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Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 481

27 May 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.

FSG Tobacco

1) Two years ago, StogieGuys.com broke the news that, for the first time since 1977, long-filler cigar tobacco was being grown in Florida. Jeff Borysiewicz (pictured above), owner of the Orlando-area Corona Cigar stores and a partner in the Sindicato cigar company, began growing tobacco on land he had purchased—out of love of the leaf, and to avoid paying residential taxes on the land, which is outside Orlando. At the time, while we learned Drew Estate had been selected as Borysiewicz’s partner in the endeavor, it was unclear exactly how the tobacco would be used. This week we learned it will be included in a new blend from Drew Estate aptly called Florida Sun Grown (FSG). The Floridian tobacco joins Nicaraguan leaves as a component of the filler; the binder is Mexican and the wrapper Brazilian. Five vitolas—including a limited edition Trunk-Pressed Toro (6 x 54)—will retail in the $11.50-$15 range. “This has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life,” said Borysiewicz. “Tobacco growing is just as much an art as it is a science, and growing tobacco in this area of Florida was totally uncharted territory. It took a lot of trial and error to get it to where it is today, but we couldn’t be happier with the way it’s smoking.” FSG will be exclusively available at Corona Cigar starting in June.

2) On the heels of thawing relations between Washington and Havana, Cuba’s government has announced the decriminalization of small- to medium-sized private businesses. “Cuban business owners and economic experts said they were hopeful the reform would allow private firms to import wholesale supplies and export products to other countries for the first time, removing a major obstacle to private business growth,” reports ABC news. “While the government offered no immediate further details, the new business categories appear to be the next stage in reforms initiated by President Raúl Castro after he took over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2008.”

3) Inside the Industry: Paul Joyal’s Ocean State Cigars announced the addition of a box-pressed 5 1/2 inch by 54 RG Double Robusto to the J. Grotto Anniversary line. The cigar utilizes a Connecticut-grown broadleaf, Dominican-grown Habano binder and undisclosed “other Central American tobaccos” for the filler. The Anniversary line is blended and manufactured by Phil Zanghi, whose Dominican operation shares factory space with the Reyes’ family of tobacco producers. The cigar comes in 10-count boxes and sells for $8.50 each.

4) From the Archives: One of the user errors that rookie cigar smokers often commit is ashing their cigar too often. In a tip from three years ago titled “Better Ash, Better Cigar Experience” we covered this and gave the advice that although smoking doesn’t need to be a long ash contest, their are scientific reasons why ashing too frequently will negatively impact your enjoyment of a cigar.

5) Deal of the Week: The latest iteration of the popular Tatuaje Monster series is the Tatuaje Skinny Monsters. The 10-count sampler ($85) features each of the eight Halloween release Monster blends to date plus the Chuck and Tiff blends that debuted in the Pudgy Monster sampler in a “skinny” 6”x38 (lancero) vitola.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 480

20 May 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.

Bianco Boxer

1) The Bianco Boxer is coming to Omar de Frais’ Fratello Cigars. The cigar will start with a soft launch at ten retailers, then roll out nationally in conjunction with the IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas this summer. It will retail for $10 and be offered in a single box-pressed, torpedo-shaped format (6.25 x 52). “Similar to the Fratello Boxer, we modified the filler blend in the Bianco Boxer to highlight a different flavor profile from its Father, the Fratello Bianco,” said de Frias. “One of our goals with The Boxer line is to show our consumers how modifying the ratio of filler tobacco can change the profile in a cigar.” The Bianco Boxer will feature a San Andrés Negro wrapper, Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos from Pennsylvania, Nicaragua, and Peru.

2) Fred Rewey’s Nomad Cigar Co. has released the SA-17, a sister blend to the C-276. It is the seventh full-production Nomad cigar from Tobacalera A.J. Fernandez in Estelí. “I love working with tobacco at A.J. Fernandez’s factory,” said Rewey. “Ask anyone around, he has amassed some of the best-aged, most diverse, quality tobacco. For me, blending is a creative process. It is nice to have that home in Estelí to blend and experiment.” The SA-17 comes complete with a San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Prices on the four vitolas—Robusto (5 x 50), Coronita (5.5 x 46), Toro (6 x 50), and Shorty (4 x 56)—range from $8.50 to $9.75.

3) Inside the Industry: Davidoff is adding a second blend to its successful AVO Syncro brand, which was released last year. The AVO Syncro Fogota will ship next month. The four-size line (MSRP $8.90-$11.90) sports an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 Clara wrapper, San Andrés binder, and fillers tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

4) From the Archives: In light of the recently announced FDA regulations cracking down on cigars, readers might want to revisit a 2010 interview we conducted with Ted King, author of The War on Smokers and the Rise of the Nanny State, which economist and syndicated columnist Walter E. Williams described as “not only a story about the attack on tobacco users, but a story about how decent Americans can be frightened, perhaps duped, into accepting phony science, attacks on private property rights, and rule of law. One need not be a smoker to be alarmed by the underlying hideousness of the anti-tobacco movement.”

5) Deal of the Week: Kiss My Ash Radio and Smoke Inn have unveiled a line of anti-FDA T-shirts so cigar smokers can wear their displeasure with the FDA’s oppressive regulations. The shirts sell for just $12.50 each. Proceeds benefit Cigar Rights of America’s efforts to defend cigar freedom.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Fratello Cigars

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 479

13 May 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.

petition-FDA

1) In response to the FDA’s announcement last week (which included some very misleading statements) of its final rule regulating cigars, where the FDA rejected its own option to exempt premium cigars, Cigar Rights of America (CRA) has launched another petition to the White House. Readers may recall that in 2012, years prior to the FDA proposal, a similar petition garnered enough support to warrant the eventual response by the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. Back then, he stated the “FDA has heard the input from stakeholders about the possible differences in the public health impact of premium cigars compared to other cigars. We are taking this into account as we consider potential regulatory options around the categories of cigars.” Obviously, given the final rule, the pleas of the over 40,000 signers of that petition were ignored.

2) While signing the petition to the White House is certainly worthwhile, a second petition launched by CRA is directed at the branch of government that, at this point, is more likely to take complaints seriously. The CRA’s petition to Congress lets Americans demand their representatives “support S. 441 and H.R. 662, which would exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation and oversight, as well as to support language adopted by the House Committee on Appropriations on April 19, 2016, calling for an exemption for premium cigars from FDA oversight.” At this point, barring an intervention by Congress or an intervention by the courts, the FDA rule will go into effect on August 8, 2016.

3) The FDA’s overreach to regulate handmade premium cigars has already found some critics in Congress. Notably, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a three-time co-sponsor of the bill to exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation, released a statement excoriating the Obama Administration and the FDA: “The FDA’s announcement today that it plans to regulate all tobacco products is just another example of the Obama Administration’s regulatory overreach and nanny-state mentality. This regulation takes an overly-broad approach to regulating these products. While we can all agree that tobacco products should not be marketed to children, I still believe that my bipartisan amendment, recently approved by the Appropriations Committee in the Agriculture Appropriations bill, provides the same framework for new tobacco products without needlessly subjecting small businesses to unnecessary regulations and without treating law abiding adults like naïve children.”

4) From the Archives: If reading all the news about the overbearing FDA regulations on cigars has you reaching for a stiff drink, we’ve got you covered there, too. Our A-Z Guide to Bourbon features everything from super-premium, highly acclaimed classics to bottom-shelf hidden gems. If you’re more of a rye fan, check out our Guide to Rye.

5) Deal of the Week: In light of recent events, every cigar smoker has good reason to join Cigar Rights of America, or renew/extend their current membership. If you want to smoke excellent, exclusive cigars while you do so, consider purchasing this Cigar Rights of America Limited Edition Sampler. Each sampler includes a CRA membership (you can also use it to renew your existing membership) with ten exclusive cigars.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: WhiteHouse.gov

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 478 (FDA Cigar Regulation Edition)

6 May 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.

unnamed

1) Yesterday the FDA issued a 499-page final rule subjecting cigars to FDA regulation. The regulation will officially be published on May 10 and will take legal effect on August 8 with various requirements being phased in thereafter. Notably, the FDA rejected an option that would have created an exemption for premium handmade cigars that met certain criteria, which the handmade cigar industry had made the focus of lobbying efforts. Because the regulation doesn’t alter the 2007 grandfather date (cigars introduced after that date will have to go through the FDA approval process), the regulation means that, should Cuban cigars ever become legal, they would not be exempt from the approval process. FDA officials admit that process could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per each size of each blend.

2) Cigar Rights of America blasted he rule in a press release: “Unfortunately, the FDA and the Obama Administration have rejected and cast aside any rationally objective approach to developing this regulation. When Congress gave FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, they did so specifically with the stipulation that in order to subject a product to regulation FDA must demonstrate that the specific product(s) possess issues of underage consumption and health and mortality impact through addiction, both which have never been associated with premium cigars… As a result of today’s announcement by FDA, the board of Cigar Rights of America will be convening an emergency meeting to evaluate all legal and legislative options moving forward.”

3) The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) also slammed the devastating impact of the rule in a statement: “The FDA’s regulation of premium cigars, if left unchecked, would have a devastating impact on retailers and manufacturers alike. Consumers will have less choice. Youth access is simply not an issue in the premium cigar space where 35,000 Americans earn their living along with over 300,000 employees in the Caribbean Basin.”

4) From the Archives: Since 2007, StogieGuys.com has covered the issue of FDA regulation of cigars. In 2009, after the FDA tobacco regulation bill was signed into law, we reported on the potential impact, noting it was “a major threat to cigar manufacturers and the choices available to cigar smokers.” Later, in the same article, we reported on the reaction from various cigar makers. One comment was particularly striking: “Jaime Garcia, son of famed cigar-maker Don José ‘Pepin’ Garcia, and a top maker in his own right, told me through a translator that coming from Cuba, he couldn’t believe that in America so much power would be given to the government to control his business.”

5) Deal of the Week: If you’re not already a member, the events of yesterday should motivate you to join Cigar Rights of America. Joining not only supports professional lobbyists who fight for cigar freedom, but also affords discounts at cigar shops, free cigars, and more. One great way to join is by purchasing a Cigar Rights of America sampler. Each sampler includes CRA membership, plus ten exclusive cigars. Buy one at your CRA-supporting local cigar retailer or purchase one online here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: CRA

Breaking News: The FDA Just Issued the Final Rule Regulating Handmade Cigars, and It’s as Bad as We Feared

5 May 2016

FDA-cigars-large

Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the final rule regulating cigars. We will have more coverage in tomorrow’s Friday Sampler and in the coming weeks but, for now, here are some key points about the impact of the 499-page rule on handmade cigars.

The FDA Rejected Pleas for an Exemption for Premium Cigars

In its initial proposed rule, the FDA offered two options for regulating cigars: option one (which covers all cigars), and option two (which exempts handmade cigars over $10). In its final rule, the FDA rejected option two, meaning a $12 handmade premium cigar will be treated exactly the same under the rule as “little cigars” that are manufactured on the same machines that produce cigarettes.

Date for Grandfathered Products Remains Unchanged

While the so-called Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTC)—the bill giving the FDA the power to regulate cigars—didn’t pass until June 2009, the legislation sets February 15, 2007 as the cutoff date for tobacco products to be grandfathered in as exempt from needing FDA approval before being sold or marketed in the United States. There were hopes that the FDA would modify that date, but they did not. As a result, products introduced past that date will be subjected to the FDA approval process. Cigars currently on the market will be treated differently from those introduced after the regulation officially takes effect.

Regulations Take Effect August 8

While the text of the rule was released today, it will not be officially published to the Federal Register until May 10, at which point a 60-day clock will start until the regulation officially goes into effect. Cigars introduced after August 8 will have to get FDA pre-approval before being marketed or distributed. Non-grandfathered (post-February 15, 2007) cigars on the market before August 8 can be sold until August 8, 2018, after which they must apply for FDA approval to remain on the market. Notably, the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show is set to take place in Las Vegas at the end of July, meaning it will effectively be the last chance cigar makers have to introduce new cigars before the August 8 date for pre-approval is required.

FDA Approval Process Still Murky

The need for FDA approval of new cigars is the biggest reason why industry experts predict the rule will devastate the handmade cigar industry, including 30,000 Americans who work in the industry and over 300,000 employees abroad. While subjecting all cigars to a pre-approval process where they must prove the new product is “substantially equivalent” to a grandfathered or approved product, the exact standards the FDA will use to make this determination, or exactly what scientific data would need to be included with the application, is far from clear. The FDA also doesn’t seem to address if it has the capacity to deal with new applications in a timely manner.

Rule Enacts Sample Ban, Mandated Warning Labels

Starting on August 8, distribution of samples will be prohibited, meaning cigar shop events where attendees get to try a new product free of charge will be prohibited. Full implementation of warning labels on cigars has also been mandated, with warnings “to appear on at least 30 percent of the two principal display panels of the package, and at least 20 percent of the area of advertisements.”

FDA Intends to Ban Flavored Cigars Next

In the finalized rule, the FDA states the following regarding demands by anti-tobacco lobbyists that it include a ban on flavored tobacco products: “To address concerns with the growing flavored cigar market and its impact on youth and young adult initiation with tobacco products, FDA is announcing here that it intends to issue in the future a proposed product standard that would prohibit characterizing flavors in all cigars, including cigarillos and little cigars.” To date the exact definition of a flavored cigar is unknown, and depending on the definition such a ban could include many premium handmade cigars not commonly identified as flavored.

Legal Challenges Are Inevitable

Barring an Act of Congress, only a federal court case can stop enforcement of this rule. Legal actions to executive orders generally come in the form of either a facial challenge to the rule, or an as applied challenge. A facial challenge could ask for an injunction to stop implementation of part of the rule or the entire rule, although the standard for getting one is very high. An “as applied” legal challenge would allege that the FDA violated either a federal law or the Constitution in how it applied the regulations to a specific party. With such a major expected impact, multiple federal lawsuits are likely.

The entire text of the 499-page rule can be found here.

Patrick S

photo credits: 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

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