Search results: "Random Thoughts from the Humidor"

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XIX)

27 Jan

In this segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder who benefits from the criminalization of cigar bars in Nebraska, cigars blended for specific spirits pairings, and if you might be able to light up at the craps table at this summer’s IPCPR Trade Show.

Cigars

Hope for Cigar Bars in Nebraska?

We’ve been following the story about the criminalization of smoking inside cigar bars in Nebraska for some time. It all started last year when the Nebraska Supreme Court determined the exemption granted to cigar bars was unconstitutional. Now, state lawmakers have drafted a bill to reinstate those exemptions. Frankly, I can’t seem to understand who would be protected by a smoking ban for cigar bars. The employees who choose to work there (assuming the businesses wouldn’t close down)? The patrons who choose to drop in for a cigar? And then I remembered how this whole thing began: Big John’s Billiards, a pool hall in Omaha, didn’t think it was fair to have to comply with the statewide smoking ban if cigar bars didn’t. Personally, I hope the bill to reinstate the exemptions for cigar bars passes. But the bigger question is: Why should the government get to dictate to any private business whether it can provide cigar-friendly accommodations?

Perfect Pairings

Yesterday I reviewed the Dram Cask No. 3 Double Habano Toro from C&C Cigars, a smoke that’s specifically intended to pair with spicier whiskeys. Dram is comprised of four different blends, each built to complement whiskeys of varying strength. This concept isn’t necessarily a first for the cigar industry. The Illusione Epernay, for example, was blended to pair with champagne. But I’m not sure if any previous effort has been as overt in its intent as Dram, or the just-announced Drew Estate Smoking Monk, a Cigars International exclusive that features five blends each designed to be paired with a different type of beer. Given the rising demand for craft spirits (especially whiskey, micro-brew beer, rum, etc.) I wonder if this will develop into more of a trend. It isn’t too hard to imagine a line of cigars blended specifically to pair with certain kinds of wine.

Big Easy Gambling

Last week, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a smoking ban. The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) was quick to point out the new law will not impact its 83rd Trade Show, slated to be held in the Louisiana city this summer, because cigar bars, the convention center, and facilities being used for private events will be protected. However, if you’ve ever been to an IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans, you’ll recall the Harrah’s Casino that’s nearby the convention center can be a popular destination among attendees. Currently, Harrah’s is not exempted from the ban. But it was reported on Monday that efforts are currently underway to allow smoking in half of the casino, and a vote on the proposal could come as early as February 5—presumably in plenty of time for the convention in July.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (Looking Ahead At 2015)

8 Jan

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I think about what the new year will bring for Cuban policy and the FDA, plus the potential impact on the cigar industry of a new Nicaraguan canal construction project.

cigars-sign

Watching, Waiting on the FDA

Since passage of the FDA bill in 2009, we have been warning of the danger it poses to the cigar industry. Last year, when the Deeming Document and proposed rule were released, more people finally caught on to the disruptive potential. Now we wait.

This chart explains the nine-step process. It’s important to remember the FDA is currently on step 7, which includes reviewing all the public comments. But that process doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Politics will play a role, along with science, public opinion expressed in the comments, and the legislative mandate.

That’s why continuing the push for legislation to exempt handmade cigars from the FDA remains critical. While having the bill become law would obviously be great, even without passing the legislation it can influence the FDA to think twice about going against the wishes of a significant number of members of Congress. So with a new Congress starting earlier this week, let your representatives hear from you today.

Could the Nicaraguan Canal Impact Cigars?

Here’s a story to keep an eye on. Construction has just begun on a $50 billion construction project to build a canal across Nicaragua. The murky Chinese-funded project is projected to be completed in five years and will allow ships too large to pass through the Panama canal to cross from the Pacific to the Atlantic by traveling through a series of canals connected through Lake Nicaragua.

So what’s the cigar impact? Too early to tell exactly, but it could be significant. The canal could make shipping cigars from Nicaragua to the U.S. even easier, and it could result in more Nicaraguan cigars being exported to other countries, especially China. However, there are potential downsides too. Some have raised concerns about the environmental impact, especially on Lake Nicaragua, which is where the volcanic island of Ometepe is located, also one of the four notable growing regions for Nicaraguan cigar tobacco. Thankfully, no one is proposing using nuclear bombs for construction of the canal this time.

I Heard they Legalized Cuban Cigars

I expect retailers will get questions from occasional cigar smokers asking about Cubans. That’s because the announcement just before Christmas wasn’t particularly clear, nor did the media do a good job reporting what it meant. (We clarified everything here, but the short version is, unless you are visiting Cuba with the explicit permission of the U.S. government, nothing has changed.)

As for more action on the Cuban embargo, I would be shocked to see any in the next two years. Ending the embargo takes an act of Congress and the president’s signature. Plus, as long as Florida remains a key swing state for presidential elections, changing Cuban policy will be a risky play for anyone with national ambitions. So any talk that the recent announcement was the first step towards a quick end to the embargo is unwarranted.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XVIII)

29 Jul

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I examine one of the wonders of cigars, contemplate new releases, and urge action.

cigars-sign

Slow, Steady Burn

It’s easy to ignore the burn of a cigar. After all, that’s what it’s supposed to do, right? But a perfect burn is truly something to behold. I reflected on this the other evening as I was sitting outside and enjoying a My Father. About a quarter of the way in, I became fixated on the absolutely perfect burn. It continued that way right to the end. That’s no simple feat. Combining tobaccos with different burn qualities, thicknesses, moisture levels, and oxygen access to get not only the taste you want but also a consistent, straight burn is the mark of a master at work.

Can New Get Old?

With the recent IPCPR Trade Show just concluding, new cigars are a dominant topic of conversation when smokers gather. Some observers say this year seems to have produced fewer new releases than in the recent past. I can’t say. There are far too many new cigars for me to keep up with them all. But I also can’t help but wonder whether the proliferation of new lines, extensions, limited editions, etc. simply leads to the pie being cut into thinner and thinner slices.

Don’t Leave Your Words Unspoken

The August 8 deadline for submitting your comments to the FDA concerning its proposals to regulate cigars (and other non-cigarette products) is nearly here. If you haven’t sent yours, don’t delay. Just click here. If you need information or suggestions, you’ll find more than a half-dozen pieces explaining the proposals here, and a tip for submitting your comments here. Now is not the time for complacency.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (2013 Retrospective Edition)

23 Dec

In this special segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I look back at 2013, its new cigars, and the lists we’ll use to judge them by.

Best of 2013 Lists

Best of 2013Now is the time for “Top Cigars of the Year” lists. Lots of them. In fact, a “List of the Best Lists” list is probably not far off. (We don’t have plans for one this year, but we reserve the right to change our minds.) They’re fun, but I don’t pay too much attention to them. Probably because I’m fortunate enough to try most new cigar blends that appear on various lists so I can draw my own conclusions. In fact, I’d estimate I’ve tried in excess of 50 new cigars this year (not including multiple vitolas of the same blend). If you feel strongly about whether we should compose a 2013 list or not, please let us know.

New Cigars… Lots of Them

In case you were wondering just how many new cigars there are, our friend Frank Herrera took a look at the number of trademarks that have been filed that include the word “cigar”. Filings have exploded. From early last century through the 1980s, trademark filings never averaged more than 100 a year, even though many more cigars were smoked at the beginning of the 1900s. This decade, they’re on pace for nearly 1,000 a year, a roughly 50% increase over the decade of 2001-2010. Besides being good for trademark lawyers, like Frank, I think it’s largely good for cigar smokers, too. More competition keeps everyone on their toes, and it lets newcomers try and create their own niches in the market with unique cigars that appeal to small subsets of cigar smokers.

About That Top 25 List

It’s hard to miss Cigar Aficionado‘s Top 25 list. It even generated CNBC segments, though curiously I don’t recall CNBC coverage in a year where the winner wasn’t a Cuban cigar. I looked through previous year’s CA lists, and I find that this one resonates with me far more than previous editions. With the exception of the top pick (the Cuban Montecristo No. 2), I’ve smoked all the blends in the top ten this year (and I’ve smoked plenty of Monte #2s in the past). Kudos especially to Aging Room (#2) and Buenaventura (#7), two under-the-radar gems that made the list.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XVII)

14 May

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder cigar names, electronic smoking devices, and cigar sponsorships.

Name That Stogie

Cuban Cigar BoxesI’ve been critical of the names some cigar makers choose for their sticks, so it seems only right that I offer some praise for what seems to me to be a good trend: fewer and fewer with Cuban roots. It’s easy to see why, after Cuba nationalized the cigar industry in the ’60s, former owners who fled wanted to keep their brand names for new operations elsewhere. But others seem to have simply adopted Cuban brand names simply to cash in on the association with Cuban cigars. In recent years, though, the trend seems to have slowed considerably. Perhaps it’s partly the influence of numerous successful cigar makers without a Cuban background, such as Rocky Patel.  Perhaps it’s part of the industry’s natural growing process. Or maybe they’re finally just running out of good Cuban names. Whatever the reason, I think it’s a good trend, one I’m happy to see continue.

Electrifying

Occasionally, I hear from an electronic cigarette manufacturer introducing a new product, asking if I want a sample to review, or simply extolling the virtues of vaping. Frankly, I can’t think of anything much more misguided than e-cig makers trying to appeal to smokers of premium cigars. E-cigs, like conventional cigarettes, are simply nicotine delivery systems. Premium cigars aren’t. It’s as simple as that. I have nothing against e-cigs. I hope the industry grows and prospers. But I also hope they learn a little bit more about cigars, and what makes cigar enthusiasts tick.

Patron-izing

I’m pleased to see the Orange Bowl debacle didn’t discourage cigar companies from sports sponsorships, both charitable and commercial. Among the latest is General Cigar, which is sponsoring the Golf Channel program Big Break Mexico. And Arturo Fuente and J.C. Newman were among those involved in a benefit for a local Tampa little league.

George E

photo credit: Flickr (CC)

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XVI)

1 Apr

In this segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I voice my contemplations about babies, head colds, and going in on cigar purchases with friends.

Six Weeks Old

Grant HenryMy son is six weeks old today. He has truly been a blessing, and it’s amazing how I’ve only known him for 42 days yet I couldn’t imagine life without him. That said, before he was born I remember selfishly wondering how his arrival would change the amount of time I like to spend smoking, writing, and reading about cigars. So far so good. I certainly have less time for my cigar endeavors, and the opportunity cost of this time has definitely gone up. But I’ve been able to keep a reasonable pace—even if jaunting off to Nicaragua this year is out of the question. Still, I wonder how other cigar enthusiasts who are fathers handle these considerations. To what lengths do they go to keep their children from being around tobacco? How honest are they with their children about their cigar smoking? What have they learned that I may be able to benefit from?

Sudafed Blues

For the past few days I’ve been battling what’s probably nothing more than the common cold. Annoyingly, the sickness hit right around a few key cigar-smoking opportunities that I had been looking forward to. I chose to pass them up. This got me thinking about this article I wrote almost exactly three years ago. The gist? Back then I concluded that head colds rendered cigar smoking completely pointless given my inability to taste or smell clearly. I stand by that conclusion after trying to smoke a Flor de Las Antillas yesterday. All I could sense was spice and heat. I got no nuance, balance, or interesting flavors. Needless to say I’m looking forward to ending this cold and celebrating with something nice.

Buying Boxes with Friends

Sometimes there’s no room in the budget for a box purchase. But splitting a box among friends is entirely within reason. While I know this is nothing new, I just started splitting boxes recently—particularly with smokes that are either very expensive or only sold in large-count boxes (30-40 cigars). The benefits are plentiful. On one hand, I get more variety and less per-purchase pain in the wallet. I also get to pay lower per-unit costs since cigars by the box are generally cheaper than singles. On the other, I get to compare tasting notes with friends and have great conversations. If you haven’t already adopted this practice, I’d highly recommend splitting a box purchase or two. And remember you don’t necessarily have to buy boxes online. Keep an eye out for discounts on boxes at your local tobacconist.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XV)

27 Mar

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder custom torch improvements, patio smoking at one of the country’s most desirable locales, and impending cigar industry price increases.

Jetlite Mods, Start Your Engines!

Ronson JetLiteAs any loyal StogieGuys.com reader knows, we’re fans of the Ronson Jetlite, a cheap, reliable butane torch. But just about anything can be improved, even this simple device. First, though, a disclaimer. I am simply noting this possibility. I’m in no way suggesting or recommending you do any of these things to your Jetlite. I’m sure it voids whatever warranty might exist, and it undoubtedly will render the lighter unsafe. So, make no mistake, if there’s a problem or accident, you’re on your own. That said, there’s a YouTube video that will explain step-by-step how you can modify your Jetlite. The procedures will make it easier to light and provide greater flame control. If you want to check it out, the video is here.

A Winner in Las Vegas

Good news for patrons of famed Casa Fuente: The shop expects the currently closed patio to soon be open again for smokers. A manager at the high-end Las Vegas shop told me they anticipate having the situation resolved without going to court. The patio was closed earlier this year, after a complaint reportedly from another tenant at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Smoking has continued inside Casa Fuente, but, as visitors know, that can get crowded. Casa Fuente, which became an instant international destination for cigar lovers when it opened in 2005, experienced a similar temporary patio blackout once before. That problem, too, was resolved.

Got to Pay to Play

Look for some cigar prices to go up later this year. Cigar news site Halfwheel has reported that some manufacturers have recently notified retailers of increases, and it seems likely others will follow. Higher production and transportation costs are hitting many cigar makers, and some will undoubtedly pass those along to consumers.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys