JRCigars blog

Entries for month: May 2014

New Jersey Blues

May 28, 2014 · By · No Comments

I am not sure what is up with Jersey, but they are going nuts in the Garden State.  First up the state Senate Health Committee just approved a bill to ban smoking in all the state parks and on all the beaches.  The only positive thing about this is a last minute amendment gave localities the right to set aside 20% of the beach or park to be designated a smoking area.  It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.  But expect the opposition to try to strip out the set aside.

"Basically we can now take 20 percent of our parks and turn them into ash trays undermining the purpose of the bill," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said in a statement following the vote. "Instead we want a complete ban on cigarettes at our parks and beaches. Having smoke-free beaches will encourage tourism, while protecting both health and the environment."

Those of you in the state keep an eye on this one.  But the bigger news is Senate Bill 1867.   It just passed out of that same Senate committee. Originally part of Governor Chris Christie’s budget to help grab more tax revenue, (ever hear about spending less?) the plan was to tax e-cigarettes at the same rate as regular cigarettes or 75% of wholesale.  Christie said that would bring in 35 million dollars a year.  Of course that is not right because Jersey has always overinflated how much they will get from the taxes since Pennsylvania is right across the river with lower taxes on tobacco. 

Not content to leave well enough alone, the two democrats who are sponsoring the bill want to go further and increase the taxes on other tobacco products including cigars.  The bill increases from 30% to 68% the general tax rate on tobacco products.  For cigars, the wholesale and use tax will be $2.70 per cigar.  (One tobacconist says the bill would also contain a floor tax on current inventories that would put many out of business.)

John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, urged legislators to take a cautious approach to increasing taxes, noting the findings of a state report that a large portion of cigarette sales has been pushed to the black market due to taxes.

Tom Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, said e-cigarette sales collapsed in Minnesota after the state became the only one that has a separate tax like New Jersey is contemplating.. He said this was likely due to residents purchasing the products online from other states.

This point was supported by Andrew Kerstein, owner of six Smoker's Haven stores, who said the bill would put him "and virtually every other tobacco retailer in the state" out of business.

The genius sponsoring this is Joseph Vitale (d) Johnson& Johnson, er Middlesex. 

"While the science may be out on this, definitely we know that there is harm" caused by the products, Vitale said. While he said he didn't want to harm business owners' ability to earn a living, he added: "We have an industry that's trying to fool us once again."

Yup the Pharmaceutical industry is fooling you…and you are buying it.  They have so much more money than “big” tobacco.  Again if you are in Jersey, call your Senator and Assemblyman and stop this madness.


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Happy Belated Birthday

May 27, 2014 · By · No Comments

Richard Overton

You may remember Richard Overton from last year when I wrote about him being the world’s oldest World War Two veteran.  Well considering Armed Forces Day and Memorial day have just happened, I thought it was important to note Richard marked his 108th birthday this month.  He lives in Austin and still has a Texas Drivers license.

Mr. Overton is one of our favorite people because he still attributes his longevity to smoking cigars!

He was honored last November in Austin and at that ceremony he was given a box of cigars.  Then around Veterans Day he went to the White House to meet the President. And what did he do on that occasion?

 Overton gave the president a box of his favorite cigars.

"He took them. I don't know what he did with them, but he took them," he said

While Overton says he believes in moderation, and with all this FDA health talk about cigars, it should be noted that at 108 Overton gets up every morning and keeps himself busy.

Overton also passes his time with up to 12 cigars a day and a little whiskey in his morning coffee. The hooch helps keep Overton spry, he said.

“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” he said. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”

Now I ask you, 12 cigars a day and booze too?  What is not to love about this man?

Mr. Overton, I hope your birthday was very happy and I wish you many more!


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Introducing PDR Cigars: Soon to be a JR Classic!

May 22, 2014 · By · No Comments

Boy, this is a great time to be a cigar smoker; so many new brands are hitting our shelves and they’re all top-quality smokes! Now if the FDA goes back to focusing on approving more crazy meds with horrific side effects and leaves our industry the F*#K alone, we’ll be in smoking heaven for a very long time!  Where was I… oh, yes, we have four great Dominican boutique lines crafted by  world-renowned master blender Abe Flores out of PDR’s modern factory in Tamboril, Dominican Republic.

