The Robaina Farm, “Cuchillas de Barbacoa”

Alejandro Robaina Farm

We are pleased to welcome Matteo, who just joined our editorial team! Matteo has over 40 trips to Cuba under his belt and will be sharing his knowledge about the beautiful island from a cigars perspective.

I have been coming to this world renowned tobacco farm since sometime in 2005 while Alejandro Robaina, the farm’s namesake, was still alive. Actually that isn’t the name of the farm, although few know it by its real name (I always forget), Cuchillas de Barbacoa, most refer to it as the Robaina Farm including myself. A lot has happened since Alejandro’s death and none of it has to do with Alejandro’s grandson who now runs the farm. Bad weather over the last couple of years has devastated the region and the shortage of water today doesn’t help. Even though production of tobacco had been down during that time, Robaina’s farm still produced that little bit more than the rest. During the 90’s there was no question that this farm was one of the best in the Vuelta Abajo region, 80% of the tobacco grown here during that time was good enough to be used for precious wrapper leaf compared with 35% on other farms.

Read the full review of The Robaina Farm, “Cuchillas de Barbacoa”…

The Best Cigar Spots in St. Louis

Best Cigar Spots in St Louis

Today we’re bringing you a guest blog post from Nikki Glenn, a cigar aficionada and a violinist entertainer for private, corporate and special events worldwide. She loves learning about and smoking cigars as much as possible.

While St. Louis, Missouri may be best known for the Gateway Arch, the World’s Fair, or for being home to Anheuser-Busch, it also has a thriving community of cigar lovers and some very unique spots to enjoy a good smoke. St. Louis has some of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods, from the bohemian to the upscale, and these cigar spots can be found within them. It is especially challenging to find places to relax and enjoy a smoke in light of the smoking bans in many states, so I’m delighted to share with you the best cigar spots in St. Louis and why I love them all.

Charles P. Stanley Cigar Company and Lounge

Charles P. Stanley Cigar Company and Lounge

The Charles P. Stanley Cigar Company and Lounge is located on Washington Avenue, a street that offers up hip nightclubs, coffee houses, and unique retail establishments along with upscale dining and wine bars. I would describe Stanley’s as “Cheers” with cigars – they really do know your name once you start going there. The staff is both friendly and knowledgeable, and always willing to chat about their favorite smokes or offer up suggestions if you don’t want your usual.

There’s a walk-in humidor for your perusal and they have top shelf liquors to enjoy at the bar or in their couch seating. You also won’t miss a second of the game as there are multiple TV’s throughout the establishment. They have live music weekly, and also host cigar events throughout the year. What I love the most about Stanley is that it is very unpretentious and relaxed. It is a great place to go hang out and unwind with a glass of your favorite libation. Please note I didn’t say it was quiet. Washington Avenue is a prime party spot in downtown St. Louis, so it does get fairly crowded on the weekends and they can be boisterous. However, if you’re looking for an unfussy place where you can have a nice drink and a smoke, Stanley’s can’t be beat.

(Hours 3 pm – 1 am, closed Sundays)

Durango Cigar Lounge at Brennan’s

Zino Platinum Lounge at Brennan's

If you’re looking for something a little more… highbrow, I offer for your consideration Durango Cigar Lounge. It is located in the Central West End, home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, and gated streets with some of the loveliest old mansions in the city. On the upper floor of Brennan’s, a wine, food, and tobacco establishment, it’s impossible not to feel special when the door to the club requires a keycode to enter. The lounge is cozy and dim, but the appeal here is twofold: the company that you keep, and the music that you’ll hear. Music is vinyl (remember records?) only, spun by the bartender/doorkeeper/DJ. He spins quite the mix, from early Prince to Norah Jones and everything in between. You can bring your own smokes, or they do offer cigars for sale – their special trademark is the Durango Pipe Tobacco Cigar. Please note that this is a members’ only club, but day passes can be purchased during the week by calling in advance. The membership is a friendly lot, and you’ll most likely get quite a bit of encouragement to join up if you go more than a few times. Brennan’s has more of the “club” feel to it since it is very small and intimate – it really is a neat place to meet interesting people and have great conversations.

(Hours Mon-Sat 3 pm-1.30 am, Sun 5 pm – midnight)

Hill Cigar Company

Hill Cigar Company

“The Hill” is one St. Louis’ oldest (and historically Italian-American) neighborhoods. You will find some of the best Italian food in the world within this neighborhood, but it is also home to the Hill Cigar Company. They have a lovely walk-in humidor featuring a wide selection of cigars, and also have a small lounge at the back of the property with couches and television. The owner is excellent at picking new smokes if you tell him what you’re currently smoking. They have over 800 different cigars available, including the Opus X line, as well as My Father, Zino Scepter series, and Padron Anniversary cigars; please note my understanding is that if you wish to smoke in the lounge, you should smoke what you’ve purchased there. It is a very low-frills place, but their genuine warmth and hospitality make it feel like going to a very good friend’s house to enjoy a smoke. However, their hours are the shortest of any other lounge in St. Louis, so you will want to come here before you enjoy a fantastic Italian dinner in the neighborhood.

(Hours Mon-Fri 10 am – 7 pm, Sat 10 am – 6 pm, Sun 12 noon – 4 pm)

St. Louis Cigars (West County) – opening soon

I’m mentioning STL Cigars because it will be reopening soon – it holds a special place in my heart as it was my regular go-to spot until a fire destroyed the building a few months ago. It will have a walk-in humidor, lounge seating, patio seating, and a bar once the reconstruction is completed. The owner is one of the friendliest gentlemen I’ve ever met, and his love and appreciation for cigars is evident. This is a place to come at the end of the day, to have a drink, and shoot the breeze. The regulars are down-to-earth and happy to strike up a conversation. I’m looking forward to its reopening.

Another La Casa del Habano in Belgium – LCDH Hasselt

La Casa del Habano Hasselt

In November 2014, Belgian cigar aficionados got some exciting news – another La Casa del Habano boutique was opened, now in Hasselt. This country now boasts 5 ‘casas’ – the other four can be found in Knokke, Gent, Antwerp and Brussels. You might already have heard about the Knokke and Gent boutique, managed by Dominique Gyselinck and Frédéric Dechamps. The same team is behind the Hasselt shop, so if you’re passing by don’t forget to have a look (Google Maps >) at their range of fresh Habanos in the biggest walk-in humidor of Benelux.

Impressive Walk-in Humidor

A new La Casa del Habano opens in Belgium

La Casa del Habano Gent opening

In May 2013, Belgian cigar aficionados got some exciting news – another La Casa del Habano boutique was opened, now in Gent. This country now boasts three ‘casas’ – the other two can be found in Antwerp and in Knokke. You might already have heard about the Knokke’s boutique, managed by Dominique Gyselinck and Frédéric Dechamps. The same team is behind the Gent’s shop, so if you’re passing by don’t forget to have a look (Google Maps >) at their range of fresh Habanos.

Photo (left to right): Dominique Gyselinck, Tony Hoevenaars (Cubacigar’s CEO), Frédéric Dechamps, Madame Mirtha Hormilla Castro (Cuba’s Ambassador in Belgium) and Monsieur Néstor Valera (“La Casa del Habano” franchise director).