Deep in flavor. Deep in your mind.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Radio Herf 01312016 w/ Nick Syris & Emma Viktorsson



...because ya never know who might stop by...

Nick Syris of LH Cigars stops by and then, just as the dust doth settle -- Emma Viktorsson of Las Cumbres Tabaco. Boom. Fantastic show!

Thanks to all yous who partook! We must be butter, gentlepersons -- for we are most surely on a roll.
PLEASE VISIT:
&
Did Anthony offer a Cigars City discount on air??? 
HE DID. But you'll need to listen.

Fantastic show, if I must say so myself, and I must -- my mom's busy.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sabbath Smoker 01.30.16 - Manolo Estate Serie 32 Habano



Welcome back, gentlepersons, to a new Sabbath Smoker...
  • Will I go 101?
  • What's on my desk?
  • Did I ever throw a plastic ruler at a cat?
All this questions and MORE are answered herein.
As always, thanks so kindly for yer eyes and ears, gentlepersons. 

I'd like to end here with a non-Negative Nellie nod. I spoke to some content not being up to par. For some that is and above, check out RICTUS REVIEWS, a member of the KAPLOWITZ MISHPUCHA

On the morrow, we Radio Herf. Until then, best of wishes -- and smoke 'em if ya got 'em!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Evil Genius Black Chapel - Cigar Review (Audio)

THE CIGAR
Evil Genius Cigars
Black Chapel
3 1/2 x 42 Petite Corona-ish
Brazilian Maduro wrapper
(Aged 6 months in rum barrels)
Dominican Corojo binder (Aged in rum barrels)
Nicaraguan, Domincan Republic & Peruvian fillers

Sample offering courtesy of Alex Hirsch, Brand Owner.


Smooth/Coarse? Sure, in that order
Sweet/Spicy? Sweet
Mouth-feel? Nice after evening out at the onset+
Strength? -Medium
Draw? Smooth & even medium+ resistance
Burn? Needed correcting twice in a short format
Construction? Good
Primary Note(?)? Rich earth, just shy of compost. Nut tray.

NOTES
Atypical Maduro with a sweetness that is somewhat out of context. That's my 'professional response.' My amateur response? Tasty.

PAIRINGS
Whatever regular folk drink. Or Manischewitz.

FINAL GRADE
****B****
Thanks, as ever gentlepersons, for yer ears and eyes. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Who What When Where Why w/ Shiah Goldberg of Kafie 1901 Cigars

"Oh, I know how this works. This is where Kap asks the same five questions of Cigar Industry folk." You.
"Yeah." Me. "But first --"
"A flourish!"
"Yeah."
Who has mentored you and who have you mentored?

There have been too many mentors in my life to mention here so I'll key in on the primary and industry related ones. First and foremost my father. In addition to the being greatest influence on the type of man I strive to be, he also had the most significant impact on my professional aspirations. He is a huge proponent of "Focus on what you love and what brings you joy, everything else follows that." If I was forced to choose a personal mantra this would be the one. My dad is also the hardest working man I've ever known which is made easier through his embodiment of this philosophy.

I've had the tremendous opportunity of working closely with several brand owners at varying levels of the cigar industry as well as working on the retail end in nearly all roles. Oneida, Enrique, Carlos and Alex Diez of Reyes Family Cigars are a family with generations of tobacco experience. Carlos has spent more than half of his young life in the industry, most of which at the side of Rolando Reyes Sr, his grandfather, one of the greatest cigar makers in history. It's an honor to be able to work under a roof that stems from those roots. The family takes a very traditional approach to cigars and fine tobacco and I greatly respect that.

Dr. Gaby Kafie, owner of Kafie 1901 Cigars, is the perfect combination of the prior two influences. He possesses a love for both the business and the craft of cigars paired with a respect for the history and traditions of the Reyes family and other tobacco greats that keeps him humble, hungry and studious. Gaby is also a close friend and one of my first in the industry. He takes a very precise approach to business and to education. I can genuinely say I learn from him each day.

When I was still on the retail end of the industry, I had a customer (whom I typically suggested cigars to) hand me a stick that I simply had to try. This particular patron called me "The Cigar Matchmaker." Usually he would tell me how many cigars he wanted for the week and I'd hand him a sampling of brands, blends and vitolas. My success rate is what earned me the nickname. On this day the roles reversed and the cigar I "simply had to try" was the Kafie 1901 Don Fernando Maduro and man was he ever right. I called Dr. Kafie and we spoke while I enjoyed the second half of the Robusto. By then end of the stick and the conversation, I had a new friend and a new addition to my weekly rotation. Gaby was at my shop the following day and within weeks his line was a best seller in the store. All I did was introduce my patrons to the line; the cigars did all the heavy lifting.

Another boutique cigar brand owner and friend, Michael Catalano of Catelli Cigars, was the key to my transition from the retail to the supplier side of the industry. Catelli was a top-selling brand in the store and our friendship was one that was built around sharing a moment with a great cigar. The Catelli line is made at the La Zona factory so I was able to meet the majority of that family as well, one that is pouring over with talented quality people. Michael was the first guy to get behind me when I stated my desire to learn the other side of the business. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to start with a brand I respected.
What have you compromised and what won’t you compromise?

I am not willing to compromise my character nor my personal philosophy.

I do my best to keep a balance in life. I try not to let any one aspect consume all time or energy and I remain conscious of that. Aside from that, I compromise when necessary for my goals and to fulfill my commitments. Small business is one that requires great dedication and the occasional sacrifice, but it pays dividends. I wouldn't choose to be anywhere else.
When is it a failure?

With each failure comes a lesson well learned. To me, the only real failure is when nothing is learned from one's mistakes.
Where are you on your journey and where are you going?

Kap, brother, thank you for this question. This is going on my board in the office and I will be asking myself this very question each morning.

Today, I am just barely at the beginning. My love affair with cigars and fine tobacco is nearing its 20 year anniversary but I've only combined that with my professional career since 2011. During the past four years my passion has grown exponentially. I've learned and achieved much in that time but I am aware that I have almost everything ahead of me and a lifetime to spend perfecting it. I aim to continue to be an integral part of the success and growth of the companies I am tied to and to forge new friendships and partnerships with tobacconists, aficionados and hobbyists alike, for decades to come.
Why do you succeed?

I had the secret decoder ring! I learned two of life's greatest lessons at an early age.

  1. Spend your life doing what you love and everything else will follow.
  2. Treat everyone you meet as if they are a guest at a party in your own home.

It just so happens that the business I intend to spend the rest of my years pursuing is one in which both of these rules greatly apply. Ours is primarily a relationship business and as it should be clear by now, it's one that I love. I spend each day making new friendships and strengthening existing ones.

Cigars are a vehicle and I am fortunate to be driving a Cadillac: smooth, polished, refined and timeless without being flashy, pretentious, or excessive. Small business requires great dedication and persistence. It is easy to celebrate the successes and gains but it's the love for it that carries you through the pitfalls.
Shayna punim.
PLEASE VISIT

Thanks to Mr. Goldberg for his time and thoughtful responses.
Thanks, as always, for reading.

[No, I don't know why I'm typing on this side of the page.]

Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) NBK - Cigar Review

PROLOGUE
Sometimes I don't know what to write under this header.
Sometimes I try real hard to think up something.

THE CIGAR
Black Label Trading Co.
BLK WKS Studio
NBK
6 x 46 Corona Larga
Box-pressed, closed foot
Ecuadorian habano oscuro wrapper
Nicaraguan binder/filler

Sample offering courtesy of James Brown, brand owner
Go like BLK WKS Studio on the Facebook
PRE-LIGHT
I'm starting with hand-feel. Sleek. Amazingly smooth top-leaf. Not a sharp, but a contoured rounded box-press. Exceptional balance. So much so, that it feels light. Out of curiosity, I weigh it on my kitchen scale against a nameless stick of a noticeably bulkier huskier feel -- and they weigh the same. Yes, I do have a lot of time on my hands. Why do you ask?

