CCP Asylum | Asylum Dragons Milk
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Whether it is mild or full-bodied, you can definitely enjoy your cigars by pairing it with a drink. It could be coffee or bourbon. For Asylum Dragons Milk, you can have the infused feeling of drinking with your cigar. It’s a very interesting and different one that stands out for its Bourbon taste. Asylum cigars have experimented with this by putting and aging them inside Bourbon barrels to create this unique taste. Suffice it to say, this one stands out from anything else out there.

Listen to the podcast here:

The Cigar Cafe Podcast 1 | Asylum Dragons Milk | CAO Moontrance

My name is Lane Oden. I’ll be your host for as long as it takes to get this right. I’m a cigar junkie, I love fine whiskey and I’m a college football fan, most notably an SEC fan. I’m pretty jazzed to be a part of this little experiment and excited to have with me my co-host and owner of Birmingham’s own Cigars & More, Harris Saunders. Harris, what’s going on?

Not too much. I’m just enjoying the beautiful weather.

I’m glad that you’ve joined me. I know that I’m definitely looking forward to testing the waters with this podcast thing. I work in technology already and I’ve got a little bit of blogging and cigar review experience, but this episode is my first podcast of any kind at all.

Mine too. I’m really excited about it. We’ve talked about doing it for a long time, talking about cigars and the lifestyle and everything that goes with it.

Just to let everybody know, we do plan on being a fun show. We plan on talking a little bit about everything centered around smoking your favorite cigars. As Harris said, we like to refer to it as a lifestyle that revolves around enjoying life, friends and other things that you love. We hope to bring you guests that are pretty relevant in the cigar world and we may even surprise you along the way. Roll tight and welcome. Harris, so that people get to know you a little bit more, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got yourself mixed up in the cigar business?

Lane, I’ve been in the cigar business for nine years now. My father and I started the cigar business together about nine years ago. I was living in California at the time and decided to move back here and it was something we had always talked about doing is creating a business that’s more focused on cigars and the lifestyle and you’re having the cigar lounge and the events and everything like that. That’s how it got started. Since then, we’ve grown from there and I’ve been able to go to all of the major cigar factories in different countries and it’s been a fun ride.

If I’m not mistaken, you have four stores in the area right now. You’ve got Vitola and three Cigars & More locations, is that right?

Correct. Vitola Fine Cigars and then Cigars & More and then online at BirminghamCigars.com. We’re all over Birmingham.

I’ve actually managed to visit all of the locations. I’ve been in all your lounges at one point or another. I know that the cigar business has gone through some pretty drastic changes in the last five or ten years. Some of those are good. Some of those have been not so good. What’s been the single biggest recent change in the business for you?

I think the biggest change in the last five years is the introduction of so many new brands, a lot of the boutique, smaller manufacturers that are really focused on creating small-batch, high-quality cigars. They’re using tobaccos that the bigger companies can’t use because they can’t make enough cigars with them. It’s similar to the craft beer industry in the last few years. There’s just a lot of interest in these smaller, very unique cigar companies.

Birmingham and really Alabama as a whole have been coming up in the craft beer industry as well. I know here in Birmingham, we’ve got Avondale Brewery, we’ve got Good People, we’ve got a TrimTab, we’ve got Cahaba Brewing as well as Blue Pants in Huntsville, Old Black Bear, Back Forty in Gadsden. I like the craft beer market, the craft beer experience that Alabama has to offer as well. How long have you been smoking cigars?

I went to Auburn. I started smoking cigars when I was there and that was seventeen years ago. My friends and I discovered cigars and we’d go camping and try to find different new ones to try. That was the beginning of my interest in cigars and pipes too.

CCP Asylum | Asylum Dragons Milk
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Asylum Dragons Milk: A lot of times, a good cigar revolves around hanging out with good friends on special occasions, creating good memories.

I had a few in college but it was actually years later. It was probably 25 or 26 when I really started smoking cigars. I still smoke cigarettes at the time and I’ve since quit that. After going out with friends and spending a night out the bar, we’d go back to a friend’s house and sit on the patio and make the night last a little longer smoking cigars and telling stories and generally acting like idiots. A lot of my love for cigar smoking takes me back to some of those days just hanging out on the patio with friends and barbecuing and having a drink.

To me, that’s one of the best parts of the cigar lifestyle. A lot of times a good cigar revolves around hanging out with good friends or special occasions and good memories.

Have you noticed that in that seventeen years or so that your palate has changed?

Definitely. I think it’s pretty common to start out with milder cigars. Some people stick with mild cigars forever and I definitely still love mild cigars. I think the biggest is acquiring more of a taste for the medium body and more full body cigars depending if you’re drinking a good bourbon or craft beer. Several of those really pair well and I think that’s the biggest change for me and for most people. It’s transitioning more to that medium to full body range.

That’s definitely the case for me too. I’ve actually noticed that after I grew into having an appreciation for more robust and complex cigars, I’ve also come back around to really enjoying some of the milder cigars. Lately, I’ve developed a thing for Cameroons as much as I have Maduro wrappers. That hasn’t always been the case.

It is interesting how it tends to go in cycles. A lot of people get into the medium to full body range and then come back around the smoking more on that milder or mild, medium side.

I know you’ve already mentioned the small batch boutique cigars and how that allows some of these smaller manufacturers to make cigars that maybe reach out to people who otherwise smoke cigars from some of the larger cigar makers. Do you have any favorite cigars at the moment?

I do. I love to smoke a little bit of everything. Lately, I’ve been trying a lot of the different cigars from CLE and Asylum Cigars. They make a wide variety from mild all the way to full-body, but CLE Connecticut has been one of my favorites lately. It’s really good. It’s a smooth, mild to medium cigar from Honduras.

I know I’ve got some longstanding favorite labels. I’ve been a big fan of the Ashton VSG since it was first released and lately especially their Enchantment, that’s their perfecto Vitola. I smoke a lot of Perdomo cigars, especially a Perdomo Double Age Vintage, which is one of their newer cigars.

That’s been great, new and very unique. That’s the one that’s aged in Bourbon barrels for two years.

I recently did have a chance to get my hands on the Double Aged Vintage Maduro and really enjoyed it. I’ve also become a huge fan of Liga Privada lately. I really like the Liga Privada T52. I’ve had a couple of Unicos. I’ve had the No.9 but really, the T52 is definitely one of my favorites right now. I know one of the things that we like to do at the Cigar Cafe is we like to do cigar reviews. We want to take our audience through some of the things that we like to focus on for those. I wrote a review on the Liga Privada T52 Robusto and I wanted to make sure that I covered things like the general appearance of the cigar, what tobaccos are made with, what it looks like, that it’s a firm dense cigar that is covered. The flavors both before and after I light it. I covered how well it burned. With the T52, one of the prevalent flavors that really comes out is a really distinct pepper spice and again that takes me back to those first cigars that I smoked with friends on a patio because once we got out of smoking Dominican 3×3 and very mild-bodied cigars. We’d pick something out of a humidor that left your lips tingling. The T52 really does take me back to those first cigars that I smoked.

The T52 is one of the best cigars out there right now. I think one thing I look forward to in reviewing a cigar is trying to just think through the overall flavor. How much smoke does it put out? Is it an enjoyable cigar? What stands out to me?

I know that I like to compliment my cigars with a glass of whiskey, usually neat or on the rocks depending on what exactly I’m drinking. Do you tend to pair your cigars with anything specific to drink?

My favorite thing to pair cigars lists would be either coffee or bourbon. Woodford Reserve, a lot of similar things are going on in the bourbon industry right now. You have a lot of small batch bourbons. They’re coming out and really small batch, high quality. I love trying different ones, seeing how they pair with different cigars.

When I smoke a cigar in the course of leisure, I usually lean towards bourbon myself, usually a couple of ice cubes. Lately, I’ve been drinking some of the small batches. Four Roses’ single barrel is one of them or a Jim Beam small batch like Knob Creek. It’s not unheard of for me to switch out for Glenfiddich or some single malt, but when I’m smoking a cigar to review, I tend to drink ice water so that I don’t just crash my palate.

That’s a good point to bring up that sometimes you can overpower the cigar or even influenced the way it tastes with what you’re drinking. You may smoke at one time with coffee and then the next time with Bourbon and get a totally different taste out of it.

I enjoy the flavors that the bourbon and the coffee bring out, but when I’m working to review the cigar, I like to make sure that it’s a balanced review of the cigar as it is and not necessarily a review of my experience smoking that cigar.

That keeps it very objective and fair for the review.

Obviously, with the roll tides and War Eagles that we exchanged earlier, Harris and I live in a big college football town. Recently there’s been a lot of bad press over the whole free UAB movement since the UAB football program was canceled during bowl season. With that decision, one of the ramifications has been that their membership in Conference USA is in jeopardy. Under pressure from students and the local media, the universities launched an independent investigation into that decision. Harris, what do you think is ultimately going to happen with that? Are they going to reinstate UAB football?

I will be shocked if they bring it back. The whole thing is ironic to me. It’s funny. Before they did this, I feel like there wasn’t a huge amount of interest in UAB football, but then the second they canceled the program, everybody in Birmingham was a UAB football fan. I do think it’s positive to have the team there, but I’d be very surprised if they go back on it. I think had to do with money. I think they were losing a good bit of money on it.

It does go to show the power that social media brings for sure. I know that I personally think that if it were to get reinstated, they’re definitely going to need a new stadium to really flourish. It doesn’t have to be a bigger stadium, but they definitely need more modern facilities.

There’s been a lot of talk about building a smaller dome in downtown Birmingham too. Maybe if they brought it back and they played there in the dome, that might work.

I know that as an Alabama fan, I’m supposed to be the bad guy because a lot of blame for the Ray Watts decision gets laid at the feet of my Crimson Tide’s Board of Trustees. I do think is a shame that we didn’t get to see UAB’s recruiting class this year on National Signing Day, but I can’t say that I’m too heartbroken about Bama’s four straight number one recruiting title. I do have to say that this time of year really does have me missing smoking Champagne Noirs on the quad with friends at Bama. I’m not sure if a lot of people realize this, but Nick Perdomo’s son was actually a Bama student for about a year and my friends and I tend to smoke a lot of their RTR sticks after wins on Game Day.

A lot of people don’t realize that Nick Perdomo, ever since his son was in Alabama, he’s a huge Alabama fan now. During football season, every time I talk with him, he was on his way to a game. He went to most of the home games. He’s a huge Alabama fan now.

Which is also odd that he cheers for Miami now because his son is in school there now. Do you have two or three cigars that you want to a plug as something that you like?

A few new things I’ve been trying lately and a couple of not so new things. I’m actually smoking the Tatuaje Black Label. We had that one in the Corona Gorda size. It was a limited production cigar. That to me is one of the best Tatuaje. It’s very smooth. I would call it medium to full body Nicaraguan Cigar. The Black Label was originally created by Pete Johnson, who’s the owner. It’s his private reserve cigar. For many years he didn’t sell it, but now they’ve come out with a limited release once a year or so in different sizes, but that Corona Gorda to me is a really great cigar. I highly recommend trying that one.

CCP Asylum | Asylum Dragons Milk
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Asylum Dragons Milk: Sometimes, you can overpower the cigar or influence the way it tastes with what you’re drinking.

Another one I’ve been smoking lately that is very interesting, it’s different is called the Dragon’s Milk. It’s a seven-inch by 52-ring gauge cigar from Asylum cigars. They created this as really an experiment to see how it would turn out, but they took bourbon barrels that then had beer put in them from the New Holland Brewing Company. New Holland made a bourbon beer out of it and then after that Asylum took cigars and aged them in the Bourbon barrels. It really gives them a very unique taste. It’s really different from anything else out there, and they only made 25,000 cigars. There’s still a few out there. They’re starting to be harder to find, but if you run across it, that’s really a great one to try. It’s medium body. It really picks up a lot of the hints of Bourbon from the barrel, so that would definitely be a big one to try.

It’s really a testament to that being different. I saw you in that box and I assumed that it was a four-pack of high gravity craft beer. I have no idea that it was actually cigars until you just mentioned that.

It does look like a very unique packaging. It’s hard to describe, but very different. I haven’t ever seen anything like that.

You’ve got me smoking Tatuaje Black as well. I think you said mine’s a Robusto and this one was for shows only. Is that right?

It was. They actually do not sell the Robusto size. It only is available at events when Pete Johnson comes out. It’s a special one.

I know lately some of the cigars that I like to smoke as far as a mild bodied, creamy cigar, I know I mentioned Cameroons lately. I’m definitely a big fan of Rocky Patel’s Vintage 2003 Cameroon. I’ve smoked them in several sizes. I think the Gordo size is something like a 6×60 rings and I think they also have a Corona or a Robusto that’s more for mere mortals. I know that I was in this location of your store one afternoon and ran into Oscar Rodriguez who introduced me to the GTO Painkiller Maduro and I really enjoyed it as a more full-bodied smoker lately in addition to the other stuff that I’ve mentioned earlier today that I tend to like. I know that I also brought up Perdomo Champagne Noirs earlier. I don’t like to really segment cigars into cigars that men like and women, but my wife is actually a big fan of the Champagne Noir because it has such rich cocoa notes and she’s a big chocolate fan.

Another one that ladies really like is the Moontrance from CAO. That’s a bourbon, vanilla cigar. That one is incredibly popular. I don’t think I’ve ever met a lady that didn’t like that cigar.

That doesn’t sound like something I’d be too opposed to trying out.

It’s very good. I like it too.

Harris, I’ve definitely enjoyed having you here with me. I’m looking forward to doing this. Thanks for being part of the Cigar Cafe Podcast and giving us a place to smoke and record it.

Thank you, Lane, for hosting us. It’s been a lot of fun.

 

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