As the old saw goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” But today’s cigar enthusiast knows better: smoke means conversation. That is especially true for one of New York City’s most luxuriant cigar clubs, Fine Tobacco NYC. Founded by Matthias Clock, Fine Tobacco NYC is a contemporary cigar club where members “explore the art and enjoyment of the cigar experience.” It is an haut monde that welcomes a broad range of members, from a affluent socialites, cosmopolitan hipsters and posh financiers to blue-collar wage-earners and retired eccentrics.
“Fine Tobacco NYC is a cigar club dedicated to introducing New Yorkers to the art and enjoyment of fine tobacco,” explains Clock. Fine Tobacco NYC is the spawn of a cigar blog that Clock created in 2010 while he was a college sophomore studying political philosophy and economics. He hosted his first event on the rooftop of his apartment complex in Manhattan’s financial district during the summer of 2010, and the rest, as they say, is history. “I met Kelvin [Batista] (event host) and Dave [Alicea] (sponsor relations) at that event and after a few more conversations over cigars we all realized that what New York City was missing were cigar events where new and veteran cigar smokers could simply sit down with a cigar and a Scotch and relate to one another,” Clock expounds. New York City is home to several upscale cigar clubs with varying decor, demographics and membership fees; however, Fine Tobacco NYC is different. It does not have any of that. In fact, it doesn’t have any physical locations at all. Instead, it is a divergent group of cigar smokers who congregate over the common love of the leaf. “We host roughly two events a month at cigar lounges all over Manhattan, usually with live jazz and a special pairing of cigars and whisky,” states Clock. “There is no fee for membership with Fine Tobacco NYC, just sign up on our website with your email address and attend your first event.” Tickets to Fine Tobacco NYC events average US$30, and include a sponsored cigar, two whiskies, live jazz, and the classic vibe that made New York cigar bars legendary. Most of the club’s events are cigar pairings that showcase a sponsored cigar and whisky. They are usually hard-to-find boutique cigars coupled with a carefully selected Scotch. Recent events paired cigar brands La Hoja, Alec Bradley, Psyko and Espinosa with Johnnie Walker, The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, and The Macallan Scotch.
Clock recently added Cigar 101 classes, taught by Alicea, that teach smokers how to properly cut and light a cigar, judge the quality of a cigar and discern the tasting notes in a friendly and discussion-oriented environment. A typical cigar pairing event consists of about 80 men and women donned in business casual attire mingling with one another. A jazz quartet performs softly in the background as reverberations from conversations take center stage. Languid plumes of smoke waft lazily through the air and ice cubes clink faintly at the bar. “The jazz quartet plays background music because our focus is on creating space for conversation,” says Clock. Cigar 101 orations attract fewer people and are held with less flair. They usually draw about 15 guests in a more educational, lecture-oriented setting. Every cigar has its own story, just like each of the roughly 2,000 members of Fine Tobacco NYC. This unique club represents a lifestyle based on fellowship and camaraderie. It offers an outlet for each of the members to share his or her story over a shared interest that brings lives together.
The mighty cigar is a true equalizer and Matthias Clock is the mastermind behind New York City’s only event-based cigar club that unites both novice and veteran smokers. Clock’s zest for conversation and his passion for fine tobacco laid the foundation for what has become New York City’s most talked about social cigar club. “Hosting epic cigar events with great brands is a lot of fun,” Clock remarks. “But getting hundreds of the most interesting New Yorkers together to smoke, drink, converse, and laugh is a real privilege.” This article was published in the Cigar Journal Summer Edition 2016. Read more