Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Alec Bradley Ships Black Market Illicit, Drew Estate Picks New Canadian Distribution Partner, and More

18 Aug 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 542nd in the series.

1) Alec Bradley Cigar Co. is shipping Black Market Illicit—an iteration of the Black Market line—to Tobacconist’s Association of America (TAA) retailers nationwide. According to a press release, Black Market Illicit (6 x 50) includes “a robust Nicaraguan wrapper leaf and flavorful Honduran and Nicaraguan dual binders wrapped around fillers from small-yield farms in Nicaragua.” Alan Rubin, owner of Alec Bradley, said, “This is the first exclusive series cigar Alec Bradley has developed for TAA retailers since we introduced the Prensado Figurado in 2013. We like to describe this iteration of our number one-selling cigar as Black Market ‘on steroids.’” Black Market Illicit is packaged in 22-count boxes and will be sold for $8.75 apiece. Each year, some of the industry’s most revered manufacturers craft an exclusive cigar for TAA members, a group of about 80 retailers who pride themselves on their knowledge and professionalism and work together to develop best practices.

2) This week, so-called “public health” groups filed a reply brief in response to cigar plaintiff opposition to anti-tobacco group intervention into a lawsuit challenging the FDA’s deeming rules implementing regulations over cigars. The anti-tobacco groups want to defend and continue the FDA regulations even if the Trump Administration decides to roll them back. As we noted when the groups first filed their motion, it can be viewed as a positive for those opposed to the FDA regulations, a  prescient view given the FDA’s actions soon after.

3) Inside the Industry: Drew Estate announced on Monday that, effective August 28, Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG) Canada will be its “exclusive distribution partner for both domestic and duty-free premium cigar markets in Canada.” Longueuil, Québec-based STG Canada – a subsidiary of STG International which is also the parent company of General Cigar – replaces House of Horvath as Drew Estate’s Canadian distributor. “We are excited about our partnership with STG Canada, and plan to build on the success that we have enjoyed in this tough market over the past few years,” said Alex Goldman, vice president of international business development for Drew Estate.

4) From the Archives:  If you’ve ever been tempted to save money and try a cheap, machine-rolled cigar in place of a premium stick, at least do so forewarned. Our “review” of a Dutch Masters Corona De Luxe might make you rethink the value of spending less.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, wine, workout gear, coffee kits, and more) delivered for just $45. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Alec Bradley

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Illusione Garagiste Gordo

16 Aug 2017

Garagiste winemakers (sometimes referred to as “super-cuvée” or “microchâteau”) are primarily associated with the Bordeaux region and known for super small-batch wine production and a style which is bold, fruit-forward, and tannic. Although Dion Giolito‘s Illusione Cigars is no longer among the smallest producers of cigars, the brand has long been associated with the boutique cigar movement, which makes the name of this Illusione line fitting. (It also isn’t the first Illusione cigar with a name associated with wine; Epernay is the region of France best known for producing Champagne.)

One of multiple new Illusione cigars made available for the first time at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show (in addition to a looming FDA deadline, it was also Illusione’s 10th Anniversary), Garagiste is the first Illusione cigar to feature an Ecuadorian wrapper. In materials distributed to retailers last year, Garagiste was described as follows:

“Garagiste is a medium- to full-bodied cigar concentrating on the combination of two tobaccos: Viso Corojo, and Viso Criollo from a specific farm from Aganorsa fields. Sweet and spice are the focal efforts of this cigar. Garagiste is finished with an Ecuador Habano wrapper that has been put through final fermentation techniques at TABSA in Estelí, Nicaragua.”

The line comes in four sizes (Short Robusto, Robusto, Toro, and Gordo) with suggested retail prices ranging from $8 to $12. I smoked four of the Gordos (6 x 56) for this review. Each featured a notably oily, shiny wrapper and pre-light notes of leather.

The cigar starts out very full-bodied with lots of leather and earth notes, along with some black pepper spice. An inch or so in, it dials back to a medium- to full-bodied, balanced profile as some sweetness emerges in the form of burnt sugar combined with bread and oak.

The cigar mostly features a clean, balanced finish, although occasionally graphite-like tannic notes emerge. Construction was excellent start to finish, with the densely packed cigar drawing flawlessly and producing an even burn trailed by a sturdy multi-gray ash.

Garagiste is a bit of a departure for Illusione and not just since it is the first Habano wrapper to be featured on an Illusione cigar. It’s a cigar with some sneaky strength, especially in the first third, though it also features the promised sweetness and spice.

Although it isn’t my favorite Illusione cigar (that high bar is set by the original 2010 Singulare) or even my second or third favorite, the Illusione Garagiste Gordo is another welcome addition to the impressive Illusione family. It earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Curivari Buenaventura BV 500

14 Aug 2017

For years, my colleague has praised the Buenaventura line by Curivari as not only an excellent smoke, but an excellent value. The cigars—which sport a classic, Cubanesque presentation and have been well-reviewed at StogieGuys.com on numerous occasions—retail for about $5 each. That’s a very refreshing price point in today’s market.

Curivari has also adopted the consumer-friendly practice of selling its Buenaventura cigars in ten-count boxes. This is, as far as I’m concerned, a policy more cigar makers should seriously consider. It makes the commitment to buy a box (both financially and simply as a matter of confidence you’ll enjoy it) much easier.

The BV 500 (5.25 x 50) is one of three original Buenaventura vitolas released in 2012—the others being BV 560 (5 x 60) and BV 600 (6 x 60). Since, Curivari has expanded the line with new formats, including D7 (5.5 x 52), Mini BV (3.5 x 50), Petit BV (4.25 x 54), and Picadores 52 (6 x 52). All are Nicaraguan puros.

I picked up three BV 500s at my local tobacconist for $4.90 apiece (not including taxes). If, like me, you’re a fan of the old school Cuban presentation, you’ll love the way this cigar looks dressed in its simple, understated band. The Nicaraguan wrapper is clean, smooth, and incredibly oily, though don’t be surprised if you encounter a harmless watermark or two. The slight box press gives the spongy cigar an oval shape. Pre-light, I find only the faintest notes of sweet hay and honey at the foot. The expertly applied cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw.

After setting an even light, I find a medium-bodied profile of cedar, rye, cashew, caramel, and a bit of sweet cream. The texture is bready. The finish has black pepper, cereals, and some leather. As it progresses toward the midway point and beyond, the flavor can best be characterized as a core of dry wood and toasty bread with background notes ranging from milk chocolate and dried fruit to syrup and cherry. The final third is much the same and, thankfully, the tasty, well-balanced smoke stays cool throughout.

Construction is impeccable, especially for a sub-$5 cigar. All three of my samples exhibited set-it-and-forget-it burns, solid ashes, clear draws, and bountiful smoke production. Notably, I find the sharp black mascara of the burn line to be quite beautiful set against the oily wrapper.

There’s a lot to love from the Buenaventura BV 500. Great flavors, classic presentation, affordability, solid combustion properties. It may not be the most complex cigar on the market, but it’s surely one of the best values. For that, I award this Curivari creation a score of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Intemperance EC XVIII Charity Petito

13 Aug 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.”

This petite corona is one of five blends in RoMa Craft Tobac’s El Catador de Las Petite Coronas sampler box (featuring two each of the company’s five core blends in a four-inch, 46-ring gauge format). The cigar also sells by itself in boxes of 30. Made with an Ecuadorian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and filler from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, it is a rich, medium-bodied smoke that goes well with a strong cup of coffee. Cedar, cream, toast, and light pepper spice dominate the 30-minute smoke. With excellent construction and balanced flavors, it’s easy to recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Galera Chaveta Maduro

12 Aug 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.”

I don’t smoke a lot of maduros, but once in a while those coffee and cocoa flavors tempt me. I liked the Habano La Galera, so I thought I’d try the Maduro. I was cautious from the start in light of the Mexican San Andrés wrapper; I usually dislike this tobacco’s dirt-like taste, but there have been exceptions, and I hoped this would be another one. It wasn’t. The low-priced robusto (5 x 50, under $6) also had an unpleasant sharpness from the start and never developed into anything else. Construction and performance were fine. If you’re a big San Andrés fan, you might want to pick one up. Otherwise, I recommend leaving it on the shelf.

Verdict = Sell.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: FDA Warning Label Deadline, Boutique Association Launched, and More

11 Aug 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 542nd in the series.

1) In a Facebook post last weekend, Dr. Gabie Kafie of 1901 Cigars announced his intention to form the Boutique Cigar Association of America (BCAA). The new trade organization will focus on representing companies that make 500,000 or fewer cigars per year. The board of directors will be selected soon. According to the group’s Facebook page, the BCAA will be “about all the family-owned cigar brands and all the retailers and customers that love such brands. We need to organize, educate, and create further awareness moving forward. As small cigar producers, a lot of us don’t have the finances or the means to get the critical information needed to protect our interests (especially in dealing with the FDA). This will be a coalition of likeminded individuals for the betterment of our entire industry.”

2) Although two weeks ago the FDA announced a major delay in implementation of their deeming rule for cigars, not all deadlines were pushed back. For example, yesterday warning label plans were due to the FDA. Cigar makers were required to tell the agency their plans for complying with FDA requirements for rotating mandated health warning statements. The warning label requirements were challenged in lawsuits filed against the FDA regarding the rule, although those cases were recently stayed.

3) Inside the Industry: New York City officials passed a series of anti-tobacco bills recently, including one setting minimum prices for cigars. Before any taxes are added, retailers must charge $8 per cigar when sold individually, while a formula creates a minimum box price that is roughly $40 for a box of 20. City taxes were also increased to 10% of retail price (at least $0.80 per cigar).

4) From the Archives: With the recent news that another of Tampa’s long-shuttered cigar factories is up for sale, it’s a reminder that you can still see quite a bit of history if you visit Cigar City. About two dozen of the buildings that housed cigar factories survive, though J.C. Newman’s El Reloj is the only one remaining that functions as a cigar factory. Check out our guide to Tampa from a couple of years ago.

5) Deal of the Week: For today only, here are 100 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Davidoff, Drew Estate, and more. Free shipping is included on any purchase. If you really want to stock up, add promo code “GBP20D” at checkout to knock $20 off an order of $150 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: BCAA

Cigar Spirits: Foursquare Triptych and 2004 Single Blended Rums

9 Aug 2017

When it comes to variety of styles, rum gives whiskey a run for its money. Dark rum, aged rum, spiced rum, overproof rum, flavored rum… Besides being distilled from sugarcane or sugarcane derivatives, there are few rules when it comes to rum.

The downside is many rums, even higher-end rums, take advantage of the lax rules to add sugar or caramel color. This creates a sweetness many identify with premium rum. Such rums may be enjoyable to sip, but they’re hardly the only style of premium rum.

Foursquare Distillery’s Richard Seale is on a mission to clear up some of the confusion inherent in the category and give rum drinkers a better way to determine what exactly they are sipping. He’s even proposed new sub-categories of rum to achieve it.

Meanwhile, Seale makes some excellent rums, all free of any additives; he only employs rum and barrel time. He’s also not shy about revealing the details of exactly what’s in the rum and what types of barrels were used to make it. While some premium rums obfuscate about how long they were aged or how much sugar has been added, his approach is a breath of fresh air.

Today I look at two rums I recently picked up from the Barbados Foursquare Distillery. Both are barrel-proof and, while not impossible to find, will take some searching to locate.

Foursquare 2004 Single Blended Rum (Exceptional Cask Selection, Mark III)

As the label makes clear, this rum was distilled in 2004 in both pot and column stills then aged in used bourbon barrels for eleven years before being bottled at a hearty 59% alcohol by volume. Foursquare also makes a port cask- and zinfandel cask-finished version of the 2004 vintage rum. So, if you buy it, be sure to differentiate between them. Expect to pay between $60 and $80 for this bottle.

The nose of this amber-hued rum is surprisingly restrained with wood, vanilla, and molasses notes. On the palate, it’s a bold combination of tropical fruit, cocoa, leather, candied almonds, and butterscotch. The finish shows off more vanilla and fruit along with some barrel char.

Foursquare Triptych Single Blended Rum

Foursquare’s Triptych blends 2004 rum aged in used bourbon casks (presumably the same as in the 2004 Exceptional Cask) with 2005 distilled rum aged in ex-Madeira casks and 2007 rum aged in virgin oak. The use of virgin oak is unusual for rum, and the combination, once blended, is bottled without dilution at 56% alcohol by volume. Expect to pay $120 or more for this rum, which is limited to just 5,400 total bottles.

The result is a deep copper-colored rum with a lively nose of vanilla, wood spice, and just a bit of sulfur. On the palate, it features powdered cocoa, roasted cashew, bananas foster, leather, and molasses. The finish lingers with charred oak and more molasses.

Each is an excellent rum and a testimony to how flavorful, complex, and smooth rum can be without any added sugars. Also remarkable is how sippable they are neat despite the high proof. The prices aren’t cheap, especially the Triptych, but if you enjoy rum neat these are must-tries.

Good rum always pairs nicely with cigars, and these are no exception. The high proof and full flavor lend themselves to an earthy, full-bodied cigar like the Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu, Sobremesa, or Intemperance BA.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys