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Los Angeles – Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje cigar lines are some of the hottest in the country. Now he has a web site to match.
The new and long-anticipated TatuajeCigars.com site offers a host of features that offer all the detail you could want on this expanding assortment of blends and brands:
=> A complete showcase of all of the Tatuaje brands is showcased with photography of every single cigar that Johnson is making . . . and some that will be made in the future.
=> The “Smokes” section displays the full lines – in color – of the 11 lines on the Tatuaje roster: Tatuaje, Tatuaje Reserva, Cabaiguan, Cabaiguan Guapos, Tatuaje Havana VI, Tatuaje Series P (not currently in production), La Riqueza, Ambos Mundos, El Triunfador, La Verite Vintage and a complete roster of his limited releases, from 2005 to the present, including the Halloween-themed Monster Series and Actor’s Series.
=> In addition, Johnson has “let the cat out of the bag” on two new releases coming in 2011: La Casita Criolla and Fausto!
The La Casita Criolla is planned for next year in three sizes, with a U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and Mexican and Nicaraguan interior leaves. Fausto is also planned for three sizes, with an Ecuadorian-grown Habano Maduro wrapper and Nicaraguan interior leaves. Both are expected to be made by My Father Cigars in Nicaragua. By announcing these now, Johnson deftly moves all of the speculation about these new blends from “what are they?” to “how good are they?” Smart, very smart.
There are other highlights on the new Tatuaje site, including a feed of Johnson’s Tweets, a sort-of blog and reprinting of articles about Johnson and his cigars in a section called “Scoop,” calendar of events (Johnson’s 40th birthday party is coming up on December 7, at a secure but undisclosed location) and an excellent photo gallery.
There is also a section on “Swag” with T-shirts and hats, but here’s hoping that Johnson will offer his all-in-one cigar tool for sale someday. It’s a compact, four-inch-long hammer (for closing boxes), crow bar (for opening boxes) and nail remover (for the box nails) in a brilliant silver finish with the Tatuaje logo and a sturdy leather pouch . . . the perfect gift for the smoker who really has everything!
>> “What I’ve done with Burn is take all the things I really enjoy in a lounge environment, and created a place that reflects how I enjoy life. Burn is a sanctuary, with a level of detail never before seen in a lounge experience.”
That’s Rocky Patel, who was busy last week as host to a series of pre-opening parties for his Burn by Rocky Patel lounge, located in Naples, Florida and formally opened to the public on November 19. The facility is located in the tony Mercato Shops complex.
“I wanted to make sure that when we were ready for the public to join us, the Burn experience was complete perfection. I have hand-selected every cigar, each bottle of wine, and even each piece of furniture, to create the perfect luxury-lounge experience.”
Naturally, all of Patel’s cigar lines will be offered, along with a selection of specially-made cigars by nine other makers, including Arturo Fuente, Ashton, C.A.O., Casa Fernandez, Drew Estate, Illusione, La Flor Dominicana, My Father Cigars and Padron. Only the Illusione line is in now, offered in four sizes: Robusto (5 inches by 52 ring), Toro Gordo (6 x 56), Churchill (6 7/8 x 48) and Torpedo (6 1/4 x 52), priced at $9-11 each.
Comprising about 3,000 sq.ft., Burn has an official capacity of 210 and will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. in the morning to 2 a.m. the following morning. “The concept of Burn has been in the works for several years,” Patel said. “Featuring a design that draws on an exotic mix of Mediterranean, Asian and Cuban cultures, Burn is a sanctuary for those that enjoy fine cigars and premium spirits.” The menu includes a wide variety of wines from around the world, but also a variety of spirits, emphasizing single-malt Scotches, Bourbons and others.
Patel already has the second-largest network of branded lounges in the U.S. with more than 15 in place. But he is one of the few to open and operate his own lounge at his own expense, a la the iconic Club Macanudo in New York, a landmark for smokers since it opened in 1996. Unlike Club Mac, however, Burn will not serve food, but is a cigar divan and bar only. However, several of the upscale restaurants in the Mercato Shops will deliver to Burn, including Asian-themed AZN, the Capital Grille, McCormick & Schmick’s and others.
How well Burn does will be closely watched within the trade, as manufacturers consider whether to invest in their own smoking-allowed facilities as the next step to giving smokers a place to go and enjoy an increasingly harassed product.
>> So you don’t have a week or a month to take off next February to check out the fourth ProCigar Festival (6th-11th) in the Dominican Republic, the inaugural Humo Jaguar Festival (13th-17th) in Honduras or the 13th Festival del Habano (21st-25th) in Cuba. How about a visit to Nicaragua?
The first Festival del Tabacos in Nicaragua was held in the first week in December in 2009, but a second edition was not organized for this year. But the folks at Drew Estate put on their own show, called the Cigar Safari, focused on La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate, which sits imposingly above – what else – a tobacco plantation.
The Drew Estate Cigar Safari is a four-day, three-nights tour of the Drew Estate factory and nearby fields and curing barns in and around Esteli, Nicaragua, where essentially all of the Nicaraguan cigar industry is located. Recognizing the reluctance of some Americans to travel to a country which has not always been too friendly to Americans, the Cigar Safari program is all-inclusive, offering a chaperoned tour, all meals and even accommodations on the grounds of the Drew Estate factory.
Drew Estate co-founder Jonathan Drew designed the accommodations himself, reportedly based on the facilities and amenities at the nearby Hotel Los Archos, the top-rated hotel in Esteli (and possibly the best in all of northern Nicaragua). These “cabanas” are complimented by an elegant lounge for the pleasure of its smoking guests.
The tour itself begins at the Managua Airport, where you are met by Drew Estate staff members, who help to guide you through all aspects of the program until returned to the airport for the flight home. The four-day program includes visits to the factory, fields and barns, showcasing each step from seedling to finished cigar.
There are visits available to nearby Granada as well as to local volcanos, important to cigar makers for the qualities they bring to the soil and through it to the tobacco. It is an all-in-one view of how cigars are made and especially intensive as a limit of 15 tour members can be accommodated on any one trip.
Best of all, the scheduling is flexible and the price is right. The excellently-organized ProCigar Festival and the new Humo Jaguar Festival both take place in February and that’s it. Cigar Safari programs are run from September through March, with 2-4 tours a month available. Eight tours were scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2010 and for the first quarter in 2011.
The price is just $650 for the program, not including airfare, but including local transit, accommodations, meals and, of course, plenty of cigars. Nicaragua is the hottest cigar-producing country in the world today and although well behind Cuba in history and the Dominican Republic in total output, is worth a look. And the Drew Estate folks, who have helped to create the Nicaraguan cigar-making boom, are part of the reason why.
>> There may be more Diamond Crown Lounges than all others combined, but that does not mean the folks at the J.C. Newman Cigar Company are slowing down. Just the opposite.
The newest facility has opened inside the St. Pete Times Forum, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League, making it the first-ever branded cigar lounge inside an NHL-tenant arena. The Diamond Crown Lounge is located inside the fifth-floor Channelside Club, and unlike some other cigars-allowed areas in other arenas, has a full view of the arena interior. And it has the standard amenities, such as a full bar, flat-panel televisions, custom-made humidor and a state-of-the-art ventilation system.
Moreover, the Diamond Crown line is now the “Official Cigar” of the Tampa Bay Lightning and, according to the announcement of the new Lounge, the Most Valuable Player of each Lightning home game will receive a Diamond Crown victory cigar with the slogan “give that man a Diamond Crown!”
It’s the 54th Diamond Crown Lounge, with more coming. For J.C. Newman, it’s their second hometown cigar bar, after becoming a pioneer with the 1998 opening of the Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar in the CenterField Street section of Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.