Lifestyle – Spirited Smoke

Privada club order

Just received my July’s Privada cigar club box and absolutely and thrilled on what I received thanks again Brian and your team at Privada cigar club you guys are truly the best of the best


Sister of the Leaf and Avid Motorcyclist Cigarpassionista Nikki

By Gene Kizhnerman,

Photos by Phil Hawkins 


As an often-ignored segment, women are taking on a male-dominated industry and letting their opinions on the world of premium cigars be heard. They are the backbone of the cigar industry, working at retail stores and cigar factories, in positions with some of your favorite brands and as influencers on various social media platforms.

Today we spoke to Nikki or as she’s better known as @cigarpassionista on Instagram. We have done many interviews over the years, but few from many were with cigar folks who knew so much about the industry. It was a breath of fresh air speaking with Nikki and learning more about this lifestyle.

Nikki, do the folks a favor and tell them a little about yourself. 

N: I’m a Southern California girl in my early 30s, now a Southern belle in Savannah, Georgia.  I’m an avid motorcyclist who has been passionately exploring the world of motorcycles for the past 11 years and a published journalist in the motorcycle industry and has been contributing to the cigar community on Spirited Smoke.  I’ve been a freelance model since 2014 and love helping bring artists visions to life.  I’m an admirer of fine cuisine and I love cooking and growing my own vegetables and herbs in my garden especially hot peppers.  I’m a lover of fine wine, craft brews, artisanal spirits, and cocktails especially pairing with premium cigars.

Tell me about your Instagram CigarPassionista? Is there a story behind the name.

N: When I was deciding on a name for my cigar page I wanted a name that invoked emotion and female empowerment.  I was brainstorming and “passionista” popped into my head and I thought to myself, “Is that a word?”  Sure enough, I looked it up and found that the Urban Dictionary defines passionista as “a woman who pursues her passions as a career with a thirst for continuous growth and a desire to serve others.” And I thought, “Perfect!”

Everyone remembers their first cigar. Some people actually try to forget. Tell us about your first experience. What was it about the setting or the smell, maybe even the decor that made the experience either memorable or something you wish to forget.

N: I’ll be honest with you, I smoked cherry flavored cigarillos for years before I had my first real cigar.  A close friend of mine who has been smoking cigars for over 20 years kept offering me a real cigar because we’d smoke together and I’d go through half a pack of my cigarillos while he was still enjoying his cigar.  The thing that kept holding me back was the ring gauge…then one day I finally decided to try it and I smoked a Rocky Patel Mulligan and took it instantly!  After my research, I was enamored with the process that goes into making the cigars.  I immediately found myself questioning why I waited so long to try a cigar and all I had been missing out on!

What is it about the cigar/tobacco culture that keeps you so drawn in? 

N: To me, the beauty of a cigar is that the tobacco is a living breathing thing with its own unique characteristics that are inherently present as the result of the region and growing conditions in which it originated.  From the early stages of growing the tobacco is nurtured and meticulously cared for and dried so then it may be rolled by hand to become the cigar- no two are alike.  Then it can be placed in a humidor to age so that it may reach its full potential.  I love the journey of each cigar in and of itself.  As it burns through the first, second, and then the final third of the blend it takes on different notes and aromas awakening the senses through the process.

Then there is the cigar community and I’ve never seen anything like the camaraderie of the cigar world.  Everyone is so kind, welcoming and supportive.  I’ve yet to meet a cigar smoker I didn’t like!

As you may know, Instagram has created a double-edged sword for the tobacco industry. Too many folks are all about just showing off their high-end Cuban sticks or the more rare Fuente Opus ones. Let’s put the folklore and the myth to bed once and for all. Do you have to smoke super rare or high-end cigars to enjoy the smoke? Have you been surprised by some of the newer less known brands? if so which one?

