Author Archives: IrvCigarBroker

About IrvCigarBroker

I'm an independent cigar broker and blogger covering the Midwest.

Three Little Words: A Review.

1965 cigar

So I receive my copy of Cigar Aficionado (October 2017) and I place it on the pile of magazines I have yet to read and the hundreds of pages of torn out articles that are scattered to the left of my small writing space on my desk.

Several days go by and I just keep building the stacks of copy I will use someday in a story.  But today was different.  For some unknown reason, I decided to pull the issue out and strip off the protective plastic cover.  I take a quick look at the front of this cigar magazine.  “Inside the NFL: Who will win the Super Bowl?  Danny Sheridan picks the winners.  How to beat the Bookmakers.  Jay Glazer and Dean Blandino – The Fox insiders speak.  Super NFL Stadiums.  Featuring: Dick Butkus, Jason Taylor, Robert Kraft.”  Hmm.  I glanced back at the masthead – Cigar Aficionado: The Good Life Magazine for Men.

Cigars.  Cigars.  CIGARS!!!  WHERE ARE THE ARTICLES ON THE CIGARS?

Insouciantly I flip open the publication and my fingers happen to stop on page 124.  In the back – where the cigar reviews have been relegated.  Subhead:  Churchills.  I scan the first five to my left.  HEY!  Will you looky dat!  Third from the top.  Nat Cicco’s Anniversario 1965 Liga No. 4 Churchill.  Holy shit!  A 91!  A bloody good 91.  And I rep that line!  Would you look at that?  And I did.  You might say I stared at it.

The copy reads: Squarely, symmetrically pressed with an oily wrapper (Ecuador) and chopped pigtail cap (I can see that).  Up front acidity (?) disappears (Did it ever appear???)  for a leathery, meaty smoke sweetened by notes (What do-re-me?) of molasses and toffee.  U.S, $6.50.”  Well, I’ll be damned.  And wouldn’t you know it, I have that exact same size.  So what do you think I did?  Thaaaaaat’s right.  I went to my humidor and pulled it out.  Let’s see how close these guys are to the real thing.  (Read my Blog titles, “I think; therefore I am.” just to gain perspective as to why I’m doing this.)

1965 5

Ok.  The CA review has a photo of the cigar, so why bother to tell me it’s square-pressed?  Too, it’s quite evident that the pigtail has been clipped.  Agreed description so far.  But unnecessary to write down.  The wrapper is gorgeous, a chocolate-brown hue that invites your lips to start quivering upon entry.  Nothing said there.  Why?  

Now, here’s where the review goes awry.  Where does this taster come up with acidic?  Even though the “acidity” disappears, why bother to mention it because it isn’t there.

The reviewer tastes a “leathery, meaty smoke sweetened by notes of molasses and toffee.”  Ok.  I’m smoking this cigar.  I have put fire to the folded-in foot (not mentioned in the original review and should have been) and I’m drawing in some of the most luscious (meaty?) smoke produced by the combination of fire, tobacco and Mother Nature.

I get a refreshing dose of viscous chocolate syrup, a hint of cinnamon powder, and a squiggle of sassafras extract.  A bubbly blur of spice appears and hovers in the smoke for the remainder of the experience.  There’s even a bit of seasoned tobacco pipe residue taste upon the final exhale of smoke – the type of essence that one can get from the first crunch of the sizzling burnt edges of crème brûlée.  My palate does detect a dash of toffee.  Toffee, as you know, is “a hard but chewy, caramel colored noncrystalline candy made by cooking sugar, water (or cream or milk) and usually butter or other fat. Other ingredients such as nuts or chocolate are sometimes added (Google), but not in this case.  And what kind of toffee, Dark English Butter, English Butter Toffee, White English Butter Toffee and who knows how many more.  Each has their own unique flavor enhancements.

1965 bandAh, and don’t forget the bouquet (but this reviewer did).  One of the prime elements in the flavor of any cigar.  The bouquet, the whipped cream that tops a sundae with its drizzle of dazzle.  

Now I know the editors can’t go into so much detail and I dare say I feel like a jackass just writing this somewhat lengthy personal description.  So you know what I would have said had I had the chance to give this cigar a review?

Damn!  Great Smoke!

Ah, the serenity of sublime simplicity.  

Too, it should have gotten a 95 or better.

Ta!

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You can go to Hell!

vatican watch

Punctuality was drilled into me since I was a kid.  I was taught that being on time, or better yet – being early was sacred, holy, and divine.  It was not something I was born with, this devotion to promptness had to be taught and observed.  But I found out, after many years that being somewhere or completing a project by a deadline was not the point. What was really being ingrained into my psyche was understanding and applying the notion of respect.

broken phoneThis, of course, was before cell phones and mass communication.  Now you can change plans at the tap of a finger.  No, when I grew up, obviously I was expected to keep my appointments or find a germ-laden public phone to call the other party and tell them I was going to be late – or not show up at all.  

I really have to give my canonical penchant for being on time to my Dad.  He was a stickler for being accountable to your word. What else is there?  He taught me to always be on time.  So I just – did it.  And then to back him up was the catacombs of rhapsodic concatenations of the Catholic Church –Kyrie eleison mei.”  Oy vie!

vatican powers

Now, I’m not going into the minutiae of being “bullied” by the catechism of growing up in a strict Catholic household, I’ll let John R. Powers do that.  Read his 1975 novel, Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?  To get a swipe of what we had to deal with – pre Second Vatican Council and beyond!  But I will add to his memories mine about being an altar boy. Now there’s where you learn discipline – and the Fear of Almighty God!

Discipline was the key word for a boy who wanted to please his parents.  Being an altar boy was almost a rite of passage in a Catholic household.  And the perks were well received, like serving at funerals.  Not only would I get out of a weekday class at 10 am, but the family of the deceased usually offered us an envelope with a ten spot inside.

But I digress.  The regular schedule for any 11-year-old boy (no girls were allowed back then to be altar b-o-y-s!) was grueling.  Every f*cking day, Monday through Saturday masses were held at 6 am, 7:15 am, 8 am, and finally 8:45 am.  Every F*cking day.  Except for Sunday.  But that’s a whole ‘nother matter.

Acolytes times 3aThe fact was, there had to be three altar boys at each service, the cross-bearer and two acolytes to hold the candles before and after the service for adoration. (Except when you received a call from the Mother House, where the nuns lived. Then it was up to one altar boy to do everything – and be there at 5 am!)  Bless you, Sinister Mary Peter.  

But I had no choice!  Not only was I made to feel guilt-ridden if I did not become an altar boy, but Catholic lads were expected to be a part of this holy, traditional ritual.  Come hell or high water.

The priest would get to the church and enter the sacristy about 15 minutes before the mass started and you had better be there or your ass was going to hell. Think about it. Tell an 11-year-old that if he’s late for celebrating mass he’s going to be bosom buddies with the brotherhood of Beelzebub for the rest of his f*cking existence!  That’s eternity man!  Punishment in perpetuity!

You bet your sweet ass I was an “on time” altar boy!  Fear is quite a motivator as is going to Hell!  And that discipline has carried over to my adult life.tominos hell

********

So it has become obvious to me within the last few months that some store managers and shop owners in the cigar community will never – ever, have to worry about missing one another after their time with the living is up.  It’s so simple.  When the rapture comes – I’m going up.  Some are going down!  And just think, they’ll never be at a loss for a f*cking cigar lighter ever again!!!  LOL!!!

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“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

rainbow

After the storm of memorable magnitude hit the other day and then subsided, a lithe, cotton-candy colored rainbow formed in the sky.  An immense convex-shaped natural palette of pastel pinks, blues, yellows, whites, greens, and violets, drew people away from what they were doing in their houses, restaurants, and even from their cars (me) to see.  Yes, people, still mesmerized by this mystical, natural phenomenon pulled off to the side of the road to take their best attempt at an Ansel Adams moment with their puny phones this ephemeral phenomenon that would soon dissipate into the misty sun-outlined clouds of love-induced Brigadoon dreams.

Ordinary people, still impressed with the reflection of light against billions upon trillions of water droplets that produced every conceivable shade that the spiritual prism had to offer being released into the now brilliantly lit,  sun-drenched sky for our pleasure, took time out to gaze upon its splendor.

Nature is unresponsive to man’s control.  Nature does what it is meant to do – soothe us, scare us, satiate us into states of awe and wonder, fear and terror.  She is the master of sight, sound, and sensations.  She is responsible for tastes that we sense.  She is Mother Nature.  The latter – taste –  was my impetus of an idea that was resurrected by the sight of this spectrum of beauty.  The Googleplex of tastes.

Of course, I tend to think of taste in concert with cigars – as ephemeral and obstreperous the interpretation of this gustatory perception is.  How elitist of me to use this term from the Latin gustatus “sense of taste; a taste” , the noun – use of past participle of gustare ‘to taste;’ from PIE root *geus- ‘to taste; to choose. (Wiki)  I apologize.

rainbow notes

But to my point, hidden within the aristocratic mélange of words is the one we can lift out – “choose.”  Or the one I prefer – choice.  We have a choice of what tastes we define, or perceive, or catch.

These, too, of course – are a product of nature.  Yet, they do not draw people to their camera phones, out of their houses, or into the streets with screams of delicious delight. It is a private moment that takes on gargantuan proportions while smoking the cigar, though the gusto of gastronomy cannot be seen.

These lip smacking guesses take the avidity out of smoking a fine, premium cigar: descriptions of dried fruit, cumin, cardamom, leather, venison, yeast, (yuk) humas, iodine, hot steam, cold shower, aged barnacles, foaming sea water, crystallized hazelnut shells, humid lavender, hot lead, stale bread, dry toast, white noise, filtered heat, wavey wheat, beer breath, mushrooms, mice feces, cardboard, hell I could go on forever, and some reviewers do for whatever purpose, I cannot say – other than to gush verbal garbage to get a reaction they cannot see?

It’s simple.  Look at the rainbow while smoking the cigar.  A duo delight. 

It’s one thing to observe the natural beauty of a rainbow, still another to dissect the tastes of tobacco when all we really want is a pleasant smoke that we like and are comfortable with.

Excuse me if I’ve stepped on the toes of the cigar connoisseurs, the premium aficionados, the lisps of luxury that trickle into an experience that is meant only to please with a rounded satisfaction void of analysis and asininity of arising anise.

“I think; therefore I am.”

being real

Seeing things in person convinces me that I am real.  Often, as a – what I’ve been called – “voracious reader,” is the first step to this feeling of being alive.  Intellectual activity.  Yes, blood courses through my veins.  I move – therefore I feel I am living.  A reflection in a mirror is proof that there is someone or thing being seen in front of me – but even the senses can trick us.

Watch any movie being produced today and without reservation, I dare say there are countless CGIs contained within the film.  It begs the question what is real and what is fantasy?  Of course, everyone knows how a well-produced hologram can place a deceased individual back into the present spotlight.  That practice, methinks, will become de rigueur after the technology is perfected.  And then, for those who are unaware of the inevitability of death, will evolve into their belief of what is real.

So it is with cigars.  It is impenetrability impossible to go by what a reviewer limns about a cigar – its taste, its body, its feel without actually smoking the brand.  The cigar must be held in the hand, lighted, and the smoke must be drawn into the mouth, pass over the palate, and then be introduced into the olfactory glands to really experience the bouquet.

art room

Your opinion of that cigar will invariably differ from one smoker to the next.  It always does and always will. There are too many factors that come into play.  There is no way, no matter how well-written the review, be it academic or artistic, that can accurately describe the nuances of a blend – and be real.

