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Sunday Cigar: Exploring the World of Premium Smoke with Juan Sanchez

Client: New York Said | Role: Producer and Co-Host | Location: Washington Heights, New York


Sunday Cigar, Photography by Amon Focus
Sunday Cigar, Photography by Amon Focus


The journey to “Sunday Cigar” really kicked off back in 2008 in Tampa, Florida. I was there on a video shoot at the Tampa Cigar Company, and that’s when I bumped into Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr. for the first time. Carlito was this really cool dude, super friendly and all. While he was showing us around the office, he pulled out these cigars and offered them to everyone on the video crew. Never one to shy away from trying something new, I figured, “Why not?” and took him up on his offer. That was the spark that eventually led to the creation of “Sunday Cigar.”

After we finished the interview, we headed out to shoot our next location. I was with my friend Steve, and I remember joking around with the cigar and wanting to take pictures with it, but that was about it. I had had cigars before, which wasn’t a big deal. I still remember the cigar he gave me that day: an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Classic. He had four or five of them in his shirt pocket.


Carlito Fuente Jr and Amon | Photography by <a href="">Stephen R. McFadden</a>
Carlito Fuente Jr and Amon | Photography by Stephen R. McFadden


The label’s design is what piqued my curiosity to see what the cigar was about. So when I finally got around to smoking it, I was impressed by the experience. From then on, I found myself having a great cigar now and again. Since then, I’ve tried almost every cigar Arturo Fuente has ever made. That’s an exaggeration; 55% of the various types of cigars that they make. Shit all I’m saying is that they make great cigars.

After a while I began to explore other brand, first Davidoff then Padrón then to Rocky Patel and countless others, but back then, I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur.

Fast forward a few years later, and I visit the Nat Sherman Clubhouse in Midtown, New York. That was the day my life and relationship with cigars changed forever because that was when I met a master tobacconist, Juan Sanchez.


Sunday Cigar, Photography by McFadden Creative
Sunday Cigar | Photography by Stephen R. McFadden


Juan and I immediately hit it off because his customer service at Nat Sherman was unmatched. He was relatable, had a sense of humor, knew what he was talking about, and was always fresh-dressed. I appreciated the way he treated me whenever I stepped into the shop. I didn’t feel like a chore or just a customer. With Juan, things were handled as efficiently and smoothly as a visit to a skilled barber. I would come in and say, “This is what I’m looking for,” and Juan would listen and say something like, “I think you should try this,” or, “I think you should try that,” and he was always spot on. This went on for years, and even to the point that I was so impressed that I had him as a guest on the New York Said podcast just because I wanted to celebrate how extraordinary I thought he was, especially in the field of tobacco and cigars.

One day on social media, I forget what platform, but I saw that Juan was saying something to the effect that he was tired of hearing lousy cigar podcasts. I jokingly replied, quoting Suge Knight, “If you’re tired of the producers dancing in the videos, come on over to New York Said.” It was a joke and a cultural reference that if you were familiar with the Source Awards in the 90s, you got it.

It sounded like a good idea as I began to think about it. Maybe Juan and I should come together and create a cigar podcast because Juan knows his shit, and I know how to produce a podcast. So I hit up Juan and said, “You know, if you’d be down, I would love to record a podcast breaking down premium cigars, the culture, and the etiquette of smoke,” He thought about it for a sec and also thought it was a good idea.

In my pitch to Juan, which probably isn’t the best idea, I said, “You know what? We’ll sample the cigars, so you don’t have to supply a smoke for each of us. We can cut a cigar in half and then, you know, see what it’s like.” And again, even though I’d been smoking cigars for years at this point, my ignorance was insulting. Juan wasn’t insulted. He just laughed and said, “We don’t have to do that. I have cigars for both of us,” I was thinking about being frugal or saving money because I was like, “You know, we don’t have to do that. I know cigars can be pretty expensive.” But Juan said, “No, we’re good. I got enough cigars for both of us to smoke on the show,” which I was extremely delighted about. Truth be told, even though I suggested cutting cigars in half, I didn’t want to do that; I just really wanted to record the show by any means necessary.


Pappy Van Winkle Tradition, Photography by Amon Focus
Pappy Van Winkle Tradition, Photography by Amon Focus


So, in this collaboration with Juan, I said, “Come up with a list of cigars that you would be interested in covering and writing about, and I’ll handle the rest. I’ll handle the audio production and the photography of the cigars and all the other creative assets.” Juan selected 27 outstanding cigars, and I was surprised by the list. I gave some suggestions, but he made the final decision.

To keep things slightly left of center, I did have one idea for the cigar selection: an episode about non-premium cigars. And because of my travel photography assignments, I found myself all around the country buying the oddest smokes whenever I found myself in the hood of a particular state. You know, stuff like grape-flavored Swisher Sweets or something nostalgic from the late 80s like a Garcia Vega. The idea was to create a charcuterie of non-premium cigars for us to smoke and talk about. I even found some peach-flavored E&J. And Juan, being the showman he is, took that episode just as seriously as he took the premium cigar episodes, even though in my mind, it was a funny, joke kind of episode where we were having fun. Juan kept the integrity alive, and it was probably one of my favorite episodes because it showed the juxtaposition and contrast between Juan’s and my personality in the best way possible, still as co-hosts and friends. But I was having way more fun in that episode than I should have if that makes sense.

A Smoke Along with Juan and Amon
Sunday Cigar, A Smoke Along with Juan and Amon


We recorded all 27+ episodes in Washington Heights because we wanted a place to smoke, record, and not be disturbed. Juan had a spot near his apartment where we could set up.

When we were recording, we usually smoked two cigars, and sometimes we’d smoke three cigars. Whether it was two or three, it didn’t matter because this was the first time I had smoked that many cigars in a day before. A few times during the first season, we’d smoke strong cigars or better known as “ass kicker” cigars. Those would be the nights I would go back home with the nicotine chills. At the time, I lived in Manhattan, and taking the A Train from Washington Heights to the Lower East Side was a trek, but it was all worth it.


Eiroa First 20 Years, Photography by Amon Focus
Eiroa First 20 Years, Photography by Amon Focus


I looked at Sunday Cigar as an introductory master class into smoke. Juan was the professor, and I was the student. I would ask Juan questions for listeners who were early on their journey. We didn’t have a script; we only had an excellent smoke for each episode. Usually, at the top of the episode, Juan would break down all the parts of the cigar and history of the smoke, and we’d just improv the rest. It was very conversational, informative, and sometimes very entertaining. Then, at some point, we would introduce various beverages or chocolates – things to pair with – as we went along.

Once we recorded all the episodes, we collaborated with Steve over at McFadden Creative to do some promo shots and videos and have a fun day capturing marketing material to let the world know that the show existed. The best collaborations happen effortlessly through courteous conversation, listening, good energy, a great attitude, everyone doing what they said they would do, and everyone caring and showing up to create a quality deliverable. Collaborating with Steve on countless projects has always been that experience.


You’ve made it this far; you might as well listen to one of the episodes:

  1. Guillermo Leon Signature
  2. Padron 1926 No.35
  3. Illusione 68
  4. Quesada Reserva Privada Barber
  5. Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Personal Reserve
  6. Rocky Patel Fifty Five
  7. Plasencia Nestico
  8. Crowned Heads Four Kicks
  9. Tatuaje Tattoo by Pete Johnson
  10. Quesada Espana
  11. The Tabernacle
  12. Eiroa the First 20 Years
  13. L’Atelier Maduro
  14. La Flor Dominicana Air Bender
  15. Pappy Van Winkle Tradition 
  16. Arturo Fuente Casa Cuba
  17. Nat Sherman Timeless Prestige Divino 
  18. La Aurora Puro Vintage
  19. Davidoff Yamasa
  20. The Nat Sherman Panamericana Epicure
  21. Boutique Blends La Boheme
  22. Non-Premium Cigars
  23. Oliva Serie V Melanio
  24. Alec Bradley Mundial
  25. Local Cuban Cigar
  26. My Father Le Bijou
  27. Rocky Patel Grand Reserva


My goal in producing Sunday Cigar was to create a body of work that would guide anyone new to cigar culture. Since the completion of the first season of Sunday Cigar, I’ve become a connoisseur. Juan’s teaching taught me more about cigars than I could have independently. And not just cigars with the binder, filler, and wrapper, but everything else that goes along with the culture of cigars, like cutters, lighters, humidors, travel humidors, hygiene, etiquette, and so on. These days, I’m more intentional about what I smoke, where I smoke, the selection I smoke, and the story of what I’m smoking. After recording the show and reading Juan’s notes for each cigar, all the lexicon of keywords and cigar culture jargon have been instilled in me deeply, but don’t ask me to recall them; that’s what the Sunday Cigar Glossary is for.

Thanks for walking with me.


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