Posted: Feb 20, 2009 4:12pm ET
My shoes were dusted with a thin layer of reddish brown dirt. My bare arms were being baked by the tropical sun and the smell of curing tobacco was in my nostrils. I was back on a tobacco farm.
I took the long drive from Santiago out to Mao today with a group of about 30 other people here for the final day of the ProCigar Festival. Some went to see a rum distillery, others to see where chocolate is made and others still to a Davidoff tobacco field (which I saw last year). We were headed to Copata, the farm company in Mao where General Cigar Co. grows most of its Dominican tobacco. I was last here some four years ago when the project was in its infancy. Today it’s a mega-complex and one of the most impressive tobacco farms in the world. It’s partially self sufficient—in addition to growing filler, binder and even wrapper tobacco, the 1,200 acre area grows vegetables, trees, produces a natural pesticide, has a fish farm, all kinds of livestock, a three million gallon reservoir and too many other things to mention here.
Posted: Feb 19, 2009 3:34pm ET
Last night was opening night in Santiago at the ProCigar Festival. I was sitting in a gorgeous setting, a table in the middle of an old estate once owned by a pal of former Dominican dictator Trujillo. Each table was resplendent with elaborate exotic plants, some as tall as a yardstick. Everything was green, orange and white, the entire setting for some 175 people set beneath a canopy of bright white, blowing in the gentle evening breeze. I was enjoying an Aurora 100 Años Lancero and patting my belly, which was sated on roast pork, roast goat, yucca, plantains and other Dominican delicacies.
Posted: Feb 18, 2009 4:21pm ET
The Airbus swooped down from the clouds, revealing the lush, tropical landscape below. Fields of yucca, plantain and tobacco covered the land, flanked by mountains brimming with trees, each one cloaked by thick mist.
I’m back in Santiago, and it feels good.
Posted: Feb 3, 2009 10:27am ET
I like to think that I’m no Sally when it comes to the cold weather. I’ve lived in the northeast for my entire life, and winter can be pretty cold up here. But recently I encountered temperatures that kept me from enjoying a cigar—even for a very short time.
Posted: Jan 29, 2009 3:48pm ET
I met one of my sports idols on Monday night—Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight champion of the world. Frazier was being honored by the Friars Club in Manhattan. I took the subway uptown, checked my coat and walked up the narrow, steep staircase to the Lucille Ball Bar. I grabbed a cocktail, and there he was, holding court in a corner table—Joe Frazier.
Posted: Jan 20, 2009 3:31pm ET
Last week I dropped in on Ernesto Padilla. I’ve always enjoyed Ernesto’s smokes (his Padilla 1932 La Perla is my go-to short cigar) and I needed to see his new base of operations. Like several Miami cigar guys, he is interested in rolling cigars in the United States.
Posted: Jan 17, 2009 12:51pm ET
Yesterday in Miami I stopped at El Rey de los Habanos Inc., the tiny Little Havana fabrica where Pepin Garcia, his family, and 11 cigar rollers make some of the best cigars on the U.S. market. Pepin splits his time now between Nicaragua (where he has a much, much larger operation) and the U.S., so I was happy to catch him stateside during my too-short visit to south Florida.
Posted: Jan 15, 2009 4:21pm ET
I flew into Miami this morning, leaving New York’s LaGuardia at the crack of dawn, just as an Alberta clipper was moving into town with some snowfall and dropping temperatures. I’m in Miami for a very quick visit to meet with some of the town’s cigar executives.
Posted: Dec 23, 2008 2:31pm ET
There’s snow on the ground, the New York Giants are in the playoffs, and the family is gathering for holiday meals. It’s hard to top this time of year.
I’m sitting in my office, puffing on an old El Rico Habano Double Corona (it has aged very well—you’ll read about it in an upcoming Connoisseur’s Corner) and wrapping up a few final tasks before heading home. The office is closed for the rest of the week, and I’m taking a few additional days of vacation to spend some time with my family. I’m looking forward to the break.
Posted: Dec 9, 2008 11:35am ET
Every year around this time, I get together with a bunch of buddies from the neighborhood and we beat the tar out of one another.
It’s a Thanksgiving tradition, a flag football game (which, inevitably, always includes a fair share of tackling) organized by my good friend Mark. He typically recruits about 20 guys for the game, and we gather on an elementary school field on a cold day not long after Turkey Day, clad in all manner of odd outfits aimed at protecting us against both weather and injury. By the time the slugfest is over, everyone is bone-tired, but happy. The guys slake their thirst at a keg and then fire up cigars provided by yours truly.