The Cutter and the Ashtray

I walk by our ashtray that sits on the checkout counter and find a cutter sitting smack in the middle of it a few times a week. This has been going on for years. It happens at all of our locations.

I cannot remember exactly when it started but I remember what I thought the first time I saw it. I walked by the dirty ashtray and was going to dump it. There were a couple cigar butts, plenty of ashes and a V Cutter sitting right in the middle. Just to give you some perspective, we have an empty cigar box with cutters, lighters, etc. sitting right next to the ashtray. So, I just thought someone goofed up and flipped the cutter into the ashtray when they were aiming for the box. I cleaned the cutter off and tossed it back into the empty cigar box.

Well, a few days later, I was checking the ashtray on the counter again to clean it and whammo, another cutter sitting right in the middle of all that crap in the ashtray. I shook my head, took the cutter out, cleaned it off and tossed it back into the empty box. I am sure I said something like, “What the hell?” and just moved on.

Another couple days after that, I walked by the ashtray on purpose to take a peak and of course nothing but ashes. Hmmm, maybe it was just a fluke.

A couple weeks went by and it did not cross my mind. At some point, it popped into my head and I wondered over there and there it was, staring at me, a frickin cigar cutter sitting in the ashtray. I can’t remember exactly what I said but I am sure it went something like, “Why the F@$% is there a cutter in the ashtray?” I think Courtney piped up and said, “Oh, we find them in there all the time.”

All the time? What the hell is going on here? Why would someone think the right spot for a cutter they just pulled out of a box containing cutter and lighters was in the dirty F@%^&*&* ashtray? What is wrong with people? Who is doing this? I want to know. If you are doing this on purpose to torture me, stop. You know how fragile I can be!

So over the last several years, I have been trying to catch someone using a cutter and putting it in the astray. No luck. Mind you, we still find them in the ashtrays all the time. I refuse to use the cameras to find out who was the person who put it there. That would be too easy. I want to catch them in the act and teach them a lesson. You know, like you do with your dog when he chews on a shoe. You have to catch them in the act to have maximum humiliation and so they know what they did wrong. I am looking to have a teachable moment!

So as of now, I have yet to catch anyone doing it but we find a cutter in the ashtrays at least 3 times a week. Who are you? Why do you do it? Are you lazy or just an idiot?

I would love to hear from anyone who has had similar situations or knows who the perp is?

King James and Yaxel Ortiz

LeBron James has earned his nickname. If there is any doubt of his place in basketball history, James took the Cleveland Cavaliers from a dismal last place finish a mere 2 years ago all the way to an NBA Championship. He almost single handedly beat back arguable one of the greatest team in the form of the Warriors.
But to a cigar smoker, King James made another statement last night. He came out to his presser with a cigar in hand. And it wasn’t just any cigar. It was the Yaxel Ortiz YO Cigar. As most of you know Serious Cigars was instrumental helping Yaxel Ortiz start his cigar company, with the YO Blend James was smoking as its first line made in the new factory in Nicaragua.
We want to congratulate LeBron James, the city of Cleveland and Yaxel Ortiz for making it all the way to the NBA champions hands!
Want to smoke the same cigar as King James, check out Yaxel Ortiz Y.O. Natural cigars.

Tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys

The only thing worth getting up early in the morning is to go fishing. I love to fish; mostly saltwater. I enjoy saltwater fishing because of the variety. You never know what is going to be on the end of the line when you bring that fish up to the surface.

I go on an annual Tarpon fishing trip with 11 other guys each year. All of the fishermen on this trip are serious cigar smokers. This particular trip is the highlight of my year. I look forward to it from the time it finishes in late April all the way until the next year. Most of the group feels the same way and we talk about it nonstop. I am sure it annoys others around us.

I personally enjoy the trip for a variety of reasons other than the fishing. The most important to me is that it is guilt free. Everyone knows I am going to be away, no one gives me a hard time at home or work for being gone. The only schedule I have to keep is getting on the boat at a certain time which I said before I am happy to do. I can smoke as many cigars as I like, eat what I want, take a nap if I choose, really do anything I wish. Strip clubs are the only thing that is off limits… yes, hookers fall under that umbrella as well.

Our fishing tournament is held in Islamorada Florida in the Keys and is made up of two teams of 6 fishermen. We fish out of the world famous Bud & Mary’s Marina. Each team has 3 boats with two fishermen on each. It is a 3 day tournament with 5 fishing sessions of 4 hours each. We use the same fishing guides and have been doing this for nearly a decade. We target Tarpon but catch other species while we are hunting for them.

If you have never fished for tarpon you should do it. It is one of the best fights you can have sometimes lasting an hour or more to get the fish subdued so that you can remove the hook and send him on his way. They are very hard to keep on the line, they fly out of the water shaking their heads trying to get rid of the hook. The hardest part is trying to find them and getting them to take your bait. If your boat caught a single tarpon per outing, that would be a good trip. If you caught more than one per outing, that would be an amazing trip.

The fishing trip has evolved into a serious tournament. Well, it is serious for us, maybe just for me. I take it so seriously that we had an app built for it. The app is a ton of fun. You can enter your own catch and when you do, all participants in the tournament get dinged with a notification. It is fantastic to know that all the other boats, especially your competitors were just notified of your catch. On the other hand, when your boat is quiet and nothing is happening, it is really deflating to get notified of the other team’s success. It makes for a great competition.

We stay at the same hotel, go to the same restaurants, smoke cigars morning, noon and night. It is absolutely fantastic. I get pumped up just typing this out! There is so much more to tell about the trip and so many stories from the years we have been doing it, I could never include them all. Next time you want one of the greatest fishing experiences of your life, give me a call and I can get you connected to all the right people.

What the heck is the TAA

The TAA, or Tobacco Association of America is a group of about 80 retail members and about 34 Manufacturer members. We have been a retail member for a short 3 years.

The TAA has been around for about 48 years or so. In fact, we just had our 48th trade show this past week. It was held in Puerto Vallarta. Before you say, “Must be nice!”, it is a working trip. While it is enjoyable, there is not much time to do anything except go from meeting to meeting. There were a couple hours here and there but not enough to venture out.

The purpose of the TAA has evolved over the years. It seemed that it began as a boondoggle for retailers and manufacturers to hang out and spend time shooting the breeze with each other. Almost like a sponsored vacation. The current form of the TAA is mostly business. We have meetings to share ideas with each other. We give feedback to the manufacturers and they in turn let us know their future plans, etc. We have buying opportunities on products that we get once a year. We also now have our own Exclusive Series products. This is a very special piece of the TAA now.

The main reason I am writing this is to let you know about the Exclusive Series that are available now and coming soon. Here is a list.

Padron 1964 Toro TAA Exclusive (25 ct) – In stock now

Rocky Patel 15th Anniversary TAA Exclusive (20 ct) – In stock now

Ashton VSG Robusto Especial TAA Exclusive (10 ct) – In stock now

Drew Estate Acid Big Bang TAA Exclusive (24 ct) – In stock now

Nat Sherman Panamericana TAA Exclusive (10 ct) 7 sizes available

**NEW** La Flor Dominicana TheTAA 48 Exclusive Series (25 ct) – Released in a few months

**NEW** Drew Estate Herrera Esteli Maduro (12 ct) – Released in a few months

**NEW** La Palina Miami Series – “Bill’s Blend” (20 ct) – Released in a few months

**NEW** CLE Azabache (25 ct) – 3 sizes – Released in a few months

**NEW** Tatuaje TAA 2016 (20 ct) – Released in several months

**NEW** Quesada Reserva Privada Maduro (10 ct) – Released in a few months

**NEW** Crowned Head’s The Angel’s Anvil 2016 (20 ct) – Released in a few months

**NEW** My Father El Centurion H2KCT (20 ct) – Released in a few months

Padron 1926 #48 TAA Exclusive – Released in a few months

Padron 1926 #47 TAA Exclusive – In stock now

There may be a few from years past that we still have in stock but this is the list from this year’s TAA meeting.

I survived Honduras… Barely

Well, I swore I would never go to Honduras. Never; for no reason would I go. I had heard so many bad things about the safety there I thought why would I go, Nicaragua and the Dominican have the same things and I feel safe in both places.

So you guessed it, I just went and I’m back in one piece. Altadis, the makers of Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, etc. invited me for an exclusive tour of their factory and fields. We are huge partners with them and I am on the retail advisory council so I could hardly say no.

I packed my bag for my two and a half day trip and landed at the Ramon Villades Morales International airport in San Pedro Sula which is in the Northern part of the country near Guatemala. For reference, most of the cigars produced are in the Southern region nearer Nicaragua.

I heard a few days before I left that San Pedro Sula was the most violent city IN THE WORLD in 2013. I was not real pleased to hear that just before my trip. I was thinking of all the bad things that could happen. Kidnapping was about the worst for me. Getting shot, would be bad but It would be over quick. Kidnapped? Well first, I’m not sure how much ransom I would be held for. How would they determine that? I kept thinking about being held captive and the conditions I would be in. I would just not do well in some dirty dank hideout, no air conditioner, no running water for showers, no toilets, and worse, no Netflix. I was having real reservations about going. To make matters even worse, I was remembering that an insurance policy was taken out on us by the company. No kidding!

