Greetings from Vancouver, BC - The Great Wet North (in the winter) ;)


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Hey there everyone, greetings. I'd like to thank Photo_Rob for pointing out this place to me! Are you ready for a wall of text? :D

As you can probably tell from my handle, I'm into coffee, a lot. So much so I didn't do that well a job of disguising who I am (if you search CoffeeGeek, you'll find me lol). Dunno if that's a mistake or not; but I've never been one to kinda hide who I am online (not that there's anything wrong with that!) So let me see if I can do a late night introduction here (I've just been editing photographs for the last 6 hours, got a deadline tomorrow!).

How I got into cigars

So I got into specialty coffee in the late 1990s; as a fan first, then as someone who took on a consumer education role, barista training role, and product review and consultation role by the early 2000s. Along with that came annual visits to huge specialty coffee trade shows, and meeting with farmers from Central and South America, and in Canada, even farmers and reps from places like Cuba (where they do produce coffee!). In the social atmosphere of most evenings at these events, two things usually come out to play: rum and cigars. I'd never smoked a good cigar before 2002 (I had smoked cheapo wedding / child birth celebration cigars, not liking them much!); but I was a 1.5 pack a day cigarette smoker then (bad boy). So around 2002, I had my first introduction to some Nicaraguan cigars gifted me by one of the really good farmers down there. I immediately got why people liked these things. And I slowly got into them.

The epiphany moment

I thought cigars were cool and interesting, but not something I wanted to get crazy about, until around 2008 or so. That was when I had a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Robusto (or it may have been a toro). I still remember that moment - the first time I got genuine "espresso" taste in a cigar (and no, I hadn't just had an espresso!); got big juicy citrus notes too, again something I never experienced in a cigar. Bam! 

(sidenote - it helped that by that point, I'd been going through several years of sensory skills training and learning on the coffee side of things).

2008-2015 Era of spending a lot of dough

I'm an addictive person. Also super anal retentive unless I put a conscious lid on it (I couldn't do what I do in photography and coffee if I wasn't). Once I discovered how amazing cigars could be, I had to seriously restrain myself. Here's why: I was almost always buying locally from B&Ms. If you know anything about the situation in Canada regarding tobacco and taxes, you know it's bad. In BC, it's even worse - we have, I believe, the highest tobacco taxes in Canada. By the time I quit smoking cigarettes (5 years ago this October!), I was spending $23/day just on that habit, and every 4 months or so I'd go to the B&M and drop $700+ on 20-30 sticks. Insanity.  I guess it's good I don't have kids. I've never been to Cuba myself, but have had people buy me cigars over there from time to time, including several boxes of fakes (two out of 4 fake boxes actually smoked quite well). Anyway, this was an expensive habit, one that cost me about $10,000 or more a year (friggin' cigarettes); It was so bad, I had severe credit card debt by 2011, and something had to go - so both cigarettes went (cold turkey, e-cigs helped) and cigars (for 1 year, that was the plan). 

2012, on the 1yr anniversary of quitting cigarettes, I lit up a RyJ LE Duke (2009). AMAZING. Holy cow. Worth all the $40+ I paid for it. 

After that, I had one cigar a month - my humidor still had about 60 sticks in it (during my hiatus); in 2013, I started buying again. B&M ouch prices in YVR. Moved to a cigar every 2 weeks, then once a week, and now maybe 2, 3 times a week. I think that's my limit. That's where I got to in 2015. I also had a bit of "double band" want (remember, I'm addictive to the good things in life), so I was paying $30, $40, $45 and more a stick in some cases.

2016 onward

A friend introduced me to alternative methods for acquiring cigars. Along that way, I ended up here as well. I may order, I may not (who am I fooling). This year has also been one of my biggest acquisition years for some great cigars, including, but not limited to, My Father Bijou 1922 torps (not CC); RASSs, the 2013 RjJ LEs, all four Anejedos (meh, 'cept the HdMs), RyJ Short Churchills (my new-old-new again fave) and my serious g0-to cigar, the beautiful Ramon Allones Small Clubs (gawd, I love them so much).

What I've been enjoying the last twelve months

So I'm not sure if non-cuban mentions are kosher here, so slap my wrist if they aren't. Anyway, one of the most complex I've ever had was the HdM Epicure Especiale; bought 10 sticks a few years ago, enjoyed my last one this past year and need to get more. Creamy toffee mixed with spice and wood and what I call (in the coffee world) "pure sweet tobacco". Had several Oliva Serie V Melanio Robustos (yeah, the CA one) and for a strong, full cigar, they were amazing with the oaky-chocolate forward tastes and vanilla spice throughout. I'm always up for a RyJ Short Churchill - they consistently deliver nice cocoa/bitter chocolate and light citrus, changing into more bitter chocolate with cream and butter. A recent box I bought was the Aging Room Forte Perfectos, which I've come to really enjoy for their creamy, bright, slightly sweet earthy taste throughout. And, if I only had to smoke one cigar though for the rest of my life, it might be the Ramon Allones Small Club. I like the Specially Selecteds too, but there's something about the RASC.

And no, I have not had a Rocky Patel Vintages 1992 since it was my epiphany moment. I don't want to ruin that memory, just in case it doesn't measure up today to the excellent sticks I get to partake in.

Well there you go - sorry for the wall of text! I tend to go on, and typing 100+wpm helps. :D Anyway, looking for fellow Canadians to say hi to, my fellow Commonwealth brothers and sisters (hi New Zealand! Hi England! Hi Australia! etc) and of course, a special hello to the Americans out there! Meanwhile, here's some photos of stuff.

- Mark 

(PS - I hope historical references to some random prices don't break forum rules?)

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Welcome to FOH! I understand the cost/pricing problem, we have the same issues in Ontario, I quickly found other sources and my wallet thanks me. I still support the local shops by buying some random sticks - singles or two stick tasters, house blends and some accessories.

Sent From My Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Using Tapatalk

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7 hours ago, jmg said:

welcome and your photo skills are amazing. granted, you do it for a living, but still

Thanks! I like photographing cigars too, there's so much texture involved. But as Photo_Rob above would attest to, getting these kinds of photos can be easy if you have a flash that can bounce off the ceiling or a side wall :D.

If I can share a bit of a "protip", even if you have a simple P&S that has a pop up retractable flash, you may be able to retract it back to point upwards, bouncing off the ceiling for the shot. Some cameras (like Fuji's P&S cameras) detect when the flash is pointing upwards and compensate; if your camera doesn't automatically, you can usually increase the flash's power by +1, +2 and get the similar effect. Here's what it would look like in the photos below, and it will improve your cigar photography substantially ;). Unfortunately, you can't do this with a smartphone camera though.

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