Fidel Castro Dead at 90, New Oliva, Montecristo

Fidel Castro Dead at 90

An astounding number of famous people have died in 2016 … and now we can add none other than Cuba’s cigar-toting President, Fidel Castro, to the list. Fidel Castro’s health had been deteriorating for some time, and he passed away on Friday, November 25th.

Everyone will remember Fidel Castro for something different. To some he was a heroic revolutionary, to others a tyrannical despot. But for the cigar industry, he was a revolution. It was Fidel Castro who made Cuba’s cigar brands and factories state property, nationalizing the entire industry.

Cuban cigars are of course known the world over for their quality. If you live in the USA, you have struggled to get your hands on them for decades thanks to long-standing trade embargoes between the two countries. But ever since President Obama started normalizing affairs with Cuba, that has started to change. You can now travel to Cuba and bring home as many cigars as you want.

Looking to the future now, we have no idea what to expect for Cuban cigars, or for trade between the USA and Cuba. With Fidel Castro gone and Trump the president-elect in the USA, it is impossible to guess at what will happen next. I suggest snapping up as many cigars as you can now; who knows how long open trade will be in place. It is best to take advantage while we can.

In the meantime, at least the rest of this week’s news is decidedly positive. Not a lot is going on in the regulatory world, but we have a number of new and returning cigar releases to report.

New and Upcoming Releases:

  • The Oliva Serie V Maduro 2016 has made its way to retailers. It is basically identical to last year’s version. Measuring 6 x 60, it has a Mexican San Andrés wrapper and carries a price of around $10 per stick. The total number which will be produced is 60,000.
  • A new box-pressed Montecristo cigar is being manufactured by Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A. in Nicaragua. This blend features Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers inside a Mexican San Andrés binder and an Ecuadorian Sumatra oscuro wrapper. It comes in five sizes: Churchill (7 x 50), Figurado (4 x 52), Gordo (6 x 58), Robusto (5 x 52) and Toro (6 x 50), and will cost between $9.95-$12.50.
  • Several of Tatuaje’s cigars are making a comeback, among them the highly sought-after Pork Tenderloin. The other two cigars which will once again be made available include the Porkchop and Le Vignoble. All three are being re-released as part of Pete Johnson’s Oh F*ck I’m Lost tour. During the tour, Johnson will visit seven different cities and participate in events at nine different retailers. This is the perfect time to restock on some of your favorite Tatujae cigars which you have been missing!
  • If you have been searching for the CAO Amazon Basin in the USA, good news—the sold-out brand is making a comeback in a single size, a 6 x 52 Toro. The Amazon Basin sold out very quickly in 2014, so act fast to grab a box of these before they are gone.
  • A new Cuban exclusive has just been released, the Saint Luis Rey Marquez. This cigar was first offered to participants attending the Partagás Festival in Havana a couple weeks ago. The cigar measures 5 7/8 inches with a 54 ring gauge, and comes in boxes of 10. Only 7,500 boxes are being produced. You can purchase a box of Saint Luis Rey Marquez cigars for 116 CUCs.
  • Drew Estate is bringing back Pappy Van Winkle cigars this year with a couple new sizes. In 2015, the only sizes available were Toro and Robusto. In 2016, the brand will add Churchill and Pappy Drew Limitada sizes. The latter is a distinctive figurado based on the Liga Privada Feral Flying Pig. The new cigars are currently being shipped to retailers, but are already available to order online.

Thanks for checking in with us for this week’s cigar news updates! Be sure to check back again soon!

Ballot Results, Fuente Updates and More

Viaje exclusive cigar for Atlantic

You may be aware that a number of ballot measures were up last week for raising cigar taxes in several states. In this week’s cigar news updates, I will let you know what happened. There is not a whole lot in the way of other news right now, but there are some Fuente updates and a new release from Atlantic Cigars.

New and Upcoming Releases:

  • If you have shopped for Arturo Fuente Don Carlos cigars recently, you may have noticed a change in their appearance. While the cigar itself is unchanged, the band is now different. The red background has been replaced by a black one for a new look.
  • Atlantic Cigar Co. is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a brand new Viaje release. This release is exclusive to the retailer and can only be purchased directly from Atlantic Cigars. Called the Viaje Atlantic 20th Anniversary WLP 20th Limited Edition Toro, it measures 6 x 52 and comes box-pressed. The blend is a Nicaraguan puro with Cuban-seed fillers an a criollo wrapper. It is being manufactured in Honduras, and costs $9 per cigar. Only 400 boxes are being produced, each containing 10 cigars.

Legal News:

  • The Dallas City Council just voted 8-6 to ban smoking in Dallas parks. While this is not great news, there are some exceptions to the ban. You can for example smoke at the State Fair of Texas in Fair Park. You also can still smoke at city-owned golf courses as well as the Elm Fork Shooting Range. So while we’d obviously prefer there were no ban, we can at least say that the city council has taken steps to ensure that cigar smoking is still permitted in outdoor venues where it is popular.
  • S.B. 2765 is a new bill which could limit the state taxes on New Jersey cigars. Right now the taxes on New Jersey cigars are set at 30% of the wholesale price. If passed, the bill would set a cap which would bring down costs for all cigars with a MSRP of $3.40 or more. For a cigar priced at $9, that could mean a $1 reduction in price. Let’s hope this passes.
  • Finally, the biggest news concerns last week’s polls. As you probably know, a few different measures pertaining to cigar taxes were on the ballots in North Dakota, Missouri, Colorado, and California. Voters in Missouri, North Dakota, and Colorado defeated the measures, so cigar taxes in those states will not be going up. In California however, Proposition 56 passed. Over sixty percent of voters backed the measure, which will drive up cigar taxes by an astonishing 153%. Right now cigar taxes in the state are 27.3%. Going forward the new tax should be around 69.2%. This change will go into effect on July 1st of 2017, so if you live in California, get your expensive purchases out of the way ASAP.

Thanks for checking in with us for this week’s cigar news updates. Be sure to check back in with us soon for more news!

Regulators Tighten Restrictions, New Releases from R. Patel

Davidoff Rooster

This week’s news on the regulatory front is mostly depressing, but thankfully we have some exciting new cigar releases to report to make up for it. Read on to find out what’s been going on in the cigar world.

New and Upcoming Releases:

  • Cuba’s 2016 Edicion Limitadas Trinidad Topes and Romeo y Julieta Capuletos are now being distributed to Casa del Habano stores around the globe. The third Edicion Limitada, the Montecristo Dantes, still has not made its way to stores, but one Casa del Habano owner in Germany has indicated that he should be able to start selling them to customers on the 1st of December.
  • To honor the Year of the Rooster, Davidoff of Geneva is introducing a limited-edition cigar to celebrate the Chinese New Year. These cigars are immediately eye-catching thanks to their unusual diadema figurado shape. The cigar measures 6 ¾ x 50, and will come in boxes of 10 at a cost of $40 per cigar. Along with this limited edition line of cigars, a line of Year of the Rooster accessories is also being produced. This includes a double-guillotine cutter which you can purchase in either steel or rose gold as well as a carrying case in red leather. 8,000 Year of the Rooster boxes are being produced.
  • Rocky Patel is now formally distributing the Dark Dominican. While the manufacturer has provided no information about the wrapper, binder or filler, retailers are stating that the cigar is a Dominican puro. Four sizes are available: Churchill, Robusto, Corona and Supremo.

Industry News:

  • Tabacalera USA has just acquired a Houston-based chain of retail stores called Serious Cigars. While Serious Cigars was originally founded as an online store in 1996, it now operates four of the largest cigar retail stores in the state of Texas. Through this acquisition, both Serious Cigars and Tabacalera should be able to grow and continue to expand their distribution.

Legal News:

  • You may remember a recent report that the FDA had banned cigar donations to U.S. soldiers. This seems so absurd that many in the cigar community held out hope that the ban was some kind of a mistake. But the Wall Street Journal has reported that the ban was not made in error; it was a deliberate action by the FDA. That’s right—U.S. soldiers can get themselves killed or injured in action, but they cannot accept your gift of stogies.
  • In one few positive regulatory developments this past week, Lane County, Oregon (home to the city of Eugene), has become the latest to reject a smoking ban in parks. Two factors helped to decide the commission against the ban; the first is the fact that it would’ve resulted in smoking bans in 240 campgrounds, which would have made enforcement quite thorny. The second is the concern that the new decree might have been used as an excuse for law enforcement officers to harass the homeless.
  • Last week, the Council of the District of Columbia voted to make age 21 the new minimum for tobacco purchases in Washington D.C. Anyone who violates the new decree will be fined $25. On the upside, this fine was going to be $50, but thankfully there was an amendment which lowered it to a more reasonable amount. The new minimum purchase age will go into effect in 30 days after being signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Thanks for checking in for this week’s updates! Be sure to check back with us soon for more!

Rocky Patel Raises Prices & New Releases

Rocky Patel

In this week’s news, we have some exciting new releases from Drew Estate, Alec Bradley and La Flor Dominicana. Let’s check them out!

New and Upcoming Releases:

  • Drew Estate has announced the release of a new cigar exclusively for Stogies World Class Cigars of Houston, Texas, called the Herrera Estelí Edicion Limitada H-Town Lancero. This 7 x 38 cigar will come in packages of 10 and will feature Nicaraguan fillers in a Brazilian Mata Fina binder and a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.
  • Yet another new cigar has inconspicuously made its way to retail shelves. This time it is the Alec Bradley Medio Fuerte Liga de Reyes, which appeared sneakily on the shelves of Atlantic Cigar. The new smoke includes filler leaves from Nicaragua and Honduras inside a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan Habano wrapper. It is classified by the retailer as a “solid medium-bodied smoke,” and comes in seven sizes: 770, Churchill, Corona, Gordo, Robusto, Torpedo, and Toro.
  • Meanwhile, La Flor Dominicana is reviving the 2000 Series and adding two brand new sizes. All but one of the existing sizes was discontinued back in 2013. All the old sizes are being brought back, along with the new Lancero and Chisel sizes. The new version of the 2000 Series will include the same Cameroon wrapper, Dominican binder and Dominican filler.

Industry News:

  • As you are likely aware, many cigar companies have been raising their prices lately in response to the new regulations by the FDA. Rocky Patel is the latest to join the lot, having recently sent out a letter to retailers announcing a 5% increase on all products across the board—with the exception of the Rocky Patel Decade (which will increase in cost by 2.5%), and the Rocky Patel Vintage Juniors (which will go up in price by 5 cents for each cigar). The new costs will be implemented starting on November 15th. So now is the time to get in those Rocky Patel orders—before prices go up!

Legal News:

  • Two cities in California have just banned smoking in parks: Calistoga and Kerman. The Calistoga ban additionally prohibits smoking in lots which are adjacent to parks. The Kerman ban prohibits the sale or exchange of tobacco products in parks along with smoking.

Thank you for checking in with us for this week’s cigar updates!

Visiting Cuba? You Can Now Bring Back Cigars & Rum

Visiting Cuba?  You Can Now Bring Back All the Cuban Cigars You Want

With elections just around the corner, the Obama administration has given one last gift to the cigar community domestically and abroad—and that is a complete lift of the ban on Cuban cigars and rum.

As of Monday, you will now be able to bring back as much Cuban rum and as many Cuban cigars as you want when you visit Cuba and return to the US. You also can purchase Cuban cigars in other countries and bring them back. So long as you are importing the cigars and rum for your own personal consumption (and not for retail purposes), you are good to go.

The only restriction still standing is on online sales. Sadly you do still need to travel in person to pick up your cigars. You cannot buy them through a website and have them shipped to you stateside.

This is the latest step in the normalization process announced by US President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17th, 2014.

On Friday, Obama also charted a path for the future which will hopefully cancel out the economic embargo on Cuba altogether. The goal is to build numerous ties between the US and Cuba so that the fates of the two countries are positively intertwined. This will make it difficult for any future administration to try and reinstate the embargoes and cut off relations.

As you may be aware, some action was already taken in January of 2015 to reduce restrictions on Cuban rum and cigar imports. But previously, you could only bring back $100 worth of cigars and rum in your carry-on. Now there are no restrictions, save for this: “normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply.”

Speaking on the change, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, "These steps have the potential to accelerate constructive change and unlock greater economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans.”

There is no doubt that this will be a game-changing boon to the cigar industry. While the benefits will center on Cuba and the US, there will be a positive ripple effect which stimulates cigar sales throughout the world!

Habanos Festival Date and New Releases

Habanos Festival.

It’s that time again … time for a round-up on all the news in the cigar industry! This week we have some updates for you on new releases from some of your favorite cigar brands. There is also some news on the legislative front (a mixed bag, as usual), and a festival announcement from Habanos. Let’s check it out.

New and Upcoming Releases:

  • This month, Davidoff will be launching the New Royal Series. Sound familiar? This release is more than a new look. The wrapper is changing from the Ecuadorian one used previously to an Aromatica Dominicana. This wrapper will be exclusive to the New Royal Series. Only 8 individuals are involved with wrapping the cigars by hand, each of whom has 15 or more years of experience.
  • Tatuaje has announced its “Unlucky 13” list of retailers for the year, each of which will receive special boxes of the 2016 Monster Series, starting with the Krueger, which has already shipped.
  • Viaje has just announced a couple of new projects. This includes the Full Moon release for 2016 (Full Moon has been shipped every year since 2013), which will be a Collector’s Edition, and the new Viaje Exclusivo Nicaragua. This cigar looks a lot like the Exclusivo line which already exists, except that there is a new band and packaging, and it is also a brand new blend manufactured at the TABSA factory in Nicaragua.
  • As you likely know, a lot of cigar releases this year have been simply “appearing” on shelves because manufacturers have been forced to release them early in limited quantities to select retailers to get in under the new FDA deadline. Well, the newest one to turn up is the Alec Bradley Corojo, found at STOGIES World Class Cigars in Houston. It comes in five sizes: Gordo, Robusto, Churchill, Torpedo and Toro, and costs $6-8.
  • Habanos S.A. will be releasing the Cohiba Selección 50 Aniversario Travel Humidor at the Tax Free World Association Exhibition in Cannes, France. As you might guess, these humidors will go on sale at duty free shops worldwide. Each comes with a special gift inside: eight Cohiba cigars. No release date or price has been announced yet.

Legal News:

  • Live in Fulton County, Georgia? Unfortunately, you will no longer be able to smoke in parks throughout the county. The seven-member board approved the ban unanimously, and tacked on a hefty fine to boot: $1,000 and 60 days in jail. Just in case you don’t live in Georgia, you need to know that this is a big deal, because Fulton County is very populous; it contains around 90% of the city of Atlanta. The cities of Alpharetta, College Park, Sandy Springs, and East Point are all inside county lines as well. So that is a lot of people who can no longer smoke in public parks.
  • In happier news, if you live in the state of California, you can still smoke cigars at state beaches and parks. As we recently reported, Governor Jerry Brown struck down a bill that would have banned smoking on public campuses throughout the state. Now he has vetoed a second bill which would have prohibited smoking at state parks and beaches. Brown’s veto message does suggest that some regulatory steps should be taken, but, “The complete prohibition in all parks and beaches is too broad.”

Industry News:

  • President Obama has just nominated the first ambassador to Cuba since 1961, Jeffrey DeLaurentis. This is a huge step forward in the normalization of relations, and like all other steps in that process, represents excellent news for cigar lovers in the US.
  • In one more exciting news item relating to Cuba, Habanos S.A. has just announced the dates for the 19th Festival del Habanos, which will commence on Monday, February 27th, and run through Friday, March 3rd. The featured cigar has yet to be announced.

And that wraps it up for this week’s cigar news updates. Be sure to check back soon for more industry news!

Releases from Romeo y Julieta, My Father & Alec Bradley

My Father The Judge

It has been a pretty good week all-around in the cigar world. There are a number of exciting new releases to share, and there is also some good news on the regulatory front. Let’s check it out.

New and Upcoming Releases:

  • As you may recall from literature class, Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet took place in Verona, Italy. Now Verona serves as the stage for launching the new Romeo y Julieta Capuletos, which measure 6 inches with a 53-ring gauge. This launch is part of a new program by Habanos to launch special release cigars in individual cities before pressing on to global distribution. There is no word yet as to when Romeo y Julieta Capuletos will be available worldwide.
  • If you were at IPCPR this year, you may have seen the new My Father release “The Judge.” But you may also know that the packaging was not yet finalized at the show. Well, now it is. These cigars feature a chestnut-brown band with the name “The Judge.” The color closely mimics that of the wrapper leaf on the cigar. There is also a Victorian-style logo. The overall effect is very stylish.
  • Alec Bradley will be releasing a new cigar with sun grown wrappers soon. We do not have a lot of details on this yet, because this is one of many products recently distributed in small quantities to limited retailers to get in under the FDA pre-approval deadline. The new product was spied at STOGIES World Class Cigars, and is billed as the Alec Bradley Havana Sun Grown. Four sizes will be available: Churchill, toro, torpedo and robusto, and the line will sell in the $7-$9 range.
  • As you may know, the Joya De Nicaragua Rosalones Reserva debuted recently in Spain. Now the company has announced that it will be shipping out the cigars to the rest of the European markets. Joya De Nicaragua Rosalones Reserva comes in four sizes and is priced in the $2.80-$5.00 range.

Legal News:

  • Over the past year, smokers in Worcester, Massachusetts have not been faring too well. The minimum age to buy tobacco jumped from 18 to 21, and smoking has been banned in a number of establishments. Tobacco retailers have also faced new restrictions. There is finally some good news on this front, however; the Worcester Board of Health has decided not to ban smoking in the patio areas of restaurants and bars, and has also opted not to ban flavored tobacco products from being sold. These motions are now off the table until further notice.
  • Finally, in one more item of encouraging regulatory news, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation which would have banned smoking on public university campuses throughout the state of California. Public universities will remain free to set their own rules.

Thanks for checking in with us for this week’s cigar updates. Be sure to check back soon for more cigar news!

New Illusione Sizes, Davidoff Exclusive & Legal News

Illusione Ultra

With summer drawing to a close, it is time for another round of cigar news. This week we have a lot of legal news to report. Some of it is good, some of it isn’t—as usual it is a mixed bag for the cigar industry. But first, let’s talk about new releases.

New and Upcoming Releases:

  • Fans of the Illusione Ultra line will be excited to learn that there are now two new formats available: a Churchill and a short robusto. The short robusto is known as the Op. No. 3, and measures 4 1/4 inches with a 50-ring gauge. You can purchase it for $8. The Churchill is the Op. No. 8, measuring 6 3/4 with a 48-ring gauge. The larger size will sell for $13. You can purchase the new sizes in boxes of 20, but there are also limited-edition 48-count boxes of the Op. No. 3, each adorned with special artwork.
  • Fans of Oettinger Davidoff AG and the Corona Cigar Company know these two cigar giants have enjoyed a longstanding business relationship. To celebrate that association, Davidoff is releasing a limited edition cigar to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Corona Cigar Company. The Davidoff Exclusive Corona Cigar Co. 20th is a 6 x 52 Belicoso featuring an Ecuador Connecticut Rojiza wrapper, a Mexico Negro San Andres Binder and a combination of Florida Sun Grown and Dominican Republic fillers.

Legal News:

  • You may know there is a ban on smoking in restaurants, casinos, bars, video lottery establishments, and package liquor stores in South Dakota. A business owner recently challenged this ruling and it went to the circuit court. Unfortunately, the ruling has now been reaffirmed and still stands, so this represents another loss for the cigar community.
  • The FDA has just issued its first set of warning letters to retailers who sell newly regulated tobacco products. The goal with these particular letters is to stop the sale of tobacco to minors. The FDA has been conducting inspections and issuing similar warnings (and penalties) since 2009, but the list of newly regulated products includes cigars. Fifty-five letters have been sent out so far to retailers across the country.
  • Did you know there is a ban prohibiting the donation of cigars to U.S. soldiers abroad? U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, D-Florida, is currently spearheading an effort to get the ban overturned by introducing H.R. 5955. Be sure to write in to your congressmen in support of the bill so our troops can get back to enjoying donated cigars on their tours of duty!
  • Finally, in a solid victory, the General Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee of New Jersey voted 9 to 1 to permit a municipality to authorize new cigar lounges. At the present time, cigar bars which opened prior to 2005 are exempt from the Smoke-Free Air Act. Patrons in these exempt bars can smoke, but patrons at newer lounges cannot. This bill will allow new cigar lounges the same rights as those which opened before 2005.
  • Here is one more exciting legal news item. After more than five decades, the U.S. Department of Transportation has finally approved flights to Havana! Eight airline companies will be participating. This is a great step forward in cementing commercial relations between the US and Cuba, and a great day for Cuban cigar fans in America.

Thank you for checking in for this week’s cigar news. Be sure to check back soon for another set of updates!

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