Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's Only Funny if You Get Caught

"A good Cuban cigar closes the door to the vulgarities of the world."- Franz Liszt

Sometimes I truly wonder what drives people to act as they do. Oh, come on, we have wondered this at one point.

Men: “Why in the hell did he take Maddux out in the 7th, he was pitching beautifully!”

Women: “What the hell was she thinking…those shoes with that outfit?”

See, we’ve all done it. But still, what drives people to act upon foolish, nosey, and negative perceptions, I’ll never know.

I have yet another story that has found a home in the epic journey that has become my quest for the perfect cigar.

I think Liszt got it right, because when most people say, “You’ll laugh about this in the morning,” I usually already am, because I always try to be in good company, with an excellent cigar in hand.

The following story has not been modified, nor has been formatted. The story is real. The people are real. Only nothing has been changed.

“Hey Shawn (my brother), I forgot my lighter in the car,” I said, “Why don’t you come with me, there is a really funny comedian I want you to listen to for second?”

We proceeded outside with cigars in hand. I had brought him an Alec Bradley Select Cabinet Reserve to try out and I selected a La Flor Dominicana Air Bender. We loaded into my car, started it, and lit our cigars as we listened to the CD for a brief moment.

We, of course, vacated my car and proceeded to walk around his home to the backyard amd enjoy our smokes on his patio.

I know that this story may seem terribly dull at this point I beseech you to hold on.

My brother (not blood) lives with his half sister, her husband John and their three boys. Since the boys were already asleep at this point (little boys asleep at 8pm, yeah right) we kept it quiet and left the lights out on the porch. We are enjoying our cigars and good conversation with little want or need of anything.

“HEY!” John shouts, as he bursts outside while blinding us with the patio light. “Are y’all smoking weed out here?” he asks. He barely waits for an answer as he notices the obvious stogies between our fingers.

“Ahh,” we exclaim in response to the light, “No way John.”

John takes off back into the house, obviously upset about something.

As I have stated for the record on other occasions, I do not and have never smoked marijuana. I was pretty sure John knew this. I am well aware that the family is fond of me and I am not about to disrespect a man in his house, especially with young children around. I urge Shawn to go check on things and he leaves me outside to enjoy the warm air and soothing smoke by my lonesome.

A few moments later, Shawn returns with a smirk across his face and a chuckle building in his stomach.

Shawn has heard all of my cigar stories and knows there is a good chance something crazy will happen when I decide to light the end of any vitola.

"I think you may have a story for your blog brewing here," he says matter-of-factly.  "Oh really," I replied.
Oh crap, what's going on now.  John and Lisa know we smoke cigars out here.  I don't what them thinking I smoke pot, especially with their kids sleeping 25 feet away.
Shawn continues, "Well, the police are on their way. So, put a smile on."  I thought he was joking, but as I realized he really wasn't I'll be honest I felt some relief.  I knew John would obviously not call the cops on us, so it made feel a little better that he was not behind the issue at hand.
It turns out that while we were in the car out front there were some overzealous high school kids outside that witnessed us as we lit our cigars in my car.  They thought they saw something that they didn't see.  If my Air Bender was a blunt it could have a set a world record for size I promise.  Clearly these kids how no idea what they were talking about and were trying to play neighborhood crime watch.  While I suppose I can admire the entusiasm, sometimes a little common sense wouldn't hurt anyone. 
"Where's John?" I asked.  Shawn took a puff from his cigar and stated, "Across the street in his underwear yelling at the neighbors."
I couldn't help but laugh.  While weren't guilty of anything, it was nice for cigar smoking to get such a loud defense from someone.  The cops came and went, especially since there was nothing to see.
And so, another entry in my cigar adventures came to a close. 
Today, I still have this vision in my head of me spread out on  a cop car, handcuffed, puffing on my Airbender, guiltyof nothing but excellent tastes and good coversation.  I am not sure I understand the reaction of those kids, nor the need to take such a dramatic action.  Still, nobody was hurt and the world has kept turning. 
I continue to make an honest effort to be smoking a cigar as obnoxiously as possible whenever I return to my brother's home.  A modest hope is that the kids are standing outside to once again witness and be reminded of their obsurdity,  Yeah, I am that guy.  Call me a jerk, a jackass, or just mean, but if I am anything, I am certainly the best.
As always folks, keep puffing and remember there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Atmosphere is everything. Drink up!

