key west cigar labels thinkcigar

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.

Ybor city arch thinkcigar

The Birth of a Cigar Nation

News flash…it’s not Cuba !


We smoke, we buy sell and trade our favorite sticks, we’re in love with everything cigar (at least I am), and here in the US, always chasing the “White Wale”, El Capitan…the Cuban cigar.  The romantic thoughts and images, friends and family members bringing a few back from their cruises and trips abroad; chests puffed-up and poked-out as they present them to you, the holy grail of cigars, spoils of their great crusade.

cuban cigars thinkcigar

The history of our infatuation with these rolled delights is rooted much closer to our American soil than one might think…most know very well of the pre-embargo availability of Cuban cigars; but how many of us are truly aware that the cigar capitol of the world is (or was) in the United States of America.  Confused ?  I bet you are, you see boys and girls from Key West, to Tampa FL by way of Cuba is how this thing unfolds.  In the 1830s, commercial cigar rolling began in Florida, by Cuban immigrants.

New York cigar manufacturer Samuel Seidenberg (a German immigrant himself), established the first “clear Cuban” cigar factory in Key West in 1867.  Using Cuban laborers to roll Cuban tobacco Mr. Seidenberg, pioneered the idea of making authentic Cuban cigars in America, while avoiding the high tariff levied against products from Havana, as well as the trade restrictions imposed by Spain.

There was a strong natural connection between cigar workers in Key West and Havana, and by the early 1890s, 50,000-100,000 people traveled back and forth annually.

Havana cigar shop Key West (Havana cigar shop Key West FL, )


Cuban cigar makers create a new Florida city


Vicente Martinez Ybor, one of the most significant figures in the history of cigar making in Florida, established a cigar factory in Key West in 1869. Ybor had run a very successful cigar manufacturing business in Cuba, but he fled the country after colonial authorities discovered his connections with revolutionaries.

In 1885, he moved his cigar making operation from Key West to Tampa. Steamships could bring tobacco leaves from Cuba for the cigar factories, and Henry Plant’s new railroad connected the small town of Tampa to the rest of the country. The area around the cigar factories grew and became known as Ybor City.

Immigrants came not just from Cuba, but from Italy, Spain, and throughout Eastern Europe and Latin America in search of work. At its height in the 1880s, there were more than 100 factories in Key West. By 1910, there were 150 factories in the Tampa area employing more than 10,000 workers. Of the 50,000 residents of Tampa, 14,000 were Cuban, 7,500 were Spanish, and 1,500 were Italian.  (informational facts from Florida Memory)

There is so much more rich and incredible history that belongs to this phenomena:

  • Mutual Aid Societies
  • Social Clubs
  • Paulina Pedroso
  • Jose Marti
  • The Spanish-American war and Cuban independence


The complete history is available for anyone so inclined to pursue, so I won’t try to capture it here in it’s entirety; but I gotta tell you, as a cigar guy I find this interesting as hell.  By 1900 Ybor city was considered the cigar capitol of the world…not Cuba, but a carved out spot in hot-ass Tampa Florida.  It was thriving.

Cuban club thinkcigar

For more than 50 years Ybor city shined with approximately 150 cigar factories employing and supporting many workers and families, a small buzzing community built for and around the production of fine cigars had come together in a very meaningful way.  Our country had fallen in love with the craftsmanship of fine hand rolled cigars, an art form passed down through families…fathers to sons, mothers to daughters, enjoyed by many a cigar fan during that time.

Innovation !

We the people often times look to push through our accepted norms…this time in a way that would have an unforeseen affect on premium cigars.  In 1917, a cigar rolling machine was invented that could roll 4,000 sticks per day, and by 1928 more than 50 % of cigars were made by machines.  Ybor city began to slowly decline.

Ybor city thinkcigar

Our appetite for advanced machinery had placed it’s filthy hands around the neck of our home-grown Cuban cigar bonanza while we slept.  Mother F***er !  But some things refuse to die; while Ybor city, hasn’t reached it’s previously glory, it has surely refused to disappear.

Ybor city thinkcigar

I have to say that upon learning the real history of the Cuban cigar connection to Ybor city, really fascinated me…but in all of my cigar conversations with friends and foe, I never hear of this rich history.  While I’m not of Cuban decent (I was born in Bradenton FL), I’m extremely proud of these facts that link the people, the struggle, the tobacco, the art and passion that made this all possible.

There are many other stories that I will write about in the future that were born in Ybor city; but for now I hope this has educated and entertained the reader.  Glad to spend this time you, it’s Friday and a good cigar awaits your arrival; don’t disappoint and enjoy your smoke.

ThinkCigar…It’s a lifestyle


cigar smoking and news







stogie stogy cigar thinkcigar lifestyle

So what exactly is a Stogie anyway ?

The dictionary says “its a long thin inexpensive cigar


arnold stogie thinkcigar (pic by


Arnold famously yelled out on a movie set “where the f**k are my stogies”…like only the Terminator could.  I think of Winston Churchill, George Burns, Groucho Marx, Bluto, or a host of other old-school characters.  But why is it called a Stogie ?

I was recently in Providence, RI at a smoke shop (Broadway cigars), talking to my good friend and longtime cigar aficionado Mr. Karl Pease, who like he often does, started dropping cigar knowledge at a rapid pace (the man knows his sh**), he began to explain the origins of the word Stogie or stogy spelled by some…instead of trying to remember everything he said, I found an identical explanation on “Blog of Answers”  Tobacco was picked up from the natives of the East Indies and introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. The English word cigar is from the Spanish cigarro, which they took from cigarrales, a Cuban word meaning a place of leisure. Stogie is an abbreviation of Conestoga, and because the drivers of that wagon company (based in tobacco country) always had a roll-your-own cigar stuck in their mouths, observers called them stogies.

stogie stogy churchill thinkcigar

What is a stogie cigar ?  Why are they are they called stogie cigars ?

The questions are many and the answers can be, well, let’s just say off-the-mark at best.  You may put this in the useless information category or just not give a rat’s ass…frankly Charlotte, well you know the rest.  Hey, we cigar folks this kinda stuff, it’s part of who we are…we like to think we know sh** about these subjects related to our cigar lifestyle.

george burns stogie thinkcigar

I’m sure there are many stogie stories out there, images of fathers and uncles, construction workers, sexy women in more recent times…the culture is rich with lot’s of examples; hopefully I have given you some food for thought and a raised eye brow ( like oh, didn’t know that), no need to thank me, i’m here for your amusement…lol.

I hope your next cigar is the best one yet.  Thinkcigar…it’s a lifestyle !

cigar smoking and news




Donna Mathews|Habanos cigar lounge

Habanos On The Hill

Habanos cigar lounge Atlanta, GA (Castleberry Hill)

In one of Atlanta’s hot and creative areas you’ll find one of it’s anchors…Habanos cigar lounge, located in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood.

Google describes the area “Castleberry Hill is an industrial area turned trendy, with residential lofts and indie art galleries in old warehouses. The neighborhood is also a popular filming location, and walking tours take in sites like The Gulch, a derelict space often used in major TV shows and movies. The casual, eclectic dining scene encompasses everything from Southern soul food and hearty Mexican to creative sushi”

Habanos cigar lounge is classic and industrial just like the neighborhood that it reps; exposed brick and ceilings of extreme height, hardwood planks under your feet and a beautiful bar that’s long and encompassing, texture, check, atmosphere, check, sensations and libations, double check…you want it they got it !

Dona Mathews, and her husband Michael Paul, along with business partner Karl Booker are the owners of Habanos cigar lounge.  They have been open since November 2016 and have worked their way into most cigar conversations here in the ATL.  I first visited this spot about a year and a half ago for the first time and liked it right away, Micheal made my wife and I feel right at home, and ditto for the friends I would bring on following visits.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the shop with Dona…not only is she part owner, budding tobacconist and equal manager; but she’s also the resident marketer.  The social media presence the lounge enjoys is a direct result of her hard work, she gets it done in a male dominated industry.  Also the heavily influenced Bombay decor is something she is really proud of.

Habanos cigar lounge atlanat

The cigar smoking here is given the respect it deserves, the staff is trained to clip and light your cigar, and the leather couches call for you to sit and enjoy.  There’s room for a decent amount of people, and when busy, you can still communicate with friends without yelling.  The humidor while not super expansive, still offers-up some pretty nice sticks…on my most recent visit i tried one of their house cigars, it was a medium-bodied Nicaraguan creation that could hold it’s own with most $10.00 sticks, well done !  As a cigar smoker I’m usually most interested in the cigar variety and smoking environment available; but this place enjoys a well deserved reputation for it’s drinks, libations, cocktails, lot’s of people walk in and place their drink order first, and then their favorite stick (i’m the exact opposite…lol).  All things considered, this place is really what’s missing from most up-and-coming trendy areas…it’s not overdone, it’s not pretentious, it’s not lacking in the many ways one might think when considering a spot like this, it checks the boxes and crosses the T’s.

So the next time you venture up or down from the burbs’ check out Habanos cigar lounge…look up Michael and Dona, grab a stick and have one of their hot drink concoctions ; and maybe bring Michael a “Rocky Patel Vintage 1999” , I hear it’s one of his favorites.

Happy smoking


Daniel Marshal gold cigar

Let’s Smoke Some Gold…Cigars ?

Who is Daniel Marshall ?


Daniel Marshall

Some enter into a business with intent. Others are surprised to discover that a talent, product or skill set coupled with a personal passion turned out to be something that they can make a living from. That was the case for Daniel Marshall, a renowned humidor maker who also has his own cigar lines.

Marshall’s desire to build things by hand came from his dream to build a sailboat that would allow him to sail around the world—a dream he’s had since he was 10 years old. He entered into the world of cigars unintentionally, after setting out to make a thank-you gift for his girlfriend’s grandfather. Marshall wanted to make her grandfather something he could store his favorite cigars—Dunhill Monte Cruz 280 Panatelas—inside. He ended up creating a cigar case made of teak wood and presenting it as a gift. Impressed with the quality of the case, his girlfriend’s grandfather told him that he was sure that Dunhill would buy the case and that Marshall would be able to use the money he earned to build his dream sailboat. This launched Marshall into the humidor business and world of cigars full time. Tobacco Business recently sat down with Marshall to discuss how he built his brand and get his take on how you can build your own impressive following and notoriety.

Tobacco Business: Tell us about the first humidor you built.
Daniel Marshall: It was an Alfred Dunhill humidor with a bottle of Dunhill Whisky inside. Dunhill said if I could replicate it, they would give me an order. I did that, and in two weeks, I had a purchase order for $250,000 from Dunhill for more humidors. Next, I set up a humidor factory in Santa Ana, California. That was back in 1982, more than three and a half decades ago.

Daniel Marshall

Your humidors and your cigars have an impressive following that includes celebrities, politicians and other affluent figures. How can other accessory and cigar makers go about building a following for their brands?
Three words: quality, commitment and trust. Do exceptional work with heart, and those who appreciate the best of the best and can afford the top quality will know about you and seek you out. There is a saying: “Build it and they will come.” This is how it works.

You’ve done a few collaborations with other brands and celebrities. How do you choose who to collaborate with so that it’s beneficial to your brand?
I choose to collaborate with anyone by identifying shared common values and loves. I am excited to do charitable work for the environment and to help children become all that they can be.

It was a great honor and privilege to be chosen by Universal Studios to make a humidor to commemorate the Blu-ray release of one of its most well-known films, Scarface; to be chosen by Hennessy to make 800 humidors for their XO product; and to work with Bally of Switzerland on 500 humidor/presentation boxes for their bespoke shoe collection called the Scribe [collection]. All of us share the same commitment to quality, luxury and creating the benchmark of quality.

Daniel Marshall Golden Torpedo

In addition to humidors, you have your own branded cigars: the Red Label and the 24kt Golden Torpedo. What made you decide to expand your brand by launching your own cigars?
Twenty-one years ago, customers and store owners would ask me, “Marshall, you make the best humidors in the world—where are your cigars? We trust you for making humidors, and we would trust you to be as fanatical with a cigar blend and creating one as you are with your humidors.”

So again, trust was essential and the reason for making a cigar. The challenge was to make a cigar with one of the world’s top cigar makers during the height of the cigar boom in 1996. It was something that could only happen with a strong friendship in place. Manuel Quesada created a cigar for our brand because of our friendship and because of trust.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most and why?
I have learned that to have a successful business and life, you have to enjoy and love it all. I enjoy all aspects of it—from the administrative aspects of our company, to working with my wonderful team in the factory getting covered in dust, designing humidors and creating all kinds of new humidor and cigar collections, to answering these thought-provoking questions that take me back through the past 35 years of my life, to enjoying cigars with our global family around the world.

– Story by Antoine Reid

This story first appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

got cigars

She Said, Got Cigars ?

A jewel in Georgia, by way of Ethiopia !


The name of the establishment is, “Got Cigars ?” and the owner’s name is Rukia, she along with this delightful establishment are the above mentioned jewels…nestled in beautiful downtown Decatur, is where you’ll find them.  Rukia, purchased the shop from a family member over 13 years ago and has never looked back…her humidor is rich with selection and taste, with offerings from flavored and mild for the occasional or beginner, and medium bold or full bodied smoke for the more seasoned aficionado.

When you walk in the door you’re greeted with a friendly smile and  welcoming words…like an old friend, it just lifts your spirits a little bit; in our more present day lives this type of hospitality is a pleasant and welcome surprise.  Got Cigars ? , also sells different pipe tobaccos, lighters, humidors, cutters, etc.  Leather chairs to sit and enjoy a smoke are readily available, and in front of the shop you’ll find a couple of chairs and a table for an outside cafe style smoke, perfectly arraigned for people watching under the green canopy that covers the front door…a little southern magic.

In the summer of 2018 Got Cigars ? experienced a setback; the city of Decatur decided to raise the sidewalks along Ponce De Leon ave, and right in front of the smoke shop, shortly after the work was completed we experienced a heavy Georgia rain, when Rukia arrived at the shop the next day, she discovered inches of water had invaded her business.  The losses were significant, hard wood floors, gone, leather couch, gone, hand made wool rug, you get the picture.  The city of Decatur, told Rukia, that they would fix this problem, as of today they have not.  Shame on you City Of Decatur.

In a male dominated business it’s pretty awesome to find a female tobacconist who is in love with this pursuit, and her Ethiopian manner and charm really make for a pleasant experience when you visit (you need to visit !) , they’re open seven days a week and always ready to serve…the walls are covered with cool pictures and signs of celebrities smoking cigars, and different cigar brands…it’s really worth your time.  Happy smoking !