Complexion is even and a roasted espresso/cocoa bean, containing a lively reddish brown under-hue. Veins and spiders are minimal and smoothed by the pressing. Not a lot of oils up-top, but a nice even sheen and my gut tells me oils are in there. Absolutely beautifully affixed what looks to be a quad-cap. Covered foot hides the tobacco, but I peek and you guessed it -- found Waldo. Color of tobacco is an auburn with a couple of dirty blonde up-ticks. Oils under a matte finish. Medium+ density.

Charmin squeeze test shows an evenly packed overall medium density of lively sponge. I want to say oils are coming up to the surface already, will all my fidgeting. Schnoz notes along the shaft are cereal possibly malt laced chocolate. A very nice chocolate, at that. Some sweet earth compost barnyard stuffs are there, too. Nothing unworldly, but they seem somehow different. Malts. I get a ton of malts and cereal grains in the middle of the cold draw (medium+ resistance) experience. Up-top there is chocolate. Underneath, we'll leave it at earth, but it's complex and we shall perhaps delve later if it keeps up.

I'm about to light the thing and I gasp. Why, I almost forgot to describe the band. Gold on black slightly embossed. Little bit like a WWE tshirt design.

LIGHT
9:05am
Sweetened hazelnut coffee and a pile of burning leaves and sticks is the aroma I get off toasting the foot. Even for a closed foot, it takes a good bit of time to get going. Sweet earth comes first off the initial hot pull. There is a dry compost thing going on in it. Joining that as a primary, is chocolate a dark Dove Bar. From the secondary, a malt note reaches up to the Dove. Also, there are some cereal grains and other smatterings of malts. At end of draw and onto finish is that sweet hazelnut coffee vibe. Finish is a sweet earth swirled with maltier on the end chocolate. Medium leg length. Second hot pull is retro-haled to an even more complex earth I'm beginning to track on side-notes in hand-scrawled chicken-scratch. Third hot pull is on a tick of a tighter drawer and a new musky note is added to the earth. 

OK. Earth ain't a primary or secondary note -- it's a very high and complex backing that the other notes grow from like a garden. This isn't a rasslin' tshirt. It's an oil painting. Sweet spices sprout from the musk which sprouts from the garden not dour.

Ash is 95/5 Salt/pepper, a good deal of flake off not much build up yet, and precariously cracked along a wide ladder rung. I lay my schmatta accross my lap. Burn is slow, its line walking slowly after even, not chasing it. Lotsa medium density white smoke that is light enough to swirl all pretty-like. Early profile is a medium+. Strength is a mild+ thus far. Construction holds well against the burn. Draw has settled on a medium+ but a high one.
ACT I
This is a relatively new stick, this NBK. With a reputation already, for being wildly complex. It is. It eases my understanding to envision it still as that garden. See? Now apple notes, dried, grow. I feel like I'm not getting as much smoke into my smoke-hole as I'd like, but the flavors keep coming. And with almost each new one, a new malt reaction once they poke through the good earth. Lots of thickening smoke off the foot and all around. Floral leather room-note, but it's already changed to pick up more tobacco and cereal. 

Gourmet kitchen spices -- mayhaps multiple gourmet kitchens or at least, more than a few dishes. The earth is so complex of a note because it foretells the coming of soon-to-sprout flavors and vibes. Dried apple, Tex-Mex seasoning pouch, leather, hazelnuts, coffee, chocolate, black pepper, green pepper, oy vey. 

"I think I tasted egg and cinnamon..." Tyrone Biggums

James Brown Of Black Label Trading Co. opened this line to be a "Playground." I message him that he opened a Community Garden. A wicked one.

At the end of the opening act, ash dumps an inch out-side of my $0.99 Walmart tray, as I was headed that way with it. Coarse powder. Newer ash is even brighter white. Burn continues to saunter toward even. Draw is opened to a medium. Smoke increases all about. Medium + on the profile still, strength is up a tick to medium. We're amping up now as we approach --

ACT II
It's not just an oil painting. It's a time lapsed photo of one. Of a garden blooming. Sorry I keep stating that, but it's very vivid. Too, it helps me grasp what the heck is going on, or I'd be fercockt or at least bissell meshuga. With all this wicked garden evil, the palate remains a clean angelic one. I dab the wet cap on my white schmatta and there is nary a trace of juices. Mouth-feel is perfectly moist and alive sans lingering tingle. Woody now, from a fruit tree.

I want to keep puffing, as almost each pull is a new or morphed note, but I let it set a couple of minutes as a test. It's ready to go full-out off that rest. Nicely done. Burn is even now, ash, the same complexion but of a smoother texture.

Fruitier now, as the orchard bears. It's invigorating to the point of being unsettling. Erratic. Bursting. I'm watching the time lapsed painting while high as a damned kite. I want to hold the top of my head down, so it doesn't pop off, allowing a rainbow and birds to spring forth. I mean, how would I ever again find a hat that fit?

I am menaced by thoughts of a rainbow. I believe that succinctly describes my experience with this NBK. Fruit Loops? Ash dumps, same as prior. Cinnamon. Zest of citrus. Piss. Sweet grass and wheat retro-hale. Lime on the mouth-feel. Flint. Herbs. All mentioned flavors are fleeting and recurring. I am only at the half.

Construction softens and the box rounds further. Line is a razor. Strength is testing the boundaries of medium+. There is a slight catch in the throat now. I cough up a honeysuckle blossom. Gather my aplomb. How pretty. Very earthy now, fresh topsoil? Yes. All laid out and seeded (Hashem, help me) for the final act...

ACT III
Seasoned woods tingle the palate with a dash of finely ground black pepper and fresh green belle. Lemon oil is balanced by molasses. Ah, balance. I can't hang my hat on it though, because rainbows and birds will escape if I take off said hat. Plus: fleeting.

Earth is nutty now. Spices are back to Tex-Mex. Seasoned wood hangs around, settling to the earth. Settling. Smoke pours a bit less. Burn slows. A charcoal vibe hits. I have used up all my words. Tex-Mex mutes a tick or two, allowing more chocolate -- no -- cocoa powder now. Citrus and cereal malt retro-hale. We're calming, nonetheless. Room-note is slightly acidic.

As the band approaches, the box is round. Sturdy, still. Palate is somehow clean, and almost startlingly so. It rides off in the same settled manner and I grab my finest of tooth picks.

Profile is -full. Strength stays at a vigorously solid medium+. 
NOTES
Artsy.

When I was a preteen, my dad walked in on me doing something infinitely more off-putting than 'getting to know my own body.' Dad walked in on me singing along with a Eurythmics tune. Whilst dancing.

"Peggy! The boy..." - Hank Hill

It was a lot like that. While smoking this NBK, I was at once my father and me. I came for a cigar, gruff and salt-of-the-earth. I stayed for the drag show, begrudgingly at first. Good times. You see, in my neck of the Brooklyn woods, you just couldn't afford to show that side of yerself. Dad hated, but recognized that. He woulda liked this.

Every time I make one of THESE lists, the next thing I smoke, belongs on it. See ya in a month, NBK.

PAIRINGS
Leave that alone. Ya don't need that. Put that down.

FINAL GRADE
****A-****

LESS SCHTICK MORE STICK
Smooth/Coarse? Mainly variables of smooth
Sweet/Spicy? Yes
Mouth-feel? Perfect. Clean
Strength? Medium+ zetz
Draw? Starts tighter than it ends (giggity). Nice
Burn? Very good. No touch-up. Ash doesn't build
Construction? Marvelous
Primary Note(?)? ALL THEMS. Complex earth throughout

EPILOGUE
10:20am
I don't always know what to write here, either.

OK

  • I began the process today of applying for a passport.
  • I have decided my next dog will be a cat or few.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Review of Recent Grade A Cigar Offerings

"You can't buy hustle." - Oakland A's organization merchandise via the official MLB website.


Manolo Estate Connecticut Gran Fino
Kafie 1901 Cigars Don Fernando Maduro
Kafie 1901 Cigars Sumatra Maduro (+)
La Aurora Preferidos Gold
Dunhill 1907
My Father no.1 (+)
Wilson Adams White Label
Wilson Adams Red Label
CAO Cx2

A very nice-sized list this month, gentlepersons. I'd like to thank you all for reading. Also, I'd like to especially thank all who have sent samples. I am always humbled when a beautiful cigar, or any cigar, is gifted to me. No less, when it is offered up for my little opinion.

HONORABLE MENTION
The Kaplowitz Mishpucha, 'natch.
My wife for her grinning and bearing.

Love abounds.

Thanks again,
Kap

POSTSCRIPT
Check out my good pals and Mishpucha members at www.CigarsCity.com



An Interview w/ Dr. Gaby Kafie of Kafie 1901 Cigars (Audio)


Thanks for yer ears, Gentlepersons. They are appreciated more than you know.

Thanks too, to Gaby Kafie and Anthony Welsch. I remain humbled by everyone's support. Even though I didn't get a lot of help singing. I forgive my mishpucha.

My Kaplowitz Mishpucha.

Manolo Estate Connecticut Gran Fino - Cigar Review

PROLOGUE
It's a bit windy this afternoon, or perhaps I simply tell myself this so I can forgo a wooden match attempt and jump right to using my new Bic. It's grey, and why yes, I do hope to someday be a B&W flick.

THE CIGAR
Manolo Estate
Connecticut Gran Fino
5 x 50 Robusto
Connecticut Shade Broadleaf wrapper
Cuban Criollo 98 binder
Dominican, Nicaraguan, & PA fillers

Sample courtesy of Luis M Gutierrez, Manolo Estate

"The Gran Fino Connecticut offers a perfect composition of fine silky smooth Connecticut-shade broadleaf wrapper with a wonderful blend of Cuban Criollo 98 binder combined with Cuban-seed Dominican-grown Ligero, Nicaraguan Estelí, and Pennsylvania tobacco filler for a full flavored luxurious smoke that is both richly creamy and complex. The Gran Fino has an unmistakably elegant character doused in notes of espresso and honey with a sweet toasty finish and enchanting aroma that is sure to elevate any relaxing occasion to a divine experience of the senses." www.ManoloEstate.com

"It's twue, twue." Lili Von Shtupp
PRE-LIGHT
A foot ribbon! Whoopee. White. Fantastic gold embossed over white main band. I think of wedding bells. Not me wedding the stick, I'm not a Unitarian. But the whole stick ensemble speaks to me of wedding party. We all know what Connie Shade looks like. This one has some green notes coming up through and into a marbling. Minimal veins, even seams. Not a lot, if any, spider veins. Very nicely affixed cap. Nice even sheen over-top. Fair amount of slick for a Connecticut. Tobacco at the foot is mainly chestnut colored with a tick or two of dirty strawberry blonde highlights. Density is a -medium.

Suede hand-feel. Minimal vein impediment. Even balance. Lively oils. Charmin test squeeze is a -medium resistance and evenly so. A bit spongy. Enough oils are on the shaft, that my fingers pick up a trace amount. Schnoz notes from the shaft are a sweet cream honey'd hay. Espresso beans, a small bit of them, are on the foot. They linger in the nose hairs. Some yeast is added to the hay there.

Very honey-filled cold draw on a medium resistance swig. Hay notes pull back to tobacco to show a nice complexity. Very creamy mouth.

LIGHT
4:15pm
Toasting the foot releases an aroma of roasting honey and a sort of nuttiness that seems laced into the tobacco note. Eager toasting and light. First hot pull showcases a zetz of interesting tobacco with nuts and hay and earth within it. Some leather is crisp on the palate and lingering. Mouth is creamy and warm. Honey is there. Second hot one is retro-haled to give some finely ground white pepper which cuts the cream nicely and too balances the honey. Tobacco is richer and more full but still smooth. Third hot draw is all hands on deck and a higher honey note, which brings with it the white pepper and also some leather with a wood chip characteristic. The notes here are clearly delineated, but also a bit closer to one another than many other offerings -- a narrower field, but I'll hit ya with a better analogy soon, gentlepersons.

Ash is bright white with only the tip deviating to near charcoal. Burn-line is settling and shows a -medium thickness. Draw has picked up some tension and sits at a medium+, right in my preferred wheel-house. Nice tingle on the tongue. Nice sweet palate. Nice creamy mouth-feel. 
ACT I
The toastiness comes in now and is a high backing note straight through to the finish. I mentioned a better analogy, and bear with me. Many to most offerings see their flavors rise from, or ride along, their backing notes. I feel these notes cascading as a waterfall, onto the toast backing. They fall altogether, and hence a more narrow scope. There is a definite locked-step movement in the flavors. A march -- or a aforementioned cascading waterfall. Gravity pulling uniformly down. There's a calm, too. 

Those notes are leather, white pepper, honey, tobacco (nutty hay), cream. Yes, in that order. They don't do anything confusing like switch places or whatnot. The ash is a light grey to darkish one, and a tad flaky, but none fall, mainly because I roll off in advance. I skillfully position my schmatta...

Construction softens a tick ahead of the char. Smoke out-put is zaftik white sweetness with a complex tobacco note. It smells and looks classy, this Manolo Estate. Burn evens to straight. -Medium line. Nuttiness in tobacco is a peanut thing and somewhat of a coconut rises from wood chips. It smokes a bit on the quick side.

I roll the ash off at an inch and while the exterior shows some flake, inside is cool oil density. Nice mouth-feel of tingly toasted creaminess. Flavors keep cascading as ever. Ceasing, is the softening of the pack. Smoke is smoky and voluptuously full and white. Gets into my smoke-hole in an impeccably uniformed manner. Leather is suede on its other side. Really a pretty smoke, with a nice zetz, to boot. The honey is really humming now as the stage is set for

ACT II
A milkiness comes in now, which I discuss in bucolically profound ways in my most recent Sabbath Smoker. It stems in an interesting way from the toasting cream. Usually you get oils there, this -- milk. A heavy whipping cream. Toast firms up below. I almost think of my mom's toasted Wonder bread schmeared with cream cheese and sprinkled with cinnamon. Yeah. 

The cascade slows a bit, as does the burn. Shhhhh... I press my fingers to your lips and say, "Hold me." The transition is a calming one. Notes don't dull, they slow. Sweetness soars but the tingle of white pepper and bracing of leather are not too far below. Peanuts highlight the tobacco note. 

Ash whitens. Mom's sandwich. Great mouth-feel. Some cinnamon finds the white pepper and the tingle amps up warmly and nicely. A medium+ profile and -medium strength zetz.  Coconut is definitely there, I was speaking of that earlier today in conversation. I had this Manolo Estate in mind, you. It's especially on a retro-hale finish after the cinnamon then white pepper. The blending is genius here, what the Connie doth doeth with the Criollo.

ACT III
Ah, the final act of our meditation. I'm already lamenting the curtain fall. A note: (agin) the ash is a bit precarious, so keep that in mind, and a schmatta in yer lap. Toasting roasting stops. Construction holds fast. Flavors are unchanged. Some might see this as a fault, no dazzling metamorphosis of notes, but if the note is well played -- keep playing. This particular one fits me just right. I well think of it as worth trying on for size, gentlepersons.

Retro-hale sharpens a tick now, and is not necessary. The coconuts are on a simple pull and also some macadamia vibe. A lovely offering from Manolo Estate, this Connecticut Gran Fino. Just lovely. Now if you'll excuse the heck outta me, I'll take my leave and grab a toothpick as I does.

Through the band, there is an increase in cinnamon spice and thinning of creams. Very clean outtro. 
PAIRINGS
Whatcha got?

FINAL GRADE
****A-****

LESS SCHTICK MORE STICK
Smooth/Coarse? Smooth
Sweet/Spicy? Sweet tingle
Mouth-feel? Creamy with a tingle
Strength? -Medium. 3/3 medium
Draw? Smooth with a singular kind alteration
Burn? Wavers in spots. No re-touch
Construction? Fine
Primary Note(?)? Creams. White pepper. Pale nuts.

EPILOGUE
5:40pm
I do love Ruby Vondella, my mini Dachshund. I do not, however, love dogs. In my carport/HQ, as I type this, a cat is on my desk and another is eating from its bowl slightly off to the side on the concrete below. It's quite nice. I do think cats breed a great deal more sanity into all situations than do dogs. Don't tell ruby I said that.

Do, try a Manolo Estate offering. All three are dee-lish, gentlepersons. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Evil Genius White Chapel - Cigar Review

PROLOGUE
I'm fresh off the phone as I type this in my Carport/HQ, with Mr. Kevin Sirman, Cigar Rights of America Ambassador and host of the upcoming Cars Bars & Cigars: America's Herf Party. If yer in that area, gentlepersons, or have a bit of the ol' wanderlust, make sure to ink the date into yer calendar. If you happen to be a brand, feel free to hit him up.

And now -

THE CIGAR
Evil Genius Cigars
White Chapel
3 1/2 x 42 Petite Robusto
Habano wrapper
Ecuador Sumatra binder
Dominican Republic & Lancaster, PA fillers

Sample courtesy of Alex Hirsch, brand owner
PRE-LIGHT
Minimalist white label glossy with bright gold border and insignia. Nice quality. Nuff. Stick underneath is a milk chocolate thing with a lively red/yellow undertone. Complexion up-top is not entirely even but too not egregiously so. Lots of non-threatening vein action, except for on in the 2&3/3 that has a thick spine, although it is running smoothly up the barrel, direction wise. Seams are tight, mainly even, and a tad rough-hewn in appearance. Cap has a couple of lifts in it. Foot tobacco looks mainly monochromatic with slight variances on dark auburn and is packed to a medium+ density. There is a pin-hole in the top-leaf in the 1/3.

Hand-feel is a sinewy and tough lil buger. Charmin test squeeze reveals there is a slight soft-spot at the onset of 3/3 but as a whole, I'm fidgeting about a good medium+ packed density stick in my mitt. Kinda feels neat in the hand; I love the smaller formats. Nice weight, nice balance. Schnoz test is a very pungent peanut from the shaft. Some sharp leather is there, too. As is a trace of finely ground white pepper. Quite a tobacco zetz, too. Lotsa tobacco zetz at the foot. More peanuts, leather notes. Some wood.

Nibbling off the cap I get, on a nice smooth medium draw, some thin notes of peanuts, white pepper, a sweet dry earth, and crisp leather. Cold draw notes thicken on a couple of more pulls; but stay almost airy as a cold finish.

LIGHT
11am
Is sharp, an aroma note? That's what I get on the foot toasting. First hot pull is a sharp clean spice note that so high up, I can't reach it. It singes my throat a tad. As it descends, I get peanut butter on white toast -- but not from it. Mouth-feel is creamy with a thin tingle. Secondary notes are a very nice earthy leather. I want to say jalapeno juice, but it's not a flavor, it's a vibe and mouth-feel -- very sharp, hot, high. This thing packs a wallop. Second hot pull is peanut butter on the immediate draw and then comes the liquid hot spice to wash it away. Wait...wait...wait... earthy leather. Leathery earth. A breadiness that wavers from dough to toast. White pepper. Long legs on the finish which is mainly clean dirt and tobacco, longer mouth-feel. CLEAN. Like I cleaned under my nails with a stick of dynamite. Notice I did not retro-hale the second hot pull as I normally do. Yeah. Notice that. Third hot pull is unchanged.

Ash is pepper/salt or maybe 50/50. Burn-line is a ribbon off an outdoor match-light. Medium thick and thinning. Strength is already felt. My hair is pulsating under my cabbie hat. Remaining profile is a medium for now. Smoke out-put is average to a bit thin. Blue/grey hue'd. Packing holds well. Draw is a consistent medium.
ACT I
There's a new cedar in the middle. It joins white pepper and leather -- in that order. Primary note of the tobacco version of a Mariah Carey screech lands on the mouth and is finding more Jiff there. Some hard wood traces are underneath. A sweet hay note. The primary is so high, it's hard to look so far down. I feel like I'm watching a bird and tripping on cracks in the sidewalk.

Burn is a bit off, we shall check its self-correcting tendencies. Smoke out-put has thickened, then increased. Strength ticks up to an easy full. Profile lags back at a medium still, but fleshing out. Sweetness is gaining. As is a new cinnamon which is on-board from draw through finish -- a very clear and nice cinnamon, sans red spice accompaniment. Ash is a bit flaky.

That high note has come down a tick, as has the backing solidified in wood chips and hay strewn earth. Very clean dirt. In-between is that cinnamon, peanut butter, and an ebb and flow of spiced cedar -- PB is schmeared on white toast now. I'm getting used to the strength, which is full, but not a ball and chain. I unfold a new schmatta for the occasion.

That high-note was/is interesting, it was a lot of the middle notes, stretching on the back of a liquid heat which is, again, subduing. I retouch the light and it willingly accepts my correction. Ash is same complexion as prior, and while flaky and forming in wide ladder rungs, too seems quite dense and solid. Medium+ profile now. Packaging loosens all down the shaft, more so about 3/4" from char. Very thick smoke now. White. I roll off about an inch of course powder and oily ash with nice density. There's a bit of warmth to its feel. Hand-feel of the stick has oiled and feels quite nice. Lively.

Burn continues on a ribbon, but stays mainly even. Room-note is a good bit of course ground harsh white pepper and earthy tobacco. Flavors sharpen and strength is to a full+ as I run, don't walk toward the bag of sugar on my kitchen counter. I'm starting to fee challenged, and my subjective philosophy is that a smoke should not challenge. This White Chapel has an altogether different philosophical bent. Its foot-smoke is now rather acidic. I gather my aplomb.

As I gathered said aplomb, I allowed the stick to sit in my Walmart ashtray ($0.99) for a good couple minutes, smoke poured the entire time. Nice construction, that. Very thin flavors now, watered on the back of that returning high-note. Sweeter, as well. There's a new hint of floral notes as the curtain falls on the opening act.

Note that due to its size, this is a two act play.

Softening of the pack has ceased and all else is unchanged.

ACT II
This White Chapel attacks with nic bombs from the air, not with clubs on the ground. It feels quite tactical, really. There was a throat catch earlier, which is now smooth. Actually, it's indeed a smooth sweet smoker, this Evil Genius offering -- but to say that, one must stress it's a secondary characteristic to very high thin notes and a nicotine drubbing.

Peanut butter now ends dried in a seasoned wooden bowl. Good luck cleaning the dishes, there. White pepper ramps up, and stays thee, but nicens to a thinner grinding and toasts a tad. Bread and toast leave. Cinnamon drops a notch. Strength is FULL+ Profile backs down to medium on some leaving notes and a lessening of creaminess. Tingly mouth-feel doth tingle all the moreth. Far underneath, but still quite high, is a green note. Then earthinesses.

