Cigar Friendly City: New Orleans
As you know, I occasionally like to identify and acknowledge cities or locations that are still cigar friendly. Just recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time in the Big Easy, the first time that I have been there since hurricane Katrina put this multi-cultural, anything goes party town under water a couple of years back. I stayed in the French Quarter and shuttled back and forth to the convention center less than a mile away. The famous French Quarter, Bourbon Street and the nearby convention center, casino, shopping, etc., all appear to be doing pretty well. However, be sure to note that these areas did not experience the level of devastation that other parts of New Orleans and surrounding areas have endured, so the city as a whole is still healing.
With a focus on the French Quarter, I am happy to report that the “do what you wanna, do what you like” attitude was not drowned in the flood. For a cigar smoker this translates into “you can smoke a cigar almost anywhere, indoors or outdoors on Bourbon Street, especially in the already smoky bars.” In fact, when I checked in to the hotel and inquired about cigar smoking options nearby, I was met with a quizzical look and was told “Bourbon Street.” The concierge also recommended a classic smoking lounge in the nearby Ritz-Carlton and told me about the two Cigar Factory locations in the French Quarter where hand-rolled sticks were made and sold.
Needless to say, I hit them all. In short, Bourbon Street bars had plenty of cigarette smokers and even cigar smokers in clear sight enjoying their tobacco products. Not once did I get a look disapproving of the smoke I was enjoying. Even though I brought some of my own sticks from home, I decided that I would stop at the Cigar Factory and review one of their cigars, so I could advise the Bullz-Eye faithful on whether they should come packing their own smokes or conveniently buy them right on Bourbon Street. In all honesty, I was a bit cynical and did not think I could get a decent locally rolled cigar, and assumed this was just another tourist trap storefront overcharging for junk. Read on to see if my mind was changed.
So, lets get smokin'!
Size: Rothchild (5 inches long, 52 Ring Gauge)
The Cigar Factory has a small retail site right on Bourbon Street. The larger “factory” and storefront are on Decatur Street. They claim that 100 percent of their cigars are hand-made in New Orleans and use Cuban seed/long leaf tobacco. They offer three distinct cigar lines with different tobacco blends: Plantation Reserve (mild), Vieux Carre (medium) and Tres Hermanos (full).
- Wrapper: Cameroon (Africa)
- Filler: Honduran, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic
I chose the medium blend as I typically prefer a medium to full flavor, and I smoked this at the nearby Ritz-Carlton on Canal Street. The large smoking lounge at the Ritz was a classic cigar bar atmosphere with plenty of overstuffed leather chairs, rich wood paneled walls, shelves of books and a fair selection of smokes. This lounge opened to a large courtyard with fountains, greenery and classic Nawlins style jazz piped in for background music. I chose the outside setting on this May eve. Given my skepticism of the cigar I just bought, I also brought one of my own in case I needed to ditch the first.
Look and feel
The Vieux Carre definitely passed the look and feel test. The cigar was rolled very well, firm to the touch, and symmetrical. The cut (which I allowed the clerk to do at the retail counter) was not ideal, but it was good enough. A roller was present in the shop, putting on a little show with his technique. With his South American heritage and the meticulous way he worked the tobacco into a cigar, he too passed the “roller” look test.
Aroma and Taste
The pre-lit aroma was fairly light and the draw was lighter than I expected too. At this point, I was feeling pretty confident that, indeed, I was going to be disappointed. I ordered a diet Coke to accompany this smoke, as I was happy to be in such a relaxed and interesting setting. I lit up and went to work on the cigar. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. Its aroma was very nice and easy on the nose, with flavors most notably a combination of fresh baked bread and walnuts. The finish was just okay, with some walnut flavor. At the midpoint of the smoke, a hint of spiciness showed up, but disappeared forever after about three puffs. I classify this as a mild to medium flavored smoke, but the nicotine content was relatively low, which met my request to the clerk who sold it to me.
RATING: 8.9 (on a scale of 1 to 10) – a surprisingly nice cigar, but still a little overpriced compared to what you can get at your local shop. However, your local shop is not waiting for you right on Bourbon Street and staying open throughout the night. The overall value is pretty good.
One of most appreciated features of this cigar is that it burned evenly, cool and slow, throughout the entire smoke. In fact, I took it down to the nub, never having to re-light or straighten it out. In retrospect, I am curious about the stronger cigar they offer, the Tres Hermanos. In conclusion: there are some good premium cigars down in New Orleans at the Cigar Factory! My cynical mind stands corrected.
I’d be interested in any comments from those who have tried the other blends. Send me an email to email@example.com.
"If I paid ten dollars for a cigar, first I'd make love to it, then I'd smoke it." – George Burns