Smoke if you got ’em: Washington DC to OK hotel smoking

Non-smokers probably won’t be too excited by the news, but cigar smokers will rejoice. The Washington DC City Council passed a measure last week that eases smoking restrictions on hotels in our nation’s capital. The Special Event Exemption Emergency Act of 2010 carries an amendment that offers a way for hotels to be exempted from the city’s smoking ban. If you prefer your hotels sans puffing, there’s no cause for alarm – the rules are pretty narrow.

Hotels will be allowed to host special cigar-smoking events once a year, as long as at least 500 people are in attendance (which means the venue must be large enough to accommodate this number of guests). Also, the hotel will have to notify the Department of Health and pay a $250 fee. Quite simply, it has to be a pretty hefty occasion.

As with any “emergency” measure, you’d be correct to assume that this law was passed with something specific in mind. In this case, it was the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner, organized by the social organization the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. Historically, the patron saint of Ireland is toasted with brandy and a cigar.

In Washington DC, most emergency legislation lasts for 90 days, but this measure stretches out for 270, as the council also wanted to protect a charity event called Friday Night Fight, which is held on November 11. Last year, it raised more than $2.8 million for Fight for Children.

Daily Pampering: Recapture cigar luxury while you’re on the road

For cigar smokers, just getting on a plane is a complicated affair. You may have to fly sans cutter or torch, depending on the airport (the rules don’t seem to be enforced consistently), which has a direct effect on how you enjoy your sticks when you’re traveling. If you insist on using your Xikar cutter and S.T. Dupont lighter regardless of where you find yourself, the safe move is to check your luggage – which comes with its own set of inconveniences. So, if you value speed over devices but don’t want to be denuded of an upscale cigar smoking experience, it’s time to buy an unusual, limited edition accessory from Davidoff.

The Davidoff cigar band is exactly what you’d expect from a company known for cigar-related luxury. The device consists of leather straps and a gold-gilt, textured Davidoff logo. Fasten this accessory to the cigar, and you elevate the experience immediately … while sending a clear message to the other inhabitants of the cigar lounge in which you light up. You have committed to a level of conspicuous consumption that few can attain.

Since only 20 of these bands were made, the odds of running into someone else who has one are rare, even if you are smoking with a crowd that has means similar to yours. As a result, you’ll be the envy of the lounge.

It’s hard to cope with not having the equipment that helps define the experience you have come to enjoy. The Davidoff cigar band, however, can take some of the sting out of the inconvenience of today’s carry-on restrictions.

Get your daily dose of Pampering right here.

How to book a cigar tour

Cigar manufacturers are eager to host consumers. If you happen to be in Honduras or Nicaragua, your request for a tour of the facilities would probably be met with excitement and a warm welcome. But, you can get more than that. As the manufacturers and retailers struggle to overcome the effects of the global recession, many are arranging cigar-centric trips designed to host you from seed to ash.

Many cigar companies are partnering with tobacconists to arrange cigar tours for their customers. Camacho brings smokers down to Honduras to spend a few days at “Camp Camacho,” where they can tour the fields, see how cigars are rolled and smoke as much as you like. Rocky Patel and Drew Estate (which makes Acids and Javas) host groups as well, in Honduras and Nicaragua, respectively. My recent trip to Pepin Garcia’s factory was a first for the company, but I strongly suspect that many will follow. WhileDrew Estate is open to individual bookings, most of the cigar trips offered by manufacturers need to be arranged by cigar shops.

Your local retailer has the connections to make a cigar trip possible, so that’s where you need to start. Bring the idea up, and make sure there are enough people in the shop who share your interest. You’ll probably need about a dozen to make the trip happen (on my trip, De La Concha and Uptown Cigar, contributing roughly the same number of travelers each).
Since the cigar companies are eager to bring you to their facilities, you’ll generally be responsible for your airfare … and nothing else. Accommodations, meals and transportation are usually included, and you’ll be provided enough cigars to keep you busy – I had one lit pretty much all day every day. The details will vary with the cigar company. Those that have rooms on the premises will put you up inside the walls, and companies that don’t will arrange for you to stay in a local hotel.


On your tour, you’ll become intimately familiar with the process of making cigars. From the tobacco fields, where the plants are bursting from the ground, to the factories, where legions of rollers showcase their dexterity, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the process by which your favorite stick reaches store shelves (and ultimately your humidor). At Pepin Garcia’s My Father operation, we saw everything, including the wood shop where the cigar boxes are built and printed. An estimated 70 pairs of hands are necessary to create a cigar, and w saw most of them.

At night, you’ll eat, smoke and hang out with the cigar company hosts and, more important, your fellow travelers. After all, what makes your favorite cigar shop special? It’s the people who smoke with you. This is what will turn your cigar trip into a memorable event.

Drew Estate: A Destination for cigar smokers

If you like to light up a stick more than occasionally, it’s time for you to consider a “cigar safari.” This unique experience, offered by Drew Estate, which manufactures both traditional and infused cigars, is available up to 16 times a year at its factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Spend four days and three nights soaking in the pool, sipping cocktails in the on-site lounge and sampling the entire Drew Estate line, from Acid to T52.

Many cigar manufacturers are offering tours for their end-consumers these days. Camacho, Rocky Patel and Pepin Garcia’s My Father are among the companies that have taken this giant marketing leap forward. With Drew Estate, however, there is a touch of a resort feel. The guestrooms, limited number, feel more like a hotel than the barracks style available at some of the factories, and the guest-to-bathroom ratio isn’t bad.

Upstairs is the sort of cigar lounge that makes smokers salivate, with plenty of couches, flat screen televisions, a bar and even a poker table (games are held regularly with guests). The lounge opens onto a balcony (soon to be furnished) that offers stunning views of the Nicaragua countryside. Back on the ground, you can have a drink prepared and sit by the pool – or slip into it to cool off for a while.


Only a short walk away is the factory, where you’ll become acquainted with the process by which the stuff on which you puff is made. The Drew Estate team will introduce you to the various infused and traditional lines it offers, and you’ll get the chance to see the company’s unique manufacturing process in action, from tobacco just being brought in the door through rolling, packaging and, yes, smoking. The guys on site are quite knowledgeable and will be able to answer all your questions thoroughly … except one.

Drew Estate stays mum on its infusing process and is quite committed to keeping the secret sauce secret. Somebody always asks, and the answer is always the same: NO. You also won’t be taken on a tour of that part of the facility. Fortunately, there’s plenty to experience already, so you’ll hardly miss the chance to eye some trade secrets.

On your visit to Drew Estate, be prepared to smoke. The point of the trips is to acquaint cigar smokers with the brand, sot eh company is always putting it at the center of the experience. Cigars, along with meals and beverages, are included in the nominal fee of $450 (you’re responsible for your own airfare).

Pack your cutter and your lighter (but not if you use a torch), and get ready to relax with a cigar in your hand for four days. Unlike most cigar trips, you can book this one on your own, rather than have it arranged through a smoke shop. Keep in mind that there is only a limited number of trips every year, and they do fill up quickly.

Hotel Review: Hotel Los Arcos

If you’re going to Esteli, Nicaragua, it’s probably for the cigars. The town is charming, if a bit rundown, but it’s proximity to the fields and factories of some of the world’s premier cigar manufacturers is undoubtedly the main attraction. So, be reasonable in your expectations when choosing a hotel. I spent three nights at Hotel Los Arcos on a visit to the Pepin Garcia cigar operation, and don’t have any complaints. It isn’t a luxury property (and doesn’t bill itself as such), but you will be clean and comfortable during your stay.

Hotel Los Arcos is one of the few hotels I’ve visited in the past few years that actually use keys – real metal keys. Turn it to enter your room, and the experience will vary. Some rooms have two single beds, while others deliver two full-sized. There are a handful of suites with balconies and a bit of extra elbow room, though no guestroom is cramped. The beds and bathrooms are clean but worn, though both would seem better with a bit more of an effort to decorate.

%Gallery-84834%If you’re accustomed to amenities, brace yourself. The rooms do have desks and televisions, but alarm clocks and phones are absent. Also, the desks aren’t near any power outlets. The lack of internet access will drive business travelers to the brink of insanity. There is a faint wireless signal, I was told, but you’ll only find it in a few places (the restaurant is a hotspot). The only alternative is to use one of the two ancient desktops at the top of the stairs to the second floor. They are slow (and in Spanish), so it may take you a moment to adapt.

The bar can get lively, depending on how many people are staying at the hotel, and there is sufficient variety on the shelves. Grab a drink to take with you to your table, however, as you’ll be waiting for a while. The service is in line with the norm in Nicaragua, but guests used to life at a faster pace may become frustrated. Meal quality varies. Breakfast, which consists of a small buffet, is a bit disappointing – far variety, presentation and taste. Dinner is much better, though guests should not expect culinary masterpieces.

Where Hotel Los Arcos succeeds is in its outdoor spaces. A courtyard adorned with a colorful mural offers plenty of seating, and there’s more on the roof, which offers views of Esteli and the mountains beyond it. If you’re traveling with a group, this is a plus, since you’ll have places where you can gather and hang out for a while. Also, I’m told the laundry service does a great job.

Hotel Los Arcos gets the job done. You’ll be clean and comfortable, and the accommodations are better than you’ll find at many of the places you’ll drive by n route. For cigar trips especially, you can’ go wrong with Los Arcos.