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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 543rd 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

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

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Bumper Tobacco Crop in Cuba, FDA Legal Updates, and More

4 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 541st in the series.

1) Cuban farmers in the storied Pinar del Río province are harvesting a bumper tobacco crop, and they expect to increase acreage even more next year, according to news reports. Much of the country is struggling with drought, so additional wells are being drilled and irrigation systems expanded to accommodate the additional planting. Exported premium cigars are said to generate about $450 million a year for Cuba.

2) With the override of a gubernatorial veto, Maine this week became the latest state to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. (Others that have approved the change are California, Hawaii, Oregon, and New Jersey.) Voting for the increase in both legislative chambers crossed the required two-thirds majority. Gov. Paul LePage, in opposing the change, had referred to raising the age as “social engineering.”

3) Inside the Industry: A lawsuit filed last year by Frank Herrera’s law firm on behalf of several cigar makers challenging FDA cigar regulations has been suspended. Herrera posted the document to stay the case on Facebook. He wrote that the FDA’s three-year extension for implementation of the substantial equivalence provision regarding cigars “provides relief for issues that were raised” in the lawsuit. Either party is allowed to reopen the case in the future. Meanwhile, Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has granted a 30-day delay in the lawsuit brought by Cigar Rights of America, IPCPR, and the Cigar Association of America against the FDA. It is assumed the extension is intended to buy time for the Department of Justice, the agency that is representing the FDA, to determine how FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s new tobacco regulation plan impacts premium cigars.

4) From the Archives: San Andrés wrapper is seemingly everywhere these days, including on many of the cigars that were introduced at the recent IPCPR Trade Show. Back in May 2015, we published our thoughts on Mexican tobacco. You can revisit that piece here.

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: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Buffalo and Indianapolis Eye Park Smoking Bans, New Jersey Raises Tobacco Purchase Age to 21, and More

28 Jul 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 541st in the series.

1) This week, two U.S. cities took major steps towards curtailing outdoor smoking. In Buffalo, New York, city officials on Tuesday voted to ban smoking in city parks. “Under the measure, traditional tobacco products and electronic cigarettes will be prohibited. Officials are expected to make designated areas for smoking in some parks,” reports the Associated Press. “The proposed law now heads to Mayor Byron Brown for approval.” Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, officials are considering expanding the city’s smoking ban—originally passed in 2005 and to cover bars, restaurants, shopping malls, and sports arenas—to criminalize smoking in parks. The penalty for lighting up would be $200. If these measures pass, Buffalo and Indianapolis would join a growing list of U.S. cities with an outdoor ban in public parks (the largest include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Diego).

2) Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco in New Jersey to 21. “The Garden State will become the third in the nation to limit tobacco sales to individuals 21 and up when the law takes effect November 1, at which point vendors caught selling cigarettes, tobacco products, and electronic smoking devices to customers will risk facing fines of up to $1,000,” reports The Washington Times. “California and Hawaii are the only two other states to prohibit tobacco product sales to individuals under 21.”

3) In Maine, the state legislature also approved a law raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21, but Governor Paul LePage vetoed the bill. “I’m not going to strap a gun to their shoulder and go fight a war if they can’t go buy cigarettes,” LePage said, explaining his veto. “I’ll tell you, this is just sinful, it is absolutely sinful, and I believe that at 18 they are mature enough to make a decision and I’m tired of living in a society where we social engineer our lives.” The bill passed the legislature in both houses with over two-thirds support, enough to override the veto.

4) From the Archives: In the dead of summer you may be looking for a cool, refreshing beverage. Nothing fits the bill quite like the tropical spirit that is rum. In this 2009 article, we offer up five suggestions for rum-based cocktails. Enjoy.

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 to your door for just $45. Currently available is “Toast,” a package that includes four cigars by H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta, along with a cigar carrying pouch and a small desktop humidor. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up in the next four days to receive the August shipment.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Plasencia Makes First IPCPR Appearance, A.J. Fernandez Launches Enclave Broadleaf, and More

