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Brown Leaf Member Spotlight: 3rd Edition, Commander Quan

:a50: Brown Leaf Member’s Spotlight:a50:

The Brown Leaf is like a virtual Brick and Mortar tobacconist. The armchairs are tattooed with body prints of the regulars, friendly faces are never too far away and we all have one thing in common; our love of tobacco products and enjoying the stories shared with those that share our passion. This is a chance to get the know those familiar faces and discuss our beloved leaf.

In the third edition of
Brown Leaf Members Spotlight;
the lazy, the hairy, the elusive, Commander Quan

Hey Commander, can I call you Derrick? I know with being a full time ninja, husband, father and certified curmudgeon can take a lot of your time. I would like to thank you for doing this.

Why are you on my lawn?

We all know how grumpy you are, but the ninja reference may be lost on some of our readers. Would you mind telling us a little about your martial arts experience and travels around the world?

Sure. I've been training in martial arts for the last 25 years. I started when I was 6, and I now own a full time martial arts school. Occasionally I will compete now and then for fun, but I used to compete regularly. In April 2005 I got to spend some time touring and competing in Korea, which was especially great because that time coincided with the 50th anniversary of Taekwondo.

Note: don't short Derrick in tobacco exchanges. If my research is correct, you were a cigar smoker well before you got into pipes. Is this so? And what was the appeal for you to start smoking cigars?

That is correct. Things started simple enough, in my late teens some friends and I did a lot of camping and backpacking. Occasionally we would bring along some Swisher Sweets to smoke while sitting around a fire or at the end of a hike, nothing too serious. On a trip to the beach we wandered into a cigar shop in Ocean City, MD. I remember buying my first handmade cigar it was cherry flavored, somewhere around a toro size. It came in a glass tube, and was sealed with wax similar to the Markers Mark cigars. I have no idea what it was, and have never seen another one like it.
Shortly thereafter I decided I was going to start smoking unflavored cigars. I went to the local shop and picked out a Punch Rothschild. For some reason Punch was a name that I knew, I think I also knew that they were not supposed to be a beginners cigar. So they had to be good right? 20 minutes into smoking it I was kneeling in the grass dry heaving. That was a good time. After that I found some cigar sites, started reading reviews for different brands, and one thing led to another.
My first humidor was a large Fuente Humidifier bag, then a couple of small Rubbermaid containers with a drymistat tube in each
Being a broke 19 year old I gave myself a $10 a week allowance which meant I only bought about 2 cigars a week. I also remember buying the biggest size I could find in each cigar. If I could get a Churchill for $.40 more than the Robusto that's the better deal clearly.

Dry heaving on your knees eh? So, is that what brought you to the realm of briar?

Sometime early on in my cigar smoking adventures I bought a Dr. Grabow pipe in all its blister packed glory, and a couple ounces of aromatic tobacco. I stuffed that pipe full, and proceeded to light and puff my way to a scorched mouth. After many repeated attempts, and so much self-inflicted harm the pipe stuff got put away. Occasionally I would dig it out and give it another valiant, yet fruitless attempt. Along the way I even bought another pipe, a Parker Bulldog, but that still didn't make a difference.
Seven years ago or so something sparked my interest in pipes again, and I decided I wasn't going to smoke another cigar until I figured out how to keep the thing lit without hurting myself. At that point it had become a personal challenge. It wasn't until I discovered the Frank method of filling a pipe that things started to click for me.

You really have a vast wealth of knowledge when it comes to Cigars, Pipe Tobacco and Pipes. Have you ever worked in a B&M, or with people from the industry? Is this the product of too much time on forums?

No, never. For some reason if you act like you know what you're talking about people tend to believe you.

Consider me one of the duped. About how many pipes are in your collection (don't worry, SWMBO isn't reading this). Also, do you have a favorite pipe?

I actually had to go and count them because I only had a rough guesstimate. I counted 28, not including assorted cobs, and clays, but like a crazy cat lady I'm sure there are a few that were missed. Unfortunately I don't have a neat method for storing my pipes and accessories, things are pretty much strewn about on a desk, inside a couple boxes, and in a filing cabinet. Asking me to pick my favorite pipe is like asking me to pick my favorite kid. If you were going to make me choose one I would have to say my Boswell Poker. It sits upright, fits well in my hand, is clenchable, and smokes my Virginias well. It's one of my 4 Boswells I've been able to buy from JM while at his shop. Another one that I love was actually made and given to me as a Christmas gift by Dave McCarter He took into consideration all the things I like about certain pipes and carved one especially for me.

Speaking of Crazy Cat Ladies...Jason and you never grow tired of expressing your contempt of Latakia. Just for the record, how do you feel about it?

It's true, Lat forward blends are not my favorite. I can handle some as a small condiment portion, but once the blend starts to smell like a burning horse barn I'm out.

Do you have a similar disgust for turkish/oriental?

My preferences tend to be Virginia or Virginia/Perique blends, with some occasional Aromatics or crossovers. Those are what really appeal to me. The Virginia blends are my bread and butter. They are reserved for sitting and chilling out, the more aromatic or flavored blends for when I'm doing something.

Is it possible to narrow it down to a favorite cigar and a favorite pipe tobacco?

My favorite is whatever I'm smoking at the time, unless it's a real dog rocket, In which case that the cigar would be an Oliva Serie V, and favorite tobacco would be Hal O the Wynd. This is a tough question, because there are other cigars that I love as much, but wouldn't smoke every day, things like Padron 1964, Partagas Serie D # 4, and Serie P#2, and Ashton VSG are all up there on the list. The tobacco choice is an easy one. There is only one blend I want to fill a Scrooge McDuck style money bin with and swim around in.

You were also the first Steward of the BL (that's probably where all the dirty undies came from around the office). What was the BL like when you were Steward compared to who it is now?

Um, I think those were from Ed's bachelor party.

I was actually the second steward of the BL, jwhite was the first. Originally most of the tobacco related posts were posted in the Speakeasy. James started a Social Group called Brotherhood of the Briar that really filled a niche. That group became popular enough that the Admins started the Brown Leaf subforum to give us our own place post discussions in the main section of the forum, but isolated so that others who do not wish to see tobacco related posts can avoid them. After a while James was promoted to Moderator of the BL and I stepped in as Stew. The biggest change since then is the addition of the Stock Exchange. For a period shortly after the BL was created trading and exchanging tobacco was a very gray area, it was done, but there was no way for the owners of the forum to actually control who was trading. During this time there was an incident that led to all trades and exchanges being prohibited, but thanks to the diligent work of a few Moderators the Stock Exchange was created, and is what I believe to be the best solution. This has made things like the BL Secret Santa, the Blind Taste Test, and the monthly Tobacco Exchange very successful, as well as the ability to pass along things that don't interest you, and Pay Forward things to others.

In your years of cigar and pipe smoking, have there been any major changes of the industry that you’ve noticed? Could we be in a golden age of each respective industry?

I feel that now is a great time to be a hobbyist, but I think that is true for most adult consumables, people want to try new things to expand their pallets in new ways. Manufacturers are expanding their lines, and offering new products regularly. I think that social media has played a huge role in the hobby as well. Previously you could only get info from people you knew personally, or from industry media like Cigar Aficionado. Now we're talking to people all over the world and sharing thoughts and ideas 24/7 through multiple channels.

We're seeing a lot of newcomers to the BL and people interested in pipes and cigars in general. Do you have any simple advice for them?

Try whatever sounds appealing to you, and try not to fall into the hype that surrounds certain products or blends. 20% of the blends get 80% of the attention. Are those 20% good? Sure they are, but there are tons of other blends that are just as good, and are being bought and tried everyday without the fanfare that those other blends have.

I couldn't agree with you more on the 20%. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me. I would like to open the floor to our members. If anyone has any questions for Derrick, please feel free.
I have been on many forum sites, cars/bikes/booze/etc. There is such a strong community here. Especially in the BL. Everyone is consistently kind and helpful, there are never replies saying 'did you search, dummy?' or 'read the stickies and dont ask stupid questions.' Posts like this, and all of you are what make this happen! Good work Commander and all gentlemen, it is genuinely appreciated.
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