Thursday, April 22, 2010

As I sit here typing this post, I am smoking my second Alec Bradley Family Blend from the box I purchased last night and am drawn back to the event and the fantastic evening that it was.

I showed up a little early, as I always do, to see what was going on and to maybe lend a hand setting up tables. It turns out I arrived just in time to lend that hand. Since it was such a gorgeous day yesterday, we got to work setting up a patio for the pre-event smoke with our Alec Bradley rep Barry Blonder.

We first saw Barry walking away from us towards his car and jokingly hollered to him, “Wait! Don’t go!” He seemed to give a smile from a distance and returned from his car with a beautifully designed Alec Bradley folder containing information about the Family Blend and the Prensado lines. As the staff puffed on our Alec Bradley Tempus’, Barry unfurled a ton of information.

First he pointed out that we were all smoking a fine cigar from Alec Bradley, having received ratings as high as 94 in 2008. He then moved on to the two blends we had joined to discuss.

The Family Blend began as a personal product for the three chief executives of Alec Bradley: Alan Rubin (President), Ralph Montero (Vice President), and George Sosa (National Sales Director). But soon, due to customer demand, it was released to the public in chests of 50. After this limited release, it was obvious that Alec Bradley had hit on something profound. Major keys in a good cigar are, generally speaking, construction, flavor, consistency and value. This blend has struck all four chords resoundingly!

After the initial success of the chests, it was decided to create a wider and more accessible release by selling them in boxes of 20, and bundles of 8 (I am proud to say I now own one of each). Fortunately for us, Rocky’s is one of the first retailers in the country to carry the new release, which comes in 5 sizes:
BX2 – 6” X 54
D3 – 4.5” X 58
M23 – 7” X 50
T11 – 6” X 52 and
VR1 – 5.5” X 50.  (This is the shape I bought)

These fantastic smokes are all hand rolled in the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras, the same factory in which another extremely successful blend is rolled, the Prensado.

The Prensado line from Alec Bradley has gotten a lot of positive attention in the last year, receiving ratings of 91 or higher for every shape in the line (Gran Toro 6” X 54 received a 93, Robusto 5” X 50 received a 92, Torpedo 6 1/8” X 52 received a 92, Churchill 7” X 48 received a 91, and Corona Gorda 5 5/8” X 46 received a 91). This earned the blend an overall rating of 91.8 from Cigar Insider, giving the Alec Bradley Prensado the highest average vertical rating for an entire line in 2009. This is quite a remarkable report card. What’s even more impressive is the way customers are responding to the smoke.

Bill, the new guy on staff (just after me), mentioned while he was smoking one that the experience is akin to smoking a Padron cigar. This seems to be the consensus amongst people who have tried this blend. Apparently, Padron smokers are saying that the Prensado smokes like a Padron, delivering the smoothness of the 64 Maduro with the complexity of the 26 Maduro and an extremely open draw to boot. I have yet to experience this cigar, but I purchased one with intent to review.

In addition to discussing these two great lines from Alec Bradley, we talked about a very cool new way to interact with cigar magazines, cigar companies, and the internet: QR code. You may have noticed in some of your favorite cigar publications that a new bar code-like square appears at the bottom of some adds. If you own a smart phone like an iPhone or a Blackberry, you can scan this code and it will take you directly to the company’s website. Unfortunately for me, I do not own one of these fancy phones and so cannot indulge in this cool new feature. Those of you who do should keep a look out, as this is sure to become a standard.

As our Tempests burned down, the conversation slowly meandered onto restaurants and travel and we decided to bring things in off of the porch and into the store to get the event revved up. We all had a great time at the event, smoking, talking, laughing, and buying these fantastic cigars from Alec Bradley. The boxes flew off the table as well as hats and shirts that came along for box buyers (I got a very stylish hat). We also got to try out a new lighter, “The Burner,” which our buddy Barry brought along.

The lighter got passed around and tried by just about everyone who decided to hang out and enjoy a smoke. We were all impressed. My understanding is that Rocky’s will be getting them in soon and you can bet that one will make its way home with me.

We ended the night on a high note with a raffle! The Burner was raffled off, as well as a beautiful black Alec Bradley ash tray, two torch lighters, a bundle of cigars, and several tempests. No one walked away empty handed.

The event last night was a great success; it was tons of fun, we learned a lot about Alec Bradley and their blends, and we made new friends. Thank you to Barry and Alec Bradley for making the event at Rocky’s such an incredible evening. Leave it to a handful of fine cigars to bring people together.



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