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Xavier Magazine | June 23, 2017

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Cigar Czar

Cigar Czar
By Jen Saltsman

They say where there’s smoke there’s fire. But for Kevin McKenna, it means more than that. For him, where there’s smoke, there’s business.

The 2005 communications grad manages the cigar humidor at The Party Source in Bellevue, Ky., so he knows a good smoke when he sees one—enough so that he went out and created one to his own taste.

McKenna traveled to Nicaragua, a country known for its tobacco exports, to learn about the manufacturing process. There, he watched tobacco farmers grow, harvest, ferment and roll premium tobacco into cigars. He was impressed by their intricate knowledge of the plant, which to him seemed like something that couldn’t be taught.

“How do you know when the tobacco finishes fermenting?” he asked one of the Nicaraguan farmers, who had spent his entire life working and living on tobacco fields. “You just know,” the farmer said.

McKenna selected the tobacco to make his own corona blend, which he named La Abeja, Spanish for “the bee.”

“Bees, in folklore, are a symbol of sacred knowledge,” he says. “That farmer knows exactly when to stop fermentation stage, which is the most important step in preparing tobacco. If you stop the process too late or too soon, the whole batch is ruined. It’s just something that he knows from years and years of experience. That’s what makes it good.”

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How to smoke a cigar

Kevin McKenna’s advice on the best way to smoke a cigar:
1.)  Choose the right one.
2.)  Stake out a spot. “Don’t worry about the [deleted] who give you dirty looks.”
3.)  Clip the end of the cigar.
4.)  Make sure everything’s in good shape. “I like to draw an unlit cigar just to make sure that air is getting through it.”
5.)  Sip on something.
6.)  Lighting matters. “Some people like to use harsh lighters on their cigars; it gives you a hotter, harsher first hit. I like to use a soft lighter on mine.”

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