Fresh out of the pandemic, 2022 was an action-packed year for Stogie Press. There were many events coupled with travel – not just for cigars but also work and pleasure. Like previous years, I try to make my way to new lounges whenever I can, and many times I find myself in some old favorites and also some new gems. Last year was no different. Here are the top 5 lounges for 2022 on Stogie Press.
In order to make the selection we came up with a few parameters that help score a lounge each year.
- Cleanliness – how clean the shop and air is
- Humidor size and selection – is there a fine selection of both big and small brands
- Inclusiveness/Ambiance – is it friendly, inviting, and interesting, do the patrons welcome newcomers
- Hours of Operation – is it open 7 days a week, does it have extended hours on the weekends
- Attentiveness – how attentive and knowledgeable is the staff
- Events – are there regular events at least monthly with special deals
- Membership Program – do they have one and is the cost vs benefits valuable to the consumer
- Bar Selection – does the lounge offer a wide selection of beverages for sale
Of course, not all of these are equally waited, so we scored each on a scale of 1 – 5 and then added weights to them based on what we feel is most important. As you can see the highest weights went to the humidor (we go to shops to buy cigars) and the cleanliness (we like clean and orderly shops)
- Humidor 40%
- Cleanliness 20%
- Attentiveness 10%
- Inclusiveness/Ambiance 10%
- Events 5%
- Hours of Operation 5%
- Bar Selection 5%
- Membership 5%
The total a lounge could score is 100.
As part of a side trek from the Drew Estate Connecticut Barn Smoker, I had the pleasure of driving down to Old Saybrook, Connecticut with a great Brother of the leaf and prior “Taking It To The Nub” Co-host, Quinton Brown to meet up with another fine Brother of the Leaf , Andy Tosetti, who lives in Connecticut and wanted us to check out this amazing lounge – Bongo Ron’s.
Let’s just be clear, Old Saybrook, Connecticut is a rather quaint old fishing town on the Connecticut river which leads out to the Long Island sound. It’s like a harbor town and the lounge is housed in an old 19th century captain’s house that reflects the beauty of the town and days gone by. The house dates back to 1795 and it was known as the Griswold house, owned by a ship captain that also owned a fleet of vessels. Ron and his partner Andria took 4 months in early 2018 to renovate the building into their dream cigar lounge. The doors of Bongo Ron’s opened in April of 2018.
As you walk up the stoop, to the front door, you have to take in the view of the house. I mean it’s just classic. I wouldn’t want to change a thing on it. As you walk through the door you’ll be in the foyer that houses the checkout counter and a center display of cool books on cigars and whiskey along with accessories, candles, and a collection of cigar specials. This is where the cool vibe of Bongo Ron’s continues to evolve.
The place is simply awesome with its well-stocked humidor and trained tobacconist/owner Ron who is is like a old-school hippie, sporting long grey hair and full grey mustache. He actually looks kind of like actor Sam Elliot. In fact, he sounds a bit like him too. Ron is a skilled percussionist and therein lies where Bongo comes in. From what I understand, Ron can play bongos! Ron told me he had a background in retail but opening this shop has been the best business he ever ran. He has real passion for the leaf, and it showed in all our conversation.
There are two floors to the lounge with multiple sitting areas along with an outdoor patio and also a smoking yard. Being named Bongo Ron’s it also has a music room where Ron and his friends get to together to play music.
The lounge also has a member’s only area which they offer yearly and 3-month memberships. The latter is for those that frequent the lounge and Old Saybrook during the summer months.
The Underground Cigar Shop and Lounge has technically been around for a quite a number of years. The last time I was there was for the NFG19 (No Fucks Given) Event before the world was hit with COVID-19. You can read my coverage of that event by following this link. That was in 2019 and so much has changed yet so much remained the same. After that event, or should I say at that event, the shop owners announced they would be moving from their current location to a building across the street. The new location would give them presence on the main road instead of the barbed wire, fenced in, area of the original shop. Don’t get me wrong, the old presence had the most grungy feel and that made the Underground what it is. People loved it, but I get it, the location would also have a larger lounge area and a new, slightly larger humidor.
The Underground carries one of the largest collections of Small and Boutique brands. If you are looking for those Big Box brands you may like, the Underground may not be your place. But they pride themselves in that inventory. In fact, many of the cigars in their humidor have been reviewed on Stogie Press, so if you are wondering where to get some of those brands, then head to the Underground Cigar Shop, or check out their website.
The crew at the Underground Cigar Shop did an awesome job with the humidor and have it well organized, clean, and properly humidified. The aroma as you walk in it, is that of cedar and aged tobacco. Exactly what you want to experience when you are looking for that perfect cigar for a night out with friends or comfortable relaxation.
Compared to the original shop, the increased square footage of the lounge area is a noticeable upgrade. There is also an old standup piano and even a stool, if you are so inclined to bang out some tunes on the keys. Let’s hope you know how to play and if you do, maybe you can play some old fashion saloon rags.
They have also completed a beautiful outdoor deck for those prefect Ft . Worth evenings.
The few patrons that were there the night I was, were friendly and inclusive and even my work colleagues had a great time and thanked me for bringing them in. I found the lounge to be clean and well decorated and the bathrooms were immaculate also. So, the next time you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area take it from me, go to the Underground. They are huge supporters of the Military and First Responders including displays of challenge coins, patches and signage paying tribute to them.
Keeping with the Vegas theme, the Eight Lounge is what Vegas is all about. Housed inside Resorts World, the newest mega hotel/resort on the strip, this lounge is as much a destination visit as is Sin City itself. Opulent and pricey, this expansive 7,000 Sq-Ft smoking emporium offers patrons a selection of 150 cigars that range from $18.00 to $5,000. Yes, your read that right! Hit it big at the casino and celebrate your win with a Gurkha His Majesty’s Reserve – the most expensive cigar the world. You can also find some pretty rare cigars in the humidor from the likes of Fuente and Padron. Of course, if you want to bring your own cigars, the management is ok with that too.
As you enter the lounge, you are greeted by a door handler who welcomes you into the lounge. If it is a busy night you may need to have reservations, or at least be meeting someone who does, as was the case the evenings Kevin and I were there. Once through the door your eyes will feast on the large, glass walled, walk-in humidor to the right and the array of pleated leather chairs and couches, neatly spaced around tables in front of you.
The Eight Lounge Humidor is stocked with a vast range of popular cigar brands and even some lesser known, but up and coming brands, that the General Manager decides to rotate in on a monthly basis. There are “Eight” branded ashtrays, humidors, and caps to show off your Eight Pride. I found the humidor to be properly humidified and temperature controlled.
The bar is curated with the finest of libations, wine and beer. The trained mixologists have all the ingredients to craft you the finest cocktail or just serve up a evening cordial or pour of whiskey, rum, or tequila to pair with your cigar.
They also have a 2,200 square foot “Smokers Terrace” that is as impeccably laid out as the lounge itself. It overlooks the strip and has numerous seating areas, outdoor heaters for those cool desert evenings, and even an outdoor fireplace to add to the ambiance.
I have to say this is by far the most expansive cigar lounge on the Vegas Strip. It is a comfortable and pleasant reprieve from the casinos, shopping and shows on the Vegas strip. The General Manager, Ian Floranza gave me a grand tour and explained that the name Eight is a lucky number in Chinese and that they incorporated that number in the design of the lounge, which has 8 different areas to relax and enjoy a fine cigar and beverage. The patrons seemed inviting and inclusive the nights we were there. The restrooms were spotless and the air quality pristine. This is a must see when you ar
During my visit to the 2022 Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE) trade show, my good Brother of the Leaf – Kevin “the Commish” Parow and I hung out visiting a few lounges during the week. One of those lounges was a place called CigarBox by Freyboy Tobacco. The lounge is owned by Las Vegas entrepreneur, Michael Frey, who had the idea a few years ago to open lounges in a number of the high-end Vegas hotels and casinos. With a background in the hospitality business, Frey’s concept was well accepted, and he signed collaborative agreements with Caesars Palace to put in the Montecristo Lounge in the casino area and Casa Fuente in the forum shops. Michael’s goal was to supply a steady stream of cigars for these lounges and then he also opened a 2.300 sq-ft shop – the Cigar Box – located behind Caesars Palace.
Once you enter, your eyes focus on the clean red brick walls and a wooden floor. There is a number of comfortable leather seats spaced nicely in the sitting area each with a side table and ash trays. There is a round wooden table in the corner to sit a a group of friends that I suppose could double as a card table. A large wooden conference table is located at the end of the sitting area and there are two private rooms that can be used by large groups of guests. I was told, even though they say reserved, all you have to do as ask and you can use the room. There is no membership fee to reserve them.
There a number of flat screen TV’s strategically hanging on the walls for your viewing pleasure in addition to an obligatory Cigar Store Indian and an antique Cigarette dispensing machine that adorns side wall.
The shop is laid out in an open and airy way, and I found it to be clean of smoke. It has a large walk-in humidor that is well stocked with both big and select medium and small brands. The pricing is lower than you will find on the strip, but about $2.00 higher than the standard MSRP you might find in a state like Florida. I considered the prices to be fair for where you are. The humidor is well laid out, clean, and properly humidified.
Bathrooms in lounges can tell a lot about pride of ownership. In the case of the CigarBox, the bathroom was as immaculate as the rest of the establishment. You can see the pride that Mr. Frey and his staff put into the shop.
CigarBox is a little cigar oasis to break away from the madness just 2 miles away in downtown Vegas. If you are looking for a place to chill out and enjoy a fine smoke and don’t have, the ability to travel outside of Las Vegas, then this is a must visit shop.
There was a time, if you lived in the Titusville, Florida area, and you wanted to pick up some premium cigars, you had one place to go – Harry Smooths. The small shop has been around for decades, but it was just that, a cigar shop. You purchased and you went home to enjoy. Harry’s was not open late in the evening, so if you did not get out early you were SOL. Now things have changed with the recent opening of the Leaf Lounge in the historic center of the city.
The Leaf Lounge is the brainchild of 4 brothers of the leaf: Tony Wiggins, Greg Ingram, Robert Cunningham, and Barkeem Barr otherwise known as the “Cigar Guyz”. The concept of the lounge started with Tony, who owns and operates a mobile cigar lounge – P.I.N.T.A. Smoke – based out of Daytona Beach. An experienced tobacconist, Tony wanted to expand into a brick and mortar operation and when Greg showed him and Barkeem a building that was up for lease that was previously the Bar IX lounge in the city, they new right away this was a perfect location for a cigar lounge.
They have an attractively laid out sidewalk patio with wicker couches and steel patio tables. This is a nice addition to the lounge. The sitting area rests under an outdoor awning which protects it from those pesky Florida rainstorms.
The lounge itself has an expansive amount of seating areas, including leather chairs, couches and high-top tables. The inside is well illuminated and there are 7 flat screen TV’s spaced throughout the lounge. There is a number of smoke eaters strategically placed across the ceiling to keep the lounge clean of smoke. On those cooler and lower humidity days, they keep the front door open to keep the air flow moving.
The lounge does not have a walk-in humidor but instead opted to line the wall with two cigar cabinets. Co-owner, Barkeem, explains that the team “handmade” the cabinets, which added a classic and unique touch to the decor. One cabinet contains the line of premium cigars and the second contains a fine selection of infused blends.
At the back of the lounge is the bar that I found to offer a wide array of beverages. There is ample seating available around it and one of the flat screens TV’s hangs in the corner for your viewing pleasure. While there I chose to have a rum and coke which I must say was a decent pour. They also have a BYOB policy but there is a small corking/bottle fee for that service which is waived if you purchase a yearly membership to the lounge which I will describe next.