181205 Metro Tastes & Toasts Holiday CocktailsWe mixed some great cocktails during our brand new segment ‘Tastes & Toasts’, on-location at Metro Liquor Regina.

WSET-L3 Sommelier Valerie Bradshaw, along with CTVReginaMorningLive’s Jessica Smith, covered everything from Champagne to Hot Chocolate when it comes to festive holiday cocktails!

https://regina.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1556640

Here’s a few recipes for you to serve at your holiday party.
You can pick up all your holiday wine, spirits & liqueur’s at MetroLiquor.

Cranberry Bubbles

Fill a Champagne Flute with your favourite Sparkling wine –
Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or any bubbly of your choice.
Add a dash of Cranberry Juice & a few frozen cranberries.
Voila! A quick and easy cocktail to hand to you guests as they come through the door!

Candy Cane Cocktail
Candy Cane Cocktail

2oz Absolute Vanilla Vodka
2oz Phillips Peppermint Schnapps
2oz Forbidden Secret White Chocolate Liqueur

Add all the ingredients over ice in a rock glass.
Garnish with a Candy Cane.

 

Jim Beam Black

 

Cranberry Old-Fashioned
Using a rock glass, sprinkle 2-3 drops of bitters over a brown-sugar cube.
Add a dash of water
Add ice
Pour in 2oz Jim Beam Black Bourbon
Garnish with 4 Frozen Cranberries
This is a quick & easy Bourbon cocktail that will warm the hearts of your guests.

 

galliano-vanilla-bottle.png


Vodka Hot Chocolate

Add 1oz Vodka
to 1 packet Hot Chocolate Mix.
Swirl Whipped Cream on top.
Add a dash of Galliano Vanilla Liquor
Absolutely fantastic after a day of skiing, snowmobiling, skating or tobogganing!

 

Happy Holidays!

 

181122 The Spirit of Edmonton Banner

It’s Grey Cup Week in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!

Kicking things off at the Westin Hotel in downtown YEG (airline call-letters for Edmonton) was the official
“Spirit of Edmonton Kick-Off Celebration!”

This event goes from 2pm – 2am Thursday Nov. 22 to Saturday Nov 24.18. and is restricted to ages 18+

For a mere $10 cover charge, you’ll gain entry to one of the hottest spots for all the Grey Cup Party action!

There’s live entertainment with bands playing every genre of music imaginable. And they really get attendees dancing!


Another cool experience at Spirit of Edmonton 2018 is the MojoPhoto Booth. 

Get your friends together for a photo in front of a backdrop of stadium seats.

181122 Spirit of Edmonton Mojo Photo Wall
You type in your own caption with either your name or nickname
… and the guys from MojoPhoto …181122 Spirit of Edmonton Mojo Photo Desk

… will turn it into a personalized trading card for you.

181122 Spirit of Edmonton Mojo Photo Val
This is a big hit with tons of people lining up to get their personal trading card keepsake. Check out their website: mojo photo

Lots to See & Do at Spirit of Edmonton event – Westin Hotel
Not only is there a huge party room at Spirit of Edmonton 2018, there’s also local & national celebrities broadcasting from the site.

We met up with Toby & Warren from 100.3 The Bear

 

181122 Spirit of Edmonton 100.3 The Bear with Toby & Warren

and visited the SKOAL tobacco booth …181122 Spirit of Edmonton Skoal Booth

Plus, the Spirit of Edmonton organizers thought of everything – including a Coat Check for $2 and a very reasonably priced snack bar to help you get through the night!
All in all, it’s a great time with football fans from all across Canada.

From the Spirit of Edmonton Website:
The Heat is Here! Are you ready for the biggest party of Grey Cup weekend?!

Our doors will be open at the Westin Edmonton from Thursday, November 22nd – Saturday, November 24th between 2:00pm – 12:30am daily.

  • Live Bands – featuring Sideline 12, Mourning Wood, Chronic Rock, and our headliner Spoiled Rotten!
  • Live Entertainment – featuring CFL Cheer Teams and more!
  • Live DJ!
  • Surprise Appearances!
  • The return of our mascot, Sociable!

For additional updates and all the latest during Grey Cup weekend, follow us on Instagram @spiritofyeg and Twitter @spiritofyeg.
Follow all the excitement via Twitter, Facebook & Instagram
@mojophotoca
@GreyCupFestival
@spiritofyeg

The Westin Hotel Edmonton
Spirit of Edmonton
100.3 The Bear YEG
mojo photo

I’m on a 5-day road trip to Las Vegas.
That means stopping into restaurants unique to their city.
One such restaurant is Cajun Phatty’s in Billings, Montana.

Cajun Phatty's table with food
Photo Credit – Cajun Phatty’s

When I saw the sign advertising Louisiana Specialty Foods, I wasn’t sure if it was a restaurant or a specialty food store, but had my fingers crossed it was a restaurant.
Sure enough, I was soon chowing down on some really amazing food.

Shrimp & Grits - Cajun Phatty'sI had one of the House Specialties:
Shrimp and Grits. Shrimp with Andouille Sausage in a rich New Orleans sauce on top of cheesy Southern Grits.
Price was very reasonable – $14.50.
The portion was generous with the majority of the bowl filled with delicious cheesy grits and topped with generous servings of both the done-to-perfection shrimp & the Andouille sausage.

I added take-out Red Beans and Rice for a mere $3 to serve as my lunch on the road Saturday.

The service was amazing. The crisp, green salad showed up within minutes, followed not long after by the entree.

Throughout the meal, the server made sure everything was going good by visiting my table regularly … it was as much a nice social visit as a was a sustenance visit!

The other thing to like about this restaurant is they serve ice-cold Coca Cola in glass bottles. Nice touch! 180607 Cajun Phatty's menu p1

Some of the other dishes that get a lot of attention are:
Appetizer: Fried Alligator Bites.
Greens: Muffaletta Salad: Romaine, sweet bell pepper, red onion, Black Forest Ham, Mortadella, Salami, Provolone, Muffaletta Olive Mix, pepperoncini, homemade croutons & shaved Parmesan cheese tossed with Italian Dressing … a meal in itself.
Entree: Crawfish Étouffée: Crawfish in a rich and creamy gravy served over rice with toasted, buttery French Bread.
or try the Pork and Sausage Jambalaya: Cajun/Creole slow cooked pork and Andouille sausage in a rich and rustic tomato stew served over rice with toasted, buttery French Bread.
Dessert: Cajun Phatty’s Famous Fried Bread Pudding topped with Praline Sauce.

I can’t wait to get back to this restaurant to try everything else on the menu!

Here’s what the Cajun Phatty’s has to say about what they have to offer:

“Located in Billings, Montana, you will find an authentic menu of Louisiana favorites! Owned and operated by actual Cajuns, this food truck turned restaurant is training its customers to say “Ça c’est bon” one bowl of Gumbo and one Shrimp Po Boy at a time! Come on down and find out for yourself what all the ruckus is all about!

“You all have probably heard of or even ordered a bowl of Gumbo at a great steak house or soup specialty restaurant, but was it really just “good soup”?

Here at Cajun Phatty’s, we strive to represent our Cajun culture with authenticity and stick to the family owned recipes our founders grew up on.
Gumbo is more than a hot broth and rice (its all about the roux y’all).

And we apply that thinking to all of our menu items and the ingredients they require to be the best and most authentic.

Being in Montana means that sometimes we have to call home for the best ingredients! Much of our seafood comes from back home.

Our menus are updated regularly, so come back often and download a copy for you to drool on… I mean order from! Dine in or Take Out!”

2564 King Ave West Ste. F
Billings, MT — 59102
(406) 281-2820

Monday — Thursday
11am — 8pm
Friday — Saturday
11am — 9pm
Closed on Sunday

Cajun Phatty’s Louisiana Specialty foods

On CTVReginaMorningLive, where I’m the resident Sommelier, we talked about the upcoming 2018 running of the Kentucky Derby and the happy coincidence that it lands on Saturday May 5 … the same day as Cinco de Mayo!

Cocktails enthusiasts around the world are concocting a variety of beverages to honour that alignment.
Here’s our contribution with a Mint Julep Mash-Up that combines Bourbon, Tequila, Chocolate Bitters, Lime and Mint leaves:

180502 Mint Julep Set product onlyMint Julip Mash-Up
2 oz Woodford Reserve Bourbon
1 oz Patrol Silver Tequila
Chocolate Bitters
1 dozen Mint Leaves
2 Key Limes – sliced
Teaspoon of Brown Sugar
Splash of Water
Ice

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves to release the oils.
Slice 2 Key Limes – add them to the mint leaves & muddle.
Using a dropper, add 3-10 drops of Chocolate Bitters (suited to your taste).
Add Brown Sugar … or for a lighter sweetness, an ounce of Simple Syrup.
Pour in a splash a water, give it a stir and filter it into a glass filled with ice & garnished with mint leaves.
You can also add a caramelized lime slice to the garnish.

To caramelize the lime, drop a pinch of brown sugar on top of the slice and give it a quick blast from a kitchen torch.
Personally, I use a torch-style cigar lighter as I prefer the size and the flame output.

The Mint Julep Mash-Up is a an amazingly smooth, refreshing beverage with wonderful aromas of chocolate, fresh mint, caramel and vanilla.

If you’re in Regina SK, you can find Ms. Better’s Bitters /Chocolate at Blush Beauty Bar.
Good quality torch lighters are available at numerous locations … I got mine from Jade Smoker’s Corner in the Value Mall.

Blush Beauty Bar

CTVReginaMorningLive

When it comes to enjoying an adult beverage, there’s something special – for both the consumer & the producer – about having a bottle that’s won an award.

There’s the World Whiskies awards celebrating the global manufacturers.
Some people reference Jim Murrays Whisky Bible awards.
In Canada, there’s the Canadian Whisky Awards, which has award-winning author Davin de Kergommeaux at its lead, celebrating the amazing products from across the country.

This year in January, the 2018 awards were announced at the annual Canadian Whisky Awards event.
Last Mountain Distillery won a coveted Gold Award for their Cask Strength 100% Rye Whisky.
Colin & Meredith Schmidt opened Last Mountain in 2010. It was the 1st micro-distillery in Saskatchewan.
Last Mountain can be credited with introducing all kinds of innovation to the spirits landscape in this province.
a few bottles of which are still available at the Last Mountain location in Lumsden.
The fact they chose to produce a 100% Rye, Saskatchewan Rye to be exact, really speaks to their commitment to their craft.
Rye is incredibly tricky to work with. Braeden, the Production Manager at Last Mountain Distillery, told me their 1st few attempts actually resulted in concrete.
The team persevered and eventually was able to put their rye distillate into once-used Kentucky Bourbon barrels for aging for the minimum 3 years.
That waiting period has its own challenges, but at the end of it, Last Mountain had a product they knew would be a winner, a few bottles of which are still available at the distillery location in Lumsden SK.

Cask Strength.
Many Canadian Whisky’s are bottled at the minimum requirement of 40% abv.
But Last Mountain chose to keep their 100% Rye Whisky at 60%, cask strength – the alcohol level the liquid comes out of barrel.
The great thing about Cask Strength Whisky is the mouthfeel.
Cask Strength spirits always pack a punch and you can feel the weight of the liquid on your palate.
This is a quality whisky that I wouldn’t recommend mixing or using in a cocktail; it’s best  savoured slowly, as a sipper.
Nose it, take a sip, swish it gently in your mouth and then bask in the flavours it releases as it slides down your throat.
If you do need to lighten it up a bit, use a pipette to drop water, a bit at a time, and stay alert to the changes in aroma & taste with the addition of water.

Last Mountain Distillery Cask Strength 100% Rye Whisky.
Color: 14kt gold.
Nose: Honey. Grass. Butter.
Palate: Dark Chocolate. Black Pepper. Tobacco Leaf. Smoke.
ABV: 60% Cask Strength
Length: Medium
Balance: Excellent. Medium+
Complexity: Flavours build on the palate from peppery sweetness to smoky, roasted meat. There’s a very pleasant nutmeg influence on the retro-hale. 

Canadian Rye History
When Canada was being settled, farmers would distill their excess grain – usually wheat or corn – which typically comes out with flavours that are very approachable, but, at the time, lacking in complexity.
Then someone decided to add rye to the distillate, giving it a little more sweetness and a very pleasant “bite” to the dram.
This new expression caught on. Consumers soon started to ask for “rye” when ordering a shot of whisky to ensure they were getting a pour that had rye in it.

Today,  distillers produce some stellar 100% Rye products, but corn, wheat and barley continue to be the main grains used for Canadian Whisky, the majority of which are a blend of grains.

Bottle Design
I love the label of Last Mountain Cask Strength 100% Rye Whisky.
It pays homage to both the province of Saskatchewan with credit to the province on the the bottle, the label of which includes artwork of grain.
Saskatchewan grows some of the finest grain in the world and the province has every reason to be proud of what its farmers produce.
The rectangular shape makes me think of the landscape of the province immediately!

Take a look and you’ll see the Canadian Whisky Awards 2018 Gold Award sticker on the bottle.
A well deserved honour for the hard-working, innovative team at Last Mountain Distillery.

http://lastmountaindistillery.com
http://www.canadianwhisky.org/news-views/canadian-whisky-awards-2018.html

Recently my friend Rod asked me for insights to an article on Canadian Whisky from
PunchDrink.com Canadian Whisky

By the time I finished the reply, I realized I had enough material for a blog entry, so here it is:

Let me start by giving you some of my wine / whisky educational background.

15 years ago I made one of the best decisions of my life by registering for WSET classes in Calgary AB Canada.
A man named Francois, who managed a wine store that carried some amazing examples, taught the class.

During the class on whisky, he told us that products coming into the market from the United States were actually whisky’s made in Canada, shipped to the U.S. for bottling and returned to Canada under new labels and at much higher prices.
So, for over 15 years, I’ve known about the history of producers like Whistle Pig acquiring their “juice” from Canada.
That knowledge makes a difference when I’m selecting a whisky for purchase.

Alberta Premium imageFull disclosure: I’m a big fan of Beam Suntory’s Alberta Premium.

Yes, it’s inexpensive.
Yes, the packaging is dated and …

 

Canadian Whisky The New Portable Expert 2nd EditionYes, Davin de Kergommeaux in his book “Canadian Whisky – The Portable Expert” regarding Alberta Premium, states:
“Fermentation flavours normally associated with rye are deliberately distilled out, yielding a light mixing whisky with virtually no typical rye character”.

… but I grew up in Alberta, with Alberta Premium on my #WhiskyWall for as long as I can remember.
It’s the only spirit in my 5,000+ tasting notes where the flavour is permanently etched in my palate-memory.
It deserves a place in history, and not just because rail – tankers full of it are shipped to the States every year for repackaging.
But because it’s a really good product at a really good price.
Notes:
Alberta Premium is the best-selling All-Rye Whisky in the world.
200,000 cs sold annually

Alberta Distillers makes about 20 million litres of whisky each year and exports about 14 million, sold in bulk and packaged by others who put their own name on it.
Most of it winds up in the United States, but up to 55 countries, Britain, France, Sweden, Japan – they all use Alberta distillers whisky.

In recent years, I’ve tasted hundreds of different whiskies.
A stand-out producer was … and continues to be:

Stalk & Barrel:
Stalk and Barrel Single Malt & Rye

Rye Whisky 60.7% abv & Single Malt Whisky 62.3% abv are 2 of the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted in my life.

And I’m not just saying Canadian Whisky … I’m saying all whiskies. Stalk & Barrel Whiskies are magical in the flavors & aromas they deliver.
And tasting them at cask strength was just the icing on the cake.

 

 

161022 Gary & Raj in studioWhen Raj Sabharwal and I were both in Atlanta for the Whiskies of the World show, he was kind enough to come to the Smooth Draws Cigar Radio studio where we enjoyed a tasting of the Stalk & Barrel Blue Blend at 40% abv and the Red Blend 43% abv.

180206 Stalk & Barrel Red and Blue Blend image

Gary “Doc” Laden was totally taken with the Red Blend.
Raj taught us so much about whisky & we thoroughly enjoyed the tasting, as you can see by the in-studio photo attached.

If you’re going to add a whisky to your wall, make it Stalk & Barrel.
 

Alberta Premium Dark HorseAlberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch.
Here in Canada we have Alberta Premium Dark Horse.
In the States, they have Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch.
If I’m not mistaken, if you read between the lines of the PunchDrink article, it’s kind of Alberta Premium retooled with Sherry.
alberta-rye-whisky-dark-batch-1
For my personal tastes, it’s a little too sweet. But a lot of people like the sweetness Sherry imparts … I’m more a spicy-bite fan.
Lot 40Lot 40.
I guess I’ve got to give this one another taste. When it 1st came out, I lined up like every other whisky enthusiast … but I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about it. Keep in mind, I prefer sipping whiskies neat and this one just didn’t do it for me.
I guess bartenders like Lot 40 for its cocktail readiness.

Crown Royal line up imageCrown Royal
I always kind of smile at any Crown Royal product because until Northern Harvest Rye, it was basically a corn-based whisky. Keep in mind, because there’s not a whole lot of rules defining Canadian Whisky, it can be made of almost any kind of grain, but typically corn, barley & rye.
When I’m judging a corn-based whisky, I judge it on its merits and keep my personal bias out of it.
But when it comes to what I pour in my glass, I prefer to go with a Rye-forward expression, just like I prefer anything 43% abv or higher. I generally find 40% a little thin when it comes to whisky.

So that’s my insight on the whiskies listed in the PunchDrink.com article.
Forty Creek Barrel Select laying down
But, I think this article missed an important Canadian Whisky that’s available nation wide and in certain areas of the United States … and that’s Forty Creek Canadian Whisky.
It’s another of my preferred Canadians. John Hall worked tirelessly, facing numerous challenges to get that product on the market and it’s worthy of mention.

As a person who loves Canadian Whisky with Cigars, I’m also compelled to mention the Canadian Whisky / Cigar pairing at Big Smoke Las Vegas in 2014.
The reason I attended that particular show was because Jack Bettridge, along with Manuel Quesada, were hosting a Canadian Whisky tasting/ seminar.
The whiskies were: J.P. Wiser’s 18, Collingwood, Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask and Crown Royal

Quesada 40-bandThe cigar: Manuel Quesada’s Quesada 40th.

Like a lot of people, I’d have expected anything “sherry” to have been the best pair with a cigar. The sweetness can take on the smoke.
However, here’s the comments:
“With the Canadian Club Sherry Cask, a nougat flavor that didn’t appear before emerged for both Quesada and Bettridge.
While Bettridge declared this pairing as his personal favorite, Quesada politely disagreed.
“For me,” Quesada said, “it was the Wiser’s.
The liquid creeps back over the cigar sensations on the palate and layers it well”.

I was sitting in the 2nd row with a clear view of the moderators. I was very interested in observing their reactions.

Manuel Quesada Canadian Accents Seminar 2014
Photo Credit: Cigar Aficionado

 

JPWisers_18YO_CDN_750mLWhen Manuel tasted that Wiser’s 18 with his cigar, the look on his face was one of complete wonderment.
As a matter of fact, I’ve wondered since if he’d ever paired one of his cigars with a Canadian Whisky before.
You could tell that pairing made a huge impression on him … you know, the kind of moment where time stops and you just want to be alone with that whisky & that cigar.
 

In terms of producers, Alberta Distillers will always have a place in my heart.
But there’s no doubt that Dr. Don Livermore and the team at Wiser’s do a lot for Canadian Whisky & the people who love it.
Dr. Livermore’s Canadian Whisky Flavour Wheel is amazing!

72384_CORBYS_WHISKY WHEEL_8x11_4pc.indd

 

Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
Stalk & Barrel
JP Wiser’s
Beam Suntory Alberta Premium
Corby Lot 40
Crown Royal
Forty Creek Whisky
Quesada Cigars
Cigar Aficionado Canadian Accents
Canadian Whisky

Since August of 2015 I’ve been a weekly contributor to Smooth Draws Radio Show.
Friday January 20, 2018, the driving force of the show, Gary Laden, passed away and it’s been heartbreaking.

Gary will always have a place in my heart.

I started listening to his broadcast, then called Cigar Guys Radio Show, basically from its inception.

The 1st time I called into the show was in April of 2015.
The Cigar Question of the Week was:
“What do you like to pair with cigars?”

I wanted to get his take on a Brad Paisley interview in Cigar Aficionado, quoting this from the pages of that issue:

“His (Paisley’s) band members tend to enjoy the cigars while sipping a fine whiskey, or a glass of wine.
But the nondrinking Paisley has his own favorite beverage when savoring a cigar …

“If you have a Yoo-hoo with a cigar, it’s like a s’more,” Paisley enthuses. “Anything chocolate is fantastic. A hit of chocolate takes the bite away. A chocolate milkshake with a cigar? That’s just decadent. Grape juice is good, too. Anything thick and sweet is pretty cool. I think I’d like port, if I did that.” … from Cigar Aficionado

Gary thought that was great input and I thought Gary was great for being so open-minded about cigars & pairings.

Cigar Guys Radio Gary Val IPCPR2015When he learned I’d be working with Daniel Marshall at the Daniel Marshall Cigars and Humidors booth during the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) show in New Orleans that July, Gary came by the booth and that’s where I had my 1st of many photos taken with him.

A couple of weeks after #IPCPR15, I asked Gary if I could do a Twitter #CigarHerf to correspond with the show broadcast.
He loved the idea and couldn’t wait to get a global ‘herf started every week.

 

Gary would send me the script and I’d tweet the content, with corresponding pictures of the hosts & the guests – of which there were many, but some of the 1st were Jose Blanco, Oscar Rodriguez, Mike Bellody, Nick Perdomo Jr., Fred Rewey, Jerry Garrett, Sean Williams & Enrique Sanchez Icaza.
#RelaxAndEnjoy.

Gary would also do features & contests with cigar accessories like Xikar & Boveda Inc. to help novice & experienced cigar enthusiasts better understand options available to them.

I’d categorize all the segments & photos that made up the show.
There was Doc’s Diversions and #SmoothDraws-University that brought together great educational aspects of cigars, like Jorge Armenteros of Tobacconist University.

And who didn’t love the ever popular “Long Ash or In The Trash” where the hosts would give their opinions on super-fun themes that Gary would present?!
All the Smooth Operators had fun casting their votes on the topic throughout the weekend.
Recently the panelists expanded to include Smooth Operators, with long time listenere Bob Langmaid being the first.
Gary was always looking for way to get the fans onto the #SmoothDraws MainStage.
A totally generous man.

Gary created a segment for me to talk about wine & spirits and was always eager to try a new “dram” … a word he found particularly endearing.
The segment we did for Canadian Whisky gave Davin de Kergommeaux’s book “Canadian Whisky – The Portable Expert” a boost in on-line sales throughout the U.S.A.
It was those behind the scenes experiences that made the show so exciting & gave me a sense of purpose.
I will forever be grateful to Gary for seeing the big picture.

We were part of Whiskies Of The World #ATL, where Gary, Nicholas, Adam myself & others from the #SmoothDraws Team would host the Cigar & Whiskey pairing event.

Gary was one of the 1st radio celebrities in the United States to honour World Whisky of the Year winner Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, enjoying an in-studio tasting with John Stegenga & Alan Friedman.

Gary warmly welcomed everyone to the studio, whether they be cigar people or whisky people … like Raj Sabharwal.
“Doc” loved Scotch … and he loved Canadian Whisky.
He found a new favourite when Raj brought in Stalk & Barrel Whisky for the in-studio tasting.

I’ll always be grateful to Gary for making the show diverse, yet keeping it related to the #Cigar lifestyle, which he loved.
And he fought for #CigarRights … supporting the mandate of Cigar Rights of America and International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR).

He completely embraced every aspect of the cigar lifestyle, working tirelessly to secure interviews from influencers of that lifestyle, including Reinhold Widmayer from Cigar Journal to Darren Cioffi of Cigar Smoking World Championship fame and Franca Comparetto of Cigar Sense.
Every interview brought new insights to great cigar experiences, illustrating the never-ending optimism that cigars bring, like the journey of Hamlet Paredes & Rocky Patel Premium Cigars.

And, of course, there were the hundreds of followers – the #SmoothOperators, who tuned in from all around the world.
Gary loved each and every one of you, truly embodying the cigar-lifestyle mantra of us being one big cigar-happy family.
Gary was especially fond of being able to meet so many of you at the various LIVE remotes the Smooth Draws Radio Show did.
He’d even get on the phone to talk to fans in other countries, like Kenneth Rosal & Mike Simpson in Canada.
Gary also enjoyed seeing & hearing from Nigel Baird from the U.K. … whose cigar & accessory collection astounded him!
Every single Smooth Operator was important to Gary, and to name a few … Vern Coleman, Wes Smith, Travis Burne, Ricardo Nascimento, Nathan Caliendo, Craig Graydon, Jerry Vogler Jr, Jeff Botl, Gerald McIntyre, Lloyd Bunce, Don Stuike, Cliff Wilson … and so many more!
Gary would have loved to have visited each of the 44 States & 24 Countries that had Smooth Operators tuning into the show to meet all of them personally.

#SmoothDraws just kept getting bigger & more successful over the years, with Nicholas Syris, William Cooper, Michael “The Burner” Turner & CigaRobbie coming on board as hosts through the history of the show.
Their expertise, cigar knowledge & stellar reviews had a big impact on all the #SmoothOperators.
The #SmoothDraws #CigarHerf was a global meeting place for everyone to ‘herf on Saturday. Jenny Hatton was brought on-board as one of the #CigarHerf coordinators.
Coordinating the phone calls behind-the-scenes was Adam Heffner, followed by Jay Finch.

Gary especially loved having his adored wife, Susan Fidelholtz Laden, with him in-studio, as well as behind the scenes of the show.
His friendship with executive producer Chad Potier serves as an inspiration to how cigars can bring people together in unexpected ways.
#Shenanigans!

Gary, myself and all the Smooth Draws team, did so many things cigar-related, and we bonded over many premium cigars.
I visited Atlanta on a several occasions for some great fellowship & event attendance.
We traveled as a group to Nicaragua for our inaugural #PuroSabor experience in 2016.
The very 1st night aboard the Lake Managa cruise, we were able to meet Eric Newman of J.C. Newman Cigar Company, who later came on the show for a 2-part interview about the history of his cigar company.

While in Nicaragua, Gary particularly enjoyed the visit to Flor de Caña Rum … and who can blame him? It is really a fun place to visit and perfect for picture taking, with the Flor de Cana Train!

The following year, Gary & Nick did the Smooth Draws Radio Show show from the Plasencia Cigars Factory in Nicaragua.
A ground-breaker in cigar radio!

Whenever I was around Gary & the Smooth Draws Team, I always had my camera ready, to capture and archive, various cigar & cigar lifestyle photos to have on hand in case we needed them for the show.
This week, during Nicaragua’s #PuroSabor18, some of our friends & #SmoothOperators like Rod Zdebiak & Tomz Cigarz, have been posting fantastic photos of their experience … and I’d think – “that’d be a great shot to include during the #SmoothDraws #CigarHerf” … only to remember that the show I’ve been a part of for over 100 weeks has now changed forever.

Recently a new segment was introduced on the show.  It was called: Legends of the Leaf. It was intended to profile the producers of cigars & such.

I think Gary Laden should be bestowed the honour of the Greatest Legend of the Leaf.
He dedicated his life to cigars and brought great joy to so many.
Truly a legend.
Always Remembered.
Never Forgotten.

Gary Nick Will Chad Susan