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Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 411

19 Dec 2014

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.

Raul Castro1) On Wednesday, President Obama announced major changes for U.S.-Cuban relations as part of a prisoner exchange that was brokered with Cuban President Raúl Castro (pictured). While traveling to Cuba for tourism will remain banned, “licensed American travelers to Cuba will now be able to return to the U.S. with $400 in Cuban goods, including tobacco and alcohol products worth less than $100 combined,” according to the Associated Press. “This means the long-standing ban on importing Cuban cigars is over, although there are still limits.” Additional measures of the agreement include the U.S. reopening an embassy in Havana and an easing of travel bans for family visits and educational activities.

2) One article about President Obama’s new Cuban policy featured P.G. Cigars founder Paul Garmirian’s thoughts. His frank answer might shock those unfamiliar with the current state of Cuban cigars. “The character of the Cuban cigar has changed as the result of great pressures to meet the demand,” Garmirian said. “The quality of cigars from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua has gone so high that people don’t miss (Cubans).”

3) In last month’s “Question of the Month” (which admittedly ran significantly longer than a month), we asked readers what factors most into your decision to select a new cigar to try. “Brand/cigar maker” was number one with 31% of the vote, followed by “online/forum reviews” (25%), “wrapper type” (15%), “cost” (13%), and “word of mouth” (13%). Mainstream cigar media and marketing efforts were rarely cited as main reasons to try a new cigar—although there’s clearly a selection bias since the survey was conducted on a cigar blog. Be sure to weigh in on this month’s question by voting in the sidebar to the right. And feel free to contact us if you’ve got a good suggestion for a future poll.

4) Inside the Industry: Cigar humidification accessory maker Boveda has ended its distribution agreement with Ashton. The maker of two-way humidification pouches will now handle distribution in-house and through independent reps.

5) Deal of the Week: Illusione fans may want to move quickly on the new Smoke Inn exclusive called Pactum. Five-packs are available for $45, and if you purchase a box ($135) you get a free Illusione Pactum shirt for a limited time.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 410

12 Dec 2014

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.

Hirochi Robaina1) Hirochi Robaina’s “HR” cigar brand has started to appear at tobacconists across the U.S. HR, which is crafted in Estelí, Nicaragua, is the first non-Cuban made by the Robaina, proprietor of the Vegas Robaina farm in Pinar del Río, Cuba. According to a July press release, “The HR blend is a collaborative effort between Hirochi and Don Omar González” and features an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 hybrid wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Four sizes are available—Belicoso (5.5 x 52), Hermoso (5.1 x 48), Toro (6 x 52), and Sublime (6.5 x 54)—with each selling in the super-premium $19 to $22 range. Hirochi Robaina is the grandson of the legendary (and late) Alejandro Robaina, a “roving ambassador for Cuban cigars” who is remembered as Cuba’s foremost producer of top wrapper leaves and for being the voice of small tobacco growers in Pinar del Río.

2) Smoking bans and heavy taxation are to blame for the “decimation” of the pub industry in Britain, according a recent study by the Institute for Economic Affairs. AFP reports 10,000 pubs have closed in only eight years. “Of the pubs that had closed since 2006, the bulk had shut due to a ban on smoking in enclosed public places and a tax on alcohol, according to the report… Overall alcohol consumption per person has fallen by 18 percent in the last decade, according to the study, while Britons increasingly chose to drink at home.”

3) Love it or hate it, there’s no denying Cigar Aficionado’s impact with its annual Top 25 and Cigar of the Year awards. The magazine will begin counting down on its website on December 15 with the 10, 9, and 8 selections, going down to the No. 1 slot on Dec. 18. Then, over the following two days, they’ll list 11-25 and their best bargains.

4) Inside the Industry: Señorial by José Blanco is shipping its limited edition cigar to celebrate Blanco’s 65th birthday. The Perfecto Elegance (5.75 x 55) is a $14 Dominican puro.

5) Deal of the Week: E.P. Carrillo is exclusively releasing two cigars as part of Bespoke Post, a monthly “box of awesome items” delivered to your door. The $45 (shipping included) “Churchill” box includes four E.P. Carrillo cigars (similar to the exclusive Bespoke Post cigar we wrote about here) along with cedar spills, a handcrafted wood ashtray/candle holder, candle, and cigar cutter. Past boxes include fine bar accessories, shaving kits, coffee, BBQ kits, and more. You can always skip months or cancel at anytime. Click here to sign up.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Facebook

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 409

5 Dec 2014

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.

IPCPR1) City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell has introduced a comprehensive smoking ban for New Orleans, host site of the next International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association Trade Show in July 2015. According to Cigar Rights of America (CRA), the proposal “is a political reality to contend with.” Here are the details from CRA: “In 2015, New Orleans will host over 50 premium cigar manufacturers for an annual trade show. The new blends they will unveil will then make their way to your local Great American Cigar Shop. Apart from jeopardizing this event, Cantrell’s proposal threatens commerce, property rights, and small businesses—all in an economically fragile city that is still recovering from past misfortunes. The proposal holds no exemption for cigar bars, and the outside smoking ban provisions defy logic. The media has criticized the proposal as being a ‘cutting and pasting’ of smoking ban measures from around the nation creating a draconian collage that seeks to impose the nanny-state in a city built to defy that very system.”

2) After recently winning the Old Oaken Bucket—the trophy awarded to the winner of the Indiana-Purdue football rivalry—a photo of Indiana quarterback Zander Diamont went viral. In the picture, Diamont is chomping on a lit cigar while holding the trophy inside the Indiana locker room. “Indiana University has been a smoke-free campus since Jan. 1, 2008, so school leaders cannot be happy about the photo,” reports the Indianapolis Star. “The cigar is obviously lit because the tip is ash and smoke is visible.

3) Inside the Industry: According to Cigar Insider, Davidoff is restarting the Winston Churchill brand. The line, named for one of history’s best-known cigar smokers and licensed for use by Davidoff by the Churchill family, is being re-blended and will feature new packaging. The new blend will have Nicaraguan, Mexican, Dominican, and Ecuadorian tobacco and come in four sizes: Churchill, Toro, Robusto, and Petit Corona. Winston Churchill will debut in New York this month with national distribution slated for February.

4) Deal of the Week: Famous Smoke Shop has a variety of coupons available ranging from free shipping or humidification solution to samplers or even free boxes. Particularly noteworthy is this deal for $40 off any purchase of $150 or more if you use an American Express card. The coupons can be combined with sale items, or even constantly updating Cigar Monster deals.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: IPCPR

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 408

21 Nov 2014

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.

Ratzilla1) Drew Estate announced this week a Liga Privada Único Serie Ratzilla would be launched as a new limited edition holiday release. The cigar will be available at tobacconists in Drew Estate’s Drew Diplomat Retailer Program, which affords some retailers priority allocations on new cigar releases, limited editions, and commemorative cigars and products. “Prior to this formal release, the Liga Privada Único Serie Ratzilla was handed out to a few friends at the IPCPR tradeshow in 2011, and then introduced at Casa de Montecristo in Chicago in 2012 with an extremely limited production of 50 12-count bundles,” according to a Dew Estate press release. “The Liga Privada Único Serie Ratzilla, produced at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate in Estelí, Nicaragua, features a Connecticut stalk-cut and cured sun-grown Habano wrapper, a Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers.”

2) “The Boulder City Council unanimously approved two versions of a broad outdoor smoking ban Tuesday night,” according to the Denver Post. “The smoking ban would cover city parks, multi-use paths, the area around transit stops, the entire downtown business district, including alleys, Chautauqua Park, and the Flatirons Golf Course. Smoking is already prohibited on the Pearl Street Mall, in the Civic Area, and from the corner of Arapahoe Avenue and 13th Street southeast to 17th Street and University Avenue.”

3) Inside the Industry: This week Illusione shipped its 2014 Singulare cigar called Anunnaki. Named after Sumerian deities, the latest annual release from Illusione is a 5.5-inch, 54-ring gauge Nicaraguan puro made at the TABSA factory in Nicaragua.

4) Deal of the Week: Only $36 gets you a dozen fine smokes in this cold front sampler special from Smoke Inn. Included are two Romeo Toros, two Nish Patel Toros, two Partagas Black Maximos, one Gran Habano Azteca Jaguares, three Ortega Wild Bunch Gearhead Garys, and two Wynwood 465s.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 407

14 Nov 2014

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.

Pactum1) Smoke Inn has announced the ninth installment in its Microblend Series: Pactum, which is crafted by Illusione specifically for the Florida-based cigar retailer. Pactum will be offered in a single, lightly box-pressed size (5.5 x 56) and feature a Mexican Maduro wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. Starting on December 6, it will be sold for $8.95 for a single, or $134.25 for a box of 15. Previous participants in Smoke Inn’s Microblend Series include 601, Room 101, Arturo Fuente, Tatuaje, My Father, and Padrón.

2) Drew Estate recently announced an exclusive manufacturing agreement with Pappy & Company, maker of the impossibly hard-to-find Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Drew Estate—which is in the process of being acquired by Swisher International—will craft the so-called “Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve” cigar in Estelí. “It’s a well-rounded, sophisticated cigar, with body and a hearty expression,” says Jonathan Drew. “Drew Estate is known for passion and innovation, and making premium cigars is our ‘raison d’être’ [reason to be]. The ‘Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve’ premium cigar is truly a showcase of our passion for cigar-making.”

