Monday, January 12, 2015

Hey, check my Tumblr!

This blog now has an official Tumblr account :

Check it out! And let me know what you think. 

More pictures and more "social" than the blog. 

Friday, January 09, 2015

My renewed subscription to Cigar Afficionado

I have recently renewed my subscription to Cigar Afficionado.

I stopped buying the magazine a few years ago because it was just "too American" for me. I usually consume a lot of American culture without being too critical, but there was something annoying with Cigar Afficionado : because they have less access to Cuban cigars, and because of political background, I always found them very critical of Cuban production and somehow very supportive (biased?) towards Dominican, Ecuadorian, Honduran or American production... Besides the magazine is filled with ads for non-Cuban cigars using Cuban cigars names (yes I know that is rather confusing), in plain words you will find ads and articles about non-Cuban Cohiba, non-Cuban Romeo y Julieta, etc. So you really have to be well versed in cigar culture already to understand what is going on, ie. that we are not talking about the genuine product. For me that is border-line counterfeiting... So much for Castro's government illegal appropriation of private businesses!

But hey, as we say in French, "only fools never change their mind" or to put in Master Yoda's words "only a Scyth thinks in absolute". The magazine is still one of the best news source for the industry and is rather well crafted. To be fair I would say that their position on Cuba and Cuban production is probably more balanced that I initially thought (though I maintain they are too generous in their evaluation of non-Cuban production). The long interview of Castro conducted by Shanken in 1994 is probably the closest thing to good journalism any cigar magazine has ever published. And anyway a magazine that gave Cohiba Esplendidos (I am talking of the real Cuban brand here ;-) its highest mark in its latest issue cannot be all wrong!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Quai d'Orsay Belicoso Royal - Regional edition (France)

On my last trip to Paris, I stopped by the Duty-Free cigar shop at the airport and was shown a box of cigar I had never seen before: Quai D'Orsay Belicoso Royal, Torcido exclusivamente para Francia - rolled exclusively for French market.

It was not my first encounter with the Quai D'Orsay brand, as you may remember. I was however seduced once again by the beautiful combination of the brown wrapper and the orange ring.

The salesgirl clearly knew how to talk to men like me... the words "limited editions", "our last box", "France exclusive" worked like magic and I was already reaching for my wallet... to buy the whole box. Now that the box is mine and the thrill has gone (so to speak) it is probably time to be more critical about the whole thing. Quai d'Orsay is a brand created by Habanos group (the Cuban cigar state owned monopoly) for the French market and at the request of the French authorities. So the idea that this format (Belicoso) in particular is produced for French market only is confusing since all Quai d'Orsay cigars supposedly are. Truth be told, this production should be labelled limited edition (which it is, see below pictures only 2000 boxed were produced), than regional edition.

The legend has it that then minister of finance Valery Giscard d'Estaing wanted France to have its own exclusive Cuban cigar brand. He mandated the SEITA (French state owned tobacco monopoly) to seal the deal with the Cubans... This limited edition is also there to witness 40 years of collaboration between the brand Quai d'Orsay and SEITA.

"Hey Mr. President, wouldn't it be brilliant to have our own brand of cigars, don't you think?"

I have started smoking these stogies and will share soon some of my comments.