Archive | June, 2006

Stogie Exclusive: Nats Rebuff Cigar Night Proposal

30 Jun 2006

On June 8, Patrick and I sent a proposal to Carleen Martin, director of marketing and promotions for the Washington Nationals, outlining a plan to designate a number of seats in the upper level of RFK Stadium for an upcoming home game as “cigar friendly”. Specifically, we propositioned the Nats to sell premium-priced tickets for an established cigar section where patrons would be able to enjoy stogies while watching a live baseball game.

Ms. Martin informed us yesterday that while the proposal – which can be read in its entirety by clicking here – may be reconsidered next year, the Nationals are going to take a pass on a Cigar Night this season.

Rebuffing a sure-fire, win-win marketing strategy like our proposed cigar event provides some insight into why Ms. Martin’s department is having such a hard time getting butts in RFK seats since the franchise moved from Montreal. According to ESPN, this year the Nats rank a lowly 17th in home attendance, despite playing in one of the biggest facilities – and one of the largest markets – in the majors. And just take a look at all the empty seats in the picture above, which was snapped by yours truly at a Saturday night game this year (perfect weather, plus it was free hat night).

The fact is, our unique and creative marketing technique would undoubtedly (1) boost attendance in the sparsely-populated upper-level of RFK, (2) increase revenue for the team via higher-priced tickets that otherwise would not be purchased, and (3) improve Nationals fans’ experience at the ballpark.

As our proposal outlines, there is an indisputable demand for cigar friendly sections at major league ballparks. The expansion of the stogie lifestyle into mainstream facilities, despite the advance of smoking bans across the nation, is evident in the highly-popular cigar sections at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park, the Tampa Bay Devil Ray’s Tropicana Field, and the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park.

Additionally, Patrick and I graciously offered to use our website and extensive DC cigar contacts to help promote the potential event. Specifically, John Sullivan – manager of the JR Cigar store at 17th and L Streets, NW – kindly agreed to provide patrons who purchase tickets to the section through the Nats box office with free cigars from his store, as well as a humidor and subscriptions of Cigar Magazine to raffle during the game. (Next time you pay JR a visit, be sure to thank John.)

And we even discussed in the proposal how, if the proper section were chosen, cigar smoke wouldn’t be a “bother” to other fans.

But, at least for now, the Nationals have declined to implement what would certainly be a successful marketing tool. Looks like team management would rather have no fans in their upper deck than a section of enthusiastic, courteous, and contented Stogie Guys.

Note to our readers: If you’re interested in making Cigar Night at RFK Memorial Stadium for a Nationals home game possible, please consider signing this online petition. Thanks in advance.

-Patrick A


Stogie News: Stogie Guys Airlines

29 Jun 2006

Well, we don’t quite have our own airlines yet, but we did find an airline that Stogie Guys might enjoy: SmintAir.

The airline will not offer economy-class tickets, but will target business people who enjoy smoking – and who are willing to pay for some extra pampering.

Smoking will be allowed in all 138 seats on board – and there will be extra leg room, because jumbo jets normally accommodate more passengers.

“The upper deck will be the passengers’ lounge and not be jammed with seats, as you can sadly find everywhere, nowadays,” the website says.

“Allergics against tobacco smoke or militant anti-smokers are asked to not apply,” Smintair says on its jobs page.

On the website Mr Schoppmann writes nostalgically about the old times when Lufthansa offered its passengers a vast selection of Montecristo cigars.

Unfortunately according to the BBC, so far there are only plans for a Dusseldorf-Tokyo route, but with all the news about smoking bans, it’s great to hear some good news for a change. Hopefully Smintair will be such a huge success that Americans will one day have the opportunity to enjoy a fine stogie while cruising at 30,000 feet.

-Patrick S


Stogie Reviews: Macanudo Robust Rothschild

28 Jun 2006

Signe, the Macanudo Ambassador, was in town again yesterday at Cigar Palace (4815 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia) – and Patrick and I couldn’t help but pay her another visit. After all, free stogies are free stogies. But if we were to visit her a third time today at Cigar World in Vienna, we’d probably feel like a couple of desperate Deadheads following their favorite band across the country in a dilapedated Volkswagen.

Thankfully, Signe did not seem annoyed to see me again, and promptly greeted me with another complimentary Macanudo cigar (my choice between the Natural, Maduro, and Robust lines). Since I tried the Natural Rothschild at the last event at Georgetown Tobacco, and since I have a few Maduros waiting for me in my humidor, I decided to partake in a Macanudo Robust Rothschild while I perused Cigar Palace.

Despite this 6 and ½ inch by 42 ring gauge stogie’s deceivingly light wrapper and innocent appearance, it packs a truly powerful punch. The flavors – derived from rich Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan fillers and a delicious Connecticut shade broadleaf wrapper – are surprisingly rich and complex. They ranged from earthy, tea aromas at the beginning of the cigar to a spicy nutmeg and pepper taste towards end.

But the most important characteristic of this fabulous smoke (which retails at $5.50 apiece) is that notwithstanding its pleasant potency and multifarious flavors, it maintains that silky smoothness I have come to expect and love from Macanudo.

While this cigar’s draw and burn is average for a premium smoke, let’s face it: While these factors cannot be ignored, the most important characteristic when reviewing stogies is the flavor. And it’s definitely not lacking in that department.

I wholeheartedly, therefore, give the Macanudo Robust Rothschild an honest four out of five stogies.

-Patrick A


Stogie News: CAO’s Newest Offering

27 Jun 2006

CAO seems to have a knack for marketing. (They also have a knack for making great cigars…In fact, I recently decided that CAO’s Brazilia Line may be my favorite stogie, though to be fair I change my “favorite cigar” almost once a month…but I digress.)

Last year at the RTDA, CAO unveiled the officially licensed Sopranos Cigar which comes in a very cool box that looks like the trunk of an old Cadillac. The CAO Sopranos Edition comes in three cleverly named sizes: ‘Associate’ (5” x 52), ‘Soldier’ (6” x 54), and ‘Boss’ (7” x 56).

And in 2004 CAO unveiled its Italia Line which introduced us to tobacco as another fine export from the country already known for great food and drink. And I’d be surprised if most of our readers haven’t had the Italia’s blue, green, and red box catch their eye next to all the brown and white boxes at your local smoke shop.

Now, just in time for this year’s RTDA, CAO is unveiling yet another line of cigars with another unusual cigar box. CAO Vision is the first CAO stogie made in the Dominican Republic, with tobacco from the DR, Nicaragua, and Brazil.

But regardless of how the cigar is – though I suspect it will be good – the box is the real eye-catcher. Instead of cardboard or cedar, CAO Vision comes in its own specially made humidor that is calibrated to keep CAO’s Dominicans at the optimal 68-70 percent relative humidity. And while it is hard to tell, looking at the video on CAO’s website, it seems like the futuristic box has a blue neon glow.

So in a few months, when CAO Vision hits the shelves, don’t be scared of that blue glow coming from your local cigar shop’s humidor. It’s just the latest unique marketing strategy from CAO.

-Patrick S


Stogie Commentary: The Cigar Store Indian Mystery

26 Jun 2006

Much like the florescent glowing hue of the neon beer sign calls alcoholics into bars, the wooden cigar store Indian is the siren of stogie aficionados. These three dimensional, often life-sized sculptures are as synonymous with tobacconists as barber shop poles are with barbers. But what’s the story behind this centuries-old, mysterious emblem?

The history of the cigar shop Indian dates back to the early 1600s in Europe. Indians were widely associated with tobacco because they introduced the miracle crop to Europeans. And due to widespread illiteracy among the general population at the time, shop owners made it a habit to link their goods and services to easily recognizable insignia. So it was simply inevitable that tobacconists start using Indian figurines and statues to advertise their products to an uneducated populace.

But because only a handful of Europeans in the seventeenth century had ever really seen a Native American, early cigar store “Indians” looked more like Africans dressed up in Indian regalia. These initial carvings went by the monikers of “Black Boys” and – due to the tobacco-rich Jamestown settlement – “Virginians”. Eventually, as Europeans became more exposed to Native Americans and their culture, the carvings evolved into more accurate depictions of Indians.

Earlier cigar store Indians were almost entirely female (often depicted with a papoose), but it seems as though their male counterparts now dominate the tobacco advertisement industry. And while sidewalk obstruction laws have forced many American tobacconists to move their sculptures indoors (thanks again, paternalistic government, for looking out for our “interests”), today no stogie shop is complete without one.

As factions of a hyper-sensitive society call for the banishment of cigar store Indians (as they do our sports mascots), these intricate carvings remain the proud symbol of an honorable trade – beckoning Stogie Guys into tobacconists the world over.

-Patrick A


Stogie Reviews: Punch Café Royale

23 Jun 2006

I’m a firm believer that, if stored properly, cigars – much like fine wines – only get better with age. After all, every single noteworthy stogie producer initially ages its crop for about four to eight weeks after it has been rolled to dry, stabilize, and allow the tobacco to mature. But if you have the patience, letting cigars age even longer in your humidor will allow the flavors to further blend, bond, and mellow into more melodious smokes.

I must admit, I usually don’t have this patience. When I bring stogies back from my tobacconist and place them in my humidor, I usually can’t wait more than a few weeks before indulging. Call it a weakness, but when I see their oily, smooth wrappers and their glistening, golden bands…well, I can’t help myself.

For one reason or another, however, I was able to keep my hands off a Punch Café Royale that had been aging beautifully in my humidor for over one year. That’s over 365 days! I know – I can’t believe it myself.

But I recently caved and smoked this fine five and 5/8 inches by 45 ring gauge cigar and, I must say, I was not disappointed. It was bold yet smooth, and its flavors – which ranged from leather to oak – were delightfully complex. They say that Punch is “the cigar with a taste that’s true to its name.” I’m a believer. While the burn wasn’t as even as I had hoped, I am highly recommending this cigar.

It’s true this review may be biased given the months I allowed this stogie to develop and mature in my humidor, but I can certainly say over the years I’ve smoked enough of these cigars to confidently give the Punch Café Royale a praiseworthy three and ½ out of five stogies.

-Patrick A


Stogie Commentary: Pushing Back for Smokers’ Rights

22 Jun 2006

In the newest issue of Smoke Magazine, the editors discuss the new tactics of the anti-smoker choice crowd (hint: they no longer actually use the term “ban”) and also give us a timely reminder that while it is easy to get caught up in negative news (sometimes it seems like every day another restrictive smoking ban is passed), there is also some good news for cigar smokers looking to celebrate with a stogie:

According to the anti-smoking organization American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, more than 700 cities across the country have enacted ordinances to date that limit outdoor smoking. Many officials in these communities have gone to great length to justify that these controls are not bans, but rather “secondhand-smoke-control ordinances” and “public-health laws.”

The difference, they say, is that people aren’t being told they can’t smoke, but are merely being required to do so in designated areas. Well, thank goodness for that clarification.

And yet, despite all of the rhetoric, trends aren’t necessarily always moving in one direction. Consider PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, which unveiled a brand new cigar lounge on opening day this spring: The Montecristo Club, a joint effort of Montecristo maker Altadis U.S.A. and Southern Wine & Spirits. The lounge comes on the heals of last season’s cigar events which drew raves from cigar smokers and, of course, criticism from others. In the end, some semblance of reason prevailed, and a permanent option has returned for cigar lovers where none existed at all only two seasons back.

Finally, they suggest you check out two trade organiztions fighting these bans: the retailer Tobacco Dealers of America and the National Association of Tobacco Outlets.

I would also add that you should consider joining or starting a local group to fight anti-smoker choice groups. Here in Washington, a group called Ban the Ban led a courageous, yet ultimately unsucessful, effort to stop the DC smoking ban.

If groups like Ban the Ban spring up in opposition to every attempt to ban smoking, then politicians will be forced to recognize that these “secondhand-smoke-control ordinances” and “public-health laws” have real victims: mainly, the American principles of individual free choice and personal responsibility.

-Patrick S