Monday, July 8, 2013

The CCBR Miami Cigar Tour!

The CCBR Miami Cigar Tour – Trial Run

On Friday, July 5th a good buddy and I decided to give our tour a trial run.  Our goal was to stake out some of the best shops and cigar factories in Miami, and see how feasible a tour from Palm Beach would be.

The start and end points were very easy for me to decide…it would be The Smoke Inn in Boynton Beach.  Owner Abe is the hardest working man in the cigar biz, and just does every event right.  I knew that if The Smoke Inn was involved, this would have to be a high quality tour, with lots to see and do.

Our first stop on the tour was the Nick Perdomo cigar factory.  It was fitting that as we drove up there were two giant 18 wheeler trucks in front, and one was still unloading!  Imagine not one, but two giant trucks bringing a payload of fresh cigars ready to be shipped all over the world.

We were greeted by Daisy at the front desk, and even though she’s at the front desk, you can tell she runs the whole thing!  We knew we had to stay on Daisy’s good side in order to get the private tour we were hoping for.  Daisy did not disappoint, and neither did our tour.  From the giant humidor, to Nick’ office, where he has a pair of Shaq’s size Gigantic sneakers, to the warehouse in the back were thousands of cigar boxes were getting ready to go out.  This one stays on the list a must stop on our tour.

Second stop was a shop that epitomizes the Miami cigar culture, Cuban Crafters in Hialeah.  It’s just that this place has a little bit of everything.  We started with the newly redesigned lounge and restaurant, and although different proprietors own it, you get the vibe it’s all one big place.  This is a sure bet to be our midday stop so we can eat here as well.  Then you walk into the store, and it’s just one overwhelming scene after another.  From the 10 cigar rolling stations, to the humidors, rocking chairs, domino tables, giant humidor, thousands of cigars and of course, a barber shop, just in case you need a ‘little off the side’ while enjoying your cigar.  This is an absolute stop on our tour.

From here things opened up a bit, and we both agreed, it would be a perfect way to continue the tour.  We headed down to SW 8th street, more famously known as ‘Calle Ocho’ in ‘Little Havana’.  This is a little slice of earth that remains deeply grounded in the Cuban culture.  From the shops to the art to the dominos and people playing, to of course, the cigars, this is as close to Cuba as you can get.

We hit three different shops within walking distance of each other, La Tradicion Cubana, Cuba Tobacco and The Little Havana Cigar Factory.  Each had it’s own distinct flavor and history and each had amazing cigars for sale.  We particularly enjoyed the Little Havana Cigar Factory, which for all intensive purposes is one big giant humidor.  From the minute you walk in, and everywhere you go in the store, you enjoy the perfect temperature and humidity for all those yummy cigars on display.  Not to mention, one of the biggest selection of Padron Cigars we’ve ever seen.

We’re thinking we may need to come up with 2 or 3 different tours to get everything we think you’ll enjoy.  Other tours we’re considering would include stores like ‘Sabor Havana’, ‘Nepturn Cigars Superstore’, ‘Havana Humidor Cigars’ and ‘Absolute Cigar Shop’.  We’d also like to include other lounges like ‘Deco Drive Cigars’, ‘Havana Group Cigar Club’, ‘El Clique Cigar Lounge’ and ‘Aromas of Havana’.  And of course, no tour is complete without a few more cigar factories like ‘Wynwood Cigar Factory’, ‘Padron Cigars’, ‘My Father Cigars’, ‘El Titan De Bronze’, ‘G.R. Tabacaleras, and….I guess we’re gonna need more than 3 tours!

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Believe the Hype! New 'Big Delicious' cigar by Room 101 Delivers Bigggg!

I had the distinct pleasure last night of attending the release party for the new creation by the hands of two of our industry's true pioneers Matt Booth (aka Swanky White) of Room 101 Cigars and Abe 'Ming' Dababneh (aka Big Delicious) owner of The Smoke Inn.

I give Abe all the credit for being a successful retailer in a time when most retailers are struggling to keep up with performance of prior years, let alone grow and prosper.  In this 'internet' age with many cigar sales going to the biggest discounter, Abe has managed to provide a smoking experience, that keeps customers coming back.

