Archive | November, 2009

Guest Commentary: Virginia’s Senseless Smoking Ban

30 Nov 2009

[Editors’ Note: Tomorrow, Virginia’s smoking ban goes into effect. The following guest commentary was originally published in January 2008 when Virginia Governor Tim Kaine began pushing for the statewide smoking ban, but the reasons it gives for opposing the smoking ban remain just as valid today.]

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine recently announced that he’ll renew his fight to ban smoking in all Virginia bars and restaurants. He defended this push by citing the dangers of secondhand smoke, saying, “The scientific evidence about the health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke is clear and convincing. Recognizing the negative health effects and high public costs of secondhand smoke, Virginia must act to protect the workers and consumers in its restaurants.”

virginiaWe’re pleased the governor has such command of the epidemiologic literature. Usually, when politicians make such statements, they have little if any familiarity with scientific research. Kaine should cite the empirical studies showing the health effects of bar and restaurant patrons’ occasional exposure to tobacco smoke. We’re not aware of any such studies; even the much-cited recent surgeon general’s report on secondhand smoke offered no statistical evidence of diminished health from occasional exposure. The findings on health effects that we’ve seen involve people who are chronically exposed to secondhand smoke—people such as the spouses and children of smokers who’ve had decades of regular, concentrated exposure.

The governor further claims that he has “clear and convincing” scientific evidence that a ban would decrease health risks and reduce “high” public costs. Can he tell us what those costs were and how they were calculated? How much will Virginia’s current trends in mortality and morbidity change as a result of his prohibition? Will he promise to repeal the law if no such change materializes?

Of course, people have a right to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, no matter what studies show. But they don’t have the right to force everyone else to live according to their preference. Fortunately, the world can accommodate their desires along with those of people who don’t mind tobacco smoke, just as it can accommodate people who like Chinese food and people who prefer hamburgers. Restaurant and bar owners want to make money, and they do so by catering to different market niches. In Northern Virginia, many restaurants and bars advertise that they are smoke-free, while others cater to a smoking crowd. This offering of many different choices is a virtue of open markets. So why would Kaine override the smoking choices of different people and instead impose his preference on all Virginians?

The governor noted his concern for the health of hospitality workers, who may have more exposure to secondhand smoke. But when bar and restaurant owners set their smoking policies, they must consider the preferences of their staff or else they’ll find themselves facing rapid turnover and paying higher wages. Why should all Virginia bar and restaurant workers be forced to work in a nonsmoking environment that only some of them demand?

Liberal societies allow people to make decisions that others don’t like. If some Virginians want to eat and drink in an establishment that allows smoking, and some workers want to work there, and some entrepreneur wants to finance that business, why does the governor think he should overrule them?

Tom Firey and Jacob Grier

[Tom Firey is editor of Regulation magazine, which is published by the Cato Institute. Jacob Grier, formerly of Cato, is a friend of He blogs at]

photo credit:

Quick Smoke: Cohiba Siglo I (Cuban)

29 Nov 2009

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

This little demi corona features a veiny wrapper, and the cigar isn’t particularly firm. Still, it is expertly constructed, resulting in a 30-minute smoke with good combustion and a sturdy ash. After an initial burst of what seemed to be harsh and hot sawdust flavors, it settles into a pleasant medium-bodied profile with cedar and caramel flavors and a hint of peppery spice on the finish. But it lacks complexity, particularly given the high price these Cubans command.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Te-Amo Cuba Blend Gran Corto

28 Nov 2009

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Te-Amo Cuba Blend Gran Corto

This summer, Te-Amo expanded on its four World Selection Series blends with a Nub-esque Gran Corto size (4 x 62). New format, same old Te-Amo problems. The profile turns from harsh to salty to uninteresting, characterized by a sour aftertaste. And it appears as though the Cuba Blend also suffers from the coarseness that plagues the Dominicana and Nicaragua lines. To top it off, construction is spotty at best, rendering this criollo-wrapped cigar unworthy of your time or its MSRP of $4.75.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CLXIX

27 Nov 2009

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. We call ‘em Friday Samplers. Enjoy.

Fake Cubans1) Florida officials recently arrested five individuals and seized “millions of dollars” in counterfeit Cubans. The scheme, called “one of the country’s largest, most sophisticated counterfeit cigar operations” by Cigar Aficionado, involved re-labeling and re-packaging cheap smokes to look like Cuban brands.

2) Illinois may have fallen victim to an indoor smoking ban, but that hasn’t stopped some Chicago bar owners from allowing their patrons to fire up cigars and cigarettes. At least one bar, according to the Chicago Tribune, asks customers to contribute to “smoke jug” fund from which fines are paid. Others simply ignore the law outright. Since the Smoke-free Illinois Act went into effect in January 2008, there have been 889 complaints, 42 inspections, and 13 tickets issued.

3) Inside the Industry: All around the country, cigar retailers are hosting Operation Hope events, where participants can purchase a special Montecristo cigar and accessory  set with proceeds going to the Montecristo Relief Organization, which helps victims of natural disasters.

4) Around the Blogs: Stogie Review lights up a Zino Embassy Selection LE Perfecto. Nice Tight Ash fires up an Alec Bradley SCR. Fire Up That Cigar torches a Room 101. Cigar Inspector reviews the Bucanero Don Douglas Cabinet. B and B Cigar Club looks at the Ambos Mundos.

5) Deal of the Week:  Every cigar aficionado should own a proper cigar lighter and few are as nice as Colibri. Fortunately, right now Lighters World is offering free butane with Colibri purchases over $50 and a free Colibri punch cutter with Colibri purchases of $125 or more. Plus, when you enter the discount code “STOGIE15” at checkout, you get 15% off your entire order. Grab yours here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Tips: Have a Happy Thanksgiving…With Cigars

25 Nov 2009 will be taking tomorrow off to enjoy that most American of holidays: Thanksgiving. (We will return Friday for your regularly scheduled Friday Sampler.) Known for food, family, friends, and football, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to enjoy a fine smoke. So as we did the previous two years, today we’re listing the one cigar we’ll each fire up after the big meal.

Gobble Gobble Gobble

Patrick A: Since I travel back home to Chicago to visit with friends and family, I think a Tesa Cigar Co. creation will be appropriate. Tesa is headquartered in a shop on the Near North Side of the Windy City, and they produce some outstanding cigars. With a crisp profile of wine, toast, cream, and honey, the lancero-sized Tesa Havanitas Connecticut No. 1 will pair nicely with a post-meal cup of coffee.

Patrick S: As I did two years ago, I’ll enjoy an American-made cigar on Thanksgiving: the Tatuaje Reserve J21. This special robusto features an oily, rich Nicaraguan ligero wrapper. Inside is a tasty combination of cedar, leather, pepper, and coffee bean. It will pair nicely with coffee or an aged Kentucky bourbon, whichever feels more appropriate.

George E: I plan to smoke a Padrón Serie 1964 Exclusivo Natural. Because it was a gift, Thanksgiving seems just the time to light it up. I haven’t smoked one of these in a long time, and I made the decision early so I could enjoy the anticipation as well as the smoke itself.

Patrick M: Choosing a cigar to enjoy for a special occasion can sometimes be difficult for me. I have a hard time deciding between special hard-to-find cigars and cigars that I think will match up well with the festivities. This Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to go with the Churchill-sized Illusione 888. The full-bodied 888, a.k.a. Necessary and Sufficient, is the perfect cigar to enjoy after a heavy meal. Featuring bold, in-your-face flavors of spice and earth with a creamy coffee finish, the 888 is a sublime way to end a wonderful meal.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Commentary: Five Things to Be Thankful For

24 Nov 2009

We spend a good amount of space writing about bad news. Whether it’s smoking bans and tobacco taxes or cigar companies suing each other instead of focusing on making cigars, there is a lot of news about cigars that’s downright frustrating.

cigarsmokrsBut it’s important to remember the good. Particularly since, on balance, there’s a lot more good news than bad. To that end, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are five things cigar smokers should be thankful for:

5) Fighting for Cigar Rights: It may have taken awhile, but the cigar industry is finally realizing that sitting on the sidelines while anti-tobacco activists tax and regulate cigars away just isn’t an option. Through the IPCPR, CAA, and the CRA, which seeks to energize cigar smokers in the fight against anti-cigar legislation, we’re seeing renewed vigor in the vital cause that is defending our hobby. That’s important and it’s something to be thankful for.

4) Next Generation Cigar Makers: Now is a great time to be a cigar smoker, and no small reason for that is a younger generation of cigar makers that are hitting their prime. Pete Johnson of Tatuaje, Dion Giolito of Illusione, Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate, Christian Eiroa of Camacho, Erik Espinoza and Eddie Ortega of EO Cigars, and others are part of a new generation of cigar makers. They are dispensing with some of the stuffy formalities while they focus on making great, interesting, innovative cigars.

3) Helpful Cigar Shop Keepers: Some of the most generous and knowledgeable people around are cigar shop owners and employees. They are passionate about their business in a way that you’ll never find in a shoe store or convenience shop. I’ve had store owners spend hours talking with me about cigars, knowing that at the end of the day I’m not likely to buy more than a few sticks. It’s one of the reasons that so many people aren’t simply cigar smokers, but cigar enthusiasts.

2) Experienced Cigar Veterans: Sure, the new guys are getting tons of press these days, but it’s the older generation that makes it possible. Today there are so many living legends still making cigars: Henke Kelner of Davidoff, Avo Uvezian, José Seijas and Frank Llaneza at Altadis, Benji Menendez of General Cigar, Ernesto Perez Carillo, Guirellmo León of La Aurora, Don Pepin Garcia, the Fuentes, the Padróns, and so many others. We are lucky to be cigar smokers at a time when so many masters are still going strong.

1) Fellow Cigar Smokers: There may be many living legends making the cigars we smoke, but we don’t spend a lot of time smoking with the Carlos Fuente’s of the world. More often we’re lighting up a cigar with our fellow brothers (and sisters) of the leaf. Fortunately, they’re a friendly and generous bunch of people. As cigar smokers, we instantly share a bond, and we’re eager to share our tobacco treats. That’s why the camaraderie we share with fellow cigar enthusiasts is still the aspect of smoking that I am most thankful for.

Patrick S

photo credit: Vagalous

Stogie Reviews: José Carlos Habano Toro

23 Nov 2009

José Carlos Habano ToroThis summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Davies at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. He was in town to debut his first cigars, the result of years spent scouring Central America for quality land and tobacco.

One of the first things I asked Davies was why he settled on the name “José Carlos Cigars.” He told me the story of how, during his exploits in Nicaragua, he met an orphan named José Carlos whose parents had abandoned him for a better life in America.

“What I saw in that young man was amazing…Not a bitter, angry, or mischievous boy, but a happy, well-mannered, polite little man,” writes Davies on his website. “That young man gave me the inspiration to find a way to manufacture excellent quality cigars in a very difficult environment.”

Genuinely thankful for his blessings and intent on giving back to the orphaned children in Nicaragua, Davies built the foundation for his premium boutique cigars in Estelí. “My philosophy is simple: Do things right, not fast,” he says.

His new lineup of cigars, grown on land tested by the Nicaraguan Agriculture University with limited amounts of fertilizers, is a result of those efforts. It is offered in three different wrappers: Connecticut, Corojo, and Habano.

The six inch by 52 ring gauge Habano Toro has a smooth, reddish Nicaraguan sungrown exterior leaf with only a few skinny veins. It is impressively firm to the touch and the draw pulls through with moderate effort.

After toasting the foot, pre-light notes of sweet sawdust give way to a medium-bodied flavor of oak, cream, and cereals. A good amount of spice is also present—especially on the finish—that tastes of dry cedar and black pepper.

The overall effect is a classic habano taste from beginning to nub with hints of sweetness.

With a solid white ash and a straight burn, the physical properties are excellent. And, like a well-made cigar should, this Toro smokes slowly, taking almost two hours to complete.

Currently, information on price and availability of José Carlos Cigars is hard to come by. But if you love traditional-tasting habanos with top-notch construction, seek this blend out. The impressive Habano Toro earns four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys