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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

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Villiger Goes Full-Bodied, Tequila Barrel-Aged Scotch, and More

26 Jan 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 564th in the series.

1) Villiger has announced its first full-bodied cigar. La Vencedora, Spanish for “the victor,” is a Nicaraguan puro made at the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Estelí. The line is intended as a “follow-up blend” to the Ecuadorian-wrapped La Flor de Ynclan, which debuted last year. “We are grateful for the opportunity to use our 130 years of experience to create what I feel is a very special cigar in the Villiger La Vencedora,” said Heinrich Villiger, chairman of the Switzerland-based company. Rene Castañeda, president of Villiger Cigars North America, added, “We as a team feel that the Villiger La Vencedora is a palate-pleasing, full-bodied, yet elegant cigar, that will satisfy the cigar connoisseur as well as the casual smoker.” The three La Vencedora sizes—Churchill, Robusto, and Toro—will retail in the $9-10 range.

2) Diageo, the London-based alcoholic beverages multinational, last year formed a “secret task force” aimed at seeking a break from longstanding scotch production laws and traditions in an effort to “arrest scotch’s declining market share,” according to the Wall Street Journal. With Irish, Japanese, Canadian, and U.S. whiskey makers cutting into scotch’s global market share, Diageo—which owns the Johnnie Walker, Talisker, Lagavulin, and Caol Ila scotch brands, just to name a few—is trying to think outside the box. “One idea was to finish aging scotch in old tequila barrels instead of the sherry, cognac, or port casks traditionally used. Another was to create a ‘scotch whisky infusion,’ a new category of flavored or low-alcohol blends sold under existing scotch brands.” But change is easier said than done. “Scotch watchers say Diageo will face stiff opposition to any rule changes—something its task force acknowledges… One of the biggest obstacles is the SWA, an Edinburgh-based trade body that has long interpreted the rules and policed scotch making.”

3) Inside the Industry: Edward Simon has been named the new leader of global marketing and innovation at Oettinger Davidoff AG. He takes over the role from Charles Awad, who is leaving the Switzerland-based company. The move is part of a broader organizational and personnel shakeup to align Davidoff’s business processes “with the changing market conditions.” According to a press release, “a corresponding transformation programme, known as ‘Way Forward,’ was initiated at the beginning of this year under the leadership of CEO Beat Hauenstein.”

4) From the Archives: Seven years ago we started our interview of A.J. Fernandez by noting: “A.J. Fernandez may be the best cigar maker you haven’t heard of. But not for long.” Read the whole interview here.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, hot sauce kits, wine, workout gear, etc…) 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: Villiger Cigars

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Boveda Launches Smart Sensor, CHIP Showdown Won’t Affect Cigar Taxes, Alec Bradley Partners with Rabbit Air, and More

19 Jan 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 563rd in the series.

1) Boveda, the Minnesota-based “global leader in two-way humidity control,” has introduced what it is calling “the best innovation for premium cigars since the invention of Boveda.” The new Boveda Smart Sensor will sync up your humidor’s humidity and temperature levels with an app on your phone or tablet. After a two-point calibration is completed, the device will be accurate within +/- 1.5% relative humidity, and the app can be customized to alert you to humidity or temperature changes exceeding a user-defined threshold of acceptability. The Smart Sensor is currently available at Boveda.com and retails for about $40, or $50 if you also want four large humidification packets and a calibration kit. Check back at StogieGuys.com in the coming weeks as we are currently testing the device for a full product review.

2) One of the sticking points in the current last-minute budget negotiations in Washington is the extent to which any deal will include funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program is funded largely by tobacco taxes, including a 40-cent-per-cigar tax on handmade cigars. Although the program’s “funding” would expire if a deal isn’t struck, the tax on tobacco remains whether or not a deal is struck and signed by the president.

