If you’ve ever found yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, better known as Saigon, you know that this is a fascinating city with a lot to see and do. There is beautiful French colonial architecture and a great deal of history to explore. But you may find yourself feeling a little bit lost when it comes to cigars.
This is because (to my knowledge) there really is basically just one decent shop. Thankfully there are a few classy bars, most of them located on rooftops (you might be able to buy cigars in some of those bars, but at higher prices). Here is the rundown so that you know where to go if you are ever in Saigon!
Recently I had the opportunity to finally sample a branded cigar that is readily available in my market, but typically supplied from different countries in Central America (editor's note: non-Cuban Romeo y Julietas, some of them are reviewed here). Typically these smokes have been dry, grainy and more akin to puffing on a pile of sawdust than a true fine quality cigar. I am happy to say that the Cuban Romeo y Julieta rose to the occasion and has offered a stout cigar with plenty of taste that should satisfy most any avid Cubano lover and beginner alike. It is a nice smoke at an economical price for a Cuban.
Visit the link above and you can input your location and see a list of cigar-friendly places next to you (there are 800+ listings so far, most of them in the US but we're working on adding more!). These include cigar lounges, tobacconists, hotels that welcome cigar smokers at their bars, and so on. This is great both for finding destinations in your local community, and for helping you know where to shop and smoke when you are traveling.
If you are a business owner, you can claim your listing (like you would in Google Places or Yelp)—or add it if you do not already see it. Once you claim the listing, you can adjust it to make it stand out among the featured listings.
To inaugurate the new directory, we are hosting a contest! The winner will be chosen randomly and will receive a box of La Flor Dominicana La Nox (see Ray's raving review here), one of the best cigars released in 2015.
There are a couple of easy ways you can enter!
Post a comment on this post sharing your feedback on the directory. I am looking for suggestions here which will improve the feature for all of us. This will count as one entry into the contest.
Add a review to the directory (at least 30 words in length). If the shop you wish to review is not yet in the directory, you can submit the details for this shop. You can find the submission form here. Once you submit the information, I will add it to the directory myself and send you the link so you can add your review. You can post as many reviews as you want in the directory. Each will count toward three entries into the contest.
The more reviews you post, the higher your chances to win - and for every 50 reviews I'll throw a cool 5-pack in the prize pool! This contest will run through the 17th of March. Thank you for your participation, and I hope you enjoy using the new feature!
Benromach is an old name in the whisky world, and I do mean old. The distillery first got started in 1898. In 1983 they closed up for a while, but they re-opened again in 1993 after being purchased by Gordon & McPhail. Since then, they have specialized in Speyside style malts, and in fact won “Best Speyside Single Malt – 12 Years and Under” at the 2014 World Whisky Awards.
The Benromach 10 Years Old was matured for the first nine years in bourbon barrels (80%) and sherry hogshead casks (20%). For the final year, it was aged in oloroso casks. Naturally I was excited to get a chance to try it. Let’s check it out.
The bottle distinguishes itself immediately through the quirky “handwritten” style writing on the front which reads, “The Classic Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky.” Aside from that, the labeling is very simple and basic. The liquid in the bottle is a bright golden color.
Opening the bottle, the aroma that reaches my nose is complex, and it takes me a while to distinguish all the different notes. I get sherry right off the top (as expected), and of course peat—though the peat is lighter than I would have thought. Other definite notes include apples, nuts, something sweet like toffee or caramel, and spices.
On the palate, I immediately pick up the apple note, which is more like a green apple than a red one—it has that bitter tang, which plays nicely with the sweetness from the caramel and sherry flavors. There are other fruits in here as well, maybe oranges or some other kind of citrus. I also pick up a hint of licorice, white pepper, and some other spices I can’t quite pick out. I am delighted that this isn’t overly sweet. I also am happy to say that the peat is there, but it never is overpowering.
This is a classic Speyside whisky, but in more than one way it surprised me. I saw the notes listed, and both peat and sherry gave me pause because I often find that there is just “too much” of either flavor. That is not at all the case with the Benromach 10 Years Old. It is beautifully balanced, and at around $30-$40, it is a bargain to boot.
Benromach 10 Year Old : Review Summary
Nose: Caramel, apple, nuts, peat, sherry, spice.
Palate: Green apple, citrus, caramel, sherry, licorice, white pepper, spices.
La Flor Dominicana showcased a number of exciting new cigars at the 2015 IPCPR, but the brand’s focal point cigar this year was definitely La Flor Dominicana La Nox. This cigar was created by Tony Gomez, owner Litto Gomez’ son. You may have already tried Tony’s other creations in 2013 and 2014, Chapter One and Capitulo II respectively.
I’d heard a lot of great things about this cigar, so I was thrilled to get a chance to try it. As it turned out, it more than met my expectations.
As the title suggests, the topic I'm going to start to delve into today is about Custom Roll Cigars of Havana. That is to say, cigars rolled by the hands of people who have been recognized as being masters in their field and given a post at one of the several cigar shops scattered across the city of Havana, Cuba.
What is the criteria used when choosing who will get one of these positions and exactly who is the one doing the choosing? That is something I don't know and probably never will. I can tell you that once they have this position of privilege they keep it until they retire. It affords them an opportunity to earn some extra money in the form of gratuities, since they sell their cigars directly to the buyers and at one time they were sent around the world to roll in Cigar Shops as ambassadors for Cuban Cigars. The latter of the two privileges was recently stopped by the new direction, it was a way to see the world at the cigar shop's expense and once again it gave them an opportunity to earn some extra money.
Besides the extra money and traveling, working conditions are also a plus: compare a hot factory with a comfy air-conditioned cigar shop. Finally, as long as they continued to put out a good product, the pressure of having to roll so many cigars in one day was no longer hanging over their heads. In a cigar factory each roller has a certain quota he or she has to meet each day depending on the cigar that's being rolled. In the case of the rollers in the cigar shops, they just need to top-up the selection they have in their humidors or fill orders for the regular customers (such as myself) who come to visit a few times a year… but that still gives them plenty of time to produce what is needed at any given time.
It took me a long time to appreciate a Custom Rolled Cigar but once I started getting into them I fell in love. In my opinion they are some of the best rolled cigars in the country. That's not saying that Cuba doesn't have some exceptional rollers in their factories as well but you don't get to choose the roller when you buy a box of cigars at the store. So who is the best? That is a matter of personal opinion or tastes. They're all good but each one brings something special to the table or may have the personality that makes you come back to him or her, there are a few to choose from.