Today marks the one year anniversary of the passing of Gary J. Arzt, the widely-known Miami-based cigar personality. Amongst many new age smokers, Arzt was known as a media personality for his twice a month column, consulting work, role with the relatively short-lived Cigar Channel and constant presence in Miami.
In late 2010, I learned that Arzt once owned a cigar brand, Arzt Fine Cigar Corporation. As with a lot of mid to late 1990s brands, there’s not a ton of information on the internet, but Smokeshop Magazine published a short piece in their October 1998 edition:
Florida-based Arzt Fine Cigar Corp., founded in 1996 as a joint venture between Gary J. Arzt, a Miami-based investor, and noted Dominican cigar maker Augusto Reyes, presents the Arzt De Los Reyes cigar. Introduced in April, the Arzt De Los Reyes cigar is a true Dominican puro.
Manufactured by Augusto Reyes in Santiago, Dominican Republic, Arzt De Los Reyes cigars consist of Cuban-seed, Dominican-grown filler, a Dominican olor binder, and a Dominican wrapper. The tobaccos used are cured, fermented, and aged under the supervision of the experienced tabaqueros of the Reyes family vega in the Cibao Valley. The Arzt De Los Reyes cigar is available in six sizes; Viscount (41/2 x 50), Earl (51/2 x 38), Prince (6 x 42), Regent (6 x 47), Duke (6 x 50), and Monarch (7 x 48); and comes packaged in boxes of 25.
In addition, the company also offers the Breve, a short, full-bodied cigar made with the same blend of tobaccos as the Arzt De Los Reyes. The cigar comes in a 41/2 x 46 size and is available in five-packs or boxes of 25. The Breve features a different packaging design and is being marketed as a “short smoke.”
Arzt Fine Cigar Corp.’s cigars were introduced to smoke shops in the U.S., Asia, and the Middle East this summer at a number of champagne and caviar receptions hosted by Gary J. Arzt. The company distributes the cigars to only a few hand-picked retailers in each city. This deliberate exclusivity is Arzt Fine Cigar ‘s key marketing strategy.
“Distribution through knowledgeable tobacconists reinforces the cigar’s credibility, ” says Arzt, the company’s managing director. “They won’t be sold in drug stores or convenience stores.” The company plans to have a global presence by the end of 1998.
In 2009, Gary was interviewed about the cigar by Kevin Godbee, he explained:
You’re referring to the $600,000 mistake! Well, actually, two mistakes.
Augusto Reyes and I collaborated on a 100% Dominican cigar in 1996. It was, after Opus X, the second Dominican Puro. It had Dominican filler and binder and a sun grown Dominican wrapper.
We introduced the cigar in 1997 – mistake number one; the bloom was off the rose and the market was collapsing.
Mistake number two: We blended the cigar to my taste – full bodied, since I was a dedicated smoker of Cuban cigars. The market was not ready for a full bodied cigar!
In July of 2010, Gary spoke on his cigars:
I once made a cigar, in conjunction with Augusto Reyes. It was, appropriately enough, called Arzt de los Reyes. That was in 1997 and due to poor timing on my part; the cigar was doomed to failure, in spite of initially placing it in 144 retail tobacconists. For the moment accept that it was a good cigar. I now have one thirteen year old cigar left! It has been properly stalled all these years – it is the last man standing, so to speak.
I am constantly thinking of smoking it. Then I think I should just hold on to it.
Do you have any suggestions or thoughts on the question?
Late last year, I finally found some cigars from Arzt Fine Cigar Corporation, five Breves. Unfortunately, they weren’t in their five-pack packaging, but nonetheless, an answer to Gary’s question.
And the particulars.
- Cigar Reviewed: Breve by Arzt Fine Cigar Corporation
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacos Flor de los Reyes S.A.
- Wrapper: Sun Grown Dominican Republic
- Binder: Dominican Olor
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Size: 4 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 46
- Vitola: Petit Perfecto
- Est. Price: $4.00 (Boxes of 5, $20.00)
- Date Released: 1997
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
While the roll of Breve is actually quite good, the wrapper would struggle in the modern storefront. The sun grown wrapper has a few different hues of a murky mud, very dry to the touch, lots of veins and a bit frail. Aroma is nearly non-existent off the wrapper, just a touch of leather. There’s quite a contrast with the foot, which has a decent bouquet of coffee, fruits and a musky leather; a bit old, but still fruitful. And then there’s a cold draw. It tastes like vanilla bean ice cream, absolutely incredible and on both cigars I smoked, identical: creamy and sweet vanilla bean ice cream.
The first third begins with a sweet cedar and nut mixture that turns salty midway through. It was actually a bit disappointing as far as the Breve was concerned given the cold draw. Ten minutes in and a pepper emerges alongside the main profile which is a salty nuttiness alongside a sweet creaminess. As expected strength is utterly non-existent.
By the second third I’ve learned my lesson: think about speeding up and you will be punished. As long as you stay slow, the Breves continues to deliver a salty nuttiness over cedar and grassiness with a decent mixture of creaminess and paper on the finish. The profile isn’t really shifting third to third, rather developing every few puffs. As was the case in the first third, burn is great and the draw is incredible, utterly perfect.
While the Breve is a small cigar, the smoke rate is relatively slow. As the final third settles in, it’s pretty clear the cigar isn’t changing much. I continue to enjoy the decent richness of the cigar and solid construction, but with an inch left, the Breve begins to heat up beyond my control and I decide to put it down.
- As was mentioned here, there is no redux review this week, this is it.
- This was medium-bodied, stronger than I thought, but definitely not full-bodied.
- In the 2009 interview, Gary mentioned that he would be distributing the Espinosa y Ortega GA Select under the Gary J. Arzt LLC company, as far as I know, that never came out.
- For those wondering about storage conditions, I purchased a large collection of decade-old non-Cuban cigars from a collector of all sorts. Some have smoked great, others not so much. I don’t have many concerns.
- Smoke production was okay, the rest of the construction was great.
- Final smoking time was 50 minutes.
- Gary was a controversial figure to say the least. With few (notable) exceptions, no one was safe from public criticism. Some times things got personal, other times things seemed a bit absurd and other times he was wrong, but I looked forward to each one of his twice-monthly columns because Gary spoke his mind, and wanted us all to hear it. He challenged people and he wasn’t afraid of doing so, he embraced it. Love him or hate him, Gary provoked thought, and if for nothing else, he is missed because of it. You can read his final column here.
The Bottom Line: Honesty, that’s the right approach. Was this sublime? No. Was this awful? No. Truth be told, Breve was miles ahead of what I thought I was going to have and featured a few developed flavors and good construction. It truly was an aged cigar, but not a bad one. In the 2010 excerpt above, you can sort of sense Gary’s own thoughts on how these cigars would be and I don’t think he was too far off. I have no clue what these tasted like fresh, but I imagine it was quite different, still, Breve presented a profile that took me a bit by surprise, which is just a bit like Gary J. Arzt.
Final Score: 79