Archive by Author

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

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Industry Braces for Irma, Cigar Makers Help in the Wake of Harvey, and More

8 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 546th in the series.

1) At the time of this writing, Hurricane Irma is a category five storm with a potential path of destruction that includes several major cigar-producing and premium tobacco-growing regions, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and South Florida. Irma threatens tobacco fields, factories, warehouses, shipping operations, and administration facilities. Obviously, with a natural disaster of this magnitude, cigars are not a top consideration, nor should they be; make no mistake that human lives are at risk, as Irma has already tragically left 13 dead. That said, it bears reporting that this storm may have a considerable impact on the cigar industry. To give you an idea of the severity of the hurricane: “Irma’s 185 m.p.h. wind speeds persisted for more than 24 hours, the longest period ever recorded. The French weather service described it as the most enduring superstorm on record,” reports the New York Times. With respect to Cuba, “The National Hurricane Center said hurricane conditions are possible from Matanzas all the way to the tip of Cuba and could begin in the watch area by Friday,” reports the Miami Herald. “By Saturday, Irma is expected to dump four to ten inches of rainfall on eastern and central Cuba with isolated downpours of up to 15 inches.”

2) Speaking of hurricanes, Cigar Aficionado published an interesting feature yesterday about how Houston-area tobacconists are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The story includes several heartwarming anecdotes that demonstrate the charitable nature of the industry. “One of the more notable relief efforts from the cigar industry has come from Tabacalera USA, the premium cigar division of global tobacco giant Imperial Brands PLC. Together with ITG Brands, the Imperial-owned companies donated $50,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey-related assistance in Houston and other affected areas.” Additionally, the article goes on to point out a special project by Erik Espinosa of Espinosa Premium Cigars that donates 100% of proceeds to victims of the storm. “Espinosa is calling the cigar One Love, which comes in red, white, and blue packaging with an image of Texas and a heart covering the Houston area. The Nicaraguan cigars are sold exclusively through Stogies World Class Cigars in Houston and have raised $5,000 for hurricane relief.”

3) Inside the Industry: With all the hurricane talk, it is worth revisiting how RoMa Craft Tobac was founded in the aftermath of a hurricane nearly a decade ago. Back then, RoMa Craft co-founder Skip Martin was the owner of the Hava Cigar Shop in Galveston, Texas. In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston hard, and Skip’s shop was one of its casualties. While you never want to see a business destroyed by a natural disaster, there was an upside for cigar smokers: Skip shifted his focus from selling cigars to making cigars. The rest is history.

4) From the Archives: How many gadgets can manufacturers come up with to complicate the simple act of smoking? A lot, as we explored many not-so-essential contrivances and contraptions that have been pushed in the cigar world.

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: Google

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: NYC Adopts Anti-Tobacco Measures, Benji Menendez Honored, New Herrera Estelí Size, and More

1 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 545th in the series.

1) Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation on Monday that will raise cigar prices in New York and limit the number of retailers who are licensed to sell tobacco. As summarized by Cigar Aficionado: “The bill calls for a minimum pricing structure for a cigar, which is defined by New York City as ‘any roll of tobacco for smoking that is wrapped in leaf tobacco or in any substance containing tobacco, with or without a tip or mouthpiece.’ In other words, the measure does not distinguish between machine-made and premium, handmade cigars. Under 1544-B, cigars sold individually must adhere to a price floor and be sold for no less than $8.00. The measure would also assess an excise tax on cigars at the rate of 10 percent of the $8 minimum, or 80 cents. This means that single cigars could not be sold for less than $8.80 apiece, regardless of the MSRP. And this is before state, federal, and tobacco taxes are applied. Moreover, for a box of cigars, the price floor would be calculated by counting the number of cigars in the box, multiplied by $1.75, plus $6.25. The excise tax for a box would break down to be 80 cents for the first cigar, plus .175 cents for each additional cigar.” The legislation will also limit the number of tobacco retailers allowed to operate in New York City by capping the allowable licenses at 50% of the current number (which is about 8,300). “No new tobacco retail dealer licenses will be issued in a community district until its total decreases through attrition below the cap,” reports NBC.

2) General Cigar Co. is honoring Benji Menendez with “a very special event series for Partagas” in the spring, with dates to be announced in early 2018. Menendez retired as General’s vice president of premium cigars in 2014 after a career in the handmade cigar industry that lasted over 60 years. “General Cigar is my extended family and I am grateful that they have never forgotten me,” said Menendez in a press release. “I am looking forward to doing more things with the company. I hope I can help in some small way to spread the word about the fantastic cigars they make.”

