James Roberts

James Roberts is the owner of the Ligero Leaf Cigar Bar in Anniston. In addition to cigars, the Ligero Leaf also offers a bar with wine, craft beer, bourbon or scotch. Roberts installed “smoke eaters” in the bar so patrons can enjoy their cigars without worrying about the smell staying on their clothes. The Ligero Leaf is located at 101 Greenbrier Dear Road in Anniston.

What is your professional background?

After high school, I moved out to California to the Burbank and Studio City area for a couple of years working as a production assistant on a CBS sitcom, “Grace Under Fire.” After the show was canceled, I came back to Alabama. There was an outdoor recreation business in Birmingham that I bought; I did that for about 10 years. I came back to Anniston to pursue the cigar bar business. I have been a cigar guy for almost 25 years, and I have small business experience, so I started the process with the city of Anniston. Actually, I started the process with a few cities, but I got a little more headway with Anniston. I spent the latter part of 2015 and all of 2016 getting the cigar exemption in the smoking ordinance in Anniston.

Did you always want to work in entertainment?

I did the production assistant job for a few years out of high school. I moved out to California to do special effects and prosthetics makeup, but I had to have a job to live. Once the show got canceled, I could not afford to live there anymore, and there were parts of the South that I really missed, so it was not that hard of a decision. Special effects is a hard field to get into; to get into it, you have to be able to draw because you have to put your ideas to paper. I am creative, but I cannot put it on paper.

How long have you been smoking cigars?

I have been a cigar aficionado for almost 25 years. It always fascinated me that on a typical cigar, 300 people have worked on that cigar, from the seed to curing and fermenting to production. I enjoy smoking cigars the same way some people enjoy drinking wine or brandy or craft beer.

How is one supposed to smoke a cigar?

You draw the smoke in, but you do not inhale it in your lungs — you do taste it though. I look at it like wine tasting; you do not drink the wine — you swish it around to get the flavor, then spit it out.

Why do you not inhale the cigar smoke?

The only people who inhale the smoke are the ones that usually smoke cigarettes and inhale it by default. They usually start coughing pretty hard (laughter). Nothing is added to cigars from seed to being boxed except for water — no chemicals. They are completely natural.

How many cigars do you smoke per day?

Before I did the business, I smoked one or two cigars a week; now, I smoke about two cigars a day — all cigars I have in the humidor. I have to know what I am selling.

How many cigars do you have at the Ligero Leaf?

Right now I have about 350 facings — 350 different boxes: Nicaraguan, Honduran and cigars from the Dominican Republic. I also have about 30 facings of flavored cigars — ones that are artificially infused with flavors like coffee.

What is the price range at the Ligero Leaf?

The cheapest cigar I have is around $3.50, and the most expensive cigar I have is $32-$33.

What makes a cigar a good cigar?

There are a lot of answers for that. Where it comes from has a lot to do with it: whether it is Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic or even Cuba. … Cuban cigars are always romanticized because we cannot have them, but Cubans do have a very distinct flavor. Not all Cubans are great Cubans; just being a Cuban does not make them great.

What is your favorite cigar?

My favorite is in the humidor. I will not tell someone more than that, unless they come to the Ligero Leaf and ask.

Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at faith.h.dorn@gmail.com.