Slow Down and Meet Cesar Cuenca of Key Largo’s Island Smoke Shop

On your next stroll to the treasure land, whatever it might be, do yourself a favor by setting aside some time to relax. A day off is always great, especially when you decide to pick up your favorite cigar.  




by THE YOUNG AFICIONADO CHASE DALTON

On our way down to Key West, we needed essentials, first stop…. cigars. We passed Miami’s hustle and bustle and opted to stay in Key Largo, the northernmost key. Looking for the best cigar shop, we came across the Island Smoke Shop located near Mile Marker 103.4 in Key Largo’s “Pink Plaza.”

Walking in, the first thing my eyes played on was a massive bright neon sign—CIGARS.  That did not even come close to expressing the scope of this humidor.  It is the biggest one you will find in the Florida Keys, stocking about any cigar one would want.

At the front counter to your left, greeting you as you arrive is Mr. Cesar Cuenca, a highly respected and knowledgeable gentleman. The neon sign beckons you toward it, and as you open the door to the humidor, the fresh aroma of tobacco greets you. Surveying the artfully arranged and vast selection of cigars, you feel the humidity settling on your skin.

I finally selected the perfect one, the highly rated hand-crafted “El Original” exclusively available at Island Smoke Shop. I made my way out of the humidor, sought out one of the two lounges, carefully unwrapped and clipped my cigar, then gently rotated it as I put flame to the end to start my smoke. After that first puff of the hand-selected tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru, anything else for that afternoon was all right by me. I reasoned that we owed it ourselves; after all we were in the Florida Keys. So I sat back and relaxed and smoked with my brother and father. We talked and laughed, then shortly, Mr. Caesar was finally free to make his way over. A fantastic conversation ensued. 

One tidbit that caught me off guard was our discussion about how younger professionals are making a splash in the cigar market. Mr. Cuenca said that the more youthful gentlemen typically go for the higher-priced cigars, chasing the best they can get their hands on.  The experienced smoker is already set on their chosen brands, he said. 

As the conversation kept brewing, we dipped our toes into more controversial topics, such as this new vapor movement. All these individuals (mainly younger people) are smoking synthetic vapor sticks, Mr. Caesar insisted.   He advised that, while the powers that be are trying to strengthen rules on cigars, what they should be doing is pushing to substitute these vapes with all-natural cigars. Instead of inhaling chemically flavored air, vapers could swap their vapes out for a clean organic cigar taste.

If you ever have trouble deciding on your smoke, Mr. Caesar is the encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to cigars and the tobacco industry and the Island Smoke Shop in Key Largo is a stop worth making.

Young Aficionado Chase Dalton reviews boats. cars, watches, cigars, art, photography, wine and spirits. As an avid huntsman and fisherman, sports travel is another area of his expertise.

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