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Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Smoke In Style at Bogies Cigars In Homewood, IL

Back in November on a trip up North I was invited by my uncle to a project meeting with a few friends of his where they were discussing the development of a Cigar Shop and Smoking Club. The group was charged up to move pretty quick, but I saw the project a long way off. I was wrong...

Last month when I went back, we went to visit their creation and I was absolutely impressed. Their vision was beautifully realized in the warm and classy way that they had sketched out on paper just a few months before.

Located in a strip mall, part of their plan, you see a few neon cigar signs (including an elaborate one of their logo). From the outside, you might be deceived into thinking that you are entering a run of the mill corner smoke shop, however once you go through the door the experience changes.

You are greeted by fine wood humidors, and an island in the center with some additional display cases and the cash register; a unique layout that feels more open and less like a retail store. Behind the island they are staffed with several of the most attractive smiles you will find in the Chicago-land area. This, being only half of the place, already feelt unlike most of the cigar shops that I have visited; enticing and chic, but not at all pretentious. They nailed it.

Beyond the island in the center is an inviting Moorish arch (Casablanca-esque) that goes into the other half of their location; their smoking lounge. The layout is simple, on one side you have luxary seating and on the other you have a coffee bar (with bar seating) and their "Premium Humidor" with their top-shelf cigars and private cigar lockers that are available to a limited number of clients.

The seating is laid out well and allows for multiple groups to converse independtantly on plush leather chairs. In addition there is a 4-top which would let someone eat or work comfortably on a laptop. The bar seating is ample and comfortable (but no Keith-style drinks unfortunatly).

The Casablanca feel contines with murals representing some memorable scenes from the movie framed by more of the distinctive arches. And, of course, they have a well place large screen television that does not pollute the character of the space.

The smoking club experience was right on. The air extractors were realativly quiet, the ceilings were high, and the ambiance posh. It was well staffed, but did not feel one bit like a bar or restaurant. They were attentive, but not pushy- and who can complain about an attracitve woman cleaning your ash tray.

Beyond the experience, which is nothing less than 5 star, their selection is very complete. They carry all of the top brands as well as a good variety of fair priced cigars. Although I am a BYOC guy, I selected a Joya De Nicaragua Torpedo (Belicoso?) for my father- one of my old favs.

My experience at Bogie's Fine Cigars was a great in every way. It was especially satisfying to see the vision of the owner's become a reality. Anyone in the Southeast Illinois / Northwest Indiana area that enjoys cigars should definalty pay them a visit.

Bogie's Fine Cigars
17816 Halsted St
Homewood, IL 60430-2012
(708) 798-4914


UPDATE: July 26, 2008

Cigar Review has a piece related to Bogie's Grand Opening including some photos of the store. Although it appears to be a couple months old, I just heard of it now:
Bogie's Fine Cigars & Smokehouse Holds Grand Opening

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007


US Funds To Buy Cuban Cigars

U.S. colonel authorized Cuban cigars for Hussein, witnesses say

These was some obvious sarcasm in my rant Habanos, the dictator's choice! from a couple years back, but his appreciation for a fine cigar has come up in the news again and this time it is way more serious.

Some of the things that the colonel is accused of sound pretty bad, but "US Funds to buy Cuban cigars..." I will let you decide.


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Thursday, October 26, 2006


TC-Keith's Long Cigar Ash

I thought I would give it a try with a Piramide. Not too bad, but I was stressed out the whole time.

I did find it was like seeing how far a car will go on empty however... I found myself wondering how much more time I could hold it before it fell on it's own.

epilogue: The ash ended up in the ashtray, I broke down.

I am going to stick to frequent ashing, I am a simple man.

p.s. Do you like my son's swing in the background?


Thursday, October 12, 2006


The Cigar Ash Obsession Part II - Ash Color

cigar ash balanceAs a follow up to my previous post, I wanted to make a short post about Cigar Ash Color.

I will be the first to say, that there is nothing more beautiful than that WHITE ash... white like coconut shavings, powdered sugar, or snow... connected to that dark wrapper. Like a yin and yang of new and old- unused and used... but I digress.

White cigar ash is not always a good thing. White ash, in many circumstances is the product of chemicals, processing irregularities, and God knows what else. Some of these things could be dangerous. I never like the idea of my cigars having chemicals added... it just seems TOO "corporate tobacco" to me.

My simple point is that white ash does not always mean we are talking about a quality wrapper/cigar. That is a misconception that I have heard brought up many times.

Cuba is known as the cradle of the best tobacco in the world, but it is not necessarily know for being white. In fact, I had a conversation once with a older Brazilian who is a long time cigar lover that has been going to Cuba for a long time. He was explaining to me that Cuba was know that "latierra de la ceniza negra " or "the land of the black ash." Although I have not confirmed this with any other source, he informed me that since the beginning, Cuba was known for it cigars with dark ash. He is of Italian decent, and a tradition of "old world" smokers.

