Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro
Binder: Indonesian Sumatra-Seed
Filler: Nicaraguan Habano Ometepe, Habano Jalapa and Ligero Habano Estelí
Size: 6 X 52 Toro
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $9.50 MSRP

Today we take a look at the Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft.
These were a gift from a friend who prefers to remain anonymous.
I reviewed the Master Mason and gave it a 95. But then I would naturally expect that score from a $14 cigar.
Read the email from owner Fouad Kashouty below; H&S has dramatically reduced the price of their cigars. What was once a $14-$15 stick is now $10 or cheaper. Kudos to Hiram & Solomon for making their wares more available to a larger customer base.

BACKGROUND:
This is an email I received from Ed Kashouty (President and CEO of H&S Cigars):
“Hi Phil

“How are you? I am in Europe now and we were able to open many markets here including Germany France Denmark Lithuania Czech Republic cypress Holland and hope next few days England to follow. 

“Smokin Bear prices are less as he is on an Indian reservation and no taxes to be added.

“Our prices are much better than last time when you reviewed our cigars as we moved our production to Placensia factory in Esteli and we were able to secure better prices and we believe that we have better blends . Of course our orders are 4 times larger than last year as we are growing fast . 

“And no matter what the outcome of the review I thank you in advance and appreciate your honesty and dedication.”

All the best,
Fouad Kashouty”

From the Hiram & Solomon web site:

“Records dating as far back as the mid 1800’s describe the pre-meeting tradition where cigars were distributed to the Brethren so that they could enjoy a smoke during or after a gathering.

“This custom is considered a time for Brethren to relax, exchange ideas, and enjoy the simplicity and fellowship that is the very essence of Brotherhood.

“This is what Hiram & Solomon Cigars is all about. One of our guiding principles is to bring Mason brothers together in the harmony of a good cigar.

“As my fellow Brethren and I would enjoy our cigars together, the discussion would eventually lead to the same realization: there was no kind of accessible cigar on the market for Freemason smokers that carried the square and compass, nor any other Masonic Emblem. Upon coming to this conclusion, the topic of the conversation shifted into countless private meetings. The symposium consisted of talk concerning the possibility of creating, not only a Masonic themed cigar, but a quality cigar that would not just physically represent Freemasons all over the world, but contain within it a quality that could match the caliber of excellence that the Brethren themselves contain. The dream of creating and proudly possessing such a cigar was never extinguished in WB Ed Kashouty’s heart, a past master of Mariners Lodge #150 in Barnegat NJ.

“Our only hope is that creation of this cigar will bring positive experiences to all types of people all over the world. Perhaps it will bring Brethren closer together as they bond over smoke after a meeting. Maybe it will bring a non-brother a drive to learn about Freemasonry and its history. Perchance our experience inspires someone else to follow their dream and never give up. At the very least, we can rest assured that we have provided a tasty, quality cigar that can appeal to everyone’s palate and represent Freemasons all over the world with pride.”

SIZES AND PRICING:
Gran Toro 6.5 x 56 $10.00
Robusto: 5 x 50 $8.75
Gavel: 5 x 60 $9.50
Box Pressed Torpedo: 6 x 52 $9.50
Toro 6 x 52 $9.50

DESCRIPTION:
A rustic looking stick with no shortage of veins and lumps and bumps. The cigar is evenly filled without soft or hard spots. The smooth, shiny exterior is the color of chocolate and gingerbread.

The grand cigar bands by H&S are impressive. The colorful artwork gives a real sense of class and sophistication.

The only way to become a Freemason is to ask a Freemason. Just below the Freemason Square and Compass with a G inside is the mysterious code: 2B1 SK1 which stands for “To be one, ASK one.”

AROMAS AND COLD DRAW POINTS:
From the shaft, I can smell milk chocolate, butterscotch, malt, cream, cedar, red pepper, a brand new leather belt, mixed nuts, espresso, black cherries, anise, and tea.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell nutty milk chocolate, cream, malts, butterscotch, red pepper, espresso, black cherries, and baking spice.

The cold draw presents flavors of chocolate covered raspberry jells, malts, creaminess, red pepper, espresso, black cherries, tea, and black licorice.

FIRST THIRD:
The draw is spot on. No plugs.
Smoke surrounds my head til my hair pops into an afro.

Flavors enter immediately: potent red pepper, chocolate, creaminess, malts, café latte, cedar, cashews and marzipan, cinnamon, cumin, and a smoky meat element.

