Every now and again, writers have those uninspired spells. Moments when we know we should be writing but can’t seem to simply sit down and write something worth reading. I have been experiencing such a spell lately and have been searching for a
way out of the pit of apathy. There will always be cigars to review, and there will always be events to do write-ups on, but there come those eventual moments when writing about the “subtle hints of cocoa”, or the “smooth billowy smoke” becomes almost
robotic and insincere. When those moments come, it’s time to take a break from that format and find a new muse. Luckily, the cigar passion offers a plethora of facets in which to find inspiration, and at the present I am more than inspired by the current state
of the cigar market and where we are heading as a hobby. For this writer, the cigar world is a more intriguing and exciting place than it has ever been.
Cigars have traditionally been an old man’s game. Tradition and seniority have reigned supreme both in the hobby and in the colossal industry. Most successful cigar brands have been around much longer than I have, and we all know the names for a reason. Even non-cigar enthusiasts know the names Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, Punch, Montecristo, etc. This is not an un-earned quality by any means. After-all, one must earn their reputation. With that in mind, my biggest surge of inspiration at the moment stems from the non-traditional.
Every new issue of Aficionado, or Cigar Snob is featuring new cutting-edge brands. Brands that have existed not for decades but a mere few years or even months. Brands that have quietly spent years developing their blends and waiting for the perfect time to share them with the cigar world. There is an entirely new aesthetic emerging through the pages of these publications. Amidst the pages of classic ads showing the traditional archetypal “Padron” standing in his tobacco field, adorned with a white Panama hat and a simple wrist watch, there are ads that look like rock and roll album covers. New-age “Padrons” are tattoo-clad, jewelry rocking “bad boys” promoting their brand to a new demographic.Cigar labeling has gone from the classic red and gold bands of traditional cigars to bold, bright, eye-catching colors decorated with beautifully, strategically designed fonts, and art-deco illustrations that make the smoker truly look at the band before ever purchasing the stick.
Room 101 is a prime example of this new-age aesthetic. Matt Booth is the owner of Room 101 Brand and his history runs deep in art, having established himself as a jewelry and luggage designer before making his foray into the world of cigar production. His bands are small pieces of art showing his affection for script font and Japanese influence. The logo for Room 101 is his signature “Fu” mask that existed on his jewelry long before resting on his selection of smokes. Having recently met the man, I can attest to his true belief in this new cigar culture. His presence in a cigar shop is that of a rock star backstage at a show. Humble and laid-back, he accepts compliments and questions about his brand graciously and is more than happy to speak of his time in the industry with any curious enough to ask.
Another notable up and comer would be Robert Caldwell of Caldwell cigars. His new line of smokes is almost impossible keep on the shelves of shops lucky enough to get them in the first place. Unlike Room 101, Caldwell’s cigar branding lies in the statement of the illustrations on his band as opposed to the gorgeous script found on Matt Booth’s stick. Not unlike room 101, Caldwell’s bands are a piece of art in their own right. Each of the three new sticks offered from Caldwell feature a unique illustration that represents the name of the stick. The font is equally purposeful in the image, but the illustration is far and away the focal point.
The visual evolutions that brands like these are offering are not the only advancement being made by the young bloods. The lack of history and tradition in these brands means they are able to experiment freely with blends, creating new smoking experiences for cigar people that want something fresh and new. When you walk into a shop looking for an Arturo Fuente short story, you are looking for a stick that you are familiar with, and there is no doubt as to the smoking experience you will have with that established cigar. When you purchase a stick from the newer side of the humidor, you are getting sticks that have blends never tried prior. Blends with six to eight different notes available to the pallet. While older brands made their names on their successful emulation of traditional Cuban style smokes, the new guys are able to create flavors and blends all their own without concern as to how it was done in 1950.
As stated in previous articles, I am a huge fan of tradition. One of the biggest appeals to this hobby is the simple concept that it has been around for centuries. Cigar smokers have enjoyed fine tobacco, unadulterated by chemicals or additives for generations, and many brands have been along for the majority of the ride. There is a time for tradition however, and a time for (r)evolution. The young guns in the cigar industry are creating a new, exciting spin on a traditional art form, and there is room for both parties in the humidor of life.