I will be visiting Alison Jardine, an artist I know, later this year at her studio.  I have seen hundreds of her works online.  But it is the one I own that is the only valid depiction of her talent.  I can look at it, touch it, examine it, smell it, and study it to absorb the full meaning of what she was (or is) trying to convey. Having it in my possession makes me alive.  http://alisonjardine.com/

Cigar reviews are words on paper or digital letters concatenated into legible sentences and paragraphs on a screen.  That is all.  The criticism or adulation of a particular smoke means nothing to the reader, other than to stimulate the imagination.  To trust your senses through another’s experience is ephemeral and doddering.  

That is the challenge with faith.  Faith, as described by Webster’s Dictionary is “ a strong belief . . .  based on . . .  apprehension rather than proof.”  Reality is described by the same dictionary as “The true situation (or thing) that exists.”  Ergo the conundrum of belief regarding anyone’s word or words.  It is the latter –  a love affair, a gem, a cigar, an experienced or cherished moment, that allows a human being to know of his or her existence without a doubt that there is life.

being ideology band

I have a few more cigar reviews that I will post.  The reviews in my opinion, or “what someone (I) think(s) about a particular thing.”  I am hoping my evaluation peaks your interest, but the words in no way are a direct delivery system to your body or mind so you are able to feel what I felt or taste what I tasted.  You must go through the effort of finding the cigar, lighting it up, and drawing in the smoke to actually become a component in the final analysis.

I’m smoking a cigar right now that I find difficult to find on any store’s shelf – Ideology by 262 Cigars.  I can remember when it was the Talk of the Lounge.  Today. Silence.  It is a grand cigar.  All I do know is you cannot know this unless you find one and smoke it.

being burntSo with all this being said, I have decided to only review cigars now and then.  Mostly then.  For, in reality, the review only serves as a method to selfishly give you my thoughts.  I cannot give you my experience – my life.  

Look at the nub.  I smoked it until its red hot ember burnt my fingers.  I can say that because I felt the pain on my skin.  All you can do is imagine it.  And that in no way proves to you that the cigar is real.  Only that I said so. Therefore, at least, I know I exist.     

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My Outside Desk of Respite.

outside desk

Call it what you will, a day off, playing hooky, screwing off – it’s your choice.  I call it working at my outré organized outside desk.  (Diana Reeves is singing in the background, “Softly as is the Morning Sunrise.”  It’s on Azimuth Radio.  Azimuth is “a trio that comprises English vocalist, Norma Winstone, her husband, pianist, John Taylor, and trumpeter, Kenny Wheeler.  Winstone founded this trio in the late 70s after playing at Ronnie Scott’s club in England with Taylor.  She is among England’s most revered singers and a true vocal improviser.”  (Pandora).

outside cigar

I’m smoking a cigar I no longer represent because the owner felt the uncontrollable urge to add his brand to the Thompson Cigar Catalogue line up.  So I felt this uncontrollable urge to subtract the cigar from my offerings.  It is an excellent blend with a high pedigree and is grandfathered in – but.  I have a few samples left, so I deduced, “Why not?”

The breezes are constant today on the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) and are causing the natural and usual distractions.  But the sun is warming my body, soothing my psyche, and allowing me to see clearly what I am doing.

In the hours that I’ve been out here, I have secured a number of orders.  All good.  I stop now and then between calls to leaf through some of the older magazines that are lying on the glass garden table that I haven’t had a chance to read tearing out articles about the French film star, Isabelle Huppert; performance artist, Yuga Want;  and a variety of poignant cartoons that I may refer back to when I’m writing a future blog post.

I remain fiercely independent as a businessman, and the day that urge leaves me is when I’m six feet under.  To me, it never matters how I secure an order just as long as I do.  After all, every expense of this independent cigar broker always reflects back to me – physical, financial, and mental.  It’s critical that I use my time, money, and intellect wisely.

outside irvI used to practically kill myself desperately trying to smooth down the hairs of every shop I serviced making sure each was perfectly coiffed.  But I found out over the years that no matter how I fussed with my comb and brush, the Abromović method just didn’t make that much of a difference.  Ergo my choice to stay off the road every now and then.

(This really is a great cigar!  I hated to give it up –  but had to on principle alone.  Some manufacturers have to have their cake and eat it, too.)

This is how I attempt to keep my sanity.  And I will admit, it has been tested as of late.  Call me the Rock of Gibraltar, but I’m staying put.  And to quote Edward G. Robertson, “See!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Js6mgxdFLE4

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Archipelago: a cigar broker’s epiphany.

 

cigars times three

As I was conducting research for a future post, I felt this sickening twang in my gut. Enough so I that I stopped what I was doing, i.e. ripping pages out of magazines.  I was outside on the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open (24/7) and now just staring at my silver gazing ball.  Moss growing underneath.  My body was unusually still.  The air all around me was in motion causing the tinkling of the wind chimes to add to the deafening silence.

It was the scene in the Ed Harris production of “Pollock”  when the artist and his companions are driving at high speed in his faded lime green car on a back road.  He’s drunk.  They are screaming for him to slow down and he just looks at them – sees the terror in their eyes but hears nothing in his head.  Only silence.  Final clarity.

This.  This.  This right here is what I want to do.  Write.  Despite the consequences, good or bad.  In solitude.  Non-sectarian.  Open.  This moment touched me like no other niche ever has before.  

birch

Then later, the next day, I was in my basement studio staring at the miraculously smooth surface of a birch wood board – 2’ x 2’, no gesso, no undercoat, no prep adornment whatsoever.  Birch.  And that’s when I began to move quickly and erratically, almost like Joe Cocker at Woodstock when he sings “With a little help from my friends.”  Sparked lit-ideas.

I am drawn to abstract art.  But I haven’t put brush to canvas in 40 years.  Only recently have I expanded my apparent insatiable compulsion to put my emotions somewhere other than back in my being.  I’ve done it in my writing and now I am doing it in my expression of art.

This phase would be to modify how I paint, new techniques and mediums for me.  I am no longer content with just suspended pigments, canvases,  and bristled brushes.  I will utilize nature – wood, paper, air movement, unadulterated colorants, scraps of used notes, whatever is there to pick up.  

I begin to spray adhesive on the thin, almost onion-skin thickness of restaurant napkins with the delicate mist of an adhesive spray, moistening the paper to make it next to impossible to manipulate.  But I find a way – I always do.  I did do it!  

Paint is secondary at this moment.  As I continue to tear and rip the napkins that I wrote notes on while having lunch and splattering shredded paper from documents that mean nothing to me, tears begin to well up in my eyes.  I feel my throat tighten.  My eyes look down so my son, who is practicing his guitar nearby, wouldn’t see me crying.  Though I have no problem with that.  This wouldn’t be the first.

spidermanMore ideas flushed out.  My vision was a bit blurry. Obviously.  I took a clump of used paper towel that had dried paint on it and sprayed adhesive on it – a thorough amount. Then I took a clean sheet of copy paper and blanketed the now impasto-like growth and pressed the blob onto the board to make sure it would adhere properly to the no longer pristine birch board.  

The piece begins to animate itself to its own direction. But I never felt out of control.  I never ever felt intimidated by the power of my oftimes upended emotional straits.  I still led.

I went out to smoke a cigar.  A Guerilla by Isabela.  I could feel its pull.  I could understand its purpose at this time.  I needed to dip my soul into its essences.  That is how important it is for me to combine all three.

The trio of select separate serenades of destinies makes up my chain of islands – my mystical archipelagos.  This, too, is what I want to do.  Introduce magnificent boutique blends of cigars to shops in the states I cover.  Yet, only those cigars that I have an emotional attachment for seem to grow under my tutelage.  I cannot do it any other way. Is there any other way?  No.  There IS no other way.  

irv content

My God, I thought –  a m-*-@-h-e-r-f-*-c-k-i-n-g epiphany? No, I am not being blasphemous or disrespectful in my written assessment.  I am bearing my soul.  My self is flayed open in front of you.  Within my private archipelago, there are many more islands to discover – music, drama, photography, glass blowing (Venice bound!), and sculpting.  And yes my dear belov-ed Veruca – I want them all.  And I want them all now!

The enchantment of revelation and giving yourself permission to dive into the crystalline ideological waters and splash around incessantly indeed may take years, look at me and art – 40 bloody years!  But I know the orgasmic release of pleasure might go beyond a methamphetamine rush, a swirling hit of heroin, or a swig of 100-year-old scotch.  I don’t know.  I’m just guessing.

I write.  I paint.  I sell.  (I’ll admit.)  

I know what I want to do right now.

And I’m finally doing them all – with so much more on the way.  

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Not Under the Influence.

sept issue.jpg

Flipping through the September 2016 (Yes, 2016.  I have mentioned a number of times I’m a bit behind in my reading.) issue of Vogue, I was totally shocked how much of what was written and photographed I already knew about. Today.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the publication, the September magazine is THE high point in the year for editor Anna Wintour who holds the reins of the most influential fashion magazine in – wait for it – the World!  

Its hook?  Size – 2016’s concluded at 800 pages.  In 2012, Vogue hit its largest ever at 916 pages.  That is not only impressive, it is unprecedented.  No other fashion magazine comes close.  For more details on how she does it, there is a fabulous DVD appropriately titled, “The September Issue.”  It too is the penultimate in documentaries of this ilk.  I have a copy, but my first time viewing this work of digital art was on the plane going to Florida this year.  I didn’t want to leave my seat upon landing.  The story became so addictive I wanted to watch and see all the hoops her staff had to jump through to not only make The September Issue the best and the biggest, but to do that AND make Anna happy.  Not an easy task by anyone’s standards.  But I digress.

What brought this on was as I was thumbing through the pages I was completely Pottered at how much of the subjects in the magazine since it had been released to the public I already knew about.  How could this be?  As I smoked my Sparkling Robusto by Isabela, I began to ask myself how could this come to pass?  Coincidence?  I suppose.  But I think it was that my interests are well-defined and acutely refined that – if I may be so arrogant – I was thinking like the editor.  We both had in our minds what would be interesting and what would draw in the reader.

Case in point: “Dreaming Herself Free.  In her new memoir, radical performance artist MARINA ABROMOVIĆ describes her early years in Communist Belgrade and her discovery that art was liberation.”  An article in the September 2016 issue.

walk through walls

Guess what book I just finished reading?  “Walk Through Walls.”  How did it get into my hands?  I did not read this article in Vogue, nor do I remember reading any other articles about her newly released story.  I simply gravitated to the book.  Why?  Because when I saw the cover jacket I was deeply intrigued.  I knew of Marina as one of the greatest performance artists ever, but never in depth.  Now I could learn at my leisure – so I went out and bought the book.

I found that to be remarkable – kismet!  And there were more such “coincidences” throughout the issue.  But not to belabor the point, I thought to myself, what would happen, what could happen if a cigar smoker ignored all the hype that slathers cigar magazines, cigar social media sites, and blithering cigar blogs and just let nature take its course?  Would it be possible, plausible, or even probable that a smoker would by chance pick up a cigar naturally – oblivious to the hype, blogs, and reviews?  Wouldn’t it be grand to know you picked out a winner just because you decided to try a new cigar by reading about it nine months later?  Cool, uh?

In short, the cigar smoker wouldn’t have been influenced at all by the media, word of mouth or podcasts but rather through the natural pull of curiosity and devil-may-care of delightful desire?  It’s an esoteric and Aristotelian conundrum that really cannot be answered, but rather through silken contemplation while reading a nine-month-old magazine article – and smoking one of your favorite cigars.

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