For years, consumers roamed cigar shops looking for a certain brand. The question was do you have any…. and maybe they could get a few. No more. If ya haven’t looked at the website recently, you’ll notice we are now carrying Liga Privada.
You should know the story of the brand. When Steve Saka left JR to become president of Drew Estate, he wanted a cigar that he could smoke. Said Saka, “It was something that when I got to the company, realizing I didn’t smoke flavored cigars I needed a cigar I could smoke and share with people. It was embarrassing to be the president of a cigar company and not have any cigars that you personally smoke on a regular basis. It really began as a cigar for me to smoke, for Jon to smoke and Marvin to smoke.” The name comes from the number of blends they went through to get it right. (It really was a lot more than only 9 and some of the first ones Saka nailed to his wall. They were not what he wanted.) Anyway that is history, the factory is making more of them now, but still not enough. It uses a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over a Brazilian Matafina binder with Honduras and Nicaraguan fillers.
The T-52 is very similar except its wrapper is a stalk cut Habano wrapper grown in Connecticut. So why aren’t there more? As Marvin Samel told me last year, “The broadleaf and the T-52 wrappers are in extremely limited supply and the way we cure it in pilones takes over two years; it can’t be rushed. The yields are not great when extracting wrappers from the pilones. In addition, each of our filler leaves is from individual farms, and no other leaf from any other farm will do. So unfortunately we are very limited with Liga.” But there are enough so we now have them…and the T-52's as well.
There also are the Unicos… Dirty Rat and Ferral Flying Pig, L 40 Lancero and the UF 13. But as most of you know those are on backorder because they REALLY are more limited. But you can pick up a bunch of the Papas Fritas because they are in stock.
I assume some of you watched the Masters over the weekend. It was a great tournament but on Saturday the real action happened. That was when Bubba looked like he may have trouble (he ended up winning another green jacket) But Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez posted a 6 under par 66 to jump up 34 slots on the leaderboard.
Jimenez likes his cigars, even to the point of keeping one going in his mouth while performing his “unique” stretching routine during the Open championship a while back. Then there was the ESPN parody of the Most Interesting Man in the World commercial for last year’s Open. Jimenez is known for his cigars in fact Cigar Aficionado profiled him several years ago. Being from Spain, of course he prefers Cuban cigars… CA says he liked bigger ring gauges 52-56 making the Cohiba Siglo VI and Behikes his top choices at that time. Jimenez shot a 71 on Sunday putting him in fourth place behind winner Bubba Watson and Jonas Blixt and Jordan Spieth who tied for second. Jimenez got a payday of $432,000... He can pick up more cigars with that and undoubtedly will.
Ok I know that big ring gauge cigars are all the rage. Personally, I don’t get it. But then again when I first had a cigar the biggest ring gauges were like 47. Coronas were the biggest sellers. Today not so much. I am told there is a perception of value… getting more tobacco for the money. Anyway for whatever reason the big boys are here to stay—at least for a while. And that brings me to the latest big guy.
Juan Lopez is coming out with a new 7” x 70 cigar with a suggested retail price of $6.75. If you don’t know, Juan Lopez was an old brand from Altadis that got a complete makeover last summer at the trade show. The Juan Lopez is a Nicaraguan puro with tobaccos coming from each of the country’s growing regions. It comes in three sizes 5” x 54, 6”x 54 and 6”x 60. The 7”x 70 will be shipping shortly and should be available in a couple weeks.
H. Upmann is another brand from Altadis. Last year, the company added the Upmann Legacy line, which was a bolder take on the Upmann style. Legacy uses a nice Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican Republic fillers. Also in the next couple of weeks, H. Upmann will be getting yet another addition to the line, The Banker. If you know the history of Upmann in Cuba, you will remember Herman Upmann was a German banker who had cigars made for himself and his special customers. While it began around 1840, the Upmann’s bank and cigars did not do well being associated with Germany during and after World War One. The company went bankrupt by the early 1920s but the cigars were then made for a London based company. The cigars and the company really took off once Menendez and Garcia bought the brand in 1935. Anyway, going back to the Upmann family and their banking tradition, Altadis is coming out with The Banker by H. Upmann. Altadis says it is trying to recreate that original blend used by the Upmanns back in 1844. The Banker uses an Ecuador Habano wrapper and has a Nicaraguan binder from Jalapa over aged Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. The cigar is rich and robust with coffee notes and spice. The Banker will come in three sizes, Annuity at 8” x 52, Arbitrage at 7” x 56 and Currency at 5.5” x 48. Prices are going to be between $7 -$8.40.
Last year was a pretty good year for cigars, actually a recent record. According to the latest data from the government, compiled by the Cigar Association of America, imports of premium cigars were up about 4% last year for a total of just over 317 million cigars. For large cigars, the numbers were up 16 % but the CAA figures a lot of these were formerly little cigars that have been reclassified as large cigars.
Back In February after attending the Tobacco Plus Expo, I wrote about Convenience Stores getting into some premium cigars. General has been there with single foil packs of Macanudo, Punch and Partagas, Altadis has joined in as well, along with Oliva and Rocky Patel. Drew Estate has also been in the market with special ACID cigars. Another new player in the premium market is Swisher. Known for their Swisher Sweets, they have come out with three premium lines for cigar stores and a fourth brand that is a cross-over smoke for both Convenience Stores and Tobacconists called Gold Strike. It is a mixed fill premium with a price of about $2 and comes in three packs or bundles for Tobacconists. Already Swisher has Gold Strike in 9,000 retailers and that should make an impact for this year.
As of last year, cigar sales for Convenience stores was down a little under 3% according to Information Resources Inc. But cigar sales in c-stores totaled $2.36 billion—nothing to sneeze at. And analysts are predicting a strong year in 2014.
Said Tom Pirko, president of BEVMARK LLC, a retail consulting firm in Buellton, Calif. “There is always concern with any type of tobacco that the government will ruin a good thing, but right now, this category is strong and should remain strong for the foreseeable future.”
Right, the government could screw it up which is why you need to contact your legislators and get them to back H.R. 792 or S 772 to keep the FDA out of our humidors. The bill has 152 House sponsors and 14 Senate. We need more. Join the CRA in its fight.
I thought it was just something here in Dallas, but it may be a thing. At one cigar store, on Tuesday nights a bunch of cigar smokers get together for Bible study. They sit and discuss the Bible all the while enjoying a fine premium cigar. Now comes word out of the Cleveland, Ohio, area that a local pastor up there has a Smokin Bible Study group. The leader of the group is Rev. Eric Van Scyoc according to the story written by Linda Kinsey.
Van Scyoc, a Bay Village resident, is shepherd to his flock at St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Rocky River. But from 5:30-6:30 p.m., two Wednesdays a month, he gathers with mostly non-parishioners at the Cigar Cigars shop in Rocky River.
“Smokin’ Bible Study” meets in the store’s lounge, a man-cave–like place with subdued lighting and scrumptious brown leather chairs and big-screen TVs. Although Van Scyoc says women are welcome to attend, I feel a little out of place as I first walk in.
“We’ll give you a free cigar for being new here,” Van Scyoc says to me, asking the store manager to pull a cigar from the box behind the counter. And the participants are good-natured about having a woman and a journalist in their midst. I start to feel at ease. But I probably won’t smoke the Dominican Republic-made cigar anytime soon.
Ahhh she does not know what she is missing.
We recently told you about New Jersey’s bright idea to ban smoking on the beach, well Ocean City, Maryland, is thinking about the same thing. The idea is likely to come up in the city’s next council workshop on April 16th. A couple of weeks ago the city said it also would crack down on profanity. Sh*t Really? Yup. Now comes the smoking ban.
Apparently Mayor Rick Meehan is a goody two-shoes.
Meehan supports a tobacco-free Ocean City, but he said proper enforcement and alternatives will be key to making that happen. It's a contentious issue, and the process of debate and voting will take at least a month, he said. So, while he expects a vote in "the near future," that might not be this summer.
"This is all part of a lengthy conversation," he said. "It's 2014. We all realize the issues that are involved. We want to be fair to everybody and allow areas for smokers."
Also some of the businesses in the area are likely to speak out against it.