I have heard of and seen some wrapper leaves that burn very white; Criolle (Criollo), Corojo, and other unknowns coming out of San Juan y Martinez. From what I have heard, the curing process is very specific and the soil is prepared with things like peanut shells. BUT - In Cuba, we are talking about an all natural process.

I have smoked many great cigars without white ash, some had had nearly a black ash- In fact, I am smoking one right now. On the other hand, I have smoked some great cigars with a white ash, but be do not let your self be fooled into thinking that white ash is a sign of a good cigar.

As always, smoke what makes you happy- but do not get caught up in the legends.

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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...

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Sunday, April 09, 2006


The Don Benigno Story...

Don Benigno Cigars was created nearly 10 years ago in beautiful Costa Rica, although the story of Don Benigno, and his family's tradition of cigar rolling began generations before.

Don Benigno Arronte was was born in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba in the 1950s. Pinar Del Rio, right in the middle of the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba, is known as the international capital of tobacco cultivation. Pre-revolution Cuba had hundreds of cigar factories throughout the country. One of these factories, Ceniza (Spanish for ash), was owned by Benigno's grandfather. Benigno, at a very young age, was involved in Cuba's tobacco world.

In those times, most affluent (and often most experienced) cigar smokers would not be caught dead smoking a brand name Habano, rather they had a personal tabaquero, or cigar roller. Their tabaquero, often a friend, would roll them the best cigar possible, using the finest materials and strictest quality controls. One of Benigno's uncle's, Jose, was a reknown master cigar roller and personal tabaquero for many prestigious friends and clients, mainly from Spain. It was this uncle, that taught young Benigno how to roll cigars. Jose loved to roll cigars, and rolled his own cigars up until his death several years ago.

Following the Revolution, the needs of Cuba changed, and the Ceniza Cigar Factory closed as the large cigar factories of Havana took precedent. Professionally, Don Benigno and his family pursued other callings. Don Benigno studied education, and became a history professor, but his love of cigars and cigar rolling never ended. A life long smoker, he rolled his own cigars while living in Cuba. Not only were the name brand cigars too expensive for the average Cuban, but he was unable to find a cigar that consistently satisfied his needs as a smoker.

In 1997, Don Benigno immigrated to Costa Rica and immediately pursued a career in his true calling, cigar rolling. Starting with basically nothing but his skills and bare hands, Don Benigno Cigars was born. First on his kitchen table with the most basic tools, Don Benigno quickly gained notoriety in Costa Rica's cigar smoking circles. Shortly there after, Don Benigno opened his first Cigar Shop in a historical district of San Jose near the city's beautiful National Theater (Theatro Nacional) where he rolled cigars and administered the store.

After building a solid clientèle, and wanting to focus more on the production of his brand, Benigno and his wife rolled cigars full time in there home. Don Benigno was please with the success of his signature cigar brand, and with the help of a close friend and fellow cigar smoker Gary Naffer they developed a logo, rings, and a box design, and registered the brand. These designs have not changed since their creation.

Within no time, Don Benigno knew that they were going to be unable to keep up with demand, and had to find additional cigar rollers to help produce the now popular Don Benigno Cigar. Starting first with one, and incrementally adding more, Don Benigno hired career cigar rollers from Costa Rica. Knowing that he needed to instruct them in the meticulous art that had been passed down to him, Don Benigno cautiously moved them through the ranks in his family workshop. But, being trained educator, he had great success teaching them his family's methods.

Today, Don Benigno has become the Cigar Guru of his adopted country, Costa Rica; he has been interviewed by the local media both for feature pieces as well as a source in cigar related articles, he is frequently visited by national and international dignitaries who are (or become) friends and clients, and hundreds of tourists annually are introduced to his cigar when they arrive to Costa Rica and ask, "Where can I get a great cigar?"

The story continues today, in a quiet suburb of San Jose he produces his cigars with the tradition of excellence that he was taught in his youth. Don Benigno Cigars are a limited production that cigar aims to satisfy the most demanding smoker. His commitment to quality, skilled methods, and impeccable final product have distinguished Don Benigno as a True Cigar Master.

For More Information about Don Benigno Cigars, see the link in my earler post.

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Monday, October 10, 2005


The Comeback

I am back, and I am full of new stories. I have been on a bit of hiatus because I didn't have a laptop to write in the evenings. My duties in the day do not really allow for me to even get a short entry in during the day.... But not to fear; I am here to stay now.

Since I have last written, I have:
  • Taken a few classes in cigar making
  • Done some wrapper-switching
  • Found a "new love" cigar
  • Helped a good friend with a new website (cigar related of course)
I will be going to detail on these topics and many others in the weeks to come... Thank you for your patience. I only with the the Google and Yahoo bots were so forgiving.

Keith A.


