Punch is making its annual release of the Rare Corojo. This was a cigar that was around for a long time, but was discontinued when there was not enough wrapper. In 2001, it was re-introduced, albeit on a limited basis. It comes out during the winter and when it is gone…well you know. The Rare Corojo uses an Ecuadoran Sumatran wrapper over Connecticut Broadleaf for a deep rich taste. The fillers give it some spice as they come from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras.
For 2015 there are going to be two new entries to the Rare Corojo line… the El Diablo, which is a 6.5” x 66 big beefy cigar with a suggested retail of $8.25 and the Rare Lapiz, a unique figurado measuring 6.75” x 56. These will come in ten count boxes and will be the rarest of the Rare Corojos. Overall this is a line of Punch that sometimes gets overlooked. The flavors are great and with pricing from $3.99 to $8.25 retail…it is a pretty good deal as well.
new cigars · Punch
When it first came out, the Camacho Corojo was one of the strongest cigars on the market. The Camacho Corojo today is still up there in terms of strength, but others have surpassed it going further. (An example is Aging Room’s Bin #1.) But starting next month, Camacho is going back to its roots, trumpeting the Corojo as “The Original Bold Smoke”. A part of the re-launch the company is adding two new sizes to the Corojo line…A Corojo Gordo at 6” x 60 and a Corojo Robusto Tubo. They will be shipping soon. The Corojo originally came out in 2000. The first addition to the line was the Diploma that initially was only available to retailers who made the trip down to Camp Camacho. Since then Camacho added the lighter Connecticut, the Criollo, the Triple Maduro, the Ecuador and more recently the Double Shock and the Blackout.
But the Corojo was always the workhorse of the line. Corojo was originally developed in Cuba in the 30s and 40s and was so named because this hybrid was grown on the El Corojo farm. Corojo is a hybrid of Criollo and Sumatran and became a very much in demand wrapper for Cuban cigars. According to the Camacho release:
Since its development and through the Cuban revolution, the famed Corojo seed thrived and continued to gain global notoriety. It was until 1978, when a widespread devastation of blue mold hit the island, that the story of Original Corojo and tobacco in Cuba begins to take a different course. After the attack of ’78 – ‘79, the Estacion Experimental del Tabaco (San Juan y Martinez) begins to develop disease resistant hybrids, 208 new strains to be exact. However, only two made the cut and are known today as Havana 92 and Havana 2000. With new hybrids in hand, Cuba bid farewell to the famed seed and in 1996 the last crop of Original Corojo touches Cuban soil.
Julio Eiroa and his son Christian (the family that developed the Camacho Corojo) got some of the original seeds and began growing it in the Jamastran Valley of Honduras. Today Camacho is owned by Davidoff, but still uses that Corojo tobacco.
The new Corojos will retail for $8.50 for the Gordo and $7.25 for the Tubo. Also Camacho is running a special starting next week…buy a box and get a four pack of the Corojo Robusto free.
Camacho · new cigars
This week in Nebraska, the Cigar Rights of America is giving testimony in efforts to let Nebraska’s cigar bars and cigar shops keep smoking. Last year, a state Supreme Court decision ruled the legislative exemptions to allow smoking was against the constitution. As the legislature convened, new legislation with perhaps more nuance was introduced to get those exemptions back. For a while after the court’s ruling, smoking was still permitted as the state’s bureaucracy worked to issue new permits that prohibited smoking. Now that work has been done and the smoking lamp for the Cornhuskers has gone out. Glynn Loope has been in Nebraska and testified before a committee this week as it hears the new legislation. Loope says he is encouraged in that this legislation has an emergency clause that would mean it could go into effect as soon as it is passed and signed by the Governor. He is cautiously optimistic that it will get done sooner rather than later.
Estelí, Nicaragua, is home to some of the finest cigarmakers in the world. The ideal weather, enriched soil, and versatility of the region have led to it being considered the El Dorado of cigar tobacco. While many premium manufacturers are based in this area, it seems that one man in particular has truly mastered the science behind the craft. Nick Perdomo, founder and CEO of Tabacalera Perdomo, is one of the largest producers of premium cigars in the world, and is considered by many to be one of the most innovative minds in the industry. Nick has created high-end premium cigars in vast quantities while also ensuring that his products are of the utmost quality. He is able to accomplish this with an operations strategy that combines traditional methods with modern techniques and innovations.
