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Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 478 (FDA Cigar Regulation Edition)

6 May 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 the FDA issued a 499-page final rule subjecting cigars to FDA regulation. The regulation will officially be published on May 10 and will take legal effect on August 8 with various requirements being phased in thereafter. Notably, the FDA rejected an option that would have created an exemption for premium handmade cigars that met certain criteria, which the handmade cigar industry had made the focus of lobbying efforts. Because the regulation doesn’t alter the 2007 grandfather date (cigars introduced after that date will have to go through the FDA approval process), the regulation means that, should Cuban cigars ever become legal, they would not be exempt from the approval process. FDA officials admit that process could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per each size of each blend.

2) Cigar Rights of America blasted he rule in a press release: “Unfortunately, the FDA and the Obama Administration have rejected and cast aside any rationally objective approach to developing this regulation. When Congress gave FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, they did so specifically with the stipulation that in order to subject a product to regulation FDA must demonstrate that the specific product(s) possess issues of underage consumption and health and mortality impact through addiction, both which have never been associated with premium cigars… As a result of today’s announcement by FDA, the board of Cigar Rights of America will be convening an emergency meeting to evaluate all legal and legislative options moving forward.”

3) The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) also slammed the devastating impact of the rule in a statement: “The FDA’s regulation of premium cigars, if left unchecked, would have a devastating impact on retailers and manufacturers alike. Consumers will have less choice. Youth access is simply not an issue in the premium cigar space where 35,000 Americans earn their living along with over 300,000 employees in the Caribbean Basin.”

4) From the Archives: Since 2007, StogieGuys.com has covered the issue of FDA regulation of cigars. In 2009, after the FDA tobacco regulation bill was signed into law, we reported on the potential impact, noting it was “a major threat to cigar manufacturers and the choices available to cigar smokers.” Later, in the same article, we reported on the reaction from various cigar makers. One comment was particularly striking: “Jaime Garcia, son of famed cigar-maker Don José ‘Pepin’ Garcia, and a top maker in his own right, told me through a translator that coming from Cuba, he couldn’t believe that in America so much power would be given to the government to control his business.”

5) Deal of the Week: If you’re not already a member, the events of yesterday should motivate you to join Cigar Rights of America. Joining not only supports professional lobbyists who fight for cigar freedom, but also affords discounts at cigar shops, free cigars, and more. One great way to join is by purchasing a Cigar Rights of America sampler. Each sampler includes CRA membership, plus ten exclusive cigars. Buy one at your CRA-supporting local cigar retailer or purchase one online here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: CRA

Breaking News: The FDA Just Issued the Final Rule Regulating Handmade Cigars, and It’s as Bad as We Feared

5 May 2016

FDA-cigars-large

Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the final rule regulating cigars. We will have more coverage in tomorrow’s Friday Sampler and in the coming weeks but, for now, here are some key points about the impact of the 499-page rule on handmade cigars.

The FDA Rejected Pleas for an Exemption for Premium Cigars

In its initial proposed rule, the FDA offered two options for regulating cigars: option one (which covers all cigars), and option two (which exempts handmade cigars over $10). In its final rule, the FDA rejected option two, meaning a $12 handmade premium cigar will be treated exactly the same under the rule as “little cigars” that are manufactured on the same machines that produce cigarettes.

Date for Grandfathered Products Remains Unchanged

While the so-called Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTC)—the bill giving the FDA the power to regulate cigars—didn’t pass until June 2009, the legislation sets February 15, 2007 as the cutoff date for tobacco products to be grandfathered in as exempt from needing FDA approval before being sold or marketed in the United States. There were hopes that the FDA would modify that date, but they did not. As a result, products introduced past that date will be subjected to the FDA approval process. Cigars currently on the market will be treated differently from those introduced after the regulation officially takes effect.

Regulations Take Effect August 8

While the text of the rule was released today, it will not be officially published to the Federal Register until May 10, at which point a 60-day clock will start until the regulation officially goes into effect. Cigars introduced after August 8 will have to get FDA pre-approval before being marketed or distributed. Non-grandfathered (post-February 15, 2007) cigars on the market before August 8 can be sold until August 8, 2018, after which they must apply for FDA approval to remain on the market. Notably, the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show is set to take place in Las Vegas at the end of July, meaning it will effectively be the last chance cigar makers have to introduce new cigars before the August 8 date for pre-approval is required.

