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Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Executive-Level Changes at Drew Estate, Cigar Rights in the States, and More

3 Feb 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 516th in the series.

Jonathan Drew

1) Jonathan Drew (pictured above) has been named president and founder of Drew Estate and will once again occupy an executive operating role at the company he founded, including responsibility for the entire portfolio of brands. This news comes two years since Swisher International bought Drew Estate. “The deal is important for the boutique cigar company, as it looks to return to its iconic roots and core values,” reads a press release dated January 30. “The objective is to unleash the entire team’s creative power under the leadership of [Drew] who will also continue with his new venture into the spirits industry as CEO of John Drew Brands, a startup initially focused on bourbon, rye, and rum.” Glenn Wolfson, CEO of Drew Estate, called Jonathan Drew “a dynamic entrepreneur, respected tobacco man, and a tenacious brand evangelist… [He] will reduce his travel and event schedule, instead focusing on the Rebirth of Drew Estate with a conceptual lens toward brand building and team building.” In addition, David Lazarus has been named senior vice president of sales, effective immediately. He will report directly to Wolfson.

2) State-Level Cigar Rights Watch: The Virginia General Assembly has been presented with two bills that would enable cigar shops to obtain a license to sell and/or serve alcohol on premises; simultaneously, a bill has been introduced in the Virginia Senate to enable local governments to designate outdoor public places as non-smoking. Lawmakers in Indiana are considering a bill that would raise the smoking age to 21. In Ohio, Governor John Kasich aims to significantly increase cigar taxes from 17% to 69% of the wholesale price.

3) Inside the Industry: Christian Eiroa’s C.L.E. Cigar Company—which represents brands such as C.L.E., Asylum, Eiroa Cigars, Puros Indios, Cuba Aliados, and more—has launched a new website. Cigar enthusiasts in Texas may be able to find a new version of La Flor Dominicana’s Special Football Edition figurado that has been shipped to Lone Star State retailers in celebration of Super Bowl LI, which takes place in Houston on Sunday.

4) From the Archives: With the winter cold going around, you may want to re-read this tip from 2010 about cigars and the common cold.

5) Deal of the Week: We recommend Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Past boxes include fine bar accessories, shaving kits, coffee kits, and more. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up today and you’ll be able to get the February shipment.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Drew Estate

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: New Cigars from Toraño, Renewed Calls for Cigar Rights Action, and More

27 Jan 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 515th in the series.

Vault Blue

1) General Cigar has hired Jack Toraño as a full-time ambassador for the Toraño brand, as well as announced two new lines under the Toraño Vault umbrella. “Jack began working with us last year to develop Toraño at retail and has made great strides in generating excitement for the brand,” said Régis Broersma, president of General Cigar, in a press release. “We are pleased to have him as a full-time member of our marketing team and look forward to working with him to deepen retailer and consumer engagement around this important brand.” Jack Toraño will report to Ed McKenna, director of marketing strategy, and his roles will include “hosting events in strategic markets, sharing the history of Toraño cigars, and presenting the brand portfolio.” That Toraño brand portfolio is expanding to include the Ecuadorian Sumatra-wrapped E-021 and Jalapa-wrapped W-009, two new lines in the Toraño Vault collection. Each will come in two sizes with per-cigar prices ranging from $5.49 to $6.49. Back in 2014, General Cigar acquired the brands associated with the Toraño Family Cigar Company. The move came four years after Toraño re-launched itself in 2010—taking back control of its own distribution from a conglomerate that housed Toraño under the same roof as General Cigar and CAO.

2) Yesterday, Glynn Loope, executive director of Cigar Rights of America (CRA), posted a video on Facebook from the U.S. Capitol proclaiming his mission to recruit new co-sponsors of legislation that would protect premium handmade cigars from FDA regulation. Now, with a “new Congress, new administration, and a new regulatory environment,” Loope has committed to “totally revisiting this subject top to bottom,” and he is imploring dedicated cigar enthusiasts to visit the CRA website and contact their representatives in support of these important efforts at this crucial time.

3) Congressional Republicans target Washington’s rule by bureaucrat. But will this include a roll-back of the FDA’s handmade cigar rules? “Washington’s many agencies, bureaus, and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms. Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it. In President Obama’s final year the Federal Register hit 97,110 pages—longer by nearly 18,000 pages, or 15 King James Bibles, than in 2008. Federal regulations cost the American people about $1.89 trillion every year, according to an estimate by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. That’s more than 10% of GDP, or roughly $15,000 per American household.” Read more here.

4) In case you missed it, the last two months have been news-filled for Booker’s Bourbon, a StogieGuys.com favorite for its bold, barrel-proof flavors. As explained by veteran bourbon journalist Chuck Cowdery, Booker’s maker Beam announced, then backed off, a nearly 100% price hike.

5) From the Archives: Speaking of Booker’s, twice it has been featured on this website. First in 2011, Patrick A gave his take. Later, Patrick S checked out the first batch released in 2015.

6) Deal of the Week: Seven sizes of Steve Saka’s Mi Querida are back in stock at Smoke Inn. Plus, use the code “StogieDeal” at checkout to land a free triple-flame butane lighter.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: New Agreements with Cuba, Rum Wars, New Cigars, and More

20 Jan 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 514th in the series.

Cuba

1) The Obama Administration has executed a bevy of agreements with Cuba in its final month of power. “Since Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced in December 2014 that they would normalize relations, the two governments have established a number of task forces to resolve outstanding issues between them,” reports the Washington Post. “That process sped up considerably this month as President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration approached.” While these most recent agreements are not cigar-related—they concern maritime boundaries, joint responses on oil spills, law enforcement cooperation, and search and rescue operations—they underscore Obama’s desire to strengthen relations in a lasting way that would be more difficult to unwind. “Trump has said that Obama got a ‘bad deal’ from Cuba and that Castro should have made more concessions toward civic and political freedoms on the island,” says the Post. “Obama has repeatedly argued that more U.S.-Cuba contact will force the government’s hand.”

2) 60 Minutes recently aired an interesting feature on Havana Club rum and the legal battle between the Cuban government and the French beverage giant Pernod Ricard—a 50-50 joint venture that claims to be the one true Havana Club—and the Havana Club made by Bacardi in Puerto Rico. Bacardi claims legitimacy since it bought the original Havana Club name and recipe from the family that had been producing the rum prior to the company’s nationalization via Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. If this story sounds familiar, it should. It’s very similar to the legal war being waged by Cuban cigar brands and non-Cuban brands that carry Cuban names (i.e., Cohiba). You can watch the feature in its entirety here.

3) Looking for something different to drink? Consider Allen’s Coffee Brandy, also known as the Champagne of Maine. “For more than 20 years, Allen’s Coffee Brandy has been the top-selling spirit in the state of Maine, besting the number two competitor by a margin of two to one. And that’s just the 1.75-liter size. Annual sales reports for the state routinely place all four sizes of Allen’s among the top ten best sellers… It is the stuff of legend. And why not? It’s inexpensive, it’s sweet, and it packs a buzz and a punch.”

4) Inside the Industry: Camacho announced new box-pressed extensions to its three core lines that feature Connecticut, Corojo, and Ecuador wrappers. Coming in three new box-pressed formats (Robusto, Toro, and Gordo), the tweaked blends of the box-pressed offerings are designed to be fuller-bodied due to the addition of Pennsylvanian Broadleaf tobaccos. Suggested retail on the three sizes are $8 to $9.25.

5) From the Archives: It’s chilly out, so warm up with one of our five warm drinks for cold days. This article lays out the recipes for such classic cocktails as the hot toddy, Stonewall Jackson, hot buttered Rum, and Mexican hot chocolate. Or, if you prefer, a good cup of coffee. Read it all here.

6) Deal of the Week: Here’s a sampler worth checking out. Just $45 gets you a Warped Maestro del Tiempo, Davidoff Yamasa Short Churchill, Caldwell Signature Dos Firmas, Bellas Artes by A.J. Fernandez, and The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. Pick up two (or add other products to get to $75) and use the code “StogieDeal” to land a free triple-flame butane lighter.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 513

13 Jan 2017

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.

Punch Gran Puro Nicaragua

1) General Cigar on Tuesday announced Punch Gran Puro Nicaragua, a “Nicaraguan-forward blend” that will debut in February. Four vitolas will be made at General Cigar’s HATSA factory in Danlí, Honduras, each with an MSRP ranging from $5.29 to $6.99. The blend recipe includes high priming Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos enveloped in a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. “Punch Gran Puro has been a true staple in humidors for over a decade, and the brand’s recently-received high ratings have cemented its legacy in the handmade cigar category,” said Ed McKenna, director of marketing strategy for General Cigar. “For the extension of the Gran Puro line, our artisans built a blend that balances Nicaraguan tobaccos with a Maduro wrapper to deliver a layered, dimensional flavor not traditionally found in Nicaraguan-based cigars. We are confident that Punch Gran Puro Nicaragua will be a fast favorite among tenured smokers.”

2) Yesterday, President Obama announced an end to “wet foot, dry foot,” a policy which allowed Cubans who make it to U.S. soil to stay and become legal residents. Obama characterized the policy as “designed for a different era.” The change is part of Obama’s move towards normalization of relations with Cuba. Florida news outlets reported mixed reactions from members of the Cuban community there.

3) Inside the Industry: Matt Booth is, for the time being at least, walking away from the cigar industry. Booth is owner of the Room 101 portfolio of brands—cigars that were made by Camacho prior to Davidoff’s acquisition of Camacho in 2008. Room 101 has since been distributed by Davidoff. Booth recently told Cigar Aficionado his agreement with Davidoff has come to an end, and he has decided not to renew. “For now, I am going to concentrate on the jewelry and accessories side of the business,” Booth said. “It’s a business that’s growing rapidly for me and not over-regulated by the government.”

4) From the Archives: Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most popular articles in the decade-plus history of StogieGuys.com is our tip on how to perform a salt calibration test. The test will help you ensure your hygrometer reading inside your humidor is accurate. Best of all, with the exception of maybe distilled water, the test can be done with a few household items you’ll almost certainly find in your kitchen.

5) Deal of the Week: We recommend Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $45. Past boxes include fine bar accessories, shaving kits, coffee, and more. You can skip or purchase every month. Currently available is “Churchill,” a box featuring four E.P. Carrillo cigars (including one exclusive blend), a reclaimed wood ashtray that doubles as a candle-holder, a smoke-eating candle, cedar spills for lighting your cigar, and a cutter. Click here to sign up today.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar Co.

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 512

6 Jan 2017

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.

sindustry

1) Black Label Trading Co. yesterday announced the upcoming release of Sindustry, a three-vitola blend that sports a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The brand will be part of the Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) portfolio, which also includes the Killer Bee, Green Hornet, NBK, and Rorschach lines. It is made at Black Label’s Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Estelí. “I’m very excited about our first Limited Edition at BLK WKS,” said Black Label Trading Co. creator James Brown. “Sindustry is a big, bold, badass smoke. The flavor profile is very unique with flavors of black currant, clove, and coco paired with the rich earthiness of the San Andrés wrapper.” Each of the three sizes—Robusto, Toro, and Lancero—will be available in February. They will retail in the $9.50 to $10 range.

2) Tickets are on sale now for Big Smoke Miami, which will be held at the Fontainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach on Friday, April 7. The entrance fee is $325, and the event runs from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM (you can get in 60 minutes earlier by paying an extra $50). Included in the price is the opportunity to visit with at least 25 premium cigar makers, drinks, food, and, of course, cigars. That said, Cigar Aficionado, the host of the event, notes “smoking is permitted in all outdoor areas of the hotel.” So it is not yet entirely clear if attendees will be able to smoke on the event floor, which is presumably indoors.

3) Also on sale now are tickets for The Great Smoke, an annual event put on by the Palm Beach-based retailer Smoke Inn. The $150 ticket gets you a commemorative bag with goodies, 45 cigars, and a wide selection of fine food, wine, spirits, and beer. Additionally, you can secure tickets to the pre-event dinner, hosted the night before at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and a day-after brunch.

4) From the Archives: Our interviews archive features numerous conversations with well-known (and not so well-known) interesting people associated with the cigar industry. In one of our earliest interviews (going way back to 2007), we spoke with Michael Fayerverger, the general manager of one of the most famous cigar destinations in the world, Casa Fuente.

5) Deal of the Week: Cigar enthusiasts seeking a great deal should check out this clearance on Thunder by Nimish, part of the Rocky Patel line. All boxes of 20 are being blown out at the discount price of just $66, bringing the per-cigar cost down to $3.30. But don’t wait too long; this deal is sure to sell out quickly.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Black Label Trading Co.

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 511

30 Dec 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.

capture

1) This week Cigar Aficionado reported A.J. Fernandez will open a new factory in Ocotál, a Nicaraguan town about 40 miles north of Estelí. It will be called San Lotano, which is the same name as Fernandez’s cigar brand and farm. Formerly known as San Rafael and the site of production for the Brickhouse and El Baton brands for J.C. Newman, the newly launched factory will help Fernandez meet growing demand now that his Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory is at capacity. The new facility will house 240 cigar makers and 120 rolling tables. Additionally, A.J. Fernandez will begin making the 601 brand for Erik Espinosa, who has been crafting his own brand out of his La Zona factory for nearly five years. “…I am unable to expand [La Zona’s] production since I have already outgrown it,” Espinosa told Cigar Aficionado. “It’s a perfect opportunity for me to finally meet the demand for my cigars.”

2) Inside the Industry: The 2017 International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show has been rescheduled and relocated. Now the show will run from July 10 to July 14 and be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The convention had originally been slated five days later at the Sands Convention Center—site of previous IPCPR Trade Shows—but the location administration cancelled on IPCPR, triggering a cancellation fee (likely because a bigger business opportunity arose on that date).

3) Perhaps you’ve heard all you want to about tobacco and the FDA. But a short article–thorough, well-written, and scary–from pipe-expert Rick Newcombe in Reason magazine is worth your time.

4) From the Archives: This week we unveiled parts one and two of our top cigars of 2016. But don’t forget the great cigars of the past. Not only should you check out our top cigars from recent years, but we highly recommend browsing through our list of top-rated smokes, which goes back to 2006.

5) Deal of the Week: Everyone loves a Top 25-rated cigar, so browse this year’s and past year’s winners here. You’ll find everything from Opus X to Padrón to Oliva to Rocky Patel. Use the coupon code “Stogie” at checkout to land 10% off your purchase.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: A.J. Fernandez Cigar Co.

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 510

23 Dec 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.

stg

1) Starting on January 1, Craig Reynolds will assume leadership of the entire North American enterprise for Scandinavian Tobacco Group—a “cluster” that includes General Cigar, Cigars International, STG Lane (a market leader in pipe tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and little cigars), and STG Canada. “We are leading in handmade cigars, pipe tobacco, and fine cut in the U.S.,” said Reynolds in a press release. “Advancing our collaboration between entities allow us to bring products from across our tobacco categories to all our customers. We believe that this will benefit our customers and drive further growth for our business in the U.S.” According to CEO Niels Frederiksen, “Craig Reynolds has successfully led our entire global handmade cigars business. Today, the handmade cigar category is a growth engine in our business and accounts for more than one-fourth of our net sales and profit. We want to reinforce this development by extending Craig Reynolds’ leadership to our entire North American business.”

2) On Tuesday, Caldwell Cigar Co. and Drew Estate announced All Out Kings, a collaborative effort between the two companies, would be shipping in March, delayed from the original anticipated shipment date of November. We first learned about All Out Kings in June, right around the time Caldwell announced another collaboration—Anastasia, and made by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. All out Kings will be shipped in four sizes, all sold in 20-count boxes: Smash (5 x 52), Give Me Your Lunch Money (5.75 x 46), Foreverlast (6.5 x 54), and The Fourth Pose (6 x 54). Drew Estate Master Blender Willy Herrera said this of the project: “When Rob [Caldwell] and I began blending this project, we had to meet in the middle in terms of the strength of the cigar so that it was something Rob would enjoy as he is not typically a maduro smoker. We selected specific primings of Connecticut Habano wrapper that would be a bit more subtle, yet flavorful. This has taken a bit more time at the sorting tables and, in addition, the wrapper is extremely oily by nature, which has added to the aging process. I know everyone has been waiting and I’m causing additional stress for Rob, but I won’t let them out of the aging room until I feel they are ready.”

3) Inside the Industry: Could the incoming administration repeal the FDA regulations currently threatening to choke the premium cigar industry? While some experts regard that possibility as a long shot, one report issued by Congressman Mark Meadows, incoming chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, suggests just that. “The worst fear of cigar manufacturers and smokers alike has been that the FDA will impose the same onerous pre-market review requirements on cigars that it currently places on cigarettes,” the Freedom Caucus report said.

4) From the Archives: This is the time of the year for best-of lists, and next week we’ll be unveiling our best of 2016. In the meantime, you’ll want to check out our best of 2015 list to see the handful of cigars that achieved the rare five-stogie rating last year.

5) Please join us in congratulating Derek C. from Louisville, Kentucky. Derek is the latest winner of a StogieGuys.com giveaway. He was randomly selected among many participants at our Facebook page to receive a $20 gift card from Holt’s Cigar Company. Enjoy, Derek!

6) Deal of the Week: The Liga Privada Dirty Rat is a very sought-after and hard-to-find limited edition smoke. Currently, it is in-stock here (4-packs are $58, boxes of 12 are $157). But move quickly. Buy the box, or any order over $75, and get a free triple-flame table lighter by adding the coupon code “StogieDeal” at checkout.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Scandinavian Tobacco Group