Some dear friends just opened a really neat Cigar Shop in Nashville, TN. They actually have their official Grand Opening today Saturday Aug. 3rd! (If you're in or near Nashville check it out!). I am super excited for them and this new adventure! I have been known to enjoy a cigar around the fire or a nice evening on the porch with some friends so I thought it would be super fun to take some time to talk with them about cigars (because I want to learn more) and about the Abbey!
I was able to steal some time from Co-Owner Chris Hayzlett through a FB interview to talk about this new endeavor and some cigar 101 if you will...
So here we go...
Q. What makes a great/quality cigar?
Love and tenderness, haha. Cigar smoking is very subjective, so much of what makes a cigar good is up to the individual, but there is no denying the difference between a good and a bad cigar. Construction, flavor profile, draw, ash... these are all things to pay attention to in a good cigar.
Q. Is there an art to smoking a cigar?
I wouldn't say there is an "art" per-say, but I would say there is a technique. Insuring that you light the cigar properly is important, and be sure not to inhale (or you'll be in for a world of hurt). Like finding a cigar that is right for your pallet, how you enjoy one can also be very subjective. Some aficionados like a nice cup of coffee with their cigar, while others prefer scotch. Some prefer one after a meal, while others have one before breakfast. No matter when you choose to smoke, or what you pair your cigar with, it is most important to slow down enough to enjoy it. Cigar smoking should be break in the busyness of the daily grind.
Q. Who taught you everything you know about cigars, or did you just learn from experience?
There have been so many different avenues in which I have learned about cigars, but I would say that bulk of it I learned through hours upon hours of smoking. You learn a lot about what makes a cigar good, by smoking the bad ones, haha. When it comes to the technical stuff, I would say the internet has been my best friend. There are so many good sites to look at, and even Tobacconist University for the hard core fans. Cigaraficionado.com has a great encyclopedia, also cigar.com, cigarbox.net, and cigarcabana.com all have great info. I would also recommend getting an app for your smartphone... Cigar Boss and Cigar Geek are both very good. Read other peoples reviews, and see what they have to say, but mostly just learn by smoking them and figure out what you like.
Q. I've heard it said that when lighting a cigar with a lighter you can taste the difference (fluid taste) vs a good old fashion match is there truth to this?
Sure, but for the novice or even the intermediate smoker, you will never know the difference. After you have spent quite a bit of time smoking cigars and fine tuning your pallet to recognize the subtle nuances of different cigar leaves and blends, then you may be ready to worry about how you light it. However, if you get to that point, I would suggest lighting your cigars with a thin strip of cedar, even to the novice, this makes the first few puffs much more enjoyable. For the record, I light mine with a butane torch... every time.
Q. Are there certain drinks or cigars that are often paired with cigar smoking?
I may have jumped the gun a bit and answered this one in a previous question, but I will elaborate.
I am sure there are people who could tell you a lot more than me about pairing your cigars with the right drinks, but in my experience it is all very subjective. I'll make this a bit more fun by listing some people I smoke with who you may or may not know, and let you know what they like...
Andrew Hanigan - Black Coffee (Mad Cap Ardi)Joshua Stump - Dr. Pepper or Tangy Tangerine Steve Hayzlett (my dad) - Water... every time.Pastor Brian Ban - Starbucks Raspberry Mocha (seriously)Nate Pohnert - Whatever someone offers himMe - I like a nice glass of scotch... preferably Talisker 10yr.
Q. Top 5 cigars? Go!
1) CAO Bratalia Barber Pole - Very rare smoke! They don't make this one anymore, and it was a limited edition. I've only had one, but it was by far my most memorable smoke. Sometimes the stars align, and life is beautiful.
2) CAO Brazilia Samba - I may have smoked a lot of cigars that would be considered better than this, but this is the one I will always come back to. It was one of my first cigars and to this day I've never had a bad one!
3) Oliva Serie V Torpedo - Like the previous smoke, this was one of my first, and has been one of my favorites ever since. It is 100% ligero filler, which means it packs a punch. Even for the seasoned smoker, make sure you have a full stomach when you smoke this one!
4) Gurkha Doble Maduro - These are hard to come by. It is a boutique cigar by Gurkha that you only see surface every few years. If you ever see them, buy them!
5) Drew Estate Undercrown - Those last 4 were no brainers... this one is a little harder. The Undercrown is made by Drew Estate in the Liga Pravada warehouse. I would love to say that one of the many Liga Pravada cigars is in my top 5, but to be honest, I haven't smoked enough of them to say. This cigar however is fantastic, and again I have never had a bad one. If you get the chance to smoke a Drew Estate cigar... DO IT!
Q. What are you most excited about with this new endeavor?
It has been amazing to be an entrepreneur! It fits well with my personality. I like being my own boss, and building something that is mine, that I actually care about. Perspectives change when you begin to do something where the outcome means something to you even when you are "off the clock". I also enjoy people. With a background in pastoral care, it makes sense to do something as relational as a cigar lounge.
Q. Whats the mission behind Smokers Abbey?
We want to create a space for people to live life together. As I said before, cigar smoking should be a break from the crazy life we live. I've had plenty of good smokes by myself, but most of the memorable ones were shared among friends and good conversation. Many spiritual and life changing conversations have come out of my times smoking cigars. As well as being a home away from home for smokers, we also strive to teach the culture and art of cigar making with those who are willing to learn. We put a lot of energy into researching, so we can share the information we learn with everyone who comes into the abbey.
Q. When I think of cigars my mind goes straight to the word community, is there any way for you to explain that?
Haha, I keep beating you to the punch! I think that's the tell tale sign of a well structured interview... the lead in. Again, I will elaborate.
If you choose to smoke a cigar you are making a commitment to sit and relax for at least an hour. Many cigars take 2 or more hours to smoke. I can only speak for the culture I am entrenched in, but the East Nashville vibe has lent itself to community based cigar smoking. It might start with one or two guys, but before you know it you find yourself sitting there with 8 other people on your porch with 2 hours to kill... the natural bi-product is conversation. And it's usually good.
Q. Any last words you want to share with the interwebs about cigars or Smokers Abbey?
You only live once. Enjoy it and share it with those you love.
Again a big thanks to Chris for taking time out of his super busy schedule this week to share with us aboutcigars and Smokers Abbey!
Here is quick look inside the shop (just ones I stolefrom their FB page). But if you're in the area certainly check it out!(604 Gallatin Rd. Ste 102, Nashville, Tennessee 37206)