I’ve personally been involved in this industry for about six years, and I thought I had a pretty solid understanding of the science involved with cultivating and mastering cigar tobacco; Nick Perdomo has taken the craft to an entirely different level. Upon visiting his fields and factories, I came to understand how complicated and involved the process is, and how it is a combination of several different scientific genres, all of which Perdomo incorporates into his production.
Starting from the selection of his farms, Nick makes sure his fields are rigorously tested before he makes a purchase and begins to plant. For the tobacco to be up to his standards, the soils need to have just the right amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These elements are essential for growing strong, deep-rooted, and flavorful tobacco plants. He has engineered his own machines for sifting and filtering through the tobacco seeds in order to obtain the highest-quality plants, and he developed a system that works in concert with the natural dry and wet seasons of the area to ensure that his plants receive the perfect amount of water. However, his innovations in the fields are just the tip of the iceberg.
Nick’s factory, located on Perdomo Avenue in Estelí, is 88,000 square feet and nicknamed “El Monstro.” It is a thriving community unto itself and is almost completely self-reliant. This is not only the location for the processing and rolling of tobacco, but also the area where Perdomo crafts machine-made cigars, cuts and treats wood for the manufacturing of boxes, and even makes wood-based cellophane sleeves. Each one of these processes is performed with an intense amount of quality control to guarantee that the product is of the highest nature.
Before a blend is made, several taste-testing sessions occur with Nick and other high-ranking members of his company. They use coffee with milk, a natural palate cleanser, while tasting the different flavors in each variety of tobacco, and use their findings to create new blends. Even the science of physics is incorporated into the process during one of the most important quality-control steps: Each and every cigar rolled in that factory goes through a draw test during which it is placed on a machine that’s able to measure the draw of each cigar. If a cigar doesn’t pass this level, the roller must try again. While fanatical about cleanliness and quality control, Nick treats his employees very well and they, in turn, show fervent amount of loyalty.
I spent two whole days on this tour, and I feel as though I still haven’t even scratched the surface. The process of creating high-quality premium cigars involves both science and art, and takes a man possessing ingenuity and freethinking creativity. As a mathematical musician and an analytical author, Nick Perdomo is a combination of these qualities—the best of both worlds.
cigar industry · Nicaragua · Perdomo
In addition to the Super Bowl this week, there is another kick off of sorts. It is the first tobacco show of the year. Held in Vegas it is Tobacco Plus Expo and mostly geared to small stores and convenience shops. There will be some premium cigars there, but my guess is there will be a lot of vaping stuff as well and I mean a lot. It will be interesting to see the mood of the show and see what the year may have in store.
Cloudy New Orleans
At least this first show is not in doubt. The big one is. Last week, the New Orleans City council passed a smoking ban. This is a cause of concern because New Orleans is set to host the annual cigar trade show this summer. If it were my decision, I’d move it. Why should tobacconists give New Orleans ANY money? But the IPCPR says on its Facebook page
This legislation passed unanimously with favorable amendments. As amended, the legislation will not impact the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailer Association's (IPCPR) local members or our 83rd Annual Convention & International Trade Show. The ability to smoke in cigar bars, the convention center, and in facilities being used for private events is protected by the amendment.
The favorable amendments are a handful of exemptions that could easily be taken away. The big one is that it allows smoking at the trade show on the floor. The IPCPR is playing for a tie not a win. Glynn Loope of the Cigar Rights of America isn’t buying it. He says this smoking ban is a first step and he realizes the other side goes for incrementalism. In 2007, Louisiana passed a state wide smoking ban for restaurants and many workplaces but exemptions were made for Casinos and bars. Now, New Orleans is taking those exemptions away.
The original city legislation had it so you couldn’t smoke within 25 feet of a door, but that was lowered to 5 feet when the council figured out that would effectively ban smoking on Bourbon Street. (By the way this goes into effect AFTER Mardi Gras.)
As for enforcement, it won’t be the cops giving tickets as originally planned. They already have their hands full. With Mardi Gras coming up the locals are worried about crime. In the French Quarter, there are signs telling people to travel in large groups because of the city’s violence. The NOPD is understaffed.
