May always reminds me that summer is just around the corner. Fishing trips, beach vacations, or maybe just a few extra rounds of golf… all great places to enjoy a cigar! Rather than trying to find a shop near your destination, why not take your favorite cigars with you? To keep them safe and humidified, try using the Xikar brand hard shell case. They come in 5,10,15,30 and even 50 count carriers with an integrated humidification system, padding, and an airlock closure. Not only that, but they are almost indestructible and they float! Enjoy the summer doing your favorite activities and bring your smoky treats along!!
May 4, 2012
December 5, 2011
Black Friday has come and gone. If you are anything like myself, you still have plenty of holiday shopping to do. For those of you wanting to impress the cigar lover in your life, finding the “right” gift may be daunting. I’d like to think I know a thing or two about cigars so with that, I hope I am able to impart some helpful suggestions.
Consider the gift they may not typically spend their money on. Xikar lighters and cutters are high quality and come with a lifetime guarantee. Every time they pull a Xikar out of their pocket, they will think of you, and thank you. You may also want to consider gifting a sampling of various blends. Some sample packs even come with a lighter, cutter, or ashtray. A stylish humidor with a good seal and plenty of storage is also a great gift. If they travel, hunt, fish or play golf, a travel humidor is also a good option. This allows them a way to take a small amount of cigars in a safe and humidified way on the road. A can of butane gas for the lighter is also a perfect stocking stuffer.
Happy Holidays from the Czar of Cigars… may your season be well lit!
November 30, 2011
Dear Santa…. I would really like a bottle of the En Route Pinot Noir this year for Christmas. It is an incredible Russian River Pinot Noir founded by the Nickel family (also well known for Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel). En Route and I were introduced this past January in Napa where we bonded over ribs at Rutherford Grill. It has held my heart since and would make my Christmas ever so festive.
I would also be very happy to find a Xikar Cigar Cutter in the bottom of my stocking. My cigar smoking has ramped up over the past few months and it would be great to add a Xikar Cigar Cutter to my humidor. The Xikar Cigar Cutter comes in gun metal grey, titanium, gold, blue, and red. Surprise me! Please contact Michael Leedle at m.leedle@lipmanbrothers if you decide this is the gift for me. I really need a quality, sharp bladed cutter; the flimsy, cheap ones make my fingers fearful.
I am thinking one stop shopping might be your thing, so while you are placing an order with Michael Leedle, you can also order me the Riedel Vinum Bordeaux Wine glasses. Every lady needs a set of fine stemware. A piece of quality glass like the Vinum Bordeaux made of 24% lead-crystal really does enhance the nose and flavor of that something, something … Ahummmm……En Route Pinot Noir.
Another great pleasure of mine is Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye. Sure, it’s cool that it is organic. Yea, I dig the artisan and hand made factor. And of course I resonate with the fact that Catoctin Creek is family run and owned. But after all those things are said and done, Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye is quality and downright good. I love to share what I love most, and toasting Santa with a Roundstone Rye this Christmas would make my cheeks rosy and heart merry.
I also fell deep into infatuation with the Egly-Ouriet Premier Cru Brut Les Vignes de Vrigny. Typically, I am not a big bubbly drinker, but this brut puts the bubble in my step. Egly-Ouriet has achieved a fine acidic balance with sumptuous flavors of pear that leave your palate not too dry and ready for the next glass. I can’t imagine a better way to bring in 2012!
In closing, I would like to finish my Wish List by suggesting you incorporate something sparkly and beautiful with whatever it is you decide to get me. Wouldn’t the Egly-Ouriet look devine adorned with a jeweled bracelet and how about earrings dangling from the Riedel stemware?? Or maybe a necklace to compliment the neck of Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye? Just a thought…. I know you will do well. You always seem to.
July 20, 2011
106 degrees in SUNNY Las Vegas. Leedle, Lipman’s CZAR of CIGARS is smoking it up at the annual cigar trade show with old and new faces. Days go quick when they are filled with visits with folks from General Cigar, eyeing new products from La Gloria and CAO and getting excited about Rocky Patel’s newest digs – Thunder by Nimish and Zen by Nish.
No better way to finish off the day than dinner at Post Trio with good folks from Ashton Cigars.
The Czar continues his quest for THE great, new cigar. With stops at Ghurka, Torano, and Fuente Newman it is hard to choose. Everyone has shown both great cigars and great prices, making it increasingly more difficult to choose a favorite. One more day to find the perfect smoke…..
DAY 3: Final Dayz…
Last day. I shall wipe my tears and head on. Great catching up with friends at Ashton and Oliva this afternoon and of course making new ones over the past few days. Counting the hours till the new cigars with some really dynamic blends make it to Nashville. Patience is a virtue though, so I shall look forward with anticipation.Until next time. The Czar.
March 21, 2011
Nicaragua is a country of immense diversity – it holds approximately 10% of the planet’s biodiversity between its sprawling Pacific and Caribbean coastlines with high mountain vistas and colonial architecture decorating the lands-in-between. Nicaragua remains one of the poorest, yet safest countries in Central America, still struggling to recover from years of dictatorship, revolution, civil war, and economic collapse. The people have shown not only resiliency, but also amazing character with their hospitality and kindness as colorful as the clothes they wear and the music they listen to.