Last week was the 20th anniversary of A Night to Remember. If you ever wonder about cigar smokers and their generosity here is something to which you can point. As Greg Mottola writes in CA, about that first event
What might have been another forgettable Tuesday evening in New York City became something quite extraordinary on April 1 as Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado magazine, stepped up to a podium at the Four Seasons Restaurant and held up a brown paper bag—a brown paper bag that wound up raising half a million dollars for prostate cancer research.
Since then, Shanken and Michael Milken—the founder and chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation—have gathered each year to put on one of the classiest charity cigar events. Not only that, but this year, the haul was $1.6 million for prostate cancer research. Over the course of the past 20 years, A Night to Remember has brought in more than $18 million.
For Milken the event is very personal.
"You always want to know the rate of return on your investment," said Milken, who is a prostate cancer survivor. "Since these dinners started, there are two million men alive today due to the reduction in death from prostate cancer. The death rate has dropped 80 percent from projected totals. And the very first trials of abiraterone were financed at this dinner. In 1993, I was given 10 to 12 months to live. Let me thank you, Marvin, and everyone here, for the last 20 years."
It is a star-studded black tie event with speakers like former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani, Rush Limbaugh and former NBA star John Salley. There were rare wines and scotches auctioned along with special cigars and even golf trips. The cigars were a humidor of 50 Padron 50th anniversary cigars which sold for $50,000…another bidder got a mystery package which turned out to be a round of golf and a night out with Rocky Patel in addition to 270 of Rocky’s cigars for $35,000, a stunning Davidoff limited edition humidor with Year of the Dragon and Davidoff Nicaraguan cigars for $25,000, and 200 special Montecristo cigars made just for the event, along with 5 extra boxes of Romeo by Romeo y Julieta that went for $35,000. But the biggest cigar haul was over 800 cigars from Fuentes which included:
A complete set of Fuente Fuente OpusX smokes, Fuente Fuente OpusX Angel's Share, Arturo Fuente Destino al Siglo, the chest of Opus22 (which contains commercially unavailable cigars) and boxes of the Fuente Fuente OpusX Lost City. The lot also included a Fuente Fuente OpusX golf bag, a crystal ashtray, colorful tins of Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars and Arturo Fuente coffee.
Congratulations to CA for really showing what cigar smokers can do.
So when cigar taxes go up what happens? Well ordering off the Internet goes up. So thank you. But people often find other ways to enjoy a good cigar. According to an article last week in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesotans are heading to Wisconsin to light up.
A few times a week, John Schumacher gets in his car and drives across the border to Hudson, Wis., where he stops by St. Croix Cigar Co. to meet with friends and enjoy a cigar.
The former Hudson resident, who resides in St. Paul, says it's the conversation and camaraderie that bring him to the shop's smoking lounges. But it doesn't hurt that the stogie he's puffing on costs less on that side of the St. Croix River.
"There's a huge difference in pricing; there really is," Schumacher said Wednesday, cigar in hand. "The prices are substantially higher in Minnesota."
In Wisconsin, the tax is 71% of wholesale but there is a cap of 50-cents per stick like many other states have adopted. It means a 4 dollar cigar would cost about $5. However in Minnesota, the tax is 95% of the wholesale price with a cap of $3.50 making that 4 dollar cigar now cost as much as $15!
The higher prices in Minnesota have driven some Twin Cities cigar smokers to cross into Wisconsin or go online to buy their smokes, and that has hurt premium cigar retailers in the metro area, said Tom Harlan, owner of Golden Leaf in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
"Taxes are the issue for us," Harlan said of his stores. "We've literally lost all of our box sales. Those customers are still consuming products; they're just not buying them from brick-and-mortar retailers anymore because of the tax."
Of course the anti’s are oblivious to this. They claim the higher prices cut down on smoking. But the reality is that the state is losing money… but then again they aren’t checking.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue did not collect tax revenue data specific to cigars prior to last summer. That was when the state saw the latest increase in its tobacco tax, which on cigars went from 70 percent to 95 percent of the wholesale price.
Asked if it is taking enforcement actions against people who bring cigars into Minnesota without paying taxes, the Department of Revenue said in a statement that it works with other states, as well as local and state law enforcement, "to ensure that Minnesota's tax laws are applied evenly and fairly to all Minnesotans."
Right this tax is fair.
Not only is New Jersey being stupid, as we outlined last week, but so too is Ohio Governor John Kasich. In his budget, Kasich is calling for the addition of 60 cents a pack for cigarettes and raising the tax on cigars from 17 percent to 49%. Oh and he is going to apply the tax to e-cigs as well. Kasich is doing this to try to reduce state income tax by about 8.5%. Guess some people are slow learners.
“Increasing the tobacco tax is not going to stop Ohioans from smoking or using tobacco products," said Beth Wymer, executive director of the Ohio Wholesale Marketers Association. “They will find other ways to make their purchases — ways that will harm Ohio businesses.”
Of the 32 states that raised tobacco taxes between 2009 and 2013, only three have seen revenue hit projections, said David Sutton, spokesman for Altria, the parent company of Phillip Morris USA, whose products include Marlboro, and MarkTen e-cigarettes.
Of course projections on all this money coming in rarely come true which is why several states are going to a cap of 50 cents per cigar.
But what about those evil cigs? Well just recently it was shown that in New York with a cigarette tax of $4.35 per pack, 56.9% of all cigarette purchases are smuggled in. That is up about 200 percent since 2006.
Chicago recently made its cigarette tax to over $7 per pack. Wanna guess where smuggled cigs will now go?
Taxes on cigarettes, which are designed to discourage smoking, vary widely. States such as Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia have levies of less than a $1 per pack. These wide differences make smuggling "both a national problem and a lucrative criminal enterprise," according to the Tax Foundation.
There are many programs across the U.S. that send cigars overseas to our troops. Some are very organized; others are more one-to-one. In Dallas, for example, we often get the name of someone in the service with their address and we send them cigars. One such group was the Tali-banned Cigar Aficionado Club of Kabul. We sent them scores of cigars and they were very appreciative. Here at JR we even give additional discounts to our troops. Right now it is being reported that the Navy is considering banning tobacco sales on all bases and ships.
Officials are reportedly considering removing tobacco from all sales venues, to include any exchange-operated retail outlets, as well as MWR-operated retail outlets where cigarettes may be sold. Commissaries on Navy bases currently do not sell tobacco products.
And it looks like the Pentagon, specifically Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, may want to really push all this. According to Stars and Stripes Hagel says:
“I don’t know if there’s anybody in America who still thinks that tobacco is good for you,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon in response to a question about the Navy review. “We don’t allow smoking in any of our government buildings. Restaurants, states, [and] municipalities have pretty clear regulations on this. I think in reviewing any options that we have as to whether we in the military through commissaries [or] PXs sell or continue to sell tobacco is something we need to look at. And we are looking at it. And I think we owe it to our people.”
But for those serving the country, tobacco use is part of what goes on.
Studies show military members use tobacco at higher rates than same-age civilians. A 2011 DOD survey showed 24 percent of troops smoked, compared with 20 percent of civilians of the same age.
And much of that use is cigars, because they do not break out tobacco use. From what we have heard from the troops, in Afghanistan for example, there is not much to do when you are off duty. So for them, the idea of getting together, sitting down and enjoying a cigar together is a good idea of recreation. But the nannies in this government seem to want to end it.
It would be a shame if the government stops the sales, because the next step would be to stop shipments. And if you did not know it, the Navy gave us the term Dog Rocket. Well not the entire Navy, but Steve Saka, formerly of JR and of Drew Estate, was serving in the Navy in '85 and remembered a gunny who loved cigars. Every evening at sunset, they would gather on the fantail of the ship and enjoy a cigar. In '87, a new Ensign came on the ship and he was a pain in everybody’s ass. One day he went to the gunny asking about this box of cigars he had purchased for his soon-to-be father-in-law and gave one to the gunny to see if they were ok. Continues Saka:
He takes a draw, and gets a funny looks on his face,?then takes another and damn near spits it out. As he tosses the barely? smoked cigar off the back into the water he exclaims, "Sir, this is one?of the worst G'Damn DOG ROCKETS I have ever put in my mouth!!! How much did? you pay for these stinking turds?!?!"
Well, Steve loved the term and years later started using it on the Internet and it stuck. BTW those cigars were great Cubans which the crew truly enjoyed after the gunny got them away from the Ensign.