07 March 2009

The Perfect Holiday Smoke

5 January 2009


The Perfect Holiday Smoke…


You know, it seems every year I’m faced with the same problem. I go through my humidors looking for the perfect cigars to accompany me on my Christmas excursion. Carefully taking into consideration size and time commitment, as well as my cigar-smoking cousins who’ve never turned down a smoke from me since I’ve been in the business.

The first part of the trek was to the northeast corner of Connecticut, “The Quiet Corner” as it’s referred to. It’s where I grew up… and is about a three hour drive from New York City. Usually I love enjoying a cigar on the drive, but this time just wasn’t in the mood. It was bad weather, bad traffic, and I knew I’d just end up chomping on it to release my frustrations rather than actually enjoying it.

We (my girlfriend Tiffany, and I) spent the next 3 days in Connecticut with my family. I don’t think I ever appreciated the wrap around porch of our Victorian home until I began enjoying cigars. It’s perfect. However, the cold weather didn’t permit me to enjoy a cigar this time… My cousins and I did burn a quick La Flor Dominicana Carajo with them outside of my Grandfather’s condo which was a nice little break from the family celebrations.

Next was the trek North and West to the great city of Buffalo- Tiffany’s hometown. The next three days were to be spent up there. The weather was rainy, and traffic was again difficult… we had exhausted our ipod’s, and were still faced with about 400 miles of driving ahead of us. Finally Tiffany looked over and asked, “Wanna smoke a cigar?” “Eh.” I replied… “Well, I want to”. She said. I looked over and asked, “Really!?!” She said, “Yeah, I’m in the mood… what else are we gonna do?” With that, I went rummaging through my ‘man purse’ next to me and found a Davidoff Grand Cru No. 1 that I had packed. Since we were parked on I-90, I put down my window a touch and fired it up. I passed it to Tiffany for her to enjoy. She asked a few questions about it, and passed it back to me… it was just wonderful.

We eventually made it to Buffalo… and I didn’t end up having the opportunity to enjoy a cigar again until I made it back to New York and was in my store New Year’s eve… but the cigar I shared with Tiffany on that ride was just so perfect. It wasn’t a big fancy “trophy” cigar… and we weren’t sitting at the Grand Havana Room, with a nice glass of Cognac… There we were, bundled in my car wearing sweats, listening to NPR and enjoying a cigar together… and enjoying EACHOTHER! Sometimes those “perfect moments” just seem to happen… so for me… this was my Perfect Holiday Cigar!!

What was yours?

Recession Smoking

20 May 2008


I’ve been inundated with questions regarding the cigar business in today’s economy. Of course, cigars are one of those things that are considered an “extra” in many of our lifestyles; they’re not on the list of essentials like food, water and shelter (although for me, they’re somewhere between food and water).

I’ve heard people are “cutting back”, “tightening their belts” and waiting for things to “settle down”. I saw a customer last week that I haven’t seen in quite some time. When I asked where he’d been, he replied, “Ugh, I haven’t gotten out of office before 9pm for weeks.” Now, I am a believer in working hard, putting in the extra hours, and even burning the candle at both ends. But, I’m NOT a believer in not rewarding yourself for your hard work.

It’s times like these that make your “cigar time” even more important! A cigar demands time. It demands attention and relaxation. I’m not suggesting that you blow off a conference call and fire up a 2-hour double corona in the middle of the afternoon. I’m suggesting that just as you schedule lunch meetings and conference calls, schedule yourself 30 or 40 minutes for yourself to unwind, regroup, and enjoy a cigar. It’s theraputic, it’s meditational, it’s…. (gasp!) Good for you!?!?!

Here are some interesting little tidbits I found while “Google-ing” the word ‘stress’:

Up to 75 percent of all time lost in the workplace is stress-related

A 20-year study by the University of London found that unmanaged reactions to stress were a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than either smoking or consuming high cholesterol foods.

Up to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints.

75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders

Nearly half of all American workers suffer from symptoms of burnout, a disabling reaction to stress on the job.

Job stress is estimated to cost U.S. Industry $300 billion annually, as assessed by absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, direct medical, legal and insurance fees, etc

So, just try to make a little time for you. Try it earlier in the day, or during lunch. Enjoy a cigar on your drive home- your time with a cigar is your time. And in these days of elevated stress, be sure to still make time to enjoy life, and celebrate life with a great cigar.

A Discussion with Jose Seijas

28 March 2008

So often when you think of cigar-men, you think of stocky guys in guyaberas standing in a field smelling tobacco leaves, their shirt pockets stuffed with freshly rolled puros for them to smoke all day. But there is a man who is quite different. Tall in stature and always impeccably dressed, Jose Seijas is a soft spoken gentlemen whose passion for making some of the most popular premium cigars on the market is incredibly evident, yet his demeanor is as subtle as the cocoa notes on the cigar that bears his name. I recently had a chance to chat with Jose Seijas upon my return from the first annual ProCigar Festival about some of the newest offerings coming out of his factory- ALTADIS’ Dominican Facility, Tabacalera de Garcia in La Romana.

MH: JOSE, THE PRO CIGAR FESTIVAL WAS SUCH A GREAT SUCCESS. WHAT DO YOU THINK NOW THAT THE FIRST ONE IS OVER WITH?
JS: I certainly appreciate your comments about the Festival. I think we owe a lot to Henke Kelner and Catherine Llibre and her team for all their dedication to make this event memorable. We all contributed to it, but it is fair to say that these two people took the Lion’s share of the work, and really ensured its success. Next year will be even better!
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THE JOSE SEIJAS SIGNATURE SERIES CIGARS.
The Seijas Signature came out of an effort to evolve our blends towards fuller flavor cigars. We tried different types of tobaccos until we settled on a blend composed of Dominican, Nicaraguan and Peruvian fillers, a Dominican Olor binder and an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper.
IT STARTED JUST WITH ONE SIZE IF I RECALL, AND NOW THERE’RE SEVERAL FACINGS, RIGHT?
That’s correct. The Seijas Signature started with the Toro, 50 X 6 1/8 “ in 2003. The second year we added a Perfecto (48 x 6 ½” ) and a Robusto (52 x 5”). Right now the Seijas Signature Line has, in addition to the original three sizes, a Churchill (50 x 7”); a Belicoso (52 x 6 1/8”); and two more Figurados: the Short (46 x 4 ¼”) and the Figurado, (52 x 6 1/8”)
I THINK I’VE SMOKED ALMOST ALL OF THEM, AND IT’S INTERESTING TO ME HOW UNIQUE EACH CIGAR IS TO ANOTHER, EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE TECHNICALLY THE SAME BLEND.
Of course. The shape and size of the cigar changes the relationship of all of the tobaccos, and the tobacco composition can give you an idea of the blend’s complexity. We differentiate this blend more by choosing specific components from the raw material stock: for example, the Peruvian is from the third cut, the Dominican tobaccos are a combination of Piloto from La Canela plus a specially fermented Piloto from the top part of the plant. The Nicaraguan is Viso or Ligero. The Binder is actually Olor, but its characteristic aroma reminds the smoker of dark chocolate and other countryside aromas.
AND THIS TYPE OF FLAVOR AND EXPERIENCE IS WHAT YOU GENERALLY PREFER?
The Seijas Signature reflects my style of blending: full flavor with smoothness; the absence of vegetal flavors and high acidity; and the presence of sweet tones that are confirmed by an abundant salivation.
BESIDES THE GREAT FLAVOR, AESTHETICALLY THE CIGARS ARE GORGEOUS AS WELL.
Indeed, even while your smoking it. The Olor binder burns beautifully and the Seijas Signature ash is very white, contrasting with the natural dark color of the wrapper.
SO IT IS FOR SURE A WINNER IN YOUR BOOK?
So far, The Seijas have received very flattering reports and all my team is extremely satisfied with the results. The consistency of the Seijas Signature is remarkable, both from the stand point of performance and of course flavors and aromas. It is one of those cigars that gets better and better as you smoke it.
TELL ME ABOUT THE CONCEPT BEHIND THE NEW LIMITADA LINE OF CIGARS BY ALTADIS. WHAT MAKES THEM SPECIAL?
The Limitadas are another step in the direction of providing our customers with complex blends, this time playing with different proportions of Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers, wrapped in a sun grown Connecticut binder and topped with a beautiful Criollo ‘98 seed wrapper.
The Tobacco leaves are all selected from the best of our well aged inventory kept in our warehouses. The cigar makers devoted to these brands are among the best of Tabacalera de Garcia, and each cigar is inspected for draw and appearance in keeping with our factory’s quality control standards.
SO YOU’RE USING TOBACCOS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD TO MAKE THESE CIGARS, NOT JUST DOMINICAN?
Yes. In essence, the Limitadas represent the freedom of moving across borders to obtain the best tobaccos of each territory and blending them to provide a truly wonderful smoking experience to our customers.
WILL THESE BE A REGULARLY MANUFACTURED LINE OR ARE THEY A LIMITED EDITION?
The quantity is limited to 10,000 on each brand: Montecristo, Romeo and Julieta, H upmann and Trinidad.
AND IS IT ONE SHAPE PER BRAND?
The format for each brand are: Belicoso 52 x 61/8, a Churchill 54 x 7 for the Romeo y Julieta, a Toro 54 x 6 for Trinidad and a Robusto 52 x 5 for the H .Upmann
I CERTAINLY APPRECIATE YOUR TIME, JOSE, AS ALWAYS. HOPEFULLY WE CAN SMOKE ONE OF THESE TOGETHER SOON.
Either here in Dominican Republic or there in New York… I hope so too. Saludos.