Entries for month: June 2014
With the FDA breathing down our necks, you would think this is the absolute wrong time to be venturing into the cigar-making business. You’d probably be right, yet some others think the next cigar boom is underway. I am seeing more and more companies coming out with products…new companies that I have never seen before. You mean you don’t have your own line of cigars?
Now don’t get me wrong, there are lots of boutique cigars out there like Christian Eiroa’s CLE, Rafael Nodal’s Aging Room, Flor de Gonzalez 90 miles, and the Crowned Heads guys with the J.D. Howard reserve. But some of these new brands, well ya just wonder.
Last week, while sitting in a store in Plano, Texas, I met Robert Holt—the founder of the new Southern Draw Cigars company. Nice guy and his cigars are decent. They are made by A.J. Fernandez in Nicaragua. Robert is not going to have a booth at IPCPR next month because he says he is trying non-traditional distribution via wineries, breweries and distilleries. He has been going to California to talk with vintners who have smoking rooms or areas and selling them his cigars. (They run $9-10 each). I wish him well. He is a Texan, based in Austin. I think that brings to at least 7 the number of cigar companies here in the state. (Texas is not necessarily known for its cigars except for Finck in San Antonio—which moves its manufacturing to the Dominican Republic this week.)
This does not include the private label cigars made for the many shops here. In addition to the new Southern Draw, there is American Kick Ass cigars in Dallas, which has been around for about 5 years now, Ezra Zion in Keller, RoMa Craft Tobac in Austin, newcomers Cabal from Houston, Black Label Trading Company in Austin—which is releasing a cigar named Morphine…like the FDA won’t say something about that… and Total Flame in Amarillo,
For this year’s trade show there are about 50 first time cigar makers that will be displaying their products. Now some are not new cigar makers like Las Cumbres with Jose Blanco or La Matilde by Jose Seijas who have gone on their own…Then there are others like La Sirena, who is on its own, having been distributed before by Miami Cigar and Robert Caldwell who left Christian Eiroa’s Fabrica Unidas. But there are companies like Black Label Trading company, Total Flame, Cabal, La Estampa Cigar, Diamond Crest Cigars, Lou Rodriguez cigars and Moya Ruiz cigars to name a few.
I am not sure why anyone would get into the business now, yet they are.
The surge in craft beers is amazing. As someone who is not versed in the arena, it can make you crazy with all the choices. Then think about which cigars go with which beer? Whew, makes you wanna sit down with a scotch. Anyway, Flying Dog brewery has teamed up with Rick Rodriguez from CAO to come up with the Art of Craft, a cigar and beer pairing. Flying Dog is a craft brewery located outside Washington in Frederick , Maryland. This week, the brewery held its pairing seminar and came up with the following pairings (you may be able to substitute your own favorite craft for these). CAO OSA Sol with the Snake Dog IPA, CAO Brazilia with the Gonzo Imperial Porter, CAO Gold with Raging Birth Belgian-Style IPA and the CAO MX2 with Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout. Good luck.
You know how skeptical I am of tobacco research. Much of it is based on correlations…x number of people died from heart disease and x percent were smokers therefore…you get the idea. Last week I wrote about how the FDA was targeting cheese makers so I thought this might be fun.
As you can see from the research as the consumption of cheese goes up so too do the deaths of people becoming tangled in their bedsheets. I think this is probably the real reason why the FDA went after the cheese makers. After all the science is decided. If you want to have fun with stuff like this, there is a website called Spurious Correlations which has all types of goofy “research” like comparing the number of swimming pool drownings to the number of films Nicolas Cage appears in.
Drew Estate fans have loved the Dirty Rat and Flying Pig. (I just recently learned that the original Flying Pig was a Cuban H. Upmann made many years ago and it was not nearly as fat as its current version. A little trivia for ya.) They can be hard to find, but now the company is adding a Flying Pig to the Kentucky Fire Cured line. It is getting its debut at a cigar shop in Louisville, Kentucky – of course. Jonathan Drew said since it uses tobacco from Kentucky that seemed like the logical place to debut it. The cigar will be released at the trade show next month and they hope to be shipping it in September. The Kentucky Fire Cured Flying Pig will come in boxed of 12 and be the same size s the other DE Flying Pigs…3.9375” x 60.
Davidoff has come out with a new series in its line, the Colorado Claro. It is produced in small quantities because the wrapper is a bit hard to get. It is a Connecticut wrapper grown in Ecuador in the sun. If you know a bit about Ecuador’s tobacco region, sun-grown is difficult because the region has a natural cloud cover making most of the wrappers in effect shade grown. The binder and filler are Dominican. In looking at the Colorado Claro, according to the company’s release, the wrapper is a dark, reddish-brown which looks a lot like the Cuban Colorado. The company says the wrapper also produces a stronger taste.
The new line comes in 5 popular Davidoff sizes; Special T at 6” x 52, Special R measuring 4.875’ X 50, Double R at 7.5” x 50, Short Perfecto 4.875” x 52 and Aniversario No.3 at 6” x 50. The prices are what you would expect from a limited Davidoff..they run from $14 to $28.
Forty years is a long time in any industry, especially in the cigar business. Granted some companies like Fuente top 100 years, but still with so many new entrants into the field 40 years is a lot. For the Quesada family formerly MATASA and as of this year, Quesada Cigars) this year is their fortieth anniversary. As I mentioned at Pro Cigar, Manuel Quesada began the company in the Santiago Free Trade Zone in 1974. His company was the second in the newly formed trade zone. Operating under the name MATASA, Manolo—as he is called—started small and grew the business slowly. Now, his daughters, niece and nephews are doing much of the heavy lifting for the company and the factory has moved to its own Free Trade Zone. To mark this anniversary, the company released its 40th anniversary cigars. The cigar uses a dark rich San Andres wrapper over a Dominican binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. These cigars do sell out fast, especially the unique Salomon Press, as do the Quesada Jalapas which debuted last year. Essentially this is much the same blend as the Quesada Espana which, outside of Spain, is really rare. The primary difference is the Jalapa, Nicaragua wrapper. The Quesadas also make the Heisenberg – they were big fans of the show Breaking Bad.
As you know the FDA in April set out to lump cigars in with cigarettes under its control. There has been lots of commenting, but I fear it is mostly from the anti smokers and those involved with e-cigarettes. But there is still time to get your comments in. Originally we had until July 9th to make comments, but on Friday, the FDA extended the comment period by 30 days to August 8. According to an AP report, as of last week the agency received more than 33,700 comments on its deeming proposition. That is a nice number but not nearly enough. When the FDA was considering restrictions on menthol cigarettes, (only one topic, not multiples like this one) the agency received about 176,000 comments during the 120 day comment period. Remember menthol cigarettes are the only “flavored” cigarettes permitted. Huge numbers work (think about the cheese reaction last week). Get busy and submit your comments. Remember to include that $10 is not a determining factor for premium cigars…and I would go further to say all cigars--both machine-made and premium--should be exempt. No matter what has been written elsewhere, this is not about the price of your cigars going up…it is about any being available at all.
The FDA also held a webinar last week to go over how to submit comments The upshot? Back up what you say with data. The FDA says that is huge. Over the coming weeks, I’ll give you some data you can use.
The FDA is made up of anti-tobacco zealots and you cannot argue with them. They only recognize brute force, so get those comments with supporting data in.
Day Three: Back on the Road!
Our next stop was lunch hosted by Nick Perdomo at some restaurant where our driver had to avoid hitting two unusual livestock species to reach our destination. It was a charming little restaurant though; the food was delicious Nicaraguan cuisine but I’m sure this obscure location could also be used as a drop off point for the show Survivor!
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, Nick Perdomo Jr. decided to pursue his passion of cigarmaking by opening his own cigar company, Perdomo Cigars, in 1996.
In 1976, Nick Perdomo Sr. and his family, including son Nicholas Perdomo Jr., moved from Baltimore to Miami so that they could be closer to relatives there. Nick Jr. attended school in Miami before joining the US Navy to serve as an air-traffic controller. Following completion of his military stint, Nick Jr. gained employment in the same field at Miami International Airport. But his love for the tobacco industry bought him back into the family business.
Nick Jr.’s tobacco story is really one of rags to riches. He started as a home-based business during the infamous Cigar Boom, working out of his garage and selling cigars out of his car. Over the years and through a lot of determination and hard work, Nick and his wife Janine have built the business to what it is today.
Today the company grows tobacco on 1,000 acres in Nicaragua, has 4,003 employees, and a 90,000 square-foot manufacturing facility. Nick produces about 25 million of the world’s finest premium handmades!
His factory is clean and very accommodating but not as architecturally appealing as the other factories in Estelí; Nick’s philosophy is to put the money into the product, not the beauty of the building!
Perdomo handles nearly every aspect of its cigar business internally, growing its own tobacco, purchasing only very small amounts in comparison of what is grown. Perdomo’s tobacco is aged for at least three to upwards of 10 years, and even longer for special-edition cigars! “This is why every one of our cigars is so smooth-tasting,” Nick stated.
Perdomo employs more than 300 cigar rollers, who have, on average, been with him for at least 13 years. “They don’t want to leave; I pay them more than any other factory in Nicaragua!” Nick revealed.
Speaking of longtime employees, meet Aristedes Garcia. This 85-year-old factory foreman started his career in Havana, Cuba, and worked his way up to the head of Cuba Tobacco. After leaving Havana, he worked with Nick Perdomo Sr. and has been employed by the Perdomo family for the last 35 years. He has a 28-year-old wife and a five-year-old daughter and moves faster than most of the youngsters at the factory. I’m only 59 and I say “oy” when I bend down, and 28-year-old women call me “sir.” After meeting him, I felt very ashamed of myself (and a tad jealous!).
Perdomo has its own box-building facility in Nicaragua, and checks every cigar for perfect configuration in the boxes. Nick scoffs at his competitors’ claims of also checking every cigar. “I’ve seen their quality control setups,” he says. “They are full of crap!”
Always on top of technology, Nick Perdomo has devised a secret method to double his paint production when designing boxes. He also uses GPS infrared satellite imagery for soil analysis.
Nick will make 10 million cigars this year and he is not afraid to tell you how damn good they are. And he’s right; just look at the list of brands he produces, including our own very popular J•R Counterfeit Cuban!
Perdomo, Perdomo Edición de Silvio, Perdomo Gran Cru, Perdomo Lot 23, Perdomo Reserve, 10th Anniversary, Nick's Sticks, Perdomo 20th Anniversary… And more on the horizon!
The FDA is a federal agency that tries to perpetuate itself by inserting itself into things it shouldn’t. Like cigars, for example. I often hear that cigar smokers are powerless against the FDA. They are going to do what they want. Guess what? The FDA SOMETIMES does respond to public pressure. But there has to be a lot of pressure.
Rather than posting your latest pic of what you are smoking and where, how bout getting angry and ripping up the net? If this deeming goes through and the FDA takes control of cigars, I can virtually guarantee it will mean an end to walk-in humidors at the very least and an end to all cigars in general at the most. (One of the first things the FDA did with cigarettes was to remove self service… they had to be behind the counter.)
Now why do I say public pressure works? Look at what just happened with the FDA and cheese. Last week, the FDA decided that cheese could not be aged using wooden boards because…
"The shelves or boards used for aging ... could be a potential source of pathogenic microorganisms in the finished products."
The trouble is cheese makers pretty much all use wooden boards.
Not only did one local cheese maker call the impact “a crushing blow,” cheese experts pointed out that banning cheeses aged on wooden boards could end up blocking imports of thousands of tons of European cheeses, including Parmigiano-Reggiano.
(Like deeming cigars could mean an end to premium cigars.) Well in this case, when word got out, social media and twitter blew up. The next day according to Huffington Post:
The FDA responded with a big "just kidding" and we're pretty sure it's because of the insane response they got from social media and the petitions being passed around the Web.
People who like artisan cheese did not take it lightly. And upon seeing the reaction the FDA caved.
To be clear, we have not and are not prohibiting or banning the long-standing practice of using wood shelving in artisanal cheese. Nor does the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) require any such action. Reports to the contrary are not accurate.
But the cheese makers and lovers have to be vigilant because the FDA may try again. And most likely it will. Says Baylen Linnekin at Reason:
When the FDA "invites stakeholders" to "engage" with its bureaucrats, only bad things happen. When those stakeholders lack a powerful lobby in Washington, D.C., it's time to expect the worst.
That’s where we are now. He sums it up by calling the FDA a powerful and power-mad agency. Unless we can absolutely raise a big stink between now and July 9th when the FDA closes public comments…we’re screwed. Make your thoughts known.
In Houston there was a great smoking bar called the Downing Street Pub. Back in February, the owners said they were going non smoking. They said it was their decision and managing partner Lawrence Daniel believed that they could transition from a smoking bar to a non smoking one.
While long time patrons note that smoking is part of the reason they like going to Downing Street, Daniel has been thinking about the flip side. "If we were to go completely non-smoking, what might that open up? Nobody in Houston can touch our back bar . . . in single malt Scotches and bourbon."
The bar was being pressured by its neighbors and no doubt the city which banned smoking pretty much everywhere in Houston. So how did it work out?
Downing Street Pub went non smoking on March 14. According to Culture Map Houston:
TABC records show that the bar reported Mixed Beverage revenue of almost $92,000 in February, the last full month of smoking. By April, that number was down to less than $33,700. More recent numbers aren't available, but anecdotal reports suggest a continued decline.
The report says now Downing Street Pub apparently has closed.
A CultureMap reader says he spoke with an employee who informed him of the closure. In addition, the bar's website has been taken offline and no posts have been made to its Facebook page in over a week. An employee at a neighboring business observed that the bar, which is usually open for lunch, was locked up all day [last]Wednesday.
Right down the street from Downing Street pub is Stogies cigar store with a lounge. Bet they are doing gangbuster business. And yet we are constantly told going non-smoking is good for business. Tell that to Downing Street which crashed in pretty much record time.
First stop, General Cigar! If you have only smoked one cigar in your life, it was most likely one from General. Maker of top-selling brands like Macanudo, Partagas, Cohiba, and La Gloria Cubana, General Cigar was among the first to establish cigarmaking facilities in Santiago, Dominican Republic, and is credited with playing a pivotal role in developing the Dominican Republic into a worldwide leading producer of premium cigars. Their most recent venture into the cigar market is their beautiful factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, which happened to be our first stop on this day. There we had the opportunity to sit down with Director of National Accounts, Keith Sparacio, and sample some new extension lines to the enormously popular El Rey del Mundo, CAO, and Excalibur brands—that’s all the information I can divulge at the moment or I will be summarily executed (but I can tell you that you guys are in for a big treat in the next few months). I have to be honest, after sampling about six prototype blends at 7:30 in the morning on an empty stomach in a humid factory, I began to hallucinate and I was sure I saw my Uncle Irv, who died in 1966, rolling a Macanudo on a ping-pong table. Thankfully a splash of cold water on my face bought me back to reality!
Before the visions of Uncle Irv completely disappeared and the sweat on my guayabera had time to dry up, we were whisked back in the minivan for our second tour: the fabulous, eccentric, eclectic home of Drew Estate. The perennial Disney World for tobacco lovers Drew Estate is not only only known for its secret infusion process that turned the cigar world upside-down but also as the home of some of the most sought-after traditional smokes in the world. Though all factories nowadays are architectural beauties and are nothing like the stark, dank rolling rooms of yesteryear, Drew Estate, goes a step beyond with a resort vibe; this place is a veritable playground for cigar-smoking adults! And this resort has some really interesting smokes with names like Ordinary Larry, Red Krush, and My Uzi Weighs a Ton. We were greeted by Dave Lafferty, National Sales Manager, who was kind enough to take us on our tour. The famed cofounders Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel (nice Jewish boys) were out on tour during our visit but Dave was a wealth of knowledge and an amazing host with a quirky panache that seems to be a requirement to work in this place. And yes, of course, we were given more goodies to smoke!
Drew Estate’s team rolls about 105,000 cigars a day (many of which have already been allocated and sold) as rock music blasts throughout the massive warehouse and factory facility. The rollers seemed very young and were really digging the music; perhaps Metallica can actually get the juices flowing more than the standard Latin music of the 1950s—these guys may be on to something! There’s cool art everywhere, and funky cigar-box graphics inspired by tattoos, skateboards, and graffiti line the back walls of the packing area.
We spent hours learning about every phase of production from curing to rolling. And, boy, I gotta tell you, in every factory including this one, nothing smells better than those aging rooms. The sweet perfume of tobacco curing and cedar… somebody should make a room deodorizer in that scent.
At last we entered the famed Liga Privada rolling room. Yes, I begged for one, but they are in such demand that I didn’t have a prayer! Actually I didn’t beg, but I tried to slip the roller a $5.00 bill and was taken out of the building by an armed guard. (Again, with the dumb jokes?)
Of course we were prohibited from seeing the famed infusion rooms where all the funky herbs are married into the cigars. The same thing happened to me at the Colonel Sanders factory tour when I asked to see where they kept the secret ingredients!
FYI: Cigar purists call Drew Estate’s ACID a “flavored” cigar but Drew prefers the term “infused,” as the tobacco used in the ACID line is steeped in a secret blend of flavors. And just for your information, the secret ingredient in Colonel Sanders chicken is just plain paprika. Don’t ask me how I know or I’ll have to kill you! I’m still working on Drew’s stuff; I’ll keep you posted…
Just like last week, there are some more cigars getting ready to hit the market, and some already here.
Most people think of strong cigars when they think of Joya de Nicaragua. That has not always been the case. For many years, the factory produced many medium to mild cigars, then it came out with the Antano, which blew many smokers socks off. It was a powerful ligero cigar and JdN became known for that. The Dark Corojo was an even stronger cigar, but now the company is going back to its roots with a cigar to be debuted at the trade show. It is Joya Red. Developed by Juan Ignacio Martinez, who last year became the president of the company (while his father Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca remains its chairman), the new blend is described as a vibrant smoke to be enjoyed anytime. Martinez was quoted in Cigar Insider as saying he wanted to change the misconception that anything that comes out of the JdN factory is strong. Joya Red, he said, shows that Nicaraguan cigars made with Nicaraguan tobacco do not need to be intimidating.
Joya Red uses tobaccos from lower primings. Instead of the customary ligero, Red uses viso (the next priming down) and a thinner Habana wrapper. The binder and fillers come from Condega, Jalapa and Esteli. Red will be in a 20 count box in four sizes – Short Churchill at 4.75” x 48, Robusto at 5” x 50, 6” x 52 Toro and a Canonazo at 5.5” x 54. Prices will be between $5.75 to $8. They will be debuted at the trade show and available shortly thereafter
General Cigar is not waiting for the trade show and is launching 1907 by Dunhill. The name comes from the year Dunhill opened the first shop in London. It is the first addition to the Dunhill line since Signed Range came out in 2001. It also will include for the first time a box-pressed Toro. According to the company’s press release:
1907 celebrates the Dunhill brand’s time-honored tradition of tobacco mastery, while incorporating elements that speak to the modern cigar smoker’s passion points: a fuller taste profile, accessible pricing and classic sizing.
The 1907 uses a Honduran Olancho wrapper over a Dominican Olor binder with Brazilian Mata Fina and Dominican ligeros in the filler. The 1907 will come in an 18-count box in four sizes, Rothschild measuring 4.5” x 48, Robusto at 5” x 52, a Churchill at 7” x 49 and the box-pressed Toro at 6” x 54. MSRP Prices will range from $8.25 to $9.25 each. Of course, we’re a bit lower.