By Gene Kizhnerman, Tastethedram.com
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!