Thursday, April 7, 2016

When it's gone, it's gone. Also, when you're done with it, it's gone.

And when it's done, it's done.

We were who-knows-where the other day and a new smoker asked, "How much should I smoke?"

"All the time," we answered. (You're welcome, brand and shop owners.)

"No," he said, holding up the cigar for emphasis. "How far down should I smoke?" of life's great questions, comparable to "Band on or off while you smoke?" and "Cello on or off when storing them?"

I've read and/or heard to smoke it:
  • to the halfway mark
  • to the band
  • until your fingers burn 
  • until there's absolutely nothing left except burnt fingers and memories of emergency room visits
Stopping this one halfway
would have been a crime against nature.

One website stated, "Allow the cigar to die a dignified death; after it's smoked halfway, it will go out on its own." It commits suicide like a 1920s B-movie ingenue? I just can't bear to go on...

My head tilts like a confused puppy.

What did I just hear?
I paid $10/$15/$30/in some cases $100 for a cigar and I'm supposed to throw away half of it?

Valentino and the $100 smoke.
Even if he hadn't smoked it down to the nubbin',
I'd have demanded it.

Yes, a cigar may get stronger as you smoke it. And some will become harsh. But many won't. Some get better. Some are so fucking good you don't ever want to stop smoking them.

The same article states, "A cigar is not meant to be smoked down to the foot and the shorter you allow it to go the harsher the smoke will become" [sic].


But...but... The foot is the part you light!

What have we learned from this?

  1. Just because it's on the  mighty, mighty internets doesn't mean it's true.*
  2. A good majority of people in the lounge and on the internets will tell you the "right" way. While guidelines exist for propriety's sake, even those will vary from community to community, so hearken back to the basic rules of manners, all of which boil down to Treat others the way you want to be treated.
So how much of your cigar should you smoke?

Smoke the damn thing until it isn't pleasurable anymore--maybe it gets harsh or you're bored with the flavor profile. If it's so damn good you don't want to let it go, keep smoking. Just keep in mind: when in polite company, please don't pull out your high school roach clip; if you're alone, and the cigar continues to rock your world, go for it. (Just be sure to hide it again when you're done.)

*You're probably expecting me to tell you next that there's no Santa Claus. I would never tell you that. My very very wise mom says the more you believe, the more you get. I REALLY, REALLY believe.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Don't be a Douchebag: Another age-old question

I was procrastinating the other day* and came across this question, posited by the grandmaster of cigar publications, Cigar Aficionado

When going to a cigar lounge or bar, should you purchase a cigar from the establishment, or is it OK to bring your own?

We've long-debated this question, feeling shifty about smoking our own but also faced with the dilemma: When you own several thousand cigars and suffer through New England winters (and springs, obviously, said the girl who would soon be stuck on a highway behind a copse of heavy-duty sanders for way too long), you must patronize cigar lounges to smoke more than three rapid-fire puffs. 
This happened last year. Sooo...thank heavens for cigar lounges!

May I quote my mom, a very wise woman? 

If you question whether something could technically be wrong, it probably is. In other words, if your conscious causes you a milli-moment of doubt, you shouldn't be doing it. Don't do it.

Look, you're welcome to smoke your own, especially if a particular cigar holds your fancy hostage, ruining you for any another. Outside is out of the question, as Mother Nature gets in her moods. Enter: the cigar lounge. Or you enter the cigar lounge. Whatever.

So, yes! Smoke your own. But! Also! Buy a damn cigar. Support the shop. 

Pick up something you've never tried before. Get an old favorite you're running low on. Donate a couple to Cigars for Warriors! Buy one and hand it to a friend.

Please please please don't do this.
You know that, karmically,
announcing what you did negates any good deed, right?
If, say, 50% of the people who went into that lounge only smoked their own and didn't make any purchases, how long will the shop stay in business? Although the precise answer would involve math,** we can say with conviction, "Not as long as you'd want it to be."

Some shops charge a "cutting fee" (usually around $10) if you bring a cigar and don't make a purchase. Don't bitch about this fee. Ever. We will fight you.

An aside: Cigar lounges, might we make a suggestion? Since you aren't LOSING any money when someone comes in with his or her own cigar and you feel obligated to charge the cutting fee, might we recommend donating this money (or a portion of it) to a charity or non-profit? It might make the charge a little less horrible in the patron's eye--although most everyone we know understands the reasoning behind it.

Another alternative: Take out a membership at your favorite lounge(s). You won't have to make a purchase each time you want to smoke, plus you'll get additional advantages, like discounts, members-only events, advance notice of sales, perhaps a humidified locker, and definitely some new, awesome friends. (As a matter of fact, I'm currently writing this in the members' room of one of our home-base lounges!)

For the entire Cigar Aficionado answer, go here.

*If you know me, then you know this could be any day of the week, any time of day.

**Math is dumb.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Man who Came to Dinner--and brought cigars!

If you've been reading this little blog long enough, you know that not only do I play a wallflower on TV,* I'm also one in real life. In fact, my superpower is invisibility. Unless I think of something funny to say, although even then, I generally can't exeunt off stage quick enough.

Ever meet someone who intimidates you from afar** but when you*** talk to them you just like them and they aren't intimidating at all? (The initial intimidation comes from an outgoing, usually well-known person who triggers my inability to sound like the smart and funny girl my mom says I am.)

Me, when trying to speak with someone in authority or an expert in a field.
That just (and by "just," I mean a month ago, because I'm me) happened. There we were, standing in the buffet line, when Valentino started chatting with Dan Welsh, he of L'Atalier, who was strategically standing on the line outskirts.****

He wasn't very pointy when we saw him;
neither was he followed by two logos floating over his head.

Now keep in mind, I am literally starving at this point, not having consumed much of anything all day (Raisinets! The chorus line of candies!) and if I don't get to that food soon, people will die. Or I will fall asleep. It's always a crapshoot. 

When Valentino and Dan started chatting about the land fertility in the Nicaraguan Jalapa Valley versus in Esteli, I wanted to stay and listen. Not intimidating at all! Just...nice. And kind. And knowledgeable! (Wicked smaht to my fellow New Englanders.)

A veritable Sophie's Choice occurred. Do I stay, listening, learning, and disappointing the getting-angry line-dwellers? Or do I abandon conversation, full-steam***** ahead?

You've met me, so you know I went for the food, but the fact that I THOUGHT about not going for the food says a LOT!

Here's a little about The Man who (almost) Made Me Forget about Food:
Way back in about 2011, some chaps cooked up a cigar caper; seekrits ran amuck with whispers of surrogacy. None of this made any sense until the Surrogate Cigar line was born, delivered in the My Father Cigars factory in Nicaragua. 

Right around that first birthday, the chaps--Dan Welsh (obviously), Sean "Casper" Johnson, who is no relation to... brothers K.C. Johnson and Pete Johnson, who round out the gang--created a bigger world in which the Surrogates would live. And they called it L’Atelier Imports. (L'atelier means "workshop" in French.)

You know how sometimes you would love to have those limited edition sticks your pals wave around, hoping to rev up your jealousy? (Don't you hate it when it works and even more than wanting that cigar, you'd love to accidentally throat-punch that pal? If it makes you feel better, most of those guys won't actually smoke the cigar because it is limited.)

Well, the Surrogate cigar family, premium in nature and awesome in execution, allows you to have your limited edition and smoke it too, thanks to a more budget-conscious price point. (You can still throat-punch the guy if you'd like. We won't tell.)

Yes, delicious; yes, wallet-friendly. But you know why I--the girl who adores words--love them, right? Have you tried the Skull Breaker? Bone Crusher? Tramp Stamp? Crystal Baller? Satin Glove? Animal Cracker? Cracker Crumbs? Oh, the cleverness abounds!
The company has lots of awesomeness I could tell you about, but we both have limited attention spans, so here's some info on the newest Animal Cracker in the box:

In March, L’Atelier Imports introduced "a new line extension to its Surrogates Animal Cracker blend. The Surrogates Animal Cracker AC550 will add a traditional 5 x 50 sized offering into the popular line.The AC550 becomes the third vitola based on the Animal Cracker blend. The announcement of this new size was reported by New Havana Cigars – the retail outlet owned by Dan Welsh," according to Cigar Coop

Here's a video, because I know you're bored at work and you're almost ready for cat videos. Check this out first. Then may we suggest this? And on your way home from work, stop and pick up some Surrogate cigars. You can leave your "thank you" in the comments section tomorrow. (You're welcome!)

Got to go! We're heading to another of these fab dinners. This time with Steve Saka. I should probably have a snack before we leave!

*Not true. The very nature of the wallflower  keeps me from being on TV. 

**afar joke

***Valentino, not ME, silly. Didn't you read the first paragraph?

****Look, honey, it's that nice cigar man. 

*****This is the correct usage. I saw this in a magazine advertisement the other day and it said, "Full speed ahead."  Dear god, have you no copy editors with fully-functioning brains???


Monday, April 4, 2016

April Cigar of the Month! Sobremesa!

A couple of weeks ago,* we had the pleasure** of travelling north a wee bit to Kurt Kendall's Twins Smoke Shop for a Steve Saka Sobremesa Seminar and Shindig. (Also in  attendance, his awesome wife and partner-in-crime Cindy! Hi Cindy!)

If you've met me, you know I am such a nerd, which flares at embarrassingly (mostly for Valentino) high levels. So while the rest of the dozenish folks sat back, relaxed, and listened to Steve tell us tobacco tales, I did this:

Nerd level: Expert!
Also, if I relax, I fall asleep.
I'm taking the Certified Retail Tobacconist (CRT) exam while we're at IPCPR this summer. Rather than studying the book, I'd probably learn more by following Steve around,*** listening to him Talk Tobacco. You guys! He knows...all the things! And generously helps you understand all the things too!

As a matter of fact, tonight Valentino and I get to woohoo**** it up with him again! He's hosting a Sobremesa tasting at Millonzi's in West Warwick, RI, thanks to Paul Joyle and Mr. J's Havana (in the same town). Don't worry--I'll have a new tablet to fill!

We know what you're thinking (because we thought the same thing): What's a sobremesa and is it catchy?

Short answers: An awesome thing and I wish.

You know when in the movies (not so much in real life) after dinner the characters sit around the table chatting, drinking, enjoying a cigar and each others' company? That is sobremesa--appreciating life and its simple pleasures. No direct English translation, either in words or practice, exists. That makes me have the sad. Anyone interested in starting a Sobremesa Lifestyle Movement (SLM) with me? I'll try not to fall asleep when I relax!

Steve's Sobremesa, the first cigar from his Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, is composed of an Ecuador sungrown wrapper, Mexican binder, and long filler from both Nicaragua and the US and created at the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Nicaragua.

Your vitola choices (so far)!
Have you ever seen over a dozen guys simultaneously swoon? That actually happened when the (not-so) dirty dozen(ish) all lit up during the Twins' event. Throughout the smoke, the lot mentioned cocoa and earthiness, but as the evening progressed, chatter moved on to cedar and creaminess. As a professional second-hand smoker, I found the cocoa most notable--when I picked my head up from the notebook, at least. Oh! And Valentino gave Sobremesa the highest praise: He purchased a box, which is now mostly gone. Thankfully, a restocking will soon commence! Maybe even today! Wheeee!

We've gotten some members of the French Alliance
to organize the giveaway for us.
There's always that one guy perpetually on coffee break, isn't there?
He's living the Sobremesa lifestyle. At least that's what he told the general.

Working hard for you.
Many winners this time around!
Exactly how many will require math.
Math is dumb.
Steve, the very awesome and generous Steve, gave us a ton***** of these cigars to share with you, thus making the Sobremesa this month's Cigar of the Month.  How can you be one of many winners? Start here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Another example of the time-space continuum issues frequently occurring in Penny World.

**It's a little over an hour drive. I fell asleep in the car almost instantly. I. Am. Awesome.

***NOT in a creepy-stalker way. More like a Deadhead/groupie kind of way.

****Haha. And this is irony at its best.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

We're Soooooo Nosy

Okay you crazy kids! We're looking for your stories and experiences in cigar lounges and assorted herfs. 

So if you're bored at work or avoiding yard work but want to look like you're busy, take our survey:

You're the best!! Thanks!! 

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Rogue Giveaway: KFC

This isn't our Cigar of the Month , which will be showing up very soon.

This is our "Someone very generously gave us a bunch of cigars and we feel like we should share the love much to Valentino's chagrin" giveaway.

These are MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured Just a Friend (toro), 6 x 52. No need to count. There are 9 of them. We'll blast off ALL 9 to one person, because we're nice like that (and it saves on postage, which is also nice).

We just hope the mail train doesn't hit any snags like this one:

How do you enter to lay your soft, delicate hands on these cigars? Go here, to raffle central:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cigar Lounge Douchebag: Don't be a Hater--or a Generalizer (although we don't mind if you sweep)

We've discussed this before. It bears repeating. Apparently not everyone in the world reads every post. Shocking! I know!

Speaking of shocking, the other night* at an undisclosed cigar lounge, a relatively new visitor said, "Everyone always talks about their favorite cigars. That's boring. What cigars do you guys really hate?"

Valentino and I exchanged the look as this guy began listing cigar brands. Not just specific cigars or vitolas, mind you--he actually said, "Anything by____ and _____ and_____."


When we were in Nicaragua last month, Nick Perdomo recommended you (we--haha not me, though) smoke all of a blend's sizes. Maybe you won't like the binder-filler combination in the bigger gauge, but scootch down to a smaller ring gauge and you could hit Nirvana with this ratio. By writing off the entire blend because of one size, you'd have done yourself a solid sad. Don't give yourself a solid sad.
Nick Perdomo is outstanding in his field.
He's also definitely NOT a douchebag.
As this guy blathered on, I held steady in that grey area where alertness and sleepiness converge. I wanted to smugly ask if he'd had all the cigars' variations these noted manufacturers manufactured, but I couldn't form complete thoughts with my foggy brain, so I kept my pie hole shut. (Mmmm. Pie.)

I did offer, "We don't say anything negative about..." but his negativity-track-mind disallowed my addition to his one-sided conversation.

Then brave, brave Valentino gave it the old community-college-try. "Maybe those don't fit your flavor profile, but that doesn't make them bad." This guy wanted no additions of logic or reason and turned away from our hero, shooting his diatribe toward another patron.

One cause of my college writing class fist-shaking (with an undercurrent of "Kids these days!") is sweeping generalizations.

Gratuitous grammar and writing lesson (no extra charge!): When you find yourself writing or speaking and using (or implying) ALL of something is true, your whole argument falls apart (unless you can prove your statement with hard facts and/or data). And since he obviously couldn't prove that every _____ cigar was "bad" (whatever that means), his argument--and therefore credibility--was shot.

So the next time you head into a cigar lounge, please please please remember:

  1. Just because a cigar doesn't fit your flavor profile doesn't make it bad.
  2. If you're looking for a fight, you're probably not going to find it in a cigar lounge.
  3. Not every cigar of a particular company is bad. Everyone thinks that's stupid. (See what I did there?)
  4. Try listening. You just might learn something. If you want to perform a monologue, go find a stage.
  5. You are not the smartest person in the room. We're all good at something. Whatever you're good at doesn't make you better than anyone else.
  6. Make friends, not people who dread seeing you walk into the shop.
Okay, class over. Go smoke a cigar. Try something new. You may be surprised.

*This USED to say "last night," but now it should read "many last nights ago.."

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