N: I whole-heartedly believe you do not have to smoke super high-end premium cigars to enjoy the experience.  Actually, I have yet to try those high dollar Cuban cigars or the Fuente Opus X series, although I do have my eye on one for the very near future. Smoking fine cigars are not about how much they cost but what you enjoy.  Don’t fall prey to the energy surrounding the most expensive limited editions.  There is a great value in some of the lesser known and less popular cigars, seek them out and start your own journey or make them part of your existing experience, you might be surprised.  I’m really impressed with Southern Draw, a highly underrated company, Agnorsa leaf is putting out some amazing cigars, Steve Saka at Dumbarton, Matt Booth at Room 101, Nick Melillo at Foundation Cigars and El Titan de Bronze Redemption series are exquisite to name a few, I could go on but we would be here for a while, I’m being exposed to new brands and new blends daily, there is so much out there to explore

You’re a prominent and well-respected woman in the cigar industry. As was said before, the tobacco industry is still very much male-dominated, but women are beginning to make a push. What do you think is responsible for this movement?

N: I’m flattered you said that but I’m really just a woman who enjoys smoking cigars and for some reason people like what I’ve started posting and sharing. It’s a natural evolution like everything else and the tobacco industry is breaking out of the old paradigm and overcoming stereotypes.  Thus, becoming more appealing to the younger generation, working class, and women.  It has become accessible to those who may have been intimidated previously, I know I was in my endeavor at exploring the cigar world.

As a woman in this industry, what do you want to see change?

N: Male or female, I want what everyone else in the industry wants to see happen, the release of the stranglehold or the attempted stranglehold that the FDA has or is trying to put on the industry. It has become burdensome and hinders growth especially in the small batch or boutique portion of the market. You can’t regulate the cigar industry like you would cigarettes.

Let’s talk cigars. What is your go-to everyday cigar? 

N: It really depends on the time of day, I usually have a Connecticut shade with my morning coffee and if I had it my way I’d smoke a Foundation Charter Oak every morning.  I tend to be partial to Arturo Fuente’s Don Carlos and Hemmingway series, the Don Carlos No.3 as a consistent classic smoke.

Top 5 cigars you’ve ever smoked and what is it about them, that made them stand out.

N: I’ll preface this by saying cigar smoking and the appreciation of fine tobacco is a fairly recent passion of mine comparatively and there are so many cigars still aging in my humidor and others I want to experience. In no particular order:

-Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Sin Compromiso from the first puff the nuances of this cigar dazzle the palate especially the “oregano” note that I love.

-Oliva Serie V Melanio Gran Reserva Limitada It’s the perfect marriage of lively flavors with a “pop rocks” dynamic that I described as a “magic carpet ride.”

-Foundation Tabernacle Havana Seed No.142 The special Connecticut U.S.A. Grown Habano seed and extended fermentation process translate into an exquisite experience.

-My Father Flor De Las Antillies buttery smooth smoke with botanicals I call this the “this is why I smoke cigars” cigar.

-Foundation Highclere Castle the subtleties of this cigar stand on their own a friend of mine who recommended it said to enjoy it with water so you can fully experience it.

There are so many brands and products available currently in the market, and many more brands are coming out daily. If I am a novice to cigars, where should I start?

N: In my opinion, I think a great start is to go to your local Tobacconist or B &M and ask for advice.  A good tobacconist will ask the right questions to guide you to a selection that will suit your taste.  As with anything else, just jump in!  take note of your likes and preferences and of course, you can do some research and start watching cigar reviews and see if anything appeals to you and seek it out.

Where do you see your IG account 5 years from now?

N: Wow, I haven’t even thought of how I see my life 5 years from now, let alone my Instagram account!  The Cigar Passionista account is less than 6 months old so 5 years from now is a relative eternity!  I’m not projecting that far in the future, I like to focus on the now.  Obviously, I’d like to see continued growth.  I feel fortunate and humbled as of today to have almost 7,500 followers in a short period of time.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

N: The cigar world is an exciting amalgamation of new tastes, flavors, and intriguing people in which I have fully immersed myself on my continuing journey.  I truly appreciate everyone who has been on this trip with me and as I like to say, “Do it with passion or don’t do it at all.”


Cigar Tobacco Types

Cigar Tobacco Leafs


Often when lighting up that special smoke you couldn’t wait to get your hands on, we sometimes pause, look inquisitively at the cigar and ask the question…how did you get here ?  Listen, we know where we purchased it, the alleged countries involved, the brands and bands; but there’s more to consider, the genesis of it all, where did the goddamn leafs come from in the first place. I mean it’s not like Coca Cola, or a Big Mac, for many casual smokers there are unanswered questions that haven’t even been born as questions yet.  Well kids, it’s time uncle Monte, gave you the talk (somebody has to) , it’s just the right thing to do.

questioning face thinkcigar

So right off-the-rip…let’s get your internet parents over at Wikipedia involved:


A cigar with a semi-airtight storage tube and a double guillotine-style cutter

cigar is a rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco leaves made to be smoked. They are produced in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Since the 20th century, almost all cigars are made up of three distinct components: the filler, the binder leaf which holds the filler together, and a wrapper leaf, which is often the best leaf used. Often the cigar will have a band printed with the cigar manufacturer’s logo. Modern cigars often come with 2 bands, especially Cuban Cigar bands, showing Limited Edition (Edición Limitada) bands displaying the year of production.

Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities primarily in Central America and the islands of the Caribbean, including Cuba, the Dominican RepublicHaitiHondurasMexicoEcuadorNicaraguaGuatemalaPanama, and Puerto Rico; it is also produced in the Eastern United States, the Mediterranean countries of Italy and Spain (in the Canary Islands), and in Indonesia and the Philippines of Southeast Asia.

The origins of cigar smoking are still unknown. A Mayan ceramic pot from Guatemala dating back to the tenth century features people smoking tobacco leaves tied together with a string.


Ok, now with that out of the way let’s break this thing down:

Connecticut Broadleaf Tobacco

Most cigar aficionados love the earthy flavor and rich sweetness of this tobacco. You’ll find this type of cigar tobacco in your Maduro cigars and it is grown in sunny Connecticut. This type of tobacco is also mainly used for machine-manufactured cigars. You can normally tell if you’re smoking a Connecticut broadleaf cigar by the copious veins on its wrapper. The growth of this tobacco is a result of the many Andes natives who immigrated to the United States.

Isabela Burley Tobacco

This tobacco leaf is world-class. You’ll find these growing in the Philippines in the Cagayan Valley. Isabela Burley tobacco has a distinctive taste and aroma. It’s also one of the highest in demand tobaccos globally  It’s also rather mild, making it ideal if you’re not used to smoking cigars and are yet to acquire a taste for it.

San Andres Tobacco

These are perfect if you’re a cigar aficionado who loves Costa Rica or Mexican-grown tobaccos. San Andres tobacco is derived from rich Mexican soil and seeds in the San Andres Valley. It’s usually used to manufacture Madura cigars. It’s also used as a cigar wrapper. You’ll revel in its smooth chocolaty, and pepper-like nuances.

Sumatra Tobacco

Another derivative of black tobacco, this tobacco has several variations grown in different parts of the world. Some of these variations include Dominican, Cameroon, Ecuadorian, Nicaraguan and dark Sumatran tobaccos. You’ll find the Nicaraguan type in La Flor de Oliva or La Reloba Sumatra. Enjoy the spicy and darker Ecuadorian variety in the form of the upper medium to full-bodied Ligero Cabinet Oscuro. This cigar is not too strong, but can evoke quite a kick. It’s always advisable to eat first.

Olor Tobacco

Also known as Olor Dominicano, this type stems from the Dominican Republic (DR). Its leaves are quite thin and it burns well. The aroma here is absolutely potent. This explains the name, which is Spanish for ‘aroma’. Go to any of the most prominent tobacco shops and you’ll be sure to see these stacked on the shelves. Other flavorful DR tobaccos of note are Piloto Cubano, which is cultivated from Cuban seed, derived from the Cuban Vuelta Abajo region.

shade grown wrapper thinkcigar

Of course there are many other types of tobacco used to make cigars ; but this gives the casual aficionado some ammunition to deal with the know it all, and so called experts (you know who you are) , a little knowledge can provide for a very puffed-out chest…lol.  The soil and the planting, the harvesting drying and curing, the blending of leafs by masters, and the magic hands with skills passed down from family members and mentors all, participate in the dance that delivers.  Behold, this is how the goddamn thing got here.

