Archive | April, 2016

Quick Smoke: Diamond Crown Julius Caeser Pyramid

30 Apr 2016

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.”

JC

Released to celebrate J.C. Newman’s founder, this Diamond Crown extension is a medium-strength, tasty cigar. Few details are released—the smooth, oily wrapper is labeled Ecuadorian Havana-seed and the other tobaccos called simply Central American. My guess—based on spices reminiscent of some Opus smokes—is a high proportion of Dominican filler. Like all Diamond Crowns, the Julius Caeser carries a high price tag. The Pyramid (6.5 x 52) retails between $16 and $20. I thoroughly enjoyed it with one caveat: The draw was a bit constricted and smoke production a little limited. But I would say this is one to consider when you want a celebratory stick.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 477

29 Apr 2016

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.

Powerbrand Camacho

1) Camacho yesterday announced a new line called Powerbrand, which will reside under its Master-Built Series. It is billed as an “intense, adrenaline-fueled cigar experience inspired by the power, performance, and acceleration associated with a classic V-twin engine, built to galvanize a brotherhood of freedom seekers.” The Powerbrand recipe includes a Habano 2000 wrapper from Ecuador, a San Andrés binder, and (predominantly Ligero) filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Three sizes will be available—Robusto, Toro, and Gordo—in the $11-13 range. Shipments to the U.S. will begin Monday, June 13. Oettinger Davidoff, Camacho’s parent, yesterday also reported strong cigar sales in 2015. “Against the backdrop of a declining market, both core brands, Davidoff and Camacho, reported gratifying double-digit growth of 10.5% and 34.4%, respectively,” according to a press release. “In addition, Oettinger Davidoff achieved a production record for the third consecutive time: It produced a grand total of 45.8 million cigars (previous year: 44.0 million) in 2015, an increase of 4.1%.”

2) Omar de Frias’ Fratello Cigars is shipping the “Fratello Branded Tray” to select retailers starting in May. “This tray combines the power of engineering with functionality and style,” said de Frais in a press release. “Cutting the total Fratello shelve space by 30% while increasing our cigar output by 10% was one of our main goals.” Contrary to an earlier announcement, the trays will not include a secret compartment. This is the second year Fratello is launching a special retailer tray; last year the company shipped 125 trays.

3) Inside the Industry: Miami native Eddy Guerra has been named director of marketing for Gurkha Cigars. He was previously a partner at the Thailand-based ChindAsia Capital Partners, which grew to become the largest distributor of non-Cuban cigars in Southeast Asia. “I met Eddy Guerra in Thailand, and we quickly became friends,” said Gurkha president Kaizad Hansaotia in a press release. “His knowledge about cigars and marketing acumen make him a tremendous asset to the Gurkha team. I look forward to a long and prosperous working relationship with Guerra.”

4) From the Archives: Summer is the season for travel, and it’s just around the corner. If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip to Paris, be sure to read the Stogie Guys cigar guide to the City of Lights. You’ll find advice on where to buy and where to light up.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Past boxes include barbecue accessories, shaving kits, coffee, and exclusive cigars from E.P. Carrillo. You can skip or purchase every month (or select a different box). This month’s options include a serious upgrade to your cocktail accessories, a kit for making barrel-aged cocktails, kits that include everything you need (but the booze) for an authentic Moscow mule or mint julep, and others. Click here to sign up today.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff

Cigar Review: Hoyo by Hoyo de Monterrey Robusto

27 Apr 2016

Long a General Cigar staple, Hoyo de Monterrey is the latest offering to receive a makeover. This time, the overhaul comes via a new line inspired by an earlier limited edition. The cigar even sports a different, shorter name—simply Hoyo—and, as you’d expect, modern bands, boxes, and promotion.

HoyoInterestingly, the new Hoyo was touted in a press release by General’s vice president of marketing, Alan Willner, rather than a cigar blender.

Hoyo is being offered to tobacconists in four sizes: Rothschild (4.5 x 50), Robusto (5 x 54), Toro (6 x 50), and Gigante (6 x 60). For this review, General provided me with a five-pack of the Robustos, which carry an individual MSRP of $6.59.

The tobaccos used in Hoyo reflect the blend from last year’s Hoyo Edición de Cumpleaños 150 limited edition that celebrated the 150th anniversary of the original Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey.

That cigar features a proprietary wrapper leaf called Estelí Habano Shade, which has been fermented longer and applied to the new Hoyo. It is thick and oily with little pre-light aroma. Under an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder is a filler mix of Pennsylvania ligero along with Nicaraguan tobacco from Estelí and Ometepe.

I found excellent construction, draw, and burn in each of the samples. Smoke production was top-flight. The cigars are densely packed, and a slow burn makes the fat Robusto last longer than many larger cigars.

For me, there’s often a fine line between peppery and harsh. Sometimes it shows up in a back-of-the-throat bite, sometimes in a lingering, coarse finish. With the Hoyo Robusto, it seems to show up in both, especially during the first inch or so.

The harshness backs down somewhat in the second half, with burned coffee and tobacco sweetness coming to the fore. Overall, though, there isn’t much development throughout the five-inch smoke.

While it’s nice to see a major cigar maker reexamine long-time brands, it can sometimes feel like they’re trying too hard to emulate their boutique competitors. With Hoyo, General has produced a perfectly acceptable cigar, but one that seems a bit heavier on the sizzle than on the steak.

On the other hand, with its reasonable price and excellent combustion properties that are characteristic of General Cigar, I’d recommend giving it a try. As for rating, I give the Hoyo Robusto three stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Black Label Trading Company NBK

25 Apr 2016

20160424_035117376_iOS

In November, Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) creator James Brown announced a new “small-batch cigar line” called Black Works Studio. “Part of the motivation for opening our own factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra, was to experiment and develop unique blends highlighting Nicaraguan tobacco,” said Brown. “Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) is my first opportunity to use our factory as my playground. Blending cigars is my passion and I ended up with several blends and ideas on the shelf [so] the time was right to launch a new brand.”

NBKFor the uninitiated, BLTC’s core lines include Salvation, Lawless, Royalty, Redemption, Benediction, and Last Rites. “Our attitude re-thinks standards for cigar making, and caters to cigar lovers and aficionados tired of a mainstream, mass-produced approach to cigar making,” reads the BLTC website.

In late 2015, BLK WKS added three cigars to the BLTC portfolio: Killer Bee (4.5 x 46), an Ecuador Maduro-wrapped petite corona; Rorschach (5 x 38), an Ecuador Habano-wrapped petite panatela; and NBK (6 x 46), an Ecuador Habano Oscuro-wrapped corona larga.

The latter is a dark, reddish cigar with a soft box-press and a closed foot. The size is right up my alley (three cheers to BLK WKS for keeping all of the ring gauges under 50) and the uniformity of the wrapper’s color, tight seams, and minimal veins make this a very appealing smoke. The well-constructed cap clips cleanly to yield an ultra-easy cold draw, and the pre-light notes are sweet and chocolaty.

Once lit, I am immediately struck by the powdery nature of the texture of the smoke. While the smoke is undoubtedly cool, airy, and light, that certainly doesn’t mean the flavor is lacking in any way. Right off the bat, the profile has balanced, complex notes of cocoa powder, coffee, roasted nuts, and black pepper spice. Impressive and highly enjoyable.

As it progresses, NBK tends to favor its most delicious taste—roasted nuts—while the spice mellows and a delightful creaminess emerges. Then, at the midway point and into the finale, the pepper picks back up while coffee and chocolate takes center stage. The body is decidedly medium throughout.

The three samples I smoked for this review (each provided by BLTC) all performed admirably in the construction department. Each had a solid while ash, voluminous smoke production, a clear draw, and a well-behaved burn line that only required a slight touch-up here and there.

NBK delivers on its $9 MSRP, and then some. I’m enamored with the flavors, I love the size, and I have no complaints about the presentation or physical properties. That’s why, in my book, this gem from BLTC earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Quesada Sons of Freedom Maduro Torpedo (Casa de Montecristo Exclusive)

23 Apr 2016

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.”

20160422_032725000_iOS

This dark Dominican from Quesada is exclusive to Casa de Montecristo, a three-location tobacconist in Chicago with a new retail website. With an ash that holds incredibly well and a razor-sharp burn, the Torpedo (6 x 52) boasts some of the best combustion qualities you’ll ever find. The profile is medium-bodied with ample cedar spice coupled with tea, damp earth, and a little candied pecan sweetness. Strength and complexity increase at the midway point and beyond. At $5.50 for a single, you can’t go wrong.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 476

22 Apr 2016

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.

JDB2

1) On Tuesday, Jonathan Drew announced the first three products from his new venture called John Drew Brands (JDB). “The movement that began on the production floor in Nicaragua changed premium cigars forever. From a broken down little green house with five employees to the second largest premium cigar maker in the world, we did it together,” reads the new JDB website. “Today, Jonathan Drew announces his transition to the distillery floor. You may recognize him as JD, Dizzle, SNACKi, Vale Verga—but if you know JD at all, you understand his creative mind, loving heart, and dedication to quality.” For now, JDB will be focused on rum and whiskey. The three inaugural brands will be Brixton Mash Destroyer, Dove Tale Rum, and John Drew Rye. “JD might just be the Bo Jackson of the cigar and spirits industries,” said Michael Cellucci in a press release. “His passion and commitment for the Drew Estate Cigar Company remains 100% intact with no plan to disengage. I have full confidence in his team’s ability to develop a legacy in the spirits world as well.” Swisher International, Inc.—the largest cigar company in the world by volume—acquired Drew Estate in 2014.

2) Cigar Insider reports the U.S. imported 315 million premium cigars last year, up 2.3 percent over the previous year. The Dominican Republic remains America’s largest supplier at just over 126 million cigars, followed closely by Nicaragua at 119 million. Honduras trails at about 68 million. These numbers represent shipments of cigars, not sales, and they do not include the illicit importation of Cuban cigars.

3) Inside the Industry: This week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill to extend the state’s 50-cent-per-cigar tax cap for five years. The state taxes tobacco products at 32% of the wholesale price, but a previous bill limited that to 50 cents per cigar to enable the state’s tobacconists to compete. The previous cap was set to expire in October, which would have resulted in many taxes on cigars doubling (or more) overnight.

4) From the Archives: Mold is a serious threat to your cigars. As temperatures heat up, the risk of mold increases too. Back in 2008, we covered the basics of mold: how to prevent it, how to differentiate it from plume, and what to do if you find it. Eight years later, it is still worth a read.

5) Deal of the Week: Smoke Inn’s newest exclusive Microblend series cigar, the Smoke Inn 20th Anniversary by Davidoff, is available for pre-sale. The Belicoso (6 x 52) features a Connecticut Ecuadorian “Rojiza” wrapper over a complex blend of Dominican binder and filler tobaccos.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: John Drew Brands

News: Three Under-the-Radar Attacks on Cigars

20 Apr 2016

facebookbanned

If you read StogieGuys.com regularly, you’re aware of the danger the seemingly imminent FDA regulation of cigars poses. While we’re proud to have covered this issue in more depth and longer than any other media outlet, the FDA is hardly the only threat cigars face.

Taxes and smoking bans are two other prominent attacks on cigar rights, but even adding those doesn’t encompass the full scale of the multi-front attack on cigar freedom. To that end, here are three under-the-radar attacks on the freedom to smoke cigars.

Limitations on Shipping Cigars

Last year, FedEx announced they would no longer be allowing cigars to be shipped as of the beginning of 2016.  The company cited the “complex regulatory environment” as part of the reason for its decision to cease shipments. Although consumers are unlikely to notice the change since FedEx had been used mostly by manufacturers and distributors to ship cigars to retailers, the change is part of a larger trend that is cutting off legal business from using the necessary tools of commerce.

The same “regulatory environment” that led FedEx to stop shipments is likely to spread with UPS being the next likely target. FedEx faced a massive lawsuit from the state of New York for shipping untaxed cigarettes into the state, even though the company has no way of knowing the contents of the millions of packages it transports every day. UPS is currently facing a similar lawsuit. We’ve heard UPS has attempted to refuse to open accounts with new cigar businesses. While so far these are isolated incidents, if the shipment of cigars were left solely to the hands of the United States Postal Service, it would drive up the cost of business, not to mention leave legal cigar shipments entirely in the hands of a federal bureaucracy influenced more by the whims of politics than the motivation to satisfy customer’s needs.

Restricting Cigar Business Access to Banking and Credit Services

Starting in 2013, the Department of Justice began an initiative called Operation Choke Point with the goal of cutting off financial services to “high-risk businesses” for fraud. But critics have said Choke Point has been used to target many legal businesses deemed undesirable by the current administration, which includes tobacco retailers.

Multiple cigar retailers have already been dropped by their credit card processors or banks, according to the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR). And a Department of Justice list, since taken down from its website, lists “tobacco sales” as one of the targeted businesses. Running a business without access to reputable banking and credit card services is impossible in today’s environment. Already, cigar retailers have had longstanding relationships severed, the effect of which is a hidden tax that drives up the cost of transactions involving completely legal cigar purchases.

Crackdown on Cigar Groups on Social Media

On Monday, multiple cigar groups on Facebook were shut down. The move was the result of sweeping action by Facebook that shuttered numerous private groups involving cigars, beer, whiskey, and other alcohol. Facebook is a private company and can allow or ban whatever it wants. But it isn’t a stretch to suspect something more is behind the move, especially considering there are any number of ugly and hateful things posted by users on the social media giant’s platform.

In many of those cigar and booze groups, sales and trades were taking place. Facebook’s terms of service note that activity involving tobacco and alcohol must be age-restricted and specific users are responsible for following all applicable laws. Even though surely many transactions were initiated in these groups that weren’t in full compliance with the law, the response wasn’t to ban specific users but to eliminate entire groups with thousands of users. Federal law generally protects internet companies from being held responsible for the postings of its users (otherwise Facebook, Twitter, or even any blog with a large number of comments could be sued out of existence). But likely either in anticipation of, or in direct response to, threats that it would be held responsible by authorities for any such activities, Facebook simply eliminated targeted groups.

Patrick S

photo credit: YouTube.com