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Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Zócalo Announced, Smokes on Boats, and Mores

13 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 574th in the series.

1) This week CAO announced a new, limited edition release called Zócalo. The cigar, CAO’s first blend to use a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, is being made in one size only, a vitola called San Andrés (6 x 60) that includes a Cameroon binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. Individual cigars will sell for $8.49 and come in brightly colored, 20-count boxes for $169.80. Only 3,500 boxes of Zócalo have been produced, and the limited release will hit cigar shops in time for Cinco de Mayo on May 5.

2) SAG Imports, the distribution arm of Quesada Cigars, will no longer serve as the U.S. distributor for Matilde Cigars and MLB Cigar Ventures (MLB). Instead, effective immediately, SeiBel Distribution—a new company formed by Enrique Seijas of Matilde and Mike Bellody of MLB—will serve as distributor of the brands. This new distribution arrangement in no way impacts the production of the cigars themselves. Quesada will continue to produce the Imperia, Islero, and Aventador brands for MLB; Tabacalera La Alianza will continue to produce the Matilde brands. Both Seijas and Bellody spoke highly of Quesada but acknowledged the need for more control over the distribution process.

3) Inside the Industry: New York City cigar smokers are invited to attend the fourth annual New York City “Boats and Smokes” cigar cruise series. On Thursday, May 17th, cigar connoisseurs will get the opportunity to sail on the East River with skyline and Statue of Liberty views. The cruise will feature cigars by La Gloria Cubana, CAO, and Macanudo, with a portion of the proceeds going to Cigars for Warriors. More details and tickets to the event, which sold out last year, can be found here.

4) From the Archives: In one of our most controversial interviews, we spoke with Michael J. Mcfadden, author of TobakkoNacht: The Antismoking Endgame. Read the entire thing, including the spirited comments, here.

5) 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: CAO Cigars

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Cigar Industry Asks for Warning Label Delays, NY Tax Hike Fails, Bourbon in the Mail, and More

6 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 573rd in the series.

1) On the heels of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announcing its intent to seek comments about reconsidering existing regulations of premium cigars, the cigar industry is now seeking to eliminate FDA warning label requirements, which are scheduled to go in effect on August 10. The Cigar Association of America, Cigar Rights of America, and International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association have asked U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta (pictured at right) to delay the new warning label rules while the FDA reconsiders its position. The trade groups are hopeful Judge Mehta will be consistent with his statement from December hearings in this case when he said, “I guess I just have a real problem, it seems to me, with a government agency telling an entire industry [to] spend millions of dollars to satisfy a regulation that we’re not sure is going to be on the books a year from now or two years from now.” At issue are larger warning labels on cigar boxes, and rules about where these labels would need to be placed. As we wrote last week, simply considering a premium cigar exemption, of course, doesn’t guarantee that the FDA will ultimately adopt one. The FDA notably considered and rejected such an exemption in its original regulation of cigars. However, the willingness of the new FDA leadership to spend time and resources considering rolling back its regulations is a good sign for those who make, sell, and enjoy cigars.

2) Cigar consumers and retailers in New York can breathe a sigh of relief. The final version of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 budget does not include a proposed cigar tax hike. “While the original version of the budget did not raise the tax percentage of cigars, which is currently 75 percent of the wholesale price, it removed an ‘industry standard adjustment ratio’ clause that allows retailers to charge a much lower rate of 28.5 percent,” reports Cigar Aficionado. “The section of the original 2018–2019 Executive Budget proposal that pertained to wholesale tobacco prices was intentionally omitted from a subsequent version published on March 13 and did not reappear in what would become the final version…”

3) Kentucky recently passed HB400, a law which, for the first time, and in certain circumstances, allows the state’s famous bourbon distilleries, along with state wineries, to ship bourbon directly to consumers outside the state.  The law allows those who visit the state’s distilleries in person to ship whiskey to their home state, depending on their local laws.

4) Inside the Industry: RoMa Craft is restarting production of Neanderthal following a shortage of adequately aged Mexican San Andrés Ligero Capa. According to RoMa Craft’s Skip Martin, current back-orders of the line will begin being filled in late 2018.

5) From the Archives: Rarely are there new types of cigar tobacco, but Fuma Em Corda is one. As Ernest Gocaj of General Cigar explained in an interview last year: “Once the tobacco turns brown, the natives make it into a rope and twist it regularly to expel the juices of the tobacco. At this time, ammonia is released and the flavor is softened. In other words, the harshness is removed from the leaf. Everything is done in sunlight. The tobacco becomes very pure and refined through this method.”

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: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Health Groups Sue FDA, Historic Cigar Apartments, Scott Gottlieb Profiled, and More

30 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 572nd in the series.

1) On the heels of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announcing its intent to seek comments about reconsidering existing regulations of premium cigars, several health groups on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the agency for delaying certain rules for cigars and electronic cigarettes. “The lawsuit is challenging an agency decision last summer to grant lengthy deadline extensions to manufacturers seeking FDA approval for their products,” reports the Washington Post. “Originally, the companies were required to submit such product-review applications by this August for any item that went on the market after February 2007. The revised timeline changed that to August 2021 for cigars and August 2022 for e-cigarettes.” The organizations suing the FDA include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The lawsuit contends that the FDA, in delaying product reviews of e-cigarettes and cigars, is exceeding its authority under the [Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009] and violating the Administrative Procedures Act because it did not give the public an opportunity to comment.”

2) Libertarian magazine Reason has a profile (subscription required) of FDA chief Scott Gottlieb entitled “Scott Gottlieb is Not a Free Market Firebrand.” The piece, which was written prior to the agency’s recent tobacco actions and focuses more on his work related to the drug approval process, concludes that Gottlieb has a “mixed, moderate record [that] has surprised both his champions and his critics.”

3) Tampa’s Ybor City is still impacted by its cigar heritage, even as its days as a center of cigar production have waned. Case in point is the soon-to-open, 38-unit Angel Oliva Sr. Apartments, being renovated from a historic wooden cigar factory. The structure, originally built in the late 1800s, was used more or less continuously for cigar production until 1999, including most recently by leading cigar tobacco supplier Oliva Tobacco Company.

4) Inside the Industry: Cigar retailer Famous Smoke Shop has unveiled a ring gauge and wrapper color guide to help consumers understand cigar length, smoking duration, girth, and wrapper color. The free tool is available here. Last year, the Pennsylvania-based retailer released a flavor wheel. Both resources are a product of Famous-owned Cigar Advisor.

5) From the Archives: Want to learn more about Ybor City? Read a book. For example: The Immigrant World of Ybor City, which was reviewed here.

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 now to be eligible for the April box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Rocky Patel Hits the Airwaves, Spending Package to Provide No Relief for Cigars, and More

23 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 571st in the series.

1) In a rare instance of the issue of premium cigar regulations taking center stage on television, cigar icon and Cigar Rights of America (CRA) board member Rocky Patel appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News Channel to advocate against onerous U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. “Consumers, manufacturers, and retail tobacconists rallied around their televisions to hear the message of government overreach, economic harm, and the threat to jobs in the United States and abroad,” said CRA in an email. You can watch Patel’s entire appearance here.

2) Despite Rocky Patel’s call for rationality, the $1.3 trillion spending package that seems to have found a consensus in Congress reportedly does not include a bill to exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation. The bill was originally folded in as a rider, but it did not survive negotiations. The White House has already announced its support of the package. At the time of this writing, the House had passed the bill, which funds the government until October; it is currently being considered in the Senate, “which has little time to pass it before the government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Saturday,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Of the disappointing news, CRA Executive Director J. Glynn Loope had this to say via email: “Despite not being in this most recent budget package, it is important to remember that this is a long-term fight to protect this skilled artisan pursuit of making, selling, and enjoying premium handmade cigars. Since April 2011, over 280 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 26 members of the U.S. Senate have said ‘yes’ to such a proposition, and over 70 of those voted for the original Tobacco Control Act. This has worked to make the case that the premium cigar industry is an unintended consequence of the original act, and that these regulations go well beyond congressional intent.”

3) Following last week’s nicotine reduction proposed rulemaking, this week the FDA announced another comment period regarding flavored tobacco products. Citing tobacco usage by youth and young adults, the rule could be the first step towards banning or regulating flavored or infused cigars.

4) Inside the Industry: Cigar Aficionado reports that 2017 cigar imports were the highest in almost 20 years. According to the annual Cigar Association of America (CAA) report, over 330 million cigars were imported, a 2.4 percent increase from 2016. For the second straight year, Nicaragua topped the Dominican Republic as the top importer of cigars, but both countries increased their imports.

5) From the Archives: As the FDA considers more regulations on cigars and other tobacco products, it is important to remember the FDA has a history of misrepresenting the facts surrounding tobacco usage and minors.

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 April box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Fox News

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