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Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 503

28 Oct 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

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1) Yesterday, Cigar Aficionado reported the exclusive news—which was then widely disseminated throughout social media and on cigar websites—that José Blanco will become the new senior vice president of EPC Cigar Co., the premium cigar company owned by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. In that capacity, he will focus on building out a sales force for EPC in the U.S. Meanwhile, Las Cumbres Tabaco, which includes the Señorial and Freyja brands, will be majority owned and operated by Blanco’s wife, Emma Viktorsson, who will work out of Macedonia to build distribution in both Europe and the U.S. The brands will continue to be manufactured at Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic. Blanco launched Las Cumbres in 2014 after serving as vice president of Joya de Nicaragua. Before that, he was the sales director for La Aurora. He cites impending FDA regulations as the primary reason for the change. “The uncertainty behind the FDA’s rules is the main reason,” Blanco told Cigar Aficionado. “They are not making the terms clear and making business very difficult.”

2) The Wall Street Journal recently weighed in on the FDA clarification that cigar companies are no longer allowed to donate cigars to troops. “It would be hard to find a man or woman in uniform who doesn’t know that smoking is risky,” reads the editorial. “Then again so is combat. Meanwhile, the ban on cigar donations takes away the ability of these adults to make their own choices, contrary to President Obama’s explicit promise.” Duncan Hunter (R-CA) “says he’ll try to overturn the cigar-donation ban with an amendment to the next defense authorization bill. But he adds that the FDA’s overreach has given Congress good cause to take a fresh hard look at the FDA’s overall tobacco rule. Members are likely to find that it is less a genuine health measure than another government power grab.”

3) The book we called “spectacular” in a review earlier this year is on sale at a bargain price. The Cigar – Moments of Pleasure is available at Amazon and Cigars International for only $20, about a third of the original $59 list price. It’s a great gift for any cigar lover.

4) Inside the Industry: Drew Estate and Pappy & Company have announced the release of the Pappy Drew Limitada (4.9 x 60). The cigar is only available to those who purchase a box of each of the three regular Pappy Van Winkle cigars (Robusto, Toro, and Churchill). It sports an overstuffed perfecto shape similar to the Feral Pig.

5) From the Archives: Back in 2011, as part of our interview with cigar maker A.J. Fernandez, we observed “[A.J.] may be the best cigar maker you haven’t heard of. But not for long.” The years since have only validated that statement, which makes the interview worth a read now in light of how prolific Fernandez has been.

6) Deal of the Week: This week’s deal is a special sampler we personally selected. The contents highlight cigars we enjoyed years ago and still remain staples in our humidors. Just $58.49 gets you 10 cigars well below MSRP, including some high-end smokes from Padrón, Fuente, and Oliva.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Las Cumbres

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 502

21 Oct 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

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1) Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) visited the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. headquarters in Tampa on Wednesday to express contempt for FDA regulations on premium cigars and garner “news coverage… in a major media market along the Interstate 4 corridor as he’s locked in a contentious election against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat,” reports the Tampa Bay Times. “This is a law that was passed to keep cigarettes and harmful tobacco products out of the hands of young people and children, and I don’t think any of us disagree with that. Anybody who knows about the premium cigar industry knows it’s not an industry that targets or is consumed by young Americans,” he told reporters. “The end result and the worst-case scenario is about half the people working here in Tampa will lose their jobs at some point, maybe more, because all they’re going to be able to sell is the things they were making before 2007.” Both Rubio and Murphy support congressional efforts to exempt premium cigars from harmful FDA oversight.

2) A little more than three years after launching Fratello Cigars, owner Omar de Frias has decided to leave his decade-plus career at NASA to focus full-time on his cigar operation. “I set an aggressive goal for myself at [this summer’s industry trade show]. I exceeded that goal. Given the enormous support I received and increasing demand for Fratello, this was the time to give the cigar industry the extra 50 hours a week I was spending on our nation’s space program,” said de Frais in a press release. “Although it is a tumultuous time for our industry, I have confidence in the staying power of my brand and the relationships I have worked so hard to build with our retailers and consumers.” Fratello Cigars can now be found in over 350 tobacconists in the U.S. and in 7 countries.

3) To regular StogieGuys.com readers, the FDA’s anticipated impacts on the premium cigar industry are as well-documented as they are frightening. Yet the American craft beer industry—now 2,300 craft breweries strong—is also reeling under pressure from the cumbersome bureaucracy. A new book from lawyer Baylen J. Linnekin entitled Biting the Hands That Feed Us, and highlighted in Men’s Journal, details “the unforeseen consequences of FDA rules and regulations that… can put unnecessary pressure on artisanal food producers and encourage waste in the system that gets food from the farm to you.” Of particular interest is “a proposed rule… for how brewers handle the byproducts of making beer that just about everyone in the industry found absurd and business-killing costly.” Read about it here.

4) Inside the Industry: Although technically introduced at the IPCPR Trade Show this summer, Miami Cigar & Co. formally announced the national distribution of the Nestor Miranda Collection Corojo this week. The new blend comes in four sizes with suggested retail prices ranging from $7.50 to $9.50. The blend joins the Connecticut, Habano, and Maduro blends in the Nestor Miranda Collection.

5) From the Archives: With last week’s news that Americans traveling abroad can finally import Cuban cigars for personal consumption, now is a good time to revisit this 2008 commentary: Is the Cuban Cigar Hype Justified? Conclusion: “Make no mistake about it, Castro’s oppressed island nation produces some fine stogies, from the Partagas Serie D No. 4 and the RyJ Short Churchill to the Cohiba Siglo VI and the Monte Petit Edmundo… I personally question whether all the Cuban cigar hype—and the excessive prices that come with black market goods—is justified. I think many of us give sub-par Cubans a pass simply because we’re not supposed to smoke them. The forbidden factor unquestionably makes them more attractive.”

6) Deal of the Week: The Liga Privada Dirty Rat is a very sought-after and hard-to-find limited edition smoke. Currently, it is in stock here (4-packs are $58 and boxes of 12 are $157), but move quickly. Buy the box, or any order over $75, and get a free triple-flame table lighter by adding the coupon code “StogieDeal” at checkout.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 501

14 Oct 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

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1) President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines—best known for his internationally condemned violent campaign against drugs that has left 3,600 dead since he took office in June—has his sights set on banning public smoking. Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial “said Mr. Duterte wanted a 100 percent smoke-free environment in public places, as in the southern city of Davao, where he was formerly mayor,” according to the Associated Press. “The measure would restrict smoking to designated outdoor areas away from the public, and would include e-cigarettes as well as traditional cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Ms. Ubial said there was no reason for smokers and tobacco companies to oppose the ban. ‘We’re not stopping them from smoking,’ she said. ‘We are just telling them not to smoke around nonsmokers.’”

2) Not shying away from its reputation as a super-premium brand capable of commanding high prices, Davidoff has announced two Royal Release cigars—a Robusto and a Salomones—with MSRPs of $80 and $100 per cigar, respectively. The blend features an “Aromatica Dominicana” wrapper that’s exclusive to this release, a Habano Ecuador binder, and a variety of Dominican filler tobaccos. “The seeds themselves were created, germinated, and planted especially for this purpose,” according to a Davidoff press release. “The heritage and pedigree of today’s Royals can be traced back to the harvest of 2004/5, a year of near perfect growing conditions and ideal rainfall.” In addition to the cigars, which are sold in boxes of ten, Davidoff is also releasing a Royal Release lighter by S.T. Dupont ($970) and an ashtray made of handblown glass from Murano, Italy ($290).

3) Inside the Industry: Meier & Dutch, the distribution arm affiliated with Cigars International, which is owned by  the Scandinavian Tobacco Group (which is also the parent company of General Cigar), has announced the introduction of Lucious Lyon. Inspired by the FOX television program Empire, Lucious Lyon is named after the show’s lead character, portrayed by Terrence Howard. The cigar is made in Honduras in three sizes and features a Connecticut wrapper, dual Connecticut Broadleaf and Mexican binders, and filler from four countries: the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Along with the cigar, Meier & Dutch is also releasing a line of accessories made up of a crystal ashtray, a high-gloss humidor, and a cutter and lighter by Xikar.

4) From the Archives: Coffee and cigars go together about as well as any pair we can think of. Whether you’re a fan of light roast or prefer thick, sweet café Cubano, there’s sure to be a cigar to fit your preference. StogieGuys.com has been making recommendations and offering coffee advice for years. Check it out here, here, and here.