The burn is behaving nicely with no hint of pending problems.

Strength burns up the floor mat pretty fast as it hits medium/full within the first half inch.

A new sweetness rears its head. It is a combo of molasses, powdered sugar, and candied lemon peel.

The spiciness makes a big shift from red to black pepper.  Personally, I prefer red pepper as it attacks the sinuses and palate with an onslaught of biting into a piece of raw horseradish. On the other hand, black pepper hits me in the back of the throat. And lingers there while the red pepper makes its attack and peters off toot suite. Black pepper has the tendency to just go nowhere after it settles in. A small point but I’ve never expressed my opinion on this before.

I’m treated to a momentary grassy flavor. It hangs and then disappears like the Jetson’s flying car with Rosie the Robot at the helm.

Once more, I have a fine example of a multi-smattering of different malts. In high school, I would take a hike at lunch time and head over to Thrifty Drug Store across the street and get a chocolate malt for lunch. They were the best. The Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft is my Way Back Machine.

Know who was the support act for Led Zeppelin’s first American tour?

Vanilla Fudge. Bet you didn’t know that. Must have been a tough gig. At least it wasn’t as nuts as Jimi Hendrix opening for The Monkees. Yes, that really happened…but it came to a screeching halt not long after it started.

Intensity of the flavor profile accelerates at a little over 1” in. Complexity places its cards on the table. Transitions begin. The finish is long and squiggly. The ash is hanging tough. What are the odds it hangs in til the second third for an award winning photograph?

The Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft had a nice start but to be perfectly honest, it was flavorful but not Wow inducing. I’ve hit the “Wow” point in this blend. The finish is the first tell. It is a mile long filled like a piñata with a glossary of cigar terms.

H&S needs to start selling their cigars on their own web site. They have a list of B&M retailers but it is difficult to find online stores that sell the product.

Small Batch Cigar is the best choice of what I could find. They have all 6 blends plus a sampler: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Hiram & Solomon Samplers, Master Mason, Shriner, Traveling Man, and the new Veiled Prophet. But several items are out of stock. H&S needs to fill SBC’s coffers. With a promo code you need only pay $8.50 per stick…an outstanding offer…especially considering the drop in manufacturing pricing from only a couple years ago when this stick would have cost $14.

SECOND THIRD:
Smoke time is 35 minutes.

I’m on a winning streak. The previous 3 reviews were all raves. I don’t get to be as clever and witty with my disrespectful attitude but I prefer to pass on good info not bad.

The Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft is tuning out to be quite the head turner. Without Tomás de Torquemada forcing it.

I done dood it. I got all the way to the second third without the ash falling off.

Here they are Mouseketeers…Malts, creaminess, espresso, chocolate, black pepper, black cherries, baking spice, cedar, nuts, licorice, marzipan, molasses, and smoky meat stick.

Strength remains at medium/full.

Smooth. There is a gentleness to this blend. Flavors are dripping like Robert Plant’s lemon. But the unusual complexity makes the Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft a relaxing tropical vacation. Hold the hurricanes.

Construction is immaculate. Perfect draw. No wrapper issues. And not a single touch up required to the char line. Dead nuts, baby.

A sip of water and my head explodes. A tsunami of flavors excites my palate like the first time my parents gave me an ice cream cone.

The start of this cigar made me a bit hesitant. I’ve tried all of the H&S blends and they are all great stuff. No real criticisms. But the Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft is a slow mover…the first third was merely an overture to what would come in this second third. It is bloody outstanding!

This $9 stick blows most other blends of the same price point out of the water. And if you buy a box, the price can drop as low as $8 or less.

The halfway point arrives after almost an hour.

I reviewed the Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez yesterday and loved it. One of AJ’s best. The Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft is similar in some respects. Loads of flavor points and complexity but the FC is even smoother.

The spiciness is on the wane. Too much black pepper can put me off. And now the serial attack to the back of my throat has tapered off quite dramatically and is at the perfect level for my tastes. I gotta have my spice my fellow spice junkies. I just don’t want it to overwhelm other flavors.

Here we go. I am now going to jinx the whole thing by declaring that I am experiencing almost no nicotine poisoning. (More on that later?).

Worcestershire sauce! A new arrival. There are elements of barley malt vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind, onion, and garlic. Now I’m hungry. I just can’t review a cigar if I eat breakfast before I sit down to write. My favorite cigar of the day.

The chocolate and espresso dissipate leaning towards the more savory like the steak sauce, malts, nuts, licorice, tea, creaminess, and black walnuts. Nice.

That is a complete change up from what I was expecting. We all like cigars that keep you guessing.

Strength hits full. Oy.
And heeeere comes nicotine!

I use transcendental meditation to erase the mind bending drug.

Creaminess, malts, steak sauce, and an explosion of nut meats run the show now.

I love this cigar.

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is one hour 30 minutes.

So perfectly rolled…this Fellow Craft is on such a slow enjoyable roll that synapses in my brain are firing like 4th of July fireworks.

Speaking of which, our first grandchild was born this 4th of July. Our Freedom Baby. Charlotte and I babysit him 3 nights a week as mom and dad have to work second shifts. So we spend 8-9 hours acting the buffoons to keep little Scotty boy from crying and fussing. I’m too old for this. Charlotte and I spend the next day complaining about our sore bones. Ahh..the Golden Years of life.

I have my own rating system using string theory and quantum physics. Never fails.

Nicotine calms down and so do I. No more blurred vision.

Look, Hiram & Solomon are master journeymen at blending cigars. The Fellow Craft is a jewel in their Easter basket of delicacies. Get some.

 
RATING: 89

 
And now for something completely different:

This week, I watched a 2 hour documentary called “The Wrecking Crew.”
It is about the group of musicians that played on every album and single in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Mostly anonymously.
Each member of the group played on hundreds of gold records.

In case you wondered who made up this list of incredible musicians, here is a chart:

Two members of the Wrecking Crew I’ve written about are Hal Blaine (Drummer) and Carol Kaye (Bassist).

Hal was my mentor in the early 80’s. Carol was my bass teacher in the late 60’s.

Watching the special shocked the hell out of me.
I had no idea that the Wrecking Crew bit the dust by the late 70’s. Rock groups had become good musicians and played on their own recordings making the use of the Wrecking Crew moot.

All of a sudden, my mentorship from Hal made sense.

I first met Hal in 1982 when my band hired him to do an album at Sunset Gower Studios. Which was the heart and soul studio that the Wrecking Crew did most of their work from.
This led to me becoming very friendly with Hal and I used him countless times for sessions at my own recording studio in Long Beach, CA.

Hal was going through a devastating divorce in which he lost everything. He was living on his yacht in Marina Del Rey.
I spent many an afternoon having brunch with Hal on his boat with his cohorts and other recording stars.

The documentary explained how the musicians got cheated. They didn’t get their names as players on 80% of the albums they played on. On top of that, they got straight union rates.

They got hired to do sessions from The Monkees to The Beach Boys to Simon & Garfunkel to the Mamas & Papas and Frank Sinatra. Hal even played drums on the “White Album.”

Hal lied to me.

On more than one occasion he told me that he left a lucrative big national commercial session to come to Long Beach to do a session for me in which he was paid $500 cash. Which by the way, he stuffed in his pockets like a squirrel making sure no other squirrel got its hands on it. I thought that strange at the time.

He was living on my session dough.

There was no Chevy commercial that would put things on hold so he could take a 4 hour break. It was his ego. He couldn’t admit to me that the entire Wrecking Crew were becoming has beens. Not because their playing was not brilliant. But, rather, because the competency of musicians had risen to such a point, that they didn’t need the Wrecking Crew to fix their music.

Of course, when the musicians who came to my studio found out they could have Hal Blaine play on their demos for $500 went nuts at the thought of it. I became the most famous pimp in Long Beach.
I could get “The Man.”

In the documentary, Hal said he worked as a security guard by the end of the 1980’s. This was the first I had heard that.
He was raped financially in the divorce. And as a session player, he was paid a fee and received no royalties. So when the sessions dried out, so did the dough. Clearly, most of the Wrecking Crew thought it would go on forever and probably didn’t plan their money expenditures well. Hal had a mansion in Beverly Hills. He drove a vintage Rolls Royce. And he owned a yacht. Like a kid in a candy store.

I now think about all the possessions I have that were once Hal’s. Why? Because he didn’t want to put them back in storage.
He even did my public TV show for me. $300.

I feel pretty bad now. But then Hal could have bucked the ego thing and told me the truth. I would have gotten him more money for sessions. I could have gotten him several thousand bucks a week…instead of several hundred. But he would not break down and tell me the truth. He was busted. And his ego couldn’t deal with it.

I was his Long Beach agent. I have no idea who his Hollywood agent was but I doubt lots of people tried to help. One thing about show biz…nobody loves you when you’re down and out.

He spent so much time at my studio, I don’t know how he would have the time to do other gigs.

So by watching a 2 hour documentary, my whole experience with one of the greatest session drummers in the world has been tainted. I watched as he admitted spending time as a security guard. Clearly, his ego finally took a tumble.

One of the most impressive things to me about Hal is that he played on several Beatles’ songs. He didn’t get credit but then neither did the hundreds of other players on their albums. In fact, Ringo’s early drum set was an exact replica of Hal’s early kit.

I’ve tried to contact Hal since the documentary. He has not responded at this time.
Doesn’t matter. At the time of my mentorship, I found that associating with this man to be nothing less than exhilarating.
I wish Hal the best and hope things are better for him.

 

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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13 replies

  1. Saw the documentary on the Wrecking Crew a few months ago, made me think of your stories…seem to remember IM’ing you about it.

  2. Creative people almost always get screwed by the man. So sad but true.

    • Only the technical age of what we are experiencing now is making a difference to musicians. The days of heavy royalties on hit songs are gone. The corruption in the music industry has been intolerable since the invention of the phonograph.
      Musicians are considered a mere distraction to the suits. Something to put up with in order to manufacture product.
      Now, thanks to self publishing, new groups and even the older ones too…are able to make a few shekels on their work. But nothing has changed in terms of making a living and playing…you have to tour non-stop. This is the last bastion for musicians to make money and not be ripped off by the record companies.
      I’m still being fucked by all the record companies I was signed to and for all the hits (Not just Curved Air) that I played on over the years. I’ve got records that still sell robustly and yet I receive bald faced lies about the number of records or CD’s being sold.
      This is why I eventually gave up playing full time. I met my wife. And I wanted to provide. Being a structural engineer paid the bills and then some. And regardless of how the man fucks you, he can’t take away your talent…so all my life I played out in all types of bands in all the genres of musical styles. I consider myself lucky.

      • You’ve led a blessed life, Cousin Phil. I just started playing guitar a few years ago at the age of 55, and it’s brought me as much joy as anything in my life. I have my wife to thank for that gift – and many others. She started playing herself and soon we’ll be able to jam.

        • Thanks Peter. Sometimes it feels more like just luck than anything else. I will never know.
          Make sure the first song you jam on with your wife is something by Jeff Beck or Joe Bonamassa.

          • More likely to be Neil or The Cure since we both have acoustics. But I loves me some Beck, and should be able to play “Freeway Jam” around the year 3415 or so …

          • What a funny coincidence. I remember “Freeway Jam” from when it came out in 1975 and I taught it to the guys in Curved Air and while they refused to play it live, we played it during sound check.
            I got the Curved Air gig because the night before my audition, the boys in the band went and saw Beck, Bogert & Appice play live in London and the rhythm section was American. And it was exactly what the new Curved Air was looking for in their new incarnation. And then I walked in and played like ex-Vanilla Fudge bassist Tim Bogert. Bingo.

            A 1973 funky looking video of the band playing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”

          • Awesome! I never heard Vanilla Fudge but if the bass player played with Beck they must have been heavy.

          • Kids….check out their biggest hit single from 1968 “You Keep Me Hanging On.” One of the first great “blue eyed soul bands.” I remember when it came out and was blown away by the band’s musicianship and vocals.

            And here is a reunion video from 2011. The only original member missing is bassist Tim Bogert.

  3. I forgot to mention this – how incredibly fortunate that you were taught how to play the bass by one of the best bassists in the world! I hope you have some nice memories of her.

    • I need to dredge up some stories about Carol. Naturally at the time, I didn’t know I was in the presence of greatness…at least not at first.
      I still talk to Carol now and again. She is a grumpy old broad…lol. But a wonderful and brilliant woman underneath the gruffness.

  4. Your reviews are the only ones that I trust, period. Not only are they accurate, in depth, honest, but are by far the most informative, entertaining and enjoyable. I have spent many hours in the morning relaxing with my coffee and a smoke being taken away into your world. Thanks, Keep on keeping on, Sean

    • Thank you Sean,
      I am very happy that you find the reviews entertaining. Very gratifying and makes the whole pain in the ass worthwhile.
      When I get comments or emails like yours, it makes being shunned by the cigar industry and other reviewers no big deal.
      All the best,
      Phil

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