Our ventures in Nicaragua began in Estelí, one of the world’s most important cigar producing cities. We spent our first day at Oliva, Nicaragua’s second largest grower of Cuban-seed tobacco. Oliva is a traditional family run business and has been in the tobacco industry since 1886 in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba. With the rise of communism the growing operations were however suspended and the focus was shifted from growing to brokering tobacco. In the early 60’s the communist pressure became too great for the family and they journeyed from country to country in search of the distinct Cuban taste. Travels took them to Honduras, Panama, Mexico and even the Philippines. Finally fertile ground was found in Nicaragua.
Our day with Oliva was spent primarily with Maria-Jose who greeted us Latin style with rich, dark Nicaraguan espresso. We were then taken to meet Carlos Oliva along with two other Oliva guys, Corry and Bryan both down from the U.S. for the week. Bryan was in Nicaragua to work on his cigar rolling skills for Oliva’s upcoming cross-country American tour in an Oliva clad Corvette – We look forward to seeing him in Nashville on June 30th , it will be a great time!
Maria-Jose then toured the factory with us, explaining the cigar making process each step of the way. Tobacco leaves come from seeds about the size of a small freckle. The plant will grow for approximately 6 months and then enter into the harvesting phase, “priming” and of course, like much of the cigar making process, this is done by hand. Tobacco leaves are classified into three types with the mildest leaf coming from the lower portion, or the “volado,” the middle section, slightly richer in flavor is known as “seco,” and the top section, with the strongest taste is the “ligero”. Typically, a well-balanced blend consists of leaves from all three sections of the plant.
The leaves are then sorted by size and texture, tied together, hung over long rods in large wooden barns and cured for 25 – 45 days. Curing is an aging process that uses heat and shade to reduce sugar and water content without causing the leaves to rot. Once the desired color brown is achieved, the tobacco is then separated by size, texture, and color and designated as wrapper, filler, or binder.
Next is fermentation where the flavor, burning, and aroma characteristics are brought out. The tobacco is first stacked in what are called “pillons” or large bails in rooms where temperature and humidity are controlled preventing rot or disintegration and allows the leaf to die slowly. The process of fermentation releases ammonia, which for us was very strong to the nose, but apparently you grow used to the intense smell. The tobacco is then compressed and wrapped into bales, ready for the aging process which can take anywhere from 18-24 months.
After fermentation the tobacco leaves are sorted based on overall appearance and quality– the nicer bits are used as wrappers and the not so pretty parts as filler. A cigar will contain between two and four different tobaccos depending on the ring gauge (or girth). During this process, the leaves are kept moist and handled carefully.
The bunching and rolling is done by a “roller” who takes the filler leaves in his hand and presses them together and then takes a “binder” leaf – a leaf that keeps the blend held together and rolls all parts together in a “bunch”. The bunch is cut to the designated length and placed in a 2-piece cigar mold. Once the mold is full it is placed in a screw press for 30 minutes where it is then rotated and sets again for another 30 minutes for uniformity. After the pressing is complete, the “bunches” are removed from the press and wrapped with a “wrapper leaf,” a visually appealing piece of tobacco – this is one of the most crucial elements in the process as this stage creates the appearance of the cigar. The wrapper is carefully rolled on, nearly always by a woman, as our hands are gentle and nimble! Natural glue is then applied to keep all the parts in place.
On average each cigar maker makes around 350 cigars a day. From the rolling bench the cigars are then placed in an aging room where the different flavors “marry” from 21 days all the way up to 180 days. Oliva produces approximately 30,000 cigars a day! Or 29,996 the day we visited as we indulged in a few ourselves.
We thank the team at Oliva for the opportunity to learn the craft of cigar making. Luckily you don’t have to travel to Nicaragua to enjoy an Oliva cigar. Many hands in a far away land work to make beautiful cigars so that we can enjoy them right here in Tennessee! Happy cigar smoking!
For more pictures please check us out on Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=108237426983&aid=274472
October 21, 2010
As I sat on my back porch listening to classical music and enjoying a great cigar, I watched the sun going down over the trees. As I sat there I contemplated what had led me to pick that cigar I was smoking. After all, as I talk to many a cigar enthusiast and they invariably want to know what my favorite cigar is. Looking out at the wood, I was reminded of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”. I think my approach to cigars is comparitive to that famous poem. I could take the road more traveled and stick to the cigars I know are solid picks. There is nothing wrong with brand loyalty and knowing you will not be disappointed in your purchase. But I personally like to take the road less traveled. I find it fun and exciting to find something I’ve never tried before, rushing home like a kid on his birthday to play with that new present. So go ahead and get a handful of tried and true, but slip a cigar you’ve never tried before into the mix and I’ll bet its the first one you smoke because you just have to “know”. Hopefully as we go forward I can help you down the road less traveled. As Frost said at the end of his poem “Two roads diverged in a wood,and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
– Michael Leedle, Smoke Czar for Lipman