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.
Hazel (right) with event host David Alicea (left) photo credit: John DeMato
Given the global pandemic, it goes without saying that Fine Tobacco NYC events are indefinitely on hold. While we’re disappointed, it does provide an opportunity to focus more on telling the stories of our members, those cigar and spirits aficionados who have attended our events over the years.
After all, events aren’t abstract–it takes people to have an event. And Dave, Kelvin and I have been blessed over these last ten years to have regulars like Hazel Alvarado attend our events. As you’ll read below, Hazel is a cigar and spirits event enthusiast who brings a unique perspective and personality to every event she attends.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing more of these member-focused Q&As. We hope you enjoy them, and that you’ll meet these friends of ours at our events once they start up again.
Matthias: Thanks for taking the time to let us know more about yourself Hazel. So let’s start simple: where are you from, what do you do for work, and what are some of your interests and passions?
Hazel: I’m a native New Yorker with a Financial Technology background that is passionate about sharing my geeky love of whisky, books, food, and baseball with the world. I also love to travel and meet people from different backgrounds.
Matthias: And how were you first introduced to cigars?
Hazel: I worked for a financial firm and a favorite team outing was golf, cigars, and Scotch.
Matthias: Interesting. So what is it about smoking cigars that you enjoy so much?
Hazel: Initially I wasn’t a fan of cigar smoking because it was introduced to me at events that involved an early tee time followed by heading right to the office. But once I was able to enjoy it leisurely with good friends and paired with whiskies, my appreciation grew as well as my thirst for knowledge. In addition to taste and texture, I love hearing the story behind a cigar as well and continue to seek out other female cigar enthusiasts.
Matthias: Take a second and remember your most memorable smoke. Where were you/who was with you/why was it special?
Hazel: On a crisp Autumn Day, I enjoyed a Rock-A-Feller Gold with the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. My boyfriend and I had just started dating and although he wasn’t a cigar smoker himself, he set me up with a special spot out on the deck of his house in the Berkshires (Massachusetts) with a great view of the trees and the sky. Since I live in Manhattan, I enjoy this time away from the city with him and the pup and I was touched that he went out of his way to make me happy.
Hazel with Wayne Clarke, Plasencia Cigars rep / photo credit: John DeMato
Matthias: That sounds beautiful and definitely like a singular moment. Speaking of special moments, do you remember your first Fine Tobacco NYC event? What was it like?
Hazel: June 3, 2015, Carnegie Club. It was a girls’ night out with my friends Stephanie and Julie. We enjoyed the Eiora Natural paired with the Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or along with live jazz performed by the Pete Maness Quartet. It was a beautiful venue with a great mix of both men and women. It was easy to check-in, get my cigars and tastings and everyone was welcoming and engaging.
Matthias: I admire your memory! So what has made you keep coming back to Fine Tobacco NYC events over the years?
Hazel: The cigars and spirit pairings are well matched and the venues are great. But what draws me back are the people: you, Dave, and Kelvin know how to run events and the Ambassadors for the cigars and spirits are top notch. I’ve made friends with other FTNYC members over the years. I’ve learned a great deal about cigars and enjoyed spending time with the other guests.
Matthias: I’m glad to hear it. Let’s talk specific products. If you could only smoke one brand of cigar for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Hazel: This is a tough question for me as I’m still learning about different brands. But for now I’ll say Plasencia.
Matthias: Alright, respectable choice. What’s the best cigar / drink pairing you’ve ever experienced?
Hazel: The Tabernacle Robusto and the Glenmorangie Signet
photo credit: John DeMato
Matthias: I hear you there. Signet is up there for me as one of my all-time favorite scotches. So if you could imagine the perfect cigar event, what would it be like?
Hazel: Since I love ocean fishing, it would be on a boat out on the ocean with whisky while fishing followed by dinner at the dock or on the boat itself. (After dinner cigar!)
Matthias: That sounds great. We’ll get to work on it! Taking a philosophical turn, what in your opinion is a life well lived?
Hazel: Henry David Thoreau stated “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. Years ago, I heard the sarcastic response to this was “..and what do most women lead? Lives of ‘noisy fulfillment’?”
I like the sound and idea of that, “noisy fulfillment”. I thank God every morning I wake up and do my best to always leave people better than I found them. And sometimes I’m so busy “being productive”, I don’t enjoy the moment, but this pandemic has forced me to appreciate small moments more. If I can exit this world being good to other people and appreciating moments spent with them, I’ll be humble and happy.
Matthias: If you could pick any historical figure to have a cigar with, who would it be and why?
Hazel: Romantic 19th century French novelist, George Sand; she was born Aurore Dupin in 1804 and “George Sand” was her nom de plume. In addition to “writing in secret”, she was forced to dress as a man in order to smoke cigars. I bet she’d be delighted to know that women today can write and smoke cigars in public and that female cigar smoker groups have been created in her honor.
Matthias: That’s a great answer. Thanks again for sharing with us and see you at an upcoming event!
Before the internet, whiskey fans had to settle for whatever meager offerings their local liquor store had on hand. However, with the advent and proliferation of online shopping, a whole world of fantastic liquor is now on our metaphorical (and physical) doorsteps. But what are the best online whiskey retailers?
The tough part is, there are a lot out there. I will say straight up that one of the most important considerations you’ll face buying whiskey online is the cost of shipping. Not only are bottles heavy, which bumps your bottle purchase price up, but many of my favorite whiskey websites are based in the UK. So, much of “the best” has to do with what you’re buying and where you live. If you live in the USA but want more selection (9,000+ whiskies), buy from The Whiskey Exchange. I’ve noted which states each company can ship to.
So with that little summary out of the way, let’s dive in to the list.
Winner: The Whisky Exchange
The Whisky Exchange sits at the top of our list for the UK, with a five star meta-rating on British consumer advice website TrustPilot. You can find many top shelf whiskies on The Whiskey Exchange at prices that are 10%, 20%, or even 30% lower than what you find on US based websites, though you have to deal with sky-high shipping costs.
The Whisky Exchange stocks a fine range of both popular and esoteric whiskeys in almost any variety, and, unlike Wine Searcher, is a lot more straightforward to navigate. With separate tabs for Scotch and World Whisky, browsing or discovering new spirits you’d never heard of before is simple. The World Whisky tab has sections for American whiskies, as well as for several European and Asian countries, and other far-flung locations such as New Zealand and South Africa.
Of course, while The Whisky Exchange offers global shipping, you are going to need to pay a premium to get your chosen drink delivered to the US. The key here is to make bulk purchases. If you buy three or four bottles, you’ll save enough to offset shipping costs, and if you buy even more you can start buying really expensive scotches for way less than you’d pay in the USA. Your goods will be packaged with great care and should reach these shores in top condition.
Ships to: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming
Runner Up: The Whisky Barrel (UK)
As we hear your wallets creaking under the strain of further shipping and import costs, an apology may be in order, because taking the second spot on our best list is another store from across the Atlantic – The Whisky Barrel.
The Whisky Barrel offers a similarly wide range of spirits, with several exclusive to the website. The site’s navigation and sorting tabs are just as detailed as those found on The Whisky Exchange, with separate menus for scotch, independent, and world whiskeys.
The Whisky Barrel, however, allows you to browse by distillery with an easily-accessible A-Z tab (which comes in handy).
On the price side, The Whisky Barrel seems to be slightly lower than The Whisky Exchange on some products. For example, 70cl of Glenfiddich XX comes in at $72.92 on The Whisky Exchange, compared to $59.22 at The Whisky Barrel [correct at time of writing] – so do some price comparing before buying.
While certainly not for the average whiskey drinker (or the faint of wallet), Hard to Find Whisky is a must-visit destination for those connoisseurs with a bit (read: lot) more money to put down on the best drinks in the world. These guys built a business answering the question “where to find rare whiskey online.” It was a smart strategy, and they’ve done a good job delivering.
With prices ranging from $42.12 for a 150th Anniversary Edition of Jack Daniels, to an eye-watering $49,227.43 for a (presumably) sublime 37-year-old Macallan 1940, Hard to Find Whiskeys has a wide selection of the very finest and rarest whiskey available. The site also offers a “Whisky Masterclass” gift voucher. You’ll need to make a trip to the company’s headquarters in Birmingham, UK, but the voucher entitles you to a tasting selection of five fine whiskeys, as well as a special tasting tutelage using a bespoke Hard to Find Whisky method.
Even if you have no intention of splashing out a few grand on a bottle, the website is well worth a visit just to peruse some of the fantastic and rare whiskeys on offer.
Ships to: all states
Love Scotch (USA)
Love Scotch may not be the best online whiskey retailer in the world, but it gets our nod as a solid online retailer in the United States.
Aside from a wide range of great whiskeys from around the globe, Love Scotch has a fascinating gallery of photos showing tours the staff have taken of various whiskey distilleries. That’s right, the folks at Love Scotch have heart. Most importantly: being an American-based company, you can expect to spend a lot less in shipping and customs fees on your favorite drinks than you would from one of our top two choices.
Ships to: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Whisky Shop USA (USA)
Whisky Shop USA is an interesting one. Customer testimonials for the San Francisco based brick and mortar location are very positive. Why then did the company decide to create a website that is so difficult to navigate or even at times read? The UI is pretty uninteresting, and there are several whiskey entries which don’t have an image attached.
There are few things I find more unappealing in an e-store than the “image coming soon” placeholder.
But let’s be honest, these aren’t the most devastating critiques of an online store. It’s a fact of God’s goodness that, unlike the online cigar retail world, we whiskey drinkers don’t have whiskey websites flat out ripping people off.
When it comes to enjoying the pleasure of a smooth and soothing glass of whiskey, there have never been more options available. Whether your budget is in the tens or thousands of dollars, there’s a wide range of liquor out there ready to be shipped to keep your cabinet well stocked.
Do you have a favorite online whiskey retailer that should be on this list but isn’t? Let us know in the comments.
Disclaimer: affiliate links may be included in this post at no cost to you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own!
If you’re visiting this page, chances are it’s because you’re either a new cigar smoker, or you’re looking to buy a cigar for a friend or a special occasion. You may be standing in a cigar shop with your smartphone out or doing some research before purchasing online.
It’s likely you’re looking at a range of options, from $5 to $40 and just want to know “how much does a good cigar cost?”
There’s no one right answer, but there are some important tips. For each tip, I’ll also offer a number of cigar recommendations based on my personal experience (including price and cigar strength). For purchasing online, I’ve linked out to Famous Smoke Shop, which I consider the best cigar retailer on the market today.
Tip #1: Start in the $10 range if you can
As much as a cigar salesman might hate to hear me say this, you don’t need to spend more than $10 to get a great cigar. There is a glut of wonderful cigars in the $10 range. In the last two decades, there has been a ton of innovation in the cigar market, and that has led to a market full of great product. Brands like Rocky Patel, Camacho, Arturo Fuente, San Cristobal and more have great regular production cigars on the market in the $8 – $12 range. There have also been great value releases like the Casa Magna Colorado (retails for around $8), which won Cigar Aficionado’s #1 Cigar of the Year in 2008.
Some great $10 price range cigars include:
Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Double Robusto ($10, medium): one of the best cigars from Arturo Fuente, the Don Carlos features extremely smooth and silky flavors of coffee, vegetal notes, white pepper, and spice.
Oliva Connecticut Reserve ($8.50, mild): One of the best mild to medium bodied smokes you’ll find under $10 . Creamy, smooth, and slightly sweet with notes of cedar, nuts, and hints of pepper.
The Tabernacle ($10, medium-full): The Tabernacle is just a beautiful smoke. It serves up some of the deepest, richest flavors and is in my top 25 of all time. Expect notes of chocolate, white pepper, toasted bread, and cedar.
A.J. Fernandez New World Puro Especial ($9, full): a breakout cigar which won many cigar of the year awards in 2017. Clocking in at $9 a cigar, expect creamy, smooth smoke, with balanced flavors of earth, cedar, cocoa, and cinnamon.
Tip #2: Be careful about going under $5 for a cigar
The $5 price point does still have some gems, but for the most part you’ll be settling for less if you are only willing to spend $5 on a cigar. It would be great to say that every price point has the best cigars in the world available to it. But that just isn’t true.
If you’re purchasing for yourself, you can safely ignore this advice. Smoke what you want! But, if you’re purchasing for a special occasion like someone’s wedding or bachelor party (and haven’t already spent a fortune on it), shoot for at least the $7 – $12 range.
That said, there are great cigars in the $5 price range. Here are some of the best $5 cigars:
Perdomo Lot 23 Maduro ($5.75, medium): a rich, dark smoke with lots of cocoa, earth, and espresso notes. Very smooth and a favorite for many smokers.
Arturo Fuente Hemmingway Short Story ($5.95, medium): a true classic from the Fuente family, and a favorite short smoke for many cigar smokers. It just also happens to be incredibly affordable!
Tatuaje Tattoo Caballero ($5, medium full): from Pete Johnson and Don Pepin, the Tatuaje Tatto Caballero features thick, rich and balanced flavors
Camacho Connecticut ($7, mild): the Camacho Connecticut is one of my personal favorites. Extremely smooth but with nice body – nutty, with cedar and a bit of cream. Always a great draw and good construction, and always in my humidor.
Tip #3: Some of the most common celebratory cigars do cost $20 or even $30
If you aren’t fazed by paying $10 or even $15 a cigar and are looking for some of the more legendary smokes on the market, I’ve listed a few below. They range in price from around $20 to $30. These are spectacular, the kind of cigars you buy when you are having a child, when your childhood friend is getting married and you are best man, or when you’ve just closed a massive business deal. These are not only celebratory cigars, they are legendary in their own right.
Arturo Fuente Opus X ($30, medium-full): Creamy, balanced notes of coffee, white and black pepper, and cedar.
Davidoff Millennium Blend ($25, full): As the cigar develops, the strength increases consistently. The combination of coffee, cocoa, and spices with floral notes makes this a must-smoke cigar.
Padron Anniversario 1926 Maduro($17, full): A true classic, and found at most cigar shops. Deep and rich smoke, with chocolate and fresh roasted espresso notes. Careful though, there’s also a dry cedar aspect of this cigar that makes it enjoyed best with a drink on hand.
Padron Family Reserve No. 45 Maduro ($27, full): similar to the 1926, but with a more concentrated flavor (also a bit less dry). Best enjoyed after a heavy dinner of steak, and not early in the afternoon.
So there you have it, a run down on how to think about cigar purchases in light of price.
As I mentioned before, there are great cigars in each category. There are, however, important and substantial differences between the best cigars in the $10 category and those in the $20 – $30 category. Whether or not those differences justify the cost is up to you. If you are just getting into cigars, I recommend starting in the $5 price range and working your way up from there so that you can appreciate the nuances of the cigars in the $20 – $30 space.
One last note. Where you are purchasing makes a big difference on the price you’ll pay for these cigars. If you’re looking to purchase a cigar in Europe or Canada, for example, you might have to bump up your expected price range by about $5 or even $10 to get the same quality as a $10 cigar here in the states.
If you live in the United States, it also matters which retailer you buy from. You’ll get better prices online than you will in a brick and mortar store. As mentioned earlier, I recommended Famous Smoke Shop for their ease of use, affordability, and overall quality of the experience over the years I’ve been purchasing through them.
Do you have a cigar in the $5, $10, or $20 – $30 range that you’d recommend? Tell us in the comments section below!
Cigar smoking is an activity born of hundreds of years of practice and tradition. And like any other traditional pastime, smoking etiquette developed as ground rules to make enjoying cigars more comfortable for everyone.
Some traditions, like dipping your cigar in cognac, have become irrelevant. Many old practices remain important. But times have also changed, making new smoking etiquettes necessary. Today, the smoking room is intruded on by more than just the occasional rude patron. We are now intruded upon by wall-mounted televisions, tablets, and smartphones. Social media has turned cigar bragging–once constrained to the lounge or private conversation–into a non-stop sport.
For many a smoker, it is increasingly common to show up at a cigar lounge, sit down next to fellow cigar smokers, and spend the next hour in silence, checking email, posting cigar pictures to Instagram, or listening to music. All of this has served to turn many cigar lounge experiences–always understood to be essentially social in nature–into solitary moments in the midst of our fellow smokers.
Obviously, the answer isn’t to ban all technology. But bearing in mind that cigar smoking has always been a social activity, here are three new etiquettes that will keep the heart of the activity intact.
1. Keep your smartphone, iPad, or computer put away for the first ten minutes after you light up.
The first few minutes at a cigar lounge are the most pivotal to creating a social experience. Instead of checking your Facebook, greet each person in your immediate area, introducing yourself and shaking hands. You’ll find that seven times out of ten, your conversation will continue or start up again later during your visit.
2. If no one is watching the television – turn it off
Our world is full of distractions pulling us away from relating to other people in the real world. If the television is on and no one is watching, what purpose does it serve besides shielding us from having to talk to those around us? Once the TV is off, the silence will create both a more relaxing environment (which is what cigars are all about) and naturally lead patrons into conversation with each other.
3. Don’t ask about work
We are more connected to our work than ever before. In the last hundred years, our market economy has focused our attention on work and encouraged us to judge ourselves and others by what we do, or worse, how much we make. And now with smartphones, leaving the office doesn’t disconnect us from our work the way it used to.
When talking to a new friend at a lounge, remember that smoking is a leisure activity. The last thing most people want to talk about after work is work. Instead, talk about cigars, family, or the book you’re reading. Even politics is better than talking about work, because at least conversations about politics can, in the best circumstances, make us a friend and encourage us and help us be better citizens. Of course, not everyone wants to spend their time at a lounge talking to others. The important thing is not to ignore others completely.
If you find yourself forgetting rules of etiquette like these, just remember that they basically boil down to a common-sense question: “is what I am doing making the room more, or less, comfortable for others to be in?”
Do you have a cigar etiquette that you think belongs on this list? Or a smoking lounge pet-peeve that you find being played out over and over again? Drop it in the comments section!