Much like whiskey wanderers, cigar cruisers never have to be alone. There’s a certain camaraderie among cigar aficionados that makes every city feel like home. So whenever I travel I like to check out the local cigar scene in order to get a feel for the differences in offerings between cigar shops as well as to find that one special spot where I want to hang out.
Michael, Rosemary, and I (and half of Kentucky if you’re keeping track) recently went to New Orleans for the first annual New Orleans Bourbon Festival. We were constantly on the lookout for cigar shops, taking recommendations both from locals and from people we already know who have been there before. One thing is for sure- there’s a booming cigar scene in New Orleans. This is the order in which we visited:
- Smoke On The Water – 510 Conti St – French Quarter – We just happened upon this shop as we wandered around the French Quarter on the first day and it ended up being a good spot. The guy working at the counter knew a thing or two about cigars, the humidors were well stocked with a great selection, and there were lots of nice comfy chairs as well as copies of Cigar Aficionado. I wish we had stuck around here a little longer, especially because they had an espresso machine.
- New Orleans Cigar Factory – 415 Decatur St – French Quarter – This is a great place to stop by if you want to see cigars being rolled. The rollers here switch back and forth between bunching and rolling instead of working in more traditional two person rolling teams. If you’ve never watched cigars being rolled it’s worth a stop.
- La Habana Hemmingway Cigar Bar – 533 Toulouse St – French Quarter – This was the only place we found in our travels where we could smoke cigars and get a bourbon at the same time. They offer a wide selection of cigars, including a private label collection made only for that location. The downside of this location is that the cigars are all out in the open. It was certainly very humid in New Orleans when we were there, but I’m not sure if it was humid enough to keep the cigars in good shape.
- Crescent City Cigar – 730 Orleans St – French Quarter – Talk about saving the best for last. We enjoyed this shop so much we decided to end our search here and spent the last day sitting in this shop for the second time in five days talking with the other customers. This was the shop that felt like home and I cannot wait to return. I’m told this is the oldest cigar shop in the French Quarter. The humidor has a great selection, the prices are very competitive, and they even have a house label cigar that is just fabulous. The second time we went in I saw two of the people who had been in my bourbon and cigar pairing seminar at the bourbon festival. This is one of the best kept secrets in New Orleans.
I have to give a special shout-out to Don Juan Cigar Shop in Metairie for sponsoring the cigar tent at the festival. Tim was awesome to work with and he really knows his stuff. I’m sad I didn’t get a chance to go check out the shop, but the cigars he was selling in the tent were top notch. Go in and buy a cigar and tell him Maggie sent you.