21 Jul 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 540th in the series.

1) Not to be lost among the many news items circulating in the wake of last week’s IPCPR Trade Show in Last Vegas was the debut appearance of Plasencia Cigars at the industry’s most important event. Plasencia has long been known as a leading producer of premium cigars—and is currently the largest grower of tobacco in Nicaragua and Honduras—but this is the first time the company participated as an exhibitor at the IPCPR Trade Show. This is also the first time they’ve had their own cigars to showcase. The highlight of the Plasencia booth was the new Alma del Campo, the second of five cigars in the “flagship” Alma Series (the first cigar in the Alma Series, Alma Fuerte, was introduced in New York in 2016). Alma del Campo is a Nicaraguan puro using only Plasencia-grown tobacco with five sizes retailing in the super-premium $13-17 range. Plasencia also introduced the Cosecha Series, a mellower, Honduran-wrapped line with fives sizes selling in the $10-13 range. According to a press release: “Plasencia Cigars was founded in 1865 by Don Eduardo Plasencia when he began growing tobacco in Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Since then, first in Cuba, and subsequently in Nicaragua and Honduras, five generations of the Plasencia family have been growing some of the world’s best tobacco… Today, Plasencia Cigars manufactures more than 40 million handmade cigars per year for many of the world’s top cigar brands, growing tobacco on more than 3,000 acres in several locations throughout Central America. Launched in 2016, Plasencia’s namesake branded cigars are distributed in the United States by Miami-based Plasencia 1865.”

2) Another IPCPR news item we’d like to highlight is the debut of the first A.J. Fernandez cigar to use a broadleaf wrapper. Enclave Broadleaf, as it is called, is the follow-up to the original Enclave blend, which was introduced in 2015 with an Ecuadorian wrapper. In addition to its dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Enclave Broadleaf sports Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It will be sold in three vitolas: Churchill (7 x 52, $9.50), Robusto (5 x 52, $8.50), and Toro (6.5 x 54, $9). In addition to making his own cigars, A.J. Fernandez is well known for crafting cigars for other companies; while this is the first broadleaf-wrapped cigar under his own brand, he has used broadleaf in cigars for other companies before.

3) Last week, the Washington Post published a story on Omar de Frias, who left a high-paying job at NASA to chase his dream and start his own cigar company, Fratello Cigars. The story is well worth a read, but so are the comments, which demonstrate the nasty anti-tobacco vitriol which has become so acceptable in today’s society. In a Facebook post about the reaction, Omar de Frias observed: “I laughed at many of these comments, specially at the one guy who wants me to die. Then I thought about how ignorance is probably one of the biggest issues we face as a society and our industry.”

4) Florida Senator Marco Rubio took the opportunity to voice his concerns about the FDA’s premium cigar regulations at an Appropriations Committee hearing regarding a bill for FDA funding. In his statement (audio above), he bemoaned the “extremely adverse and what I hope are unintended consequences” of FDA regulations on premium cigars.

5) From the Archives: People spend a lot of time deciding what cigar to smoke, but probably not enough time deciding which cigar shop to frequent. In this article from 2009, we discuss what to look for in a good cigar shop.

6) Deal of the Week: For today only, here are 100 deals, including cigars from Mi Querida, Ashton, Oliva, My Father, Rocky Patel, Davidoff, Drew Estate, CroMagnon, 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: Plasencia Cigars

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Bill Protecting Cigars from FDA Passes Committee, IPCPR Draws to a Close, and More

14 Jul 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 539th in the series.

1) On Wednesday, as the industry gathered in Las Vegas for the 85th annual IPCPR Trade Show, the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations passed a bill that includes language that would protect premium cigars from harmful FDA regulations. While this vital protection still has a long, uphill journey before it becomes law, Cigar Rights of America (CRA) hailed it as a positive step in the right direction. “The action taken today by the House Committee on Appropriations for a second consecutive year is yet again another clear and definitive statement that Congress never intended for premium cigars to be treated like other tobacco products,” said J. Glynn Loope, executive director of CRA. “Congress continues to recognize the unique differences between premium cigars, and this language is a symbol that any effort by the FDA to regulate them would run contrary to the intent of Congress.” CRA specifically thanked Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) for their leadership on this issue.

2) The IPCPR Trade Show concludes today, heralding an end to the industry’s biggest event of the year. As in years’ past, StogieGuys.com will make considerable efforts to acquire and review the new cigars that debuted on the convention floor in Las Vegas. Be sure to check back often over the coming months for our concise, conflict-free assessments of many of the new entrants to the marketplace. As you do, however, recall there’s no need to get slammed on the new release treadmill. And remember that many retailers will be announcing (or have already announced) clearance sales on older smokes as they try to make room on their shelves for newer products; this can be a great time to stock up on reliable favorites.

3) British writer Brendan O’Neil is definitely not a fan of his country’s smoking ban: “It is ten years since smoking in public places was banned in England. Ten years since officials decreed that we could no longer light up at work, in restaurants, in pubs, and even at bus stops. Ten years since you could follow your Tiramisu with the satisfying throat hit of a drag of nicotine. Ten years since pubs were fuggy and convivial, packed with hoarse ladies telling stories and old blokes propping up the bar rather than shiny-haired new dads wearing a baby in a sling and wondering whether to treat themselves to buffalo wings or mac’n’cheese balls. Seriously. Babies in pubs. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” Read the whole thing here.

4) Whiskey writer Fred Minnick says bourbon could be the victim of a U.S.-E.U. trade war over steel: “If President Trump follows through on his threat to impose tariffs on steel imports, expect to see an immediate response from the European Union—including retaliatory tariffs on, of all things, bourbon. This may seem an oddly disproportionate choice. Everyone needs steel; bourbon, on the other hand, is just a hipster fad and a good-ole-boy mainstay, right? In fact, a punitive tariff on bourbon and other American whiskeys would be both a symbolic and a substantive body blow—a strike at a unique American product that is enormously popular overseas.”

5) From the Archives: Forget the latest; stick with the greatest. For over a decade, we’ve given a small percentage of the nearly 1,000 cigars we’ve reviewed our highest rating of five stogies out of five. Check them out here.

6) 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. Currently available is “Toast,” featuring four cigars by H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta, along with a cigar carrying pouch and a small desktop humidor. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up to get the July shipment.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Undercrown Sun Grown Announced, Joya de Nicaragua Expands Antaño Series, and More

7 Jul 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 538th in the series.

1) Drew Estate this week issued a flurry of pre-IPCPR Trade Show announcements, the foremost being the introduction of the new Undercrown Sun Grown line. The new cigar features an Ecuadorian Sumatra-seed wrapper around a Connecticut stalk-cut sun-grown Habano binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, including one leaf of “extensively aged Ligero from the Nueva Segovia region along the border of Honduras… selected to enhance the strength of the blend.” Undercrown Sun Grown comes in six traditional sizes, plus Drew Estate’s Flying Pig vitola, with suggested retail prices ranging from $8.20 to $12.72. Undercrown Sun Grown joins the original Undercrown line (released in 2010) and Undercrown Shade (released in 2015).

2) Late Wednesday, news broke that Matt Booth was returning to the cigar industry, only six months after his “retirement” earlier this year. First, a collaboration called Hit and Run with Robert Caldwell was announced. That cigar uses an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Dominican filler. Later, a second collaboration with Caldwell and A.J. Fernandez was announced called The Truth. That cigar, made at Fernandez’s Estelí factory, is a Nicaraguan puro.

3) Joya de Nicaragua, which is distributed by Drew Estate, also announced a new cigar and some packaging changes. The Antaño series of cigars is expanding with a new line called Antaño Gran Reserva. “The main alteration [from the Antaño 1970 line] that comes with the Antaño Gran Reserva is that we have added fillers that have been aged for up to five years,” said Juan Ignacio Martínez, executive president of Joya de Nicaragua (Antaño 1970 is a Nicaraguan puro featuring a Habano Criollo wrapper). Antaño Gran Reserva will be introduced in three sizes—Belicoso (6 x 54), Gran Cónsul (4.75 x 60), and a box-pressed Robusto Grande (5.5 x 52)—and will begin shipping in August. It joins Antaño 1970 (introduced over 15 years ago) and Antaño Dark Corojo (introduced in 2007) as a member of the Antaño family. Also announced is a facelift for the Antaño Dark Corojo, “To align the Antaño family and its look, we have updated the packaging of the Antaño Dark Corojo to match the other brands in the Antaño family,” said Ignacio.

4) Inside the Industry: Crowned Heads announced a new Four Kicks Maduro, using a Connecticut Habano Maduro wrapper around the same binder and filler as the original Four Kicks. La Flor Dominicna is set to debut La Volcada, which features a Mexican maduro wrapper, Ecuadorian Corojo binder, and Dominican filler. Crux introduced Crux Epicure, a Nicaraguan puro initially announced last year, and is adding a Corona Gorda size to the three originally planned vitolas.

5) From the Archives: With so many new cigars being announced this time of year, it is worth taking a step back to consider which new cigars are worth your hard-earned dollars. In this commentary from two years ago, we offer some advice about figuring out which new cigars are most likely to appeal to you.

6) Deal of the Week: For today only, here are 100 deals including cigars from Ashton, Punch, Oliva, My Father, Rocky Patel, Crowned Heads, Davidoff, Drew Estate, Tatuaje, Cohiba, 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 credits: Drew Estate / Joya de Nicaragua