5) Deal of the Week: Crowned Heads fans will want to jump on this deep discount (50% off) on the two limited edition Mason Dixon releases. Both the North and South blends are in stock for $99 for a box of 20. Add coupon code “StogieDeal” and get a free triple-flame table lighter (good on any purchase of $75 or more).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Partagas Ramon y Ramon Robusto

9 Oct 2016

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.”

partagas

My colleague reviewed this newest Partagas blend only a few days ago. Having smoked the cigar myself, I wholeheartedly agree that this is an impressive new cigar. Right from the start I found a creaminess combined with light but flavorful spices and a touch of cedar. Although I might classify the cigar as mild in body, it is anything but dull. Add in the excellent construction I’ve come to expect from smokes produced by General Cigar, and it is a new cigar I’d recommend to novices and aficionados alike.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 500

7 Oct 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

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1) On July 14, 2006—over ten years ago—StogieGuys.com launched the Friday Sampler series, a weekly roundup of news and items of interest from the world of premium tobacco. Today we celebrate a milestone as we publish our 500th iteration of the series. Over the years, our Friday Sampler content has ranged from the latest news on smoking bans, taxes, and tobacco regulations to new releases, noteworthy deals, industry happenings, and—more recently—highlights from our extensive archives of reviews, tips, commentaries, and interviews. It’s been quite a journey, and we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’re not big on commemorating our own achievements (the anniversary of our establishment in May 2006, for example, almost always passes unnoticed), but we thought this was one milestone worth mentioning. Thank you for making it possible. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as we’ve enjoyed keeping our finger on the pulse of the industry and reporting back to you with clear, concise summaries of the most important cigar news of the week.

2) Speaking of cigar news, this week was relatively quiet on the news front, likely in part due to hurricane preparations in Florida (home office for many cigar companies). Hurricane Matthew has already struck eastern Cuba—leaving tremendous damage in its wake—as well as the Dominican Republic. At the time of this writing, the storm is currently barreling towards Florida. Time reports Matthew may even hit Florida twice: “Forecasters say Matthew will likely hit the eastern edge of Florida Thursday night as a powerful category four storm and will continue up the coast through Saturday. But then, instead of shifting toward the Atlantic and slowly dying off, several models show the storm circling back to land and hitting Florida a second time next week.”

3) Inside the Industry: This year’s Tatuaje Halloween release is called “The Krueger” after the bad guy from A Nightmare on Elm Street. The box-pressed torpedo (7.25 x 48) features a Mexican Maduro wrapper. As is tradition, 13 “unlucky” retailers will be getting the majority of the 666 dress boxes, with the list announced on the private Saints & Sinners forum Monday (and publicly soon thereafter). The remaining dress boxes, plus plain ten-count boxes (which make up the majority of the release), will go to Tatuaje retailers nationwide.

4) From the Archives: Since this is the 500th, it makes sense to take a look at our first Friday Sampler, published over a decade ago. In it, we included a link to a video of JFK’s press secretary talking about his mission to buy 1,000 Cuban cigars before Kennedy signed the Cuban Embargo, an item about a cigar butt smoked by Winston Churchill that sold for almost $700, a tasting wheel to help identify cigar flavors, and more.

5) Deal of the Week: This weekly deal from Smoke Inn features 10 cigars for just $30. Included are cigars that have a combined suggested retail price of over $90. The featured sticks include the Aging Room Bin No. 1 B Minor, Nica Puro Robusto, Nestor Miranda Robusto, Asylum Dragon’s Milk, Wild Bunch Warrior Joe, Montecristo Double Corona, La Jugada Maduro Toro, and Rocky Patel Edge Corojo Toro.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 499

30 Sep 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

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1) In a scathing—though perhaps unsurprising—story from Scientific American, it was revealed the FDA “has been arm-twisting journalists into relinquishing their reportorial independence” with a tactic known as the “close-hold embargo.” The entire article is well worth a read, but the gist of the unnerving scheme is that the FDA is offering certain media outlets briefings about upcoming announcements before those announcements are provided to their competition in exchange for the FDA’s ability to determine who the journalists can and cannot interview. “Documents obtained by Scientific American through Freedom of Information Act requests now paint a disturbing picture of the tactics that are used to control the science press,” reads the article. “For example, the FDA assures the public that it is committed to transparency, but the documents show that, privately, the agency denies many reporters access—including ones from major outlets such as Fox News—and even deceives them with half-truths to handicap them in their pursuit of a story. At the same time, the FDA cultivates a coterie of journalists whom it keeps in line with threats. And the agency has made it a practice to demand total control over whom reporters can and can’t talk to until after the news has broken, deaf to protests by journalistic associations and media ethicists and in violation of its own written policies.” This hardly seems like the behavior of an agency that works in the best interest of the public it supposedly serves. The revelation—which one observer described as “journalists become stenographers”—also may explain how so many supposedly reputable mainstream media outlets repeated many misleading FDA claims about the agency’s cigar regulations.

2) Major League Baseball may be officially anti-tobacco, but the players have no doubt what marks a special occasion. Before David Ortiz’s last game Sunday at Tropicana Field, the Tampa Bay Rays presented the Boston Red Sox slugger with gifts that included 34 cigars (his number) from local cigar company J.C. Newman. Reports referred to 34 Diamond Crown Maximus sticks, but a photo of the event (held off-field because of the death of José Fernández earlier that day) shows Rays’ star Evan Longoria with a box of Diamond Crown Julius Caeser and Big Papi holding the Maximus box. It’s not the first time cigars have figured in Ortiz’s retirement-tour celebration. The White Sox gave him a large cigar-filled humidor built by former Sox slugger-turned-woodworker Ron Kittle.

3) Inside the Industry:  A trio of products that pay tribute to the company’s history highlight La Aurora’s new offerings this year. La Aurora has long been known for using tobacco aged in rum barrels, but the new La Aurora 1903 Edition Double Barrel Aged doubles, by one year, the rum barrel aging period for the filler. The blend uses Ecuadorian wrapper, a Brazilian binder, and filler from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Nicaragua. The company is also introducing new formats of its flagship La Aurora Preferidos line, with non-tubo Corona, Robusto, and Toro sizes. Also new this year is the La Aurora 107 Cosecha 2006, which has tobacco from the 2006 harvest in three sizes: Churchill (7 x 50), Corona Gorda (6 x 47), and Robusto (5 x 50).

4) From the Archives: Picking a cigar to smoke is hard enough, but sometimes picking a tobacconist to buy it from can be equally frustrating. Based on lots of travel and visits to many cigar shops, this examination of “How to Spot an Excellent Tobacconist” will help you evaluate any shop.

5) Deal of the Week: Just $27 will land you this Lucky 7 Sampler. Included are three each of the Alec Bradley American Sun Grown and Oliva Serie O, plus a Punch Gran Puro, and a free cutter thrown in for good measure. Be sure to add the coupon code “stogie” for 10% off.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 498

23 Sep 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

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1) Among the choices facing California voters in November is the option to increase the cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with equivalent increases on other tobacco products, including cigars. A “yes” vote on Proposition 56 would increase the tax on cigars and pipe tobacco by 145% in the country’s most populous state. California Citizens Against Special Interests and Wasteful Taxes set up a website to encourage voters to reject the tax hike, calling Prop. 56 “a $1.4 billion tax hike grab by insurance companies and other wealthy special interests to dramatically increase their profits by shortchanging schools and ignoring other pressing problems.” Cigars are already taxed at a rate of 27.3% in California. “At a time when the California state budget has billions in surplus revenue, is this really the right time to be raising taxes—especially when the revenue will have no taxpayer accountability?” asked Tom Hudson, president of the California Taxpayer Protection Committee.

2) Greensboro, North Carolina, is the site of the latest Davidoff Lounge, this one a 2,000-square-foot space with “a modern design with industrial touches” inside Havana Phil’s Cigar Company. The grand opening was yesterday. According to a press release: “Davidoff commissioned NYC urban artists, UR New York, to create a one-of-a-kind art piece, depicting the fusion of Davidoff luxury and Greensboro’s local flavor. The lounge also features a filigree polygon ‘base jumper’ sculpture by artist Moto Waganari, offering interesting perspectives that will take viewers on an experiential journey from virtual art to reality. All decorative elements give this Davidoff Lounge a recognizable stamp of quality and luxury.”

3) Inside the Industry: Yesterday, multiple reports surfaced indicating Michael Giannini, creative director at General Cigar, was departing the company where he had worked since 2000. Giannini has held many positions at General over the years, including working with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo on La Gloria Cubana, and then becoming the face of the brand after Carrillo departed. In more recent years, he launched Foundry Cigar Company, which was described as a boutique operation within the General Cigar umbrella. Quotes from both parties suggest they part with mutual respect. Giannini also hinted he will soon reemerge in the cigar industry: “A musician knows when to stop playing when they don’t have any more songs… I’m not done playing,” he said.

4) From the Archives: If you’re a new cigar smoker, you may suffer from too much—or too little—advice. The simple act of attempting to enjoy a cigar can even become a source of worry, which is the last thing it should ever be. Back in 2013, we presented some suggestions to help beginners more easily find pleasure in the hobby.

5) Deal of the Week: New cigars continue to flow in at Smoke Inn. Now, any purchase of $75 or more includes a free triple-flame lighter valued at $50. To get it, just add the coupon code “StogieDeal” in your shopping cart before checking out.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr