EPISODE 495 – (Originally Aired 4/29/23)

Steve Zengel, Founder and CEO of Los Caidos Cigars Passes Away

Steve Zengel, the founder and CEO of Los Caicos Cigars died on April 23, 2023, after a brief illness.

Zengel, who held a Doctorate degree from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, had been in the cigar business for over a decade. In 2012, he would found Beach House Cigars in Seaside Heights with a group of friends. Later that year, the store was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Following the storm, the store would relocate to Wall, New Jersey.

Steve was affected by the tragic death of two law enforcement officers, Christopher Matlosz, a Lakewood (NJ) police officer, and Marc Castellano, A New Jersey State Trooper, both of whom were killed approximately ten miles from the new location. It was from that point that Steve would turn his attention to helping the families of fallen police and firefighters. He would establish the Los Caidos brand and dedicate $1.00 from the sale of each cigar to raise and distribute funds to those families affected by a fallen police officer or firefighter.

Los Caidos would have two blends made by Aganorsa Leaf, Los Caidos Blue and Los Caidos Red. Both are identical Nicaraguan puros. While the blend was the same, the cause was different. Los Caidos Blue goes to help the families of fallen police officers. Los Caidos Red goes to help fallen firefighters. Steve not only sold the cigars, but he also worked a grassroots effort through events to sell the cigars in order to raise funds.

He added another component to helping these causes with the Life of Ridetime program. This involved organizing motorcycle rides (Steve was an avid Harley Davidson enthusiast) and combining them with cigar events in order to expand on the cause of Los Caidos to help fallen police and firefighter families.

Steve is survived by his wife Lorri and their sons, Will and Chris.

Macanudo Gold Label 2023 Release Includes Limited Edition Gold Nugget

General Cigar Company has announced the Macanudo Gold Label is making its annual return. For 2022, the series will include a new 4 1/2 x 60 limited edition Gold Nugget size for 2023 as a part of the collection.

Originally released in 2002, the Macanudo Gold Label gets its name from its golden brown wrapper. The wrapper is a Connecticut Shade from the first and second primings. The cigar also features a Mexican San Andres binder from the first and second primings. The filler is a blend of Dominican Piloto Cubano and Mexican Tobaccos. A total of eight frontmarks will be a part the 2022 release.

In a press release, Steve Abbot, director of marketing said, “Macanudo Gold Label continues to delight cigar smokers with its alluring mellow blend. This cigar makes for a great indulgence on its own and is equally as versatile when it comes to pairing. We’re delighted to bring the blend back for its 21st year and look forward to sharing it with cigar lovers across the country.”

Diesel Cigars and Rabbit Hole Bourbon Team Up for Diesel Whiskey Row Founder’s Collection Boxergrail

Diesel Cigars and Rabbit Hole Bourbon have announced their third collaboration, the Diesel Whiskey Row Founder’s Collection Boxergrail. This is a limited edition cigar done with Justin Andrews of STG, AJ Fernandez, and Kaveh Zamanian, founder and whiskey maker of Rabbit Hole.

Diesel Whiskey Row Founder’s Collection was developed by Justin Andrews, blended by AJ Fernandez and handcrafted at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez in Estelí, Nicaragua. The cigar features a proprietary aging process developed by AJ.

The limited-edition blend is centered on a proprietary Nicaraguan Habano binder leaf selected for aging in the handcrafted wood-fired, toasted, and charred #3 new American oak barrels that aged Rabbit Hole Founder’s Collection Boxergrail Rye Whiskey.

The binder surrounds a Nicaraguan Habano filler, and the Diesel Whiskey Row Founder’s Collection is finished with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The cigar comes in one size known as Boxergrail (a 6 x 52 Toro). The cigars are presented in ten-count elegant boxes that mirror the packaging of Rabbit Hole Boxergrail Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. Pricing is set at $15.79 per cigar or $157.90 per box. The cigars are expected to reach retailers on May 1 to coincide with Kentucky Derby weekend.

In a press release, Justin Andrews said, “With Diesel Whiskey Row Founder’s Collection, we set out to take our partnership with Rabbit Hole to a deeper level. Aging tobacco in rye barrels is completely unique in the handmade cigar space and I believe that we have created a cigar that will stand apart in a crowded marketplace. AJ, Kaveh and I agree this blend is one of the most versatile and provocative cigars we’ve ever smoked, and we believe it’s because we were guided by a mutual commitment to innovation. By giving the binder leaf its own personality and introducing the complexity of rye whiskey, we’ve created what we believe to be the ultimate cigar, one that pairs beautifully yet also makes a statement on its own.”

Kaveh Zamanian, founder and whiskey maker of Rabbit Hole added, “As a longtime cigar smoker, I believe that pairing cigars with whiskey is an art. It is for this reason that I instinctually selected our highly-regarded Boxergrail Founder’s Collection Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey casks for this collaboration. I knew that these exceptional barrels would lend intriguing notes to the tobacco and would elevate the smoking experience. Given Rabbit Hole’s focus on bringing one-of-a-kind innovations to life, it is a pleasure to have played a role in introducing rye barrel aging to the handmade cigar category. I’m looking forward to sharing this great blend with cigar and whiskey enthusiasts across the country.”

The partnership with Diesel and Rabbit Hole started in June 2018 with the release of the Diesel Whiskey Row. The following year, the second collaboration, the Diesel Whiskey Row Sherry Cask, was released.

Diesel Cigars are distributed by Forged Cigar Company.

Fratello Cigars Announces The Lunar to Commemorate Upcoming Lunar Landing Project

Fratello Cigars has announced it is releasing a new series of cigars that will coincide with the upcoming Nova-C Lunar Landing project – known as The Lunar. The release is also coinciding with Fratello’s ten year anniversary. The Lunar is being done in collaboration with Steve Altemus, the former NASA Deputy Center Director for Johnson Space Center and founder of Intuitive Machines.

Altemus founded Intuitive Machines in 2013 and is a leading participant in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, having been awarded contracts for three missions to date. Each mission requires Intuitive Machines to design, build, launch, and land the company’s Nova-C lunar lander, which aims to deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s surface to help lay the foundation for human missions and a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface. Intuitive Machines’ first mission called IM-1, is scheduled to launch later this year.

Fratello Cigars founder Omar de Frias spent many years working for NASA. In the past, he has incorporated space themes into his releases including the Navetta, Navetta Inverso, and Space Fresh Pack.

“I am incredibly honored to be part of this historic moment. When Steve approached me a few years ago to create a cigar to commemorate this momentous launch, I knew we were working on something truly special,” said Omar de Frias in a press release. “The fact that the Fratello Brand will be reaching the moon is a moment of triumph for Fratello fans around the world. During my 12 years at NASA, successful missions were always celebrated with a premium cigar. This year, that celebratory cigar will be The Lunar,” added de Frias.

“Capturing Intuitive Machines’ spirit of exploration in a brand on Earth is an exciting collaboration,” said Steve Altemus, President and CEO of Intuitive Machines. “This has been a unique and exciting experience, and Intuitive Machines is proud to be a part of creating a small piece of history.”

There will be three releases under The Lunar umbrella. First will be two limited production blends. The first blend features a Connecticut Shade wrapper, Mexican binder, and Dominican, Nicaragua, and Cameroon filler. This cigar will be available in one size – a 5 x 50 Robusto

The second blend features a Cameroon wrapper, Dominican binder, and Nicaragua and US filler. This cigar will also be available in one size – a 5 x 50 Robusto.

Both the Connecticut and Cameroon blends come in commemorative 15-count packaging to commemorate the upcoming Nova-C launch. Pricing is set at $14.00 for the Connecticut blend and $15.00 for the Cameroon blend. Production comes from the La Aurora factory in the Dominican Republic.

In addition to the cigars, Fratello will also debut a Limited Edition 18 Count Lunar Humidor in June. The humidor will feature an all-Dominican puro available in one size – a 6 x 52 Toro. A total of 175 humidors were produced with pricing set at $25.00 per cigar.

Fratello Cigars says there will be scheduled launches at ten select Fratello retailers.

Drew Estate to Release Fifth Freestyle Live Pack; Announces 2023 Barn Smoker Schedule, and New Event Cigar

Once again, Drew Estate is giving consumers a chance to sample a cigar before it is announced. The company also announced its 2023 Barnsmoker dates and a new event cigar. The announcements were made on Drew Estate’s April 27th Freestyle Live.

On June 8, 2023, Drew Estate will introduce its newest premium cigar line. And once again, the cigar will be offered as an unbanded pre-release as a part of a new Freestyle Live Event Pack. The event packs are now currently scheduled to be shipped to participating retailers.

The company has used this Freestyle Live event pack concept for the unveiling of the Undercrown 10FSG 20-Acre Farm, Nica Rustica Adobe, and Blackened M81 releases.

The MSRP of this Freestyle Live pack is set at $40.00. Every Freestyle Live Event Pack will include four of the new premium cigars [without bands], a Freestyle Live four-cigar case, a Freestyle Live torch lighter, and a Freestyle Live cigar rest. Additionally, each Freestyle Live Event Pack will include a Freestyle Live badge with a QR code, which purchasers and retailers may use to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win. Participating retailers, prizes, and terms can be found at: https://drewestate.com/freestylelive2023.

Freestyle Live is dope, plain and simple!!! It’s even more dope when Mystery Packs are included as an ‘announcement’ or ‘unveiling.’ People go bananas trying to guess what it could be. I love it. Additionally, this was a huge announcement ‘cause we dropped the Barn Smoker dates and explained how this year will be different from all others, Barn Smoker ‘AFTER DARK.’ Sounds scary, boooo!!!” ​ ​commented Jonathan Drew, Founder and President of Drew Estate, in a press release.

The Barn Smoker dates have also been set. This year there is no Barn Smoker scheduled for Kentucky or Louisiana. The Florida Barn Smoker which is usually held in May has been moved to November. Tickets for Barn Smoker may be obtained here. All questions on Barn Smoker events should be directed to Drew Estate.

  • Pennsylvania: July 15, 2023
  • Connecticut: August 12, 2023
  • Florida: November 11, 2023

Finally, Drew Estate has announced a new cigar that will be available for purchase at events, the Liga Privada H99 Connecticut Corojo Super Ancho. This is a 6 x 60 line extension of the Liga Privada H99 blend – marking the first time a 6 x 60 has been done with a Liga Privada cigar.

Aganorsa Leaf Rare Leaf Reserve Maduro Details Announced

Aganorsa Leaf has announced next month it will release its Rare Leaf Reserve Maduro. This is the second cigar under the Rare Leaf brand. Like the original Rare Leaf Reserve, this will be a blend available exclusively to members of the Aganorsa Select retail program.

Sticking with the mantra of the original Rare Leaf release, the Maduro edition utilizes tobaccos from what Aganorsa Leaf says are select lots from their best farms. The blend features a double binder and fillers from Aganorsa’s farms in Jalapa and Estelí. The cigar is finished with a Mexican San Andres wrapper. The cigar will come in three sizes: Robusto (5 1/4 x 52), Toro (6 x 54), and Box Pressed Belicoso (6 x 52). All of the sizes are presented in 15-count boxes. Pricing ranges from $13.50 to $14.50.

PCA Organizes Call to Action Against Proposed FDA Regulations on Tobacco Manufacturing

The Premium Cigar Association (PCA) has announced its Call to Action against proposed increasing regulations around tobacco manufacturing.

The FDA’s proposed requirements are aimed at tobacco product manufacturers regarding the manufacture, design, packing and storage of their products. The rules are aimed at cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, and vape products. From a cigar industry standpoint, these regulations target cigar factories and pre-industry facilities both domestic and foreign. With the proposed rules published to the Federal Register, a public comment period (which is part of the rule making process) is currently underway

The framework for the Call to Action includes several components.  First, the PCA is establishing a retailer/consumer petition. Those who sign will have their names included on the comments the PCA will submit to the FDA on the proposed regulations. In addition, the PCA is providing guidance to those who wish to submit comments. This includes a video and public comment submission resource and a portal for manufacturers wishing to submit comments. This includes a draft comment that is editable.

The Call to Action includes reference materials including PCA’s position on the proposed regulations and the oral comments that were made to the FDA.

The following is a cover letter published by the PCA on the Call for Action.

The Premium Cigar Association (PCA) is reaching out to you today to bring to your attention a matter of grave importance to the industry. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) proposed a new regulation on tobacco product manufacturing that could have severe consequences for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. This proposed regulation would have a particularly negative impact on small business manufacturers. We urge you to take action and sign the petition below against this proposed rule and voice your concerns to the FDA in support of small businesses across the United States and the world in premium cigar-producing countries.

The proposed standard will require manufacturers to make unnecessary and burdensome investments in new equipment, new procedures, compliance, and additional personnel. These costs will be significant and ongoing, resulting in higher prices at the wholesale and retail levels.

It is important to emphasize that the FDA has not provided evidence supporting the need for this new regulation. The FDA has yet to present data on incidents or illnesses caused by nonconforming premium cigars and pipe tobacco. The proposed manufacturing standard is a solution in search of a problem.

Furthermore, the proposed regulations impose a seed-to-smoke tracking requirement for every premium cigar and a controlled system for managing the return and disposition of tobacco products to the manufacturer. These resource-intense and intrusive burdens mimic how FDA manages pharmaceuticals, which is clearly inappropriate for tobacco. It will devastate small manufacturers overseas, limiting supply and increasing costs for small business retailers in the United States.

We urge you to speak out against these proposed regulations! By signing the petition below, you agree to voice opposition to the proposed regulation. Your name will be submitted with a cover letter to the Center for Tobacco Products and the open public comment docket before the September 6th deadline. Please note that anyone can sign this petition. Still, we urge manufacturers to submit original comments directly to the FDA and have provided resources below on that process.

We must come together as an industry to fight against this proposed regulation and protect small businesses. Please sign the petition below, share this with your friends or customers, and spread the word about this critical issue.

Thank you for your support.

Call to Action

Below is a button to access the petition to submit your name

Click to Sign Petition

If you would like to submit a unique comment to the FDA opposing this proposed rule, the FDA recommends using the following links for additional information and resources: