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Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 478 (FDA Cigar Regulation Edition)

6 May 2016

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.

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1) Yesterday the FDA issued a 499-page final rule subjecting cigars to FDA regulation. The regulation will officially be published on May 10 and will take legal effect on August 8 with various requirements being phased in thereafter. Notably, the FDA rejected an option that would have created an exemption for premium handmade cigars that met certain criteria, which the handmade cigar industry had made the focus of lobbying efforts. Because the regulation doesn’t alter the 2007 grandfather date (cigars introduced after that date will have to go through the FDA approval process), the regulation means that, should Cuban cigars ever become legal, they would not be exempt from the approval process. FDA officials admit that process could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per each size of each blend.

2) Cigar Rights of America blasted he rule in a press release: “Unfortunately, the FDA and the Obama Administration have rejected and cast aside any rationally objective approach to developing this regulation. When Congress gave FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, they did so specifically with the stipulation that in order to subject a product to regulation FDA must demonstrate that the specific product(s) possess issues of underage consumption and health and mortality impact through addiction, both which have never been associated with premium cigars… As a result of today’s announcement by FDA, the board of Cigar Rights of America will be convening an emergency meeting to evaluate all legal and legislative options moving forward.”

3) The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) also slammed the devastating impact of the rule in a statement: “The FDA’s regulation of premium cigars, if left unchecked, would have a devastating impact on retailers and manufacturers alike. Consumers will have less choice. Youth access is simply not an issue in the premium cigar space where 35,000 Americans earn their living along with over 300,000 employees in the Caribbean Basin.”

4) From the Archives: Since 2007, StogieGuys.com has covered the issue of FDA regulation of cigars. In 2009, after the FDA tobacco regulation bill was signed into law, we reported on the potential impact, noting it was “a major threat to cigar manufacturers and the choices available to cigar smokers.” Later, in the same article, we reported on the reaction from various cigar makers. One comment was particularly striking: “Jaime Garcia, son of famed cigar-maker Don José ‘Pepin’ Garcia, and a top maker in his own right, told me through a translator that coming from Cuba, he couldn’t believe that in America so much power would be given to the government to control his business.”

5) Deal of the Week: If you’re not already a member, the events of yesterday should motivate you to join Cigar Rights of America. Joining not only supports professional lobbyists who fight for cigar freedom, but also affords discounts at cigar shops, free cigars, and more. One great way to join is by purchasing a Cigar Rights of America sampler. Each sampler includes CRA membership, plus ten exclusive cigars. Buy one at your CRA-supporting local cigar retailer or purchase one online here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: CRA

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 477

29 Apr 2016

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.

Powerbrand Camacho

1) Camacho yesterday announced a new line called Powerbrand, which will reside under its Master-Built Series. It is billed as an “intense, adrenaline-fueled cigar experience inspired by the power, performance, and acceleration associated with a classic V-twin engine, built to galvanize a brotherhood of freedom seekers.” The Powerbrand recipe includes a Habano 2000 wrapper from Ecuador, a San Andrés binder, and (predominantly Ligero) filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Three sizes will be available—Robusto, Toro, and Gordo—in the $11-13 range. Shipments to the U.S. will begin Monday, June 13. Oettinger Davidoff, Camacho’s parent, yesterday also reported strong cigar sales in 2015. “Against the backdrop of a declining market, both core brands, Davidoff and Camacho, reported gratifying double-digit growth of 10.5% and 34.4%, respectively,” according to a press release. “In addition, Oettinger Davidoff achieved a production record for the third consecutive time: It produced a grand total of 45.8 million cigars (previous year: 44.0 million) in 2015, an increase of 4.1%.”

2) Omar de Frias’ Fratello Cigars is shipping the “Fratello Branded Tray” to select retailers starting in May. “This tray combines the power of engineering with functionality and style,” said de Frais in a press release. “Cutting the total Fratello shelve space by 30% while increasing our cigar output by 10% was one of our main goals.” Contrary to an earlier announcement, the trays will not include a secret compartment. This is the second year Fratello is launching a special retailer tray; last year the company shipped 125 trays.

3) Inside the Industry: Miami native Eddy Guerra has been named director of marketing for Gurkha Cigars. He was previously a partner at the Thailand-based ChindAsia Capital Partners, which grew to become the largest distributor of non-Cuban cigars in Southeast Asia. “I met Eddy Guerra in Thailand, and we quickly became friends,” said Gurkha president Kaizad Hansaotia in a press release. “His knowledge about cigars and marketing acumen make him a tremendous asset to the Gurkha team. I look forward to a long and prosperous working relationship with Guerra.”

