Archive | June, 2011

Cigar Insider: Ed McKenna of CAO Cigars

23 Jun 2011

CAO Cigars is entering a new era, and we wanted to find out what that new era would bring for the brand’s many fans.

In 2007, the family-owned company was purchased by the Scandanavian Tobacco Group (STG). Later, in early 2010, STG merged its premium tobacco division with General Cigar (maker of Macanudo, La Gloria Cubana, Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey, and many more well-known lines). Since then, a number of CAO stalwarts have left the company, including President Tim Ozgener, Chairman Gary Hyams, and Lifestyle Director Jon Huber, and CAO left Nashville to join General Cigar at its headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.

To get the scoop on what all this means for those who smoke and enjoy CAO Cigars, I talked to Ed McKenna, senior brand manager for CAO.

Stogie Guys: What is your background in cigars? How long have you been smoking, and do you remember the first cigar you really enjoyed?

Ed McKenna: I joined General Cigar several years ago, after being on the marketing team for Bacardi’s tequila portfolio. The premium cigar business shares many similarities to the world of spirits, but as I quickly learned, this industry is its own universe and to this point, I haven’t been able to compare it to any other. Since I’ve been with General Cigar, my focus has been on Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey, and Excalibur cigars. Together with Rick Chandler (director of Villazon brands at GC), with the product development team at HATSA (our factory in Honduras), and with input from our consumer ambassadors, I’ve launched Upper Cut by Punch, Reposado en Cedros, and Rare Corojo 10th Anniversary. I’m now managing the CAO business full time.

I have always liked cigars. My Dad was a casual cigar smoker, and I got bitten by the bug as they say, way back in college when my friends and would go over to our local tobacconist (then, it was Tobacco Village in Delaware), and pick up a few smokes to enjoy during the weekend. Those were great times. The first cigars I remember smoking were Partagas (my father’s favorite), Macanudo, and Onyx (random, I know).

I smoked cigars regularly in college, but there’s one standout occasion with Partagas. That was with my dad. We celebrated my college graduation over a robusto, and I remember thinking that I’d remember that cigar for the rest of my life. Along with a Punch Rare Corojo at my wedding last year, that Partagas cigar will go down in history as one of my favorite smokes. (more…)

Cigar Review: Berger & Argenti Mooch Loll

22 Jun 2011

berger and argenti mooch loll 2

Like Entubar, Clasico, and Exile Wired, Mooch is a product of the merger between Albert and Michael Argenti of Cuban Imports and Don Kiki Berger, creator of several lines for Cuban Crafters. The blend was introduced at last summer’s industry trade show as a more affordable addition to the Berger & Argenti portfolio. (more…)

News: Light Up Congress

21 Jun 2011

The bill to keep the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from regulating premium cigars as part of its newly acquired tobacco oversight is inching along in Congress. The latest advance is a few more co-sponsors—including a second Democrat—putting the total at 22.

“We’re still pushing the bill,” George Cecala, spokesman for Rep. Bill Posey, the Florida Republican who introduced the bill in April, told me the other day. He added that the congressman, described by Cecala as an occasional cigar smoker, is especially concerned about potential job losses if FDA cigar regulations are adopted.

What’s needed now is for you to join the push by getting in touch with your representative and urging support for the bill, known as HR 1639.

It could be a milestone for cigar regulation. It would constitute legislative recognition of premium cigars for a reason other than taxation and establish an even sharper distinction from cigarettes. As such, it would make it easier, and more likely, for premium cigars to be excluded from future regulations.

Now I know there are smokers who consider it heretical to argue for favoring one form of tobacco over another. They believe that everyone who uses tobacco should be fighting every restriction on every form. Frankly, to me that’s not only impractical; it’s detrimental for cigar smokers.


Cigar Review: Augusto Reyes Urban Robusto

20 Jun 2011

augusto reyes urban 2

Last summer marked a rebirth for Augusto Reyes, a respected cigar maker who traces his Dominican tobacco roots back six generations. It was at the 2010 industry trade show that he premiered two new lines: Signature and Sixth Generation.


Quick Smoke: HC Series Connecticut Shade Robusto

19 Jun 2011

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.”

First, I have to say this is cigar contains some Mexican filler. Second, it’s a bit high-priced—listed at $8.50, though I paid $7. Third, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable, complex smoke. I like the combination of a Connecticut wrapper and fairly powerful filler. With tobacco from five countries, this Robusto (5 x 50) blended by Jesus Fuego for Xikar is smooth, produces a great aroma, and burns wonderfully.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Quick Smoke: Montecristo Platinum Vintage 1999 Robusto

18 Jun 2011

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.”

If you want to experience the taste that many people dislike in Mexican tobacco, this Montecristo will provide a first-rate education. From the initial puff, the double-banded Robusto fills your mouth with the flavor that I can best describe as dry dirt. The best part was an inch or so in the middle, when there was virtually no taste. Then the shoveling began again. If you’re a Mexican tobacco fan, give the Vintage 1999 a try. Otherwise, stay away.

Verdict = Sell.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 243

17 Jun 2011

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

1) The Toraño Family Cigar Company announced this week that it is now the exclusive distributor of the newly formed Sam Leccia Cigar Company. “I have always had great respect and admiration for the Toraño family,” said Leccia, who made his mark on the industry with the creation of Nub in 2008. “Their expertise and history in growing tobacco and manufacturing great cigars is well known. Since their announcement last year whereby they took back control of the distribution of their brands, it’s clear that Toraño is focused on expanding its distribution company and providing tobacconists with the service and cigars they deserve.” Leccia’s first release, “Debut,” will be a blend from Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, and Santo Domingo.

2) It was always unclear how a new Maryland law that criminalizes the shipment of cigars by out-of-state retailers to the state’s residents would be enforced. But now, according to the Baltimore Sun, “Comptroller Peter Franchot says he doesn’t want to enforce the prohibition on Internet sales of premium cigars that took effect May 1…When out-of-state cigar dealers told Maryland customers about the change last month, smokers fired back, bombarding Franchot with emails. The comptroller quickly said he didn’t intend buyers of high-end cigars to fall under the restriction and started talking to legislators about fixing the statute.” The penalty for violation of the law is $50 per package and up to two years in prison.

3) Inside the Industry: Cuba reportedly produced 81.5 million cigars last year, up 8% over 2009. “My Uzi Weighs a Ton” is a new cigar by Drew Estate made at the Joya de Nicaragua factory that will be out for this year’s trade show; its three sizes will retail for $9-12 each. (more…)