Updated: Jun 28, 2020
Article written by my brother from another mother, Lance Oliver Keeble of KeebleInk.com Apr 10, 2019.
I love to travel.
I assume most of you reading this blog do as well. I have a travel wish list. If you are like the average person you have a wish list too. But the reality of travel is beset by obstacles such as limited budget, time constraints and a myriad of responsibilities that rivals any cigar collection.
I love cigars.
I am not a cigar connoisseur. I would consider myself more of a casual smoker. I have my favorites and I primarily stick to them. But when it comes to having learned all I could about cigars, well I am somewhat of a Jack of all Trades, who has forgotten most of what I’ve learned.
My introduction to cigars occurred when I was a young fireman over 30 years ago. Back then the rules were a little looser as to when, what and where to don PPE’s. In other words we were a little more crazier and macho back then. So certain types of fires we didn’t wear Breathing-Apparatus or full Turnouts.
During one particular call, I was having a hard time. I was choking on the smoke of a mattress fire inside a small room. Later that shift one of the more “seasoned” Fireman, took me to the roof of our Fire Station and proceeded to teach me how to smoke a cigar. He explained to me that unlike cigarettes (and now currently marijuana and vaping), you do not inhale, you control the smoke and taste it by closing your throat. It was good practice that has helped me to this day.
Back then I practiced on Swisher Sweets but quickly graduated to the good stuff. I bought the books, watched the videos, read the magazines, studied etiquette. Learned about the rings, the different shapes, different sizes, gauges and tobacco colors. If you take it seriously, tasting cigars is like tasting wine. Most great cigars have a beginning, middle and end like fine wine. Cigars generally come in mild, medium and robust.
I have learned over time that quality products seem to have a different way of being distributed to buyers. Very expensive pleasures and luxuries come in small amounts. In fact most expensive things are meant to be enjoyed, tasted, savored but not quickly consumed, like junk food or fast food.
Most importantly, I learned proper and improper lighting techniques based on the cigar and how its rolled. I must admit my technique is woefully improper more than not. Mostly from laziness, the often limited time I have to enjoy a smoke and the fact that I was a Fireman for 33 years. I like that initial burnt smell you get when the flame is a hair too close to the stick.
I have had some amazing cigars in my lifetime and I can’t always tell you what they are. The other day I acquired a hand rolled cigar from an event and I forgot the darn name of the cigar. It was smooth and awesome, and I will have to find out ASAP what the brand was. The cigar reminded me of the old days when a cigar staple in downtown Los Angeles called “La Plata Cigar Company” was a regular spot for Cops and Fireman. Now they are called “2nd Street Cigar Lounge” and they don’t make handmade cigars anymore.
Back to my original thought. I have had some amazing cigars. The ones that I can remember are standouts like Drew Estates, Ambrosia Mother Earth, a blended tobacco cigar. I eventually graduated to the Olivias, Master Blend, a 3 tobacco cigar that I find to be superb. I love NUB’s made by Oliva. I like the tight gauge and the slow smoke that comes with that thick cigar. The only other smoke I find to last as long are certain brands that are made in a Torpedo style & size. I love Rocky Patels, they are great back ups, when I can’t find the later mentioned cigars.
I do recall smoking Cohiba's, both American and Cuban. I’ve had the Playboy cigar, the Soprano cigar, Gurkha and a few others but like I mentioned before, I can’t remember them all. I have attempted to keep the rings on cigars. I have sampled and written on the inside of the rings. But they are hard to keep up with and organize. I have taken pictures with the hopes to keep track of all my smokes. I have downloaded apps but I haven’t found one I love yet. I think I am looking for one like the app Delectable, the app that helps you keep track of alcohol, but I realize, when it comes to cigars, I am not that diligent. I said all that to say, I still do not consider myself an expert. I am an expert at only what I like.
So why are you wasting your time reading this? Well, because being a casual drinker should not deter you from going on wine tasting excursions. Therefore, being a casual cigar smoker shouldn’t deter you from having cigar tasting goals. So I would like to share with you, where I would like to travel to to sample cigars.
(Off subject did you know Disney offers cigars and has a portion of the ship you can smoke on?)
I want to travel to where my favorite cigars are being made. Which would include, Cuba, Nicaragua and Honduras. I think most great cigars are great because of the soil its farmed on and we all know that Connecticut, Cuba, Nicaragua and Honduras have some great tobacco growing soil.
Cuba is an obvious choice because it is the Cigar Mecca. Castro fell in love with a brand of cigar now known as the Cohiba. Now many extol the Cohiba as the “Creme de La Creme” of cigars but others have said that the only reason there is love for the Cuban Cohiba is because for years it was unobtainable.
Cohiba Means Tobacco in Taíno, the native language of Cuba’s indigenous Arawak people before the Spanish conquest. Cohiba is a brand for two kinds of cigars, one produced in Cuba for Habanos S.A., the Cuban state-owned tobacco company. The other is in the Dominican Republic and is made for the US-based General Cigar Company.
The Cuban brand is filled with tobacco that comes from the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba which has undergone an extra fermentation process. Cuban Cohiba was established in 1966 as a limited production private brand supplied exclusively to Fidel Castro and his high-level officials in the Communist Party of the Cuban government. The cigar was often given as diplomatic gifts, the Cohiba brand gradually developed a "cult" status. It was first released commercially for sale to the public in 1982.
The US Cohiba brand name was registered in the United States by the General Cigar Company in 1978 and cigars using that trademark have been produced for the American market in the Dominican Republic since 1997. This Cohiba contains no Cuban tobacco, and is the only "Cohiba" that can be sold legally in the United States.
The Cohiba name is STILL in Litigation, since the 1980s. There have been lawsuits, counter-lawsuits, appeals, numerous hearings, contradictory rulings and back-and-forth litigation that’s gone on for decades. Do trademark laws apply when there’s a trade embargo against the very country that owns the trademark? The courts can’t seem to agree on the answer.
I would love to go to Nicaragua because of Oliva. The family owned company has roots to patriarch Melanio Oliva, who began growing tobacco in Pinar del Río, Cuba in 1886. In 1964, in the aftermath of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Melanio's grandson Gilberto Oliva emigrated to Spain and eventually moved to Nicaragua. In 1995 Gilberto and his son, Gilberto Jr., launched the "Gilberto Oliva" brand which evolved into today's Oliva.
Drew Estates is also made on Nicaraguan soil. Drew Estates was my first favorite “blended" cigar. Mother Nature, Ambrosia was a brand I would buy by the box. The brand was put on hold after a major hurricane but they live on with their Acid cigars, which I DO NOT like. I do like their flavored cigars like their Java brands. I also like their Sun Grown, the Herrera Esteli which I smoke often, Isla del Sol and La Vieja Habana to name a few.
Born in India in 1961, Rakesh "Rocky" Patel introduced the Indian Tabac blend in the mid 1990s. Rakesh was originally a Hollywood attorney who represented several actors, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gene Hackman. Patel was exposed to cigar smoking by spending time with the actors. This led to an interest in the industry. He subsequently sold his legal practice and spent five years in Honduras working and learning the cigar trade, including field and barn work.
In 2002, the company changed its name from Indian Tabac to Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. In 2003 Rocky Patel launched the Vintage 1990 and Vintage 1992 cigars, the Vintage 1990 Robusto and the Vintage 1992 Torpedo. In 2008 the Rocky Patel Decade marked the 10th year of their business.
All materials for Rocky Patel cigars are purchased from growers and produced in factory space in El Paraíso, Honduras leased from Nestor Plasencia. The company owns a factory and plantations in Esteli, Nicaragua as well.
The above places are all bucket list destinations. Places I hope to go soon. All those years growing up and actually “reading” Playboy and GQ on travel and refinements was inspiring. Finding books on the ways of the Gentleman helped fuel my want of fashion, watches and cigars. Watching characters like James Bond travel the world, made me want to have my suits and shoes made in Savile Row, London. I long to go to Geneva, Switzerland where the Rolex is made. And it would be nirvana to smoke a freshly rolled cigar from my favorite brands straight from the factory and on their soil. Don’t you think so?
-Lance Oliver Keeble-
*Note: Some of the general information above comes from Wikipedia and the websites of each brand.
Lance Oliver Keeble is an American Author whom at a very young age, fell in love with Art, Music, Acting, Writing and American Football. He participated in all of those activities throughout his young life. He has been a firefighter for 33 years.
He has been in bands, acted in plays, commercials and continuously practices his prose writing lyrics, poetry, and short stories.
Lance is a fan of Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Action, Thriller, Comic books, Graphic Novels & an avid collector. He has an eclectic taste that reflects in his style of writing.
Lance has published poetry and short stories in many anthologies & a superhero comic strip in several magazines. Lance is currently a blogger for GEMR. He is working on a comic book and looking to publish prequel to his novel Globes Disease. He’s also hoping to publish a children’s book one day in the near future.
Lance Oliver Keeble was born and continues to live in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. Lance is a Father of 7 and a Grandfather of 4.
Lance Oliver Keeble
“Do you have it?"