By MrCigarEnthusiast Hello fellow Cigar Enthusiasts and welcome to a new interview series we will be doing here on MrCigarEnthusiast.com. For our very first interview our guest is indeed a pioneer in the cigar industry, none other than "Doc Stogie" himself, David Diaz.
David sets the gold standard in cigar knowledge, with his website StogieFresh.info and his cigar catalog program Stogie Rate. With these fantastic resources, cigar enthusiasts can look for their favorite cigars and can find detailed information on each cigar. With his extensive knowledge base on the topic of cigars, he continuously goes above and beyond with helping both seasoned and new cigar smokers, by providing the best information on what cigars are best for them. In addition to his website and Stogie Rate Program, David also has a podcast; Stogie Fresh 5, which to this date has over 400 episodes, so novice cigar smokers can listen to his love and passion, as well as his knowledge of cigars. I spoke with David on the recent FDA proposals on cigars and the cigar industry, how he became an avid cigar smoker, his long term plans for the Stogie Fresh 5 Podcast and more! MrCigarEnthusiast: First of I'd like to ask what made you decide to start smoking cigars? David: When I met my brothers-in-law (on my wife’s side) they had been smoking for many years. At family gatherings they would ask me if I wanted a cigar and I routinely refused. Then, I was in Las Vegas and picked up a cigar at a small shop. I liked it. It seemed to put me in a festive and relaxed mood. When I returned home, I sought out a local tobacconist, who has been in the business for nearly 40 years. I asked him if he would recommend a cigar for me as a newbie and also asked him to pick out some cigars for my brothers-in-law that I could offer them at our next gathering. Although I don’t remember the name of the brand that I smoked in Vegas, I do remember the cigar the tobacconist picked out for me. It was a Romeo y Julieta 1875 Churchill. It turned out to be a good choice for me. It was light–medium in body and with enough flavors to excite the senses of my newbie palate. As with any other hobby that I get interested in, the cigar hobby consumed me and I gave it my full attention. That was the start of a long ride for me that has taken me to many countries and has blessed me with many great friends. MrCigarEnthusiast: I'm sure you are fully aware of the recent FDA regulations regarding cigars, what are your thoughts on the government encroaching on our personal freedoms to enjoy cigars? David: Because of its many layers of bureaucracy, ultimately, the government is a gigantic, uncaring machine. As history will attest, the legislature will enact laws put forth by people who are intent on regulating other people’s personal freedoms. If these zealots are successful in restricting the freedoms of the preponderance of American people (e.g., banning of ‘Big Gulp’ sodas and making fast food chains provide nutritional information on all their foods), then what hope is there for an industry that affects just 5% of the population? I was one of the people who recently received an email from the White House assuring me and others that, “regulating a tobacco product isn't the same as banning it.” They went on to reassure me that the “FDA is not proposing a ban on all cigars or on any type of cigar.” Unfortunately, almost every single piece of anti-tobacco legislation submitted to the congress and senate, has exactly that purpose. The people who submit legislative proposals are not interested in limiting tobacco use, but have as their intent the complete abolition of all tobacco products. They will certainly accept small victories, knowing that they can further restrict tobacco use, but are never really satisfied until they can push those of us who enjoy tobacco to the brink. Those of us who enjoy the moderate use of premium cigars will continue to soldier on. We will politely use tobacco in such a way that we respect others rights, while also exercising our own right to enjoy it. We will enjoy premium cigars moderately, on special occasions and celebrations and in a non-addictive manner. And we will speak out against the undue restrictions to our private use of a legal product. MrCigarEnthusiast: What was the absolute worst cigar you have ever smoked? David: I don’t smoke bad cigars; I throw them away or take them back to the shop where I purchased them. Life is too short to smoke crappy sticks and if I come across one that is really bad, I put it out of its misery in short order. Since cigars are a hand made product, there will be some that are great one time and terrible the next. That’s why I never do reviews on the basis of one or two cigars. I smoke a cigar before I review it, just to get acquainted with the smoke, then I will smoke a minimum of 2 cigars for each review and will often smoke a third, as a tiebreaker, if I suspect a lack of consistency. The major factor in how often we will see a bad stick has to do with the quality control measures taken by each factory. Those manufacturers that have the best quality control processes will