Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Am Clearly A Slacker

So its been just over two months since my last blog post and its taken me two weeks to finish this post!  Its been a bit crazy around the Scottsdale/Phoenix Metro Area. Of course been able to try most of the stuff that was ordered from the IPCPR show back in July. I am not going to bore you with everything that I smoked since my last post of September 29th.

I was given the opportunity to test, a new cigar brand call Azan.  Azan is the brainchild of  Roberto Duran, a long respected figure in the cigar industry, who has held several positions with Pacific Cigar Company Ltd. The brand Azan is actually an old, privately owned Cuban brand that was started by a Chinese immigrant and who is also an ancestor of Durans wife. The brand disappeared after the Revolution, when Fidel Castro nationalized the cigar industry, and was reintroduced to the United States at this years IPCPR as a Nicaraguan brand.

I received one each, from Gabriel Pinares at Captiva PR, of the Burgundy Short Robusto and the White Label Robusto. There is also a third blend, a Natural Maduro.  That is a fantastic cigar, which I purchased shortly I learned of the brand through various cigar publications and I continue to enjoy this paricular blend . In the Phoenix Metro Area you can find the Azan line, except the Burgundy, at Ambassador Fine Cigars in Scottsdale Arizona.

The Burgundy  is priced at $3-4 per stick, which is perfect for cigar smokers on a budget, and was designed to be a daily smoke or go to cigar.  I used a punch on this and found the cigar to burn evenly with a fairly tight ash, with an even burn that required no touch-ups. Unfortunately I did not care for this cigar I found it one dimensional, lacking complexity

The White Label, is priced in the $6-8 range which I consider, to be the sweet spot as far as price point.  The binder, filler and wrapper of this cigar is higher grade of tobacco than what is in the Burgundy.  The difference in the tobacco is clearly evident as is companies commitment to quality construction. This cigar is much more complex than the Burgundy with notes of  pepper, cocoa with some caramel in the first 2/3 of this cigar. The final third the sweetness begins to fade, pepper and some earthy notes appear on the finish.  Since smoking the cigar for review, I have also purchased more of this cigar, and it is now in my daily rotation.


October was a good month to be a Cigar Smoker in Phoenix, Fox Cigar Bar kicked it off with its second annual Foxtoberfest that included visits from Eddie Ortega, Rafael Nodel from Oliveros/Swag and Aging Room, Clint Aaron of 262 Cigars, Matt Booth from Room 101, Wes Thornton from Crowned Heads Four Kicks and Terrance Reilly from Quesada, Lito Gomez from LFD Cigars and Jose" Hurricane" Ortega from My Father Cigar all made appearance. Some went as far as creating a special blend for this event.

November was equally exciting as Janny Garcia, Peter Johnson, Jose Ortega,  KC Johnson and Dan Welsh (from L'Atelier and New Havana Cigars)  made their way to Phoenix.  They were in town primarily for an event at Ambassador Cigars that is destined to become an annual event here in the Phoenix Metro Area.

Fine Ash Cigars held a private, invite only, meet and greet for about 20 of their friends and I was honored to have received an invite.  Rosie and Sam, know how to throw an event and with the help of Eric and Jamie Parkinson, of Smoke Boutique Cigars, and Joel Schwartz of Trendsetters Marketing Group, this gathering was a huge success.

December 4th, in NYC, the Nat Sherman Townhouse hosted the launch party of Bodega Premium Blends. I also received an nvitation to the launch and would have loved to have been there but previous commitments precluded me from attending.

Bodega Premium Blends was started by four friends from Canada Gino Domanico, Ron Plante, Stephane Barjolin, and Rob Mariani. The first release is their signature line called the Reunion and is manufactured in Nicaragua.  The distribution of this cigar is thru House of Emilio, a company that I am vaguely familiar with and I am also writing a "monthly column" for their website. and you can read my posts here

Until time, #KeepATightAsh

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekend Getaways, Staycations and Cigars

Couple of notes about this blog! I am not a writer/journalist nor do I claim to be. I do not work for a industry magazine.  I am simply a guy who likes cigars. It is for this reason I do not get into, nor do I care to play in world of in depth reviews of the cigars I smoke.  I'll leave that to guys like Brooks Whittington, Patrick Lagreid, and David Savona. Get It? Got It? Good!  So as my good friend Algernon Quattlebaum used to say "Let us move on..."

