Just Some Thoughts

It’s Sunday Funday and yet once again we find ourselves wrestling with more violence in America.  This has nothing to do with politics for me.  I don’t get into those discussions publicly and I don’t judge anyone involved in what’s going on.  But I am a concerned American and I am deeply disturbed by what we have been witnessing.  As more families are torn asunder from violence we all must search within ourselves for the solutions.  Real solutions, not the knee-jerk reactions of retaliation, crude remarks and more violence.  I don’t know what the answers are but I do know that between God and our Communities we can figure it out.  Please watch, think, grab a cigar and start a conversation with your friends, family, neighbors and anyone else who you come in contact with.  Life is too precious for these terrible tragedies to continue.  We can’t do much individually but if we all do something positive in our own little corner of the world we may be able to bring about collective change.  I pray for the families of the slain officers.  I pray for the families of those standing by at hospitals while their loved ones lives hang in the balance.  I pray for the families of the shooters as they struggle with the repercussions of such actions.  Finally, I pray for America where anything is possible……if we only believe.  God Bless each and every one of you and God Bless these United States of America.​  Until next time, “Stay Smokey and Be Blessed; I know I am!”  Diana ~aka Queen Of Cigars 

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Cigar Review – Roma Craft & Dojo Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion


The much anticipated 6th Dojo collaborated cigar release was this past Thursday, 7 July!  Only 500 boxes of the newest cigar in the Dojo lineup was released and sold out in the blink of an eye.  My calendar is full of work appointments and meetings but I blocked out two hours on the 7th in order to make sure I was able to jump in on the ordering action.  Following the Dogma, Nunchucks, Sarsaparilla, Chinese Finger Trap and Throw Down comes the launch of the Roma Craft Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion. As in previous Dojo releases the participating store, this time Famous Smoke, got orders out at lightening speed.  My two boxes arrived yesterday and I had to fight the urge to jump right in.  Knowing that I was going to do a review I decided to wait until today, Sunday, in order to properly prepare myself.  

Sunday mornings are a sacred time for this spiritual diva and so I had a little bit of coffee and watched my Sunday Service on the Internet.  Instead of having coffee and cigar though, I politely waited with the feeling of a real blessing about to befall me with this new cigar.  I’m a true Roma Craft believer and even though I go into reviews very objectively, my gut instinct was telling me this was going to be a special experience.  I carefully brushed my teeth, drank some water and did my photog session while waiting for my palette to be pure and ready.  Funny, I felt like I was getting ready to go on a very special date!!

The cigar is a 5 x 50 Robusto vitola and at first glance looked like a well constructed and solid cigar.  Once out of the wrapper I liked the smooth feel of the wrapper.  It is a comfortable size and handles well.  The wrapper has the look of smooth suede.  A nice rich brown colour with no veins, just a slight velvety appearance that kept it from looking dull.  I was hoping for the flat head that I like so much on some of the other Roma Craft sticks and felt a twinge of disappointment but not enough to dwell on it. The round cap is large enough to allow a nice punch which it seems I am particular too right now.  There is a hint of a shaggy foot; not enough to call it that but enough to give a thin line of lighter colour in contrast to the body.

The cigar band(s) are reminiscent of the Throw Down and although not remarkable or stand-out to me it gets the message across. The back side of the label has the Dojo and Roma Craft logos which is a nice touch.  For my two cents worth, if more cigars are made in the future I might suggest that the bottom label be printed in red and black to put visual emphasis on “rebellion”.  However, the “flat” colours of these labels add to the suede and velvety look of the cigar overall so not to fret.

The smell was pleasant and unexpected when I held it to my nose.  There was a bit of the “hay” smell that I usually experience with many cigars but this had something different with it.  I was picking up a dried fruit scent that was intriguing.  The punch went through easily with no cracking and no softness. The cigars were shipped with Boveda packs in the well crafted Roma Craft wooden boxes which was a brilliant packaging insight.  The dry draw was comfortable and easy and once again I got the dried fruit flavour.  Once toasted and lit the cigar filled my mouth with an abundance of smoke that was very pleasant and flavourful.  The draw was smooth and I got a mouthful of rich smoke with sweet and sour cherry.  

