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Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Members of Congress Seek Cigar Regulation Delays, Illinois Keeps Smoking Age at 18, and More

1 Jun 2018

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 581st in the series.

1) Thirty-three members of Congress have written a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to extend the comment period on FDA premium cigar regulation. On March 23, the FDA announced it was seeking comments about reconsidering premium cigar regulations, with a 90-day comment period ending on June 25. This letter to OMB asks for a further 90 days, to September 23, and also seeks to align the warning label deadline—currently slated for August—to September 23 as well. “As members of the U.S. Congress representing all sectors of the hand-rolled premium cigar industry, we remain concerned that the FDA’s regulatory overreach on this issue, which is contrary to Congress’ intent under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA), will continue to impose greater economic burdens on the manufacturers and retailers of premium cigars,” reads the letter.

2) The smoking age in Illinois will remain at 18, at least for now. This week, the Illinois House rejected a bill, which passed in the Senate in April, that would have raised the age to 21. “Five states and 14 Illinois cities and counties have already adopted local ordinances setting the age at 21,” reports the Peoria Journal Star. “According to a fiscal note from the Illinois Department of Revenue, the state would lose between $41 million and $48 million in tax revenue if the legislation were enacted.”

3) Random Read: Have we reached peak Prosecco? (Cava is a better value anyway.) Next up: Peak rosé.

4) Inside the Industry: ScrewPop (which we wrote about here) is adding a new cigar cutter. Chopo features a mini stainless steel double-guillotine cutter that fits on your key chain. Chopo, which doubles as a bottle opener, retails for $24.95.

5) From the Archives: Wild Turkey 81-Proof Rye & Russell’s Reserve Small Batch 6-Year Rye… “Both are solid pairings for a cigar, but Russell’s Reserve can stand up to a wide variety of mild, medium, or full-bodied cigars, while the standard variety is likely to be overwhelmed by a cigar that’s full-bodied. Both are good rye whiskeys, but the Small Batch variety is particularly noteworthy as a classic rye to enjoy neat.”

6) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, Cohiba, Crowned Heads, RoMa Craft, 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: Diesel Whiskey Row Announced, Texas FDA Lawsuit Set to Begin, Tatuaje TAA, and More

25 May 2018

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 580th in the series.

1) On Monday, General Cigar announced a partnership between A.J. Fernandez, the Diesel cigar brand, and Rabbit Hole Bourbon. Those entities have teamed up to create Whiskey Row, a new cigar line featuring bourbon barrel-aged binder leaves from a “proprietary process” developed by Fernandez. This concept was “brought to life in 2016 when Rabbit Hole Bourbon barrels arrived at Tabalacera A.J. Fernandez in Esteli, Nicaragua,” reads a press release. “A.J. placed the Mexican San Andrés binder in the bourbon barrels in a special configuration. The tobacco was left to rest inside the barrels, and the amount of air inside was controlled at regular intervals to ensure the bourbon flavors were imparted evenly.” In addition to this binder, Diesel Whiskey Row includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper aged for five years and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos aged for five to eight years. The blend, scheduled to launch next month, will be offered in four sizes, each packaged in 25-count boxes: Robusto (5.5 x 52, $7.49), Toro (6 x 54, $7.99), Churchill (7 x 49, $8.49), and Gigante (6 x 60, $8.99).

2) A date has been set to hear oral arguments in the lawsuit that pits premium cigar industry groups in Texas against the FDA. Judge Kimberly C. Priest Johnson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas will preside over the case. She bumped up the proceedings to begin on June 26 “in light of the August 10, 2018, effective date of the warning requirements.” She also denied the FDA’s request to move the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia—which is good news, since last week that court ruled against the cigar industry. This suit is brought by the Texas Cigar Merchants Association, El Cubano Cigars, and En Fuego Tobacco Shop and focuses entirely on premium cigars; the Washington suit was brought by the Cigar Association of America, International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, and Cigar Rights of America and, in addition to premium cigars, also included pipes and machine-made cigars.

3) Random Read: If Sports Gambling is Legal, Where Does the Money Go?

4) Inside the Industry: TAA (Tobacconists’ Association of America) is a small group retailers celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. One of the perks of being a member is access to exclusive TAA blends created by cigar makers only for member tobacconists. This week, Tatuaje  announced they are shipping their TAA 50th Anniverasry blend. This year’s Tatuaje TAA cigar is a robusto (5 x 52) that features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. Production is limited to 2,500 boxes of 20 cigars with each cigar selling for $11.95.

5) From the Archives: Back when we interviewed A.J. Fernandez in 2011, we started the interview by noting: “A.J. Fernandez may be the best cigar maker you haven’t heard of. But not for long.” You’ve probably heard of him now.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the June box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Premium Cigar Regulation Exemption Passes Committee, Davidoff Releases Wagner, and More

18 May 2018

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 579th in the series.

