While in Atlanta, I’ve been checking out Highland Cigar Company, usually going on Sundays. Last week, the 28th of June, the folks there hosted Simon Brooking, from Beam/Suntori and we tasted some nice Scotch Whiskies.
Simon’s a knowledgeable guy about both Whiskey and the history of many different brands, plus the wet past of Scotland. His tales were amusing, his toasts, heartwarming and jokes, well any good Scotsman would be proud. Plus, for once, I wasn’at the only one wearing a kilt at Highland 😉
Now, onto the juice.
Three different scotches paired well with the Antonius Robusto – a mild to medium bodied Dominican cigar that had been rolled and “forgotten
about” for about 8 years. The blend had more power than expected, but was mild enough that a novice smoker could enjoy it, along with it not balancing well with the whiskies. To be honest, I was shocked that the cigar paired so well with an Islay whiskey, but that’ll come up in my notes shortly.
The first whiskey was Auchentoshan 3 Wood. Matured in Bourbon, Oloroso Sherry and PX Sherry casks, this scotch had really refined flavors and a lovely finish with a pleasant finish. I found it balanced and it blended well with the Antonius, complimenting the wood notes of the cigar. This was a favorite at Highland, due to the lovely, sweet finish.
Next was the Bowmore 12 year. Listed as an Islay, I found this to be rather pleasant compared to what most folks think of when someone says Islay Scotch. The mild citrus notes came upon me at the end of the drink, along with mild peat and sea.
Last was the Laphroaig Select – a masterful blend of various scotches hand picked by a “select group” of tasters. This is honestly the lowest peated scotch they make. Peat has been a bone of contention for me for years, due to the effects it has on my stomach (I suppose I could drink less but where’s the fun in that? LOL!) But this whiskey shows reserve on the smokiness, adding more balance and less of that gasoline taste that tends to put drinkers of whiskey off. The finish of the Antonius went very well with just enough backbone and intensity to compliment the Laphroaig and not be overpowered.
Overall, the Antonius was a solid choice for this whiskey pairing. Balanced with wood notes, hints of spice and vanilla appeared on the palate. Firm in the fingers, the draw was delightful. A cold draw brought in flavors of cinnamon and baking spice. Construction was also solid, though I forgot to get pictures for the blog.
There were two other whiskies we’d tasted but sadly, my notes are not legible – typical of being a published romance novelist. They were both Laphroaig, however, and wonderful in their own right. I’d lit up a second cigar at this point.
With all the new bullshit legislation coming down on cigar and pipe smokers, we’re left looking at each other with unlit vitolas in hand, stress on our shoulders and a crumbling economy. The problem has become so bad that many retailers are scrambling to find new ways to generate revenue -ways which are ultimately going to drive away business.
One of the shops I’ve visited has a policy whereby customers must purchase $25 worth of merchandise in order to enjoy ONLY two hours with one other person in the shrunken smoking lounge. They shrunk the lounge to make more room for product that’s NOT cigar/tobacco oriented.
This policy took effect recently and has already shown itself to be harmful. Many of the regulars have stopped coming to smoke there and will find other places to hang out, if those places can be found. In San Francisco, we’re limited to the Occidental, 850 Montgomery Cigar Bar and that’s it.
Things continue to worsen. The bar around the corner has a sign up in the “smoking” section that says no cigars, no pipes, no weed ya’ll. I agree on the latter but the former two? I’m a cigar smoker, a pipe smoker and now will be taking my money elsewhere as I search for a cigar friendly place to relax.
In the first case, I understand the need to generate revenue in a brick and mortar store located in state with high as hell tobacco taxes. Legislation has shut down many of the businesses that support cigar and pipe smokers, leaving less revenue on the table. This may all seem like whining from a minority group but the last time I checked, this was AMERICA.
In ultra liberal California I’m no longer allowed to smoke cigars on the community balcony. So far the manager has said shit about me smoking my pipe on the front steps.
So what is the answer for shops with shrinking revenue? Even with unlimited funds I couldn’t justify going to a shop every day to smoke and having to spend a minimum amount, which makes it seem like I’m carrying the shop. And the feelings a lot of folks have expressed have been less than stellar.
On June 16th the event at Grants kicked off with music, alcohol provided by Shakers Vodka and of course Pete Johnson himself, showing up to help work the register, talk to fans about his cigars and of course smoke. Pete’s an amazingly open man and a lot of fun to talk to about a TON of things.
Of course the Grants Burlesque Cigar Girls were on hand smoking in more than one way 😉
I picked up a four pack consisting of the la riqueza no 2, cabaiguan robusto, el triunfador and the Havana VI Nobles. I also scored a few petite tatuajes. Those little smokes are FULL of flavor (Thanks Reggie) for their size. I was also able to purchase one of the red tubed Tatuajes I’ve yet to smoke but had Pete sign.
As I said, the man is full of knowledge about the cigar industry. His journey into this world will be covered in a future interview on Pure Indulgence, complete with tasting notes about the Espirite de Verite(sp) I smoked the next day.
Owner Joe Barron kept it fresh with dope tunes he spun from his personal eclectic collection while the folks form SHakers poured martinis. I did a review here
I’m still waiting on a few pics from Mason 😛
There was a lot of fun had, the shop was packed and I think many more people know about Grants AND the tasty Tatuajes.
Just got back from Tobacco Rd and thought I’d post a few pictures of their smoking lounge.
The nice leather chairs have provided me with a comfortable seating arrangement that’s allowed me hours of reading/smoking time.
As for selection, they offer the following:
Ashton (including one of the VSG sizes)
Romeo y Julieta Habano Reserve, Reserve Real and 1875
Arturo Fuente (including the Short Story)
Joya De Nicaragua
Rocky Patel 12 year Vintage
RP EDGE (robusto size 5X48 I think)
Oliva V, O and G series
Hoyo De Monterrey (Excalibur)
And a cuban seed house blend robusto and torpedo. The robusto is available in EMS or Maduor and I like the maduro bettter. It’s better constructed, not as strong but still a sweet, tasty maduro.
I’m not sure which NUB she’ll be bringing in but she’ll have those too. I’ve had those and they’re pretty good.
Most of the prices are lower than SF and I wonder if that’s due to taxes. The shop itself has to overcome ridding itself of the ghetto element so I understand they may be phasing out cigarette sales and some of the more less lucrative products that tend to attract the element as I call them, but Kathrine is determiend to give cigar smokers a place to call home.
She’ll be installing a TV soon in the lounge. I’ve been allowed to bring in alcohol under the “don’t act a fool” rule. My question is, once she rotates some of the stock out, what would you like to see in the humidor?
I’d like to see Padron, Cuesta Rey, Tatuaje, Punch Uppercut, along with an expansion of the RP line. How about you?
The shop is located at 14th and Franklin, close to 12th St. BART station. Come on down and enjoy a smoke!
Wednesday I was at Grants smoking with some of the regulars and on our way out I was talking to Mike about local places to smoke in Oakland, saying that as a rule there ARE none I could go to unless I brought my own smokes.
He turned me onto a new place that was supposedly having a grand opening Friday the 6th on 14th and Franklin that actually had a small room in the back to smoke at.
Today I popped in to Tobacco Road just to check it out. I met the owner’s son Marcus, walked into the humidor and found stuff at reasonable prices (Romeo y Julieta 6X54 Havana Reserve for $7.23 or thereabouts vs Grants same size stick at almost $9.) among other things. Marcus told me they had a room behind the humidor for smoking and showed me. I asked if I could ilght up and sit for a spell, he was cool with that.
So I lit up, and another older gentleman came in and was talking to Marcus. Before long we were all talking about other shps in the country and in California. Then Marcus’s mother Kathrine came in and greeted us. She’s the owner and a very relaxed, cool woman. With a background of real estate, a passion for family owned business and a desire to treat her clients right, she seems to have put together an honest business and given Oakland something it desperately needs: A smoking lounge without fear of the anti smoking police, need for hush hush conversation (ie I can talk about my fetish writing openly) and a cozy environment.
We talked for about an hour about her passion, plans for the shop and how we can grow the business from the cigar side. The front of teh store is clean but is basically a “cigarette shop” front but once you pass the front counter you’lls ee the walk in humidor, a few accesories on display and then down the hall come to the lounge.
Tonight I walked in and things were stil out of place as they were putting the finishing touches on things, but after about an hour I calleda friend of ine to come down and smoke with me. He picked up a Macanudo and a Hoyo De Monterrey at better prices than Beverages and More AND the cigars were fresh. MIke sat down in one of the large leather chairs, lit up and we takled for about an hour and a half before they closed.
The selection included Rocky Patel’s Edge and Edge Light, RyJ, Macanudo, H. Upman, Oliva, Sancho Panza and a few others. The humidor is not as large as Grants but Kathrine assured me that they’re ordering, expanding and going to carry more brands as they develope a loyal following.
The beauty is, like Grants I can bring in my own alcohol as long as I don’t act a fool. Meeting Kathrine and her son reminded me of when I first sat down at La Salle when it was still open when Roy Bird (formerly of the Harlem Globetrotters) welcomed my gf and I in to have a smoke and a drink. She’s not “old white man stuffy” but warm and friendly. And open to questions and ideas for helping the community.
I like that.
Friday the 6th is their grand opening party and they’re located at 417 14th St. ni Oaland just off 12th Street BART station. I’ll still frequent Grants because that’s comfortable and the cigar selection is larger, and the people really make it what it s, but this is closer and I can feel a warmth from it already.
Btw, for those interested, Tobacco Road has their own cuban seed brand of cigars that will be available for purchase at around $6 a stick. I have yet to smoke one but once I do, you’ll hear of it first, here!