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Written by Puff Staff

Wednesday, 06 August 2008

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I was down in Key West a week or so ago and I was reminded, once again, how much Duval Street resembles Bourbon Street in New Orleans. One mad, drunken, outdoor fraternity party, with people behaving as they would never behave at home! But, they're pretty much just having a good time and letting off steam. Nonetheless, it is not something that really attracts me, and I was fortunate to find an oasis, a refuge, if you will, of tranquility and gentility, when I walked into Grumpy's Cigar Shoppe at 335-F Duval Street (1.305.295.0696), and encountered Steve and Larry, the proprietors. My friend and colleague, Alan Kaye and I spent several hours at Grumpy's enjoying good conversation, laughs, great smokes and all that one enjoys in the civilized ambiance of ...


... a fine tobacco shop. Bill, who works with Steve and Larry, proved to be curmudgeonly, irascible, sarcastic and ironic - which is probably why he and I got on so well! Check out the photos at the end of this article, and if you're in Key West, stop by and enjoy Grumpy's and the guys.

I was out at the IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas last month.

Not my first time at these shows. Nonetheless, I witnessed a first!

It is not unusual to see retailers gathered around prominent cigar makers at Big Smokes and at these Trade Shows seeking to be photographed with the cigar makers. This time around, I witnessed an amazing phenomenon ...

Call it 'Alejandromania,' but, reps, cigar makers and other retailers were hovering around Alejandro Alcorta, the proprietor of year old Puros Fine Cigars in Miami, FL, clamoring to take a picture with the renowned young Miami tobacconist, as he made his way down the aisles with his two friends; Miami Dade Police Officers Israel Delgado and Carlos Garcia, creating something of a flying wedge!

Litto Gomez is releasing another batch of those fabulous Double Ligero 'A's (9 X 44); a Cameroon Cabinet Torpedo; in the Coronado line he's introducing a Lancero; and he's created the Factory Press III ... I and II having been so popular. And just for fun, he's redesigned the boxes for his LG Diez line. I haven't smoked all of them yet, but knowing Litto ... they'll all be terrific!

Panatela (all Lanceros are panatelas; all panatelas are not Lanceros!)

Lancero, cheroot, call them what you will ... they're back. The classic, elegant cigar has long been made by La Flor Dominicana in their Double Ligero blend; albeit, in limited supply. Don Pepin Garcia makes several, in his various marques. All superb, all of the quality we have come to expect of the 'Maestro.' Oliva, in their Series V boasts an elegant and eminently smokeable offering that looks terrific.

Jesus Fuego has introduced one, in his new "Delirium" maduro line, that is extremely enjoyable. And, of course, Tatuaje, another notable brand produced by Don Pepin, for Pete Johnson, has an excellent lancero.

I shouldn't neglect the "Creo," a beautiful, flavourful Lancero in Alec Bradley's new Tempus line, nor the Millennium Lancero by Davidoff.

I just saw the Rocky Patel Lancero Collection, ten (10) in a box - from all Rocky's lines and blends - for $70. These are not what I call classic Lanceros (7.5 X 38), but, rather 40 ring gauge. Still beautiful looking, and knowing the blends, I am sure they are beauties to smoke.

My friend, Robbie Morton of Cordova Cigars (6050 North 9th Ave., Ste C, Pensacola, FL 32504- 850.000.0000 - www.cordovacigars.com ) gave me two (2) exquisite Lanceros by the highly rated and highly regarded Illusione. More about them once I've smoked them.

Now, a long time in the making, but worth the wait, is Miami Cigar & Company's Nestor Miranda Collection version. Packed in unique Lucite chests of 10 and 50. I've been enjoying them since they first appeared, and even before that.

Don't get hung up on the Lucite and go off about " ... cedar." The original boîte nature was made of Cuban mahogany (sometimes Honduran or Philippine) with the scent of cedar sprayed quickly on the wood!

That's one of the things I love about cigars ... all the lore and fantasy.

I wrote about hoping Lanceros would make a come back, more than a year ago. I doubt that I inspired any of these cigar makers; but, I am happy to see they are thinking my way.

After many, many months, my friend Dr. Garo Bouldoukian, who aside from his professional practice makes Garo Habano Cigars, finally sent me a box of his Dominican made panatelas. I am not going to discuss them here, as I hope to see the rated in the future.

Dr. Garo is another Armenian who has gravitated to the cigar business. Think Avo Uvezian (the eponymous AVO cigar), Edward Sahakian (Davidoff in London), Raffi Aboulian (tobacconist in Geneva), and Paul Gamarian (PG cigars). I've not spent any time trying to figure out what drew these people to the cigar industry; certainly they don't come from a long line of tobacco growers and cigar makers in Armenian. But, they do all have a great love of life and enjoy the finer things in life.

I almost forgot Anto Kamarian of Cigars by Chivas in Pasadena. Anto is waging a serious battle against additional smoking bans being proposed by the 'city fathers.' They have no idea what they are up against!

I've been trying to get Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega to make a 601 lancero, particularly in the Habano (red label) and Oscuro (green label); they finally agreed. Pepin Garcia, who makes those delectable Nicaraguan Puros, however; was adamant that the full flavour of the blend could not be maintained in such a slender (38 ring gauge) cigar. There goes what would have been my favourite cigar!

Eddie tells me that Espinosa y Ortega's new line, Cubao, will include a classic 7.5" x 38 lancero. The Cubao line was a big hit with retailers, and we should be seeing them at your favourite tobacconist in early August.

