Renegade Regulars: Richie - How your Cigar Pallet Changes Over Time

Brandon:
What's up Richie?

Richie:
What's up [00:00:03], how are you?

Brandon:
It seems crazy that we're just now sitting down to do one of these videos.

Richie:
Seems like it. Yeah.

Brandon:
I've done quite a few of them. And I've been meaning to sit down with you and do one. Cause I think typically I tell people let's talk just a little bit about cigars and a lot about life and kind of what's going on in the lounge. But I actually want to talk to you about cigars.

Richie:
Okay.

Brandon:
Let's start with how we met.

Richie:
Okay.

Brandon:
So.

Richie:
I had just gotten into cigars. I'd been a pipe smoker for probably four or five years. I started smoking cigars and had bounced around, tried a lot of different shops, all over the place. Found really one or two situations, I found somebody who really knew a lot about cigars, but liked to play the position of intimidating and putting down. "You don't know what you're talking about". Even had an instance where I walked in with a recommendation that I was looking for and actually had somebody tell me "You're not ready for that cigar", had it, didn't show it to me. And that was interesting. Or I'd find people who knew nothing about cigars, which was worthless to me because I didn't know anything about cigars either, I was looking for an education. But they knew how to run the point of sale. They knew how to run the business, but they really didn't know cigars.

Richie:
And so I bounced around tried, I don't know, 10, 12 different lounges, just bouncing through. Walked into Renegade, one day. Had actually been to Renegade under the other ownership, when I was smoking pipes. Walked in just to see if they had tobacco. They didn't. So walked in, walked out, never gave it another thought. And Elizabeth, my wife, we were driving down 190 one day and she said "Hey, have you tried Renegade again, now that you're smoking cigars?", I'm like "You know I haven't". So I was pulled in, walked in, met one of your employees, one of your original employees, walked in the lounge and just told them, "Look, I don't know anything about cigars. I'm just starting out. Here's one that I've smoked that I liked. Just tell me what I need to know about cigars and give me some suggestions".

Richie:
And he spent about 30 minutes with me in the humidor was great. Gave me some of the basics and picked out four or five different cigars. And I tried them. Came back, met another one of your employees. Did the same thing, gave me four different cigars. According to his taste, got to taste those. And then, the third time I came in, I met you and it was just click. I think, I don't know. You've said before you, you liked those kinds of customers. But I just wanted to learn about the cigars. I was enjoying them and wanted to learn about them. And you took about an hour with me in the humidor. Talk to me, gave me a brief cigar one-on-one, looked at my things. And then, back in the day, you had a business card that on the back of it was just 10 blank lines.

Richie:
And you wrote the lines of the cigars you gave me and said, "Hey, on each one of them, nothing fancy, one to five, one to 10, just grade them, which ones you like. And when you come back in and bring it with me, I'll have a better idea of what to suggest next time". And it just kind of stuck. As soon as I did that, I realized I was home. One of the things that still renegades on me is I was sitting there one Saturday, with one of your employees, and did the same thing. Walked in the humidor, didn't know him, didn't know me, I don't know anything about cigars, we went through the humidor, he was checking me out, he goes "Do you do this every time you come in?", I'm like "Pretty much, yeah". He goes, "So you buy five or six cigars every time you come in?". I'm like, "Yeah". And he goes "How often do you come in?" So, you know, once, twice a week. And he said "We have a deal that would be far more economical for you and you'd get a locker out of it".

Richie:
And that was something that I thought was kind of an extra touch. And quite honestly, he could have just strung me along and let me pay a higher rate for the cigars, for a long time. But on top of just cigar knowledge and the willingness to share and teach and build customers knowledge up so that they would know the cigars, I also got a place where it's like they wanted to take care of me. And that was home. And it's been home since. And the Renegade is where I get cigars, plain and simple. The only time I ever buy other cigars is in traveling. If I'm out of the state and don't have cigars, I'll look for the cigar lounge nearest me and pick up a couple.

Brandon:
Yeah, and I would always recommend that. You always support the lounge that you're visiting. Plus, when I travel, I always find that you find the best restaurant tips, not on Yelp, but in a cigar shop. So anytime I travel, I always tell whoever I'm with, I say "Look, first thing we're going to do is find a cigar shop. Not because I need a cigar because I want to go get real honest feedback on local restaurants, where do we want to eat? Where do we want to have drinks?" So, I like visiting cigar shops when I travel for that. But the reason why I wanted to talk cigars because, obviously we're doing this on a cigar channel, but there's so much information on cigars out there. But really there's three types of customers.

Brandon:
There's the guy that comes in that grabs cigars to smoke with his buddies. Doesn't know what he likes, doesn't care. He needs three cigars for fishing on Saturday, cause his buddy smoked cigars. And then there is the customer that's like, "I don't care if it's a Habana wrapper. I don't care if it's Criollo, Corojo, I don't care. Just find a cigar for me I'll like, and then keep it in stock. And that's a great customer, from a retail standpoint, that's a great customer. But it's kind of funny that I'm this way about cigars, but I'm very much like you when it comes to cigars, because I'm very much like "I don't care how you do it. Just do it". I'm the kind of guy, I don't want to see the process. I just want it done.

Brandon:
But with cigars, I was the complete opposite of that. Like you. I have customers that come in and they want to know a little bit. But you wanted to know how are cigars made? Where is this taste coming from? How do I identify the flavors? And for me, as a retailer, before you became a friend, cause now it's more than that. But just as a customer, retailer experience, for me that fulfilled this creative void I had. I really wanted to have those conversations with people and you wanted to know everything. And I love that. So I encourage anybody that wants to know more about cigars, whether you're local or you're somewhere else, find a retailer that gets excited about that because I've been doing it five years, some guys have been doing this 45 years, but five years later, I'm still as excited when somebody comes in and says "Teach me something about cigars". And I'm like "How much time? Tell me when to stop. Because I'm ready to go right now".

Brandon:
But that's something I really enjoy. And you've gone on trips, we've gone to Nicaragua together, we've gone to Honduras together. I think we've gone to... We've been to Nicaragua and Honduras, right? Been on both trips together. We've had a great time, but you've seen the process all the way through. And I think if there was another trip next week, you'd probably take it if your schedule would allow.

Richie:
Yeah.

Brandon:
So, there's all types of customers. But you're the one that wants to learn. And I like to teach, when it comes to cigars. Other stuff. I just want to shift on. I don't need to process, but cigar is like "I want to see the whole thing", and I'm still learning every single day. You're still learning every single day. But one other thing I think we should talk, because I've seen it with you, I'm seeing it with other people, but your palette change. So let's talk a little bit about what you started smoking, what you smoked a year in and what you smoke now? I think that'd be kind of a cool place to wrap up because I feel like your path follows like a trend that I see with a lot customers.

Richie:
So I started out, I smoked 30, 40, 50 cigars, never smoking the same one twice. Literally just walking and getting recommendations. And if they recommended three, I bought three. If they recommended six, I bought six. Cause I just wanted to start getting a feel and learning. And when I first started out, I remember the first cigar I smoked that I thought "Oh wow, this is one I really enjoy. This is going to be my cigar". And it was an A.J. Fernandez New World.

Brandon:
Yeah.

Richie:
A Nicaragua, very spicy, strong cigar. So for the longest time, that's what I gravitated to, man. I didn't want to talk about Dominicans. I didn't want to talk about Hunter. I wanted to talk about Nicaraguans. I wanted that spice. I wanted that strength. I wanted that heat that came from that cigar. So went really strong.

Richie:
The Maduro instantly became one of my favorites of any of several brands. And as I kept smoking, we started smoking and smoking more. And you started talking to me about palette, which is a hopeless cause in my case, I've got eight colors in my crayon box and the pallets are challenged. I can pick out tastes. I can't tell you what those tastes are. But as we started smoking different cigars, you started, as your inventory changed, as you started building and building out your humidor, new things came along. And I started finding that I started pulling back from the strong into more of a medium, medium plus. I remember really being fond of the [inaudible 00:09:13], the Ray Ray. You were talking with Ray, at one point, and I remember the Ray Ray was one of my favorites. Still a relatively strong cigar, but not overpowering, I really like that one.

Richie:
Then as you started doing some of the blends you brought in Noel Rojas with us. And Noel, although doing most of this stuff with Nicaraguan cigars, has a very Cuban mindset and a very Cuban pallet. So it starts to be a little bit more mild or a little bit more smooth, a little bit more subtle with more complexity, different flavors coming into cigars. And I remember his Sabor de Estelí, it became one of my favorites really quickly where I would smoke that one over and over. And then you met Robert Caldwell and Matt Booth and Ventura.

Brandon:
Henderson.

Richie:
Henderson Ventura. You met him and started smoking their cigars. And you brought in Davidoff, you got the Davidoff line. And we started looking at a little bit mild or cigars, but far more complex, in terms of the flavor profile. And that's kind of where I've settled in right now. I'm not nearly as quick to go in and grab a strong stick. As a matter of fact, a lot of times I'll go back to try one of the old ones, try a New World, or try an AGA or try one of the older Nicaraguans. And I find that the spice is just a little too much for me these days. It's a nice change of pace. Maybe after a heavy meal with a nice Cabernet or something afterwards, but just for an everyday smoke, I have really pulled back to that. I'm not even a medium plus anymore. I'd say I'm a solid medium, at best. And that's kind of where I sit.

Brandon:
Yeah, I see that a lot. I see you guys start with mild cigars cause they're told "Mild cigarettes are where you're supposed to start". Kind of like your experience. You weren't ready for that. I think that's complete, but a lot of people start with mild cigars and I wouldn't put a new cigar smoker on the strongest cigar either because I just don't want to run the risk if them getting cigar sick and then them being turned off from cigars. But mild medium, a little bit spicy, there's a lot of things that I think play a role in what you enjoy. But most people start mild and then they go really strong, because they want flavor and they get a flavor and then they kind of dial it back down and they start appreciating the different nuances in cigars, transitions, layers of flavor that they can get from a cigar. And you normally get more of that in a more medium, medium plus or mild to medium cigar. It's really hard to get that in a full body to guard because typically that one strong tobacco is the dominant flavor.

Richie:
Overpowers it.

Brandon:
Yep. And there is a time and place for that. Like you said, occasionally I'll have a big steak dinner. I'll have barbecue across street from the shop. And then I'm like "I just want something that just kicks my ass a little bit". Really rich, really strong. Maybe even really spicy. Scott's Circle is a good place.

Richie:
Yeah.

Brandon:
But 99% of the time, I'm with you. I'm kind of a medium bodied cigar smoker now. But we smoke probably as many cigars as anybody and that's kind of where we land. And I think that as a common trend. Last thing I'm going to ask you, what do you like to drink with your cigarette?

Richie:
For me, it really depends on the time of year. I brought scotch today, but quite honestly, I'm doing a gin and tonic. I'll do a lot of gin and tonics, do the French 75 is because nothing like replacing tonic with bubbly alcohol. And just making the drink a little stronger, but it's a little fresher for the hot seasons in here. During the fall and winter, I'll go with a scotch or maybe an old fashioned. I've also found port, we had a gentleman at the shop who was drinking port one day. Never tried it, I'm not a big wine drinker, had never tried port. But then he shared a glass and I really liked it. And it paired well with a nice, probably medium plus cigar. Some of the Nicaraguans paired really well with it. So a port. But my go-to's, most of the time, nine times out of 10, you're going to find me either with gin and tonic or a scotch. Or if I'm not doing alcohol, just some type of bubbling water. Because it kind of cleanses the palate a little bit, takes some of that burn off your tongue.

Brandon:
I agree. And I'm glad you said something about port. So you and I have kind of started on the gin kick together. We've probably had, I don't know, 200 different jams. We probably 300 different scotches. But when I first started smoking cigars, I drank a lot of port with cigars and I don't think I'll go back to that. But what I did enjoy, because at that time, I was smoking one cigar a day, and often it was at the end of the day. A port, at the end of the day, with a cigar, is kind of a dessert, it is awesome. And I forgot all about that. Now, if we're sitting at the lounge and it's four o'clock and I'm thirsty, a gin and tonic is going to go better for me. Because, like you said, it kind of cleanses the palate.

Brandon:
But at eight o'clock at night, sitting on my patio, last cigar, last drink of the day, I think I'd revisit the port thing. Thanks for recommending that. Man, I appreciate you spending a few minutes from there. Anything you want to add?

Richie:
My pleasure. Nope. I'm the Renegades.

Brandon:
What's your favorite cigar?

Richie:
The Eight.

Brandon:
Really?

Richie:
Good eight. Yep. Everybody mocks me. I put out my favorite on Facebook and periodically a Top 10 list, that's usually 11 or 12. Because it's my list, and I get to do that. And it's been interesting as those pop up in the memories, seeing how it's changed. And the last one I put up, I think out of the top 10, I don't think I had anything other than the Ventura and a couple of Caldwells. But everything else was the house blends. The Eight, the BHEH, some of the distinguished one.

Richie:
So those are the ones, those are my go-to. They're nice. They're perfect. They're mediums. They're very complex. They've got a unique blend of tobacco. They give different flavors. I can't tell you what those flavors are. I can tell you "I'm getting a flavor of Brandon. What is that?". And you'll tell me what it is and then maybe I'll pick it up and go "Yeah, that's a nut". No, I can't tell, but I can just tell it's a unique flavor. I know what I like. And I can tell the different tastes, but I can't tell you what they are. But man, those house blends, for the money. The Scottie Signature, I really liked it when it came out cause it's a little short one. It's perfect for when I work downtown. I can step outside and take a break and smoke one and not feel like I'm taking too much time away. Now that I'm sequestered and at home, those are way too short, man. I'm just smoking through a Scotty's left and right.

Brandon:
10 pack home and it's gone by the end of the day.

Richie:
It's gone by the end of the day.

Brandon:
That's the problem with that.

Richie:
Exactly.

Brandon:
Cool, man. Well, I'm glad you're enjoying the Eight and the stuff that we're making. You've become a good friend over the years, and I appreciate that, man. But you know, it's still fun to talk cigars, from time to time. We talk about all other types of shit, but cigars every now and then we got to circle back around to where this came from. So cheers, man. Thanks for spending time with me.

Richie:
Cheers.

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