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
Price: $9.55 MSRP (Can be bought online for a buck, or more, cheaper)

Today we take a look at the Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft.

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.”

Gavel: 5 x 60 $10.55
Robusto: 5.5 x 50 $9.56
Toro: 6 x 52 $9.55
Gran Toro: 6 x 60 $10.55
A full complement of cigars available from SBC or Smoking Bear Cigars.

A silky, oily wrapper with colors that remind me of gingerbread and café au lait. Very few veins and the stick has tight seams. It has a beautifully applied triple cap.
The cigar feels evenly distributed with magic tobacco. No soft or hard spots.
The cigar band displays the logo for Freemasons. 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.”

From the shaft, I can smell milk chocolate, butterscotch, malt, cream, cedar, red pepper, mixed nuts, espresso, black cherries, baking spices, anise, and tea.
The cold draw presents flavors of chocolate covered raspberry jells, malts, creaminess, red pepper, espresso, black cherries, tea, and black licorice.

First, Hiram & Solomon, generally speaking, are old school blends. You smoke this stick ROTT and you just wasted a sawbuck. You wait a month, pretty much the same reaction. But if you show patience, and leave the naked hairy beasts alone for a few months, the blends come to life and blossom like a spring flower.

The draw is spot on and I put my always ready PerfecDraw cigar poker and tool away.

First on the mound, are flavors of red pepper, dark cocoa, creaminess, malt, espresso, cedar, cashew, marzipan, cinnamon, cumin, and smoky meat.

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.

Strength starts at a nice medium location.
Complexity has already begun. Transitions begin to soar like a bat; that dreams of becoming an eagle. The finish is decadent with sweet overtones.
Strength jumps to medium/full toot suite.

The butterscotch makes me harken back to when my gramps visited Long Beach from Cleveland. First thing he did was bring out his Life Savers Butter Rum roll and hand me one. I loved that. So, this caramel is more of that butter rum flavor than straight ahead gooey stuff.

The savory is stored in the tobacco’s elements of some Indian spices, steak sauce, and a very meaty component.
I’ve reviewed the Master Mason and found it remarkable. I have more H&S blends yet to review and can’t wait to get to them.

The Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft is a very smooth blend. The attack is balanced and complex. The whole, at this early point, has become greater than its parts. This is where I get to lay back and let the cigar do all the work. I’ve sent it to do laundry first.

The spiciness relents to a mild peppery sensation that is neither red or black pepper. Something more exotic and interesting.
And the strength mellows out suddenly and goes back to its original state of medium.

Big flavors. A comfort blend. You don’t need to know jack about this cigar to just enjoy it and then light up another.

Yesterday, I met up with a reader who lives here in Milwaukee…Mark Maley. A nice old man like me. We laughed a lot. Good company; but I would have preferred if his phony hairpiece and fake moustache were more realistic…people stared. I showed folks my CCW license and told them I was his parole officer and to stand back at least 21 feet.

The Fellow Craft is marvelous. What a treat. I’ve been rewarded by my patience.

Here they are, Mouseketeers…Malts, creaminess, espresso, chocolate, non-descript pepper, black cherries, butter rum, baking spice, cedar, nuts, licorice, marzipan, molasses, Indian spices, and a smoky meat stick.
There are elements of barley malt vinegar and molasses.

The cigar gods tell me this will be a medium strength blend throughout the experience. Makes it a nice cigar to start the day with a cup of coffee or half a gallon of rum. Either way. I don’t drink, but I’d like to start.
The level of complexity never stops. It keeps aiming for the stars only to reach Uranus. (This old man is reverting to being 12 again).

I really love this cigar.

Hiram & Solomon are a sponsor. But if you read me, I’m not shy and if a blend is a stinkeroo, I say so. And this is anything but. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother even reviewing it unless it was so bad I would have felt the need to make fun of it. There is nothing funny about the Fellow Craft. That didn’t sound right. The cigar whispers into my ear: “A priest, rabbi and a minister walk into a brothel…” See, it can be sort of funny.

Fouad gave me samples ages ago but I just felt that with so many folks singing the praise of his blends, I had to be serious about the horrible patience issue. It paid off.

I have noticed black SUV’s following me with the H&S logo on the doors. Not very good camo. I’m probably reviewing the cigar just in time. Hanging upside down in a tobacco drying shed is not a good look for me.

My lord, the creaminess is Super Fly. (An old man trying to sound cool). Flavors morph and combine as if they were in a stone tumbler.

One of the sticks I smoked prior to this review was done mid-day. It was pretty damn good but having one on a fresh palate is sitting in the backseat of your car with your girlfriend at the drive in movie.

I haven’t a single criticism. Construction is immaculate. No burn issues. No wrapper issues. Smoke plumes alert the Waukesha tribes, and a sense of calm is only interrupted by the sound of all those voices in my head that won’t go away. “Get off!!”

Medium strength all the way. No nicotine. Smooooooth.

I used to love the Three Musketeers bar when I was a kid. That wonderful center of fluffy, chocolate nougat has moved to the center of the cigar’s universe. The flavors melt in my mouth so simply and efficiently that I want to kiss Fouad on the cheek…his face.

My first sip of water. Bam. The flavors reform in a chorus line of long legs and skimpy skirts.

When I was 15, gramps took me to Europe for the summer. While in Paris, we went to the Moulin Rouge. It was like an old-time vaudeville show. Pretty girls, comics, and jugglers as well as animal acts.

My new girlfriend, Frieda, told me to behave and not go crazy. I had no idea why she said that as we sat in the dark waiting for the show to begin. Then I saw these fluorescent double dots along the entire stage. A black light was aimed at them. The lights come on and its 15 naked dancing girls with the paint on their nipples. After my heart attack, I was OK and Frieda went to second base with me that night. The club wouldn’t allow us 15-year olds to drink, but naked chicks was OK. I like Paris.

The perfect ash falls and lands on the naughty bits. Luckily, I don’t use them anymore.

The line of transitions is a myriad of flavor tentacles. Nothing linear. All spirited away in different directions compounding the complexity and smoothness and balance of the blend.

The blend becomes very intense now. Strength does make its move to a fuller position in the universe. Spiciness returns. More identifiable now as black pepper. I’m seeing colors.

I definitely must review another Hiram & Solomon blend this week.

The chocolate nougat is matched by a nice array of nuts…like in the boys’ locker room in high school.

Steak sauce is having its way developing into a frontal assault. The tamarind quality is strong. The creaminess is a warm blankey covering the whole michegos.

“I’m Losing You” from Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” is playing. I can remember that day in December, 1980 where I was when I heard the news that the man was killed. Friends assembled at my place and we spent the day playing his music. That was nearly 40 years ago.

The Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft is a superior cigar blend. The price is right. No greed can be seen for miles. This kind of quality usually demands a much higher price point. Good on ‘yer, Fouad Kashouty.

There is a tweaked Diesel Hair of the Dog about to be released. $10. What has the world come to? I will get to that review shortly.

Smooth and curious. The Fellow Craft is a work of passion by its blenders.

You can be skeptical because H&S is a sponsor but don’t be. This is a high premium blend that deserves to be exalted. Life is too short to give good reviews to cigars that suck. Trust me on this.
I enjoyed the hell out of the Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft.
Get some.


And now for something completely different:

Several months ago, 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 beginning in 1980. 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.

Suddenly, my mentorship from Hal made sense.
I first met Hal in 1980 when my band hired him to do an album at Sunset Gower Studios.
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. It must have hurt seeing a record hit gold and remember you got paid $1000 for your work.

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.”

But 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.

Most of the Wrecking Crew was delegated to doing jingles, commercials, and TV.

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 altered. 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 did not respond.
Doesn’t matter. At the time of my mentorship, I found that associating with this man to be nothing less than exhilarating.
Still, I was devastated that the man passed this March at the age of 90. We should all be so lucky. His legacy lives on in his music.


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3 replies

  1. Poignant story about Hal Blaine, Katman.
    I too saw The Wrecking Crew documentary and was bowled over. Unbelievable that they played on soooo many songs on the soundtrack of my youth. Carole Kaye must have been a trail blazer. (I was floored by her inventiveness as I was shocked that she had that most famous intro to Sonny and Cher’s – The Beat Goes On. Imagine the likelihood of a woman, in those times, finding success in a man’s world. But the docu also showed how welcoming musicians are when they recognize the talent.

    Thanks for sharing,

    ps – I recently discovered a similar film about he musicians that pretty much did the same thing for Motown – The Funk Brothers. Great stuff, and I’m guessing that nobody will mention them at the Motown 60 year special on commercial TV. There’s your challenge Berry Gordy! ;-P

  2. Wow. It must have been a real shock to find all that out about Hal and The Wrecking Crew. But yeah, when you think about it, music did become more about rock BANDS and less about individual singers. So of course session players became largely unnecessary. And as you know, if you don’t write the songs, you don’t get the royalties.

  3. It’s even worse than that…As a player in a band, I at least got mechanical royalties as a player on an album or single. As a straight studio session player, you got a minimum of union pay that went from straight scale to very respectful big pay; but no royalties. You sign those away prior to the session. Granted, players of Blaine’s royal pedigree got way above minimum pay, but still, after 5 wives Hal didn’t have much of a pot to piss in…Hence, him taking a multitude of sessions from me for $300-$500 ($500-$1300 in 2019 dollars). I found myself shocked at times when I paid him before a session and he manically stuffed the dough into his front pocket and a big smile appeared on his lips.

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