FDA Approval Process Still Murky

The need for FDA approval of new cigars is the biggest reason why industry experts predict the rule will devastate the handmade cigar industry, including 30,000 Americans who work in the industry and over 300,000 employees abroad. While subjecting all cigars to a pre-approval process where they must prove the new product is “substantially equivalent” to a grandfathered or approved product, the exact standards the FDA will use to make this determination, or exactly what scientific data would need to be included with the application, is far from clear. The FDA also doesn’t seem to address if it has the capacity to deal with new applications in a timely manner.

Rule Enacts Sample Ban, Mandated Warning Labels

Starting on August 8, distribution of samples will be prohibited, meaning cigar shop events where attendees get to try a new product free of charge will be prohibited. Full implementation of warning labels on cigars has also been mandated, with warnings “to appear on at least 30 percent of the two principal display panels of the package, and at least 20 percent of the area of advertisements.”

FDA Intends to Ban Flavored Cigars Next

In the finalized rule, the FDA states the following regarding demands by anti-tobacco lobbyists that it include a ban on flavored tobacco products: “To address concerns with the growing flavored cigar market and its impact on youth and young adult initiation with tobacco products, FDA is announcing here that it intends to issue in the future a proposed product standard that would prohibit characterizing flavors in all cigars, including cigarillos and little cigars.” To date the exact definition of a flavored cigar is unknown, and depending on the definition such a ban could include many premium handmade cigars not commonly identified as flavored.

Legal Challenges Are Inevitable

Barring an Act of Congress, only a federal court case can stop enforcement of this rule. Legal actions to executive orders generally come in the form of either a facial challenge to the rule, or an as applied challenge. A facial challenge could ask for an injunction to stop implementation of part of the rule or the entire rule, although the standard for getting one is very high. An “as applied” legal challenge would allege that the FDA violated either a federal law or the Constitution in how it applied the regulations to a specific party. With such a major expected impact, multiple federal lawsuits are likely.

The entire text of the 499-page rule can be found here.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 477

29 Apr 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.

Powerbrand Camacho

1) Camacho yesterday announced a new line called Powerbrand, which will reside under its Master-Built Series. It is billed as an “intense, adrenaline-fueled cigar experience inspired by the power, performance, and acceleration associated with a classic V-twin engine, built to galvanize a brotherhood of freedom seekers.” The Powerbrand recipe includes a Habano 2000 wrapper from Ecuador, a San Andrés binder, and (predominantly Ligero) filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Three sizes will be available—Robusto, Toro, and Gordo—in the $11-13 range. Shipments to the U.S. will begin Monday, June 13. Oettinger Davidoff, Camacho’s parent, yesterday also reported strong cigar sales in 2015. “Against the backdrop of a declining market, both core brands, Davidoff and Camacho, reported gratifying double-digit growth of 10.5% and 34.4%, respectively,” according to a press release. “In addition, Oettinger Davidoff achieved a production record for the third consecutive time: It produced a grand total of 45.8 million cigars (previous year: 44.0 million) in 2015, an increase of 4.1%.”

2) Omar de Frias’ Fratello Cigars is shipping the “Fratello Branded Tray” to select retailers starting in May. “This tray combines the power of engineering with functionality and style,” said de Frais in a press release. “Cutting the total Fratello shelve space by 30% while increasing our cigar output by 10% was one of our main goals.” Contrary to an earlier announcement, the trays will not include a secret compartment. This is the second year Fratello is launching a special retailer tray; last year the company shipped 125 trays.

3) Inside the Industry: Miami native Eddy Guerra has been named director of marketing for Gurkha Cigars. He was previously a partner at the Thailand-based ChindAsia Capital Partners, which grew to become the largest distributor of non-Cuban cigars in Southeast Asia. “I met Eddy Guerra in Thailand, and we quickly became friends,” said Gurkha president Kaizad Hansaotia in a press release. “His knowledge about cigars and marketing acumen make him a tremendous asset to the Gurkha team. I look forward to a long and prosperous working relationship with Guerra.”

