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News: Cigars International’s Next Step Is Florida

2 Aug 2019

Retail giant Cigars International is planning its first venture into the southeast with a new store just north of Tampa.

The move comes months after the retailer’s owner, Scandavanian Tobacco Group (STG), announced plans to shut Tampa operations for Thompson Cigar, which it bought last year for $62 million.

The new Florida store will continue Cigars International’s expansion efforts beyond its Pennsylvania roots. Last year, it opened a 6,000-square-foot shop in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

Florida and Pennsylvania are home to many online/catalog cigar retailers like Cigars International because neither state imposes a separate cigar tax.

In recent years, the Tampa area has seen moves by several cigar industry giants. Imperial Brands Casa de Montecristo bought and renamed Tampa Humidor in 2018, and Davidoff partnered with Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of Orlando-based Corona Cigar Co., to open a signature shop near the airport.

STG is a massive player in the tobacco market, especially through manufacturer General Cigar. Other holdings include, Cigars & Pipes online store, and a number of pipe tobacco and machine-made cigar brands.

It is in the process of winding down Thompson’s Tampa operations, where the company has operated since moving from Key West in 1920.

The new Cigars International store is proposed for a retail area north of Tampa near the intersection of interstates 75 and 275, according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s not so much a cigar store, but a destination,” company president Craig Reynolds told the newspaper.

Plans call for opening next year.

George E

photo credit: Cigars International

Quick Smoke: My Father La Promesa Toro

21 Jul 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Like so many cigars from Don José “Pepin” Garcia, La Promesa starts with a pleasing blast of pepper. Unlike some others, though, this one dials it back a bit before getting too far along. With an oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler, there’s a wide mix of flavors ranging from tobacco sweetness to leather and nuts. Strength is in the medium range. This new line from My Father Cigars comes in five sizes, with the Toro (6 x 52) running about $9.25. Originally introduced a few years ago in small numbers to qualify under FDA rules, La Promesa is now a full-scale release.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: My Father Cigars

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Exclusive Series TAA 51st

12 Jul 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

I’ve found another cigar with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper that I like. With Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, it’s a rich, creamy smoke with chocolate and espresso overtones and none of the dirt taste I often associate with the San Andrés leaf. In addition to the wrapper, the band is also a major departure from Tatuaje’s past exclusives. This limited edition of 60,000 sticks—Tatuaje’s ninth for the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA)—comes as a robusto (5 x 52) with a retail price of about $12 each. This is one I highly recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Cure Your Lighter Woes with the Z-Plus 2 Lighter Insert

8 Jul 2019

If there’s one thing most cigar smokers can agree on, it’s that, while butane torches are great for lighting up, they can also be among the finickiest, most unreliable, most erratic of accessories. Finding one that works well is often a quest.

For several months, I’ve been using a Z-Plus 2 insert in a Zippo case. I’ve been impressed.

Z-Plus inserts come in single- and double-flame varieties with a price difference of only a couple of dollars. I paid less than $25 for both a new Zippo and a double-flame insert. (Note: This article is not the result of any request by a manufacturer, distributor, or any other entity besides my own curiosity; I paid for the inserts myself.) I chose a standard Zippo brushed chrome case that doesn’t appear to have changed since I carried one in high school to light Marlboro cigarettes.

One of the first things most cigar smokers learn is to not use a conventional lighter with petroleum-based liquid fluid. The concern is that the fluid’s smell can get transferred to the tobacco. Butane, on the other hand, is an odorless gas at room temperature and has virtually eliminated lighter fluid as the preferred fuel supply for cigar lighters.

But, as noted earlier, butane lighters can be dicey to keep working over the long haul—or sometimes even over the short haul. Most use an electronic spark to ignite the butane, and that can become misaligned. Or the flame valves can get clogged. Sometimes, though, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what’s wrong, other than the darn thing won’t light. It can be terribly frustrating, especially since many of these lighters cost an arm and a leg.

My Z-Plus has ignited consistently. The only lighting problem I’ve encountered was my own fault. After filling the lighter and sliding it into the case, I found the flame would die only a few seconds after igniting. Finally, it dawned on me that it was probably shipped with the flame at its lowest setting and should be adjusted. Since adjusting that? No problems.

They’re made by the Lotus Group, one of the major lighter and accessory manufacturers. There’s little visual difference in the single- and double-flame models, though the single’s casing is opaque so you’re not able to see the fuel level.

Another attraction of the Z-Plus insert and competitors such as Vector’s Thunderbird line is for collectors. The variety of Zippo cases is seemingly endless.

