Cigar Chronicles: An Exclusive Interview with Si Sweeney, the Ultimate Irish Cigar Aficionado
One individual my father often talked about was Si Sweeney, a lifetime NABBA member, a historian who had won the Oscar Heidenstam trophy three times. Si is so highly respected in the weightlifting world, and my father spoke of him as a true gentleman.
Cigar Chronicles: An Exclusive Interview with Si Sweeney, the Ultimate Irish Cigar Aficionado
Reflecting on your father and the qualities that make him your idol is an important exercise. What specifically do you admire about him? Are there certain memories that stand out to you?
From a young age, my father inspired and motivated me to become a better version of myself. He encouraged me to get involved in sports, including weightlifting and boxing and often spoke about the world of Amateur Weightlifting, particularly NABBA. As a result, many faces of talented athletes and Oscar Heidenstam trophy winners have been etched into my memory, creating lasting and beautiful memories.
One individual my father often talked about was Si Sweeney, a lifetime NABBA member, a historian who had won the Oscar Heidenstam trophy three times. Si is so highly respected in the weightlifting world, and my father spoke of him as a true gentleman. It was no coincidence that I now have the opportunity to interview Si and even consider him a friend.
Now, I'm excited to delve further into the worlds of weightlifting and cigar smoking, both of which can be enjoyed at the Cigar Lounge International. Thanks to my father's influence and Si Sweeney’s friendship, I'm eager to explore these worlds and see what other inspiring individuals I might meet along the way.
So let’s see who Si Sweeney is…
Lefty: Good afternoon my friend Si. I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy one of your The Irishman cigars this afternoon, than smoking it with you.
SI: Lefty, my brother, it is always a pleasure chatting with you. (Lights his The Irishman cigar)
Lefty: I would like to start this conversation with a question about Si. Talk to us about your story.
SI: - I was born on the 2nd of April 1968 in the beautiful town of Bantry in the Republic of Ireland, a scenic and beautiful place but unfortunately not much work. So, I decided to immigrate in 1985. I joined the military and when I left the military i worked as a doorman in various nightclubs, a personal assistant in the emergency planning department of the health service, a security officer at Manchester United football club and I had my hand in various business ventures, some successful, some not. Growing up I was a very sporty person. I enjoyed football, boxing, baseball, and bodybuilding. i judge these days for NABBA the oldest bodybuilding and fitness federation in history and i am also a NABBA historian. I was made an honorary lifetime member of NABBA in 2016, Arnold Schwarzenegger who won four NABBA Mr. Universe titles was made an honorary lifetime member in 1967, so I'm proud to be on that list. I am also the only person to receive The Oscar Heidenstam Commitment and Dedication Award. I received it in 2016 its inaugural year then also in 2017 and 2018 which made it mine outright. Not a bad achievement considering there are sixty countries in the NABBA federation, and I was awarded it out of all of them. My daughter Simone, who is now twenty-three, said she was proud of me, that was special for me and touched my heart. I am also the UIBFF Ireland and United Kingdom Preside and their international head of judges. So, I am still busy on the bodybuilding and fitness front.
Lefty: I must tell you…that Irish Man blend of yours is amazing. WOW. I want to know… How did you start in the cigar industry? How did you become an aficionado?
SI: I was lucky to try my first cigar at the tender age of fourteen as a relation used to have a store and bar that supplied Cuban cigars to American tourists. I loved the feeling, smoke, notes, and aroma almost immediately. As time progressed let's say around the time, I was twenty-one years of age, I started smoking three to four cigars a week, they were my therapy in a hectic lifestyle, and true moments that I could relax and just stop for a while and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the wonderful humble cigar. As time passed I started to enjoy more and more the wonderful cigar more and got more curious about various brands, Vitolas, countries of origin, and of course the wonderful shapes, sizes and flavors, notes, and aromas of each cigar I smoked. I researched everything I could find and tried to not just educate my mind but of course, educate my palate. I am still learning on a journey that has now lasted over forty years. To me, every single cigar I smoke is truly an adventure of the mind and touches my heart and soul. So, the more I know the more it encourages me to learn more and share knowledge with others.
Lefty: What made you decide to create Cigar Lounge International?
SI: During the global covid pandemic a good friend of mine Carl Moodispaugh created a Zoom room on Cigar Fanatics before he passed away, he said he would love others to do so. When I officially opened Cigar lounge international i knew it would be a great place to get people together to enjoy the humble cigar in the zoom and chat and just relax and be themselves. Its free for anyone to enter the lounge worldwide, twenty-four hours a day. My dear friend Andy Garrett and I also host a guest night every Tuesday at 7 PM GMT. We have had a who's who of the cigar industry world as guests, everyone was always happy to be a guest. From Carlito Fuente, Nick and Janine Perdomo, Dr. Anastasia Psomiadi and you, Jose Blanco, William Cooper, George Brightman , Danays Leon , Jeremiah and Melissa Meerapfel , the list goes on and on. So it’s there for all and I simply love running it with the help from Andy and Kendall Stephens.
Lefty: What were your most important challenges thought your cigar journey?
Si: As an aficionado, I promote the humble cigar and the benefits of the cigar on mental health, etc ,but of course, you will always get challenges from people who don't understand. It is my little mission to help them understand and educate them with the knowledge I have. As a Cigar Rights of the World ambassador for Ireland, i do have challenges in various areas trying to convince government officials that cigars should not be considered the same as cigarettes. This is ongoing but I will not give up on promoting the benefits of our humble cigar to people or the government. I love a good challenge.
Lefty: What inspires you and how do you think you inspire or can inspire others?
Si: IT’S AN EASY ANSWER. ..The growers, rollers, manufacturers, all the people involved in producing wonderful cigars, the history behind so many cigar makers, and of course the love and passion of all who make and smoke cigars. I DON’T KNOW IF I INSPIRE TOO MUCH, BUT I WILL ALWAYS LET THE PEOPLE KNOW (EITHER THROUGH FACE-TO-FACE OR VIA SOCIAL MEDIA WHICH IS A GREAT TOOL) ABOUT MY LOVE, PASSION, AND KNOWLEDGE I HAVE OF OUR WONDERFUL CIGAR.
Lefty: Using your experience, what advice would you give to other people who want to enter the cigar world?
Si: Speaking only from my experiences, a great cigar with others or by myself has always been a positive moment in my life. Knowledge of the cigar and how to enjoy it is important, be open to learning from others and do not think you can know everything, absorb the knowledge, and put it into practice. Listen to other aficionados and you will learn what suits you. Also listen to your palate, your mind, and your soul and see what you will love, do not say you’re enjoying a cigar if you’re not. Find what cigars suit your palate. Take time do not rush the experience; I truly believe you will feel embraced by the experience of the humble cigar, it will add to your appreciation of life.
Lefty: Being a member of the SOTL Global Movement SOTL & BOTL committee, what change would you like to bring to the industry through this role?
Si: Being a member of SOTL GLOBAL MOVEMENT is of course a great honor for me and the biggest interest I have in this is for our world to accept all smokers equally, Females are sometimes not given a fair deal in society, but we must all fight for this to be changed. I CLASS EVERY FEMALE CIGAR SMOKER AS EQUAL TO EVERY MALE CIGAR SMOKER. The cigar does not know if a female, male or horse is smoking a cigar, so let’s all enjoy cigars together as one and be a family of the leaf. Male or female, it does not matter. We as one should encourage and educate people to treat all smokers the same and this will help to break the stigma and some prejudices that rear up sometimes about females enjoying a cigar.
Lefty: Closing this conversation… What's your wish for the future in the cigar industry?
Si: My wish is that more and more people will embrace the cigar life and culture and that legislation is easier on the cigar, especially in USA and Europe. We must remember to stay united in our love and passion for the humble cigar and to fight for the right to smoke our cigars. We need to be a united voice as smokers of cigars and spread the message that it is great therapy, and relaxation and helps to bring so many people together. so many people especially in Latin America rely on the cigar industry to put food on the table and educate their children, it is their life, and they need the industry to keep going strong for them to survive. So, governments should think of these families when trying to pass silly and needless legislation. So, let’s all be one voice in promoting our passion and may our enjoyment of the leaf last long after we are gone, so future generations can enjoy a passion for the Humble cigar as well
As I finish my Irishman cigar, I must admit that it was such a pleasure to speak with Si and gain a glimpse into his world of cigar appreciation. Si Sweeney always sheds a light on the world of cigar aficionados and their passion for the craft. From the selection of the perfect cigar to the intricacies of the smoking process, it's clear that cigar smoking is more than just a hobby for Si and others like him. It's a lifestyle that requires dedication, patience, and an appreciation for the finer things in life. As Si always says, "There's something magical about a well-crafted cigar. It's a moment of peace and reflection that's hard to replicate." I couldn't agree more with my Si. My brother…