As I write this it’s Fathers day, I imagine there will be many a cigar in play today…lighting up is a pleasure that’s not so guilty (if you ask me), find that spot for a smoke as special as today, you’ve earned it.  To all who live the cigar lifestyle dream; this one’s for you…smoke em if you got em.



What NOT to do at a bar!

There are some unwritten rules about a bar, and this video talks about something’s that you should not do at a bar!

I really want to hear the worst thing (that you are comfortable discussing) that you have done in a bar that resulted in you getting kicked out or thrown out. Whether it be, spitting in a bouncers face or throwing up all over the bar top! I want to hear some crazy stories ladies and gents!

The worst thing I’ve done to get me “thrown” out of a bar was definitely when my girlfriend and I were at the bar and we had been drinking for a while, and someone bumped into her which caused her to bump into me, spilling her drink and my drink all over on me. So I knocked the drink out of his hand. It turned out that it was the bartender that bumped her when he was walking out from behind the bar. I felt super bad afterward. I ended up tipping him $50 bucks for being an a****** and for wasting somebody’s drink, the “bouncer” or manager im not too sure, then kindly asked me to leave. Not my proudest moment and had I not knocked the drink out of his hand, I may have ended up with a free drink or two. It was probably about time I headed out at the time anyway. I still visit that bar regularly with my girlfriend, and he’s actually an awesome dude and a great bartender.

clear havana

Key West Cigar Labels



A remnant of a cigar lifestyle connecting two worlds


The wonderful world of cigars and the cigar lifestyle in general constantly provides enjoyment, camaraderie, and a connection to a rich history…each and every stone I turn rewards me with a limitless wealth of information.  Cigar truth.

News to me was the fact that some aficionados collect cigar labels from the period of “When Key West was Cuban” 1860s, 70s and 80s, waves of Cuban immigrants crossed the Florida Straights searching for political freedom and economic possibilities.  It worked, they would begin to start their own businesses and win political office, stitching Cuban culture into the fabric of this South Florida city, Key West.

Key West cigar label thinkcigar

This is some pretty cool stuff and just another example of how our beloved cigar lifestyle, hits us over-the-head with more great shizzle (thank you Snoop dogg).  Recently (2017) there was a historic find…check this out:

Florida Keys Man Discovers Rare Gato Cigar Progressive Proof Book, Now on Exhibit at Custom House Museum


Andrew Bulla, a Florida Keys man who discovered a regional treasure while shopping for vintage car parts on eBay, has placed his find into the hands of the Key West Art & Historical Society in a gesture to foster its cultural and historical preservation.  The one-of-a-kind, mint-condition cigar label progressive proof book created for and signed in 1897 by Eduardo Hidalgo Gato, founder of the E. H. Gato Cigar Factory, has been digitized for online viewing in the future, and is now on display in the ‘Industries of Key West’ exhibit in the Dogwood 2 Gallery on the second floor of the Custom House Museum, 281 Front Street.

Hats-off Andrew, there’s a special place for you in cigar heaven…lol, wtf am I talking about, my made up phrase for today (we each get one per day); anyway, really enjoy learning about this stuff and sharing it with you the reader, my fellow aficionados.

The artistry and imagination imparted into these labels was pretty damn amazing…(no internet,imagine) , real and true talent, that’s what’s up.  Hey, it’s memorial day weekend and I hope this post finds you well…big shout-out to all the US service men and women, thank you for your incredible service, it’s much appreciated.

Find yourself a comfy spot with some like minded people (or not), and light up that favorite smoke…you deserve it.  ThinkCigar, it’s a lifestyle.