Last Thursday there was a cigar tasting at my favorite cigar store, Tobacco Road. It’s just my kind of business — locally owned and operated, one-of-a-kind, great staff and great selection. Every other month or so, they host a cigar tasting. A distributer comes in, passes out a sample cigar, talks about their product line and offers an in-store discount. This was my third tasting for the year and as usual, it was a lot of fun.
Walking in, I waved hey to some of the guys and walked to the sample table. There was a small crowd gathering around and they were getting what sounded like the tail end of an explanation on the Ashton line. As I stood there, it dawned on me that one of the main reasons that I come back to Tobacco Road is the fact that I’m recognized by the staff and owner. I can’t say that everyone that works there knows me by name per se, but that doesn’t really matter. “Hey man.” is just as good as “Hey Mike. in my book. Cue theme song to “Cheers“, Where Everybody Knows Your Name.
With the small crowd in front of me fully informed and now off lighting up their sample cigar, I stepped up and introduced myself to the rep. He introduced himself as Gus and proceeded to walk me through the Ashton product line he had displayed.
- Ashton Classic — Dominican/Connecticut Shade
- Ashton Cabinet — Dominican/Connecticut Shade
- Ashton Heritage Puro Sol — Dominican/Cameroon
- Ashton Maduro — Dominican/Connecticut Broadleaf
- Ashton VSG — Dominican/Ecuador
After going into great detail on each style of cigar, Gus handed me an Ashton Cabinet Churchill and a small dixie cup of Belvedere vodka. Having alcohol at a Tobacco Road cigar tasting was a bit unique, so I asked him why he was offering vodka as well. He explained that one of the higher ups in the company is a bit of a connoisseur and that this person has paired most of their cigars with liquors. Intrigued, I cut the cigar, lit it and then sat down on one of the ultra-comfortable black leather couches to enjoy.
I knew that the cigar was going to be great before I even tasted it. Ashton is made by Fuente and their stuff is all top notch. As expected, the cigar was well balanced with an even draw. It was a little on the mild side, but still had plenty of flavor. What did surprise me though, was how well it paired with the Belvedere vodka. I’ll admit that I’m not a big vodka guy. I find vodka to be a bit bland and lacking in flavor, but the Belevedre was an exception to the rule, or my rule is wrong. Either way, I was very impressed with the vodka and what surprised me was how well it went with the cigar. It reminded me of how you pair a wine with food. If you get it right, it’s magic. If you get it wrong, it’s just OK. Well, the Ashton Cabinet and Belvedere vodka is magic.
Curious, I went back to the Gus’ table to inquire more about the pairing and if he had any other pairings he could share. He pulled out a list and gave me everything he had.
- Ashton Classic — Balvenie 12 Yr., Double Wood
- Ashton Cabinet — Belvedere vodka
- Ashton Heritage — Macallan 12 yr.
- L’ Aroma — Mount Gay Rum
- Ashton Maduro — No drink, just dark chocolate, although a port should work well
- Ashton VSG — No paring because they never have enough for a proper tasting.
This idea of paring cigars with liquor opens up a whole new realm in which to explore. I’ve always just gone with a scotch, or a cognac and left it at that. It’s good mind you, but not the magic that I experienced that night. I’m going to have to expand my cigar notes to find better pairings because it really made a difference.
Only being half way through my cigar, I mingled around joining a conversation here and there. Tobacco Road is just such a great place to hang out in if you’re a guy. Since the bulk of my time is spent in front of a computer, it’s nice to just hang back and gab about nothing. Weather, women, trucks, sports, that sort of thing. I don’t know how to quantify it, it’s just “guy talk” and I really enjoy it. Of course a good 50% of the time I don’t have anything to add to the conversation, but that’s not the point. I mean what the hell do I know about college football, car repair, or half a dozen other topics? I was raised by women! 😛 I just like the camaraderie and comfort of just being one of the guys.
Around 8pm, it was time for the raffle drawing. If you purchased any Ashton products, you had the opportunity to enter the raffle. I had purchased an Ashton 5 Cigar Assortment consisting of 5 different cigars and so I had a ticket in the bucket. Up for grabs were the following:
- An Ashton Ceramic Ashtrays
- A very nice leather covered cedar travel humidor
- A large blue humidor for the person who spent the most that evening
I knew that the last item wasn’t for me. Another customer had purchased two full boxes of cigars and it was clear that he was getting the large humidor. My purchase of the 5-pack was $44 after the 20% discount, so you can imagine what two 25-count boxes set him back.
The first pull went to the big spender. He had a LOT of tickets in the bucket, so that was no surprise. Mike, who works at Tobacco Road, then pulled all of his remaining tickets so that the rest of us would have a shot. That raised my hopes a bit, but the remaining item went to someone else. Crud.
Thinking that there was no opportunity for any swag, I was about to make my leave when Gus decided to pass out a few boxes of Senoritas that he had on hand as consolation prizes. Let me tell you, I was consoled! Senoritas are small, about the size of a cigarette and they’re dry cured, so you don’t have to keep them in a humidor. Perfect for a backpack, or briefcase for a small smoke. I actually enjoy them from time-to-time when I’m walking Gracie.
I was thrilled with my boobie prize, but Mike kicked things up a notch when he decided to raffle off the remaining 5-pack samplers. Since I rarely win anything at raffles and having that belief proven already that evening, I didn’t expect to win. You can imagine my surprise when my name was the next one called. Woo hoo! LOL I made out like a bandit. I may have spent $44 (after discount), but I walked away with over $70 of free cigars!
All-in-all it was a great evening, which is what keeps me coming back on a regular basis, as well as making a special point to attend the cigar tastings. Good times, good cigars, plenty of camaraderie and free stuff. What’s not to like?
Regardless at what level you enjoy a cigar — maybe you’ve never had one, or you have one every day — a tasting at Tobacco Road is a lot of fun. I would encourage you to attend one if you get to chance. If you’d like to know when their next one is, you can sign up for their mailing list at this link (bottom of page).