3) Drew Estate announced the release of Herrera Estelí DeSocio (6 x 60, $8.60), an exclusive vitola manufactured for Alliance Cigar, a wholesale distributor based in New York. “I’ve been asked consistently over the years at events across the nation to blend a larger ring gauge Herrera Estelí,” said Drew Estate master blender Willy Herrera. “The opportunity and challenge of bringing out the unique set of flavors in a large format cigar took many trials, and this DeSocio takes the Herrera Estelí blend… to a whole new level.”

4) A noted bourbon curmudgeon asks: Where are all the good new releases?

5) Inside the Industry: China’s Xinhua News Agency reports that Cuba is developing four new varieties of tobacco. Two are higher yield varieties of cigarette tobacco, but two others are reportedly being developed for use in handmade Cuban cigars.

6) From the Archives: It can be easy to get caught up in the cigar world thicket and miss what’s right there in front of you. We took a look a few years ago at how to tell if this is happening to you and what you might do to increase your smoking pleasure.

7) 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: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: BLTC Ships Boondock Saint, Drew Estate Releases Cuadrado, and More

25 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 544th in the series.

1) Black Label Trading Company (BLTC) has announced the shipment of a new cigar called Boondock Saint. Made at BLTC’s Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Nicaragua, Boondock Saint sports a dark Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper around a Nicaraguan Habano binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Both sizes—Corona Larga (6.25 x 46) and Robusto (5.25 x 50)—will be sold for $10 apiece at select BLTC retailers and packaged in 20-count boxes. “The Boondock Saint is a perfect example of a balanced cigar,” said BLTC creator James Brown. “The profile is rich, complex, and bold with tons of subtle flavors. The cigar is both strong and refined with a very elegant finish.” Boondock Saint is a product of the BLK WKS project, “an expression of art showcasing the talent, technique, and tobacco behind [the] boutique cigar factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra.” Speaking of Fabrica Oveja Negra, the facility is moving to a larger, freestanding space at the south entrance of Estelí that will include a large production area, tobacco storage facility, state-of-the-art aging room, retail store, cigar lounge, and exhibition space.

2) Looking for Umbagog? Steve Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust took to Facebook to explain the longfiller cigar that’s comprised to tobacco unworthy of Mi Querida will start reappearing at retailers next month. “Beginning in September, we will start fulfilling backorders to our retailers and, by mid-October, we will have shipped every backorder on almost all the sizes. Backorders will be fulfilled in the order in which they were placed,” he said. “If you want to buy [this] cigar, then this will be the time to do so as it is unlikely we will be importing any significant quantities until very late 2017/early 2018.”

3) Drew Estate has released a new Cuadrado format in its Undercrown Maduro (formerly just Undercrown) and Herrera Estelí for JR Cigars and Casa de Montecristo. Both are available in ten-count soft packs. Cuadrado measures 6.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 44. “One of my favorite vitolas I have blended at Drew Estate is the Norteno lonsdale because of how the smoke hits your palate, so we re-worked the blend of Undercrown Maduro, in this box press format using my experience of blending with Mexican San Andres wrapper with the Norteno,” said Drew Estate master blender Willy Herrera. “The Herrera Estelí Cuadrado shines in this size. Unlike my other exclusives, which feature different blends of the Herrera Estelí, this one remains exactly the same as the original just in the box-pressed lonsdale format. It’s just damn good.” The Undercrown Maduro Cuadrado 10-pack retails for $74; Herrera Estelí Cuadrado is $105.50 for a 10-pack.

4) The worldwide launch of the three inaugural products from John Drew Brands—Brixton Mash Destroyer (55% bourbon, 45% rum), Dove Tale Rum, and John Drew Rye—takes place today in Chicago at Binny’s Beverage Depot in Lincoln Park. By 4 PM Central, every Binny’s location will have the products available. Founded in 2015, John Drew Brands bills itself as “an authentic lifestyle company initially focused on the alcohol beverage category.”

5) Inside the IndustryCigar Insider‘s annual survey of retailers asks owners from 225 stores nationwide which cigars are their best-sellers and hottest brands. Fuente and Padrón took the top spots. Retailers also cited Davidoff, Romeo y Julieta, and Rocky Patel as rounding out the top five best-sellers.

6) From the Archives: How many gadgets can manufacturers come up with to complicate the simple act of smoking? A lot. In this article from 2007, we explored many not-so-essential contrivances and contraptions that have been pushed in the cigar world.

7) 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, cigars, and more) delivered for just $45. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up here to get the September shipment.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: BLTC

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