3) Smoking Freedoms Update: In Vermont, Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace will now prohibit smoking. The Nebraska Supreme Court has decided not to reconsider a statewide ban on smoking inside cigar shops and cigar bars. In New Jersey, legislation has been signed to ban smoking in Newark’s parks and recreational facilities. The North Dakota town of Fargo has criminalized smoking at city parks.

4) Deal of the Week: Famous Smoke Shop has a variety of coupons available ranging from free shipping or humidification solution to samplers or even free boxes. The coupons can be combined with sale items, or even constantly updating Cigar Monster deals.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Smoke Inn

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 406

7 Nov 2014

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.

Sam Leccia1) Sam Leccia took to Facebook on Wednesday to provide an update on his new gig at General Cigar. You’ll recall that, back in late September, Leccia was hired by General as a “Cigar and Blend Specialist” shortly after it was revealed General had acquired the brands associated with the Toraño Family Cigar Company (the Leccia Tobacco Co. brands were formerly distributed by Toraño). “I truly couldn’t be happier with how everything is going,” says Leccia. “The Leccia Tobacco brands of Black & White and Luchador will not only stay the same, but will continue to be made at the factories that I have been using since day one. I have a great relationship with my two factories, and not only will they continue to manufacture my products, but they will be used for future projects of Leccia Tobacco and we will be using them for future Foundry projects as well.” In addition, Leccia said he had been “planning a packaging update for Black & White long before this transition, and those changes are currently being finalized and should be on shelves sometime early next year.” Finally, Leccia said, “Outside of Leccia Tobacco, I am responsible for new product development and innovations. I will be, and already have been, working on the entire General Cigar portfolio to some degree… Expect big things!”

2) After a six-week renovation, Casa Fuente is reopening for business. Located in an upscale mall in Las Vegas, the famous cigar shop/lounge had to make changes to bring the smoking area from the patio—which ventilates into the main mall—to within the shop itself. Casa Fuente is a popular hangout during the IPCPR Trade Show (when Las Vegas is the host city) and during Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke. It carries rare Arturo Fuente smokes including the two Casa Fuente blends that are made exclusively for the store.

3) Inside the industry: An under-appreciated aspect of the cigar industry is its unwavering support for worthy charities, especially those that help Americans who serve their country in the military. Continuing that tradition, Viva Republica is releasing a special charity cigar for Veteran’s Day. The5.1-inch, 42-ring gauge cigar features a Nicaraguan wrapper and will retail for $6. Proceeds will benefit the “Operation: Cigars for Warriors” charity.

4) Deal of the Week: This deal really is a mystery, but it still might be worth picking up if you want to try new cigars and get some good value. If you’re up for little gamble, $30 gets you ten cigars.You’re promised to “always get more than you paid for.”

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Leccia Tobacco

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 405

31 Oct 2014

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.

65th Anniversary1) This week, industry veteran and well-traveled personality José Blanco—formerly of La Aurora and Joya de Nicaragua—celebrated his 65th birthday. He is commemorating the occasion with a new cigar, launched by his relatively new, independent cigar operation called Las Cumbres Tobacco. Produced by Jochy Blanco (José’s cousin) at Tabacalera La Palma in the Dominican Republic, the blend will be featured in one format called Perfecto Elégance (5.75 x 55), and it will retail for $14 at brick-and-mortar locations only. A Dominican puro, Señorial by José Blanco 65th Anniversary will sport a Piloto Cubano wrapper from La Canela.

2) La Palina has hired Bob Moreno as vice president of sales. He officially starts on November 1. “Bob Moreno comes to La Palina from E.P. Carrillo, where he was the vice president of sales and marketing,” reads a La Palina press release. “Before joining EPC, Bob was the director of marketing for Xikar, had a successful career in publishing, and a distinguished 22-year career as an executive with the Coca-Cola Company. ‘With his industry knowledge, diverse background, and professional sales experience, Bob Moreno will be a valuable asset to La Palina,’ says Bill Paley. ‘He is driven, passionate and committed. We welcome Bob to the La Palina family.’”

3) Inside the industry: Emilio Cigars officially released Mia Dora this week. The line is produced by A.J. Fernandez in Nicaragua and features a Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binder. It is being released in three sizes: a Robusto and a Toro, which come in 21-count boxes; and the Coronita, which comes in a 40-count box. The boxes are embossed in gold, while the cigar bands feature a theme dedicated to the town of Ascoli Piceno in Italy, birthplace of the ancestors of the love of Emilio owner Gary Griffith’s life, Dora.

4) Deal of the Week: Looking for a sampler of excellent cigars? Each of these samplers includes free shipping. Our favorite picks include: 10 cigars from My Father for $50, eight cigars from E.P. Carrillo for $40, five cigars from Drew Estate for $30, and five Liga Privada and Undercrown cigars for $40.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Las Cumbres Tobacco