What’s In Your Humidor?: Abe Dababneh of Smoke Inn Cigars & Kiss My Ash Radio

What’s In Your Humidor?: Abe Dababneh of Smoke Inn Cigars & Kiss My Ash Radio

Abe Dababneh, proprietor of Smoke Inn, is a more than living legend in the cigar industry, he is a personal friend of myself and Willy. Abe has an empire contesting of a regional retail cigar powerhouse (12 Smoke Inn retail locations), a massive online presence (smokeinn.com), one of the biggest and best cigar festivals anywhere (the annual Great Smoke), a sought after series of cigars (the Smoke Inn Microblend Series) a successful poker tournament (Smoke Inn Poker Series) and a weekly radio show (Kiss My Ash Radio). He has served on the board if the IPCPR, been a defender of cigar rights through Cigar Rights of America and is a member of the Cigar Media Association. More than just a capitalist, Abe is also a philanthropist who donates his time to several charities, including the Kids Cancer Foundation. (JD has also been involved with this charity for many years.) He is also a huge supporter of the online cigar media, and ToastedFoot’s current retail sponsor. There are few people with such a varied resume in the cigar industry as Abe.

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If there’s anyone whose humidor we want to take a look inside, it’s definitely the personal humidor of Abe Dababneh. From the time I decided to bring back the What’s In Your Humidor? feature, I knew that I wanted to get Abe to participate. Recently, he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for ToastedFoot with all the candor you’d expect from someone nicknamed “Honest Abe”,  and to drop a little exclusive news about what is next in store for the Smoke Inn Microblend Series.

You’ve told me in the past (and stated on Kiss My Ash Radio) that you don’t use a personal humidor, because with nine retail locations around South Florida, you really don’t need one. Is that still true?

Believe it or not, I do not keep a humidor at Home, but I have cabinet case in my office. I keep stuff I really want to save or break out to share on a special occaision.

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So, what’s in your humidor? 

What’s in my humidor..let me see… I have a box of each of our Microblend series from the original Tatuaje Anarchy to the Pope of Greenwich Village by Drew Estate. I have some original Centurions from My Father. I have some original release Partagas 150s. I have some Davidoff Annual Limited Editions from every year going back about 8 years or so. I have some pre-release Liga Pravadas given to me by Steve Saka, Marvin Samel & JD [Jonathan Drew] before they launched the brand. There’s some original release Padilla 1932 made by Pepin Garcia. I also have rare Opus, Forbidden X, Opus Maduro, and Añejos all probably over 8 to10 years old. There’s some rare Padrón prototypes they brought when we there a 40th Anniversary Party for them 10 years ago. Then there’s some other things hidden in the nooks and crannies of the humidor.

Are there any cigars or brands you’re smoking a lot of right now? 

I have become more size oriented than brand oriented. I like cigars in the 6 inch 38 to 46 ring gage size more for the most part. So lately, it has been a lot of Pope of Greenwich Village, La Palina Kill Bill II,  Matilde Coronas, Illisione, Laranja and the shorter Padrón Anniversarios.

What are some of your all-time favorite cigars?

Well this is tricky… Most of my Microblend Series were chosen by my specific taste profiles, it is only natural I like them the most. Of them my favorites have been the Tatuaje Anarchy, My Father El Hijo, Room 101 Big Delicious,  Pope of Greenwich Village, by Drew Estate and the one I like to call the sleeper… Pactum by Illusion.

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They call you “Honest Abe” so I have to ask, are there any cigars, brands or companies that you’re just not real impressed with?

Well… Of course there are blends that I just don’t care for, but as a retailer we have a saying, ”there is an ass for every seat”.  So, I really never try to knock a blend down. There are times however; that in concept or marketing, some manufactures I feel have completely missed the mark. Since the Cullman Family left General Cigars  (Bought by Swedish Match in 2005), I believe they as a whole have had a deep disconnect with the American cigar consumer. They seem to be off on tangents, unable to build credible new brands or even successful spinoffs. In fact their previous staple brands have lost considerable if not monumental shelf space in brick and mortar humidors across the country.

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How do you decide if a cigar should be carried at Smoke Inn locations?

There is no great science to this. I am always offered cigars to try or sample, and I’ve never really understood that process. What does it matter what I think? Now if I am deciding what to put in my personal humidor…that is a different matter!  Ultimately, the consumers decide what I will carry at Smoke Inn. If something is popular and asked for regularly we will bring it in. There are times when something will look like a winner, the blend falls within the spectrum of demand, price is within the sweet spot, packaging is clean and attractive, so we will give it a shot. Sometimes we will try something based on our close relationship with a certain manufacturer. All new products are presented typically on dedicated shelf space where facings change regularly. We then track it for a few months. If the movement is adequate, we will then make space, and spot it permanently in the humidor. If the product is stagnant and has no traction, it goes from the New Product Shelves to the Discount/Closeout Section. It is hit or miss either way. I have been spot on in speculating brands that I either knew would never make it or take off incredibly, and have also been completely wrong.

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On the retail side of things you see a different side of things than the average cigar enthusiast. Are there any specific trends you’re seeing lately?

As a retailer, enthusiast, and announcer I have to wear different hats, which ultimately gives me different perspectives of the same issue. At times, these perspectives conflict with each other. For example, there are times during a broadcast of our radio show, Kiss My Ash Radio that I will criticize a manufacturer for a bad marketing ploy or concept. At the same time, as a retailer I have to buy goods from that same manufacturer, and some of them may even be an advertiser on the radio show. Things are what things are, so I will speak my mind on the show and hope that my friends in the industry understand. Hence, my given nickname of “Honest Abe”.

One of the Biggest growing trends I see right now, which has had it’s peaks and valleys over the years, has been the monster ring gauge cigars. To my recollection,  Ernesto Carillo began this trend with his La Gloria Serie R cigars many years ago. It took off like wildfire. Since then the industry has seen many large ring gauze brands. This trend has had it’s highs and lows. Now we are seeing a resurgence of BIG 7 to 9 inch cigars with ring gauges from 60-100!

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You’re not only a retailer, you are also the star of Kiss My Ash Radio on Saturday mornings. How’d that come about?

Well, it began a little over four years ago. I was a Sponsor of the Cigar Dave show, with aired locally on a Clear Channel station. I am not sure what the reason was, but his show was dropped. A few weeks later, a representative from Clear Channel came to visit, and was curious if I was interested in having my own cigar based radio talk show. I was adamantly against it. I was already oversaturated with work. Two of my employees at the time were former Clear Channel employees, and they urged me to give it a try. So, we booked thirteen weeks to do a one hour show on Saturday mornings from 9-10 am. The show caught traction fast, and before we knew it we had a following. We soon discovered the one-hour spot was not enough. Unfortunately, the folks at Clear Channel did not have room for a two hour show at the time, so we moved to Seaview Radio, a local FM based station and took our current time slot of 10am-Noon EST. Knowing that two hours of talking about wrapper, binder, and filler could get monotonous, we focus on a broader cigar lifestyle show. Yes, cigars are the meat and potatoes of the show, but we will delve into any topic that you might normally experience lounging amongst your buddies in your favorite cigar shop. That is why I believe the show has done so well. We are not shilling or pimping brands during our show…we will have conversation such as you would hear hanging around your typical cigar shop. Since JVC broadcasting bought Seaview Radio a little over a year ago, we have begun broadcasting in New York as well as Florida. We hope to add two to three more markets in the next 12 months. I think one of the best aspects of our show is the camaraderie of the co-hosts and myself. AdamK “The Brewmeister”  could be subject of a psychological thesis paper, and the Lovely “Lady M” brings that unique female perspective that only a woman can do. (No further comment there.)

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I know you’re a humble guy, but you’ve become something of a legend in the industry. You’re a retailer, have the very successful Smoke Inn MicroBlend Series, you served on the IPCPR board, are a Cigar Media Association member (through KMA Radio), and a big CRA supporter (for which you recently received an award). This hefty resume gives you a unique view of the cigar business. What to you think the big challenges or issues facing the industry?

Thanks for the kudos. The biggest challenge will ALWAYS be legislation and our Government. Anti-smoking zealots will continue to put the pressure for any legislation that will cease or desist one’s ability to enjoy a cigar by any means necessary, regardless of any Constitutional or Civil Rights. This is a problem that will never go away, and will be a front that will have to be defended at all times.

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I’m a big fan of the Smoke Inn MicroBlend Series. I’ve got the My Father El Hijo,  Tatuaje Anarchy (original and 2015 versions), Tatuaje Anarchy, 601 La Bomba Bunker Busker, Room 101 Big Delicious, Illusione Pactum and Drew Estate Pope of Greenwich Village all sitting in my humidor aging. The Pope of Greenwich Village and Pactum are some of the best cigars I’ve smoked all year. Is there anyway you can tell us what’s next for the MicroBlend Series? 

Yes I can. In fact I have sent along some pictures of the prototype box. The final version will be much higher quality. We hope that by late this year or early next year, we will release our first Smoke Inn MicroBlends Collection Box. This will have one of the first ten blends that were made. Since the SI-15 by Padrón was made in two wrappers, half the allotment will have the Natural Padrón, and the other half will offer the Maduro Padrón. There will only be 1000 of these packs made; 500 offering  the SI-!5 in natural, and 500 offering the SI-15 in Maduro. We also have a special gift we are working on that will come with every box, something cool and unique that can be collected and/or traded.

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 Is there anything else you think our readers should know about you or Smoke Inn? 

Well, I began humbly almost 20 years ago with a small 900 sq ft storefront. Today we span 12 retail locations sized from 2000-5000 sq ft, and have a large online presence and have become an industry leader. I believe the one essential principle that fueled our growth to be superior customer service. 90% of what we sell is the exact same product as the guy down the street. No one ever leaves saying, “Wow! They had the best Montecristos ever!”  They leave knowing they were treated right, above and beyond what was expected. They received quality product at a fair price. They experienced one of the best events they have ever been to. That is what they will remember and talk about. It is not easy setting a service standard bar as high as we do, but we know it is worth it. It is the number one thing I hear talked about when coming to our locations. In the end, I believe that I am providing a journey to our patrons; a journey of enjoyment, camaraderie, and memorable times. I hope to continue that cigar journey like no other.

For more on Abe, his radio show, his cigars and to place an order with Smoke Inn check out the links below:
Smoke Inn Online: www.smokeinn.com
Follow Smoke Inn on Twitter:
Follow Smoke Inn on Instagram:
Kiss My Ash Radio: kissmyashradio.com
ToastedFoot Cigar Review: Pope of Greenwich Village by Drew Estate
ToastedFoot Cigar Review: Illusione Pactum
ToastedFoot Cigar Review: 601 La Bomba Bunker Busker
ToastedFoot Cigar Review: Room 101 Big Delicious
ToastedFoot Cigar Review: Quesada Oktoberfest Dunkel
ToastedFoot Cigar Review: My Father El Hijo
ToastedFoot Article: IPCPR 2015 Coverage – Day 4 (Final Day) [Abe receives award from CRA)

Smoke Inn is the current retail sponsor of ToastedFoot.com. Abe’s radio show, Kiss My Ash Radio is also an advertiser on this site.