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Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Jose Oliva in Line to Become Florida House Speaker, BLTC Releases Santa Muerte, and More

13 Oct 2017

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 551st in the series.

1) If Republicans retain control of the Florida House in the 2018 elections, as expected, the next speaker will be Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars. “The 44-year-old Oliva first came to office in a special, off-year election in 2011 to replace Rep. Steve Bovo (R-Hialeah),” reports the Tampa Bay Times. “He focused quickly on becoming speaker-designate for 2018…” Oliva’s website describes him as a “conservative and ethical leader,” and a “lifelong Republican who possesses a commitment to public service and community involvement.”

2) Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) is launching the second annual release of Santa Muerte today. “Our limited releases tend to be full-bodied with a maduro wrapper, but this one is a medium-bodied cigar with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper,” says BLTC creator James Brown. “It features six filler tobaccos which create a very unique and rich flavor profile. You experience layer upon layer of coffee, malt, spice, and cocoa.” There are two vitolas: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 48, $10) and Short Robusto (4.75 x 52, $10).

3) Basketball all-time great Michael Jordan is known for enjoying cigars, which is why he is set to appear on the cover of an upcoming 25th anniversary issue of Cigar Aficionado. According to Sports Illustrated, in the interview Jordan says these days he “smokes six cigars a day,” a number that happens to equal the number of NBA Championships he won.

4) Inside the Industry: The FDA released additional guidance (PDF here) this week about the prohibition on free samples that was included in the final deeming rule. The document clarifies that while free samples to consumers are prohibited, discounts, coupons, or other offers are legal if there is a cash transaction when the tobacco product is received by the consumer. The document also reiterates that business-to-business free samples are not prohibited as long as they are not in quantities more than is “necessary to achieve a business or market goal.”

5) From the Archives: We’ve reviewed over 1,000 cigars (a number that doesn’t include over 1,000 Quick Smokes), and only a small percentage earned our highest rating. If you browse our archive of five stogie-rated cigars, you’ll probably see some names you might expect. But there are also many that are under-the-radar, plus quite a few that are no longer made or have undergone significant changes.

6) Deal of the Week: One of the most useful cigar accessories any cigar smoker can own is a travel case that will protect your cigars and keep them humidified for a few hours or a few weeks. Buy a five-count for the golf course or an overnight trip, or the larger 15-count size for a more extended trip.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: JoseOliva2016.com

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Cigar Groups File Motions for FDA Relief, RoMa Craft to Launch Online Store for Branded Merch, and More

6 Oct 2017

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 550th in the series.

1) On Tuesday, the cigar industry filed motions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (above) pursuing relief from upcoming FDA regulations. The motions—one a motion for preliminary injunction, the other a motion for partial summary judgment—were filed jointly by Cigar Rights of America, the Cigar Association of America, and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. At issue are expensive user fees and obtrusive warning labels. The FDA has until October 24 to respond. As reported by Cigar Aficionado, “while many aspects to the FDA regulations on cigars have been pushed back, the ones calling for extensive warning labels—labels that cover 30 percent of a cigar box, and 20 percent of an advertisement—have not. They are scheduled to take effect roughly ten months from today.” As for the user fees: “Since October 2016, cigar manufacturers and importers, in accordance with the FDA’s controversial Final Deeming Rule, have been required to submit federal excise tax information to the FDA on a monthly basis. The FDA, in turn, analyzes this data to calculate user fees for cigar companies, which are paid on a quarterly basis. Cigar companies pay the user fees directly to the FDA, and those payments are the sole source of funding for the Center of Tobacco Products, the branch of the FDA responsible for carrying out tobacco regulation activities.”

2) Skip Martin of RoMa Craft Tobac took to Facebook on Wednesday to announce the impending re-launch of the company’s website, which will feature an online store for direct-to-consumer sales of branded merchandise, including Xikar accessories. Evidently, an unnamed “gossipy, jealous, busy body little hater” had spread a rumor that RoMa would begin selling its cigars via the new website. Martin made abundantly clear this is not the case. He went on to write: “To our haters, you really don’t have to try so hard. Just focus on making better cigars, more consistently, and selling them at a fair price. Ain’t nobody got time for all the petty drama.”

3) Members of Tatuaje’s private Saints & Sinners club received an email update on Tuesday regarding the status of the 2017 membership kits. “Due to the hurricane, our delivery of the cigar kits has been delayed and is expected to arrive late next week. We have been getting everything prepped and ready to ship as soon as they arrive but are still anticipating these to be arriving to you all right around Halloween.” Saints & Sinners is an invitation-only club that annually sends its members exclusive Tatuaje cigars along with Tatuaje-branded merchandise like wine openers, poker chips, lighters, cutters, and apparel.

4) Inside the Industry: Rafael Nodal, owner of Boutique Blends Cigars, has been named head of product capability at Tabacalera USA, a new role that places him in charge of Tabacalera’s premium cigar business, which includes Altadis USA’s premium cigars. Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust has hired its first full-time team member, Yvonne Ramée, who will be working out of the Dunbarton office/warehouse in New Hampshire.

5) From the Archives: Speaking of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, in 2015, back when Saka was preparing the first shipment of his inaugural Sobermesa line, StogieGuys.com caught up with him at a cigar shop in New Hampshire. Read the whole interview here.

6) Deal of the Week: For today only, here are 100 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, CAO, My Father, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Davidoff, Perdomo, Padrón, Drew Estate, 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: Google Maps

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Senator Pat Toomey Joins Fight for Cigars, Fratello to Launch Navetta, and More

29 Sep 2017

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 549th in the series.

1) U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) has joined the fight for cigars, bringing the number of co-sponsors on S. 294—the Senate bill that would exempt premium cigars from FDA regulations—up to 18. Sen. Toomey “has publicly signaled to the FDA that premium cigars are different and that they should be exempted from FDA regulatory authority,” reads a Cigar Rights of America (CRA) email alert. “CRA and the entire premium cigar industry would like to thank Senator Toomey for standing with the consumers and small businesses of the premium cigar industry.” Now is an important time for coalition-building in the Senate. As we reported earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending package that includes a provision prohibiting the FDA from enforcing regulations against premium cigars. The omnibus appropriations package passed the House with a 211-198 vote and will now move to the Senate for consideration. Congress has until December 8th to pass spending legislation and fund the federal government. If your two senators are not already co-sponsors of S. 294—and if you haven’t already done so—please click here to make your voice heard.

2) Omar de Frias will debut the newest line from Fratello Cigars at a launch party at the Kingstowne location of Old Virginia Tobacco Co. in Alexandria, Virginia, on October 4. Navetta means “shuttle” in Italian and is a “dream project” Frias envisioned while he worked at NASA for 12 years. It sports an Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper and will be offered in four sizes with prices ranging from $10.50 to $12.50: Discovery (5 x 50), Endeavor (6.25 x 54), Enterprise (6 x 60), and Atlantis (6.25 x 52). Navetta is made at Joya de Nicaragua. “Blending Fratello Naveta was special as I wanted to translate the ultimate celebration our men and women of the space program felt after a successful mission,” says Frias. “After being part of over 21 missions, nothing beats the feeling of getting our astronauts home safe to their families. Colleagues of mine would get together and smoke a very special cigar to commemorate the occasion. This very special blend carries the ultimate feeling of innovation, duty, honor and success.”

3) Here’s a man who is 111 years old and smoking at least a dozen cigars every day. “Richard Overton has seen much during his storied life, which began on May 11, 1906. But, through it all, Overton remains a humble man who simply likes to spend his days sitting on the porch of his Austin, Texas, home, enjoying two of his favorite things: whiskey and cigars.”

4) Inside the Industry: Arturo Fuente and longtime collaborator Prometheus International Inc. are teaming up to introduce a special collection of four eleven-year-old Fuente Fuente Forbidden X cigars. The set carries a suggested retail price of $165.

5) From the Archives: An important question asked and answered: Do cigars always get better with age? This article from 2008 also includes four tips we garnered conversing with some top collectors.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, wine, workout gear, coffee kits, exclusive cigars, and more) delivered for just $45. You can skip or purchase every month. Today is the last day to sign up and be eligible for the October box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: IPCPR CEO to Depart, Drew Estate Cigar Theft, Whiskey for Charity and More

22 Sep 2017

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 548th in the series.

1) The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) has announced chief executive officer Mark Pursell will be stepping down on October 15. Pursell has held the position for a little over three years. Previously, he served as senior vice president at the National Association of Home Builders. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity IPCPR provided me,” said Pursell in a press release. “It has been a challenging period for the entire industry, and I’m proud of the organization’s work to lead the way forward. There are many challenges remaining. IPCPR has the right leadership and staff to face the future.” During Pursell’s tenure, IPCPR relocated its headquarters from Georgia to Washington, D.C. IPCPR was founded in 1933 and bills itself as the “oldest, largest and most active trade association representing and assisting retailers of premium tobacco products and their suppliers.”

2) On Wednesday, Drew Estate issued an email alert about a significant cigar theft: “On August 8, 2015, a truck containing a full load of Drew Estate premium handmade cigars was stolen in the greater Miami area. An active investigation into this theft is ongoing and involves numerous law enforcement entities. The specific cigars stolen include Tabak Especial Dulce Robusto and Undercrown Shade Belicoso. If anyone becomes aware of these cigars being offered for sale by non-Drew Estate authorized suppliers or being offered for sale by any suppliers at below wholesale list price, please inform Drew Estate immediately by calling Glenn Wolfson at (786) 581-1800.”

3) One of the rarest whiskeys, Booker’s Rye, is being released to benefit two charities helping those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The company announced it is selling the last 276 bottles of the highly praised whiskey for the suggested retail price of $299 and donating all proceeds. (Nowadays, a bottle from the earlier release can fetch $800 or so.) The company said the two charities—Feeding America and Operation BBQ Relief—were chosen “because of the shared connection between the food and beverage industries and the impact each organization makes in providing nourishment to those affected by tragedy.”

4) Golfing and cigars go together. And while golfing with buddies is great, don’t under-estimate the joys of golfing alone, says author Ethan Epstein: “There are distinct benefits, besides the Zen-like solitude I achieve, to solo-play, as well: I feel less guilty when I cheat and pick up my ball to give it a better lie after a bad hit, for example. But that’s not really that important, because let’s be honest: Like all golfers, I play better when nobody​—​save for the deer who hang out at my regular Rock Creek Park Golf Course​—​is watching. Honest!”

5) From the Archives: Miami isn’t the only Florida city that can claim a long and storied cigar history. Tampa, after all, is betowed with the Cigar City nickname. Back in 2011, we interviewed Lisa Figueredo, founder of Cigar City Magazine.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, wine, workout gear, coffee kits, exclusive cigars, and more) delivered for just $45. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up here and you will be eligible for the October box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: IPCPR

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Cigarette Maker Pledges Nearly $1 Billion to Fight Smoking, House Passes Funding Bill with FDA Cigar Exemption, and More

15 Sep 2017

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 547th in the series.

1) Philip Morris International will provide $80 million annually over 12 years, beginning in 2018, to fund the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an organization which aims to eliminate smoking worldwide. According to a statement issued Wednesday, the organization will focus on four main areas: (1) supporting research into harm reduction and building research capacity through academic centers, (2) building consensus around which interventions can best reduce harm and deaths from smoking and increase smoking cessation, (3) measuring and reporting on global progress towards smoking harm reduction, and (4) identifying alternative crops and livelihoods for tobacco farmers as the global demand for tobacco declines. “While the new foundation appears to be a rare example of a consumer-goods company supporting efforts to undermine sales of its own products, its creation was greeted with skepticism by one anti-smoking organization,” reports Bloomberg. In addition, “More than three million smokers have switched to Philip Morris’s IQOS, which heats rather than burns tobacco. The Marlboro maker has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to market the device as a product that may reduce the risk of smoking-related diseases.”

2) Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a twelve-bill spending package that includes a provision prohibiting the FDA from enforcing regulations against premium cigars. The omnibus appropriations package passed the House with a 211-198 vote and will now move to the Senate for consideration. Congress has until December 8th to pass spending legislation and fund the federal government. IPCPR President Ken Neumann commented on the development: “This is a monumental step for the industry and for IPCPR’s retailers. For many years, we’ve been pushing the ball forward in our efforts to roll back the FDA’s oversized and ill-suited regulatory regime on premium cigars.”

3) Starting January 1, smoking will no longer be permitted anywhere at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Nebraska joins over 1,700 other colleges and universities—including all of its Big Ten peers—that have already implemented campus-wide smoke-free policies. In addition to cigars, the ban covers cigarettes, hookahs, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and synthetic smoking products, and it extends to all university areas, including parking lots, garages, buildings, and university vehicles.  The campus is home to over 25,000 students.

4) Inside the Industry: With so many cigar companies headquartered in Florida, the industry braced for damages caused by Hurricane Irma. Fortunately, the damage seems to have been manageable. Although numerous companies faced disruptions and power outages, no substantial damages have been reported.

5) From the Archives: Fancy lighters are great, but sometimes simplicity is even better. As we wrote over decade ago, unless you’re facing significant winds, wooden matches are frequently the best way to light your cigar.

6) Deal of the Week: For today only, here are 100 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Davidoff, Drew Estate, 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

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Industry Braces for Irma, Cigar Makers Help in the Wake of Harvey, and More

8 Sep 2017

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 546th in the series.

1) At the time of this writing, Hurricane Irma is a category five storm with a potential path of destruction that includes several major cigar-producing and premium tobacco-growing regions, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and South Florida. Irma threatens tobacco fields, factories, warehouses, shipping operations, and administration facilities. Obviously, with a natural disaster of this magnitude, cigars are not a top consideration, nor should they be; make no mistake that human lives are at risk, as Irma has already tragically left 13 dead. That said, it bears reporting that this storm may have a considerable impact on the cigar industry. To give you an idea of the severity of the hurricane: “Irma’s 185 m.p.h. wind speeds persisted for more than 24 hours, the longest period ever recorded. The French weather service described it as the most enduring superstorm on record,” reports the New York Times. With respect to Cuba, “The National Hurricane Center said hurricane conditions are possible from Matanzas all the way to the tip of Cuba and could begin in the watch area by Friday,” reports the Miami Herald. “By Saturday, Irma is expected to dump four to ten inches of rainfall on eastern and central Cuba with isolated downpours of up to 15 inches.”

