Archive | January, 2017

News: Regulatory ‘Game Changer’ Creates New Opening to Repeal FDA Cigar Rules

30 Jan 2017


Almost certainly, the timing of the FDA’s long-awaited deeming rule regulating cigars was influenced by a law passed two decades earlier called the Congressional Review Act. That legislation has long been interpreted to allow Congress to overturn agency rules and regulations within 60 legislative days of their enactment.

The Review Act works like this: If simple majorities of both the House and Senate vote in favor of a resolution to overturn an agency regulation, it then goes to the president’s desk. Unless the president vetoes the resolution, the regulation is not only overturned, but the agency is barred from enacting a similar rule again unless Congress specifically authorizes it to do so.

Because of the way the Congressional legislative calendar works, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the rule on May 10, 2016, the 60 legislative days were then guaranteed to pass in a way where even if Congress used the Congressional Review Act to attempt to overturn the regulation, such an action would land on President Obama’s desk. Given that the Obama Administration had initiated the new rule and that Obama had signed the Tobacco Control Act into law that authorized the cigar rules, a veto was guaranteed.

Had the FDA waited until later (June 13 turned out to be the cutoff, although the exact date wasn’t known until later), the Congressional Review Act action might have ended up on the next president’s desk. Thus, by getting the cigar deeming rule published in early May 2016, it appeared it was insulated from being overturned by the Congressional Review Act by a waiting Obama veto threat.

However, as detailed in a Wall Street Journal article published last week, one of the original drafters of the Congressional Review Act says that’s not how the 60-day clock was intended to work and, in fact, numerous regulations going back years could still be overturned using the Congressional Review Act:

Here’s how it works: It turns out that the first line of the CRA requires any federal agency promulgating a rule to submit a “report” on it to the House and Senate. The 60-day clock starts either when the rule is published or when Congress receives the report—whichever comes later.

“There was always intended to be consequences if agencies didn’t deliver these reports,” Mr. Gaziano [who was involved in drafting and passing the law] tells me. “And while some Obama agencies may have been better at sending reports, others, through incompetence or spite, likely didn’t.” Bottom line: There are rules for which there are no reports. And if the Trump administration were now to submit those reports—for rules implemented long ago—Congress would be free to vote the regulations down.

There’s more. It turns out the CRA has a expansive definition of what counts as a “rule”—and it isn’t limited to those published in the Federal Register. The CRA also applies to “guidance” that agencies issue.

If this interpretation of the Congressional Review Act is correct, could it be used to repeal the FDA’s cigar rules? Opponents of the regualtuons say they are looking into the possibility. Inquiries to the FDA’s media office were directed to the agency’s Freedom of Information Act contact, but the FDA’s Tobacco Products’ page listing reports to Congress shows no reports on implementation of the Tobacco Control Act since 2013. (Even if a timely report was submitted, guidance documents necessary for enforcing the FDA cigar rules could still be challenged under Gaziano’s interpretation.)

For opponents of the FDA’s cigar regulations, the benefits of this line of attack are two-fold. First, it would eliminate the Senate filibuster as a means of stopping Congress from sending the repeal to President Trump. And second, unlike new agency rule-making to undo the regulation, using the Congressional Review Act would bar the FDA from reissuing the rule (or something similar under a different administration).

Of course, it’s hardly a given that the Republicans in Congress will try this strategy, which even its proponents admit is “aggressive” and would require significant “intestinal fortitude.” Still, an alternative pathway to permanent repeal of the FDA cigar rules has presented itself, if those who say they oppose out-of-control regulation are willing to back up their words with actions.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Charter Oak CT Shade Rothchild

29 Jan 2017

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.”

Charter-Oak-CT-Shade - 1

In 2016, Nicholas Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Co. expanded beyond its debut offering. Of the new releases, most of the attention (predictably, given Melillo’s history with Drew Estate) was paid to the Broadleaf-wrapped offerings, particularly the premium-priced Tabernacle. More under-the-radar was the Connecticut shade-wrapped version of the value-oriented Charter Oak brand. The Rothchild (4.5 x 50) features classic medium-bodied flavors with cream and roasted notes. Maybe not the most complex cigar, but it’s well-constructed, balanced, and priced right ($4.50).

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Winston Churchill Robusto

28 Jan 2017

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.”


Revamped a couple years ago, the Winston Churchill brand from Davidoff proudly announces itself with the company name and an iconic image of the British statesman on its white band. At 5.25 inches long with a ring gauge of 52, the Robusto is a bit larger than the typical robusto. And it is packed with flavor. It begins with cedar, pepper, and an earthy undertone. Some of the typical Davidoff “grass” floats in and out along the way, as does a dark coffee flavor. The blend combines a brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Mexican binder, and filler leaves from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. At $16.50, it’s not likely to be an everyday smoke for many, but if you’re looking for a medium-strength treat, pick one up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: New Cigars from Toraño, Renewed Calls for Cigar Rights Action, and More

27 Jan 2017

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 515th in the series.

Vault Blue

1) General Cigar has hired Jack Toraño as a full-time ambassador for the Toraño brand, as well as announced two new lines under the Toraño Vault umbrella. “Jack began working with us last year to develop Toraño at retail and has made great strides in generating excitement for the brand,” said Régis Broersma, president of General Cigar, in a press release. “We are pleased to have him as a full-time member of our marketing team and look forward to working with him to deepen retailer and consumer engagement around this important brand.” Jack Toraño will report to Ed McKenna, director of marketing strategy, and his roles will include “hosting events in strategic markets, sharing the history of Toraño cigars, and presenting the brand portfolio.” That Toraño brand portfolio is expanding to include the Ecuadorian Sumatra-wrapped E-021 and Jalapa-wrapped W-009, two new lines in the Toraño Vault collection. Each will come in two sizes with per-cigar prices ranging from $5.49 to $6.49. Back in 2014, General Cigar acquired the brands associated with the Toraño Family Cigar Company. The move came four years after Toraño re-launched itself in 2010—taking back control of its own distribution from a conglomerate that housed Toraño under the same roof as General Cigar and CAO.

2) Yesterday, Glynn Loope, executive director of Cigar Rights of America (CRA), posted a video on Facebook from the U.S. Capitol proclaiming his mission to recruit new co-sponsors of legislation that would protect premium handmade cigars from FDA regulation. Now, with a “new Congress, new administration, and a new regulatory environment,” Loope has committed to “totally revisiting this subject top to bottom,” and he is imploring dedicated cigar enthusiasts to visit the CRA website and contact their representatives in support of these important efforts at this crucial time.

3) Congressional Republicans target Washington’s rule by bureaucrat. But will this include a roll-back of the FDA’s handmade cigar rules? “Washington’s many agencies, bureaus, and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms. Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it. In President Obama’s final year the Federal Register hit 97,110 pages—longer by nearly 18,000 pages, or 15 King James Bibles, than in 2008. Federal regulations cost the American people about $1.89 trillion every year, according to an estimate by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. That’s more than 10% of GDP, or roughly $15,000 per American household.” Read more here.

4) In case you missed it, the last two months have been news-filled for Booker’s Bourbon, a favorite for its bold, barrel-proof flavors. As explained by veteran bourbon journalist Chuck Cowdery, Booker’s maker Beam announced, then backed off, a nearly 100% price hike.

5) From the Archives: Speaking of Booker’s, twice it has been featured on this website. First in 2011, Patrick A gave his take. Later, Patrick S checked out the first batch released in 2015.

6) Deal of the Week: Seven sizes of Steve Saka’s Mi Querida are back in stock at Smoke Inn. Plus, use the code “StogieDeal” at checkout to land a free triple-flame butane lighter.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar

Cigar Review: EO 601 La Bomba Sake Bomb

25 Jan 2017

Sake Bomb Box 1

With this addition to his popular La Bomba line, Erik Espinosa went small in size and big in impact. While all La Bomba cigars hit hard, this petit corona connects with a wallop.

Like its siblings, the Sake Bomb is a Nicaraguan puro, including a Habano wrapper. The Sake Bomb blend is said to have been tweaked to increase the strength. It sports the line’s trademark long fuse and a bright yellow foot band.

For those who like a high-powered smoke and find yourself suffering these days through the cold to enjoy a cigar, the Sake Bomb is certainly a cigar to consider. The length is only 4.5 inches and the ring gauge is 42. The MSRP is $6.75, though they’re often priced considerably lower online by the box of 10.

While it is the strength that stands out in this small cigar, the Sake Bomb offers more complexity than you might anticipate

Pepper and spice make an aggressive appearance—make that an extremely aggressive appearance—at the start. And they tend to linger on the finish as well. After an inch or so, the pepper becomes a little less persistent, and I found flavors of nutmeg and dark, strong coffee mixed in.

In the final third, the strength seems to ramp up as a tobacco sweetness comes to the fore.

Both the draw and combustion on those I’ve smoked have been excellent. It also burns slowly and produces a lot of smoke.

I’ve had quite a few, though by no means all, of the ever-expanding La Bomba line. And I enjoyed each of them. However, this little explosive device may be my favorite. It definitely knocks you around but not for so long that you’re exhausted by the experience.

I raise my glass to the Sake Bomb and give it a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Dunhill Signed Range Selección Suprema

23 Jan 2017


Dunhill may not be the sexiest brand on the market. Owned by British American Tobacco and made and distributed by General Cigar Co., you could argue Dunhill is somewhat neglected by the online cigar community, gets lost in General’s portfolio of more visible brands, and hasn’t lived up to its rich legacy.

Signed Range SS DunhillThat legacy pre-dates the communist takeover of Cuba, when the Dunhill shop in London had exclusive marketing and distribution agreements with various Cuban cigar makers, including Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, and Partagas. Since then, Dunhill has bounced around with cigars by Toraño and Altadis, finally settling under the General Cigar umbrella.

In 2015, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its Selección Suprema series (which kicked off in 1935 with a cigar called Don Candido), Dunhill released a special limited edition cigar called Signed Range Selección Suprema. Only 20,000 total cigars were made in a single vitola, a toro (6 x 50); they are packaged in display-friendly boxes of 8 and retail for $20 apiece.

Signed Range Selección Suprema is made at the General Cigar Dominicana factory with a Nicaraguan Jalapa wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua (Estelí and Jalapa) and Brazil (Mata Fina). It sports three bands of black and metallic bronze, including one at the foot. Underneath is a mottled, oily leaf that’s traversed by a network of thin veins. The pre-light notes at the foot are subtle and characterized by hints of honey and sawdust. The cap clips easily to reveal and smooth cold draw.

Once an even light is set, the preliminary flavor is a medium-bodied combination of leather, damp earth, salted caramel, and oak. The texture is buttery and the resting smoke gives off a creamy sweetness that is, frankly, much more enticing than the actual flavor, which I find a little flat.

Things pick up nicely after a half-inch or so, however. That’s where the smoke production kicks into gear and the taste becomes mouth-wateringly velvety and balanced. The damp earth takes a back seat to more intense flavors of gentle spice, citrus, and sugar. This profile remains mostly consistent throughout, save for the additions of coffee and dark chocolate in the finale.

As I’ve come to expect from General Cigar—and as everyone should expect from any cigar with a super-premium price tag—the cigar has exquisite construction. The burn line is excellent, the draw easy, the smoke production good, and the ash is well-behaved and finely layered.

While I’ll admit I don’t smoke many Dunhills, I can easily say this is the best I’ve had. Sure, it’s also the most expensive. Price aside, though, you can’t deny this toro’s complexity and balance. If you decide to pony up the cash, you won’t be disappointed. The Dunhill Signed Range Selección Suprema earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive

22 Jan 2017

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.”

Herrera 1

This is a cigar I’ve wanted to try long before it was for sale or even announced. The combination of Herrera Estelí with a Broadleaf wrapper from the Liga No. 9 that made Drew Estate’s name among premium cigar smokers seems like an obvious win. Finally, last year such a blend was released as a limited edition available only to members of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA). The well-constructed toro features a tasty medium- to full-bodied combination of dry, bittersweet chocolate, toasted wood, coffee, and light spice.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys