In early April, Davidoff launched the new and highly anticipated Chef’s Edition cigar at their NYC flagship at Brookfield Place. Running about $30, the cigar is comprised of an Ecuadorian habano wrapper, Ecuadorian Connecticut binder, and four Dominican fillers including: piloto viso, San Vicente mejorado seco, San Vicente mejorado viso and San Vicente viso. The composition of the cigar is impressive, but Davidoff took the development of the Chef’s Edition to a new level by leveraging the combined palates of the Davidoff Master Blenders with six of the world’s top chefs.
For the first time in history, the Davidoff masterblenders have collaborated with six of the world’s top chefs to create Davidoff’s latest cigar creation, the “Davidoff Chefs Edition.” The cigar was crafted to be a perfect partner to round off an exquisite gourmet meal and augment the enjoyment of the memorable conversations that typically follow these meals.
Peter Knogl, Maria Marte, Léa Linster, Ali Güngörmüs, Michel Trama, and Renato Wüst applied their refined palates in influencing masterblenders in blending this unique cigar.
“The Davidoff Chefs Edition offers fine dining an exceptional cigar for connoisseurs to enjoy after a culinary experience. This unique partnership with some of the world’s greatest chefs has been highly inspiring for our masterblenders to blend a memorable cigar,” believes Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, gourmet and CEO of Oettinger Davidoff AG.
At the event, Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, Global CEO at Davidoff discussed the new Chef’s Edition and answered questions about the future of the company. Guests and press tasted the Chef’s Edition alongside cognacs from Camus, including the Camus Elegance XO and Camus Borderies XO.
The Davidoff Chefs Edition are available at selected Appointed Merchants in the US and at Davidoff Flagship Stores.
According to DNA Info, Sugar East, formerly Merchants NY Cigar bar, is now re-opened. And NYC cigarette smokers can rejoice, because Abraham Merchant has apparently decided to utilize the grandfathered smoking permit that once allowed Merchants NY Cigar Bar to function.
Cigar smokers hopeful that Merchants would “reopen” as a cigar friendly Sugar East are out of luck. After looking at the website and noticing the word “cigar” conspicuously absent, I emailed Stefan Ching, GM at Merchants Hospitality Group, to clarify. His response:
The owners at Sugar East are clearly focusing on a very different vibe from Merchants NY Cigar Bar. Such a large departure from the previous brand, in my mind, indicates that cigar smoking will permanently be a thing of the past at Sugar East.
It isn’t every day that big news about a New York cigar bar happens, so we will be following this story closely and updating this article as the facts roll in.
Here’s more information about the new spot.
The venue is described as having “the mahogany, leather, brass, bronze and booze to transport patrons back to a time when men and women could grab a late-night cocktail and a smoke.”
The creators of Sugar East, according to its website, understand the new night-life spot this way:
“Elements of the decadent Havana High Life are integrated throughout visual and edible elements, including a nod to the fact that Sugar East is one of the seven remaining venues in New York City where tastemakers and troublemakers alike can grab a cocktail and an otherwise forbidden indoor late-night cigarette.
Back in stock! Ventura Cigar Company is expanding distribution of archetype chapter 2.
Back by popular demand, Ventura Cigar Company is pleased to announce that the Archetype Chapter 2 Cigars, Initiation and Axis Mundi, have been restocked, and will now be shipping to premium tobacco retailers nationwide. Initially available only at select tobacconists, the Chapter 2 cigars sold out almost immediately in July 2016, when demand surpassed the available supply. With inventory restored, these Drew Estate-produced cigars will be more readily obtainable for fans of the Archetype brand.
“The exceptional blends of the Initiation and Axis Mundi cigars are unchanged in this second release,” says Benjamin Winokur, Marketing Manager, Ventura Cigar Company. “We’ve updated the artwork on the bands, but have otherwise left the perfection of these smokes alone. The only real difference of this batch versus the initial Chapter 2 release is its wider distribution. Initiation and Axis Mundi will finally be easier for customers to find. And that’s something to be excited about.”
The entire Archetype Cigar collection has been a favorite of customers and retailers since it was launched at the 2016 IPCPR show. Artfully crafted with rich, flavorful tobaccos, the cigars in both Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 have enjoyed media attention, garnering top ratings and reviews for their complex, yet balanced smokes.
“We are pleased that Archetype Cigars have been so well-received,” says Jason Carignan, CMO of Kretek, parent company of Ventura Cigar Company. “We really looked at creating a unique experience for the smoker- from the tobacco blends to the design of the packaging and references to transcendental legend. Now that both Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 blends are readily available, we hope the collection continues to gain traction as people explore the breadth of the brand.”
Initiation has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, and features an intriguing blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos with a surprising mix of floral notes, white sage, and orange zest that intensify throughout the smoke. It is available in four sizes: Corona (5 x 46), Robusto (5 x 54), Toro (6 x 52), and Churchill (7 x 48), and retails from $10.25 to $13.
Axis Mundi features a Maduro Habano wrapper, and offers a well-balanced blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos that deliver complex flavor layers of spice, dried figs, maple syrup, and charred oak. It is available in four sizes: Corona (5 x 46), Robusto (5 x 54), Toro (5 x 52), and Churchill (7 x 48), and retails from $10.75 to $14.
Archetype Axis Mundi
Initiation and Axis Mundi are both created in collaboration with Drew Estate, produced at their Nicaraguan factory, La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. The Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 Archetype Cigars are both available at top-level tobacconist stores, online and on-shelf. For more information about the different blends and where to find them, please visit www.venturacigar.com .
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About Ventura Cigar Company
Ventura Cigar Company (VCC) is a boutique cigar brand born in sunny southern California that is on a mission to create memorable, complex cigar blends that excite the senses and reward discriminating palates. Their flagship brands include Case Study, PSyKo SEVEN and Archetype, the latter of which offer multiple award-winning blends that have earned 90+ ratings in Cigar Aficionado, Cigar & Spirits, and Cigar Snob. Other popular VCC brands include the 91-rated Project 805 featuring rare Andullo tobacco, Estilo Cubano, Pura Sangre, and the flavor-infused Pacific Twyst. Ventura Cigar Company also distributes the 4th Generation and Comoy’s of London brand of pipe tobacco products, extending its reach and tradition of offering top-quality tobacconist products. Pipes and blends under these brands are cultivated through generations of craftsmanship, making them longtime favorites of pipe tobacco enthusiasts.
About Drew Estate
Founded in New York City in 1996, Drew Estate has become one of the fastest growing tobacco companies in the world. Under their mantra “The Rebirth of Cigars”TM, Drew Estate has led the “Boutique Cigar” movement by innovating new elements to the tobacco industry with their unique tobaccos and blending styles that have attracted new and traditional cigar enthusiasts. In their Gran Fabrica Drew Estate, the Nicaraguan headquarters, Drew Estate produces a variety of brands such as ACID, Herrera Estelí, Herrera Estelí Norteño, Kentucky Fired Cured, Liga Privada, MUWAT, Natural by Drew Estate, Nica Rustica, Nirvana, Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Cigars, Tabak Especial, Undercrown, and Java by Drew Estate. To learn more about Archetype Initiation, Archetype Axis Mundi and all of Drew Estate’s IPCPR releases, visit http://drewestate.com/ipcpr.
Ah, the mystical Island of Cuba. For the U.S. it’s the forbidden country that secured the embargo on September 7th 1962 when John Fitzgerald Kennedy re-instated the Trading With The Enemy act of 1917. Since then U.S. citizens have only be able to travel to Cuba for very strict diplomatic or humanitarian reasons and return with no goods from the country… until now. Last year President Obama repealed the travel ban on Cuba creating more broad allowances for U.S. citizens to travel there. Better still the former president lifted restrictions on bringing back goods from Cuba to the United States. For beloved cigar smokers this was fantastic news. Having traveled around the world smoking Cuban cigars, finally being able to visit the country and farms where the famed tobacco is grown is a cigar aficionados dream come true. In this first report I will touch upon the ease of travel to Cuba and the state of cigars I found in Havana. Also included is a list of the best places to purchase cigars and where I found some older vintages lying around.
Travel: Traveling to Cuba was as easy as booking a flight with Delta straight to Havana. You can pay with your credit card through Delta however you can’t use any U.S. credit cards when you are in Cuba. Cuba is strictly cash for Americans and you can exchange U.S. dollars for Cuba’s CUC’s at the airport or any bank in Havana. Be aware that U.S. dollar incurs a 10% transfer fee when exchanging to CUC’s. You will also need a travel visa along with one of the twelve reasons you are traveling to Cuba. Most visitors will fall under the “People To People Educational Act” so long as you visit a cigar factory, farm, rum distillery or art museum. Touring a cigar farm, a rum distillery or viewing art is a pleasure in Cuba and the culture is what you are looking for. You will need to purchase a travel visa as well as book a hotel in advance. I suggest using a third party travel site which takes care of all those things for you. You can pay in advance which leaves you only having to bring money to spend on your trip. I recommend the Educational Adventures Company as they were excellent in making those arrangements as well as getting you into any factories or farm tours. They will also set you up with a translator and driver if you desire. The prices were very reasonable and their service fantastic. http://www.theeducationaladventurescompany.com/ If you wish to book on your own you need to contact the U.S. Office of Treasury and request a visa for purchase. In booking a hotel you would need to book online.
Arriving in Havana I grabbed my taxi and headed to the Casa Particulares I was staying at. The first order of business was to relax on their rooftop have a mojito and view the city as a whole during the early afternoon. Havana is as you see it in pictures; a run down third world country with half built structures, renovated 50’s American classic cars and beautiful French/Spanish architecture from the days when those countries ruled the island. The people are friendly and eager to please in what is now a boom in American tourism. In speaking with the Casa owner he said since Obama repealed travel restrictions they saw a rise in visitors from the U.S. to a million last year and near two million this year. The fear the Cubans have is keeping up with the demand. Before hitting the Casa Del Habanos which are the authorized Cuban cigar dealers and the ONLY place you should be buying cigars, I hit a Paladar which is a restaurant run by the locals and not the government. Stay away from any government run establishments as the food and service are mediocre at best. I had some of the best octopus of my life at a local Paladar and was handed a cigar to smoke with my meal. This was a local farm cigar and the flavors of earth and fresh tobacco where present. It was more of a one dimensional smoke but the earthiness hit the spot with the perfectly cooked slightly smoked octopus.
Smoked octopus with semi sweet glaze:
With some hearty fare and a cigar to match it was time to hit the La Casa del Habano. As I said before these are the only official stores that carry authentic Cuban brands. In Havana you will be solicited to buy Cuban cigars on the street for an even cheaper price than the stores. Do not do this unless you want to smoke fakes. If someone tells you their brother’s cousins friend works at the Partagas Factory and gets cigars from there they are lying. At best you’ll get a cigar blended with fresh farm tobacco which will taste nothing like the brands you know. At worst it can be short filler or scraps from a rolling table floor. Don’t waste your money or time on these “faux” sticks. Go to the the La Casa’s and spend your money on an authentic selection of smokes as these will be the best prices you’ve seen as a consumer anywhere in the world. My advice is to flip over boxes and dig deep into their inventory. You may find some boxes with several years of age on them and it is worth the hunt. The proprietors do not mind you rummaging through their stock and will often help you. I was fortunate enough to find boxes with as much as seven years of age on them.
A box of Montecristo Open Juniors from ’10
Montecristo #5’s from ’13
Partgas Super Partagas from ’14
They were fully stocked with most brands from 2016 although there were no Cohiba Behikes or Esplendidos to be found at the places I looked. I stayed away from most 2016 vintages as the past crops in Cuba haven’t been great. I did pick up some boxes of ’16 Trinidad Reyes and current Vegueros Tapados which smoked well despite being young and will most certainty benefit from age. I feel the 2016 vintages are hit or miss from what I’ve smoked so be cautious or pick up single sticks to sample yourself. Most La Casa del Habanos carry single sticks although the selections vary. Below is a list of three La Casa del Habanos you should definitely visit.
La Casa del Habano
5th and 16 Av. 5 y Calle 16, Miramar
This is where I found the oldest vintages of Cuban cigars and the staff were most helpful.
2. La Casa del Habano, Club Habana
Av. 5, entre 188 y 192, Miramar, Playa
The place to enjoy a custom rolled “Monsdale” cigar which was created by the late Enrique Mons. It’s a thicker lonsdale with a pigtail cap. Flavors of caramel, butterscotch and toast in this unique blend.
3. La Casa del Habano, Hotel Habana Libre
Calle L entre 23 y 25, Vedado
The largest selection of boxes of cigars in all sizes. If you enjoy the hunt this is the spot for you.
End of Day One:
Loaded with cigars and satiated from delicious Cuban fare it was time to watch the sunset with a mojito and cigar reflecting on the first day in Havana. In Part Two I travel to the tobacco fields and the famed Robaina Farm. Stay Tuned!
UPDATE: as of December 2, 2020, Merchants Cigar Bar is now reopened after four years. Read more here.
The day that many of us knew might come has finally arrived, and another iconic NY cigar bar has bitten the dust. Merchants NY Cigar Bar confirmed on Facebook that it is closing down on December 19th after twenty years service. The cigar bar suffered from declining revenues, chronic management turnover and reduced business at its upstairs steakhouse which once was a neighborhood standard.
Merchants has long been an event spot for New York City cigar enthusiasts, and Fine Tobacco NYC hosted a number events over the last four years, including our widely attending Smoker Social series which lasted two years.
The list of true cigar bars (where cigars and liquor are sold together) in NYC has grown thin. The decline is due to a number of factors, including growth in city regulations and increased public antipathy towards cigars.
But its not all the fault of big government and the fading “good old days.” The demise of Merchants has lessons for the remaining cigar bars and lounges in NYC. With the exception of Nat Sherman, most NYC cigar bars and lounges have allowed their brands to stagnate. They still use marketing practices that are 10 years old — at best — resulting in a vibe that holds no appeal to newcomers who may otherwise become customers. And almost all continue to present themselves to the public in a way that is only relevant for 50+ year old veteran smokers who won’t be around forever.
If New York City cigar bars and lounges want to avoid the fate of classic venues like Merchants, they need to modernize their marketing and customer service practices, and more importantly find a way to invite newcomers in to the cigar scene.