We are into monsoon season here in the PHX, and everyone is a while lead to a killer photo opp.  This was accidentally created with the help of the window tint at the top of my windshied. 

It seems that this was the year of the big ring gauge but I'm seeing something a bit different.  7-20-4, Room 101, and  Ezra Zion , have all come out with small cigars that with big flavors.  These cigars, the Dog Walker, Namakubi Ecuador, and Tantrum,  are great when you are short on time.  See what I did there...?

A few weeks back I got an email, from PR firm in Miami, wanting to know I if would be interested in reviewing a new cigar.  The Azan from Roberto Duran Premium Cigars.  I bit and sent my information.  I know, technically, I am not a member of the cigar media. but it is what it is. 

This cigar is another brand that has been resurrected and the back story is very cool.   Azan was an old, privately owned Cuban brand started by a Chinese immigrant, in the 1920's, before Fidel Castro nationalized the industry. It disappeared after the Revolution, but is now back as a Nicaraguan brand, restarted this year by Roberto Pelayo Duran, who's wife is a descendant of the original founder.

Azan comes in three varieties: White Premium, Burgundy and Maduro Natural.  who suggested that I go with  the Natural Maduro.  It was a terrific smoke that was fairly complex. Again see what I did there

A couple of weeks ago my wife called,with a brilliant idea, a staycation/weekend getaway at local resort.  Rhea checked in that afternoon, and I arrived after work...

Here's a valuable piece of advice for when you visit Scottsdale   BRING YOUR OWN STICKS! If you forget, or if your Cuban stash ends up in the hands of the US Customs Department, there are plenty of shops within a short drive of the many fine resorts in town.

As I said in earlier posts new product, that made its debut at the IPCPR, is still arriving in the local shops.  Andrew Hopkins from Ye Olde Pipe and Tobacco pointed this one out.  Well priced,at $4.95, is the Cubita Robusto Nouveau. This cigar is manufactured in the Dominican Republic at Matasa and is a Manuel Quesada product.  This cigar is now in my regular rotation.

Here's something I hadn't seen before the Nomad Fugitive Perfecto,  Love this Vitola and this Cigar!  Can't wait to see what Fred comes up with next...Oh yeah, waiting rather impatiently for the S-307!

The Crossfire Habano Perfecta was a gift from Ryan and Cigars and Scriptures.  This 6 x 60 had some great flavors, but had an extremely tight draw. Others that smoked that smoked this cigar didnt have this challenge and I'll give it another try.  Once again see what I did there.  

The company also has an awesome mission and vision statement that is worth sharing

"To create jobs, value people and empower the community while crafting great handmade premium cigars.  To passionately craft high quality hand rolled premium cigars at an affordable price."

Another new cigar line to hit the shelves at Goodfellas is from La Hoja Cigar Company. I will swear that this was a Nicaraguan blend, but nope its a Dominican Puro that smokes wonderfully. Yes I "V" cut a torpedo!

This is a another company with a cool back story. The family, led by Sr. Carlos Flores, was a prominent member of the peoples revolution against Castro and were forced to flee the country the 1960's.   His son Carlos Flores Jr., has created the company La Hoja Cigar Company and this first blend, or collection, is the the La Hoja De Flores. The line also serves as a tribute to Carlos Sr.

No doubt about it the folks at My Fathers Cigars, make a terrific cigar. In fact some say they rival the flavor and character of a Cuban Cigar.  This My Fathers Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ is one of those cigars. Simply put its a nice full-bodied smoke that is layered with deep flavors.  And oh by the way it's  handmade in Miami!

Its no secret I am wound tighter than a eight day clock. My wife decided we needed to get out of town. So we headed up to Sedona....which is about 2 hours north of us.  A leisurely day spent wondering downtown Sedona, strolling along Oak Creek,  it was just what the doctor ordered.

And speaking of doctors, Get Well Soon George!  Your Rodrigo La Fortaleza loved Oak Creek! 

Til next time #KeepATightAsh....

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Next Chapter of My Life

It is said that all good things must come to an end.  After 12 years in the newspaper industry, on the advertising side of house, it is time for a change.  Two weeks ago I was offered and accepted an position with Voice Media Group the owners and publishers of the Phoenix New Times and 11 other publications throughout the country.  I have gone to the dark side, the world of digital, that's right SEO, SEM, Local Search (mobile and tablet), Social Media, and Re-targeting. I am looking forward to the challenge and not being bound to deadlines.

Oh and what did I smoke for the celebratory cigar? The Ezra Zion Reagan!

 The 7-20-4 Dog Walker is a petite corona with tons of flavor.

7-20-4  also has a cool back story that ends with the resurrection of a brand once owned by the RG Sullivan Cigar Company.  At its height the company claimed to be the countries largest producer of 10 cent cigars. The cigars were handmade, the filler was pure Havana tobacco with a Sumatra wrapper. According to a story in Time Magazine, the name 7-20-4 supposedly came from the numbers of a winning lottery ticket that RG Sullivan used to start the business. 

In 1963 the company closed; two years after being sold to a company who moved production to Scranton, PA.  An official from RG Sullivan essentially blamed Castro who's "regime has made increasingly difficult for us to secure Havana tobacco, which is, and always will be and important part of the 7-20-4 and Dexter Cigars made by the company"

The building was never sold and in 2008 Kurt Kendall, who owns the rights to the 7-20-4 brand, announced plans to market a modern version.

The week after the #IPCPR new cigars started to roll into our local B&M's.    The newest line to the humidor, at Goodfellas Cigar Lounge,  is distributed by Kuuts (Koots).  John Gonzales, National Sales Director for Kuuts (pronounced Koots), joined us at Goodfellas Cigar Lounge, for the Arizona Launch Party for the Placeres Reserva, Miro and Tabacalera Zapata.  These Cigars have been a top selling cigar in Europe for over a decade.   A new factory in Honduras, has given the company the manufacturing capacity to produce more cigars allow them to bring these cigars to the US for the time in its history. 

The Placeres Reserva, pictured below, starts out on the mild side of the spectrum and works it way to solid medium bodied smoke.  I do think the cigar would benefit from some time in a humidor.

This past Sunday my wife and I went out for some breakfast, and we ended up at the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall in Goodyear.  I stumbled upon a few cigar boxes for sale, nothing really special until I found this....a Cigar Box, from Don Raphael, with 10 Cigars still in cello for $14.95.  Some quick research Google and Twitter, found that the box of 20 retails for under $30, so I passed.  I'll keep looking and maybe, just maybe, I will find that hidden gem. A pre-embargo Cuban cigar.

And somewhere along the way, I paid cash for something, and got this bill back in my change...

My last week at the West Valley View  I was busy transitioning my clients to their new account executive.  Wednesday I took some time for myself and I spent an hour, or so, with Sam over at Fine Ash Cigar.  I picked up this El Triunfador from Pete Johnson and Don Pepin Garcia, this cigar was originally released in 2008 with a Connecticut Broadleaf Wrapper, however the current release uses an Ecuadorian Habano Wrapper.  This cigar starts out medium bodied and works its way up to full bodied smoke that is very complex. 

Monday brings new challenges, new colleagues, and a few old colleagues.  Until next time #KeepATightAsh

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Habit or Hobby

This post is a result of seeing a blog post from Scott Lancaster who posed this same question on his blog,, a few weeks back.

For me is a cigar is neither. In fact I have gone as long as five years without lighting up a cigar and I never smoked cigarettes and never tried weed. Until I was 10 my Dad, and Grandpa, both smoked a pipe but no one in my family, ever smoked a cigar.  Interestingly enough I did learned that at one point there was a General Cigar factory in my mom's hometown of Mt Carmel, PA.

