By David R. Cohen | firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary “Doc” Laden and Alan “The Cigar Savant” Friedman are Atlanta ambassadors of the cigar lifestyle.
The self-proclaimed “Cigar Guys” in March launched a weekly radio show on WGKA-AM 920 focused on the pleasures of fine dining, vacationing, drinking and enjoying cigars, all based on Laden and Friedman’s philosophy on life: Everything is better with a cigar.
I met with these two stogie specialists at Churchill’s Cigar Lounge in Sandy Springs. We puffed on a few cigars and discussed their show, the cigar industry’s Jewish history and the cigar lifestyle.
AJT: Tell me about your new radio show.
Laden: We have a show all about the cigar lifestyle. To us, the lifestyle means that while drinking nice wines or bourbons, enjoying a meal or going on vacation, everything is enhanced by a cigar.
Friedman: Anywhere. Just sitting out on the deck on a Sunday afternoon enjoying a cigar is wonderful. Another thing that I enjoy doing is going to a cigar lounge or bar and meeting my next best friend.
Laden: A really cool place that just opened up is the Cigar City Club in Sandy Springs. It’s reminiscent of the old speakeasy-type bar. Other great shops on the north side of town are Blue Havana 2 in Alpharetta, Cigar Merchant in Roswell, Churchill Fine Cigars (the location of the interview) and Scottish Tobacco in Buckhead.
AJT: Alan, why do they call you “The Cigar Savant”?
Laden: We call Alan a savant because he is like the Rain Man of cigars. We joke around that Alan has an internal Google search in his head. Ask him any question about cigars and he can spout it out, but ask him to name two Braves players or the mayor of Atlanta and he won’t know what to say (laughs).
AJT: Isn’t there a long history of Jews in the cigar industry?
Friedman: If you get into specifics, what you find is there were a lot of Russian and European Jews that left for opportunity in the Unites States. A lot were involved in the tobacco trade, and there’s a few of them that are world famous. One of the biggest names that comes to mind is Zino Davidoff. He took what he had learned from his father in the tobacco business in Switzerland and went to Cuba. He worked in the fields and the factories, learning how to manufacture cigars, and then brought that back to Switzerland and opened up one of the most famous shops and organizations in the industry, Davidoff.
Laden: Royalty and celebrities would go to his shop. He turned that into a lifestyle offering of Davidoff cologne, clothing and accessories.
Friedman: I even found a photograph of a great-grandfather who had a cigar wagon in New York, and I didn’t even know he was in that business.
Laden (laughs): You gotta blow that up and put it on a canvas art print.
AJT: If I’m a novice cigar smoker, what’s the key to picking out a great cigar?
Laden: Well, there are some basic rules, like someone first learning would not pick what we would call an extra-strong cigar, meaning the nicotine content is high with leaves that have a lot of strength to it, which can make someone dizzy. A novice should maybe go for a cigar that is built with a Connecticut wrapper, which is milder.
AJT: So I’m definitely a novice; what are we smoking right now?
Laden: This would be a medium-bodied cigar that has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. It’s a Cuban seed that’s grown in Ecuador.
Friedman: And it’s actually manufactured by a company called Kings Cigars, which is one of our sponsors. This particular cigar is called the Caballero. This cigar is perfect for a novice or someone who is very experienced.
AJT: Where and when can people listen to your show?
Laden: Well, the show is on live from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday. It’s also simulcast on iTunes and whatever other app that someone would use to pick up radio shows. We also have an on-demand feature on our website, which is www.cigarguysradioshow.com. Our long-term goal is to syndicate over many stations.
AJT: All right, time to close out this interview. How do you close out your show?
Laden: Smooth draws everyone. We hope you listen to the “Cigar Guys” radio show on AM 920 The Answer. We have lots of fun, cigar information and shenanigans.