It has been a while since I have had a really good rant, just a ball busting, mother fucking, whore calling screaming match – I’m sorry everyone – I’ve just been in a really good mood for the past few months! I’ll be sure to add in some coarse language, blatant call outs and a few thought provoking ideas but nothing too far off the cuff this month – maybe next time. – Warning, this rant is… long
While I was out on the honeymoon, the wife was taking advantage of the ability to sleep in uninterrupted, so I took that same time slot to enjoy some coffee, smoke a cigar or two, watch the morning clouds rise off the mountains, and let my mind drift to places it should never go – haha! During one of these mornings I was smoking a Romeo Y Julietta Short Churchill and thought to myself – how the hell did I get to being a 25 year old kid who smokes cigars, yet alone obsessed and writing about them on a website. The question was easier to answer than I thought and spun into this rant, the accessibility and knowledge of the internet along with a desire to learn more is like throwing jet fuel on a camp fire.
The way I first found out about the review world is pretty uneventful, I was looking at finding a cigar for a buddy who just had a kid. I was then (and still today) hooked on the H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon and never really strayed too far away from them, maybe a single here or a present from someone there but again – I found what I liked at an affordable price and wasn’t about to budge. My friend told me that although it was a nice cigar, it just was not for him – he liked a more mild smoke. I went through a couple of the vendor sites and quickly realized it was all hyped up – the descriptions embellished and perhaps even a lie or two would sneak through – but the fact remained that the info was there.
The reason I spelled out that story was to bring light to the fact that really, all a person needs is a slight desire or need to locate information on cigars and the realization that it is all right at their fingertips. I do feel though, the best information is going to be gathered by people who could potentially compromise themselves financially if giving a wildly publicized, open and honest review – The Tobacconist and manufacturers themselves. They are the ones who are directly connected to the product, what does and does not sell, what their customers request and ultimately I feel the shops sales space will reflect this information.
For example, lets say a shop feels that cigar A is a bad choice and bashes it, they are giving a perception and opinion . . . for their own palate (usually). Lets say they bash the cigar, and maybe it really is a piece of dog shit but at the same time, the company creates a different cigar that has that wow factor or is at least a higher seller – I doubt the company is going to powder the shops ass and supply the ‘wow’ smoke with the same finesse they would have if cigar A had not been bashed by the shop – example of this would be having an event where a local sales guy shows up VS the brand owner making an appearance or a discount on their product. Maybe the ‘out of sight out of mind’ aspect should have more attention applied to it – if you don’t see a specific cigar in a shop there might be a reason why.
I used to frequent a B&M and purchase 5 – 10 of the H.Upmanns every payday and each time the shop owner would bust my balls about how much they sucked and how I could find a better cigar if I would just spend a few extra dollars. Now, I can’t call him a cock sucker because I have to understand his angle on two parts – he wants to move product and perhaps his profit margin was fairly low on the smokes I liked. He would also tell me that I was one of the only people who bought them so on another angle, he is holding a facing specifically for a single customer which for me was awesome, but ate into potential profits for him. Eventually he no longer sold my cigars and refused to carry them again but would attempt to persuade me to substitute my favorite smoke for something that was nearly double the cost, thus losing a regular customer (I still go back from time to time but not like before).
Today, the interaction between the customer and the cigar they want has dramatically changed, no longer are people confined to a specific radius around their homes to find information or the product they desire. People have forums (which I think is the best thing going) where they can bounce ideas, preferences, and even ask specific questions not only improving the overall community but on an individual level educating those people, increasing the appreciation and strengthening that desire to learn more. I’ve never met a cigar person who said ‘I know everything I want to about cigars, I’m done’ – hell, on the flip side I know people who will read 4 or 5 different reviews on the same cigar and smoke a few simply to compare and contrast!
Jen and I stopped into a tobacco shop in Gatlinburg and the entire display contained only General Cigars products – I started talking with the owner and asked why their selection was limited to GC only at which time he directed me to a side room that was filled with a few select blends and sizes (about 10 boxes) of CAO, Padilla, Padron, Arturo Fuente, Camacho and Room 101. I asked why he did not display these in the main shelf and his response was classic “You wanted a good cigar at a decent price but I only have so much room. A woman who knows little to nothing about cigars but wants something for her husband or boyfriend will recognize the names he has talked about (usually Cuban brand names), pay the markup and never flinch – thats over 80% of my business – its all about profit”. Now granted he is located in the middle of a tourist strip mall, his angle would not work in all environments.
Were lucky to have a few blue hairs who are technologically savvy enough to engage themselves in this new social media, but what about the ‘relics’ that do not take advantage of this or those who simply do not have the ‘bug’ to filter through the hundreds of sites for this info? The voice that we are putting out there, although it does encompass a large number of cigar smokers, it is more of a segmented percentage of that group – the more devout followers in my opinion.
How many people smoke cigars, how many smoke cigars and play on the computer, how many smoke cigars and play on the computer and are interested enough in cigars to research them, how many of those researchers join a social media outlet, how many of those researchers on the media outlets actually voice their opinion opposed to those who just read others opinions – you see where I am going here.
I was talking with my now father in law about some of the new cigars I had gotten in (had to give him the My Father [wrote in law on the coffin haha] 2010 LE) and the conversation rolled around to the 107 lancero where I explained how Guillermo and the Miami Cigar Co had been in contact on twitter with a number of people in the cigar community and after the success of the 107, we had all requested to see it in a lancero size, and thus they created ‘what the customer asked for’. I bought a box before they even reached the shop and once I got them I immediately gave one to him and after finishing it he said ‘It was okay but I like the larger ring gauge better’ although his voice, aside from this post, would never reach anywhere because although he has been smoking daily for over 15 years, he has no desire to get into the online cigar community. Of course we bantered back and forth about it but we could both agree the level of interaction of the manufacturers today far exceeds anything else either of us have seen in the industry and I have to say to one in specific, Guillermo – thank you for all your products and highest level of interaction.
So, now that I’ve lost a chunk of the readers – onto the meat and potatoes. After talking with Jen’s dad over a few cigars and some scotch, we talked about the ‘cigar boom’ and he explained to me that to him it was more about the variety of cigars being offered with increased benefits (burn, construction, flavor, etc) and that it was also during a better economic period where people had the money to purchase those cigars. I told him that I feel we are currently in the ‘Cigar Golden Age’ – naturally he didn’t follow what I was meaning so I will try my best to explain my point.
We have all heard it said in one way or another – “You must really have to go out of your way to make a bad cigar these days”. The amount of information on cigars; the companies, the process of making cigars, the workers involved, the technology used, the families and even the blends including region and percentage of tobacco used still amazes me to this day. The people who make cigars – In my opinion – Have figured out due to higher levels of customer feedback what really makes for a good or bad cigar. Bad analogy but same point – Auto companies make a lot better cars today then they did in the 30’s. If I had a question or concern about a specific cigar I could directly communicate with Guillermo Leon, Matt Booth, Dion Giolito, Ernesto Padilla, Sam Leccia amongst other brand owners or manufacturers. This direct interaction allows the manufacturer to increase profits – lets say that Candela wrappers became the new Maduro and people tweeted and facebooked about how much they loved them, it would be a matter of weeks before we started seeing Candela wrappers all over the place. Customer Interaction = Profit.
I look forward to seeing what the future brings us as more companies are joining the social media wagon, hell – even a few brand owners have gotten their start on the web and some companies literally started to address this growing online community. Look at what your reading right now, if it was not for this new form of marketing I personally would be missing a healthy chunk of my viewers.
My question to you – Do you think we are in The Golden Age Of Cigars or do you feel this is simply the way the market has adjusted to our growing technological civilization or do you have a third idea?
Very last thing – Fuckers – come to St. Louis! It seems like the limited release or special edition smokes are always in Miami, New York, LA or Atlanta. I understand, St. Louis is a smaller down with a (I assume) lower smoker population (unless you include blunts, then were damn near number 1) it just sucks that I hear of manufacturers going to no where’s ville Iowa but skipping right over STL to go to Kansas City. Oh well right.
Sorry for the novel of a rant – but hey, this is a lot cheaper than therapy!
~David – The Nut