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Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Jose Oliva in Line to Become Florida House Speaker, BLTC Releases Santa Muerte, and More

13 Oct 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 551st in the series.

1) If Republicans retain control of the Florida House in the 2018 elections, as expected, the next speaker will be Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars. “The 44-year-old Oliva first came to office in a special, off-year election in 2011 to replace Rep. Steve Bovo (R-Hialeah),” reports the Tampa Bay Times. “He focused quickly on becoming speaker-designate for 2018…” Oliva’s website describes him as a “conservative and ethical leader,” and a “lifelong Republican who possesses a commitment to public service and community involvement.”

2) Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) is launching the second annual release of Santa Muerte today. “Our limited releases tend to be full-bodied with a maduro wrapper, but this one is a medium-bodied cigar with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper,” says BLTC creator James Brown. “It features six filler tobaccos which create a very unique and rich flavor profile. You experience layer upon layer of coffee, malt, spice, and cocoa.” There are two vitolas: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 48, $10) and Short Robusto (4.75 x 52, $10).

3) Basketball all-time great Michael Jordan is known for enjoying cigars, which is why he is set to appear on the cover of an upcoming 25th anniversary issue of Cigar Aficionado. According to Sports Illustrated, in the interview Jordan says these days he “smokes six cigars a day,” a number that happens to equal the number of NBA Championships he won.

4) Inside the Industry: The FDA released additional guidance (PDF here) this week about the prohibition on free samples that was included in the final deeming rule. The document clarifies that while free samples to consumers are prohibited, discounts, coupons, or other offers are legal if there is a cash transaction when the tobacco product is received by the consumer. The document also reiterates that business-to-business free samples are not prohibited as long as they are not in quantities more than is “necessary to achieve a business or market goal.”

5) From the Archives: We’ve reviewed over 1,000 cigars (a number that doesn’t include over 1,000 Quick Smokes), and only a small percentage earned our highest rating. If you browse our archive of five stogie-rated cigars, you’ll probably see some names you might expect. But there are also many that are under-the-radar, plus quite a few that are no longer made or have undergone significant changes.

6) Deal of the Week: One of the most useful cigar accessories any cigar smoker can own is a travel case that will protect your cigars and keep them humidified for a few hours or a few weeks. Buy a five-count for the golf course or an overnight trip, or the larger 15-count size for a more extended trip.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: JoseOliva2016.com

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Cigar Groups File Motions for FDA Relief, RoMa Craft to Launch Online Store for Branded Merch, and More

6 Oct 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 550th in the series.

1) On Tuesday, the cigar industry filed motions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (above) pursuing relief from upcoming FDA regulations. The motions—one a motion for preliminary injunction, the other a motion for partial summary judgment—were filed jointly by Cigar Rights of America, the Cigar Association of America, and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. At issue are expensive user fees and obtrusive warning labels. The FDA has until October 24 to respond. As reported by Cigar Aficionado, “while many aspects to the FDA regulations on cigars have been pushed back, the ones calling for extensive warning labels—labels that cover 30 percent of a cigar box, and 20 percent of an advertisement—have not. They are scheduled to take effect roughly ten months from today.” As for the user fees: “Since October 2016, cigar manufacturers and importers, in accordance with the FDA’s controversial Final Deeming Rule, have been required to submit federal excise tax information to the FDA on a monthly basis. The FDA, in turn, analyzes this data to calculate user fees for cigar companies, which are paid on a quarterly basis. Cigar companies pay the user fees directly to the FDA, and those payments are the sole source of funding for the Center of Tobacco Products, the branch of the FDA responsible for carrying out tobacco regulation activities.”

2) Skip Martin of RoMa Craft Tobac took to Facebook on Wednesday to announce the impending re-launch of the company’s website, which will feature an online store for direct-to-consumer sales of branded merchandise, including Xikar accessories. Evidently, an unnamed “gossipy, jealous, busy body little hater” had spread a rumor that RoMa would begin selling its cigars via the new website. Martin made abundantly clear this is not the case. He went on to write: “To our haters, you really don’t have to try so hard. Just focus on making better cigars, more consistently, and selling them at a fair price. Ain’t nobody got time for all the petty drama.”