1) On Tuesday, we learned the unfortunate news that cigars had been dealt a major legal blow. Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision, siding not with the cigar industry groups who were challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation of premium cigars and other tobacco products, but with the FDA. “If you’re looking for someone to blame for yesterday’s ruling, don’t focus on the judge, but on the Congress that authorized the FDA’s regulation of cigars in the first place,” we wrote on Wednesday. “And don’t forget: Today’s Congress still has the power to repeal it.” Little did we know, later that same day, the industry would be rewarded with a glimmer of hope. The fiscal year 2019 budget, as approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, includes some positive language. “The language as adopted by the committee blends past efforts, by not only providing an exemption for defined premium and large cigars, but changing the ‘predicate date’ for cigars and pipe tobacco from burdensome pre-market approval procedures to the time of the deeming rule issuance, from February 15, 2007 to April 25, 2014,” reads a statement from Cigar Rights of America (CRA). “This amendment once again sends a clear message that the regulations advanced by the FDA go well beyond the congressional intent of the Tobacco Control Act,” said Glynn Loope, executive director of CRA. Mind you, this isn’t the first time such language has made it out of committee only to be eliminated from the final spending bill. But the inclusion of the language at this juncture is a bit of welcome news in an otherwise dreary week.

2) The latest release from Davidoff’s Vault program that offers rare and vintage cigars is the Wagner, which went on sale today. It was originally issued in Europe in 2004 to honor Swiss tobacconist Wagner Tåbak‑Ladeli. Davidoff said it was its “first tailor-made cigar.” The Vault has been a consumer hit, with most offerings selling out in a few hours.

3) Random Read: Why Burger King is blasting Bach.

4) Inside the Industry: Villiger recently announced the opening of a new factory, Villiger do Brasil, located in the Brazilian state of Bahia. The factory will be devoted solely to Brazilian puros, including the Villiger San’Doro Maduro, which is available in the U.S. market.

5) From the Archives: “It’s a versatile rye that’s plenty good enough to be sipped straight (as I recommend), but you wouldn’t be heart-broken if your buddy throws a bunch of ice cubes in it or decides to mix it in a Manhattan…. If you’re a rye fan who hasn’t tried Sazerac Rye, you’re missing out.”

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up soon to be eligible for the June box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Aging Room Pura Cepa Launches, Ventura Plans Event Tour in June, and More

11 May 2018

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 578th in the series.

1) Altadis U.S.A. will be making the Aging Room Pura Cepa line available across all distribution channels later this month. Spanish for “pure bred,” Pura Cepa is a Nicaraguan puro created by Rafael Nodal with tobacco from Ometepe, Jalapa, Condega, and Estelí. “I wanted a world-class cigar that ideally displayed the richness Nicaraguan soils can bring to quality tobaccos,” said Nodal. “With Pura Cepa, I strived to capture the very essence of the land’s core, and deliver a Nicaraguan puro blend for today’s most discerning smokers.” Three sixes will sell in the $12.50-$13.50 range: Rondo (5 x 50), Mezzo (6 x 54), and Grande (6.5 x 56). Each will be packaged in boxes of 20. In May 2017, a “strategic alliance agreement” was struck that makes tobacco giant Altadis the distributor for Boutique Blends Cigars. As part of the agreement, Rafael Nodal accepted a position within Altadis, and the Boutique Blends brands—including Aging Room, Swag, La Bohéme, and Oliveros—are sold through Altadis.

2) The Tampa Bay Times on premium cigars’ second chance for an FDA exemption: “A ‘Save This Factory’ banner will be re-hung next week on J.C. Newman Cigar’s Ybor City factory, and the company’s SaveCigarCity.com website lobbying against government oversight of premium cigars will be re-launched. Both were tactics company president Eric Newman used to fight the Food and Drug Administration as the agency weighed whether to lump in premium cigars with mass-produced stogies, vaporizers, and e-cigarettes as part of its regulatory expansion over tobacco.”

3) Hot Dickel, anyone? George Dickel Tennessee Whisky and Tabasco have announced a collaboration. George Dickel Tabasco Brand Barrel Finish will be hitting stores soon, with 750 ml. bottles of the 70-proof product selling for $25. George Dickel Tennessee Whisky is finished in Tabasco barrels that were previously used to age hot sauce for three years.

4) Inside the Industry: In June, Ventura Cigar Co. will kick off “Fathers, Friends, and Fire” events at tobacconists across the country. A $10 ticket (sold via participating tobacconists) will entitle guests to smoke with and meet Michael Giannini (who recently joined Ventura after a 17-year stint with General Cigar) and “fourth generation tobacconist” Erik Stokkebye. In addition, “to make Fathers, Friends, and Fire truly memorable, Ventura Cigar Co. commissioned exclusive mementos to give out at the events, which will not be available for individual sale,” according to a press release. “Events will feature a special cigar created by the father-daughter team [of] Omar and Indiana Ortez. Under Omar’s experienced eye, Indiana created the Father-Daughter blend, which balances their tastes for tobaccos… The Father-Daughter limited edition cigars will come pre-packaged in a two-cigar coffin box…”

5) From the Archives: Wonder why your morning smoke isn’t as enjoyable as you expect? It might be your toothpaste.

6) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, Cohiba, Crowned Heads, RoMa Craft, 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: Altadis

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Sixth Avo Improvisation Released, Drew Estate Launches Limited Corona Viva No. 9, and More

4 May 2018

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 577th in the series.

1) In celebration of Avo’s 30th anniversary, Davidoff this week announced the release of the sixth iteration of Avo Improvisation, “a limited series inspired by unexpected combinations of music and cigars.” Only 2,400 boxes of 25 cigars have been made in a single ultra-premium vitola (7.5 x 50). The recipe, which is inspired by the Avo Classic No. 3, includes an Ecuadorian wrapper, Dominican binder, and Dominican filler tobaccos. The per-cigar price is $16. Improvisation pays homage to Avo founder and Juilliard-trained jazz pianist Avo Uvezian, who passed away in March 2017 at the age of 91.

2) Drew Estate has announced the pre-release of the Liga Privada No. 9 Corona Viva, which is exclusive to the Cigars International Super-Store in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. The cigar “features a Connecticut River Valley Broadleaf Oscuro wrapper, a plantation-grown Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers,” according to a press release. “Similar in concept to the Undercrown Corona Viva, released in 2012, the No. 9 Corona Viva features the core blend with increased Ligero for a fuller and stronger taste profile.” The Corona Viva was launched as a pre-release yesterday in limited quantities. Boxes of 24 ($290) will be available at Cigars International’s CIGARfest in limited quantities.

3) As the official bourbon sponsor of the Kentucky Derby, Woodford Reserve has again released a special edition bottle for the 2018 Kentucky Derby (which takes place tomorrow). The commemorative bottling is filled with the standard-issue Woodford Reserve bourbon and sells for $44. It is also used in the $1,000 mint juleps sold at the derby in a special edition silver cup (and a $2,500 julep that comes in a gold-plated cup) with proceeds going to charity.

4) Inside the Industry: Gurkha Cigars announced its first Tobacconsits’ Association of America (TAA) exclusive cigar, which is an extension of the company’s Heritage line. It is made with an Ecuador Habano wrapper and blinder around Peruvian and Nicaraguan filler. Only 1,000 of the Toro box-pressed cigars will be made, and they will retail for $100 per box. Look for them this summer.

5) From the Archives: Ever wonder how The Stogie Guys got started smoking  cigars? You can read the full story here.

6) Deal of the Week: Fancy humidors can be great, but when it comes to functionality and value you’d be hard-pressed to beat an acrylic jar like this one, which is currently on sale for $17 (with free Amazon Prime shipping).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Traverse City Premium Cocktail Cherries, Camacho Reintroduces Coyolar, General Cigar Appoints New VP of Marketing, and More

27 Apr 2018

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 576th in the series.

1) Want to upgrade your cocktail game? One of the easiest ways is to upgrade from those unnaturally neon cherries you are putting in your cocktails. Traverse City Whisky Company’s Premium Cocktail Cherries is easy to recommend for your Manhattan, old fashioned, or sour. (Not coincidentally, Traverse City is the home of the tart cherry festival.) It’s great that it doesn’t use any artificial colors, but really you’ll know the difference when you taste it. Traverse City Whisky Company’s Premium Cherries can now be found at all Meijer grocery locations and numerous other retailers including Amazon.

2) Camacho has announced the national reintroduction of Coyolar. The blend and formats remain the same as the original Coyolar, but the packaging reflects Camacho’s modern, bold look. “Born from the volcanic soils of a small 15-acre farm found at the base of the mountains joining Nicaragua and Honduras, this spicy and flavorful smoke is built from ‘single farm vintage’ Criollo tobaccos,” reads a press release. “The land’s distinctive and mineral-rich soil provides the tobacco its unique color, texture, and intense flavor. Not for the faint of heart, this Honduran Puro is one of Camacho’s most respected blends, a true powerhouse cigar that provides blasts of leather, pepper, rich coffee, and oak.” Coyolar is made at Oettinger Davidoff’s new Camacho facility, Diadema Cigars, located near Danlí, Honduras. The line will begin shipping this week in five formats that range in price from $8.50 to $10.

3) Chris Tarr, a regional sales manager at General Cigar, has been named vice president of marketing. “Chris is the right person to lead the marketing organization and I am very pleased he accepted the position,” said Regis Broersma, president of General Cigar. “He brings a strong background in on-premise marketing, having worked for seven years at Coors Brewing Company before joining General Cigar in 2008. Together with his expertise in managing our 16-state West sales region and his firsthand knowledge of retailer and consumer preferences, Chris has the skills to support me and the executive team in driving the business forward. Chris is also not shy about pushing for his ideas and I am confident that he will be a strong leader for our marketing organization.” Tarr’s responsibilities include brand marketing, innovation, public relations, social media, and events. He will lead the marketing team remotely from Dallas.

4) Inside the Industry: The J.C. Newman Cigar Company has renamed its Nicaraguan cigar factory from PENSA to J.C. Newman PENSA. “This change, while symbolic, reflects the shift that we are making as a company to elevate the J.C. Newman name and use it to tell our story as a 123-year-old, four-generation family business, and America’s oldest family-owned premium cigar maker,” said Eric Newman, president. Eric and Bobby Newman built Puros de Estelí Nicaragua, S.A. (PENSA) in 2011, and the factory has since tripled in size. Today, it employs 840 workers who hand roll 100,000 cigars each day (making it the secord largest Nicaraguan factory next to La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate). J.C. Newman rolls its Brick House, Perla del Mar, El Baton, Quorum, and other cigar brands at J.C. Newman PENSA.

5) From the Archives: Though it should be obvious, a true StogieGuys.com fan respects all cigar smokers and certainly wouldn’t be disrespectful to our fellow cigar smoker’s who are women. That’s the topic covered in this 2014 commentary, which calls out some (hopefully very rare) bad behavior.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up by Monday to be eligible for the May box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys / Camacho

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente Announced, Bishops Blend 2018 Ships, and More

20 Apr 2018

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 575th in the series.

1) Joya de Nicaragua and Drew Estate are collaborating to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) by launching a TAA-exclusive cigar. Called Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente (6.75 x 50), the box-pressed Nicaraguan puro is made with five-year-old tobaccos and is Joya de Nicaragua CEO Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca’s favorite vitola. “When I requested the Gran Reserva blend in the Presidente size, it immediately became my private smoke,” he said. “I decided to share it only for special occasions. I can’t think of a better opportunity than this shared celebration of five decades of perseverance and companionship between TAA, its members, and Joya de Nicaragua.” Presidente is expected to ship next month and will retail for $12.50.

2) Black Label Trading Company (BLTC) this week announced the shipment of the 2018 vintage of Bishops Blend, and two-vitola line made with an Ecuadorian Habano Maduro wrapper, Ecuadorian Habano binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Connecticut (Broadleaf), and Pennsylvania (Broadleaf). “I’m very excited about the third release of Bishops Blend,” said BLTC creator James Brown. “This is one of our most anticipated releases of the year and the 2018 vintage will not disappoint. The 2018 boasts big, bold flavors of anise, pepper, raisins and a sweet earthiness on the finish. It is very complex and extremely refined. As with the past vintages, the Broadleaf fillers shine at the forefront and are perfectly balanced by the Nicaraguan filler tobaccos.” The cigars—a Corona Larga (6.25 x 46, $11.50) and a Robusto (5 x 48, $11)—are made at BLTC’s Fabrica Oveja Negra in Estelí, Nicaragua.

3) The largest tobacco producer in Central America, Plasencia Cigars, is moving to create a natural forest at one of its farms in Estelí. “When Plasencia Cigars’ CEO Nestor Andres Plasencia stumbled upon a 2014 TED Talk by the founder of Afforestt, he was immediately inspired,” reads a press release. “In it, the founder and president, Shubhendu Sharma, speaks about a methodology used to create a mini-forest ecosystem anywhere, in a tenth of the time it would take a natural forest to grow.” Plasencia owns and operates over 3,000 acres of land in Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama. The new project calls for planting 40 trees in the shape of the Plasencia logo at the company’s Estelí plantation.

4) Inside the Industry: Michael Giannini has been promoted to the position of general manager at Ventura Cigar Company, and will also retain his current role of creative director. “I am so proud and honored to accept my new responsibilities…,” he said. “As we continue to receive top ratings for our Archetype, Psyko, and Case Study brands, we’re also forging bold, straight paths toward new products and steady growth. This move is really a natural progression of my career and will be a seamless transition as the brands evolve.” Giannini joined Ventura in November after 17 years at General Cigar Co., where he landed after Swedish Match bought Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s successful boutique brand that made La Gloria Cubana. Giannini is perhaps best known for his work at the helm of Foundry Cigar Co., a subsidiary of General that launched in 2012 and operated as a boutique with exotic packaging, obscure brand names, baroque themes, limited editions, and elaborate stories about the tobaccos.

5) From the Archives: Cigars may be our forte, but we can also help in the kitchen. Back in 2012, we offered up some suggestions for picking and cooking a an excellent steak.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the May box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Joya de Nicaragua