Monthly Archives: May 2016

No Time for Complacency

image.jpegBy now we all know or have at least heard about the FDA rulings and regulations that were released on May 5th regarding the total control of all tobacco products to include premium cigars and pipe tobacco.  This massive 490 + page document is set to take effect in T – 3 months, August 8, 2016.

We have all pretty much seen the flurry of activity all over social media, cigar sites, retailer sites, blogs, and any other cigar related entity.  In addition we have seen the call to arms in signing petitions and writing our politicians.  I have heard many good intentioned BOTLs / SOTLs state that they have “done their part” by signing the various petitions that are circulating online.  And make no mistake, I as a fellow cigar Aficionadess, am grateful to each and every one of those online signatures.

However, what concerns me is that this is not going to be a quick or easily resolved fight.  Notoriously, we Americans have very short attention spans and although we really do care about what is happening with the FDA, I believe we just can’t figure out how to commit to the long-haul in fighting it.

In a study done by Microsoft Corp. the attention spans of Americans were tested among those of the Goldfish, which has a 9 second ability to focus on one thing.  Since 2000 and the advent of smartphones, we have gone from being slightly better than a Goldfish at 12 seconds to falling behind our gilled friends.  We have attention spans of 8 seconds.

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Now folks, this isn’t meant to demean us, but to simply provide the facts as scientifically proven.  I myself can relate to the difficulties of staying tuned in to something for more than a brief moment.  But what worries me and what should worry all of us in the cigar world is that we aren’t going to win any battles against the FDA if we can’t stay focused for more than a few seconds in everyday life let alone a prolonged battle between us and the Federal Government.

All of this brings me back to my original commentary about “doing our part”.  It isn’t going to be enough to sign petitions online.  We are already seeing one petition for the Whitehouse that has a goal of 100,000 signatures and to date has only between 5 and 6 thousand.  “But there are so many different petitions out there”; “I’ve already signed one”.  Brothers and Sisters I’ve got news for you – Stop worrying about what you’ve already signed and sign anything to do with fighting the FDA!   If it looks like it’s a repeat of some other petition you’ve signed, don’t ignore it; try signing it.  If it’s a duplicate signature I’m sure it will let you know.  If not we’ll you just did something else to help the fight against the FDA and all probably within the 8 second window of our attention spans!

Seriously folks, this isn’t a threat that we can ignore or put our smoking heads in the sand about.  I’ve heard the usual rhetoric that we are famous for when we get “bored” with hearing about a tough situation or problem that seems totally out of our control or influence:

“It’s government, what are you going to do?”  “They will do what they want regardless of what we say”

“They don’t really intend to go through with this.”  “There’s no way this will really happen.” “It’s all a ploy to get more money so I better start saving up and stocking up.”

While there may be some modicum of truth to any of these statements, as free Americans we have a responsibility to fight for our rights as adult cigar and pipe smokers.  We should not feel a sense of upset followed by apathy and then complacency that renders us helpless against a government that wants more and more control over our freedoms.  “But what more can I do?”   Well persistence is key.  Take that 8 seconds of attention and block out time on your smartphones, tablets, smart-watches, whatever you have that is managing your life, to get creative about consistently and persistently letting everyone and anyone who matters know how you really feel about the FDA ruling.

Suggestions:

1.  Draft a form letter to all your local politicians and send it WEEKLY!

2.  Sign up for Cigar Rights of America and keep up with what is going on:  cigarrights.org

3.  Next time you go to your local B & M have a talk with your managers and sales associates – mine had no idea that anything was going on!  Offer to make flyers for CRA ad put petitions in the store that you can forward to your local legislators.

4.  That Herf you are going to have with all your buds?  You know you are all going to bitch and complain about what the FDA is trying to do so why not take that same energy and brainstorm for different ways to get the word out and help the Cigar and Pipe Communities be HEARD!

Don’t tell yourself “someone else is working on this so I don’t have to.” That is one of the biggest misconceptions that we as Americans are willing to buy into.   If you think it is “inconvenient” to have to fight this over the long haul, just think how inconvenient it is really going to be when your local B& M has to shut down because 75% of their stock is no longer sellable.  Think about how inconvenient it is going to be when you can no longer buy cigars online or you have to try to order your favorite cigars from out of the country and hope that some tool in the customs arena doesn’t spot them and take them home for him and his buddies.  Think about your social circles and all the fun contests and promotions that are done and the free cigars and accessories that are give out.  They will be gone.

We the people……….We the Cigar smokers……….We the BOTLs and SOTLs of the United States of America, MUST make this fight part of our daily lives.  Not only do our cigar lives depend on it but so do the lives of hundreds of thousands of cigar company workers both in and out of the United States.  If we can go fight in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq then we can certainly fight for our brothers and sisters in the Dominican, Honduras, Nicaragua, and any other country that sells cigars to the United States.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/do-not-enact-fdas-option-1-final-rule-premium-handmade-cigars

As Nike so iconically states – Just Do It

Until next time,

“Stay smokey and Be blessed; I know I am!”

Diana ~aka “Queen of Cigars”

 

References

Time Magazine. Accessed May 16, 2016 at time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/ “You now have a shorter attentions span than a goldfish.

NBC News Report.  Accessed May 16, 2016 at www.nbcnews.com.

 

Essential Cigar Smoker Accessories

One thing I never foresaw in my foray into the cigar smoking lifestyle was the amount of cigar accessories I would accumulate over the years.  For the beginning smoker or the seasoned BOTL/SOTL, accessories are just as much collector’s items as cigars can be.  Today I want to talk about the essential accessories of cigar smoking and leave the variety and number that you acquire up to you!

First things first.  If you are a cigar aficionado you must have a safe and comfortable place for your cigars to hang out and rest before you decide to choose one to join you for some cigar meditation.  Humidors are sacred to cigars.  They can make or break a good cigar and sometimes take a good cigar to a great level.  Preparing, seasoning and maintaining your humidor(s) is a topic for another day but nonetheless, a very important one, so do your research and get a seasoned smokers advice when first prepping a new addition to your cigar family.

The variety and style of humidors is overwhelming so start with something that is well constructed, appeals to your personal style and will take good care of your cigars.  Be prepared to have more than one humidor though.  What starts out as a necessary accessory many times turns into a prized possession.  The practicality is important too.  Not only will you want to have the “main” humidor but you will be needing a travel humidor because after all, who can leave home without having a tasty cigar at their beck and call!  Personally I currently own a wineador, an ammo-dor, a coolerdor and a couple small wooden humidors.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention the four sizes of travel humidors I own along with numerous leather finger cases.  See what I mean?  It can get out of hand quickly but oh so willingly.

There are many good “deals” out there today also.  Buy a box of cigars and get a free humidor or travel case.  These are oftentimes great deals for the beginning cigar smoker who hasn’t blossomed yet, but you get what you pay for, or in this case what you don’t pay for, many times.  You will want to take the time to research and get sage advice as to what type of humidors and price ranges you can expect in order to purchase a quality and well sealed box for your treasures.  Being lined with Spanish Cedar is not simply enough to do the job.  The seal and ability to “hold” the humidity settings is critical to cigar life.

Well now that you have gotten that gorgeous humidor squared away, let’s look at some of the other items that are essential to your craft.  Cutters.  The variety and types are more plentiful than humidors I suspect.  I actually have a box that I use to keep all my cutting tools in one place.  There was a time I’d find them all over the house and vehicle and would be going crazy trying to find the one I wanted that day.  Now I’ve come to a place of organization so do it first before you get in a mess like I did!

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You know what’s going to happen, right?  You will wind up with at minimum one of each of these types of cutters.  Should I do a straight cut, a “V” cut, punch or some other creative configuration that the cigar world may dream up.  Oh and don’t forget…….many lighters come with a variety of punch cutters integrated in them.  I have my fancy cutters for when I’m out in public and want to stay classy.  I’ve got my home cutters that are used and abused daily.  I’ve got scissors, I’ve got knives, I’ve got………and so it goes on.  One of the coolest things about cutters, and lighters as we shall see, is that we tend to collect then through cigar tasting events, cigar shows and as freebies with our cigar purchases.  I can’t lie and say that there hasn’t been times that my cigar purchase hasn’t been swayed by the potential for a new cutter and/or lighter thrown in as incentive to purchase!

Again, as far as use, only you will ultimately decide what type of cutter you want to use for specific vitola and ring gauge cigars.  Do your research and ask questions of your seasoned cigar smoker friends and experiment with what works best for you.

Now to one of my favorite collectors item; lighters.  I could have a different one for everyday of the year if I’d let myself.  There are soft flame, torches (one, two, three and quad flames), tabletop and personal lighters.  Again, I have learned to keep a box with all the lighters in one place.  You will develop your favorites and those that light the best on a consistent basis but also those you love for their looks even though they are temperamental at best.

I use many different lighters depending on my mood but I have a few favorites.  One is actually a pipe/cigar lighter.  It offers the best of both worlds in that it has one button for the single torch and one lever for a soft flame.  I use both in the course of smoking a cigar at times.  Many times I toast my cigar with the torch and then use the soft flame to do the first light.  Again, this is an accessory of personal preference and as such you may decide to use different lighters for different vitolas of cigars.  I am strictly a single torch user when lighting a perfecto.  I am able to have better control of the flame in this case over a very small area.  For a large gauge cigar I will often use a double or triple torch.

Lighters are like jewelry.  Ever spend time in the cigar lounge and at some point or another a fellow BOTL or SOTL will comment on someone’s lighter?  It’s part of a personal statement of who we are and where we’ve been.  Cigar events, tastings and special offer incentives are great ways to get some fantastic lighters on the cheap or for free.

Next up are ashtrays.  From the multi group to the Stinky brand “anti-social” ashtray, there is something for everyone.  Again, collecting ashtrays from cigar events and such is a great way to increase your collection.  I know for myself I have a group ashtray for guests, a personal for myself, a car ashtray, a gal cave ashtray and on and on it goes.

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I’ve collected several different style car ashtrays.  When me and my cigar family head to events such as CigarFest we know that smoking in the vehicle is a must and so we go prepared with a single ashtray for each person.  In my gal cave at home I tend to use the “anti-social” ashtray but lately I’ve been foraying into other small, single and very convenient glass holder ashtrays.  As with every other cigar accessory we’ve talked about, there is something for everyone’s individual tastes.

Well we’ve covered the main staples of cigar accessories, but there is one more that I am including because I think it should be a mandatory part of the basic cigar smokers tool kit. I’m talking about the draw / nub poker.  I was remiss on owning one of these fantabulous little tools and found myself being frustrated from time to time with a tight draw cigar with great taste or getting to the nub while still wanting more and burning the tips of my fingers.  My first one was a homemade gadget from a fellow BOTL of mine.  A cork top with a long metal spear that I could use to poke my cigar and loosen the draw.  I still have it and use it mostly at home but when I’m out and about I tend to carry more commercial types.

The most elaborate of the pokers that I’ve seen is the one pictured above left.  That’s a great tool to keep in your lounge locker and always comes in handy for any BOTLs / SOTLs that are smoking with you and having a tough time with the draw of their cigar.  You will be the lounge hero or heroine with that nifty bugger at the ready!  The poker above right reminds me of a cocktail spear.  I usually have one with me and for the girlie in me I love to nub a cigar while delicately holding the shiny silver spear in my hand!  Usually gets a few laughs too as it certainly let’s people know you are getting every stoke of that cigar you can.

So there you have it folks!  The essentials of the cigar smokers tool kit.  So many choices but so important to have.  If you are looking to surf on the Internet while smoking a great cigar this is it.  I’m a frequent eBay watcher and will find some of the neatest ashtrays, lighters and other accessories around.  Amazon is another site that offers a veritable smorgasbord of accessories.  The humidor is the only item that I will say you should see in person or at minimum, do your research on the specs and reviews before ordering online.  Otherwise, have fun with it and get those accessory collections going!  Not only will you enjoy yourself but your cigars will love you too!

Until next time

“Stay smokey and be Blessed.”  “I know I am!”

Diana

~ aka “Queen of Cigars”

Cigar Review – Ave Maria Argentum


I have been a fan of Ave Maria cigars for quite some time.  My first AM was the Reconquista and from the presentation to the end it was a beautiful experience. Since then I have regularly smoked the Divinia and on special occasions the Reconquista.  When I saw that a new AM was arriving, I was instantly intrigued.  AJ Fernandez makes some wonderful cigars so it stands to reason that the Ave Maria line would be no different.  I have to admit that I went into this review with some bias but being the honest SOTL that I am, I will be truthful.

When I received my box of 10 I was immediately impressed with the window dressing.  The box is small, as it needs to be for the one size “Morning Star” (Perfecto) of the cigar. A piano black finish is adorned with the typical artwork that we have come to expect for Ave Maria cigars. The lid of the box is embossed with the silver, black, white and red label and a beautiful prayer is written in Latin below the AM symbol.  I would encourage you to get your Google Translator app going and see what the prayer says.  I found it very touching and classy.

Upon opening the box the cigars were as beautiful as the box.  The beautifully dark and rich looking Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper immediately looks inviting and I have visions of coffee and chocolate dancing in my head.  The cigars are individually wrapped in cellophane and the label is the same beautiful silver, black, white and red that adorns the box.  The main label is large and ornate and below it is a black and silver label with the given name Argentum inscribed. I did not let this first cigar for the review sit in the humidor.  This is fresh from the box and I suspect it will be mildly dry.  The rest will be tucked away for a little humi time.  Taking the cigar from the wrapper I sat and admired it for a bit.  The Argentum is a handsome cigar.  Doing a nose test didn’t reveal a lot but there was a hint of richness to it and made me anticipate the light and first draw even more.  I used a straight cutter and only clipped a short quarter inch from the head of the cigar.

The Argentum (which translates to “silver” from Latin) is a Nicaraguan medium to full cigar.  The wrapper, as mentioned earlier, is a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro and the filler / binder is made from Nicaraguan and Honduras leaves.  It is a stout cigar at 5 inches and a ring gauge of 58.

I am very careful when lighting a perfecto as it is easy to get the burn going crazy with such a small area to light.  Having said that, I was careful to thoroughly toast and light the very small open end of the perfecto and then took my first draw.  It was easy and I was not disappointed when I tasted coffee out of the gate.  The wrapper had some dryness to it but that is more the fault of this smoker and my impatience rather than the cigar I believe.  Some time in the humidor should correct that problem.   With the coffee came some dark chocolate in the background and a slight hint of spice.  I was pleased not to have pepper blast me as I wanted to bask in the coffee for a bit.  A third of the way into the stick it settled and the coffee became more intertwined in the rich dark chocolate, leather and mild spice I was enjoying.

As I went into the second third I was experiencing the dry wrapper problems, but again, I won’t hold that against AM at this point.  The ash had a nice white tone to it and the burn stayed crisp and even. Deeper into the cigar the leather came to the forefront and delivered a creamy and rich smoke. The cigar has settled into it’s main profile at this point and I am really enjoying the cool burn. The ash was solid and even though I was moving my hand around it stayed intact until I decided to ash.


Going into the last third I wondered if the cigar would become bitter but to my pleasure it did not.  Notes of cedar increased and mixed nicely with the leather.  The dark chocolate came forward a bit more to provide a tasty finish to a cigar I numbed.  In all this was a solid and tasty cigar.  I would give it a 90 rating and my hope is that after some humi time I will enjoy it even more.  Definitely a great stick for a good price point of $8.86/stick and $80 for a box of 10.

Until next time,

Stay smokey and be blessed, I know I am!

Diana

~aka – Queen of Cigars