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Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Economic Issues Await Raúl Castro’s Successor, Villiger Opens Dominican Lounge, and More

16 Mar 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 570th in the series.

1) Cuba experienced its lowest voter turnout on Sunday in any election since the communist government initiated an electoral system 42 years ago. “Sunday’s elections were for provincial councils and the 605 candidates for the 605 seats on the national legislature. There were no contested seats,” reports the Miami Herald. “The candidates were selected by the Candidates Commissions, made up of government officials and members of pro-government organizations.” In addition to over 17% of voters not participating in the election at all, nearly a fifth of those who did vote “did not fill in the ‘all candidates’ box on the ballots, defying government and official media calls for a ‘united’ vote.” President Raúl Castro (pictured above, at right) is expected to step down in April, bringing an end to the Castro family’s six-decade reign. Many expect First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel (pictured above, at left) to take his place and inherit an extremely challenging economic situation. “The island’s economy is stumbling amid vanishing support from its principal benefactor, Venezuela, and the souring of relations with the U.S.,” reports Bloomberg. “And Cubans are increasingly unhappy with health care, education, and basic living conditions, the underpinnings of the communist social contract.” While Diaz-Canel has promised a more responsive government, “few Cubans on Sunday expected Diaz-Canel to bring about immediate or dramatic reform. The vice president has long been seen as Castro’s hand-picked successor, and he has consistently emphasized maintaining continuity in Cuba’s single-party political system and centrally planned economy,” reports CTV News.

2) Villiger has opened its first lounge in the Americas at the ABAM Cigar Factory (manufacturer of all Dominican-made Villiger cigars) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. According to a press release, other Villiger lounges may be coming to additional “key markets” as part of “the next evolution” for the Switzerland-based company. “We at Villiger Cigars look forward to entertaining members of the media, friends, and colleagues at the Villiger Lounge at the ABAM Factory,” said Rene Castañeda, president of Villiger Cigars North America. ABAM Factory tours, which will include seven cigars and drinks in the lounge, “will commence in the near future.”

3) Since before first president (and distiller) George Washington served as a general in American Revolutionary War, the United States has been making distilled spirits. Now every state has at least one distillery. This article lists the oldest active distillery in each state, from craft distilling companies that have sprung up in the past decade or so to those that have been at it for well over a century.

4) Inside the Industry: A new limited edition from Mombacho is set to ship to retailers in May. Called Cosecha 2013 Edición Unica, the pigtail-capped, single-vitola line (6 x 52) features Nicaraguan tobaccos from the 2013 harvest that were rolled in 2014. Only 7,000 cigars were made, each with a retail price of $21.95. The 2013 Edición Unica is differentiated from the 2012 release, which used different Criollo and Corojo seeds.

5) From the Archives: Cigar companies have been known to push their green candela-wrapped offerings around St. Patrick’s Day (which, in case you aren’t paying attention, is tomorrow). In this article, we run through some favorites so you know what to pick up if you are of the once-a-year candela-smoking variety.

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: Reuters / Villiger

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Alec Bradley Announces Medalist, J.C. Newman Shakes Up Marketing Team, and More

9 Mar 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 570th in the series.

1) Yesterday, Alec Bradley announced the release of Medalist, an affordable, mild cigar line that will begin shipping globally in April. “With Medalist, we are looking to remind people of our company’s past,” said Alec Bradley founder Alan Rubin, who started selling mild cigars in the mid-nineties but has since been focused on medium- to full-bodied cigars. “We are also asking milder cigar smokers who have shied away from us to give us a chance.” Medalist sports a shade-grown Honduran wrapper, Honduran binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. Four vitolas will be available, each presented in ten-count boxes: Robusto (5 x 52, $6), Toro (6 x 54, $6.50), Churchill (7 x 50, $7), and Gordo (6 x 60, $7).

