Search results: "Random Thoughts from the Humidor"

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (2013 Retrospective Edition)

23 Dec

In this special segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I look back at 2013, its new cigars, and the lists we’ll use to judge them by.

Best of 2013 Lists

Best of 2013Now is the time for “Top Cigars of the Year” lists. Lots of them. In fact, a “List of the Best Lists” list is probably not far off. (We don’t have plans for one this year, but we reserve the right to change our minds.) They’re fun, but I don’t pay too much attention to them. Probably because I’m fortunate enough to try most new cigar blends that appear on various lists so I can draw my own conclusions. In fact, I’d estimate I’ve tried in excess of 50 new cigars this year (not including multiple vitolas of the same blend). If you feel strongly about whether we should compose a 2013 list or not, please let us know.

New Cigars… Lots of Them

In case you were wondering just how many new cigars there are, our friend Frank Herrera took a look at the number of trademarks that have been filed that include the word “cigar”. Filings have exploded. From early last century through the 1980s, trademark filings never averaged more than 100 a year, even though many more cigars were smoked at the beginning of the 1900s. This decade, they’re on pace for nearly 1,000 a year, a roughly 50% increase over the decade of 2001-2010. Besides being good for trademark lawyers, like Frank, I think it’s largely good for cigar smokers, too. More competition keeps everyone on their toes, and it lets newcomers try and create their own niches in the market with unique cigars that appeal to small subsets of cigar smokers.

About That Top 25 List

It’s hard to miss Cigar Aficionado‘s Top 25 list. It even generated CNBC segments, though curiously I don’t recall CNBC coverage in a year where the winner wasn’t a Cuban cigar. I looked through previous year’s CA lists, and I find that this one resonates with me far more than previous editions. With the exception of the top pick (the Cuban Montecristo No. 2), I’ve smoked all the blends in the top ten this year (and I’ve smoked plenty of Monte #2s in the past). Kudos especially to Aging Room (#2) and Buenaventura (#7), two under-the-radar gems that made the list.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XVII)

14 May

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder cigar names, electronic smoking devices, and cigar sponsorships.

Name That Stogie

Cuban Cigar BoxesI’ve been critical of the names some cigar makers choose for their sticks, so it seems only right that I offer some praise for what seems to me to be a good trend: fewer and fewer with Cuban roots. It’s easy to see why, after Cuba nationalized the cigar industry in the ’60s, former owners who fled wanted to keep their brand names for new operations elsewhere. But others seem to have simply adopted Cuban brand names simply to cash in on the association with Cuban cigars. In recent years, though, the trend seems to have slowed considerably. Perhaps it’s partly the influence of numerous successful cigar makers without a Cuban background, such as Rocky Patel.  Perhaps it’s part of the industry’s natural growing process. Or maybe they’re finally just running out of good Cuban names. Whatever the reason, I think it’s a good trend, one I’m happy to see continue.

Electrifying

Occasionally, I hear from an electronic cigarette manufacturer introducing a new product, asking if I want a sample to review, or simply extolling the virtues of vaping. Frankly, I can’t think of anything much more misguided than e-cig makers trying to appeal to smokers of premium cigars. E-cigs, like conventional cigarettes, are simply nicotine delivery systems. Premium cigars aren’t. It’s as simple as that. I have nothing against e-cigs. I hope the industry grows and prospers. But I also hope they learn a little bit more about cigars, and what makes cigar enthusiasts tick.

Patron-izing

I’m pleased to see the Orange Bowl debacle didn’t discourage cigar companies from sports sponsorships, both charitable and commercial. Among the latest is General Cigar, which is sponsoring the Golf Channel program Big Break Mexico. And Arturo Fuente and J.C. Newman were among those involved in a benefit for a local Tampa little league.

-George E

photo credit: Flickr (CC)

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XVI)

1 Apr

In this segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I voice my contemplations about babies, head colds, and going in on cigar purchases with friends.

Six Weeks Old

Grant HenryMy son is six weeks old today. He has truly been a blessing, and it’s amazing how I’ve only known him for 42 days yet I couldn’t imagine life without him. That said, before he was born I remember selfishly wondering how his arrival would change the amount of time I like to spend smoking, writing, and reading about cigars. So far so good. I certainly have less time for my cigar endeavors, and the opportunity cost of this time has definitely gone up. But I’ve been able to keep a reasonable pace—even if jaunting off to Nicaragua this year is out of the question. Still, I wonder how other cigar enthusiasts who are fathers handle these considerations. To what lengths do they go to keep their children from being around tobacco? How honest are they with their children about their cigar smoking? What have they learned that I may be able to benefit from?

Sudafed Blues

For the past few days I’ve been battling what’s probably nothing more than the common cold. Annoyingly, the sickness hit right around a few key cigar-smoking opportunities that I had been looking forward to. I chose to pass them up. This got me thinking about this article I wrote almost exactly three years ago. The gist? Back then I concluded that head colds rendered cigar smoking completely pointless given my inability to taste or smell clearly. I stand by that conclusion after trying to smoke a Flor de Las Antillas yesterday. All I could sense was spice and heat. I got no nuance, balance, or interesting flavors. Needless to say I’m looking forward to ending this cold and celebrating with something nice.

Buying Boxes with Friends

Sometimes there’s no room in the budget for a box purchase. But splitting a box among friends is entirely within reason. While I know this is nothing new, I just started splitting boxes recently—particularly with smokes that are either very expensive or only sold in large-count boxes (30-40 cigars). The benefits are plentiful. On one hand, I get more variety and less per-purchase pain in the wallet. I also get to pay lower per-unit costs since cigars by the box are generally cheaper than singles. On the other, I get to compare tasting notes with friends and have great conversations. If you haven’t already adopted this practice, I’d highly recommend splitting a box purchase or two. And remember you don’t necessarily have to buy boxes online. Keep an eye out for discounts on boxes at your local tobacconist.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XV)

27 Mar

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder custom torch improvements, patio smoking at one of the country’s most desirable locales, and impending cigar industry price increases.

Jetlite Mods, Start Your Engines!

Ronson JetLiteAs any loyal StogieGuys.com reader knows, we’re fans of the Ronson Jetlite, a cheap, reliable butane torch. But just about anything can be improved, even this simple device. First, though, a disclaimer. I am simply noting this possibility. I’m in no way suggesting or recommending you do any of these things to your Jetlite. I’m sure it voids whatever warranty might exist, and it undoubtedly will render the lighter unsafe. So, make no mistake, if there’s a problem or accident, you’re on your own. That said, there’s a YouTube video that will explain step-by-step how you can modify your Jetlite. The procedures will make it easier to light and provide greater flame control. If you want to check it out, the video is here.

A Winner in Las Vegas

Good news for patrons of famed Casa Fuente: The shop expects the currently closed patio to soon be open again for smokers. A manager at the high-end Las Vegas shop told me they anticipate having the situation resolved without going to court. The patio was closed earlier this year, after a complaint reportedly from another tenant at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Smoking has continued inside Casa Fuente, but, as visitors know, that can get crowded. Casa Fuente, which became an instant international destination for cigar lovers when it opened in 2005, experienced a similar temporary patio blackout once before. That problem, too, was resolved.

Got to Pay to Play

Look for some cigar prices to go up later this year. Cigar news site Halfwheel has reported that some manufacturers have recently notified retailers of increases, and it seems likely others will follow. Higher production and transportation costs are hitting many cigar makers, and some will undoubtedly pass those along to consumers.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XIV)

26 Nov

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder newspaper names, one of my favorite new cigars, fancy humidors, and pre-light aromas.

Just What this Country Needs

As a retired journalist, I’m always interested in newspapers. Recently I came across the first mention I’d seen of a college paper that’s my new favorite: The Good 5¢ Cigar. It’s the student paper at the University of Rhode Island. According to Wikipedia, the paper was born after an earlier paper printed in 1971 a blank edition with only the words: “This is what you deserve.” That paper was shuttered and the new one got its name when editors recast Vice President Thomas Marshall’s famous line to “All this campus needs is a good five-cent cigar.”

Magnificent Melanio

It’s nice to have your opinions validated, and I felt that way when flipping through the latest issue of Cigar Snob magazine. Leading off the coverage of the summer’s industry trade show was its choice of the best new cigar. They chose Oliva’s Melanio. Although I didn’t get an opportunity to visit Oliva when I was at the show, I’ve been most enthusiastic since encountering Melanio.

High-End Humidors

I don’t remember how I came to view the Website for JR-Quality, woodworkers extraordinaire. The two Austrian artists, based in Chicago, do restoration as well as create an array of items from furniture to cigar humidors. Although they may be beyond the price range of most of us, their humidors are wonderful creations. Take a look. That way you’ll be ready when you win the lottery.

Appreciating the Fragrance

One of the most satisfying and, I fear, least indulged aspects of cigar appreciation is the pre-light aroma of the wrapper. “Barnyard” seems to be the most frequent description, a wonderful bouquet but by no means the only one. I thought about this recently when I ran a San Cristobal under my nose and was knocked out by the sweet mixture of fragrances. A CyB produced similar delight with an altogether rich and different experience. I find some cigars have most distinctive wrapper aroma. The Padrón 1000s series, for example, always reminds me of nuts. Before you light up again, take a moment to appreciate the olfactory properties.

-George E

photo credit: Wikipedia

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XIII)

15 Nov

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder the evolution of Drew Estate and if larger cigar companies that buy smaller ones are getting good value.

Rebirth of Drew Estate

Drew Estate’s tagline is “the rebirth of cigars,” but the most impressive rebirth is that of Drew Estate itself. It’s easy to forget, but no cigar company has changed more in recent years than Drew Estate. I was recently searching for some information and found a thread on a message board consisting almost entirely of seasoned cigar smokers complaining about Drew Estate.

The complaints consisted of rants about gimmicky flavored cigars (though Drew Estate calls their cigars “infused”).  Today that complaint would be inconceivable, but back then Drew Estate hadn’t introduced Chateau Real yet, let alone Liga Privada or Undercrown. For me, reading through that thread was a stark reminder of how Drew Estate has reinvented itself in a relatively short period of time to become a leader in the industry when it comes to “traditional” cigars, while still dominating the “infused” cigar market.

Thinking About Industry Consolidation

Along with the emergence of Drew Estate, we’ve seen many cigar makers reemerge from “retirement” to start their own companies. Some—Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and Cristian Eiroa—”retired” after selling their brands to larger companies. The newer, smaller, family-run companies are now creating innovative cigars, but my question is: Do the large cigar companies (General Cigar and Davidoff, in these examples) left owning their original brands (La Gloria Cubana and Camacho, respectively) get good value even after the principles who built the brands leave?

Certainly they feel the brands they purchase fill a void in their portfolio that they want to fill, and if they can keep the quality of the cigars high, they will keep a significant percentage of the customers who are loyal to those brands at least for a while. I suspect, though, that this type of consolidation isn’t as profitable as it once was. These days cigar smokers, particularly those that smoke cigars with the most regularity, are less loyal to any particular brand, and seem more interested in trying different cigars.

If the people most responsible for creating the identity of a given brand are no longer active in the brand (or even creating cigars for another company) is buying a smaller company still worth it? It seems perhaps that four or five years later all they are left with is a trademark and a list of customers. I don’t discount the largest cigar companies’ marketing expertise and distribution advantages, but I’d wonder if that is enough to make shelling out millions for a smaller brand worthwhile.

Maybe the future isn’t buying cigar brands or factories wholesale for millions of dollars, but partnering with companies to help them market and distribute their cigars. One example is Don Sixto, made by Plasencia and marketed and distributed by General Cigar. This may be a template for future partnerships.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Drew Estate

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XII)

15 Oct

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I contemplate an underestimated FDA threat, a resurgence in smaller cigars, and my favorite cigar routine.

The FDA Would Ruin Cigar Aesthetics

FDA regulations would have many detrimental impacts on premium cigars. Though I’m not sure it would be the most damaging, one that particularly worries me is restrictions on packaging. One of the best things about cigars is the artwork, the ornate boxes and bands that make the first impression about the cigars you are going to enjoy. But if cigars end up regulated the way cigarettes are, ugly government warnings will ruin the aesthetic beauty of a well-designed cigar box. It’s just another reason to support the important Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act in Congress.

Renaissance of Coronas

Maybe I’m just noticing it more, since coronas are often my favorite cigar size for a particular blend, but after a time when smaller ring gauge cigars were completely neglected, the classic corona size seems to be re-establishing itself as a staple size. For a while, it seemed many new cigars were limited to larger ring gauge sizes. Robusto, toro, Churchill, and the “gordo” (6 x 60). And while those sizes aren’t going anywhere (even though I’m seeing less Churchills than I used to), today a corona is increasingly included in that lineup. As a fan of smaller ring gauge cigars, I think this is a good trend.

My Saturday Morning Cigar Routine

If you’re looking for cigar routine, let me recommend my favorite time to smoke a cigar: Saturday morning. As often as possible, I make a strong cup of coffee, grab the paper (the Saturday Wall Street Journal, usually), and sit outside for a leisurely smoke. After a long week of full days, something about sitting around, doing a little reading, and just generally not being in a rush makes Saturday mornings my favorite regular smoking routine. Try it. It’s a great way to start the weekend before rushing to check items off your to-do list.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr