It was a particularly enjoyable time for me a few weeks back when two of my worlds collided during a Saturday afternoon live broadcast of the Smooth Draws Radio show. And what made that day so enjoyable was that Bourbon & Banter’s founder, our Chief Bourbon Drinker and Editor, Patrick ‘Pops’ Garrett was the top guest on the show to talk about Bourbon Heritage Month and introduce the listeners of the show to Bourbon & Banter and the bourbon lifestyle. (You can listen to that entire show right here via SoundCloud.) I first ran across the show by chance a little over two years ago as I set out to find a special cigar to accompany the bottle of Scotch I had purchased to commemorate the anniversary of a life-altering accident I was involved in 14 years prior. Since the accident, each year on the anniversary date, my wife and I take the day off to watch the sunrise, be appreciative for what we have, and acknowledge the brutal fact that tomorrow is not a given.
At this point, I was still relatively new to whisky, but having already picked up a bottle of Oban 14, all I needed now was the perfect cigar. Well, do you remember when you first got into whisk(e)y and didn’t know your wheaters from your ryes, your Highlands from your Lowlands? Well, that’s exactly where I was as I ventured into the vast world of cigars. It was like starting all over again, and I had no idea of where to begin. I set forth along the same path I used to gain insight and knowledge of all things whisky… Twitter.
When I first created my Twitter account, I had no expectations and honestly had no idea I would find so many other like-minded people to learn from and share my experiences with, but I quickly found myself immersed in a passionate online whisky community known as the #whiskyfabric. They welcomed me with open arms and have since truly become some of the best friends a person could ever ask for.
As I set out to learn a little more about the cigar world, I ran into an equally passionate community of cigar enthusiasts and most importantly to me, the good people of Smooth Draws Radio. At that time, it was a much smaller two-man operation, and the show was called Cigar Guys Radio. Gary (Doc) Laden was the friendly, outgoing frontman and the voice of the show, and his co-host at the time was Alan, the Cigar Savant, as he was known, due to his vast knowledge of all things cigar and his “Rain-Man”-esque memory. Well, I took a shot and sent Gary a message on Twitter, explaining my situation and how I knew nothing about cigars but would welcome any suggestions he may have for a good “first cigar.” I was so excited when I got a response and was taken aback by the fact that he took the time to explain some of the differences between the types of cigars available and why he thought the cigar he recommended would best suit my situation. With this new information in hand, I set out to the local cigar shop and made my first purchase.
It was only a few days later that my wife and I headed off to Savannah, GA for our little anniversary excursion, and the following day, as my wife set off to explore the town, I stayed back at the hotel to listen to my new favorite radio show, armed with my bottle of Oban, my first cigar, a cheap cutter and a few wooden matches. I remember feeling like a bit of a tool as I went through several of those matches in my effort to get the cigar lit and smoking properly, but it eventually got going, and I began to settle in… just as I heard my name come through the radio. I about dropped the cigar as my mouth fell open from the shock of hearing Doc reading my letter aloud over the airwaves! Now keep in mind, I’m a rather shy, introverted person in my day-to-day life and I know I must have turned beet red as I heard my story going out to the thousands of listeners across the globe. But the fact that he was so concerned with my situation and devoted so much energy to make sure I had a positive first cigar experience is something I will never forget.
In the time since that day, I’ve become a regular listener and have become more involved in the cigar community. I’ve even have had the pleasure to meet Doc and the rest of the team on several occasions, as well as being an on-air contestant a few times during the live events Smooth Draws Radio has done down here in Florida. Now, I know cigars aren’t for everyone, and I think I speak for all parties involved… *If you don’t already smoke cigars, this post or any reference contained within is not intended to encourage you to start.
But if you do currently enjoy the occasional cigar and would like to learn more about the lifestyle, the Smooth Draws website is a wealth of information. Before you dive in and start exploring, follow this link to “Meet The Show Hosts” (Gary “Doc” Laden, Nick Syris and Will “Cigar Coop” Cooper) so you can put some faces to the guys behind the microphone. Beyond that, you can listen to cigar reviews, learn all about and register for hosted trips to Cuba (which I understand are pretty amazing trips thanks to the knowledge, insight, and reputation of co-host Nick Syris). Don’t forget to sign-up for the weekly email newsletter, and of course, join me and the rest of the #Smoothoperators every Saturday afternoon from 12-2pm EST live right here on ESPN Radio 1230am / 106.3 FM… (bookmark this link, so you’re not looking for it later) and on Twitter using the #Cigarherf hashtag. If you can’t join in on the live shows, all past shows are archived on SoundCloud and the CigarDojo app so you can listen anytime.