The Leaf Connecticut and the Corojo by Oscar are great cigars as they burn well, but it just doesn’t hit the target for some. Even with its promise of a full body release, the Romeo 505 Nicaragua is not quite as strong as some expected it to be. But the AVO Syncro Fogata, although being a reblend that steps up the intensity, still has all the same flavors but with a little more pop. These new arrivals in the shop have all their characters, but interestingly, pairing them with nacho cheese can bring out a predominant spicy flavor.
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Romeo 505 | Gispert Intenso | Asylum 13 7×70
I’m Lane. I’m hanging out with Sean and Harris. What’s going on?
Nothing much. What’s going on with you?
I’m just firing up the new cigar.
I’m taking a momentary lapse in meetings, for lunch and for a cigar. I’m pairing my cigar with the traditional nacho cheese Doritos and a bottle of Deer Park water.
Does the nacho cheese bring out some flavors in the cigar?
It does bring out a little bit of that Habano spice. It’s working so far.
Not much is going on that is a gross understatement. I just got back from Atlanta from a five-day company event. I’ve got a lacrosse tournament that we’re going away for. My son is sick. My daughter is sick. I don’t even know what’s going to happen. I truly am taking it day by day. The weather is broken here in Chicago. I have been smoking a lot of cigars, so I’m thankful for that.
What have you been smoking?
I gave away eight good cigars, which pissed me off because I know some of them were not cigar smokers, but what the hell. What are you going to do?
I have an old employer who does this customer appreciation party every year and I went to it. I took my Peter James case full of cigars. I handed out every one of them. Sometimes, that’s just what you do.
It was one of those events I couldn’t be a cheapskate. Everyone laughed at me because I brought my travel humidor. I would say almost everybody took a cigar from me. They’re like, “Kavanaugh, what have you got in there for me?” I’m like, “I’m the asshole bringing the travel humidor but you want a cigar.” I’ve had several that I’ve never had before. One was the Oscar by Oscar Valladares. I know that you loved it and it’s this upscale cigar. I like the Leaf, Corojo and Connecticut better.
Are you talking about the Habano?
It has the green wrap on there. It is the Habano.
That’s what Lane is smoking.
That’s what I have on fire right now.
It’s not that I didn’t like it. It’s just that I didn’t like it as much as his Leaf one. That’s my preference.
Which Leaf is your favorite at this point? Are you a Sumatra, a Corojo?
If I’m going medium full, it’s Corojo. If I’m going light, I love the Connecticut. That’s probably my favorite Connecticut cigar.
This line of cigars is more of a line that I’ve missed out on smoking. People come in and ask about it all the time. It sells like crazy whenever we have any of them in stock, they move. I still haven’t had one until right now.
You have never had a Leaf or you have never had an Iceberg?
I’ve never had any of the Leaf.
I’ve probably smoked 25 or 30 of them.
He always does.
I figured what I would do is I would start with the most expensive one available and settling after that. You’re saying you like the Connecticut and the Corojo better than Habano?
I do. It was a great cigar. It burned great. It was built well. It just didn’t hit me. You can’t compare that to a Connecticut. They’re completely different cigars. If I was going to smoke two cigars, I would rather smoke those than that one. I didn’t dislike it. In fact, I liked most of the ones I smoked. I had a Liga Privada No.9 and I enjoyed the shit out of every second of it.
What did you find in it?
I found Graham Cracker. I texted him the minute that I tasted it, I’m like, “Damn it, Lane. I got it.” I latched onto it, I got it. It was pretty pleasant. I smoked one several years ago and did not enjoy it. I smoked the T52 and loved it and I’ve been smoking them ever since. Two completely different cigars but equally good. I’ll never smoke a No.9 the same.
That’s where I am on it. I smoke enough of them until I felt I’ve got it. Now that I get it, I’ll just smoke them because I like them now.
I like them too. You’re smoking an Oscar. Harris, what are you smoking?
I’m smoking the Romeo 505 Nicaragua by Romeo y Julieta from Altadis. It’s one of their new releases. It came into the store. It’s supposed to be the most full body release from Romeo y Julieta. It’s off to a good start. Good Nicaraguan cigar. I was reading a description about it and they talked about power, complexity, depth, strength. It’s not quite as strong as I expected it to be, but it’s nice so far. I’m probably half an inch to an inch into it.
My pallet is starting to get back into the swing of things. I’m leaning towards medium to full. I had the Avo Syncro Fogata. That’s a hell of a cigar right there.
I like what they did with that cigar. All that they did is they re-blended the original Syncro. That’s to step up the intensity. All of the same flavors are still there.
It just got a little more pop.
I like that a lot too.
That one was a standout for me. You sent me the Davidoff 702, the Special R 702 Series. It was okay. It’s not my favorite Davidoff. I’m pretty mild smoke. Have you had one yet, Harris?
I haven’t had the Special R size. I’ve tried the 2000 size is a little bit smaller. I liked it but I don’t think I like it more than the Davidoff Nicaragua or maybe even the Yamasá. It is supposed to be different. Four or five years ago, they did a special release of the Davidoff 702 and it was one of the most popular special release cigars they ever did. They are trying to at least use that wrapper again.
Capture the magic?
Yeah. It’s hard to recreate something like that.
It was good. I’m picky with a lighter wrapper now. It didn’t have the complexity that I was looking for. Nothing bad. The standout, other than the Fogata, you gave me a Casa Magna Domus Magnus II. That is one hell of a mouthful. I loved it. It was a very good cigar.
Another new arrival is a TAA blend. That one has been selling like crazy. Everybody is loving that.
I know it’s a boutique line. It’s a smaller brand or is it made by somebody else?
It’s made by SAG and Quesada. They’re big. They have a lot of brands. The regular Casa Magna was the number one cigar seven or eight years ago. It’s an offshoot of those.
I finally got my hands on an All Out Kings.
They stamped the brakes on it a little bit.
It was way mellower than the trades.
That was a motherfucker, that one that we got.
It’s very toned down now, very palatable. I haven’t talked to anybody who hasn’t been really happy with it.
The legend is that it’s got some Liga Privada innards. When I smoked the one from the convention, I could definitely feel the roots. It was a powerhouse. How is the newly-blended one? Is it powerful?
It’s still Old Nicaragua. It’s still got the pepper spice. It’s still got that coffee, that cocoa, the stuff that I gravitate towards anyway. You don’t have to have a steak before you set it on fire. I had one on an empty stomach. It was the second cigar of the day for me that day. I have the slimmer of the two. They’ve given them names like four poses and stuff like that.
It’s not exactly Lancero but it’s been like Lancero. It’s just 5.5 inches long or something like that. It looks very delicate but a good cigar.
I will keep that on the list. I told Harris I’ve got a big moving order that I’m going to put in before I go. I’m saving the Opus for when I get there. The day that I sit down on that deck in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is the day that I’m going to fire up that blue Opus. Which one is that again?
It’s the Opus 20th year. He did tell me a long time ago to save him one. I didn’t want to tell him because I lost it. I was up in the humidor looking around and I found it. It was up there. I put it up top so I wouldn’t lose it, and then I lost it and I found it. Now you have it. That’s a great cigar.
That’s been on ice for a couple of months now. That is going to be my Lancaster, “We’ve sat down, we’ve unpacked, welcome to the town.”
Those are impossible to get. I’ve seen prices on the internet double and triple the retail price because they just don’t exist.
That’s probably a good one to celebrate there. Our family is very nervous. We’re excited but nervous. Quinn’s going to be playing with a new football team. I’m going to be coaching with a new group of guys. I’ve been coaching with the same guys for almost a decade. It’s going to be different but fun. I’m going to be in the middle of everything so I’m excited about that. I’m excited to be around something other than Chicago, Milwaukee and Indiana because there’s not much going on.
Are you going to the office every day? Is it the same office there?
The plan is three days a week. I’m not against going in four days a week. I would like one day a week of quiet just to get caught up because it’s a very young office. The office there now is packed. It’s just packed. We’re moving to a big office, 10,000 square feet. I’ll end up beating people with a hammer just because there are cubicles and I can’t deal with that. I need an office. I don’t think the new office will be done by the time I get there. I may go there a couple of days and go, “If I don’t have a place where I can close the door, there’s no way I could work.” It’s not an actual workspace where you’ve got like a long, collaborative table and everything and everyone’s sharing?
We do have that. You walk in and there are kids with their hoodies up and their earphones on. I’m surprised there are no hammocks swinging in it. It’s a pretty cool place to be if you’re 23, but when you’re 45, that’s shit. I can’t work in that environment where there are four desks together. It reminds me of a pod in grammar school. It’s not going to work. What we’re going to do is the new office will have C-level on the first floor, everybody on the second floor and then we’ll have a third floor with our marketing and then fourth floor will be cooperative. They’ll be able to rent out space. If a kid from the college wants to come in and have some space to work, he or she can do that. Also, we’ll probably subcontract that space out too. I’m sure we’re going to need coding talent and marketing talent. We’ll hire from within using that space. I’m excited about it, it should be fun. I did have one other one that you recommended to me. It’s got rave reviews and I would second those. I had the Rocky Patel Fifty-Five and it was a bad ass for sure.
It’s the best Rocky I’ve had through the years.
I take that back. I said the Magnus. Now that I think about that, I had it a couple of days ago, that was probably my favorite among the new ones that I’ve had. That was really good. Thank you for the recommendation. I wouldn’t have smoked one. I love Rocky Patel. I find something else to smoke all the time. That one was really good.
Which size did you smoke?
It was the Robusto.
I liked the Perfecto.
It was the Torpedo.
They’re all Perfectos, just different lengths basically.
I would say mine was like a 5.5″, 6″.
There’s a 4″. It’s like my VSG Enchantment. I like that size.
I don’t like smoking cigars that short. I always feel like they’re going to burn hot on me. I don’t like it so I never gravitate to that size.
You gravitate to the Robusto, maybe Toro size.
Yes, for sure.
That can be generally the size of the blender’s intent anyway.
Robusto, most of the time, is with a dark roast.
Whether it’s a Lancero or a Corona to get slimmer or like a Gordo or bigger.
I like the Lancero. I’m going to sound like a non-cigar snob. I don’t like the Lancero when I’m smoking it in front of people because I look like a Froot Loop.
Scott and I were packing a few weeks ago and we had the RoMa Craft Aquitaine Lancero. That was a pleasant Lancero. We smoked it together. We were privileged together.
It’s the cigar nerd size.
I feel like a nerd. I don’t usually smoke with cigar guys, although I had a pretty cool moment. I’m at our event in Atlanta. For those of you who have not seen Dave Corbin speak or Steve Farber, they’re two guys on the motivational corporate speaking circuit. They’re pretty well-known. Steve Farber wrote one of the top 50 business books of all time. Dave Corbin says, “When are we having a cigar?” I go, “You tell me.” When I get together with him, I always have a cigar with him. Everyone’s milling back and forth. It’s in between sessions and we’re smoking a cigar. Steve Farber calls him and says, “Where are you?” He goes, “I’m down with Kavanaugh down next to the building. We’re having a cigar.” He came down so it was the three of us enjoying the cigar together. It was a cool moment with a worldwide best-selling author and a pretty well-known speaker just to chill out, them enjoying, I was enjoying. It was fun. I had a Black Market which I haven’t had in a while.
That’s one of the great things about cigars. If they found out you like cigars, they’re like, “We have to get together and hang out and smoke.”
We’re the only ones. It was really cool. My palate’s going back up to medium full but that Black Market kicked me in the nuts. It was pretty rough for a first one of the season.
Sean, I’m getting into this Oscar. I’m starting to figure out where it comes off the rails for you. It’s mostly Honduran tobacco so it’s not quite Nicaraguan. It’s got some of the same notes. You’re still with a couple of white pepper and everything. There’s been some charred woody stuff and now I’m getting a grassy note on it. I get where you’re losing this cigar. Up to the first couple of inches, it reminded me of a natural and timeless Nicaraguan but with some leather on it. Coming from where you are, I get where this comes off the rails for you.
That’s okay with me. It was about halfway, maybe a third in. It’s not that I didn’t like it. There’s a ton of cigars that I’ve liked along the way that I’m like, “First one, second one, I’m done.” I’m certainly glad I smoked more Ligas than just the one that I did. What’s coming in now? What’s the hot thing? What is going on with legislation? Any movement on that? What’s going on with that?
We had an update with the director of that from IPCPR. He said basically they’re still on track with pushing their multi-pronged approach. They’re pushing the bills through Congress that would totally defund the FDA regulation of cigars. They’re pushing the court case forward. They finally have a hearing date set that’s coming up. That’s a big deal that they’re finally going to have a hearing on their challenge to the FDA’s authority to regulate premium cigars.
They may put an injunction on there or stop it for a while?
That’s what they’re asking for, an injunction on everything until the court case is resolved. It’s basically to put everything on hold.
I have a feeling it’s going to go.
There’s a great chance that happens. They’re talking with the Trump administration a good bit. They have said they want to decrease regulations. There’s a list of 100 regulations and the premium cigar regulation is on there as a potential one to gut. They could basically make it where it doesn’t do much of anything.
If you think of it from a business standpoint, if we’re going to do anything with Cuba, if we’re going to do any business with them, that would be the first one to go. You’re tearing them apart, don’t you think?
That would be big. The new head of the FDA, I was reading an article, he has written several articles in the last few years critical of the premium cigar regulations saying that it’s a dramatic overstep of the FDA’s authority. Now, this guy has been put at the head of FDA. That’s great news too. There are lots of positive things. Overall, everyone seems pretty positive that one of these different ways is likely to work.
What is going on with Jonathan Drew? Is his time with Drew Estate up? What is the story with that?
Interestingly enough, Drew Estate recently brought him back in as the CEO of day-to-day operations and everything, which was shocking to me. I don’t know him well but we talk from time to time and I didn’t think he was interested in doing much more than being a brand ambassador, just doing events and being the face of the brands. They brought him back in. He came to TAA this year which was the first time I’ve ever seen him there. He seems to be jumping back in full throttle. I’m not sure why they did that but it seems like a positive move for them because he’s definitely the creative force behind those brands.
We have a dear friend that had his company bought out. It was a fire protection company and he sold it for an obscene amount of money. They were like 15% of their overall business but 30% of their profit. They were very profitable. He had a five-year contract with him. They re-upped it. In five more years, he ended up buying the company back for a fraction of what he sold it for. A lot of times, the creative forces behind these well-run companies, they are the brand. They are the business. Without them, it’s tough to go on. You go to those conventions and he’s front and center, shaking hands and kissing babies.
I think Swisher, who bought Drew Estate, maybe underestimated how difficult it would be running it without him as the one in charge. He started a bourbon brand, a liquor company called John Drew Brands. He has released a bourbon. I have not tried it. It’s not available in Alabama. He’s also doing that whole thing too.
That’s what happens when you have several tens of millions stacked on top of one another. You can do fun stuff like that. I’ve got two plans moving out to Lancaster that we’re going to do. My buddy is a fairly well-regarded home brewer. He usually sells his brews to local restaurants before he’s done with them. They’ll know what he’s doing and they’ll buy it from him. He’ll keep a case and then he’ll sell the rest. He believes that he can brew all of his stuff NA as well as alcohol and do it well. He’s going to take two gallons of every brew that he makes in the next year and make an NA version of it. If it works out well, we’re going to try to sell it. It will be craft NA beer.
That whole industry seems to be booming. It seems like that will be a great idea.
There is nobody in the market. There may be one but it’s very local, you can’t really buy it. He seems to think so. Obviously, you can boil off the alcohol or you can use a reverse osmosis filter and filter the alcohol. We’re going to try boiling it out and see how it works. That’s how they do it in O’Doul’s and all the stuff you see on the shelf. He’s going to make a Belgian White to start. It should be done by the time I get there. That is one of the things I miss.
Belgian Whites are so smooth anyway. That’s a good place to start. They aren’t going to rile up the beer dudes. They don’t taste that much.
You don’t like the Belgian White?
They’re fine. It’s just they’re very smooth, they’re very easy to drink and they don’t always necessarily taste like beer.
I’ll agree with you there. They’re in a class by themselves, the weissbeers and the wheats.
I know Harris is hearing a lot of this stuff online. They have made a bitter called Jack the Sipper. It’s amazing. It’s a pale ale. It’s not an IPA. They call it an ESB, Extra Special Bitter.
I like them a lot too.
They sell it down the street, at The Beer Hop, from work. Occasionally, I get a vendor who wants to take a group of us from work out. I’ll look up at the wall to wall. They’ve got 70 taps and I’m like, “Can I get a pint of Jack the Sipper?”
I wish that they would come out with a non-alcoholic scotch. I know that’s not possible but I just wish they would because if I were boozing now, I’d be a scotch and a whiskey guy. They make it look awfully good. I envy those who don’t want to slug down the whole bottle.
I wonder if they could remove the alcohol from the scotch. To have the flavor but not the alcohol, where would they get the heat?
Where would they get the heat?
That’s what I’m saying. How would they get the bite?
It might be good without the bite.
NFL draft, are you excited about it? Are you looking forward to seeing who’s going? I still think that it’s not a foregone conclusion on who goes number one through five. I think it’s up in the air. I think we’re going to see some movement up there at the top. I think the Bears may move down. What do you think? Are you going to watch it?
I’ll probably have it on the background. Thursday nights, my wife take over the living room and watch Grey’s Anatomy and stuff. I could even be cooking. I may retire, grab my laptop and go do my draft stuff. I don’t have any big plans.
Did you see Grey’s Anatomy?
That’s what she does. It’s Thursday nights. She’s going to do Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal. She’s not going to talk to me for three hours, which may not be a bad thing. Sometimes the quiet is nice. I don’t do any network shows. I cannot watch a network show. The last one I watched was Blacklist and it’s okay. There’s so much better stuff on Netflix and AMC. I’m watching Better Call Saul which is pretty good, a lot of fun.
We’ve been binge watching Game of Thrones. She never watched any of it so we’re in this gap where it’s extra long. I convinced her to binge watch six seasons of Game of Thrones so that in July we can watch it together. We’re halfway through season four. She’s starting to get invested in the characters. She’s constantly asking questions, “Is this person dead?” I’m like, “Just watch the show. You’ll know soon.”
Who is the one that was married to Sansa Stark that finally got his at the end of last season bitten by the dogs?
That was one of the most satisfying deaths in a show.
We’re basically at the point where we’re just starting to meet him. He’s chopped off Theon’s junk and he goes out hunting with his dogs and everything but their hunting had gone wrong. He turned the dogs loose on his girl and they pinned down everything. I just sat back and grinned. I was like, “It’s going to be satisfying to watch this again.”
Have you seen Outlander yet?
No. I’ve seen part of an episode. That’s the one where the girl goes back in time for something and falls in love. I haven’t really watched it.
There’s a lot of duality, a lot of Charles Dickens in there. Her husband in 1945, when it’s shot, is the enemy in the past. The villain in there is one of the great villains of all time. It’s like that Ramsay. It’s someone you truly loathe. When they get theirs, you’re like, “Please torture them to death. Cut their eyelids off. Make them watch themselves get their feet cut off inch by inch.” You’re like, “That was pretty violent, Sean.” Outlander’s another good one if you want to binge watch. You’ll like it because your wife will like it. There’s some action and there’s some love in there too so you’ll have to deal with that, but it’s pretty good. What’s on the agenda for the weekend? Have you got anything special planned?
There’s a big Italian food festival here in town that we go to every year. They’ve got a cigar patio setup every year. I’ll load up my cigar case and take a couple or three cigars with me. They’ve got wine, they’ve got gelato. Usually the dinner is spaghetti and grilled chicken and salad and some vegetables. They feed us. It’s done in the church. It’s their fundraiser. It’s a lot of fun. We go every year.
Harris, do you go, too?
I didn’t know about it. I might try to go out for that. A little more complicated with a one-year-old to get out to things like that.
You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to make any excuses. You’re right. It’s tough.
We do have a soccer game Saturday morning. My five-year-old just started playing soccer, so that’s fun.
You’re going to find it more fun as they get older.
They just run around in a herd.
For me, about one was when I started to have fun with the kids. Anything before that, they’re just a lump of throw-ups, smiles and shit pretty much. How are the stores doing? Everything going well? Anybody blowing it out? Have you put Lane on commission-only yet?
We’re getting there.
I’m doing some website stuff. It’s probably where I’m going to spend most of tonight doing while I watch the NFL draft, if I watch the NFL draft. I’m working on getting the inventory loaded into the website and getting that to behave the way it’s supposed to. Lee sat down and stepped through the process so that I understood what it needed to look like and understood how to step through the software. That’s all good now. Now, it’s just data entry type of stuff.
I’m excited about that. We’ll be revamping everything for the store website. The stores are good. We’re starting to get new things in, a few new blends, nice weather and all the cigar smokers are starting to come out.
New blends, the CLE First 20 Years Colorado is supposed to be in. We had an event with Christian and he came through. Zach gave everyone but me a Colorado. Zach’s on my shit list.
What is Jason Robnett doing? Who’s he with now?
He just went back to CLE.
They hired him back. He’s covering Texas and Louisiana.
Why mess with what you love?
I started seeing him posting pictures of Asylum and roller sticks and stuff like that. I knew that something was up. Then a few days later, he announced.
I love looking at his social media posts. You can tell who he works for because he’ll be posting about, “This is the best cigar I’ve ever smoked.” It’s whichever company usually he’s with at the time.
I’m glad he’s back with CLE. That’s where he belongs.
He sounded happy about it.
He likes Christian getting shit. That’s what he missed.
They throw ass at each other big time.
They do break each other’s balls pretty hard. The interaction with those guys is funny.
Since he’s the owner, he gives him a pretty hard time.
He’s like a very close nephew. I’ll keep you posted on the move. Let’s do this and we’ll rock and roll.
Thank you, Sean.