First 3rd – I had a couple of brief instances of hints of white pepper but it was so vague that I really wasn’t sure it was there.  It was instantly “meaty” and rich and the balance of sour cherry gave me a slight tart note that worked well with the fruity sweetness and smokiness.  I was enjoying the smoke so much that I just wanted to hold it in my mouth for awhile before slowly letting it out.  I’m not a big retro hale fan but this cigar just egged me on to do it.  No burn, but a nice smooth and tasty experience.  I was reminded of a nice T-Bone steak that had been marinated in hickory wood, mesquite wood with sweet and sour cherry sauce.  There was a hint of natural salt also and the balance made me ecstatic.  

Second 3rd – As I’ve come to expect from Roma Craft the cigar was consistent.  Some of the sour cherry dropped off but the hickory and mesquite wood flavour remained.  I found myself sitting back and truly relaxing with each draw.  Construction remained solid and the burn was even and needed no touching up.  The ash was tight and didn’t fall until I was ready to tap it.  The gray was covered with a nice white that contrasted nicely with the suede looking wrapper. The cigar continues to feel good in my hand and the draw remains steady and easy.  This is a cigar that I would look to when I really need to take things down a notch in my stress filled life.

Last 3rd – I didn’t have to peel the labels off as I was able to slide them off the head of the cigar with no damage to the wrapper.  About now is when I realised the strength of the cigar.  It is a full stick that didn’t really hit me in the face but going into the last third I was feeling it’s strength.  The hickory and mesquite was reaching its high point with the fruitiness and sour cherry fading more but not enough to make them disappear entirely.  The cigar burned “warm” but never hot enough for me to get my skewer out in order to nub it; and that I did.

When I finally put it down I was already thinking about when I was going to light another one up.  I also had the urge to marinate and grill a steak!  I settled for a roast beef, provolone, tomato and onion sandwich that seemed a natural follow-up to this splendid cigar.


Dojo and Colin Flint (captmaduro) Cigar Ratings Tool


OVERALL – The Intemperence Whiskey Rebellion earned an overall score of 95 for looks, construction, strength, flavour and smokability.  

My love affair with Roma Craft continues and I am happy to say that this cigar quickly moved to the top of my list of Dojo inspired cigars.  Would it beat out the Dogma?  Not quite but only because of the sentimentality that I have with that cigar.  As far as everything else I would be in quite a predicament if someone held a gun to my head and told me to pick one to smoke.  I’d beg to get them both since they are very different but both excellent cigars.  But alas, I digress!  The Intemperence Whiskey Rebellion is truly an awesome smoking experience.  With only two boxes in my possession I can only hope that another batch will come forth from the heavens in the future!  Until then I will look forward to what age can do to an already spectacular cigar.  Kudos to Dojo, Michael Rosalies and Skip Martin of Roma Craft!

Until next time,

Stay Smokey and Be Blessed, I know I am!!

Diana

~aka “Queen Of Cigars”

~aka “ArmyRN”

~aka “Dee Cigar Aficionadess

Adventures of a Seasoned Samurai

image                          image

Perhaps the best cigar social app on the planet was brought to my attention in 2013 by a BOTL of mine.  “Cigar Dojo” was a ground breaking social app that was meant for the cigar smoker and with the intent of bringing them together.  The brainchild of Eric Guttormson, the app was designed with the simple but profound motto “Never Smoke Alone” the app explained itself. For this Cigar Aficionaess it was the perfect app on those evenings when I was sitting on my deck and wanted to Herf with some cool BOTLs and SOTLs.

I joined in August of 2013 and have never looked back.  The Cigar Dojo has become a staple in my daily cigar life and has introduced me to some of the finest men and women who smoke cigars across our world.  “The Dojo” as we affectionately call it, allows users to post pictures with a comment and then fellow members can “like” and/or leave a comment.  Contests are a regular thing with something fun happening weekly.  Dojo winds up the week with  “Smoke Night Live” and Eric hosts an hour long live feed with special guests ranging from cigar manufacturers, bloggers, sub-groups and any other interesting persona that is associated with the cigar lifestyle.

Sub-groups are an interesting part of the Dojo.  They come from BOTLs and SOTLs who may live in the same area, have the same particular interest or some other qualifier that makes them unique within the cigar society.  One such group is the Seasoned Samurai.  Founded by Jim Herndon (KeikanJim on the Dojo) and implemented with the help of Colin Flint (capt-maduro on Dojo), they set about creating a group of older cigar smokers who had a significant history and plethora of experience with cigars.  One qualifier is that you must be 40 years old at minimum.  They set out vetting their first picks for the first round of members and as the stars aligned I was contacted for the second phase.  Turns out that not only am I the only female type in the group (a second and youngest may be joining soon – she just has to have that 40th birthday!), I am their oldest at almost 58 years of age. I was honored to be accepted almost two years ago and I have had nothing but great fun, great learning and great kindness from this terrific sub-group of the Dojo.

They are my daily companions as I quickly take a shot of a cigar and post it to “Hangouts” where we have our chat group.  We check in with each other in the morning and keep tabs on each other’s lives frequently busting each other’s chops, lending a listening ear and supporting one another however we can.  We share our joys, our jokes and our sorrows and all through it we share our cigars.  Bombs, special packages of cheer and celebratory cigars are shared and many times cigars are sent, “just because.”  These guys have truly become my brothers and when I don’t chat with them I miss the heck out of them.

I have been privileged to meet and spend some time with a few of them (and also Eric, his son Jordan and few other Dojoers) who ventured on the Dojo Cigar Safari to DE in Nicaragua this past November, but much like an awesome cigar I am left always wanting more.  Since we are from all over the US and England it is difficult to get us all together.  We’ve managed some video herfs which have been total blasts but meeting in person is the ultimate cigar Herf dream.

I’m happy to announce that it is happening, at least with a solid group of us, this weekend!  As I type this, my brother Jim (KeikanJim) has landed at Philadelphia airport from Texas and is headed my way now.  We will hang out tonight, Herf with dragonmick and his ladymick (Mike and Sharon) and get an opportunity to share our Seasoned Samurai experiences tonight on the Cigar Dojo “Smoke Night Live.”  Tomorrow we will take the train and head to New York City for a day of Herfing with our brother from across the pond, Colin (capt-maduro), Layne, Gary, significant others, prospective Samurai and various cigar friends.  It will promise to be an epic adventure as we share brunch and then spend the afternoon at the Nat Sherman Townhouse Lounge.

Weekends like this are precious.  These are the times that the best cigars come out and memories are made that will be forever associated with whatever cigars we are smoking at the time.  We will meet not ever seeing each other in person but knowing each other very well.  We are brothers and sisters who epitomize the countless class acts that comprise the cigar life.  Kind, caring, down to earth and willing to give each other the shirts off our backs if we are able.  That is the spirit of the Seasoned Samurai.  Fiercely protective of our right to smoke premium cigars; opinionated about the industry and our smokes and humble enough to know how precious life is and how rare it is to have forged some of the best friendships a person could ask for.

We are careful not to forget where we came from though.  Without the Cigar Dojo app and Eric’s hard work, we would not exist today.  We are a child of the Dojo with Master Sensei (Eric) as our father who encouraged us to get involved, get social and above all else, “never smoke alone.”  With a group of BOTLs and SOTLs like the Dojo and the Seasoned Samurai, trust me, I never will!

Stay tuned for more as we hit NYC tomorrow!

Until then, “Stay Smokey and Be Blessed, I know I am.”

Diana

aka~ Queen Of Cigars

aka~ ArmyRN (Dojo Name)

NOTE:  If you are interested in checking out the dojo app, look it up at the Apple App Store or Google Play for Android.  It is listed under CigarDojo or Cigar Dojo.  You can also access through the Internet at cigardojo.com

Seasoned Samurai and Cigar Dojo Logos courtesy of CigarDojo.com (Eric Guttormson).

 

Cigars and Post-Traumatic Stress

I’ve been a bit under the radar the last couple of weeks and so I thought I’d share some thoughts about why that may happen now and again and prevent me from doing my weekly post.  So here’s a little of my history and how I came to smoke cigars!

I have never been a cigarette smoker.  Sure I had my bout with them in my very early 20’s when I wanted to see what all the fuss was about but I eventually decided I just didn’t like it and quit on the spot.  However, my grandfather was a lifelong pipe smoker who mesmerized me with his meticulous packing of his tobacco, methodical choosing of his pipe and peaceful smoking.  I loved the smell of his tobacco and would watch him in silent awe.  My first foray into pipe smoking started with a ride home from the central jersey shore with my best friend at the time.  We stopped and bought a corncob pipe, a cheap little tool and some Captain Black tobacco.  I can still recall opening the tobacco pouch and shoving my nose into it to take in the sweet smell.  Of course my first pipe smoke might have lasted ten minutes since I didn’t really know how to properly pack a pipe but the enjoyment was immense!  From that time forward I was an on again off again pipe smoker and to this day still keep a nice selection of pipes and tobacco on hand when the mood strikes me.

I never thought to smoke cigars.  I had that vision in my head of “stogies” that smelled stale and old men chewing the ends of an unlit cigar while making inappropriate comments to young ladies half their age.  Yes, I’m a 50’s child so cigars, however magical they are, didn’t have the romanticism they now have.  I went about the business of living life and eventually made the choice to go back to college and get my nursing degree.  When I became an RN at 42 years of age I knew I was going to go into the Army Nurse Corps.  The military was a life long dream and being an Emergency Nurse was a leg-up to getting into the military because of the shortage of nurses both in and out of the service. September 11th occurred in the midst of my planning so coincidentally I entered the Army just two months after the 2001 attacks.  At 43 years old, and in great shape at the time, I became a United States Army Soldier.  To this day it is the proudest moment of my life!

I served in various missions to Guatemala and did field hospital training during my first few years.  I became the Compay Commander of my hospital unit and came into my own as a leader.  The beauty of the military is that one does many jobs that are not within your given job title.  You are a Soldier first and a nurse second.  So when the call came to deploy overseas I was more than ready.  No, I didn’t go into theatre (Iraq at the time) but I did get sent to Germany to man the Army Hospital in Wurzburg.  I worked in the ER and was also trained as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.  I was busy and felt useful but little did I know the experience that was coming.  In November of 2004 the “Second Battle of Fallujah” aka “Operation Phantom Fury” aka “The Bloodiest Battle of Iraq” began.  I was a member of an on-call team that received notice to go to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Kaiserslautern to help care for the wounded coming in from that battle.  There were about 12 of us and we anxiously gathered to make the two hour drive to our assignment.  What I was about to encounter would be a major factor in changing my life forever.  I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say that we took in over 650 wounded Soldiers and Marines our first week there.  It was a perpetual cycle of aircraft flying into adjoining Ramstein Air Base from Iraq, wounded being transported across base to our hospital, unloading, assessing, caring for and shipping out these brave men around the clock.  Twelve hour shifts became 14 and 16 hours.  I worked, ate and slept like it was only the blink of an eye and then would start all over again.  The wounds were a mix of gunshot, explosives and shrapnel and destroyed otherwise healthy and athletic young men.  In the little time that we had to gather and “debrief” there was no time for asking “therapeutic” questions such as “how did that make you feel?”  So we did the next best thing; we would gather and some NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) type would hand out cigars.  We’d light up, take a deep breath and then “shoot the shit” as a way to relax and unwind without buckling under the weight of our emotions and physical exhaustion.  There it was my first cigar.  There was no “Cigars for Warriors” back then so we smoked what we could get our hands on and my first cigar and subsequent others was a Chateau Fuente. It helped us stay bonded and sane during those terrible days and I never forgot that.

Fast forward to getting out of the military in 2010.  At 52 years old I was tired and broken.  I loved my time in the Army but knew it was time to transition to Veteran status in my community.  I smoked cigars now and again but they weren’t the priority that they now are.  I smoked whatever was available and mostly with the military and veteran friends that I chose to hang out with.  Since my time at Landstuhl I served on other missions and had both good and bad experiences moving forward, but the Post-Traumatic Stress that was boiling inside me had not yet burst.  I was different that’s for sure and my friends knew it but I had no idea what to do with all the emotions so I kept myself in a perpetual state of numbness.  That was much easier than dealing with what I felt.  People became something I needed to avoid.  It was much easier to isolate than it was to either deal with people who didn’t understand my world or people that seemed to just piss me off.  I lost long-term friends who just didn’t like the person I had become.  I was a robot who gave them the superficial person they wanted but had this blank stare that didn’t register much emotion.  Than came the fateful day that the pressure cooker blew up.  August of 2010 my dad had open heart surgery and experienced some complications.  I was forced to be in the hospital day in and day out and spending time with family that I didn’t have a great history with surely didn’t help matters.  One more issue and I exploded inside.  The rage and emotions that I had bottled and built upon since 2004 came bubbling over.  I paced the hospital hallways and couldn’t get the crawling of my skin to stop.  I wanted to find someone, anyone, to beat the crap out of, to scream at and to destroy.  I hated the civilian world and mindset and I just wanted to go back to the military where at least I knew my buddies had my back and I was understood.  Life crashed in a profound way that day and it is also the impetus for cigars becoming part of my healing.

I was referred to the VA for evaluation and treatment and formally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress in October of 2010.  Since that time I have improved with the help of medication and therapy but like most chronic illnesses and injuries I had to also find ways to maintain my functionality in this every day world.  My new service dog, Gunnar, helped me with the isolation that I so desperately clung to and watched my back out in public.  I talked to him incessantly and was finally able to go out and enjoy the world a bit with him by my side.  I started spending a lot of time outside in my backyard and cigars became a part of that ritual.  I could get to work and get through the day knowing that I had this peaceful paradise of me, my dog and my cigars waiting for me when I got home.  I frequented my local B&M to pick up smokes and then by chance one day, the owner mentioned a cigar tasting event to me.  I decided to venture out and attend.  To my amazement and delight, the greater majority of attendees were veterans!  I had found my new niche and safe place.  We talked, we smoked, and we shared.  For the first time in a very, very long time I “belonged” again and I could be myself again without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. (Please note, I do believe there are many “civilian types” who are empathetic and understanding of PTSD but it is the Veteran’s perception many times that they don’t.  We don’t share often because we don’t want to paint a picture for you that we struggle with each day and we want to protect you from our pain.  BUT we THANK YOU for your support and kindness to us!).

Let me point out an interesting fact about my therapy.  My therapist is aware that I smoke cigars on a regular basis and the first time I divulged that information to her I braced myself for the “quit smoking” and “smoking is bad for your health” speeches.  They didn’t come.  She simply stated, “if it helps then do it!”  Music to my ears!  So in a quick sidebar regarding the FDA and their infiltration into my rights let me share a few excerpts from a research article regarding PTSD and nicotine.

“There is evidence that individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may smoke in part to regulate negative affect.”

“A hallmark phenotype of individuals with PTSD is increased psychophysiological responsivity and negative affect to idiopathic trauma related stimuli.”

“…..individuals with PTSD exhibit biased attention to negative emotional information……..deregulated emotional information processing in PTSD (may) be due to to hyper responsiveness of the amygdala – a region (of the brain) sub serving negative emotional information processes.”

“Laboratory studies show that smoking and nicotine reduces distraction caused by negative stimuli……”

“….neuroimaging studies show that nicotine acts on limbic (e.g., amygdala) and prefrontal brain areas that subserve emotional information processing.”

“Smokers with PTSD report greater NA (negative affect) immediately prior to smoking and greater decreases in NA following smoking.”

(Froeliger, B., Crowell Beckham, J.L., Feldman Dennis, M., Kozink, R.V., &       McClernon, F.J., 2012)

So take that FDA!  For a quick soapbox moment:  I’m much rather smoke cigars while understanding the health risks and having a clear mind than to get a prescription for marijuana and have the same health risks plus a mind altering drug!  But, who am I…….certainly not the end all, be all FDA!  (SIGN those petitions BOTLs and SOTLs)

My life today is filled with great friends who I consider family.  I still have my back yard rituals of hanging out with my service dog Gunnar, smoking cigars and relaxing the evening or day away, but my world has expanded exponentially.  I love the cigar world and the cigar lifestyle.  My palette has matured and although I feel tremendous nostalgia whenever I smoke a Chateau Fuente, I have graduated to a very diverse ad expansive collection of cigars that I smoke.  My friends are fantastic and have my six when we attend cigar events that have crowds.  I’m blessed, I’m loved and I’m able to be the veteran that I truly am now.  The cigar world has helped me heal and helps me keep myself on tract when things get rough.

So there you have it!  My cigar story.  I still get rough patches sometimes and that’s when I’ll go “under the radar” for a bit but I am never far from all of you in my thoughts.  I’m out on my deck or in my Gal Cave having a few cigars and letting the healing happen.  When I re-emerge I am renewed, refreshed and ready to go forth and live the public cigar life that I love!  As I always tell my audiences when I am a guest presenter; “Don’t read my story and feel sorry for me but hear my story and understand.”

If my story can help another person who is struggling with PTSD to shed any shame they may feel then my mission is accomplished.  If my story helps someone understand and gain education and empathy towards our brave men and women who have served in the military then I am happy to oblige.  In the meantime I think I’m gonna go smoke a few more cigars today because as it says on my t-shirt “I smoke cigars because therapy is expensive”!  

Until next time,

“Stay Smokey and Be Blessed, I know I am”

Diana ~aka Queen of Cigars
References

Froeliger, B., Crowell Beckham, J.L., Feldman Dennis, M., Kozink, R.V., & McClernon, F.J. (20120). Effects of nicotine on emotional reactivity in PTSD and non-PTSD smoker: results of a pilot fMRI study. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences, 2012. 265724th ser. Doi:http://do.doi.org/10.1155/2012/265724.

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

Cigar Review – BLTC Ginger

I am a lover of boutique cigars but I’ve learned through the years that they can sometimes be hit or miss. So when I saw the “Ginger” go up for sale on Cigar Federation I wasn’t sure where it would fall in the line of success, mediocre or fail.

Only 500 cigars were produced at Fabrica Oveja Negra in Esteli, Nicaragua. Only one vitola is available, the 5 x 52 Robusto. Not a lot of information is given other than the wrapper being a corojo. It is classified as a medium bodied smoke but no information is given on the filler and binder.

I opened the five pack (only way to buy them) and smelled the cigar. A slight floral aroma hit my nose immediately. The cigar has a smooth appearance and a bit of a reddish hue to the wrapper. I decided to use a punch and on the unlit draw I tasted the floral that I was smelling along with some mild cedar. Upon the first light the draw remained easy, but not sloppy. Sufficient smoke and immediate flavor was impressive.

The first third was flavorful with a mix of chocolate, floral essence, ginger and mild spice. As I went through I noticed a bit of white pepper in the background. It gave the cigar a little pep and kept it from being totally smooth. The second third remained the same but the chocolate fell to the background. The pepper remained light and the floral and ginger grew. The burn line remained perfect and the cigar felt good both in my fingers and my mouth. The last third brought out more of the cedar and the ginger came more to the forefront. I wasn’t ready to put the cigar down when I got to the end and nubbed it. The cigar required no touch ups throughout the smoke experience.

I was so impressed with this cigar that I went onto the Cigar Federation site and ordered another five pack while I was smoking. If I had the cash of a champagne drinker instead of beer I would’ve bought all the packs still left (15 at the time). I did a review on the CF website and gave this gem five stars. I would rate it at a 91 and definitely recommend it for anyone who wants something a little different. The Ginger is a success in my boutique cigar book.

I’m hopeful that BLTC will decide to produce a few more of these in the future. All in all a nice way to end my Monday evening Herf. Next time I’m going to pair it with a Shiner Ruby Red Ginger beer and see if it enhances the cigar or mutes it.

Until next time brothers and sisters – Stay smokey and blessed! I know I am!

 

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Hello Cigar Kingdom!

In a world full of testosterone, whiskey, scotch, bourbon and cigars, there exists a wild animal lurking in the midst of the tobacco jungle.  Peering out between the leaves and carefully observing the male of the species, these stealth and gorgeous creatures have been slowly and steadily emerging and partaking of drink and cigars. The new cigar afi”she”onado has arrived and is increasingly involved in the world of creation, marketing, selling and most importantly, the full enjoyment of the art of cigar smoking.

When traditionally thinking of the female who smokes cigars, the focus has been more on the models and visually “hot” women who help promote and cater to the large male market that has always existed. The sizzling and scantily clad ladies striking sultry poses with phallic cigars In their hands or between their lips, have been a staple in the cigar industry, and more than likely will remain so as far as the future can be told. There is a certain comfort in the “man-world” of cigars with all its simplicity and no-nonsense sexism.  There’s nothing wrong with that perspective and expectation as it is steeped in cigar smoking tradition and anyone who loves cigars had better come to terms with it.  However, time continues forward and with it the rise of strong and confident female cigar smokers.

Nothing needs to change men! Nor are women asking for change either!  The female cigar smoker simply wants what you want; the ability to live life simply in the moments that we are able to imbibe in a well-earned drink and a full-bodied cigar or two. Maybe we even want to ogle our own brand of sexism with buff and bare chested adonises serving our cigars! Yes, we all know the stereotypical lady smoker; she starts out with a few CAO Flavors cigars and pairs it with her favourite Cosmopolitan recipe. Lady smokers are complex creatures smoking fragrant and sweet-smelling “cigars” while their she-smoker cousins have been creeping out from the dark shadows of the jungle seeking all that the cigar life has to offer and by doing so taking their rightful place among the brothers of the leaf.

Women cigar smokers are coming of age and that’s what the Cigar Kingdom’s “queen of cigars” blog is all about. These are the women who know how to smoke with the best of them while being fully comfortable in their female skin. Yes brothers, you can spot us with a trained eye. We are everything from the everyday working gal, the military or veteran sister, the married woman seen hanging out with her husband and friends, the professional dressed to the nines and any other shape, size and configuration you can imagine. So how do you know it’s a cigar afi”she”onado? Just check out the cigars!

Don’t be surprised to see those medium to full-bodied sticks in our hands. There’s nothing like a great glass of bourbon paired with an Espinosa 601 La Bomba Warhead or perhaps a Moscow Mule and a Liga Privada No 9. The combinations are endless and our palettes are maturing. We want to smoke with you, create with you and enjoy the immeasurable simplicity of all things good that cigar smoking brings to one’s life.

Will we sometimes have our “girlie” moments and revert back to that Cherry Bomb with the Cosmopolitan? Most likely, yes, after all we are girls! Just don’t let it fool you into a false sense of bravado. We are growing in number, we are your sisters of the leaf and we are here to stay!