It's this type of dedication that I'm sure led Abe to partner with none other than Matt Booth to create a cigar that I believe is perfect for the mature cigar smoker that likes to get put on his ass every now and then!  First off, Matt Booth is a creative genius, artist, jewelry designer and if you ask me, looks a little like Robert Downey Jr. in Ironman.  It seems that whatever Matt puts his hands on, the outcome is pretty special.

This Big Delicious cigar is no exception.  I picked up a few sticks last night at the release party, and waited until the Knicks game got underway to spark it up.

Country of Origin: Honduras
Factory: Tabacos Rancho Jamastran
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Habano 2000
Binder: Honduran Corojo Seco
Filler: Brazil, Domincan Republic Ligero, Honduran Corojo & Nicaragua.

It has that unfinished tip that makes it appear like some of the tobacco is falling out.  Not sure the story behind this style, not even sure if you're supposed to just light it that way, or trim that off to be honest - I flicked some of it off with my finger, then gave it a good cut and went to work!

This cigar had what I look for in a good smoke right away.  The draw was easy, and a lot of smoke came out the other end.  Enough smoke sometimes to make your eyes water (happy tears!).  There was a good amount of spicy flavor and earthy components to let you know that you were smoking something special, and by the looks of it, was going to last a long time.

I got through the first 2/3rds and thought I was doing pretty good, enjoying the flavors, and having a good time. Then on the last third the cigar really slowed down.  I didn't have to fight with it to draw, it just forced you to take your time with it.  I did give it a slightly bigger cut (started with a v-cut), and then boom, it came right back to life and finished off like a champ.

It actually left me reeling a little bit, which hasn't happened in a while.  I guess I was so excited to smoke this for the first time, that I may have puffed a little faster and deeper than this cigar warrants.  It's all good, a little dizzy from a good cigar is worth it every time!

Another micro-blend success from the man that is continuing the cigar journey like not other!  Great job to Abe, Matt Booth, and everyone involved in bringing this stick to life.  Big D is in the house!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Smoke Inn 'Continuing the Cigar Journey Like No Other!

I moved to Boynton Beach from New York 8 years ago.  When I moved I realized there were some compromises I was going to have to make when I left the Big City behind.  One that I was sure of was not being able to visit all of the great cigar bars and cigar shops the tri-state area had to offer - but boy was I wrong!

Let me introduce you to Abe 'Ming' Dababneh owner of The Smoke Inn, and a sneak peek into his newest store (number 11 so far) and his new headquarters in Boynton Beach, Florida - just a few blocks from where I live!!!!

Abe is a stickler for details, and it has never been more obvious than with the grand opening of his new flagship store.  Starting in 1996 Abe likes to say that he is 'continuing the cigar journey like no other', and one step into this magnificent shop and you'll have to agree.

It was with great anticipation that I awaited this grand opening, especially being just a few blocks away from where I call home.  I would drive by everyday and peek in on the progress, but I never expected what I saw when they opened the doors for the first time.

Having worked with Abe a bit, I know how engrossed he is with every detail of the operation.  It's easy to see why he has been so successful and keeps growing his brand.  From The Great Smoke - a yearly event that draws upwards of 1,500 cigar lovers (easily the best cigar event in Florida) and now, his own line of cigars in 'Big Delicious' (soon to launch)- which I have yet to try, everything Abe does is first class.

As you walk in the shop your senses are completely overwhelmed, and I'm sure the wow factor is the same for everyone who experiences this place for the first time.  Even before you walk in, the grounds out front have beautiful benches and tables with umbrellas, as well as two large sectional outdoor couches to relax on.

The first thing you see when you walk in is a gorgeous square glass check-out counter stocked with all the cigar accessories one can imagine.  I was greeted by Lindsay and Adam, who are expert cigar aficionados, able to point you in the right direction.

To the right was a cozy-ish area with plush leather seats and the first of many flat screen TV's.  Just to the right of that were a few round counter tops with stools for those who are maybe in larger groups.  Keep walking around the counter and you find 'le piece de resistance'...the walk in humidor.  Not only is it gigantic, but it's impeccably clean and well-organized.  If you can't find your favorite stick here, you're probably not alive.

On the left of the counter, more plush seating, counter tops, TV's and then....the bar.  I hate to even call it a 'bar' it just doesn't do it justice.  Marble, and leather and hand scrapped hard wood floors, stocked with all top shelf liquor and the most beautiful bar tenders in the county.

I'm not exaggerating when I say this new Smoke Inn location has it all, and then some.  I feel like an undeserving Herfer who doesn't know what to do with my new found fortune!  Abe "Ming" has absolutely done it again.  Thank you sir for your commitment to cigar excellence, and may you and your staff continue to prosper!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Local Legend!

There are so many rich traditions in the cigar industry it's easy to see why it keeps thriving.  A trade that dates back to 1492, when you know who landed in Cuba and found Cuban natives smoking a type of cigar, much less reformed than the product we enjoy today.

None the less, many Cuban families began to cultivate their fields and make their mark in this trade as far back as the mid 18th century.

These are the stories that draw me in, much like a good cigar draws you in.  One such story is that of the Salazar family.  Since 1810 when the Salazar family settled in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba, they have been growing some of the worlds best tobacco and handcrafting fine Cuban cigars.

At 12 noon every day, the 4 Salazar brothers would meet in the porch of elder brother Mario's house.  Mario would open his burlap bag which contained the finest tobacco leaves of the farm's harvest. The cured leaves were perfect in appearance and taste.  They were envied by all the farmers in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba's prime tobacco growing region.

I had the privilege recently to take part in this tradition when I lit up a J.L. Salazar Hermanos Reserva Especial Maduro Torpedo I purchased at The Cuban Crafters store.  It was so obvious to me as I walked around the humidor that this was going to be an incredible cigar, and I was not disappointed.

You know you're in for a treat when the look and feel of a cigar is enough to tell you about the quality of it's craftsmanship.  The cigar had a nice spice when I first put it in my mouth, and just lit up like a Christmas tree, ready to shine and sparkle for all to see.

The cigar is no longer made in Cuba of course, but the filler is sun-grown Cuban Seed Habano from Tabacalera Esteli, cigar factory in Nicaragua, and the brain trust of another industry legend Henry Kiki Berger, or 'Don Kiki' as everyone calls him.

The binder is a Cuban Seed Habano leaf and the wrapper is a smooth, silky, oily Maduro Cuban-seed leaf.  This triple threat Cuban delivers on every level, and has made me a true fan for life!  Their website says the leaves are aged for over 4 years through 4 hanging fermentations.  They claim it's the same curing process that the Salazar brothers brought over from Cuba and what makes the cigar so special.

No argument here, as I and everyone else lucky enough to get their hands on these will be quick to attest. This is the type of premium cigar that could easily retail for top dollar, but in fact, the cigar is moderately priced and just makes it the icing on the cake.

If you're a fan of maduro cigars, medium to full-bodied, earthy and peppery tones - grab this one up quick.  They are made in limited quantities and you don't want to be left out.  Thank you Salazar brothers for continuing such an awesome tradition and giving the cigar industry another top quality smoke.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Let me Introduce you to PDR!

Ok, so you may already be well acquainted with this maganificent smoke (and I know many people are based on the 'Likes' on our FB page), but I don’t believe it gets the respect and attention that it deserves.

I came across this PDR (Pinar Del Rio – just so happens to be where my Dad was born in Cuba) 1878 Capa Oscura as I was skipping along in the giant humidor of Cuban Crafters in Miami.  I practically came to a dead stop as if the cigar was staring at me and saying, go ahead, I dare you.

I’m not sure if I’m at the point where I can actually hear cigars speak, but I promise you that this one was talking to me!  I answered, ‘Oh, you think you're big time…you’re gonna get smoked, BIG TIME!’.  And with that I grabbed a couple of these beauties and headed for the register.  We had several more words on the ride home, but that same evening I couldn’t take it any longer.  I gave it my favorite V-cut, and took a torch to it, then POOF, it came to life!

This is an all Dominican cigar, made by Abe Flores of Pinar Del Rio.  The oily 5x52 was looking for trouble and boy did it find it.  It was a smoky and flavorful journey that excited my pallet, but never overwhelmed me.  Despite it’s darker (Oscura) color, it remained mild to medium and just kept delivering solid flavor all the way down to the nub.

The draw was even, the smoke continued to billow out of the cigar after every puff, and ultimately was an extremely enjoyable smoke.  I need to dig around a little more and see what else Abe Flores has to offer, and if it’s anything like this, I guess many more are gonna get ‘smoked!’.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

As close to Cuba as you can get; A trip to Cuban Crafters in Hialeah, FL.

I’m all over the Cuban Crafters cigar company right now having made the pilgrimage to their headquarters in the Hialeah area of Miami this week.  Walking into this store is like taking a trip back in time to when good friends got together over a cigar and just shared a real good time together, for no particular reason except the comradery.

The building is huge, the cigars are everywhere, the walk-in humidor is bigger than most other entire smoke shops.  When you first walk in there is a giant counter/cashier area where a few of the lovely ladies that work there are happily attending customers.

To the left is a large area where master cigar rollers are throwing down!  Leaf after leaf, these craftsmen delicately turn, mold, cut and press this precious cargo into some of the best local smokes in town.  Across from the center counter is the largest walk in humidor I’ve ever been in, with just rows and rows of cigars from floor to ceiling.
To the right of the humidor is, get this, a barber shop!  Where else can you enjoy a premium cigar and get your haircut at the same time?  Just to the right of that is a Cuban coffee counter, where all the espresso coffee you want is FREE!  In front of that is a collection of humidors like you’ve never seen before, every size, color and shape you can imagine.

Walk into the next room and you’ll find a dozen or so rocking chairs, just waiting to gently rock your worries away as you puff on a juicy maduro!  In the same room there are racks of Cuban Guavera shirts, in all colors and sizes, more humidors as well as beautiful artwork depicting scenes from Cuba.
But wait, there’s more! 

The next room is decorated to look like your walking down a street in Old Havana.  Complete with the ‘Bodega Del Medio’ sign from a famous store in Cuba, this section has four domino tables, and at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon, you had to wait to get a seat to play!

This is some hard-core old school, double nine Cuban domino so you better bring your A game.  In this room there are also beautiful laminate domino tables for sale with authentic artwork mostly based on Cuban landmarks and culture.

The cigar I tried was a J.L. Salazar “Hermanos” maduro.  Man oh man, just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, this cigar seriously blew me away.  From start to finish, it was smooth, strong enough for my tastes and delicious down to the nub!  A must definite buy by the bundle!

To say I felt like a kid in a candy store would be an understatement.  Top it all off with some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and it’s not an exaggeration when I say I wanted to move in.  Thanks to Don Kiki for making me feel right at home, this place really embellishes all that is good about the cigar industry and I can only hope that it remains that way for generations to come!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Love that cig’GAR’!

There’s a man by the name of George Rico, who has quite a family history in the cigar industry. Now in the company’s fourth generation it’s George who has been tasked with growing the family legacy.

I saw George recently at The Great Smoke in West Palm Beach, and he passed me a stick of the new GAR Opium. He also more than kiddingly suggested I should turn that band into a ring for him, which we would be honored to do.

In any case, last night I pulled out the Opium and gave it a proper cedar stick light! Already a big fan of the brand and the Gran Habano’s which I probably smoke more than any other cigar, I was truly looking forward to this one.

 I am glad to say it did not disappoint even in the slightest. The stick lit up instantly and gave me some delicious flavors and spices right off the bat. It had a very unique flavor that also came through and lent a bit of sweetness to it, which balanced it off nicely. The first third was just about as pleasant as a cigar can be.

The second third continued to draw easily, burn evenly and offer plenty of flavor and smoke. I actually saw as I exhaled the swaths of smoke escaping through my screened in porch riding on the breezes of the beautiful day. Oh what a site!

The last third did push back a little bit, and turned somewhat stronger to the palette. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying it, I think I was just hungry and decided to turn it off before I got to the true nub. I always try and smoke cigars I enjoy down to the nub, and although I did enjoy this one, it didn’t quite make it.

Overall, loved the smoke, and the band is just as awesome. If I can only get George’s ring size we can get this done! Thanks again George, you are making the cigar tradition proud. Keep up the great work.