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Written by Gary J. Arzt

Monday, 24 November 2008

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flavors and aromas

Orlando, Fl ... 15 November 2008 ... Manny Ferrero, Ashton's Vice President of Sales, was never content with the simple 'in store' event. Traveling all over the place to sell a few, or hundreds of boxes of cigars was not his idea of educating cigar smokers; or of explaining Ashton cigars to them. Hence, he created an experience that involved other products - from port to lemonade - and created "pairings."

On Saturday, November 15, at Corona Cigar (www.coronacigar.com) Jeffrey Borysiewicz's shop at 127 South Orange Avenue in Orlando, hosted one of Manny's events. Not content with just Manny, an oversized personality, to be sure, Jeffrey was able to secure the attendance of the 'first team.' Robbie Levin, CEO of Ashton/Holt’s, Michael P. Walter, their Regional Sales Manager and the affable and erudite, Rex G. Snyder - Ashton’s Florida and Caribbean Sales Rep.

A group of forty (40) plus serious smokers were in attendance at a ticket price of $40. The ticket included membership in Cigar Rights of America, an organization all cigar smokers should be joining and one that is close to Robbie Levin's heart, being one of the founders.

When I tell you that these "pairings" have included almost everything from Port to Lemonade, I am not kidding. Manny has done them, mating wines, teas, fruits ... anything that compliments the enjoyment of a cigar. And, truth be told, almost everything - with the exception of bubble gum - does.

On this night, it was Remy Martin cognacs, and Manny was ably assisted by a young man, representing Remy Martin, who was referred to as "Steele." When I enquired whether this was his surname or Christian name, at breakfast this morning, Rex suggested that, like Sting or Madonna, he went by the one name. Who am I to argue with Rex Snyder?

The evening's cigar offerings included an Ashton Cabinet; an Ashton Heritage and an Ashton VSG. The cognacs were all exquisite and Steele offered quite an education of the appreciation and creation of this extraordinary libation.

Manny's message throughout the evening: "Trust your taste." It is worth pointing out that it was Manny that introduced me to the use of almonds to cleanse the palate when participating in a cigar tasting. He also likes to use dark chocolate, usually bitter sweet (with low sugar content) to compliment the taste of the cigars.

Let me tell you; an event such as this, conducted as only Manny conducts them - hell, he created them - is an education in itself.

Steele, a lot younger than Manny, held is own as the two (2) of them switched off like Martin and Lewis (I hope I'm not the only one that remembers them). The evening was more like "Good Living 101" then one of Manny’s "Elements of Taste."

Manny Ferrero, who I have known for close to twenty (20) years - he joined Ashton in 1990, some five (5) years after the brand was created - is not one for clichés; nonetheless, being an Italian American, former policeman, from Philadelphia, he has a penchant for concise commentary. Ergo, it was not surprising to hear him say, "Cream always rises to the top and shit drops." I’ll leave it to you to figure which cigar was the cream!

Manny has been conducting these events for years, and while they differ hugely from the traditional event - 'five free cigars with a box' - the attention paid to everything by the attendees and the vibrant round of applause that accompanied the end of the evening was ample evidence that the cigars, cognac and education were well appreciated by the audience.

One couldn't help but note how attentive and quiet the assembled smokers were when both Manny and Steele were talking; explaining their craft and the product that was produced by the effort.

The essence of both the cigars and the cognac were summed up by Manny, when he said, "A fine cigar, like anything else in life worth enjoying, takes time and patience."

The Crowd at Corona Cigar Gary J Arzt with Robert Levin - Ashton CEO
Gary J. Arzt with Remy Martin Cognacs and Ashton Cigars Michael Walter - Ashton Regional Sales Mgr., Gary J. Arzt and Manny Ferrero - Ashton VP of Sales



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