More sales, more taxes?

More sales, more taxes

Normally we’d be happy to report news of increased cigar sales, but in this case it’s not really a good thing, IMO. The Government Accountability Office recently released data which demonstrates that cigarette smokers are switching to pipe tobacco and cigars in order to dodge the sales tax on cigarettes, which is substantially higher. The federal government estimates that it has lost between $615 million and $1.1 billion in uncollected sales tax revenue from April 2009 to September 2011. In January of 2009, pipe tobacco sales were just 240,000 pounds. In September 2011, that number rose to 3 million pounds—a tremendous leap. Cigar sales more than doubled in the same timeframe, rising from 411 million pounds to 1 billion pounds.

We’re already starting to see the consequences, and they’re not good. Congress has raised taxes on small cigars to the same rate as cigarettes. As a result, the manufacturers of small cigars have already had to raise the weight of their cigars in order to enter the lower large cigar tax bracket. Naturally the Government Accountability Office has already taken notice of this fact, which means it’s only a matter of time before they end up cracking down on those, too.

Many cigar smokers (if not all) don’t even smoke cigarettes, and it is unfair that cigar aficionados should have to pay a higher tax on their cigars simply because cigarette smokers are dodging taxes, but that could well be what’s in store for the future. That could harm premium cigar manufacturers and tobacconists too, which won’t do any good for small business in this country.

Cigar Release: Toraño Master Maduro

Torano Master Maduro

The Toraño Family Cigar Company is proud to announce the release of a new chapter in the Master story: The Master Maduro. The Master line of cigars has been a smashing success with the launch of the original Master two years ago. The Master BFC 6X60 quickly followed, and as demand for this popular line has increased, the Toraño family now brings you the Master Maduro.

As with the original Master, the Master Maduro was a collaborative effort between Toraño’s master roller Felipe Sosa and President of the Toraño family business Charlie Toraño. Sosa, who is a true artisan, is passionate about the Master line which carries his image on the boxes. Sosa approached Charlie about experimenting with a Habano Maduro wrapper that would create a new cigar worthy of the Master name. After tinkering with the blend using the Habano Maduro wrapper (a dark rich wrapper grown in Nicaragua), Charlie and Sosa found this cigar to be medium in strength and full of flavor. In true Maduro style, this flavourful blend is a complex balance of sweet spicy notes with a rich, chewy finish.

The Master Maduro’s final blend was a cigar that needed to pass the strict test of Charlie Toraño, as it had to match the quality of the original Master. The Master was released with much anticipation after the Toraño family took back its distribution in 2010. The new cigar blew the doors open as the Master garnered high ratings from Cigar Aficionado (91), and went on to make waves in Europe as it received a 98/5 star rating and rated third best cigar of the year by Cigar Journal Magazine.

“The Master brand has been one of our most successful brand launches. The positive feedback, both in the U.S. and abroad, inspired us to expand the brand.” Charlie Toraño went on to say, ”The Master Maduro is that rare combination of just enough power with an abundance of rich flavor.”

With an MSRP of $6.00 to $8.00, the Master Maduro is a competitively priced cigar in its category. The Master Maduro will be offered in a Robusto 5 x 50 and Toro Gordo 5 ½ x 54. For those who prefer the big and bold the Master Maduro is also available in a BFC 6 x 60.

25,000 signatures received on petition to protect cigars

25 000 signatures received on petition to protect cigars

You may recall we recently told you about H.R. 1639 and Senate Bill 1461, the two bills filed in Congress to protect premium cigars from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The FDA is seeking to impose rather fascist regulations on the industry which would harm small businesses throughout the country as well as harm the experience of cigar aficionados nationwide.

We have some great news — 25,000 signatures have already come in on the petition sponsored by the Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR). This is an outstanding accomplishment — the petition achieved its initial goal of 25,000 names within just fifteen days. That’s how fast cigar aficionados, businesses, friends and supporters (including cigar bloggers - I've seen mentions of this petition on multiple websites - great job guys!) across the nation have come together.

While this is a milestone, one which will surely get the attention of Congress and the White House, the battle isn’t won yet. There is still time to sign the petition and add your voice to the 25,000 other signees who have spoken out against unfair and excessive FDA regulation. You may find and sign the petition here if you haven't already done so.

Counterfeit Cohiba cigars seized in Miami

General Cigar, owner of the Cohiba trademark, has announced that more than 10,000 counterfeit Cohiba cigars were seized by law enforcement officials in Miami. The raids on April 23rd were conducted by the Miami Office of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco. The raids were the result of an investigation conducted by law enforcement officials in conjunction with the efforts of General Cigar.

The 10,000 counterfeit cigars were discovered for sale on Calle Ocho, a popular tourist shopping area in Little Havana, Miami. Around 1,800 boxes of counterfeit cigars worth over $200,000 were uncovered and confiscated in all. The cigars included the Cohiba brand name along with the words “Republica Dominicana.” Nor is this the only instance of fraud uncovered by the brand. In November of last year, law enforcement officials in Florida seized over 3,000 counterfeit Cohiba cigars in Key West.