The force has lost about 500 officers since Katrina struck in 2005 and it is now down to about 1,150 — far fewer than the 1,600 that Landrieu would like. As few as 250 officers were found to be on patrol duty and responding to calls for help in May 2013, a city inspector general report found last May.
"I have been to some roll calls where there is one cop, two cops," said Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, a police union.
The Mayor, Mitch Landrieu, wanted the council to delay action so his office could study the issue. They didn’t want to wait.
Harrah’s tried to tell the council that they were looking at a 20 percent drop in revenues because of the casino smoking ban. The supporters say the ban will bring more business to the casinos. They always say that. In December, the Louisiana State Police, which oversees gambling, projected a $104-million dollar loss due to a smoking ban. I hope this goes like Atlantic City where similar arguments were made and ignored. When Atlantic City banned smoking in casinos, it lasted about a week once the city saw the revenue drop.
Says Glynn Loope, “every job that is lost in New Orleans lies at the feet of Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell who pushed this bill.”
cigar industry · cigar laws · cigar news · IPCPR
The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association is moving to Washington. For many years, the IPCPR operated out of Columbus, Georgia which had a low overhead, but made for wicked commutes to DC to fight legislation in Congress. So about a year ago, the organization decided it was time to move up. A building was found on Capitol Hill, a short walk from the legislators and work has begun to make the building a home for the group. The IPCPR hopes to move in sometime this summer.
The reactions are pretty positive. Jim Young, president of Davidoff North America says he is thrilled that the IPCPR will now be on the front line of fighting federal legislation. The CEO of the IPCPR says that the new headquarters will enable the organization to house its staff in one locale to provide better service. (Right now the IPCPR has staff in 5 states.)
One question is will people be able to smoke in the new DC headquarters. Tobacco shops are exempt, but the IPCPR is not a tobacco shop.
The law requires the employer to generally prohibit smoking in the enclosed area of a place of employment[xii], but the employer may permit smoking in an outdoor area under his or her control, subject to the terms and conditions of the lease or contract between the owner and the tenant.
I’m sure they will work on it.
cigar laws · cigar news · IPCPR
Apparently Kentucky is eying tobacco as a way of increasing revenues for the state. A tax bill introduced into the House (HB132) makes a lot of changes to the commonwealth’s tobacco taxes. First up is a dollar a pack increase on the sale of cigarettes. Snuff and chewing tobacco are also in the crosshairs with their taxes doubling. As for cigars, e-cigarettes and pipe tobacco, the bill proposes stores do a physical inventory at the end of September then pay floor tax of 25% of their cost that basically triples the current tax. This is part of a much bigger tax bill so not sure how serious they are on this. The legislature also has introduced a statewide smoking ban proposal again. The anti’s never give up even though they were shot down in the last session. The Cigar Rights of America is heading to Frankfort to try to head off this bill.
Altadis USA has been giving new life to its brands. In recent years, the company has been adding new blends to its portfolio. Examples are the Saint Luis Rey Gen 2, H. Upmann The Banker, Montecristo Espada and the RyJ by Romeo y Julieta the last two being Nicaraguan takes on the classic Dominicans. Altadis USA has come up with yet another new take on Romeo. It is the new Romeo Añejo.
The regular Romeo’s come in a red box, this new Añejo is distinguished by its brown box. According to the company, this newest release from Romeo y Julieta is rich and robust with subtle notes of coffee and dark chocolate. Its blend uses a hearty mix of double fermented vintage Nicaraguan and Honduran sun-grown tobaccos that were aged in special cedar cajones. The wrapper is Connecticut Broadleaf from 2010 and the binder is a 2008 vintage Dominican Olor…the fillers are from 2009. The Añejo will come in three sizes—Robusto at 5” x 54, Toro at 6” x 54 and a Piramide at 6.125’ x 52. The retail price for them will be from $8.75 to $9.25. They should be shipped in the next week or so.
cigar news · new cigars · Romeo y Julieta
When people think of Nicaragua, they may imagine picturesque mountains covered with jungle-like trees. They may envision row after row of endless tobacco plants and small fruit stands dotting the street corners. This is the exact picture I discovered when I traveled to this bustling metropolis. Located about 93 miles north of the capital city of Managua, Estelí is the third most populated city in Nicaragua, and a huge center for commerce.
