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Cigar Insiders: Dale Cahill and Darcy Cahill, Authors of ‘Tobacco Sheds’

23 Jun 2014

Dale and Darcy Cahill’s interest in tobacco sheds grew naturally, from observation and a simple question. When they began dating some years ago, Dale would drive down from Vermont and, along the way to her home in Connecticut, he passed quite a few big barns.

Having an engineering mind and a history of hands-on work, he was curious and asked Darcy what was in them. “I said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s go look,’” Darcy recalled. “Luckily, it happened to be the end of September, October. We walked into one of those places and… it smelled so good. And it was full of tobacco. It was just beautiful. He said, ‘We’ve got to start taking pictures of these.’”

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That was the beginning of what’s become a seeming flood of photographs, calendars, note cards, even tobacco leaves themselves—dried, preserved, and mounted on barn board. You can check it all at their website.

Now, the couple is embarking on a new project, courtesy of a Library of Congress Archie Green Fellowship, recording the oral histories of everyone they can find involved in tobacco in the Connecticut River Valley.

Their second book on the valley’s tobacco sheds just came out. It reflects their efforts to document and preserve New England’s tobacco heritage.

Dale estimates there are currently between 5,000 and 7,000 tobacco sheds still being used, whether for tobacco, vehicle storage, or something else. He’s glad to see that because, he explained, Thomas Visser, a professor of historic preservation who Dale considers a mentor, taught him that the first way to preserve things is to keep them in use. “It’s when you quit using them, they fall apart,” Dale said.

And, Dale added, even a few new sheds have gone up in recent years.

As should be obvious, New England’s agricultural heritage in tobacco is important to Dale and Darcy. It’s easy to understand when they talk lovingly about the structures they’ve toured, the people they’ve met, and the work they’ve done.

Their enthusiasm for the subject seems nearly boundless. Last year, for example, they performed—she plays fiddle, he plays guitar and mandolin—at the Luddy/Taylor Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum’s annual cigar barbecue, which includes a farm tour and appearances by cigar company reps. “It’s very small scale,” Darcy said of the event. “It’s very sweet.”

With the Cahills keeping their eyes, and cameras, trained on the landscape, there’s no doubt that the tobacco sheds, old and new, have someone watching over them.

Contest: Win a Free Copy of Dale and Darcy’s New Book

One lucky StogieGuys.com reader will win a free copy of Dale and Darcy’s beautiful new book, Tobacco Sheds: Vanishing Treasures in the Connecticut River Valley. Just submit a comment below and we’ll select a winner at random next week. Be sure to include your email address so we can contact you if you win (we will not publish your email address; just make sure you provide it in the space provided when you submit your comment). Here are all the contest rules. Good luck.

-George E

photo credit: TobaccoSheds.com

Cigar Insider: Jeff Mouttet of Riverside Cigar Shop and Lounge

28 Apr 2014

Recently, Jeff and Sara Mouttet, owners of Riverside Cigar Shop and Lounge in Jeffersonville, Indiana, across the Ohio River from Louisville, sent us a couple of samples of their new House Blend.

Jeff Mouttet

I always find the story of a new cigar intriguing, so I posed some questions about this venture to Jeff via email. And, indeed, it turns out to be an interesting story.

Stogie Guys: Your website shows a very extensive selection of top boutique cigars. What made you decide you needed to add your own line?

Jeff Mouttet: There were several factors that led us to the decision, but first and foremost, we always wanted our own blend and always planned on doing one as soon as the time was right. Additionally, we’ve made good friends with many outstanding boutique cigar makers (Skip Martin and Mike Rosales, Sean Williams, Gary Griffith, Chris Kelly, Enrique Sanchez, Noel Rojas, Sam Leccia, etc.) and we wanted to work with them to do something for us. Lastly, it’s a good business move. We’ve been fortunate to build a loyal clientele over the last three years, and it’s surprising how many people ask if we have our own cigars. Well, now we do.

SG: Walk us briefly through the process of going from idea to cigars on the shelf.

JM: It’s kind of funny, because I had Manny Iriarte design the band over two years ago, but the cigar just now happened. Noel Rojas came through the store on a trip through the area and House of Emilio asked if we minded if he stopped by for a night and did a quick rolling demonstration and, being up for most anything, we said yes. So during the course of the night, after everybody raved about how good Noel’s cigars were, Noel and I sat down and talked numbers, blends, volumes, etc., and we decided right then and there to go ahead and do it. As far as the process, I leaned pretty heavily on Noel’s expertise. I’m a cigar smoker—have been for 30 years—but I’m no blender. Not even close. Maybe one day, but at this point, we left most of that to Noel, and I’ve got to say, I’m glad we did, because he did a fantastic job.

Riverside House Blend

SG: Did you have a specific profile in mind from the start, or did you explore a variety of blends until you found one you liked?

JM: We did have a specific strength profile in mind, not so much a flavor profile. We tried several blends, and ended up with the Ecuador Habano with Nica filler and binder.

SG: What has been the most difficult part? The biggest surprise?

JM: Waiting, shipping, customs, and “Central American Time” have been the most difficult parts of the equation. Well, those, and getting the bands to Nicaragua. The biggest surprise has been the reception of the cigar. We’ve sold nearly 1,500 cigars (all we had made for the first run) in a little less than a month, and that’s just on-premise sales.

SG: Do you have a plan to produce more cigars, maybe distribute them, or will this be it?

JM: Our goal over the next 2 years is to introduce at least two more cigars to the market. We’ve talked to both RoMa Craft and Tesa Cigars about an ongoing manufacturing relationship and both are receptive to the idea. Ideally, we’d like to have “house blends,” or Riverside exclusive blends, make up around 30-40% of our boutique line sales. Distribution is a little trickier if we keep the Riverside name on the cigars, but that may be something we address in the future. I know I would have trouble justifying somebody else’s store name in my humidor, so let’s just say we’re sensitive to that issue. At the same time, I think the quality of the cigars we’re making merits distribution, so we’ll explore that when it looks more feasible.

SG: Are you doing any mail-order or telephone sales for those outside your area who want to try the Riverside House Blend?

JM: Yes. You can call 812-284-6198 or email me at jeff@riversidecigars.com and we’ll be glad to ship. Given all the recent credit card issues we can only take Visa over the phone, but we do have a PayPal account for the store, too, so we have a couple of ways you can pay.

-George E

photo credit: Riverside Cigar Shop

Cigar Insider: Michael J. McFadden, Author of ‘TobakkoNacht: The Antismoking Endgame’

24 Oct 2013

[Editor's Note: See the end of today's article to learn how to win a free copy of this book.]

Michael J. McFadden’s new book, TobakkoNacht: The Antismoking Endgame, is an in-depth, carefully documented exploration of how tobacco opponents work. With an Ivy League education and no financial interest in tobacco, McFadden presents technical material in an engaging and understandable format, mixing humor, statistics, anecdote, stories, and surprises. We recently exchanged emails for the following [edited] interview.

TNcoverStogie Guys: Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got involved in researching and writing about tobacco?

Michael J. McFadden: The issue of scientific integrity and telling the truth was always important to me. Seeing people unjustly gain at the expense of other people on the basis of lies always angered me, and it’s something I’ve seen throughout the antismoking movement.

My concern with what drives human conflict and allows people to tolerate the suffering or killing of others goes back to my college years and my Peace Studies program. Yes, thermonuclear war is a much more important issue than a smoking ban at the local bar, but they’re both based on people being led to believe lies that lead them to feel it’s OK to attack some other group of people… a dehumanizing of another group.

I first became aware of and concerned about this issue in 1976 when a housemate showed up at our West Philadelphia nonviolence training center with a fistful of leaflets from ASH that were clearly filled with lies and exaggerations. Those lies split our community and helped to eventually destroy our training center altogether, but I didn’t have the background knowledge to be able to fight them effectively. That was really when I began researching the issue.

