This week we feature @i_post_alone, one of the most active cigar aficionados on the Instagram community and a total source of knowledge when it comes to all types of cigars. Go check out his profile because you will not only learn a lot but you’ll also have the chance to win some of his awesome giveaway prizes.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you?
I am @i_post_alone, my friends call me Flow and I am a cigar Instagrammer.
What’s your honest take on the eternal debate of Cuban vs non-Cuban cigars?
I think the cigar industry has come a long way as a whole. Meaning that countries other than Cuba have started producing respectable cigars. It used to be that non-Cuban cigars were not good cigars. If you wanted a good cigar, then you wanted a Cuban. However, now there are good cigars being produced in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and other countries. People who say they only smoke Cuban cigars are close-minded and refuse to learn about new things in life. Perhaps ten years ago it was okay to say that you only smoke Cuban cigars. However, nowadays if someone says they only smoke Cubans, they sound foolish.
Based on that, what’s your personal preference?
I believe the best tobacco comes from Cuba, but most of the best tobacco rollers have left Cuba. I recently had to throw away more than half a box of one of my favorite Cuban cigars: Trinidad Fundadores. I was only able to smoke about 40% of the cigars in the box because most of them were plugged. I pulled and pulled and nothing came out. The reason for this is because most Cuban tobacco rollers are not in Cuba- they are in other countries. The Fuentes, the Garcias, the Padrons, Eiroa, Quesada, and so many more Cuban tobacco families use Nicaraguan, Ecuadorian, Honduran, and Dominican tobacco now because of the embargo. These were the Cuban families that pioneered the Cuban cigar industry prior to the embargo. They left Cuba and took their talents with them. Now the only family left in Cuba are the Robainas. But the Robainas cannot possibly roll every cigar that comes out of Cuba. So we settle for what we can get. And since Cuban tobacco tastes the best, we take what we can get.
Cigar smoking can raise some unwanted attention. Do people in your area still get surprised to see you have a cigar?
There are ignorant people everywhere. Unfortunately, I live in a part of the US where tobacco and smoking are frowned upon. I cannot smoke wherever I want. I can only smoke in certain places, like cigar bars and lounges. There’s certainly no shortage of cigar rooms where I live, but I cannot smoke in a restaurant or a bar or a club because it’s illegal. Fortunately, the majority of people that I smoke in front of that understand the difference between cigars and cigarettes. There are some ignorant people who think it’s the same thing, but fortunately, there are not too many of those people.
Usually, people have two first-time moments: the first cigar and the cigar that ignited the passion you have today. What were yours?
This is very true. My first cigar was a Cuban Romeo Y Julieta when I was 15 years old. My boss at the time smoked cigars and he offered me his cigars every so often. He only smoked Cubans.
Then there was the cigar that ignited my passion for collecting and understanding cigars: that cigar was a Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro a few years ago. I was at a business meeting and the gentleman I was meeting with took me to a luxurious and exclusive cigar room in NYC where he gave me a Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro. It was at the moment that I was hooked into the cigar world.
Give us some detail about your collection, what do you have in your humidor?
I have a collection of over 3,000 cigars ranging from ordinary store-bought non-Cubans to boutique cigars, all the way to Pre-Embargo and Pre-Castro Cuban cigars from the 1950s. I built my collection over the past 4 years. The first big purchase I made was when I was in Dubai. I bought a bunch of Cuban cigars and even non-Cuban cigars. I spent a fortune and overpaid because I knew nothing at the time. I bought some Limited Edition Cubans and I bought some regular production Cubans. I also bought Padron №90 and OpusX Reserva d’ Chateau.
My most valuable cigars are certainly the cigars that were rolled and bought before Fidel Castro came to power. I also have some other valuable cigars like a Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva and the first Cuban Regional Edition Ramon Allones. I love all cigars, so I collect them all. If I come across a cigar that I like, I usually buy it for my collection.
What’s the best cigar you have ever had?
The best cigar I ever had is actually a pre-embargo Cuban cigar. It is from a Cuban company that is no longer around today. The name is Maria Guerrera and the cigar was called Cedros de Luxe. It was wrapped in cedar like Romeo Y Julieta Cedros. This is where Romeo Y Julieta got the idea to wrap their cigars in cedar.
Another cigar that I have to mention because it is pretty much tied for 1st place with the Maria Guerrera, is a 1995 OpusX Double Corona. As you know, OpusX debuted in 1995. A few months ago I had the opportunity to smoke one of the first OpusX ever made. The cigar was very different from any OpusX I’ve ever smoked. Not only was the cigar 24 years old, but it came from the very first release. That first OpusX release was far superior to any other OpusX. That first release put them on the map. It was an amazing experience.
Based on that, what’s the perfect pairing for it?
I am not the right person to discuss pairings. I always pair my cigars with a sweet iced tea. If I’m in the USA, I go to a store and buy Snapple Peach Iced Tea. If I am in Europe, I get either San Benedetto or Lipton Peach Iced Tea. I like to pair my cigars with these Iced Teas. Once in a while, for very special occasions, I may have a glass of Cognac with my cigar. But that’s only once a year.
Everyone has their own ritual when starting a cigar session. What’s yours?
My ritual is just getting my drink, my cutter, and my lighter. It’s pretty simple. I also like to play on my phone while smoking a cigar. No big ritual.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
Behike 54… I could smoke this cigar every day for the rest of my life. It’s not too strong and it’s not too mild. It’s just perfect.
We all did some nasty mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
Ever since Behike became the most elusive cigar, my goal was always to smoke them. However, I had problems finding Behike because they were very difficult to find. I estimate that my first ten Behike were fake. Every time I would find a person who claimed to have Behike, I’d spend a bunch of time and money getting the Behike, only to later find out that they were fake.
However, as I looked back on that experience, there is one particular moment that stands out. One of the Behike was real. At the time, I thought I had bought another fake and I ended up throwing it in the toilet after taking a few draws. I hadn’t realized at the time that Behike had changed their hologram. Cohiba decided that they didn’t like the hologram on the Behike and decided to change it. This was a couple of years ago. The Behike that I flushed down the toilet turned out to have the new hologram. I realized it several months later when I started noticing that Behikes had a new and different hologram. That was an embarrassing moment for me. I complained to the person I bought them from and he was more confused than I was. But it turned out that he was the one person who gave me a real Behike only to have me flush it down a toilet out of anger.
What do you look for in a cigar retailer?
There are a few answers to this question. If I am looking to buy a box of boutique non-Cuban cigars, I only care about the price. If I am looking for a retailer where I can also smoke cigars, I look for location. It has to be conveniently located for me. It has to be either near my home or near my office. However, since it is not possible to buy Cubans in the US where I live, I look for something completely different when it comes to Cuban retailers. I will explain…
Whenever I travel overseas, I always make it a point to stop at the La Casa del Habano near my destination. There is one particular LCDH that I like more than others and visit more than any other. That is the LCDH in Lugano, Switzerland. And even though I often visit the LCDH in St. Barth’s, I have actually taken a trip, especially to Lugano to visit my favorite LCDH.
The reason why I like Lugano LCDH the most is that it has a combination of everything: the owners are husband and wife and treat me like royalty whenever I visit. The husband always has a drink and a very very special cigar prepared for me. He is actually the person who gave me the pre-embargo Maria Guerrera that is the best cigar that I’ve ever smoked. I also keep in touch with both owners throughout the year. The husband, his name is Alan, has an unbelievable cigar collection. I’m not sure if it’s the biggest, but it’s certainly my favorite. In addition to the owners being great people, they have a beautiful lounge where I have met the director of Habanos and have had a drink and smoke within the beautiful lounge. They treat me very well and cater to me like I am royalty.
Imagine that the embargo to Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
If the embargo is lifted today, we will start to see much better cigars. Everyone says the opposite, but I believe that once the embargo is lifted, it will open up a world of opportunities. We will start seeing cigars that have tobaccos from all regions of the world. None of us know what a cigar with Cuban, Dominican, and Nicaraguan tobacco tastes like. I believe it will taste amazing. And I also believe that the quality of Cuban cigars will improve drastically because all the rollers that left during the embargo will return to Cuba to roll the best cigars that the world has ever seen.
Imagine Padron using Cuban tobacco. Imagine Fuente using Cuban tobacco. Imagine a new Fuente cigar that has Cuban and Dominican tobacco in it. I imagine that tastes amazing.
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing in your country?
The cigar rooms in my area are usually at about 70–80% capacity whenever I go to a cigar room. There are usually a lot of people at the cigar rooms when I go after work. Every few years there’s a cigar boom, just like in real estate. There was a cigar boom in the ’90s then there was a boom in the 2000s and we are in a cigar boom now. So you see all the existing cigar industry players are doing well. Plus there are a lot of new entrants into the cigar industry.
Fake cigars are a real problem, we see them popping everywhere. What’s your take on the counterfeit industry and what can we do to minimize the damage?
Counterfeiting is a problem in every industry. But it’s especially a problem in the Cuban cigar industry because of the embargo. Fortunately, Habanos is doing a lot to prevent counterfeiting. They have put in place anti-counterfeiting features into their products. A lot of consumers are also tired of being duped. However, and unfortunately, there are some consumers that don’t care. They just don’t seem to mind that they’re smoking fake Cubans. Some will even go as far as to say that the cigar tastes good and that’s all that matters. They simply don’t care that they’re smoking scraps and toilet paper.
The people that do care and want to be confident that they are smoking real Cubans, those people buy from reputable and reliable sellers. And there’s a lot more people out there that rather have a real Cuban cigar rather than some piece of garbage. Those people only buy from legit places because they care.
What’s your favorite cigar accessory?
My favorite accessory is my Porsche Design Heber Torch Lighter.
Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter guy?
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
My favorite personality is @ashholeNYC because I think he’s very funny and knowledgeable. I enjoy watching his videos.
Instagram is one of your main digital platforms, how do you see the removal of the Like counts that is already live in some countries?
If Instagram is going to remove the like count, they should also do something about people buying fake followers. By removing the like count, they are only benefiting accounts that bought fake followers. Because we will only be able to see how many followers accounts have, that will be our only indicator of the popularity of an account. An account like mine, where I’ve personally recruited every follower and I engage with every follower, I am the one who will get hurt because people won’t see that my stats are legit and I engage with so many people.
Thank you for your time to read this profile interview. It means the world that you dedicated a bit of your time to do it. Share your thoughts on the comments. We are eager to listen to you and bring you value every single day. Have a great one!