2) J.C. Newman, the oldest family-owned premium cigar maker in America, announced this week major changes to its marketing structure. Cristal Blackwell-Lastra (pictured), formerly the vice president of sales, has been promoted to vice president of sales and marketing, where she will be responsible for “setting the strategic sales and marketing direction for J.C. Newman’s international sales network and promotional program.” In addition, Kara Guagliardo and Monica Foster have been promoted to co-directors of marketing, where they “will work to develop and execute all marketing strategies while also managing the company’s communications and media program.” Guagliardo and Foster will report to Lastra. “The new structure will enhance the synergy between sales and marketing toward a more focused vision of J.C. Newman Cigar Company to our retailers and consumers,” said Lastra in a press release. “This is a pivotal new chapter for our company, comprised of a capable and creative team ready to take us to the next level and beyond.” J.C. Newman’s handmade cigar portfolio includes Diamond Crown, Maximus, and Julius Caeser (made by Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic), as well as Brick House, Perla del Mar, El Baton, and Quorum (made at Newman’s El Reloj factory in Tampa).

3) Davidoff is launching its newest Vault release today, the Limited Edition Gusto Toro. Vault selections include what Davidoff describes as “factory reserves, vintage classics, and private and rare collections.” The Gusto (6 x 52), a creation from Eladio Diaz, features an Ecuadorian Sumata wrapper, Ecuadorian Habano 2000 binder, and filler from the Dominican Republic. It will be sold in bundles of 10 for $320.

4) Inside the Industry: Altadis will unveil next week the latest in the seemingly never-ending expansion of its Romeo y Julieta line. This one is the Romeo San Andrés, a collaboration between Rafael Nodal and A.J. Fernandez. In addition to the Mexican wrapper, it features a Nicaraguan binder and filler from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The cigar will be available in four sizes packaged in boxes of 20.

5) From the Archives: Wedding season (and bachelor party season) is around the corner. If, as the best man or resident cigar expert, you are responsible for purchasing cigars for the event, we have a few pieces of advice.

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 $12.50 (with free Amazon Prime shipping).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Alec Bradley / J.C. Newman

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Joya de Nicaragua’s 50th Anniversary, Davidoff Expanding Distribution of García-Made Cigar, and More

2 Mar 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 569th in the series.

1) This year marks a half century for Joya de Nicaragua, the oldest premium cigar maker in Nicaragua. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Joya is expected to debut an exclusive cigar later this year. Other celebratory activities include a tour of events that will span the globe, special giveaways, and the release of “the history, secrets, and anecdotes that have shaped the world-renowned brand and its products.” Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca (pictured above), chairman of Joya de Nicaragua, shared the following in a press release: “At the end of the day, Joya de Nicaragua is a brand that sells cigars. But what matters to me is that this brand has been the force through which the people of the factory have helped shape the history of Nicaragua itself… We don’t just want to celebrate our 50th anniversary, rather put all our acquired life experience and cigar knowledge to set the groundwork for the next 50 years to come.”

2) Davidoff is expanding distribution for one of its unique cigars—an un-banded belicoso made for the Switzerland-based company by another manufacturer. The limited production My Father Exclusive Davidoff was originally sold only at its New York store on Madison Avenue, said Alberto Rosario, senior retail marketing manager at Davidoff. Now, it will be available at all Davidoff flagship stores and at Davidoff online. It is a toro-sized (6 x 52) Nicaraguan puro rolled at Don José “Pepín” García’s My Father Cigars factory in Nicaragua. They are packaged in cabinets of 50 for $500. Rosario noted that, while this joint effort began some years ago, other collaborations could be in the offing.

3) J.C. Newman’s Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, won’t be around this baseball season for the first time since the team’s beginnings in 1998. But Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman, told the Tampa Bay Times this week that if plans for a new stadium in Tampa’s cigar-storied neighborhood of Ybor City come to fruition, he’ll push for a cigar lounge there. “That would be a natural for us,” Newman told the newspaper. The company bills itself as “America’s oldest family-owned premium cigar maker” and has been in Ybor City since moving from Cleveland in 1954.

4) Inside the Industry: Ezra Zion announced a partnership with the makers of Oak & Eden Bourbon and Oak & Eden Rye. Oak & Eden whiskeys employ a technique of “in-bottle finishing” with a patented spire technology that allows for charred oak wood spires to continue the wood aging process in the bottle. According to an announcement, Ezra Zion will introduce a line of Oak & Eden whiskey-inspired cigars to be paired with the whiskeys.

5) From the Archives: There hasn’t been much news lately about the FDA regulation of cigars. Looking back, reports last summer suggested good news could be on the way, as the new administration seemed less likely to push for the most egregious aspects of the rules.

6) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, RoMa Craft, Mi Querida, 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: Joya de Nicaragua

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Virginia Considers Beverage License for Cigar Shops, Green Cigars for St. Patrick’s Day, and More

23 Feb 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 568th in the series.

1) Lawmakers in Virginia have an opportunity to help retail tobacconists by decriminalizing alcoholic beverage sales at cigar shops. HB 1541—which passed the House earlier this month and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services—would create “a new limited mixed beverage license for retail cigar shops” and require “at least 60 percent of the licensee’s annual gross revenue be from the sale of premium tobacco products.” Cigar Rights of America encourages Virginia-based cigar enthusiasts to take action.

2) For the fifth straight year, Alec Bradley will be releasing the Black Market Filthy Hooligan. The limited edition cigar, which is shipping just now, sports dueling wrappers—one candela, the other Nicaraguan Jalapa—over a Sumatra binder and a filler blend of Honduran and Panamanian filler tobaccos. Only 2,000 22-count boxes have been made for a total production run of 44,000. The retail price for the single Toro size (6 x 50) is $8.75. The Filthy Hooligan tradition began as a candela-wrapped version of Alec Bradley’s Black Market line, and his since shifted to a barber pole style release.

3) Not to be outdone in the candela space, Camacho has announced the nationwide launch of the Camacho Candela Robusto, which officially began shipping today. “Built on the chassis of our original Corojo blend,” Camacho Candela, which originally launched in 2007, sports a Criollo Candela wrapper that’s “cured over a charcoal fire.” A single vitola, Robusto (5 x 50), retails for $8. Only 3,000 boxes of 25 will be made, for a total production run of 75,000.

4) To make whiskey (and many other spirits), you need barrels. But what to do with barrels once their job is done? Scotch frequently reuses barrels. Some cigar tobacco is aged in used barrels. And a growing trend in beer is barrel-aged beer. Here’s a list of 25 beers to try.

5) From the Archives: St. Patrick’s Day is only a few weeks away (hence all the green cigars). If you’re looking for our recommendations on candela smokes, here’s a five favorites.

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 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 here in the next five days to be eligible for the March box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr / Alec Bradley

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Macanudo Turns 50, OMB Hints at Rational Approach to Cigar Regs, Humidors for Baseballs, and More

16 Feb 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 567th in the series.

1) General Cigar is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Macanudo with 50 Days of Macanudo, a campaign that kicks off March 12 with “a flurry of activity to usher in [the brand’s] next 50 years… [including] exciting and unexpected new product launches, special events, and retail promotions.” During these 50 days, retailers who purchase select Macanudo promotions will receive a $500 credit towards future purchases of Macanudo cigars. Also, all Macanudo boxes made in 2018 will include a “commemorative gold guarantee seal.” And a limited number of three new cigars will be released in the Macanudo Inspirado line. Finally, if you want to enter to win Macanudo-branded merchandise like lighters, hats, and ash trays, upload pics of your “Macanudo moments” here. “In the 50 years since its launch, Macanudo remains one of the world’s most respected and best-selling handmade cigar brands,” said Jose de Castro, General Cigar’s vice president of marketing. “This is because Macanudo has always focused on delivering the best and most consistent experience to the cigar smoker. More recently, we took a bold step to evolve the brand by introducing the Inspirado line in the U.S., amped up our retail and consumer promotions, and contemporized our logo and packaging. The result has been nothing less than a renaissance for the brand. And for cigar lovers who have been wowed by the exciting changes we’ve made to Macanudo… they haven’t seen anything yet.”

2) Cigar Rights of America (CRA) sent out an email alert yesterday pointing to a telling exchange between Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney (pictured) during a House Budget Committee meeting. When Congressman Diaz-Balart brought up the issue of premium cigars and ensuring an “appropriate cost-benefit and regulatory flexibility analysis,” Mulvaney responded: “We have absolute confidence the FDA is going to apply the [Trump] Administration’s sort of new standard when it comes to cost-benefit analysis… and we will actually have science and numbers behind them as opposed to the qualitative type analysis that was done by the previous administration. I’ve learned a great deal about cost-benefit analysis over the last 13 months and [have] been extraordinarily disappointed in what passed for a cost-benefit analysis under the previous administration. I think one of the things you can count on with Director Gottleib at the FDA is a much more rational approach to the process.”

3) Seems humidors aren’t just for cigars. Baseball fans may have heard the Arizona Diamondbacks announced next year baseballs will be stored in a special humidor designed to reduce the impact of low humidity on baseballs, which is widely believed to be an advantage for hitters. In case you were thinking about storing your cigars in the Diamondbacks’ humidor, don’t. According to reports, it will be kept at 70 degrees and 50 percent relative humidity (cigars need to be stored between 65 and 72 percent relative humidity).

4) Inside the Industry: Tickets for Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke Miami are on sale now. The event will be held on Friday, March 16 at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach from 7:30 to 10:30 PM. The $325 ticket price includes drinks, a light buffet, a chance to meet with cigar makers, and 35 premium cigars. Smoking is allowed on the hotel’s outdoor terrace. An extra $50 gets you into the event one hour early.

5) From the Archives: New cigar smokers can sometimes find themselves overwhelmed, which is why we offered these five tips. Most important is the final suggestion: “Enjoy yourself. This might sound silly. But remember that cigar smoking is a hobby of pleasure, not accomplishment.”

6) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, RoMa Craft, Mi Querida, 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: Macanudo / Wikipedia

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Big Papi’s Baseball Bat Cigar, FDA Exemption Bill Adds Support, and More

9 Feb 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 566th in the series.

1) El Artista announced new promotional offerings for its Big Papi by David Ortiz line. Particularly notable is a large baseball bat-shaped figuardo called Big Slugger which is sold individually for $45 in a glass-top display box. In addition, the company introduced a 50-count humidor sold empty (MSRP $120) or with 20 cigars (MSRP $330).

2) Support continues to grow in Congress for the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act, which exempts premium handmade cigars from FDA regulation. The Senate version (S.294) added Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) as a co-sponsor this week, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 19. Meanwhile, its House companion bill (H.R. 564) has added three new co-sponsors since January 1, bringing its total to 142.

3) Inside the Industry: Oettinger Davidoff AG announced this week it is establishing a new executive position, Chief Commercial Officer, and has selected Jim Young, president of Davidoff North America, to fill the position. According to the announcement, the CCO position was created to help drive sales excellence and share best practices across all markets. Young will retain his responsibilities as president of Davidoff North America but will relocate to Basel, Switzerland.

4) From the Archives: We went to Nicaragua and made our own blends. Then we aged the cigar for three years and checked out the results.

5) 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 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 here in the next five days to be eligible for the February box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: El Artista

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: STG Acquires Thompson, S&R Introduced, and More

2 Feb 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 565th in the series.

1) On Wednesday, Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG), parent company of General Cigar and Cigars International, announced it had reached an agreement to acquire Thompson Cigar for $62 million. Thompson is a Tampa-based online retailer that was founded in 1915 and boasts $100 million in annual net sales and 185 employees. “I am pleased to announce this acquisition, which strengthens our position in the online retail channel in the US.,” said Niels Frederiksen, STG CEO. “Our existing U.S. online retailer, Cigars International, will, in combination with Thompson, be able to deliver an unmatched range of premium cigars at the highest level of service to the U.S. consumers. At the same time, we foresee significant cost synergies to the benefit of our customers and shareholders.”

2) Black Label Trading Company’s Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) is introducing S&R, a limited release that’s the first BLK WKS cigar to use Dominican tobacco and also the first to have a Sumatra wrapper. Intended as a medium-bodied smoke, S&R has a Nicaraguan Habano binder around Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos. Two sizes are available: Lancero (6.75 x 42, $9.50) and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $9.50).

3) Inside the Industry: Thompson being bought by STG wasn’t the only significant acquisition this week. Cigar accessory maker Xikar, known best for its cigar cutters, was purchased by Quality Importers (QI) for undisclosed terms. QI has made a number of acquisitions in the cigar accessory category in recent years, including Cigar Caddy, Palió, Cigar Mechanic, and Stinky Ashtray, and also has the distribution rights to Eddie Ortega’s Ortega Permium Cigars. Xikar previously sold the rights to its cigar lines to Cigars International (owned by STG) in 2013.

4) From the Archives: Are cigar makers losing an opportunity for sales because of their failure to disclose information about their blends? That’s the case we made in What’s on the Label? back in 2013. The argument remains unchanged and, unfortunately, so does the the state of cigar disclosures.

5) Deal of the Week: Here are 100 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, CAO, My Father, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, 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: Scandinavian Tobacco Group