Blending a New Cigar

I’ve now had the opportunity to create a cigar from scratch twice. Last week I spent a day with Noel Rojas of Rojas Cigars in Richardson, Texas. Noel is a maker of cigars under his own label and offering custom blends for the discerning customer. We spent the majority of a day trying different tobaccos from multiple regions and then testing blends to come up with what would become the next Customer Ashe Blend.

The Ashe will celebrate it’s one yr anniversary on November 16, 2019. I decided to offer a one year blend as a unique offering on that day. The goal is to produce only 200 sticks with a selection of tobaccos from Nicaragua, Peru and Sumatra. This will be a very unique and flavourful cigar that is medium bodied with a very clean finish resulting from the Peruvian tobacco that is available from the INCA tobacco grower in Peru.

Some of the pics below show the different test samples that we tried during that day of blending. Come by on November 16th to try the unique blend we’ll have for that day!!

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DNA

What is the DNA of a cigar shop? Well that answer could take on volumes of opinions and extremely unscientific conversation. However when choosing where to spend your free time to have a cigar and casual conversation, consider a few things when visiting a new shop. Things such as ownership, cleanliness, selection and the welcoming or lack of from the regular customers inside. Sometimes walking into a new shop is like walking into a new barber shop where everyone knows each other’s business and all the inside jokes. One key indicator is how the owner welcomes a new customer into the store and likewise how the regulars customers welcome a new customer. The hospitality offered by the customers can outweigh just about anything often times.

I, like everyone, have spent small and large amounts of time in cigar shops and they all have their unique atmosphere and DNA. Like most people, I will drive farther and pay more to deal with people I enjoy dealing with. There is nothing I hate more than spending my money somewhere where my business is not appreciated.

Stanley Marcus, founder of Neiman Marcus, said word to the affect, We are not in the clothing business, we are in the repeat customer business. Truer words have never be spoken. Even if a woman bought a cocktail dress on Friday and brought it back smelling like champagne and perfume on Saturday, Neiman Marcus accepted the return with a smile. One unhappy customer is more powerful than 100 good customers.

In Dallas, there is no shortage of cigar shops and those shops vary drastically in DNA.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Its free and always available.s

Creating a new cigar from scratch

On the Sunday before Christmas I met up with Noel Rojas of Rojas Cigars in his warehouse/factory in Richardson, Texas, just 20 minutes away from my shop. Noel Rojas was born in Cuba and worked in Nicaragua for six years rolling and making cigars. He has plenty of experience and knowledge of the tobacco industry from a manufacturer’s point of view. We make a good pair. The Ashe offers five of his house rolls and I wanted to create a unique to The Ashe blend of cigar to offer our customers here. It was a long and very educational day.

It started at 10:30 in the morning with a display of all the tobaccos he has in his tool chest. We discussed what flavor profiles that we were trying to offer in a new cigar. Then we started testing different tobaccos. This may seem simple, but after the third or fourth sample, my notes came in handy. The first thing we tried was one leaf from one type of tobacco plant. Then the next thing we tried was a combination of two leaves, then came endless combinations. After 18 samples and combinations there of, we settled on one blend. This was after numerous bottles of water, lots of discussion and a very heavy lunch.

This was probably the most educational day I have ever had in the cigar industry. Not only was Noel Rojas kind and patient with me, but his wealth of knowledge and skills made for a productive day and memorable.

Please drop by to try the new signature blend for The Ashe. Coming Soon!!!!

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How To Cut & Light a Cigar

First of all, I have to admit: To some people this may seem as simple and obvious as opening your front door, but using your head and using your hand accomplish the same goal, however one leaves you with a headache and one doesn’t! I have seen people cut a cigar and light the wrong end. I have seen people cut about an inch off the top of the cigar and then light up. I’ve smoked a cigar from the foot just to see if it tastes different. BTW, not worth repeating.

As we all know, sometimes the simplest of things are not actually that simple and when someone explains what seems rather obvious, it turns out not to be. Have you ever tried to help a friend with jumper cables get a car started? Can you imagine what the outcome could be if you happen to cross the cables and connect them wrong? Something so simple could really put you in the hospital instantly. But I digress.

Just like opening a bottle of old wine, cutting and lighting a cigar the proper way can make the experience 10x’s more enjoyable. I like drinking wine; not wine with a side of crumbled up cork.

Consider the construction of a cigar. Its basically a pile of bunched up leaves (imagine a buritto filled with straws) then wrapped with a final outside leaf to make it look pretty and add the final touches of complex flavor. The final cigar wrapping looks like a barber pole and on the top of the cigar is left over tobacco leaf. This leaf is cut, then pasted down to make a smooth surface and not leave a flap of tobacco hanging off. Then a very important piece of tobacco is pasted on the top. This top piece, or CAP is a small circle of tobacco placed on the top like a roof on a building. Then subsequent smaller caps are placed on top of that. The result is a multilayered cap of tobacco that create a seal on the end of the cigar. Hence its like putting a postage stamp on the end of a straw and folding it down over the straw to create a seal. As a result one can not push or pull air through this cap.

In order to smoke a cigar, one has to open up that Straw or Cigar and allow air flow through the length of cigar. That means the CAP needs to by punctured. That’s literally all that is required. JUST PUNCTURE THE CAP. For all intensive purposes, a few tooth pick holes would do the trick. Most people use a proper cutter which looks like a goofy set of scissors. If a cutter is used, ONLY CUT enough to open the cigar. There is no need to cut below the cap and remove it completely. If the cut is below the cap, then the cigar will unravel and the smoker will wonder why the cigar is falling apart. This may seem extremely simple, however I see people decapitate cigars all the time and 5 minutes later the cigar is falling apart.

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Lighting the cigar

First, What Not to Do: Don’t use a tree branch to light the cigar, don’t use a sheet of xerox paper to light the cigar, don’t use an old paint brush to…..you get the point. If you use a material that has chemicals in it to light a cigar, then guess what the cigar will taste like? You guessed it. The cleanest and least intrusive material is always best. So after you’ve found your favorite light to grab, slowly char the end of the cigar. I would recommend charring the outer most edge so the wrapper leafs becomes ignited evenly and the center is not as charred. This produces a ring of gray, lit and slowly smoking tobacco around the outside edge of the foot of the cigar. During this process, do not inhale or draw any air through the cigar. It is not necessary. Once the outer most edge is ignited and gray, then blow a bit of air through the cigar pushing any fumes and smoke out. Not inhaling. This pushes any lighter fluid residue and external flavors out of the cigar. After all, you bought a cigar to taste the tobacco, not the lighter fluid. Then take a few small draws on the cigar and light the inner circle of tobacco to completely ignite the end of the cigar. Because the outer most tobacco is already ignited, the center will ignite very very easily and quickly. This only takes 1 or 2 seconds to do. And there you have its

If the cigar goes out for whatever reason, push a little bit of air out through the cigar, light the outermost tobacco, or wrapper leaf only and then the rest will take care of itself.

Once again, this may seem extremely simple, but its always the simple things in life that cause the most headaches.

Enjoy.

Whiskey and Cigars

For those of you that couldn’t be here in the shop last night, we had a representative from Balcones Whiskey here pouring samples of six different spirits. They are a fantastic distillery based in Waco, Texas. All the spirits they brought here were extremely well received and many cigar were consumed along side the tastings.

Many people ask me what libation should I pair my cigar with. This is like asking me to describe the color Grey. You could ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. However, like life would have it, some people have a stronger opinion that others. On that note, I’ll give you my one man’s opinion. I prefer something that is slightly sweet. It doesn’t have to be full of sugar by any means. It just seems a bit more enjoyable to be a bit on the sweeter side rather than the bitter side. Given that, I had two customers in here a week ago drinking Rombauer Chardonnay. They were happy and who am I to say different.

Here are some things that I’ve had in the past with a cigar:

Rum

Bourbon

Sherry - Oloroso

Madeira

Water

Red Wine

Coffee- I prefer mine with a bit of sugar

I will say that one of my customers swears that a Red Bull is the best compliment to a good cigar. Some people claim that smoking a cigar slightly drops a person’s blood sugar, so therefor the smoker naturally desires a bit of sugar. Many people swear by having a Coke.

Regardless, your first priority should be:

  1. Find a comfortable spot to relax and enjoy yourself or company with others

  2. Find a cigar you want to try for the first time or have had and really enjoy

  3. Drink whatever you want

  4. Be Grateful you have accomplished the first three goals

    Many people in the world don’t have the opportunity or ability or health to enjoy these simple things. I am very grateful that I can and can often.

Now some pictures from the whiskey tasting last night.

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Cigar Sizes

If you’ve ever wondered why cigars come in multiple sizes, ie lengths and diameters, fear no more there is an answer. Taste profile.

You have to remember that a cigar is made up of multiple tobacco leaves bunched together, wrapped by a binder of tobacco and then rolled with a final “wrapper leaf”. In order to make a cigar bigger in diameter, a cigar roller has to add more tobacco. More tobacco can add and sometimes dilute the flavor of other tobaccos that make up the cigar. The wrapper leaf or outermost leaf that you see and touch is the most indicative of what the cigar will taste like. That’s why most cigars are named after the wrapper leaf. When the wrapper leaf is changed to a different type of tobacco, the cigar can completely change in flavor. With that in mind, also look at a cigar from a wrapper leaf proportion to filler leaf proportion. Comparing a cigar to a Jack Daniels and Coke, the wrapper leaf is the Jack and the filler is the Coke. When the cigar has a ton of filler leaf tobacco to make it bigger, the ratio of wrapper leaf is diminished, hence watering down the flavor and strength of the wrapper leaf. The opposite occurs when a smaller ring gauge cigar is made.

So to Wrap Things up (pun intended), when shopping for a high quality smoke, when given a choice, always choose a smaller ring gauge cigar when given a choice.

FYI: cigar dimensions are Length (measured in inches) and Ring Gauge (measured in 64ths of an inch).

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Cigar Club in Dallas

Cigar Clubs

 

Most cigar shops are kind of like motorcycle dealerships and gun stores:  Full of testosterone and tall tales of stories past.  Some cigar shops have private lounges or cigar clubs that offer a nicer, more quaint seating area for more frequent patrons that spend time on a daily or weekly basis smoking cigars.  A cigar club might consist of a separate room with additional TV’s and more comfortable chairs. Some even go as far as offering drinks, member only events like whiskey tastings and cigar producer presentations.  Some cigar clubs even have a private outdoor area.  Often times a cigar club will offer a flat rate discount on cigars in trade for a membership fee.  Sometimes this can be worth it if you are a frequent smoker. 

Ours is different. We offer a member’s only back room and patio. This gives those that desire a membership a private place to enjoy a cigar alone, with other members or with their guests and significant other. We are the only cigar shop in Dallas inside 635 with a cigar friendly patio. We are the only Dallas cigar shop that offers our members 20% off on cigars. We are the only Dallas cigar shop to have a well lit, modern decor, clean and very woman friendly smoking environment.

 

Regardless of your desire to sit in a retail shop or cigar club and chat the day away between puffs, always remember, there is a time and place for everyone and every activity. 

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Joya de Nicaragua Cigar Review

Maker: Joya de Nicaragua
Blend: Antano 1970
Size: Magnum 6 x60
Filler: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua

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Needless to say, if you haven’t heard of this brand, I’ve got some land in the everglades for sale that you can buy for a very cheap price. This particular blend has always been extremely bold and spicy for the past few years. I decided to give this one a shot and see if my tongue needs a cleaning when I’m done or not. Plus the 60 ring gauge is a lot to mouth over. Way too much for my liking.

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The first five minutes
This cigar takes a small bonfire to light as it’s a lot of tobacco real estate to incinerate. Once I call the Aggie Bonfire association to come light my cigar, we have some smoke. It starts off a bit less harsh than I anticipate and isn’t that robust. It has a little spice and more meat flavors that I remember. This is good as I’m a fan of the sweet meat flavors. Since last cigar I reviewed, the J Fuego 6×60, my mouth has healed up a little. I’m still a little sore, but I’m making it ok.

The body of the cigar
This cigar is definitely not as strong as I remember. It might be because I’ve had so many strong sticks in my mouth, but I’m now used to it. As Jimi Hendrix once said, “Are you experienced?”. And to this question, I can answer YES. It’s a good cigar, but like the J Fuego, I might just get all I need by the time I hit the shaft of the stick. I don’t think I have what it takes to smoke it all the way down to the head, even though some say all the flavor is in the head. The cigar reminds me of chocolate and a little Worcester sauce. Kind of like a Chateauneuf –du-Pape wine. The pope would be proud to smoke this stick himself. No alter boys were hurt in the making of this review.

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Conclusion
With the 6 x 60 cigars coming to a head this week, I’d like to remind everyone that size doesn’t always matter. What comes out of the cigar does. When I blow on the cigar and a plume of white smoke shoots out of my nose, I know I’m satisfied. It hits me right where I need it: in the taste buds. This JDN Cigar is a better cigar than I thought it would be. I’ve gotten enough tobacco for my daily requirement by the time I finish this one, but never the less it’s a good cigar. Chocolate, Meat, Worcester, tiny bit of sweetness and a little like cake make for a good cigar.