Father Theodore Hesburgh was maybe best known for running Notre Dame University. But he also for a time oversaw the Civil Rights Commission, the International Federation of Catholic Universities and several U.S. and Vatican delegations. He passed away last week. More than that though, Father Hesburgh smoked cigars for most of his 97 years and rarely had to buy them.
“Just when I think I’m getting low,” he told The Observer in 2013, “someone will come in out of nowhere and say, ‘hey, by the way, I was in Central America and I picked up something for you,’ and they come up with a box of cigars.”
Junior Tommy Schneeman said the president emeritus was smoking the first time he met him.
“He was over 90, and it was like, alright, interesting,” Schneeman said. “[He] never had any health problems, which is like a miracle in itself.
“… He was like, in his gravelly voice, ‘they’ve been trying to get me to quit smoking in here forever, but I told ‘em, if you don’t let me smoke in here, you’re going to have to take my name off the building.’”
So Hesburgh kept smoking cigars — and people kept sending them — until his death Thursday.
As a memorial, candles were put in front of the Notre Dame library named for him…in one of the holders, though, there was a cigar. Very appropriate.
And with that my part of this blog comes to an end. For the past 3 and a half years it has been my privilege to blog about the happenings in the cigar industry. Now it will be someone else’s turn. Until later. Thanks for the read.
We’ve kept you informed about the efforts in Nebraska to once again allow cigar smoking. It is now officially legal again for the state’s cigar bars. Governor Pete Ricketts signed the emergency bill late last week that reinstates the exemption to the smoking ban for cigar lounges. The Governor took the whole 5 days he had to either sign or veto the bill but in the end he signed it and it is now law.
The other side was pushing for a smoking ban in Kentucky, but it appears they lost. I know the CRA was working hard on the legislature.
House Bill 145 passed the House on Feb. 13 by a 51-46 vote. But that was the last vote on the bill.
Supporters of the bill complain that leaders of the Senate's Republican majority delivered the deadly blow two weeks ago by referring the bill not to Adams' Health and Welfare Committee but to the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee.
That committee is chaired by Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, who opposes a smoking ban. Robinson has not called the bill for a hearing and said Monday he would not comment on it until his committee meets on Thursday.
Let’s hope this holds it would be a victory for us.
The Habanos festival is over in Havana…it is not like Pro Cigar, instead it is the Habanos version of the IPCPR trade show. They roll out new products and show off their stuff to the worldwide wholesalers and retailers. With all the talk about the possible normalization of relations with Cuba (personally I am not sure it will happen) Habanos S.A.—the maker of Cuban cigars—predicted that once the embargo is lifted, it will immediately take 25-30 percent of the U.S. premium cigar market. Eventually it says it would end up with 70 percent of the U.S. premium market. No doubt the inclusion of Cuban cigars after being a forbidden fruit would increase cigar popularity.
“It would add to the mystique of the cigars that we’re making,” said Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman Cigar Co., one of the largest American cigar companies.
Of greater concern to many American cigar companies are smoking regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. Under the rules, cigar companies would be required to receive government approval before introducing new product lines and issue new health warnings.
Newman suggested the smoking regulations could shutter his company.
“We can deal with smoking bans, we can deal with the Cuban embargo, we can deal with high taxes — but we’re really concerned about the regulations from the FDA that could wipe us out of business,” Newman said.
But the interesting thing is while the Administration wants to open up Cuba and its biggest import is cigars, at the same time the FDA is trying to crack down on cigars and that would include the Cubans as well. But there could be time to stop the FDA. Last week, cigar makers were walking the halls of Congress to try to get support for HB 662 and S.441 which would keep the FDA out of our humidors. There was some success in that the Senate bill now has 12 sponsors and the House version is up to 52. We need more. You need to write to your Congressional delegation and get them to pay attention before it is too late. It’s easy to do it…just go here.
Then there is the whole issue of trademarks. Altadis owns Montecristo, H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta, among others both in the U.S. and the Habanos versions. No problem there. But General Cigar owns Partagas, La Gloria Cubana, Punch and maybe Cohiba for the U.S. but not overseas. I say maybe for Cohiba because just recently the Supreme Court declined to hear a case on the Cohiba trademark. Cubatabaco was suing General for the rights over the Cohiba name and the last court ruling gave Cuba the win. General was hoping for SCOTUS intervention but that will not happen. The case now goes to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trial and appeal board.
cigar industry · cigar news · cigar shows · Cuban cigars · FDA
In talking with Davidoff CEO Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard at Pro Cigar, he noted the success of the Davidoff Nicaragua, saying it has been the company’s biggest success since its Cuban days. He said that the interesting thing about the Davidoff Nicaragua is that it is not cannibalizing other Davidoffs in that 70 percent of the smokers are new to the brand.
Perhaps because of this success, the company announced it is buying over 370 acres of farmland in Honduras and Nicaragua. The land is in Condega, Nicaragua and the Jamastran Valley of Honduras. The company says it will allow them to continue to get top quality tobacco while allowing it the opportunity to experiment with new and existing seeds.
Davidoff also bought land by its box factory in Danli in order to build a new cigar factory there. The plot is about 450,000 square feet for the new factory and the factory itself in the first phase will have 185,000 square feet, allowing for a 60 percent increase in production for Camacho, Room 101 and Baccarat.
And on the retail side, Davidoff continues to make moves opening flagship stores… the latest one comes in the company’s U.S. hometown of Tampa. It will be a 5,000 square foot store that includes a nice lounge and the biggest Davidoff store in the world. According to CEO Hans-Kristian every Davidoff store will have a lounge because he foresees a time when the only place you will be able to smoke a cigar is in a cigar store.
cigar industry · Davidoff
At Quesada Cigars, they showed off their newest blend made by Manuel Quesada called the Quesada Reserva Privada.
Last year at Pro Cigar, the company marked its 40th anniversary with new cigars and this year it was something special. (The box is even special with a smooth almost glassy finish –it was so smooth I thought it was plastic but no it is wood-- and a hologram on both the band and box.) The key to this new blend is tobacco from the 1997 crop. At the time, Manolo noted that the weather was perfect that year and the leaves all looked great. He thought that crop could be something special and working with his father at the time, the Quesadas put some away in special palm leaf bundles to let the tobacco age slowly. Now they are using that 18 year old crop in this special release. Manolo says this is the best blend he has ever made. It uses an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over Dominican San Vicente binder from 1997 and fillers of Dominican San Vicente from 1997 along with Pennsylvania ligero. There will be only three sizes and initially only a few accounts will get them. As for the cigars themselves, they were rolled in April of last year and are going to be aged one full year…which means no one outside of the Quesadas have tasted one yet. We were told the cigars will be available in April. The cost will be $13-$15.
Speaking of vintages…La Aurora released its newest Puro Vintage 2006 (this is the fourth edition and limited to 1500 boxes of 18.). The Salomon uses a maduro HVA wrapper grown in Ecuador over Brazilian binder and fillers from Nicaragua, Brazil and two different Dominican tobaccos from the Cibao valley. The cigar was featured as part of the Pro Cigar auction where one of two special humidors with the cigars was auctioned off. The special humidor contained the Puro Vintage Salomon which will be available, along with a Doble Figurado (the classic preferido No. 2 size) and a robusto gordo which were made just for the auction.
In addition La Aurora has finished building a new replica of the company’s original factory. Another version of the factory exists in Centro Leon a cultural museum complex donated by the Leon family and adjacent to former site of the La Aurora factory. The new replica located in Tamboril is part of La Aurora’s educational tour of the factory. The company has brought in real tobacco plants to give visitors a tobacco field experience without trekking through the dirt. Another addition to the factory is Cigar World which will be an educational facility. Plans call for seminars on tobacco to be given by former General Cigar president Daniel Nuñez and cigar legend Benji Menendez along with La Aurora’s master blender Manuel Inoa. That would be one seminar I wouldn’t miss.
Earlier, I mentioned the Pro Cigar Auction…that is another main purpose of the organization…to raise money for charities in the Dominican Republic. The auction on Friday night raised a record of just over $100,000 for Voluntariado de Jesus con los Niños and Hospicio San Vicente de Paul—non profit organizations that help sick children and poor elderly.
cigar industry · cigar shows · La Aurora · Pro Cigar · Quesada
While most of the country was shivering in the arctic cold, about 300 lucky souls spent their time in the sunny Dominican Republic last week for Pro Cigar. This is the annual event put on by the Dominican cigar makers to showcase their products and to help educate retailers and consumers alike.
The Pro Cigar festival began in La Romana—home to Altadis USA’s huge Tabacalera de Garcia—the world’s largest cigar factory. Most of the first day was spent relaxing at Casa de Campo, the 7,000 acre resort in La Romana. Tuesday was the tour of Altadis where the visitors got a chance to taste the newest Romeo y Julieta..Anejo. Anejo is going to hit the shelves soon. From La Romana, the group made the 5 hour trek to Santiago, the capital of cigar country.
Santiago is home to literally dozens of factories ranging from large to tiny, but all are devoted to making the best Dominican cigars. Guests at the Pro Cigar Festival had to pick from the events, which made it impossible to visit everyone.
One of the new additions to the tour was Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma in Tamboril. Jochy has been growing tobacco and making great cigars for years and just last year he was voted into Pro Cigar. At his factory we got to see brands like Black Abyss, the highly rated Aging Room series and the new Señorial by Jose Blanco—Jochy’s cousin. At the factory Jose conducted his tasting seminar, having the participants try to determine which wrappers were being used on one cigar. There were a total of 5 different wrappers to taste—each one in a separate band.
General Cigar got the participants a bit more involved. There, attendees got the chance to make their own cigars. Everything from actually bunching the tobacco to make the cigar, to putting a wrapper on it. In the end, each box was a Macanudo—but most likely one that no one would ever recognize for the construction nor taste…but it looked nice. General also rolled out a bunch of tobacco for tasting.
In addition to seeing the different tobacco leaves, the company made up little puros—small cigars rolled from the single leaf of each tobacco. This way, you could taste the characteristics of each leaf. There was Maduro, Nicaraguan Viso, Ligero and Seco, Pennsylvania and Broadleaf tobaccos along with leaves from Peru, Nicaraguan Ometepe, Paraguay, Dominican Olor Ligero and Colombian..all in all 24 different leaves to try. One thing I did learn from Benji Menendez was that Paraguayan tobacco is good filler for certain blends because it has no discernable flavors so you can use it to make, say, a 60 ring gauge without messing up your blend.
cigar industry · cigar shows · General Cigar · Jose Blanco · Pro Cigar
Last week, I mentioned the Cigar Rights of America had introduced a bill in the House to keep the FDA out of our humidors. Now there is a Senate companion bill in the hopper.
Folks I cannot stress how important this legislation is. Earlier this month, a piece in Barrons went over all the FDA issues. You know how everyone is excited about the possibility of Cuban cigars coming into the U.S.? Well if the FDA gets its way they will never make it to our shores.
Mitch Zeller, the head of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, stresses that the recent proposal “will allow us to propose further regulatory action on these and yet-to-be-conceived tobacco products.”
THE FDA HAS MADE SCANT EFFORT to understand the cigar industry. It concedes that it has little idea how many small handmade-cigar manufacturers exist in the U.S. and exporting countries. The agency estimates that compliance with the new regs will cost each small manufacturer up to $759,000 initially and another half-million dollars a year. The Small Business Administration’s Advocacy Office protested that the proposed regulations fail to discuss the costs of the proposed rule on many potentially affected small entities. If the new rules are finalized, many, if not most, small cigar producers will be driven out of business.
The Obama anti-tobacco campaign is driven by zealotry, not science. The FDA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is carrying out a “strategic action plan” with “the bold vision of a society free from tobacco-related death and disease.”
The proposed anti-cigar regulations are based on the principle that the feds have moral and legal authority to prohibit any behavior they decree is harmful. As this principle gains ground, the government can consider bans on caffeine, junk food, and other allegedly addictive substances. But there will never be a Federal Register notice on the perils of total subjugation to imperious bureaucrats.
This commentary nails it. One of the only hopes we have is to get Congress to approve the legislation it now has. We have tried twice before, but now there is a new Congress and one that possibly is more agreeable to our plight.
The legislation needs more co-sponsors and needs to move. You can help by contacting your Congressman and Senator. Let them know you smoke cigars and vote. I don’t care if you have done this before, you need to do it again. CRA makes it easy, just go to the website and enter your zipcode. Please do it today.
cigar laws · FDA
Gurkha Cigars, which claims to have the world’s most expensive cigar—His Majesty’s Reserve – is going upscale once more with another pricy stick. His Majesty’s Reserve is infused with Louis XIII Cognac and that costs about $2500 per bottle -- each one of the cigars costs about a grand. The newest entry to Gurkha is going to be called the Maharaja, which will only cost $500 per cigar. The new Maharaja, according to the release, is a “secret blend of the best quality tobaccos available” using a Maduro wrapper over Dominican binder and filler. If you are looking for this one, good luck - it is extremely limited. Only 1,000 cigars are to be made. They will come in humidors of 10 and there are only going to be 100 boxes.
General Cigar has a much more affordable option…the new Punch Signature. The company just announced the yearly release of the Punch Rare Corojo and now comes the Signature. Now not many details are available about it yet…the cigar debuts the first of March. But in the meantime, the sarcastic Mr. Punch is in full glory, accepting twitter photos and making comments about them making memes on his new webpage. (Example: Don’t smoke premium cigars, you must like Sex and the City too)
The new Punch is coming out of General’s Honduran factory:
Master Blender Agustin Garcia hinted that Punch Signature “was inspired by the original Punch” and that it “mixes tradition with modern tastes.” He also said that he and his team “spent three years developing the blend.”
Here is info on the box and band…
The band is a re-creation of artwork developed in the 1800s for the first Punch cigars. The back of the band features Mr. Punch and his dog, Toby - a throwback to the original Mr. Punch character.
The box will hold 18 cigars and features an acrylic window on it. Details about the blend and prices will be released as we get closer.
Gurkha · luxury cigars · new cigars · Punch
This is the time of year when the Dominican Republic celebrates its cigar heritage with Pro Cigar. The week-long event is limited to about 300 people so there are no huge lines, nor congestion as participants get to interact on a personal level with the nation’s leading cigar makers.
The festival began at La Romana, home to the world’s largest cigar factory, Tabacalera de Garcia—home to Altadis USA’s brands. On Tuesday night the festival moves to Santiago--home to most of the Dominican’s cigar factories. We will be visiting La Aurora, Quesada, Davidoff, Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma, Ernie Carrillo’s Tabacalera Alianza among others. Gonna be a busy week and I’ll report back next week.
cigar industry · cigar shows
Davidoff, whose motto is ‘Time Beautifully Filled’, has come up with a way to do that for cigar aficionados. The company has developed a high-end luxury concierge service called Hourglass Lounge. Davidoff CEO Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard says time is one of life’s greatest luxuries and the Hourglass lounge fills that time richly. The service can book a sold-out show, set up a golf game with a legend, or maybe a private dinner prepared by a celebrity chef. Really top end stuff.
According to the release:
The Hourglass Lounge enables its members to enjoy unparalleled levels of service: from responding to their everyday needs to fulfilling their extraordinary requests and wishes. This service is designed to fill the cigar aficionado’s time beautifully, exquisitely, and exclusively with unforgettable experiences.
That level of customer service is also evident in the innovative “Bespoke Lounge & Cigar Cellar Design by Davidoff/Atelier Oï”, where members can have their personal cigar cellar and lounge designed by a renowned Swiss design team and carefully crafted for them to enjoy cigars in the comfort of their own home. Or, as the world’s first concierge service utterly dedicated to the cigar aficionado, the Hourglass Lounge can ensure its members their chosen cigars will be ready for them, wherever and whenever they want them, VIP access to enjoy some of the world’s finest cigar lounges and events or new Davidoff blends; and unique, limited editions to be experienced before anyone else in the world.
The core offices are in London, New York, Hong Kong, Dubai, Geneva and Munich. There is no information on what this service costs, you can request a call back, but my guess is if you have to ask you can’t afford it.
cigar life · cigar news · Davidoff