Zippo itself tried the butane market a few years ago with a distinctive lighter it called Blu. Apparently, it never really caught on and even ran into legal trouble over the name. Finally, the lighter, by then called the more-prosaic Zippo Butane Fueled Lighter, was discontinued in 2016. (My colleague, Patrick A, had a Blu, but it was eventually confiscated by a TSA agent.)

I have only one real complaint with the Z-Plus, and it’s rather minor. Though there’s no problem depressing the ignition when the lighter is upright, it can be a little tricky to keep your fingers out of harm’s way when used at an angle for a touch-up.

Overall, I highly recommend the Z-Plus 2 as a low-cost butane torch. It’s worth a try—especially if, like me, you’ve had problems with other torches.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Plascencia Alma del Campo Guajiro

21 Jun 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

As one of the industry’s leading tobacco growers and manufacturers, it seems only natural that the Plascencia family would want its name on a high-end cigar. It introduced the still-expanding Alma series a few years ago to do just that. The Alma del Campo, a Nicaraguan puro, makes a near-perfect first impression. The wrapper is vein-free, smooth, and gives off an enticing mint aroma before lighting. The Guajiro vitola (5.5 x 54) runs about $16. It begins with a thick, meaty flavor and deep, rich smoke. Some spice and nuts come fairly quickly to the fore. Other notes include pepper and a touch of cinnamon. All are nicely balanced. Construction is excellent, strength is medium, and the the finish is long. I thoroughly enjoyed the Guajiro. The cost, though, is likely to limit my future pleasure. But when you’re looking for a luxe cigar, this is one line not to ignore.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Brazilian Maduro Toro Especial

14 Jun 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

The intense pre-light floral aroma from this cigar’s Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper is a quick tipoff that it isn’t a typical maduro. And that plays out from beginning to end. There’s not a lot of the usual coffee, chocolate, or cocoa frequently associated with other maduros. The Brazilian Maduro Toro (6 x 52, $9.68) opens with a shot of pepper that yields to notes of light spice, some sweetness, and leather in a smooth, well-balanced blend. Strength is firmly in the medium range. It burns slowly, produces lots of smoke, and has an excellent draw. With a Connecticut Broadleaf binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, you might expect more complexity, but I found it to be a fairly straightforward smoke. That’s not a criticism; I thoroughly enjoyed what it presented. This addition to Drew Estate’s Herrera Estelí line was introduced last year. It comes in five sizes, all in boxes of 25. I suggest you pick one up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Cohiba Connecticut Robusto

5 Jun 2019

General Cigar labels its latest Cohiba a “super-premium release” and continues to expand the range of the U.S.-only line. The Cohiba Connecticut would seem to be aimed at luring high-end smokers attracted to cigars such as those produced by Davidoff, Ashton, and God of Fire.

It is a legitimate contender.

The first impression comes from the wrapper, a nearly flawless Connecticut-seed leaf grown in cloudy Ecuador. The pre-light aroma is sweet and floral.

The binder is Mexican San Andrés, which, fortunately for my taste, seemed to have little impact on the cigar’s overall flavor. The filler comes from Brazil (Mata Fina), the Dominican Republic (Piloto Cubano and Olor), and Nicaragua (Jalapa).

At first, there is a touch of the typical Connecticut grassy flavor. It is barely a hint, though, and quickly subsides as other tastes come to the fore.

There’s some spice and a deep, bread-like taste to the thick smoke. Other flavors I noted along the way were a citrus tang, an almost syrupy sweetness, and leather.

Construction and performance were first-rate in each of those I smoked. Strength was in the medium range.

Cohiba Connecticut comes in four sizes, including two different Robustos. The tubo Crystal Robusto (5 x 50) lists at $20.99. The Robustos (5.5 x 50) I smoked have an MSRP of $19.99. The other two vitolas are a Toro (6.25 x 52, $21.99) and a Gigante (6 x 60, $22.99).

Some cigar enthusiasts disdain the non-Cuban Cohiba, viewing it as an overpriced, crass attempt to exploit Cuba’s incredibly successful cigar line originally produced for Fidel Castro. Unlike other Cuban brand names used in the U.S., Cohiba is a post-revolution cigar. Legal wrangling over the trademark between Cuba and General Cigar, initiated more than 20 years ago, continues.

While relatively few of us light up $20 cigars on a regular basis, if you occasionally reach for a high-end smoke I’d suggest you add Cohiba Connecticut to your list of possibilities. It’s a worthy smoke, and one that I rate four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys