On a recent trip to Omaha, NE, I decided to drop in on the Safari Cigars & Lounge: a place I read about in your March/April 2015 issue. The piece by Rick Rhay is a very nice piece about Jeff Doll, a man with a dream and the drive to make it happen. I am writing to relate my experience.
I travel a good deal of the time in my consulting business, and visit cigar places (of whatever kind) in every city. Consequently, I have been in and smoked (where allowed) a stic or two in about 350 different locations. The quality of humidors varies a good bit, though most were kept at or near the ideal in temperature and humidity. Selection varies more widely: obviously this aspect must reflect the local market, owner motivation, and whatever the distributors want to push at a given moment.
A lot of the names that appear across all the locations were the usual suspects: Davidoff, Padron, Fuente, Patel, Bradley, Ashton, Montecristo, R y J, and the rest. Every so often I come across a shop that has treasure hidden within: something well-aged, something of very limited numbers and distribution; sometimes from one of the usuals, sometimes from a lesser-known. I should mention that not being well or widely known often has nothing to do with the quality of their product. Almost every shop I have been in had something worthwhile to offer to the aficionado, and I have been seldom disappointed.
Which brings me to the Safari Cigars and Lounge in Omaha.
After reading the piece in your issue, I was looking forward to an excellent experience. The photos of the lounge, the shots of the humidor, the bar’s back wall: it all gave the impression of a top-drawer location promising serious enjoyment. It was not difficult to find the location, which seems well-placed to be convenient to almost everywhere in the area. It was only once I was inside that I found the article had greatly understated how nice Safari actually is.
On my first visit, I went through the lounge near the entrance (great chairs, excellent layout), then into the bar area (even better, with a truly fine selection of spirits), and finally into the humidor (wow!). The staff immediately sought to help me (who says quality customer service is dead?), but when I told them I wanted to “sniff around”, they stayed accessible without hovering. Perusing the humidor, I found the usuals, but also some special items. I also found it coolish (as it should be) and properly humid. The selection was not vast (meaning that there was not 500 different brands jammed into a space far too small), but was excellent: all flavor profiles, all strength levels, the most popular shapes and lengths, Nicaraguan, Dominican, Honduran puros, from all the best labels touching all price points. Every sample I examined appeared perfect and intact (all signs of correct handling), and finally selected a Tatuaje Cojonu 2003 torpedo (very rich and smoked perfectly). Clearly, a return visit was warranted.
On my second visit, I took a little more time to browse the rest of the place. I ended up in the humidor again, and this time my attention was drawn by a display of Partagas 150’s (of that famous issue using the 1977 Cameroon wrapper). I looked over the two sizes (Robusto and Corona) and finally selected the one that “spoke” to me. I took it to the bar area, selected an equally old single malt, sat in a quiet corner and proceeded to enjoy one of the very best, most enjoyable smokes I have ever had: perfect clip, perfect burn, perfect draw, wonderful flavor with medium strength. I had had a great week working with a favorite client, and I cannot think of a better way to close out.
I cannot bypass mentioning the people there. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Doll (owner) on both my visits. He was most cordial and welcoming; and though I would not claim to know him well, I found him a warm and ingratiating host – a true gentleman. His Manager, John Vanmeetren, reflected the same style, as did the rest of the staff. Nothing makes a good place better, or an already great place outstanding than superb staff. The staff at Safari are every bit as excellent as the location and the cigar selection are; making for the best cigar experience I have had so far this year, and easily in the top 10 of mine overall covering the last 20 years of cigar smoking. My sincere thanks to Jeff and his crew – incomparable!
I cannot say more without getting needlessly redundant. I very highly recommend Safari Cigars & Lounge to every cigar lover, no matter how particular they might be. And thanks to Cigar & Spirits for the article – without it, it might have taken longer for me to find Safari.
Ross A. Leo