What distinguishes PDR from many other boutique cigars is the fact that they are made with a complex rolling style called “entubado,” which is a technique of bunching the tobacco in a way that creates a more intricate filler blend by adding more tobacco while rolling it in a way that ensure a perfect draw. The result is an uncompromisingly rich smoke with massive clouds of tobacco goodness!

As for the flavor, Abe Flores has created his unique blends using only the finest blend of Dominican, Nicaraguan, and rare Brazilian tobaccos. And take a look at this great lineup; each blend has its own distinctive taste that the true cigar enthusiast will love.

PDR 1878 Cubana Especial                                                         

This is a very smooth blend of spice, cedar, and the perfect balance of light herbal notes for a great all-day smoke.

PDR 1878 Reserva Dominicana                                               

This is an extremely savory smoke with hints of chocolate and a tangy peppery bite, making it the perfect complement to a great meal or rich dessert.

PDR A. Flores Gran Reserva                                                        

If you love rich, smooth, and aromatic cigars, this is the perfect blend for you with its complex flavors of nuts and aromatic cedar-like accents.

 PDR Small Batch Habano                                                

 This Cuban-style smoke is lush, subtly spicy, and stout with a cool burn and well-rounded finish.


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Willy Steps Up

May 20, 2014 · By · No Comments

Last week, I kinda hinted that Willy Herrera was taking on more responsibility at Drew Estate.  Now it is official.  Willy has been named Master Blender for Drew Estate.  (He will solely be working on blends; the operation of the factory is still under General Manager Manuel Rubio.)  The announcement was made last Thursday effective immediately.  Herrera originally was recruited by Drew Estate about 3 years ago.  The company wanted him to come up with a “Cubanesque” blend to reflect Willy’s heritage.  The result was the Herrera Esteli that came out in late 2012.  In addition to that original blend Willy added a special edition lancer to the mix within the last few months.  Most are already sold out.

DE co-founder Marvin Samel was in Dallas over the weekend and he told me that this job is a new position for the company.  Willy’s sole responsibility is to make sure that Drew Estate is coming out with exciting new blends for the future. That means coming up with blends to rival the Liga Privada #9, the T-52, the Unico series, the Nica Rustica and the MUWAT.

Willy’s background is in blending having spent 8 years at El Titan de Bronze in Miami where, like the owner Sandy Cobas, he did a bit of everything from tobacco purchasing, to production, quality control and blending.  Not only is this a new position within the company, but also it is the first person of Cuban descent holds a top level position in the company.

Says Jonathan Drew in the press release:

“Willy has the main ingredients, passion, humility and confidence to achieve great results. We intend to challenge Willy in expanding his blending universe, from Liga Privada to Kentucky Fire Cured. This will not be easy for him. Willy will report directly to me, and I am not an easy person to work for. I am very demanding and require absolute excellence when it comes to creativity.”

Because of this decision, the company also has decided to bring Willy’s next blend, Norteno by Willy Herrera into the factory.  It was originally produced in the Joya de Nicaragua factory but with Willy’s new role it is easier to keep it in La Gran Fabrica and this will allow JdN to concentrate on the production of the MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured line and new Joya products to be introduced at the trade show.


Speaking of Willy, his newest cigar is going to be the aforementioned Norteno.  He has been working on it for about a year, having a few samples at last year’s trade show.  He had hoped to launch the cigar this spring, but it simply was not ready. Willy changed out one of the leaves giving the cigar more flavor.  The box-pressed Norteno is different from the Herrera Esteli line in that it is a Maduro using a dark San Andres wrapper leaf over Honduran binder and Nicaraguan filler.  The cigar while, not over the top strength wise, does have a bit more flavor than the Herrera Esteli line.  It will come in 6 sizes -- 4.75” x 48, 4” x 48, 6” x 50, 5” x 50 belicoso, 5.5” x 54 and 6.5” x 44.  No word yet on the pricing.

Research for FDA

I hope you have already gone to the Cigar Rights of American website and voiced your concern about their deeming premium or even all cigars under their control.  If the FDA decides that premium cigars are under their control, we can probably expect an end to the cigar industry as we know it.  The FDA, most likely, would require a listing of all ingredients for the cigars—which fields the tobacco comes from, how it was cured, by whom and the nicotine content for each and every leaf.  That kind of paperwork (along with the resultant fees the government will charge) would end most manufacturers.

