Cruisin’ & Smokin’ & Golfin' By Randy “Tank” Tantlinger
Sailing the Caribbean. Hoping from tropical island to tropical island. Exploring the vast open crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. Images of tropical destinations fill ones heart with wanderlust and freedom.
If you’re like me you love the open road or in this case the open sea, the quest to seek and discover the unknown. If you’re like me you love the quest to discover your next quality cigar. Perhaps it’s a mild Connecticut leaf. Perchance a wild cornucopia of chocolate and pepper dancing on your tongue excites your palate.
Well if the combination of crusin’ the high seas and smokin’ cigars thrills you then look no further than the “Cigar Cruise”. This annual gathering of cigar lovers, their friends and wives entered its fifth year in 2016.
If you love jokin’, smokin’ and laughin’ then the “Cigar Cruise” is for you my friend. The cruise is the brainchild of two Kansas boys; Dean Prather and Kendall Culberston.
The cruise features cigars from “Rocky Patel Premium Cigars”, “Gunslinger” and “La Sirena”. What more could a lover of the leaf ask for? Cigars and the tropical sun!
The eight day cruise set sail from the “Port of Miami”. Now since yours truly has smoked a million stogies and never set sail on a cruise ship before; I was excited to discover the unknown. At the end of the trip I would discover new friends, great smokes and the companionship of fellow cigar lovers.
First stop, “The Bahamas”. Who knew that Carnival Cruise lines has their own private island, but they do. Our ship, “The Glory”, dropped anchor just off the shoreline of this stunning slice of heaven. “Half Moon Caye” is everything you have ever imaged a Caribbean island to be. Sugar soft white sand beaches, crystal blue transparent water and a party!
The crew of “The Cigar Cruise” set up shop for the day in its own private beach cabana complete with a hot tube, a fully stocked bar and plenty of cigars to go around.
The beauty of the “Cigar Cruise” is that you are handed free cigar after free cigar after free cigar after free cigar! Each day you are given a pack of delightful cigars to enjoy. Along with a few more handed out by your host Dean Prather; just because you can never have too many cigars at your disposal! If you are even a mild cigar enthusiast; the cigar cruise is for you!
Enjoy a “Perdition” by "Gunslinger Cigars" as you lay beneath the funshine. Savor one of the many varieties of Rocky Patel cigars. Taste a “La Sirena” as you wade in the blue water of “Half Moon Caye”.
“La Sirena” cigars was founded in 2009 in New York City. Their founder Aerielle Ditkowich has hand crafted a variety of smokes that are an absolute delight. The name La Sirena in Spanish and Italian means “The Mermaid”. Aerielle is “The Mermaid” of the enchanted seas of cigars. She casts her magical spell and blends a cornucopia of delightful flavors. Sticking with the nautical theme; her sticks each have names that represent the aquatic life, “Porthole”. “La Sirena”, “Merlion-Sealion”, and “Oceano”.
Pedigrees and ratings define the true nature of a cigar blend. Cigar Aficionado has bestowed a “90” Rating on the “La Sirena” and a “91” Rating on the “Merlion”.
Their limited edition “Porthole” is a master piece. They are hand crafted at the La Zona factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. I was lucky to have one in my daily cigar goodie bag that was handed out. This blend has a limited production annual of only 15,000 cigars. How lucky was I?
Our next port of call was the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Thomas. As others from the cruise enjoyed the sugar white beaches of St. Thomas; eight of our intrepid crew decided that we needed to stretch our legs and enjoy a round of golf, beers and cigars at the “Mahogany Run Golf Course”.
This splendid track has two signature holes that play alongside the blue waters of the Caribbean. Hole #13 is a short Par 4 that plays in at 327 yards. Her narrow fairway requires pinpoint precision off the tees to find the fairway. Her postage stamp of a green is nestled into the side of a mountain. Her right is protected by a bunker. Her left flank is guarded by another bunker. And the back of the green careens into a tranquil cove that meanders back out into the Sea.
Hole #14 is a gem of a Par 3 at 159 yards. The tee box provides an incredible one hundred and eighty degree elevated vista of the Caribbean and nearby islands. Your tee shot must cover ninety yards over the Cliffside and then onto a postage stamp green. Her right is flanked by a steep uphill wall of grass. And her left is a small three hundred foot drop off into the Sea.
The order of the day was cigars, laughter, cigars, beer, laughter and more cigars! Golf took a back seat to the pleasures of the day.
One amongst us that day was Kendall Culbertson owner of “Gunslinger Cigars”. What can I say about him; he’s wild, crazy, a lover of mirth and merriment and smart as a whip too. I liked Kendall the second I met him.
If you go to his website www.outlawcigar.com; you’ll read in a few paragraphs all you need to know about him, his brand and his lifestyle.
“Deep in the badlands of Kansas City, at the edge of the edge of the town’s most lawless quarter, you’ll find an assemblage of the meanest, nastiest most colorful renegades, scofflaws and desperadoes that ever did walk the green earth. And while their tastes for vice are as motley as the tattoos on their hides, they’ll always be in agreement on just one thing: the world’s finest, most prime contraband come from only one place.
Established by one of KC’s most notorious miscreants, The Outlaw caters to cigar fanatics of all walks of life. From the world’s premier puros to smokes only a mother would love, you’ll find a selection to indulge any palette. ..and bank roll.”
Kendall is a 21st century Renascence man. He has his “Outlaw” cigar shop, he has his own band and writes cigar themed music, he blends his own cigars as well.
I believe he’s a bit of a mad scientist as well. He explained that he spends countless hours in the tobacco fields of faraway lands. There he mixes, matches and blends a variety of leafs in search for the perfect blend.
Like his life that is fast, hard and thrilling; his family of cigars represents the “Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse” mantra. Let’s take a look at a few of the flavors “Gunslinger Cigars” offered us during our cruise.
“Perdition”: Kendall tells us, “Perdition consists of Nicaraguan, Honduran and Broadleaf fillers wrapped in a spicy Nicaraguan binder topped off with a San Andreas Wrapper. Together this well balanced and complex combination of tobacco delivers a rich and unique flavor profile.
Perdition exhibits rich dark coffee notes. Upon exhale one experiences prominent nutty spices with a subtle gritty tartness that wakes up the palate. New flavors emerge of earth and hazelnut balanced by a continuation of smooth spice through the nose. This medium to full body cigar finishes with hints of oak and toast as it builds in strength.” “Black Powder”: “The Black Powder took three plus years and blending sessions in eleven different factories to find the best factory and tobacco to achieve a truly special cigar. An incredible amount of time and attention has gone into creating the perfect balance of pepper, earthiness, deep rich chocolate and sweetness.
The peppers in this cigar are complex with a pallet of smooth soft peppers and course sharp black pepper. Add the deep rich chocolate and earthiness finished off by a deep thick sweetness and you have an incredibly rich cigar.”
“Hangman” “Hangman Flavor Profile: Begins with cinnamon raisin tones and underling hint of woody spices, each puff brings in a smooth blast of chocolate. The flavors change to a nuttiness as the strength starts to build. Towards the end more and more spice and heat hit the palate in this medium to full body cigar.”
I have to tell you; I’m secretly envious of Kendell. He has grabbed life by the balls, squeezed really hard and looked life dead in the eyes and screamed, “I own your ass!”
Puerto Rico provided the next stop on the “2016 Cigar Cruise”. Often called, “Borinquen” – a derivation of Borikén, its indigenousTaíno name, which means "Land of the Valiant Lord”; this island has history in heap fulls.
Christopher Columbus landed here in 1492 and since then this tiny island has a bountiful history. Walking through the streets of the old town and exploring the “San Cristobal” fort is a full day’s adventure, but worth every step.
Built in 1783 the “San Cristobal” fort inspires awe and amazement in a cigar traveler’s heart. As does the history of San Jaun. If you love history like I do then the names of Sir Francis Drake, Teddy Roosevelt and the “Roughriders” conjure and stir the imagination.
Puerto Rico was indeed a splendid stop along our sojourn through the Caribbean.
"Rocky Patel Premium Cigars" are the main feature on the cruise. Our hosts were straight from the factory itself, Nish Patel and Nimish Desai. You may be asking, “Where the hell was Rocky Patel?”
Well just days before our cruise set sail the FDA presented a list of proposed new laws regulating the cigar industry. The industry had known for some time that the proposed laws were in the works. Then a sonic “BOOM” went through the cigar community on May 5th when the “FDA Nuclear Bomb” was dropped.
The U.S. economy has been slowly crawling out of the mire that the collapse of 2008 created. Many industries are barely alive from new home manufacturing to car sales. The cigar industry is one of a select few that has witnessed growth. New consumers, new brands, new blends, small boutique companies and new cigar shops have all come to be in the recent years. In short, the love of the leaf has endured hard times, thrived and survived.
So what does Uncle Sam do? Oh, let me clarify which Uncle.
You have two Uncles these days. The socialist Uncle Bernie or Uncle Obama , if you like.
And the traditional and time proven "Uncle Adam Smith" author of “Wealth of Nations”.
I prefer and demand my Uncle be of the Adam Smith ilk.
If you don't understand the difference; do the world a favor and stop voting! You're a moron!
Because you see the “Uncle Bernie/Sam” decided to stick his big fat fu**ing nose into one of the only thriving industries in America and set forth and propose new regulations that would in effect, and note this is without exaggeration, put ¾ of the cigar manufactures and brands out of business. It’s a long story and I won’t get into it here.
But the bottom line “YOUR” overbearing Federal government stuck a dagger in the heart of the cigar industry.
So our host Rocky Patel was in Washington D.C. as we were setting sail. He was meeting with any logical and rational elected official that would listen to exactly how much damage the new FDA laws would inflict.
Not to worry, Nish and Nimish were there to make sure we had a great time. One way they ensured our pleasure was to provide us samplings of their very best blends.
If you want to add a superb line of blends to your humidor; then come on the “2017 Cigar Cruise”. I was swimming in free cigars! Here’s a partial list of the Rocky Patel blends that were in our goodie bags. Hold onto your Gilligan hats little buddy!
Vintage 1990, Vinatge 1999-Conecticut, BOLD, Decade 10th Anniversary, Super Ligero Robusto, 2003 Vintage Robusto, Prohibition Broadleaf Toro, Sungrown Maduro Toro, Nimmy D, RP Royale, RP Platinum just to name a few!
Now it was two of their blends in particular that made me realize I had died and gone to haven.
As Nish Patel and I sat and talked about our love for golf and where we had played we each enjoyed a “Hamlet Paredes-Tabaquero”.
Crafted by Cuban master blender Hamlet Paredes this incredible blend of Mexican, Brazilian and Nicaraguan leafs is simply a cigar lover’s dream come true.
The “Nording-50th Anniversary” was an incredible smoke! Our buddies at “Cigar International” write about the Nording, “Chances are you recognize the Nording name from the world of pipes, but maybe not. Either way, Erik Nording has been one of the world's premiere pipe craftsman for the past 50 years. With a renowned reputation that stretches to all corners of the globe, his pipe designs only seem to get better with each passing day. But Erik Nording isn't just a pipe guy either, he's a true lover of the leaf. Wanting to create his own exclusive cigar, it's no surprise that he turned to Rocky Patel, one of the best cigar makers in the world.
Carefully crafted in Honduras, each Nording comes cloaked in an oily and dark brown Nicaraguan Colorado wrapper. This extraordinary leaf conceals a rich bouquet of Nicaraguan long-fillers, blended to achieve Erik Nording's ideal flavor and strength. Each puff reveals smooth and cool flavor, imparting notes of toast, leather, tobacco and spicy-sweet undertones. Medium to full in body, but so smooth you might not notice, Nording cigars are sure to satisfy enthusiasts and novices alike. A fine collaboration between two men who know their craft well, err scratch that extremely well, Nording cigars are a must-try.”
Cigars and the Dominican Republic go hand in hand! Many of the world’s cigars are now produced in the Dominican Republic. So what the heck our last stop was the D.R. So what a perfect stop on the itinerary than a visit to The La Aurora cigar factory.
In 1903 Eduardo Jimnes was only eighteen years old. He has a vision to create and craft cigars. Today his legend lives on and is known as “La Aurora”.
One of the premier cigar brands in the world, La Aurora has created the ultimate day journey for a cigar lover. Here at their factory you learn all that goes into creating a premium cigar.
The majesty of “La Aurora” is that they craft both handmade and machine made cigars that are rare treats. Normally I stick with handmade blends. I know that time, effort and care was put into them by the master blender. “La Aurora” gives your taste buds reason to celebrate with their machine made blends as well. From their “Caribbean” brand to their “Leon Jimenes” they perfect cigars.
But if it is their hand rolled treats you desire; then you are not disappointed. Manuel Inoa bares the title Master Blender here at the factory. You could also call him a genius. His pallet must be given to him from the god’s above.
Awards and ratings? Yes, they come in droves here. If you know cigar ratings then you will appreciate that the La Aurora 107 Maduro Belicoso received a solid “92” from Cigar Aficionado.
Our tour of the factory and our first class Harvard-Cigar degree was amazing. It helps and allows a cigar lover to have a greater appreciation for how a quality blend is achieved. And as if our humidors weren’t filled enough; they gave each of us a “La Aurora” starter kit to take home. She was filled with a cuter, lighter, and their very best blends. Along with a manual on how to savor each cigar contained within. “The Cigar Cruise” is simply heaven on the open seas. Cigars, new friends, exotic ports of call all await you. The 2017 Cigar Cruise sets sail from Miami on May 20th and heads to ports in Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize and Cozumel, Mexico. Join your new friends by logging onto www.thecigarcruise.com