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CT: Can you give a quick overview of what you do professionally and why you do it? What do you find most meaningful about your work? Does it involve cigars or tobacco in any way?
I’ve spent the majority of my career in digital marketing, and focus on marketing strategies for events and tradeshows. In my off time, I’ve spent the last ten years building Fine Tobacco NYC, a social club for cigar enthusiasts in NYC.
CT: Describe your first experience smoking a cigar. What attracted you to cigar smoking and what are some of the small details you remember?
I remember my first cigar well. It was a Dutch Masters cigar from a bodega on 36th street in Manhattan. And it was awful! When my good friend (who worked at Davidoff) heard that my first cigar was a Dutch Master, he gave me a care package of some extremely rare product from Davidoff and Avo, and from that point on I was hooked.
CT: What is your favorite cigar and why? What do you look for in a cigar?
Currently, I’d have to say my favorite cigars come from RoMa Craft Tobac, a boutique brand that creates some of the most flavorful and complex stuff on the market.
I look for three things in a good cigar. The first is complexity, which is to say, the sheer number of different flavors that I can discern throughout the course of the smoke. The second is balance, i.e. are the flavors all able to be experienced at once, or does one flavor overpower the rest. Finally—and most importantly—harmony. Do the combinations of flavors and textures come together to produce something akin to a full meal? A meal that has sweet, salty, savory, and bitter elements will be much more interesting than one that is only savory or sweet.
CT: Has your taste in cigars evolved over time? What are some of the other cigars you have enjoyed over the years?
Absolutely. Like many cigar enthusiasts, I was initially turned on to powerhouse cigars from brands like Padron and My Father—just like someone new to wine might really like big California cabs. Over the years though as your tastes refine, you may start to revisit milder blends from brands like Davidoff, Arturo Fuente, or Oliva and find that they make stellar product. This was my journey.
CT: Do you have a preference for where the tobacco comes from? If so, where and why?
That’s tough. It really depends on what I’m in the mood for, but I’d say overall I probably spend most of my time smoking medium to full bodied cigars utilizing mainly Nicaraguan tobacco. That said, when I splurge I usually do so on Davidoff which showcases Dominican tobbacos.
CT: Describe your perfect setting / environment to smoke a cigar.
Great question. I’d have to say my most memorable moment was a cigar dinner that I hosted at the now closed Merchants Cigar Bar on the upper east side of Manhattan. With over 100 attendees, was probably the largest full course cigar dinner in New York City that’s happened in the last ten to twenty years, and featured cigars from Davidoff Cigars and La Hoja Cigars and single malts from Glenfiddich and The Balvenie. It was a magical evening.
CT: A lot of people enjoy smoking cigars at events such as weddings, corporate events, bachelor parties, birthday parties, etc. Of these events, what is your favorite event to enjoy a cigar in and why?
Bachelor parties for sure. It’s so rare that we have the opportunity to get four, five, or even more great friends together. I’m the designated ‘cigar guy’ at the bachelor parties that I go to and without fail, the time spent smoking cigars ends up being the most valuable and meaningful time. Jumping in a lake takes ten seconds. Sitting by a lake smoking a cigar gives you one to two hours to have a conversation and reflect on your friendships.
CT: Do you ever give cigars as gifts? If so, who do you give gift them to and on what occasions?
Definitely, though for the most part I’m giving gifts to fellow cigar smokers. The occasion could be just about anything, though obviously birthdays, major career milestones, and new babies are the biggest occasions.
CT: What are creative ways cigar aficionados can incorporate cigar smoking into a business setting?
That’s a great question. The best way to incorporate cigars into a business environment is simply by changing after dinner plans from getting drinks at a bar to hitting up a cigar lounge. In New York City, there are cigar lounges and cigar bars in each part of the city, so I try to plan business dinners near those lounges so we can easily stop by for a smoke after dinner.
CT: Do you find that your friends who are not cigar smokers understand the cigar culture? If not, what key points do you explain to them?
Smoking cigars is a big enough part of my life that most of my friends have heard my lectures and sermons on the cultural, social, and personal benefits of cigar smoking. Generally though if I’m talking to someone I can tell finds the practice disgusting, I’ll start by talking about how cigar lounges really are some of the last places in existence where people of different backgrounds get together to relax and talk.
How much of our political polarization in the U.S. for example could be solved if we all had a cigar together once a week and talked not about politics, but just about what we care about in life? Sharing conversations about our jobs, kids, hobbies, hopes and fears in person is the answer, and in a world where digital experiences are actually making us more isolated and apart, cigar lounges offer us a rare opportunity to sit down with people we likely disagree with and simply enjoy a shared experience.
Where else does that experience exist? Bars are great, but they’re generally loud and alcohol-fueled. So they’re mostly good for hanging out, getting drunk, then oversharing. Not my cup of tea. How about sports arenas? They’re great, but there’s simply so much going on (that is the point of a good game after all) that getting to real conversation can be difficult.
Put that way, most of my non smoking friends start to see the value in it.
CT: What is one thing you haven’t mentioned yet that you would like everyone to know about your love for cigars?
If you want to enjoy cigars even more, read the history and backstory behind great brands. Figures like Zino Davidoff, Arturo Fuente, Rocky Patel and Avo Uvezian all have fascinating histories that help contextualize their cigars.