Original article found here: https://www.ashquarterly.com/post/the-dragon-of-albania
The Dragon of Albania.
I was uncharacteristically late meeting the gentlemen of 1102 Cigars. When I arrived, Zach and Alex were joyfully tipping back old-fashioned’s. Executive Cigar is the ideal environment for having a cordial conversation, and we got into their origin story without hesitation. Brothers Zach and Mark teamed up with a college friend, Alex, to form the company. Mark could not join us to talk about their freshman effort, Besa. The manufacturer, who will remain a secret for now,
suggested that they should white label an existing cigar. Still, 1102 insisted on choosing their blend and worked through several iterations before they got precisely what they had in mind. The result is not trivial, considering they have only been smoking cigars for four years.
The trio has established a high standard for quality, as demonstrated by Besa’s dynamic and complex flavor profile, which has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder. The filler is Nicaraguan and Dominican. The first third emanates Cedar and general woodiness with white pepper that finishes quickly. The second third opens up with a buttery hazelnut and baker’s chocolate. The cedar and pepper notes are everpresent.
Overall the cigar is medium-bodied with an absence of intensity. The draw is ideal, and the smoke production is generous. In my opinion, Besa is best paired with a Mint Julip, Moscow Mule, or Pimm’s Cup.
The name Besa was chosen for the Albanian code of Honor, which demands that one must keep his promises regardless of personal cost. Besa, as practiced, solidifies a deep fraternal bond that has allowed the Albanian people to survive countless hardships, invasions, and political upheavals. 1102 also furnished the label with a portrait of Skanderbeg, a famed General, and national hero. The label is replete with Symbols imbued with meaning to the Albanian people. They are a conduit to the mental and spiritual architecture of shared culture. Besa provides an opportunity to explore the human condition that has developed within broader political, social, cultural, and religious contexts. There is a seductive quality to Skanderbeg’s story. The tales of high adventure are full of intrigue, double-crosses, shifting power structures, and heroic battles. That being said, one should be cautious when drawing hard and fast conclusions based on a surface-level analysis of any story, regardless of how it makes one feel. Historical narratives present a genuine danger because of their tremendous emotional significance. So often, political parties and religious institutions use them as brutal means to a tragic end. The past rarely tells us how to navigate the present because the zeitgeist is not similar enough to have an exact historical analogy. None of the historical minutiae is present in 1102’s celebration of Skanderbeg or Besa.
To some degree, all generations feel lost or unable to voice a collective restlessness. Symbolic representations of shared experiences can open the way to powerful explorations of that anxiety and lead to therapeutic encounters. I sense that the unease and restlessness felt by millennials is the deconstruction of objective truth to condemn Metanarritives as “structures of power” meant to legitimize claims of the dominant paradigm. Skanderbeg’s proud visage on Besa’s label is an antidote to the abyss of post-modernism. That is to say, the trio of 1102 is proud of Albanians, led by Skanderbeg, because they reclaimed their birthright from the Ottoman empire on September 2nd, 1457.
On a side note, our confab about history was punctuated by Daniella, a lovely bartender with magnetic charm, who gracefully joined the conversation and replenished our drinks. Our captivating encounter with Danella was the perfect intermission that realigned the discussion. When the cigar was exhausted and our knuckles burnt, we shared every bit of news or rumor in the cigar community. I wholeheartedly recommend you seek out Besa. To find participating retailers, you can visit 1102cigars.com.