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News: Bipartisan Congressional Bill Would Raise Minimum Age for Tobacco to 21

22 May 2019

FDA-cigars-large

If you need a reminder that anti-tobacco efforts are often a bipartisan affair, look no further than legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). The bill would raise the nationwide age for purchasing tobacco to 21.

The federal minimum age for purchasing tobacco products is 18, although state and local governments can set the minimum age higher (14 states have set the age at 21, along with 470 municipalities). Obviously, raising the minimum age above 18 raises questions about why adults who can vote and serve in the military cannot choose whether or not to enjoy a cigar.

The issue of members of the military who are under 21, even if they are deployed overseas, being banned from choosing use tobacco products was previously a hold-up in the proposed legislation. While originally McConnell expressed reservations about such a law applying to service members, he seems to have relented.

The largest cigarette company, Altria, has backed legislation raising the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. Notably, both McConnell and Kaine ares senators from states traditionally known for growing cigarette tobacco.

Analysis

In a political climate that increasingly purports to respect tolerance of personal choice, the double-standard when it comes to tobacco and adults is glaring. As many have observed before, there is no way to reconcile giving 18-year-olds the right to vote and the right (and, theoretically, through draft registration, the obligation) to serve in the military, but not the ability to choose whether or not to enjoy tobacco products.

Although tobacco companies may back the legislation, there is little reason to think that nationalizing the “T21” movement was spreading to all 50 states. Further, to the extent T21 was spreading, it wasn’t likely to be extended anytime soon beyond age 21, which is also when the law limits adults from purchasing alcohol.

Ultimately, given the profile of most purchasers of handmade cigars, raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco is unlikely to have a significant effect on cigar-specific retailers, despite the obvious aforementioned hypocrisy of simultaneously permitting 18-year-olds to both vote and serve in the military. That said, there is the possibility that raising the age for the purchase of tobacco to 21 could slow down efforts to regulate tobacco by the FDA.

As the Tobacco Control Act (which gives the FDA the authority to regulate premium cigars) specifically refers to limiting tobacco usage by minors under the age of 18, there is an argument that a federal tobacco age changed to 21 should result in a reset of FDA regulations. Specifically, for handmade cigars (which were always less likely to be used by minors) there is even less logic for the FDA to regulate cigars on the grounds that it is necessary to prevent youth usage if all tobacco is illegal for those under 21.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Quick Smoke: 601 Red Label Habano Robusto

19 May 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 entire 601 line has gone through many twists and turns over the years—from new distributors and new packaging, to the migration away from Don José “Pepin” Garcia as cigar maker. The current iteration, while hard to compare to the original Pepin-made cigars, is definitely better than some of the previous post-Pepin 601 Red Labels I’ve smoked. It features red pepper spice, leather, and woody notes. The medium- to full-bodied smoke is well-constructed, enjoyable, and reasonably priced (around $7).

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Four Roses Small Batch Select

13 May 2019

We’re in a golden age of bourbon, with more choices than ever before (including many craft distilleries coming online). But most bourbon still comes from a handful of companies and distilleries. Big operations like Jim Beam (Clermont, Boston, Maker’s Mark), Sazerac (Buffalo Trace and Barton’s), Heaven Hill, Wild Turkey, Brown Forman (Shively and Woodfor Reserve), and Four Roses still produce over 90 percent of bourbon sold.

Compared to the others, Four Roses has always had a rather limited lineup of regular offerings: the entry-level Yellow Label, along with Small Batch and Single Barrel. Beyond those, the only Four Roses you would find are annual limited edition releases and private barrel selections released as one-offs. (The other Four Roses distillate you’d regularly encounter is Bulleit bourbon, which was for many years contract-distilled for its owner by Four Roses.)

All that makes a new Four Roses regular offering a particularly noteworthy and anticipated event. Predictably, that new offering, Small Batch Select, is Four Roses’ most expensive to date (Yellow Label costs around $20 per bottle, Small Batch around $35, and Single Barrel around $45; Small Batch Select costs $55-60).

One of the unique aspects of Four Roses is that it produces eight different bourbon “recipes” with two different yeast strains and four unique mashbills (all of which are employed in the Yellow Label offering). Small Batch uses four recipes, but the new Small Batch Select uses six (two of which are used in both). The mingling of six- and seven-year-old bourbons is then bottled without chill filtration at 104 proof.

The deep copper-colored bourbon features an inviting nose with vanilla, toffee, black cherries, orange peel, and mint. On the palate flavors include burnt caramel, light floral notes, boiled peanuts, candied fruit, bubble gum, and black pepper spice. The finish is rich and long, with cinnamon, salted caramel, and light oak.

It’s a delicious bourbon, one of the best new non-limited offerings put out in the last year. Hopefully they’ve made enough. Small Batch Select was recently introduced in Kentucky, New York, California, Texas, and Georgia, though reportedly the rest of the country will be getting some soon.

With complex, full flavors, you’ll want to pair this bourbon with a similarly rich, integrated cigar. Here are a few cigars that fit the bill: La Flor Dominicana Limitado, Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary, Ramón Allones Specially Selected, and Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Espressivo

8 May 2019

Aging Room has won a swath of awards and high ratings, including here at StogieGuys.com, where the brand has earned two perfect scores and a handful of other elevated ratings. The brand has come a long way as it evolved from Oliveros (known mostly for its flavored cigars) to Boutique Blends/Aging Room (which has done remarkably well in the premium space).

The Quattro Nicaragua was introduced last year at the IPCPR Trade Show as part of an Aging Room brand revamp. Under the Quattro umbrella went the F55 Quattro and F55M (now dubbed the Quattro and Quattro Maduro, respectively), alongside the new Quattro Connecticut and Quattro Nicaragua.

Quattro Nicaragua is a Nicaraguan puro made at A.J. Fernandez’s factory in four box-pressed sizes: Espressivo (5 x 50), Maestro (6 x 52), Vibrato (6 x 54), and Concerto (7 x 50). (All previous Aging Room cigars were made in the Dominican Republic.) I smoked two samples in the $10 Espressivo vitola for this review.

The rich brown, velvety wrapper has a few visible veins. No details on the components of the Nicaraguan tobaccos used in the blend have been released, but the thickness and color indicate a sun-grown wrapper.

Earth, coffee, and chocolate are the dominant flavors in this full-bodied smoke. Pepper and cedar add to the well-balanced profile, with sweet cedar notes especially prominent towards the final third. It’s a harmonious cigar with a great swirling combination of sweetness, spice, and wood notes.

On the combustion front, it’s mostly good news. The ash is sturdy, though the burn occasionally needs a touch-up to keep even. There are no issues with the draw or smoke production.

I started by mentioning the high ratings Aging Room has earned here, and this is no exception. A full-bodied, but not overly strong cigar, the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Espressivo earns an impressive rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Henry Clay Stalk Cut Robusto

5 May 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 storied Henry Clay line started its 2.0 rebrand/relaunch with the 2015 limited Tattoo release, a collaboration with Pete Johnson of Tatuaje Cigars (an admitted longtime admirer of the Henry Clay mark). That was followed up with the 2016 regular production Henry Clay Stalk Cut, featuring a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Dominican binder, and three filler tobaccos: Dominican Piloto, Dominican Olor, and Nicaraguan Criollo. The box-pressed Robusto produces medium-bodied flavors with notes of roasted cocoa, espresso, almonds, and leather with an earthy finish. It’s an above-average cigar at a not unreasonable price ($8.25). If you’re just getting into Henry Clay, though, try the original (still produced, pre-rebrand) Henry Clay first.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje 10th Anniversary Selección de Cazador Noella

28 Apr 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.”

tatu-brown10-noella

The Tatuaje Brown Label (officially called “Selección de Cazador”) has long been a go-to cigar for me, despite the fact that I haven’t smoked it as regularly lately. This particular stick (5.1 x 42) features the 10th Anniversary band, although the blend is unchanged from standard Brown Label offering. (Tatuaje celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013 with special packaging for all the vitolas in the Brown Label line.) The blend, featuring an Ecuadorian wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler, produces rich earth, coffee, and cedar spice. There’s good reason why I’ve bought many boxes of this cigar over the years. The combination of an easy-to-enjoy size, top-notch construction, and full flavors makes this a recommended standby.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Bugatti Scuro Robusto

24 Apr 2019

If you’re familiar with the name Bugatti, it’s most likely for the performance, super-limited, super-expensive cars. But the name is also a brand of cigars (plus plenty of other luxury items), with a trademark for use as a cigar brand filed in 2014 and issued after some legal wrangling in 2015.

The Bugatti Cigars launched in 2015 as part of Integral Logistics, corporate parent of well-known accessory brands Lotus, Vertigo, Black Label, and Bugatti accessories. The brand originally launched with three lines: Ambassador, Signature, and Boss.

Since, the Scuro blend has been added. The line is distributed by Meier & Dutch, a wholesaler associated with Cigars International and its various retail operations (which were acquired by STG in 2010). The line comes in four sizes: Churchill, Robusto, Toro, Torpedo. I smoked three Robustos (5 x 50) for this review.

Scuro is made in the Dominican Republic (likely at the PDR factory with the other Bugatti lines, though that isn’t confirmed). It features a dark, slightly mottled Connecticut Broadleaf maduro wrapper, Sumatra binder, and filler tobaccos from four countries: the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the United States.

Each of the samples was a touch spongy, however none showed major ill-effects in terms of combustion. The draw was a bit on the tight side though not problematic, while the burn was even and ash a reasonably solid light gray.

The multi-country blend was a surprisingly complex combination of black coffee, anisette cookies, raisin, wet rope, and charred oak. The medium-bodied cigar features a peppery finish.

There’s not a whole lot of variation from start to finish but I’ll admit to be pleasantly surprised by a cigar that seems to be the most discount-oriented of the Bugatti line. While the “suggested price” may be closer to the other Bugatti lines ($8), in reality this isn’t a hard cigar to find online for around $3.

At that price, it has quite a bit to offer, even if you may not feel like you are smoking the Bugatti supercar of cigars. All told, the Bugatti Scuro Robusto earns a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys