Brand evangelist, digital marketer, cigar and spirits expert specializing in consumer tasting and educational events. Matthias made the long trek from his hometown of Portland, Oregon to New York City in 2007, and in nine years has hosted more than 120 events and helped promote and launch dozens of cigar and whiskey brands in the U.S. In 2016, he joined the Cigar Journal Tasting Panel, blind-reviewing pre and new release cigars.
You’ve read his reviews here on Fine Tobacco NYC or heard him describe tasting notes on our Perfect Pairings events. Now hear Fine Tobacco NYC contributor Kevin Sun talk about the Zino Platinum Crown Series Limited Edition 2020 with the guys at The Straight Cut, one of the more entertaining cigar podcasts available online.
You can listen to the podcast on Spotify by clicking here.
In the midst of a global pandemic that has shuttered businesses everywhere and seen the end of NYC cigar industry heavyweights like Nat Sherman, there is a rare piece of good news for NYC cigar smokers. Merchants NY Cigar Bar , which closed in December of 2016, has announced plans to reopen on December 2nd, 2020. The website is back up, complete with a new logo, new design, and much more.
One of the few in NYC to serve cigars, drinks and food in one place, Merchants Cigar Bar will return with an all-new menu of premium cigars, cocktails, and food service. The lounge will have a new look and feel too. When the cigar bar was shuttered in 2016, management redesigned the interior space to a Mad Men-esque mid-century modern vibe and relaunched as Sugar East, a bar where patrons could smoke cigarettes but not cigars. The new Merchants Cigar Bar will keep the same bones, but with updated leather furniture and new visual features.
Fernando Rodriguez, Director of Operations at Merchants Hospitality, describes the new space having a “chill, modern feel” in contrast to the older, more traditional lounge. When asked about how the venue plans to open during COVID, Rodriguez described the rigorous health and safety measures being undertaken. “We have spared no expense creating a venue that New Yorkers can feel safe and comfortable in,” Rodriguez said. “From basics like heightened sanitation and mandatory masks for staff to plexiglass separators for tables and a world class filtration system that kills airborn bacteria and viruses, we are ready to open and welcome patrons in to our new experience.”
To start, the lounge will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 5pm to 10pm. Currently, the lounge has a maximum capacity of 30 people, less than a quarter of its total capacity.
Merchants Cigar Bar is located at 1125 1st Avenue on the southwest corner of 1st ave and 62nd st on the Upper East Side.
News broke this week that Nat Sherman and its Nat Sherman Townhouse in Midtown Manhattan will permanently close in September. First reported by Cigar Aficionado and then a slew of other cigar blogs, the news came as a shock to many, especially those in the New York City cigar community that frequented the Townhouse on 42nd street for its incredible selection, great prices, and the knowledge and hospitality of its staff.
In the midst of a stressful and taxing global pandemic, the news was a hard blow for me personally. I worked and lived in Midtown just blocks from the Townhouse for a number of years, stopping by multiple times a week—sometimes to pick up a few cigars for a weekend get together with friends, other times for a quiet smoke during lunch hour.
Nat Sherman has been in business since 1930, and got its start during the Great Depression. Though it wasn’t always located in the Townhouse on 42nd street, the Townhouse became for many the iconic symbol not just of the Nat Sherman brand, but of the ethos of the cigar culture in New York. The store was particularly memorable in the winter. Like so many others, I remember pulling hard on the heavy front doors to escape freezing rain or snow and being greeted by a cozy atmosphere (sometimes accompanied with a jazz band playing on the second-floor balcony) and a sea of smiling faces.
I remember the cigar launch parties that the store would throw, especially those that the Quesada family attended—perhaps the kindest family in an industry of kind families. Those events were always well attended, full of laughter and friendship, and always accompanied by a few good jokes from Michael Herklots thrown in during the evening’s festivities.
The historic brand was made immensely richer and more defined by Mr. Herklots after he joined the team at the head of brand and retail. Not only did he spearhead the release of incredible blends (Timeless, Bench Series, Joel Sherman 75th, the list goes on); he put his heart and soul into the brand, and the increased foot traffic and consecutive 90+ point cigar ratings prove it.
The industry is losing a great and storied brand. The city is losing something as well. But the price it pays for Nat Sherman’s closing won’t be in tax revenue or foot traffic on 42nd street. Thepeople of this great city will pay in all the new friendships, polite conversations, and quiet thoughtfulness that will never happen at the Townhouse again. This might sound sentimental, but in our polarized age of ceaseless noise… is it?
Someday, we might hope, another enterprising young man will open the next cigar shop that lives on another 90 or 100 years. But the city will always be poorer for the closing of the Nat Sherman Townhouse.
Starting on Tuesday, July 7th, The Carnegie Club is reopening for the first time since it closed on March 16th due to the global pandemic. Scott Asbury, Carnegie Club’s manager confirmed via email that the legendary cigar bar will open outdoor seating for the first time in its history.
Key details on the opening include:
Establishment Hours: 3pm – 9pm
Tables will be spaced 6 feet
Guest masks are not required except in order to use the restroom
Happy Hour 3pm-6pm consisting of select $6 beers, $8 wines and $11 cocktails
Scott explained in his email that Carnegie Club may extend the hours and days of operation depending on the demand. He went on to write
“The situation will be very fluid and we will be constantly refining how we do everything since this is uncharted territory. We were planning on waiting for Phase 3 to start this Monday for indoor seating but when they cancelled it we felt compelled to be proactive and just assume that indoor seating will not be allowed for awhile and that we have to adapt to survive.
We got our approval for outdoor seating and met up at The Carnegie Club shortly after to figure out how we could pull this off in a matter of days. We ordered some open air tents that should be arriving today and some barricades to claim our street space. We will come up with some branded banners to cover up the metal on the barricades but will not likely have them in time for opening so it may not be pretty at first but in the interest of getting started we are going to go with what we have and improve it as we go.
As you know we have never had outdoor seating and are not set up for that so it will be like starting a whole new business. Mistakes will be made and that’s fine. We will make it work and most importantly listen to any and all feedback from everyone. I do hope we can figure out a way to hold events too. I’ve already got a few ideas on how but I still want to see how things develop.”
As much as we are all eagerly awaiting the reopening of our indoor cigar lounges in NYC, it’s refreshing to see cigar bars like The Carnegie Club take the lead on reopening.
As a lover of all things cigars, including accessories and adjacent interests like whisky and cocktails, I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to obtain the Davidoff Cigar Storage and Bar Tool Set. It’s one of the more unique Davidoff accessories I’ve come across and is both beautiful and functional.
The box itself is made of a beautiful light wood exterior with light gray fabric interior. It has slots for six cigars, two vertical slots for a cigar cutter and cigar lighter, and of course the bar tool slots which include a jigger, wine key, champagne stopper and 4oz. cup. The last slot holds a “Pairing Suggestions” booklet which suggests drink pairings for Davidoff’s core line of cigars.
The bar tools themselves are high quality as evidenced by their substantial weight, which is great. And once you’ve populated the box with your choice of cigars, a cutter and a lighter, you can consider yourself prepared to show up in style to any social cigar gathering.
The only suggestion I’d make for future iterations of this product is for the surface inside the box to be a bit more deeply inset. When the 4oz cup is stowed in its slot, it takes up quite a bit of vertical space and can come into contact with the lighter strapped in above it under the lid, making it difficult to close the box back up.
All things considered, still a beautiful and functional accessory to have on hand. Here’s the description from the Davidoff website:
For those who plan their libations with their cigars.
The perfect kit for every occasion. A wooden carrying case with a secure closure latch, equipped with storage for cigars, a lighter and cutter, along with necessary bar tools, a beautiful gold-satin wine key, champagne stopper, jigger for cocktails and a small steel restaurant grade drinking glass.
The kit itself is priced at $99, but can be obtained from some official Davidoff retail shops as a complementary gift for cigar purchases over $250. For more info about purchasing, visit the official Davidoff website.