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." - Neslon Mandela

The world we find ourselves in today is changing and moving at an unbelievable pace. 

How many of you had an e-mail address 15 years ago? Owned a cell phone ten years ago? An IPOD eight years ago? A facebook account five years ago?  Or a KINDLE/IPAD 1 year ago?

Information is moving at a constant pace.  Ideas are being exchanged instantly across the globe.  One's reputation can be tarnished one minute and absolved the next with a simple posted apology on Twitter.

Who cares, right?

Well, whether you do, or whether you don't really isn't want I want to discuss.  My point is, however you feel in today's fast paced society today, I believe everyone will agree it is beneficial to slow down and take it all in.

I get asked quite a bit, "Bear, what do you enjoy most about cigars?"

That's simple.

I enjoy the lifestyle and the moments it creates.  Don't get me wrong, I believe cigars to be delicious treats and do enjoy a number of other things about them.  However, I love what cigars create and force and individual to do. 

Someone once told me, "Stogies are great, they force you to sit down and have a conversation."  I couldn't agree more.  For centuries, cigars have been a symbol of class, wealth, elegance, dignity, and celebration.  Today, most cigar enthusiasts enjoy the camaraderie it brings with other aficionados. 

A cigar is important, but what and how you pair it with determines a lot about your experience. 

Ambiance is important.  Are you comfortable?  Inside? Outside?  In your car? Is the lighting overpowering?  Is it dark?  Are you alone?  In a large group?  Are you having a drink?  Is it a cocktail?  Is it affecting the cigars flavor?

All of these questions may seem tedious and a bit ridiculous, but whether you know it or not they are already in your head.  Your choice of surroundings is what can often make or break a cigar. 

A friend of mine and also a fan of this blog, Paul, recently commented that he enjoyed when I offered up how my drink paired with a cigar I was reviewing.  And since I find it to be a good decision to pair your favorite cigar with a good beverage, I've decided that will be the topic of discussion for this week's entry.

Before I start, let me hit with some ground rules:
1) Never choose an accompanied beverage solely because you've heard or think it will pair well with a cigar.
    - What I mean is, if you don't like a drink without a cigar, no stogie in the world will make that drink taste
2) Never choose a cigar solely because you've heard or think it will pair well with a certain beverage.
    - The same a rule #1, no drink in the world will change your mind about a cigar.
3) Never dip your cigar into accompanied beverage.
    - I know you saw your grandpa do this.  Trust me, it is a bad idea.  As I have stated in the past, direct contact with your cigar and the liquid will damage the cigar's integrity, construction, and overall flavor.  If you'd like to smoke a flavored cigar (ahem, loser) then there are some available.

Ok, now that the rules are set, here are some opinions and insights into accompanied beverages with your selected cigar.

     Beer can be a great partner for your stogie.  I usually would lean towards something with a little more body to hold up and balance out more mild to medium cigars.  Stouts and porters would fall into this category.  A good time for this would be late afternoon or early evening.  I usually enjoy a brew on Sunday afternoons with my cigar.
     Try this: Grab a hefeweizen to counter a spicy, heavily bodied smoke to change your smoking experience into a complex world of great flavor.  It's a meal you've dreamed of, but have never had

     Along with port and cognac, brandy is a very popular after dinner beverage.  So, of course, it would a great choice to accompany your favorite puro.  I find that Brandy really opens up the nose and one's sense of smell, so it goes great with cigars that have a very pleasant bouquet.
     Try this: Let the brandy sit for a bit before you light your cigar or ask your bartender to warm it a bit.  The temperature really brings a lot of flavor from your cigar to the front of your palate.

Bourbon Whiskey:
     This drink can typically be very rich and sweet.  Like brandy, it can open up one's sense of smell, but it usually dominates on taste.  With maple, oak, and vanilla notes dominating a lot of bourbons, it pairs well with  full bodied and spicy stogies.
     Try this: Try not to cut this liquor too much and allow the flavors or your cigar and drink to co-mingle.

     This is probably my favorite partner to a good smoke.  Especially after a great meal, coffee and/or espresso goes great with every cigar.  Mild to Full bodied or spicy to sweet, each cigar can benefit alongside a good cup o' joe.
     Try this: Pair a heavy/full bodied/spicy smoke with a cappuccino and enjoy the creaminess mingle with earthy spice. 

     Much like brandy it can really open the nose and pair well with cigars that have an affluent aroma.  I beg you, please do not add ice or anything to cut the cognac.  It kills me when I see this.  Lime, coke, ice or Sprite do not belong in the same glass as cognac, especially when pairing with a cigar.  When too much complexity is added to your personal ambiance it can distract and one part will be a relief for another.
     Try this: Heavy dinner + Cognac + cigar. 

     I enjoy a great port and find it to be a great balance and partner to a cigar.  Next to coffee I'll go for a port.  I will say this having a port during any part of the day besides late evening is not a good combination.  Just trust me on this one.
     Try this: A tawney port, 10 year+ vintage with your favorite go-to stogie.

Scotch Whiskey:
     An old stand by for centuries and this pairing does not disappoint.  Unlike bourbon, the sweet notes in scotch are usually subdued in favor of good, hardy flavor that really is wonderful in the early evening. 
     Try this: If you enjoy smoking before dinner, grab two fingers of your favorite scotch and mild robusto to open up your palate for supper.

     I have very mixed feelings about wine being paired with cigars.  If done, I would prefer a rich, robust red.  I have had white wine with a cigar in warm summer afternoons, but overall I try and stay away from white wine and cigars together.  Even most reds don't pair well.  I'd rather enjoy wine with my meal and then enjoy a cigar with another beverage post eating.
     Try this: Actually, just don't.

Wild Card:
     A lot of sweetness and a certain spiciness can go well with some cigars, in particular heavily bodied smokes. 
     Try this: Give your favorite full flavored stogie a whirl, pairing it with your preferred cola.

As always, I welcome comments and added thoughts.  But, with this entry, I am really looking for some.  I want to know what you enjoy and perhaps add to some of my thoughts.  Keep smoking and remember that there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best!



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to the Classics: A review of the Arturo Fuente Spanish Lonsdale

I am extremely excited about an opportunity presented to me in the past few months. As of direct result of this blog, has generously brought me on board to sample and review some products on their behalf.

I encourage you to check out their site and help yourself to some awesome deals that they have.

Arturo Fuente is a name that is synonymous with the word cigar. The industry has flourished with the Fuente family producing some of the most sought after cigars in the world. Arturo’s son and grandson (Carlos and Carlos, Jr.) have advanced the craft of cigar making to levels that have inspired creations such as the Hemingway, King B, and, of course, Opus X.

Today, we take a gander at the Spanish Lonsdale Natural. A classic in the Fuente’s family arsenal for some time, it is a fine example of a classic cigar.

Let’s take a look at what appears to be an example of flawless construction. No veins or toothiness to this Connecticut shade wrapper, the pleasant pre-light bouquet is earmarked with dominant cedar and earthy notes. The faint subtle sweetness on the pre-light draw awakened some taste buds that clinched the desire to light the cigar. I cut the tip with my guillotine cutter and sat down to enjoy this smoke with my good friend, Gus.

For a classic like this one, I chose a classic lighting method: matches. While my lighting job was less than desirable, the impeccable construction came through and the burn was remarkably even from beginning to end.

The first third of this cigar was just as consistent as advertised. I’ve smoked Fuentes for years now and admit to have had the Spanish Lonsdale only a few times. In fact, I’ve usually reached for the maduro variety instead. However, this smoke is equally great in flavor, thus far.

The second half is filled with delicious, earthy flavor. The smoke is plentiful and creamy. Gus has taken a few puffs when I am not looking and is equally pleased. The fellows at have given me a premo smoke to enjoy. I forgot to mention that this lonsdale is a tad thicker gaged than most I tend to smoke. At 6.5 inches and with a 42 gage, it allows the burn to remain even and the smoke to stay cool.

The construction has held up to its intial overview and remains impeccable all the way to the nub.

I have selected a Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew to accompany this stogie as my drink. The robust flavor of the beer, only amplifies the mild, mellow creaminess of this Fuente.

I tend to enjoy more complex smokes a tad more than traditional smokes such as this, but does not disappoint.

The finish does not linger to long, but nonetheless is an enjoyable feel. I’d reach for these as an everyday smoke, or something to enjoy after a Sunday brunch.

My Ratings:
Appearance - 10
Pre-light taste- 7
Construction - 10
Draw - 9
Burn - 10
Aroma - 8
Flavor - 7
Balance - 9
Finish- 7

Total Rating: 8.6

Check out and get yourselves some great smokes and remember guys and gals, there is nothing wrong with knowing you’re the best!