We'll probably be hearing a lot more about this brand after the RTDA (I don't think many people will take to calling it the IPCPR - International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers - for some time.

Rafael Nodal (Quinteros) and I had a great conversation, the other evening at Puros Fine Cigars. We both agreed that for cigar smokers, these are " ... the best of times." I smoked Quinteros for the first time that evening, and thoroughly enjoyed them ... particularly, Rafael's LTD, packed in numbered black cabinets of fifty (50) cigars, and signed by him.

The conversation led me to think of some of the extraordinary offerings from cigar makers. Think of Camacho's Corojo 10th Anniversary ... a rich, creamy, nuanced smoke; Rocky Patel's ITC and his Decade; J.Fuego's marvelous smokes; Alberto Medina's PIO VI 'revival', which exceeds the quality of the cigar's first iteration. I think anything Ernie Carillo's La Gloria Cubana produces, is eminently enjoyable and my friend Litto Gomez never seems to make a misstep: think Coronado, LG Diez selections, Mysterio, Box Press and Limited Edition I and II. It took a tobacco growing, cigar making icon like Henke Kelner, to blend and produce the cigar named for the world's most famous, cigar smoking icon, Winston Churchill, Davidoff's latest offering to the cigar market. How about AVO's 787!

Another bunch of great smoking experiences came my way ...

... when, in a short period of time, I was able to get to a handful of really terrific tobacco shops and lounges. Some visits were of my own volition; others were for events.

Havana Joe's Cigar Lounge (650 NE 22nd Terrace, Homestead, FL 33030 - 305.247.3411 - www.myspace.com/havanajoescigars) had their Grand Opening and the event was sponsored by La Aurora. It's a very attractive venue, with a great crowd, although it is way off my beat. But, anytime I am driving down to Cuba, I certainly intend to drop in. It's a very comfortable place.

Leaving the finals of the U.S. Polo Association's World Cup, at the International Polo Club in Wellington, I stopped to replenish my supply of smokes at Three J's C-Cigar Emporium II, (4115 State Road 7, Suite Y2, Lake Worth, FL 33449 - 561.868.5600). I've been there several times before, as it is convenient to the Polo Club, and by the time I leave the matches on Sunday, I have smoked and given away the 10 or 12 cigars I brought with me.

This time, a quick visit turned into a relaxing 40 minutes, as I settled first inside, then outside chatting with some of the regulars, leafing through a few cigar magazines and enjoying an Ashton VSG.

The young chaps, who run this nicely appointed and well stocked shop, operate one or two other shops, one of which is in Davie, FL, and is very popular.

I was coming back from a great meal at Three Forks (4645 PGA Boulevard, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410 - 561.630-3660 - www.3forks.com) and stopped at Abe Debenah's Smoke Inn, (801 Village Boulevard, Palm Beach Gardens, FL - 561.721.2383 - www.smokeinn.com ) to congratulate Brandy and Abe on the birth their first child. Regrettably, for me, not for Abe, he was out of the country. I did, nonetheless, hang out and enjoy a cigar and a half ... no, not a "Nub," I just left when I was half way into my second cigar. I had an interesting conversation with a few of the regulars about, what else but, politics and the ruthless battle between Mrs. What's her name, and Barack Obama.

The nice thing about getting around as much as I do is that I can always find a hospitable cigar emporium, and I am never at a loss for a place to relax and enjoy a smoke.

I dropped by Deco Drive Cigars (414 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach - 305.5381.8388 - www.decocigars.com ) on a recent Sunday, just to relax and 'hang out,' as the kids say. While there I encountered an interesting young chap, Ashton Ledesma Touchtone, by name. He wasn't smoking; too young, I think. He wasn't talking; shy, I suppose. But he was having one hell of a time with a Heineken bottle cap!


The Honourable Luis-Felipe Mendonça, the Deputy Brazilian Consul-General in Miami, is departing these precincts to become H. E. The Brazilian Ambassador to El Salvador. A veritable fixture at Absolute Premium Cigars (22 S.W. 8th Street, Miami 33130 - 305.374.9999), he was feted at a party hosted, in grand fashion, by Maurice Hanono, our genial tobacconist. The food was catered by Beatriz of Havana Dreams, Mauricio's neighbour at 26 S.W. 8th Street - (305.350.9886), and was superb, albeit, ethnic. I have had my fair share of Imperial Rice and Fried Bananas, in my years in Miami and what we ate takes second place to none I have experienced!

Luis-Felipe will surely be missed for his fellowship and erudition, but most assuredly, he will not be forgotten. We look forward to his frequent visits.

Traveling to Tampa ... get to Gaspar's Grotto (1805 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City, FL 33605 - 813.248.5900 - www.gasparsgrotto.com) this fabulous spot sells the best cigars; and they even have "Beer Pong" on Friday night. Great store; great cigars; great clientele!

How's this for news: it appears that the FDA will be given dominion over tobacco products.

In light of the questionable job they've done with pharmaceuticals and food; and the recent salmonella problem, which they blamed on tomatoes, all but obliterating the American tomato farmers, until three months later they traced it to peppers from Mexico, I fear we smokers are in for more difficulties!

"A fine cigar to a man is like a good cry to a woman." - Will Rogers
With thanks to my friend, Phil Baron, who turned me on to this marvelous comment

Photos from Grumpy's Cigar Shoppe in Key West

   



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