I thought only Cuban cigars were faked, but it turns out some people fall for counterfeit Dominican Cohibas :)

Help Save Cigars from FDA Regulation

Help Save Cigars from FDA Regulation

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has announced their intent to regulate cigars in the United States three times now — the most recent being on February 13th of this year. If the FDA is allowed to regulate cigars, we will see an end to walk-in humidors, and the FDA could start requiring that new cigar blends be submitted for testing. We also may see an end to the beautiful packaging which is part of the premium cigar experience (like in Australia). Many cigar makers may simply turn away from the US market, and numerous boutiques and tobacconists could close outright.

This is the time to fight back, once again. Two bills have been filed in the House and the Senate, H.R. 1639 and Senate Bill 1461, respectively. They are both filed under the name Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act. If passed, these bills will protect premium cigars from FDA regulation. More than 85,000 Americans work in the cigar industry, and of course, many more than that enjoy cigars. If cigars are an important part of your life, then please take action now to sign the petition (almost 10,000 signatures as of today) to protect cigars from the FDA. Call up your senators and representatives and ask them to support these preservation acts. Act now while we still can!

Help choose the next CAO blend: “Last Stick Standing”

Last stick standing

Ever wish you could have a say in which blends your favorite cigar companies manufacture? With CAO’s “Last Stick Standing” promotion, we all get a chance! Ed McKenna, CAO’s senior brand manager, explains, “Rick Rodriguez has been developing blends with our team in Nicaragua and has come up with three which we think are all great. So we’re calling on CAO fans to help us pick the blend that will ultimately be launched as a new CAO collection, to be released late this year, or in early 2013.”

It gets even better; the Last Stick Standing promotion comes in a three-pack tin which you can receive for free when you buy any six CAO cigars at participating tobacconists. The three blends are currently referred to only as C, A and O, and each features a sleek, simplistic band with the applicable letter. Each measures 5 ½” x 54. Once you’ve tried out the prototype blends, you can log onto and vote. The website allows you to provide ratings on different criteria so that you can really speak your mind. This will provide the company with valuable feedback which will help them to evaluate and improve their cigar blends based on flavor, construction and other factors.

Last stick standing

As if this wasn’t generous enough, you get entered into a drawing to win a box of the winning blend when you submit your rating. There is also a grand prize all-expenses paid vacation to Nicaragua; the grand prize winner will be able to visit and tour the CAO factory to learn all about the cigar production process. This is a very exciting opportunity for CAO fans and there are participating cigar shops all across the country offering the Last Stick Standing promotion. The cigars are available now, so check out the website and get involved in selecting the next CAO blend!

Cigar Release: La Palina El Diario “Kill Bill”

La Palina El Diario Kill Bill

Going against the grain of the industry’s focus on large ring gauge cigars, La Palina is bringing a petit corona to market. The petit corona has always been a favored vitola in Bill Paley’s humidor, and is his preferred size for the daily drive home from the office. Jokingly referred to as the "Kill Bill" during initial blending stages of the El Diario line, the name stuck. The La Palina El Diario KB is a line extension of El Diario's current 5 facings.

The KB is a richly flavored full bodied cigar. The sweet characteristics of the Honduran rosado wrapper round out the spicy notes of the Nicaraguan filler. The double binders from Honduras refine and complete the blend creating beautiful balance.

Cigar Stats

Origin: Honduras
Factory: Raices Cubana
Wrapper: Honduran Corojo '99 Rosado
Binder: Honduran Criollo '98 (x2)
Filler: Nicaraguan Corojo '99 and Criollo '98
Size: 4.25x40
Packaging: sleeve of 5 - 4 packs
MSRP: $35.00 4pk or $8.75 each

Cigar Release: Urbano Economy Bundles

Urbano Economy Bundles

“With five wrappers (we reviewed the Corojo) and five shapes, we haven’t left any cigar smoker behind.” The speaker is Matt Urbano, founder and owner of Urbano Cigars, Inc. “Our new 100% long-filler, hand-made Urbano Economy Bundles meet every smoker’s criterion for variety, satisfaction, and affordability. These mild- to medium-bodied cigars are our latest introduction, and are targeted at the many daily smokers who are looking for an honest cigar that won’t break their budget.”

Urbano Economy Bundles’ wrapper selections are Connecticut Shade, Sumatra, Habano, Corojo and Maduro. They are available in Robusto, Torpedo, Toro, Churchill, and the company’s new 6" x 60 shape. As an extra quality touch, the heads are double-capped, to prevent the messy frustration of having a cap unravel in the mouth.

There’s real value in these smokes ... the long filler and binder are all top-quality Dominican tobaccos that have been painstakingly fermented, then patiently aged. They are hand-made by a Cuban-owned Dominican boutique cigar factory, then aged another three months. Each cigar is individually cellophane-sheathed, and packaged in plastic-wrapped bundles. All shapes are packaged 25 cigars to the bundle, except for the 6" x 60, which comes 20 to a bundle.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing for the Connecticut and Sumatra start at $48 (Robusto), and top out at $55 (6" x 60). The Corojo, Habano and Maduro-wrapped cigars retail for $48 (Robusto) to $60 (6" x 60).

Quoting Urbano, “Long-filler, hand-made Economy Bundles compete head-to-head with mass-produced, ‘no-names,’ factory seconds and overrun items. They’re perfect for today’s depressed economy, delivering premium flavor, quality and affordability to the everyday guy.” Urbano Economy Bundles are now available at tobacco retailers nationwide.

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