Friday, September 15, 2006

The Cigar Ash Obsession

Some time back I wrote a piece about wrappers (click here) where my goal was to point out some misconceptions about the wrapper. I will reiterate, that the wrapper role is mainly cosmetic, so get what you prefer... on that same note, there is a similar situation with cigar ashing.

One of the greatest things about cigar smoking is that there are no rules. Everyone likes different vitolas, cuts it differently, and smokes it differently- and as long as the smoker enjoys what they are doing- it is fine.

Ashing is an odd on for me to observe. I recently bumped into Show Me Your Ash, and it made me think about writing a post on the subject. I know nothing about the site, but they have a nice collection of photos if you follow the link.

The one that concerns me is the long ash. It is so very popular, but so nerve-racking. I say nerve-racking because I am a cautious guy, and too many times I have lost an ash on my shirt, pants, or worse (like the floor of my mother's house).

Sometimes I get nervous (mostly when I am drinking) just looking at a long ash, imagining the where and when it might fall. Like driving in a car on "E," and every block (like every puff) makes me more and more nervous.

I understand that a solid ash is the sign of a good cigar (but so is body and aroma)

I am a "no-ash" guy. I flick or twist it off as soon as I can. In fact, I picked up the habit somewhere of crushing the ash, and pushing it to one side of the ashtray. In addition, I am an animated talker, and I can't be waving my hands with an inch of ash ready to fly off.

For those of you that like to hold your ask, the trick is to be very cautious when you are taking a puff. When the ash is warm it is at it's weakest. After the cherry cools a little, the ash will hold to it better.

As always, do want makes you happy- but be cautious, especially if you are wearing white...

Monday, September 11, 2006

I will never forget

The Twin Towers
5 years ago today

Santa Ana Bus - Old Road to Santa Ana - Near La Luz Hotel

Sitting in a bus on my way to work. My wife also had bussiness in town, so she was at my side. I got paged. "Keith, turn on the news." I read on my pager. Never could I have imagined what was happening. Never will I forget, where I was, who I was with, or what I was doing. Forever changed.

Cigar Hunting In San Jose, Costa Rica ::: Part 2

San Jose Costa Rica
Based on my previous post, I received an email asking for further detail, so we will continue the conversation a bit... Thanks Phil

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: True Habano's in San Jose
From: "Phil"
Date: Sat, September 09, 2006 4:09 pm

What a refreshing relief to find your commentary on finding true Cuban cigars in Costa Rica (San Jose). I found an article back in 98 that talked about how to identify a falso, but Im not sure if it remains true today. I've pasted it into a MS Word document that Ive enclosed.

I was planning on visiting the La Casa Del Habano in San Jose but Im not sure if they will try and sell me fake Cuban cigars. If I come in looking like a tourist who does not know much about Habanos, might they try and rip me off? Or will I be safe in that store? Should I inspect them according to the enclosed article?

I will be there in November. What can I expect to pay for a box?


-----Original Message-----
From: keith
Sent: Sunday, September 10, 2006 11:25 AM
To: Phil
Subject: RE: True Habano's in San Jose


The article looks fairly dated, but there is some good information in there. The truth is if someone wants to produce a fake box of cigars, everything except the tobaccco can be produced here (In Costa Rica), Cuba, even in the US. The cigar falsification industry is huge, world wide. The only trick to buying is buying from a trusted dealer.

La Casa Del Habanao is pretty trusted in my opinion. I used to know the general manager there well, but he has recently moved on. I use the term "pretty trusted" becasue I do not know who is running the place now, and what has happened at other places is that their own staff was bringing in fakes and selling them. I doubt that is happening, but it is a risk.

I doubt that they will take advantage of you as a tourist. Although some places in Costa Rica use that philosophy, La Casa Del Habano is owned by an Italian family who knows that you can "shear a sheep many times, but skin it once." They should try to make you a long term client, but if you like send me a list of what you might be looking for and I will write you an estimate on what they should cost- just so you can be safe. Prices depend greatly on what brands and vitolas you are interested in.

If you are interested in a boutique cigar, I will recommend Don Benigno. I smoke his cigars almost exclusively with the exception of gifts and reviews. They are excellent, and go for $100 to $200 per box (depending on vitola). They are sold at a popular mall on the west side of town call "Plaza Major." If you can pick up a few sticks, and if you are interested in purchasing by the box you can visit the factory and get a nice little tour.

Drop me a line with what you are looking for,


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: True Habano's in San Jose
From: "Phil"
Date: Sun, September 10, 2006 11:24 am
To: keith

Thanks Keith, great info.

I saw your blog post on Don Benigno and was thinking of checking that out.

Ok, you've uncovered my ignorance in regards to cigars. I'm very much a novice who doesn't get much past smoking a mild Macanudo but wants to take advantage of my trip to Costa Rica.

So I like mild cigars. When I drink an IPA, a harsh cigar makes it impossible as an IPA is a strong beer and they are too powerful as a combo.

So I know enough to know that I've probably not tasted a truly good cigar (not sure if Macanudo's are considered good quality). I say mild probably because I've had some harsh cigars... I don't smoke cigarettes...

So what do you think? I've looked at all the various brands of cuban's, but figured I would ask the shop owner when I get there to recommend something for me. If you can help me out that'd be great.

Perhaps this should be on your blog as comments to help others? I got your blog info from a forum poster on a message board as a quality blog with good info. I sure appreciate your time in this matter!


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: True Habano's in San Jose
From: keith
Date: Mon, September 11, 2006 12:39 am
To: Phil


First of all, thanks for the repeated kind words about my blog, I hope that people find it useful, so thanks for saying as much. Greatly appreciated.

Excellent idea on posting the messages! I don't post emails because I worry about jeopardizing people's confidence (and I hate to ask). I have made a Part 2 of the Cigar Hunting post that is on my blog.

No need to be bashful, we were all novices at one time- and as a very serious cigar smoker, I am glad to see the hobby/pastime grow. Before moving abroad, I smoked many Macs, they are indeed mild, but I still smoke one from time to time. I still find mild cigars pleasing to the pallet. You are right on however, take advantage of this trip to check out some new cigars.

On that note, let me explain that Cuban cigars are strong, but they are not harsh. Even some experienced smokers that have not had access to Cuban cigars make the mistake of thinking that they are mild, because they are not harsh. You will have one up on them.

Cuban tobacco should not burn or scratch the throat. They are smooth and creamy. If you inhale a little, you will see their strength, but it is not necessary. It is hard to say where to start, but make sure you buy some singles before buying a box. Mareva is a great starting point, but if you are feeling adventurous, you will enjoy a Robusto.

In terms of brands, the best is Cohiba. All the of parts of Cohiba are from the Vuelta Abajo zone of Cuba- it is the best of the best. That being said, the other big names are all respectable as well- don't get too caught up thinking a Limited Edition is something special, normally it is just means a different wrapper and additional ring.

Prices start around $350 a box, but you are looking at more for some of the more popular brands. A box of Cohiba Robustos will be about $500. I should point out that cash (dollars) should get you a discount over using a credit card.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.