turn out way fewer bad sticks. Nevertheless, even with high standards for quality, a bad stick will occasionally make its way into the marketplace. One of the reasons to support your local tobacconist is that, whenever you do come across a bad stick, you can take it back to your local shop and a good tobacconist will replace it. MrCigarEnthusiast: Have you ever received major criticisms from your friends and family for smoking cigars? David: No. Most of my friends and family smoke cigars. And, if they don’t, I always try to be respectful of their freedom not to smoke or their desire not to breathe smoky air. MrCigarEnthusiast: Your "Stogie Rate" Apps & Programs are among the best in the business, for cataloging and finding your favorite cigars, what made you decide to create an extensive program like this? David: When I first decided to start seriously collecting cigars, I knew I would need a way to keep track of my collection. So, I looked around to see if there were any applications that had the features that I wanted. It turned out that there were very few cigar inventory applications and the ones that existed were made only for Windows computers. (I have always used Apple Macintosh, since 1990.) So, I decided to build my own and I used a database program with developer utilities so I could create standalone applications for both Mac and Windows. I called the application “Stogie Rate” because it was a cigar inventory program that would also allow me to keep my tasting notes and review and rate my own cigars. As smartphones came on the scene, I knew I would need to create a mobile option. That’s when I decided to create an iOS version of Stogie Rate. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to program for iOS (or Android) and so I had to hire a developer to make the app for me. That is also why I don’t have a version of the app for Android because I would have to hire another firm to create a whole new app from the ground up. It’s expensive, I can tell you, and the iOS and Android platforms do not allow an easy way of transferring an app from one platform to the other. Finally, I decided that, to clear the hurdles presented by different operating systems, I would have to employ the power of the web. So, I partnered with a friend, Jeremy, to bring Stogie Rate to the cigar community for no charge. That online app can be found at StogieRate.com. MrCigarEnthusiast: In terms of cigar construction, which do you think is more important; the quality of the wrapper or the quality of the tobacco? David: Both are important to the overall flavor of the cigar. There is a lot more filler tobacco, relative to wrapper and binder, in any given cigar. The filler contributes to the complexity and flavor of the cigar because filler tobaccos come from many countries and regions. But the wrapper is what everyone sees and it must be clear and pleasing to the eye, free from defects or blemishes. Finding leaves of such high quality and appearance is difficult and the leaves are precious. Because of its importance to the overall look and appeal of the cigar, the wrapper leaf is expensive to buy. The people who buy wrapper tobacco pay $45/pound, while filler and binder goes for $4 or $5/pound. MrCigarEnthusiast: Would you ever consider branching out to create your own "Doc Stogie" or "Stogie Fresh" Cigar? David: I have given that some thought over the years. I have been told by a number of people that they would be happy to make a cigar for me. But I have hesitated because I haven’t wanted to get into the business of distributing and/or retailing cigars. Especially where I live in California because the tobacco tax is high. Plus, there are issues of bringing cigars through customs and banding, packaging, marketing and distribution. If I ever did a cigar—and I’m not saying it’s out of the question—I don’t think it would be a nationwide brand, but would probably be limited to a few select shops. MrCigarEnthusiast: What was the absolute best cigar you have ever smoked? David: There are a couple of cigars that come to mind… First would be the Eladio Diaz 55th Anniversary Liga Especial. Eladio Diaz is a master blender for Davidoff. The first time I visited him and Hendrik Kelner Jr. at the Davidoff factory, Eladio gave me a couple of his 54th anniversary cigars. I was duly impressed and when I returned later that year for the ProCigar Festival, I had the opportunity to bid on (and win) a box of the 55th anniversary sticks at auction. As I said in my second review of these cigars, “If all cigar production ceased tomorrow, and I could only have one cigar to smoke the rest of my life, I could do no better than this Eladio Diaz 55th anniversary cigar.” Another would be the Taboada Long Double Robusto measuring 7 1/8 inches by 50 ring gauge. Rodolfo Taboada Campa was a 9th Category Cigar Master that rolled Cuban cigars for over 50 years. After retiring, he traveled the world making cigars according to his client's specifications using prime Cuban tobacco. Taboada used only Cuban tobacco and used his own special blend of certain types of tobacco leaf to make his exquisite, one-of-a-kind cigars. Taboada’s cigars attained a "cult like" following worldwide. Sadly, Rodolfo passed away in 2012. These cigars were not sold at the usual vendors because they were not in regular production. As a result, Taboada cigars were always in high demand and fetched unusually high prices. How does $900 per bundle of 25 cigars strike you? The cigars I smoked came from an acquaintance and fellow collector who procured them from the United Kingdom. There were about 2 years of age on the stick, but the cigars could have easily aged for many more years. Both of these cigars had the profile that I have really come to enjoy. Medium-full in body, flavor and strength with great complexity and balance. I especially like to see nuanced flavors and aromas that always keep me guessing. MrCigarEnthusiast: Are you the type of cigar smoker who buys cigars and smoke them right away, or do you let them age in your humidor? David: I do both. As a collector, I like to buy cigars by the box and taste them when they are fresh, as well as every few months throughout their aging cycle. In fact, the only way to tell how well a cigar will age is to smoke it at different ages and keep track of the flavor and body changes over a course of time. If you don’t smoke the cigar early, but save it for 5 years and then smoke it, you will never know the extent to which it has changed. And, if you can’t say how a cigar has changed, then you really don’t know how well it has aged or how long it will age before it starts going downhill. I buy by the box so I have plenty to sample as they age and so I can teach myself how to determine the capacity of a cigar line to successfully age. MrCigarEnthusiast: Do you think Spanish Cedar is absolutely necessary to use, in construction of a quality humidor? David: Spanish cedar is not necessary to use in a humidor. Over the years, humidors have been made from glass, porcelain, tin and other materials. There are two main reasons that Spanish cedar has been used in humidors. First, because of its porous character, which helps to modulate humidity inside the humidor by taking in and releasing humidity. Second, is because it adds a pleasing scent, which is the aromatic character of cedar. Some humidor makers use mahogany, which has the same porous character as Spanish cedar, but without the aroma. MrCigarEnthusiast: In addition to your YouTube Channel, you have recorded over 400 episodes of the Stogie Fresh 5 Podcast, what are your long term plans for the podcast? David: I’ve been doing my “Stogie Fresh 5” (SF5) podcast now for many years and soon I will have the longest running cigar podcast of all time. That will happen on my 411th episode. With the advent of broadband internet and portable digital audio playback devices such as the iPod, podcasting began to catch hold in late 2004. I started my own podcast in 2005. Back to your question, the SF5 podcast has been very popular over the years, but it is still only one of the many things that I have been producing. Collectively, I refer to all the things that I do as “Stogie Fresh Cigar Publications.” This includes an educational cigar website, weekly podcast, Stogie Fresh Tv video channel and my sister site, StogieRate.com, which provides a free online cigar inventory and rating software. I started my website in late 2004, a few months before I started podcasting. Unlike most cigar websites, I don’t publish articles every day, but instead Stogie Fresh articles go through a comprehensive editorial process, which takes time. Experts in their respective fields write articles for Stogie Fresh and each article goes through several revisions prior to publication. As a result, the articles are comprehensive, well written, educational, as well as entertaining. I also have my own Youtube channel called, Stogie Fresh Tv. These are educational cigar videos meant to teach people the finer points of the premium cigar industry. As with our articles, the videos take time to produce and we attempt to make the videos the highest quality possible. Even my podcast requires quite a bit of time to produce. It takes a total of 12-hours per week to research, record, edit, format and upload each week’s podcast. Over the past few years, I have tried to upgrade all the technology related to my publications. Better cameras and camcorders, audio mics, field recording devices, etc. The goal is to create the highest quality product possible. I’ve been doing this for years now and I try to take one-week at a time. Right now, my short-term goal is to become the longest continuously running podcast with most total episodes of all time. After that, I don’t know. I want to keep setting goals because that keeps me focused. I will just keep taking it a week at a time and see where it leads. You can follow David "Doc" Diaz on Twitter @Doc_StogieFresh and you can also follow him on Facebook as well. For more information on Stogie Rate Programs & Apps, as well as info on the Stogie Fresh 5 Podcast, you can go to StogieFresh.info. I want to personally thank "Doc Stogie" David Diaz, for taking the time to speak with me here on MrCigarEnthusiast.com.