The FDA wants to base its decision on science, so here is a link to the National Monograph on Cigars.  Much of what is in here is junk science, but if you look in Chapter 4, there is some good information.   For example on the front of lung cancer, Table 7 shows that if you smoke 1-2 cigars per day (and the average cigar smoker according to the Cigar Association of America smokes only 1-2 per week) between the ages of 50 and 64 the chance of lung cancer is .83 (a non smoker would be 1.0).  It goes up slightly for 65-79 to 1.27 (but epidemiologists will say anything under 3.0 is background noise) and then it drops again for 80+ to .66

If you look at Table 31 for heart disease, the news is good across the board for smokers of 1-2 cigars a day.  35-49 year olds his .72, 50-64 are .97 and 65 and up are .99.  Remember non-smokers are 1.0.  These studies also included people who actually inhaled cigars.

Now the numbers for cancers of the throat, pancreas, urinary, esophagus, larynx, tongue etc. are high.  But remember recently it was shown that the oral, lung and throat cancers were possibly caused by the Human Papillomavirus or HPV.  So the research on these may well be wrong.  I still can’t fathom how cigar smoke causes urinary cancer.  Anyway be sure to get your comments in to FDA, time is running out.




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May 16, 2014 · By · 4 Comments

The Cigar Rights of America group has put out its talking points to respond to the FDA.  Included is the link for you to submit comments.

The group has followed the FDA guidelines we published earlier this week.

There is a group of three introductions from which you can choose.  Then there are the talking points:

•As a consumer, special editions and seasonal blends are a unique experience.   If premium cigar manufacturers are subjected to pre-market reviews it will result in the elimination of new products, and consumers will have fewer options to choose from when looking to purchase limited edition premium cigars.

•Consumers from all demographics and walks of life enjoy premium cigars. Using price would place an unfair discriminatory economic burden on those adults who enjoy premium cigars by setting some arbitrary benchmark for what is “premium.”

•Premium cigars are an adult product, enjoyed in a celebratory manner, with industry surveys substantiating that the average cigar consumer enjoys two to five cigars per week.

•Premium cigars are not marketed to, nor appealing, to minors.

•Premium cigar retailers are already engaged in strict age verification when it comes to purchasing premium cigars and all other forms of tobacco.

•Premium cigar retailers are predominantly small family businesses that create hundreds of community-based jobs. The proposed regulations would jeopardize these jobs, and threaten the contribution of these jobs in neighborhoods across America.

•Consumer taste preferences are unique and different.  A ban on sampling would prohibit consumers from being able to try new products before they make such a significant purchase.

•Premium cigars are an artisan product made by skilled craftsman carrying a rich historical and cultural significance. The proposed regulations would threaten this rich tradition.

•Premium cigars deserve an exemption from federal regulation.

You can mix and match.  Personally I would add any research you know of that helps bolster our side.  Remember it is not a popularity contest, but they want comments to help them decide.  (I do think that their minds may already be made up.)  But your input needs to be there.  We do need to swamp them with opposition.  But only 5000 characters with spaces are allowed.

Here is my submission:

As a journalist, I have met researchers and reported on science and also seen the impacts of bad government policy on economies.  I fear much of the proposal is not scientific and will have a negative impact here in the U.S. on small businesses, but also around Latin America.

Cigars are over 200 years old.  They are not like cigarettes.  You do not inhale them and they are all tobacco.  Most cigar smokers enjoy very few per week.  According to the Cigar Association of America the average number of cigars smoked per week is 2.

As for Option 2, I would go further and say that no cigars should come under the FDA.  In the U.S. there used to be thousands of cigar manufacturers.  Today there is a handful. This deeming would close those family-owned operations.  Marsh Wheeling stogies are made in Indiana; F.X. Smith in Pennsylvania has been making cigars, like Marsh, for over a hundred years.  Finck in San Antonio uses machines to help make their cigars. J.C.Newman in Tampa—the last factory in that city—uses machines as well.  These cigars use some homogenized tobacco leaf but it is still tobacco.  Machine made cigars provide enjoyment to people who cannot afford premiums. 

Even the National Cancer Institute shows cigars to be ok.   The mortality rate for those who smoke 1-2 cigars per day for Lung Cancer and Heart Disease is lower than a non-smoker. (Table 1 page 9 NCI Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 9).  Further, since the average cigar smoker smokes about 2 cigars per week, the data is skewed far too high.  If the FDA wants to use science as its basis, then cigars should be exempted. While we are at it, let’s talk about the “science”.  Geoffrey Kabat,  a researcher who did a study that did not hew to the dogma about passive smoke, found little correlation (as did the exhaustive WHO study which followed) to disease risk from passive or second hand smoke.  Wrote Kabat:

“The problem is that the weak results from epidemiologic studies were used to create a dogma that passive smoking kills, and that any exposure is a danger.