Burn is born to be wild, but self-corrects quickly like a bad boy with a heavy conscious. Throat catch returns in a big way. The white pepper seems unsettled. As does the seasoned wood lend to this. Liquid heat pours out all over the dang place, gentlepersons. I ain't cleaning that up. But if I were, I'd wear protective clothing. It now is a chemical vibe. Remaining flavors are unaffected by this -- so there's that. Floral note is very nice. A honeysuckle.

Draw remains even, but there's a wavering in the amount of smoke-to-smoke-hole. There's a wispy pull here and there. Packing actually firms a tick. Seems to almost want to go out on occasion. I'd love to go out -- I never go anywhere. I'm too pretty to be home all the time.

A nicer and warmer cinnamon re-emerges now. It does neat stuffs with the honeysuckle. We're a tick smoother again as far as white peppers, have been for a bit. As the band approaches, the White Chapel is getting more gentlemanly.

Construction has held since its latest improvement and the smoke-hole filling has leveled. All of a sudden, as the band is at hand, the ash darkens and the liquid high hot one solidifies into jalapeno, and a buncha the stuff. Clears out the ol' sinuses and then some, settles under my tongue in a menacing fashion, and into my throat. Oy vey. What a ride.
NOTES
Very, very bold -- but not without nuance or at least some tender notes. There is a definite lack of balance in the profile, but I'm thinking that was not reached in error. If you're looking to get a buzz, but don't want to be dragged through the murk and mire and muck -- this one is for you. 

Tell the birdies I said shalom.

PAIRINGS
Cola. Espresso, perhaps a latte. Cappuccino. Fire extinguisher. Parachute.

FINAL GRADE
****B****

LESS SCHTICK MORE STICK
Smooth/Coarse? Smooth, but not always easy
Sweet/Spicy? Spicy
Mouth-feel? Sharply clean
Strength? 10 on my meaningless scale of 10
Draw? Even with at time uneven results
Burn? Some issues, mainly self-correcting
Construction? Good
Primary Note(?)? *spoiler alert* (although I saw it coming) Jalapeno. Peanut butter

EPILOGUE
Just shy of high noon

This cigar puts the "high" in "high noon." Also noon rhymes with swoon. And as an aside, purple is a very word. have a great day, gentlepersons. Thanks for reading. Before ya go, which one of you wants to help me back into my chair?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Interview w/ Emma Viktorsson of Las Cumbres Tabaco

Photo: Ultimate Cigar Party
Kaplowitz: I must say that I love the informative nature of your Cigar Fantasia blog, and truly appreciate your work therein. In a recent post, you touched on the subject of the mainly American market and its longing for what I call obese ring gauges (60+ although I personally prefer to stay under 50). Specifically there and also generally, how do you balance giving the market its demands with giving it what you feel is correct? In other words, I am asking you the terribly loaded question of, “Is the customer always right?”

Emma Viktorsson: First of all, thank you so much for your feedback on my blog! It is indeed not a classical blog and since we own our own cigar-company I don´t do reviews, reviews should be reserved for unbiased cigar-smokers. Yet still Cigar Fantasia is in fact an unbiased blog and as you point out, informative. I am a firm believer in education before opinions and before anything else really… I haven´t had the time to write lately for a while now and I only post something after deep research and facts have been double-checked…

Now to touch the subject you bring up in regards to large ring gauges. Premium Cigars is a premium consumption product and will always have trends come and go, new trends, old trends renewing… It truly is an exciting field. This growth and fluctuations in trends was happening before social media was a large part of life and work, and now with fast-flowing social media, trends and opinion quickly traveling, they take on a stronger structure in taste and demand.

Large ring gauges was indeed one of these obvious trends. Today it already starts to mellow and more “classic” ring gauges (from a classic 42 Corona to a Robusto and max a 54 Toro) start to regain their center-stage. (My personal favorites are 38 Lancero and classic 42 Corona up to a max classic 50 Robusto).

So how do we balance that out?

For Señorial Cigars (both classic and Maduro) we decided a 60 ring gauge is a must. It is not typically the one that Jose smokes, and even though this blend works great in this size and although it is produced with great balance, I personally don´t smoke it, I don´t enjoy the feel of it either – this a completely 100% subjective note from my personal preference, NOT right or wrong.

For Freyja cigars I had decided right away that I will not make a 60 ring gauge in my original launch – why? Opposed to Señorial which comes after years and decades of its blender, Jose Blanco, Freyja is a first: my first. Therefore I wanted to be honest in a way that I represent my brand and my brand represents me. Would some costumers have preferred to have a larger ring gauge in the choices of Freyja? For sure! But nobody has actually asked me for one, I think that Freyja spoke for herself so to speak. It was an honest marketing decision and so far works great.

Nonetheless there is a Toro: Thor's Toro, which is also large for me but a must for the market and respect for consumers, and in my marketing geeky mind, as a Viking name a Toro, 54 ring gauge, fits right in!

So as you ask: “Is the customer always right?” I say YES. However, there a small “No” as well:

YES: The customer knows what he wants and reaches for us and We work FOR the customer! Definitely not the other way around. This is a general fact for all types of businesses in my opinion.

My small “No:” In some cases, mostly in niche cases I would say a small humble “no” may apply. And we are most definitely in a niche business. It feels big in the sense that the American cigar market is truly big, yet still, premium 100% tobacco cigars alone is niche.

This small “no” is because of lack of education in the matter and therefore lack in knowledge. Hence my blog Cigar Fantasia: First learn at least some good TRUE basics about given product and THEN choose your taste and demand.

Finally, as seen in my answer: YES The Customer is Always Right!

We work for our customer and to please him/her. And no matter how educated or not each customer is I make sure to go through all the research and listening needed to please the smoker. Then depending on each brand and meaning of thereof I then balance the trend out with my preference or I manage to provide a bit of everything.

Furthermore on a side-note: when I was working for Swedish Match and cigars ranged from everything from HLT (Homogenized Tobacco Leaf/not 100% tobacco) cigarillos all the way up to Premium hand-made, then for most products, customer was king.

Kap: Please allow me to follow a loaded question with a vague one: Your hubby (Jose Blanco) has credited you with naming, designing, and marketing the Las Cumbres Tabaco label. What is your vision? Looking ahead, what do you see down the road, in figure, a decade?

E.V.: It is true, I did, but I don't blurt it out as obviously as Jose does about me, I stay humble… But Jose is in fact truly, deeply and passionately a tobacco-man and a sales-man! I personally LOVE everything that touches marketing: the Research – research of product, market, demand, pricing, trends etc… Then what followed was naming, then designing which is also lots of fun for me, and finally pricing… We usually have decided a basic pricing-range, premium pricing so to speak but still stay in a sweet spot meaning not go too high either… Due to the premium aged tobaccos we use, we could, but prefer to stay within our typical range of 7 to 11 RSVP.

My vision was originally with Las Lumbres Tabaco and Señorial to represent Jose Blanco. This is, after decades of working for other premium cigar companies (La Aurora and Joya de Nicaragua) his very first own cigar. I believe the name Señorial and the classic design suits Jose, represents him well, he is truly traditional in tobacco.

I love art and decided to use real oil-paintings made for our brands. The first one being the Señorial painting made by my father's wife from Sofia, Bulgaria.

Jose made sure to use high quality aged tobaccos and create a flavorful blend with a body of medium to full. Furthermore the cigars are made at Jose´s cousin Jochy Blanco at his factory, Tabacalera Palma which was founded by Jochi's father, Jose's uncle, Arnaldo Blanco.

All together it is a classic “Boutique brand” and “Boutique company.”

Jose and I were completely unanimous to staying “classic” Boutique in the sense that we don´t sell through the big five of the internet. We support B&M and in the same time respect our brand and all art behind it by only selling through B&M and internet through stores or such, and although we keep our pricing within the sweet spot I mentioned we always make sure that stores that sell on internet sell for retail-price!

I worked on Freyja, naming and design, to this time represent me. Freyja is for me a bridge from Scandinavia (as I am from Sweden) to Latin America, the tobacco-lands. Freyja is also more modern and more “fun” as I keep it all in the Viking theme with real names and history-studies! Well for those who find that “fun” lol. Yet still I keep this brand somewhat classic as well since I am also a truly traditional when it comes to tobacco. Freyja is a balance of all this which represents me as a person well.

It is all under the umbrella of Las Cumbres Tabaco which as a name also has personal meaning to us.

I want it all to “FIT.”

Also, all Las Cumbres Tabaco cigars are Internationally available. We are a small private niche premium company yet we still produce International brands.

With both Jose and my International contacts combined we now cover about eight countries internationally and this year will reach over 10 International markets and keep growing in that direction.

I always lived Internationally, majored in International Business and worked Internationally and I respect immensely all cultures, demands and potential… it is how I grew up and always lived and this mindset is a definite must in our company and already tinted on our business and way of working.

We are a classic small and private premium cigar company with passion in blending and designing with a larger International vision.

Your blend Freyja, Las Crumbres’ second brand after its inaugural Senorial offering, is gaining wider and wider recognition and acclaim. What was your mindset in following on the heels of Senorial? Was there a grand scheme of sorts, which you envisioned this and future openings to have in common as far as theme, or did you ‘simply’ want to offer the best cigar you could? Is there a Las Cumbres profile characteristic which all blends will share?

Freyja cigars were not planned at all. I had been asked here and there "Wouldn't you like to be the face of a brand?” and so on… But I was never interested in that. I love business as a whole, I love marketing, and I am a very honest open person and importantly in this case I am extremely demanding of myself; so there was no way I would be the face of something I had not created myself. Yet more and more people asked for something with me attached to the cigar somehow, and even one of our reps said to Jose, in front of me: “Jose, people are asking, you should create a blend for Emma.” and I immediately said NO. But this time it got me thinking.
During my career I made sure to get proper tobacco-education as deeply and thoroughly as possible… And blending was part of it at the end and after at least seven years in the industry.

When I blended Freyja I was 10 years into the industry (that was last year). The name and everything else came after I had a good blend to be worked on for a great final product. If I would not have managed to work on a blend that works, I would not have a brand now.

I did this secretly… nobody knew what was going on in my mind and the notes I was making… I took my blending notes to Tabacalera Palma's production manager, Geraldo Perez who works on the floor, and it was not before his approval of my original blend that I finally told Jose and Jochy Blanco what I was doing in the factory. Geraldo and I brought in a couple of blends, rolled and ready (of course not aged yet) to Jochy's office and when Jose and Jochy loved it they asked what it was, and I told them: “It´s my first blend.” That was such an exciting moment!!!

It was instantly approved and the name Freyja was already in my mind, decided. Even though I say that the name came after the blend, my mind works in many directions and I had my name tucked safely in the back of my mind.

Then came history-learning and re-learning, it was so much fun!!! I was blending, designing, studying… and all in passionate fields: premium tobacco, art and Viking-history and Norse legends!!! The art-work was a painting made for Freyja by a good friend of mine from Skopje, Macedonia, Jana Jovanova (the painting is still there in her house). That was so much fun! I wanted to get in all important symbolism in the art and make it beautiful and fierce and Jana's style is totally what I love (I have her other art at home on my walls).

The history was mostly taught to me by my dear family friend Danilo Popovski who was at the time a 6-month intern with us, living with us in Santiago.

So the themes: Jose's Señorial and my Freyja are separate themes, but have Art, oil-painting in common, which is a bit of a signature in my love for art, and they are hence both under Las Cumbres Tabaco but as separate brands.

The blending-style is separate as well. And the reason I did not inform Jose or Jochy about me trying on blending myself was that I wanted to discover my own personal style and see if I could blend at all!

Pricing-wise they are very similar but the blends and profiles are so different that the choice between different Las Cumbres cigars are not based on price but on taste.

Still though, to answer your last question here: not purposely so, but yes, there is a characteristic that all Las Cumbres blends share – both Jose and I always prefer to put flavor before strength but we still like a cigar to be medium or above medium up to full bodied in strength… But this does not mean that they will be similar, there are so many different profiles within the character “flavorful and medium to full bodied” and so on… So yes and no.

We definitely stick to a certain character altogether though as quality, style, design and how we do business.

I gotta ask: what was it like to launch a brand under such a well-known and already buzz-worthy label like Las Cumbres, at an event like the 2015 IPCPR show? It strikes me as the type of thing that is far more stressful than enjoyable.

Thank you for calling Las Cumbres well-known and buzz-worthy already! Las Cumbres Tabaco doesn´t have two years yet so that means a lot, thank you!

Well, Las Cumbres Tabaco is both Jose's and my company, we built it together… as seen in the first question. I came up with the marketing for Señorial first, and then we decided to not call our company “Señorial” in case we would create more brand-names of cigars so that nothing in the future would fall under the umbrella of an actual cigar. Although, as seen in the second question, Freyja, or any cigar of mine was not yet planned, this decision to have a different company-name turned out to be the right decision.

So to be honest this question was never an issue. It is only natural that my brand would be under our company that we built together. Basically, Las Cumbres Tabaco with Señorial and Freyja cigars are Jose's and mine, while Señorial is Jose´s personal cigar and Freyja is my personal one. It is all natural.

The launch went fantastic! I felt so honored and touched by the response! It was also the right time for me… Even though I always stayed behind the scenes I was still very forward in promoting Jose before I created my own.

Freyja was released by Cigar Aficionado and yes, launched at the IPCPR – I like to take my time and do it right, and “waiting” for the IPCPR turned out best anyway to assure more than 90 days aging of the cigars, the way we like it.

Nonetheless, Freyja was in fact launched before the IPCPR in Spring in Sweden: this was a personally meaningful and right thing to do. The Scandinavian market has shown so excited, supportive and even loving and proud! They also touched me deeply and continue to do so. At the IPCPR the news that Americans were in fact second this time was taken by everyone I saw in a very positive way, it was completely understood that this Norse Goddess would launch in her home-land first… this is part of cigar-romance which is a huge thing for me: passion.

To be honest, this question was indeed never an issue. I was ready, I took my time, did it slowly and steadily after our company just started to stand on its own feet…

But of course, Jose Blanco is a big name in the industry and there is a challenge for me obviously, but not too hard, customers are very respectful and open to me. I feel extremely honored and grateful to all customers and smokers.

You have truly grown up in this business, being in and around it, in nearly all its aspects, since the age of eight. I’ll ask you the somewhat tricky questions of what has changed in our industry -- for the worst AND for the best, during your time in it.

This truly is a tricky question, especially for me since I assume you mean mainly on the US market. I only got to experience the American market since I left Swedish Match and joined Jose Blanco when he was just starting as Senior VP for Joya de Nicaragua, which was in 2011. Before that I had always only worked in Eastern Europe, sometimes touching Western Europe.

I started in this industry in 2005, which was already long past the US cigar-boom of the 90's (during which I was still in middle- and high-school in Hungary).

So one of the biggest changes was the 90´s boom and past the boom, but this was hence long before my start. Since my start in 2005, there have been many changes where I was working in Eastern Europe. In slightly different paces depending on the country, this area of over 10 countries (I personally had 9), was growing in all sorts of directions: politically, economically, fluctuations in smoking laws… But in premium cigars, in our specific niche, each and every market was growing and fast. What was interesting is that the trends and taste was more similar to the American ones, as if they “jumped over” Western Europe (hence taste-wise). Western Europe was experiencing heavily stricter laws depending on the country, but quite unanimously looking at their smoking-laws now.

Then social media became a huge part of the premium cigar lifestyle and I have lately seen the trends to be more and more similar all over Europe and North America as a whole.

The “Cuban-only” preference, uneducated preference, in Europe as a whole was extremely present when I started in 2005 and I took on my first task to learn as much as possible and spread unbiased education. A smoker may prefer to smoke “Only Cubans” or “Only Dominicans” or “Only Nicaraguans” but hopefully that taste and somewhat narrow mind in taste should be after being properly educated. If those Extreme types of preferences occur after proper education and knowledge then it is not anymore “narrow minded,” then it truly becomes a valid personal opinion.

Yet, thank goodness, as education has spread more and more the past 10+ years, preference and acceptance of all sorts of origins of Premium Cigars are tested and appreciated today.

In the US I see more and more knowledge in premium cigars is being sought after which is great!

The smoking laws and threats from the FDA are scaring American cigar-lovers and it is amazing how they all stick together and try to help somehow! I find it beautiful, it shows how this family is expanding as such! We will see what future changes (or not) will be… but the family is expanding and knowledge is growing.

Still I'd like to make one final point about social media: it has made tremendous impact both in the US and Internationally through all these changes, the good and the bad… And while education and knowledge grow through social media, SO do Misconception! So it is important to choose what to read, watch and believe… We are in an exciting industry and changes will continue. I personally see the overall Good in that: Growth!

Finally, at your Cigar Fantasia blog, you state “I wish to be a part of helping put more light on what’s true, what’s real, and what’s merely perception or misconception.” Tell me then: in a tweet-worthy 140 characters or less (I won’t count too hard) what should EVERYONE know?
This is the hardest question of all!!! Haha! There is so much to know! (note: this did not count into the 140 characters right? )

I tested it in Twitter without posting hehe In character-cheating Twitter-spelling lol.

Here it comes:

There´s never enough2know abt cigars!If u know what u LIKE u lrdy know A LOT!Choose wisely wat u read & believe&its source.Feel the passion!

Thanks, as always Dear Reader, for reading. Another big thanks to Emma Viktorsson for her time.

Please visit Ms. Viktorsson's Cigar Fantasia blog

Evil Genius Time Machine - Cigar Review

PROLOGUE
Last night on Radio Herf, We hosted the legendary Jose Blanco.
I just wanted to say that. Also here is a link to that herf.

Well, thanks for poppin' by my lil spot on the www and I sure hope, gentlepersons, to see yous again real soo -- Oh. I'd almost forgotten --

THE CIGAR

Evil Genius Cigars
Time Machine
6 x 50 Toro
Nicaraguan Habano wrapper
Nicaraguan Corojo binder
Cameroon & Dominican Republic fillers

Sample courtesy of Alex Hirsch, brand owner.
PRE-LIGHT
Since I've taken as of late to addressing bands, I shall begin there. "Hell-ooo, band!" Thanks for coming out gentlepersons, tip yer waitress on the way out, and remember: I'll be playing here all weAk. The band. Binary science-like things on embossed monochromatic black and then a silver overlay of the logo. Kinda neat with just the right amount of camp, if that's yer thing and this is the place. Secondary band is black, silver-bordered, and reads TIME MACHINE in white 80s-90s sci-fi movie font. There's also the name repeated in a grey font on the background. There ya go, a whole dang paragraph of potentially useless information.

Removing band and its second VERY carefully, as the top-leaf seems delicate, I can confirm an even complexion of cream-splooshed coffee with a goldenrod under-hue and whispered hint of caramel. There's a trace of espresso bean marbling throughout and a thin oil sheen distributed evenly over-top. Minimal veins. Seams are tight but hiccup on occasion. Foot tobacco is mainly auburn with ticks up to dirty blonde, and down to near brunette. Seems packed to a medium density with a single looser tick. Cap has a vein and a lifted notch, no bigs.

Hand-feel is a dry and somewhat delicate thing. Balance is nice, a smallish Toro feat. There's almost a tooth in the 1/3 but it feels mainly dry. (My humi levels are fine, thanks for asking.) One very thin vein surprisingly impedes the hand with a sharpness. Charmin testing reveals an overall rather firm density which begins at the foot in a medium and makes its way to the cap, hardening up to a full. Most of the shaft is a medium +, a quite sturdy one at that. I'm noticing the stick feels a tad light in my hands.

Lifting stick to schnoz, a very heady aroma image of a heavy rain in a field. A tree. A saddle under it. Wet. Warm, too. A summer rain. Very earthy tobacco is on the foot schnoz. Very damp, rich, and sweet. Sweet seems to be off of a fruity vibe. I Old Timer off the cap. Delicate proposition. Some sweetly spiced cedar on the cold draw. Crisp hay undertones. Medium+ draw resistance, nice and smooth. Cold finish is a fruit sweetened, seasoned creamy cedar. Say that five times fast.

"That five times fast."

LIGHT
9:25am
A hickory aroma, sweetened by the seasoned sweet creamy cedar (which I'm starting to dig). Some leather underneath it all. A sort of gently rugged affair.

First hot pull is a very rich earth bordering on compost and I almost wanna say there's a fungus among us. Some muted sweet spices. Secondary notes seem clamoring for the back-up slots, not striving to star. Cedar, leather, wet hardwood, fruity vibe. A separate creaminess sets in on the finish now and it stretches its legs to a robust medium+ length. Second hot one is retro-haled and adds some dusty white pepper, and heightens the red sweet spices. Those then fall from palate to tongue and tingle nicely. Hardwood crisps and almost seems ready to head to the door -- as if it gathered all its stuff in a huff. Cedar is developing well. There's a definite fungal note on the end of the finish now. I hope it finds the creamy mouth-feel. I always wanted to describe a cigar note as Cream of Mushroom. Third hot pull is more o' the same and we are off to the races.

I'm not convinced I caught the burn well with an outdoor wooden match lighting, so I'll retouch and won't reflect on the grading. I will say that the spot where I retouched was right at a loosened seam. Smoke out-put is medium+, room-note is a sweet moist tobacco. Draw is a robust medium+ tension. Ash is light grey to charcoal 80/20, respectively. Burn is still wonked and its line is thick. Mouth-feel is a fruit sweetened creaminess and medium body. Flavors are -medium thus far, and strength hasn't yet moved the dial.
ACT I
Hickory/hardwoods leave. Fungal composted earth is primary and all secondary is a sort of marrying of the cedar and vague fruit impression. Cedar continues to be interesting in its soft creamy seasoned manner. Backing is a struggling at times leather. Finish is a nice sweetness you can make tingle by an occasional retro-hale.

Ash dumps shy of an inch, before I even get out my schmatta. Evil, sure -- the Genius is perhaps yet to come. I do not recall the previous offering feeling so delicate as to its top-leaf. I can hear it whine at almost each pull. Burn strays. I look at the hot-spot and: tunneling. I place it in my $0.99 Walmart ashtray. I hear it crackle. The stick, not the tray.

Very comfy stogie finish to mouth-feel. As I watch, the burn-line is thinning and evening out. A familiar bum walks by my house and yells: "There's my writer!" I bite my tongue against replying: "There's my vagrant!"

I draw slow. Then slow and long. Retouch an unlit bit. Ash is very white now. Notes of leather and mushroom-growing rich earth. I roll off a bit of ash and there's still a tunneling threat, but less of one. Cedar delineates and crisps. I'm nursing it. Like my dad nursed his '73 Plymouth Duster up through the Catskills from '86 Brooklyn. He threw on the heater to help keep the engine from over-heating. It was summer. I try to recall that hotness as I sit now, in my winter Pacific Northwest carport/HQ.

Draw resitance is unchanged. Ash is regrowing sans the pretty whiteness and is back to previous light grey/charcoal 80/20. Packaging has loosened noticeably an inch ahead of the burn. Medium profile.
ACT II
I lose a lot of cedar, all the white pepper, but the hard wood returns. A bit of a green note. Sweet spices lose red notes and then I too lose the spices. Leather firms up a notch and draws some balancing cream to it. The interesting fungal note is on the immediate draw, then gone quick. Very earthy, very sweet. Fruit swirls on occasion. Finish is long and stogie sweet cream.

Primarily then, there is wood and sweet earthiness. Both somewhat moistened by fruit juices. Secondary notes are mushroom and a bleeding over of fruits (which are currently ramping up). Backing is a nice worked leather.

Burn-line is thin+ and even ribbons. Ash is the l. grey/charcoal. I'm noticing a somewhat uneven amount of smoke to my smoke-hole -- even as the draw remains consistent. A bit of wrapper removes itself from the burn via a loosened seam. I remove a near-inch of ash and it's nicely oiled and more dense than I'd have guessed. Tunneling threat is no longer.

At the mid-point, I get a transition of green to a more mature vegetal and it begins to roast and fill out the secondary note cluster. A very worthwhile move. Coming through it now, that's the sole change, but a good one and we coast now a bit. Softening has ceased. Smoke-hole is filled evenly. Creaminess on the mouth-feel toasts a tick. Profile is medium. Strength is mild+.

ACT III
Leather morphs to suede in a reversal of my previous sampling, and a familiar to that sampling charring sets in as the vegetal roasts further and further. Charring goes to the earth, as well. Hints of white pepper return on the retro-hale. I get a vague hint of black tea. I feel like this sampling is attempting to be as good as the first, when I fully was expecting it to be better, having rested.

Black tea is on the finish and its sharpness works well with the creamy mouth-feel. great long legs. Flavors stop changing and settle settle settle. Calm now. And then a nice caramel note nestles into the middle. I'm here in the Catskills now. My dad seems well pleased with his prowess. This kosher pizza tastes like, well, kosher pizza. I'm there, man. Really. Thank you, Time Machine. One seldom gets a chance to relive an experience and enjoy it as fully as one should have the first time around.

You can read more about that trip HERE.

As to the stogie + in my lips. If you excuse me, gentlepersons. I'm set to find myself awash in tobacco and schmaltz of yesteryear -- as the band doth approach and a toothpick is lifted.
NOTES
Evil Genius prides itself on scientifically creating essentially the perfect cigar. I'll speak more now to the first specimen I sampled. Here's what I said about it:
"A stogie plus, I'd say. A great stick to puff on whilst handicapping Portland Meadows (which is what I did). Not an offering of the high maintenance variety. Limited complexities and undemanding flavors. I say "stogie" with my usual undying love. This Evil Genius Time Machine begged a park bench and a swig of Manischewitz. Nice. Uncluttered and unassuming. I say plus, because it showed glimpses of more -- which I will uncover upon further and more well-rested review."
Did Mr. Hirsch succeed in his mad scientist meanderings? I'd say yes. Yes he did. Because there is a something here which mirrors the 'drinkabilty' of Bud Lite. Even the most ardent artisan brewers and supporters of such, would begrudgingly grant this ease of consumption. That said, kudos to Evil Genius on their success.

But if you make a something no one hates -- have you made something anyone will truly love? I shall leave that for the philosophers in their ivory towers of academia.

[My final grade shall reflect a melange of both offerings. As I fear this second was somewhat perhaps less than kosher.]

PAIRINGS
Smoke it in the AM with a cup of joe. Hot cocoa if you're feeling frisky.

FINAL GRADE
****B****

LESS SCHTICK MORE STICK
Smooth/Coarse? Smooth
Sweet/Spicy? Sweet
Mouth-feel? Sweet cream
Strength? Gets sand kicked in face/pocket protector at beach
Draw? consistent but yields inconsistent results
Burn? Oy vey
Construction? See burn
Primary Note(?)? Sweet rich earth to compost

EPILOGUE
10:40am
Please read my full "First Impression" of this offering HERE.

Now if you'll be so kind gentlepersons, today is my dietary cheat day and I have a date with my fridge. Later on, my toilet. I'm a busy man, see. Thanks as ever, for reading.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Radio Herf 01242016 w/ Jose Blanco


Because you NEVER do know whom ya might be herfing with at Radio Herf, I give you a true legend in our industry, Mr. Jose Blanco. Huge and too humble thanks for your precious time, sir.

Make sure to check out my sponsors, the Kaplowitz Mishpucha and especially
Tune in, call in. chat in next week -- same herf time, same herf channel. HERE's how.
I still herf the word hate.

In closing, herf.

Thanks ABOUND, gentlepersons!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Who What When Where Why w/ Kennedy Achille of Stogie TV


A quick quick heartfelt "Thank ya" to Mr. Achille for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my Who What When Where Why. Now I shall let the man himself ably take it away, break it down, and bring it home:

"Stogie TV is the 1st TV show to feature the World of Cigars. A unique media platform for all cigar enthusiasts from around the world. Featuring cigar shops and education, Stogie TV is the new way to view the world of Cigars!"

Who has mentored you and who have you mentored? 

The list is long. I live in Miami, the bloodline of the Cigar Industry and home to over 90% of the Cigar Icons. I have learned so much from Nick Perdomo, Nestor Miranda, Eric Espinosa, Don Kiki, Christian Eriora, Enrique Sanchez, Rafael Nodal, Bertha Bravo, the Torano family, and I must recognize my home shop "Cuenca Cigar Shop" in downtown Hollywood, FL and the list goes on. I Take advantage of all the information and people that surround me in Miami. I do however look up to a particular person in the industry, Mr. Jose Orlando Padron. No other person in the industry has a survival story like his. In the industry, he is my idol because he never gave up...Neither will I. Outside of the industry, I give credit to my education and literature. I earned my masters degree in 2007 in education and continued to pursue my Doctorate Degree in Organizational Psychology. My professors were hardcore educational & business BEAST. They taught me, "In order to succeed, you must read!" Napoleon Hill, Og Mandino, Spencer Johnson, Daniel Pink, Steven Covey, Robert Kiosaki, Susan Dewine, are the most powerful Authors of all time ( In my humble opinion) and contributes to my business ethic.

What have you compromised and what won’t you compromise? 

In business, I negotiate a win-win situation for my sponsors and or advertisers. Stogie TV is the 1st of its kind and I built it to help showcase the industry in a positive light. Therefore, everyone wins. I won't compromise negative slander against anyone or product. I've been asked to use the power of Stogie TV to bash other companies by certain companies in the past...my reply was simple, "Go to hell". If it's not positive, I'm not interested.

When is it a failure? 

I never fail...I learn. Even when I play chess, I never lose...I learn. Failure is giving up, and there is no way in HELL that I would ever give up. If it doesn't work out, then I go back to the drawing board and find out what happen. If it works out, then I go back to the drawing board and find out why it worked. Ether way, I learn.

Where are you on your journey and where are you going? 

Everyday is a new start to a different journey. I learned from Napoleon Hill that yesterday's success belongs to yesterday, today is a different day.

Why do you succeed?

I succeed because I must. Owning your own business is no different than living in a jungle...survival of the fittest. I am the first to do what I am doing, that's a lot of pressure. But the result is success because I LOVE what I do, not like! Ask anyone if they "like what they do", if they respond "I like it" then that is a red flag for failure. When you love what you do, you eat, drink, sleep, breath, and BLEED IT! In short, it's called passion.

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Again, a heartfelt thank ya to Mr. Achille for sorting out a hectic schedule in order to A my Qs. It is much appreciated; as is your readership, gentlepersons.

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