Thursday, July 07, 2005


This is my dream.... A Smoking Club and Cigar Shop

Smoking Club & Cigar Shop

Photo by Phil Skinner :: From ACJ.COM
If you have to sign up to see this link, I appologize- I hate that.

I visited a shop like this near my home town, but it was a joke... One know-it-all teenager that kept his ash on the cigar to the point of sillyness (his fater owned the place), a woman that looked like the secratery, and two guys that looked completely shot out.

The lockers in the back, a handful of respectable gentleman casually enjoying the good life. In today's world, this is what people need to escape.

My Smoking Club will include:
  • The finest selection of premium cigars, focusing on limited production hard/impossible to find smokes
  • The best conditions to keep cigars, with rental lockers available
  • A cigar roller (most likely myself) willing to inform cigar smokers.
  • A casual yet elegant atmosphere, appealing to specific smokers that want the best
  • A computer with internet, for client use
  • A couple of gaming tables
My dream is to open up a shop like this, and give it a club feel. If things go well for me, in 10 years I will be there, and I hope to see you there with me.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005


Don Alejandro Robaina

Don Alejandro Robaina

About 20 minutes outside of Pinar Del Rio we turned left off of a simple highway onto a bumpy dirt road. The previous 20 minutes had been spent diving on the two lane road that goes into San Juan and San Luis, both sides of the road brimming with picturesque tobacco fields.

This dusty road took us left and right in a difficult route, finally putting us at the home of the humble yet famous Alejandro Robaina. I knew very little about the license plates in Cuba, but I know that the blacks one were for important people... there were 2 parked out side. As we got out of the car, an ox driven cart passed full of bright green leaves, something that has done thousands of times before, for over a hundred years.

We turned the corner and entered the porch, there were 4 or 5 other guests puffing on cigars. Apparently they had been waiting sometime, because Alejandro was taking a nap. Shortly after our arrival they left. His cousin or brother, who served as the host, invited us to some cigars and rum. I passed on the rum and finished my single robust that I bought from the Tobacco Roller in the Casa Del Habano earlier (True Cigar Tip: Always take care of the tobacco roller).

Don Benigno, my dear friend, who grew up in Pinar Del Rio knew the entire family and staff at Alejandro's home. It was Don Benigno that took me to Cuba with him and that drove me out on this very interesting tobacco tour. After some brief conversation, someone went inside and came out with the a older man that looked worked to the bone, yet one of the most distinctly comely men I have ever met. Don Alejandro Robaina is neither tall nor short, he is skinny, but omits strength, and portrayed such a distinct humility that I was immediately enamored with him.

Don Alejandro RobainaAfter some additional customary conversation about their family, things got deep- deep in the form of some very technical conversation about the crop, rain, and some studies that had been done on the soil. My Spanish is pretty good, but I get lost in technical conversations, especially between masters. I was finishing up my cigar, and Don Alejandro invited us to some special cigars that he made to give out at the Habanos Festival. What a cigar! Again, a robusto- with a wrapper that looked like a dark chocolate. Don Alejandro invited us across the way into his special reception and guest house that the government had recently built for him. This very nice home, by any standards, had beautiful wood work and was chocked full of thousand dollar humidors. We passed into the back room, the bar- with couches and very attractive ashtray holders. The conversation continued, and we continued to smoke. Don Alejandro took only a few puffs here and there, as I found out that he has had to be cautious of his health- I could tell he missed being able to smoke like he used to.

This special day is something that I will always remember. On my next trip to Pinar Del Rio, I hope to visit him again, and spend some more time with one of the most famous tobacco farmers of all time. There are many others like, him but his humility and work ethic earned him the respect of the world and of his own dictator. His namesake cigars are one of the top lines offered by Cuba, and out of respect to him I suggest every smoker try to keep at least one of his cigars in their humidor.
Vegas Robaina Box

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Monday, May 23, 2005


Culebra Cigar - Description and History

I have noticed some queries coming in from the search engines about the history of culebra that come into the glossary page. The glossary page does not give anything more than a brief description of the cigar, so I am going to write a supplemental entry about these interesting cigars.

Culebra Cigar

Simply speaking it is 3 extra-long pantaletas braided together, and intended to be smoked separately. The cigar is created by moistening all parts of the tobacco to a very high level (80%) so that it can be molded easily. There is a greater chance of draw issues in culebras based on their construction.

The average torcidor is not trained to make the culebra, although there are a few brands that have a line (like Partagas and Davidoff I believe) that can be found regularly. Generally, you need to get them from a tobacco artisan.

Historically speaking, the culebra (which means snake in Spanish) is a unique cigar that that has been around since early 1800s. There are two stories I have heard as to their origin:

  1. factory owners would give the culebra‚??s to their workers in an attempt to assure that the workers were not smoking the profits.
  2. much less fanciful, and probably more likely, it was pure marketing- an attempt by a factory to develop a new line by a business man (not a roller)
Anyone really interested in getting a hold of one and can't, contact me, and I will try to sort you out.

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