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editorials MAY / JUNE 2018

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PERFECT PAIRINGS OLIVA CONNECTICUT RESERVE / DON Q GRAN AÑEJO HAND-SHAKEN DAIQUIRÍ We called on the “Big Papi” of mixology to help us mix a classic and at times misunderstood cocktail. Finding the cigar to match it was the easy part!

28

BRAND BREAKDOWN CASA CUEVAS 28 CONNECTICUT 29 HABANO 30 MADURO

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PUERTO RICO IS BOUNCING BACK Hurricanes Maria and Irma ravaged the U.S. territory. So how’s the recovery going? And is Puerto Rico ready for you to visit? We smoked our way through San Juan from one mofongo to the next to get to the bottom of this.

65

102

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ROCKY PATEL Rocky Patel beat the odds to build one of the most recognizable names in cigars. These days, he’s pushing to expand his brick-and-mortar lounge footprint while spearheading the fight against government overreach.

THE PERRY HOTEL A completely fresh take on the ideal Key West hotel while still maintaining the elements that make it as Key West as anything. This award-winning, new hotel offers excellent dining options, top-notch amenities, and comfy rooms that’ll make it hard to leave in the morning (at least that’s what happened to us).


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features MAY / JUNE 2018

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LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER

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FEEDBACK

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WHAT’S BURNIN’

48

SMOKING HOT CIGAR SNOB

71

RATINGS

90

90 MILES TO CUBA

SMOKING HOT CIGAR SNOB ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE

104

CRA UPDATE

106

TWITTER SCOREBOARD

108

EVENT COVERAGE 108 CAVA CIGARS GRAND OPENING 110 CYNTHIA FUENTE AT BURN NAPLES 112 CAMACHO AT AFICIONADO’S 114 PLASENCIA AT CAVA CIGARS 116 ROMEO SAN ANDRES LAUNCH AT

CASA DE MONTECRISTO BY PRIME

118 ROCKY PATEL AT NEPTUNE 120 DEBONAIRE AT NEPTUNE 122 MACALLAN TASTING AT CASABLANCA CIGARS 12 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


Ask for it by name, In fine cigar stores near you MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

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VO L . 1 0 IS SU E 3 www.cigarsnobmag.com PUBLISHER & EDITOR Erik Calviño SENIOR EDITOR Nicolás Antonio Jiménez COPY EDITOR Michael LaRocca SALES & OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Oscar M. Calviño PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Ivan Ocampo ART DIRECTOR Andy Astencio DIGITAL RETOUCHING SPECIALISTS Ramón Santana CONTRIBUTING ILLUSTRATOR Florin Safner CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Glynn Loope Cody Carden CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS David Benoliel Andy Astencio Dan Speicher EVENT PHOTOGRAPHERS Jamilet Calviño Jerome Berry Cover Photography by David Benoliel www.davidbenolielphotography.com Cover Model - Melanie Paul Cigar Snob is published bi-monthly by Lockstock Publications, Inc. 1421-1 SW 107th Ave., #253 Miami, FL 33174-2509 Tel: 1 (786) 423-1015 Cigar Snob is a registered trademark of Lockstock Publications, Inc., all rights reserved. Reproduction in part or full without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. Cigar Snob is printed in the U.S. Contents copyright 2006, Lockstock Publications, Inc. To subscribe, visit www.cigarsnobmag.com

(SUBSCRIBE TODAY) - Only $18 for one Year (six issues) of -

- Magazine delivered to you Visit: www.cigarsnobmag.com or write: subscribe@cigarsnobmag.com

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Cue the music and hit play on The Shirelles’ classic tune, Mama Said. This was one of those issues that just didn’t want to get published. “Mama said there’ll be issues like this There’ll be issues like this, my mama said.” Obviously I replaced days with issues because had we just had one bad day, you wouldn’t be hearing about it. This was more like a bad month! Everything that could go wrong went wrong, but we got it done and boy am I proud of the team for keeping it together. We fought through threatening storms in our shoot location and made a last-minute location change. We had our office tented for termites so we had to relocate for a few days (Thank you, Pilar!). Even yours truly was down for the count for a couple of critical days with severe stress migraines. I’d never experienced that before and will do everything to steer clear of that nightmare in the future. But all in all we ended up producing one of the more complete issues in recent history. It’s got plenty of sex appeal with two top-notch photo shoots shot in Key West. One features German beauty Melanie Paul smoking Leaf by Oscar throughout old Key West (p. 48) and for the other we flew in Celeste Bright from L.A. and shot her at The Perry Hotel on Stock Island and at Smathers Beach featuring Island Jim Cigars (p. 90). Thanks to the Cigar Snob travel team for their amazing work and thank you to the staff at The Perry for putting up with our constant requests. Big thanks to Kara Rosner for making it happen on short notice. Nick and Andy took a trip to Puerto Rico to do a travel story about how San Juan’s cigar scene has survived the punishing hurricanes that battered the island less than a year ago (p. 33). If you’ve ever considered traveling to Puerto Rico, now would be the time. You’ll have carte blanche access to “La Isla del Encanto.” Speaking of carte blanche access, that’s what I had when I traveled with Rocky Patel to attend the Grand Opening of the new Rocky Patel BURN in Pittsburgh (p. 65). Along the way, Rocky gave me an interview with a level of candor and transparency rarely seen from the big players in the cigar business. Thanks Rock. This issue also features a Brand Breakdown of Casa Cuevas Cigars (p. 28), in which owner Luís Cuevas gives us the lowdown on how the company’s three brands came to be. Also a big thank you goes out to David Ortiz (not THAT David Ortiz). David is the head mixologist — you might even say he’s the Big Papi of mixology — at Republic National Distributing Company and he

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made a series of cocktails that we’ll be featuring in the next four issues. For this issue, we chose the hand-shaken daiquirí (p. 27). Finally, we rated more cigars in this issue than we’ve ever rated in a single issue with a whopping 60! We hope you enjoy the smokes and the rest of the magazine. Keep ‘em lit,

Erik Calviño ecalvino@cigarsnobmag.com


E XCE P T IONA L QUA L I T Y C OM E S W I T H AGE

Balmoral AĂąejo XO cigars are the result of an intensive blending process with exceptionally aged tobaccos: an AĂąejo blend crowned with a sungrown Arapiraca wrapper. After blending the cigar, it took another 6 months of aging to marry all its flavors. Let yourself be seduced by notes of cedar wood, cacao, spices and an underlying sweetness.

Torpedo Mk52 | Gran Toro | Rothschild Masivo | Corona | Petit Robusto FT

www.balmoralcigars.com


WE DA BEST! I know I have probably told you this before. But you have the best cigar magazine in the industry by far! And trust me I have read or subscribed to them all. Greg F.

VIA FACEBOOK

Thanks for the kind words, Greg! We do what we can. If you haven’t already, subscribe to the Cigar Snob Podcast, too.

LONGTIME LISTENER… I wanted to chime in and congratulate you on your excellent podcast! I’ve been a loyal subscriber to Cigar Snob in print for three years and recently caught wind of your podcast. I’ve been quite entertained on my hour-long train commute. Your guests are excellent. The Carlos Fuente interview in particular was superb. Very well done and insightful, gents. Paul Morristown, NJ

VIA EMAIL

The podcast has given us a new way to share all those insights (and some other stuff, like talk of male garter belts) with you all. We’re always glad to hear we’re doing it well!

A PERFECT PAIRING Spending my Saturday afternoon listening to @cigarsnobmag podcast and enjoying this @MyFatherDPG Le Bijou 1922. Simeon C. (@theschmooz)

VIA TWITTER

That’s what we’re going for! Hope you keep lighting up with us on the podcast.

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AVO IMPROVISATION 30 YEARS

Nicaraguan puro made with tobaccos that have aged five years. The brand originally launched in 2005 as a limited edition and was reintroduced as a regular production cigar. Like all TAA cigars, Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente will be available exclusively through TAA member retailers. It’s priced at $12.50 per cigar.

CAMACHO COYOLAR IS BACK Among other releases created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the AVO brand, Davidoff announced its release of the limited edition AVO Improvisation 30 Years. Production is limited to just 2,400 boxes of 25. This is a new take on the AVO Classic No. 3 blend, featuring an Ecuadorian wrapper, Dominican binder and Dominican fillers. The Classic, by contract, uses a Connecticut shade wrapper. The Improvisation 30 Years will share the Classic’s 7 1/2 x 50 format.

JOYA DE NICARAGUA INTRODUCES: ANTAÑO GRAN RESERVA PRESIDENTE TAA EXCLUSIVE VITOLA

According to a press release from Drew Estate, this is the favorite vitola of Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca. The Presidente is a box-pressed 6 ¾ x 50. Like the rest of the Antaño Gran Reserva line, this is a

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Liga Privada No. 9 Corona Viva (which are 152mm by 46mm) will come in 24-count boxes with an MSRP of $290.

PLASENCIA BRINGING NEW FOREST TO CENTRAL AMERICA Plasencia Cigars, the makers of our most recent Cigar of the Year (Plasencia Alma Fuerte), have announced an initiative to make their company more eco-friendly according to a press release. The company claims to be the largest producer of tobacco in Central America, so making any company-wide commitment is big. The initiative includes plans to develop a natural forest on one of the company’s Estelí farms, which is an idea inspired by a 2014 TED Talk by Afforestt founder Shubhendu Sharma.

Camacho’s brought back its Coyolar brand. Camacho describes this as a “single farm vintage,” as the blend comprises only Criollo tobaccos from a single 15-acre Honduran farm.

Plasencia has more than 3,000 acres of land in Central America, and Plasencia has partnered with Afforestt to find opportunities to add forest to the landscape.

A Camacho press release describes the blend as delivering “blasts of leather, pepper, rich coffee and oak.”

ALLIANCE CIGAR ADDS A ROCKY PATEL PRODUCT TO DESOCIO SERIES

The cigar will be available in its five original sizes, ranging from the 4 ½ x 50 Perfecto #1 to the 6 x 60 Titan. Price per cigar ranges from $8.50 to $10.00.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of TAA and Joya de Nicaragua. It’s also the 10th anniversary of the distribution partnership between Joya de Nicaragua and Drew Estate. Joya is marking the occasion by releasing the Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente exclusively for TAA.

2012, featuring a bit more ligero for a fuller, stronger profile.

DREW ESTATE CORONA VIVA PRE-RELEASE AT CIGARS INTERNATIONAL Drew Estate announced the pre-release of its Liga Privada No. 9 Corona Viva, exclusively for the Cigars International superstore in Hamburg, Pennsylvania for their 15th annual CIGARfest. The cigar features a Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro wrapper, Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers. According to Drew Estate’s announcement, it’s like the Corona Viva releases in

Rocky Patel Premium Cigars and distributor Alliance Cigar have teamed up to add a new product to Alliance’s DeSocio series. It ’s a corona gorda (5 ¾ x 46) in Rocky Patel’s Sun Grown Maduro brand. As you might have guessed, these will be available exclusively at stores that get product from Alliance. Here’s how Rocky Patel’s press release describes the cigar: “The Sun Grown Maduro DeSocio features a balance of Nicaraguan filler and binder tobaccos enveloped beneath a lush Connecticut broadleaf wrapper.” The DeSocio series was created by Alliance Cigar president and owner Tom Sullivan as a tribute to his grandfather. This is the eighth installment in that series.


NAT SHERMAN AND CASA LEVER GARDENS CREATE SEASONAL MANHATTAN CIGAR LOUNGE Midtown Manhattan’s Casa Lever Gardens has teamed with Nat Sherman to create a seasonal outdoor cigar lounge. The lounge, open May to October, features Nat Sherman cigars as well as a menu of wines and tequilas for pairings. “This seasonal lounge and restaurant is one of the rare outdoor dining options in the neighborhood,” reads a press release, “and a destination for nearby offices as well as uptown locals stopping in for evening drinks and light bites. While the bar at Casa Lever Gardens attracts a lively after work crowd, the lounge style seating is also perfect for a fun summer dinner with friends or a casual date night spot.” A sommelier will be on hand to help with pairing suggestions and guests will also be able to order from a full menu of cocktails and “light bites” by chef Lorenzo Casi. For more information, visit casalever.com.

J.C. NEWMAN RENAMES PENSA CIGAR FACTORY You might not have realized it, but J.C. Newman’s got the second largest factory in Nicaragua. PENSA’s 840 employees crank out more than 100,000 handmade cigars every day. And now it will bear the name of the company behind it. Henceforth, the facility shall be named J.C. Newman PENSA. “This change, while symbolic, reflects the shift that we are making as a company to elevate the ‘J.C. Newman’ name and use it to tell our story as a 123-year-old, four-generation family business, and America’s oldest family-owned premium cigar maker,” said Eric Newman, J.C. Newman’s president, in a press release. The Nicaraguan factory was established in Estelí in 2011 by Eric and Bobby Newman. Since then, it’s tripled in size. J.C. Newman rolls its Brick House, Perla del Mar, El Baton, Quorum, and other cigar brands at J.C. Newman PENSA.

BLACK LABEL TRADING COMPANY SHIPS BISHOPS BLEND Black Label Trading Company announced the shipment of Bishops Blend vintage 2018 to retailers. The cigars are made at Fábrica Oveja Negra in Estelí, Nicaragua. “I’m very excited about the third release of Bishops Blend. This is one of our most anticipated releases of the year and the 2018 vintage will not disappoint. The 2018 boasts big bold flavors of anise, pepper, raisins and a sweet earthiness on the finish,” said Black Label creator and Oveja Negra partner James Brown in a press release. Bishops Blend features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and binder around fillers from Nicaragua, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It’s available in Corona Larga (6.25 x 46) and Robusto (5 x 48). They retail for $11.50 and $11.00, respectively.

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Oliva Connecticut Reserve Don Q Gran Añejo Hand-shaken Daquirí With warmer temperatures on the way, the handshaken daiquirí is an easy to master cocktail that will keep your guests proclaiming “I’ll never drink a frozen daiquirí again!” Here’s the recipe: 1. Begin by chilling a cocktail glass or coupe 2. Pour 2 oz Don Q Añejo Rum into a cocktail shaker 3. 1 oz fresh lime juice 4. 1 oz simple syrup 5. Fill shaker with ice and begin to shake 6. Pour into chilled glass with strainer 7. Garnish with orange peel and enjoy We had the incredible good fortune to have Republic National Distributing’s staff mixologist David Ortiz make this classic for us. Immediately we all thought, this would go incredibly with a smooth, Nicaraguan Connecticut. It’s no secret that we are big fans of Oliva’s Connecticut Reserve. So we recreated the cocktail back at HQ and fired up the Olivas.

THE PAIRING The cocktail is perfectly balanced with equal parts sweet, tart, and beautifully boozy with the Don Q Gran Añejo giving the drink an aged rum flavor in the background. If you want to get a real sense of the difference the rum makes, make an alternative version with regular white rum… no comparison. Once you’ve got a good feel for the cocktail, fire up the Oliva Connecticut Reserve and notice how the cigar’s earth and pepper are cut by the citrus while the vanilla from the wrapper is accented along with the aged rum. It’s become our go-to cocktail pairing at Cigar Snob HQ, reminding us of the famous quote: “Write drunk, edit sober.”

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TORO

CASA CUEVAS CONNECTICUT COUNTRY

Dominican Republic

WRAPPER

Ecuador

BINDER

Nicaragua

FILLER

Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Colombia

PRICE

$ 6.90 - $ 8.10

Luís Cuevas Owner

Let’s give people who don’t know a sense of where the brand comes from, where you come from and where you sit in the market. The brand comes from a long family history in the tobacco trade. My great grandfather and grandfather were both tobacco growers in Pinar del Río, Cuba. My grandfather was able to take it to a very successful level. Then 1959 comes, everything stops, things get confiscated, we leave and go to the States. My dad and my uncle opened up shop in the Dominican Republic, with my dad working from the States. This was in the late ‘80s. In 1997, during the boom, my father makes a full move to the Dominican Republic. They started Cuevas y Hermanos and that factory was going well. They started making stuff for Toraño and Dunhill and Peterson and Gurkha’s first cigars came from there actually. My father and my uncle had a falling out. So my dad’s alone and he’s waiting for an investment to return and then I jumped into the fray and I bought 50 percent of the company. Tiny at that point. Through the Toraños, who had gone and opened their own factories, we were able to get Gurkha to jump on board with us and that helped us gain some resources financially.

AVAILABLE IN 3 SIZES

All that time, we hadn’t launched a brand other than Cuevas Habanos because I hadn’t found a way to get the cigars into the market without a salesperson. There’s

just no way. We launched Casa Cuevas and right when I’m launching that, Gabriel Álvarez becomes available. Now that we had everything we needed to get going, we launched Casa Cuevas with three sizes. I did market research on the three most popular size in the United States. I didn’t come up with four or five or six because I thought that would overwhelm consumers. It was simpler to keep it this way. How would you describe the Connecticut to the person who’s never tried it? It’s going to fit the bill of a Connecticut in the sense that it’s not going to knock you on your chest, and we wanted that. By the same token, I didn’t want a bland Connecticut, so if you are a smoker and you pick up that Connecticut, you’re still going to get enough hints of the spice and the strength so it’s worth your while. If you’re a novice smoker, it’s a good cigar to start with because it’s not so strong or spicy that it turns you off. It sort of straddles both those sides. It’s heavier than a lot of Connecticuts on those notes of earth and nut. It’s a lot heavier on Nicaraguan tobacco than Dominican. I added the Colombian for a little bit of sweetness. The idea was that we would just use the Dominican tobacco for combustion, so it’s seco. All the ligero is Nicaraguan. It’s about a 50/50 blend. Some people have opted to go 60/40, 40 being the ligero for the spice. We went the opposite direction and interestingly enough, the idea behind it really was influenced a lot by Gabriel; when I first blended it, I wanted a really strong Connecticut and he’s the one that goes, “Look, people aren’t looking for that in a Connecticut.” But it’s still not a mild Connecticut by any stretch. Where does this sit among the three in terms of preference for you and your dad? My dad’s palate and mine are different. He really enjoys the Connecticut a lot more than I would. He’ll smoke the Connecticut all day long and he’s fine with that. He’s fallen in love with the Maduro now, but he likes the classic cigar. The Connecticut is his go-to of the three.

SWEET

Toro 6 x 50

Robusto 5 x 52

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Gordo 6 x 60

CHOCOLATE

NUT

EARTH

CREAM

WOOD

COFFEE

SPICE


CASA CUEVAS HABANO

TORO COUNTRY

Dominican Republic

WRAPPER

Ecuador

BINDER

Nicaragua

FILLER

Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Pennsylvania/USA

PRICE

$ 7.20 - $ 8.40

Luís Cuevas Owner

This Habano and the Maduro both have Pennsylvania Broadleaf in the filler blend. What does that do for the blend? If you look at the blends in the filler, they’re identical for the Habano and Maduro. The wrapper makes a huge difference. We tried putting a Connecticut wrapper on that blend and it didn’t work. With the Habano it did. What the Pennsylvania does, to answer your question, is it comes close to what the Nicaraguan tobacco does in terms of strength, spice, fullness. And it’s a nice alternative to Nicaraguan. It gave the blend a little bit of depth. Do you have pairing recommendations for this cigar? Any alcoholic beverage that has a little bit of spice to it. I’ve found that there are certain bourbons that have a bit of spice to them. It goes well with those. Certain scotches as well. I don’t like peat and I’ve never smoked one with a peaty Scotch, but I have done a lot of single malts. It goes very well with coffee, particularly Cuban coffee. Believe it or not, Coca-Cola goes really well with it. And it’s an odd thing, I know, because it’s sweet as hell, but it just tastes really good with it.

AVAILABLE IN 3 SIZES

What are some of the things that you’ve learned about smokers and their palates from actually hitting the road and seeing them face to face?

I think consumers are very, very open to trying new things. Maybe the price point has something to do with it. I think if we were peddling a cigar that’s $20, $30, maybe they’d be more reluctant to do it, but I think consumers have a tendency to try new things. You meet consumers and ask “What do you normally smoke?” and then you can recommend something in our line that’ll fit that bill. I’ve also noticed that some stores attract waves of the same smokers. So there are stores that sell a lot of the Habano and others won’t for whatever reason. I don’t know why it is. Same thing with sizes. It’s really weird. I’ve also learned that cigar smokers are friendly, inquisitive, and willing to try new things. You get your occasional “I only smoke such-and-such brand” but there’s a lot of good cigars out there. It’s like drinking only one beer or wine or Scotch or whatever. It’s nice to have variety. As long as you give smokers something good, you’re fine. Because they’ll flat out tell you, “This is crap!” Luckily we haven’t had that response yet. People have gotten geekier. It’s not just about status. Same way as craft beer, right? People know what they’re doing. And like craft beer, I think people are more exacting, right? They know what they want. And especially when you say, “What do you normally smoke?” You’re gonna wait around and they’re going to come back to you because you’re at an event or something and you want real feedback. Right? You better be able to hold up your end of the bargain. Do you have any stand out interesting characters you’ve met while doing all that? There was this one store in Arizona… I’m a second amendment guy, but over there everybody’s got a gun. We sat down one day with a gentleman. He’s a Vietnam vet, big guy. He’s had all sorts of surgeries. So he’s got a cane. So aside from taking out a gun and showing us the gun and then he was talking to the other guy, you’re just taking out guns and guns are out everywhere, right? But the cane had a stun gun at the end of it. He stood up and he lit up that thing and I was like, “This is like something out of a movie.”

SWEET

Toro 6 x 50

Robusto 5 x 52

Gordo 6 x 60

CHOCOLATE

NUT

EARTH

CREAM

WOOD

COFFEE

SPICE

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TORO

CASA CUEVAS MADURO COUNTRY

Dominican Republic

WRAPPER

Mexico

BINDER

Nicaragua

FILLER

Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Pennsylvania/USA

PRICE

$ 7.40 - $ 8.70

Luís Cuevas Owner

It’s interesting you mention the second amendment in a conversation about cigars. As the cigar culture becomes more visible there in social media, I see how much overlap there is between the two interests. The number of pictures that you see of people sharing cigars and guns as aspects of a single lifestyle... I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that cigar smokers are frowned upon, right? Cigarette smokers sometimes actually get a better break. It’s absurd. The worst cigar smells infinitely better than a cigarette. And so you take that and you maybe empathize with the folks who have guns and are facing the same constraints now. All right, back to the cigars. The Maduro is your personal favorite. For the person who wants to know about it before lighting up, tell them what they’re getting into.

AVAILABLE IN 3 SIZES

You’re getting into an extremely well-balanced cigar. It’s frightening I guess because if you don’t know enough about cigars, you may think that our Maduro is going to be a chest-buster or that it’s stronger than the Habano. The truth is the opposite and that San Andrés wrapper’s really what makes it. It just makes it sweet. It’s well balanced. It’s got a strength that creeps up on you. You’re going to get that spice — not as much as you do off the Habano, but it’s there. It’s subtle and

if you smoke it all the way through it’ll get you. It’ll get you if you smoke too quickly. But it does it in a very subtle way. It’s not Mike Tyson hitting you. Where would you say the misconception that “maduro” means it’s an ass kicker comes from? And how does that misconception affect you as somebody who’s producing one that is more nuanced? I think it comes from the way people were making them before. They were making Connecticuts extremely mild and they were ramping it up according to the wrapper. It was the factories and the blenders who were making it that way. You can get yourself a maduro that’s dark as night, but if you fill the cigar with seco, you’re going to get air. So it’s what you put in it. Yes, the wrapper adds to it. Don’t get me wrong. But, case in point, our Habano is stronger than our Maduro, and you’ve got essentially the same blend inside. As you mentioned, your Maduro is a Mexican San Andrés. What would you say are the characteristics of that wrapper and what do you think is behind the sort of surge in interest in that wrapper? It’s become available. It used to be really difficult to get. But I just fell in love with it a while ago and I always wanted to use it even for other people’s blends at the factory; we could not get it. I called the Olivas in Tampa and I had requested a different maduro wrapper. They didn’t have it, but they said, “But we have San Andrés.” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Let me try this.” It’s a phenomenal leaf that got a bad rap because in Mexico for a long time you were only allowed to make Mexican puros. Smokers were associating the tobacco with everything that went into the blend, and it all didn’t work well together. The wrapper alone stands as a component that works well with a good blend. You get a subtle spice, a sweetness, a great burn, chocolate, creaminess. It just functions very well when you load it up with a lot of ligero. When you’re putting Pennsylvania and Nicaragua in it, you’re amping it up.

SWEET

Toro 6 x 50

Robusto 5 x 52

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Gordo 6 x 60

CHOCOLATE

NUT

EARTH

CREAM

WOOD

COFFEE

SPICE


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PUERTO RICO IS BOUNCING BACK HOW FAR HAS HURRICANE RECOVERY COME IN PUERTO RICO, AND IS THE ISLAND READY FOR YOUR VACATION? WE GOT OUR HANDS DIRTY (MOSTLY WITH FRIED PLANTAINS) TO FIND OUT. BY NICOLÁS ANTONIO JIMÉNEZ / PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDY ASTENCIO


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: a monument fountain for Tite Curet Alonso at Plaza de Armas in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico; the monument to Christopher Columbus at the center of Plaza de Colón; the coastline from La Ventana al Mar Park ou don’t hear much about Puerto Rico in national media unless something’s gone terribly wrong. When Hurricanes Maria and Irma tore up the U.S. territory in September of 2017, we were all inundated with images of the devastation the storm left behind. The story continued as relief efforts and the urgent need to restore some normalcy to the island brought Puerto Rico’s dysfunctional politics to the fore. The vast majority of Puerto Ricans have power again, but what lingering impacts do the storms still have on the experience of visiting the Island of Enchantment? Cigar Snob art director Andy Astencio and I made our way to San Juan to find out for ourselves, each of us visiting the island for the first time.

DAY 1 In light of our lack of experience, we’d rely heavily on locals’ accounts to get an impression of how far things had come since the hurricanes. The first of those locals to give us their version of the lowdown on Puerto Rico was a cab driver. It bears mentioning here that he was a cab driver, not an Uber driver. Here’s your first pro tip for visiting Puerto Rico: have cash when you land. Uber drivers aren’t allowed to pick up pas-

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sengers at the airport, and at least when we visited, cabs weren’t taking electronic payments. The drive from Luís Muñoz Marín International Airport into Old San Juan gives you a rough snapshot of the sorts of areas in which you’re likely to spend most of your time as a tourist here. The airport sits right across the city limit in Carolina. You’ll drive along Expreso 26 through the high-rise hotel and resort areas of Santurce before crossing a bridge into the Isleta de San Juan, the 3-square-mile island that’s home to the historic colonial district. “A lot of those hotels were closed for a long time after the storm. Some of them are still closed,” our driver said. “Buildings that large had more issues with mold and other damage that came from not being staffed and not being able to power things like air conditioning.” We booked our rooms in a private home. There are tons of these options in Old San Juan and it’s a great way to keep yourself close to the center of the old city throughout your stay. In this case, the home where we stayed was owned by a therapist who, together with her shih tzu, greeted us warmly and gave us all sorts of tips and recommendations. We had two rooms on the second story of the house near the intersection of Calle Sol and Calle San José, so we were a quick walk from just about anything in the district.

TIP

If your host has a dog, close the bathroom door when you’re done in there. The next time you walk in, you might just step in some dookie.

It was still morning when we arrived, so we headed to breakfast and the nearby Mesón Sandwiches. It’s a fast food joint with 36 locations, but the special thing about it is that it’s Puerto Rico’s first and most successful homegrown fast food chain. They’re expanding in the mainland U.S. — three locations so far — so we figured we’d drop in and see what the fuss was about. Our breakfast sandwiches came on Puerto Rican bread. Outside of that, it was standard fare — egg, ham, cheese, tomato. The highlight was the Vietnam veteran who asked to borrow the newspaper we had on our table. Really, that was more of an opening line he used to spark up conversation with a couple of visitors. This was a hobby of his, and he practically said as much. “Nobody talks to each other anymore. Everybody’s looking at their phones,” he said. This guy is old-school San Juan. He’d grown up on these streets, in close quarters, elbow to elbow with the people around him on these narrow streets and sidewalks. We were all in. He showed us his


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Puerta de San Juan, the old colonial door to the city; the Drew Estate lounge at Cigar House; the main humidor at Cigar House; a Bacardi Daiquirí just before the distillery tour in Cataño

VA card, he told us all about the women he’d encountered in his military travels, and he shared his take on his city’s long storm recovery. “If it hadn’t been for the federal government, for all the military that the Americans sent here,” he said, “we’d be in it deep.” After a few more stories about his sexcapades, we parted ways and headed across the adjacent Plaza de Armas, which is home to the first of the monuments we saw on our trip: a fountain memorializing legendary salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso, whose statue sits on a nearby bench. Just south of the plaza, on Calle Fortaleza, is KEK Cigar & Smoke Lounge. At first, the store doesn’t look like the sort of place that would have much for a serious smoker. The display by the window is loaded with jewelry and other gift items that seem geared toward tourist foot traffic. Once inside, you have to get around a whole lot of glass display cases to get to the walk-in humidor. KEK, it turns out, has a respectable selection of premium cigars, including some products manufactured right in Puerto Rico. More impressive, though, is KEK’s selection of accessories. Even some great tobacconists with huge cigar selections don’t carry this much variety from brands like S.T. Dupont, Lotus and Bugatti. From KEK, we made our way to what is undoubtedly Old San Juan’s biggest cigar draw: Cigar House. You might say that Cigar House is split in

two on Calle Fortaleza. On the left, there’s a gift shop with all manner of touristy trinkets, refrigerator magnets, panama hats and other things you might want to stock up on for people who might be expecting gifts back home. But on the right is one of the best cigar lounge experiences we have seen anywhere in the United States. The expansive Drew Estate-branded lounge lets in loads of natural light from a two-story-high skylight. Just beyond that lounge is a second area with a bar with an excellent selection of beer, wine and spirits for a dimmer, more subdued setting where you can enjoy your smokes.

“Puerto Ricans love cigars,” Samuel said. “In fact, we know a young man who has begun growing cigar tobacco on his small farm. It’s not common here because labor is expensive, so it’s a passion project for him. As for smokers, you have smokers here who are big enthusiasts, and used to account for more of our business, but many of them left for the United States after the storms. Much of our business — a majority of sales — is to tourists and travelers. Now we depend heavily on smokers on cruise ships and, at peak season, people staying at hotels. Not all of them smoke, but you find a way to make it work.”

The crown jewel here is the humidor. Why bother letting you know what’s in there? If your neighborhood shop has the selection that owners Rita and Samuel have amassed here, you’re one of the lucky few. To get to the main humidor, you walk through Cigar House’s Davidoff room (Cigar House is an Appointed Merchant). The main humidor is long and somewhat narrow, with shelves lining the walls to either side of you and empty cigar boxes lining the ceiling. It all feels clean, orderly, almost like you’ve stepped into one of those vaults in a bank heist movie.

After cigars, coffee and conversation with Rita and Samuel, we packed up our cigars and made our way to the northeasternmost tip of the island, where we walked through the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 16th-century citadel that survived numerous attacks while the island was governed by Spain. In function and design, it resembles many other fortresses in Latin America and even Florida. If you’re a history buff or just enjoy posing with old cannons, this is a must on your visit. Plus, the fortress will give you some of the best views you’ll get of the islet’s rocky northern coastline. While you’re looking out onto that coastline, you’ll also see La Perla, a historic shanty town situated just outside the old sea wall that extends out from the fortress. If you’re a Latin music fan (and even if you’re not) you might recognize this humble neighborhood from the video from Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yan-

With a selection that big, you know that a large percentage of it will be stuff you can get your hands on back home. So what should you pick up while you’re here? Cigar House’s own house blend is produced by My Father in Estelí, and it’s excellent — able to stand toe to toe with plenty of better-known cigars.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Castillo San Felipe del Morro fortress; KEK Cigars & Smoke Lounge on Fortaleza; La Perla and the coastline from the fortress; manning the cannons at El Morro kee’s music video for “Despacito.” As we made our way back into the city, we dropped into Don Collins Cigars’ retail store near the corner of Calle Sol and Calle del Cristo. Don Collins is a Puerto Rican-made brand and produces solid cigars. That said, the lounge itself isn’t much to look at. You’d do well to come here and stock up on another brand you won’t find back home, but don’t make plans to stick around and smoke here.

TIP

To get either to or from El Morro, consider walking along the Paseo del Morro. It’s a path just outside the city wall that runs along the rocky coastline from the fortress to the Puerta de San Juan, which is the door to the city people would enter after docking their ships.

In the interest of covering new ground, we headed to Calle San Francisco to walk back east and get to know more of the district. Andy was born in Havana and lived there until he was well into his 20s. I was born in Miami to a Cuban family and visited Havana several times for activist purposes between 2008 and 2009. As we walked through San Juan, we remarked to each other that we couldn’t help thinking this was at least

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a glimpse of what Havana’s historic areas might look like if more than half a century of Castroite dictatorship hadn’t sunk the city into decay. Of course, Puerto Rico has its own problems. Physically, this part of the city appeared to be in good enough shape. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s old, yes, but … well … it’s old! What are a couple of hurricanes to structures that have survived centuries of waves, humidity and all the wear and tear that comes with being in the tropics for centuries? The population, on the other hand, has taken a hit. There are just fewer people out here than there used to be. Practically everyone we spoke to confirmed that this was a more bustling place a year or two ago. Puerto Rico has always had the problem of hemorrhaging Puerto Ricans, but the havoc wrought by Hurricanes Maria and Irma accelerated the trend. That means that there are fewer Puerto Ricans around consuming goods and services. The ones who remain are guarded with their money as they contend with high unemployment rates (11 percent across the island; a few points lower in San Juan). Many of those who left for the mainland U.S. were in-demand workers in tourism, since they had experience in customer service and spoke English well enough to seek employment confidently in places like Orlando. San Juan’s not a ghost town, but unless a ship has just emptied

out at the San Juan Cruise Port, you tend to find yourself looking at half- or three-quarters-empty dining rooms, bars and storefronts wondering, “How does this place survive?” For instance, there’s Café Puerto Rico. We had dinner that Tuesday night. It sits across from Plaza de Colón, a landmark square with a monument to Christopher Columbus. We took a table outside for the great view of the Plaza de Colón and, just a little farther off, the Castillo de San Cristóbal, another Spanish fort, this one built in the 1700s. With a location and view like this, you shouldn’t be able to just walk up and get a table on any night of the week. But here, that’s how it played out. The food was the first full meal of typical Puerto Rican dishes we’d had a chance to eat since we landed. In light of that, we just couldn’t resist; we ordered what would be the first of several mofongos on this visit. Fried plantains are a staple throughout the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, the signature dish is mofongo. It consists of a rough mash of green plantain, which is then topped with one of a variety of meats — pork, steak, shrimp, and so on. We had the steak mofongo here, along with a sampling of various appetizers. A few drinks later, we were ready to call it a night and recharge the batteries for our first full day on the island.


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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The plaza and sculptures across from the Catedral de San Juan Bautista; inside the cathedral; mofongo (fried plantain mash) topped with steak; the dining area at El Patio del Níspero

DAY 2 On our host’s recommendation, we walked about a block for breakfast at Patio del Níspero. This is where you come when you want an upscale breakfast and a menu of the standard morning dishes you know from… well, just about anywhere. Eggs Benedict, pancakes, all that. What’s special here, though, is the setting: a courtyard in the center of the Hotel El Convento, which, as you might have guessed, use to be a convent. There’s a serenity about the place that makes it a nice way to ease into the rest of your day in Puerto Rico. I had the Eggs Benedict with roasted pulled pork; Andy went with the staple eggs, bacon and potatoes. After breakfast, we crossed the street to pay a visit to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (San Juan Bautista in Spanish). Tourists from all over come into this church to worship, but also to pay a visit to the tomb of Spanish explorer, conquistador and first governor of Puerto Rico Juan Ponce de León.

TIP

If you’re looking for directions, make sure you’re searching for the Catholic Cathedral in Old San Juan, not the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Santurce.

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Ready for the day’s first cigar, we hailed an Uber that would take us out of Old San Juan and into Santurce, just to the east of the Islet of San Juan. Specifically, we headed to La Placita, a small bazaar-style market just south of Atlantic Beach. Technically, La Placita is one building that’s home to some produce vendors and gift shops, but people use the name to refer to all the surrounding businesses as well — primarily restaurants and bars, but also one of Don Rey Cigars’ several locations. “We’ve been in this Placita area for 18 años, but in this specific location for six,” said Don Rey Cigars owner Patricio Peña. The store is small and split in two. One room contains only cigars in cabinet humidors. There’s a decent variety of product, but you’ll want to pick up at least some of Don Rey’s own stuff, which is made at Patricio’s factory right there in Puerto Rico, which produces upwards of 700,000 cigars a year. Patricio told me that they were on the verge of an expansion into a new facility, after which point he anticipated they’d be producing more than a million cigars a year. “This is the most famous plaza in the world for its variety because there are more than 50 restaurants here,” said Patricio, employing some of that Caribbean hyperbole that Andy and I know all too well. “There’s a party every night. You can

find great drinks, food, a great atmosphere.” Regardless of whether this really is the world’s most famous plaza, there’s plenty happening. As Patricio tells it, people were making their way to his shop at the height of the hurricane recovery effort as well. “Not much damage happened on this plaza, so I opened the next day,” he said. “People were looking for cold beer and cigars, and here we were. To tell you the truth, sales tripled. Everyone came here. The Americans were looking for a place to smoke, especially the military. This was full of cops and soldiers.” After a smoke with Patricio, we strolled through the Placita’s market, picked up some gifts for friends and family, and had a quick lunch at El Sabor de Reina, a little diner where we ended up deep in conversation with other diners about whatever insane things were happening on the telenovela that was playing on the TV behind the bar. Again, at roughly lunch time in a not-at-allremote part of the city, the restaurants felt pretty sleepy. Even the service feels slow, apathetic, disinterested. And that’s not good. Really, you should probably try one of the dozens of other restaurants on this block. On the other hand, the fact that we were still having a good time speaks volumes about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans. Looking to work off our lunch (more mofongo),


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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: La Placita de Santurce; the bar at Don Rey Cigars in Santurce; Taberna Lúpulo, an Old San Juan beer bar; mofongo at El Sabor de la Reina; a Botero statue in Santurce we strolled to the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. The building used to be part of a municipal hospital, but now houses works by Puerto Rican artists from as far back as the 17th century and as recently as just a few years ago; one of the most prominently displayed pieces was a portrait of René Juan Pérez Joglar, who is better known as half of the rap group Calle 13. You’ll want to check out the sculpture garden in the back — although that, too, is still in recovery mode as the storms did a number on the landscaping.

still. It’s not working, but we have heated it so you can feel what warmth feels like. These are old bottles. Here is another cocktail. Look, but don’t touch. Proceed to the gift shop. Goodbye.

(with wilted spinach and marsala butter). I had the gnocchi with horseradish, braised beef ribs and crispy beetroot. The chef sent out a couple of demitasse cups of asparagus and truffle soup.

I just saved you about 16 bucks a head plus the cost of your cab. You’re welcome.

After hailing an Uber, we were headed way over to the opposite side of Old San Juan. The Bacardi distillery is about a 15-minute drive from the museum, across the bay from Old San Juan. We were looking forward to getting to know the process behind a product Andy and I had both enjoyed plenty of in our lives.

We Ubered our way back into Old San Juan in time to shower. We had the stink of a couple of guys who’d been lugging camera gear around a tropical island to get from cigar to mofongo to booze. Yes, the best kind of stink, but not how you want to show up to a nice restaurant.

It bears mentioning that nowhere in San Juan did we get service even remotely resembling Marmalade’s. The staff were just the right amount of attentive, extremely helpful answering questions about the menu, and — perhaps most importantly — very understanding of our obnoxious need to carefully photograph everything we ate. People from neighboring restaurants would do well to come in for dinner and take notes.

Your tour starts with a cocktail under a batinspired gazebo. Then you’re driven through a parking lot as a guide points out key buildings from the outside and drops a few dates and statistics on you. Once you’ve arrived at a sort of welcome lobby, you’re handed a container of molasses. This is so you can smell it and stir it around. Observe its thickness. Smell its molassesiness. Now step through these doors and watch this movie Bacardi made about 15 years ago. Movie’s over. Look at these barrels. They’re empty, but this is what barrels look like. Here’s an old

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At no point in this tour will you see any kind of distillation happening. No bottling, no labeling, no taste testing. I love Bacardi and my daiquirí was good. I hated this tour. Don’t do it.

There are no Michelin-starred restaurants in Puerto Rico, but Old San Juan’s Marmalade might be as close as you’ll come. Once you step inside, you’re breaking sharply from the oldworld and into something new, fresh, creative and not very Puerto Rican at all. Marmalade offers tasting menu options that range from three courses for $59 per person to six courses for $89 per person. And considering the caliber of food we had here, it’s worth every penny. We weren’t quite hungry enough for all that, but I do recommend that you plan the day you’ll end at Marmalade accordingly and leave room. Andy had the black truffle pappardelle

From Marmalade we headed back to the house, stopping for a few drinks at La Taberna Lúpulo, a cozy craft beer bar where you can get brew from names like Stone, Bell’s and Lagunitas on tap. The crowd here was young, and the rock that fills the bar takes on a new quality when you’re conscious of the fact that the building is and looks centuries old. Another day in the books, we called it a night. This, for the record, was the night I stepped in dog shit in the bathroom.

DAY 3 We knew we couldn’t go to Puerto Rico without checking out the beaches. So we hopped into a cab and headed to La Ventana al Mar Park in Condado, east of Old San Juan. The name trans-


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Gnocchi, creme brulee and papardelle at Marmalade; Condado resorts and beach from La Ventana al Mar Park; Bacardí HQ; Semilla Kitchen & Bar lates to “The Window to the Sea” and it marks the beginning of the district that’s home base to most of the city’s resort tourists. Avenida Doctor Ashford is lined with waterfront hotels and kitschy restaurants.

and packed up to head east along Ashford, stopping occasionally to shoot a beach or take a look at a window display. But really, there wasn’t a whole lot going on on this drag, so we hailed another Uber to take us farther east.

NOTE: This isn’t important, but I would like to note that I

Andy’s family — at least one branch of the tree — has a bit of a history in Puerto Rico. One of the key players in that history had been memorialized with a plaque at Casa Cuba, a social club and event venue that’s served as a hub for Puerto Rico’s Cuban community. Unfortunately, Casa Cuba is right on the sand and was hit especially hard by the hurricanes. The whole place was closed as construction crews worked to get it up and running again.

think Avenida Doctor Ashford — which is a nod to Bailey Ashford, the pioneering Puerto Rican military physician who led the charge against hookworm and cured more than a quarter million Puerto Ricans who might otherwise have been killed by anemia — is a lovely tribute, but not the best or most festive name for the main drag of a beach resort area.

We walked a couple of blocks south of Ashford to Semilla Kitchen & Bar, a hip and brand spanking new place that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a little punk; there’s rock music playing, lots of wood and metal decor. Kind of a cool, youthful energy in the midst of bohemian beachiness. The food was good — the steak and eggs were cooked perfectly, the espresso was done right. And yet, somehow this place was also empty, even with all those hotels around it (although, as I mentioned earlier, at least some of them are still closed). We got some recommendations from our waiter

Same goes for the place we had hoped would still be open for cigars: the aptly named The Cigar Shop. Unfortunately, that was also forced to close, along with every other business in the building it called home. As we strolled back west toward Condado, we began to notice that this area did have more visible damage. These highrise resort hotels still had holes in their signage and facades. In some cases, entire buildings were still totally out of commission. It’s wasn’t clear how much of it was the physical damage

and how much was the fact that there weren’t enough people here to justify some of the “recovery.” Nobody knows for sure how many people have left Puerto Rico for good, but here are some figures for you to chew on. In 2015, about 64,000 people left Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, about 180,000 airline passengers left for the states. And that number is growing. During our visit, teacher unions were protesting austerity measures that called for the closure of schools. The argument for the closures is — in part — that there just aren’t as many students around to teach. According to Puerto Rico’s education department, nearly 40,000 students have left Puerto Rican schools since the hurricanes hit. Half of the existing schools on the island are at 60 percent capacity. Another, especially stark number. Puerto Rico’s population is roughly 3.3 million. According to CNN, one economist who’s working with the Puerto Rican government to develop population projections estimates that if the island doesn’t recover from the storm’s effects quickly enough, it could be below 2 million by 2040. As the island has drained, so have its beaches

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: A ship docked at San Juan Cruise Port; La Factoría; shrimp mofongo at La Mallorquina; a Lavender Mule at the main bar at La Factoría; late night on the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan

and hotels been drained of their workforce, investors and construction crews. It’s less obvious in the durable, vibrant Old San Juan. But out here, where isolation was part of the draw, it only takes a little bit of a push on the needle for it to start feeling abandoned. We headed back to San Juan. Still in need of a beach, we stopped at Playa El Escambrón, which is adjacent to a large park, the Puerto Rican sports Hall of Fame (closed) and yet another fortress (albeit a small one). Though you could tell that there used to be more going on here, there was a good crowd even in spite of cloudy weather, which restored the mood of the day almost immediately. From the beach, we walked to the 27-acre Luis Muñoz Rivera Park and continued to make our way toward the colonial section of town. At the end of that long trek, we went back into the heart of Old San Juan for lunch at La Mallorquina, a historic Puerto Rican restaurant on Calle San Justo just north of Fortaleza. It’s a beautiful place with high ceilings, old Spanish colonial style and huge (usually open) windows that make you feel like you’re in a big courtyard. The mofongo (yes, more mofongo) was excellent; I did shrimp this time around. The service, on the other hand, not so much. Only two waiters were around to staff the front of the house. One was a veteran, a middle-aged guy who was training the second waiter, a young man who was struggling to get

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comfortable with providing service in English. “We had lots of great waiters, but they’re gone,” said the first waiter. As we were nearing the end of our meal, he informed us he had to leave us alone with the rookie so he could make a grocery run for the kitchen. The rookie was eating his own lunch at the bar. Our last night in Puerto Rico, we had bar snacks and drinks at La Factoría, a famous cocktail bar made even more popular by the fact that (here it is again) it was featured in that video for Despacito. The bar is split into three rooms: one for cocktails, one for wine, and one for dancing. It’s got a very speakeasy feel to it and it’s advertised with “Speakeasy” in the name, but don’t let that deter you. You don’t need passwords or special codes to get in here. Do show up early if you don’t have anything in particular planned for dinner. La Factoría’s got some of the best bar food we’ve encountered in our years of doing these stories. My recommendations: the maple bacon peanuts and the sliders. The bar filled up with a mix of tourists and locals and the dance floor got going as soon as they opened it up at 10. Do not, under any circumstances, skip this place.

DAY 4 In the morning, we woke up early enough to get ourselves mallorcas for breakfast. It’s kinda like Puerto Rico’s cronut, except they make break-

fast sandwiches with them and dust them with powdered sugar. And it was at breakfast that we got that last reminder of all that is great about Puerto Rico and all that’s at stake. We got our mallorcas at a place called La Bombonera. It’s a San Juan institution. One of those patently American “soda fountains” that refuses to let go of its 50s flavor, but that is also an unmistakably boricua diner. It’s got the kind of charm and the kind of food that should be keeping the line wrapped around the block every morning. And yet, including us, there were about 5 people in there. Ten if you count the staff. We were handed a menu by a waiter who looked annoyed and confused by the fact that we wanted another menu. It came eventually. Slowly. Des. Pa. Cito. It was like he’d never done this before. And maybe he hadn’t. Maybe he’d only had this job since the last guy — the guy who knew what he was doing because he’d been at it so long — left the island because he knew what he was doing and there was oppor tunity on the other side of a flight to Florida. You want this place to survive. There’s nothing else like it — histor y so American and so Latin and so rich and so vibrant that nobody in their right mind would want to let the lights go out. But a lot has to fall into place if this new waiter is going to make the best of this gig … star ting with a few boatloads of customers. And that second menu.


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Rocky Patel Against the Odds by Erik Calviño, Photography by Dan Speicher

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e’d just enjoyed an evening at BURN by Rocky Patel, the cigar maker’s cigar bar and lounge in Naples, Fla.; there were drinks, dancing, live music, and plenty of Rocky Patel cigars enjoyed by a crowd of a couple hundred. The demographic: mostly millionaire retirees. A mere 10 hours later we were touching down at Pittsburgh International where the newest BURN location was slated to open. The two cities are diametrically opposed to one another and yet here was Rocky Patel applying a business model that worked in sunny, flaunty Naples to a city known more for its blue-collar, sports-crazed culture. On top of that, he’s doing it at a time when most of the cigar industry is hedging and consolidating for fear of increased regulation.

THE LEARNING CURVE Things started simply enough. Rocky, then a Hollywood lawyer, met Indian Tabac’s founder Phil Zanghi at the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills in 1995. Soon after, Rocky was Phil’s partner in the growing cigar company. But Rocky’s heart still wasn’t in it. “We really started making cigars as a hobby and pretty soon I had invested way more money into this hobby than I ever envisioned,” said Rocky. With his partner handling the tobacco side of the business in Honduras, Rocky began pushing the product in the States. He was a natural. “There were cigar makers who would do an event and they felt that the purpose of the event was for them to sit in a corner smoking their cigars and that just doesn’t work,” recalled Corona Cigar Company founder Jeff Borysiewicz. “But Rocky always got it. He always engaged the customers and he was energetic and hard-working and he would sell them on his cigars.” A couple of years into the partnership, Phil and Rocky amicably parted ways when Phil decided to step away from the company. In addition to sales, Rocky now had to take on the responsibility of tobacco sourcing and production — something he admittedly knew nothing about. “I had a cigar company, but didn’t know anything about tobacco, premium cigars, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican, none of it,” said Rocky. He also couldn’t help but hear the naysayers who were sure Rocky’s foray into cigars would fail. “They said this is a business that is handed down from generation to generation. You have to be of Latin descent or Cuban descent.” Doubters said success would be impossible for

66 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

Rocky at his new BURN by Rocky Patel lounge in Pittsburgh

an outsider like Rocky, in part, because he didn’t know anything or anyone. He wouldn’t be able to purchase the raw materials he needed because he didn’t have the relationships. “And they were quite right,” said Rocky as we smoked our cigars, paired with Barolo, on couches at Pittsburgh’s BURN just before its official opening. “It was very difficult for me to go out to the Plasencias or the Oliva family and say at that time, ‘I want five bales of tobacco or 10 bales of tobacco.’ But at the same time when someone tells me I can’t do something it gets my antlers up.” So he ended up going to Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic to start the learning process. “I started asking a lot of stupid questions. Started seeing what people were doing right, what people were doing wrong. I start working in farms, in the curing and the fermentation. I made thousands and thousands of blends to educate my palate,” he said. As he began to get his bearings, one thing stuck out to him. “The key to making a quality cigar was starting with good ingredients — in other words getting good, quality tobacco. And that was the biggest challenge.” At this point the company was just barely getting by in terms of quality. They were buying raw materials from whomever would sell to them and having their cigars made by a couple of different factories. You see this often with small brand owners who don’t have control of the sourcing and manufacturing process. They’ll buy a little

tobacco from this vendor today, a little tobacco from this other guy tomorrow. Sometimes it’s fermented properly, oftentimes it isn’t. It makes consistency almost impossible from batch to batch. Rocky credits this problem as the biggest reason that the Indian Tabac brand never took off.

TURNING THE CORNER By 1999 it was time for a change. That’s when Rocky moved the operation to Florida and took control of his own destiny. That’s also the time he met the Plasencia family. Rocky pitched Nestor Plasencia on the idea that he let Rocky manage his own production inside of Plasencia’s factory so that Rocky’s cigars would be made in accordance with Rocky’s specifications. It was an unusual agreement at that time. If you had a factory make you a private label, you both agreed on the blend and the private label brand owner just placed orders with the factory, mostly over the phone. “The Plasencias gave me that opportunity and for the first several years we butted heads a lot. I wanted more time on the tobacco, more curing on the tobacco. I wanted to stop production if the fourth priming ran out. I wouldn’t use the fifth or the sixth and they said that was crazy and I was wasting money.” Rocky stood firm because he had insights on American premium cigar consumers that no industry veteran could match. He was on the road more than anyone, interacting with smokers night after night. And he was hearing the complaints first-hand when a consumer could tell


when the cigar was off. He was right; the American premium cigar smoker was changing. They were devouring information about cigars that had never been available to them and that information was affecting what cigars they were buying. “As much as people kind of gave me credit for being on the road and burning a lot of shoe leather and doing creative marketing, I think the real reason we succeeded is because we had brands that were very, very consistent, cigar to cigar and box to box,” Rocky said. “And it didn’t come across by accident.” Rocky was deliberate about practically everything, but one of his most iconic brands was born almost by accident. When UST (US Tobacco) decided to get out of the premium cigar business, they were sitting on $80 or $90 million dollars’ worth of raw materials. Two of the tobaccos that he saw caught his attention, the aged Sumatra wrapper and the aged Broadleaf wrapper they were growing in Talanga. He immediately tried to buy it all but that’s not what the UST guys had in mind. “They said, ‘You can’t buy it but we’ll give it to you if you make cigars out of our factory.’ So I worked on 120 blends, and believe it or not the first one that I made was the one that was chosen. I still remember the blend by heart. Both have the same filler and binder, Dominican Olor and Dominican Piloto. We have one leaf of Brazilian Mata Fina, we have ligero from Esteli, viso from Jalapa and a Mexican binder. Then the aged Sumatra wrapper for one and the Broadleaf from Talanga for the other.” Those were the blends for the Vintage 1990 and Vintage 1992, which are still two of the bestselling blends in Rocky Patel’s portfolio. But there was one more hurdle to clear. How would he be able to ensure quality with UST the way he had at Plasencia? When they’d settled on the blends, Rocky made his pitch. “There’s only one way I’ll make cigars here,” Rocky said. “You allow me carte blanche to go to the sorting department and train everybody on how I want the wrapper, filler and binder sorted and what primings we’re using. They have to stay consistent with that. Then I want to limit the bunchers and rollers to making only 300 cigars per day. We’re going to bunch in an accordion fashion and every cigar has to be draw tested.” They went for it. He now had two big factories with massive stores of quality raw material making cigars the way he wanted them made and with the materials he wanted to use. By 2002, Indian Tabac Cigar Company became Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. The company was coming off suc-

cessful releases with the Vintage lines and The Edge (which remains the best-selling brand in Rocky’s lineup). They had manufacturing under control by running a “factory within a factory” with not just Plasencia’s El Paraiso factory, but also at UST’s factory, both in Danlí. “I think I was spending close to 50 or 60 percent of my time at the factories — maybe 70 in the early days,” Rocky said. “I was basically at the factory, if not every week, every other week.” And when he wasn’t at the factory, he was on the road doing events. This was the time period when Rocky cemented his reputation as the hardest working man in the cigar business. His work paid off, the company had turned the corner. They’d survived the cigar boom and subsequent bust and had come out on the other side with a wealth of industry knowledge, relationships, and a reputation for unwavering quality and consistency. “When the demand came around, we stopped making certain brands if we didn’t have the right wrapper or the right binder or the right priming in the filler.”

“I had a cigar company, but didn’t know anything about tobacco, premium cigars, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican, none of it,” They released the highly acclaimed Rocky Patel Decade to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary and it was another home run. “We noticed that when we really paid attention to quality, our brands succeeded,” Rocky said. “That’s all. It was that simple. Of course it helped that I was doing events and it helped that I was one of the first guys on the road building relations that got the product onto the shelf. But to get the product off the shelf and into the consumer’s hands, and for them to keep buying it, it had to be quality.” In my conversations with cigar manufacturers at all levels, the one challenge they always mention is consistency — making a great cigar day in and day out in spite of ever changing conditions. Rocky added, “Yeah, you can make a few consistently, but when you get into making volume and all the different brands and all of the different

blends that we have, that becomes a much bigger challenge.” His staunch devotion to quality and consistency, coupled with a rigorous travel schedule, took its toll. Around 2008, rumors started to emerge that Rocky’s health was failing. There was talk that he was suffering from heart problems as a result of the hard life he was living. “When I was at the factory, I’d smoke 12, 15, sometimes 16 cigars a day because you’re blending and blending and blending,” Rocky said. All that in addition to cigars he would smoke with tour groups visiting the factory and while on the road in the States. “They’d come on a Sunday to Wednesday and you’re up all night with them drinking and smoking. I did it for a solid 8 to 10 years. Now we’re no longer doing that, but that was a long run. “I was getting nervous like, ‘What? Am I going to have a heart attack?’ I was going to the doctors to get everything checked out and they’re like, ‘Trust me, the last thing you’re going to die from is a heart attack.’” The doctors assured Rocky that his heart was in good shape and that instead he was having a different, less serious problem. “It was acid reflux. I’d never had it so I didn’t know what it was like but you get an anxiety, shortness of breath and you don’t sleep enough.” Although he was relieved, the scare seemed to jolt him into action. “I spend a lot of time at the gym and I eat very healthy. I probably don’t smoke as many cigars as I used to and I enjoy my wine instead of my single malt Scotch and I feel much healthier. I feel great. It’s all part of balance.”

IF A HEART ATTACK WON’T GET YOU, THE FDA WILL As Rocky’s business kept growing and expanding, he found himself leaning more and more on his brother Nish and his cousin Nimish Desai for support in the business. Without them taking the load off Rocky, there’s no way he’d be available to fight against FDA overregulation. “Unfortunately, now I spend less time at the factories but I am spending more time in Washington D.C. Every time something happens, the first guy they call is me and I show up. And I understand, Jorge Padrón’s got a lot on his plate with his father passed away, so he’s gotta be in Nicaragua more often. And the same with Carlito Fuente. I’m available and so I spend a lot of time in D.C.” I didn’t expect modesty on this topic after listening to Rocky spearhead the weekly FDA call with fellow cigar makers, lawyers, lobbyists, and representatives from the CRA and IPCPR. But

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there he was, telling me how he takes the lead on it because he has the time. While it’s true that Jorge and Carlito are both busier than ever, you would be missing the point if you thought that was the only reason. Rocky is clearly the most qualified of the cigar makers to take the lead on these legal and political matters. I asked him to break down what he spends time on in a typical month. “I would say it’s probably about 30 percent on Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, 20 percent on Rocky Patel BURN, and 50 percent on FDA. Every morning after the gym, I come home and my entire morning is consumed until 1 p.m. with FDA stuff — whether it’s conference calls, or talking to the lawyers, and that doesn’t count getting on planes and going to Washington and walking the halls of Congress and the Senate. I mean it just goes on and on and on. Then there’s raising money, these lawsuits have to be paid for. That’s a big battle, you know, dealing with our guys on policy. Yeah, it’s a lot of work.” Rocky Patel is leading the premium cigar industry in this fight, and he’s playing against the odds. And after intense lobbying and with the new FDA commissioner, Dr. Gottlieb, in addition to the lawsuit that was filed, the FDA has come back to the industry and said they’re willing to take a new look at premium cigars and whether they are to be regulated or not, or whether they should be regulated differently. He also cited a series of studies commissioned by the FDA, the results of which have been beneficial to the premium cigar business. “Essentially the first study came out to show that the average age of a cigar smoker is almost 25 years old. Most cigar smokers don’t smoke more than one cigar per month. Another states that there is no change in mortality rate if you smoke one or less cigar per day. Now these will all published in publications like the New England Journal of Medicine and they were all commissioned by CTP (Center for Tobacco Products) or the FDA. So these are their own studies. This is going to help us a lot in the new lawsuit that was filed in the district of Texas.

FRENZIED EXPANSION As many cigar manufacturers have been feverishly preparing for the end of days by cutting back drastically or consolidating, Rocky has been just as feverishly planning his expansion. Since opening his first lounge in Naples 8 years ago, Rocky’s been working and designing the next BURN. So to walk up to the new Rocky Patel BURN in Pittsburgh alongside Rocky himself was quite an experience. I thought he’d be giddy with excitement when we headed to his new

68 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

BURN’s new Pittsburgh location draws inspiratyion from the city’s steel production history.

Pittsburgh lounge. I know I was. Instead, after posing for a shot for social media, he immediately went to work dismantling the place. That is, he dismantled it with a notepad. This bannister is loose. The humidor isn’t bright enough and there’s not enough space for product. Why is this ashtray on the featured island instead of this other one? And that’s before he started tasting food and drinks. He and his team worked through every single detail until they’d either fixed what was wrong in his eyes or a plan was in place to correct it. Even before construction on the first BURN started in Florida, Rocky had been mulling the concept over for a number of years. “I had this concept in my head but I kept getting pushback from my brother and Dave Bullock (Rocky Patel’s VP of Sales) because they kept thinking I was going to compete against our retailers who had supported us for so long. That was never my vision. My idea was to grow the premium cigar category. Every year, I kept looking at the import data and I kept seeing that the premium cigar category was increasing by one percent, two percent, three percent,” said Rocky. “If you look, all of a sudden craft beer is a big deal. If you look at bourbons, they’re on the rise. People are looking to enjoy finer things in life. They’re certainly not going to do it where there’s no place to smoke in places like New York or California. Certainly in the winter, people can’t smoke outside there. So we wanted to create an atmosphere where people our age can go. Where you can have a nice single malt scotch or glass of wine, possibly something

to eat and smoke a cigar.” I’ve personally seen Rocky’s vision for BURN play out on several occasions; where an adult comes in for the ambiance and selection of high-end spirits and enjoys a cigar for the first time. With BURN lounges in Naples, Pittsburgh, and Oklahoma City already open to the public — and Atlanta and Indianapolis slated to open before the end of 2018 — Rocky’s all in on the BURN concept. I asked Rocky if, after opening his fifth BURN, he would take a break in 2019. His response was classic Rocky. “No, no! I want to open in Nashville. I want to open in Houston. I wouldn’t mind opening one in Tampa or the West Palm area. So I have a few other places in my head.” Along the way, there’s no question that he has carved his own path as he learned the premium cigar business on the fly, found his niche in a market dominated by Hispanic sounding names, and opened three world-class lounges that personify his brand. He’s brought his family into the business and built a team that frees him up to defend the industry against federal overreach. I asked one final question: “When you look back at this family business that you’ve built, what are you most proud of?” “I think the legacy that we’ve created with the brand is about making it when nobody thought I could make it in the cigar business. I’m sure there are a lot of people betting against me now and that’s what I’m most proud of. I beat all the odds. It’s a different path that I took. I’m most proud that I did it my way.”


ROCKY PATEL BURN VIP GRAND OPENING The week leading up to Rocky Patel Burn Pittsburgh’s opening featured one soft opening after another culminating in Friday evening’s VIP Grand Opening where sPittsburgh’s elite got to eat, drink, and smoke the finest that Burn Pittsburgh has to offer. The impressive guest list made up mostly of local celebrities, professional athletes, and politicians braved the inclement weather to easily make Burn the hottest place in town. Except for the moment when Rocky took to the mic to welcome guests and thank the staff, the music was jamming and the dance floor was jumping.

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91

)

Covered with a somewhat coarse, dark wrapper and finished with a covered foot. Delivers a flavorful profile of earth, pepper, and dark chocolate accompanied by floral and citrus notes. Perfect draw and burn leaving behind a solid, compact ash.

)

N I CA R AGUA

CAO Zรณcalo

N I CA R AGUA

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

San Andres 6 60 Mexico Cameroon Nicaragua

89

)

Opens with a blast of pepper and oak that settles to incorporate notes of earth, tanned leather, and a touch of mocha. This consistently well-constructed cigar is covered with a dark, reddish brown, toothy wrapper. Medium plus strength.

)

$ 8.49

Bolivar Heritage

D OM I NI CAN REPUBLIC

660 6 60 USA/Connecticut Ecuador Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

88

)

Covered with an dark, reddish brown wrapper, this medium strength blend is topped with a pigtail and finished with a covered foot. Delivers a smooth, creamy draw with notes of ripe fruit, pepper, and a hint of dark chocolate.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

)

$ 7.99

MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

73


TORPEDO A. Fuente Don Carlos

$ 12.60

)

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C

)

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

No. 2 6 55 Cameroon Dominican Republic Dominican Republic

)

Plasencia Reserva Original

)

91

$ 9.90

N I CA R AG UA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Piramide 6 3/16 52 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Trinidad Santiago

A beautifully constructed torpedo covered with an impeccable, reddish brown wrapper with excellent oils. This medium strength blend opens with notes of toast and soft pepper that are quickly joined by wood, nuts and a slight touch of cream.

$ 9.90

)

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C

)

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Belicoso 6 1/8 52 Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Dominican Republic

Oceano by La Sirena

Consistent and ultra-smooth with a flavorful profile with notes of hazelnut, spice, cedar, and a touch of honey. This medium strength blend provides a flawless draw and burn producing an abundance of aromatic smoke.

)

$ 10.50

)

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Atlantic 7 52 Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

)

1502 Emerald Box Pressed

)

90

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C A well-balanced blend covered with an impeccably applied, dark, reddish brown wrapper. This long torpedo has a core of earth, cedar, and red pepper complemented by a hint of cocoa on the finish. Medium plus strength.

$ 9.60

N I CA R AG UA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 50 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua & Mexico

Brick House

Beautifully box-pressed and finished with a clean, reddish brown wrapper with minimal veins. Delivers a medium strength core of earth, pepper, and tanned leather complemented by a hint of butterscotch on the finish.

$ 6.20

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

90

74 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

Flavorful and beautifully balanced with a profile of nuts, cedar, spice, and a touch of cream on the finish. This medium strength figurado draws perfectly and produces a solid, compact ash that holds on for an inch at a time.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Short Torpedo 5 1/2 52 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

A flavorful short torpedo covered with a goodlooking, brass colored wrapper with minimal veins. This medium bodied blend has a core of wood, earth, and soft pepper complemented by hints of cinnamon and almond cream.


MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

75


TORO

)

Oliva Connecticut Reserve

)

92

$ 8.32

N I CA R AG UA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 50 Ecuador Nicaragua Nicaragua

Camacho Connecticut

)

$ 8.25

)

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 50 Ecuador Honduras Honduras & Dominican Republic

Atabey

H O N D UR AS Smooth and flavorful, this mild to medium strength blend is finished with an impeccable, golden yellow wrapper with only the slightest of veins. Packed with notes of earth, oak, soft pepper, and mild coffee complemented by a hint of vanilla and cream.

$ 33.00

)

C O STA R I CA

)

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Ritos 6 1/8 55 Ecuador Undisclosed Undisclosed

)

Victor Calvo U.S. Shade Reserve

)

90

Beautifully constructed and covered with an impeccable wrapper with a soft, supple feel. This mild cigar draws and burns perfectly and produces an abundance of thin, wispy smoke. Delivers a smooth profile of wood, vanilla cream, and a light touch of spice.

$ 8.25 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Joseph 6 1/2 54 USA/Connecticut Ecuador Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Debonaire Daybreak

N I CA R AG UA Thick and consistently well-constructed, this cigar produces an excellent output of thick, aromatic smoke with notes of tanned leather, spice, and cedar along a buttery smooth finish. Draws and burns exceptionally well.

)

$ 13.00

)

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 50 Ecuador Dominican Republic Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Kristoff Connecticut

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C Covered with a clean, good-looking wrapper with minimal veins, this medium strength blend delivers a core of wood, cinnamon, and spice complemented by a touch of caramel sweetness. Consistently well-constructed providing an excellent draw and burn.

$ 9.00

)

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C

)

89

76 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

Flavorful and balanced with a profile of toast, nuts, soft pepper, and wood complemented by a rich, coffee aroma. This well-made toro provides a perfect draw and burn producing a smooth, medium bodied smoke.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Matador 6 1/2 56 Ecuador Nicaragua Dominican Republic

A thick and flavorful cigar covered with a light brown wrapper and finished with a pigtail and a covered foot. This mild to medium strength blend has a core of wood, sweet pepper, almond, and a note of leather.


MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

77


78 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


TORO Rocky Patel Decade

$ 11.70 Toro 6 1/2 52 Ecuador Nicaragua Nicaragua

H O ND U R AS Toro 6 52 Mexico Honduras Honduras & Nicaragua

91

)

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

)

2012 by Oscar Valladares Maduro

$ 8.50 Impeccably box-pressed and covered with a dark brown, toothy wrapper with a coarse feel. Delivers an open draw and produces an excellent smoke output with notes of earth, soft pepper, and espresso balanced by a rich, almond cream finish.

92

)

Loaded with rich flavors of chocolate, pepper, and cream complemented by a touch of raspberry on the finish. Beautifully box-pressed and covered with a nearly flawless, dark brown wrapper with minimal veins.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

)

H O ND U R AS

Sindicato Maduro

$ 10.95 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 54 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

90

)

A neatly box-pressed blend covered with an exceedingly dark, oily wrapper and finished with a pigtail and covered foot. Ultra-smooth with a medium strength core of cedar, espresso, and a bit of hazelnut complemented by a soft pepper note in the background.

)

N I CA R AGUA

Perla del Mar Maduro

$ 6.50 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

G 6 1/4 54 USA/Connecticut Nicaragua Nicaragua

90

)

Covered with a dark brown wrapper with a coarse texture, this box-pressed blend delivers a core of earth, pepper, and a touch of coffee. Consistently well-made providing a good draw and an even burn.

)

N I CA R AGUA

Case Study 05 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 5 3/4 52 Nicaragua Mexico Nicaragua

Alec Bradley Black Market Illicit TAA

$ 8.75

H O ND U R AS VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 50 Nicaragua Honduras & Nicaragua Nicaragua

89

)

Opens with a blast of red pepper that settles to incorporate flavors of earth, charred oak, and spice with a long, sticky, sweet finish. This full strength blend is covered with an oily, reddish brown wrapper.

90

)

A flavorful blend with a profile of charred oak, pepper, and dark roast coffee complemented by a sweet, raisin note in the finish. This dark and well-constructed toro is covered with a toothy wrapper with a coarse feel. Medium plus strength.

)

N I CA R AGUA

)

$ 11.00

MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

79


ROBUSTO EXTRA

)

Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf

)

92

$ 11.00

N I CA R AG UA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Regios 5 1/2 50 USA/Connecticut Nicaragua Nicaragua

)

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva

)

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

$ 8.50

N I CA R AG UA Beso 5 5/8 48 Mexico Nicaragua Nicaragua

)

Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva

)

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Covered with an impeccable, dark, reddish brown wrapper finished with a soft boxpress, this medium to full strength blend delivers a flavorful profile with milk chocolate, cedar, and soft pepper complemented by soft notes of leather and almond cream.

$ 9.50

N I CA R AG UA Robusto Grande 5 1/2 52 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Bold by Nish Patel

Dark and perfectly box-pressed, this medium to full strength large robusto is loaded with flavors of earth, pepper, cocoa powder, and a touch of licorice accompanied by a rich aroma of tanned leather. Draws and burns perfectly leaving behind a solid, compact ash.

$ 9.70

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 1/2 50 USA/Connecticut USA & Mexico Nicaragua

)

CAO Brazilia Box-Pressed

)

90

An impeccably constructed, ultra-flavorful robusto covered with a neatly applied, dark brown wrapper with sheen. Medium to full strength with a core of earth, pepper, and espresso complemented by dark chocolate, leather, and a touch of orange zest.

$ 7.49

H O N D UR AS VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Brazilian Gordo 5 1/2 55 Brazil Nicaragua Nicaragua

La Sirena Merlion

Beautifully box-pressed and covered with a dark, even-colored wrapper. Smooth and consistent with flavors of espresso, soft pepper, and a touch of earth complemented by dark cherry. Provides an easy draw and leaves behind a near perfect ash.

$ 10.50

)

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C

)

90

80 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

Complex and balanced, this medium plus strength blend opens with pepper and earth, then settles to incorporate nuts, milk chocolate, and a bit of coffee. Consistently wellconstructed and finished with a beautiful, dark, toothy wrapper.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 5 1/2 54 Ecuador Brazil Brazil

A flavorful blend that opens with pepper and wood which settles to incorporate notes of cocoa and cinnamon. This well-constructed smoke is covered with a clean, milk chocolate colored wrapper with only slight veins. Medium plus strength.


MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

81


ROBUSTO Illusione 88 Maduro

$ 9.20

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 52 Mexico Nicaragua Nicaragua

)

AJ Fernandez Enclave Broadleaf

)

91

$ 8.50

N I CA R AG UA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 52 USA/Connecticut Nicaragua Nicaragua

Macanudo Inspirado Red

Flavorful and complex, this medium plus strength blend delivers smooth pepper, bittersweet chocolate, and earth balanced by a hint of ripe fruit sweetness. Consistently well constructed and covered with a dark, flavorful wrapper.

$ 6.49

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 52 Ecuador Nicaragua Honduras & Nicaragua

)

H. Upmann 1844 Reserve Maduro

)

89

Delivers a profile of roasted nuts, toast, soft pepper, and cedar complemented by notes of espresso and a touch of cream. This boxpressed offering consistently provides an easy draw and an even burn. Medium strength.

$ 7.89

H O N D UR AS VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 54 Mexico Nicaragua Honduras & Nicaragua

Protocol Probable Cause

Covered with a dark brown and toothy wrapper with good oils, this mild to medium bodied blend delivers a core of wood, earth, and soft pepper balanced by notes of espresso and leather. Draws and burns perfectly.

$ 9.69

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

88

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 52 Mexico Nicaragua Nicaragua

)

Flores y Rodriguez Connecticut Valley Reserve

)

87

82 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

Exceptionally smooth and balanced with a profile of milk chocolate, spice, and ripe fruit complemented by sweet cedar and a creamy caramel sweetness. Consistently well-constructed and covered with a nearly flawless, dark, reddish brown wrapper. Medium strength.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 52 USA/Connecticut Ecuador & Nicaragua Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

A flavorful blend covered with a dark, reddish brown, and slightly toothy wrapper with good oils. This slightly pressed robusto has a profile of earth, pepper, and a bit of charred oak accompanied by dark roast coffee notes on the finish.

$ 16.00

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C Covered with an exceedingly dark, pungent wrapper with slight discolorations. This medium bodied blend delivers a core of raisins, earth, spice, and charred wood along an easy draw.


MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

83


84 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


ROBUSTO N I CA R AGUA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Selectos 5 50 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

92

)

Beautifully balanced and flavorful with a profile of almond, vanilla, and leather complemented by a soft pepper note throughout. This impeccably constructed robusto provides a perfect draw and burn leaving behind a solid, compact ash.

)

Don Pepín García Series JJ

$ 7.60

Illusione Haut 10

$ 15.95 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

HAUT 10 5 1/2 52 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

D O MI NI CAN R EPUBLIC R 52 5 52 Ecuador Dominican Republic Dominican Republic

91

)

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

)

A. Fuente Rosado Sungrown Magnum

$ 7.65

Covered with a rich, supple wrapper with excellent oils, this consistently well-constructed blend delivers a core of cedar, soft pepper, leather, and cinnamon. Produces an abundant smoke output with a good draw and burn.

92

)

A complex and well-balanced offering. This medium to full strength blend delivers a core of nuts, smooth pepper, cedar, and a touch of earth complemented by floral notes in the aroma. Covered with a supple wrapper and topped with a neat fantail.

)

N I CA R AGUA

Indian Motorcycle 1901

$ 7.50 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 50 Ecuador Dominican Republic Nicaragua

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Prominente 5 1/2 58 Mexico Ecuador Panama, Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Robusto 5 52 Nicaragua Nicaragua Costa Rica, Colombia & Nicaragua

90

)

Opens with a shot of white pepper, which settles to incorporate notes of wood, nuts, and baker’s spice accompanied by a subtle touch of cocoa. Covered with a beautiful, supple wrapper with excellent sheen.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

)

Gran Habano Black Dahlia

$ 9.00

H OND U R AS

90

)

A good-looking, thick robusto covered with a clean, milk chocolate colored wrapper. Provides an excellent draw producing an abundant output of cool smoke with notes of light wood, vanilla, and nut complemented by mild coffee on the finish.

)

Micallef Experiencia La Crema

$ 13.00

N I CA R AGUA

90

)

Finished with a dark, reddish brown wrapper with good oils, this mild to medium strength robusto has a core of sweet cedar, nuts, and leather accompanied by a soft bit of pepper. Provides a perfect draw producing an excellent smoke output.

)

D O MI NI CAN R EPUBLIC

MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

85


CORONA

)

Padrรณn 1964 Anniversary Series

)

92

$ 10.80

N I CA R AG UA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Long Corona 6 42 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

)

Nestor Miranda Collection Maduro

)

91

$ 1 4.7 9 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Corona Grande 6 46 USA/Connecticut Nicaragua Peru, Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Illusione cg:4

N I CA R AG UA Smooth and well-balanced, this medium strength blend has a profile of soft pepper, oak, leather, and coffee complemented by a hint of sweet earth. This well-made corona draws and burns beautifully while producing an excellent smoke output.

$ 9.40

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Corona Gorda 5 5/8 46 Mexico Nicaragua Nicaragua

Fratello Bianco

A flavorful blend with a core of red pepper flakes, cedar, and bittersweet chocolate complemented by a rich, leather aroma. This medium plus strength blend is covered with a dark, reddish brown wrapper topped with a neat triple cap.

)

$ 8.75

)

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

I 6 1/4 44 Mexico Dominican Republic USA, Peru, Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

)

Diamond Crown Julius Caeser

)

89

) )

89

N I CA R AG UA Covered with a dark, oily wrapper with some tooth, this blend delivers a profile of earth, espresso, and cocoa balanced by a touch of currant. Draws and burns perfectly producing an excellent smoke output.

$ 9.75

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Corona 5 1/2 43 Ecuador Dominican Republic Undisclosed

Muestra de Saka Nacatamale

86 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

Covered with a clean, dark brown wrapper with slight veins showing, this box-pressed corona has ultra-smooth flavors of chocolate, espresso, cedar, and soft earth balanced by a touch of pepper. Medium strength.

Balanced and consistent with notes of cedar, spice, and leather accompanied by a sweet, musty finish. This short corona is covered with a reddish brown wrapper with a rough texture.

$ 15.95

N I CA R AG UA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Grand Corona 6 48 Ecuador Nicaragua Nicaragua

Intensely flavorful with a core of pepper, earth, and molasses complemented by notes of dark roast coffee and grilled meats. This densely packed corona is covered with a highly aromatic, dark brown wrapper and finished with a neat pigtail.


MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

87


CORONA El Güegüense

$ 9.90

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

93

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Corona Gorda 5 5/8 46 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

J.D. Howard Reserve

$ 8.50

)

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C

)

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

HR46 6 46 Brazil Ecuador Nicaragua

Particulares Cremas

Produces an abundance of thick, aromatic smoke with notes of leather, chocolate, and roasted almonds balanced by a touch of sweet pepper on the finish. Consistently well-constructed and covered with a reddish brown wrapper.

$ 7.75

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Corona Gorda 5 1/2 48 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

)

RoMa Craft CroMagnon Aquitane

)

91

Consistently delivers notes of cedar, sharp pepper, nuts, and a hint of creaminess on the finish. This well-constructed corona is square pressed and covered with a good-looking, light brown wrapper with a supple feel. Medium strength.

$ 7.25

N I CA R AG UA VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Anthropology Gran Corona 5 3/4 46 Ecuador Cameroon Nicaragua

601 La Bomba

A full flavored blend that jumps out of the gate with a combination of pepper and sweet cedar joined by coffee bean, hazelnut, and a hint of chestnut. This slow-burning smoke is consistently well-constructed providing a perfect draw and an even burn.

$ 8.35

)

N I CA R AG UA

)

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Atom 5 1/2 46 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Nat Sherman 1930

A beautifully constructed corona covered with an impeccable, milk chocolate colored wrapper and topped with a long pigtail. A full bodied blend loaded with intense flavors of pepper and earth accompanied by subtle notes of oak and cinnamon.

)

$ 10.30

)

89

88 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

Beautifully balanced and complex, this corona delivers a core of sweet cedar, soft pepper, and nuts complemented by a creamy caramel sweetness. This medium plus bodied blend is finished with a neatly applied, light brown wrapper.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Corona Grande 6 46 Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C A medium bodied offering with flavors of sweet cedar, honey, and brown sugar complemented by pepper and a light touch of cocoa. Covered with a somewhat bumpy, reddish brown wrapper, this blend provides a firm draw and a slow burn.


A Good Day, Starts with...

M AC C H I ATO C

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C A P P U C C IN O C

Distributed Exclusively by Oliva Cigars

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nub.café

MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

89


90 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


COVER UP LOVE SHACK Delray Beach

92 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


SWIMSUIT LOVE SHACK


SWIMSUIT GURIA BEACHWEAR Showroom 305

94 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


SWIMSUIT ELIZABETH JANE Showroom 305


TOP LOVE SHACK Delray Beach SWIMSUIT MAYLANA SWIM Showroom 305

96 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


SWIMSUIT ELIZABETH JANE Showroom 305

98 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


SWIMSUIT ELIZABETH JANE Showroom 305


100 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


SWIMSUIT ELIZABETH JANE Showroom 305

MODEL

CELESTE BRIGHT WILHELMINA PHOTOGRAPHY

LIMITED EDITION www.limitededitionmanagement.com PRODUCTION

IVAN OCAMPO iocampo@cigarsnobmag.com PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

JAMILET CALVIÑO jcalvino@cigarsnobmag.com WARDROBE STYLIST

JENNA DEBRINO www.limitededitionmanagement.com ASSISTANT WARDROBE STYLIST

AMANDA MILLER HAIR AND MAKE-UP ARTIST

SIDNEY JAMILA LOCATION

THE PERRY HOTEL KEY WEST www.perrykeywest.com

CIGAR ISLAND JIM www.leafbyoscarcigar.com


his new, boutique property on Stock Island will completely reset the way you look at lodging in Key West. With its modern minimalist meets old Key West styling, everything about the hotel just feels right at first glance. The Perry is named for Commodore Matthew Perry, who, while commanding the USS Shark, in 1822 planted the US flag, claiming Key West as a United States territory. This may seem simple now, but at the time Key West was in the middle of an international tug of war between England, Spain, and the United States. As for the hotel itself, the rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed. The hotel boasts 100 rooms, some with a view of the lagoon, others with a view of the pool and marina. We prefer the pool and marina views, but if you’re going for the quiet sanctuary feel, the lagoon rooms may be better for you. Service at The Perry is top-notch. From the front desk to the poolside attendants, we found that

102 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018

they always tried to go above and beyond what normal “good customer service” looks like. Some of the best food being prepared in Key West is coming out of The Perry’s signature restaurant, Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar. We fell head over heels in love with The Commodore Tower appetizer, which had lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams, and yellowtail snapper ceviche, all served beautifully inside a cool tackle box tower. The Cowboy Steak, which was a 21 oz bone-in ribeye, was another one that blew us away. You don’t normally think of steak when you’re in Key West but sometimes after a week of nonstop seafood, a 21 oz bone-in ribeye will set you straight! The hotel’s other dining option, the Salty Oyster Dockside Bar & Grill, is a perfect way to just chill and take in the dockside ambiance. The wait staff is super friendly and they can make a mean cocktail. They also have an excellent selection of craft beer but on this warm Saturday in April, we loved the refreshingly spicy Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita. The staff can tai-

lor it to the level of spice you want, so be sure to let them know how you want it. Or you can play it safe and have The Perry Punch, safe and delicious. There are plenty of water activities in and around The Perry. You have the marina right next to the hotel where you can charter fishing boats, you can kayak out from the harbor and explore the flats and mangroves that are teeming with life, or you can just lay out by the pool and let the staff bring you an endless succession of drinks. All of this works perfectly, but if what you want is to put your toes in the sand and enjoy the beach, the hotel provides a shuttle out to and from Smathers Beach about every couple of hours. The same shuttle also takes you into Old Key West. The Perry Hotel affords you the comfort of staying in a boutique hotel with impeccable service and amenities while still being able to enjoy all that Key West has to offer without having to rent a car. We highly recommend The Perry Hotel.


the various premium cigar trade associations are developing their technical comments to FDA, you too will have an opportunity to tell FDA why their approach needs to change. Within the same week of the ANPRM release, on March 28th, CRA and IPCPR joined yet again for a presentation to the Trump Administration. Bill Paley, owner of La Palina Cigars, and John Anderson, owner of W. Curtis Draper Tobacconist of Washington, DC, made a presentation to the White House Domestic Policy Council, which is charged with regulatory input on matters of national economic significance, and will play a key role in fulfilling the Trump Administration’s highlighted commitment in the Unified Regulatory Agenda to address the premium cigar regulatory question.

The Smoke Is Blowing In A Different Direction By Glynn Loope, Executive Director CRA, and Cody Carden, Director of Communications CRA ver the course of the last four sessions of Congress, a message has been told, coalitions have been built, and allies have been recruited, all in an effort to protect the simple enjoyment of a great cigar. You would think this would be an easy task. After all, it is about solitude and camaraderie among friends who are essentially enjoying a product that is a creation of nature – assembled by skilled artisan hands. However, as we all know there have been and always will be forces at work, whether it be the nanny state or political opposition not only wanting to interfere with your enjoyment of that cigar, but wanting to cause economic havoc on small businesses across America and instability throughout the cigar-producing nations of Latin America. The tide, however, is turning. Through a concerted strategy with our industry allies we now have new opportunities to not only tell our story, but to obtain tangible relief from the bureaucratic malaise that plagues Washington, DC. It all essentially began on September 14, 2017, when for the first time the U.S. House of Representatives adopted budget language for a premium cigar exemption from the burdensome regulations proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). Reaching that moment required not only the support of the 143 current Members of Congress who sponsored such language, but also the support of the over 289 existing and former Members of Congress who have helped carry that message.

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Then as we entered the new year, one of the most significant moments in the history of our fight occurred on February 27, 2018, when Carlito Fuente, Jorge Padrón, Robert Levin, and Rocky Patel representing Cigar Rights of America, and Greg Zimmerman of Pennsylvania and Craig Cass of North Carolina representing the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association, made an unprecedented presentation to the new FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and his staff, on the true nature of the premium cigar industry. In the presentation, these industry leaders explained why the current regulations are unfair, why they are overly burdensome, and why the FDA’s entire approach far surpasses the congressional intent of the Tobacco Control Act. To take our message to a national audience, on March 19, 2018, Rocky Patel, on behalf of Cigar Rights of America, appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News Channel. In the course of just a little over five minutes, Patel was able to encapsulate our arguments and plead for our relief to a seven-digit television audience, in a segment that now has over 312,000 online views. This appearance was a unique moment in the effort to protect the premium cigar industry. Clearly, the message from the February 27th presentation on the impact of these regulations to the Trump Administration did not fall on deaf ears. On March 23, 2018, consistent with a promise made by FDA Commissioner Gottlieb on July 28, 2017, FDA published what is known as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”) exclusively on the questions surrounding premium handmade cigars. This opportunity to tell our story, while not being placed in the mix with other tobacco products, is a moment to truly differentiate the uniqueness of premium handmade cigars from other tobacco products. And, while

Despite the significant action in 2018 with the Executive Branch, Capitol Hill has still been a focus. Early this year, the House Freedom Caucus, as a coalition of “limited government representatives,” included a regulatory exemption for premium cigars in their annual agenda…this is coupled with the decision by the Trump Administration, through the FDA, to grant a three-year reprieve from many of the burdensome substantial equivalence requirements for premium cigars. While it is easy for any of us to be concerned about the “ways of Washington,” these days – especially with the very public dysfunction of Congress and the constant state of partisan bickering – we can at least look at these tangible steps of momentum that have been made possible by the recognition that the regulatory state has gone too far. We have said on numerous occasions, in this column, that this is a three-front war taking place at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and a courthouse in between. But it is only through your voice, to your members of the House and Senate, that this critical juncture has been made possible. For the first time in history, nearly half a million Cigar Voters have let their voices be heard through petition campaigns to Congress and two presidents. While we often understand the frustration with constantly having to reinforce this message to politicians who you may or may not believe are listening, we can say beyond any doubt that your commitment to this process has made a difference. However, I am afraid we have to say, welcome to the new normal. Whether it is objecting to federal regulations of historic proportions, a statewide smoking ban that could destroy your favorite shops and lounges, or a tax proposal by your local city council, it is now more important than ever that you make your commitment as a cigar voter a permanent part of your enjoyment of a premium handmade cigar.


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The cigar world is on Twitter and we aim to keep track of who’s leading who. The following is a scoreboard of the cigar world’s most relevant Tweeples. The list is sorted by number of followers and broken into groups: Top 20 Twitter Cigar Companies & Reps, Top 10 Twitter Retailers, Top 10 Online Cigar Tweeps, Top 3 Twitter Cigar Organizations, and Top 3 Cigar Radio Twitter accounts. If you have the numbers and belong in one of these groups, stand up and be counted! Set us straight via Twitter @cigarsnobmag.

TOP CIGAR COMPANIES (sorted by Twitter followers) Rocky Patel @RockyPatelCigar......................................... Drew Estate Cigars @DrewEstateCigar............................. Padron Cigar @PADRONCIGAR......................................... CAO International @CAOCigars......................................... Alec Bradley Cigars @AlecBradley.................................... Jonathan Drew @JonathanDrew1..................................... La Flor Dominicana @LFDCigars....................................... Camacho Cigars @camachocigars................................... Pete Johnson @TatuajeCigars........................................... Ashton Cigars @ashtoncigar............................................. Xikar Inc @XIKARinc......................................................... La Gloria Cubana @lagloriacubana.................................... Miami Cigar Co @miamicigar............................................. Nick Perdomo @PerdomoCigars....................................... Punch Cigars @punchcigars............................................. Nat Sherman Intl. @Nat42nd............................................. Ernesto Padilla @PadillaCigars......................................... AJ Fernandez Cigars @ajfcigars........................................ La Palina Cigars @La PalinaCigars.................................... Avo Cigars @AvoCigars.....................................................

30800 29698 25656 24483 21655 19038 18823 18467 16834 16613 14556 14096 13765 13387 13268 12291 12209 12019 11794 11392

TOP CIGAR ORGANIZATIONS CRA @cigarrights............................................................. 14481 IPCPR Staff @theIPCPR.................................................. 7663 Tobacconist University @tobacconistU............................. 4662

TOP CIGAR RADIO Cigar Dave Show @CigarDaveShow................................. 11658 Smooth Draws @SmoothDraws....................................... 4495 KMA Talk Radio @KMATalkRadio...................................... 2819

SOME OF OUR FAVORITE TWEETS, MENTIONS, AND RANDOM SOCIAL MEDIA GOODNESS.

TOP CIGAR RETAILERS & REPS Mulberry St. Cigars @MulberryStCigar............................. Famous Smoke Shop @FamousSmokeShop...................... Cigar Hustler @cigarhustler.............................................. Cigar Row @CigarRow..................................................... Jeff Borysiewicz – Corona Cigar Co @CoronaCigarCo....... Cigar Inn @CIGARINN....................................................... Michael Herklots–Nat Sherman @MichaelHerklots............ Cheap Humidors @cheaphumidors................................... Palm Desert Tobacco @palmdsrttobacco......................... Lindsay Siddiqi @TheCigarChick.......................................

14358 12270 12237 8951 7259 7038 6902 6007 5653 5527

@cigarvixen via Instagram How the press bus rolls... #presidentebeer #cigars #press #fancylife#cigarsnobmag #cigarpressmagazine#tobbaconist #cigarsandleisure #aromag#halfwheel #cigarvixen

TOP ONLINE CIGAR TWEEPLES David Voth–Sex, Cigars, & Booze @SexCigarsBooze......... Cigar News @CigaRSS .................................................... Cigar Events @CigarEvents............................................... Stogie Boys @StogieBoys ............................................... Cigar Evaluations @CigarEvaluation................................. Robusto Cigar Babe @RobustoBabe................................. Cigar Inspector @CigarInspector ..................................... The Stogie Guys @stogieguys........................................... Tom Ufer @cigarsmonkingman.......................................... Barry Stein @barry2guys.................................................

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162420 15058 14605 9829 9754 9743 8621 8510 6855 6263

@antonkaridian via Instagram A couple of fine Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper buddies. Happy Monday #cigars #botl #sotl #cigar#cigarphotography #cigarsnob#finerthingsinlife #cigarlife #cigarlifestyle#cigarians #olivacigars#cigarboss #baseball #cigarlovers #cigarculture #thecrownedheads#studiophotography


SCORE SOME BLONDIE AND KUBA KUBA FOR YOUR NIGHT TIME RAIDS IN THE CIT Y DRE WE S TATE.COM MAY / JUNE 2018 | CIGAR SNOB |

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EVENTS CAVA CIGARS GRAND OPENING Miami

There’s a new tobacconist right in Cigar Snob’s neighborhood (really, we could walk there), but people all over town are excited about it. The grand opening party included a salsa band, DJ, great food and beer courtesy of Miami’s own The Tank Brewing. In attendance were cigar VIPs like A.J. Fernandez, Robert Caldwell and Nestor Miranda, to name a few. Joe Fernández, Ángel Aguayo, A.J. Fernández and Freddy Molina

Michael and Jessica Balboa

Carlos Escalona, Carlos Llaca and Nick Nanavichit

Nestor Miranda, Erik Calviño, Tony Pichs, José Morel and Joaquín Saladrigas

Ángel and Laura Aguayo

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Manny and Macarena Iriarte

Barbara López, Martha Batista, Irina Riviera, Zoila Carrillo and Maribel García

Yarai and A.J. Fernández and Gustavo Plasencia

Mario and Gladys León


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EVENTS FUENTE AT BURN Naples, Fla.

Cynthia Fuente was on hand to represent Arturo Fuente at Burn by Rocky Patel, where Rocky Patel, Nimish Desai and Hamlet Paredes were present as gracious hosts to join in and help raise money for the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation (cf-cf.org) with sales of a special sampler pack.

Rocky Patel, Cynthia Fuente Suárez, Mike Samona and Kelly Denha

Nimish Desai and Barry

Sabrina Pérez

Mark Capasso, Cynthia Fuente Suárez, Joe Matarazzo and Cosimo Matarazzo

Libby Zimm, Kingsley Gardner and Mike Rozycki

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Alan Goldfarb, Brad Jarvis and Mike McKinney

Dionne Fleming, Trauus Pope, Scott Boyd and Heather T. Curtis

Dan and Courtney Tiant

Mike Manley, Cathy Wynne and Tom Crea


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EVENTS CAMACHO AT AFICIONADO’S

Pembroke Pines, Fla. Camacho Cigars were the centerpiece for an event that also featured a wine tasting, great barbecue, and music by DJ Danny and The Party Police. There were also raffles in which guests had a shot at winning YETI products. Always a great time at one of South Florida’s premier cigar and wine shops. Elena Artamendi, Carlos Escalona, and Armando Artamendi

Roland and Sylvia Rivera

Janet and Javier Pérez, Luís Vizcaino and José Bueno

Charlie Díaz, Jack Alonso, Carlos González, Luís García, Rolando Fernández, Raúl and Vitico García and Larry Domínguez

Alex and Odalys Díaz

Lizy, Michel and Nise Ford

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DJ Danny and Alex Valea

Belhem and Manny Chacón

Menrry Estrada and Cristina Girard


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EVENTS PLASENCIA AT CAVA CIGARS Miami

Nestor Plasencia, the man at the helm of the company that made our 2017 Cigar of the Year, visited Cava Cigars to sign boxes and smoke with guests who enjoyed food, drinks, and what has become one of the area’s favorite neighborhood cigar lounges almost overnight.

Ángel Aguayo, Nestor and Gustavo Plasencia, Rafael Nodal and Carlos Padrón

Carlos Padrón and Luís Casamayor

Johnny Cortina and Joshua Salazar

Mario Aguilar, César Cuenca and Jody Sinanan

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Aquiles Carmon and Bobby López

Rafael Nodal, Beatriz Dorta and Nestor Plasencia

Tony Pichs and Mario Méndez

Reinaldo Fundora, Giselle Rosales and Javi Carranza

Hector Kohn, Ray Granja and Robert Singer

Javier Paulino, Gervasio Baez, Ángel Aguayo and Osmani Díaz


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EVENTS ROMEO SAN ANDRES LAUNCH Miami

The Romeo San Andrés is the latest step in the growing popularity of Mexican wrapper. This launch event at Casa de Montecristo by Prime Cigar & Whiskey Bar (in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood) started with a special press presentation and continued into a tasting of — fittingly — tequila by Casamigos. Guests also enjoyed appetizers courtesy of Perricone’s, live music, and a photo booth. Travis Pappenheim, Eddy Guerra, Joseph Fernández, Rob Norris, Rick Álvarez, Ernesto Kranwinkel, Pablo Coll and Oliver Hyams

Michelle Nieves and Alyssa Espinoza

Eddy Guerra and Linda Giang

Nha Kim, Rob Norris, Joseph Fernández and Sol Bianchi

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John Rodríguez, Sebastian Banchz, José Jiménez, Robert Fortich, José and Julie Suárez and Orlando García

Shayra Medal, Claudia Chaparro, Rob Noris, Jill Meyers and Daniella Duque

Rose and Steve Stucker

Zoilo López and Jorge Mejía

Ernesto Kranwinkel and Raphael Gros


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EVENTS ROCKY PATEL AT NEPTUNE Miami

Rocky Patel and Hamlet Paredes headed to Neptune Cigars near Miami’s downtown Dadeland for live music, hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Close to a hundred people packed the house as Rocky signed boxes for guests and Hamlet dropped his wealth of cigar making knowledge.

Chris and Luz Normand and Rocky Patel

Hamlet Paredes and Mike Freire

Matt and Jen Larsh

Jorge Arauz, Mace Becks and Jorge Otero

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Dave Roque and Jeff Rust

Ibis Lu, Jose Morel, Luz Normand and George Pérez

Craig Randolph and Rocky Patel

Osmay Torres and Boye Sanni

Alex and Jessica Suárez


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EVENTS DEBONAIRE AT NEPTUNE Miami

Neptune Cigars hosted a crowd of smokers to sample products from Debonaire at an event presided over by Debonaire owner Phil Zanghi, who was also recruiting members to the Debonaire Ideal Society. There were great hors d’oeuvres and even greater company at one of South Florida’s most highly regarded tobacconists.

Jorge López and Oscar Fernández

Mike Freire, Philip Zanghi, George Pérez, Steve Dickinson and Jared Ingrisano

Jorge Arauz, Simon Ferro and Jorge Otero

Jaz Benítez and Nicole Collazo

CIGAR SNOB PODCAST

LISTEN NOW cigarsnobmag.com/podcast 120 | CIGAR SNOB | MAY / JUNE 2018


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EVENTS MACALLAN TASTING AT CASABLANCA Miami Beach

Casablanca Cigars manager Ray Granja had a celebration at his home shop in Miami Beach. Out-of-town readers might recognize the name from a travel story in the March/April 2018 issue. Macallan sponsored the party and provided Scotch for guests, among whom were lounge regulars, friends and reps from the cigar industry. Barbie Soler, Sofía Jerez, René Cardona, José García, Ray Granja, Adreniki Stavrou and Jim R.

Beatriz Boo and Jorge Medina

Caesar Torres and Daniel Villarreal

Gervasio Baez, Ileana and Liz Borlado and Daniel Guerrero

Gary Johnson and Bernard Adell

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Alex Menéndez and Alfredo Cruz

Ramón Adato, Diany Pérez and Charlie López

Steve Fetner and Jay Montolvo

Renee and Earl Barkley


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Profile for Cigar Snob Magazine

Cigar Snob Magazine May June 2018  

We decided to see for ourselves how Puerto Rico and its cigar scene were recovering from last hurricane season by spending 4 days on the gro...

Cigar Snob Magazine May June 2018  

We decided to see for ourselves how Puerto Rico and its cigar scene were recovering from last hurricane season by spending 4 days on the gro...