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Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Court Ruling Could End Tax-Free Online Sales, Nat Sherman Gets a Facelift, BLTC Announces Sindustry, and More

22 Jun 2018

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 584th in the series.

1) In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted states the authority to require online retailers to collect sales taxes—a major shift in policy that could provide a boost to brick-and-mortar cigar retailers and eliminate internet and catalog tax-free shopping options for cigar consumers. “States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping,” reports the New York Times. “On Thursday, the court overruled that ruling, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which had said that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales taxes unless they have a substantial connection to the state.”

2) Nat Sherman has unveiled a new strategy for branding and packaging. While the blends themselves will remain unchanged, the New Jersey-based company’s premium cigars will be organized into three categories—Metropolitan, Timeless, and Epoca—and all will receive a facelift. Metropolitan will include the current Metropolitan Connecticut, Maduro, and Habano lines; Timeless (pictured above) will include Prestige (formerly Timeless Dominican), Supreme (formerly Timeless Nicaraguan), Sterling, and Panamericana; and Epoca, an old brand that was reintroduced in 2014, will continue to stand alone. “This realignment of our cigar brands offers a clearer picture of how our collection of products fits together,” said Michael Herklots, vice president of retail and brand development. The new packaging will debut at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas next month.

3) Black Label Trading Company (BLTC) has announced the second annual release of Sindustry, a San Andrés-wrapped cigar made at the company’s Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Estelí. Three sizes—Robusto, Toro, and Lancero—will sell in the $10-$10.50 range. “This vintage of Sindustry is the perfect balance between strength and flavor,” said BLTC creator James Brown. “Sindustry is one of my personal favorite cigars, and I’m very excited about this release hitting retailers.” BLTC also this week announced Ligero Hawaii, a single-vitola, Pennsylvania Broadleaf-wrapped cigar that will be exclusive to R. Field Wine Co. in Honolulu starting on July 6.

4) Random Read: Bob Dylan has a line of whiskey, and it might actually be pretty good.

5) Inside the Industry: Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT) formally announced the debut of the long-anticipated Sin Compromiso, a “series of ultra-premium handmade cigars” set to be released in August. According to DTT founder Steve Saka, “Sin Compromiso is the result of over three years of experimental black tobacco harvests in Mexico, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, and the culmination of my experiences as a cigar blender. The marquee’s name translates to ‘no compromise,’ and that is the exact approach I took when creating this cigar.” The line will debut in five sizes: Selección No. 2 Torpedo (6 x 52), Selección No. 5 Parejo (6 x 54), Selección No. 7 Parejo (7 x 56), Selección Intrépido (5.63 x 46), and Selección Espada Estoque (7 x 44). The soft-pressed, sleeved in Spanish cedar cigars will retail in the $15.95-$18.45 range and are packed in 13-count matte lacquered boxes.

6) From the Archives: The FDA is reconsidering its regulation of cigars (more on that soon), which makes this article on studies about the health effects of cigars particularly important.

7) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the July box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr / Nat Sherman / Facebook

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Nicaraguan Crisis Escalates to Nationwide Strike, Drew Estate Releases Five Flying Pigs, and More

15 Jun 2018

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 583rd in the series.

1) The tumultuous situation in Nicaragua—spurred by President Daniel Ortega’s April 18 proclamation of social security reforms, including decreased benefits and higher taxes—took a new turn yesterday, as many working Nicaraguans participated in a nationwide strike. “Streets were deserted in cities and towns as banks and supermarkets, gas stations and corner stores were closed. Few people ventured out during the 24-hour stoppage,” reports Reuters. “Police officers with assault rifles lined the largely empty main streets of the capital Managua. The strike, organized by university students, farmers, and business owners, was the latest tactic by a loose national alliance formed to dislodge the president.” Nicaragua is the largest importer of premium cigars into the U.S. market. The widespread protests have taken their toll on the industry as roadblocks have severely hampered transportation and shipments. Sadly, many lives have been lost as well. “Nearly 150 have been killed and hundreds injured in eight weeks of clashes between pro-Ortega forces and protesters armed with rocks, slings, and homemade mortars.”

