EPISODE 461 – (Originally Aired 5/21/22)

Klin Groupe Shuts Down Hammer + Sickle

in Groupe LLC, owners of the Hammer + Sickle cigar and vodka has announced it is shutting down both brands. David Garofalo, owner of Two Guys Smoke Shop has announced he has acquired the remaining cigar inventory of Hammer + Sickle as well as ownership of the brands, and is acquiring Klin Groupe’s warehouse.

Much of the reason for the shutdown is being attributed to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. On Garofalo’s May 7th edition of The Cigar Authority, he explained that when the invasion occurred, various states made the decision to remove Russian and Russian branded products from retail shelves. While Hammer + Sickle cigars are being made in the Dominican Republic, the company did import its vodka from Russia. Several Hammer + Sickle lines contained the Russian Hammer + Sickle logo (minus the Soviet Star).

Garofalo went on to explain that in addition to the pressure coming from some states, there were some retailers stating they did not want Russian branding on their shelves. All of this would lead to Klin Groupe’s decision to shut down the Hammer + Sickle lifestyle brands.

Garofalo’s acquisition of the inventory does not include the vodka business. He stated the three cigar lines with the Russian hammer and sickle branding (Trademark, Trademark Maduro, and La Tradición) are being liquidated at his stores, and is encouraging his customers through a #BurnTheBand campaign to pick up the cigars, but remove and burn the cigar bands. Garofalo also acquired the Hermitage and Berlin Wall lines, but is not liquidating those lines.

Hammer + Sickle was a lifestyle brand founded by Eric Hanson. This began with the launch of Hammer + Sickle Vodka, and in 2010 he would launch the Hammer + Sickle cigar brand. Hanson died in 2018.

Eddie Tarazona Announces Candidacy for U.S. House of Representatives

Eddie Tarazona, owner and founder of Tarazona Cigars, has announced his candidacy for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Florida’s 18th district. Tarazona has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commissionand is planning on running under the Republican Party. The Florida State primary is set for August 23, 2022.

The 18th district has recently been reconfigured as a result of redistricting changes that have been implemented statewide. The incumbent for the House of Representatives seat in the 18th district is Republican Scott Franklin. Franklin currently represents the 15th district, which includes West-Central Florida. Under the redistricting, much of the newly created 18th district includes Franklin’s territory.

As for Tarazona, he is not the first in the cigar industry to run for political office, but he is the first to campaign for a federal office. Cigar industry personnel who have had successful political bids include José Oliva, formerly of Oliva Cigar, who became the Speaker of the House in Florida; North Carolina retailer Todd Johnson, who serves as a North Carolina State Senator; and Nick Perdomo ,who was Vice Mayor of Miami Lakes.

Rick Rodriguez to Launch West Tampa Tobacco Company

ick Rodriguez’s retirement has lasted ten days.  Today Rodriguez confirmed a story on his social media pages published by Cigar Aficionado that he is returning to the cigar industry. Rodriguez, the former CAO Blender and Brand Ambassador, will be teaming up with Gus Martinez, also formerly of General Cigar Company, to launch West Tampa Tobacco Company. In the upcoming weeks, the company is going to market with two blends, Black and White.

West Tampa Tobacco’s White series will consist of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and binder over all-Nicaraguan tobaccos. The Black series is the stronger of the two and consists of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder from Ometepe and fillers from Nicaragua including Condega and ligero from Estelí. Both lines will launch in three sizes: Robusto (5 x 50, $8.99), Toro (6 x 52, SRP $9.99), and Gigante (6 x 60, SRP $10.99). Both will be presented in 20-count boxes. Production comes from the Garmendia Cigar Co. Factory in Nicaragua. Both cigars are expected to be showcased the 2022 Premium Cigar Association Trade Show.

Rodriguez joined General Cigar in January 2000 as a sales representative in Florida. In 2005, he was selected by the late Edgar Cullman, Sr., to participate in a rigorous cigar master training program under the tutelage of Benji Menendez, Daniel Nuñez, and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. After years of studying, most notably with Benji Menendez from 2005-2008, Rick went to join the blending team of La Gloria Cubana in 2008 when Ernesto Perez-Carrillo left General Cigar to start his own company. With Scandinavian Tobacco Group’s (STG) acquisition of CAO in 2009, Rick would move over to become the blender and ambassador of CAO where he was since 2010.

In March, it was announced Rodriguez was retiring from STG, and worked right up until the end of April.

Martinez worked in marketing at STG and will now serve as West Tampa Tobacco Company’s President.