Will the United States Normalize Its Relationship with Cuba?

Will the United States Normalize Its Relationship with Cuba?

On December 17th, the White House released a statement outlaying a plan to normalize relationships with Cuba. This is a huge change after decades of Cold War policies in place, and follows a recent exchange of prisoners between both countries. President Obama, speaking about the changes, said, “Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.” He goes on to add, “We are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.” There is finally going to be a U.S. embassy in Havana. It will be the first time since January 3, 1961 that America has operated an embassy inside Cuban borders, so this is again historic news.

This is also fantastic news for cigar enthusiasts! It is now legal for the first time in decades to import Cuban cigars. If you travel to Cuba, you can bring back $400 worth of goods, including $100 worth of tobacco and alcohol products—including Cuban cigars. This is still pretty restrictive. You won’t be able to bring back much in the way of boxes, but at least now you can legally transport back a few stogies of your choice, and perhaps one of the cheaper boxes. What’s great about this too is that now it is legal to smoke Cuban cigars in the U.S. While obviously people have been doing this for decades without consequence, it was technically a violation of the law, and now it isn’t. The U.S. is the largest market for Cuban cigars already, despite the trade embargo. With restrictions lifting, the industry might thrive even more.

FDA Update: Support on the Congressional Front

FDA Update: Support on the Congressional Front

Early this year, the news hit that the FDA is seeking to extend its control over tobacco products. If the FDA is granted this control, it will have a great deal of regulatory power over product packaging, marketing, outreach, and more. And if those products were to include premium cigars, that would mean an end to the beautiful packaging that we have come to expect on our premium cigar boxes. Artwork would be replaced by warnings (you can see an example here...), all of this in the name of preventing America’s youth from indulging in tobacco.

Of course, as you and I both know, cigars are hardly a “gateway” drug for a lot of teens, who are far more likely to go and pick up a cheap box of cigarettes than an expensive premium stogie. It would be insane for the FDA to impose the same restrictions over the cigar industry—which is focused on quality and artistry, not on volume of sales or addicting America’s youth.

If you have been following the situation, you know that a congressional committee proposed early on that premium cigars be excluded from these changes. The FDA opened up a comment period, and a lot of cigar activists reached out with their concerns and opinions (including, I’m guessing, a number of readers here on this site).

So what’s the news? It’s good news, because it looks like Congress is hearing us. In the recently introduced “CRomnibus” budget package, the premium cigar industry was discussed as follows:

“Regulations.- The Committee is encouraged that FDA has provided options for a way forward on distinguishing between premium cigars and other tobacco products in its recently proposed rule ''Deeming Tobacco Products To Be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as Amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; Regulations on the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products and Required Warning Statements for Tobacco Products'' (Docket No. FDA-2014-N-0189). In particular, the Committee notes that FDA is considering excluding premium cigars from the scope of this proposed rule through Option 2. The Committee believes this could be a viable solution, given that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act makes little mention of cigars throughout the legislation, and there is even less evidence that Congress intended to focus on the unique subset of premium cigars. The Committee notes that premium cigars are shown to be distinct from other tobacco products in their effects on youth initiation, the frequency of their use by youth and young adults, and other such behavioral and economic factors.”

So it looks like Congress at least is starting to understand that premium cigars should not be included in the new act, because premium cigars have nothing to do with indoctrinating America’s youth into tobacco culture. This is a very good sign that we are winning the war against proposed tyrannical legislation that would hurt the industry and the community.

It is important though to know that the fight is not yet won, and that the 114th Congress is going to be sworn in on January 6th, and that is going to mean a whole new slew of changes. While the current Congress appears to support the premium cigar industry and community, we will be faced with the challenge of reaching out to a new group of state officials. Our voices are going to be more important than ever. So keep checking back for more updates as we head into 2015 (you can join Cigar Rights of America to support the cause and get the latest updates in real-time), and remember to keep writing your senators and representatives, and continue to reach out directly to the FDA. If we stay the course, we can win this one!

Cigar Art Contest Winners

Dona Flor Poster

One week ago we introduced you to a craftsman who creates excellent cigar-related artwork (just have a look at the poster above...), Darrel Morris. We've had two of his prints to give away to our readers.

The randomly chosen winners are: Michael and Pete! Please claim your prize via the contact form.

Many thanks to Darrel and don't forget to check out his work!

Amazon $32 Gift Card Giveaway

Amazon

As I stated in my best cigar books post, proceeds from sale of books would be given back to one lucky reader in the form of a gift certificate. Here is another one. It is a gift card for $32 that can be redeemed on Amazon.com (doesn't work on .co.uk or .fr).

Just leave a comment on this post to be entered in the draw. The winner will be announced in one week, next Tuesday - just in time for Christmas and New Year! :)

Want to support CigarInspector.com? If you do your Amazon gift purchases through this link, we'll earn a small $. Thank you!

Cigar Release: La Flor Dominicana 707 Ligero

La Flor Dominicana 707 Ligero

La Flor Dominicana is proud to announce the release of the 707 Ligero. The 707 Ligero is a full-bodied blend of Dominican filler and binder wrapped in an aged Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. Measuring in at 7 x 70 the 707 Ligero will be largest ring gauge regular production cigar we have ever produced. The 707 Ligero will be presented in (10) count boxes and will have an MSRP of $10.50 per cigar and $105.00 per box. The 707 Ligero will begin shipping to Premium Cigar Retailers nationwide the week of December 15, 2014.

Cigar Art Feature and Giveaway: Meet Darrel Morris

Darrel Morris

Recently I stumbled across an impressive artist and craftsman on eBay who does cigar-themed artwork. I loved Darrel Morris’ work instantly and knew straight away I wanted to do a feature on him here on Cigar Inspector. When I got in touch with him, I discovered he is also an affable, pleasant fellow who is more than happy to be featured. He’s even willing to give away two prints to readers! Please see details at the end of the post.

Who is Darrel Morris? Darrel is a fellow cigar enthusiast, and a dedicated artist who has pursued his creative passions since childhood. As he states on his bio, “It is an obsession. I studied art formally for five years and explored many media, but I always come back to the monochromatic techniques. It is, for me, the best way to express pure form, without the distraction of color.” His favorite medium? Scrimshaw. If you aren’t familiar with the term, scrimshaw is artwork engraved into bone or ivory. Morris first started working on scrimshaw pieces in 1987 while he was working in a cutlery shop. He won a competition at the 1989 Knife Expo. Very cool.

Darrel Morris' Kristoff Drawing

In terms of expressing pure form, Darrel has done an incredible job representing the pure form of the premium cigar! Just check out these remarkable drawings. He’s really managed to capture the complex textures on a cigar wrapper. The veins, the tooth, even the oily sheen are all represented here. His Tatuaje Still Life with Skull and Pasíon are both beautiful symbolic pieces.

Pasion by Darrel Morris

I absolutely love what Darrel has to say about the premium cigar industry: “In a time when Corporate America seems to have lost its way, the cigar industry is a shining example of what business should be.” Amen to that. There are not a lot of industries these days which are dedicated to quality over quantity, long-term success over short-term profits, and building personal relationships with customers. The cigar industry continues to focus on excellence in their craft—these companies embody the same values of fine artistry that Darrel himself does. It is easy to see why Darrel’s impressive skills pair so nicely with his passion for cigars.

I highly recommend checking out Darrel’s full portfolio of works (have a look at the amazing cigar cutters). You can purchase Darrel’s work here on his eBay page. And of course, Darrel is available for custom work.

Now, on to the contest! Darrel is willing to give away a print from his portfolio to two of our readers. In order to enter, just leave a comment on this post in the comments area below. You can tell us what's your favorite print and why, for example. Don't forget to check "Sign me up for the newsletter" (if you aren't subscribed yet) in order to be informed of our future contests. If you have noticed, we've been running weekly for a few weeks now and there are even more planned!

Screwpop Cigar Punch 2.0 Winners

Screwpop Cigar Punch 2.0 (left) and 1.0 (right)

Last week we reviewed the Screwpop Cigar Punch 2.0 and we had three punches to give away to our readers courtesy of Brett from Screwpop Tools.

We've had around 100 participants and the randomly chosen winners are: Lance Besore, Jason (23:30 comment) and Steve (19:34 comment)! You'll receive an e-mail with details on how to claim your prize.

Thanks Brett and the Screwpop Tools!

Bourbon Review: Jim Beam “Devil’s Cut”

Jim Beam "Devil's Cut"

When you take a look at the label on the Jim Beam “Devil’s Cut,” you’ll read the following:

“As Bourbon Ages, the Angel’s Share is Lost to Evaporation. The Devil’s Cut is Trapped in the Barrel Wood – until Now.”

This bourbon hit the market in 2011. The cute name is a reference to the aging process of the whisky in the barrel. As with any liquid, part of the whisky evaporates. This lost whisky is often called the “angel’s share.” The longer a whisky ages, the greater the share that goes to the angels and not to us poor mortals. Whisky isn’t just lost to the air though; it also gets soaked into the barrel.

Jim Beam claims to have perfected an extraction process to get this absorbed whisky back out of the wood and into our glasses. After extracting the whisky from the barrel, they mix it in with some six-year-old Jim Beam bourbon and sell it at 90 proof as the Devil’s Cut. They say they use a “proprietary process,” but it isn’t particularly clear what this means. There are actually some fairly simple methods for doing this which have been in use for … well, pretty much forever, the most common being “swishing” or “Barrel sweating,” which isn’t particularly proprietary. Amusingly enough, this product came out the same year as an 86.6-proof bourbon called Angel’s Envy.

Getting along with things, the Devil’s Cut is a medium warm brown liquid in the bottle; it isn’t quite reddish enough that I would call it “amber.” Opening the bottle, I smell charred oak and some kind of nut, probably almond. There is also some sweetness, maybe brown sugar or toffee. I am also catching a hint of banana.

Now on to the tasting. The first thing I am getting on the palate tastes very sugary, almost like root beer. There is some vanilla here as well as that charred oak and some peppery spices. Something in here reminds me distinctly of fall or winter, a kind of holiday flavor—probably cinnamon or nutmeg, or both. The sweetness goes out before the long finish—and it is a long finish. The oak lingers for a good long time along with a hint of bitter toffee, if that is possible. The spices are still there too, and now I think I detect clove as well. All in all, a very nice whisky bourbon for around $20, especially if you are a fan of oak (what can you expect, with a whisky extracted from a barrel?).

Summary: Jim Beam “Devil’s Cut” Kentucky Straight

Colour: Warm, medium brown, almost amber.

Nose: Charred oak, almond, toffee or brown sugar, banana.

Palate: Charred oak, toffee or brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, clove.

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