World Whisky Day falls on the 3rd Saturday of May.
2021: May 15. I was interviewed by the local outlet of Canada’s national broadcasting system – CBC – about today’s big day in the whisky-world. 

Here’s the Q & A from that interview.

What is Whisky? 
Whisky is a distillate that starts with water, then some type of grain – typically barley, wheat, corn or rye … or a combination of grains.

Scotland has one of the most exacting definitions of whisky and most of the other producing regions follow suit with a few variations.
To be called whisky it comes to basically this:
1) the liquid must be either a malted barley
2) it must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. 

3) any age statement on the label must reflect the age of the youngest whisky used to produce that product. This is known as a guaranteed age statement.
If there is no “age statement”, the whisky is known as N.A.S. – “no-age statement)
4) whisky must be at a minimum alcohol level of 40%abv (alcohol by volume)

5) it can’t be called Scotch unless it’s made in Scotland. 

Here’s a lengthier description courtesy of
“Scotch whisky” means a whisky produced in Scotland:

(a) that has been distilled at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been:

  • processed at that distillery into a mash;
  • converted at that distillery into a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems; and
  • fermented at that distillery only by the addition of yeast;

(b) that has been distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8 per cent so that the distillate has an aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production;

(c) that has been matured only in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres;

(d) that has been matured only in Scotland;

(e) that has been matured for a period of not less than three years;

(f) that has been matured only in an excise warehouse or a permitted place;

(g) that retains the colour, aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation;

(h) to which no substance has been added, or to which no substance has been added except:

  • water;
  • plain caramel colouring; or
  • water and plain caramel colouring; and

(i) that has a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40%.

Countries where Whisky is produced:
The top regional made whisky styles are:
Scotch Whisky.
Canadian Whisky.
Irish Whiskey. 

USA – Bourbon & Tennessee Whiskey (ie: Jack Daniels)

Rest of the world:

Australia – modern distilleries have been around since 1992, the most prominent being on the island of Tasmania, notably the award winning Sullivan’s Cove whisky.

India – the amount of whisky that is produced in India is staggering. They sell over 120 million cases and I can’t even pronounce the number of million litres of whisky India produces.
Recommended: Amrut Indian Single Malt whisky – it’s very good and has won numerous global awards

Taiwan – Kavalan

Germany – has about 25 distilleries making various styles: Single Malts. Blends. Bourbon-styles.

Finland – in 2018, Finland produced 1.9 million litres of whisky

Canada – Canadian Whisky, while it has some 100% pure rye-grain products, most Canadian Whiskies are made from corn or wheat or a blend of corn, wheat, barley & rye.

Canada produces over 21 million cases of whisky every year and sends vast amounts to the USA for bottling under multitude of brand names.

Japan – would be about the 4th largest whisky producer in the world, close to 100 million litres per year. 

Ireland – started gaining international traction in the past few years. Production is at about 10 million litres/ year but is gaining share due to the its generally light taste that is attributed to its triple distillation.

USA – Bourbon. Produces at least 480 million litres of whisky each year, with products coming from Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey & Maker’s Mark, just to name a few. 

On May 4, 1964 the U.S. Congress recognized that Bourbon was unique to its country & protects the product with the following criteria:
– It must be made of a grain mixture (mash) that is at least 51% corn.

– Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof which is the equivalent of 80% abv (alcohol by volume).

– Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. The barrels can be used only once.

– Newly distilled Bourbon can’t go into the barrel at higher than 125 proof – the equivalent of 62.5% alcohol by volume.

If the spirit meets the above requirements & has been aged for a minimum of two years, it may – but isn’t required to – be called Straight Bourbon.

– Bourbon aged for a period less than four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.

– If an age is stated on the label, it must be the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle.

– To be called “Bourbon” it must be made in the USA.
(source: Bourbon Buzz.)

Jack Daniels is also one of the most recognizable names for brown spirits made in America – but it’s referred to – not as Bourbon – but rather Tennessee Whiskey, mostly due to its charcoal filtration process. 

Scotland – produces about 700 million litres of whisky each year, most of it coming from the Highland / Speysideregion. The other major Scotch-producing region in Scotland is Islay – the island known for the peat influence in its products. Peat is what gives Islay Scotch it’s smoky/ peat-y character.

How Old is Whisky?  When was it 1st created?

The 1st recorded evidence of whisky production was in 1494 Scotland, but there is reference that distillation started a couple of thousand years ago for perfumes in Mesopotamia

However, Irish Whiskey fans might tell you that their ancestors picked up the knowledge of distillation during travels to Arabia around 500-600 AD. It was used for ceremonies & medicinal purposes.
There is some discussion of a carved writing reference on a tanned reindeer skin dating back to pre-Christian times where a liquid was referred to “fire water”.
Either way, distillation & whisky have been around for centuries.

Where does whisky get its color?
Whisky is often referred to as a “Brown Spirit’, but in fact, whisky can go from almost a light lemon color to a dark brown color and an entire spectrum of shades in between.
Most whisky around the world is aged in bourbon barrels because the law for making Bourbon states that product must be aged in “new” American Oak barrels. 
When the liquid is poured from the barrel into the bottles, the Bourbon barrels are sold around the world for other whisky producers to use for aging their product. Most of the time the color from a bourbon barrel can be quite light to an amber color, depending on the char inside the staves.

A lot of people covet a darker color to whisky – enthusiastically proclaiming “look at that color” … believing the whisky has been either aged longer // or stored in barrels that had been used for the making of sherry. 

Ex-Sherry barrels impart not only color and a sweetness to the whisky that is prized in some circles. 
However, whisky color can be deceiving because the addition of caramel coloring known as E150A – the same caramel coloring agent that is used in cola’s, sauces, seasonings etc. – is an approved substance in the making of Scotch whisky.
While it’s a perfectly safe, neutral addition, there are some purists who believe they can taste it or sense it, but that’s limited to the individual.

Here’s how color labeling breaks down:
US – mandatory declaration of each artificial color.
EU European Union: Mandatory declaration by category name, color and the E number of the specific color.
Canada – it’s optional. The word “colour” is sufficient.

3 Whiskies that changed my life:
Glenfarclas. Speyside Single Malt Scotch. Always a great value, especially the 25yr old. 
George Grant is one of the hardest working & nicest people in the whisky business.
Glenfarclas was featured in The Gentlemen – a film that was totally fun to watch.

Johnnie Walker Green. This is a blend that’s made up of some amazing Scotch whiskies. It’s got Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore & Caol Ila and it can challenge many single malts for complexity, balance & pure enjoyment. 

Port Ellen 29year old 8th release. Port Ellen is a closed distillery but every so often there’s a release and in 2014 I was lucky enough to get a bottle.
I wish I’d bought a case because at that time the $350 price tag was a bargain. Now, you’d be lucky to get one for 10times that price. 
Port Ellen 29yr old 8th Release is just a very rare, almost perfect Scotch whisky.

Recommended Whisk(e)y reading: 

Whisky Island by Andrew Jefford. 

Originally titled Peat Smoke & Spirit – it is the definitive guide to Scotch whisky, particularly those expressions from Islay.

Whisky Island by Andrew Jefford

Canadian Whisky – The Portable Expert by Davin de Kergommeaux.
While this books focus is on Canadian Whisky, the content is really great for anyone who wants to learn about the whisky making process as well. 

A few years ago, I featured it on a cigar show I was doing from Atlanta, Georgia and, according to Davin, that day on-line sales of the book spiked – so it’s pretty clear there’s a lot of people who want to know more about Canadian whisky and this books delivers all the information you could ever want.

Canadian Whisky by Davin de Kergommeaux

Tasting Whiskey – by Lew Bryson.
The perfect book to have on your whisky wall now that we’re not able to go out to whisky tastings & classes. 
Lew’s book can tell you everything you need to know about the intricacies of appreciating whiskey.

2021 is the year the Nicaragua Cigar Festival – Puro Sabor – went virtual.
The incomparable Reinhard Pohorec – Cigar Journal Cigar Trophy “Ambassador” Laureate – has done phenomenal work incorporating this huge event into Light ’em Up World using an on-line format.

Monday, April 26, 2021, was the 4th instalment of the virtual Puro Sabor, focusing on “Blending & Tasting”.
Renowned cigar blenders – Willy Herrera of Drew Estate & Nicholas Perdomo III of Perdomo Cigars – tackled the big picture of “Blending & Tasting to Create Premium Cigars”.

Both blenders spoke at length about their love for Nicaragua tobacco, providing insights to the 4 main tobacco growing regions of that area: Esteli, Condega, Jalapa and Ometepe as well as the corresponding aroma, flavour & texture profiles each region produces in its tobacco.

As they work through their inventory of tobacco, Willy & Nicholas agree the main component to creating a premium cigar blend is patience.
They have to be experts regarding the various tobaccos & especially the leaves: Seco, Viso & Ligero, as well as their source – the farm from which they secure those tobaccos.

They painstakingly sort through all those various leaves, testing – by smoking – different blends in small-size format cigars.
Years of experience tells them how the combination of leaves will play out in the vitola they’re planning to create.

When they choose the leaves which will go into the cigar, they stay close to the rollers in the factory to make sure their recipe – whether it’s a whole leaf, half or quarter leaf of each specific tobacco – is followed to exact specifications by each of the rollers tasked with creating that cigar.

Ultimately the goal for their premium cigars is balance & complexity / taste & aroma.
They work to ensure the consumer has a memorable experience when they light that cigar.

As they spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder what happens in the final leg of that cigar journey … when it reaches the consumer.
I posed the question: “What can the consumer do to ensure all the effort put into creating your premium cigar doesn’t all fall apart if, for instance, if the cigar is purchased, then kept in a humidor that has a humidity level that isn’t optimum for that cigar? Should each consumer “dry-box” a cigar for a day before they smoke it?”

Their initial response was every cigar that comes from their respective factories is ready to be smoked right now. The quality control of both Drew Estate and Perdomo Cigars is such that they ensure their products are the best their customers can buy.

The 2nd part of Willy’s answer, however, was information that was new to me.
In all the years I’ve been a part of the cigar lifestyle, the most common response regarding optimum Relative Humidity is 69% RH.
Many cigar enthusiasts I’ve spoken with agree that’s the sweet spot for storing cigars. When we shop for a humidity pack, that’s the RH we buy.
But according to Willy Herrera, your Nicaragua cigars should be kept at 64% or 65% Relative Humidity.
Willy added that he always likes to smoke his cigars a little “drier”.

The entire session is filled with the kind of knowledge those who love cigars will enjoy learning from two of the most respected individuals in the cigar industry.

Puro Sabor Virtual Cigar Festival – Blending and Tasting.

“40 Something” #WhiskyTasting featured 6 different whisky expressions, all at the age of 40+ years.

Although I started working in bars/ lounges more than 40 years ago, I only started tasting/ appreciating whisky in earnest about 2 decades ago, so I’m a relatively late-starter.

But I learned a lot very quickly thanks to wonderful teachers along the way.
One of the recommendations I received about 5 years ago:
“Leave some whisky in the glass & return to it to nose it again. Observe how/ if it develops with time in the glass”.

The 40 Something expressions almost all told a different story on Monday morning compared to the Saturday night when they were poured.

The Cameronbridge (54.1% abv) and the Invergordon (50% abv) – both 40yo single grain spirit – developed more sweetness, the Port Ellen was amazing, while the others remained the same. All were delicious during the tasting.

1977 Canadian Club 40yr. 45% abv – Canada
1978 Cameronbridge 40yr. 54.1% abv Single Grain – Scotland
1974 Invergordon 40yr. 50% abv Single Grain – Scotland
1975 Benromach 45yr. 42.1% abv Heritage – Scotland
1972 Coleburn 47yr. 62.4% abv 125th Anniversary – Scotland
1979 Port Ellen 40yr. 49.6% abv – Scotland

Port Ellen 40yo (49.6 abv) developed in a very interesting way.
The night of the tasting (Sat. April 10/21), the dominant aroma was floral (violet) followed by chocolate.
This morning (Mon. Apr 12/21) when I nosed the remains in the glass, there was cedar (wood) hay, grass & cereal. Just a beautiful dram.

BTW, for those who attended the tasting, you may notice that I created my own tasting mat.
I have a very specific routine for whisky-flight set-up, preferring the arch sequence from left to right.
This provides space for note-taking when I hear other participants state descriptors.
My own notes always go into a Hilroy notebook.

In addition, I’m a big believer in having the date of the tasting immortalized on the tasting mat.
In terms of advertising & promotion, I like how the Whisky Drop logo serves as the perfect landing spot for each of the Glencairns.

 Award-Winning Speyside Distillery Offers Fans an Opportunity to Explore a Multitude of Layers of Flavor From a Variety of Eclectic Casks

Benriach Distillery, located in Scotland’s Speyside region, prides itself on having a distinctive flavor-forward portfolio of single malt Scotch whiskies. Following a successful launch and redesign in September 2020 of its core expressions, Benriach is proud to share three new ultra premium offerings available beginning in early February nationwide. 

Benriach Twenty One, Twenty Five and Thirty Year Old Single Malts bring an extremely rare opportunity to discover the exquisite integration of flavor resulting from decades of maturation. Matured in a diverse selection of highly distinctive oak casks and combined with complex layers of refined and mellow smoke, each aged expression has been meticulously composed for aromatic finesse, sumptuous richness, and deep mellow maturity.

The Twenty One
Four cask matured: Bourbon, Sherry, Virgin Oak and Red Wine

The Twenty One

Tasting Notes
Color: Honey gold
Nose: Berry fruit, orchard apple, wild honey and mountain oak spice
Palate: Candied grape, rich cocoa, smoked pine nut
Finish:  Caramelized pear and honey smoke
Smoke: Elegant 

The Twenty Five
Four cask matured: Bourbon, Sherry, Virgin Oak and Madeira Wine

The Twenty Five

Tasting Notes:
Color:  Deep amber
Nose: Smoked apricot, dark cherry chocolate, hazelnut   toffee
Palate: Baked fruit, toasted oak spice, orange and cinnamon spice
Finish: Rich caramelized smoke
Smoke: Mellow

The Thirty
Four cask matured: Bourbon, Sherry, Virgin Oak and Port

The Thirty

Tasting Notes:
Color: Mahogany
Nose: Stewed plum, baked orange, smoked walnut, and cinnamon cocoa
Palate: Dark fruit, manuka honey and chocolate raisin
Finish: Long and complex smoked honey finish
Smoke: Complex

“It’s a real honor to be able to offer our fans an opportunity to experience the diversity and versatility of Benriach’s orchard fruit-laden style, elevated by a longer maturation time,”
said Rachel Barrie, Benriach Master Blender.
“These older expressions are a beautiful reflection of the landscape around the distillery with intriguing, luxurious layers of flavor imparted by the eclectic casks sourced from around the world. The refreshed Benriach range is for those open to new possibilities, building on a wealth of experience and tradition. I invite the drinker to join me on this creative journey, as we explore the lush rewards of single malt whisky.”

The newly-released expressions are a continuation of the distillery’s core range, The Original Ten, The Smoky Ten, The Twelve and The Smoky Twelve, which were also artistically crafted by the Master Blender and her team. 

Over 120 years since it was established, Benriach is also expected to unveil its first official visitor center to the public later this year, allowing visitors from around the world to explore this Speyside whisky gem.

For more information for all of the new Benriach expressions, visit

About Benriach Distillery

A Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky as intriguing and extraordinary as Benriach could not have come to be without a unique whisky making heritage, dating from 1898, when founder John Duff built his distillery. Ruggedly beautiful, Benriach stands on the site of the old Riach farm in north Speyside, drawing water from a mineral-rich aquifer, deep beneath the distillery.

Thanks to a long-standing tradition of distilling three styles of whisky; classic unpeated, Highland peated and triple distilled, together with an eclectic selection of casks from around the world, our whisky makers are able to explore the full flavor possibilities of Single Malt, creating some of the richest, most multi-layered whiskies in Speyside.

This tradition continues today, under the guidance of Master Blender, Rachel Barrie.
Benriach is the story of a hidden Speyside gem, quietly revealing its treasures to be discovered and savored. 

Please Drink Responsibly.

Imported by Brown-Forman Beverages, Louisville, KY.

Benriach is a registered trademark. ©2021 Benriach. All rights reserved.

Woodford Reserve has released its oldest bourbon yet — Woodford Reserve Very Fine Rare Bourbon — as part of the distillery’s highly-anticipated 2020 Master’s Collection.

For this limited-selection and one-time-only product, Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall used very rare barrels of Woodford Reserve to debut a new, modern bottle design. 

The bourbon includes liquid from barrels that are 17 years old and date to 2003, the year Chris Morris was named Master Distiller.
Morris and McCall have been holding back the barrels to batch with other barrels for a special release.

The name Very Fine Rare Bourbon is a nod to the descriptors used by our ancestors to auction highly-aged Bourbon barrel lots,” Morris said. “While Woodford Reserve will always honor the past, this Master’s Collection is about the present and future.” 

This year’s expression marks the 15th release of the Master’s Collection, which was created to honor the many discoveries and innovations that occurred at the 1812 distillery site where Woodford Reserve is now located.  Starting with the 2020 edition, all future master’s collections will focus on modern innovation by Morris and McCall.

The original Master’s Collection bottle design was shaped like a pot-still, an ode to the pot stills used for distillation at Woodford Reserve Distillery.
The new design references the classic and iconic flask-shaped Woodford bottle.

McCall said this Master’s Collection has special meaning for her and for Woodford Reserve.
It  is the first time her name will appear on the bottle hang tag since being named Assistant Master Distillery in 2018. 

What a fitting tribute to use these oldest barrels of Woodford Reserve to celebrate Chris Morris’ legacy while also looking to the future, “ McCall said. 

Tasting Notes: 

Color: Burnt Sienna

Aroma: Layers of rich oak sweet aromatic notes, caramel, brown sugar, chocolate, vanilla merge into a cured tobacco character brightened with apple fruit

Flavor: Very old oak notes sweetened with honey balanced by a touch of citrus and apple peel and a touch of clove spice

Finish:  A long finish of raisin fruit and malty sweetness 

This limited-edition Master’s Collection arrives at 90.4 proof and is available in select U.S. and global markets with a suggested retail price of $129.99USD for a 750ml bottle.

About Woodford Reserve:

Tucked in the heart of thoroughbred country in Versailles, Kentucky lives the historic Woodford Reserve Distillery, the birthplace of Woodford Reserve. A National Historic Landmark, the Woodford Reserve Distillery represents craftsmanship with a balance of historic heritage and modern practices. Woodford Reserve is a product of the Brown-Forman Corporation, a premier producer and marketer of fine quality beverage alcohol brands including Jack Daniel’s, Finlandia, Korbel, Tequila Herradura, Sonoma-Cutrer, and Chambord. Please enjoy your bourbon responsibly. To learn more about Woodford Reserve, visit or

Woodford Reserve Very Fine Rare Bourbon

Plasencia Cigars, a world-leading premium tobacco grower, announces the release of the limited edition the “Year of the Ox”. 
It’s a limited edition with only 2,500 eight-count boxes of the 7 x 58 Salomon vitola. It will be exclusive to the international market.

Plasencia “Year of the Ox”

The cigar brand commemorates the Chinese New Year this coming February 12, 2021, which is the start of the “Year of the Ox”.

Oxen is an important animal in Chinese culture because of its role in agriculture. They are recognized for their hardworking, honest, and humble disposition. Never the center of attention, and never looking for praise, the Ox gains its recognition through its labor.

The Plasencia family felt it important to recognize the hard-working agriculturists and farmers, who – like the Ox – are never the center of attention but continue to be the backbone of the cigar industry.

Growing tobacco since 1865, the Plasencia family felt that creating the “Year of the Ox” would perfectly align with their traditions and passion for tobacco. 

The Plasencia Cigars Master Blending team worked tirelessly to create this cigar, using leaf from the Plasencia family’s vast library of tobacco.

This Nicaraguan puro offers a distinctive smoking experience.
A medium-strength, full flavoured cigar, the smoker of the “Year of the Ox” will experience initial notes of cashews, red berries, and final notes of milky chocolate, with hints of peppermint.  

Plasencia Cigars CEO Nestor Andres Plasencia stated:
The “Year of the Ox” is dedicated to the hard-working people who are in the trenches, cultivating the very tobacco we used in this blend.
We at the Plasencia family consider ourselves farmers first.
Since 1865, our family has gained invaluable tobacco knowledge, born of unwavering hard work and dedication.
The Year of the Ox” celebrates that passion.” 

Plasencia Year of the Ox is limited in production; only 20,000 cigars have been created. Housed in stunning eight (8) count boxes designed to honour the upcoming Chinese Year of the Ox. 
MSRP: $35 per cigar
$280 per 8 count boxes. 

For more information, visit:, and follow @PlasenciaCigars on social media.


Plasencia Cigars is one of the world’s leading growers of first-class tobacco. The Plasencia family has been pioneering the industry since 1865 when Don Eduardo Plasencia began growing tobacco in Cuba, and five generations of the Plasencia family have continued the legacy. 
Today, Plasencia Cigars produces more than 35 million handmade cigars per year, and harvests tobacco on more than 3,000 acres across several countries in Central America, including Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Joya de Nicaragua was one of the locations I visited during Puro Sabor 2016. It was a memorable experience – one which I will dedicate an entire post to in the near future.
For now, I want to share this portion of a newsletter recently received from JdN.
It’s a reminder the cigar brands we love today haven’t always been available.

It’s a reminder that we have to protect premium cigars.

Dear amigos, our history has been a turbulent yet rewarding journey. In 1985, our country faced an embargo that prohibited our cigars from entering the United States. But, from that obstacle, we found an opportunity on having Europe as one of our greatest allies. Commemorating the resiliency of Joya de Nicaragua thirty-five years ago, the company is proud to introduce ​Cinco Décadas El Embargo.

THE 1980S

Two events were fundamental in shaping our country’s history during that decade: the civil war and the economic embargo declared by the United States. The embargo became an enormous obstacle for every Nicaraguan product, as they were prohibited from entering the US Market. However, instead of giving up, we did what Nicaraguans do best: we forge ahead a new path for us.

“The embargo was one of those hard situations we confronted, but one that in retrospect allowed Joya de Nicaragua to establish itself as a truly global brand.” – Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca.

With its primary market forbidden indefinitely, Joya de Nicaragua had to seek alternatives to sell its cigars. This is how Europe became of our greatest partners, emerging as the first brand of Nicaraguan cigars to be enjoyed in the old world. After that, becoming one of the best known Nicaraguan brands around the globe.


This limited 152 mm x 60 Gigante masterpiece, we bring to our European friends a token of gratitude for opening their arms to us during those years.

Released in 2018 to commemorate fifty years of cigar manufacturing, Cinco Décadas El Embargo continues to pay tribute to our milestones as a company and the events that have made and shaped who we are today.


Join Joya de Nicaragua online celebration, follow their social media channels!

Facebook: @joyacigars

Instagram: @joyacigars

Twitter: @joyacigars

Protect Premium Cigars.
Join Cigar Rights of America.

Ahead of the holiday season, Woodford Reserve announces the release of its annual holiday bottle, which this year features the festive artwork by renowned UK-based architect Nick Hirst.

Woodford Reserve “Winter Slumber”

Hirst’s serene painting “Winter Slumber” captures the contrast between the warm, wooden interior of the historic warehouse at Woodford Reserve, and the stone exterior of the building.
This snowy scene, recognizable to all guests who have visited Woodford Reserve over the last 24 years, celebrates the fact that whiskey ages year-around, regardless of weather.

Nick Hirst effortlessly captures the distillery with an artful elegance and architect’s eye,” said Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris. 

At Woodford Reserve, I was looking for an opportunity to compare the colder exteriors to the warm interiors of the older buildings, while continuing to ‘tell the story’ of how the whiskey was made” explains Hirst. “There was also a strong connection between the color of the rich wooden interiors of some of the buildings and the color of the bottle itself. The stone walls of the barrel store, with the barrel run leading into the wooden interior, was an ideal composition.

Specializing in historic buildings, Hirst has worked for 20 years in sites across the world from North Africa to the Middle East and Russia, identifying and analyzing the unique qualities of each building by drawing and sketching. His work has previously exhibited at the prestigious Royal Academy and Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour in London.

The “Winter Slumber” painting is based on a few preliminary pencil sketches from his visit to the distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, later laid onto a handmade watercolor paper with the detail added with gouache and pen-work.

“As I worked on the painting, I kept a bottle of Woodford Reserve on the drawing board, as a reminder of the color palette.
Inevitably the bottle made its way into a drawing,” Hirst said. 

About Woodford Reserve:

Tucked in the heart of thoroughbred country in Versailles, Kentucky lives the historic Woodford Reserve Distillery, the birthplace of Woodford Reserve. A National Historic Landmark, the Woodford Reserve Distillery represents craftsmanship with a balance of historic heritage and modern practices. Woodford Reserve is a product of the Brown-Forman Corporation, a premier producer and marketer of fine quality beverage alcohol brands including Jack Daniel’s, Finlandia, Korbel, Tequila Herradura, Sonoma-Cutrer, and Chambord. Please enjoy your bourbon responsibly. To learn more about Woodford Reserve, visit us or

Since 2011, Cigar Rights of America has been leading the effort to
protect your right to enjoy a premium cigar.  

As CRA prepares to continue this campaign in 2021 and the 117th Congress, we wanted to share with you some outstanding news regarding members of the CRA lobby team. 

Last week, the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics (“NILE”) awarded its annual top lobbying/lobbyist accolades in Washington, DC. 

What makes these awards unique is that peer lobbyists make the nomination/selection.  

Accordingly, these awards reflect the respect that fellow lobbyists have for others in their field.  

 CRA Legislative Director Mike Copperman was a finalist for Top Lobbyist of the Year.  
Mike has led the CRA legislative team in Washington since it first opened its office.  One of the nominators wrote: “Mike led the development and implementation of a multi-year legislative and regulatory advocacy campaign that ultimately led to this year’s (court) victory for the industry he represents.”

 CRA Lobbyist Dennis Potter of K&L Gates was named Top Lobbyist in the large firm category.  
Dennis has been a part of the CRA lobby team for many years and has led numerous legislative efforts in Congress and the Executive Branch that are integral to CRA’s legislative success. 

Additionally, a lobbyist at Cornerstone Government Affairs was also awarded Top Lobbyist in 2020.  
Cornerstone Government Affairs serves as CRA’s main senate lobby shop and is led by Paul DiNino.  
Paul has been an invaluable member to the CRA lobby team and has led our successful outreach in Congress and multiple Administrations.  His advocacy work has been critically important to limiting the impact of legislation that negatively affects premium cigars. 

The successes of CRA’s lobby team and the recognition by their peers of their work reflects the years of dedicated work the team has put in to protecting your rights to enjoy premium cigars

CRA congratulates Top Lobbyist of the Year award nominee, Mike Copperman, Lobbyist of the Year, winner, Large Firm, Dennis Potter of K&L Gates and Paul DiNino, of Cornerstone Government Affairs, whose firm had a Lobbyist of the Year award winner.

** Information courtesy of Cigar Rights of America.

Great news from the Premium Cigar Association!

Joshua Habursky now oversees all government relations operations as the new Head of Government affairs.
Glynn Loope, former Executive Director of the Cigar Rights of America, will be assisting PCA as an advisor to state government affairs.

Glynn brings a wealth of industry experience and has been working closely with Josh and me developing state and regional training models. It will be a huge help to have his advice and insights as we work through some unprecedented challenges in the States
said PCA Executive Director Scott Pearce

In addition to Loope, the PCA has enlisted the services of graduate intern Ryan Parada, a current graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. Parada will be a research assistant and work on projects to help provide quality information to assist in tax and smoking ban legislation. 

Patrick Anderson of Proventure Consultants will re-engage with PCA as a general consultant on both federal and state affairs as we head into the new year. PCA will evaluate additional consultants and programs on a case by case basis and will look to attack key threats in states that present credible threats to the premium cigar industry.

The team of in-house lobbyists and consultants will also work with PCA marketing and communications to build new member content, podcasts, interviews, and virtual/live events. 

It is important that we build a team that can tackle that variety of issues that we will face at the federal and state levels. We feel confident that the experience, demonstrated success, and aggressive approach will serve our member well and protect the industry from retailers to manufacturers to consumers,” said Pearce. “It is imperative that the PCA is poised and ready to not only fight back, but to be proactive in making continuous progress for the industry.”

“The Premium Cigar Association (PCA) is the leading authority and advocate for the premium cigar and pipe retailer industry. The PCA is dedicated to the current and future success of brick and mortar premium tobacconists.
Founded in 1933 as the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America, the PCA is the largest, most active, and longest-running trade association representing and assisting premium tobacco retailersmanufacturers, and partners in the industry.
We offer premier services in educationadvocacy, and business development, helping protect our members’ businesses from unfair regulations while simultaneously helping them grow and succeed.”

2021 PCA Annual Convention and Trade Show will take place July 9—13, 2021at the Sands Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada! 

Premium Cigar Association

News from Nicaragua:
Despite the impact of Hurricane Eta, a category 4 hurricane, the 2020-2021 tobacco harvest was not damaged”

The Nicaraguan Chamber of Tobacco tells us they’ve done an evaluation with the tobacco producers in Esteli and have determined the 2020-2021 Nicaragua tobacco harvest was safe from Hurricane Eta

But Nicaragua is now preparing for the impact of Hurricane Iota – also a category 4 hurricane – which is expected to hit Monday November 16, 2020.

The biggest challenge now facing tobacco producers in that Central America country is the amount of rainfall associated with those hurricanes.

The ground is saturated” said Claudio Sgroi, President of the Nicaraguan Chamber of Tobacco, “the rain that is expected now will not help”

The Nicaraguan Chamber of Tobacco is an organization established in 2008 that represents the interests of the most important tobacco and cigar producers in Nicaragua.

Its 27 members represent 95% of the total national production of tobacco and cigars. In the last decade, Nicaragua has stood out as one of the largest producers of tobacco and cigars in the world.

Different brands manufactured in Nicaragua have been recognized by magazines and experts as the best in the world.

In 2018 I embarked on a trip from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the Premium Cigar Association Trade show, known then as IPCPR.
It’s the largest gathering of cigar producers, distributors and retailers in North America.
It’s always exciting to see all the elaborate booths and the new cigar releases and get to know the big names in the cigar industry.

It was an absolute honour to meet Nirka Reyes of De Los Reyes Cigars which, in addition to their own cigar blends – Don Julio & Saga – makes Debonaire, Indian Motorcycles, Patoro & Puros de Hostos cigars for other companies.

The De Los Reyes story is a long one which dates back to the 1850’s when Nirka’s family immigrated to the Dominican Republic from Spain.
They have been growing tobacco for generations since.

Nirka decided to start making the unique Saga series cigar in 2014 starting with the Saga Golden Age using all Dominican tobacco: Corojo 2006 Dominican Wrapper, Dominican San Vicente binder & original Piloto Cubano seed tobacco in the filler.

The 1st volume of Saga Short Tales volume came out in 2016 and was aptly named: “Tales of the High Primings”.
Each box looks like a book and the public responded favourably, wanting to buy full boxes of the cigar … and then wanted an entire collection!

Currently, there are six editions, with plans for 4 more.

The De Los Reyes team is dedicated to making cigars that bring joy to people who love cigars.

I enjoyed a Saga Short Tales cigar when I stopped for a stroll in Gallup, New Mexico, which was just one of many stops along the way during my Cigar Road-Trip 2018.
Definitely a box-worthy … or in this case “volume-worthy” … smoke!

WINDSOR, Calif., August 19, 2020 – Today Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Winemaker, Zidanelia Arcidiacono, earned a spot on the 2020 Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 list, which recognizes the young winemakers, brewers, beverage directors, grape growers, and other movers and shakers who are changing today’s beverage industry.  

“We are so proud of Z for receiving this great recognition,” said Sonoma-Cutrer Director of Winemaking, Mick Schroeter. “Z’s leadership and passion makes her an integral member of our team and well deserving of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 under 40 Tastemakers.”

Born in Texas, Zidanelia “Z” and her family moved to Mendoza, Argentina when she was just three years old. Since winemaking is the main economic industry in that region, she grew up surrounded by winemakers and listening to their wonderful stories. The passion they expressed for their life’s work made a deep impression on her at a young age, and she decided winemaking was her true calling.

Zidanelia began her career working in the lab at Bodega Cruz de Piedra while attending university in Mendoza. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in winemaking, she traveled to the south of France to the Cave cooperative Les Vignerons du Pays d’Enserune, working in the cellar for a harvest. Upon returning to Mendoza, however, she realized she wanted to keep traveling and her next destination should be California.

After arriving in the US in 2007, Zidanelia soon learned of Sonoma-Cutrer, where she applied for and was hired as an Enologist for that season’s harvest. She loved the experience and region so much that she decided to stay, moving on to the same position at Fetzer winery. There her skills, experience, passion and hard work helped her move quickly through the ranks, and she became the Winemaker for Fetzer Reserve Wines and Little Black Dress within a few years.

Returning to Sonoma-Cutrer in 2015, Zidanelia is happy to be back where her California adventure first began. Her experience working on reserve wines made her the perfect fit for the role of crafting Sonoma-Cutrer’s outstanding Pinot Noirs. Zidanelia says that she loves nurturing the wines throughout the process and, even more, seeing others enjoy the results of her work.

Not only is Zidanelia dedicated to shaping the future of Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir, which she considers a “best kept secret,” she also champions the winery’s employee resource groups on female leadership and sustainability. In this role, she works to provide tools, career development assets and education for women within the organization and helps to promote and implement a range of green initiatives. 

“I love challenges because I know those achievements are most rewarding, which is why Pinot Noir is my favorite variety,” says Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Winemaker, Zidanelia Arcidiacono. “I truly believe that my accomplishments are a clear reflection of my tenacity, perseverance and passion; but I also owe it in large part to the people who influenced and continue to mark my path.”

About Sonoma-Cutrer:

Sonoma-Cutrer has been crafting wines since 1981 in the esteemed Russian River Valley growing region of Sonoma County, California.  Our flagship wine Russian River Ranches was built in the on-premise and for almost 40 years has dominated the Most Popular Chardonnay wine lists. Our winemaking process is designed specifically to preserve the highest quality grapes, and the wines are aged in barrels made of specific French oak trees that are individually-selected to fit the winemakers’ needs. All Sonoma-Cutrer wines can be purchased at the Sonoma-Cutrer winery as well as through the wine club, Club Cutrer.

For more information about our wines, how to purchase or to join Club Cutrer, please visit or visit Facebook at

August 19, 2020. In the case of Cigar Association of America, the Premium Cigar Association, and Cigar Rights of America v. United States Food and Drug Administration et al., Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor for the premium cigar industry and against the FDA.

The Court held that the FDA—in the Final Deeming Rule—completely mishandled the important question of how premium cigars should proceed through the premarket review process.

The Court concluded that the FDA failed to engage in “reasoned decision-making” regarding premium cigars, in violation of federal law.

According to the Court, the FDA’s “incorrect and conclusory assertion that its hands were tied” in response to the premium cigar industry’s requests for a more tailored regulatory review process “was arbitrary.”

Accordingly, the FDA enjoined application of the premarket review requirements until the agency goes back and addressed the important questions regarding premium cigars ignored in the Final Deeming Rule.

Premium cigar manufacturers will not have to file for
premarket approval by September 9th, 2020.

The Court relayed upon a definition of premium cigar utilized by the FDA in an August 5, 2020 filing:

a cigar that:
(1) is wrapped in whole tobacco leaf
(2) contains a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder
(3) contains at least 50 percent (of the filler by weight) long filler tobacco (i.e., whole tobacco leaves that run the length of the cigar)
(4) is handmade or hand rolled (i.e., no machinery was used apart from simple tools, such as scissors to cut the tobacco prior to rolling)
(5) has no filter, non-tobacco tip, or non-tobacco mouthpiece
(6) does not have a characterizing flavor other than tobacco
(7) contains only tobacco, water, and vegetable gum with no other ingredients or additives; and
(8) weighs more than 6 pounds per 1,000 units.”

The definition is endorsed by the Premium Cigar Association and will provide relief to most products sold at PCA member retail stores and lounges.
Notably the definition does not include a price minimum, flavors, or cigars that are machine manufactured. 

“This is another monumental victory for the premium cigar industry. We congratulate our legal team, led by Mike Edney of Steptoe & Johnson, on an important victory that protects the livelihood of PCA members across the country.
This comes on the heels of legal victories striking down warning labels for premium cigars. Both our retail members and associate members provided important strategy and guidance in our legal, legislative, and regulatory appeals to define premium cigars and showcase their distinctiveness from the courts to Capitol Hill,” says Scott Pearce PCA Executive Director.

“Judge Mehta’s opinion is a testament to the virtue of the public comments filed over the years with the FDA by our industry alliance, and the failure of the FDA to not only respond, but to recognize the suggestions made to address the fairness of the proposed regulations. The efforts of the advocacy strategies initiated by CRA and PCA served as the foundation for this decision, proving that you always have to carry your message to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the courthouse that sits in the middle,” says Glynn Loope, CRA Executive Director.

Premium Cigar Association
513 Capitol Court NE, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20002

300 New Jersey Avenue, Northwest,Suite 900, Washington, DC 20001

It’s been 50 years since Jockey Diane Crump became the first female to ride in The Kentucky Derby® — and this year’s Woodford Reserve $1,000 Mint Julep Cup program celebrates that milestone.

Crump rode Fathom in the 1970 Derby and, although the thoroughbred finished 15th, Crump rode into history. Crump lives in Virginia and remains involved in the horse industry.

“The $1,000 Mint Julep program has become a cherished Derby tradition — and this year we are honoured to mark an important moment in Derby history while also raising money for charity,”
Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris said.

A total of 146 julep cups — celebrating Derby 146 — go on sale on Monday, August 3 at

Cups numbered 1-25 are gold-plated; selling for $2,500 each.
Cups numbered 26-146 are silver-plated; selling for $1,000 each.

In years past, anyone who purchased a julep cup could only pick it up on Derby Day at Churchill Downs. Due to the global pandemic, the cups will be sent directly to consumers and Morris will conduct a virtual julep experience on Derby Day, which has been postponed this year to Saturday, September 5, 2020.

Proceeds from the cup sales will be donated in Crump’s honor to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

The cups feature etchings of the jockey silks worn in 1970 by Crump, along with the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.

They are nestled in a walnut case with a replica of turquoise and white silks that Crump wore that historic day.

The cups have special meaning to Woodford Reserve and its parent company, Brown-Forman, which this year is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Fathom was owned by a Brown family member — W.L. Lyons Brown. 

The cups were designed and handcrafted by From the Vault Jewelers in Louisville, Ky. and the silks for the walnut containers were made by Bourbon Cousins of Cincinnati.

Diane Crump Blackberry Mint Julep 

(blackberry is the official fruit of Kentucky)

2 oz. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon

1 barspoon Blackberry Preserves

1 barspoon Simple Syrup

Mint Bitters

Fresh Blackberries and Mint Sprigs, for garnish

Crushed Ice

At the bottom of the julep cup mix 1 bar spoon of blackberry preserves and 1 bar spoon of simple syrup. Add 2 – 4 dashes of mint bitters. Fill two-thirds of cup with crushed ice. Add sipping straw and Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Top off cup with more crushed ice (packed in). Top with fresh blackberries and a sprig of mint to garnish. Put the mint near the straw, so the smell enhances each sip. Enjoy!

 About Woodford Reserve:

Woodford Reserve® is crafted at the historic Woodford Reserve Distillery, tucked in the heart of thoroughbred country in Versailles, Kentucky. A National Historic Landmark, the Woodford Reserve Distillery represents craftsmanship with a balance of historic heritage and modern practices. Woodford Reserve is a product of the Brown-Forman Corporation, a premier producer and marketer of fine quality beverage alcohol brands including Jack Daniel’s, Finlandia, Korbel, Tequila Herradura, Old Forester, Sonoma-Cutrer and Chambord. Please enjoy your bourbon responsibly.
To learn more about Woodford Reserve, visit us or check us out on Facebook at

About Churchill Downs Racetrack:

Churchill Downs®, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2019. For more information visit

DTT Timeshare Experience

Dunbarton, NH – Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust® (DTT) recently announced an innovative virtual initiative dubbed with their tongues firmly planted in cheek called “The DTT Timeshare Experience”.

The program debuted in the 2nd half of July 2020 in response to the cancellation of PCA’s Annual Trade Show for the cigar industry.

“Everyone is trying to figure out the best way to serve their Retail Customers and their own interests in this very topsy-turvy year of trade show and event cancellations.
Most are doing virtual sales meetings, other are hosting virtual tradeshows and/or mini-physical travelling trade shows.

Honestly, I do not know how these will work, but I am doubtful that any of these strategies are appropriate for our Select Purveyors currently when it comes to our brands.

For us, sales have been solid and we are on track for another record setting year; this is thanks to steady growth with ever increasing turns and volume per turn.

In my opinion, the best thing we can do is remain steady and continue to enhance our brands’ value for our Retailers and their customers,” states Steve Saka, Founder and Co-Owner of DTT.

He goes on to add, “So rather than focus on sales, we have created an interactive program that will educate and engage our Select Purveyors and any of their staff they wish to include.

It will be focused on our products, industry trends, business strategy for continued growth, etc. in my typical no-nonsense manner. But ‘man does not live on work alone’, so we decided to spice it up a bit and jokingly bring in some elements of those really crappy timeshare pitches that we all endured as children whose parents just wanted the FREE whatever for listening. Now I cannot promise it will be good, but it will definitely be different and hopefully fun!

And of course we will throw out some sort of deal or two at the end, but that will not be the primary focus – we want our Purveyors to buy our puros not because they are discounted, but because they are exceptional and serve the needs of the most experienced and discerning customers. ”

Emails soliciting for registration in the DTT Timeshare Experience have been transmitted to Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Select Purveyors.

Some opportunities will only be extended to those who participate in the program.

®Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust are registered trademarks of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust and/or affiliated companies.

About Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, LLC
Founded in 2015, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT) has quickly become the premier craft manufacturer of ultra- premium handmade cigars. Founded by cigar and industry expert Steve Saka, a former Executive Consultant to JR Cigar and President and CEO of Drew Estate, with the singular focus to create only “Puros Sin Compromiso” – Cigars Without Compromise.

Included within their portfolio are:
Mi Querida
Todos Las Dias
Sin Compromiso
Muestra de Saka.

DTT is the only company ever to be named the “Company of the Year” for three consecutive years by Halfwheel.

For more information, please visit:

®Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust are registered trademarks of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust and/or affiliated companies.

Much like a family reunion, the Premium Cigar Association trade show provided a great opportunity to network with all of the cigar producers, cigar reps and accredited cigar media again for another year.

Among my favorite people with whom to visit during the PCA2018 trade show were the marvelous Tanya & Jeff Borysiewicz.
Jeff, Tanya & their team at Corona Cigar Company won the coveted Davidoff Appointed Merchant of the Year / Golden Band Award in 2018.
Seeing the joy from them both was one of the highlights of the entire show. It was terrific being part of the Davidoff White Party!

So, what does it take to be the best Cigar shop? Be the best people.
The Borysiewicz’s are tireless. Jeff will spend day after day at the trade show talking cigars & tobacco with everyone who has an interest.
He brings the coolest props, too … check out these great tobacco leaves:

photo credit: Val Bradshaw
photo credit: Tim Brown

As a proud American, President & Founder of Corona Cigar Company, Jeff Borysiewicz believed it was possible to bring cigar tobacco farming back to Florida
In 2012, Corona Cigar Co. purchased a 20 acre plot of land and in 2013 they planted their 1st test crop of Cuban seed Corojo and they were on their way to growing great tobacco.
The result is FSG: Florida Sun Grown … a star of the cigar trade show in 2018.

photo credit: Val Bradshaw

And just like an FSG will always put a smile on your face … so do the Borysiewicz’s with their zest for life & their commitment to cigars.

photo credit: Val Bradshaw
photo credit: Val Bradshaw

Jeff has time for everyone, including man’s best friend!

It was also nice that Jeff took a little time to swing by the @CigarHerf booth where we shared a few laughs and some wonderful cigar camaraderie!

Photo Credit: Tim Brown

Florida Sun Grown

July 2018. I arrived in Las Vegas late in the afternoon after a completely almost-uneventful drive from Denver.
As always, the 1st place I head is one of my favourite Cigar Lounges of all time – En Fuego Cigars & Lounge on W. Sahara.

As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I stay at the Sahara Las Vegas is because it’s within walking distance of En Fuego!

If you’re looking for a casual, comfortable place to enjoy a cigar, En Fuego is the place for you.

En Fuego Cigars & Lounge has lots of comfortable seating, friendly staff and an extensive selection in the humidor.
If you’re looking for something unique, try one of En Fuego‘s Custom Blend cigars.

En Fuego Cigar Lounge has an in-house Master Cigar Roller who makes a variety of sizes and blends of cigars.

Master Roller Don Antonio has been both a vital part and a star attraction at En Fuego for many years.
His cigars are legendary.
Every cigar that goes through Don Antonio’s expert touch is perfect, with quality tobacco and impressive wrapper leaf.

En Fuego Custom Blend cigars come in a variety of sizes, but, as usual, I went with my favourite size … the Panetela.

Much like a Lancero, it takes a special touch to ensure a Panetela is rolled just right.
If you’ve ever tried to “roll your own” premium cigar, you know what I’m talking about.

A panetela can range in size anywhere from 5″- 7.5 inches.
The ring gauge can go anywhere from a 34 to a 38.

It’s an easy smoke that will give you an hours worth of relaxation!

En Fuego

Don Antonio = Master Cigar Roller at En Fuego

328 W. Sahara Ave
Las Vegas NV 89102
(702) 384-9262

July 2018. After spending a bit of time in the wonderland of the Beatles Suite it was time for dinner, so I ventured to the main floor of the Brown Palace Hotel to enjoy a hot meal at their famed Tavern restaurant.

photo credit: Val Bradshaw

Since it was a Sunday night the seating was plentiful – there really wasn’t too much of a crowd in the Tavern just after 4pm.
I liked the bright colours of the tavern and the staff was very helpful & friendly.
The steak dinner I ordered was delicious – with fingerling potatoes and fresh asparagus … it was just perfect!

photo credit: Val Bradshaw

After that satisfying meal it was time for an after-dinner cigar at the Palace Arms Churchill Bar.

Churchill Bar was really busy when I walked in.
There was only a couple of tables available so I settled into a table in the centre of the room.
Please note that for privacy reasons, I didn’t take any photos while there were other identifiable patrons in the room.

photo credit: Brown Palace Hotel

The bartender, Ibrahima, arrived to my table with a drinks menu and then escorted me to the hotel humidor where I selected an AVO cigar.

As Ibrahima was expertly lighting my AVO cigar, I decided on a glass of Bourbon from the extensive Spirits menu.
I was absolutely impressed with the cigar & whiskey knowledge Ibrahima communicated.
Without a doubt, he was an absolute professional cigar sommelier & whiskey connoisseur.
It was a real pleasure listening to his calm demeanour as he described the cigar humidor & the selection of spirits.

photo credit: Val Bradshaw
2018 Scotch Menu

Overall, the visit to the Churchill Bar in the Brown Palace Hotel was a a really nice way to spend the evening.

As I headed back to the Beatles Suite for a good nights rest, I stopped by the fountain to refill my water bottle.
This hotel is very proud of their well-water supply.
There was a plaque honouring the Natural Artesian Water.

As well as plaques showcasing the hotel numerous awards:

If you’re planning a trip to Denver, Colorado, I highly recommend the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa.

July 2018. After driving 1400kms / 900miles from SK, Canada to CO, USA, I was ready for the overnight stay at the legendary Brown Palace Hotel and Spa in downtown Denver, Colorado.
This hotel was recommended to me by my cigar-friend Patrick Carr, based on the fact I was looking for a hotel with a cigar-lounge.
Walking into this grand establishment, I was awe-struck by the beauty of it all.

photo credit: Brown Palace Hotel & Spa

Diners were just finishing Sunday Brunch and there was a buzz of excitement & joy through the entire building.

photo credit: Val Bradshaw

I was greeted heartily by Tom, the front desk clerk who welcomed me to both the hotel and to the city of Denver.
As he checked me in, Tom proceeded to tell me about the different amenities the hotel offered – of which there are many … so many!
Of course, I was interested in hearing all about the spa, the shopping, the dining options, the water … but finally – almost hesitantly – he mentioned
“Churchill’s – The Cigar Bar” within the Brown Palace Hotel.
That’s when I smiled, handed him my @CigarHerf business card and replied …
“That’s why I’m here”.

photo credit: Val Bradshaw

Tom was genuinely happy to get to know a sister cigar-smoker!
We started talking about premium cigars, with the conversation soon turning to whiskey & bourbon.
It turned out Tom knew his Brown Spirits as well as he knew the
Brown Palace Hotel!
I do wish I’d had more time to visit with Tom, but I could hear the call of a Robusto, so I accepted the suggestion of a suite, collected my luggage from the valet who was parking my SUV and headed toward what would become one of the most exhilarating days of my life!

When I opened the door to the “suite” I was thrilled with the sights before me! The hotel’s “Beatles Suite” is a vision to behold!
According to legend, this is the room the Beatles stayed in when they played Denver in the early 60’s.

photo credit: Brown Palace Hotel

There are so many things to see in this room, it’s astounding!
There’s the brilliant Wurlitzer Juke-Box just to the right of the lobby of the suite. It’s loaded with tons of Beatle’s Tracks which I started playing as soon as I saw it!
Love, Love Me Do!

photo credit: Val Bradshaw

Directly across from the BeatleMania Juke-Box is a collage of tickets & photos from The Beatles one night stay at the Brown Palace Hotel on Wednesday August 26, 1964.
Can you imagine paying Six Dollars & Nine Cents ($6.60 with tax) to see THE BEATLES! at the Red Rock Amphitheatre?
The Beatles, people. Think about it!
I’m thinking I’m pretty lucky to just be in the same room they stayed in
– in 1964!
When I’m 64? in 2021!

As I made my way through the living room of The Beatles suite at the Brown Palace Hotel, I took a moment to look through the many coffee-tables books dedicated to The Beatles.

Although it was only 4pm in the afternoon, when I saw the luxurious bedroom of the Beatles Suite / Brown Palace Hotel, I was tempted to just crawl under the opulent covers and sleep the rest of the day away!

photo credit: Val Bradshaw

But, I couldn’t lose sight of my reason for booking a nights stay at the
Brown Palace Hotel … which was to enjoy a cigar at the Churchill Bar … after all, the purpose of this journey is right there in the headline:
“the Cigar road-trip to IPCPR2018!”
I’ll be writing about the cigar lounge in the next instalment of this blog.

Until then, here’s a bit of history about the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa in Denver Colorado:

Henry Cordes Brown, a carpenter-turned-real-estate entrepreneur from Ohio, came to Denver in 1860 after several adventures in California, Peru, Nebraska and St. Louis, Missouri. In Denver, Brown purchased several acres of land, including a triangular plot at the corners of Broadway, Tremont and 17th street, where he grazed his cow. Brown made a name for himself by donating land for the State Capitol building, and by giving $1,000 for the founding of the city’s first library.

Henry Brown had made a fortune selling off the rest of his land on Capitol Hill and no expense was spared for his “Palace Hotel”, hiring Architect Frank E. Edbrooke to design the hotel.

Work on The Brown Palace began in 1888 with efforts to make it one of the best hotels in Colorado. Edbrooke designed Brown’s hotel in the Italian Renaissance style, using Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone for the building’s exterior. For a finishing touch, artist James Whitehouse was commissioned to create 26 medallions carved in stone, each depicting Colorado animals. The hotel’s “silent guests” can still be seen between the seventh-floor windows on the hotel’s exterior.

For the interior, Edbrooke designed an atrium lobby, with balconies rising eight floors above ground, surrounded by cast iron railings with ornate grillwork panels. No one knows for sure whether it was done intentionally, but two of the grillwork panels were installed – and remain – upside down. Edbrooke imported onyx from Mexico for the lobby, the Grand Salon (now the Onyx Room) on the second floor, and the eighth-floor ballroom. No wood was used for the floors and walls, which were instead made of hollow blocks of porous terracotta fireproofing, making The Brown Palace the second fire-proof building in America.

After an expenditure of $1.6 million – a remarkable sum for the time – and another $400,000 for furniture, The Brown Palace celebrated its grand opening. It had 400 guest rooms (compared to 241 today) that rented for between $3 and $5 a night.” courtesy: Brown Palace Hotel & Spa

Want to know more? Here’s the link to the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa.

July 8, 2018. It was a full day planned for the Colorado leg of my 2018 Cigar Road-Trip! Cigar Lounges visited: Havana Manor & Cigars on 6th.

My 1st visit to Havana Manor in Longmont, CO was amazing!
It’s very easy to find – adjacent to a Smoker Friendly right on Main St.

As I walked through the front doors of Havana Manor, I realized the storefront is a little deceiving because the design makes the location look quite narrow.
In fact, the place is massive!

Immediately upon entry, there’s 2 banks of big, comfy chairs to the left, so I thought I’d settle in there for a smoke.

But after Thomas Bliss sold me a Padron cigar from their gigantic humidor, I was guided ’round the corner to a couple more fantastic seating areas.

photo credit: Havana Manor

There’s several tables & chairs for individuals or groups who want to have an informal meeting or …

photo credit: Havana Manor

… go down a couple of steps to enter a huge media | entertainment lounge where there’s coffee & other beverages.
There’s also the option to sit outside – the fabulous Havana Manor Patio area is perfect!

photo credit: Havana Manor

I decided to make myself comfortable at one the tables in the front lounge area where there are plug-ins for computers and lots of room to spread out whatever files are needed to get work done – just like being at the office!

I lit the Padron and enjoyed an hour and a half of pure #CigarHerf relaxation … and got caught up on Social Media!

After Havana Manor/ Longmont, I drove into Denver to visit Cigars on 6th … keep scrolling down!

Havana Manor
1136 Main St | Longmont, CO 80501 | (303) 776-2332
Havana Manor: Davidoff Appointed Merchant
Member of Tobacconist Association of America

Since I had some time before I could check into The Brown Palace Hotel, I decided to squeeze in one more lounge visit:
Cigars on 6th
707 East 6th Avenue | Denver, CO 80203 | 303.830.8100

July 2018.
Cigars on 6th is a really cozy cigar lounge that’s very popular with cigar enthusiasts in the area.

photo credit: Val Bradshaw

There’s a very vintage feel to Cigars on 6th.
The seating in the 2 main lounge areas feels like a throwback to the Speakeasy / BarberShop days.

photo credit: Cigars on 6th

Just like the establishment itself, Cigars on 6th has all kinds of hidden gems within & along its walls.
Seeing some of their collectibles is like being part of a treasure hunt!

But one of the biggest delights for this Canadian was seeing the packaging for World Whiskey of the Year – Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye!
Go Canada!

photo credit – Val Bradshaw

From the humidor, I selected a nice Lancero for my #CigarHerf at Cigars on 6th.

And for a little privacy, I chose to sit in the quiet back room area where I was able to just reflect on the hundreds of miles I’d driven to that point and all the wonderful experiences along the way.
And then I really started to look forward to the things to come … like the long-awaited stay at The Brown Palace in Denver, Colorado.

** Please Note:

Attention Customers, in cooperation with the City of Longmont shelter-in-place order during the COVID-19 pandemic, Havana Manor Longmont is temporarily closed. Premium cigars can still be purchased at the Smoker Friendly next door. Be safe out there!

A road-trip to the 2018 PCA cigar trade show – formerly known as IPCPR – was my only option … I’d developed a reluctance to get on an aircraft.
The shortest distance from Regina SK Canada to Las Vegas Nevada is 2,292 kilometres (kms) / 1,424 miles, but there were good reasons to add a few miles.

July 7, 2018. The 1st leg of the trip included a stop at Underriner Volvo in Billings MT to get some minor service done on the XC90.
After checking into the hotel, it was time to grab a bite to eat.
Shrimp & Grits dinner was enjoyed at Cajun Phatty’s, a restaurant that I highly recommend. Food was astounding & service was great!

Bright and early the next morning, I headed south to another interesting stop – the Sinclair gas station in Kaycee, Wyoming.
I loved the map with pins showing “Where Are You From?
If you look really close, you can see the pin on Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada!

After that stop, the Casper Cigar Company wasn’t too far off the I-25, so I decided to take a break & enjoy a cigar.
For the @CigarHerf blog, I interviewed Josh – the store manager who showed me the store humidor & coveted Espinosa / Cigar Dojo accreditation – before moving into the lounge to chat with a couple of friendly patrons.
It was a great experience learning all about Casper & the surrounding Wyoming area.

The CigarHerf selection was the Southern Draw – “Rose of Sharon

In 2018, it was a cigar that had been getting plenty of attention from the cigar community and it delivered a great smoking experience.

“The Rose of Sharon embraces a unique blend that will enhance the current Southern Draw Cigars core line including the Kudzu – Oscuro and Firethorn – Rosado blends.
A very well-balanced cigar with Mild Body – Medium Flavor.

The natural cloud cover of Ecuador has supplied us with a prized wrapper, a velvety feel, gentle sweetness and a toasty burn, our beloved Nicaragua has gifted us with rich and elegant binder and filler tobaccos while the distinct Piloto Cubano of the Dominican Republic adds a dose of boldness and spice that allows this blend live up to its moniker. “She don’t know she’s beautiful!”

Besides the apparent beauty of The Rose of Sharon in its semi box pressed format, the release is a celebration of Grace and the devotion of Sharon Holt as she continues her daily service via strong faith and daily fellowship. “Much like a Rose, Sharon exemplifies the Southern Draws brand with her beautiful soul, humility and a “subtle” boldness which has made an incredible impact on so many lives. We truly needed to acknowledge her.” – courtesy of Southern Draw.

… next stop: Colorado

Imagine being at a huge trade show, chatting with a customer who suddenly stops talking because he’s spied a luxury backpack … “Is that a HENK?” he asked.
To set the scene – the HENK ipack wasn’t in a showcase, it doesn’t have a gazillion logos splattered all over it.
The ipack was 30 feet away, tucked safely under a table, with a whole bunch of other things blocking the view!

That speaks to the eye-catching features that HENK produces in each of its luxury leather products!

2019 Henk backpack under table close-up WP
Can you spot the HENK ipack?!

I first learned of HENK while researching material for Smooth Draws Cigar Radio. It was 2017 and at the time, HENK wasn’t that well known in North America, but I definitely wanted to find out more!

It was fascinating to learn HENK made bullet-proof briefcases and the company president is a cigar aficionado.

Val & Heiko IPCPR17

During the largest cigar trade-show in North America, I met with Heiko Poerz who dazzled us with the history of HENK and the marvellous products they make – Travel Goods, Travel Accessories, Cigars & Fine Spirits … maximum luxury!

HENK Maximum Luxury iPac backpack open
Photo Courtesy of HENK


The interior has been designed to allow a maximum of load you really need for your daily trip, for example, plenty of accessories, a 15“ laptop or a big tablet. Also Flight tickets, passports and business cards are easily accessible from the front. Your laptop/tablet is stored securely at the upholstered back compartment. The main compartment in the middle is big enough to put in a big file folder or some extra clothes for an overnight stay.

Photo Courtesy of HENK

The front compartment is a real organizer. You‘ve got space for your glasses, flight tickets, passport, business or credit cards. Also all necessary power cables, chargers, adapters or a powerbank find their place there. For the cables and chargers you have an extra pouch that is retractable and is located right at the top for easy access. Even when you have your iPack® in the overhead bin. Just open the compartment and you have access to all what you need without taking the iPack® out. And perhaps, the zipplock inner front pocket has a RFID protection so your cards are safe – courtesy of HENK website.

HENK ipack ope
Photo Courtesy of HENK

If you love premium cigars, the HENK Carbon attache is perfect for you!

HENK Carbon Attache
Photo Courtesy of HENK



Excellence is achieved  when every detail is perfected. That’s why we do not just make products … we go further! And, we take into account your personal wishes, down to the smallest detail.

The unique HENK story was inspired by the desire to succeed where others had made compromises in the world of luxury travel goods. Dissatisfied by the briefcases and hand luggages he used on his frequent trips around the world, a Dutch businessman – named Henk – decided to create something better … much better!

He assembled a team of the world’s most experienced designers and engineers to develop the ultimate hand luggage. The team was instructed to spare no expense and make no compromise. The aim was to fulfill the demanding needs and desires of business people and international travelers who required ultimate style, luxury, convenience and efficiency.

Henk and his team spent ten years doing research and development to meet these objectives. His design brief called for an extremely strong, yet exceptionally light case. A case, which would not only be functional and very comfortable to use, but also a real eye-catcher. Henk refused to rest before having found the ultimate balance between these essential – yet often contradictory – demands.


We don’t believe in off-the-shelf solutions. Tell us how you want your HENK and we’ll make it just for you. Each of our products is made by hand through our master craftsmen. An infinite range of options is available to make your HENK unique. We will create your custom product according to your own demanding standards and fulfill your design wishes. – courtesy of HENK website

… for more information, visit the HENK website:

This year Spirit of Toronto offered a unique tasting experience by inviting participants to receive a tasting kit accompanied by a Zoom session.
We registered for the”Whisky & Sherry” option which sold out within a couple of hours.

A couple of weeks prior to the Zoom session, we received the “Spirit of Toronto 2020 Whisky & Sherry Kit”.

Four Scotch Whiskies, tightly packed in a keepsake wood container, accompanied by a tasting mat & a pipette.
We were able to purchase branded Glencairns at an additional cost.
All-in, with FedEx shipping, it came to about $250.00.

Was it worth it?
I’d say yes.

Shipping alone was $45.00 and the glasses were well-priced for a box of 6.
So, for ease of math, the whisky clocked in at about $150.00 for 4 drams, for an average of 37.50 per pour.

It took the group, led by Regis Lemaitre, about 2 hours to go through the tasting. So, that’s $75.00/ hr … not a lot of money to pay for solid whisky education & the opportunity to taste the following:
Linkwood 1992. 48%
Glen Moray 1994. 56.7%
Glen Scotia 19y. 59.6%
The Macallan 8yo – made for the Italian market.

These were very special offerings and I considered myself fortunate to be able to taste a bit of each.
The pipette was a nice touch, giving everyone a chance to experience what a controlled drop of water can to do enhance or subdue a dram.

Spirit of Toronto Whisky & Sherry Tasting Kit

The actual Spirit of Toronto event has been re-scheduled for Oct 15, 2020.
I’d attended in 2014 and consider it one of the best whisky experiences in North America.

Wines for low n slow BBQ:

First there’s the standard – although breakable to a degree – pairing guidelines:

1) Pair to the sauce, not the meat.

2) Red Meat = Red Wine. 

3) White Meat = White Wine

4) Fish = White Wine

Rules to be broken for red meat/ red wine: 

If the meat is well done, without a sauce, an oaked Chardonnay is actually better. But you have to know it’s been done in oak. 

If the Chardonnay has been done in stainless or concrete, it’ll be too “fresh” for red meat.
You want an “earthier” white wine for well done, lightly seasoned red meat. 

Beef Brisket: 

Some people say Cabernet Sauvignon, but that wine has tannins looking to tame uncoagulated blood – something brisket doesn’t have.

I’d rather see a Merlot or a red Zinfandel (USA) aka Primitivo (Italy)


Sauce over ribs is typically “tangy” so a Cabernet Franc would work.
But I also like the idea of a Gerwurztraminer which goes well with spicy dishes. 

Pulled Pork:

Again, think about the sauce. If there’s no sauce, go with a Pinot Noir.

If there’s a sauce – maybe a Riesling. Its residual sweetness goes well with the vinegar in the sauce. 

Rules to be broken for White Meat = White Wine.
Try a Beaujolais with chicken. Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape and it’s delightfully refreshing.

I like Sauvignon Blanc with any kind of chicken. But I’m a bit fussy about which Sauvignon Blanc. 
Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) is totally worth the few extra dollars, as is the Babich (New Zealand)

Rules to be broken for Fish = White Wine: If it’s Salmon – the wine should be Pinot Noir. It’s a classic pairing.
If it’s a firm-fleshed fish with an earthy sauce, go with an oaked Chardonnay.

Pairing wine with BBQ is the perfect opportunity to get friends involved. If you’re the pit-master, have your guests bring a variety of assigned wine, along with tasting cups. Then have them decide which wine they like best with which BBQ.