What category cigars fit into.


I often say to people jokingly that I had to keep one of my vices so I chose cigars.  It gets a laugh.  But in the pursuit of pleasure, vices play their roles. Are cigars a vice?  


According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called “capital” because they engender other sins, other vices.  They are pride, avarice (greed), envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia (emphasis in original). (www.catholicexchange.com)


I’m watching ”Se7en” directed by David Fincher, and written by Andrew Kevin Walker. A tale of obsession about when retiring police Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) tackles a final case with the aid of newly transferred David Mills (Brad Pitt), they discover a number of elaborate and grizzly murders. They soon realize they are dealing with a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who is targeting people he thinks to represent one of the seven deadly sins. Somerset also befriends Mills’ wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is pregnant and afraid to raise her child in the crime-riddled city.

I’m in the office inside, not at the PRESTO Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) so no cigar tonight. The movie is being played on my laptop, which for the longest time wouldn’t work. But whatever was wrong fixed itself.  

The movie is grisly, to say the least, but to set the tone, Fincher wanted the opening credits to veer it as far away from Brad Pitt the heartthrob, and Morgan Freeman the gentlemanly driver in “Driving Miss Daisy” as possible.

“So he turned to title designer Kyle Cooper, a virtuoso but as yet inexperienced movie credit designer, to forge a black-as-midnight sequence that set the pitch, plot, and characterization of the noir thriller. Cooper leaped at the chance to frontload the film with John Doe-dosed menace. “I was really into horror movies when I was a kid,” he remembers, “and I used to get frustrated when they’d hold back the monster to the very end. It occurred to me to get an idea of the killer before they finally catch him. We wanted to get the audience curious about what this guy is going to be. He has to be super, super evil.”

What Cooper conjured up was one of the great title sequences. A stylised mash-up of scratched frames and fuzzed-up, glitchy graphics set to a remix of Nine Inch Nail’s Closer, it was shot over two days, taking a further, painstaking five weeks to cut together. It was deemed by the New York Times to be “One of the most important design innovations of the 1990s,” and has proved almost as influential as the film itself.” (www.empireonline.com)

I first saw only the first half of the movie when a male victim is discovered in a bed and has been left to rot to death by the serial killer illustrating Sloth.  I was thrown off my sick meter when in the middle of the investigation the man on the bed, void of what anyone would call the human condition, coughs and scares the hell out of everyone.  Panic ensues and I click off the movie.

But I was obsessed with what happens next and was dutifully surprised when my son told me had the film.  But he suggested I watch a Tom Cruise Sci-Fi flick instead. I tried, but it turned out to be a bit ridiculous and I pulled it from the slot and slid “SeVen” in.

The atmosphere created is dark, dank, and far beyond any film noir ever produced in the 40s through to when this film was released – a noir masterpiece.  It rained in many of the scenes adding to the thickness of the sickness that can sluice its way into the minds of man.

New York at its worse is captured and the casting by a trio of geniuses Kerry Barden, Billy Hopkins, and Suzanne Smith made the film into what would become one of the best of its kind of 1995.

The seven deadly sins are usually attached to Catholicism, but in the end, they are placed on this earth by Our Creator for Christians to navigate through life and prove their loyalty to the Father.  For this, the church created the seven heavenly virtues of Chastity, Abstinence, Liberality, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility.  Not as alluring as the evil that seems to dominate humankind.

“I’m sick of all this insanity,” a conversation ensues between the two men.  “This is a job!” The patina of the colors matches the exasperation of the characters.  Even though the hues, the drab, burnt, foggy prismatic wax choices that add to the cloudy stink that we can only imagine.  A bucket of vomit. Piss. Shit. Yes. It’s us if we are left alone to atone for the infusion of vices.  Smell a used ashtray lately?


Spoiler alert.  This film ends with Spacey’s character fulfilling all his sick thoughts of the human race and how we have handled our choices.  “Go easy on him,” Detective Somerset insouciantly mumbles as his eyes follow the police car with Mills in the back held for murder.  The vices have won. They will always win unless we slide into the glossy and slick contrarian condition that the chur7ches mess gives us to choose from. Provided you even want to go there.

Are cigars a vice?  Ask further questions about candy, alcohol, and the preoccupation of what is or isn’t.





Setting the cigar on fire.

robert lowell

I can’t seem to find a book that can hold my interest beyond the first chapter.  It’s just like when I can’t find a cigar that satisfies my taste yen. So what do I do?  

Well, I may be considered very lucky or even spoiled, but here’s what I do when I must solve the choice conundrum of what book to read next.  I walk over to my bookshelves and I cock my head to the right and begin to scan the titles of the books I have on each shelf.

Now I have a lot of books, in fact, I just donated over 400 to the local library because I just didn’t have any more room.  Plus my taste in subject matter has changed. However, I’m already back over the 400 donated mark now so I still have a need for more bookshelves.  I’m headed in the same direction.

Have I read them all?  Of course not. What’s the point in having a library if you’ve read every book that sits on the shelves?  So, I confess, I’m a habitual, unstoppable book buyer. My eclectic tastes in subject matter cause this affliction.  I may find a review that pricks my interest or a line that lures me into purchasing it, or it’s simply a subject matter I never tire of – such as cultural history and biographies.

But in the last month, nothing, and I mean nothing, has grabbed my thought threads so that I become entangled in the content of the book.  So far I have started six books. Some make it to the double-digit page number, some don’t even make it past the introduction.

But the above scenario is almost an exact match when it comes to finding a cigar that satisfies my tastes.  And, here is where the spoiled part comes in. I can go down to the basement storage humidor, cock my head to the right and search among the hundreds of cigars I have available to me for one that I think may satiate my tobacco desires.  Just plug in the word cigar for the book and you have a book searcher’s doppelgänger.  With a few minor variations, of course. I’m not going to smoke the book, or arrive at an introductory impasse.  You get it, yes?

But I think I may have solved my search for the book.  I slid off the shelf Robert Lowell’s “Setting the River on Fire.  A story of Genus, Mania, and Character,” by Kay Redfield Jamison. The book starts off with a poem by Robert Lowell “ Reading Myself.”

Sorry, it lost me.  But I decided to read the Prologue.  There was the hook. “The trouble with writing poetry is that you have readers, and the trouble with readers is that you have to listen to them after they have spent their time reading you.”

It took a second look, and a reread before the Prologue, page ⅹⅷ before the book’s razor-sharp words hooked me and were securely embedded in my flesh to finally say to myself, “This is the one.  I can start.” It was only three weeks to a month and six books (five if you figure Lowell’s was a second read) before I finally found what I was looking for.

So I’m letting the public in on how I accomplish some dilemmas.  And I’m hoping the boutique manufacturers that read my blog seriously consider the time and effort it takes to place their product on the shelves of cigar stores.  Even though I know I’m a bit fastidious, I know the store owner is even more so because he’s placing cold hard cash on the line. But even so. You gotta try ‘em. Maybe not all the books I buy I really like, but at least I make the effort and the minimal investment.

Same with cigars.   Don’t take it so seriously and you will have achieved opened enlightenment (开启了启蒙).

That’s when you really fly confidently without the bungee cord. Scary?  Perhaps –  but oh what a rush!


El Beest.

beest band

Smoking El Beest by Marvin Wright of Blue Mountain Cigars.  Sixty.  What’s to say save for the fact that this is a hell of a line.  Each stick is phenomenal. Flavors on point. Construction completed by men or women who have to be master rollers.  

I’ve only had four cigars.  I’m leaving the flavored one to my imagination.  What?

“The Fantastic Four.”  (Can I say that?)

Kudos Marvin.

While we’re on movies.  To paraphrase  “Will Success Spoil Marvin Wright?”

We’ll see.  



Introducing Gianni Versace Group


“This special group, ‘Gianni Versace Artistic Visionary’ is dedicated to the life and artistic achievements of fashion designer Gianni Versace. Though his life was cut short at the young age of 50, what he achieved throughout his life with his creations and passion will never be out of fashion, will always be in vogue, and will always be remembered.”

amy berger

These words are from Amy Berger, one of the more well-known presences on Facebook.  Just recently, I was asked to be a member of her group ‘Gianni Versace Artistic Visionary’ that has exceeded 1k in members and no doubt will surpass that number in a very short time.

Amy, in her own words, is a “Model. Cosmetics & Skincare Expert. Business Owner. Creator.”

Honestly, I was honored when I received the invitation and I immediately said, “Yes,” and can’t wait to see what she has in store for the readers (and the contributors have in store for her).

But here’s what set my heart a pumpn’ – it isn’t a cigar group!  I have been invited and am a member of quite a number of cigar groups –  but not one fashion group.  And for the record, I adore the fashion industry.  That’s why I was so thrilled when Amy invited me.

versace smile

And if she has no objection, one of my contributions will be to publish posts about this grandiose giant of fashion.

So go for it Amy!  Make this THE group to tap into to learn, experience, and float in the sparkling glittering glamour of the late Gianni Versace.  Still.


Cranial void filled nicely.

picnic table

Yesterday I wasted two hours in my hotel room watching Bruce Willis in “Live Free or Die Hard.” (2007)?  I can’t really say I thoroughly enjoyed it, I think it went on far too long. And the ending still can’t hold a candle to “The November Man.”  Why was I watching a movie instead of writing? Because yesterday was a waste of time. And that for me is rare. So that’s why I’m writing now. To validate the time spent on the road.

The day was mostly driving – with no sales.  When I’m home at the office after a bad day, I have surrounding me all my books, toys, balloons, and whistles to pry some inspiration from the experience rather than sitting in a hotel room with a f**king TV, and a cold supper from Taco Bell.

The movie ended.  So to salve my wounds, and stimulate the intellectual portion of my brain, I put on my jacket, grabbed a small pad of paper, a magazine, and a cigar and headed for the outside.  Ureka! There in the back of the hotel was an empty, dilapidated picnic table.

It is there, on the rough wooden surface, where I was able to stretch my imagination and fill the void that was created in my cranium while I was snapped to the movie.  Here is where I decided to blend what just occurred and mix it with what I wanted to do in the first place – write a short essay for the blog.

It doesn’t matter when I post this piece, the facts will remain the same – I feel that I cheated myself when I waste my time with action-packed footage from inane Hollywood impossibilities and then feel empty once the credits begin to roll.

I scribbled at a rapid pace because I knew just what I wanted to write.  Plus the sun was going down and the chilly wind sliced through my hair, around my head and slapped at my face – even though the beard offered some protection – and it is coming in rather nicely I might add.



irv wired

That was the greatest f**king ending EVER – “The November Man.” (2014)

Five years into his retirement, CIA veteran Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is pulled back into service to help retrieve a Russian agent — also his former lover — who has incriminating evidence on Federov, a corrupt Russian leader. When a different CIA team, led by Devereaux’s former protege (Luke Bracey), shows up, the mission goes south and Devereaux’s ex-lover is killed. Now a rogue agent, Devereaux drags a relief worker (Olga Kurylenko) along on his mission to settle the score. (Google)

Why would I say that?  The ending is as violent and as gruesome as can be.  But it befits the crime, the attitude, the arrogance of some people who think that they can get away with anything.  They can’t. They won’t.

Do I wish that ending upon anyone?   No. 

I’ll be on the road next week.  I may write. I may not write. It will all depend on how I feel and what I find interesting.  If anything.

What am I seeking?  Satisfaction. Personal and business gratification.  It’s why I’ve been driving thousands of miles a year since 2005.  But this is 2018.  I vowed to change the way I conduct my business and I’m doing that as I type.  It feels terrific.  Exhilarating.  I own me – and my business, and I’ll be damned if that message isn’t understood.



Do cigar reviews REALLY matter?

arctic cigar

I asked the above question the other day on Facebook and it is truly amazing the answers I received.  Below are several comments. I took the liberty to include the respondent’s name. And, oh, if the majority rules, all the cigar magazines would discontinue publishing cigar reviews and add more editorial content.  Readers rule. One of the first things you learn in publishing. (Note: All quotes are copied verbatim. Nothing has been changed including spelling, punctuation and syntax.) And yes! The office has been painted!


Chad Massaker: On a cigar sale site like Cigars Intl? Not so much.

Frank Gerechter: I look at ratings as a comparison to my own thoughts. Of course, it is subjective as it depends on your mood, where you smoke, time of day etc. in my reviews, l always state, the ratings are my subjective opinion, you make your own decision. Ratings are not zero, sum games. Whatever product you buy, it should not be on a whim, or because you feel like it. Otherwise, you would waste time and money. If you buy a car, do you buy it because of the color or because someone reviews it?

John Shreve: Yep they do to me. The higher the ratings, the more likely I’ll try it.

John Shreve: Cigar aficionado is the bible. (of ???)

Steve Johnston: Not to me, I do read the reviews but it more the description of the flavor profile that sparks my interest.

Erika Piña: For the beginners ,yes , they always ask what is the number one,.

Eric Ellison: To me, no

Mark Reichenbach: Nope…. it’s all personal taste

Jennifer Diaz: Nope to each his own. You like what you like and that’s it. Sometimes I feel like those ratings are a popularity thing

Darrin Myers: No

Arnold Mrdad Tate: No sir, smoke what you like..

Kevin Sterling King: Nope

Matt Plummer: …Just the Good Ones…!!

Robert DeRusso: I do look at ratings but the bottom line is smoke what you enjoy. Your opinion is what really counts.

Michael Balfanz: Hell no u like what you like


Joette Barta: everyone’s palate is different and when the “pros” constantly select Cuban cigars it means less since most of us in the US can’t legally get Cubans. Besides I would put a Nicaraguan puro up against any Cuban.

Martin Klausmeier: If reviews could stay objective they would be far more useful. I’ve yet to “taste” “hints of marzipan” in any cigar, but I can tell ya which ones burn true.

Joette Barta: how about leather? or apricot? or earth (read dirt.)

Joette Barta: I can pick up “pencil lead…”. Does that count?

Larry Thomas:No

Roy Price: Nope

Jay R. Davis: Yes high ratings make it hard to find certain cigars at times

Jeff Stroup: No. I can give you a $5 smoke thats better than a $25 smoke. Just smoke what ya like!

Charles Purschwitz: Define Matter  (According to the Collins English Dictionary it states, “You say ‘it doesn’t matter’ when someone offers you a choice between two or more things and you do not mind which is chosen.”  My two cents, the difference is negligible.

Ketan Patel: No .. no … no …

Michael Balfanz: Only Kenny’s Cigars matter

Bryan McKinney: 4 sales n newbies

SSgt Johnny Davis: Nope depends on the person taste

Victor Tiburon Hernandez: Its all Marketing.

Marshall Morgan: subjective

Lincoln Salazar Cigar & Spirits Magazines Cigar Rating Panel:

Cigar & Spirits Magazine’s cigar rating panel is the most complex tasting panel within the industry. Our cigar panel consist of 10 pre-qualified judges with over 100 years combined experience. Each judge has been screened and pre-selected based off of their palate and experience with cigars. A mild cigar smoker is paired with a mild cigar and full bodied cigar smoker is placed with a full bodied cigar based on palate. Not one judge is directly tied to any brand/distributor or obtain any direct conflict of interest that could create bias while sampling.

Each cigar is assigned a number which is directly associated with the brand and then blind tasted. The cigar brand are not shown to the judges to ensure reviews are not influenced by the packaging or the brand itself. Judges must not eat or drink anything within 2 hours prior to the tasting, that way their pallets are not compromised or altered in any way.

Points are based off of aroma, flavor, construction, burn, draw, color and over all experience. After sampling and tasting each cigar the points are then combined to reach no higher than 100 total points per cigar 0 being the lowest.

We do not reveal our panel in order to maintain the integrity of the panel. By doing so, we are able to ensure that no judge may be influenced by any financial gains or benefits. Additionally, no employees within Cigar & Spirits Magazine’s editorial and publishing departments may sit on this panel. Our Panel is changed once a year and is done through a private interview process and selection. We are the most complex because we are not a 1 person blogger basing the rating off 1 person or a publishing or editing staff that may seek financial gain. There is a science to our rating panel that has once again over 100 years combined experience in this field.

Now Cigar & Spirits does believe that everyone has their own palate but through Cigar & Spirits we want to show you what we have rated based off being professionals and a overall rating process that combines the basics of what makes a great cigar. Then you may make your own choices from there. We are just here to assist you in your great cigar journey.

Sarah Vato: No! It’s all based on $$$ that you pay.

Aaron Perkins: Not at all

Michael Robert: Cigar ratings have no weight when I choose a new cigar. I look at the write up on the cigar itself and go from there. The rating system is nothing more than a marketing game.

Daril Caldwell: It all depends on the guy who or gal and what they like because there are some people who don’t like cigars that have high ratings and a lot that do

Chad Massaker: On a cigar sale site like Cigars Intl? Not so much

Frank Gerechter: I look at ratings as a comparison to my own thoughts. Of course it is subjective as it depends on your mood, where you smoke, time of day etc. in my reviews, l always state , the ratings are my subjective opinion, you make your own decision. Ratings are not zero, sum games. Whatever product you buy, it should not be on a whim, or because you feel like it. Otherwise, you would waste time and money. If you buy a car, do you buy it because of the color or because someone reviews it ?

John Shreve: Yep they do to me. The higher the ratings, the more likely I’ll try it.


Plus too many more to copy down.  Thanks for your opinions.

Cigar manufacturers and magazines take note!  Listen to YOUR customers!!!