EPISODE 480 – (Originally Aired 11/5/22)

Micallef Cigars to Retire Grande Bold Portfolio

Earlier this week, Micallef Cigars began informing its retail partners that it will retire the entire Grande Bold portfolio of Cigars in January 2023.

The Grande Bold portfolio was first launched at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show. It consists of five blends and a total of 22 vitolas. These blends include the Ligero, Maduro, Mata Fina, Nicaragua, and Sumatra lines. The lines are distinguished by the red-colored boxes.

Micallef Cigars is actively working with their Brick & Mortar partners over the next 90 days to develop a plan for each shop. The company says that consumers who enjoy Grande Bold will benefit from various retailers who are preparing specials. The remaining Grande Bold cigars not sold by Micallef Cigars will be donated to Cigars for Warriors.

During the initial years of FDA regulation, the ability to construct new products without predicates was a significant concern to Micallef. Today with a more optimistic regulatory environment, Micallef Cigars will move forward, relying on its own factory in Estelí, Nicaragua and its exclusive predicates. The company has seen significant growth with the lines produced out of the factory; these include the Connecticut, Experiencia La Crema, Herencia Habano, Herencia Maduro, Leyenda, Micallef A, Migdalia, Reata, Reserva, and Torcedores.

“We are excited about how the investments we’ve made in our factory and tobacco inventory are producing Micallef Cigars people love!” said Dan Thompson, President of Micallef Cigars. “We are focusing our portfolio to better serve consumers through our family-owned Brick & Mortar business partners. This business decision positions us to oversee the journey from the field to our friends and ensures the best experience.”

While Grande Bold is being discontinued, the company has a pipeline for new product development. Early in 2023, Micallef will introduce Robusto sizes into the Micallef Reata and Micallef A lines.

StillWell Star Holiday Y2022 Release Arrives at Retailers

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT)’s Stilwell Star Y2022 has begun to arrive at retail stores. This is first of a planned annual holiday release under the StillWell Star line. Like the other StillWell blends, the Holiday Y2022 incorporates pipe tobacco – in this case, a blend designed to coincide with the year in holidays.

“A tradition in Pipe Culture is for carvers to craft one-off pipe designs and for blenders to create special mixtures to smoke and celebrate the Holidays. In honor of this practice, it was always my intention to follow suit within our StillWell Star line of puros,” states Steve Saka, the founder of DTT, in a press release.

He continues, “This year’s release is a delightful aromatic puro with a carefully balanced selection of mild Cavendish Burley and choice Virginia tobaccos incorporated. Unlike the Aromatic No. 1 in the core line, this Holiday release does not feature a dulce cabeza, however the tobaccos themselves are wonderfully sweet to the tongue – the flavor and aroma are nothing short of exceptional. Personally, I find the smoking experience to be like sipping a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows fireside. It is nuanced and balanced, a very deftly executed blending of cigar and pipe tobaccos that evokes the emotion of enjoying a relaxed Christmas morning.”

Ozgener Family Cigars Shifts Production of Bosphorus to Tabacalera La Alianza

Ozgener Family Cigars is shifting production of its core line Bosphorus to Tabacalera La Alianza, the factory owned by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. The factory change was first reported by Cigar Aficionado.

While the report gave no specifics on what is driving the change, the change is widely believed to be driven by the fallout of the strategic partnership with Crowned Heads and Ace Prime (now Luciano Cigars). Ozgener is also a partner in Crowned Heads. When he launched Bosphorus, it was being produced by Tabacalera Pichardo, a factory associated with Ace Prime.  Crowned Heads has a long association with Perez-Carrillo and Tabacalera La Alianza going back to the company’s initial release, Four Kicks.

The report goes on to see the sizes, box counts (20) and pricing will remain the same. The sizes and box counts (20) will remain the same: B-50 (4 x 50, $12.00/cigar), B-52 (5 x 5, $12.75/cigar), B-54 (6 1/2 x 54, $13.50/cigar), and B-55 (5 1/2 x 55, $14.25/cigar).

The blend will use the similar components: an Ecuadorian wrapper, a double binder of Ecuadorian Connecticut and Nicaraguan leaves over a filler of all Nicaraguan tobaccos. The big change is the Sumatra wrapper is being changed to an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 wrapper.

When Tim Ozgener announced his return to the cigar industry with Ozgener Family Cigars, Bosphorus was announced as the company’s first release. The cigar is named for the Bosphorus Strait that runs through Istanbul, Turkey and separates Europe from Asia. The cigar itself showcases the heritage of the Ozgener family. Ozgener’s mother was Turkish, and his father Cano was Armenian. Ozgener is particularly proud of the fact that despite a rocky history between Turkey and Armenia, his parents were married for over 55 years and achieved the American dream.

In addition, the report says future projects with Ozgener and Tabacalera La Alianza are planned.

Crowned Heads Announces Azul y Oro

Crowned Heads has announced its first limited edition release out of Nicaraguan American Cigars S.A. (NACSA), Azul y Oro. NACSA is a factory that Crowned Heads has started to work with. Last month the company announced it was moving production of its Le Pâtissier to NACSA.

According to Crowned Heads, the genesis of the Azul y Oro project dates back to the Spring of 2011. This was at a time that Crowned Heads was exploring manufacturing opportunities in Nicaragua. Gustavo Cura, who was in charge of Oliva’s tobacco farms and interests in Nicaragua, had helped facilitate their visit. As a token of appreciation, Crowned Heads co-founders Mike Condor and Jon Huber gifted Cura a bottle of his favorite Scotch whisky well known for its blue label.  Cura says he has the bottle to this day and it remains unopened.

Fast forward to 2022 and Cura is at the helm of the NACSA factory working with General Manager and cigar maker Raul Disla. Now Crowned Heads is working with Cura and NACSA for the production of Azul y Oro.

Azul y Oro is described as a medium plus-bodied blend consisting of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a binder from the Jalapa region of Nicaragua, and a filler consisting of Nicaraguan tobaccos from three regions and Dominican tobacco. The cigar comes in one size – a 6 x 50 parejo. A total of 2,500 12-count boxes (or 30,000 cigars) have been produced.

Pricing for Azul y Oro is set at $11.95 per cigar and is shipping this month

Luciano Cigars Launches U.S. Distribution and Enters Strategic Partnership with ATL Cigar Co.

Today Luciano Cigars announced it has launched its U.S. distribution. The company has a warehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida where it is now directly handling sales and distribution. In addition, Luciano Cigars announced a new strategic distribution partner in ATL Cigar Co.

Under the strategic partnership, the distribution of ATL Cigar products will now be handled by Luciano Cigars. The plan is for ATL Cigar Co to move all production to the Luciano Cigar Factory by the end of the year. ATL Cigar Co also has plans to launch new Luciano-produced cigars in 2023. Finally, ATL Cigar Co will take a minority stake in Luciano Cigars. ATL Cigar Co. has also announced it will stop selling cigars on its website effective December 31, 2022, in order to leverage the nationwide brick-and-mortar network of Luciano Cigars.

ATL Cigar Co. says its ownership status will not change. Leroy Lamar will remain President of ATL Cigars and manage all things related to the ATL brand and marketing. Janelle Lamar will support the back office of Luciano cigars and the integration of ATL Cigar Co products into its distribution network while continuing to manage the marketing of ATL Cigar Co products directly. Peter Gross will remain a partner and minority shareholder in ATL Cigar Co, but now assume the role of Chief Operating Officer of Luciano Cigars.

Meanwhile, Luciano Cigars has formally unveiled what it has been referring to as its “dream team.”  This includes:

  • Peter Gross (Chief Operating Officer)
  • Ed Trevino (Director of Sales)
  • Rebecca Meirelles (Chief Marketing Officer)
  • Kristen Dounoulis (Distribution Manager)

The following products will now directly be available through Luciano Cigars

There are also plans to expand the offerings of Maria Lucia (as it will become a core line) and The Sergeant. The company has also indicated it will be rebranding the Pichardo Clasico and Pichardo Reserva Familiar brands due to its split from Eradio Pichardo.

“It’s not only a rebranding, but a new era in our company. We are expanding our farming, tobacco processing and manufacturing facilities. I am humbled and grateful to have an incredible ‘Dream Team’ in place to distribute across the US with in-house reps and broker partnerships,” commented Luciano Meirelles, President and CEO of Luciano Cigars.

“As an athlete I have always known that dedication, hard work and talent is the recipe for success. What we are experiencing today is just a consequence of these three exponentiated elements. I can say from the depths of my soul that today is a remarkable day for me and for our company,” added Tiago Splitter, Vice President and Co-Founder.

Last month Meirelles announced he was rebranding Ace Prime to Luciano Cigars. At the same time, came word of the end of Ace Prime’s strategic partnership with Crowned Heads. With the new distribution center, Crowned Heads is no longer handling distribution of Luciano Cigars.

Altadis USA to Release Romeo y Julieta Envy

This December, Altadis USA will release a limited edition cigar under the Romeo y Julieta brand known as the Romeo y Julieta Envy. Perhaps most striking is the green-colored packaging used on this release.

The Romeo y Julieta Envy is a Nicaraguan puro that is being produced at the Plasencia factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. It comes in one size – a 55 x 6 Toro known as Amulet. The cigar is being presented in eleven-count boxes, and according to a story by Cigar Aficionado, production will be limited to 10,000 boxes.

In terms of the name Envy, Altadis explains: “Love has its shadows. It can inspire envy. Capturing what triggered that emotion, our signature mix of quality, skills, and passion, have transformed that feeling into a unique smoking experience built around opulent aromas and luscious notes.”

As for the vitola name Amulet, Altadis also explains “The eye amulet – an ancient symbol – will keep the bad energy away. The symbol is also included on the cigar band making the cigar your own personal amulet.”

“This blend was in the making for quite some time because we knew the aging process would bring out amazing notes from these Nicaraguan tobaccos,” says Rafael Nodal, Head of Product Capability, in a press release. “Once perfectly aged, the rest was a matter of finding the ideal size to capture and display them to the fullest! So here it is, this cigar is absolutely fantastic!”

Pricing for the Romeo y Julieta Envy is set at $17.50, making it one of the most premium Romeo y Julieta offerings to date.