So how did I start smoking cigars. Right at the start of the cigar boom of the 1990s  a colleague had his first child and passed out the ubiquitous  It's a Boy cigar.  I took one, and out of curiosity one evening I cut it, OK  I bit the cap off as that was how I saw it done on TV and in the movies, toasted it; OK I burnt the hell out of it,  and thoroughly enjoyed it. Shortly thereafter B&M's started to open up in Orange County and LA County and a few nightclub had smoking lounges.  I worked for custom clothier in Beverly Hills, and Orange County and I was "that guy" usually dressed in a suit and smoking a cigar.  My cigar of choice, was usually a Romeo y Julieta, a Hoya de Monterrey, or a Dunhill as far as B &M's there was a Tinder Box in Santa Ana, The Bombay Cigar Society in Redondo Beach, and Dunhill had a clothing shop near mine, that had a small humidor where they sold cigars by the stick.  In 1995 California enacted the statewide smoking ban and I really didn't smoke again until 1998 when my then wife and I moved to Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania I had worked for Radius Communication, an interconnect that sold local advertising on top tier cable networks, and was based in Harrisburg.  One day I was meeting a client for lunch and wandered into Rae's Tobacco. Rae's became my escape and almost each day I would "smoke" my lunch at Rae's. One of the members started a club.  We could contribute $10 a week that was pooled.  Once a week Joan Baker would select a cigar for the club members to taste and when we accumulated enough money we could buy a box, or two, and split the contents up between the members.

I left PA, in 2001 and moved to Arizona

I would enjoy a cigar, as a "treat" here and there, such as the day my cousin Sarah and Kevin (below) married in 2003.  Chances are these were probably Macanudo Robusto's as my resources were somewhat limited at the time.

And when I was road warrior, traveling each week for 48 weeks out the year, for Freedom Communications I would enjoy an occasional cigar.  There were ad director conferences in Tampa, where any free moment I had was spent either at Steinbrenner Field or in Ybor City visiting many of the historic cigar factories and Cuban coffee houses.

I spent a lot of time in South Texas, and being across the river from Matamoras or Progesso/Reynoso I had access to "Cuban" Cigars.  Again I became that guy,  the one wearing the suit from out of state, sitting at the patio bar of Louis Backyard  or Tequila Sunsets, smoking the forbidden fruit a Romeo y Julietas Exhibicion #3, Cohiba, or Montecristo #2.  Which based on what I know now were most likely counterfeit Cubans. 

It was one of these nights in 2004, Gary Thorn, my then finance who we shall just call S, and I went to South Padre Island for dinner and I sat at that bar at Louis Backyard, my with my counterfeit Montecristo #2 and Don Julio Resposado and thought. I thought about family, friends, my career, and life.  On the way back to the hotel my cellphone rang.  It was my mother, my father had passed away....

I really did not start enjoying cigars on a regular basis until 2008 when I moved into an outside sales role with the Arizona Republic and my first cient call was to Ye Old Pipe and Tobacco in Phoenix. I was able to work from their lounge and relax for a few moments. So there you have it, it is neither a hobby or habit but a...Hell I don't know what it is, except for a way for me to relax, and pure enjoyment!

It's been a bout 3 weeks or so since the #IPCPR ended and the stuff that was ordered during the show.  I have had to luxury of trying some of the newer brands and blends offered at the #IPCPR before they arrive in the store. 

Here is the Fratello Toro which has a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper, a Ecuadorian Sumatra Binder, and the filler comes from both Nicaragua and Peru.  I liked this cigar a lot and can't wait for its arrival in humidor at my local B&M

Nomad Cigar Company created the LE (Limited Edition) Esteli Lot 1386. There are only, or will be only  307 boxes made of this cigar.  Holy Hell Fred hit for the cycle with this cigar! Now what ya gonna do next Fred? Huh? Huh?
Finally, on Saturday, the Arizona Cigar Community lost a great friend in Tommy Pupillo  Tommy, was the rep for some of your favorite cigars including Perdomo and Tatuaje, passed away after a lengthy illness.  I will share one story about Tommy.  I was in the Man Cave at Cigar King and Tommy came in and sat down.  I asked Tommy,  "How does one become a cigar rep?"  Tommy took a long draw on his cigar, tilted his head back, blew the smoke into the air and said "Now, why would you want to do something that stupid?!?"
Tommy you will be missed. #RIP

Monday, May 27, 2013

I am the worlds greatest procrastinator

Never do today what you can do tomorrow or next week.  That is my motto! 

