People Behind the Profile — @smokehustler
The world of bartending and the world of cigars are very close to each other. In both, you can try to find different flavors, different blends, and different experiences. There are a few people that understand both and @smokehustler is one of them.
Thank you very much for accepting our interview, it is a pleasure to personally meet you. Who are you?
My name is Christian Cepero, I was born and raised in Cuba but then I moved to Las Vegas Nevada, back in 2012 where I currently live. My first passion is bartending and everything related to drinks. My second passion is Cigars.
What motivated you to start producing content for the community?
The fact that this community is super united and that no matter who you are and how much experience you have on the cigar topic you can always learn from somebody something new about tobacco.
How is the cigar scene in your country?
Well, in both of my countries (Cuba and USA) the cigar scene is as huge as it can get!
Do you prefer having a cigar alone or with others?
It all depends, when I am doing some work I like to have my cigar alone, with some rum or coffee so I can focus more on my task. But I also love to smoke with my dad, girlfriend, and friends. It is awesome both ways.
We’re going to talk about cigars, no matter their origin. However, we have to ask: Are you more of a Cuban or a non-Cuban cigar person?
Both, I love everything cigar related. It can be from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Mexico, etc. It does not matter if it is good and I like it, then I will smoke it.
Imagine that the embargo to Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
Even though this interview is about cigars, I will tell you that if the embargo is lifted from Cuba that would be amazing for all my people that live in Cuba. It would make me super happy. Now when it comes to cigars I don’t think too much is gonna happen, most people from the US are going to be able to taste real Habanos in an easier way, maybe the market is going to get more balance. But I don’t know, we just got to wait and see.
Tell us more about why you decided to become a Cigar Sommelier.
As mentioned before I am a bartender and I try to be the most complete personally and professionally that I can be. I like everything related to wine, cocktails, spirits, cigars, coffee, food, etc. I don’t want to be the best Cigar Sommelier in the world but I want to be able to know a little about everything, plus my biggest dream is to have my own cigar bar.
What did you like more while taking that course?
The fact that I was able to meet so many great people and professionals from all over the globe, plus you will learn that no matter who you are, there is so much room for improvement and knowledge that you can obtain.
There was some buzz on the internet about the IACS diploma being a scam. What are your thoughts about it?
I can guarantee that this school is as legitimate as it gets, and it is not an easy two days study diploma that you get, it takes a lot of dedication. My father is a Habano Sommelier from Cuba and he even said that the school is super great, hard, and complex.
Usually, people have two first-time moments: the first cigar and the cigar that ignited the passion you have today. What were yours?
In my case my first cigar was the same one that ignited my passion, it was a Cohiba Siglo VI that my dad gave me.
We all did some nasty mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
I guess they are the same as most people: dropping ash on me and toasting the foot too much.
What’s the best cigar you have ever had?
Too many to choose, but one of my favorites is Montecristo No 2.
Based on that, what’s the perfect pairing for it?
When it comes down to pairing there is “Personal Pairing” and what as sommeliers we called “Gourmet Pairing”. So on my personal pairing, I am that guy that loves a good mojito with his Montecristo No 2… I know I am gonna get a lot of people mad with this.
Everyone has their ritual when starting a cigar session. What’s yours?
I always make sure I grab everything I need, cutter, lighter, rum, rock glass, chocolate, cigar, etc. Because once I am in relax mode then I don’t like to stand up too much.
Tell us about your collection. What does your humidor look like?
Oh man, I like a lot of things, in my humidor, you can always find some Oliva Serie V, Casa Cuevas La Mandarria, Psyko 7 Nicaragua, Montecristo No 2, La Flor Dominicana, E. P. Carrillo, and many others.
When we meet someone, we usually give away one cigar as a gesture of good faith. What was the best cigar you have been offered?
Every time someone gives me a cigar as a gift it is as if you were giving me something really special for you, so I appreciate it a lot. If I have to pick the best I think I would go with Trinidad La Trova.
And the worst?
None, I am a super simple man, I enjoy everything. It is all about having the right vibe.
What do you think about cigars as a type of investment, like watches and cars?
In my personal preference, I see cigars more like therapy and having a good time than investment.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
Montecristo No 2.
As a customer, what do you look for in a cigar retailer?
Knowledge, personality, and respect.
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing?
What’s your favorite cigar accessory?
I don’t really have any.
Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter guy?
I rather go with a torch but I can light it up with a rock if I have to.
Enjoying a cigar: inside or outside?
It depends, but most of the time inside in a cigar bar.
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
There are too many cool people to mention them all and actually some of them are like family, a few of those people are @remarkable_liz, @cigar_bosslady, @maestrosommelier, and too many others… I can tell you who I don’t like, I don’t like the cigar snobs.
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?
This is a huge issue in the industry, and there is always going to be counterfeits out there we just have to try to educate ourselves in the best way possible so we can reduce the number of people buying counterfeits and getting scammed. I’ve been scammed before so it can happen to anybody.
How do you see the future of Cigars on social media?
It is growing a lot, and the community is super awesome so that’s good.
Did something surprise you in the cigar community?
It surprised me how united we are. There are a lot of cool people here.
What is the most overrated cigar for you? And the most underrated?
Cohiba Behike and Arturo Fuente Opus X are the most overrated in my opinion. The most underrated is Jose L Piedra. This is gonna trigger a lot of people.
What brand have you never smoked and probably never will?
I am down to try any brand or cigar.
What is your “Unicorn” cigar?
I don’t have any.
What are your Top 5 favorite cigars?
- Montecristo No 2;
- Oliva Serie V;
- Casa Cuevas La Mandarria;
- E. P. Carrillo La Historia;
- Trinidad La Trova.
A short message to all the community
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!