4) From the Archives: Summer is the season for travel, and it’s just around the corner. If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip to Paris, be sure to read the Stogie Guys cigar guide to the City of Lights. You’ll find advice on where to buy and where to light up.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Past boxes include barbecue accessories, shaving kits, coffee, and exclusive cigars from E.P. Carrillo. You can skip or purchase every month (or select a different box). This month’s options include a serious upgrade to your cocktail accessories, a kit for making barrel-aged cocktails, kits that include everything you need (but the booze) for an authentic Moscow mule or mint julep, and others. Click here to sign up today.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 476

22 Apr 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.

JDB2

1) On Tuesday, Jonathan Drew announced the first three products from his new venture called John Drew Brands (JDB). “The movement that began on the production floor in Nicaragua changed premium cigars forever. From a broken down little green house with five employees to the second largest premium cigar maker in the world, we did it together,” reads the new JDB website. “Today, Jonathan Drew announces his transition to the distillery floor. You may recognize him as JD, Dizzle, SNACKi, Vale Verga—but if you know JD at all, you understand his creative mind, loving heart, and dedication to quality.” For now, JDB will be focused on rum and whiskey. The three inaugural brands will be Brixton Mash Destroyer, Dove Tale Rum, and John Drew Rye. “JD might just be the Bo Jackson of the cigar and spirits industries,” said Michael Cellucci in a press release. “His passion and commitment for the Drew Estate Cigar Company remains 100% intact with no plan to disengage. I have full confidence in his team’s ability to develop a legacy in the spirits world as well.” Swisher International, Inc.—the largest cigar company in the world by volume—acquired Drew Estate in 2014.

2) Cigar Insider reports the U.S. imported 315 million premium cigars last year, up 2.3 percent over the previous year. The Dominican Republic remains America’s largest supplier at just over 126 million cigars, followed closely by Nicaragua at 119 million. Honduras trails at about 68 million. These numbers represent shipments of cigars, not sales, and they do not include the illicit importation of Cuban cigars.

3) Inside the Industry: This week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill to extend the state’s 50-cent-per-cigar tax cap for five years. The state taxes tobacco products at 32% of the wholesale price, but a previous bill limited that to 50 cents per cigar to enable the state’s tobacconists to compete. The previous cap was set to expire in October, which would have resulted in many taxes on cigars doubling (or more) overnight.

4) From the Archives: Mold is a serious threat to your cigars. As temperatures heat up, the risk of mold increases too. Back in 2008, we covered the basics of mold: how to prevent it, how to differentiate it from plume, and what to do if you find it. Eight years later, it is still worth a read.

5) Deal of the Week: Smoke Inn’s newest exclusive Microblend series cigar, the Smoke Inn 20th Anniversary by Davidoff, is available for pre-sale. The Belicoso (6 x 52) features a Connecticut Ecuadorian “Rojiza” wrapper over a complex blend of Dominican binder and filler tobaccos.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: John Drew Brands

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 475

15 Apr 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.

BL Conn

1) Yesterday, the oldest cigar maker in the Dominican Republic announced the launch of a new four-blend line called Black Lion. La Aurora Black Lion will be featured in Connecticut, Corojo, Maduro, and Cameroon varieties. Connecticut will pair a Connecticut wrapper with an Ecuadorian binder and filler tobaccos from the Cibao Valley, Nicaragua, and Peru. Black Lion Cameroon will have a Cameroon wrapper with an Ecuadorian binder and fillers from the Cibao Valley and Nicaragua. Black Lion Maduro sports a dark Cubra wrapper with a Brazilian binder and fillers from the Cibao Valley, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Peru. And Black Lion Corojo will pair a Corojo wrapper with an Ecuadorian binder and fillers from the Cibao Valley and Nicaragua. Four sizes will be available: Robusto, Toro, Gran Toro, and Churchill. Each cigar will come in 25-count boxes with modern packaging that’s a clear departure from La Aurora’s typically classic approach, which leans heavily towards traditional.

2) The Tampa Bay Tribune highlights the stakes of the pending FDA regulation of cigars and the potential for warming regulations with Cuba to forestall the devastating impact of such regulations. According to the article, “The regulations would apply to foreign-made cigars, too—perhaps, one day, to now-banned Cuba imports. And that is where hope lies, say some in the industry. They think progress made under the initiative by President Barack Obama to normalize relations with Cuba will lead Congress to end the embargo and the FDA to adopt less restrictive regulations on premium cigars. Cigars from Cuba and those made by Newman are classified as premium.”

3) Inside the Industry: “Gran Habano announces the pre-release of La Colección de Elegancia, a collection of Gran Habano’s best-selling Corojo No. 5 blend in smaller ring gauge sizes,” reads a press release. “The Corojo No. 5 Elegance sizes have the strongest blend in the Gran Habano profile with rich, full-bodied flavors further enhanced by the smaller ring gauge. Gran Habano is now taking pre-orders from retailers for La Colección de Elegancia Sampler containing 10 cigars of each ring gauge size. Gran Habano will also be releasing three new sizes of Corojo No. 5 cigar boxes as part of the Elegance Collection series: Petite Corona (5.5 x 42), Corona (6 x 44), and the Figurado No. 200 (5 x 48).”

4) From the Archives: With summer just around the corner, it is a good time to make sure you are protecting your cigars from the potentially damaging effects that heat can have on proper storage. This tip will walk you through the basics, including providing four suggestions for making sure your cigars are properly shielded from excessive temperature.

5) Deal of the Week: Crowned Heads fans will want to jump on this special from Smoke Inn. For a limited time, buy any box of twelve Crowned Heads blends and get a free five-cigar travel case. Plus, use the coupon code “Stogie10” to knock ten percent off your order.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: La Aurora

Quick Smoke: La Flor Dominicana LG Diez Dominicano 2013

10 Apr 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.”

LG-Diez-2013-Dominicano

Not long ago, I was browsing a store that I don’t often go into and came across some well-aged La Flor Dominicana products, including this 2013 LG Diez Dominicano. The Churchill  (6.9 x 50) features a pale sun-grown Dominican Habano wrapper that surrounds Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. The well-constructed cigar is full-bodied, woody, and creamy with lots of red and black pepper spice. With a little leather on the finish, it’s a fine example of the complexity and body a Dominican puro can deliver.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 474

8 Apr 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.

Combined

1) La Aurora, the Dominican Republic’s oldest cigar manufacturer, this week announced the 1962 Corojo and 1987 Connecticut are now in stores. “The La Aurora 1962 features a Corojo wrapper, from the Cibao Valley in the Dominican Republic, wrapped over an Ecuadorian binder, and fillers from the Cibao Valley and Nicaragua,” reads a press release. “The La Aurora 1987 sports a Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, over a Dominican binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. La Aurora offers both cigars in four sizes in 20-count boxes: Robusto (5 x 50), Churchill (7 x 50), Toro (5.5 x 54), and Gran Toro (6 x 58). The low MSRP of $5.50 to $6.00 is to pay tribute to the consumers who have supported La Aurora for 113 years.”

2) Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) has announced the third release of its Morphine brand, which debuted in 2014 and got a sequel in 2015. The cigars are made at BLTC’s Estelí factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra, using a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Three sizes will be available: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 48, $10.50), Lancero (7.25 x 42, $11), and a box-pressed Torpedo (5 x 54, $10.50). “Morphine has quickly become a favorite of our customers. I think we can now say it’s our signature blend,” said BLTC founder James Brown. “The 2016 Morphine will not disappoint with its big, bold flavors and unique character. The blend is the same but we have changed the vitolas to highlight different characteristics of the cigar. This production also includes our first torpedo cigar in any of the BLTC lines.”

3) To celebrate his 50th birthday, Fred Rewey of the Nomad Cigar Co. is giving away 50 cigars from his personal humidor. “These will (of course) be Nomads but a few others as well,” he said in an email blast. “Test blends [and] limited cigars (yes, even the Lot 1386) [are] going to one winner. I’m also throwing in a Nomad cutter and a few other surprises.” (The Nomad Lot 1386 was a very limited release in 2013 that received some critical acclaim; only 307 12-count boxes were produced.) You can enter the giveaway here.

4) From the Archives: There are many options when it comes to keeping your cigars properly humidified, but the gold-standard is a temperature-controlled humidor, which you can either build or buy. In this tip from 2010, you can read the step-by-step process for converting a wine refrigerator into a temperature-controlled humidor.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Past boxes include barbecue accessories, shaving kits, coffee, and exclusive cigars from E.P. Carrillo. You can skip or purchase every month. This month’s options include a serious upgrade to your cocktail accessories, a kit for making barrel-aged cocktails, kits that include everything you need (but the booze) for an authentic Moscow mule or mint julep, and others. Click here to sign up today.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: La Aurora