4) From the Archives: Summer is the season for travel, and it’s just around the corner. If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip to Paris, be sure to read the Stogie Guys cigar guide to the City of Lights. You’ll find advice on where to buy and where to light up.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Past boxes include barbecue accessories, shaving kits, coffee, and exclusive cigars from E.P. Carrillo. You can skip or purchase every month (or select a different box). This month’s options include a serious upgrade to your cocktail accessories, a kit for making barrel-aged cocktails, kits that include everything you need (but the booze) for an authentic Moscow mule or mint julep, and others. Click here to sign up today.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 476

22 Apr 2016

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.

JDB2

1) On Tuesday, Jonathan Drew announced the first three products from his new venture called John Drew Brands (JDB). “The movement that began on the production floor in Nicaragua changed premium cigars forever. From a broken down little green house with five employees to the second largest premium cigar maker in the world, we did it together,” reads the new JDB website. “Today, Jonathan Drew announces his transition to the distillery floor. You may recognize him as JD, Dizzle, SNACKi, Vale Verga—but if you know JD at all, you understand his creative mind, loving heart, and dedication to quality.” For now, JDB will be focused on rum and whiskey. The three inaugural brands will be Brixton Mash Destroyer, Dove Tale Rum, and John Drew Rye. “JD might just be the Bo Jackson of the cigar and spirits industries,” said Michael Cellucci in a press release. “His passion and commitment for the Drew Estate Cigar Company remains 100% intact with no plan to disengage. I have full confidence in his team’s ability to develop a legacy in the spirits world as well.” Swisher International, Inc.—the largest cigar company in the world by volume—acquired Drew Estate in 2014.

2) Cigar Insider reports the U.S. imported 315 million premium cigars last year, up 2.3 percent over the previous year. The Dominican Republic remains America’s largest supplier at just over 126 million cigars, followed closely by Nicaragua at 119 million. Honduras trails at about 68 million. These numbers represent shipments of cigars, not sales, and they do not include the illicit importation of Cuban cigars.

3) Inside the Industry: This week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill to extend the state’s 50-cent-per-cigar tax cap for five years. The state taxes tobacco products at 32% of the wholesale price, but a previous bill limited that to 50 cents per cigar to enable the state’s tobacconists to compete. The previous cap was set to expire in October, which would have resulted in many taxes on cigars doubling (or more) overnight.

4) From the Archives: Mold is a serious threat to your cigars. As temperatures heat up, the risk of mold increases too. Back in 2008, we covered the basics of mold: how to prevent it, how to differentiate it from plume, and what to do if you find it. Eight years later, it is still worth a read.

5) Deal of the Week: Smoke Inn’s newest exclusive Microblend series cigar, the Smoke Inn 20th Anniversary by Davidoff, is available for pre-sale. The Belicoso (6 x 52) features a Connecticut Ecuadorian “Rojiza” wrapper over a complex blend of Dominican binder and filler tobaccos.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: John Drew Brands

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 475

15 Apr 2016

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.

BL Conn

1) Yesterday, the oldest cigar maker in the Dominican Republic announced the launch of a new four-blend line called Black Lion. La Aurora Black Lion will be featured in Connecticut, Corojo, Maduro, and Cameroon varieties. Connecticut will pair a Connecticut wrapper with an Ecuadorian binder and filler tobaccos from the Cibao Valley, Nicaragua, and Peru. Black Lion Cameroon will have a Cameroon wrapper with an Ecuadorian binder and fillers from the Cibao Valley and Nicaragua. Black Lion Maduro sports a dark Cubra wrapper with a Brazilian binder and fillers from the Cibao Valley, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Peru. And Black Lion Corojo will pair a Corojo wrapper with an Ecuadorian binder and fillers from the Cibao Valley and Nicaragua. Four sizes will be available: Robusto, Toro, Gran Toro, and Churchill. Each cigar will come in 25-count boxes with modern packaging that’s a clear departure from La Aurora’s typically classic approach, which leans heavily towards traditional.

2) The Tampa Bay Tribune highlights the stakes of the pending FDA regulation of cigars and the potential for warming regulations with Cuba to forestall the devastating impact of such regulations. According to the article, “The regulations would apply to foreign-made cigars, too—perhaps, one day, to now-banned Cuba imports. And that is where hope lies, say some in the industry. They think progress made under the initiative by President Barack Obama to normalize relations with Cuba will lead Congress to end the embargo and the FDA to adopt less restrictive regulations on premium cigars. Cigars from Cuba and those made by Newman are classified as premium.”

3) Inside the Industry: “Gran Habano announces the pre-release of La Colección de Elegancia, a collection of Gran Habano’s best-selling Corojo No. 5 blend in smaller ring gauge sizes,” reads a press release. “The Corojo No. 5 Elegance sizes have the strongest blend in the Gran Habano profile with rich, full-bodied flavors further enhanced by the smaller ring gauge. Gran Habano is now taking pre-orders from retailers for La Colección de Elegancia Sampler containing 10 cigars of each ring gauge size. Gran Habano will also be releasing three new sizes of Corojo No. 5 cigar boxes as part of the Elegance Collection series: Petite Corona (5.5 x 42), Corona (6 x 44), and the Figurado No. 200 (5 x 48).”

4) From the Archives: With summer just around the corner, it is a good time to make sure you are protecting your cigars from the potentially damaging effects that heat can have on proper storage. This tip will walk you through the basics, including providing four suggestions for making sure your cigars are properly shielded from excessive temperature.

5) Deal of the Week: Crowned Heads fans will want to jump on this special from Smoke Inn. For a limited time, buy any box of twelve Crowned Heads blends and get a free five-cigar travel case. Plus, use the coupon code “Stogie10” to knock ten percent off your order.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: La Aurora

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 474

8 Apr 2016

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.

Combined

1) La Aurora, the Dominican Republic’s oldest cigar manufacturer, this week announced the 1962 Corojo and 1987 Connecticut are now in stores. “The La Aurora 1962 features a Corojo wrapper, from the Cibao Valley in the Dominican Republic, wrapped over an Ecuadorian binder, and fillers from the Cibao Valley and Nicaragua,” reads a press release. “The La Aurora 1987 sports a Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, over a Dominican binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. La Aurora offers both cigars in four sizes in 20-count boxes: Robusto (5 x 50), Churchill (7 x 50), Toro (5.5 x 54), and Gran Toro (6 x 58). The low MSRP of $5.50 to $6.00 is to pay tribute to the consumers who have supported La Aurora for 113 years.”

2) Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) has announced the third release of its Morphine brand, which debuted in 2014 and got a sequel in 2015. The cigars are made at BLTC’s Estelí factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra, using a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Three sizes will be available: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 48, $10.50), Lancero (7.25 x 42, $11), and a box-pressed Torpedo (5 x 54, $10.50). “Morphine has quickly become a favorite of our customers. I think we can now say it’s our signature blend,” said BLTC founder James Brown. “The 2016 Morphine will not disappoint with its big, bold flavors and unique character. The blend is the same but we have changed the vitolas to highlight different characteristics of the cigar. This production also includes our first torpedo cigar in any of the BLTC lines.”

3) To celebrate his 50th birthday, Fred Rewey of the Nomad Cigar Co. is giving away 50 cigars from his personal humidor. “These will (of course) be Nomads but a few others as well,” he said in an email blast. “Test blends [and] limited cigars (yes, even the Lot 1386) [are] going to one winner. I’m also throwing in a Nomad cutter and a few other surprises.” (The Nomad Lot 1386 was a very limited release in 2013 that received some critical acclaim; only 307 12-count boxes were produced.) You can enter the giveaway here.

4) From the Archives: There are many options when it comes to keeping your cigars properly humidified, but the gold-standard is a temperature-controlled humidor, which you can either build or buy. In this tip from 2010, you can read the step-by-step process for converting a wine refrigerator into a temperature-controlled humidor.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Past boxes include barbecue accessories, shaving kits, coffee, and exclusive cigars from E.P. Carrillo. You can skip or purchase every month. This month’s options include a serious upgrade to your cocktail accessories, a kit for making barrel-aged cocktails, kits that include everything you need (but the booze) for an authentic Moscow mule or mint julep, and others. Click here to sign up today.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: La Aurora

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 473

1 Apr 2016

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.

DE Lounge BBT

1) The BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida—home to the Florida Panthers of the NHL—is now host to the first Drew Estate Lounge in a professional sports arena. The invitation-only grand opening is being held today (an off-day for the Panthers). Smoking will be restricted to a well-appointed outdoor area equipped with TVs and drink service. “This new lounge brings the Rebirth of Cigars to a broad new audience of hockey fans at the BB&T Center,” said Michael Cellucci, president of Drew Estate. “On a personal level, I am a huge fan of the Florida Panthers. I became a season ticket holder this year and have been so impressed with the ownership, their management of the team, and the family environment that is reminiscent of Drew Estate’s culture, so this is especially exciting for me.” Year of the Rat (5.5 x 46, $14), a new cigar commemorating the 20th anniversary of the franchise’s Stanley Cup victory in 1996, will be exclusive to the lounge. It will include a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around a Brazilian binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Honduras.