3) Members of Tatuaje’s private Saints & Sinners club received an email update on Tuesday regarding the status of the 2017 membership kits. “Due to the hurricane, our delivery of the cigar kits has been delayed and is expected to arrive late next week. We have been getting everything prepped and ready to ship as soon as they arrive but are still anticipating these to be arriving to you all right around Halloween.” Saints & Sinners is an invitation-only club that annually sends its members exclusive Tatuaje cigars along with Tatuaje-branded merchandise like wine openers, poker chips, lighters, cutters, and apparel.

4) Inside the Industry: Rafael Nodal, owner of Boutique Blends Cigars, has been named head of product capability at Tabacalera USA, a new role that places him in charge of Tabacalera’s premium cigar business, which includes Altadis USA’s premium cigars. Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust has hired its first full-time team member, Yvonne Ramée, who will be working out of the Dunbarton office/warehouse in New Hampshire.

5) From the Archives: Speaking of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, in 2015, back when Saka was preparing the first shipment of his inaugural Sobermesa line, StogieGuys.com caught up with him at a cigar shop in New Hampshire. Read the whole interview here.

6) Deal of the Week: For today only, here are 100 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, CAO, My Father, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Davidoff, Perdomo, Padrón, 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: Google Maps

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Senator Pat Toomey Joins Fight for Cigars, Fratello to Launch Navetta, and More

29 Sep 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 549th in the series.

1) U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) has joined the fight for cigars, bringing the number of co-sponsors on S. 294—the Senate bill that would exempt premium cigars from FDA regulations—up to 18. Sen. Toomey “has publicly signaled to the FDA that premium cigars are different and that they should be exempted from FDA regulatory authority,” reads a Cigar Rights of America (CRA) email alert. “CRA and the entire premium cigar industry would like to thank Senator Toomey for standing with the consumers and small businesses of the premium cigar industry.” Now is an important time for coalition-building in the Senate. As we reported earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending package that includes a provision prohibiting the FDA from enforcing regulations against premium cigars. The omnibus appropriations package passed the House with a 211-198 vote and will now move to the Senate for consideration. Congress has until December 8th to pass spending legislation and fund the federal government. If your two senators are not already co-sponsors of S. 294—and if you haven’t already done so—please click here to make your voice heard.

2) Omar de Frias will debut the newest line from Fratello Cigars at a launch party at the Kingstowne location of Old Virginia Tobacco Co. in Alexandria, Virginia, on October 4. Navetta means “shuttle” in Italian and is a “dream project” Frias envisioned while he worked at NASA for 12 years. It sports an Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper and will be offered in four sizes with prices ranging from $10.50 to $12.50: Discovery (5 x 50), Endeavor (6.25 x 54), Enterprise (6 x 60), and Atlantis (6.25 x 52). Navetta is made at Joya de Nicaragua. “Blending Fratello Naveta was special as I wanted to translate the ultimate celebration our men and women of the space program felt after a successful mission,” says Frias. “After being part of over 21 missions, nothing beats the feeling of getting our astronauts home safe to their families. Colleagues of mine would get together and smoke a very special cigar to commemorate the occasion. This very special blend carries the ultimate feeling of innovation, duty, honor and success.”

3) Here’s a man who is 111 years old and smoking at least a dozen cigars every day. “Richard Overton has seen much during his storied life, which began on May 11, 1906. But, through it all, Overton remains a humble man who simply likes to spend his days sitting on the porch of his Austin, Texas, home, enjoying two of his favorite things: whiskey and cigars.”

4) Inside the Industry: Arturo Fuente and longtime collaborator Prometheus International Inc. are teaming up to introduce a special collection of four eleven-year-old Fuente Fuente Forbidden X cigars. The set carries a suggested retail price of $165.

5) From the Archives: An important question asked and answered: Do cigars always get better with age? This article from 2008 also includes four tips we garnered conversing with some top collectors.