So, we land in SPS, the people seem nice. There is a group of about 12 of us. They meet us just outside customs and walk us out to a super deluxe bus. Things are looking up. We were heading for Santa Rosa de Copan, the city where the factory is located and the fields are not far away. It was going to be about a three and a half hour ride. About 10 minutes in, I pulled out my Ipad, popped in my headphones and began watching the last season of “Bored to Death” starring Ted Danson. Check it out, it is a good show. I was sitting in the second to last row and pulled the curtain closed to block the sun and sat back. Five minutes later we were in stand still traffic, finally creeping through after about 25 minutes. Come to find out, I missed the “incident” since I had my curtain closed. Two freshly murdered bodies laying next to the side of the road. People crowding around them, blood everywhere I’m told. Quite the scene; “Welcome to Honduras!”

We were now on the move, travelling over the rough highways, weaving back and forth to avoid the pot holes that cover the roads. Looks like the Russians never took Honduras under their wing. About twenty minutes outside of our destination, I began to smell paint thinner. I got stronger and stronger. I asked around to see if others smelled it, they did. I asked one of the tour guides if they smelled it and they said yes, smells like fuel. I was thinking NO, doesn’t smell like gasoline to me. Wait, the bus, it’s diesel. It was diesel fuel. Strong as could be. I remember thinking to myself that if I start to feel light headed, run towards the front of the bus. Just about then, the bus sputtered to a stop, the driver tried to restart the engine, no luck. We had a cracked fuel line in the engine compartment. Not sure how It did not catch fire, it was soaked, pouring all over the motor and dripping down everywhere.

So, it’s about 5PM, getting dark and we are in the middle of nowhere in Honduras. I had cell reception so after about ten minutes; I texted my wife to tell her the situation. She texted me back and asked if we were OK, I told her that we were but that text did not get to her for about 40 minutes. Come to find out, she was freaking out and I was in trouble for the poor messaging ability on the Honduran phone system. Oh, almost forgot to tell you that our armed security escorts were on the vehicle, and following with more guys in a pickup that had more guns that I could count. They were fanned out on the perimeter looking everywhere for the bad guys to jump out of the tree line and grab us.

Our factory representatives were arranging for some of the workers from the factory to come get us. They arrived like the Calvary in about six pickup trucks to take us to the fields. The workers in the fields had been ready for us with a great show. It was dark now and difficult to really see the fields in their full glory. They had a great spread of local snacks set up and some of the workers were doing demonstrations of their jobs. It was very nice. We headed to the hotel for a much needed rest.

The next day we visited the Flor de Copan cigar factory where Romeo Reserve, Gispert, and others are made. It was a site to behold. Fully integrated with the fields nearby, box factory, rolling rooms, etc. Too much to explain here but a really nice factory that nobody ever gets to visit. It was great. Now, we are off to the Copan Ruins, a 3 hour journey in a smaller bus. It may have been the most uncomfortable ride I have ever been on. Terrible roads the entire trip. I got my 10,000 steps from my Fitbit about an hour into the Journey if that gives you any indication of the conditions. The Ruins, they were fantastic. Best I have ever seen. Super cool. From there, we headed to a different hotel for the night. The Hotel Marina Copan has to be one of the nicest hotels I have stayed in. Beautiful grounds, great rooms, etc. Amazing that this hotel exists in such a tiny remote town just a few miles from Guatemala and El Salvador. Really crazy.

The next morning, a few of us were on the first bus back to the airport. Another long ride, three and a half hours to the airport again. Unbelievable roads, felt like you were on the ocean in ten foot waves. Not sure how we do not get car sick.

All in all, the locations we visited were great. Getting around was awful, really, really awful. You might be thinking that I should not be complaining, it was a free trip to Honduras. You had to experience it. Not sure if I will ever go back. If I do, we have to figure out better transportation.

The entire trip was centered around seeing the new tobacco Altadis has created in their Copan fields. It is called Yarguera. It is a hybrid strain of an old Cuban seed combines with Criollo 98. The result is unique and very tasty. We just received our first shipment of cigars made with this wrapper. Very nice and different. Check them out when you can.

Is it OK to have a man crush?

This might be going off the deep end a little early in my blog writing career but a couple factors have led to this topic resurfacing. Those of you who already know me understand where this is about to go. It’s not a sexual thing, it’s not weird. It feels right and very normal in my opinion.

I have a HUGE man crush on Tom Selleck. There it is and now the whole world knows it. I don’t care. Make fun if you want but by the end of this, you might very well have a little crush yourself.

Tom Selleck is a bad ass. He has it all! He can play the tough guy. He can play the sensitive guy. He can play everything in between. He is physically fit, great looking, smooth as silk and can get any woman he wants.

Think of him back in the Magnum PI days, running around in that red Ferrari solving the islands problems all the while hanging with the fellas and still making time for some of the special gals around town.

In 3 Men and a Baby he had to work with his buddies to raise a sweet little baby. What could be nicer than that?

On Friends, he scored one of the hottest women in the world, Courtney Cox. Who else could have done that? No one, I say. Definitely not that goober Chandler…

He currently is the boss man on Blue Bloods where is shows all of his skills from his strong ethics to his fatherly compassion.

He is ageless. He looks like he did back in the 80s. His mustache is as strong as ever.

Oh, and did I mention, he smokes cigars every day? Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Robustos from what I have heard.

Sounds like perfect bromance material to me!

The closest I ever came to meeting him was when the NRA was in town. We had the Big Wigs hanging at our lounges after hours and they were going to bring Tom over but it never happened.

Maybe someday he will walk into one of our stores and I’ll be there to help him. Hopefully I don’t act like a silly schoolboy.

Amazon has ruined everything… in a good way

I am a huge promoter of Amazon. I am a Prime member and use it to order everything from Christmas gifts to electronics to deodorant. I use it for both personal and business items. I bet I order something from them a couple times a week.

With the 2 day shipping for most items, it makes life easy as a consumer. As an online merchant, it makes my life a living hell sometimes.

I think most consumers have created a perception of how shipping really works because of Amazon’s ability to seemingly ship morning, noon and night and get it to you within a day or two.

Let’s say you live on the East Coast and order your new fancy vibrating toothbrush at midnight on Monday. Amazon may decide to ship it from their West Coast warehouse which has a 10PM UPS/FedEx pickup. You get your item on Wednesday, 36 hours after you ordered it. Amazing!

If you selected two day shipping in the same situation, Amazon may decide to ship your item from their warehouse on the East coast the next day and use overnight service to get it to you just in time. Amazing!

Amazon seems to get stuff to you on Saturday and sometimes Sunday for next extra charge. They seem to get an item to you at 10PM the day before it is supposed to be there. It’s like they have a secret troop of Ninjas that wait until you are not looking and slap a package on your front door step and slink back into the bushes.

I love it and it drives me crazy. I wish we could do that.

OK, I guess if we shipped a zillion packages a day and were the largest shipper for nearly every shipping company maybe we would have some of those ninjas as well.

The good news is that we have our own warriors, getting your packages out on time, packed up with loads of protection, sealed with humidity and ready to smoke. We get them shipped out the same day when placed before 3:30PM Central. We really get them out when they come in by 5:00PM but don’t tell anyone. Sometimes later. If our pickup has not come, we do what we can to get them out.

We cannot meet the Amazon speed yet but we are trying to get as close as possible. Maybe someday.

Hints of chicken feet – The “Ultimate” guide to describing cigars

I must admit that I am not a huge reader of industry blogs, mags, reviews, etc. at the moment. I am sure that will change since starting this blog.
I am always amazed at the variety of smells, tastes and hints of things some folks come up with. I guess my nose and taste buds are just not that sophisticated. I always tell people, I can hear the difference between a $100 stereo and a $1,000 stereo but really hear no different between a $1,000 stereo and a $10,000 stereo. Once again, I guess I am just not that sophisticated.

I have read articles that talk about cinnamon, hints of cherries, fruits of all kinds, butterscotch, meat, chicken (WTF), nuts, oak, potato, chalk, manure,  etc., etc., etc. I just cannot pick those type things up.

Here are the things I get when I smoke cigars, Earthy, Peppery, Musty, Blah & Leathery. I’ll explain.

Earthy – Has a semi-dense clay or soil nose to it. Tastes like a mouthful of dirt, but in a good way.

Peppery – Kinda stings your tongue a little but in a pleasant way. Same way a good Kung Pao Chicken hits you. Bites at first, but drifts away just before your next mouthful… or puff. Love it

Musty – Smells like under grandma stairs to me ( thanks Chip Astrup) sort of dank, mushroomy, mildew and wet. I do not like this tone at all. I’ll take 3-4 puffs, pitch it over my shoulder and move on.

Blah – Well, Blah. Tastes like nothing. Not really nothing, but so soft and subtle that I cannot put my finger on it and do not want to spend any more time on it. Over my shoulder It goes. If I wanted blah I’d smoke an E-cigar.

Leathery – The only way to REALLY get this one is to chew on a piece of leather. No kidding! Its not the smell as much as the taste of leather. All the old baseball guys out there did it. We chewed the heck out of the laces on our baseball gloves. It is delightful and very pleasant. One of my favorites.

I can pick up notes of coffee and dark chocolate on occasion as well but not often.

So for me, give me a slightly earthy, leathery cigar with medium pepper and I am happy. I will smoke them one after the other.

Pssst, You got any Cubans?

WHY ARE YOU WHISPERING?

I always think the customer has a secret to tell me when he walks in and asks in his softest voice, “You guys have Cubans?” My current answer is, “Nope”. I then get the sense from them that I was a little too quick with my short response. The customer is not happy with me.

In my defense, ever since President Obama eased travel restrictions, we get this question all day long so I get a little grumpy at having answered the same question all the time. OK, I know, poor me!!! I promise to have a better attitude after today.

The longer answer I am forced to give is the story of how the President eased travel restrictions and by doing so now allows folks who visit Cuba to bring back $100 worth of cigars and/or alcohol. So to be clear, you can only bring back Cuban products if you visit Cuba on a sanctioned trip. I tell them that the Embargo is still in effect and we cannot import or sell Cuban products. Congress has to act on that and there is current no real sign of anything happening on that. So when you are vacationing in Mexico or the Bahamas or whatever foreign country other than Cuba the rule does not apply to you. Sad to say, but that is the current state of the law.

So after all that, maybe my bad attitude comes from the fact that I am not a huge fan of Cuban cigars. Maybe that comes from the fact that I have not smoked a ton of them and moreover, I cannot sell them so I just don’t get that involved with them. Customers and friends offer them to me all the time and I just never get that excited. I always think they are fakes so I really don’t want to waste my time with that.

Man, I have a bad attitude…

Speaking of fakes, I bet less than 1 out of 25 “Cuban” cigars that customers come in and show me are genuine. I feel terrible that they spent money on them but guide them to the counterfeit galleries so they can determine their authenticity themselves. I really think that the even the merchants overseas don’t know they are selling fakes. It is a worldwide issue. The only place to be sure you get authentic Cuban cigars is a La Casa del Habanos store.

We may just see some relief toward the end of President Obama’s term. I have a feeling congress might be ready to remove the embargo by then. Hopefully sooner.

Creature of Habit

If you look up the term “creature of habit” on the web, you may find my picture. I think you can call me a 95 percenter when it comes to my habits and choices.

Let’s start with clothing. I wear the same thing nearly every day. A nice Tommy Bahama style shirt with the Serious logo on it, jeans and a pair of black shoes. The shirts do vary in color from black, light blue and lime green but other than that, they are the same shirt. The jeans come in about 3 shades of blue so I have to pay special attention not to wear the light blue shirt with the lighter shade jeans. If I forget, it kinda looks like I am wearing a jumper.

Food is another good example. I order the same exact thing every time I have dinner at a particular Italian restaurant we go to in our area. It gets worse. I order the same thing at every Italian restaurant I go to. I say I use it as my own personal barometer on how good their food is. Chicken Parm is my Italian food drug of choice. I sometimes shock my wife and order the fish, she always looks at me like she is suspicious of my motives.

Drink? Not too much these days. It gives me a headache nearly every time I have a cocktail or two so I tend to consume alcohol very seldom. Diet Coke is a different story. Morning, noon and night for me. It just goes great with food or by itself. I wish it gave me a headache too because I hear I should give it up since it is not the best for you.

The most consistent thing I do is smoke the exact same cigar ALL THE TIME. I start the day with my little friend on the way to work. By the time I am ready for another, I want to smoke my cigar again. I try to time one at the end of the work day so I am about two thirds finished and I can smoke it on my short ride home. After the kids are in bed, I am ready for my favorite time of the day. I really enjoy sitting out on my patio watching a bit of TV or goofing around on my Ipad while I smoke my cigar. The La Cima ENg Robusto Grande is the absolute perfect cigar for me. Ecuadorian Connecticut with filler from Nicaragua. I am of course, smoking one while typing this.

All this seems to make my life easier. I make decisions all day long for our company and if I can make one less decision in my private life then I make less decisions overall. Less choices, mean less time wasted trying to decide what to wear, eat, drink or smoke. At least that is what I always tell myself, I might just be lazy, not real sure.