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.
Davidoff of Geneva announced today that NYC stores are back open after months of closure due to COVID 19. In an email, a representative from Davidoff outlined some of the health and safety measures being implemented to keep customers and staff safe, including:
Customers are recommended to wear face coverings upon entry. Staff are required to.
Sales professionals will guide the shoppers experience. Customers will not be allowed to enter the humidor. Floor markers will provide a space to wait for staff to make selection and present to the customer.
Similar floor markers are provided by point of sale area for customers to maintain 6ft distancing.
Additional signage will be applied in multiple areas throughout the store to ensure current operation measures are understood and followed.
No outside food or beverage will be allowed.
Lounges will remain closed until further notice.
Store hour vary from store to store, see below.
Madison: Mon-Saturday: 10AM-5PM / Sunday closed.
6th Avenue: Mon-Fri: 11AM-5PM / Weekends closed
Downtown: Mon – Fri: 11AM-7PM / Sat and Sun: 12PM-6PM
Over the last few months, you may have seen many new whisky reviews written by Mark Garbin, a recent guest author to Fine Tobacco NYC (ex: (here, here, here, and here). He breaks the mold of the typical 100-point review, injecting in some much needed personality and charm.
Mark’s reviews aren’t just about reporting smells and flavors. He takes the time and thought to help people understand the experience of whisky; embracing the fact that every one of us approaches life in ways that are quite personal. His philosophy as he puts it: “If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, enjoyment is in the taste of the sipper!” I very much enjoy reading his posts and appreciate the unique spin he brings to this website. Although focused on cigar smokers, our site is also visited by tens of thousands of spirits lovers from all parts of the globe each year.
We all know that the link between a great smoke and fine drink enhances both. So I’m excited to announce that Mark has agreed to grace us with his measured thoughts on alcohol the world over, taking the role of Spirits Editor for finetobacconyc.com.
In the “spirit” (Ha!) of meeting our newest team member, I asked Mark to share his story and his take on all things distilled. Read on to find out what he said.
FTNYC: Let’s get started with the basics. Who are you? Where are you from? And how did you come to be involved with reviewing on Fine Tobacco NYC?
MG: By day I’m a institutional risk and portfolio specialist who sits on Fund boards helping to guide the portfolio performance of investment advisers. In my 35+ years in the business, I’ve been around the world numerous times and had the privilege and pleasure of enjoying thousands of whiskies and places to drink. Last year, I decided to become a certified whisky sommelier and received my certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.
Recently, I met Fine Tobacco NYC’s fearless leader, Matthias Clock, over coffee. His approach to cigars and events is unique and dovetails well with my own beliefs. It was a natural for me to contribute to the fun and enjoyment.
FTNYC: Putting together a review of any product takes time and effort. What got you in to writing about whisky and why do you keep it up?
MG: I noticed more people trying new whiskies but they struggle to find clarity in their own preferences. I also saw how they start with but want to get beyond mass production bottles. I got into writing because I want people to drink better quality but also have an appreciation for how time, place, food and emotion play into life’s wonderful nuances. I didn’t see that (and still don’t) in the current review genre. I love helping individuals view tasting as an experience to be savored.
FTNYC: Besides being an accomplished writer, you mentioned that you put together whisky events in New York City for businesses. What do those events usually look like?
MG: They range from 20 – 250 people. Some companies love the idea of a vertical range of a single whisky label. For example, at a recent event, we tasted all of the stunning Dalmore brand expressions. Another firm wanted to sample different bourbons with multiple mashbills as well as create bespoke cocktails. These get-togethers are often for law firms, financial companies and for tech industry client thank-you events. My objective is to create a memorable experience.
FTNYC: What do you think of numerical ratings and letter grades?
MG: This is an emotional subject for me. First, there are many fine whisky reviewers who provide a great intro to quality. One of the best is Kara Newman at Winemag.com. She packs a lot of helpful info into a brief description. Ari, The Whisky Guy also does fantastic 60-second video reviews. Distiller.com and the Ultimate Spirits Challenge are also helpful.
That said, these grades are better taken as initial guidelines. One person’s 95 is another’s 75 and vice versa. But more important, a whisky that you might like at 6pm for a pre-dinner drink is different than one you would enjoy with certain main courses, desserts or after a meal. Your mood and flavor desires at the time also matter. For example, you might want a high rye bourbon or peated malt when you’re eating a steak. Or if it’s before a meal, your frame of mind could take you to a delicate Japanese whisky or wheated bourbon. Are you with your partner or with a group of friends engaged in a friendly taste-a-thon?
Bottom line, use ratings as starting points. More critical is what do you feel like drinking, when do you want it, with what are you pairing and with whom.
FTNYC: In your reviews, you break down whiskies by the type of person they would appeal to. Can you tell us a bit about those categories?
MG: Sure. Like Cigars, whisky has many facets. You can enjoy a whisky for its balance but then crave a real powerhouse. Sometimes a softer touch is needed or you want a dram where you can sit back and contemplate life. Flavor profiles are highly subjective. So don’t choose one. Embrace them all!
Next, where are you on your whisky journey? The Apprentice is starting down the road to a sophisticated palate. The Enthusiast is engaging in education as much as they can and the Adventurer climbs mountains just because they exist. Finally the Hedonist seeks spiritual (pun intended) rapture every time they raise their glass. Please note: It’s so much fun to indulge in multiple personalities when you enjoy what’s in the glass. A person can be an Apprentice and Hedonist simultaneously! Any permutation is welcome!
Finally, when and with what food, if any, are you drinking? There are some brands I would never, ever have with food. There are some where I would ONLY have them with a meal. You can love a whisky at many times or at a single time and place. Finding what works for you is the great joy! I hope to earn your trust as a guide on your voyage and bring a smile to your face.
It’s one of those things magazines write about for a person to do before they die. It will spoil you forever. The glasses and gins/vodkas are kept at -10º F as you select from a myriad of hard to get gins and designer vodkas. Then quintessential butler service brings a small portable station to you where long-serving bartenders pour the syrupy spirit into your now frosted glass. Then a precise peeling separates a Sorrento lemon skin from its host as droplets of the most fragrant oils caress the surface of your drink. A bowl of olives and nuts are placed on your table as you invoke your hedonist persona to savor each glistening sip.
FYI, the Dukes’ compelled me to: 1) Keep my gins & vodkas at sub-zero temps, 2) Buy organic lemons if I can’t get Sorrentos and 3) Buy a small freezer that now holds my precious secret stash of Beefeater Crown Jewel Gin and other hard to get whiskies.
Btw, they also stock a magnificent collection of Single Malts, Cognacs and Armagnacs. It might look like the classic “man’s bar”, but women are equally welcomed and pampered. Why are you reading this? GO THERE NOW!!!
FTNYC: You’ve sampled a lot of whisky in your time. What are your top three to five choices?
MG: OMG, the list is long and distinguished. It’s so hard to narrow everything down to so few. But, let’s look at two categories: 1) Great value whiskies less than $100/bottle and available at great prices. 2) TKO spirits i.e. The best devil-may-care availability or price point.
(Tie) Ardbeg Uigeadail and Balvenie 21, Dalmore Cigar Malt
Johnnie Walker Green
Hibiki Japanese Harmony
Low Rye Bourbon
(Tie) Stagg, Jr. & Elmer T. Lee
Clyde May’s 10 Year Cask Strength
High Rye Bourbon
Four Roses Single Barrel
Remus Repeal Reserve
Hudson Maple Cask
Hillrock Sauternes Cask
Gin (London Dry)
Beefeater Crown Jewel (Have to go to London)
Patron Cask Collection Sherry Anejo
FTNYC: You have an ebook with an extensive selection of bar reviews. Can you tell our readers what it is, and where they can get a copy?
MG: Thanks. It’s called Whisky and Romance Manhattan. It’s about the most romantic whisky bars in the city. For those interested in Spy Thrillers, my novel, No Fingerprints, is perfect for pairing with a great stick and a dram.
On Thursday, September 27th, 80+ NYC cigar and whiskey enthusiasts converged on The Carnegie Club for the New York launch of the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua, the newest extension in Aging Room’s expanding lineup. The Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua is all Nicaraguan and produced at A.J. Fernandez’s factory in Nicaragua. Our spirits pairing for the evening featured two standout ryes from WhistlePig: WhistlePig 10 Year Old and WhistlePig 15 Year Vermont Oak Estate Rye.
Both the cigars and whiskies received positive receptions. A big thank you to everyone who came out for the event, and to The Carnegie Club for graciously hosting! Photos below, courtesy of John DeMato.
Join us at our next event featuring Oliva Cigars & Port Charlotte Scotch at The Carnegie Club. Click here for more info.
For the first time in the seven year history of this site, we are releasing a list of the 10 best cigars we smoked this year. We’ve refrained from doing it in the past largely because there are so many great blogs making these lists already. But this year in particular, there are some smokes that didn’t get the recognition that we think they deserve.
With that said, let’s get on to the Top 10.
Top 10 Cigars of 2017
10. Montecristo Grupo De Maestros Private Batch III
The Montecristo Grupo de Maestros Private Batch III didn’t receive a lot of love on social media or in the blogosphere, but it makes my top ten because, to me, this cigar represents one of the most ambitious (and successful) projects by Montecristo in recent years. The cigar is full bodied with a predominantly dry profile but with a surprisingly creamy finish. Tasting notes include dry cedar, floral, salt, white pepper, and hints of spice. If this sounds like an intense profile—it is. But well worth it (just make sure you have water or another drink on hand).
9. Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Mi Querida
Steve Saka and Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust quickly captured the attention and adulation of the cigar geek crowd —and for good reason. Not only is he famous on social media for his detailed posts about the minutiae of his cigar making process, every project he touches seems to turn to gold. Mi Querida (spanish for “my mistress”) features the signature Saka Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and delivers a truly special smoking experience, generating thick plumes of extremely smooth smoke and flavors of earth, chocolate, coffee, oak and subtle pepper.
8. Drew Estate Undercrown Sun Grown
I have been and remain a sucker for cigars featuring Ecuadoran Sumatra wrappers. The Undercrown Sun Grown delivers volumes of spicy flavor, with a really unique, creamy smoke. It is true, the Undercrown Sun Grown doesn’t change and unfold as much as some other cigars deeper down on this list. But what impresses me so much with this blend is the ability Drew Estate has found to offer a brand new, extremely enjoyable flavor profile that is still clearly within the overall smoking experience that the company is known for.
7. La Hoja Signature Series 1962 Petite Corona
For many readers outside of New York City, La Hoja Cigars might be a relatively unknown brand. Those in the tri-state area who have had the opportunity to smoke La Hoja Cigars have experienced the tremendous attention to quality and detail that Willie Flores and Carlos Gomez put in to their work. The Signature Series 1962 Petite Corona is a really complex smoke which packs a lot of flavor and changes substantially throughout the course of the cigar. It’s also what I call a “sipping cigar,” so take your time when you smoke it. Expect notes of earth, fresh roasted espresso beans, and white pepper, with a zesty fruitiness entering at different times throughout the smoke.
6. Aging Room F55 Quattro Maduro
Lovers of the original Aging Room Quattro line can’t miss the F55 Quattro Maduro, which features a similar core of flavors, including cedar, spices, and touches of vanilla. What the Maduro adds, with its San Andreas Maduro wrapper, is bright touches of burnt toast and milk chocolate. Combined with flawless construction and an excellent price tag (~$10), the Aging Room Quattro F55 Maduro is an impressive addition to Aging Room’s offerings.
5. La Instructora Box Pressed
Don’t let the cryptic band or the $20 price tag fool you: this is a serious cigar (and one I approached very skeptically). The cigar opens with spices, espresso, light chocolate and salted peanuts. However, it is the second half of the cigar which shines brightest: a drastic increase in intensity, with finely ground black pepper, baking spices, and leather. It is the complexity of the cigar as it burns which makes this a Top 10 contender.
4. AJ Fernandez New World Puro Especial
2017 was, in some ways, the year of the AJ Fernandez cigar (I know, you could probably say that about 2016 as well). He’s created numerous blends for a number of brands including Montecristo and H Upmann. His New World Puro Especial Puro Especial is, to me, the crème de la crème of his work in 2017 (and the cigar industry at large): extremely smooth and balanced flavors of earth, cedar, cocoa, and cinnamon. The construction throughout the smoke is impeccable, and it sports a beautiful, solid white ash to boot.
3. Plasencia Alma Fuerte Generacion V
The Plasencia Alma Fuerte floored guests at the launch event we hosted with Plasencia at The Carnegie Club. The blending of the tobaccos in this cigar is enough to tell a complex story, but the tapered salamon size adds miles to the experience. The smoke morphs from deep, rich notes of chocolate, spices, and coffee to creamy smoke with hints of white pepper.
2. Drew Estate Pappy Van Winkle Tradition
Few brands in the cigar world can create the kind of instantaneous excitement and anticipation as Drew Estate. When you combine that with a name like Pappy Van Winkle, delivering on the promise is important. Drew Estate delivered. In particular, the Belicoso Fino is full bodied and features a pepper-forward profile, with notes of freshly ground black pepper, cedar, touches of floral and vanilla notes.
1. Davidoff Winston Churchill The Late Hour
The Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour is a tremendous addition to Davidoff’s core line, offering a unique take on the beloved Davidoff flavor profile. It is everything and more I was hoping to find in the Davidoff Nicaragua. Aged in former scotch casks, the Late Hour features traditional Davidoff notes (earth, musk, wood) along with subtle pepper, cocoa, and touches of malt from the cask aging. This cigar is an instant classic from Davidoff, as far as I am concerned.
So there you have it, our top cigar picks for cigars in 2017. If any of the other lists are any indication, there are a lot of great cigars that didn’t make the list. And that’s what makes selecting the top cigars so difficult: the market is simply full of great brands producing incredible new products.
We’ll be back next year with our 2018 picks. In the meantime, if you love a cigar that didn’t make it on this list, let us know in the comments, and check out our take on the best cigars to smoke in 2018.