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Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Fratello Announces Navetta, FDA Commissioner Comments on Premium Cigars, Selim Hanono Departs Drew Estate, and More

23 Jun 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 536th in the series.

1) Omar de Frias’ Fratello Cigars is set to debut a new line at next month’s IPCPR Trade Show called Navetta. 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 expected to ship in September; it is made at the Joya de Nicaragua factory. “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.”

2) FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb acknowledged the concerns of the premium cigar industry during an exchange with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee meeting on Tuesday. “Whatever we do in this regard is going to need to be science-based,” said Gottlieb. “But we are cognizant of the challenges faced by small businesses.” Gottlieb didn’t go into specifics since there is pending litigation (IPCPR, Cigar Association of America, and Cigar Rights of America filed a joint suit against the FDA last summer; the trial, which has been delayed, is set to begin August 30). But he did indicate the FDA would work to “mitigate unintended consequences” of the regulations should Congress act on proposed legislation to exempt premium cigars.

3) Inside the Industry: As part of a restructuring of Drew Estate’s sales organization, longtime industry veteran Selim Hanono will depart the company. Hanono, vice president of trade shows and events, has been a member of the Drew Estate management team for nearly ten years. “Selim has been a very valuable member of the Drew Estate team and his contributions to our large trade show success have been legendary,” said Drew Estate CEO Glenn Wolfson. “Being the consummate professional he is, Selim will remain on board leading our preparations and execution at IPCPR and we are very appreciative of his undying commitment to quality delivery. His last day at the company will be July 31st.” In a press release, Drew Estate noted the internal restructuring, “along with role redesign and greater decentralized decision-making, is intended to strengthen Drew Estate’s ability to better serve the needs of its customers in each channel of distribution in which it competes.”

4) From the Archives: What is cigar texture? The term often gets thrown around but is rarely defined. In this article, we define the term with the help of some of the foremost experts.

5) Deal of the Week: Here’s a “sleeper sampler” of some good cigars that often fly under the radar. Just $52 lands you the Southern Classic Cucubano, Espinosa Especial No. 5, Particulares Robusto, La Flor Dominicana La Nox, Crowned Heads La Careme Robusto, and CAO Flathead Carb.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Fratello Cigars

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Trump Cuba Changes Won’t Impact Cigars, CAO Fuma Em Corda, New Dunbarton Cigars, and More

16 Jun 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 535th in the series.

1) CAO is set to debut a new cigar line featuring Arapiraca tobacco fermented in ropes. According to a press release from General Cigar, in his travels to the Brazil in 2015, Ernest Gocaj, director of tobacco procurement for General, found natives who were fermenting Arapiraca leaves in ropes, and that the process “produced tobacco with flavor like nothing else.” Gocaj bought the natives’ entire harvest for the year and handed it over to CAO’s blending team. The result is the new CAO Fuma Em Corda, a new limited edition release “made with the world’s most rare Brazilian tobacco.” In addition to the rope-fermented Aripiraca, the cigar sports a Honduran Colorado wrapper, a Cameroon binder, and other filler tobaccos from Honduras, Nicaragua, and Brazil. Only 3,000 20-count boxes of a single vitola—Robusto (5 x 50)—will be made, each cigar with a suggested retail price of $8.99. There will also be a limited edition Toro (6 x 58, $10.49) for internet and catalog retailers.

2) Today, President Donald Trump’s long-awaited announcement on changes to U.S. policies toward Cuba is set to be delivered in Little Havana in Miami, Florida. Initial reports suggest not all of President Obama’s changes will be reversed. Of the eleven categories of travel to Cuba currently available to American citizens, all but one will remain. The biggest changes will come once Trump’s secretaries of Treasury and Commerce implement regulations that prohibit direct financial transactions with Cuban military intelligence and security services, though some exemptions will exist, including deals involving lodging options. One administration official said the goal of the changes is to “steer money away from the Cuban military and toward the Cuban people.” Flights and cruise ships from the United States will not be restricted, nor will there be changes to Obama’s policy shift that allows Cuban rum and cigars to be imported for personal use when traveling home from abroad.

3) Inside the Industry: Leading up to the 85th annual IPCPR Trade Show—which will be held July 10-14 in Las Vegas—Steve Saka took to Facebook to preview the offerings he will be highlighting at the Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust booth. “In addition to [Muestra de Saka] Exclusivo, we have three very solid offerings to be showcased at this year’s IPCPR,” he posted. They include Mi Querida Gordita (4 x 48), “a plumper of air-cured Broadleaf joy;” Muestra de Saka Nacatamale (6 x 48), “one of my all-time favorite liga/vitola combos;” and Todos Las Dias, “our third core brand, which will really expand our portfolio of ‘puros sin compromiso’ with yet another totally different approach and flavor profile in the fuller-bodied world of craft cigars.” Saka went on to say, “I must say thank you to all our customers, [as] both Sobremesa and Mi Querida sales continue to grow. With most new cigars, customers try them and then move on to the next new cigar, so I want you to know we here at Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust are genuinely appreciative of all of you who have added our cigars to your rotation… Please know we always do our utmost to make cigars worthy of your support.”

4) From the Archives: Interested in the science behind humidor humidity? A conversation about it broke out in the comments of Wednesday’s article on prepping your humidor for the summer. Read it here.

5) Deal of the Week: Need a last-minute Father’s Day gift for dad? Consider a subscription to Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Available now are two cigar-oriented boxes. “Toast” features four cigars by H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta, along with a cigar pouch and a small desktop humidor. “Study” includes two Montecristo White cigars, two Glencairn whiskey glasses, a cigar tube, and a smoke-eating candle. You can skip or switch to another box every month. Sign up your dad (or yourself) here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar Co.

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Camacho Introduces Nicaragua Barrel-Aged, Davidoff Debuts Master Selection Series, and More

9 Jun 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 534th in the series.

1) On Tuesday, Camacho announced Nicaragua Barrel-Aged, a new four-vitola line that will launch in the U.S. on June 22. The blend includes and Ecuadorian wrapper, Mexican binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. “We began working with intense Nicaraguan-grown Corojo fillers, painstakingly aging them in extra-old Nicaraguan rum barrels for five months,” explains Dylan Austin, vice president of marketing at Davidoff, Camacho’s distributor. “To hit the mark, our master builders worked with the team at Flor de Caña in Nicaragua to hand select these barrels for optimal humidity, some of which had been filled with rum for 25 years. The result is a powerful new blend that invites aficionados around the globe to stare down the barrel of Nicaragua’s true spirit.” Camacho Nicaragua Barrel-Aged will retail in the $10 to $12 range.

2) Davidoff is releasing the new Master Selection Series, a collection of cigars from longtime master blender Eladio Diaz that were previously distributed non-commercially (and only in very small quantities) in celebration of Diaz’s birthdays. Six different cigars will be available—a toro from the years 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2016—each with a retail price of $35. Three will head to Davidoff merchants, and three will be relegated to Davidoff stores.

3) Inside the Industry: Cubariqueño Cigar Company announced the release of three Protocol-branded coffees—Protocol Azul, Protocol Rojo, and Protocol Oro—in partnership with Layne Coffee Company. Black Label Trading Company is once again releasing Morphine, a limited release sporting a Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, made at the Fabrica Oveja Negra  factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

4) From the Archives: Our Cigar University page is a collection of articles handpicked for cigar smokers who want to expand their cigar knowledge. The 100-level articles cover the basics, while the 200-, 300-, and 400-level articles provide more advanced suggestions for understanding, caring for, and appreciating cigars.

5) Deal of the Week: Monday’s review praised the Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Natural as “a compact, concentrated iteration of a blend we all know and love that delivers exactly as expected.” The cigar is available only at Smoke Inn and is currently still available. Make a purchase today and use the code “StogieDeal” at checkout to land a free triple-flame tabletop lighter (a $50 value).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: A.J. Fernandez Makes a Monte, Trump Eyeing Rollback of Obama Cuban Policies, and More

2 Jun 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 533rd in the series.

1) Altadis U.S.A. has announced a new collaboration with Nicaraguan cigar maker A.J. Fernandez that will be showcased at the IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas in July. Called Monte by Montecristo A.J. Fernandez, it is a spinoff of the original Monte line that was released in 2013 as the strongest Montecristo to date. “The new Monte by Montecristo A.J. Fernandez is a robust, medium- to full-bodied cigar,” reads a press release from Altadis. “Cloaked in a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and bound with a Corojo ’98 binder, it delivers a stout, chocolatey aroma. A Criollo ’98 and Piloto Cubano Dominican filler yield a nutty and caramel sweetness. For those who like bold flavor, this smoke will not disappoint.” Four “horizontally-pressed” sizes will be available, each packaged in boxes of 20 and retailing in the $10.50 to $11.25 range: Toro (6 x 55), Robusto (4.5 x 54), Belicoso (6.1 x 54), and Corona (5 x 44). A.J. Fernandez has previously made cigars for industry behemoths Altadis and General Cigar, including H. Upmann by A.J. Fernandez and Hoyo La Amistad.

2) The Daily Caller reports the Trump Administration is moving towards rolling back Obama’s changes to U.S. policies regarding Cuba. The report cites comments by Senator Rubio and Congressman Diaz-Balart, both of Florida, along with anti-Embargo activist groups. All of President Obama’s actions on Cuba were done through executive action, meaning President Trump could undo the changes through the same process. Obama’s changes ended the policy known as “wet foot, dry foot” that gave Cuban illegal immigrants a path to legal status, opened travel to the island nation, and loosened restrictions on doing business in the country. Under the changes, although it remains illegal to import Cuban cigars for sale, it became legal for Cuban cigars to be imported for personal use when traveling overseas.

3) Inside the Industry: Davidoff is rolling out a limited edition belicoso that includes Florida Sun Grown filler tobaccos from Jeff Borysiewicz’s Orlando-area farm. The cigar is exclusive to the Davidoff Tampa Cigar Bar, a partnership between Davidoff and Corona Cigar Co., a Florida-based retailer owned by Borysiewicz. In addition to the Floridian filler tobacco, the cigar features a Habano 2000 Ecuadorian wrapper, a Habano Jalapa binder, and other filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. “This truly unique blend results in a rich, full-bodied, and luxurious smoke,” says Borysiewicz.

4) From the Archives: Introducing a newbie to cigars? Here are five suggestions to make sure they enjoy the experience.

5) Deal of the Week: We recommend Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, wine, workout gear, coffee kits, and more) delivered to your door for just $45. Available now are two cigar-oriented boxes. “Toast” features four cigars by H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta, along with a cigar carrying pouch and a small desktop humidor. “Study” includes two Montecristo White cigars, two Glencairn whiskey glasses, a cigar tube, and a smoke-eating candle. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up by Monday to get the June shipment.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: A.J. Fernandez

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Davidoff Announces New Honduran Factory, John Drew Brands Introduces Leadership Team, and More

26 May 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 532nd in the series.

1) In support of its Camacho, Baccarat, La Fontana, Legendario, and National brands, Davidoff has announced the inauguration of a new factory in Danlí, Honduras. The factory sits on land bought by Davidoff in 2015 after the company acquired tobacco plantations in Condega, Nicatagua, and in the Jamastrán Valley in Honduras. “The site of the new facilities in Danlí is just under 450,000 square feet in surface area,” according to a press release. “The factory building, designed by Honduran architect Gonzalo Núñez Díaz, has several production halls, cold rooms, loading/unloading zones, a spacious guesthouse, and the refectory for employees, which meets the highest standards of technology and logistics.”

2) John Drew Brands has named Jonathan Drew CEO, Nancy Berkowitz president, Steve Chernoff national sales manager, and Frank Moreno national director of brand development. In addition, the venture will be supported by Joey Reichenbach and Sam Morales, the creative director and director of marketing at Drew Estate, respectively. Founded in 2015, John Drew Brands bills itself as “an authentic lifestyle company initially focused on the alcohol beverage category.” Its three introductory products were launched in April: Brixton Mash Destroyer (55% bourbon, 45% rum), Dove Tale Rum, and John Drew Rye.

3) The Hemingway Rum Company, maker of Papa’s Pilar, officially opened its new Rum Distillery & Experience Center in Key West  this week. The distillery building, originally built in 1878, once served as an all-brick tobacco warehouse. After a three-year renovation, the over 8,000 square foot facility now features a 350-gallon Hamilton pot still with a custom-made reflux column that can produce up to 80 gallons of rum per day, along with a visitor center, tasting room, and trading post shop.

4) Inside the Industry: Next month, select stores will receive the Davidoff Limited Art Edition 2017. The release features 5,000 boxes of 10 cigars equally split between 5 different boxes that feature works by Trinidadian artist Rodell Warner. The cigar sports an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder, and filler tobaccos from Brazil and the Dominican Republic. Each cigar carries a suggested retail price of $39.

5) From the Archives: In 2008, we featured a commentary on cigars and Memorial Day. Go back and read it here.

6) Deal of the Week: Oliva fans will want to jump on this sale featuring numerous boxes of popular Oliva blends for 40% off. Included are the highly-rated Serie V, Serie V Melanio, and Connecticut Reserve. 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: Davidoff

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Altadis To Distribute Boutique Blends, Colección Aniversario No. 20, Avo Syncro South America Ritmo, and More

19 May 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 531st in the series.

1) On Monday, we learned a “strategic alliance agreement” was struck that makes tobacco giant Altadis the distributor for Boutique Blends Cigars. As part of the agreement, Rafael Nodal has accepted a position within Altadis, and the Boutique Blends brands—including Aging Room, Swag, La Bohéme, and Oliveros—will now be sold through Altadis. Cigar Aficionado reports that “Boutique Blends dismissed its sales force (made up primarily of independent contractors) and is in the midst of moving inventory from its Miami warehouse to Altadis’ in Tampa.” In his new position, Nodal will continue to oversee his own brands, as well as help with project development for other brands within the Altadis portfolio.

2) After success in the European market, Maya Selva Cigars is bringing its new Colección Aniversario No. 20 series stateside, with shipping expected to begin in August. For vitolas will be available with retail prices ranging from $9 to $14.50. The featured tobaccos include a Habano Jamastran wrapper, dual binders from Olancho and Azacualpa, and various Honduran fillers. The Colección Aniversario No. 20 originally debuted in Paris in June 2016.

3) DC Grays, an organization dedicated to promoting baseball in the nation’s capital, is hosting its annual “Cigars and Curveballs” fundraiser Monday. The event, hosted by radio host and Washington Times sports writer Thom Loverro, will take place at Shelly’s Back Room, a popular cigar hangout near the White House.

4) Inside the Industry: Davidoff’s Avo brand is expanding its Avo Syncro line with a new blend called South America Ritmo, a cigar featuring tobaccos from seven different countries. The cigar uses an Ecuadorian wrapper, Mexican binder, and filler from Nicaragua, Peru, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil. The cigar, which will ship later this month, comes in four box-pressed sizes with prices ranging from $10.90 to $13.90. It is rolled in the Dominican Republic.

5) From the Archives: For a decade, we’ve been periodically recommending Gold Star Smokes, cigars we feel are especially worthy of your  dollars and attention. Take a step back in time to find our very first choices here.

6) Deal of the Week: Gurkha fans will want to jump on this deal on the Heritage line. All boxes are discounted 25-40% for a limited time.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: AgingRoomCigars.com

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Gottlieb Confirmed as FDA Commissioner, CRA Asks for 100,000 Petitions to Congress, and More

12 May 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 530th in the series.

1) This week, Scott Gottlieb—a 44-year-old physician, clinical assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine, and internist at Tisch Hospital—was confirmed as the new commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Gottlieb takes over the agency at a crucial time for premium cigars, though cigars are not expected to be his top priority (according to the Los Angeles Times, he will first and foremost focus on the epidemic of opioid drug use). That said, we know cigars are on Gottlieb’s radar; his vocal criticism of FDA authority over cigars is the reason cigar industry trade groups have supported his nomination to head the agency. Yesterday, Cigar Rights of America (CRA) reaffirmed its support of Gottlieb in an email. “Confirmation of Dr. Gottlieb is a welcomed sign for the premium cigar industry. CRA looks forward to communicating with Dr. Gottlieb on addressing the bureaucratic overreach in the regulation of premium handmade cigars, consistent with sentiments he expressed in an op-ed that appeared in the New York Post.”

2) In that same CRA email yesterday, the organization is calling for 100,000 petitions to Congress to support an exemption for premium cigars from FDA regulation. “Take action now, and let your voice be heard. Contact your member(s) in the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate today and ask that they support H.R. 564 and S. 294, respectively… Don’t just sign the petition, spread the word. If you are a consumer, send the link to your friends. If you are a retailer, share it with your customer base. Let’s grow the numbers and make sure Congress hears from all of us.” The petition can be found here.

3) Minnesota state representative Greg Davids is pushing a budget compromise deal that includes lowering taxes on premium cigars, but Minnesota Governor  Mark Dayton is opposed to the deal. Under current rates, cigars are taxed at 95 percent of the wholesale price with a maximum tax of $3.50. Davids’ tax bill would cut the maximum tax to 50 cents. “At a Capitol press conference on Tuesday, the governor repeatedly mentioned the cigar tax cut being added after the state’s revenue commissioner had been told she had the final version of the bill. Davids called the governor’s statement false, saying that the commissioner had been warned more things may be added to the bill. Davids noted the cigar tax language was part of the House tax bill… He said he backs the tax cut because Minnesota’s taxes on cigars are among the highest in the nation.”

4) Boat International Magazine has a few tips for smoking a cigar on a boat, which isn’t always easy given wind, waves, and humidity.

5) Inside the Industry: Gurkha Cigars announced last week its acquisition of the American Caribbean Cigars Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, the company’s first factory. Gurkha’s partnership with the factory began five years ago. Currently, five million Gurkha cigars are produced at the factory each year.

6) From the Archives: Few words are more frightening to a cigar collector than “tobacco beetle.” You’ll learn how to prevent and deal with the pests here.

7) Deal of the Week: We recommend Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Available boxes include a mint julep set, fine bar accessories, shaving kits, wine, workout gear, coffee kits, and more. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up today.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Scott-Gottlieb.com