6) 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, exclusive cigars, and more) delivered for just $45. You can skip or purchase every month. Today is the last day to sign up and be eligible for the October box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Paul Garmirian Soiree Belicoso

24 Sep 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.”

It’s not widely known, but when PG was creating a cigar to celebrate its 15th Anniversary, the decision came down to two final blends. The runner-up became the PG Soiree. Although I think they made the correct decision, the Soiree is also a very fine cigar. It starts out with intense black pepper and wood spice and soon develops an almost maple sweetness to go along with dry oak, hay, and some mushroom-y funk. Not as balanced as the the PG 15th Anniversary cigar, but a blast of enjoyable medium- to full-bodied flavors with flawless combustion.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: IPCPR CEO to Depart, Drew Estate Cigar Theft, Whiskey for Charity and More

22 Sep 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 548th in the series.

1) The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) has announced chief executive officer Mark Pursell will be stepping down on October 15. Pursell has held the position for a little over three years. Previously, he served as senior vice president at the National Association of Home Builders. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity IPCPR provided me,” said Pursell in a press release. “It has been a challenging period for the entire industry, and I’m proud of the organization’s work to lead the way forward. There are many challenges remaining. IPCPR has the right leadership and staff to face the future.” During Pursell’s tenure, IPCPR relocated its headquarters from Georgia to Washington, D.C. IPCPR was founded in 1933 and bills itself as the “oldest, largest and most active trade association representing and assisting retailers of premium tobacco products and their suppliers.”

2) On Wednesday, Drew Estate issued an email alert about a significant cigar theft: “On August 8, 2015, a truck containing a full load of Drew Estate premium handmade cigars was stolen in the greater Miami area. An active investigation into this theft is ongoing and involves numerous law enforcement entities. The specific cigars stolen include Tabak Especial Dulce Robusto and Undercrown Shade Belicoso. If anyone becomes aware of these cigars being offered for sale by non-Drew Estate authorized suppliers or being offered for sale by any suppliers at below wholesale list price, please inform Drew Estate immediately by calling Glenn Wolfson at (786) 581-1800.”

3) One of the rarest whiskeys, Booker’s Rye, is being released to benefit two charities helping those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The company announced it is selling the last 276 bottles of the highly praised whiskey for the suggested retail price of $299 and donating all proceeds. (Nowadays, a bottle from the earlier release can fetch $800 or so.) The company said the two charities—Feeding America and Operation BBQ Relief—were chosen “because of the shared connection between the food and beverage industries and the impact each organization makes in providing nourishment to those affected by tragedy.”

4) Golfing and cigars go together. And while golfing with buddies is great, don’t under-estimate the joys of golfing alone, says author Ethan Epstein: “There are distinct benefits, besides the Zen-like solitude I achieve, to solo-play, as well: I feel less guilty when I cheat and pick up my ball to give it a better lie after a bad hit, for example. But that’s not really that important, because let’s be honest: Like all golfers, I play better when nobody​—​save for the deer who hang out at my regular Rock Creek Park Golf Course​—​is watching. Honest!”

5) From the Archives: Miami isn’t the only Florida city that can claim a long and storied cigar history. Tampa, after all, is betowed with the Cigar City nickname. Back in 2011, we interviewed Lisa Figueredo, founder of Cigar City Magazine.

6) 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, exclusive cigars, and more) delivered for just $45. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up here and you will be eligible for the October box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: IPCPR

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Cigarette Maker Pledges Nearly $1 Billion to Fight Smoking, House Passes Funding Bill with FDA Cigar Exemption, and More

15 Sep 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 547th in the series.

1) Philip Morris International will provide $80 million annually over 12 years, beginning in 2018, to fund the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an organization which aims to eliminate smoking worldwide. According to a statement issued Wednesday, the organization will focus on four main areas: (1) supporting research into harm reduction and building research capacity through academic centers, (2) building consensus around which interventions can best reduce harm and deaths from smoking and increase smoking cessation, (3) measuring and reporting on global progress towards smoking harm reduction, and (4) identifying alternative crops and livelihoods for tobacco farmers as the global demand for tobacco declines. “While the new foundation appears to be a rare example of a consumer-goods company supporting efforts to undermine sales of its own products, its creation was greeted with skepticism by one anti-smoking organization,” reports Bloomberg. In addition, “More than three million smokers have switched to Philip Morris’s IQOS, which heats rather than burns tobacco. The Marlboro maker has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to market the device as a product that may reduce the risk of smoking-related diseases.”

2) Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a twelve-bill spending package that includes a provision prohibiting the FDA from enforcing regulations against premium cigars. The omnibus appropriations package passed the House with a 211-198 vote and will now move to the Senate for consideration. Congress has until December 8th to pass spending legislation and fund the federal government. IPCPR President Ken Neumann commented on the development: “This is a monumental step for the industry and for IPCPR’s retailers. For many years, we’ve been pushing the ball forward in our efforts to roll back the FDA’s oversized and ill-suited regulatory regime on premium cigars.”

3) Starting January 1, smoking will no longer be permitted anywhere at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Nebraska joins over 1,700 other colleges and universities—including all of its Big Ten peers—that have already implemented campus-wide smoke-free policies. In addition to cigars, the ban covers cigarettes, hookahs, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and synthetic smoking products, and it extends to all university areas, including parking lots, garages, buildings, and university vehicles.  The campus is home to over 25,000 students.

4) Inside the Industry: With so many cigar companies headquartered in Florida, the industry braced for damages caused by Hurricane Irma. Fortunately, the damage seems to have been manageable. Although numerous companies faced disruptions and power outages, no substantial damages have been reported.

5) From the Archives: Fancy lighters are great, but sometimes simplicity is even better. As we wrote over decade ago, unless you’re facing significant winds, wooden matches are frequently the best way to light your cigar.

6) 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: Flickr

Cigar Review: 601 Serie “Green” Tronco

11 Sep 2017

There was a time when the cigars in the EO Brands portfolio—particularly 601 Blue, 601 Red, and 601 Green—were mainstays in my humidors. Back then, Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega were still in a partnership, and the 601 line was produced by none other than Don José “Pepin” Garcia at My Father Cigars.

In 2010, Rocky Patel bought a 50% stake in EO Brands, which also owned Cubao, Murcielago, and Mi Barrio. Then, in early 2012, Eddie Ortega announced he was leaving the company to start his own outfit called Ortega Cigars.

Today, Erik Espinosa operates Espinosa Premium Cigars, which he runs independently out of his La Zona Factory in Estelí. Included in his portfolio is a reincarnation of of the 601 Green, which was always the boldest, most full-bodied blend in the series. It is made with a Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

Tronco (5 x 52) sells in the $7 to $9 range. The band of green and gold is familiar yet dissimilar to the more metallic rings that graced the surfaces of the old Pepin-made 601 Greens. Beneath is a dark, oily, toothy wrapper with thin veins and tight seams. The feel is moderately firm yet the foot exhibits a cross-section of somewhat loosely packed tobaccos. The well-executed cap clips cleanly to reveal an extra-smooth cold draw that leaves a faint sweetness on the lips.

Once an even light is established, pre-light notes of dried apricot and hay transition to a medium- to full-bodied profile of cereals, warm tobacco, black pepper spice, and espresso. The texture is a bit chalky and the flavor is rich and bold. Before the first quarter inch, background notes of roasted peanut and salted caramel join in to add balance. As the Tronco approaches its midway point, the intensity of the flavors—and the nicotine kick—ramps up enough to merit an upgrade to full-bodied status. A taste of cayenne heat enters the equation. The home stretch is best characterized by an abundant burst of black pepper and espresso.

The physical properties are pretty solid from light to nub, including an easy draw, bountiful smoke production, and a well-behaved ash. The burn line does require a couple touch-ups to stay even, however.

I can’t in good faith compare this 601 Green to those that were made by Pepin years ago for several reasons. For one, I haven’t had a Pepin-made Green in years, and I don’t trust my memory (plus, even if I could recall the flavor accurately, my tastes have likely changed). Second, this is a completely different cigar that deserves to be judged on its own. Speaking of which, my assessment is Tronco is a well-made, bold, powerful cigar that has a lot to offer for seasoned cigar enthusiasts who are seeking ample strength and Nicaraguan spice. In my book, it earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys