JRCigars blog

RIP Kiki

September 30, 2014 · By · No Comments

Kiki Berger

Enrique Kiki Berger passed away last week at the age of 56.  A heart attack was the cause.  Don Kiki, as he was called, got into the cigar business during the boom.  But unlike many others, he stayed in and had his own factory in Esteli.  Mostly, Kiki made brands for others although he  also made Cuban Crafters cigars named for the shop he also owned in Miami.

Berger was the one who made Savanelli’s first cigar by using tobaccos he planted next to the Pan American highway by his factory.  Kiki, despite health problems over the years, was optimistic and friendly towards almost everyone.  He helped young Jonathan Drew and countless others in Nicaragua.  The Padrons sent their respects via Cigar Aficionado:

We are sorry to have lost Enrique 'Kiki' Berger, a champion of the cigar industry who was always happy to help others despite his health issues. By the sacrifice and selfless act of his wife, Karen, donating a kidney to him, his life was lengthened, giving us all additional time with this great man. The Padrón family is united in offering our condolences to Karen and the rest of his family as we pay our respects. We will never forget him; rest in peace."

In 2012, Kiki came out with the first certified kosher cigar made for a Miami company.  Kiki was a big man with a big heart and he will be missed.

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry

NOLA smoking

September 26, 2014 · By · No Comments

The IPCPR has said next year’s convention will be in New Orleans.   New Orleans has been a rather friendly city for smokers, but by the time the convention rolls around, maybe not so much. City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell recently pushed for a smoke-free week in the crescent city and plans to go further with some help from her anti-tobacco friends…

Statewide Healthier Air for All Campaign under the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL). TFL has led the charge in Baton Rouge to push for statewide bans on smoking in bars, though that legislation has failed. But several cities and parishes have recently adopted their own legislation to prohibit smoking in barrooms. Mirroring recent laws in Alexandria, Monroe, West Monroe and all of Ouachita Parish, this fall Cantrell plans to introduce legislation to make New Orleans bars and public buildings smoke-free.

So a tobacco convention is set to spend many bucks in New Orleans next summer and the council wants to ban smoking.  That should work out well.

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · IPCPR

More Evidence

September 25, 2014 · By · No Comments

We’ve often heard that smoking bans do not impact business.  Right.  Witness the catastrophic failure of Downing Street in Houston,  the cigar bar that went smoke free in February and was out of business by May.  Or the casino in Atlantic City Revel that was proudly non smoking, until it hit bankruptcy. Then it quickly added smoking sections—too bad it was too late and is now shuttered.   Now in Macon, Georgia, comes yet another example of how “smoking bans do not affect business”.  Fortunately this one was done by the business owner and not by the city or state.   The Hummingbird Stage and Taproom’s owner announced in late August that the bar was going smoke free September first.  He said it was part of his clean air campaign.  17 days into the clean air” experiment, the owner changed his mind.

Hummingbird owner Tim Obelgoner says they're tossing out their no-smoking rule after less than three weeks because they've lost business.

And many of their loyal smoking customers made it clear that banning smoking was the wrong move, Obelgoner said.

Perhaps he is not a fast learner because he said he may ban smoking again.  It is his business and he can do what he wants.

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No CommentsTags: cigar laws

Happy Oktoberfest

September 24, 2014 · By · No Comments

Oktoberfest

While it is still September, the German tradition of drinking lots of beer and eating tons of food is now underway in Munich.  The 16-day festival will run until the first weekend in October (it began on Saturday).  And what goes better with beer than cigars?  Especially one made specifically for the heavier German beers of this time of year?  Yup the Quesada Oktoberfest is back in stores now and this year there is a very special size of the Perfekto Oktoberfest.  The Perfekto is a 5.75” x 52 blend of all Dominican tobaccos. The previous releases of the Oktoberfest had a nice band with the Quesada Q in the center.  Trouble was you could not tell one vintage from another, so this year the band has changed, with more of a Munich look.  It will allow consumers to determine which vintage is which.  The Oktoberfests are limited editions and come in 6 sizes ranging from the Uber at 6” x 65 to the Krone at 5” x 43.  Prices run from $7.25 to $9.50.  Pick some up and try to pair them with beer…. Please just don’t use Corona or Coors Light with 'em.

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No CommentsTags: new cigars · Quesada

The Other Shoe

September 23, 2014 · By · 1 Comment

Last week, we told you about General Cigar buying Toraño Family Cigars.  It was announced on September 11th and took effect immediately that day.  At the time, we wondered about Sam Leccia, whose blends have caught more attention of late than Toraño –although the new Captiva from Toraño is a good cigar.  Sam is known for last year’s White and Black labels and this year’s Luchador.  Sam said a deal was in the works for distribution… It now seems it was more than simply a distribution deal.  On the 17th, General announced that the company has hired Sam as a “cigar and blend specialist”.  In addition, General bought Leccia Tobacco Company meaning it owns the lines effective now.  Sam is coming into General’s Foundry Tobacco Company – which Foundry head Michael Giannini calls the skunkworks of the company.   (Skunkworks was an official alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development programs and is used widely in business to mean a group within a company with lots of autonomy and little bureaucracy.)

According to the release:

In his new role at General Cigar, Sam will continue to develop his brands while leveraging the company’s vast tobacco resources, premium cigar blending expertise and creative talent. He will also bring new, innovative products to the premium cigar market.  As an ambassador for his brands, Sam will continue on his quest to share his passion for premium cigars with retailers and consumers across the country.

In other words Sam will still be on the road humping his lines except now he will have a regular paycheck.  It also means that Sam will get to play with all the tobacco in General’s famed library just like Michael Giannini has been doing with his Elements series.

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1 CommentTags: cigar industry · General Cigar

Happy Birthday

September 17, 2014 · By · No Comments

While last year marked the 10th anniversaries of both Tatuaje and My Father cigars, this does seem to be the year of birthdays.  Manuel Quesada and his family marked 40 years in business earlier this year with the release of their 40th anniversary line. The 40th anniversary cigars used a nice dark San Andres wrapper over Dominican binder and a combination of Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers.  These were limited cigars with a box press, but the good thing is the same cigars, albeit in different shapes, will be available on an ongoing basis.

La Flor Dominicana is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Ernesto Perez Carrillo is marking 5 years, which doesn’t sound like much but when you consider this is Ernie’s second (or third) time around.  He began with El Credito and his father back in 1977 working out of the little Miami factory.  While the Carrillos made El Credito, they also started making an old Cuban brand, La Gloria Cubana.  The success of La Gloria helped the company grow, to the point that in 1999, Perez-Carrillo sold it to Swedish Match.  Swedish Match eventually bought General Cigar and merged the El Credito factory into its Dominican operations.  Ernie stayed with General until 2008 when he retired.  But by the next year, Ernie opened EP Carrillo cigars in the Dominican Republic.  His Tabacalera La Alianza is now marking its 5th birthday.  Perez-Carrillo makes the E-Stunner, the popular Inch line of cigars including this year’s special Inch Short Run and the New Wave Connecticut.

The company with the biggest birthday this year though is Padron, which is marking its 50th year.  Starting in 1964 Jose Orlando Padron started selling his first cigars.  The first cigars the company made were medium fill but soon Padron was making cigars in Nicaragua.  The company’s backbone is the Padron series.  The 3000 is their biggest seller and during the cigar boom, Padron did not hike prices and kept stores with product, earning a lot of respect from tobacconists.  Even today, the Padron Londres retails for under $4.  The Padron’s ventured into the high end premium market with what was called the Anniversario (today called the 1964 anniversary series).  Going a bit up the scale, Padron brought out the 1926 series to mark the 75th birthday of Jose Orlando Padron.  5 years later, the 1926 80 years came out to mark his 80th birthday.  The Padrons also have the Family Reserve Series which was rated 94 in 2013.  This year the family is putting out the 50th anniversary cigar as part of the Family Reserve Series in a 5” x 54 size.  Cost is $25.  There is another cigar the company is making but in very limited quantities.  It comes in a special 50th anniversary humidor which we showed you from the show.  The cost for the humidor and cigars is $5,000.

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · new cigars

Smoke 'em

September 16, 2014 · By · No Comments

There was a bit of bright news late last week. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have banned smoking in all state parks and would have severely limited smoking on the state’s beaches.  The fines were pretty steep too, $250 for a first offense, $500 second time around and $1,000 for the third time.  This is the face of anti-smokers…make them pay lots.

Environmentalists and anti-smoking advocates praised the bill as groundbreaking, saying it would curb secondhand smoke exposure, cut down on litter, and reduce the risks of fire.

Christie said in his veto message that he appreciates the concerns but derided the measure as a "prescriptive, one-size-fits-all" ban.

Yeah because there is so much to catch fire on beaches…that sand you know.  And unless I am wrong, there are already laws against littering.  Now many towns in Jersey have banned smoking and some towns have done so on their beaches.

"Too often, policy-makers at more centralized levels of government encroach into areas of public policy previously reserved for more localized governing bodies." Christie said in the message. "I do not believe that the state should substitute its judgement for that of our local elected officials or upset the careful balancing of interests that informs the decision-making process at the local level."

Even though the bill passed both houses in the legislature by wide margins, at least somebody had sense to knock this down.

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No CommentsTags: cigar laws

General Grows Again

September 15, 2014 · By · No Comments

Last Thursday, General Cigars announced its latest acquisition —Toraño Family Cigars.  In a way this is a logical extension for the company.  Scandinavian Tobacco Group in 2007 first bought CAO from the Ozgener family.  The cigars were made in the Toraño factories in Esteli.  The next year, STG purchased Toraño’s factories in both Nicaragua and Honduras. But the Toraño brands were not part of that deal except that STG helped with the distribution of the cigars.  In 2010, STG merged with Swedish Match in a joint venture that rolled everything into the General Cigar umbrella.  At that time, Toraño took back distribution of the family brands.  Toraño has a rich history, dating back to 1916. 

“There is a long-standing and proud history of partnership between General Cigar and Toraño, dating back to my family’s exodus from Cuba. There is no other company that I would rather have continue my family’s legacy, and I look forward to seeing the Toraño brands prosper under General Cigar’s expertise,” said Toraño president Charlie Toraño.

When Charlie’s grandfather was in Cuba, he sold tobacco to the Cullman family when it owned General Cigar, then when he fled Cuba in 1960, it was Ramon Cifuentes and General Cigar who gave him his first U.S. job growing Connecticut tobacco which he had been doing in Cuba before his exodus.

Says Dan Carr, president of General Cigar,

 “The acquisition of the Toraño brands represents an opportunity for us to strategically expand our portfolio. Our companies have been intertwined for over 50 years and I look forward to working with Charlie Toraño on plans to celebrate the upcoming centennial and to carry forward the vision, passion and innovation that is synonymous with the Toraño name while also leveraging our resources to bring even greater excitement and reach to our trade partners and consumers.”

Both General and Toraño say the blends of the current lines will remain the same.  My guess is this is a win for both companies in that General gets another line that can be sold overseas (remember the trademarks for Cohiba, La Gloria Cubana, Punch and Partagas are for the U.S. market only, Cuba has them elsewhere)  and Toraño gets wider distribution.  The deal was kept fairly secret…even Jack Toraño, Charlie’s cousin who worked for the company, said on Facebook he had no clue.  The fast changeover also begs the question of what happens to Sam Leccia’s lines.  Toraño had been his distributor for his Luchadore, Leccia White and Leccia Black cigars.  Sam says he is working to set up a new distributor. 

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · General Cigar

Kuuts

September 10, 2014 · By · 1 Comment

Ok this is probably a name that you don’t know.  The company has been making and selling cigars in Europe for many years and only last year did it start knocking on U-S doors.  The cigars are made in Danli, Honduras at the company’s factory.  This year at the trade show they upped their presence.  Most of the company’s cigars are medium bodied and fairly reasonably priced.

Kuuts Tabacalera ZapataThe lightest one is the Tabacalera Zapata which uses a Connecticut seed grown in Honduras for the wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and fillers from Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico.  It is considered a mild to medium smoke, perhaps good for the morning.  It comes in 5 sizes from a 5.625” x 46 Corona, to a 5” x 50 Robusto, a 6” x 52 Toro, a 55” x 54 Torpedo and a 6” x 60 Toro Grande.  List prices run between $5 and $8.

Kuuts Placeres ReservaThe Placeres Reserva is a step up from the Zapata.  It uses a Habano seed grown in Jalapa, Nicaragua over a Costa Rican binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. It too has 5 sizes : Marevas at 5” x 42; Estrellas at 5” x 50; Belicosos at 5.5” x 52; Colosos at 6” x 54 and the 6” x 60 Toro Grande.  List prices run from just under $6 to just over $8.

Kuuts MiroThe Miro is the strongest cigar with a medium to full body, using Sumatran wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers.  There are 5 sizes, but this one starts with the Momentos at 4” x 48 that was introduced at the show, Robusto at 5.25” x 50, Toros at 6” x 52 Torpedo measuring 6.125” x 52 and Gordos at 6” x 60. List prices run from $6 to $8.

The newest line from Kuuts was its Nicaraguan blend.  Again medium bodied, but with a touch more flavor.  The stick uses a Habano seed grown in Ecuador for the wrapper and then binder and fillers from Nicaragua.  Coming in 5 sizes from the above mentioned Momentos, to a Pequeño at 4.5” x 58, Robusto  5” x 52, Toro 6’ x 52 and a Gordo Especial at 7” x 60. List prices are just under $5 for the Momentos to just under $7 for the big boy.

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1 CommentTags: Kuuts · new cigars

Hypocrisy

September 09, 2014 · By · 3 Comments

Recently in a cigar store, I was asked if I favored the legalization of marijuana.  I said no. When asked why, I simply said that pot smokers are hypocrites.  They will light up a joint, but then hack and cough if one were to light up tobacco around them. If all the people in favor of legalizing pot backed tobacco smokers as well…it would be a different story.

A public opinion survey put out last week supposedly shows that the majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana.   39 percent of the 450,000 surveyed show they strongly support the legalization, while another 19 percent somewhat favor it.

Jennifer Sikora, a spokesperson for CivicScience, explained to The Huffington Post that although the survey was online, the company uses browser cookies to keep respondents from answering the question more than once. In order to further hedge against a person answering the same question multiple times, the question is part of a pool of more than 1,000 rotating questions on multiple websites to further decrease the possibility that a respondent might happen upon the same question again. Still, Sikora says, there is a very small percentage of respondents who do repeat the answer (after all, cookies can be deleted), but the 453,653 U.S. adults in this survey are unique.

The question was “would you support or oppose a law that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol?”  23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot for medical uses and Colorado and Washington have legalized it for recreational use.  However, Washington and Colorado have bans on smoking tobacco.  Do they seem to think that all pot users will eat it?  After all, smoke is smoke.

And what of regulation?  It occurs to me that marijuana is a drug.  Isn’t the name of the federal agency that intends to put cigars out of business the Food and DRUG Administration?  They seem to have no interest in pot, but are more concerned about nicotine.  

At the end of last month, the FDA and CDC put out a release that was very deceptive.  They don’t want e-cigs, nor any other form of tobacco because, I think, it hurts pharmaceutical sales of Nicotrol, Nicorette, Chantix and the like.  The National Youth Tobacco Survey massaged the data to get results that could be exploited.

Intention to smoke conventional cigarettes was 43.9% among ever e-cigarette users and 21.5% among never users.

“The increasing number of young people who use e-cigarettes should be a concern for parents and the public health community, especially since youth e-cigarette users were nearly twice as likely to have intentions to smoke conventional cigarettes compared with youth who had never tried e-cigarettes.” said Rebecca Bunnell, Sc.D., M.Ed., Associate Director for Science in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health and the lead author of the study.

Carl Phillips takes the report to task on several points:

So what did they find? They reported that according the 2013 NYTS, 263,000 never-smoking American youth, grades 6-12, had ever tried one puff of an e-cigarette. The lies start here. They describe this as “used e-cigarettes” even though no rational person would interpret “use” to mean “tried one puff ever”...    It is also worth noting that this is far lower than the roughly 5% of the “youth” in the population who are of legal age to buy cigarettes, cannabis where it is legal, and e-cigarettes where they are age-restricted.

Further, the quarter of a million number comes from the kids who EVER tried a puff, not just in 2013.  As for the percentage of “youth” that had intentions to use e-cigs, well they had to juggle the numbers.  When asked if they would smoke, the choices were basically definitely yes, probably yes, probably no and definitely no.  The FDA CDC decided that anything other than a definite no was intention to smoke.  Really?  This is the kids of “science” we are up against.  Liars.

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3 CommentsTags: cigar laws · FDA