The Scoop With Coop – Episode 307

Looking Back at Altria’s Recent Position on Premium Cigar Regulation

When it comes to the cigar industry, there is a line from a John Lennon song that sticks in my head “Nobody told me there would be days like these”. That’s what happened last week when a controversy erupted following a Cigar Aficionado articleon Altria’s position on FDA regulation submitted as a part of the recent ANPRM for premium cigars. Altria is the parent company of popular and longtime premium cigar brand, Nat Sherman.

Value Priced Cazadores Line Coming out of La Aurora

Cazadores is a new value-priced brand that will be coming out of the La Aurora factory. The brand will feature three vitolas priced between $3.75 and $4.25.
The blend features a Connecticut wrapper, Indonesian binder, and fillers from the Dominican Republic. The cigars will be available in three sizes (Robusto, Toro, and Belicoso). Each size will be available in 20-count boxes.

My Father La Gran Oferta Released

At the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, My Father Cigars launched its sixth blend under the My Father brand name as well as its second Habano Rosado cigar under the brand, the My Father La Gran Oferta.
La Gran Oferta translates to “The Great Offering”. It is also the name of an old cigar brand that was sold in 1913. As for the cigar, the wrapper features an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper over a Nicaraguan Cuban Seed binder and fillers that come from the Garcia family farms in Nicaragua. It is available in five sizes: Robusto, Toro, Torpedo, Toro Gordo, and Lancero. Each size is packaged in 20-count boxes. The cigar is produced at the My Father Cigars factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.
In terms of the profile, it was described as medium/medium plus in range.

Surrogates Eight Baller Unveiled at 2018 IPCPR

At the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, the Surrogates brand unveiled its eighth blend in the series, appropriately called the Surrogates Eight Baller.
The Eight Baller consists of a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. It is available in one size – a 5 3/4 x 56 box-pressed packaged in 20-count boxes. It is the third Connecticut Broadleaf blend in the series, but is described as somewhat more dialed back than the other two Surrogates Broadleaf releases, the Surrogates Bone Crusher and Surrogates Skull Breaker.
Surrogates was launched in 2013 as a brand under the L’Atelier Imports company, a spin-off company started by Pete Johnson. Recently L’Atelier Imports and Tatuaje Cigars have consolidated their operations. Surrogates today consists of eight blends and a total of 12 sizes.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 306

M by Macanudo Launched at 2018 IPCPR Trade Show

With 2018 being the 50th anniversary of Macanudo, many wondered what General Cigar would have in store at this year’s IPCPR. Needless to say, the company threw a bit of a curve ball when it announced M by Macanudo, a coffee flavored cigar. It was a bold move by General Cigar that shows it is not afraid to do things differently over the next 50 years.

Punch Diablo to be Showcased at 2018 IPCPR

Add Punch to the list of iconic blends, master blender AJ Fernandez will have his footprint on. At next week’s IPCPR Trade Show, General Cigar will showcase the Punch Diablo. The Punch Diablo was developed by Fernandez and is also produced at his factory in Estelí, Nicaragua – making it the first Punch branded cigar to be produced outside Honduras.

Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co to Introduce Altar Q at 2018 IPCPR

At the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, Oscar Valladares Tobacco and Company will unveil Altar Q. It’s a cigar that pays homage to the Altar Q monument – one of the most historic monuments from the Copán region of Honduras.
The Altar Q was a monument spearheaded by Mayan King Yax Pac in the year 776 AD. Yax Pac wanted to demonstrate his divine right to the throne as well as document the lineage of his predecessors. The Altar Q was made as a square block that depicts 16 of the King’s predecessors from  426 AD to 764 AD – with four featured on each side. It depicts the first king talking to the last.

AJ Fernandez Belles Artes Maduro Launching at 2018 IPCPR

Next month at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show and Convention, AJ Fernandez Cigars will introduce a maduro counterpart to its Belles Artes line.
The Bellas Artes brand from AJ Fernandez is going dark. Cloaked in an inky, Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper, Bellas Artes Maduro will be released at the upcoming IPCPR trade show this summer, and it’s blended with plenty of tobacco that Fernandez grows himself.

Davidoff to End Sponsorship of Davidoff Art Initiative

Oettinger Davidoff AG has announced it is realigning its sponsorship activities. As a part of this strategy, it has announced it is bringing the Davidoff Art Initiative to a close.

White Hat Cigars Reduces Prices on H.R. Signature Line

White Hat Cigars has announced a price reduction to its H.R. Signature line, the company’s most premium line.
“We are reducing the wholesale price by 35% on 5 of the 6 sizes in the H.R. Signature line. We are incredibly proud of these cigars and want to get them into more hands,” commented White Hat Cigars founder Spence Drake in a press release.
HR is a brand that was developed in conjunction with famed Cuban grower Hirochi Robaina. In 2016, Drake launched White Hat Cigars and took over distribution for the line.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 303

Quesada Cigars to Introduce Vega Magna at 2018 IPCPR Trade Show

At the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, Quesada Cigars will introduce a new brand called Vega Magna. It’s a brand that no doubt will be the featured release for Quesada at this year’s trade show.
From a packaging standpoint, the Vega Magna is reminiscent of another Quesada brand, the Casa Magna. While Casa Magna is a brand that started out as a collaboration with the Quesada and Plasencia families, the Vega Magna is a different type of collaboration. Vega Magna is a blend that was developed between Quesada Cigars’ production manager Miguel “Miguelin” Núñez and the Quesada family. Núñez has worked in many aspects of the tobacco industry, including as a “Cosechero” – someone who is said to have harvested sixty crops in over forty years.
As for the blend, it features a sun grown Ecuadorian wrapper over Dominican binder and filler. The blend incorporates Dominican tobaccos from as early as 2001. The Dominican tobaccos are aged in tercios – which is a technique that involves using the bark of palm trees to wrap the bales of tobacco. The blend also incorporates Dominican lagers designed to make this a bolder cigar
Vega Magna will be available in three sizes: Robusto (5 1/2 x 54), Toro (6 x 50), and Belicoso (7 x 52). Each is presented in 10-count boxes. The company also says that the packaging will feature illustrations by Dominican artist Pragmy Marchial. Each box will contain what the company says is a unique sketch by Marchial.
Shipping of the Vega Magna is scheduled for this autumn.

Foundation Cigar Company to Launch Wise Man Maduro Lancero

Foundation Cigar Company’s The Wise Man Maduro is getting its first line extension – and this one will be in the form of a limited production Lancero. The cigar is expected to be showcased at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show.
The Lancero was also the first line extension to The Wise Man’s sister brand, El Güegüense. Like the Lancero for that size, the Wise Man Maduro Lancero will be a 7 1/2 x 40 Cuban box-press format and packaged in 13-count boxes.
The blend to The Wise Man Maduro consists of a San Andres Mexican wrapper, a Jalapa grown Corojo ’99 wrapper, and fillers from the Estelí and Jalapa regions. Like El Güegüense, The Wise Man Maduro is produced at Aganorsa Leaf’s TABSA factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. Production will be limited to 500 13-count boxes and shipping is expected to begin in September.

Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve to Make National Return at 2018 IPCPR

The Olde World Reserve, a popular national brand in Rocky Patel Premium Cigars’ portfolio for many years, is returning. Today the company announced that both the Olde World Reserve Corojo and Olde World Reserve Maduro will have an official reintroduction at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show.
It was in 2006 when Rocky Patel introduced the Olde World Reserve line. National distribution discontinued in 2012 when the Costa Rican Maduro wrapper used on the Olde World Reserve Maduro became too scarce to obtain. It had been reported that it had been made available on a limited basis to online retailer Thompson Cigar since then.
Originally both blends of Olde World Reserve were rolled at the El Paraiso factory in Danlí, Honduras. This time around production will be split between Rocky Patel’s factories. In a press release, company founder Rocky Patel said, “I wanted to do something different with these classic brands, so we decided to have both of our cigar factories produce one line each. One brand rolled in Honduras. The other made in Nicaragua. It’s truly the best of both worlds.”
The Olde World Reserve Corojo will be the cigar that will continue to be produced as the original. It will feature the original blend which includes a Honduran Corojo wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. Production remains at the El Paraiso factory.
Meanwhile, production for the Olde World Reserve Maduro, moves over to TaviCusa, the boutique cigar factory owned by Rocky Patel in Estelí, Nicaragua. The blend to this cigar is described as “comparable” to the original consisting of a Costa Rican Maduro wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and a combination of Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers.
Both blends are returning in three box-pressed sizes: Robusto, Toro, and Sixty.
The cigars will receive updated packaging including new bands and boxes.  The sleeve that covered up to half the cigar is also gone.

Crowned Heads Announces Luminosa Gigantes LE 2018

Never say never. Today Crowned Heads has announced a limited edition 6 x 60 line extension to its Luminosa line. At this year’s 2018 IPCPR Trade Show the company will introduce the Luminosa Gigantes LE 2018 – the Nashville based company’s first 6 x 60 vitola. It’s a size many thought would never come to the Crowned Heads line.
Since co-founding Crowned Heads in 2011, Huber has been on the record many times stating he had zero interest in making a 60 or larger ring vitola.  In a press release announcing the Luminosa Gigantes LE 2018, Huber explained what led to this change of heart.
“The decision to release a 6 x 60 cigar is not an easy one. Personally I prefer smaller ring gauge vitolas, and tend to lean toward traditional petit coronas, coronas, and corona gordas, as my sweet spot has always been in the 42-48 ring gauge range. That said the Luminosa Gigante LE is more about Crowned Heads responding to a market demand than our personal preference of cigars and vitolas. We owe so much of what we do to those that’ve supported us over the past seven years, and this is our way of saying ‘we are listening’”.
Luminosa is Crowned Heads’ regular production Ecuadorian Connecticut shade offering. The line is made at Tabacalera La Alianza, the factory owned by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. – a blender known for his large ring gauge cigars. The Luminous Gigantes LE 2018 will be available in 12 count boxes with a total production of 2,000 (24,000 cigars).

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 302

UPS and Teamsters Reach Tentative Agreement

Late Thursday night came word that United Parcel Service (UPS) and the Teamsters (the group representing UPS workers) have come to a tentative handshake agreement on a new five-year contract covering its small package deliveries. If the agreement is ratified, it will end the threat of what could have been one of the largest strikes in U.S. history.
The tentative agreement now must go back to a vote by UPS labor members to be finalized. Meanwhile, there are some supplemental and local agreements still being negotiated. One of them is with UPS Freight services, which if not resolved, could still affect some transport issues of larger shipments into and within the U.S.
The big issue of the labor dispute was over compensation for plans UPS had for Sunday deliveries. Earlier this month the Union had voted to go on strike on August 1st if a new agreement had not been reached. According to reports, a new category of drivers called “hybrid drivers” is being introduced to handle weekend deliveries and addresses the compensation issues that were on the table.
“I am confident that once the membership has reviewed and understood the changes, they will see that this agreement is among the very best ever negotiated for UPS members,” said Denis Taylor, co-chairman of the Teamsters UPS National Negotiating committee in a press release.
UPS is the preferred delivery service for most domestic shipments within the U.S. for the cigar industry. Three years ago, Federal Express stopped shipping tobacco products, and this resulted in many cigar distributors switching over to UPS. A labor strike could have caused major problems for the cigar industry because there were few other options. The small package division handles many shipments from distribution facilities to retailers.
An August 1st strike would have been complicated by the issues going on in Nicaragua. Currently, many cigar companies in Nicaragua are dealing with export and transportation issues as a result of civil unrest in the Central American country. Many key highways and areas around Nicaragua’s international airport have faced blockades, thus causing delays with shipments out of Nicaragua to the U.S. At the same time, August 1st is two weeks after the annual IPCPR Trade Show – a time where many cigar companies are looking to ship post-show orders to retailers.

Nicaraguan Mediation Breaks Down as Violence Escalates

A National Dialogue between the Nicaraguan government and opposition groups being mediated by Roman Catholic Bishops in Nicaragua has broken down, and violence has escalated in the Central American country.
Opposition groups have been calling for the removal of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. This was initially triggered by plans to change the pension system in Nicaragua. Initial protests were peaceful, but became violent when the government used a heavy hand to respond to the protests. It has resulted in widespread violence throughout Nicaragua, and led opposition groups to set up roadblocks in an attempt to strangle the transport system in the country. The roadblocks have affected commerce throughout the country – including the cigar industry located in Estelí.
On Friday night there appeared to be some progress in the mediation sessions as the government had agreed to allow the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the UN Commission on Human Rights, and the European Union to come to Nicaragua to help investigate the violence and deaths reported. Concurrently, an agreement had been struck on both sides to end the violence. The plan was to continue the mediation sessions and begin to craft an agenda to discuss the democratization issues.
However, there was never a cessation of the violence which has continued since the agreement took place. In the hours following the agreement, eight people were killed in a shootout and fire in Managua. Since the overall violence started in April, there have been over 185 confirmed deaths.
When the mediation sessions resumed Monday, no evidence was presented by the government in terms of inviting the international groups in to investigate the violence. This resulted in government opposition groups and the Catholic bishops walking out of the mediation sessions. It’s the second time such sessions have broken down. The first set of mediation talks by the bishops broke down on May 23rd.
The violence has escalated as groups aligned with President Ortega’s administration moved to dismantle roadblocks, most notably in the city of Masaya. There have also been reports of gunfire at the blockade located at the southern part of Estelí. In addition, the roadblocks have led to gasoline and food shortages at grocery stores throughout the country, including Estelí.

Supreme Court Rules States Can Collect Tax on Internet Sales

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that states can now force online shoppers to pay sales tax. It has widespread implications across all e-commerce, including the premium cigar industry. The ruling by the Supreme Court today is considered a big win for states and brick and mortar businesses. The ruling was made in a 5 to 4 vote in the South Dakota vs Wayfair case.
Under the previous law, companies were not required to collect sales tax on every purchase. The court has now overturned the law where if a business was shipping a product to a state where it was not physically located, it did not have to collect the tax. Technically customers are supposed to pay the tax directly to the state, but the vast number of customers do not do that.
In the cigar industry, the brick and mortar and the large internet/catalog segments of the cigar industry have long been at odds – specifically over discounting. At the same time, many brick and mortar cigar retailers have argued that even when it came to smaller online companies, they had an unfair advantage over them because in most cases the online company was not forced to collect a tax.
The Marketplace Fairness Act attempted to introduce such legislation to force states to collect sales tax on internet purchases. It was introduced by Congress in 2011 and in 2013 was approved by the U.S. Senate; however both times, the U.S. House of Representatives voted against it. This Act was a response to try to overturn a previous Supreme Court ruling (Quill Corporation v. North Dakota) a 1992 ruling that ruled against collecting such taxes.
Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch voted in favor of the decision while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Steven Breyer, Elena Kagen, and Sonia Sotomayor were the dissenting votes.
Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Hampshire are all states that have been attractive to internet/catalog sales because they don’t have a tobacco tax. However, Pennsylvania and Florida each have a six percent state sales tax, and now could be in a position to collect that tax should legislation be passed. Meanwhile, New Hampshire remains both sales tax-free and tobacco tax fee.

Nat Sherman to Undergo Major Portfolio Realignment

At the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, Nat Sherman will launch a major portfolio overhaul and new branding strategy. This will restructure the premium cigar and cigarillo lines in the Nat Sherman portfolio into three brands. It’s also the first major announcement from Nat Sherman since the brand was acquired by Altria last year.
Under the restructuring, Nat Sherman will now have three core brands: Timeless, Metropolitan, and Epoca. While there is a new look to the packaging, banding and some new names, the blends will remain the same.
Under the Timeless brand, it will feature the Timeless Prestige will be the new name for the Timeless Dominican while Timeless Supreme is the new name for the Timeless Nicaraguan. In addition, the Nat Sherman Sterling and Nat Sherman Panamericana will also become a part of the Timeless family.
As for the Metropolitan brand, this will include the Metropolitan Connecticut, Metropolitan Maduro, and Metropolitan Habano blends as well as the Nat Sherman Host and Nat Sherman Host Maduro blends.
Finally, Epoca will include the Epoca brand. This is an old brand which was originally launched as a “Clear Havana” using Cuban tobaccos by company founder Nat Sherman and was popular in the early days of the company. In 2014, Nat Sherman resurrected the brand and with a similar look and taste as the original, but with non-Cuban tobaccos.
Nat Sherman did not disclose where or if the Nat Sherman 1930 fits into restructuring.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 301

Unrest in Nicaragua Intensifies

The civil unrest in Nicaragua has intensified, and the cigar industry has been seeing greater effects on its business. Since our last report, a series of events has many in the cigar industry quite concerned on what the next few weeks will hold.
As we reported a couple of weeks ago, blockades along the Pan American Highway have been set up by protest groups. Back in April,  a series of protests erupted against President Daniel Ortega’s administration when the government announced it was mandating an increase in contributions by both employees and employers to the country’s social security system while reducing overall benefits. This resulted in a heavy-handed response by the government against the protesters creating pockets of violence, with some turning deadly. While President Daniel Ortega announced the government was backing off the plan, it has resulted in continuing protests and unrest calling for Ortega to step down. This has led to some protesters taking to some of the country’s key roads creating blockades, putting a squeeze on the transportation system and affecting businesses.
We also reported on the protests and blockades affecting Estelí, the epicenter of the cigar industry. One of the roads that has been experiencing blockades has been the Pan American Highway on the south end of the city of Estelí. The Pan American Highway serves as the main artery through the country of Nicaragua, stretching from the border with Honduras in the North to the border of Costa Rica in the South. Since our report, the blockades have persisted and now cigar companies are reporting difficulties and delays at moving products out of Estelí.
Cigar Coop has been told that some companies have resorted to shipping products in the overnight hours (when there are no protesters creating blockades) or through alternate routes off the Pan American Highway or through the north into Honduras. However, the situation has gotten worse as opposed to better.
As the blockades have continued, many trucks have been stuck on the road or unable to get back to base. This past Monday, Nicaragua’s Association of Freight Carriers (ATN) announced it was suspending all national and international shipments because of the blockades. This has resulted in further complications for cigar companies and other businesses to get products out of Nicaragua. Cigar Coop has been told that some are still engaging with private trucking companies in the overnight hours, but it is getting even more difficult as a result of the ATN decision.
The shipping problems are coming at a time when the cigar industry is preparing to have large shipments to fulfill orders being placed at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show. Concurrently, domestic shipments in the U.S. could be impacted by a potential strike by United Parcel Service on August 1st.
The Catholic Church has been involved in mediation talks between the Ortega government and protesters, but some protesters are not confident this will resolve in a satisfactory resolution. This has led to some concerns that the government may engage the military to stop the protests and blockades. It has resulted in protest groups around the blockades to seek out weapons to protect themselves – and the cigar industry has not been immune to this. On Monday, Fabrica Oveja Negra, the factory co-owned by James and Angela Brown of Black Label Trading company have confirmed that protesters arrived at the factory searching for guns that could be used in response to a potential military action by the government. Several unnamed sources have also reported that the same thing happened at the STG Estelí factory. No injuries were reported from either incident, although there are unconfirmed reports of weapons being taken from the STG factory. Similar incidents are being reported in other businesses and private homes.
Meanwhile, the blockades are affecting other businesses from obtaining supplies – and have been preventing food and gasoline deliveries from occurring. While many cigar companies have kept factory operations going, there have been numerous reports of workers not being able to get to work, thus impacting productivity.
Over 140 people have died in the civil unrest thus far, and the events of the past few days have many concerned that more serious bloodshed could be on the horizon.

Nicaraguan Government and Opposition Groups Take First Steps to End Violence

First steps toward ending the violence in Nicaragua occurred late Friday night. Yesterday, a “National Dialogue” between the government and opposition groups mediated by the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua occurred. Late Friday night it was announced that both groups agreed to end the violence, and the government agreed to allow an International probe into the deaths of 170 people as a result of the protests.
After reports of an initially tense start to the National Dialogue, the framework for the talks was agreed on – focusing on two areas: human rights and democratization of the country. On Friday June 15, word came that the parties had made an agreement on the human rights issues. Today (Saturday), the talks stem on the democratization. As a part of the agreement on the human rights piece, the cessation of the violence and bringing in an international group to end the violence was a good first step.
Details of the agreement (in Spanish) can be found here.
The talks yesterday did not address the resignation of President Ortega and his wife, something the protest groups have been insistent on. This is expected to be a part of the democratization talks on Saturday. This could play a key role in determining if the violence in Nicaragua truly will come to an end.
The protests began on April 19th and were triggered by changes proposed to Nicaragua’s pension plan. The initial peaceful protests turned violent after the government took a heavy-handed response to the protesters. The protesters have called for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. In particular corruption around the recent election had been a big issue for some time and the pension changes were essentially a straw that broke the camels back.
Over the past couple of weeks, a series of road blockades organized by opposition groups have strangled Nicaragua’s road system, impacting many businesses including the premium cigar industry. The blockades have impacted shipping – and prevented workers from getting to work. Over the past week, these impacts had intensified.
The Church had gotten involved in mediation talks last month, but they broke down on May 23, after the government officials refused to discuss a 40 point agenda by the protesters.
Last week came word the Church would attempt to restart the mediation talks and gave a proposal to Ortega. Ortega said he would take two days to think it over. When it appeared Ortega would not come back to negotiating table, the Higher Council of Private Enterprise (known as Cosep) and Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy called for a national strike to be held on June 14, 2018. While it didn’t stop the violence, the strike shut down a day of business in Nicaragua – including Estelí, which saw many streets empty. Most cigar companies were shut down on that day as well.  On Friday, many businesses (including cigar companies) saw workers back on the job. Concurrently, the government agreed to resume the mediation talks.

CAO Founder Cano Ozgener Passes Away

Cano Aret Ozgener, the man best known to the cigar industry as the founder of CAO Cigars, but also a man who was an engineer, businessman, artist, and philanthropist, has passed away. He died peacefully on June 9 at home surrounded by his family after a long battle with cancer.
Ozgener was an Armenian-Turk born in Istanbul Turkey in 1937. He went to school in Turkey for Engineering and became fluent in three additional languages (French, English, and German) on top of knowing Turkish and Armenian. He also won the Ping-Pong championship of Turkey. He would eventually move to New York in 1962 and attended Columbia University (where he met his wife Esen) and eventually earned a Master of Science (1962) and a professional degree in Mechanical Engineering (1964). Following graduation, he moved to North Carolina and went to work for DuPont in research and development. In 1967, he would transfer to Nashville, Tennessee – the city he was associated with for most of his career.
Ozgener had a passion for meerschaum pipes. Being an engineer by trade, he started modifying the stems of pipes to improve performance. This led him into the pipe business where he also focused on humidors. He attempted a cigar brand called Casa de Manuel in 1980, but that did not prove to be successful, and he re-focused his attention back to pipes. In 1994 as the cigar boom formed, Ozgener formed CAO Cigars, bringing in his son Murat (Tim) and daughter Aylin. Based out of Nashville, they made the company into a power in the cigar industry while bringing an innovative spin to cigar making and branding.
The original CAO was a maduro made by the Plasencia family in Honduras. After some production snafus, Ozgener hooked up with Douglas Pueringer of Tabacalera Tambor in Costa Rica. This was the factory best known for making Bahia cigars. It was with Pueringer that he created a new maduro, the iconic red-banded CAO Maduro which helped put the company on the map. Some consider that cigar to be a game-changer for many maduro blends that followed. After splitting from Pueringer in 1999, Ozgener would start to work with the likes of Nick Perdomo and the Toraño family. Eventually the Ozgeners would acquire their own factory space at the Toraño facilities in Honduras and Nicaragua.
From 1999 to 2007, CAO saw its portfolio expand. It was in 2007 that the family sold CAO Cigars to Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG). When STG merged with Swedish Match, CAO was integrated into the General Cigar portfolio and by 2010 the Ozgener family exited the cigar business.
In 2006, Ozgener had a near-death experience while undergoing a stem-cell transplant for lymphoma. At the time an Irish lullaby sung by a nurse and painting of the colors of natures inspired him in the area of arts. This led to the formation of OZ Arts Nashville, a non-profit contemporary performing and visual arts center that he founded with his son Tim.
Ozgener was an active part of the Nashville community, He served on the boards of Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, and Watkins College of Art.
In lieu of flowers, Cano and his family have requested donations may be made to OZ Arts Nashville at
A celebration of life will be held at OZ Arts Nashville on Sunday, June 24, at 3:14 PM. OZ Arts is located at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Esen; children Murat (Tim) Ozgener and Aylin Ozgener; sister Esperanz Minassian; grandchildren Aloe Franke, Sean Franke, Cano Evan Ozgener, and Aidan Ozgener; daughter-in-law Arnita Ozgener; and son-in-law Scott Hethcox.

Hammer + Sickle Founder Eric Hanson Passes Away

Eric Hanson, best known to the cigar industry as the founder of Hammer + Sickle Cigars, passed away suddenly on Friday, June 8th. He was 45 years old.
Hanson, who spent a decade in the beer distribution business, founded Klin Groupe LLC in 2008. He launched the Hammer + Sickle lifestyle brand. This began with the launch of Hammer + Sickle Vodka, and in 2010 he would launch the Hammer + Sickle cigar brand.
Under Hanson’s leadership, Hammer + Sickle would establish a partnership with Davidoff Cigars, who would handle production for several of his lines. His brands were also known for their elaborate packaging which included boxes made of glass, leather, and marble.
In 2015, Hanson launched a new cigar brand called Calaenoch. This would introduce what would be the first commercially available peat fire-cured cigar. Peat fire-curing is an offshoot of traditional fire-curing tobacco. However, instead of fire-curing with hardwood, peat is used in place of it. Peat firing is used on dry malted barley for Scotch Whiskey.
Hanson is survived by his wife Jennifer and daughters Caroline and Ella.

Illusione OneOff Officially Launches

Illusione’s OneOff brand is currently arriving at retailers nationwide. Last year, Dion Giolito the founder and owner of Illusione Cigars announced he was bringing the OneOff brand back to market.
OneOff was created by Andrea Molinari in 2001. Molinari was a tobacconist who ran a La Casa del Habano in Milan, Italy. After failing to get his own brand made in Cuba, he turned to the Plasencia family, who would create the cigars at Segovia Cigars S.A. A year later, Molinari turned to Felipe Gregorio (owned by Philip Wynne) to handle his U.S. distribution. By 2004, distribution would move to Paul Giacalone of Massachusetts. Eventually, Plasencia stopped making the cigars and Molinari would sell the brand to Cuban Crafters. However, being a grandfathered brand under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deeming Regulations, it was an appealing brand for someone like Giolito to bring into his portfolio
While Giolito hasn’t disclosed details, production is being handled at Aganorsa Leaf’s Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.(TABSA) factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. The cigar is being released in ten-count boxes in eight sizes:  +53 Super Robusto (5 3/4 x 48), Canonazo (6 1/8 x 52), Cartuchos (3 7/8 x 52), Corona (5 1/2 x 42), Corona Gorda (5 3/8 x 46), Julieta (7 x 47), Piramides (6 1/8 x 52), and Robusto (4 7/8 x 52).
OneOff is expected to be a featured cigar by Illusione at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show.

Davidoff Diademas Finas 50th Anniversary Release Coming in July

Davidoff is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its white label brand, and it’s expected to be a big part of Davidoff’s presentation at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show. At this year’s trade show, the company is bringing back one of its iconic releases – the Davidoff Diademas Fina.
The Davidoff Diademas Fina was first released back in 2006 to commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of brand founder Zino Davidoff. At the time, three cigars were released: the Diademas Fina (6 3/4 x 50), Robusto (5 x 50), and Diademas 100 (9 1/8 x 55). For the 50th anniversary release, it is the Diademas Fina size making a return and has been officially dubbed the Davidoff Diademas Fina Limited Edition
As for the blend, the 2018 Davidoff Diademas Fina Limited Edition features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Dominican Olor Seco binder, and an all- Dominican blend of filler tobaccos.
While the original Davidoff Diademas Fina was unbanded, the 2018 Davidoff Diademas Fina Limited Edition features commemorative banding for Davidoff’s 50th anniversary. In addition, the cigars will be packaged in four different 10-count porcelain jars featuring art by French artist Mariane Léger. Each jar has a design representing one of the four regions of the world:  The Americas, The Middle East, Europe and Asia. A total of 8,000 jars are being produced worldwide and will be available at Davidoff Appointed Merchants and Davidoff Flagship Stores.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 299

Pan American Highway Blockades Impacting Nicaragua

Over the past week, a series of blockades on key highways in Nicaragua has started to occur. These blockades are a result of on-going protests in Nicaragua going on against President Daniel Ortega’s government. Perhaps of most interest to those who cover the cigar industry is a blockade that is now occurring on the Pan American Highway on the southern end of the city of Estelí.
The Pan American Highway serves as the main artery through the country of Nicaragua stretching from the border with Honduras in the North to the border of Costa Rica in the South. Within Nicaragua, it connects Estelí with the capital city of Managua – where the airport exists for both commerce and passengers. The blockades have been started by the protesters who are hoping to make a stronger statement by cutting off key transportation arteries in the country.
The blockades have been occurring on the southern end of the city of Estelí, but have also been in other areas of Nicaragua.
With Estelí the epicenter of the cigar industry in Nicaragua, concerns exist on how this will affect both production and distribution. Currently, the situation is affecting cigar industry personnel getting to an from the factory. Getting supplies (tobacco) and finished goods (cigars) in and out of the country have now been impacted. Time will tell what the impacts to the end consumer will be. The cigar industry is currently in one of its busiest seasons as it is ramping up production to fulfill orders for the upcoming IPCPR Trade Show that begins July 14th in Las Vegas
Angela Brown, co-owner of Fabrica Oveja Negra in Estelí has reported on her social media the blockades have impacted going into work at their factory.
The delays have not just impacted Estelí. Rob Rasmussen, brand manager for Mombacho Cigars was a guest on the 5/25/18 edition of Smoke Night Live and said the situation in Nicaragua has caused a delay in getting the company’s Cosecha 2013 release out of Grenada, where the company’s Casa Favilli factory is located. Meanwhile, numerous people in the cigar industry have told Cigar Coop, the traffic in the area around Augusto C. Sandino airport in Nicaragua  is subjected to numerous delays.
Juan Martinez, President of Joya de Nicaragua recently said, “We soon face a serious economic slowdown, with many sectors being badly hurt, tourism being one of them, as we have lost the faith and love from many of you who trusted our land. Many people will face unemployment as businesses fight to stay afloat. Many more will suffer as they will struggle to bring bread to the table for their families.”
The protests started after Nicaragua’s National Social Security Institute (INSS) announced it was instituting a tax that would have increased the contributions by both employers and employees in Nicaragua while reducing overall benefits. When the Nicaraguan government took a heavy-handed response to the protest, the situation created violence. While the government rescinded this plan, the protests have continued – with increased pressure for President Ortega to step down.

Altria Announces Organizational Structure Changes and Names New Managing Director for Nat Sherman

Altria Group, the parent company of Nat Sherman, has announced a corporate restructuring. As a part of the new organizational structure, Nat Sherman will be a part of the new Core Tobacco Division and have a new Managing Director and General Manager in Dominik Meier.
As a part of the new structure, Altria is establishing two divisions – one for core tobacco products and one for innovative products. While the Innovation division will focus on non-combustible products in the Nu Mark division, the Core Tobacco division will consist of Philip Morris USA (cigarettes), U.S.Smokeless Tobacco Company (smokeless tobacco), John Middleton (machine made cigars and pipe tobacco), and Nat Sherman. Heading up the Core Tobacco Division will be Altria Senior Vice President Jody Begley. Begley comes over to the Core Tobacco division from Nu Mark. Replacing Begley in Nu Mark will be Brian Quigley, who will assume the title of President and CEO of that division.
Of primary interest to premium cigar enthusiasts is the alignment of Nat Sherman in the portfolio. It was in January 2017 when Altria acquired Nat Sherman from the Sherman family. Following the acquisition, Shannon Leistra became the General Manager of Nat Sherman. Replacing Leistra is Dominik Meier. Meier has been with Altria since 2005, most recently serving as the Managing Director of Consumer and Marketplace Insights. Meanwhile, Leistra is slated to become the new President and CEO of the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company under the Altria Core Tobacco Products division.
While the Nat Sherman organization remains unchanged, it was recently announced that long-time premium cigar industry veteran David Lafferty would be joining Nat Sherman as the new Executive Director of Sales. Lafferty is best known for his long tenure at Drew Estate where he most recently served as Director for National Accounts.

Diesel Whiskey Row Announced

General Cigar Company has announced a new cigar line known as Diesel Whiskey Row. It’s not only the latest General Cigar to be blended by AJ Fernandez, it’s a project being done in partnership with Rabbit Hole Distilling out of Louisville Kentucky. This is a newer distillery based out of Louisville, Kentucky that produces bourbon, rye, and gin products.
The Diesel Whiskey Row features Mexican San Andres binder leaves that are aged in barrels originally used for Rabbit Hole Bourbon, utilizing a proprietary process that has been developed by Fernandez. The bourbon barrels originally arrived at Fernandez’s factory back in 2016. After placing the San Andres tobacco in the barrels using a special configuration, the tobacco was left to age inside the barrels. The air inside was controlled at regular intervals to ensure the flavors were imported evenly.
In addition to the specially aged San Andres binder, the cigar also incorporates a three-region blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos from Ometepe, Condega, and Jalapa aged five to eight years. The cigar is finished with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The cigars will be available in four sizes, each presented in 25-count boxes. Pricing ranges from $7.49 to $8.99.
General Cigar has also announced there will be a series of events featuring pairings with Rabbit Hole Bourbon beginning in July.
The Diesel brand originally was known as a catalog brand, but at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show, General Cigar started to re-position the brand for brick and mortar with the re-introduction of the Diesel Grind.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 298

Judge Upholds FDA’s Warning Label Plans and User Fees

This week, the cigar industry took a crushing blow when United States District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Amit P. Mehta denied a Motion for Partial Summary Injunction filed by the three trade associations (Cigar Association of America – CAA, Cigar Rights of America – CRA, and the International Pipe and Cigar Retailers – IPCPR) in the legal challenge against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result of this ruling, warning label requirements and user fee rules are upheld as documented in the Deeming Regulations.
The pipe industry had a small victory in that the judge ruled that retailers who blend pipe tobacco in-store are not considered manufacturers.
The judge ruled on the four items that were filed in a Motion for Summary Judgement and Motion for Injunction

  1. The Deeming Rule’s health warning requirements do not violate the TCA (Tobacco Control Act) the APA (Administrative Procedure Act) and do not violate the First Amendment.
  2. The User Fee Rule was upheld in its entirety.
  3. The process by which the agency designated tobacco retailers who blend pipe tobacco in-store as subject to the requirements of manufacturers violates the APA. The court remands this issue to the agency for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.
  4. The agency’s designation of pipes as “components” of a tobacco product does not violate the APA.

Warning Label Requirements are set to go into effect on August 10, 2018. The Warning Label battle was a central part of the lawsuit against the FDA and was one the cigar industry was optimistic of a Court ruling in their favor.  The Deeming Regulations now impose a series of rotating warning labels that must be applied to cigar boxes. The labels take up approximately 30% of the space on the box.

Canadian Parliament Passes Bill Paving Way for Plain Packaging on Tobacco

The Canadian Parliament has passed legislation that is a major overhaul to the country’s Tobacco Act. Yesterday the Parliament passed Bill S-5, which amends Canada’s current Tobacco Act and gives Health Canada the authority to implement plain packaging on tobacco products – including premium cigars.
The Parliament vote comes less than 24 hours from when a United States Federal Court upheld a challenge by the U.S. cigar industry contesting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Warning Label requirements. For the Canadian tobacco market, things are a lot worse.
For all practical purposes, Health Canada is Canada’s equivalent of the FDA in the U.S. They are responsible for compliance and enforcement of regulations pertaining to public health. While Parliament has not mandated how Health Canada should implement plain packaging, the Canadian department has been circulating its plans for the past couple of years. Essentially the law states packaging must contain prescribed information, including health hazards. The Canadian plan is expected to be based on Australia’s plain packaging law – considered to be the most austere in the world.

Room 101 Farce Heads for Full Launch

The Room 101 Farce, the first Room 101-branded project by Matt Booth since returning from a short hiatus from the cigar industry, is getting ready for its full launch.  It’s a cigar that some folks have had a sneak preview of already.
Booth started circulating a pre-release of the 6 1/4 x 54 Toro size of the Room 101 Farce in Arizona back in late February, and eventually to some other accounts nationwide. The cigar featured simplistic banding and bundle packaging. The full launch contains a Room 101 cherry blossom band and is packaged in 20-count boxes.
There will be four regular production sizes of the Room 101 Farce. In addition to the Toro, there will also be a Robusto, Gordo, and Lonsdale. A fifth size (petite corona) will be reserved for events.  The blend features an Ecuadorian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and a combination of Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Pennsylvania tobaccos as well as an undisclosed leaf for the filler.
Room 101 Farce is coming from Tabacalera William Ventura and follows up Hit & Run as Booth’s second Dominican release. Robert Caldwell’s Down & Back LLC is handling distribution. It’s the same company that Caldwell uses to handle much of his Dominican brands.

Crowned Heads Las Calaveras EL 2018 Coming in June

For the fifth year in a row, Crowned Heads will have a release of its annual limited edition cigar Las Calaveras. The Crowned Heads Las Calaveras EL 2018 will once again feature a new blend, this time with a San Andres wrapper. The cigars are scheduled to reach retailers this June.
Las Calaveras was introduced in 2014 as Crowned Heads’ limited edition line. The line pays homage to those who have passed away over the past year. As opposed to being a mournful symbol, it is intended to be a celebration of those lives and remembrances of those who are no longer with us. The line is produced by the Garcia family at My Father Cigars. Each year the blend has featured a different wrapper the Garcias are known for working with.
In addition to the San Andres wrapper, the Las Calaveras EL 2018 features a 100% Nicaraguan binder and filler. The cigars will be available in three sizes (5 5/8 x 46, 5 x 50, and 6 x 54) – each presented in 24-count boxes. A total of 1,700 boxes per size will be produced.
Crowned Heads is also producing a four cigar sampler. It will contain one of each of the three sizes of the Las Calaveras EL 2018 as well as a bonus fourth size (5 1/2 x 56) that will only be available in the sampler. A total of 3,000 samplers will be made available.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 297

Quesada Cigars Announces Major Executive Restructuring

Quesada Cigars has announced a major restructuring of its executive team. Highlighting the changes are new hires to spearhead the sales and operations of Quesada Cigars and a restructuring of the roles for many of the members of the Quesada family.
The big news is that Hostos Fernandez Quesada, who has been involved for many years on the product development company is leaving Quesada Cigars to pursue new opportunities.
Enrique Tavarez will be the Vice President of Sales. According to Quesada Cigars, Tavares has been “engaged in manufacturing and selling diverse products in the Dominican Republic and abroad”.  In addition, the company has hired Carlos Martinez to be its Vice President of Operations. According to Quesada Cigars, Martinez has previously worked in external shipping for a large company.
Meanwhile, the company also announced that Fruela Roces will fill the role of as General Manager and Executive Director of the company.
Other members of the Quesada family will now be taking on new roles and responsibilities

  • Manuel Quesada, the company President, will now take on a brand ambassador role while continuing to be involved in blending and product development
  • Patricia Quesada, the daughter of Manuel Quesada, is now taking on the role of Global Sales Director
  • Raquel Quesada, another daughter of Manuel Quesada, has been named Brand Manager
  • Esther Quesada, the niece of Manuel Quesada, will become Vice President of the Board of Directors

The departure of Hostos is the second major family member to leave the company. Last year, Terence Reilly, the “nephew” of Manuel Quesada announced he was leaving the company to pursue other opportunities.

CAO Zócalo Coming in May (Update)

CAO Cigars has a new CAO Zócalo limited edition cigar. It’s a cigar that not only draws inspiration from the country of Mexico, but it will introduce the first CAO with a wrapper from that country.
In addition to a  San Andrés Mexican Morron wrapper, the blend also utilizes a Cameroon binder and all-Nicaraguan filler. The cigars are available in one size – a 6 x 60 Gordo and presented in 20-count boxes. A total allocation of 3,500 boxes have been produced. Pricing is set at $8.49 per cigar or $169.80 per box.
Recently this was the first major release to feature warning labels mandated by the FDA. It has generated considerable controversy among retailers who feel General Cigar “jumped the gun” in releasing a product wiith new warning labels as the mandate is not set to take effect until August. General says the changes were needed due to the size of its supply chain, it could not afford to wait until the last minute.

Warped Cigars to Launch Moon Garden at 2018 IPCPR

At the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show scheduled to open July 13, 2018 in Las Vegas, Warped Cigars will unveil a small batch limited production cigar called Moon Garden.
Moon Garden will be available in one size – a 7 x 40 lancero. The cigar is produced at Aganorsa Leaf’s (formerly Casa Fernandez) TABSA factory (Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.) in Estelí, Nicaragua. The differentiator is going to be the blend is going to incorporate a high priming medio tiempo leaf into the blend – something not often seen in a lancero format.
Medio tiempo is one of the highest priming leaves which only grow on a small percentage of tobacco plants. Since medio tiempo is a high priming leaf, it gets the most sunlight and nutrients, so it tends to produce a fuller strength, fuller-bodied cigar. It is a signature tobacco used on several products that come from the Aganorsa Leaf operation including Warped Cigar’s Flor de Valle Sky Flower and the Maestro del Tiempo 610R. Because Medio Tiempo is a low yield tobacco, the cigars that use it tend to be limited small batch releases.
The blend for Moon Garden consists of a Nicaragua Corojo ’99 wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and combination of Nicaraguan ’99 and Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 fillers. The medio tiempo is incorporated into the filler. The lancero itself measures 7 x 40. It will be presented in 10-count boxes with a total of 650 boxes produced.
The cigar will feature artwork on the packaging inspired by Japanese watercolor paintings.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 296

Recap of the 2018 TAA Exclusive Series

  1. CAO Estelí
  2. Crowned Head Angel’s Anvil 2018
  3. EIROA First 20 Years Diadema
  4. E.P. Carrillo TAA Exclusive
  5. Flor de las Antillas Lancero
  6. Fuente Fuente OpusX Special Box Set
  7. Gurkha Heritage Rosado Toro
  8. Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente
  9. La Flor Dominicana Golden Oro Anniversary
  10. La Palina Blue Label Toro
  11. Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1
  12. Padrón Black No. 89 (Maduro/Natural)
  13. Tatuaje Exclusive TAA 50th

Ongoing TAA Releases
Alec Bradley Black Market Illicit
Ashton VSG Robusto Especial
Drew Estate Acid Big Bang
Drew Estate Herrera Esteli Maduro
Kristoff TAA 49 Salomon
Nat Sherman Panamericana (7 Sizes)
Padron 1964 Anniversary Toro (Maduro/Natural)
Rocky Patel Martinque

AVO Maduro Makes Return for 30th Anniversary

2018 marks the 30th anniversary for AVO Cigars and the brand is releasing several special offerings to commemorate the occasion. One of the commemorative offerings is a limited run of the AVO Maduro – and this past week, the cigar has begun to surface at retailers.
The AVO Maduro was a staple of the brand for many years. However, when the AVO underwent a rebranding effort, the line was discontinued.
Back in 2015, the AVO brand underwent a portfolio revamping. As a part of this effort, there were two lines discontinued – one of those being the AVO Maduro.
In terms of the cigar, the AVO Maduro returns with the same blend and the same three original sizes. The blend is essentially a maduro version of the AVO Classic. It features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Dominican binder and filler. Connecticut Broadleaf is not a wrapper seen prominently in the Davidoff and AVO portfolios.
There are some changes are on the packaging end. While the cigars are still packaged in 25-count boxes, they have been given a plexiglass top to give it another spin. The bands include the updated AVO logo from 2015 on the primary band and a secondary 30th-anniversary band.
Production of the AVO Maduro is being limited to 600 boxes per size.

Camacho Coyolar Returns

What’s old is what’s new once again for Camacho Cigars. Today Camacho has announced the return of the Camacho Coyolar to market. The cigar is slated to arrive at retailers later this month.
The Camacho Coyolar first hit the market in 2005. At the time, Camacho Cigars held a contest to determine the name for a new Honduran puro cigar it was releasing. The winning name was  selected by Rod Mitchell who named it for the farm where the tobaccos for the blend were coming from. The Coyolar farm is a small 15-acre operation located at the base of the mountains near the Honduras-Nicaragua border. It was the first time Camacho worked with this farm’s tobaccos.
Camacho has decided to again turn to the farm where the tobaccos for the original Coyolar came from. According to Camacho, the Coyolar features the same blend consisting of single vintage criollo tobaccos from the farm. The original Camacho Coyolar was positioned as a powerhouse smoke, and the new version is also positioned as being in that category.
The Camacho Coyolar is also returning in the same five original sizes as it was when first released. The packaging and banding have been updated to be consistent with the rest of the Camacho portfolio. The five sizes are presented in 25-count grey and black lacquered boxes highlighted by an abstract design of the mountain ranges on the Honduran-Nicaraguan border.
When Camacho revamped its portfolio in 2013, the Camacho Coyolar was a line that was discontinued.
Camacho Coyolar is the third discontinued brand to return into the portfolio over the past year. Late last year, the Camacho Diploma made a limited return and this past March, the Camacho Candela saw a limited return. The Coyolar is returning as a regular production offering.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 295

Nicaraguan Protests Spread Into Estelí

A series of protests in Nicaragua that have turned violent has reached the city of Estelí. Telenorte, a news agency covering the city of Estelí, has reported that two university students were killed during the protests. Estelí is the epicenter of the Nicaraguan cigar industry.
The protests started after Nicaragua’s National Social Security Institute (INSS) instituted a 5% tax that increased the contributions by both employers and employees in Nicaragua. The government has said this was necessary because the system is on the verge of collapse.
Protestors have ranged from university students to retirees. The protests started to turn violent on Thursday when riot police, military, and pro-government groups such as the Sandinista Youth confronted the protesters. The violence spread across the country as law enforcement and military were called in to dispense with the protests. While there are two reported deaths in Estelí, there have been reports of up to ten deaths nationwide and many injuries. Meanwhile, the government ordered the countries cable company providers to cut off independent television channels.
The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 3 “Reconsider Travel” advisory for travel to Nicaragua. This strongly cautions U.S. citizens to avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. It is the second highest advisory level behind “Level 4” which is “Do Not Travel”.
Meanwhile safety, security and business operations concerns face many in the cigar industry who have their operations in both Estelí and throughout Nicaragua.
Hector Alfonso Sr., Operations Director at Espinosa Cigars and La Zona factory in Estelí said, “Our concern first and foremost is to the safety of our employees and their families. At the same time, we are keeping a watchful eye on our facilities down in Nicaragua.”
According to Alfonso, who has been in contact with people in Estelí, there were no reported problems from the cigar industry at this time, but cautioned the Nicaraguan cigar industry could see some short-term impacts on both the distribution and production ends.
“The Pan American Highway, the road where cigars are transported from Estelí to be flown out of Managua, is of concern. If any of the protests block the highway, it could cause a short-term problem to those who are shipping product out of the factory and out of Nicaragua,” commented Alfonso. “At the same time, if the protests impact the workers’ ability to come into the factory, they may not show up for work thus impacting production.”
Alfonso believes the Ortega government has had support from the university/college segment of the population in the past and the fact that many of these protests are coming from this sector is of great concern to the government.
Last night Black Label Trading Company owner James Brown, who lives in Nicaragua and is a partner in Fabrica Oveja Negra located in Estelí, described the activities taking place last night on his social media page: “Riot police, rocks, tear gas, sirens & what sounds like gun shots…we are a bit nervous but ok. Sounds like things are quieting down. Going to be a long night tho!”
James’ wife Angela also commented on her social media page, “It’s times like these that you realize how connected you are to the country you live in and it’s people. My heart is heavy with the conflicts of Nicaragua. I’m optimistic things will come to a quick resolution but regardless we are here, it’s our home now! It only takes a few radicals to make a lot of press. The majority are handling the conflict with patience and grace.”
The violence from the protests have been the worst since Daniel Ortega returned to power in 2006. Ortega was a part of the Marxist Sandinista junta that led to the overthrow of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. Ortega was elected President in 1984, but lost the Presidency in 1990 to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. This was a period where many Nicaraguan businesses were nationalized, including the cigar industry. Following his defeat, Ortega tried unsuccessfully to run for President in 1996 and 2001. During this time, he moderated his position from Marxism to one of Democratic Socialism. In 2006, he returned to the Presidency.
The last few years have seen many concerns arise regarding Ortega.  In 2014, the National Assembly removed Presidential term limits from the constitution, thus allowing Daniel Ortega to run for a third consecutive term. In 2016, his wife Rosario Murillo became his running mate and was elected Vice President. Questions of widespread election fraud continue to be raised. Some are viewing Ortega’s Presidency as morphing into a dictatorship.

IPCPR Trade Show and Convention Returning to Sands Expo & Venetian for 2019 and 2020

The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) will be staying in Las Vegas for its annual trade show and convention until 2020. And following this year, it is returning to a familiar place. Today the trade organization announced it is returning to the Sands Expo & Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas for its 2019 and 2020 conventions.
Scheduled to open on July 13th, 2018 IPCPR Trade Show and Convention will again be at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the same location as last year.
The Sands Expo & Venetian Hotel has been a popular destination for the Trade Show. The 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016 IPCPR Trade Show and Conventions were held there. The Trade Show was scheduled to remain at the Sands Expo & Venetian until at least this year. However, late in 2016, IPCPR announced the Sands had cancelled the events and as a result the Trade Show was moving to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
At the same time, the move to the Las Vegas Convention Center was not a popular one. Many were not happy with the “off the strip” location and the hotel selections offered in that area. The Sands Expo & Venetian was considered a more central location with better access to the Strip. When the Trade Show returns to the Sands Expo & Venetian, one big change attendees will see is the closing of the popular Laguna Champagne Bar located in the adjoining Palazzo Hotel.
The announcement of this move not only stabilizes the situation of where the Trade Show will be, but also allows manufacturers to plan to keep much of their booth setup in storage in Las Vegas if they choose.
Another big change is that the Trade Show will be starting in June for the 2019 and 2020 Trade Shows. The 87th IPCPR Convention and Trade Show will take place June 29 through July 2, 2019, while the 88th IPCPR Convention and Trade Show will take place June 27-30, 2020.

IPCPR Names Scott Pearce Executive Director and Dawn Conger VP of Operations

The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) has announced that it has hired Scott C. Pearce to be its new Executive Director. Concurrently, it has announced it has promoted longtime employee Dawn Conger to Vice President of Operations. These executive hires fill the void left by the departure of IPCPR CEO Mark Pursell this past September.
Pearce’s hire returns the top executive title back to the Executive Director name. It was previously used when Joe Rowe held the position. In 2011, the position became a CEO title with the hiring of Bill Spann, and then the subsequent hiring of Pursell.
According to IPCPR, Pearce has 18 years of association and non-profit experience. He earned his MBA from Temple University. Most recently he was the Director of Marketing for the American College of Radiology where he helped generate $30 million dollars in non-dues revenue while concurrently increasing membership and engagement among members.
The Vice President of Operations role is a new one. Conger has seventeen years association experience and since 2012 she has served as the director and main point of contact for the IPCPR Annual Convention & International Trade Show. This role has included heading up the annual trade show from a planning and management standpoint; including marketing, budgeting, logistics, staff and vendor management. In her new role, she assumes additional responsibilities including operations, human resources, and contract management.
The new hires mark a shift in the executive structure of IPCPR.  While IPCPR has brought in outside hires in the past with hires such as Spann and Pursell, this time it is putting a longtime experienced IPCPR employee alongside the person who is the top executive.
Conger’s promotion was effective April 19, 2018 while Pearce’s first official day as Executive Director for the IPCPR will be Monday, May 7, 2018.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 294

Illusione Haut 10 Line Extensions Released

Two new sizes of Illusione’s Haut 10 line have begun to arrive at retailers. The new sizes add a Churchill (6 3/4 x 48) and Gordo (6 x 56) to the line, bringing the total number of Haut 10 vitolas to three.
The Haut 10 was a new line introduced at the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show by Illusione Cigars. It was part of one of the largest portfolio expansions done by Illusione. The cigar was originally created to commemorate Illusione’s 10th anniversary. The Haut 10 is a 100% Nicaraguan puro which was originally released in a 5 1/2 x 52 Robusto Extra.
Consistent with the original Robusto Extra size, the Illusione Haut 10 Churchill and Gordo are available in 12-count boxes.

Espinosa Wasabi Heading to Retailers

The first widespread release of the Espinosa Wasabi, the company’s box-pressed candela, is about to happen. Today company owner Erik Espinosa announced on his social media pages that the Wasabi will begin shipping to its retail clients this week.
The Espinosa Wasabi originally had a limited release as a part of the company’s Backroom Series, a series of cigars for Espinosa-branded lounges. Earlier this year, the company announced it was making a limited 500 box run of the Wasabi for its retail customers.
The 5 1/2.x 52 box-pressed robusto will be available in ten-count boxes and priced at $7.95 per cigar.

Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente to be 2018 TAA Exclusive

For the first time in five years, Joya de Nicaragua will be releasing an exclusive cigar for the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA). When the organization’s convention opens on April 29 in La Romana, Dominican Republic, retail members will have a chance to bring in the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente. Both the TAA and Joya de Nicaragua are each commemorating their 50th anniversaries in 2018.
The Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente is a 6 1/2 x 50 line extension to Joya de Nicaragua’s Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva line. This is a line originally released in 2005, but was brought back by Joya de Nicaragua in 2017. This is a line based on the Antaño 1970, but it uses fillers that have been aged up to an additional five years. The idea is it brings a more mature and refined profile to the Antaño 1970.
The new Presidente size is the fourth vitola to be offered to the line, and it will be an exclusive to TAA retailers. The cigar itself features 100% Nicaraguan tobaccos. Like the current three regular production Gran Reserva sizes, the Presidente will be presented in 20-count boxes. Pricing is set at $12.50 SRP.

Ventura Cigar Company Promotes Michael Giannini to General Manager

Michael Giannini has been promoted to General Manager at Ventura Cigar Company. The move comes just six months after Giannini joined Ventura as its Creative Director.
In addition to taking on new responsibilities as General Manager, Giannini will also continue his role as Creative Director. His General Manager responsibilities will have both the sales and marketing organizations of Ventura Cigar Company reporting to him. At the same time, he has responsibilities for the development and execution of Ventura Cigar Company business strategies. He will also be involved with laying out company objectives, visions, and product development while at the same time keeping operations going and driving overall growth.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 293

MLB Cigar Ventures and Matilde Cigars form SeiBel Distribution

MLB Cigar Ventures and Matilde Cigars have announced the formation of a new distribution company known as SeiBel Distribution. Effective immediately, all products sold under MLB Cigar Ventures and Matilde Cigars will now have its U.S. distribution handled by SeiBel. As a part of the move, both companies have ended their agreement where Quesada Cigars (SAG Importers) was handling distribution for both companies. The new distribution company will leverage the UPS Cigars Direct platform through SeiBel’s new warehouse in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Production for the cigars for both companies will remain unchanged. MLB’s Imperia Cigars will still be produced at the Quesada Cigars while MLB’s David P. Ehlrich line will be produced at Tabacalera La Alianza. Meanwhile production for Matilde Cigars will continue at Tabacalera Palma.
It was in May 2015 Matilde Cigars entered into an agreement to have Quesada Cigars handle its distribution. MLB Cigar Ventures entered into its agreement with Quesada in June 2017.

Crowned Heads The Angel’s Anvil 2018 Announced

oday Crowned Heads announced its fifth annual release for the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA). The 2018 release, dubbed The Angel’s Anvil 2018 will make its debut at the TAA’s 50th annual convention scheduled to open April 29 at Casa de Campo in La Romana in the Dominican Republic.
As with the previous installments, The Angel’s Anvil 2018 will be made at Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr’s Tabacalera La Alianza factory in the Dominican Republic. This year’s blend consists of an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. The Angel’s Anvil 2018 will be offered in one size – a 5 1/2 x 52 Genios size.
“As this is our fifth year producing our TAA Exclusive cigar and we have a lot of ties to the Dominican Republic, we wanted to bring something unique and novel, while paying homage to the Dominican Republic,” commented Crowned Heads co-founder Jon Huber. “This will be our first time utilizing an Ecuadorian (Sumatra) wrapper on The Angel’s Anvil, and the colorway of the packaging was certainly inspired by the colors of the Dominican flag.
The Angel’s Anvil 2018 will be presented in 20-count boxes with each cigar carrying a suggested retail price of $11.50. The cigars are expected to ship to TAA retailers in June.