2) Drew Estate has released shipments of five Liga Privada and Undercrown Flying Pigs to retailers, including the Liga Privada No. 9, T52, Undercrown, Undercrown Shade, and Undercrown Sungrown. The unique format is nearly 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 60 and includes a tapered foot and a tapered pigtail cap. The Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 will sell for $181.20 per 12-count box (2,500 boxes made); the Undercrown Flying Pigs will sell for $152.64 per 12-count box (2,500 boxes made). “As president of Drew Estate, it brings me great pride to report that our production floor’s passion, and painstaking dedication to detail, remains as strong today as the day we began as a little fabriquita,” said Jonathan Drew. “All of us at Drew Estate wish to dedicate this release collection to all the fathers who give us the wisdom and love to fly high everyday.”

3) Random Read: Why an Irish whiskey shortage, years in the making, may soon be upon us.

4) Inside the Industry: The cigar industry lost Eric Hanson on June 8. The founder of Hammer + Sickle cigars passed away at just 45 years old. Hanson created Hammer + Sickle cigars in 2010, as a complement to Hammer + Sickle vodka, which he also owned. We interviewed Hanson about his Second Growth brand here.

5) From the Archives: Want to become adept at aging cigars? Check out our 2008 interview with Doc Stogie.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the July box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr / Drew Estate

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: FDA Comment Period Extended, J.C. Newman’s Billboard Campaign, and More

8 Jun 2018

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 582nd in the series.

1) Yesterday—not long after 33 members of Congress signed a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), asking him to extend the comment period on FDA premium cigar regulation—the FDA announced a 30-day extension. July 25 is the new deadline for comments concerning the regulation of premium cigars (and July 19 for comments concerning the regulation of flavors in tobacco products). If you’d like to submit your own comments, you may do so here.

2) Taking a page from the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, J.C. Newman’s “Save Cigar City” campaign is now employing electronic billboards across Florida to promulgate the message of cigar freedom. The message is expected to be viewed over two million times by June 25. The billboards are intended to “complement the large banners visible from Interstate 4 that J.C. Newman has hung from its iconic 108-year-old cigar factory’s clock tower in Tampa’s Ybor City National Historic Landmark District, and the 100,000 postage-paid FDA comment cards that J.C. Newman has distributed to premium cigar retailers across the country,” reads a press release. “Our goal is to spread the word about how America’s historic premium cigar industry is under serious threat from excessive government regulation,” said Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman. “According to the FDA’s own estimates, regulation will put up to half of the cigar industry out of business—including the last operating cigar factory in ‘Cigar City.’”

3) Random Read: A tribute to the heroes of D-Day, including Star Trek‘s James Doohan, whose life was saved during the operation because he smoked. (He was shot in the chest, but the bullet was stopped by the cigarette case in his pocket.)

4) Inside the Industry: Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) is teaming up with Jim “Island Jim” Robinson, who is known as a brand owner and for his Leaf and Bean shop in Pittsburgh. Together, they are launching Leaf by James, a single-vitola blend made at BLTC’s Fabrica Oveja Negra in Estelí. The Toro (6 x 50, $9.95) sports a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper around an Ecuadorian Habano binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. It is available at Leaf and Bean starting today; there will be a national release later this summer.

5) From the Archives: Win the war on mold in your humidor.

6) Deal of the Week: Fancy humidors can be great, but when it comes to functionality and value you’d be hard-pressed to beat an acrylic jar like this one, which is currently on sale for $14 (with free Amazon Prime shipping). [Also, check out this cigar-themed Game of Thrones T-shirt: “That’s what I do: I smoke cigars and I know things.”]

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys / J.C. Newman

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Members of Congress Seek Cigar Regulation Delays, Illinois Keeps Smoking Age at 18, and More

1 Jun 2018

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 581st in the series.

1) Thirty-three members of Congress have written a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to extend the comment period on FDA premium cigar regulation. On March 23, the FDA announced it was seeking comments about reconsidering premium cigar regulations, with a 90-day comment period ending on June 25. This letter to OMB asks for a further 90 days, to September 23, and also seeks to align the warning label deadline—currently slated for August—to September 23 as well. “As members of the U.S. Congress representing all sectors of the hand-rolled premium cigar industry, we remain concerned that the FDA’s regulatory overreach on this issue, which is contrary to Congress’ intent under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA), will continue to impose greater economic burdens on the manufacturers and retailers of premium cigars,” reads the letter.

2) The smoking age in Illinois will remain at 18, at least for now. This week, the Illinois House rejected a bill, which passed in the Senate in April, that would have raised the age to 21. “Five states and 14 Illinois cities and counties have already adopted local ordinances setting the age at 21,” reports the Peoria Journal Star. “According to a fiscal note from the Illinois Department of Revenue, the state would lose between $41 million and $48 million in tax revenue if the legislation were enacted.”

3) Random Read: Have we reached peak Prosecco? (Cava is a better value anyway.) Next up: Peak rosé.

4) Inside the Industry: ScrewPop (which we wrote about here) is adding a new cigar cutter. Chopo features a mini stainless steel double-guillotine cutter that fits on your key chain. Chopo, which doubles as a bottle opener, retails for $24.95.

5) From the Archives: Wild Turkey 81-Proof Rye & Russell’s Reserve Small Batch 6-Year Rye… “Both are solid pairings for a cigar, but Russell’s Reserve can stand up to a wide variety of mild, medium, or full-bodied cigars, while the standard variety is likely to be overwhelmed by a cigar that’s full-bodied. Both are good rye whiskeys, but the Small Batch variety is particularly noteworthy as a classic rye to enjoy neat.”

6) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, Cohiba, Crowned Heads, RoMa Craft, and more. Free shipping is included on any purchase. If you really want to stock up, add promo code “GBP20D” at checkout to knock $20 off an order of $150 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Commentary: Cigars and Memorial Day

28 May 2018

[Editor’s Note: Today, for Memorial Day, we are republishing the following commentary written in 2008.]

With today’s celebration of Memorial Day to honor those who died in our nation’s service, I have a proposal: As cigar smokers, let’s extend the recognition of service to a week-long effort to provide cigars for the troops overseas, particularly those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you win cigars this week, donate them. If you’re planning to send a bomb to a friend or cigar board acquaintance, give the cigars to service men and women instead. If you receive a bomb, pass it along to the men and women in uniform who can’t go out and buy cigars but would truly enjoy the opportunity to smoke one. Stop by a local B&M to see what sort of operation it has for sending cigars to the troops (many shops do) and make a contribution. Check the programs several manufacturers have to give cigars to the troops when you make a purchase.

Choose whatever way you’d like to contribute. Just think how great it would be if everyone who reads this made just a small contribution and got a friend or two to do the same.

I first wrote about making cigar contributions back in November. Then, as now, I said such generosity has nothing to do with support or opposition for the war in Iraq or any governmental policy. It’s simply a good and decent thing to do for the cigar-loving men and women in uniform.

So, make this Memorial Day one to remember – for you and for our heroes overseas. Cigars, after all, are among the most requested items by the troops, and they have earned a well-deserved break.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Diesel Whiskey Row Announced, Texas FDA Lawsuit Set to Begin, Tatuaje TAA, and More

25 May 2018

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 580th in the series.

1) On Monday, General Cigar announced a partnership between A.J. Fernandez, the Diesel cigar brand, and Rabbit Hole Bourbon. Those entities have teamed up to create Whiskey Row, a new cigar line featuring bourbon barrel-aged binder leaves from a “proprietary process” developed by Fernandez. This concept was “brought to life in 2016 when Rabbit Hole Bourbon barrels arrived at Tabalacera A.J. Fernandez in Esteli, Nicaragua,” reads a press release. “A.J. placed the Mexican San Andrés binder in the bourbon barrels in a special configuration. The tobacco was left to rest inside the barrels, and the amount of air inside was controlled at regular intervals to ensure the bourbon flavors were imparted evenly.” In addition to this binder, Diesel Whiskey Row includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper aged for five years and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos aged for five to eight years. The blend, scheduled to launch next month, will be offered in four sizes, each packaged in 25-count boxes: Robusto (5.5 x 52, $7.49), Toro (6 x 54, $7.99), Churchill (7 x 49, $8.49), and Gigante (6 x 60, $8.99).

2) A date has been set to hear oral arguments in the lawsuit that pits premium cigar industry groups in Texas against the FDA. Judge Kimberly C. Priest Johnson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas will preside over the case. She bumped up the proceedings to begin on June 26 “in light of the August 10, 2018, effective date of the warning requirements.” She also denied the FDA’s request to move the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia—which is good news, since last week that court ruled against the cigar industry. This suit is brought by the Texas Cigar Merchants Association, El Cubano Cigars, and En Fuego Tobacco Shop and focuses entirely on premium cigars; the Washington suit was brought by the Cigar Association of America, International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, and Cigar Rights of America and, in addition to premium cigars, also included pipes and machine-made cigars.

3) Random Read: If Sports Gambling is Legal, Where Does the Money Go?

4) Inside the Industry: TAA (Tobacconists’ Association of America) is a small group retailers celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. One of the perks of being a member is access to exclusive TAA blends created by cigar makers only for member tobacconists. This week, Tatuaje  announced they are shipping their TAA 50th Anniverasry blend. This year’s Tatuaje TAA cigar is a robusto (5 x 52) that features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. Production is limited to 2,500 boxes of 20 cigars with each cigar selling for $11.95.

5) From the Archives: Back when we interviewed A.J. Fernandez in 2011, we started the interview by noting: “A.J. Fernandez may be the best cigar maker you haven’t heard of. But not for long.” You’ve probably heard of him now.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the June box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Premium Cigar Regulation Exemption Passes Committee, Davidoff Releases Wagner, and More

18 May 2018

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 579th in the series.

1) On Tuesday, we learned the unfortunate news that cigars had been dealt a major legal blow. Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision, siding not with the cigar industry groups who were challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation of premium cigars and other tobacco products, but with the FDA. “If you’re looking for someone to blame for yesterday’s ruling, don’t focus on the judge, but on the Congress that authorized the FDA’s regulation of cigars in the first place,” we wrote on Wednesday. “And don’t forget: Today’s Congress still has the power to repeal it.” Little did we know, later that same day, the industry would be rewarded with a glimmer of hope. The fiscal year 2019 budget, as approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, includes some positive language. “The language as adopted by the committee blends past efforts, by not only providing an exemption for defined premium and large cigars, but changing the ‘predicate date’ for cigars and pipe tobacco from burdensome pre-market approval procedures to the time of the deeming rule issuance, from February 15, 2007 to April 25, 2014,” reads a statement from Cigar Rights of America (CRA). “This amendment once again sends a clear message that the regulations advanced by the FDA go well beyond the congressional intent of the Tobacco Control Act,” said Glynn Loope, executive director of CRA. Mind you, this isn’t the first time such language has made it out of committee only to be eliminated from the final spending bill. But the inclusion of the language at this juncture is a bit of welcome news in an otherwise dreary week.

2) The latest release from Davidoff’s Vault program that offers rare and vintage cigars is the Wagner, which went on sale today. It was originally issued in Europe in 2004 to honor Swiss tobacconist Wagner Tåbak‑Ladeli. Davidoff said it was its “first tailor-made cigar.” The Vault has been a consumer hit, with most offerings selling out in a few hours.

3) Random Read: Why Burger King is blasting Bach.

4) Inside the Industry: Villiger recently announced the opening of a new factory, Villiger do Brasil, located in the Brazilian state of Bahia. The factory will be devoted solely to Brazilian puros, including the Villiger San’Doro Maduro, which is available in the U.S. market.

5) From the Archives: “It’s a versatile rye that’s plenty good enough to be sipped straight (as I recommend), but you wouldn’t be heart-broken if your buddy throws a bunch of ice cubes in it or decides to mix it in a Manhattan…. If you’re a rye fan who hasn’t tried Sazerac Rye, you’re missing out.”

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up soon to be eligible for the June box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys