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Today we interview Barry of A Cigar Smoker’s Journal. You can find him online or on Twitter. We’ve been enjoying Barry’s website for I guess around a year or so. He provides readers several reviews a week and is always ahead of the curve with reviewing production cigars, limited releases, and the cigars us folks with a tiny cigar budget dream of. Please join us in welcoming Barry–and don’t forget to take a look at his fully indexed website!
Where did you grow up? Where are you currently living?
I was born in Ft. Lauderdale, where I lived all of 6 days. Since then I have lived in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been here for 40 years and have grown to loathe the city. I am a pretty laid back person, so the fast pace of the city was never for me and yet I remain. I have dreams of moving to Denver, Colorado or Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, although the latter is not realistic since I don’t speak French.
When were you first introduced to cigars?
I was 13 or 14 and I went to a Bar Mitzvah—the son of my Father’s coworker. They gave out cigars and my dad let me smoke it to teach me a lesson. I turned green and I swear I was the inspiration for the movie Shrek. Years later, about 10 or so, my friend was working nights in a cigar shop so I decided to stop by and that’s when my passion for cigars began to grow. I became a serious cigar smoker in 1996.
How long have you been smoking quality cigars?
Sonny, who sometimes reviews on my website, opened a cigar shop with some retired NYPD officers/detectives. I was welcomed into the fold and began to learn about the art of cigars and smoking in 1996. So, for the last 13 years I’ve learned and acquired the knowledge.
What is it you most enjoy about a good cigar?
It’s a few things, depending on the setting. When I’m alone, I enjoy the solitude with a stick, as I forget the day’s worries and get lost in the moment. It’s like therapy. $10.00 for a good cigar is better than an hour on any psychiatrist’s couch. Then there are times where I’m sitting with a group of friends laughing and sharing stories that always seem to develop over a good smoke. People don’t understand that a good cigar is like therapy so for me I’m not just blowing smoke.
What is your current involvement in the cigar industry?
I was managing a friend’s shop in the Bronx, where I had a % interest, but seeing they did business different than I, it made me rethink my involvement. I didn’t want to sully my name with the manufacturers. I currently write for Smoke Magazine where I am one of the review panelists for the fine publication. There is also my website, which I devote a lot of time to, but not nearly enough in terms of promoting it.
How would you like to become more involved in the industry?
I would love to develop my own cigar. But my dream job is to become a sales rep. I had an offer to work for Arganese but the offer was to low. My dream company is of course an established company, such as CAO, Oliva, Tatuaje, Illusione, Altadis USA, General, or Don Pepin Garcia.
Who have you most enjoyed meeting in the industry?
My favorite person in the industry is CAO sales representative Steve Faccenda. I got a great kick out of meeting Charlie Torano, Avo Uvezian, and Jon Huber as well. I would love to have a smoke with fellow cigar blogger Jerry Cruz, and almost did until I threw my back out and had to cancel.
How do you spend the rest of your business time?
I have my own company with my business partner, “Sonny.” He’s a retired NYPD Detective and we have our own security consulting and private investigations firm. We handle mostly corporate stuff, no marital stuff. We leave that for the TV show “Cheaters”.
How do you spend the rest of your free time?
I love to drive so I tend to make trips to see friends on the Jersey shore, and the occasional drive to Baltimore for crabcakes or to Philadelphia for some smokes and a drink or 2 at Mahogany on Walnut, which is above Holt’s. I also love baseball (Yankees), hockey (Islanders), and football (Jets). I am a fan of heavy metal music and I enjoy photography.
About Your Palette and Smoking Patterns:
How has your palette progressed over the years?
If anything it has gotten more sensitive, where identifying the notes in a cigar has become easier. I still prefer sweet (cocoa, cinnamon, caramel, etc) over leather and espresso.
It seems like you prefer full-bodied cigars. What are some of your favorite full-bodied cigars? What are some of your favorite mild-medium cigars?
I wouldn’t say I prefer full-bodied smokes, it just seems lately as if manufacturers have gone that way with their new releases. My favorite full bodied smoke is the Liga Privada No. 9. As far as medium bodied, give me the Illusione Eperany. For a mild cigar, I still love the Davidoff Short Perfecto. My all time favorite smoke, which I haven’t smoked in a while, is the Padron Principe Natural.
For someone just getting started smoking, what are a few sticks you would recommend?
I usually recommend a Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 or an Oliva Connecticut when someone wants me to suggest something for a new smoker. Those cigars are not too strong and are very flavorful.
Will you describe for us your smoking patterns?
It varies. I always have a cigar in the morning, usually in my car with the windows down, even in the winter. On weekends I’ve been known to spend the entire day in my friend’s cigar shop, which results in 4 or 5 sticks. On average I would say I smoke 2-3 a day.
You also seem to have a special spot that you smoke in, near the beach, right?
In the summer I like to smoke in my car right at the beach. There is a spot in Brooklyn on Brighton and 15th Street, where the block ends right at the beach. At 9am you can find me there almost daily smoking. Some people are disgusted by the smell, but I’ve made a few friends who have decided to stop and tell cigar stories.
About Buying Locally:
From reading your cigar review website, it is obvious that you are a big supporter of local tobacconists. Why do you feel this is so important?
The local tobacconist is a great source of information. I love it when I walk into a shop and I am greeted by name. Especially when the owner or worker joins me in the humidor to point out the new sticks. But it goes beyond that for me. Communities only thrive when local business is supported. So I try to spend my money locally for this reason. I do however buy the occasional box on-line from Chicago Cigar Co. or Atlantic Cigars due to budget issues.
Any local shops you’d like to give a shout out to?
Three actually. Joe at the Cigar Vault in Brooklyn, NY, who always goes out of his way to show me what’s new or to fill me in on cigars news. Ralph & Frank over at Fume in Montclair, NJ and the boys at Ashes Tobacconist in the Bronx, NY.
What is it you most enjoy about B&M’s?
The different people you meet from various ethnicities, classes, and backgrounds. The stories told, the lessons learned, and the various viewpoints everyone has. Fume Cigars in Montclair is a perfect example of this. To date, it is the closest to perfection in terms of what I want in a shop (great selection of cigars, a great lounge, and great people).
What would you say to those who only shop online for cigars, to encourage them to buy locally?
I realize people shop online because of the convenience. But support your local economy and spend money within it. Without supporting it, a community can only survive for a certain amount of time.
Thanks Barry for joining us!
Thank you for the interview, it was fun and I feel honored. Love your site and all you do to further the passion we share in cigars.
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