2) In our last “Question of the Month,” we asked readers to cite how many Cuban cigars they smoke, as a percentage of their cigar consumption. Just over 47% said less than 10% of their cigar consumption is Cuban, 30% said less than 50%, and 3% said they only smoke Cubans. Be sure to weigh in on this month’s question by casting your vote. And feel free to contact us if you’ve got a suggestion for a future poll.

3) Inside the Industry: Cuban Stock Cigar Co. just opened its new factory in the tax-free zone in Tamboril, Dominican Republic. President and company founder Yaniv Levy states, “After twenty years in our two previous factories, and with the pressures to increase output as our reputation grows, it was time for this new facility. Before this move, our total production space was less than 10,000 square feet… We now have 20,000 square feet, enough to carry us well into the future.” Cuban Stock Cigar Co. has already hired forty new workers, with plans to expand to 100 soon. With its new factory, the company can increase its annual production capacity from 1.8 million cigars to potentially 10 million cigars.

4) From the Archives: Aging cigars is always a topic of interest among serious smokers. StogieGuys.com has written extensively about the whys and hows of putting sticks away. Here, we passed along advice from some experts, and another post features an interview with Doc Stogie, whose Stogie Fresh site reviews cigars over time to assess the impact of aging.

5) Deal of the Week: A good cigar sampler can be a great way to revisit some old favorites, or discover new ones. This ten-count sampler from Smoke Inn has a solid mix of high-end classics (Davidoff Nicaragua, My Father Le Bijou, Padrón 1964 Maduro), new hits (El Güegüense, New World Connecticut, Camacho American Barrel Aged), under-appreciated standbys (San Lotano Oval, Alec Bradley Prensado, La Aroma de Cuba), and even a store-exclusive limited edition (Drew Estate Pope of Greenwich Village).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 472

25 Mar 2016

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.

Mary Landrieu1) Mary L. Landrieu, former Democratic member of the U.S. Senate and current consultant to Cigar Rights of America and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, authored a piece in the Washington Times on Wednesday about the Obama Administration, forthcoming FDA regulations, and the Cuban cigar industry. “The notion of an American bureaucracy intruding into an industry that poses no threat to the American general public, is purely for discerning adults, and serves as a source of invaluable jobs from the Pinar del Río region of Cuba to the Jamastran Valley of Honduras should not be acceptable,” she writes. Landrieu’s comments come at the heels of President Obama’s just-concluded trip to Cuba, the first time a sitting president had visited the communist isle since 1928. “First, there should be a commitment to advance political reform and civil liberties for the Cuban people before we pursue economic and trade relations,” she argues. “Congress should thoroughly review issues of human rights and personal freedom in Cuba before advancing any of more than a dozen pieces of filed legislation intended to normalize relations.” You can read the entire piece here.

2) “Nanny-staters in Australia have [stripped] brands and logos away from not just cigarettes, but cigars, which are not addictive and not inhaled,” reports the Washington Free Beacon. “As a result, the plain packaging law the country passed five years ago is having devastating consequences for an economy a world a way that depends on tobacco: the Dominican Republic, and the men and women who make that nation’s premium handmade cigars… Plain packaging laws rest on the belief that consumers are so weak-minded that a shiny label will get them hooked on smoking… Cigars were not the stated target of Australia’s plain packaging law, but nevertheless got wrapped into the legislation. Stripping trademarks and brands from the handmade cigars produced in the Dominican Republic—the largest exporter in the world—not only affects their economy; it offends their heritage.” Read more here.

3) Inside the Industry: Cornelius & Anthony Premium Cigars announced the addition of a second line, Daddy Mac (the name is a tribute to owner Steven Bailey’s father, Mac Bailey). The line is being produced at Eric Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Nicaragua and is set to be released in four sizes (Gordo (6 x 60), Toro (6 x 50), Robusto (5 x 50), and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46)), each presented in boxes of 20. The blend features a Brazilian wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and Nicaraguan filler.

4) Contest Update: Please join StogieGuys.com in congratulating Steve C. of Waynesville, North Carolina, and James S. of Parma, Michigan, as the two winners of our Búho giveaway. Both will receive sampler packs from Búho, as detailed in our February review of the Búho Primero Connecticut Shade Robusto.

5) Deal of the Week: The best deal is free cigars. To celebrate the annual release of Punch Rare Corojo, Punch is running a sweepstakes to give some away. Sign up here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Wikipedia