This applies to updating my blog which I have been saying I was going to do every week since my last post of April 18th.

What can I say I've been busy.

Anyway, new cigars continue to arrive in my favorite B&M's here in the PHX. 

Fine Ash continues to stock his humidor with some great cigars.    Since first enjoying the Intemperance EC XVIII (Ecuadorian Connecticut) in both the Charity and the Perfecto,  the BA XXI (Brazil Arapiraca) Intrigue and the Aquataine Cranium (a gran toro)  I have been in love with the Roma Craft Brand.  

Here is the Cromagnon Anthropoloy. 

Here's the best part most of these cigars are in the $9 and under range. 

Several months back, I talked about the Davidoff Tongue Tasting that Ambassador Fine Cigars in Peoria held. As part of that event   I picked up this Davidoff Millenium Blend Toro. I got distinct notes of roasted coffee beans  and caramel from this medium strength cigar.

We also had a birthday since my last post.  It was a relatively simple and low key affair that included a Layer Cake (pun intended) Shiraz and an Ezra Zion Reagan.  This cigar is flying off the shelves at Goodfella's Cigar Lounge and in my opinion is well priced at $12.75 per stick.

I will admit that out of respect for my wife, who is quitting smoking, I am limiting my cigar smoking at home.
But when I do enjoy a cigar at home   I have  been diving down deep into my humidor and enjoying several cigars that I have let rest.  This Gurkha Ghost I received as a gift from Andrew Hopkins upon his return from the IPCPR show last year and the La Aroma de Cuba has been sitting in my humidor since an event last August at Cigar King.  As a result these cigars were damn near perfect.

One of my favorite brand owners is Glen Case, and I had two of his Kristoff GC Signature Series sitting in the humidor.  They were obtained about two months apart but after several months each in the humidor these cigars were nice and oily and full of flavors that included expresso and chocolate.  In keeping with the program I paired them with a diet coke.  The diet coke is what Glen drinks when he is blending his cigars.
I also love the traditional pig tail cap, and closed foot.

As I mentioned earlier new lines are arriving constantly at the cigar shops in the PHX, the 7-20-4 arrived in the humidor at Fine Ash earlier this month. Here's what I know This cigar is a piece of history. From 1874 until the embargo in 1963 the 7-20-4 was manufactured in New Hampshire.  Kurt Kendall acquired the trademark and resurrected the brand.  It is a very smooth and flavorful cigar.

Shaun at Goodfella's Cigar Lounge in Phoenix is becoming, by choice, a purveyor of Boutique Cigars.  By definition a boutique cigar is low production numbers of these smokes. Many aficionados define these specialty cigars as smokes with an annual production of no more than 1 million sticks.

The benefit of boutique cigar production is that they allow cigar enthusiasts the opportunity to try a wider variety of smokes that are made of high-quality tobacco and are produced using a refined production process. 

Goodfella's is also a true House of Emilo Cigar Retailer.  Since I have known Shaun he has expanded his inventory to include the Emilio AF1, AF2, Suave, Series H; Epicurean; Ezra Zio and Guayacan.  Last week the 1502 line arrived and a launch party was held.  These cigars in Goodfella's style flew off the shelf.  The line consists of the 92 rated Emerald, the 91 rated Ruby, and the 93 rated Black Gold.  I would suggest working your way thru the line starting with the emerald (mild plus), then the ruby (medium plus) and closing it out with the Black Gold (full bodied) which is pictured below.

Until Next Time


Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Quote:

"What up everybody so glad you're here.  It's Coolio with the flow back in your ear. This ain't a fantastic voyage But I'm still on a mission, to see if I can Get your attention. Now I wants to drop some information.  Just a little additive to your education..."     Artis Leon Ivey Jr.  

So  I think I'll start this post with the dip sh*t of the day, I mean seriously what mental midget (and I mean no offense to any mental midget that might be reading this post) parks a Ferrari, under a tree, with the top down.  

It is safe to say it was the Valet's fault... 


Food Porn! Flat Iron Steak, with a Pomme Frites, and a fried quail egg from Zinc Bistro in Scottsdale and some kinds of roasted tomato puree (Frances version of ketchup?)

Last week was odd. I mean seriously odd!  The weather forecast called for Dust and Wind.  What they didn't forecast was the rain! Which actually when it rained it rained mud!  I mean seriously look at the photo! I mean seriously, that car is white car, that is NEVER dirty!  It was like the seven plagues

Needless to say,  per my wife's instuctions, I pressed onto Jen and Kirks house for dinner where I enjoyed a Four Kick Sublime. It Bums me out that the Wes Thornton was in town for a solid week and I was unable to connect with him. Oh well next time bro! However this cigar did have a bit of earthiness to it! That is, or was, due to the blowing dust!

Yes those are ducks, three of them,  Jen raised them and yes the produce eggs.

It is safe to say that the cigar below is probably the best cigar that no one has ever heard of! From Regius Cigars it is currently available in maybe 25 stores in the United States and Fine Ash Cigar Lounge is the only one in the PHX that has them in their humidor.  I have had  this in two vitolas the Corona and the Lord Madsen, both I would describe at light to medium bodied that is full of surprises, including notes of coffee.  The best part about this cigar is the price point which is in the $7 range.

Eric Parkinson, of Smoke Boutique Cigars,  hosts an event, he will post a secret word to either his facebook page or his twitter page. The secret word, get you a prize.  The afternoon before a My Fathers Event, I ran into into Eric and I mumbled the secret word or phrase, which was Hot Pockets.  Eric reached into his "coolidor" and handed me this...

The Esteban Carreras 211...

For those of you that don't  the number 211 is actually a number used in police code for Robbery.    This cigar is actually the same blends as the Davidoff Millenium!  Light to medium bodied, the cigar is very smooth and well balanced. but not overly complex.  Still I would buy more!


My beautiful wife Rhea is featured not once but twice in the April-June issue of  Hobby Lobby's Stamping, Stationery, and Scrapbooking Magazine.  Yup thats right I am a proud husband.

To see more of her work visit her blog Passionate Paper Creations 

Last year sometime I started to hear some rumblings about this line of Cigars that come from Texas and in my opinion RoMa Craft is the best thing to come out of Texas since ZZ Top and COTA. RoMa Craft Tobac is the Brain Child of Skip Martin and Michael Rosales.  Last Year I stumbled upon them at Big Sticks Cigars in Mesa AZ where I fell in very much in lust with the Intemperance.

Sam Lopez has brought them into Fine Ash Cigars here on the West Side.

As part of the launch they were joined by, the Ro in RoMa Craft,  Michael Rosales. I really enjoyed the Intemperance BA XXI (Brazil Arapiraca) and the EC XVIII (Ecuador Connecticut) and yesterday I started with the Intemperance EC XVIII perfecto.  I would describe this cigar as full bodied flavors with a light-medium strength to it.  If that makes sense.

This evening we had our monthly meetup of the West Valley Cigar Club. I made one mistake tonight.  I brought only one cigar to enjoy.  It was the RoMa Craft Aquataine Cranium Gran Toro.  This cigar is medium to full bodied, and is very complex.  It paired extremely well with a Guinness. Check that I made two mistake, I left my eyeglass screw driver at home too! I would have gotten a lot more out of the cigar has I brought that bad boy with me. Thank you Michael I really enjoyed this cigar

So what's up next, I have no idea...Taking it one day at a time and one cigar at a time. As my wife says #PeaceOut..

Until next time #KeepATightAsh