3) Inside the Industry: On Monday, Alec Bradley Cigar Co. announced a new partnership with Rabbit Air to distribute “customized Alec Bradley/Rabbit Air co-branded air purifiers.” The SPA-700A model, for example, covers 700 square feet and will retail for about $520; the SPA-780A covers 815 square feet and will retail for about $620. The California-based Rabbit Air is “a leader in the air purifying industry, and its MinusA2 Ultra Quiet Air Purifier is the cigar industry standard for wall-mounted smoke-eating units,” according to a press release. “Our mutually beneficial relationship with Rabbit Air is a no-brainer,” said Jonathan Lipson, Alec Bradley’s director of sales and marketing. “Together, we have the opportunity to positively affect brick and mortar tobacconists. Not only will they have the opportunity to use and display the units, tobacconists will also have the ability to sell the units to the end consumer.”

4) From the Archives: Winter is tough on cigar humidity, but if you think your humidity may be off, the first thing to check is the accuracy of your hygrometer (especially if you are using the spring-loaded hygrometers that come in most humidors). For that, you’ll need to perform the simple but extremely useful salt calibration test.

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

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Boveda

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: MBombay Classic Torpedo Ships, Unicorn Sightings, Havana Club Rum Wars, and More

12 Jan 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 562nd in the series.

1) This week, MBombay began shipping a new Torpedo vitola as part of its Classic line. The cigar measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 52 and carries a suggested retail price of $11.95. It has an Ecuadorian wrapper and binder around filler tobaccos from Peru, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. “The cigars are aged for more than 14 months (which will be adhered to for future batches as well),” according to a press release. Because of lower production levels and the longer aging process, the only way to get the MBombay Classic Torpedo is in a new five-count MBombay Sample Pack. The pack retails for $45 and includes one each of the following MBombay cigars: Mora Toro, Habano Robusto, Corojo Oscuro Robusto, Gaaja Toro, and Classic Torpedo.

2) Fuel was just added to the fire in the legal battle between the French beverage giant Pernod Ricard—which, in a 50-50 joint venture with the Cuban government, claims to own the one true Havana Club Rum—and the Havana Club made by Bacardi in Puerto Rico. Pernod Ricard has taken issue with a new Bacardi marketing campaign called “Forever Cuban.” But Bacardi continues to claim legitimacy of the brand 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. “Pernod Ricard and the Cuban dictatorship have perpetuated a lie since they began their collusion in 1993, and continue to do so today,” reads a statement from Bacardi. “Our new marketing campaign affirms that, while our rum is now made in Puerto Rico, our heart and soul will be ‘Forever Cuban.’” If this feud 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, Montecristo, etc.).

3) Legislators in Alabama are considering a bill that would raise the minimum age requirement for tobacco use, sales, and possession from 19 to 21. “The bill is authored by Rep. Chris Pringle of House District 101, Mobile County,” according to the Opelika-Auburn News. “It is expected to formally be referred to the House of Representatives committee on judiciary.” Federal law requires states to have a minimum age for tobacco of at least 18 years old (which is enforced via the threat of withholding FEMA grants). Currently, 42 states have set a statewide minimum age of 18; 8 have set a statewide minimum age above 18, with 3 at 19 years old (including Alabama) and 5 at 21 years old.

4) Inside the Industry: Steve Saka has been teasing a new Muestra de Saka called Unicorn (6.25 x 60) on Facebook since December 15. It is currently shipping to retailers with a suggested per-cigar price of $100. “I went into this personal project with the concept of what if you did everything physically possible to spend as much money and effort as is humanly possible to make 1,000 ultra-ultra premium handmade cigars,” he said. The result is a custom diademas (Saka had 24 molds made to his specification) made from the very best Broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan filler (the tobacco selection process included hand-sorting through over 6,000 pounds of tobacco and selecting the best 1%). Following Exclusivo and Nacatamale, Unicorn is the third Muestra de Saka, which Saka describes as “a line comprised of cigars that allow me to create small-batch, unique blends in the vitola… that I find best represents its blend. It provides a way for me to share my personal love for blending while not having to  try to make it into a big brand.”

5) From the Archives: In addition to excellent flavor, balance, and combustion, the best cigars also feature outstanding texture. So what is texture? We explain, with the help of some experienced cigar makers, in this 2012 article.

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 $14 (with free Amazon Prime shipping).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie GuysSteve Saka