Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's In a Hat?

If you have seen me in person you have no doubt noticed the fairly large tattoo of the Mad Hatter I have on my right forearm. Many would and have considered this to be somewhat of an odd piece of body art, but it applies to my life in two very real ways. First and foremost is my love of Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland and all corresponding material by the author, the second would be my love of hats. I can regularly be seen in a variety of noggin accoutrement including fedoras, cabbie hats, panama hats, homburg hats, top hats, cowboy hats, ball caps, and even pirate hats on occasion. Needless to say I love hats. As is my custom when I have a little extra money lying around and it happens to be anywhere even remotely close to my birthday, anniversary, or Christmas, I picked up a new hat yesterday (my birthday is a scant month away!). This year's acquisition was a new black fur felt Homburg purchased from the only hat store worth shopping at in my opinion: Batsakes. My Homburg is a black Selentino brand hat with a leather sweat band and a silk liner, as well as coming with two feather arrangements. The cost was around $170.00 with tax, and while this is a couple of dollars more than you could find the hat for online, you don't have to pay shipping costs, or wait for your new hat to arrive, plus you have the option to try on different sizes which is always a plus if you are unaware of your hat size. If you are looking for an accessory for your own personal dome, this store has whatever you might be looking for, and if they don't have it they can get it or Gus Miller (the owner) can make it. That's right, Gus Miller is one of the only people you will find still making hats in his own shop. Stepping into Batsakes is like stepping back in time. Batsakes has been open since 1905 and Gus inherited the shop from his uncle, whom he used to sweep up for and who taught him the haberdashery trade. The store is piled full of hats, and even has a shoe shine station set up on one of the front walls. Gus, his wife, and the shoe shine gentleman are the only individuals you will find working in the shop, but there are always people coming in and out, getting a new hat or a shine, or simply wanting to talk to Gus. Gus has made hats for everyone from Snoop Dogg to George W. and H.W. Bush, as well as renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti. I have always had wonderful service at Batsakes, as well as always receiving a top quality product, and I will continue to shop at Batsakes as long as it remains open, which I hope for the sakes of all of our craniums is forever. So do yourself a favor and visit Batsakes before it is too late! This store is not only one of the best haberdasheries around, but it is a Cincinnati Icon, and Gus Miller is a living legend.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cigar Review: CAO Lx2 Toro

As far as premium cigars go, CAO is probably one of my favorite brands. CAO has an extensive variety of cigars, which means that no matter what your taste is, CAO will more than likely have several cigars to suit you. Several months ago I tried a CAO Lx2 Toro and liked it so much that I bought a box of them. The price is fairly reasonable with a single stick running you anywhere between 5 and 7 dollars depending on the size you choose and the establishment you buy from and a box of 20 running about $125 or so. They have been sitting in my humidor since then gradually disappearing at a steady rate. The Lx2 is a pretty strong smoke and I would not recommend it for first time smokers, but if you are not a novice and can appreciate a strong cigar you should most definitely try this one out. The Toro is a nice 6", 50 gauge cigar that is a perfect size for the Lx2 in my opinion because it is not as short as the robusto, but not so long that it will turn you green (keep in mind this is a fairly strong smoke). It is categorized as a full strength cigar, its country of origin is Nicaragua, it is made up of Dominican and Nicaraguan Ligero long-filler with a Honduran binder and Nicaraguan wrapper. This cigar is extremely peppery with flavors of wood and leather for the first quarter of its 6" size, but after the spicy introduction it mellows out and delivers an extremely smooth velvety smoke with rich flavors of sweet spice and coffee. I personally love this cigar and have found it to be one of my favorites among the extensive CAO collection. It has a nice draw that is neither to hard nor too loose, as well as having an even burn and a firm gray ash. I personally enjoy this cigar with one of three beverage accompaniments: Dr. Pepper (if I am not in the mood for anything stronger), a nice dark rum such as Gosling's Old Rum served neat, or a good bourbon or whiskey such as Maker's Mark served on the rocks. The spiciness and sweetness of all three of these beverages compliment the cigar nicely. So in closing, if you find yourself looking for a good strong cigar to wrap up your evening or add to the pleasure of your weekend, the CAO Lx2 Toro is a fairly inexpensive and tasty cigar to pick up and try out.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Intro to Cigars

As anyone who knows me well can tell you I love cigars, but I have only really been enjoying cigars for about three years. Cigars are amazingly complex little bundles of extremely high quality tobacco leaves, hand rolled, and delivered to your local tobacco emporium with the utmost care. Many people think cigars are out of their reach and can only be enjoyed by the well to do, but this can not be further from the truth. The worst thing anyone who thinks they might be interested in cigars can do is go to their local gas station and pick up a box of cheap cigars such as Phillie's. These extremely low quality, bad tasting, and bad smelling dog turds are so far from a true cigar it would be like comparing a rusted old pinto to a brand new Rolls Royce. Cigars such as these are nothing more than cheap filler tobacco dust rolled by machine in a cheap leaf wrapper. A good cigar can be had for just a few dollars, and if you do not have the luxury of a humidor you should only be buying one or two at a time anyway. Trust me. Put down the dog turd and go to your local tobacco retailer, such as a Strauss Tobacconist or the like, and ask the clerk to point you in the direction of a good low priced starter cigar. A decent choice for a good starter cigar is a CAO Gold, this cigar is extremely mild and won't bowl you over if you are just starting out. If you find yourself still interested in cigars after you actually had a decent one, there are a few tips I can pass on to you to help start you on the road to cigar nirvana:

1: Don't go hog wild on cigar accessories when you are first starting out. There are a lot of premium items that can be had, but at a premium price. Not that these items are not worth their sometimes steep prices, but when first starting out a box of matches and a fairly inexpensive cigar cutter (I prefer a cutter, not a punch) will do the job just fine.

2: If you find yourself truly in love with cigars invest in a humidor. You can find a small humidor for fifty dollars or less and can have it up and running in a few days for a total investment of probably eighty bucks. This may seem steep to some, but it is a great investment for the true cigar lover.

3: Talk to people who are more experienced with cigars than you are. This is the best way to get advice on all things cigar related and best of all it's free. You can also find a great deal of information in publications such as Cigar Aficionado which can be found at any local bookstore.

Once you have decided that you are truly a cigar lover you can start sampling the stronger cigars and saving up for those expensive and shiny new accessories!