CAO Zócalo Coming in May

CAO Cigars has a new CAO Zócalo limited edition cigar. It’s a cigar that not only draws inspiration from the country of Mexico, but it will introduce the first CAO with a wrapper from that country.
The cigar was announced as a part of a marketing campaign by CAO Cigars paying homage to the famed Pan American Highway.
The name zócalo is the name given to a public square located in the center of a city. These are common in many Latin American cities, especially Mexico. In Mexico City, the city’s large Plaza de la Constitución is sometimes referred to as the Zócalo.
In addition to a  San Andrés Mexican Morron wrapper, the blend also utilizes a Cameroon binder and all-Nicaraguan filler. The cigars are available in one size – a 6 x 60 Gordo and presented in 20-count boxes. A total allocation of 3,500 boxes have been produced. Pricing is set at $8.49 per cigar or $169.80 per box.
CAO Zócalo is set to debut in May – in time for the Cinco de Mayo celebrations

Southern Draw Announces IGNITE Project

Southern Draw Cigars has announced a new collaborative project it will be doing with several of its retail partners. The project is know as IGNITE and it will combine the release of several new cigars with charitable donations. The first release will be done in conjunction with Casa de Montecristo and Serious Cigars and will kick off at the Texas Cigar Festival on April 14th, 2018. They will receive the Jacobs Ladder Box Pressed Lancero.
Southern Draw is planning five releases throughout 2018 with different retail partners. Each of the five releases will feature cigars packaged in limited edition custom jars. The cigars will be adorned with a custom IGNITE band. A total of 5,000 jars will be available. The allocation of jars will be a 50/50 split of white and black-colored jars. Each jar will feature a stick with the name of the charity at the top of the jar and contain an informational brochure.
Famous Cigar and Cigars International are slated for the second and third iterations of this project respectively.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 291

David P. Ehrlich PLM to Launch June 9th

MLB Cigar Ventures will formally launch its second blend under its David P. Ehlrich brand. The David P. Ehlrich PLM will make its debut at a June 9th launch event being held at Underground Cigar Shop located in Fort Worth, Texas.
The David P. Ehlrich PLM will introduce MLB Cigar Ventures’ first maduro offering. The cigar is highlighted by a San Andres Maduro wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers. The cigar will be available in five sizes: Corona (5 1/2 x 44); Robusto (5 x 52); Toro (6 x 50); Gordo (6 x 60); and Churchill (7 x 47). The PLM joins the David P. Ehlrich Tremont as cigars MLB Cigar Ventures is producing out of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr’s Tabacalera La Alianza factory in the Dominican Republic.
The name PLM are the initials for Paul L. MacDonald. The David P. Ehlrich brand is a collaboration between company founder Mike Bellody and his national sales manager Barry MacDonald, the son of Paul L. MacDonald. David P. Ehrlich was the name of a historic tobacconist that was located in the city of Boston. It was a shop owned by the MacDonald family for almost 40 years. While the store is no longer in operation, MacDonald and Bellody worked to bring back the brand as a cigar line.
Bellody also informed Cigar Coop that a third blend under the David P. Ehlrich line, the David P. Ehlrich 150th Aniversario will also make its debut later this year and could be showcased at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show scheduled to open in Las Vegas Nevada on July 14th.

Health Groups File Lawsuit Against FDA Over Delays in Regulations

Seven health groups are not happy that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has delayed the pre-market approval process on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, including cigars.  They have now gone to court in hopes of expediting the process again. Today a lawsuit was filed jointly by the American Academy of Pediatrics and its Maryland chapter, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Truth Initiative and five individual pediatricians over the delays. The court case was filed today in U.S. District Court in Maryland.
Last year, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced an initiative to develop a comprehensive program to reduce nicotine levels down to non-addictive levels. As a part of that program, Dr. Gottlieb announced that the question of if and how premium cigars and e-cigarettes should be regulated would be re-opened.  As s result, the implementation of the pre-market approval process for both premium cigars and e-cigarettes were delayed to 2021 and 2022 respectively. While the Health Organizations applaud the nicotine reduction initiative, they feel these delays allow a large number of products to stay on the market and pose a risk to youth.
Last year, these health organizations tried to motion to intervene as defendants in the cigar industry’s lawsuit. This was done at the time the Trump Administration and, in particular, the FDA was considering changing its strategy around premium cigars. Ultimately the motion was denied.
The Health Organizations are now hoping the courts throw out the “guidance” described above, thus eliminating the timetable delays.

Crowned Heads Mule Kick LE 2018 Coming in April

Crowned Heads announced it is releasing the third installment of its Four Kicks Mule Kick LE 2012.  This year, the Mule Kick gets a twist, as it will feature a different wrapper.
When Mule Kick was first released in 2012, it featured the same blend that was used on Crowned Head’s inaugural release, Four Kicks – but it added a darker priming Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The Four Kicks Mule Kick Limited Edition 2012 had a limited production of 5,000 cigars and achieved a cult following.  Five years later, the company re-released the cigar as the Four Kicks Mule Kick Limited Edition 2017.
The Four Kicks Mule Kick Limited Edition 2018 utilizes a dark Connecticut Habano wrapper – something that was released on the Four Kicks Maduro. The remainder of the Mule Kick Limited Edition 2018 blend are the same components found in the previous two installments of the Mule Kick.
The 2018 Mule Kick will once again be produced at Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr’s Tabacalera La Alianza factory. It will be packaged in 10-count boxes with a total of 3,000 boxes produced. Shipping will begin this April.

Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard Forms Hoejsgaard & Co.

It’s not a return to the cigar industry, but former Davidoff CEO Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard has formed a new business consulting company known as Hoejsgaard & Co. It’s a company that helps both corporations and family-owned companies in both brand equity and brand building – with a particular focus on luxury and premium brands. Hoejsgaard is listed as the company’s Executive Chairman.
It’s a market that Hoejsgaard knows very well. As CEO of Davidoff from 2011 to 2017, he oversaw one of the largest luxury cigar brands in the world. Prior to Davidoff, he also served as President and CEO of Georg Jensen, a luxury jewelry company and Timex, the internationally known watch company.
Since leaving Davidoff, Hoejsgaard has kept busy. He recently recorded an interview with CNN Switzerland on the importance of sponsorship (in this case it is based on the FC Basel Football Club). While not back in the cigar business, Hoejsgaard has been active on social media and has occasionally posted pictures of Davidoff cigars or interacting on Davidoff’s Art Initiative.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 290

No Premium Cigar Exemption or Grandfather Date Change on Omnibus

Congress appears to have come to an agreement on what will be in its 1.3 trillion dollar Omnibus spending package – and it will not include an exemption, nor grandfather (predicate) date change from regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for premium handmade cigars.

The Omnibus Spending Bill specifies what government programs will be funded for the upcoming fiscal year. When the Appropriations process commenced last year, language was included by the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee that would have exempted cigars and changed the grandfather (predicate) date to August 8th, 2016 – meaning that none of the spending money could be used to fund the regulations of cigars that met that criteria.  That language made it into a final version of the bill for the House of Representatives, which was passed.

However, that language never made it into the U.S. Senate’s version of the bill. It was one of many things that needed to be reconciled as a single massive spending bill based on twelve Appropriations Bills known as the Omnibus Spending Bill. Both Democrats and Republicans came together on the content of the Omnibus. The Omnibus bill is expected to pass Congress and President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign the bill into la

Rocky Patel Discusses Battle with FDA on Tucker Carlson Tonight.

It was the public relations move the premium cigar industry was most in need of as Rocky Patel, owner and founder of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, was a guest on Tucker Carlson Tonight.  It was the opportunity to take the cigar industry’s battle with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to a wider audience.

While he only had just under four minutes to explain the issues, Patel made the most of his important mainstream platform, hitting the impacts of the regulations in a rapid fire mode.  While KMA listeners might be very aware of these points, this might have been the first time that mainstream America was hearing this.

Patel’s performance on Tucker Carlson Tonight was widely heralded across the cigar industry.

FDA Releases ANPRM on Flavored Tobacco

As promised, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a closer look on how to regulate flavored tobacco. Today the agency announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) to solicit input into how this should be done. While aimed at cigarettes and e-cigarettes, premium cigars are very much a part of the equation.

The ANPRM process opens up a period of public comment for stakeholders to provide data, research, and information that the FDA can incorporate into the rules it is developing around flavored tobacco.

Last year, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced the plan to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce nicotine levels down to non-addictive levels. As a part of that program, Dr. Gottlieb announced that the question of if and how premium cigars should be regulated would be re-opened. Last week, the FDA announced there would be three Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making initiatives.  The first of the three was announced last week and was concerned with regulations around setting a maximum nicotine level in tobacco products.  The second is today’s announcement around how flavored tobacco products should be regulated.  The third will be specific to premium cigars and will re-solicit input on how premium cigars as a whole should be regulated.

The public comment period opened up on March 16, 2018 – the date when this proposal hits the Federal Register. Following publication, the period for providing public comment is 90 days long, ending June 19, 2018.

Laguna Champagne Bar Shuts Down at The Palazzo in Las Vegas

The Laguna Champagne Bar located at The Palazzo Hotel and Casino, arguably the most popular after-hours social destination in Las Vegas for IPCPR Convention and Trade Show attendees is no more. The popular 24 hour bar, which allowed smoking, is a casualty as a part of a massive renovation at the casino.

According to employees at The Palazzo, the decision to close the Laguna Champagne Bar was made late last Summer when plans were put in place for the renovation. The bar was actually shut down early last Fall.

Palazzo employees did tell say  there are plans for a new casino floor bar, but specifics and a timetable for opening were not disclosed.

The Palazzo says that smoking is currently still permitted on the casino floor area, but there were no specifics as to what the policy of the new casino bar will be. ,

The Laguna Champagne Bar at The Palazzo opened in 2009. When the IPCPR convention moved to Las Vegas in 2011, it slowly built up a following year after year. It was popular because you could smoke there 24 hours a day and it had a large bar. The bar had a large seating area with plenty of couches. It was not unusual for the bar to completely fill up and spill over on to the casino floor. After the business of IPCPR was done for the day, the Laguna Champagne Bar for all practical purposes became the epicenter of the cigar industry in the evenings.

New York City Pedestrian Sidewalk Smoking Ban Proposed

New York City Councilman Peter Koo has introduced a bill that proposes amending the administrative code of the City of New York to prohibit smoking while walking on sidewalks.

Under the proposal, smoking would be prohibited while walking on all sidewalks under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Transportation and any location under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Under these parameters, this would also include:

  • The sidewalks immediately adjoining parks, squares and public places;
  • Any pedestrian route through any park strip, median or mall that is adjacent to vehicular traffic;
  • Parking lots.

New York City has been known to bring radical anti-tobacco legislation into law. In the past, the city passed a sweeping outdoor smoking ban and was one of the first major municipalities to raise the smoking age to 21.

Reddit Bans Tobacco Transactions

Reddit, the popular content sharing and social community, has banned all transactions involving tobacco products, including premium cigars. The move comes as a part of a sweeping list of transactions being prohibited on Reddit.

This comes in the aftermath of the death of Mark Anthony Conditt, who police identified as the prime suspect in the Austin, Texas bombings. Conditt took his own life with an explosive device when approached by the SWAT team. USA Today reported that hours before Conditt took his life, someone claiming to be the bomber took questions on the online forum as “austinbomber”. As a result of moderator reports, it was able to quickly take action to remove content and ban the user within an hour of posting. While Reddit has not connected the dots between the ban of these transactions and the Austin incident, the timing appears quite close as with its new policy it is lumping together alcohol, tobacco, and firearms together.

Transactions banned for these products are monetary and non-monetary based. This includes trades, gifts, and contests. In the world of reddit’s cigar communities (a.k.a subreddits) , these were popular things.

Gurkha Cigars Names Shanda Lee Marketing Director

Gurkha Cigars has announced that Shanda Lee is the company’s new Director of Marketing.

Lee has over 25 years experience in marketing. She is best known for her time at J.C. Newman Cigar Company, where she was an officer and served as both part of the product development team and was responsible for developing the company’s marketing strategy. During her time there, she helped J.C. Newman achieve double-digit sales growth over the past 10 years.

In her role at Gurkha, Lee will be responsible for supervising and coordinating advertising campaigns, public relations, social media, and marketing campaigns.

“Shanda is very knowledgeable and brings a wonderful energy to Gurkha,” said Kaizad Hansotia, CEO of Gurkha Cigars in a press release. “I have assembled a strategic and strong management team that also includes National’s Sales Director Juan Lopez and Operations Director Carlos Llaca. Together, leveraging their years of experience and strengths this team will be able to take Gurkha to the next level.”

Lee succeeds Eddy Guerra who last month left the company to join Altadis U.S.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 289

Back in July, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced plans for a program aimed at reducing nicotine levels in tobacco products. As a part of the program, the question of whether premium cigars should be regulated differently was posed. As a result, the FDA announced it was extending the deadline to August 8, 2021 for when premium cigars would require pre-market approval until it could sort out this question. Today the FDA announced an Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making  (ANPRM) for “Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine Level of Combusted Cigarettes”.  This proposal requests public comment on setting a standard for maximum nicotine levels for cigarettes. A part of the ANPRM is the question of whether other products should be included in this standard, and notably, whether premium large cigars should be exempt.

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Villiger Cigars is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year. As a part of commemorating the milestone, the company announced it is opening its first lounge in the Americas. The ABAM Cigar Factory located in Santo Domingo will be the home to this lounge. ABAM is the factory that manufactures all Dominican-made Villiger cigars. This lounge will be the first in a series of Villiger lounges that will be opening in the near future.

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1502 Cigars has released a fourth size in its limited edition 1502 XO line, the 1502 XO Lancero.
The 1502 XO line was first showcased in 2015. The distinguishing characteristic of this blend is that it incorporates 18-year-old tobacco into the blend. The cigar first hit the market in March 2016 in a box-pressed Toro. Plans were to unveil a different limited-production vitola into the market each year. However, the Deeming Regulations put in place by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) threw a monkey-wrench into those plans.

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The Carolina Reaper is the next pepper to be harvested from Viaje Cigar Company. Today, Viaje announced the fourth installment to its series of cigars with a pepper theme, the Viaje Carolina Reaper.
Details of the Carolina Reaper blend have not been disclosed, but the cigar will keep to the 4 7/8 x 50 shape of the other Viaje “peppers”. The cigars will be packaged in 25-count boxes.
The Viaje Carolina Reaper follows the Viaje Jalapeño, Viaje Ghost Pepper, and Viaje GP 10.31. Recently Viaje announced it was retiring the Viaje Ghost Pepper release. A Carolina Reaper is a red colored pepper with a gnarled appearance. In 2013, Guinness World Records named it the hottest chili pepper in the world.

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The Viaje Cache, a cigar that was released in 2014, is making its first return in nearly four years. Today, Viaje announced the Cache will return later this month. Returning will be the 5 x 52 (Five Fifty Two) Robusto size.  A new 6 x 50 (Six Fifty) Toro size will now be added into the mix.
The name Cache refers to the rooms where Viaje ages their tobacco and this cigar pays homage to those rooms.  When the Viaje Cache was released in 2014, it was released in 5 x 52 rounded Robusto. There were twenty of these sizes packaged in the box. However, the box itself contained a “cache” of its own. Under that cache were five additional cigars, but these were box-pressed 5 x 52 Robustos. The blend featured a San Andres Maduro wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler.
The company did say each box will have 25 cigars including a “surprise” in each box, which the company did confirm on Instagram will have the five box-pressed cigars.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 288

This April, Alec Bradley will have a global release of its Alec Bradley Medalist. The cigar is a milder smoke that was previously introduced to the market on a limited basis. The name of the cigar reflects the competitive spirit of company owner Alan Rubin.
The blend uses a Honduran Shade Grown wrapper, Honduran binder, and a combination of Honduran and Nicaragua fillers. It is available in four sizes, each packaged in ten-count boxes. Pricing is set between $6.00 and $7.00.
“With Medalist we are looking to remind people of our company’s past,” Rubin commented. “We are also asking milder cigar smokers who have shied away from us to give us a chance. Medalist is smooth and complex with a light natural sweetness. Medalist hits a presentation, flavor and price point that is attractive to many smokers that we haven’t spoken to in a while.”
The Alec Bradley Medalist is scheduled to hit retailers this April.

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It’s a project that has been on the radar of E.P. Carrillo fans for nearly two years, now it is getting ready to become a reality. Come March 15th, E.P. Carrillo will release the long-awaited second installment of its Family Series line, the Perez-Carrillo Encore.
Encore is a cigar that comes from company founder and Master Blender Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. It’s a Nicaraguan puro that’s been aging in tercios for two full years and will be available in four sizes. The Encore follows up 2014’s Perez-Carrillo La Historia. It was first showcased at the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show.
According to E.P. Carrillo, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. personally oversaw every aspect during the creation of this cigar. This includes sourcing all of the Nicaraguan tobaccos and implementing 26 quality control metrics during the aging and production process.

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The Tampa Bay Times has reported that the J.C. Newman Cigar Company’s branded Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar in St. Petersburg, Florida’s Tropicana Field will not be returning for 2018.
Tropicana Field is the home to Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. Located in center field, the Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar provided fans a location for cigar smoking. According to the report, the Rays have decided to use the space occupied by the Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar for other uses. The team has not specified what the usage would be. J.C. Newman Cigar Company President Eric Newman told the Tampa Bay Times that he believes the team is looking to use the space for family entertainment.
Cuesta-Rey is a brand under the J.C. Newman portfolio. Since the Rays started playing at Tropicana Field back in 1998, the cigar bar has been a fixture there. According to Newman the relationship had been changing over the past few years, particularly after Tobacco Free Florida became a sponsor for the team. This resulted in the removal of signage as well as an end of mentions during Rays broadcasts.
Last month, Tampa Bay Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg principal announced his intent to move the team to a proposed new stadium in the Ybor City district of Tampa. While a move to Ybor City is far from finalized, Newman would like the Rays to consider a cigar bar at the new stadium.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 287

Matt Booth’s first Room 101 branded line since his separation from Davidoff will be hitting the stores for a soft launch. Today Booth announced the new Room 101 Farce will have a soft-launch at four cigar events in Arizona starting Weds. 2/28.
2017 was a year of change for Booth. That year started with him announcing he was splitting from Davidoff, who had been handling both his production and distribution for his Room 101 Brand. After a short hiatus, Booth announced he was teaming up with Robert Caldwell of Caldwell Cigar Company for two collaborations, Hit & Run (done in conjunction with Tabacalera William Ventura), and The T (done in conjunction with AJ Fernandez’s Tabacalera Fernandez). In addition, Caldwell was now handling the distribution for Booth’s line.

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Altadis U.S.A. has formally announced the latest cigar under its Henry Clay brand, the Henry Clay Rustic Cherooty.
Cheroot cigars are typically small thin cigars that have two open ends, but with the Henry Clay Rustic Cheroot, Altadis U.S.A is putting a different spin on it – using a closed footer and a pig-tail cap.
The Henry Clay Rustic Cheroot blend features a Broadleaf wrapper, Honduran binder, and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic. The blend is called “Capa Dura” which, according to Altadis, is “derived using only the finest ‘reborn’ tobacco leaves, producing a rich, stronger blend.”

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On February 29, 1968, Joya de Nicaragua opened its doors and became the first factory in Nicaragua to produce premium handmade cigars. Today the company still owns and operates the oldest cigar factory in Nicaragua. Now, Joya de Nicaragua has turned 50 years old and the company will be using all of 2018 to commemorate the milestone. This will also include the release of a 50th anniversary cigar.
In a press release, Joya de Nicaragua commented “Joya de Nicaragua will continue celebrating its anniversary throughout the year by releasing the history, secrets and anecdotes that have shaped the world-renowned brand and its products. Events will be held all over the world and audiences will get a chance to participate in special giveaways. To add to the festivities, Joya will also debut an exclusive 50th-anniversary cigar later this year.”

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Earlier this month, Macanudo announced plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the brand. Coming in March will be a new release coinciding with the milestone, the Macanudo Inspirado Red. The one thing that will be different about this Macanudo as opposed to other ones, is the Macanudo Inspirado Red will be produced in Nicaragua. The cigars have a targeted March 26th, 2018 availability date.
The Macanudo Red features an Ecuadorian Habano Ligero wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder from Jalapa and a combination of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos. The Inspirado Red will be available in three sizes: Robusto Box-Pressed, Toro, and Gordo – each packaged in 20-count boxes.

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RoMa Craft Tobac has officially unveiled its 2018 edition of its CRAFT Series, the company’s limited production line. The new CRAFT 2018 is the third installment of the series, and the first that is being made available to its authorized retailers since 2013.
As with the previous releases, the CRAFT 2018 comes in one size, a 5 x 60 figurado called La Campana de Panama Soberana. The name comes from the church bells in the neighborhood of Panama Soberana in Estelí, Nicaragua – the city where RoMa Craft Tobac co-owner Skip Martin also is an owner with the Nica Sueno factory.
Blend-wise, there are eight tobaccos from six different regions of four tobacco producing countries uses. The filler of the CRAFT 2018 uses the same blend components as the Neanderthal (Pennsylvania Broadleaf Double Ligero GRS-1 that is “attenuated and accentuated” by Nicaraguan and Dominican Criollo tobaccos). The cigar also uses a binder of what the company describes as its thickest Ecuadorian Habano Ligero. There are two wrappers uses with the blend. The entire cigar is covered with an Ecuadorian Connecticut Dark Candela wrapper, which is then “skirted” with a second wrapper, a thick Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper. Like all RoMa Craft Tobac cigars, the CRAFT 2018 was made at the company’s Nica Sueno factory.
According to RoMa Craft Tobac, “Each component has been utilized and positioned in the blend deliberately tasked with a specific objective to deliver in the effort to harmonize the aspects of combustion, aroma, strength and flavor.”

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 286

One of the most popular candela releases is making a return. Today, Camacho Cigars announced it is bringing back the Camacho Candela. Like many other candela cigars, the Camacho Candela is returning for a limited production run just in time for the St. Patrick’s Day Holiday.
The Camacho Candela was first released in 2007. However, when Camacho underwent its major brand revamping, gone was the Camacho Candela. The candela wrapper used on the blend is actually a Honduran Criollo leaf that is flash cured over a charcoal fire. The binder and filler utilize Original Corojo grown in Honduras.
The Camacho Candela returns in one size a – 5 x 50 Robusto. It is presented in 25-count boxes. A total of 3,000 boxes (75,000 cigars) have been produced. Pricing is set at $8.00 per cigar.

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The Espinosa Wasabi, a box-pressed candela that had a very limited run in 2016, is returning next month.
Blended by Hector Alfonso Sr., the Wasabi will now have a run of 500 boxes this time around. The cigar is unique in that it is a box press that is completely draped in a candela wrapper. It is available in one size – a 5 x 52 box-pressed Robusto and sold in 10-count boxes. Wasabi features a natural cap. Pricing is set at $7.95 per cigar.
Wasabi is the second candela to come out of the company’s La Zona factory.  The factory has also produced the Pickle Juice for MoyaRuiz cigars.

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With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, many cigar companies are offering candelas. Once again, for 2018 Alec Bradley will bring back its candela wrapped offering – the Alec Bradley Black Market Filthy Hooligan Barber-Pole.
The 2018 installment of the Filthy Hooligan will use the barber-pole candela format that was introduced in 2016. Produced at Plasencia’s Tabacos de Oriente S.A. factory, the blend features intertwined Honduran Candela and Nicaraguan wrappers over an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and a filler of Panamanian and Honduran tobaccos. The cigar is being released in a 6 x 50 format in 22-count boxes. Production is limited to 2,000 boxes.
This is the sixth consecutive year Alec Bradley has released the Filthy Hooligan. The Filthy Hooligan made its debut in 2013 as an all-candela wrapper extension off Alec Bradley’s Black Market line.In 2016, the barber pole version of the Filthy Hooligan was introduced and the line was given new packaging.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 285

In 1988, Avo Uvezian would partner with Henke Kelner to release his own brand of cigars. Now 30 years later, the brand commemorates three decades in the cigar business with a series of releases that includes a new blend, the return of some old favorites, and some special collector’s edition packaging.
The releases are planned to be staggered throughout the year to celebrate the 30 Year Anniversary.
The announcements around the AVO 30 Year Collection were made on a Facebook Live broadcast in conjunction with

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2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Macanudo brand and General Cigar is rolling out the red carpet. Plans are for a full year of activity that includes special product launches, events, and retail promotions.
In a press release, Jose de Castro, Vice President of Marketing, said, “In the 50 years since its launch, Macanudo remains one of the world’s most respected and best-selling handmade cigar brands. 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, I’m here to tell them that they haven’t seen anything yet.”
General Cigar will launch a special three-cigar collection from the Inspired line in late March. The collection will also be previewed to media members attending ProCigar 2018.
All Macanudo packaging will feature commemorative gold guarantee seals. General Cigar will also provide special wooden signs and shelf-talkers to retail.

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Crowned Heads has announced it is adding a limited edition line extension to its Le Carême line. Next month, shipping will begin on the new Le Carême Belicosos Finos LE 2018.
While Crowned Heads has added limited edition line extensions to its other lines, this is the first limited edition to Le Carême. The vitola is the classic 5 1/2 x 52 Belicoso Fino size – a size made popular in the Habanos Bolivar line. While the Le Carême is a trunk pressed line, the Le Carême Belicosos Finos LE 2018 will be a rounded vitola.
“Last year, Miguel Schoedel (Crowned Heads National Sales Manager) presented the concept to us,” commented Crowned Heads co-founder Jon Huber in a press release. “The Bolivar Belicoso Fino has always been one of my ‘desert island’ cigars, so we began to work on the project with Ernesto (Perez-Carrillo), and the end result was very impressive. The vitola in the Le Carême blend added a whole next-level dimension of richness and flavor to an already exquisite blend.”
The Le Carême Belicosos Finos LE 2018 uses the same blend components as the regular production line. This includes a Grade A Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder, and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The Le Carême Belicosos Finos LE 2018 will be packaged in 12-count boxes. Production will be limited to 1,500 boxes (18,000 cigars). Pricing is set at $10.00 per cigar ($120.00 per box).

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Cavici & Co has filed a lawsuit against S.A.G. Imports. These company names might not be as familiar to cigar enthusiasts, but the brands under these companies are. Cavici has a licensing agreement with Regius Cigars while S.A.G. Imports is the distribution arm to Quesada Cigars. From January 2012 through April 2017, S.A.G. handled the U.S. distribution for Regius Cigars. The lawsuit alleges that Quesada Cigars has failed to make payment on six invoices and has an outstanding balance of $48,304.66. The lawsuit was filed February 12th in U.S. District Court run Dallas, Texas.
The lawsuit requests restitution of the unpaid balance as well as additional court costs.
In a statement, Daniel Brancato Assistant Regional Manager of Cavici & Co commented, “Cavici has had a long business relationship with S.A.G. Imports and respects the contributions that the company and Mr. Quesada have made to the cigar industry. However, a dispute has arisen between Cavici and S.A.G. Imports that has necessitated court intervention.”
Brancato continued, “We do not take the initiation of a lawsuit lightly and remain hopeful that the matter can be concluded in an expeditious manner. We have been advised by counsel not to comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation and will heed this advice.”
“A dispute between my client, Cavici, and S.A.G. Imports has necessitated the filing of a lawsuit.  Cavici understands the serious nature of litigation but feels this is the best avenue to protect its rights,” added Christian Frederickson, the attorney representing Cavici & Co.”
At press time, S.A.G. Imports has not made a public statement on the lawsuit.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 283

The first major acquisition of 2018 has occurred. Quality Importers Trading Company, in conjunction with Svoboda Capital Partners LLC, has acquired XIKAR Inc. XIKAR is a leading cigar accessories company based in Kansas City, Missouri and best known for its product lifetime warranty.
As a part of the acquisition, XIKAR co-founders Kurt Van Kepler and Scott Almsberger will become Executive Vice Presidents and minority owners while continuing to run XIKAR’s operations as minority partners. Both will report to Michael Cellucci, Quality Importers President and Chief Operating Officer. Cellucci will continue to report to Chief Executive Officer Michael Giordano.
While Quality Importers may be a bit of an unknown to many, they have made several significant accessory acquisitions along the way including Palio and Orleans Group, best known for being makers of cutters and humidors respectively.

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Only hours after the cigar industry’s first major acquisition of 2018, came news of a second one. Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG) has announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Thompson and Co, the catalog retail giant known as Thompson Cigar. The purchase price for Thompson is $62 million dollars.
Thompson is a family owned business founded in 1915 and is based in Tampa, Florida. It’s a massive acquisition for STG. Thompson has net sales of over 100 million dollars and employs 185 employees.
STG is the parent company of General Cigar Company as well as retail giant Cigars International. The acquisition includes Thompson’s auction and retail websites as well as a retail store and a call center facility in Tampa. In addition to absorbing a competitor in Thompson, Cigars International gets many of the predicate blends Thompson had single shop exclusives on.
The acquisition is expected to close in March 2018.

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At the 2018 Puro Sabor festival in Nicaragua, the headlines were made by one of iconic cigars makers from the Dominican Republic. This past week, Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr. of Arturo Fuente Cigars made an appearance and announced plans to open up a new factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.
The name of the facility will be Gran Fabrica de Tabaccos La Bella y La Bestia (which stands for Beauty and the Beast). Ground on the facility has been broken, but there has not been a completion date announced as of yet. Fuente also announced that Felix Mesa, best known as the owner of El Galan Cigars, will head up the operation of the new factory.
In addition, the company has quietly also been growing tobacco in Nicaragua for the past four years.  There are also plans to expand the operation of the Cigar Company Charitable Foundation to Nicaragua.
This will not be the first time the Fuentes have had a facility in Nicaragua. Prior to the Nicaraguan revolution, the company had a factory in the Central American company before it was destroyed in the war. The company then moved its operations to the Dominican Republic

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Tabacalera La Flor S.A., the home of production for La Flor Dominicana, will be growing this spring. La Flor Dominicana Vice President of Sales Jonathan Carney confirmed that the factory is currently undergoing expansion that will increase its production capabilities.
La Flor Dominicana has purchased a piece of land adjacent to the current factory. On this end, the company will use it to expand the existing rolling room. This will give the company an additional 10,000 square feet of space and help the factory increase production by 30 percent. The project is slated to be completed in late February or early March of 2018.
Simultaneously, the company is training additional staff and will add 40 new rollers.
La Flor Dominicana is expanding the factory in terms of increase in demand. According to Carney, “If it (La Flor Dominicana) has been hard to get, it’s not because we haven’t been making more. It’s because more people are smoking them”. While getting Cigar Aficionado’s #1 Cigar of the Year with the Andalusian Bull certainly put pressures on demand, Carney said essentially that only exacerbated a problem the company already had with consumer demand for more product.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 282

It’s Villiger Cigars’ 130th anniversary, and the company is kicking off the celebration with the announcement of a new brand, Villiger La Vencedora. It’s a cigar that is described as the first ever full-bodied Villiger cigar, and one that also has special meaning to Villiger Cigars chairman of the board, Heinrich Villiger.

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Altadis U.S.A. has announced they are officially launching the latest installment of the Romeo by Romeo y Julieta line. As the name indicates, the new Romeo San Andrés by Romeo y Julieta will introduce a San Andrés wrapper. It’s also a collaboration of two partners who have been playing a key role at Altadis U.S.A. – Rafael Nodal and AJ Fernandez.

Romeo by Romeo y Julieta is an offshoot brand introduced in 2012 by Altadis U.S.A. The Romeo brand is skewed toward the newer generation of cigar enthusiasts.  The Romeo introduced more contemporary packaging as well as moved away from the Romeo y Julieta’s reputation for milder cigars. The Romeo San Andrés by Romeo y Julieta is the fifth major release of this line following the Romeo by Romeo y JulietaRomeo Añejo by Romeo y Julieta, Romeo 505 Nicaragua by Romeo y Julieta and the limited release Romeo by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25.

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The management changes at Davidoff continue. Today Davidoff announced changes in a number of its key corporate leadership positions.

The primary change is that Edward Simon is now the new leader of Davidoff’s Global Marketing & Innovation job. Simon takes over for Charles Awad, whom Davidoff says is departing the company. Simon is best known to U.S. cigar enthusiasts when he served as the brand manager for AVO, but most recently worked as the head of the Swiss Wholesale Business Unit. Davidoff also announced that Gerhard Anderlohr, current Sales Manager, will succeed Simon and assume responsibility for the entire Swiss Wholesale Business.

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The La Palina Bronze Label, a cigar previously offered as an exclusive cigar to the Tobacconists Association of America for 2017, is now becoming a regular production line in the La Palina portfolio. In addition to the TAA Toro size becoming regular production, La Palin will also add Robusto and Gordo offerings;

La Palina Bronze Label is produced in conjunction with Rocky Patel at the Plasencia family’s El Paraiso factory in Honduras. There is a connection with La Palina and Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. La Palina CEO and co-President Clay Roberts along with La Palina co-President Sam Phillips both worked for Rocky Patel Premium Cigars in the past.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 281

The battle against Warning Label Regulations for premium cigars issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is going to get some more attention in 2018. Last week, a group of businesses filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas stating that the FDA’s Warning Label requirements are in violation of the First Amendment.  This group includes Texas retailer En Fuego Tobacco Shop, El Cubano Cigars (Cuba Libre Enterprises LLC), and the Texas Cigar Merchants Association (TxCMA).

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Alec Bradley Cigar Company has announced it has entered into a partnership with Rabbit Air, a California-based air purification company. Under the partnership, Rabbit Air will sell and distribute Alec Bradley/Rabbit Air co-branded air purifiers. The first product released under the partnership will be the MinusA2 Ultra Quiet Air Purifier, one of Rabbit Air’s more popular units.

From the Alec Bradley end, Jonathan Lipson, Alec Bradley Director of Sales and Marketing, along with founder Alan Rubin’s sons, Alec and Bradley Rubin, participated in the project. From the Rabbit Air end were Business Development Leads Edwin Cheung and Alicia Collins.

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A new size is coming to Southern Draw Cigars’ Rose of Sharon line. Today, the company has announced it has added the Rose of Sharon Lancero to the lineup of its popular box-pressed Connecticut offerings. The company also announced that Pennsylvania-based cigar retailer Famous Smoke Shop will be given a limited time initial release.

The new Southern Draw Lancero is soft-pressed and measures 6 1/2 x 40. It is available in both 20-count boxes and 5-packs. It is the fourth size to have a widespread release into of the market of the Rose of Sharon line.

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After a one year hiatus, the Viaje Jalapeño is returning for 2016.

The Viaje Jalapeño, a cigar project that pays homage to the spicy pepper.  The cigar was first introduced in 2015, and made a return in 2016. Last year, the company opted to release two other “pepper” projects – namely the Viaje Ghost Pepper and Viaje GP 10.31.

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Viaje Cigars has announced that the Viaje Super Shot, a short smoke reminiscent of a shotgun shell, will be making a return for 2017.   The name for the Super Shot comes from Farkas’ interest in clay shooting. Farkas was hoping to create a short smoke to have while taking a break in between shooting.   The line made its debut in 2012 with the Criollo blend.  The Super Shot made a return in 2013 with both the Criollo and a Corojo blend.  The Super Shot has returned with its original blend in 2015, 2017, and now 2018.

There have been several offshoots. Since 2013, Viaje has released the Viaje Zombie Super Shot annually. There also was a special Viaje White Label Project Super Shot in 2013.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 280

Gurkha Cigars has announced it is not moving forward with its acquisition of the American Caribbean Cigars factory and that instead, the company plans to build its own factory.

Last May, it was announced that Gurkha would be acquiring the American Caribbean Cigars factory. It’s a factory that Gurkha has had a relationship with for several years. The transaction was expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2018. In a press release today, the company said: “the deal has fallen through and will not proceed”. Gurkha also stated that in reviewing the plans, it made better sense to build its own factory.

As for the new factory, Gurkha is projecting it will be a 100,000 square foot facility and will handle manufacturing of its premium international cigars. The company is currently scouting locations and it is expected to be a two-year project before a new facility is opened.

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A culebra offering is coming to the Rocky Patel Premium Cigars portfolio. Today the company announced has added a culebra to the Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes lineup.

The culebra is one of the most unusual vitolas on the market. Culebra means “snake” in Spanish. The culebra has its origins in Cuba and usually consists of three panatela cigars twisted together into a unit.  When Hamlet Paredes joined Rocky Patel Premium Cigars after a 25-year career in Cuba, he would roll a giant culebra at events that was often given as a raffle prize. Shortly afterwards, the traditional sized Tabaquero by Hamlet culebra started being offered at events.

“When I first joined Rocky in 2015, I would roll a three-foot giant culebra at my events, and people would be wowed” explained Paredes, in a press release. “We would raffle off the giant cigar, but it was not meant to be smoked. It could be smoked, but it was not meant for that. The giant culebra was meant to display in your man cave.”

“Last year, I had more and more customers asking me for a culebra they could smoke, so that’s when we decided to add a smaller, traditional culebra for events. But after them, people were asking to buy them!”

One difference with the Tabaquero by Hamlet Culebra is eight inches in length, which is 2 inches longer than most culebras. Each culebra unit is packaged in a red coffin with the cigars tied with a ribbon. Pricing is set at $36.00 each coffin.

The Tabaquero by Hamlet Culebra becomes the seventh frontmark in the Tabaquero by Hamlet joining the Corona, Robusto, Robusto Grande, Toro, Salomon, and Bala sizes.

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Davidoff of Geneva has named Richard Krutick its new Vice President of Marketing in the U.S. The role is an expanded role for Krutick, as he previously served in the role of  Vice President of Marketing for several Davidoff brands, including the Davidoff and S.T. Dupont. Krutick’s role will now add responsibilities for overseeing the Davidoff of Geneva – since 1911 retail operations.

In his new role, Krutick will continue to report to Jim Young, President of Davidoff of Geneva USA. In his added retail responsibilities, Krutick will oversee activities in the Davidoff of Geneva – since 1911 brick and mortar retail stores, Davidoff’s e-commerce side, licensed boutiques, and strategic partnership.

Krutick’s appointment follows the appointment of Dylan Austin, who was named Davidoff of Geneva’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. With that expanded role Austin added on responsibilities for overseeing Davidoff’s sales teams as well as marketing activities for brands such as Camacho, AVO, The Grifffin’s, Cusano, and Zino.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 279

It was in 1968 when Davidoff first launched its Davidoff-branded White Label cigars. With 2018 marking the 50th anniversary, Davidoff is planning a series of activities to commemorate the milestone. Activities include a series of events, specialty commissioned cigars and accessories, and special bands that will adorn several of the White Label releases.

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Muestra De Saka Unicorn 

Okay… wasn’t sure whether I was going to discuss this or not, but given that people are likely to see these “in the wild” I figure I might as well explain it.

This is a Muestra de Saka Unicorn.

It is a very very very small project I undertook after having experienced smoking some of those $250 – $2,000 cigars that have been proliferated into the marketplace in recent years. Some by legit makers, others by not so legit imo.

Honestly, $500 for a cigar? $1,000 for a cigar?

So 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.

And the MdS Unicorn is what came of it… a 6.25 x 60 Diademas. It is arguably one of the finest Broadleaf cigars ever crafted imo.

I personally made the original cigar shape out of hardwood on a lathe by hand to serve as the prototype for the 24 custom molds. I actually had to buy a lathe, the tools and learn how to use it… lucky I still have all my fingers.

We hand sorted through over 6,000lbs of the very best Broadleaf capa and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos to only use about 1% of it within these cigars. This was the ultimate “creaming” of any tobacco I have ever seen as the original 6,000lbs was considered the very best to begin with.

Selected the very best torcedors to execute – only a single pair was allowed to roll these.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 277

Less than a month after departing Quesada Cigars, Terence Reilly has found a new home. Today we’ve been told that Reilly will become the new Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Casa Fernandez.

Casa Fernandez has somewhat quietly become a major force in the cigar industry. The company is well-known for its Aganorsa farms in Nicaragua that grow some of the best tobacco in the world. The company has ownership in two factories in Nicaragua (Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A, Sabor Agnorsa S.A.) as well as the Casa Fernandez Miami factory located in Miami, Florida. Over the years, the company has built a reputation for growing tobacco and producing its own branded cigars as well as cigars for other brand owners. The conglomeration is owned by Eduardo Fernandez and his son Max. Paul Palmer serves as President for the Casa Fernandez brand.

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Fernando Zacarias’ hiatus from the cigar industry was a brief one. This week has come word that the former Espinosa Cigars National Sales Manager has joined E.P. Carrillo and will become the Territory Manager for the State of Florida.

It was early last month when we heard that Zacarias and Espinosa Cigars were parting ways. Zacarias had served in the capacity of National Sales Manager since 2014. At press time, Espinosa Cigars had not named a replacement for Zacarias.

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The City of New Orleans has elected its first female Mayor – and it’s a name that might be familiar to many cigar enthusiasts – LaToya Cantrell. On November 18th, Cantrell won a run-off elected defeating her opponent Judge Desiree Charbonnet by getting 60% of the vote.

As a member of the New Orleans City Council, Cantrell is infamous for spearheading a comprehensive smoking ban in the City of New Orleans. That ban passed in January 2015 and went into effect in April of that year. At the time, the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers annual convention was scheduled to take place in New Orleans that July. While the convention did take place in New Orleans, it threw some monkey-wrenches into areas to smoke outside of the convention center itself.

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Altadis U.S.A is once again teaming up with the Plasencia family for an all-Nicaraguan Montecristo cigar. This week the company announced the Montecristo Epic Craft Cured. As the name indicates, the Craft Cured is being aligned under the Epic line under the Montecristo brand.

As mentioned, the Montecristo Epic Craft Cured consists of all-Nicaraguan tobaccos. The blend is highlighted by a Nicaraguan Rosado Oscuro wrapper from a 2006 vintage. The remainder of the blend contains tobaccos from the four main growing regions of Nicaragua including an Ometepe binder and fillers from Estelí, Jalapa, and Condega. The cigar is offered in three sizes – each with a 52 ring gauge. The cigars will feature ten-count box packaging.

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The 2017 release of Oliva Cigar’s Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial has hit retailers. This year marks the tenth installment of the Serie V Maduro, an annual limited production release – and for the fourth year in a row, it’s a 6 x 60 Double Toro.

The  Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial first made its debut in 2008. The cigar is positioned as a maduro counterpart to the regular production sun-grown Oliva Serie V offering. While the Serie V is a regular production offering, the Series V Maduro Especial is only offered once a year. Throughout the ten years, there have been blend and size variations. The San Andres wrapper was introduced in 2010 and has remained with the line since then.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 276

Altadis U.S.A. has announced it is teaming up with boutique cigar company Crowned Heads for a new addition to the Montecristo portfolio – the Montecristo Ciudad de Música.

The name Ciudad de Música translates to “The Music City”. In this case, it pays homage to the city of Nashville, which is not only famous for its music scene, but it is also the home of Crowned Heads Cigars.

There is a third name involved in the project as the legendary Ernesto Perez-Carrillo developed the blend and is handling the production.The Montecristo Ciudad de Música consists of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and fillers from both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The cigars will be available in three generally available sizes: Corona Gorda, Robusto, and Sublime (Toro). A fourth size will be available to Casa de Montecristo in the form of a Piramide. Each size will be available in 20-count boxes. Production is planned for 25,000 cigars per size (100,000 cigars total). Pricing is set between $11.95 and $16.00.

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Over the past 18 months, AJ Fernandez has been involved in production for several high-profile iconic brands including Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, and H. Upmann. Now Ramon Allones can be added to the list, however, this time things are a little different. Not only will Fernandez be handling production of the brand, he will be the exclusive distributor of the brand in the U.S.

There will be two new Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez lines including a Habano Oscuro and Sumatra. The Habano Oscuro is planned to be a four-size box-pressed line including: Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 52), Churchill (7 x 50), and Torpedo (6 1/2 x 54). At press time, the only details reported on the Sumatra is that it will be available in five sizes.

While known as a historic Cuban brand, the trademark for Ramon Allones is owned by General Cigar Company in the U.S. Under the arrangement, General will continue to own the trademark. In 2015, General moved the Ramon Allones under its Foundry Tobacco brand. Earlier this year, it had announced the Foundry Ramon Allones’ cigar was being discontinued.

The Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Cigars are expected to hit the market in January.

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Camp Camacho is back.

After a near ten year hiatus, Camacho Cigars has announced it is bringing back its factory tour program to consumers. The company has opened a new guest house adjacent to its recently opened Diadema Cigars de Honduras S.A. in Danlí, Honduras.

Camacho Cigars has established a new four-day, three-night program that includes a tour of the new factory, visit to the tobacco fields, a blending session, and a day of zip-lining in Honduras. Camacho has established a series of fourteen trips that will be available between February and April 2018. Travel can be booked directly online.

The guest house features 11 rooms and 13 bathrooms that can house up to 20 guests. The great room of the house has a full bar, full-service kitchen and comfortable seating areas with flat-screen TVs. There is also an outdoor outdoor lanai.

The last time the Camp Camacho program was run, the Eiroa family still ran the brand.

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The Cosecha 146, a cigar that was showcased at the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, is now heading to U.S.-based retailers. The Cosecha 146 is the first cigar in Plasencia Cigars’ Cosecha series.

Cosecha means “harvest” and Cosecha 146 release pays homage to the 146th harvest of the Plasencias (2011-12) and it uses tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua from that crop. These are the countries where the Plasencias grow the majority of their tobacco.

The cigars are available in five sizes: La Musica (5 x 50, Robusto), La Vega (5 1/4 x 52, Robusto Gordo), San Luis (5 3;/4 x 54, Toro), San Agustin (6 1/4, x 52 Torpedo), and Monte Carlo (6 x 58, Gordo). The cigars are packaged in 20-count boxes

According to Plasencia Cigars, they are in the process of aging additional tobaccos as part of the Cosecha series, and these will be introduced in the coming years.

Plasencia Cigars is a brand owned by the Plasencia family. The Plasencias are best known for having 150 plus years experience in growing tobacco and producing cigars. Over the past year, they have brought a brand with their name to market.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 275

After a year out of the cigar industry, Michael Giannini is back.

Giannini, best known for his tenure at General Cigar Company where he served in a variety of roles including Director of Innovation, has been named the Creative Director at Ventura Cigar Company. Throughout the past few weeks, Giannini had been making appearances at several retailers with the Ventura Cigar team, but yesterday the announcement was made official.

“It’s a great fit and I’m glad to be with these guys,” said Giannini in a phone interview with Cigar Coop.

Based in Moorpark, California in the Los Angeles area, Ventura Cigar Company is the premium cigar division of Kretak International. The company has partnered with many leading cigar factories (Davidoff, Drew Estate, La Aurora, Rocky Patel)  to develop a variety of brands. Now Giannini will lend his years of expertise to help continue to grow this division.

Giannini’s role will be with brand development and he will also serve as brand ambassador – roles he has experience with from his days at General. Wearing the brand development hat, he will also work with the factories Ventura partners with to bring brands to market.  In terms of new projects, Giannini couldn’t tip his hat on specifics, but there will definitely be projects that have his “signature” on it. On the brand ambassador side, Giannini will essentially become the “face” of Ventura – meeting with customers and doing events.

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Back in June, U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was rolling back some of former President Barack Obama’s directives designed at opening up trade and relations with Cuba. This week the details of what this means to Americans was released by the Treasury department.

The changes have an impact on both Commerce and Travel to Cuba.

On the commerce end, a list of businesses Americans are prohibited from transacting with has been established. These businesses have been designated by the Treasury department as being used to fund military operations in Cuba. Some of yhese businesses include certain hotels, rental car companies, taxis, tour buses, and shops. Iconic hotels such as Hotel Ambbos Mundos and Hotel Conde de Villanueva were included on the list. While cigars were not on the list, two rum companies – Ron Carey and Ron Varadero were included.

In terms of travel, general tourist travel is no longer allowed. Under the Obama program, somewhat open arrangements to travel to Cuba could be made.  Now travel falls under one of 12 categories of authorized travel as specified by OFAC. These categories include:

  1. Family visits
  2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  3. Journalistic activity
  4. Professional research and professional meetings
  5. Educational activities
  6. Religious activities
  7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  8. Support for the Cuban people
  9. Humanitarian projects
  10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  12. Certain authorized export transactions

American tourists will also no longer be able to travel to Cuba on individual people-to-people exchange programs. They must travel now with a sponsoring organization

The travel changes do not affect the recent opening of ferry and airline services to Cuba, but providers and travelers must maintain records of all financial transactions for five years.

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Viaje has several releases planned for the Thanksigving season heading to stores this month.

After a one-year hiatus, Viaje’s Thanksgiving seasonal release, the Viaje Stuffed Turkey, is making a return – but this year with a twist. This year’s version has been dubbed the Viaje Stuffed Turkey Edición Limitada and for the first time  feature 5 x 58 box-pressed versions of the White Meat (Natural wrapper) and Dark Meat (Maduro) wrapper blends.

The Viaje Stuffed Turkey made its debut in 2011. For the most part the Stuffed Turkey has been an annual release, but last year was given the year off.

Both the White Meat and Dark Meat versions feature the same tobacco components as previous versions, but use a different vintage of the tobaccos. Both blends are packaged in 25-count boxes.

Meanwhile, Viaje is also bringing back Zombie Farmer Bill Hatchet, a Thanksgiving release that is a mashup of a previous Thanksgiving release, Farmer Bill Hatchet and Viaje’s Zombie theme will also be returning. Like last year, Zombie Farmer Bill Hatchet will be a 5 ½ x 54  box-press with blend details not released. Zombie Farmer Bill Hatchet is being offered to retailers in 30-count boxes – each containing six five-packs of the Zombie Farmer Bill Hatchet.

Finally, while not Thanksgiving related, Viaje is shipping the  the Viaje Hamaki Omakase – and in true Viaje fashion, the company is keeping most of the details under wraps. Omakase is the Japanese tradition of letting a chef choose your order. And it fits in with the theme of this cigar as details of the blend, factory and flavor profile of the cigar are not being disclosed.

A couple of details that are known about the Hamaki Omakase is that it will be a 5 x 52 robust and will be packaged in 18-count boxes.

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 274

After a year out of the cigar industry, Michael Giannini is back.

Giannini, best known for his tenure at General Cigar Company where he served in a variety of roles including Director of Innovation, has been named the Creative Director at Ventura Cigar Company. Throughout the past few weeks, Giannini had been making appearances at several retailers with the Ventura Cigar team, but yesterday the announcement was made official.

“It’s a great fit and I’m glad to be with these guys,” said Giannini in a phone interview with Cigar Coop.

Based in Moorpark, California in the Los Angeles area, Ventura Cigar Company is the premium cigar division of Kretak International. The company has partnered with many leading cigar factories (Davidoff, Drew Estate, La Aurora, Rocky Patel)  to develop a variety of brands. Now Giannini will lend his years of expertise to help continue to grow this division.

Giannini’s role will be with brand development and he will also serve as brand ambassador – roles he has experience with from his days at General. Wearing the brand development hat, he will also work with the factories Ventura partners with to bring brands to market.  In terms of new projects, Giannini couldn’t tip his hat on specifics, but there will definitely be projects that have his “signature” on it. On the brand ambassador side, Giannini will essentially become the “face” of Ventura – meeting with customers and doing events.

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The Terence Reilly era at Quesada Cigars has come to an end.

Reilly has announced he is departing the company effective November 1st, 2017. Reilly had been with Quesada Cigars since 2009. He is the de-facto nephew of company patriarch Manuel “Manolo” Quesada (while a member of the family he is actually a cousin of Manolo, the “uncle” title was one of respect). He ran the U.S. operations for Quesada Cigars as the company’s General Manager. Reilly’s role ranged from logistics, marketing, sales, and development for the company’s premium cigar operations.

“After much thought and sleepless nights, I have decided to resign my position at Quesada Cigars to explore new opportunities for my professional growth. The company is heading in a new direction and I wish them much success in the years to come. I want to thank the Quesada Family, our staff, and all our retail and consumer partners with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. It has been an honor and privilege. Truly the experience of a lifetime.”

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Nomad Cigar Company’s long-awaited Fin de los Mundos is finally heading for its official launch. Owner Fred Rewey has said the cigar is currently in packaging and will have an official launch of December 2nd at Underground Cigar Shop in Fort Worth, Texas.

Fin de los Mundos was first unveiled at the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show and had a subsequent limited release just before the implementation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Deeming Rules were put into effect on August 8, 2017. The cigar was again showcased at the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show.

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Room101 Ltd. has entered the spirits industry. Known for its edgy jewelry and boutique cigars, the Los Angeles-based Room101 now has a gin label to round out its portfolio of luxury items—and it’s being launched tonight. The release party will take place this evening at Fox Cigar Bar in Gilbert, Arizona.

“I’ve wanted a craft spirit to accompany my line of products and further establish Room101 as a lifestyle collection,” said company owner Matt Booth to Cigar Aficionado.

When asked why he chose gin, Booth responded “A, because I enjoy it.  But B, because I feel it’s going to be the next boutique spirit. Gin caters to cocktail culture and sophisticated drinks. Everyone’s doing Bourbon right now, but to be frank, Bourbon is dead. With gin, the possibilities are infinite because of the botanical mix.”

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The Scoop With Coop – Episode 273

As the collaboration between Robert Caldwell, AJ Fernandez, and Matt Booth heads to retailer shelves, the project has a new name – “The T”.

Just prior to the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, Booth announced his return to the cigar industry with a couple of collaborations. The first was Hit & Run, a collaboration with Robert Caldwell produced out of Tabacalera William Ventura in the Dominican Republic. The second was collaboration that Caldwell and Booth were doing with AJ Fernandez know as “The Truth”.

When the cigars were showcased at the IPCPR, the packaging for “The Truth” saw the name crossed out. This was due to a potential trademark issue.

Now the cigar is simply called “The T”. the cigar is an all Nicaraguan puro available in five box-pressed sizes: Short Churchill, Robusto, Toro, Lonsdale, and Toro Grande.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust founder Steve Saka announced on Social Media that he expects his second installment of the  Muestra de Saka line, the  Nacatamale to hit retail shelves in mid-November.

Just before the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust had started taking pre-orders on the second installment of the Muestra de Saka series, the Nacatamale. Muestra de Saka follows a “one size, one blend” model where each installment of the series has a unique blend mapped to a particular vitola. The Nacatamale features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan tobaccos from a single farm.  It is available in one size, measuring 6 x 48. Like the first installment, the Muestra de Saka Exclusivo, the Nacatamale will be packaged in an individual coffin with seven coffins packaged per box. Production for 2017 is 2,250 boxes.

Davidoff’s latest installment of its annual Chinese New Year series is heading into widespread release. This past week Davidoff announced the details of the Davidoff Year of the Dog 2018 Limited Edition.

Each installment of the series has had a unique blend and vitola and is named for one of the animals that are a part of the Chinese Zodiac. The Year of the Dog blend consists of a Habano Ecuador wrapper over Dominican binder and filler. The size selected is a 7 x 50 Churchill. The cigars will be available in ten-count boxes with each cigar priced at $39.00 SRP. The total production of the Davidoff Year of the Dog is 9,000 boxes globally.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 272

On Thursday October 12th, 2017 Swisher International announced that its CEO and President Peter Ghiloni will be retiring at the end of the year. Ghiloni’s retirement caps off a 34-year tenure at Swisher International. Concurrently, the company also announced Ghiloni’s successor will be John Miller, Swisher International’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing.  To premium cigar enthusiasts, Swisher International is best known as the parent company for Drew Estate.

Ghiloni was named President and CEO of Swisher International late in 2012, replacing the retiring Tom Ryan.  Shortly after assuming the top spot, Ghiloni oversaw the launch of Royal Gold Cigars. While Swisher was built on machine-made cigars, Royal Gold Cigars became the handmade premium division of Swisher. The company’s direction in premium cigars changed  a year later when it acquired Drew Estate, a move Ghiloni was instrumental in making happen.

While Ghiloni spent 34 years at Swisher, new President and CEO John Miller joined the company in 2012 after holding a variety of senior executive positions. Replacing Miller will be John Haley as the new Senior Vice President of sales and marketing, and Lou Caldropoli has been named to the new position of Chief Operations Officer.

On Monday, October 16, 2017, a federal judge denied a motion for intervention by a group of health organizations to intervene in the cigar industry’s lawsuit filed against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The ruling was handed down by Judge Amit Mehta in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Court stated, “Upon careful consideration of the briefs and the record, the court concludes that Proposed Intervenors have not established that they would suffer a legally sufficient injury-in-fact if Plaintiffs were to prevail in this litigation. Therefore, they lack standing to intervene as of right, and the court declines to allow Proposed Intervenors to intervene permissively. Accordingly, the court denies Proposed Intervenors’ Motion to Intervene.”

The six health organizations that filed the motion include:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics
  • The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
  • The American Heart Association
  • The American Lung Association
  • The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • Truth Initiative

The ruling can be considered a positive step for the cigar industry. If the court had ruled the other way, these organizations would essentially become defendants alongside the FDA and play an active role in the legal battle.

A motion to intervene allows a person who is not a party to a particular case to join the case in order to protect their own interests. In the motion filed, the groups expressed concern that the “Defendants may not aggressively defend the Deeming Rule, or may seek to alter or rescind the Rule, after their recent changes in leadership.”

The groups expressed concern that the Trump Administration may not adequately defend the rule (known as the “deeming rule”) or may seek to weaken or rescind it, putting the health of children and the public at risk. The organizations alluded to 90-day delays on the pending FDA compliance deadlines so that the Department of Health and Human Services could better understand the Deeming Regulations as an example. The organizations also cited the recent ruling by the Court in favor of the FDA on a summary judgment related to a case brought forward by Nicopure Labs LLC and various vaping associations. The groups advanced this as a precedent for why the Deeming Rules should be upheld.

The Trade Associations responded opposing the motion. Meanwhile, the FDA took a neutral position on whether the intervention should be granted. Many believe this motion was filed following the July 28th announcement that the FDA was deferring the pre-market approval date for premium cigars until August 8th, 2021 and is re-examining the deeming rule as a whole.

With natural disasters affecting the Caribbean and U.S., the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it is extending the deadlines for submitting product ingredient listings and select health documents six months for manufacturers and importers located in the affected areas.

The FDA stated: “The FDA is aware that tobacco manufacturers and importers in the affected areas are dealing with extraordinary circumstances and may need additional time to meet certain requirements. ”

Recent natural disasters have included Hurricane Harvey (Texas), Hurricane Irma (Florida and the Caribbean), Hurricane Maria (Puerto Rico and the Caribbean), and wildfires (Northern California). This moves the deadline for ingredient lists from May 8, 2018 to November 8, 2018 and the date to submit certain tobacco health documents to November 8, 2018. The deadline for health documents only affects small-scale tobacco manufacturers. Further information can be found in the documents Listing of Ingredients in Tobacco Products and Health Document Submission Requirements for Tobacco Products.

The areas designated by the FDA are ones that were declared disaster areas by FEMA.

A complete listing of the affected areas was published by the FDA.

The return of Gurkha’s Master Select is now in full swing. Today, the company announced it has begun shipping the Gurkha Master Select to retailers.

Master Select is one of several predicate lines that Gurkha Cigar Company brought back and showcased at the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show. The Master Select was introduced back in 2001 and according to Gurkha, it was that year’s best-selling cigar.

Originally the Master Select blend was produced by Fidel Olivas. Gurkha was able to obtain the original blend recipe, known as the OVB (Original Vintage Blend), from Olivas .

The Master Select consists of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Honduran Habano binder, and a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican filler. It is being released in five sizes: Robusto ($7.50 SRP), Toro ($8.50 SRP), 6 x 60 (SRP $10.00), Perfecto #1 (6 x 60, $11.50 SRP), and Perfecto #2 (5 x 56, $9.50 SRP). The cigars are packaged in 25-count boxes.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 271

This week came word that Janelle Rosenfeld, Altadis U.S.A.’s long-time Vice President of marketing, is departing the company.

Rosenfeld was a mainstay at Altadis. She is the only person to hold the VP of marketing title at Altadis U.S.A. She actually started in the role back in 1996 with Consolidated Cigar Company. When Consolidated merged with Havatampa to form Altadis U.S.A., she continued in the role.

2017 has seen several executive changes at Altadis. Earlier this year, Rob Norris was named General Manager of Altadis U.S.A. Last week it was announced that Rafael Nodal would become Altadis’ parent company Tabacalera USA’s Head of Product Capability.

José Oliva, best known as CEO of Oliva Cigar Company, has been designated the Speaker of the House for the State of Florida for 2019-2020. This means if Oliva’s party (Republican) holds the majority in the Florida House of Representatives in the 2018 elections, he will become Speaker of the House beginning in 2019.

Oliva was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives back in 2011 in a special election. Oliva’s designation as Speaker is not a surprise as for several years he has been in the line of succession (something that is also designated in advance) for the job.

Last year, the Oliva family sold Oliva Cigar Company to J. Cortès, a company based in Belgium. Following the sale, Oliva has remained as the Oliva brand’s CEO, but has continued to focus on his burgeoning political career.

On November 1st, two of Crowned Heads most critically acclaimed and popular regional releases will be available nationwide for a 24-hour window. Today the company announced that the Tennessee Waltz and Yellow Rose, exclusive regional releases to Tennessee and Texas retailers respectively, will be offered for one day only nationwide for retailers to order. The promotion is being dubbed by Crowned Heads as  “Lawless Day”.

Lawless Day was inspired by the 2013 film, “The Purge,” where all illegal acts are de-criminalized for a 12-hour period.

The Tennessee Waltz was introduced in 2014 as an exclusive release for the Tennessee market. The cigar is available in a single vitola (5 1/2 x 52). Produced at the My Father Cigars factory, the cigar features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler.

Yellow Rose followed Tennessee Waltz in 2015. This cigar is a 6 1/4 x 54 box-pressed torpedo. It also is produced at the My Father Cigars factory and features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler.

The November 1st Lawless Day offering marks the first time Tennessee Waltz and Yellow Rose will be offered nationally by Crowned Heads.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued its guidance on the regulations around free samples of tobacco products.  In the guidance, the FDA confirmed that the free sample ban applies to all tobacco products, subject to its authority  The Deeming Rule which went into effect on August 8, 2016, extended this ban to cigars. The guidance issued is very similar to the draft guidance published this past January. The big difference from the draft guidance is the FDA strengthened the language involving business to business exchanges.

Under the guidance distributors and retailers are prohibited from unconditionally giving out free tobacco product to consumers. There are certain scenarios where a free tobacco product may be given out – provided it is tied to a monetary transaction. These scenarios include discount and coupons, membership and reward programs, and Contests/Games of Chance. For the most part, the guidance around these scenarios was unchanged from the initial draft published in January.

The FDA defines a business to business exchange as “distributing free samples in a limited quantity (i.e., no more than necessary to achieve a business or marketing goal, such as awareness of and exposure to the product for the purpose of product or inventory selection) to another business as part of a genuine effort to sell or market a tobacco product to that business. Originally in the draft guidance, the FDA said it would not enforce regulations around business to business exchanges. Now the FDA says it does not consider the regulation around free samples to be applicable to business to business exchanges.

While there was no draft guidance issued around manufacturers and retailers donating cigars the troops, this was not a surprise. The language that explicitly bans charitable contributions of tobacco products is traced back to the big Federal Food and Drug Cosmetic Act where it explicitly bans charitable contributions on tobacco products.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 270

In what might be considered a major development in the cigar industry’s lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the cigar trade associations have motioned the court for a preliminary injunction and partial summary judgment to prevent the FDA from moving forward with portions of the Deeming Regulations. The areas being targeted surround implementing warning regulations and user fees. A summary judgment is a procedural move that essentially requests the Court to promptly dispose of a case because there are no facts at issue.

Ultimately, the cigar industry is looking to temporarily halt the implementation of warning labels and user feeds with the injunction. Longer term, they are hoping a partial summary judgment against these rules leads to them getting thrown out.

In terms of the warning labels, both the motion for preliminary injunction and partial summary judgment state, “Plaintiffs are incurring millions in costs to redesign packages and advertising, now, and those costs will multiply each month until the August 10, 2018 compliance date. The cost of molding speech to a requirement violates the First Amendment and is classic irreparable harm.”

The industry has argued the warning labels have have a greater burden on cigar and pipe tobacco

The Camacho Diploma is back. Camacho has announced it is relaunching the original Camacho Diploma line. While the cigars feature a unique packaging update, the blend returns to being 100% Original Corojo. Plans are for the Camacho Diploma to return as a limited production annual release starting next month.

When Camacho was owned by the Eiroa family, the Camacho Diploma was a 100% Honduran corojo blend using the original Cuban seeds. After Davidoff revamped the Camacho line in 2013, the Camacho Diploma was given an all-new multi-national blend. Less than two years later, the new version of the Camacho was discontinued.

Now dubbed the Camacho Diploma Special Selection, the blend returns to its original roots featuring high priming Original Corojo tobacco. Camacho says the cigars are made by five of the brand’s most experienced rollers at the company’s factory. Because of the limited availability of the tobaccos used, the Diploma will be limited to a once-a-year release

The Camacho Diploma Special Selection is being released in one size – a 5 x 54 Robusto.

Each cigar will be packaged in an individual coffin which is housed in a unique hexagon shaped box. The box will hold 18 coffins and a total of 1,800 boxes have been produced (32,400 cigars).

Tatuaje Cigars owner Pete Johnson announced on social media the list of the thirteen “Unlucky Retailers” who were chosen to receive custom dress boxes of the tenth installment of his annual Monsters Series – The Michael. As the name indicates, this Monster pays homage to the character of Michael Myers from the Halloween horror movie series.

Dress boxes are limited custom-designed boxes. The thirteen retailers on the list will be authorized to sell the dress boxes. In the past, 666 boxes have been created. As in the past, Tatuaje will also make a limited production of plain (cedar boxes).  It is expected that authorized Tatuaje retailers will be able to acquire plain boxes containing The Michael, but in the past the Unlucky 13 have gotten a larger allocation.

The Michael is a 6 1/2 x 52 vitola that features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler.

The Unlucky 13 for 2017 are:

Cigar Mojo (King of Prussia, PA)

Cigar Warehouse (Plano, TX)

Cordova Cigars (Pensacola, FL)

Doc James Cigars (Shrub Oak, NY)

Gran Cru Cigars (St Louis, MO)

La Casa De La Habana (Ann Arbor, MI)

Lone Star Tobacco (Houston, TX)

Old Towne Havana (Orange, CA)

Old Virginia Tobacco Co. (Manassas, VA)

Owl Ear Smokeshop (Scottsdale, AZ)

Rudy’s (Fort Wayne, IN)

Tobacco and Hops (Goldsboro, NC)

Watch City (Framingham, MA)

Earlier this year Boutique Blends entered into a strategic alliance with Altadis USA. Under that agreement, Altadis USA would handle the distribution for Boutique Blends. Concurrently, Boutique Blends co-owner Rafael Nodal would also join the Altadis USA team focused on product development, quality, and innovation. Now Nodal’s role will be expanding as Altadis USA’s parent company Tabacalera USA announced that Nodal will be the company’s new head of product capability.

In his new role, Nodal will support Tabacalera USA’s premium cigar business reporting to company president Javier Estates. This includes Altadis USA’s premium brands as well as the catalog and retail subsidiaries of Casa de Monte Cristo and JR Cigar. His role will be focusing on both the company’s own  factories and manufacturing partners maintaining quality and identifying opportunities for innovation under the regulatory framework that exists from the FDA’s Deeming Regulations.

Recently Nodal’s footprint had already taken form at Altadis USA. Prior to the strategic alliance, Nodal and Boutique Blends collaborated with Altadis to produce the Romeo by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25. This was a cigar produced at Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma, Boutique Blends’ long-time Manufacturing partner. Last month, the company announced the release of the Trinidad Santiago. This is a new regular production offering that was spearheaded by Nodal and is Altadis’ first regular production release out of  Tabacalera Palma

Drew Estate’s Pappy Van Winkle Tradition cigar, a limited production cigar that pays homage to Van Winkle family, has arrived at Drew Diplomat retailers. The Van Winkles are best known as owners of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery and makers of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and rye products.

The Pappy Van Winkle Tradition is the second release under Drew Estate’s Pappy Van Winkle line. The first release, the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented, featured Kentucky Fire Cured barrel-fermented tobacco and was sold directly from Pappy & Co. The Tradition is a blend done by Drew Estate Master Blender Willy Herrera and was actually developed prior to him officially joining Drew Estate. The blend was gifted to Julian Van Winkle, President of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery by Drew Estate co-founder Jonathan Drew.

The new Pappy Van Winkle Tradition is a more conventional blend featuring an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper, Indonesian binder, and a combination of aged fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. It will be available in four regular production sizes, four regular production sizes, one for Drew Diplomat Spirits Retailers, and two “not for sale” cigars only made available personally from Jonathan Drew and Julian Van Winkle.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 269

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the deadline for domestic cigar manufacturers to submit product and establishment registration information is being pushed out from September 30, 2017 to October 12, 2017.  According to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the delay is being implemented due to login and connectivity problems on the website where manufacturers and brand owners submit their registration information.

Under the new Deeming Regulations, all domestic manufacturers of tobacco products are required to register their establishments with the FDA and submit a listing of the products they will sell. This a new requirement on the cigar industry.

This is the third delay of the product and establishment registration. The original date was scheduled for December 31st, 2016. This past December, the FDA implemented a six-month grace period pushing the deadline out to June 30th, 2016. On May 1st, 2017 it was announced that there would be a 90-day delay to deadlines on the compliance implementation timetable. This was to allow the new players in the FDA who had come into the agency to get better acclimated with the issues at hand facing premium cigars. It pushed the registration deadline to September 30th, 2017.

In a move that was not unexpected, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will increase the user fees it is charging the U.S. tobacco industry.  For Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, the industry will be charged $672 million dollars – an increase of $37 million dollars from FY 2017.  From those numbers $64 million dollars will be charged to the cigar industry for FY 2018 – up $5 million dollars from FY 2017.

User fees are collected from manufacturers and brand owners subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This was something the premium cigar industry had not been subject to, but last year with the implementation of the Deeming Rule, that all changed. These fees are used to fund the cost of regulation by the FDA.

User Fees are calculated based on excise tax information, which is now required to be submitted to the FDA by all tobacco companies. For premium cigars excise taxes correlate to the amount of sales – i.e. the more a company sells, the higher the excise tax and thus the higher the user fee for that company. User fees are paid quarterly and paid directly to the FDA.

Most likely, these additional costs the companies that will be incurring will be passed to the consumer. It is anticipated for FY 2019, the tobacco industry will be hit with fees totaling $712 million.

This week My Father Cigars’ La Opulencia, a cigar that made its debut at the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show has begun to arrive at retailers

La Opulencia features a Mexican Rosado Oscuro wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and fillers. It is the first My Father branded cigar to use a Mexican wrapper that is in regular production. The cigar is available in six sizes: Petite, Corona, Robusto, Toro, Toro Grande, and Super Toro. Each is packaged in 20-count boxes.

Pricing is set at $7.10 to $12.54 per cigar.

Foundation Cigar Company’s “The Wise Man” has begun to arrive at retailers.  The cigar introduced a maduro offering under the El Gueguense brand.

The cigar becomes the first Mexican San Andres cigar to be released by Foundation Cigar Company.

In addition to the Mexican San Andres wrapper, The Wise Man uses a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos from Condega, Estelí, and Jalapa. The line will feature the same original five vitolas as El Güegüense: Robusto, Corona Gorda, Toro Huaco, Churchill, and Torpedo. As with the original El Güegüense, the cigar will be made at the TABSA factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The original El Güegüense translates to “The Wise Man”. It also represents one of the oldest literary works in Nicaragua. The new Maduro offering does feature the name “El Güegüense” on the packaging, but the English translation is emphasized.

The cigars are expected to ship to retailers in September. Pricing will be $9.00 to $13.00 SRP.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 268

La Palina Cigars and the El Titan de Bronze factory announced that acclaimed Cuban roller Maria Sierra is retiring. Sierra was the exclusive roller of the Goldie from its inception in 2012. Lopez “Chino” Perez, who worked as an apprentice to Sierra the past three years will now assume her responsibilities as the exclusive roller for the La Palina Goldie.

Sierra’s career spans six decades. She started out as an apprentice at Cuba’s Fabrica de Tabacos El Laguito, which at the time was managed by the late Avelino Lara. During her tenure at El Laguito, Sierra learned the art of rolling cigars and would master the difficult skill of rolling the thin ring gauge cigars. Sierra retired in 1998, and over a decade later she would relocate to the United States where she was then hired by El Titan de Bronze, the boutique factory in Little Havana Cuba owned by Sandy Cobas. Starting in 2012, she was selected to be the exclusive roller of every La Palina Goldie produced. Sierra has remained in that role until her retirement.

Both La Palina Cigars and El Titan de Bronze selected her apprentice Chino Perez to take over the duties for the Goldie. Perez came to El Titan de Bronze in 2014. Like Sierra, he came from Cuba where he spent 25 years at the Partagas factory  and held many positions including floor supervisor for five years.

“We wish Maria the very best in her well-earned retirement. She is truly a living treasure and one of the great cigar masters of all time,” said Bill Paley, owner of La Palina in a press release. “Her deep dedication to the art of the cigar is unequivocal, she will be profoundly missed.”

The Mark Pursell era of IPCPR is coming to an end. Today, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) and Pursell announced they are parting ways effective October 15th, 2017.

No reason for why Pursell and IPCPR are parting ways has been given.

It was back in June 2014 after an exhaustive search that Pursell was named CEO of IPCPR. He had succeeded Bill Spann who had resigned in September 2013. Previously, Mr. Pursell was the Senior Vice President of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). During Pursell’s tenure at IPCPR, he led the organization during the implementation of the FDA’s Deeming Rule on premium cigars.

IPCPR has not discussed any plans on when it plans to name a successor.

This week, Drew Estate issued a press release indicating they had a truck stolen back on August 7th that contained a full load of Drew Estate cigars. According to Drew Estate, an active investigation into this theft is ongoing and involves numerous law enforcement entities. The specific cigars stolen include Tabak Especial Dulce Robusto and Undercrown Shade Belicoso.

Drew Estate is asking if they know of anyone of these prducts are being offered for sale by non-Drew Estate authorized suppliers or being offered for sale by any suppliers at below wholesale list price, they should  Drew Estate immediately .

This is the second major cigar heist in 2017. Earlier this year, Arturo Fuente had a container containing its cigars stolen.

OneOff Cigars appears to be getting back into the spotlight. Dion Giolito has acquired the rights to the brand from Cuban Crafters in Miami. It’s a brand that has been long admired by Giolito.

The rationale for this acquisition is that the blends of OneOff qualify as predicate (grandfathered) blends from the FDA Deeming Rules. OneOff was created by Andrea Molinari in 2001. Molinari was a tobacconist who ran a La Casa del Habano in Milan Italy. After failing to get his own brand made to Cuba, he turned to the Plasencia family who would create the cigars. Eventually Plasencia stopped making the cigars and brand ended up at  Cuban Crafters.

Giolito said  he will market the OneOff using blend, packaging and brand identity that “for the most part remain identical to the original”. The product is expected to hit the shelves next year.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 267

When it comes to Hurricane season, there always is a possibility for impacts to the cigar industry. The tobacco producing countries of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Honduras, and Nicaragua are all prone to damage from hurricanes. This can impact everything from tobacco farms, to curing barns, and to warehouses. In the U.S., Florida is also the home to many cigar company distribution centers, as well as small factories, and now even a major tobacco farm.

Hurricane Irma, which recently ripped through the Caribbean, actually spared that region when it came to the cigar industry. On the other hand, when it came to the U.S. and Florida, while it was not a catastrophic blow on the cigar industry, there are still impacts that will be felt for weeks to come.

Dominican Republic

Rain and wind from Irma hit the north coast of the Dominican Republic on September 7th. The Santiago metropolitan area is located in the northern part of the country about 90 minutes from the northern coast – and this is where many Dominican cigar factories have their base of operations.  There are also several growing regions located in the northern part of the country.

Prior to the storm hitting, President Danilo Medina ordered businesses closed, and this included cigar factories. There were many reports of wind and rain to the northern part of the Dominican Republic, but there was significant damage reported to facilities and tobacco. The tobacco-growing season actually starts later this month, so there were no reports of impacts to crops or tobacco in the curing barns. There were also power outages throughout the region.

Tabacalera de Garcia, the factory for Altadis, is located in La Romana, in the southeastern part of the country. The storm did not have any notable impacts here.


Like the Dominican Republic, the storm impacted the northern and eastern parts of the country. Cuba’s main growing region is located in Pinar del Rio, which is located in the western part of the country. The Hurricane did not have an effect on the growing region as it started its northern turn toward the U.S. Like the Dominican Republic, the growing season is still several weeks away from starting.

Cuba started feeling the effects of Irma throughout the weekend of September 9th. Havana took a hard hit from the storm. There were reports of widespread flooding and storm surge. There are several factories located in the Havana area. From initial contacts Cigar Coop has been able to make, there has been no significant damage to the factories, but Habano SA has yet to make an official comment.


While the Dominican Republic and Cuba avoided any significant impacts in terms of the cigar industry, when it came to Florida, it was a different story. Florida started feeling the effects of Irma on Sunday September 10th. United Parcel Service, the industry’s preferred U.S. shipping service had also suspended pickups and deliveries during this time.

Many cigar companies have their U.S. distribution based in the Miami Metropolitan area. A good chunk of the region was under an evacuation order. The storm hit over the weekend, but many cigar companies closed prior to the weekend, and remained closed following the storm.

The significant flooding occurred in downtown Miami. Many of the cigar companies are located west of downtown. There were reports of widespread wind damage and power outages in the area.

With the closings, this put a halt to processing many sales orders and shipping cigars out of Miami. La Flor Dominicana did report some damage to its U.S. headquarters in Coral Gables, Florida and said it would remain closed for the rest of the week.

Several industry personnel, including some from Drew Estate, Gurkha, and CLE Cigar Company, were in the Spokane, Washington area for the Little Smoke. Several of these industry people remained out of town for additional days.

The hurricane had a significant impact on the west coast of Florida. Rocky Patel Premium Cigars has its headquarters in Naples, Florida, which was in the crosshairs of the eye of the storm. The company reported its headquarters did not sustain flood damage. The warehouse is still without power, but has been able to maintain humidity control through backup generators.

Further north in the Tampa area, is where J.C. Newman, Arturo Fuente, and Davidoff of Geneva have their U.S. headquarters. There have been no reports on whether there were damage or impact to those companies.

West of Orlando, Florida is the town of Clermont. It is the place where Jeff Borysiewicz’s Florida Sun Grown tobacco farm is located. Prior to the storm, Borysiewicz took precautions and removed the tobacco from the barns and placed it in trucks for temporary offsite storage. Shortly after the storm, Borysiewicz reported on social media that the barns did not sustain damage. As for his Corona Cigar Company stores, there was some minor damage, and he was able to have all of his stores opened by Tuesday.

Corona Cigar Company wasn’t the only retailer to have shops closed. Many other retailers in Florida also closed up shop throughout the weekend when the storm hit and have only recently begun to open up.

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a twelve-bill spending package for the 2018 Fiscal year that includes the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that was approved by a subcommittee earlier this summer. This bill includes language that calls for a premium cigar exemption and predicate date change to August 8, 2016. The bill package now moves to the Senate.

The bill was passed with 211 votes in favor of the package versus 198 against it.

The central point of interest for cigar enthusiasts is that the proposed bill has language in it that says federal funding cannot be used to finalize, implement, administer, or enforce FDA regulations on premium cigars. The proposed bill also includes language to define what a premium cigar is.  The funding mechanism would be in place for the Fiscal Year 2018 that begins October 1st, 2017 and ends September 30, 2018.

The challenge will be on the Senate end. Currently, a premium cigar exemption is not a part of the Senate Bill. In order for the exemption and predicate dates to change, the same language must be a part of the Senate bill. However, passing today’s bill marks the first time an exemption or predicate date change has passed through one of the legislative branches.

Ken Neumann, President of IPCPR commented,  “This is a monumental step for the industry and for IPCPR’s retailers. For many years we’ve been pushing the ball forward in our efforts to roll back the FDA’s oversized and ill-suited regulatory regime on premium cigars. Because of this work and because there are Members of Congress like Congressmen Bob Aderholt, Bill Posey and Congresswoman Kathy Castor who fight every day for small businesses and the premium cigar retailers across the country, we’re now on the precipice of bringing true relief to our industry.”

It is expected that, in order to resolve the differences in the bill, both the House and the Senate will go through a Congressional committee where compromises will be made.

The Rafael Nodal era at Altadis U.S.A. has begun. Nodal’s first project within the Altadis portfolio is a resurrection of the Trinidad brand with the release of the Trinidad Santiago. While word of this project surfaced during this year’s IPCPR, details have recently now been released.

The Trinidad Santiago is slated to hit retail shelves by month’s end.

The name “Santiago” is key.  This is because most of Altadis’ production occurs in Santo Domingo at the Tabacalera de Garcia factory, located in the southern part of the Dominican Republic. The Trinidad Santiago is produced in Santiago at Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma, located in the northern part of the country. Tabacalera Palma is a factory Nodal is quite familiar with as many of his Boutique Blends lines come out of that factory.

According to Cigar Aficionado, the Trinidad Santiago contains 100% Dominican tobaccos grown by Blanco in the Cibao Valley of the Dominican Republic. It will be available in three sizes: Corona, Toro, and Belicoso – each packaged in 20-count boxes. Production will be limited, but on-going.

While this is the first cigar Nodal has done with Altadis, it is not the first time Nodal has collaborated with Altadis and Tabacalera Palma on a release. Back in 2015, the three parties collaborated with the Romeo by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25, a limited release project. Earlier this year, Nodal turned over distribution of Boutique Blends to Altadis U.S.A. and concurrently took on a product innovation role with Altadis U.S.A. The F25 and the Trinidad Santiago are both Dominican puros released in the same size.

Meanwhile, the Trinidad Santiago is the first regular production release since 2012’s Trinidad Paradox. Since then there was a limited edition cigar under Trinidad called Trinidad Lost Blends that was released in 2015, but the brand has pretty much been quiet.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 266

Davidoff has announced two major executive changes to its organization. Today the company announced the departure of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hans Kristian Hoejsgaard and Chairman Andreas Schmid. The Board of Directors has named former Oettinger Davidoff AG COO Beat Hauenstein as its new CEO, and Domenico Scala as its new Chairman.

Hoejsgaard had been CEO at Davidoff since 2011 and oversaw one of the most successful periods of growth for the premium cigar segment of the company. According to a press release by Oettinger Davidoff, Hoejsgaard is leaving the company to concentrate on his outside board and consultancy mandates.

Scala was responsible as CFO of Syngenta and CEO of Nobel Biocare. Until May 2016, he chaired the independent Audit & Compliance Committee of FIFA.

The moves are effective immediately.

Hong Kong businessman Sir David Tang, known to the cigar industry as the founder and chairman of Pacific Cigar Company, has died at age 63. Pacific Cigar Company is the exclusive distributor of Habanos products and the exclusive distributor of Habanos SA products in the Asia Pacific region. The company also offered cigar accessories branded “Siglo” and owned 60 retail stores in Asia Pacific, China, and Canada.

The Asia Times reported two weeks ago that Tang had been given a few weeks to live.

Tang was well-known outside the cigar industry. He was the grandson of Tang Shiu Kin, who founded the Kowloon Bus Company was also a businessman and philanthropist. Tang started working at his grandfather’s firm and eventually set out on his own. He founded several businesses, including the Shanghai Tang fashion stores. Shanghai Tang became a global presence in the fashion world. He would sell Shanghai Tang to Richemont in 1998.

One of the big stories of the t2017 Trade Show was the arrival of the Plasencia family as exhibitors with their own brand. One of the new cigars showcased was the Alma del Campo. It’s the second cigar blend in the series that makes up the company’s ultra-premium Alma line.

Alma del Campo is a Nicaraguan puro featuring tobaccos from the Plasencia farms. It is available in five sizes – each packaged in ten-count boxes. Like the Alma Fuerte, the Alma del Campo’s box doubles as an ashtray.

The Alma del Campo follows up the Alma Fuerte – which was Plasencia Cigars’ first company release.

CAO Cigars final installment of its Amazon Trilogy series, the CAO Amazon Anaconda is now arriving at retailers.

The CAO Amazon Basin was the first installment of the Amazon Trilogy. It is a cigar that quickly achieved a cult status. The Amazon Basin incorporates a rare-blend, low-yield tobacco grown in Brazil known as Braganca. Because of the low yields, the Amazon Basin has been quite limited and it took over two years until it would see its only other release.

Last month, CAO announced the second installment of the Amazon Trilogy with the CAO Fuma Em Corda, using a rare tobacco with sharing the same name as the cigar na,e

With CAO Amazon Anaconda, this blend not only incorporates both the Braganca and Fuma Em Corda, but adds another low yield Brazilian tobacco known as Bahiano Habano which is used as the wrapper. As the name indicates, the Bahiano Habano comes from the Bahia region of Brazil.

The CAO Amazon Anaconda is available in one size – a 6 x 52 Toro. It is available in 20-count boxes with pricing set at $10.49 per cigar.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 265

At the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, Asylum Cigars launched a new all Honduran Corojo offering known as Medulla Oblongata. It’s a cigar that is going to be available in four sizes – each in a parejo and box-pressed offering.

Medulla Oblongata is packaged in 50-count boxes featuring 25 parejo cigars (known as Medulla) and 25 box-pressed cigars (known as Oblongata). The cigars feature a refillable option for retailers. Pricing is in the $7.00 to $9.50 range. The blend itself is described as an offshoot of the Asylum 13 Authentic Corojo.

The rounded and box pressed formats are available in four sizes – 50 x 5, 52 x 6, 60 x 6, and 80 x 6

The La Aurora ADN Dominicano, a line that was unveiled at the ProCigar 2017 festival was officially launched at the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show. This is a release that contains Andullo tobacco.

ADN Dominicano stands for “Dominican DNA”.  While Andullo isn’t very common in a premium hand-made cigar, the use of Andullo tobacco is an old Dominican process and the company pays homage to that process with the ADN Dominicano release.

Andullo tobacco undergoes a very different curing process than traditional cigar tobacco leaves.  This involves putting tobacco leaves in palm seed pods.  The pods are then wrapped in rope causing the andullo tobacco to compress into a thick bar almost looking like a roll of salami.

The Andullo tobacco for the La Aurora ADN Dominicano is used in the filler with Pennsylvanian, Dominican, and Nicaraguan fillers. The cigars feature a Cameroon binder and a Dominican wrapper from the Cibao valley.

The cigar is available in four sizes packaged in 20 count boxes:

  • Robusto: 5 x 50 (SRP $7.25)
  • Toro: 5 3/4 x 54 (SRP $8.25)
  • Churchill: 7 x 47 (SRP $8.50)
  • Gran Toro: 6 x 58 (SP $9.25)

Five years ago, Oliva Cigar Company launched the Oliva Serie V Melanio, a line that paid homage to company patriarch Melanio Oliva. Now the company has an all new line that pays homage to Melanio’s grandson Gilberto. This year, Oliva Cigar Company launched the Gilberto Oliva line. Gilberto Oliva is intended to be a value priced line. It’s the first new line since the Melanio brand was launched. It’s also Oliva’s first new line under in the J. Cortès era.

There are two blends. being introduced under the Gilberto Oliva brand. The Gilberto Oliva Reserva features a Sumatra wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and all-Nicaraguan filler. Meanwhile, the Gilberto Oliva Reserva Blanc features a Ecuadorian wrapper and binder over all-Nicaraguan fillers. Both blends are offered in five sizes (Corona, Robusto, Toro, Torpedo, Churchill). Pricing for the Gilberto Oliva Reserva Blanc ranges from $5.25 to $6.40 while the Gilberto Oliva Reserva ranges from $5.75 to $6.90.

Originally the Gilberto Oliva brand was planned to be released as the Facundo Oliva brand, but there was a trademark conflict. There actually was a Gilberto Oliva brand once before back in 1995.

Fabrica Oveja Negra, the factory best known as the production facility for Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio, is moving into a larger, freestanding facility in Estelí, Nicaragua. Today plans were announced for the factory move. It is anticipated construction of the new facility will be completed by October 1st.

The new factory will be at located at the South entrance of Estelí on the Pan-American highway. It will include a large production area, tobacco storage facility, state-of-the-art aging room, retail store, cigar lounge and exhibition space. Factory visits can be arranged by appointment. The growth has been rapid, as it was only early in 2015 that Black Label Trading Company announced it was moving into its own factory.

“The little factory that could, is the little factory that did! We are very excited about the expansion to a larger location. Our brands BLTC & BLK WKS have seen tremendous growth since we opened Oveja Negra in 2015 and its time to grow the factory accordingly. The new location will allow us to maintain and slowly increase our production to better serve our expanding customer base. We have always grown organically and kept true to our small batch philosophy, that will not change. The new location will allow us to increase our capacity with enough room to have creative spaces and continue to focus on incorporating our artistic abilities into our products.” stated James Brown, partner at Oveja Negra and Black Label Trading Co.

In addition, Fabrica Oveja Negra has taken on other clients including Veritas, Nomad, and Emilio Cigars.

“This is a tough industry for small companies. It’s hard to get the attention you need to create a premium product. Our goal is to help support other boutique brands and grow the premium-cigar market,” added Brown.

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 264

Operation Choke Point, an initiative started by the Department of Justice under the Obama Administration that targeted certain businesses such as the tobacco industry has ended. According to a letter sent by the Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, the Department of Justice would no longer be pursuing this initiative.

Operation Choke Point was launched in 2013 and has targeted certain legally operating industries that have been deemed “high risk” by pressuring banks to deny financial services. Targeted businesses under this program have included tobacco businesses. In fact, several tobacco-based businesses (including IPCPR retailers) have already said they have been impacted by this program and denied financial services.

In the letter Boyd stated:”All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as a part of Operation Chokepoint are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again.”

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (Missouri), a major opponent of Operation Chokepoint said he will continue to push legislation to prevent a future Administration from reinstituting the initiative

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that it will defer a ruling on a motion by six public health organizations to intervene as defendants in the cigar industry’s lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The ruling was made by Judge Amit P. Mehta.

This motion is of particular importance to the lawsuit as if such a motion is granted by the court, the health organizations will play a key role in the forthcoming litigation.

The court is asking for a Joint Status Report that is due on September 4th for an update n where things stand with the litigation.

The action by the court was taken for two reasons: 1)  “the parties’ ongoing efforts to narrow the issues in dispute, and the potential relief sought, is likely to materially influence the court’s intervention decision”; 2) the court stated that the Proposed Intervenors concerns that the Federal Defendants will bargain away aspects of the interpretation and enforcement of the Deeming Rule are purely speculative and no evidence has been demonstrated to substantiate that claim.

Alec Bradley’s 2017 TAA Exclusive release is now heading to retailers. This week, the company announced shipment of the Alec Bradley Black Market Illicit to Tobacconist Association of America (TAA) retailers.

While the Illicit is branded under Alec Bradley’s Black Market line, it is a different blend. The Illicit features a Nicaraguan wrapper, Honduran and Nicaraguan binders, and fillers described as “from small yield farms” in Nicaragua. Illicit will be offered in one size – a 6 x 50 Toro. The cigars will be packaged in 22-count boxes.

Pricing of the Illicit is set at $8.75 per cigar. The Black Market Illicit is also planned to be an on-going exclusive release for its member

Fans of Illusione’s Singularé series have a new installment to look forward to. At the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, the company announced that the next installment will be a 7 1/2 x 50 vitola known as the Illusione Singularé 2018 Turin.

The new Illusione Singularé 2018 Turin will be packaged in 15-count boxes. The cigar features all-Nicaraguan tobaccos and includes the Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 Cafe Rosado (a.k.a. “Epernay” wrapper. The Turin is branded as the Illusione Singularé 2018. There will be no 2017 installment.

Singularé first made its debut in 2010, and with a couple of exceptions, this has been an annual limited edition release. It has become one of Illusione’s most popular lines. Last year, Illusione announced that the Illusione Singularé 2010 Phantom the Illusione Singularé 2014 Anunnaki, Illusione Singularé 2015 Miserere (6 3/4 x 48) and  Illusione Singularé Kadosh were becoming on-going releases.

It’s been three years since we have seen a nationwide launch out of Davidoff’s Zino brand, but at the 2017 IPCPR, the brand came back with a bang – introducing the Zino Platinum Z-Crown. This is the brand’s most super premium release to date.

The Zino Platinum Z-Crown consists of two blends, each available in a single, unique vitola. Both blends incorporate eight-year-old aged fillers. Once rolled, the cigars were rested another four years.  The Zino Platinum Z-Crown Stout is a 7 x 52 torpedo consisting of a Dominican Semilla 253 wrapper, Ecuadorian Connecticut binder, and filler from the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, the Z-Platinum Z-Crown Chubby is a 4 15/16 x 54 perfecto consisting of a Semilla 702 wrapper, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder, and a combination fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Each Zino Platinum Z-Crown cigar is packaged in an individual blue glossy coffin. The cigars are packaged in ten-count boxes that keep to the contemporary look of the band. As mentioned, these are super premium offerings. The Stout is priced at $75.00 per cigar while the Chubby comes in at $100.00. Both cigars are limited in production to 1,000 boxes.

Drew Estate has announced that Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG) Canada will now handle distribution for its products in both the domestic and duty-free markets in Canada. Concurrently, this announcement ends Drew Estate’s relationship with House of Horvath, which had been handling Drew Estate’s distribution for the past three years. The new distribution agreement with STG Canada goes into effect August 28, 2017.

In a press release announcing the new partnership, Alex Goldman, Vice President of International Business Development at Drew Estate said, “We are excited about our partnership with STG Canada, and plan to build on the success that we have enjoyed in this tough market over the past few years.  I want to thank the House of Horvath team, and especially Colm and Cathy O’Shea for their passion and professionalism in building up the Drew Estate brand in Canada over the past 3 years.”

STG Canada is the Canadian subsidiary of Scandinavian Tobacco Group, the parent company of General Cigar Company..

The Scoop With Coop – Episode 263

Todos Las Dias, a new line Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust that was showcased at the 2017 IPCPR is now en-route to retailers.

Todos Las Dias is Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust’s first Nicaraguan puro cigar. It is produced at the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Nicaragua. The cigar is available in four sizes: Half Churchill, Robusto, Toro, and Double Wide Belicoso.

Each size is available in ten-count boxes. Pricing range from $10.45 to $12.45 per cigar.

Matt Booth’s comeback to the premium cigar industry is now in full swing. This week, Hit & Run, a collaboration Booth has worked on with Robert Caldwell has begun to ship to retailers.

A small batch of Hit & Run was shipped to select retailers prior to the Trade Show. The cigar is produced at Tabacalera William Ventura in the Dominican Republic. The blend consists of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Dominican filler. The cigar is being offered in five sizes: Corona, Almost Robusto, Piramide, Super Toro, and Perfecto (5 1/8 x 60). The cigars are packaged in ten-count boxes.
Booth and Caldwell also showcased a second collaboration at this year’s iPCPR Trade Show done in conjunction with AJ Fernandez. That release was originally called “The Truth” but the name is being changed due to trademark issues.  This second collaboration is expected to hit retailers this Fall.

Maine and Oregon Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

The number of U.S. States that have a minimum age of 21 to purchase has gone up to five. Maine and Oregon now join Hawaii, California, and New Jersey as States where the minimum tobacco purchase age is now 21.

The raise to age 21 in Oregon occurred this past week when it was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown. Brown’s signature on the bill came as no surprise to many.

After the Maine legislature passed a bill to raise the tobacco age to 21, it was promptly vetoed by Governor Paul LePage. At the time of the veto, LePage said, “I’m not going to strap a gun to their shoulder and go fight a war if they can’t go buy cigarettes. I’ll tell you, this is just sinful, it is absolutely sinful, and I believe that at 18 they are mature enough to make a decision and I’m tired of living in a society where we social engineer our lives.”

About a week after LePage’s veto, the Maine legislature overrode the veto, thus raising the smoking age.

The new law in Maine goes into effect July 1, 2018. As for Oregon, the law has gone into place immediately.

For the fifth year in a row, L’Atelier Imports is releasing its Extension de la Racine line. This year’s edition known as ER17 is a throwback as L’Atelier brings back the same 5 7/8 x 52 Toro size. This is a cigar that as in the past was made available to only those retailers that attended the IPCPR Trade Show.

The Extension de la Racine series was launched in 2013. It is an annual limited production series by L’Atelier Imports that is done in a different size each year. In 2013, the ER13 was the first installment of the Extension de la Racine and it was released in a toro size.  

The name L’Atelier Extension de la Racine is French for “extension of the root”.  It is meant to be an off shoot of the original core L’Atelier line. The blend features a Nicaraguan Criollo wrapper, L’Atelier’s signature Sancti Spiritus binder, and Nicaraguan fillers.