SG: Your new book, TobakkoNacht, has a somewhat unusual structure. How would you describe it? And how does it differ from your earlier works?

MM: TobakkoNacht is structured to appeal to and benefit several different audiences simultaneously. It has some sections of very serious and fairly complex material, and others of a more relaxed design for quick reading in small units or in environments where one might be distracted during one’s reading.

It’s a book that a less-serious reader can enjoy jumping around in while benefiting a lot along the way, while a more knowledgeable activist or researcher will still find new perspective and knowledge from sections like the extensive “Studies on the Slab.” The opening story sets an emotional tone that is later justified by the explorations of science, and the closing “Endgame” section wraps it all up and provides suggestions for the future. Finally, over four hundred detailed endnote citations thoroughly back up its material while opening the door for further research.

SG: What do you want readers to come away from your the book with?

MM: I hope my readers will come away from the book with several benefits: (1) a greater appreciation of the harms and dangers of the antismoking movement and how they can extend far beyond smokers and far beyond the particular question of smoking; (2) a greater appreciation of how their perceptions, feelings, and behaviors have been consciously manipulated by a strategic distortion of science, language, and statistics; and (3) a better idea of how to fight this sort of misinformation and an appreciation of why it’s important to stand against the special interests that promote it.

SG: Is there a single activity or individual that worries you most in terms of attacking smoking?

MM: I don’t think I could pinpoint any particular person or group as standing out as most “worrisome” in their attacks on smoking. The ones who are the most honest tend to have little money and may be the most effective in educating people about actual smoking hazards and reducing overall numbers of smokers, but I don’t see that sort of honest education as an attack.

The ones living off the mega-millions in grant money may get the biggest microphones and have the most persuasive propaganda broadcast over TV, but they also tend to be the ones telling the biggest lies, and are thus easiest to fight successfully. Free Choice activists are not trying to get more people to smoke, we are trying to ensure that those people who DO decide to smoke are treated fairly and that their decision, and their treatment by society and by people around them, is based upon accurate information and understanding.

SG: What are your own smoking preferences?

MM: My own smoking preferences lean toward smoking about 10 to 15 cigarettes a day, non-filtered, with a preference toward roll-your-own tobaccos.

SG: What actions do you recommend for individuals who want to do something?

MM: As an immediate recommendation I’d point people to my website at TobakkoNacht.com where they can read selections from the book and to the SmokersClubInc.com website where they’ll find a wealth of information and articles throughout 730+ weekly editions of its newsletter. I’d also recommend visiting and reading the material at Forces.org, AntiProhibition.org, TCTactics.org, and the many Free Choice sites and blogs those links will lead to.

I’d also urge readers to get active in local politics whenever questions of smoking bans come up, print out and share copies of my short and superficial, but sharp and free, “Lies Behind The Smoking Bans” (http://tinyurl.com/SmokingBanLies), and to join and support the various groups active in the fight: Big Tobacco is fighting for its own interests, not necessarily ours. We need to fight for ourselves.

TobakkoNacht: The Antismoking Endgame is available through Amazon and other online book sellers. And in an effort to help spread the word, Stogie Guys is going to give away the inscribed copy McFadden sent us. Just comment below and we’ll select a winner at random after a week.

-George E

photo credit: TobakkoNacht.com

Cigar Insider: Bob McDuffee of DogWatch Cigar Radio

3 Dec 2012

As cigar podcasting pioneers, Bob McDuffee and Dale Roush caused quite a stir when they announced last month that they’ll cease regular programs of DogWatch Cigar Radio at the end of the year. With more than 400 shows, the podcast has explored just about every aspect of cigars and expanded to a wide-ranging website, CigarMedia.tv. They’ve also introduced numerous smokers, retailers, manufacturers, products, and cigars to a world-wide audience.

I’ve been a listener since the show’s debut back in 2005 when it wasn’t quite so cigar-centric. I finally met Bob and Dale, as well as Bob’s wife, Liz, earlier this year when they held a DogWatch Herf across the state from me in Melbourne, Florida. So, when I heard the announcement I decided to follow up by email with Bob.

Stogie Guys: First, I understand Dale recently suffered a mild heart attack. How is he doing?

Bob McDuffee: Dale is well. The issue was minor, although he is looking ahead to surgery. For now he is resting at home and doing well.

SG: What are your cigar plans after the show ends?

BM: My plans are open-ended. After almost eight years of being on the show every Friday night (there were two shows I missed), it feels strange. Kind of like retiring and having lots of time on your hands. There have been several requests to continue the show in some format, and I am considering those. I hope to do more writing on the site as Cigar Curmudgeon and perhaps do short video/audio segments for release as well, but on an irregular schedule. I also have some comedy video ideas in my head that I cannot seem to get out. I recently began riding a bicycle again and have an idea for making your bicycle smoker friendly. Also, Google+ has become my micro-blog and it pushes out to Facebook as well as Twitter.

SG: You and Dale built up quite a following through the years. Are you planning to keep in touch through other ventures?

BM: Cigar Curmudgeon has always been a vehicle that I wanted to do more with, since writing is an activity I enjoy. Liz and I are planning to attend more events now that we have some free time. I think that after a short hiatus I will be longing for ways to reconnect. We have made so very many friends over the years, and I want to stay in touch with all of them. I will miss getting to talk with so many wonderful people from all over the globe. We have listeners in France, Great Britain, and the Middle East that we have never met in person but feel like they are part of the DogWatch family.

SG: Any idea how many weekly listeners you have?

BM: Our most recent statistics indicate about 20,000 downloads per month.

SG: What’s your biggest takeaway from DogWatch? What things have made the biggest impression on you?

BM: DogWatch opened the door for Liz and I to become certified through Tobacconist University, meet many friends, and be a part of a wonderful industry. It is difficult to name one single takeaway, but if I had to I would sum it up as the people. Manufacturers, retailers, and cigar passionados all made the effort worthwhile. Dale has been a great partner in this, and I will miss our weekly get-togethers.

SG: A lot of cigar podcasts have come and gone since you and Dale started. What’s the secret of your longevity, and what advice would you offer someone who wants to start?

BM: My advice would be don’t underestimate the time and work required. It helps if you have no social life, and you must have the support of the significant people in your life. Without the support of Liz all these years I could not have given up so many weekend trips, Friday nights, and money to make this happen. You have to really enjoy what you are doing to make it last. We have sincerely enjoyed DogWatch and the people involved in it. Life takes its own direction sometimes. Over the course of this show Dale and I have changed and grown in so many personal ways. Since starting DogWatch in 2005, I have lost my mother, one brother, grandfather, both in-laws, and been blessed with six grandchildren. I have smoked thousands of good cigars and a few not so good cigars. DogWatch has forever made an imprint on my life.

StogieGuys.com would like to thank Bob for taking the time to talk with us, and we wish Dale all the best for a speedy recovery.

-George E

photo credit: CigarMedia.tv

Cigar Insider: Michael Frey of Casa Fuente Las Vegas

13 Sep 2012

Five years ago I interviewed Casa Fuente General Manager Michael Fayerverger for one of our first “Cigar Insider” interviews. Over half a decade later, I decided to check back in on Casa Fuente, one of the most iconic cigar destinations in the U.S.

This time I interviewed Michael Frey, proprietor of Casa Fuente (as well as Rhumbar) in Las Vegas. Our discussion included my favorite drink on the Casa Fuente menu, a new Casa Fuente blend, and the Aruro Fuente Cigar Company’s 100th anniversary.

Stogie Guys: How have the past five years been?

Michael Frey: Business has continued to grow over the past five years and each year we’ve added a lot of new customers who love the experience and continue to come back.

SG: Even though we’re doing this interview by email, I suspect you have a cigar lit while you write your responses. What cigar is it?

MF: How did you know? It’s the new Casa Fuente Series 5 Special Selection 806.

SG: You’ve added to the Casa Fuente cigar line this year. Tell us about the new addition.

MF: It’s called the Casa Fuente Series 5 Special Selection. There are three cigars, the 806, 807, and 808. All three have a 50-ring gauge and range from robusto to short churchill. They feature a Havana-seed, Ecuadorian sun-grown rosado wrapper and the binder and filler are secret tobaccos from the Fuente’s farm blended by Carlito.

SG: This year is the 100th anniversary of Arturo Fuente Cigars. Any special events planned at Casa Fuente? How about special cigars?

MF: On the Saturday night of the Las Vegas Big Smoke, Carlito will be cutting a giant birthday cake. As far as cigars go, you never know what Carlito will do.

SG: As the owner of Casa Fuente, you have access to some of the rarest Fuente cigars. Which ultra-rare Fuente is your all-time favorite?

MF: I have two, the Brain Hemorrhage and the P.J.

SG: Anytime I’m in Vegas I have to stop by for one of Casa Fuente’s Don Carlos Caipirinhas, which uses a tobacco-infused Grand Marnier float. I’ve had caipirinhas all around the world, including Brazil, but that’s my favorite. Can you shed a little light on that recipe?

MF: The intense, smoky flavor comes from the Grand Marnier float which features an infusion of an aromatic pipe tobacco. It was developed by Francesco LaFranconi, a master mixologist for Southern Wine & Spirits here in Las Vegas.

SG: Because of the warehouse fire that wiped out some of their most prized tobaccos, the Fuentes have said that some of their 100th Anniversary Celebration cigars will be delayed until next year. Any insight into what we can expect?

MF: From what I understand, there will be an introduction of several new brands under the Opus X brand name, including the Angel Share which I smoked recently when Carlito came to Las Vegas for a visit. It was heavenly, living up to its name.

Many thanks to Michael Frey for taking the time to answer our questions. If you even in Las Vegas, I highly recommend stopping by Casa Fuente for some fine cigars and beverages. Speaking from personal experience, it is well worth the trip. My personal favorite is a pairing of the original Casa Fuente cigar and a Don Carlos Caipirinha.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Insider: Chris Edge of Dona Flor USA

17 Jul 2012

Last month it was announced that Dona Flor, a top brand in Brazil for years, would be reintroduced to the American market with a handful of new blends, including Seleção and Puro Mata Fina. StogieGuys.com recently spoke with the man who is making this reintroduction possible: Chris Edge, owner of Dona Flor USA.

Stogie Guys: We were fans of Dona Flor back in 2005 when the brand was first available the U.S. What were the legal issues that ended U.S. distribution?

Chris Edge: Dona Flor became available in the U.S. back in 2000. There were a few smaller distributors who were attempting to get them established. In 2005 they really began to get some attention as most Americans don’t even know that Brazil has tobacco, let alone of its quality. In 2007 there were some problems, probably caused by poor communication and an unclear contract which resulted in a trademark infringement case being brought to the courts. The litigation stopped the importing of the cigars until about 2009, when a distributor (who is married to a Brazilian) began to bring them back into the US. The case was settled out of court in December 2011. The actual details of the settlement are unknown and both parties agreed not to discuss it. The public records are available in the Miami Dade County public records if you really want to dig into it. Other than that, there is little I can tell you, or really even want to get in to. It was very unfortunate that things happened the way they did as these are some of the most consistent, quality-grown, and quality-controlled cigars in the industry and had a very good following when they stopped importing them due to the litigation. My focus has been, for the past two years, to feel out the market on the past, how it affected the consumers, what was the overall perception of the brand and the cigar, and how to reintroduce it.

SG: The press release that announced the reintroduction of Dona Flor to the U.S. market labeled you a “cigar enthusiast and successful business man from Denver.” Can you tell us a little more about your business background, or any previous experience in the cigar industry?

CE: In a nutshell, between my wife and me, we have raised eight children. Yes, I said eight. If that right there doesn’t qualify you for a medal in patience, market trends, and changes from year to year, I don’t know what does. I spent 35 years in advertising and marketing in corporate America. I retired from the last company after 20 years for health reasons, pretty much sick and tired of being sick and tired about the entire corporate experience. During that time I spent 18 years involved in union-company relations. Overall, the entire business is a people business, I loved working the streets, being face to face with the store owners, still do to this day. During that time I was also my own real estate remodeler and would buy, fix up, and sell my own houses, each time getting a little bigger. We always seemed to live in a construction zone but I think that was just a stress reliever for me over the years. After I retired in 2005, I continued into the real estate arena with my wife and did very well until that industry collapsed. From there I spent some time in the mortgage industry only to discover more corporate disillusion and started a distribution company in 2008 which eventually led me into the cigars. I have been an enthusiast for over 20 years and truly enjoyed the product for what it really is: an opportunity to capture a moment in time and to enjoy that moment for all of its virtues. That particular moment of forgetting about the worries of life and to enjoy just being, the place you are at, who you are with, the weather at that moment, the conversation everything. Whether I would be sitting on my back deck having a fine scotch, or wine with friends, or looking for a little white ball I just hit into the bushes, it’s all about the moment. I stumbled into an IPCPR Trade Show in Vegas while attending another show and it just all came together. The energy, the people, the entire industry. There really is a reason they call us enthusiasts. From there things just happened and so here I am.

SG: Why take on the distribution of Dona Flor, and why now?

CE: That’s a very good question because if it were anything but this line I probably would not be doing what I am now. Regardless of the passion I have for enjoying my time and my life with a good cigar, there is still a business side to it. I wanted something different, something that no one else had, something that gave consumers a different angle to try. Dona Flor was the perfect fit. Menendez Amerio has been growing and rolling cigars for 35 years now. Arturo and Felix are both Cuban descendants who spent time in the family business of growing tobacco until Casto took over. That is another story that you should hear sometime. Anyway, bottom line is that there were no 100% Brazilian cigars on the market despite the fact that Brazilian tobacco has been used in some of the finest cigars for decades. So this gave me the niche that I was looking for, a top quality product, currently unavailable. A huge target market that is constantly changing taste and looking for something new and different. A perfect fit.

SG: Approximately how many U.S. retailers do you expect to be carrying Dona Flor products after this summer’s trade show? Are you marketing to online retailers or B&M tobacconists only? Are you also aiming for distribution in Canada?

CE: I would like to see our product in over 300 stores by the end of the year. I have spent almost two years preparing for this release. I have been talking to consumers, distributors, and retailers, listening to their needs and how best to service them. The litigation problem really caused more issues than you might think, mostly because the retailers and consumers were not informed of the situation and the product just simply vanished. Out of sight and out of mind. The distributors were frustrated because they had access to a great product and put themselves on the line only to be let down. There is a huge trust level between distributors and their retailers and that has to be respected. Our focus is to support the B&M retailers—these are the back bones of this business. The internet business is a great business just not for this particular brand or product. We are doing everything we can to keep them out of the online sites and make them available only to quality distributors and quality tobacco tobacconists. Right now my focus is strictly on the U.S. market and getting it reestablished. From there, who knows? Our current efforts are getting calls from around the world. Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zeland, Israel. We must be doing something right but for right now it’s one step at a time. U.S., here we come.

SG: It looks like all of the new Dona Flor blends are Brazilian puros made from MataFina, Mata Norte, and Brazilian-grown Cuban-seed tobaccos. Are there any plans to incorporate non-Brazilian tobaccos in future blends? If not, do you feel this somewhat constrains the ability to grow the brand?

CE: With the exception of the Connecticut wrapper, yes, they are 100% Brazilian. There are no plans to begin mixing non-Brazilian tobacco at this time, mostly due to the import/export duties and laws. Menendez Amerio also has a line called Alonso Menendez which we will begin showing in 2013. I don’t believe that it limits us at all. If anything, I think it helps to define us. I don’t want to be constantly trying to introduce a new label. I don’t think the market needs more labels (and I know that the retailers don’t want to have to try and carry it). My goal is grow the brand as an original, as a top quality cigar that you can always count on. We are smoking cigars, not labels. Right now, I have my plate plenty full to keep me busy for a while. This is America, things can change with the wind so you never know. But right now, it’s all Brazilian, baby.

SG: We remember really enjoying a Dona Flor blend called Alonso Menendez back around 2006 or 2007. Are there any plans to reintroduce this blend?

CE: Yes there is. The Alonso is a fantastic line and a little more full-flavored. It is extremely popular in Brazil and Europe and we plan on introducing it aggressively next year. But for the re-launch in the US, Dona Flor has a much stronger name recognition to build on, so we decided to solidify one brand before bring in another one.

SG: Where would you like to see Dona Flor in five or ten years?

CE: I would like to see Dona Flor be established for what it is. Truly the first and finest quality Brazilian cigar available. Period. The story of Dona Flor, the cigar, where it came from, how it got its name, how it is tied to the book and Brazilian culture is really an amazing story. The movie Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1977) became the highest grossing Brazilian movie in their history and has held that title for 35 years. That says a lot about the book, the movie, the cigar, and the Brazilian people.

SG: Other than Dona Flor creations, what are some of your favorite cigars?

CE: There are so many great cigars that it is hard to just name a few. What I am finding in my selection process is that I tend to look for consistency in a cigar. I expect it to be as good as the last time I smoked it and that really narrows down the field. There are certain brands that you can always count on being exactly the same no matter where you purchase it. Montecristo and H. Upmann, to name just a couple. I also enjoy sampling different sizes and shapes and seeing how it affects the experience and flavors. Bottom line is that I like a cigar that draws well, has character, smokes clean, burns clean, burns even, does not get too hot, gives me that long beautiful ash…every single time. Not to be prejudiced, but Dona Flor gives me that.

Thanks to Chris Edge for taking the time to talk with StogieGuys.com. You can learn more about Dona Flor USA here.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Dona Flor USA

Cigar Insider: Matt Urbano of Urbano Cigars

21 Dec 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting Matt Urbano of Urbano Cigars last month while visiting Tampa. He introduced me to his line of cigars and handed me a three-pack sampler with an Urbano Corojo, Urbano Sumatra, and Urbano Connecticut. Urbano Cigars is a boutique line offering three different wrappers. Their cigars are not mass-produced, or rushed into the market for catalog or discount wholesalers. Urbanos are solidly constructed with aged long-filler and binder tobaccos that have been triple-fermented. Urbano Cigars are rolled in the same manner as many Cubans to ensure a cool draw with an even burn, then finished with a double-cap.

I tried the Sumatra right away and was pleased with its bold taste, smooth even burn, and quality construction. Matt was on his way to the Ybor City Cigar Heritage Festival where Urbano Cigars had a tent beside the Arturo Fuente family and across the street from Cigar Rights of America (CRA). We talked cigar blends and production.

Stogie Guys: Urbano Cigars are relatively new to the market. Tell us how you got started.

Matt Urbano: My passion for cigars began 20-plus years ago while working in the restaurant industry. As an executive chef passionate about food, rich flavors, and complex textures, I worked in many restaurants and private clubs throughout the northeast. After I relocated to Tampa I quickly became steeped in the local area’s rich cigar history and became friendly with a master cigar blender that travels regularly between Tampa and the Dominican Republic. Trusting my new friend and his own palate I took my passion for flavor and teamed up with this cigar master to create the ultimate line of cigars. Urbano Cigars has a full line offering three different wrappers that will meet any cigar smoker’s needs from the casual smoker to the aficionado. I invite you to share the smooth draw and rich, complex flavors in each carefully blended and hand-rolled Urbano Cigar.

SG: Tell us a bit about the three different wrappers that you offer and a little bit about your philosophy on blends.

MU: The Urbano Corojo is a true Dominican puro with first-generation Cuban-seed tobaccos aged for three years and triple-fermented. It has a medium to full body with a reddish hue blended from carefully aged Dominican tobacco. You’ll find a hearty, complex flavor with a hint of spice at the open, followed by hints of roasted nuts and smooth cedar undertones. Wait till you spark one up: a Cuban-like flavor with nothing less than a mesmerizing and delectable aroma. Sizes and MSRPs: Robusto $7.00, Toro $7.10, Torpedo $7.20, Churchill $7.40, 6 x 60 $7.50.

The Urbano Sumatra is aged for two years and triple-fermented. It is medium-bodied with an eye-catching, chocolaty, satin wrapper. Enjoy this cigar from start to finish with the continuous flavors and solid white ash, sweet, earthy flavor turning to a creamy chocolaty smoke with a light leathery finish. The wrapper is Sumatra, the binder Indonesian, and the filler is Dominican. Sizes and MSRPs: Robusto $5.00, Torpedo $5.20, Churchill $5.40, 6 x 60 $5.50.

The Urbano Connecticut is aged for two years and triple-fermented with a beautiful, silky smooth wrapper light brown in color. Well-balanced with a cool, slow, even burn. It has tasty floral notes along with a bit of cinnamon and dash of nutmeg. An excellent choice for your morning smoke to accompany your favorite coffee. Wrapper is Connecticut Ecuadorian, and both the binder and filler are Dominican. Sizes and MSRPs: Robusto $5.00,Torpedo $5.20, Churchill $5.40, 6 x 60 $5.50.

SG: For a new cigar business, or for a cigar business in general, what kind of challenges do you currently face and what can you do about them?

MU: I strongly feel in today’s world the biggest challenges to a cigar retailer are the aggressive anti-smoking bans. Every cigar smoker, from the guy that smokes one cigar a year to the person that smokes regularly, should be a member of CRA. As a manufacturer the challenges of getting my line out to new retail shops is much harder than it sounds. You want to get to know your local retailer and get plugged into their event list. I offer brick and mortar cigar shops great deals throughout our product line along with marketing materials and support. We do not have order minimums and are open to working with the retailer to meet their needs.

SG: What sets Urbano Cigars apart from the rest of the marketplace?

MU: Our cigars are not mass-produced. We focus on quality, one cigar at a time. We do not rush the process and all of our tobacco goes through a triple fermentation.

SG: Are you offering any kind of special on your website? If I’ve never tried an Urbano Cigar, what is the best way to get started?

MU: We offer many specials on the website for people to start small and get an introduction to our lines by sample packs. We also offer excusive monthly deals though email to people that sign up to our list. I always say just don’t visit the site, sign up for our list. Our members get specials all the time. Our current special is a mixed box sampler along with a travel humidor and cutter.

SG: You had a booth at the Ybor Cigar Festival. What other trade shows or events do you plan to visit? Where can our readers meet you (other than online)?

MU: The main event that is geared towards retailers it is the yearly IPCPR. We had a booth last year in Vegas and will be in Orlando in 2012. I love to get involved with local events and am always looking to do more local events. I also support many of the local cigar store events throughout Tampa Bay. Cigar stores are my home away from home. Be sure to check out UrbanoCigars.com. Sign up to follow us and be the first to see what’s new and where we are heading!

Special thanks for Matt Urbano of Urbano Cigars for taking the time to talk with Stogie Guys. You can visit him online here.

-Mark M

photo credit: Urbano Cigars