The Green Dragon Speakeasy
By: Jesse Guerrero Portland, Oregon
~ The Idea ~
Where did it all start? Well that’s an easy one, I remember the exact moment. Sitting out in the winter cold with a good friend every weekend trying to get a cigar and dram in before we froze to death. One of these such nights we were talking about how nice it would be to have an indoor place at home to do this without having to go out to a bar or lounge. As faith would have it my newly purchased house presented a unique opportunity. The previous owners had started to convert the near full height crawl space into a basement so the heavy lifting of digging out, subflooring, and placing exterior doors/windows were completed. This barren area was just sitting down there being used as storage. It was the perfect place to create that indoor space we were wanting.
Initially the idea of what to do down there was very basic as we were just looking for a bare bones functional space to escape the elements. At first the plan was just four walls, a few chairs, and a portable heater. As work progressed we talked more and more of creating an actual cigar lounge. A space with ventilation, power, heat, and an ambiance that fostered a relaxing environment to enjoy a cigar and pour in. A place to get away from all the daily commotion and responsibilities for a short period of time. Cigar and whiskey culture brings folks together like none other. I found myself surrounded by a supportive group that were able to jump in with a variety of skill sets to make the vision a reality.
~ The Green Dragon Speakeasy is Born ~
There was just one name that was ever considered for this lounge and it was based on my childhood love of The Lord of The Rings series. I always wanted to name something The Green Dragon even before knowing what it would be. Adding Speakeasy to the name gives it that private and secretive vibe that it would ultimately take on. The Green Dragon Speakeasy certainly lived up to its name during 2020. Through the ever changing Covid-19 social gathering protocols it became a safe haven. Every penny spent was well worth it.
The ultimate design goal was to create an old European/English type speakeasy vibe which produces a very calming and relaxing ambiance. I am a big believer that a good portion of one’s comfort comes from the environment you are in. This design invites you to come in, have a cigar, pour a drink, and take a load off.
I was trying to create a space that people would never expect to be there or wonder how they stumbled upon it. The vibe starts as you enter through a secret gate partially obscured by hanging vines, following a pathway, and encountering a seemingly out of place door with a simple Green Dragon sign. As you enter the door you pass through some curtains and make your way into the speakeasy. That’s where the fun times start, the cigars get lit, and the drinks start pouring.
~ Build Details (and a lot of help from friends) ~
As with most builds, cost played an important role. I wanted to build this with a minimal budget and was made possible with time investment and a lot of friends’ hard work.
Physical Room Construction:
• Prior owners transformed near full room height crawl space into near basement ready space (dug out, subfloor, exterior doors and window, partial framing for rooms).
• Dry-wall finishing work on walls and ceiling was outsourced.
• Electrical outlets and lighting were added without outsourcing.
• New wood flooring was added without outsourcing.
• An electric heat fireplace was added as not to connect to the house HVAC system (This was critical for me as not to contaminate my house with cigar smoke).
• Sonos wireless audio system was added to the room for music; TV is available in the room for fight/game nights but not the focal point.
• Old style ornate wallpaper from Europe was arguably the most important part of creating the overall feel of the room.
• Antique framed art, mirrors, books, etc were all sourced through local antique stores, FB marketplace, etc. This part in particular was an adventure.
• Antique circular wood and glass topped table with four old cigar club chairs (reupholstered) to make it a more intimate setting for up to four individuals to have great conversations.
• Full wall shelving unit for Bourbon collection display with backlighting.
• Multiple on-wall humidors for cigar storage and display; additional smaller humidor units are spread across the room.
• Antique standing cigar ash-trays.
• Fireplace for décor/vibe + heating to the room.
• Additional pocket storage shelves around the room for additional bottle display.
• Antique hanging chandelier over the table with warm dimmable light (in general it is a darker warm light throughout the room)
• Hidden fresh air vent on opposite side of room as ventilation vent (crucial to maintaining clean air coming in as smoke is pumped out).
• AC Infinity Inline Duct Fan with Speed Controller as ventilation method outside the room (intake vent on wall, all smoke is pumped directly outside from the room through ducting).
• Ozonator is run once per week to clean up any lingering cigar smell; Purifying fan also ran occasionally.
~ Friends, Cigars and Bourbon (the important stuff) ~
I guess having this room is great and all… but, it would mean nothing without having good folks to share some stories with while puffing on a cigar (or two). For the last year or so, the Green Dragon Speakeasy has been hosting near weekly cigar and whiskey tasting events with friends and fellow enthusiasts. As mentioned prior, it is absolutely amazing the friends you make through the shared enthusiasm for cigars and whiskey. An almost instant connection with like-minded folks that you seem to have known for years.
The Green Dragon Speakeasy currently houses a collection of around 250 bottles of whiskey (in addition to the numerous bottles everyone brings when they attend) so selection is never an issue. For cigars there is a large variety to choose from with this year’s preference leaning towards Drew Estate, Fuente, and Cuban products. This doesn’t mean we are not always on the lookout for anything else out there new or old. At this point through all the generous sharing of both pours and sticks I have been able to try a great deal of what is out there but there is always more. Cigar storage started off with smaller 50-100 stick units and how have expanded to multiple custom on-wall mounted units housing hundreds of options to explore.
As we progress the group of folks heading over has been increasing which has opened the door for many great things. We just recently had the opportunity to select a private bourbon barrel for the group and many more in the works for this upcoming year. With the combined knowledge of people coming and participating as well as partnering with other local groups we are all learning rapidly and creating opportunities to try more of what is out there. The greatest thing is how many folks started smoking cigars in the last year after stopping over and now are full blown collectors and enthusiasts. It is absolutely incredible and rewarding to be able to share what you have and see where it takes everyone (usually down a rabbit-hole).
~ Next Steps for the Green Dragon ~
What’s next for the Green Dragon? Expressing more of my inner Lord of the Rings nerdiness… there was a quote in the book about dwarves getting too greedy looking for treasure only to dig too deep and unleash their demise (if your guessed Balrog… you win). I guess there is some truth in that and while sometimes you want to keep building and adding the reality is what you have is likely perfect.
However, just like me, I am sure most of you feel that cigar and liquor collections can keep going forever and are never enough. We all have that urge to keep digging for more treasure. If I end up digging deeper there is an entire open space of blank canvas next to the existing room ready to be built out and expanded. Guess lucky for me I am blessed with good friends to help me along while smoking a great cigar and sipping on some great whiskey.