Somebody told me that Marvin Shanken invented the man cave. I didn’t take that literally. I doubt anyone invented the man cave any more than somebody did the stone cave.
But Mr. Shanken, chairman of M. Shanken Communications, publisher of the magazines Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado and Whiskey Advocate, has arguably done as much as anyone to coach those who are serious about stocking their own caves on how to do so with excellent smoke and drink.
More to the point, Shanken Publications’ new offices at 1 Worldwide Plaza on West 50th Street—they were on Park Avenue South for the previous 28 years—arguably doubles as his personal man cave. There is even a cigar testing room, with a special ventilation system, behind an unmarked door off the building’s lobby.
“Very few people in the company have seen the room,” Mr. Shanken said when we met in his office recently. “It’s not a social place—only senior editors of Cigar Aficionado.”
That depends on your definition of social.
I remarked that Mr. Shanken’s office with its spectacular views from Central Park to the Hudson River (though he keeps the shades half drawn—“I’m working most of the time,” he shrugged), celebrity photographs and memorabilia, reminded me of Donald Trump’s office in Trump Tower.
Mr. Shanken, 72 years old, dismissed the comparison, while noting that he received a phone call from the presidential candidate—apparently during a free moment while neither campaigning nor bashing his Republican rivals—to thank him for a story in the October issue of “Cigar Aficionado” about The Donald’s golf-course empire.
“There’s a difference,” Mr. Shanken said. “Very few people are in this office,” meaning visitors. “These are pictures of my friends, people I’ve grown up with and done things with.”
Again, I suppose that depends on your definition of friends.
There do appear to be pictures of buddies, his wife Hazel, a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and even pets—“That’s my daughter’s dog, a mini Goldendoodle,” the publisher stated affectionately of his daughter Jessica, a vice president with his company, and her dog Lionel.
But there are also images of Mr. Shanken with, among others, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton—“surprise guests” at the annual $2,795-a-head marketing seminar he holds for wine-and-spirits executives—and the entire cast of “The Sopranos.”
Among the more arresting images is one of a beaming Mr. Shanken bookended by convicted financier Michael Milken and former New York City Mayor and U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.
“He put him in jail and I brought the two of them together,” Mr. Shanken boasted.
The company’s conference room, where Mr. Shanken’s longtime personal chef serves lunch, displays important humidors, including one that Fidel Castro gave him when he interviewed the Cuban president for Cigar Aficionado in 1994. The dozens of Cohibas that came with the box remain untouched.
There is another cigar container that comedian Milton Berle gave to President John F. Kennedy and that Mr. Shanken famously paid $574,500 for at Sotheby’s in 1996. That probably turned out to be a bargain, considering all the free publicity it garnered.
There is also a world-class collection of Belle Époque posters by artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
We visited the wine-tasting room where editors were hard at work, so to speak, blind testing recently arrived vintages; between 18,000 and 20,000 bottles a year.
“Why do you think I got in this business?” Mr. Shanken said, referring to his love of fermented grapes. “I didn’t know anything about writing.”
From there it was down 33 floors to the cigar room. Unlike the wine-tasting facility that, with its bare concrete floors, exuded a science-lab aesthetic, the cigar area was a classic man cave with easy chairs and a widescreen TV.
A bunch of Cigar Aficionado editors were sorting cigars for the publication’s 20th annual Big Smoke event in Las Vegas.
“The idea was I’d have a place to go to smoke and watch golf on TV,” Mr. Shanken said, settling into a club chair with a cigar.
There was also a bottle of 18-year-old single malt floating around somewhere. But it was made clear that nothing stronger than water crosses the lips of editors while cigars are being rated.