My office is closed today, due to the approach of Hurricane Sandy. Outside the wind is howling and the water is rising, and we’re waiting for the worst to come later tonight.
Hurricanes are rare in the New York area, but they’re quite common in cigar country, and I’ve been getting calls and emails of concern from friends in the cigar industry. Jorge Padrón called, checking on how things looked up here, and I just got off the phone with Litto Gomez, who was also checking in on me. Earlier, Rafael Nodal sent me an email. They’ve all been through the same and much worse, but they know that all of us up here in the north are hurricane novices.
The smoke police want to take away Santa’s pipe.
I discovered this while reading today’s New York Post, which had a small news item about Canadian author Pamela McCall self-publishing a new, sanitized version of the Christmas classic A Visit From St. Nicholas. I dug around, found corroboration of the news, and looked up McCall’s author biography and a Facebook page dedicated to her book.
Grab a cigar and a fine beverage, and get ready to sit back and take in a game. The Major League Baseball playoffs begin today.
A baseball game offers the perfect tonic for a cigar. Unlike football, which is a game of constant action, baseball games can be long, drawn-out chess matches pitting pitcher against batter, one manager’s strategy against the others. The numbers mean something. Your eyes can move away from the screen for a bit while you engage a buddy, son or spouse in conversation about what’s happened before, what might happen next and how it’s all been done before. There’s history and legend and, hopefully, memorable games.
On Friday, I had a smoke with Steve Saka, the chief executive officer of Drew Estate. Before long, we were talking about the smoke that put Drew Estate on the map in the minds of high-end cigar smokers: Liga Privada No. 9.
Liga Privadas have quite the buzz lately. In our most recent Cigar Insider poll of U.S. cigar retailers, Liga Privada was ranked No. 3 for hottest brands, the cigars consumers request most often in top-tier cigar stores. (It tied with Fuente Fuente OpusX—quite an achievement.) The hallmark of Liga Privada No. 9 is a very dark and very oily Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, and as Saka and I puffed we got to talking about making Liga Privadas, which are always on back order.
After many months of effort by the entire Cigar Aficionado staff, our 20th Anniversary issue is complete. It reached newsstands at the end of August, and on Wednesday, September 12, we brought together a beautiful group of friends from the cigar industry for a party at the Grand Havana Room in New York City to celebrate the issue.
A week from today I’ll be landing in Orlando to join our editorial team from Cigar Aficionado at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show, which begins next Friday and runs through the weekend. Think of the show as the main event for new cigars in the premium cigar industry—this is when just about every company that makes a cigar by hand gathers to show off its new wares. We’ll be there to cover it all.
My last trip to Cuba—during the Habanos Festival in February—was a blur of dinners, meetings, interviews and cigar after cigar. I left many great stories in my notebook. This is one of the best.
One of the wonderful things about the annual Cuban cigar festival is the amount of free time built into the schedule. For every night with a festival event, there’s a free night that follows. That leaves time for visitors to enjoy Havana, gather with friends they’ve made over the years, and to meet new ones.
I’m back at my desk after a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. I’m a little more tan, a little more achy yet far better rested then when I left the office on Friday.
Here in the United States, Memorial Day serves as the kickoff to summer, even though summer doesn’t begin for 22 more days. Here in the northeast, the weather complied. It was as if a switch went off, with the mercury zooming. We immediately went from a rainy spring to summertime temperatures, and just in time.
Derby Day was a little colder than normal, but the cloudy skies were predicted to hold their rain throughout the day, making me and my friends smile. We were heading to Derby Day at the Harris Household.
Jay and Tammy Harris throw an incredible party for the Kentucky Derby. Tammy, a southern girl, typically makes country ham and biscuits, which is as delicious as it sounds. Jay ensures there are plenty of bourbon mint juleps to get everyone in the true spirit of the day. And the two of them have the amazing talent of making everyone feel like they’re the most important person at the party. They are, in short, the consummate hosts.
I spent some time yesterday smoking with two of the biggest names in cigars from General Cigar Co.: Johnys Diaz, vice president of operations for the company’s main Dominican Republic cigar factory, and legendary cigar man Benjamin Menendez, who is working in his 60th year around cigars. They were bringing Greg Mottola and myself an exclusive first taste of the new Partagas 1845, which goes on sale April 9.
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