Sunday, April 24, 2016

A top flight cigar dealer

Where and how we purchase our cigars are an important aspect of the cigar experience. There are many choices available for consumers
The local B and M's are very service oriented.  In order to get repeat customers they make it a point to know what we like. They also may offer a full line of accessories such as cutters, lighters and humidors.
The large catalogue companies thrive on hundreds of lines of cigars and usually a lower price point.
I have been very fortunate to deal with both local stores and the big boys of the cigar world.  Recently I have developed a relationship with a cigar on line service that offers a unique hybrid of service, choice,  and very good prices. is a newer cigar catalogue company which is doing a great job of providing a nice mix of well known and boutique style of cigars.  I submitted several questions to Anthony Welsch of to get their viewpoints of their aspect of the cigar business. 

When did you start you on line service?

We got our start about three years ago - we started building the site out, getting our humidor space operational and then ultimately started to buy inventory. Especially early on it was important to find products we could compete with the bigger retailers on when it came to price.

Who is your competition? What makes you different from your competition ?

I think this is an interesting question because there tends to be a lot of brick and mortar versus online talk among cigar lovers and I don’t see the world that way. I think there is room for both the B&M’s and online shops like us. We’re going to do all we can to give you a great experience and make it as personalized as the tobacconist down the street but we know there’s always going to be value in camaraderie and often, that comes from the local B&M.

What challenges do you think are the biggest to overcome in the cigar industry? 

There’s the obvious threats and challenges of increased regulation but ultimately, I think it goes deeper than that. I don’t know when exactly it happened but somehow cigars became taboo and almost “dirty” in the eyes of many in the American public. Most cigar fans I know are perfect gentlemen so I don’t know where it came from but one of our biggest challenges is convincing the American public that premium cigars are not the same as cigarettes.

How do you pick what cigars and accessories you sell?

Sometimes it feels like we’d be better off closing our eyes and throwing darts than our current method. There are generally two ways to get us to carry you. The first is to have an amazing product that delivers consistent value. If a new blend comes to the market and it’s unique or strikes us as fantastic - there’s a good chance we’ll be interested in carrying it. 

Now, that’s not foolproof because palates are different. So, if a brand can show us that they’ve already grown a following and they’re reputable from a sourcing and quality standpoint - they’d have our ear and could ultimately earn a place in our humidor.

What trends do you foresee in the near future ?

I think this comes back to the threat of FDA regulation. If we can avoid unfair regulation, I think youll see the boutique world of cigars continue to grow. It should present some great opportunities for cigar smokers to try new blends and hopefully get the most of their cigars. If regulation comes into play - things could get very sterile for a while. I don’t think any of us will quit smoking cigars, it just won’t be as interesting since new products will be severely limited.

What do you smoke as an every day smoke and special occasion?

One of my go-to” cigars is the Crowned Heads Four Kicks  I also really enjoy the Joya Antano 1970 series. I’m not nuts about overbearing cigars and the balance both of those cigars brings is excellent. I am really impressed with Caldwell’s Blind Man’s Bluff as well. 

As for special occasions - I generally look for something I haven’t had before if I’m in the $20-$30 range; so I don’t really have a “go-to”. Arturo Fuente's Opus X series as a whole is a pretty safe bet for special occasions. Of some of the newer releases - Sobremesa is in that $12-$15 range and a little steep to be an everyday smoke but the cigar itself is absolutely wonderful and incredibly smooth.

Why do you like cigars and what type of people smoke cigars?

One of the reasons I love cigars is because they are so contrary to everything else in today’s world. I’m just as bad as everyone else - my television is on, I have my computer screen in front of me and I’m constantly on my phone; Everything is rushed. With cigars - you’re forced to slow down.

I don’t know that it’s fair to say there’s one type of person who smokes cigars so I’m hesitant to put a description to them. We’re lucky in that we’ve earned the business of all types of men and women - from stock market investors to guys who work blue collar jobs like doing landscaping in the summers. I can say that I envision cigars as a pastime for gentlemen and today, I think that rings true - I’ve never sat down with a group of guys to have a cigar and felt like I wasn’t among a group of gentlemen.

What advise would you give to a novice smoker and an experienced smoker?

To a novice smoker - Id advise them to tune out their friends, reviewers and everyone else and just pay attention to identifying what they like in a cigar. I wouldn’t say the Urban Fishing Pole is guilty of this but if you look at some of the casual cigar forums, some cigar fans tie masculinity to cigar strength and I think that’s a mistake. It can cause people just getting into cigars to dive too deep, they don’t have a good experience and then they lose interest.

For experienced smokers, I’d encourage them to never get stuck in a rut or fall into an old stand-by. It’s one thing to have a go-to cigar that you know you’ll enjoy - it’s another to completely stop trying new things. There are a lot of great new cigars that are introduced every year - a lot of times they come from guys that are fairly unknown. Don’t be afraid to give them a shot - 9 times out of 10, you’ll be happy you did. 

Are there too many brands and choices in today's market?

Sometimes I think so as were creating product pages and paying to have photos taken of cigars for our site, haha! I’m not sure that you’ll ever convince a customer that he or she has too many options. Options mean power for cigar smokers. They can get a cigar that offers exactly what they want and competition generally will make prices very competitive. In some ways, it can be overwhelming but ultimately, I think most of us would rather have the option of many cigars than be saddled with a handful to pick from.

This is an interesting question as it relates to us as an online cigar shop. We’re lucky to have earned customers in rural areas and we can give them options they might not have close to home. Some have a local cigar shops that are more of a convenience store / gas station than tobacconist. I know that the online world has seen a lot of criticism from the brick and mortar world but there’s no denying that a chunk of cigar smoking public has benefitted from the world of online cigars.

Is the opening of Cuba going to impact your business and how will you cope with this? Do you see this as a plus or an negative issue?
If and when Cuba opens, it absolutely will impact our business and I think all cigar smokers in the United States. I think in the long-run, it’s going to be a big plus as it will drive a ton of interest toward cigars on the whole. My fear is that many of these “cigar-curious” Americans will only be interested in Cubans and won’t take the time to learn about some of the great Dominican, Honduran and Nicaraguan brands out there. My hope is that even a temporary increase in the popularity of cigars will make cigar smoking more accepted by the general public and alleviate some of the political pressure we face today.

Keep smoking 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

An up and coming super star ?

Steve Saka has roots in the cigar world from his days at Drew Estate. He helped develop Drew Estate into a brand with a great presence and outstanding cigar line.
Recently his foray into opening his own brand has created a positive buzz with the Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust company.
I was given a sample of the Sobremesa Torpedo Tiempo to taste and review. The folks at provided me with the stick gratis. As always how and where I received the cigar does not influence my subjective thoughts about the blend. I urge all interested in this smoke to try it themselves and judge for yourself. 

Brand/ Name of Cigar:Dunbarton Tobacco/ Sobremesa

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: 6.0 x 54
Wrapper: Ecuador Sungrown
Binder: Mexican
Filler; Nicaragua
Shape: Torpedo
Price: $12.25 single from
Where and when smoked: Los Angeles, Ca. 4/17/2016

Appearance/ Construction:

A very striking even hue wrapper with a classy band that creates a very impressive look. Several small veins which do not mar the appearance. No soft spots, solid feel, looks well made.

Flavor/ Taste and Aroma:

Started with a pleasant mix of vanilla, nuts and a aroma of sweet birch. Reminded me of a soda I drank as a Boy Scout called White Birch made by Tom's Candy Company. Why I remember this is beyond me. Smooth, flavorful with a medium body. No spice or pepper in the mix. Hit the right notes in the first third.

Smoking Characteristics :

The ash was light grey, very steady with an even burn. This re enforced the strong construction of the cigar.  No relights or any problems with tunneling etc. The second third continued with the profile of nuts and sweetness. Slight coffee came across at this juncture but not a big presence.

Conclusion/ Overall Impression:

I liked this cigar, was well crafted which are all good selling points. There were no "oh wow" moments meaning there is potential to get better.  Would keep a couple of in my humidor and let them age.


The numbers look this way:

Appearance/ Construction: 4 out of 5
Flavor/Taste and Aroma: 3.5 out of 5
Smoking Characteristics: 3.8 out of 5
Conclusion/ Overall Impression : 3.8 out of 5.

Final Thoughts: Would like to try other other shapes and sizes of this line. Steve Saka knows how to make cigars. As a first blend he was a potential winner for the boutique market. I know he will develop a full line of fine cigars in time.

Keep smoking.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's always something

I missed this cigar event held at my cigar lounge , The Lone Wolf Cigar Lounge in West Los Angeles

The featured cigar was the Montecristo Espada, a blend from the capable hands of Nestor Placencia in tandem with Altadis, a cigar giant.  
I received a free sample from the owner of the Wolf, the affable David Weiss. As always who and how I received the sample does not influence my judgment when I review a cigar. Cigar reviews are subjective so consider my viewpoint and make your own conclusion. 

Brand/ Name of Cigar:

Montecristo/ Espada
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: 5 x 54
Wrapper: Nicaragua Habano
Filler : Nicaragua
Shape: Ricasso
Price: Received the cigar gratis, check the Lone Wolf Cigar Lounge for current price
Where and when smoked: Los Angeles, Ca. 4/10/16

Appearance/ Construction:

The marketing boys must have had first dibs when this cigar was constructed.  3 bands surrounded the stick which effectively hid what the cigar looked like. I slightly damaged the wrapper when I removed the bands to smoke. Despite this the overall appearance had a light brown wrapper with small veins in the body. Construction was solid, well packed, no soft spots or major flaws. Not much of an oily feel .

                Flavor/ Taste and Aroma 
This is a smooth operator in the first third. My first hit was a blend of vanilla and grass which was why it was so smooth.  It was enjoyable enough but was hoping for more of a kick. The flavor though was consistent which is a plus.

Smoking Characteristics:

Had a bit of a burn issue in the second third as the photo shows. The draw was good with a pleasing ash of dark grey. The aroma was not a factor, neither overpowering or really evident. The final third was getting a charred taste creating a bitter flavor profile.

Conclusion/ Overall Impression:

Overall this was a disappointing smoke. The bitter taste stayed with me even after I finished the cigar. This is not what you hope for in a product especially as highly touted as the Espada.  I guess even the greats such as Nestor Placencia have an off day.
Here is the breakdown:

Appearance/ Construction: 3 out out 5
Flavor/ Taste and Aroma: 2.5 out of 5
Smoking Characteristics: 2 out of 5
Conclusion/ Overall Impression: 2.5 out of 5

Final Thoughts:  

Did not make my cut so this is a no go in my humidor. The price point is up there too which might also give you second thoughts if this is a factor.

                                                                Keep smoking

What a long strange trip it's been

As we all know the best thing about cigars is meeting people from just about everywhere.  Through the years I have developed great friendships which have lasted. I can go to any part of the country, find a local B and M, sit down, light up and talk to total strangers.
One of my friends was awarded an opportunity to move to the Miami area for a new job. After ten years in LA , he realized this was in his best interest.
We congratulated him, said our good byes with cigars and know down the road he will find another group of cigar friends.  This just means we now have another place to visit when the chance comes.  Cigars were the catalyst that accomplished this. Perhaps if we all smoked cigars, the world would learn what true friendship is all about.

                                                      Stay well and keep smoking