This city is filled with some of the finest craftsmen you will find in Central America. Leather workers craft boots and belts out of whatever is available to them, including iguana. The items they create could be sold for top dollar in the American market, but in Estelí, they serve more as a representation of the artists’ talents than a means of making money. The population is one of the most generous and cheerful that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. They are humble, hardworking, and content with their lives. It is an area rich in history and culture, and in recent decades Estelí has become a haven for former Cuban cigar manufacturers, setting itself up as the unofficial tobacco capital of the country.
It is the area’s weather and soil, which differ greatly from those of the rest of the country, that make it perfect for the production of cigar tobacco. Upon travelling north, the temperature drops about 10 degrees, and the landscape changes from brownish flat fields to lush, green mountains and farms. The soil is dark, unlike the reddish clay of Jalapa, and is filled with nutrients due to the volcanic rock that it is derived from. This makes the tobaccos grown here sturdy and strong, with hints of spice and a very rustic nature. Estelí produces, as Nick Perdomo calls it, “the world's best tobacco.”
Although the casual cigar smoker may have never even heard of this city, it has become an iconic region for tobacco, and home to some of the world’s biggest cigar companies; Drew Estate, My Father, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Oliva, and Perdomo are all based in this very fertile area. Most factories are located within mere miles of each other, all off the great Pan-American Highway. Their fields are spread out all over the region, with many as far away as the towns of Condega and Jalapa. Yet Estelí holds the honor of being the center for production.
Much of the population works in either the fields or the factories, with Perdomo employing some 4,000 workers. They work hard and are very proud of the products they create and of the companies they work for; there are even sports leagues that pit the different companies against each other. I had the pleasure of seeing the Perdomo softball team break even in a doubleheader with Plasencia (although the second game was definitely fixed). The fans are very supportive of their respective teams and closely resemble what one may find at a Yankees game.
I must say I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed staying in this city. The people treat guests with respect and like one of their own. The simplest gesture receives such great amounts of thanks, for Estelí’s people know it is the smoker that employs them. And now I know that without the hard work, creativity, and overall attitude of the people of Estelí, the “world’s best tobacco” would be nothing more than a pipe dream.
cigar industry · Nicaragua · Perdoma
Normally I don’t care much about changes in personnel at cigar companies. So and so who was sales manager at SecondRateSmokes is now leaving to go to Anastystick Cigar Company. I mean this is inside baseball so who really cares? This time, though, I am making an exception because while it essentially is a personnel move, it does have ramifications.
Davidoff has named Hamlet Espinal as the new General Manager of Tabadom Holding in Santiago. Tabadom is the Davidoff subsidiary in the Dominican Republic and the company that makes its cigars. Since its beginning, Tabadom has been headed by Henke Kelner, who now will give up his general manager role to Espinal. Kelner remains Vice Chairman of Tabadom.
According to the release, Espinal started his career at Tabadom about 15 years ago, which makes not only Davidoff but also AVO, Cusano, The Griffins, Private Stock, Zino and Zino Platinum among others. Just last year, he was promoted to Vice President of Tabadom. According to the company announcement:
“Hamlet has been a key member of the Management Team for many years – as such he has learned from Henke Kelner every aspect of our operations in the Dominican Republic”, says Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, CEO Oettinger Davidoff AG and Chairman of Tabadom Holding, Inc. “We are thankful to Henke Kelner for the perfect succession planning at Tabadom Holding, and we all look forward to working with Hamlet in his new role.
The reason this is noteworthy is that Henke, for all intents and purposes, IS Davidoff. It was his factory that the company picked after leaving Cuba to make its cigars. Henke has been fanatical about quality in his factories; he has made certain the Davidoffs made in Santiago are of the absolute best quality. Henke also is president of Pro Cigar—the group of Dominican cigar makers, who hold lobby and hold an annual festival next month.
The way I see this news, is that it frees Henke up a bit from the day to day operations of the factory. Indeed, according to the release, Davidoff wants to expand Henke’s role as Davidoff Global Ambassador (something Zino Davidoff did before) to have him do his tasting and educational seminars around the world. That would be a good thing.
cigar industry · Davidoff