2) Speaking of hurricanes, Cigar Aficionado published an interesting feature yesterday about how Houston-area tobacconists are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The story includes several heartwarming anecdotes that demonstrate the charitable nature of the industry. “One of the more notable relief efforts from the cigar industry has come from Tabacalera USA, the premium cigar division of global tobacco giant Imperial Brands PLC. Together with ITG Brands, the Imperial-owned companies donated $50,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey-related assistance in Houston and other affected areas.” Additionally, the article goes on to point out a special project by Erik Espinosa of Espinosa Premium Cigars that donates 100% of proceeds to victims of the storm. “Espinosa is calling the cigar One Love, which comes in red, white, and blue packaging with an image of Texas and a heart covering the Houston area. The Nicaraguan cigars are sold exclusively through Stogies World Class Cigars in Houston and have raised $5,000 for hurricane relief.”

3) Inside the Industry: With all the hurricane talk, it is worth revisiting how RoMa Craft Tobac was founded in the aftermath of a hurricane nearly a decade ago. Back then, RoMa Craft co-founder Skip Martin was the owner of the Hava Cigar Shop in Galveston, Texas. In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston hard, and Skip’s shop was one of its casualties. While you never want to see a business destroyed by a natural disaster, there was an upside for cigar smokers: Skip shifted his focus from selling cigars to making cigars. The rest is history.

4) From the Archives: How many gadgets can manufacturers come up with to complicate the simple act of smoking? A lot, as we explored many not-so-essential contrivances and contraptions that have been pushed in the cigar world.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, wine, workout gear, coffee kits, and more) delivered for just $45. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Google

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: NYC Adopts Anti-Tobacco Measures, Benji Menendez Honored, New Herrera Estelí Size, and More

1 Sep 2017

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 545th in the series.

1) Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation on Monday that will raise cigar prices in New York and limit the number of retailers who are licensed to sell tobacco. As summarized by Cigar Aficionado: “The bill calls for a minimum pricing structure for a cigar, which is defined by New York City as ‘any roll of tobacco for smoking that is wrapped in leaf tobacco or in any substance containing tobacco, with or without a tip or mouthpiece.’ In other words, the measure does not distinguish between machine-made and premium, handmade cigars. Under 1544-B, cigars sold individually must adhere to a price floor and be sold for no less than $8.00. The measure would also assess an excise tax on cigars at the rate of 10 percent of the $8 minimum, or 80 cents. This means that single cigars could not be sold for less than $8.80 apiece, regardless of the MSRP. And this is before state, federal, and tobacco taxes are applied. Moreover, for a box of cigars, the price floor would be calculated by counting the number of cigars in the box, multiplied by $1.75, plus $6.25. The excise tax for a box would break down to be 80 cents for the first cigar, plus .175 cents for each additional cigar.” The legislation will also limit the number of tobacco retailers allowed to operate in New York City by capping the allowable licenses at 50% of the current number (which is about 8,300). “No new tobacco retail dealer licenses will be issued in a community district until its total decreases through attrition below the cap,” reports NBC.

2) General Cigar Co. is honoring Benji Menendez with “a very special event series for Partagas” in the spring, with dates to be announced in early 2018. Menendez retired as General’s vice president of premium cigars in 2014 after a career in the handmade cigar industry that lasted over 60 years. “General Cigar is my extended family and I am grateful that they have never forgotten me,” said Menendez in a press release. “I am looking forward to doing more things with the company. I hope I can help in some small way to spread the word about the fantastic cigars they make.”

3) Drew Estate announced the release of Herrera Estelí DeSocio (6 x 60, $8.60), an exclusive vitola manufactured for Alliance Cigar, a wholesale distributor based in New York. “I’ve been asked consistently over the years at events across the nation to blend a larger ring gauge Herrera Estelí,” said Drew Estate master blender Willy Herrera. “The opportunity and challenge of bringing out the unique set of flavors in a large format cigar took many trials, and this DeSocio takes the Herrera Estelí blend… to a whole new level.”

4) A noted bourbon curmudgeon asks: Where are all the good new releases?

5) Inside the Industry: China’s Xinhua News Agency reports that Cuba is developing four new varieties of tobacco. Two are higher yield varieties of cigarette tobacco, but two others are reportedly being developed for use in handmade Cuban cigars.

6) From the Archives: It can be easy to get caught up in the cigar world thicket and miss what’s right there in front of you. We took a look a few years ago at how to tell if this is happening to you and what you might do to increase your smoking pleasure.

7) Deal of the Week: For today only, here are 100 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Davidoff, Drew Estate, 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: Stogie Guys