Written by Gary J. Arzt

Monday, 01 September 2008

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industry updates

Finally, an organization whose objective is to fight back; to protect us from the further erosion of our rights as smokers; so that we may continue to enjoy a simple, relaxing pleasure!

If you haven't joined Cigar Rights of America, you should. It's the best $30/per annum you'll ever spend. Check their web site at and sign up. Then check the schedule for the next leg of the "Freedom Tour," and be sure to get there when a great bunch of cigar makers come to your city.

In the meantime, offensive assaults on enjoying the simple pleasure of a fine cigar still claim a great deal of my time, to wit ...

Just the other evening I was having pre-dinner drinks on the bar on the deck at Smith & Wollensky (Miami Beach) with my good friend Manny Huerta, Jr. We were seated at the very east end of the bar - a rather long bar - on the deck. Manny, on one corner with his back, so to speak, to the ocean. I on the corner to his left, with my back to Government Cut and Fisher Island.

Out of nowhere a woman appeared and planted herself between Manny and I and said, "Would you mind ... " I immediately replied, "I don't know about him, but I would mind! We're out here, with these giant cigar ashtrays in front of us, under a series of fans every 12 feet, and this is where diners are encouraged to smoke." My last comment was, "The fact that your sex life leaves you wanting is no reason for me to give up my small pleasure."

With that, the woman huffed and puffed - Manny turned red - as she retreated about 15 feet towards the west and resumed sitting at the bar with her husband.

By the way, she remained about one (1) hour and thirty-five (35) minutes longer with no further complaint or comment.

It's about trying to impose their will on us.

Least you think that 'anti-smoking' laws are a modern phenomenon, consider the following:
• On 16 September 1586, Philip II of Spain issued a Royal Patent imposing a punishment of whipping on users of the leaf and exile for growers and sellers.
• Pope Urban VIII issued a Papal Bull (I have always found that term highly descriptive of the content of these edicts) in 1624, railing against tobacco and smoking and banning it from Church properties.
• In 1645, Czar Alexander of Russia ordered all smokers be deported to the far reaches of frozen Siberia. He later added another decree imposing torture and death.

I could go on, but my point is that we have always been put upon by the forces of 'evil,' and we have survived and prospered. Let's just keep on smoking and enjoying all those superb cigars that are available to us today!

At least now, and it bears repetition, we have an organization prepared to do battle for us. I urge you to join Cigar Rights of America ( )

I've often said that for smokers, this is the "best of times," and what I had in mind was the plethora of fine cigars available to us. My friend, Carlos Acin, with another point of view, sent me the following e-mail not so long ago:

"Nice column. I had to question to myself your comment about this being the "best of times". I know you were referring to the quantity of quality smokes available; however, with all that's going on with regulation it's more like the calm before the storm. Maybe sitting in the eye of a hurricane would be a better analogy. There's all kind of hell going on around and I don't see the panic in others that I feel. I feel people are in for a nasty surprise, especially after November."

Ivan Garcia at Puros Fine Cigars in Miami
Ivan Garcia at Puros Fine Cigars in Miami

What's a HERF?

My friend, Colin Ganley, who writes for European Cigar Cult Journal enquired, in an e-mail, what I thought the definition of a 'herf' was. I had my own idea, but, I decided I would contact a few other cigar experts. Hence, I e-mailed, George Brightman, David Savona, Simon Chase and Greg Mottola. The consensus was that a 'herf' is a group of smokers, gathering at a smoking venue for an evening of enjoyable cigar smoking; and, that the event is usually organized via the internet. What do you think? Let me hear from you at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Ivan Garcia, who frequents Puros Fine Cigars in Miami, exemplifies what a young cigar smoker should be doing! Ivan has his favourites, but varies his choice of cigars constantly. I'm flattered that he says I have never turned him onto anything but excellent cigars. I've known Ivan about a year, and I have seen him develop a very precise, sophisticated palate. He's an enjoyable smoking companion with a great sense of humour, and, on occasion, some very intense conversation.

I finally got down to visit my old friend, Mario Sirulnik's Stogies of Kendall (11612 S.W. 88th Street, Miami, FL - 305.598.9820) to see the brand new Diamond Crown Lounge there. I confess, I was very impressed. Not only is it nicely fitted out, but it's cozy. Mario is a superb host and very knowledgeable tobacconist; except on those days when he's cranky. But, by and large, a visit to Stogie's is very enjoyable. The selection is just, simply, huge!

There are about forty (40) of these lounges around the country at present, and Mario is one (1) of two (2) in Florida. When I was there, a bunch of regulars were enjoying the Olympics on the large screen TV, having Cuban coffees, discussing politics, sports, economics and, most of all, enjoying a fine cigar. Several of the superb Diamond Crown Maximus sticks were in evidence.

Diamond Crown Lounge at Stogie's of Kendall
Diamond Crown Lounge at Stogie's of Kendall
I dropped by Sabor Havana's Doral, FL shop (2600 N.W. 87th Avenue, Doral, FL 33172 - 305.436.8860 - ) to attend an afternoon event for Manuel "Manolo" Quesada's new Casa Magna and Viso Fuerte cigars. Manolo, who heads MATASA in Santiago, Dominican Republic is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced cigar makers.

Casa Magna is really a first for MATASA ... it is produced in Esteli, Nicaragua and is a beautiful medium to full bodied smoke, with rich flavours, complexity and a very smooth finish. The bands and boxes are elegant as well.

The Viso Fuerte is produced in MATASA's own factory in Santiago and is, likewise a superbly flavourful smoke.

Manolo himself appeared at the event with Paul Hernandez, the sales rep for the cigars.

I was happy to see Achille Legra and George Valdez, owners of Sabor Havana, although I had traveled, less than a week ago, with Achille to the CRA "Freedom Tour" event in Orlando. George, on the other hand, had been unable to attend that great event, dedicated to protecting the rights of cigar smokers.
Paul Hernandez explaining how to check the aroma of cigars to MDPO Carlos Acin Paul Hernandez explaining the box code on Casa Magna boxes George Valdez and Manolo Quesada at Sabor Havana, Doral, FL
George Valdez, Paul Hernandez and Manolo Quesada at Sabor Havana, Doral, FL George Valdez paying Paul Hernandez for cigars

Rene Castaneda, Managing Director & Nat'l Sales Manager of Miami Cigar & Company, distributors of Felipe Gregorio cigars, and I went to 900 S.W. 8th Street in Miami (not that part of it referred to as "Calle Ocho." And a handful of blocks from the Brickell Avenue Financial District) to see the new Casa Felipe (305.860.3230 - being opened by Felipe Gregorio. Philip G. Wynne, a true, classic gentlemen, as are so many in the cigar industry, gave us a short tour of the soon to open establishment.

With a great wine selection, and, of course, those excellent Felipe Gregorio cigars, the shop opens on Tuesday, 2 September. Staffed, primarily, by Chris "Gunny" Orr, an ex-Marine, albeit, not a Gunnery Sergeant, who is the wine expert, and Sebastian Coll an extremely affable young man with experience in retailing and Customer Service. While only smoking cigars for six (6) months, who has a fine appreciation of cigars, and you'll be well served by him, and by Gunny, I can assure you.

The shop will be open six (6) days a week and parking is available.
Sebastian Coll of Casa Felipe and Hector of Felipe Gregorio Casa Felipe cigars and autographed photos Casa Felipe Miami Florida
Rene Castaneda, Managing Director of Miami Cigar & Company, Philip G. Wynne, CEO of Felipe Gregorio Wine Room at Casa Felipe Tasting Tables at Casa Felipe
  View of Casa Felipe  

Whenever I travel, I find myself repairing to a fine tobacconist to recover from the rigors of the contemporary airport and airplane experience.

On a recent visit to New Haven, CT to see one of my God sons, I stopped at The Owl Shop (268 College Street, New Haven, CT 06510 - 203.624.3250 - ), a wonderful old tobacconist that I had not visited in twenty (20) years.

The shop began on Wall Street in 1934, and later moved to New Haven. In 1998, Glenn Greenberg purchased it and, a few years later completely refurbished it, with a full bar - which while it holds no particular appeal for me, attracts a very nice crowd. The lounge area is comfortable and friendly, the cigar selection excellent. Being in a college town they have a nice pipe and tobacco selection.

If you're heading for New Haven, put The Owl Shop on your itinerary; you won't regret it.

The Owl Shop, New Haven CT
The Owl Shop, New Haven CT






















We're Smokin' at Mike's Cigars ... for the first time in their more than fifty (50) year history, Mike's Cigars (1030 Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor Islands, FL) is holding an enormous Cigar Event on Saturday, 1 November. Food, drink, music and cigars a plenty by some of the most famous cigar makers. Check out the web site at

"A cigar numbs sorrow and fills the solitary hours with a million gracious images." - George Sand, 1867

The cigar industry lost a wonderful young gentleman when Daniel Miranda, Vice President and Director of Marketing of Miami Cigar & Company, passed away, on Friday, 22 August, after a three year battle with cancer. (He was 38 years old.) He will be missed by all who knew him. Our sympathies go out to Marianna and Nestor Miranda, his parents, Christina, his wife, and Daniela and Alexandra, his children.

Rest in Peace, Daniel

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