Due to the strong social and political pressures, it became hazardous for scientists to try to do careful, rigorous work on passive smoking. One analytical chemist who wrote the foremost textbook on the composition of, and exposure to, passive smoking used to end his lectures with the words: “If you like to get verbally abused, study ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] and publish politically incorrect scientific findings.”"

Dr. Michael Siegel, a physician with Boston University, laments tobacco control “science” even though Dr. Siegel still is a proponent of the tobacco control movement.  A recent example he notes came from UC Riverside on third hand smoke.  Wrote Dr. Siegel:

“In the grant application, the researchers write: "The overall goal of this study is to identify how THS exposure affects response to injury and healing, so as to inform policy makers of the dangers of this newly recognized threat."

Interestingly, the proposal does not state: "The overall goal of this study is to identify the effect of THS exposure on healing, so as to inform policy makers whether or not THS exposure is dangerous to humans and the magnitude of such danger if it is present."

Instead, the proposal has already concluded that there are dangers to humans associated with this newly recognized threat.”

Now look at the research the FDA is using on cigars.  In the supporting data on cigars it says, the amount of nicotine in a cigar can range from the equivalent of a single cigarette to the equivalent of an entire package of cigarettes.

If that were true, and nicotine is a very addictive drug, then how is it feasible that the average cigar smoker enjoys only 2 cigars per week? 

Why stop the sale of machine made cigars? To keep them away from youth? It’s illegal to sell tobacco to minors. What justifies this new regulation?  Youth smoking defines “youth” as 18-23 year-olds. These are the same youths who serve this nation in the armed forces and can give up their lives and vote.

As to Option 2, no minimum price for “premium cigars”.  Does that mean the FDA sets prices for other products? A “premium cigar” can be as low as $1 retail when sold in bundles of 20.  Many premium cigars retail in the $4-$6 range.  By doubling the weight classification to 6 pounds per thousand, many of the smaller cigars that are perfect for bad weather would be eliminated. Why set limits? Finally, the idea of regulating cigars is absurd.  Unlike cigarettes, cigars have a multitude of shapes, sizes and styles. The blends, by necessity, change year to year based upon the crops.  To submit the new blends and shapes for approval is totally unrealistic and unworkable. It would create the mother of all backlogs for the FDA.

The bottom line is that cigars are not addictive they are a lifestyle. I urge the FDA to remember Congress exempted cigars from the legislation for a reason.


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Introducing the “The Banker” by H. Upmann

May 15, 2014 · By · No Comments

Altadis USA continues its long, storied tradition with the latest addition to its world-renowned product line… Introducing The Banker by H. Upmann!

The Banker by H. Upmann?

In 1844, German bankers Carl and Herman Upmann traveled to Cuba to create an exceptionally unique cigar, which they locked away to be gifted to only their most exceptional clients. After nearly 170 years, Altadis has painstakingly re-created that original blend.

These beautifully constructed cigars are adorned with a silky-smooth, dark brown Ecuador Habano wrapper, a tasty Nicaraguan binder from the famed Jalapa region, and the finest aged filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The result is a rich and robust Cuban-style cigar with an underlying earthiness and delectable flavors of sweet spice, cedar, and dark coffee (yummy!). I love these great smokes and I’ll bet the bank you will too (no pun intended). The Banker by H. Upmann is available in three very popular sizes: Currency (5.50 x 48), Arbitrage (7.00 x 56), and Annuity (6.00 x 52).

Now for the fun part... we’re having a Break the Bank Contest!

Not only do you have the opportunity to smoke the latest and greatest from our friends at Altadis USA, you can win stuff too! Please read on …

From now until May 31, 2014, you will receive a Break the Bank code with your purchase of any box or 10-count bundle of H. Upmann cigars. Then, starting June 1, you can visit our website and enter your code to see if you’re the lucky winner of The Banker by H. Upmann humidor filled with 80 cigars (this is a $500.00 value)!

Other winners could receive a humidor with 50 cigars, a Banker 5-pack, or coupons worth 10% off your next purchase of The Banker by H. Upmann.

Now here is the best part: All of our winners have the option of giving me their goodies and, in exchange, I will drive you to my fifth-floor apartment in scenic South Amboy, NJ, where you can spend a fun-filled, all-expenses-paid day viewing my plastic cigar cutter collection!


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Abe is in the House

May 14, 2014 · By · No Comments

PDR Factory

Back in February at Pro Cigar, we told you about Abe Flores and his PDR Cigars.   He makes about 4 million cigars a year and would like to make more but his factory is bulging at the seams…he simply doesn’t have much more room.  Flores makes A. Flores, A.  Flores Gran Reserva, PDR 1878, Pinar del Rio or PDR for his own brands along with cigars for others such as the highly rated Gurhka 125th and the La Palina Classico blends.  He also makes cigars for Kristoff and others.  He also has the PDR 1878 Cubana Especial and his Small Batch.  Why am I bringing this up now?  Well we are now carrying Abe’s cigars.  We hope he gets more room in the factory soon so he can make more.


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Nick is on his own

May 13, 2014 · By · No Comments

Nick Melillo

Nicholas Melillo announced last week that he is leaving Drew Estate.  He joined the company in 2003 initially to help co-founder Jonathan Drew, but soon ended up learning all about tobacco and production to become the director of the factory.  In  2005, then company president Steve Saka tasked Melillo to come up with a cigar Steve would want to smoke everyday. The result was the Liga Privada 9

In his press release, Nick says, “I am extremely grateful to Jonathan Drew for giving me the opportunity and believing in me back in 2003.  I am also enormously proud of the Nicaraguan team. They have been like family to me and we have come a long way together.”

Nick worked hard increasing production and during his time there, the company opened its huge fabrica for production and, early this year, its tobacco facility across the street.  In all the company employs about 1500 people making 100,000 handmade cigars every day.

Nick is the second top Drew exec to leave the company with the past 12 months.  Last year, president Steve Saka retired and now Nick is leaving.  Melillo says he has no formal plans yet, but has been consulting on tobacco purchasing and blending under his company Melillo International.  Willy Herrera, who put out his Herrera Esteli line for Drew Estate in 2012, has been doing a lot of work in the factory on blending and training rollers.


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Lancero Madness

May 08, 2014 · By · No Comments

Pete Johnson, known for his Tatuaje lines, is shipping out a sampler of his blends in a lancer package.  The package has 10 of the lanceros in different blends like El Triunfador,  Fausto, Havana VI, Private Reserva, La Riqueza, La Casita Criolla,  El Triunfador Original,  Cabaiguan, Cabiguan Guapos and Seleciton de Cazador.  These are shipping out now and should be showing up soon. 

Next month, Pete will be coming out with his Pudgy Monsters

Tatuaje Pudgy Monsters

This is a sampler of 10 cigars from the famed Monster series that Pete launches every Halloween.  In the Pudgy box you get cigars that are 5 x 48 and there are the Drac, the Frank, Leatherface, Jason, The Mummy and 2 Chuckys and 2 Chucky’s bride Tiffany.


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Drew Estate gets into pipes

May 07, 2014 · By · No Comments

Drew EstateDrew Estate has announced it is getting into pipes.  Now the company is not making them, instead it has partnered with Tsuge Pipe Company from Japan and will be the exclusive distributor of Tsuge in the United States.  Last year, the company started selling a line of custom blends for the pipe market and now it will be able to sell the pipes to go with it.

According to the company’s press release:

Started in 1936 by Kyoichiro Tsuge, Tsuge Pipe Company and the Tsuge family have a rich history of craftsmanship. Prior to making pipes, the Tsuge family were Samurai swordsmiths for hundreds of years. Kyoichiro Tsuge started making pipes around the turn of the century and, as a company, Tsuge has mastered the art of pipe making. Tsuge draws from the traditions of Italian and Danish pipe makers, having trained with world-renowned pipe maker Sixten Ivarrson, and has added unique touches of Japanese artisanship along the way.

Tsuge is best known for their renowned “Ikebana” line of handcrafted briar pipes. The “Ikebana” collection features Tsuge’s highest quality work, retailing for up to multiple thousands of dollars. Tsuge is also known for their machine-made line of briar pipes, which features unique shapes and metals. This portion of Tsuge’s pipe collection is a more affordable option compared to the “Ikebana” line.

Drew will be showing the pipes at the summer trade show.


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