will hold your cigar on the table. I’m going to take it to meetings. I’m like, “I work at the bank, let me bring five cigars into the meeting and have cedar line leather cigar case.” I feel like I need to take this to meetings with vendors, meetings where I have to impress someone and just show up.

It will be memorable.

Exactly like, “Who’s this guy?” These Dupont lighters and cutters are very nice. They are not inexpensive, but I don’t want to pay at an inflated price either just ordering it direct. I called Peter James and talked to them and said, “I know that you have this Cyber Monday special. I just wanted to ask a few questions.” Their customer service folks were very helpful. They were willing to help me order over the phone. I said, “It’s okay. I can order this online. I just wanted to validate a couple of things.”

They ended up giving me a discount code. It’s 10% off which is a pretty good discount. I ordered it. It’s going to come in. I’ve got my Dupont lighter already that Davidoff was gracious enough to give us at the show. I was thinking back then, “It sure would be nice to have a nice cutter to go around in that.”I’m having to figure that out whether I’m going to order from you or order something online, but it depends on how quick it would get in your way mostly. I’m going to have the baller cigar case.

CCP 060 | Fidel Castro
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Fidel Castro: I’m curious to see if the ones that came in are the same, because sometimes they mass produce and they’re not the same.

I talked to Ben Lee. He wrote a stogie review. Ben Lee got one for Christmas last year and said it was a-maze balls. That’s a celebrity endorsement if I ever heard one. I feel like Ben and me are each other’s spirit animals. We got to talking at the show. The more that we’ve gotten to know each other since the show, we both work in IT, we both drink bourbon, we both like hand guns and we both carry pocket knives. Now we’re going to have matching cigar cases. He’s my cigar BFF on the internet. He said, “Do it. It is totally worth it. I would buy it at full retail if I had to. I lucked out and got one as a gift but it’s worth it.”

That’s a big endorsement.

Ben is my bad influence.

I love the S.T. Dupont Maxi Jet Series, the cutters and the lighters. They’re so well-made and just mid-level series. They are more expensive than Xikars or Colibris for most part, but a big step up in quality.

When they gave us the Mini Jet Lighter, I like that it was unique and everything. Getting used to using it, it’s a pleasant lighter to use. The Slim 7s, their soft lighter, those are cool. I’m a torch guy and I like the Mini Jet. It’s the Mini Jet that they gave us. I don’t think they make a Mini Jet cutter. I would get one if I could, but I can’t. I don’t care if it’s black and it goes with my white lighter. I don’t care if it’s chrome and it doesn’t go with my white lighter. It’s just that they’ve got slots cut out in the cigar case to carry a lighter and a cutter. You might as well get something a little bit flashy out of it.

Do you have any cigars that you’re planning to smoke soon?

I don’t know. I played in one of those little Powerballs and I haven’t won yet. There have been a lot of Fuente packs put together. If I manage to snag one of those, I wouldn’t mind smoking an Opus or a Shark. I’ve still got a humidor full of stuff, some of it that I haven’t smoked at and some of it that I’ve smoked a lot of. I’m still sitting on a lot of the Rocky Patel Sun Grown and a lot of the Nat Sherman Timeless Nicaraguan. Those are always up for setting on fire. I’ve still got a bunch of stuff from the show that hasn’t moved. I smoked a Tatuaje Black the other day. It was great. I’ll smoke something this weekend, but I don’t know what it’s going to be.

I don’t know either. I’m thinking about the new Diamond Crown Black Diamond since those are in the store now. I’m curious to see if the ones that came in are the same, because sometimes they mass produce and they’re not the same. Sometimes they’re better, sometimes they’re not. I feel like they’ll be as good or better. I’m probably going to smoke Opus. I have some friends that we get together once a year for Opus Xmas. We smoke an Opus and cook out or something. Every time we need to go restock a few things, we pick up a couple of more bourbons. Our bourbon collection is getting bigger.

We can’t have too much bourbon. That Kentucky corn juice is good stuff.

We have a Buffalo Trace. They don’t normally have that in. Noah’s Mill and a couple of other ones.

That’s the stuff out of Colorado?

The Colorado whiskeys are some of my new favorites because they have a smoothness that a lot of the Kentucky ones don’t have.

They filter like Jack Daniels over charcoal.

I don’t know but I do know their process is a little bit different, and that’s why they do taste different. You can tell the difference. TINCUP is from Colorado.

They’re doing the faux aging like they do with John Emerald in Opelika.

I’m not sure because most of these are new.

They heat up the room and they cool the room and everything. Isn’t that what the Devil’s Cut is? Isn’t that how they make that?

I think so. They’re speeding up the aging process, so good ones to try.

We both got to get out of here but it’s good to hang out with you. I’m sorry Sean couldn’t make it.

We’re missing the third horseman.

We still talked enough.  

See you next time.

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