See. Sniff. Swirl. Sniff. Taste.
Those are the standard steps for wine & spirit appreciation.
Actually, mostly people just do the swirl. sniff. taste.

But one should always look at the liquid in the glass.
You can often see identifiers when you contemplate the liquid – the color, the rim, the centre of the liquid.
This may give you clues about its past and prepare you for what you might taste.

I always Sniff before doing a swirl.

There’s this thing called cork taint and if you swirl wine -(especially) but sometimes spirits that use a natural cork as well – there’s a chance you could bury some aromas that cork taint gives off, so I always do a slight sniff before the swirl to ensure the liquid isn’t “corked”.

The Swirl is essential to wine, as it gives the liquid a chance to release even more aroma.
Some people say it’s unnecessary in whisky or spirits … other’s say it helps the liquid to “wake-up” after its long rest in the bottle.
I swirl everything. I like releasing as much aroma as possible.

Taste.
Take a small amount of liquid in your mouth, swish it around … I recommend “chewing it” … get that liquid on every flavour receptor, and then swallow.
Pay close attention to what’s happening on your palate and throughout your olfactory / nose … all kinds of tastes & aromas will show up.
If you’ve prepared yourself for their friendly assault, it can be a fascinating experience. one which enhances the tasting experience immeasurably.

But that’s the key question … how does one prepare for wine, whisky, spirits & cigar sensory appreciation?

I’m WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) L3 Sommelier so I’ve had years of lessons, experience & practice developing / refining my nose & palate.
I am always learning something new, so here’s a few of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Let’s start with dedication.
Like the old saying goes:
“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice!”

For instance, take a few minutes each day to pull a few spices from your pantry and practice smelling them.

Start with common aromas, like cinnamon, clove & ginger, for example.
Make it a game with your friends / family.
Have them put a bit of each of those spices into an unmarked glass vessel – even a Glencairn or ISO Standard Tasting Glass would work.
See if you & they can identify those aromas successfully every time in a blind nosing.

When I host Sensory Appreciation classes, I’ll use flavourings like lemon, vanilla & coconut.
Common, simple scents, really.
To try it at home, put a dab on a strip of paper, mix them up without having them come in contact with each other and see if you can name it when you take a whiff of each aroma-laden strip.

Class participants were always surprised when they could name a couple of them (blind) but might get stumped on one, usually saying “I know what that is, I just can’t name it” … that’s part of olfactory memory – being able to recall & name what you smell.

Vanilla is an interesting one because there’s many forms of it.
There’s regular baking Vanilla, Madagascar Vanilla & Vanilla Bean.
Each smells different.

In time, your nose and palate will get accustomed to the training and your olfactory memory will improve.

When I started dedicated wine, whisky & cigar appreciation, I was one of those people who went all-in with the aroma kits, like Le Nez du Vin, etc.
They are very impressive kits – great conversation pieces – and they can be one of the best ways to fast-track all aspects of appreciation.

When people ask me if they should spend several thousand dollars on nosing kits like I did, I recommend they try the “home school” method first.

If a person doesn’t practice using what they already have in their fridge or pantry, then they have to ask themselves how likely it would be for them to use a nosing kit often enough to justify the expense.

It doesn’t take long before practice becomes habit and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better sniffer with a stronger appreciation for wine, whisky, spirits & cigars.

It’s important to give credit where credit is due.
WSET kick-started my wine & whisky journey, but there have been many influences along the way, so I want to say THANK YOU to a few:

Diane. Francois. Daniel. John. Lisa. Tim. Graham.
Diane is my dear wine-friend. She & her husband made sure we passed WSET L3 by hosting “blind wine-tasting” events at their home for our class.
I’ll be forever grateful for her unwavering help & support throughout our friendship.

Francois was our WSET Instructor and he opened my eyes to the wonderful world wine & spirits. He was a true ambassador for those commodities … always reminding us to never try to insist what people should drink or how they should drink it; just share ideas.
His immortal words “Always spearmint, never peppermint” … can you guess which grape/ wine he’s talking about?

Daniel. John. Lisa.
I met each of these wonderful people through the Wine Scholar Guild and our friendships have endured for years.
Many thanks to each of them for their lessons & love of the vine.
Lesson on Wine Acidity from Lisa: “count the number of times you swallow after that 1st sip of wine”

Tim is a true whisky connoisseur, so it’s no surprise our friendship developed through our meeting at the Nth and has grown throughout the years.

Graham has a long history in the wine & especially the whisky world.
He’s introduced me to stellar wine & whisky that I otherwise might never know.

Franca Comparetto.
Franca is the brain-power behind Cigar Sense. I’m an analyst on its cigar tasting panel.
Franca has taught me so many things about cigars … but I remind myself of these words every day since I first heard her say:
“Aromas never show up alone”
Truer words were never spoken. Aromas are fleeting. You have to be quick to pick them out and sometimes you have to isolate the dominant one. Especially with cigars!
With liquids you can usually go back to the glass; the aroma is usually still in there.
Cigars – that’s a different story. Often that one aroma is at only one point in the cigar.
That’s part of why I love cigars so much. They’re complex & fascinating … and I’m grateful to Franca for all that she’s taught me along the way.

Gary Laden, Susan Fidelholtz Laden, Nic Syris, Will Cooper, Chad Potier, Yvonne Ramee & the entire Smooth Draws Cigar Radio Show team.
Gary has since passed, but I owe him & the team a debt of gratitude for letting me be the Director of Social Media / Sommelier for the show.
3 years, for 2 hrs every Saturday – including the morning of my daughters wedding! – I was handling the Twitter & FB posts, as well as my contribution to the wine & spirits segment for Smooth Draws Cigar Radio.
The things I learned about cigars during that time was astounding. Unlike many of the cigar shows, Gary not only maintained the website but he actually wrote a 2hr script every week so the show was always very well orchestrated.
Learning about the leaf from key cigar stars, personalities, producers & enthusiasts every week gave me a solid foundation for all aspects of cigar appreciation.

Gary Vaynerchuk.
It would have been about 2008 when I started watching his Wine Library videos.
One of them was about using grocery items – ie:  jam/ preserves – for nosing practice.
It made sense.
For instance, one of Cabernet Sauvignon’s classic identifier is Blackcurrent/ Cassis.
But, how many of us live in areas where Blackcurrent is readily available so we know what it smells like?
I was grateful for his suggestion to just “smell the jam.”

Charlie
My daughter & the love of my life. I’m so proud of her accomplishments and she’s proud of mine. She’s the reason I continue to grow and learn. She’s the reason I work.

… and to everyone else who’s come into my life through our shared love of the leaf, the vine & the grain … Thank You! Your friendships mean the world to me.

WSET Wine and Spirit Education Trust
Cigar Sense
Wine Scholar Guild
Wine Library TV

“After more than a decade in development,
Tobacconist University announces its most revolutionary program ever:

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Cigar Specs
Component Data
Pre-Smoke
Smoke
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Reviewers rate the objective and subjective criteria of a cigar including:
Aesthetics
Construction
Flavor (taste+aroma)
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Certified Cigar Reviews

Tobacconist University

Smoker Friendly has been hosting its annual retailer conference for 23 years.
During that time they’ve been an invaluable advocate for the distinction of Premium Cigars.
On Friday August 23.19 the conference welcomed several speakers addressing the interests & needs of Brick & Mortar Cigar shops & Cigar Enthusiasts.

Greg Vickers PCA
Guest speaker Greg Vickers of the Premium Cigar Association provided insight to the changing landscape of the political and regulatory aspect of premium cigars.
PCA is a retailer based organization moving forward with cutting edge programs for its members – including education, affinity programs and directives for a self-regulating industry.
Cigaret Shopper

A highlight of the morning conference was the presentation of Dealer of the Year, which was awarded to Cigaret Shopper of Maine and accepted by Chris Bueller.

 

Image 2019-08-23 at 2.10 PM
Charles “Mac” Haddow gave an outstanding presentation regarding the American Kratom Association and the success that organization has had defining regulatory practices and the impact of reporting systems within the FDA, which “needs to stay in its regulatory lane”.

Schaevitz_Barry_Main-default-headshot-photo-19862The morning concluded with Barry Schaevitz of Fox Rothschild who emphasized research proves there is no difference in mortality rates for cigar smokers compared to non-smokers.

One of the questions that came up is the definition of “premium cigars”.
As it currently stands, there are many definitions of premium cigars. What we all agree on is cigars are a 100% natural product.

In terms of who is smoking cigars, research indicated that youth usage of premium cigars is so low it can’t be calculated – it can’t be measured.
The median age for cigar smokers is in the 30-50 year old demographic.

The major take-away from the Friday conference is the vital need for cigar enthusiasts to provide support for their local tobacconists, as well as the organizations & lobby groups advocating the protection of Premium Cigars from governmental over-reach.

Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival
Smoker Friendly
Premium Cigar Association
American Kratom Organization
Fox Rothschild
Cigaret Shopper
Cigar Rights of America

Cigar enthusiasts from all around the world are converging on Colorado this weekend for the 10th Anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival.

One of the special events to kick-off the weekend was the Cut & Light hosted by Frank Bellavia representing Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust.
190822 Frank Bellavia w Dunbarton at Havana Manor

Steve Saka’s Creme Brûlée is getting tons of attention & favourable reviews from some of the most trusted names in #CigarMedia … and all the cigars from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust deliver memorable smoking experiences.

If you’re in Colorado – make sure to visit Havana Manor in Longmont.
The humidor is always well-stocked and the manager, Thomas Bliss, is one of the most knowledgable guys in the business.
190822 Thomas Bliss Havana Manor Humi

Dunbarton Cigars

Havana Manor Longmont

Havana Manor logo

It’s the time of year that I get really excited to see the nominations for
Cigar Journal Cigar Trophy Awards. 

The products listed provide a short-list indicating
what other cigar enthusiasts are enjoying.
I’ve used this list to determine which cigars I should purchase  at my local tobacconist.

Click on the link below to vote for your favourites!

The Categories for Cigar Trophy 2019
BEST BRAND (by origin)
BEST CIGAR (by origin)
BEST VALUE (by origin)
BEST ACCESSORY
BEST LOUNGE

CUBA

Best Brand Cuba
Bolívar
Cohiba
Montecristo
Partagás
Trinidad

Best Cigar Cuba
Bolívar Belicosos Finos
Cohiba Siglo VI
Partagás Maduro No.1
Quai d’Orsay No. 54
Trinidad Vigia

Best Value Cuba
Fonseca
José L. Piedra
Saint Luis Rey
Sancho Panza
Vegueros

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Best Brand Dom. Rep.
A. Fuente Hemingway
Ashton Virgin Sun Grown
Avo Syncro Nicaragua
Balmoral Añejo XO
La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero

Best Cigar Dom. Rep.
A. Fuente Magnum R Vitola 52
Davidoff Winston Churchill The Late Hour Churchill
Diamond Crown Julius Caesar Toro
Gurkha Cellar Reserve Prisoner
La Aurora ADN Dominicano Robusto

Best Value Dom. Rep.
Aging Room Solera
E.P. Carrillo Encore
Kristoff Cameroon
La Flor de Ynclan
La Galera Connecticut

HONDURAS

Best Brand Honduras
Alec Bradley Medalist
Camacho Criollo
C.L.E. Connecticut
Plasencia Cosecha 146
Rocky Patel Twentieth Anniversary

Best Cigar Honduras
Eiroa The First 20 Years 54×6
Flor de Selva Maduro Grand-Pressé
Kafie 1901 San Andres Five Forty Six
Leaf by Oscar Corojo Toro
Rocky Patel Vintage 1999 Toro

Best Value Honduras
Aladino
Camacho Corojo
Corrida Honduras
Flor de Copan Classic
Villa Zamorano Reserva

NICARAGUA

Best Brand Nicaragua
Alec Bradley Nica Puro
La Flor de las Antillas
Perdomo Habano (outside US: Nicaragua) Bourbon Barrel Aged
Oliva Serie V
San Cristóbal (outside US: Paradiso) Quintessence

Best Cigar Nicaragua
Joya Silver Corona
Liga Privada No.9 Corona Viva
My Father La Opulencia Toro
Padron 1964 Anniversary Series Exclusivo Natural
Plasencia Alma Fuente Generación V

Best Value Nicaragua
A.J. Fernandez New World Cameroon
Brick House Maduro
Gilberto Oliva Reserva
Joya Black
Nica Rustica

OTHER COUNTRIES

Best Cigar Other Countries
Atabey Brujos (Costa Rica)
Casa Turrent 1901 Robusto (Mexico)
Corrida Brazil Toro+ (Brazil)
Tatuaje 15th Anniversary Habano Rosado Belicoso Fino (USA)
Vegas de Santiago D8 Robusto (Costa Rica)

BEST ACCESSORY

Boveda Humidity Control Packs
Cigar Oasis 3.0 Humidifiers
Colibri Quasar Desktop Cigar Cutter
Vertigo Big Buddha Lighter
Xikar Step Cigar Ashtray

BEST CIGAR LOUNGE

Aficionado Room Cigar & Whisky Lounge, Warsaw
Cohiba Atmosphere, Buenos Aires
Gentlemen 1919, Paris
Kempinski Cigar Lounge by Zechbauer, Munich
The Cabinet Cigar & Whisky Lounge in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur

Vote now:

“Year after year, the Cigar Trophy Awards are bestowed on cigar manufacturers and other actors in the cigar world for excellent performances.
And each year we turn to you to make the decision about which products most deserve this appraisal.

The winners are decided in a two-phase process.
In the first phase – from June 4 thru 16, 2019, consumers propose the possible candidates for the various categories. In the subsequent voting phase (June 19 thru 26, 2019), you determine which of the candidates from the shortlist should be chosen as winners”
Cigar Journal

MOMBACHO CIGARS
ANNOUNCES THE OPENING OF A

EUROPEAN WAREHOUSE IN GERMANY

Mombacho Cigars S.A. recently announced it will start serving the European market through a warehouse based in Dusseldorf, Germany.

“In the last two years we saw a tremendous growth in Europe and now, with the support of PasionPuro’s team, we have a bonded warehouse in Germany to better serve our European partners in their respective markets. We’ll be able to ship cigars to the countries where we already have a presence and the new ones opening soon, faster and with a lower cost of shipment” said Claudio Sgroi, President and Master Blender of Mombacho Cigars.

“We strongly believe, that boutique manufacturers with high market potential are getting faster and more efficient distribution within the European Union (EU) by using a warehouse in the union territory. There is still paperwork to do, but comparing to an import from Nicaragua, it is much faster and cost effective to get Mombacho within the EU. The European market is fragmented into 28 different countries, each with their own laws and regulations, besides the EU Big 5 (UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy); there are 23 smaller markets. To be able now to ship from one EU-warehouse to another EU-warehouse easily, makes it more attractive for smaller distributors to take Mombacho into their market”, said Tuan Hung Ma, owner and CEO of PasionPuro.

The new warehouse will receive the first shipment before the end of June 2019. Mombacho Cigars are already distributed in Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Italy; the company plans to open Spain, Belgium, and Luxembourg before the end of 2019.

Mombacho will welcome US retailers at the IPCPR in Las Vegas at the booth #2867 and both Mombacho & PasionPuro will be present to welcome every European distributor at booth E.30, Hall 4, at Intertabac in Dortmund.

ABOUT MOMBACHO CIGARS
Mombacho Cigars S.A. is a “totally made by hand” cigar company established in 2006 that entered the US market in 2013. The international interest in Mombacho has grown rapidly and Mombacho Cigars are now available in 14 countries around the world. Mombacho produces all of its cigars at its factory in Granada, Casa Favilli, where over 30 members of the Mombacho Family work.

GRANADA, NICARAGUA. – (June ……, 2019).

Mombacho Cigars Screen Shot
Photo Credit: Mombacho Cigars

 

Park Inn by Radisson / YYC Calgary Airport. 

Parking: abundant outside parking.
Front Lobby: Easy Check-In. Debbie made the check-in process a joy.
Convenience Store: soon to be replaced with a breakfast area.
Elevators: close to check-in area.
Room: King Studio Suite with open floor plan.
All suites include:

  • 37-inch flat-screen HD cable TV
  • Airport view
  • Alarm clock/radio
  • Coffee facilities
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hair dryer
  • Individual climate control
  • Ironing & ironing board
  • Kitchenette with full-size refrigerator, microwave, stove, dishwasher, pots and pans, and cutlery
  • Work desk with ergonomic chair

The Bed Area: Super-comfortable King-Size mattress with soft linens. It’s really quite high to get into, so if you’re short like me (5′ tall), be prepared to have to lift yourself into bed. But once you’re in there, you’ll get an amazing sleep!
One of the things I noticed is that even though the hotel is right below the airline flight-path, never once did I hear an aircraft approach.
This hotel has really good sound-proofing.

The Wash-Room Area:
Park Inn YYC Calgary Washroom Shelves Cosmetics Tidy
Full-length mirror on wall behind the door is perfect for make-up application and/or touch-ups.
This is a big plus when compared to hotels that put the full-length mirror in the hallway where there is little to no light. Anyone who considers make-up application as “Zen” time will really appreciate the placement of the full-length mirror in this hotel room.

Sink area is really large; plenty of room for blow-dryers & personal grooming items.

Having the shelves in the corner is helpful for both the user & the hotel housekeeping staff.
Instead of leaving all the cosmetics & hair-care products on the counter, move them to the cupboards.
This allows housekeeping to clean the sink area without having to move ones personal grooming items.

The tub is quite shallow but this is great for those unable to take large steps to get into the tub or the shower.
There’s 3 full safety-bars which are helpful for getting out of the tub after a bath or shower.
The shower has excellent water pressure, so there’s no issues for anyone with long hair rinsing out their conditioner.
Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Lotion & Soap are all supplied.

The Kitchen Area:
Park Inn YYC Calgary Kitchen FullThe King Suite has a full kitchen area that is exceptionally well equipped with pots, pans, cutlery, serving plates & glasses.

There’s a full size microwave, dishwasher & fridge.
This kitchen also has a built-in cooktop. You could stay an entire week and never have to have a meal outside your hotel room.

Point of note: if you’re a light sleeper who can hear the fridge running – not to worry, there’s a switch inside the fridge where you can just turn it off until wake-time. Of course, be aware of what you have in the fridge as items will not be as cold – but it’s a trade-off for light sleepers.

The Work Area:
My favourite part of this hotel room is the size & functionality of the workstation. The desk is super-long with easily accessible plug-ins.

Park Inn YYC Calgary Work Station Desk

 

Park Inn YYC Calgary Bulletin Board

Another feature in this well-appointed room is the “Bulletin Board” … nice touch!

Kind of old-fashioned, but comes in handy for notes you choose to leave for your traveling partner … or yourself.

For instance, you’re attending a trade show & you’ve picked up a memo for a download.
You can post it on the bulletin board and attend to that task when you’ve got time.
Bulletin Boards make it easy to remember tasks at a glance!

The Coffee Station

Park Inn YYC Calgary Coffee Ceramic CupTo their environmental credit, the Park Inn YYC Calgary Airport chooses to not use coffee pods, opting instead for the classic drip coffee pot.

And oh, I do love a ceramic cup for coffee in the morning!

The Park Inn slogan is:
“Good Stay. Good People. Good Price”
… and they really do live up to it!
On the subject of “Tipping”
When it comes to showing appreciation, I tend to distribute my “tip budget” really evenly. Everyone, including restaurant servers, get – on average – a $2 tip.
That rationale gives me the budget option to leave a $2+ tip each for hotel housekeeping & maintenance.
These are often the overlooked people, getting little more than an “atta girl” or “atta boy” for all their efforts.
Yet, they are among the hardest working of all hotel staff.
For instance, I once dropped a diamond earring which fell into the sink drain.
Maintenance had to spend a lot of time getting it out. That’s when I really began to appreciate those often un-seen “behind the scenes” hotel employees who also deserve to be tipped for their efforts.

… In summary – for a comfortable hotel stay in Calgary, I highly recommend the Park Inn by Radisson – Calgary Airport for a great stay at a great rate.

Park Inn – Calgary YYC Airport