New Cigar Shop Finder: CigarPlaces.com

Arganese Double Wrap ChairmansAs I’ve seen it reported on Cigar Command and Today’s Cigar Reviews and News (kudos for the find guys!), there’s a brand new resource out there for people in search of a good place to buy or enjoy a fine cigar. And the best part, it is has an easy to remember URL: CigarPlaces.com.

What the website is, essentially, is a customized mash-up of Google Maps that allows you to ad your favorite cigar-friendly establishment or search for shops based upon a U.S. city. Simple enough, right? But then many of the best ideas are shockingly simple. In speaking with my good friend Jesse from Cigar Jack, our initial thought was “Man, why didn’t I think of that?” With all the frenzied rush to outlaw smoking in every place under the sun, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a place where you can still indulge in a premium smoke!

So Cigar Places definitely a website I’d recommend all cigar enthusiasts take advantage of. If for no other reason than to make it easier for those of us who spend time on the road to find a smoke shop when we find ourselves away from home. As with a lot of things on the web, the more it’s used, the more useful it becomes.

OK, now that I’ve lavished praise on this great new website, here are a few things I’d really like to see added in the future:

  • International listings. I think the site supports this, but it isn’t obvious.
  • The ability to search on a whole state in addition to a city or state.
  • I’d like to see shops in nearby cities as well as the city I searched. Searching for Atlanta excludes shops in Alpharetta. Perhaps this is a feature we could switch on or something.
  • A larger map view. Perhaps a link to go “full screen” or something.
  • Special markers for manufacturers.
  • Maybe some sort of rating or review system. (Yeah, I’m really going out on a limb here.)

Of course, the website is new, and is a great resource as is. I’m just throwing out some ideas. Do you have any ideas? Now go add your favorite smoke shop to the list!

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15 Minutes Starting Right… Now!

Brian's Random Thoughts: No nutritional value, but tasty!On the surface, it would appear that Brian isn’t very active in the blog world these days. That couldn’t be further from the truth! While I have been a bit negligent here on my home blog, I have been very active on my other-other day job (if only it paid!) on The Stogie Review. Those of you that come here for my cigar reviews probably know already that I have a regular Wednesday review over there.

But what you my not know is that I have now mastered all the major mediums. In a pretty big way. So big, that I’m anticipating my Andy Warhol-predicted 15 minutes of fame to begin any moment. (Possibly right now… Maybe now. Hmmm… Apparently not yet. But soon.) Anyway, I just got off the phone with a security firm that provides body guards for all the celebrities. Bono. Britney. And now Brian.

You still have no idea what the heck I’m talking about, do you? Here’s the scoop. In addition to my weekly written review on The Stogie Review, I also am a regular on the bi-weekly video cigar question and answer segment called “Your Questions, My Answers”. (See latest episode here.) Written word, check. Video, check. And just this week, I was a guest on the cigar world’s version of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (well, if the show was on the radio), Dog Watch Cigar Radio. (Download the show here!) It’s like a childhood dream come true. That is if I smoked cigars as a child and the show existed back then. But close enough.

So what does this mean for you, dear reader? Well not too much. We will require you to being showing ID to read these posts, and my security contingent will pat you down to make sure you’re not packing heat. Or lighters with too large a flame. It’s a minor inconvenience, I know, but now that I’m almost certainly a celebrity, it’s a necessary step.

I’m getting word that celebrity status has not yet materialized, but signs point to Monday night at the latest. I’ll keep you posted. Make sure to check in often, you don’t want to miss the fifteen minutes.

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La Gloria Cubana Serie R Belicoso

La Gloria Cubana Serie R BelicosoBy now, you’ve probably noticed a recent addition to my sidebar: The Blue Havana II logo. And perhaps, because you’re very observant, you’ve wondered, “what’s up with that?” Well here’s the scoop. Anybody who gives me a cigar to review automatically qualifies as a “friend of the blog”. And earlier this year, Jim Luftman, the owner of the local B&M named Blue Havana II did just that.

Jim has been a good friend since we met at RTDA last year (pictures), and actually deserved some recognition much earlier than this. But beyond that, he runs a great shop and is always thinking about better ways to serve the customer. A quick walk through his humidor will show you what I mean. He’s taken the time to stick color-coded labels on all of his cigar facings to give you a quick idea of the fullness of a given cigar. And when you take a peek in any box, you’ll see the complete line of cigars sitting there, all vitolas in stock, side-by-side for comparison. As if that weren’t enough, it seems like he’s alway got contests, herfs, events and sales happening in shop. There just always a reason to stop by.

OK, back to the cigar. Jim tells me that the Belicoso vitola is a recent addition to the very popular Serie R line. And when I last visited his shop, they had only just arrived. While I haven’t been able to locate much information specifically about the Belicoso, I can tell you a little about the Serie R line. This line of cigars was created with the sole purpose of giving the cigar industry what it’s been looking for. Sales have shown that cigar smokers have been very interested in larger ring gauges and fuller-bodied smokes. One look at the Serie R offerings in your local B&M will show you that they’ve got the ring gauge nailed. But let’s see if they’ve produced a good stick.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 3/4 x 56
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: $9.25

The Pre-Smoke
The Serie R Belicoso is visually a very bold, very striking cigar. It’s size says very clearly that it’s not kidding around. It’s no puny robusto, it’s gonna be around for a while, and it intends to be noticed. The classic band with the thick band of red seems to highlight it’s size.

In my inspection of the wrapper, I found it to be nicely smooth in spite of some visually apparent veins. One cigar had a minor flaw in the wrapper, a vein had poked a small hole and was sticking out just a bit. The other cigar had no noticeable flaws, and both firmly packed with tobacco.

In testing the scent of the wrapper, I found it to have a very pleasant sweet barnyard smell, with a nice molasses flavor in the cold taste.

The Burn
One of my favorite things about this cigar is the burn. Simply stated, it was beautiful. Solid white columns of ash approaching two inches were not uncommon. And the burn line was both thin, and for the most part straight as an arrow. It sounds funny, but I really enjoyed just holding this cigar and admiring it as it was forming it’s first ash.

La Gloria Cubana Serie R Belicoso

As I was watching it burn between puffs, I noticed something I occasionally see on some wrappers. Little sparks on the burn line. Almost like little twinkles on a diamond. I suspect it has to do with the chemical composition of the leaf, and may actually be a bad thing, but I enjoyed it.

The Flavor
The cigar opened up with a sweet, brown sugar and coffee flavor that had just a little bit of spice to it. As it progressed through the first third, the coffee became creamier and the sweetness more like caramel. There were pockets of intense flavor that reminded me a bit of the “butter nuts” in butter nut ice cream. (Minus the coldness and vanilla, of course.)

As the cigar progressed into the second third, I tasted what I think would be best described as a sweet tobacco flavor. It may sound like a bit of a cop-out description, but what I’m thinking about here is the sweet aroma you get when you open a desktop humidor that’s been left undisturbed for weeks and weeks. Very much like that.

The flavor in the final third seemed different between the two cigars I smoked. In one, it was more creamy and citrusy with leather elements. In the latter, it had more of a combination of earthiness and pear with sweet leather. The common element in the two appears to have been a great leather flavor with some hit of fruitiness.

The Price
Considering the size and quality of the smoke, in my book the $9.25 price tag is reasonable. It’s probably not a cigar that your budget smoker will light up often, but that will just make him (or her) appreciate it more when they do.

The Verdict
I thoroughly enjoyed this cigar. And I mean thoroughly. Many cigars I enjoy for the flavors, and in spite of cosmetic issues. With this cigar, I enjoyed watching it smolder almost as much as I enjoyed the flavors it presented in each puff. Though larger in ring gauge than cigars I usually smoke, it actually felt good in the hand, and the tapered end prevented discomfort in the jaw. Again, a beautiful smoke. I’d have no trouble recommending the Serie R Belicoso to anyone who’s up for a couple of hours of full-bodied pleasure.

Also, I have to say thanks again to Jim of Blue Havana II for the great smokes. If you live in the Atlanta area, swing by his shop. I’ll bet he still has a few of these in stock! And if you don’t live in Georgia, give him a call or send him an email. He has been known to ship orders to people.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

The Cigar In Action
Here for your viewing pleasure is the cigar in action!

My Other Reviews
If you enjoyed this review, I encourage you to visit my Cigar Review Index to check out some more of my reviews!

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Arganese Trip: Dominican Republic in Pictures

It’s been a while hasn’t it? You’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been. Well, the quick answer is the Dominican Republic. I spent four days in the D.R. touring tobacco fields and a cigar factory as a guest of Gene Arganese (of Arganese cigars). As a crazed cigar enthusiast, the trip was the experience of a lifetime. One not to be missed, no matter what the circumstances. When Gene generously offered to cover all expenses except airfare, it was a no-brainer. For full a full discussion the things learned about cigars during the tour, be sure to check out the post I wrote for Stogie Review.

In the week or so since I’ve been back, I’ve been spending the time I usually use to write for this blog processing all the pictures I took on my trip. Without further ado, here’s some of my favorites. (To see all 184 pictures, head over to my Dominican Republic gallery.) Click on any of the following to see a larger, higher quality image in the gallery.

Deck Chairs at Casa Arganese
Deck Chairs on the deck at Casa Arganese

Field Worker
Worker in a recently seeded tobacco field

Arganese Greenhouse
The Arganese greenhouse- Home to thousands of seedlings

La Flor de Tobacco Arganese
La Flor de Tobacco Arganese

Worker hanging tobacco leaves
Hanging the tobacco leaves for drying

El Hombre Muy Guapo
El Hombre muy guapo: The field boss (who will pose when flattered)

Monument to the Heros of the Revolution
The Monument to the Heroes of the Revolution in Santiago

Arganese tobacco barn
The field and the barn

Arganese Cigars
The finished product

Bulls on parade
Santiago traffic: Bulls on parade

Arganese Double Wrap Chairmans
A bundle of the Chairman Double Wrap

A Stinkie Ashtray in the moonlight
A Stinkie Ashtray in the moonlight. How romantic!

Again, these pictures are just the tip of the iceburg! I encourage you to check out the full gallery and take advantage of the slide show capabilities Smugmug offers. (Look for the little button in the upper right corner of the page.) Enjoy!

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