Tim Ozgener leaves CAO

Tim Ozgener leaves CAO

It is a common fact in the cigar world that behind every successful cigar brand is a devoted, passionate and enthusiastic person, committed to obtaining only the finest tobacco blends. As such, one might wonder what will happen with the CAO line of cigars, now that Tim Ozgener, who worked with CAO for 16 years, has left the company. A very important man in the company, Ozgener has been the president of CAO since 2006, and the person usually associated with CAO cigars throughout the years. With Tim Ozgener now gone, no other members of the Ozgener family, who founded CAO International, remain onboard.

The reason for such decision comes as a side effect of the merger between two tobacco companies, Swedish Match and Scandinavian Tobacco. Seeing as how CAO belongs to the Scandinavian Tobacco Group, the merger resulted in CAO’s headquarters to be relocated to Richmond, Virginia. The move did not appeal to Ozgener, who decided to remain in Nashville, Tennessee. His words about this were "I'm pretty well established in Nashville. My family is here, my wife's family—I'm not willing to uproot my family. Nashville has been a great city for karma, for me and my family." Prior to the merger, CAO has been located in Nashville since 1968, when it has been founded.

Tim Ozgener’s decision stirred reactions from high-profile persons in the cigar industry. The chairman of CAO International, Gary Hyams, commends Ozgener for his dedication to the company, while the president of General Cigar, Dan Carr, acknowledges Ozgener’s innovative approach to cigar packaging and flavors, and his contributions to the CAO brand and to cigar making in general.

Ozgener considers CAO Brazilia as one of his greatest accomplishments, which was unique and innovative at the time of its release, having a Brazilian wrapper and coming in a green box packaging.

As for what the future has in store for him, Ozgener said re-entering the cigar industry is not out of the question, but for the time being, he considers focusing his attention on a Nashville bar he co-owns, The Patterson House.

Monte’s first annual “Little Big Smoke”

Monte's first annual

If there is one thing that we cigar lovers like, it is to be properly treated. Apparently, Albuquerque-based cigar club owner, Larry Monte Jr., realized just that, and, in order to show his respect and gratitude for his customers, hosted a major event for cigar smokers.

Monte’s 1st Annual Little Big Smoke, hosted on the 25th September, at his Pueblo Pipe Shop and Club La Gloria Cubana cigar club at 3636 San Mateo NE in Albuquerque, offered cigar smokers what they long for: cigars, obviously, and delicious food – in particular, delightful slices of juicy steak and spicy, gravy –covered meatballs.

Almost 300 people attended the event. Even though the ticket was priced at $100, you will soon see that it was well worth it. First of all, 21 cigar makers with 36 different brands and deep discounts planted a booth at the event. In the long tent set up in the shop’s parking lot, you could go from table to table and end up with a plastic gift bag chock-full of over $150 worth of cigars, as well as cigar cutters from the manufacturers’ representatives.

Already sounds good, doesn’t it? Add in the food – steak, meatballs and all sorts of veggies, chips and salsa – and a cigar lover’s dream starts to take shape. In order to add more value to the event, Monte’s employees also raffled off lighters, ashtrays, caps and t-shirts every 5 minutes.

Here is what Monte has to say about the intent of this event: “We talked about the economy and the downturns and really pitched the idea that in these tough times – any time – businesses have to be aggressive,” Monte says.

Apparently, it worked very well, considering manufacturers showed up from Miami, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and other locales. If, after reading this, you are regretting you have not heard of this event in time, you’re in luck – Monte plans on doing it again next year.

“If you go out and create opportunities, people will respond,” Monte noted.

Unite against Outdoor Smoke Ban in NYC

Unite against Outdoor Smoke Ban in NYC

Greetings to all cigar aficionados. My name is Ray and I will be bringing you news from the cigar industry as well as occasional reviews. Enjoy.

Recent news revealed that New York politicians are considering banning smoking in most of the outdoors area of the city. As a response, the premium cigar industry rallied and, with the Cigars Rights of America, International Premium Cigars & Pipe Retailers Association and the New York Tobacconist Association as official supporters, encourages you, as cigar lover, to sign petitions against the extension of New York’s smoking ban.

Michael Bloomberg, one of United States’ most high-profile critics of smoking and the mayor of New York, proposed banning smoking in the outdoors of the city, specifically in all of New York’s 1700 public parks and along the 14 miles of city beaches.

Even if you are not a New Yorker and this law will not directly affect you, put yourself in the feet of a cigar lover in the Big Apple. Imagine yourself strolling through Central Park, maybe sitting on a bench, with a fine cigar in your pocket. You would like to indulge in this fine cigar while basking in the afternoon sun, enjoying a quiet, peaceful time. However, this dreamy relaxation will be impossible, should the banning law pass in New York City.

As a gesture of solidarity with your fellow smokers, you can sign the petition created by the New York Tobacconist Association, which opposes the extension of the ban and suggests that decisions of this nature should be up to the individual.

Chris McCalla, the legislative director of the IPCPR, stated, "In public places like these, common courtesy should prevail, not heavy-handed, misguided legislation."

Litto Gomez ad in Cigar Aficionado

Litto Gomez ad in Cigar Aficionado

Hello everyone, I hope you are having a great week-end. As for me, I am about to go out and get myself a couple of new Trinidad Limited Editions 2010; hopefully I'll put a review together this week. Not much info for today, just wanted to show you (in case you haven't seen it yet) an ad that Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana ran in Cigar Aficionado. I think that his personal opinion (click on the pic to open a full-sized version) is similar to yours. I know that it sure is to mine. Enjoy your week-end!

M&A update: Scandinavian Tobacco Group

Scandinavian Tobacco Group

According to the press-release posted on their website, Scandinavian Tobacco Group just became the second largest cigar company in the world, after merging with Swedish Match. The new company keeps the name Scandinavian Tobacco Group and will be producing over 2.5 billion cigars every year. CAO is the most well-known brand among the ones in the company's portfolio.

“After months of preparations we are very pleased now to be able to start the integration of the two businesses. The new Scandinavian Tobacco Group is a truly global company and we have an excellent basis in the combined brand portfolio to grow even further and increase profitability,” says Anders Colding Friis, CEO of the former STG and CEO of the new Scandinavian Tobacco Group which is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Rain in Nicaragua delays planting

Rain in Nicaragua delays planting

The following post comes courtesy of Arthur a.k.a. Robustojoe, a cigar aficionado from LA who runs a personal cigar-related blog at Robustojoe.com.

This past September, Nicaragua has been drenched by rain. In fact it’s been the wettest season in fifteen years. After two straight weeks of nonstop precipitation, the clouds have finally relented and the cigar industry can now get back into gear. But the recent rain is only part of the problem. This year, the rainy season started early, with many farmers still having had crops in the field. Farmers were either forced to pick early, which hurt the yield of ligero, or they rolled the dice and lost the crop all together. (The trademark flavor of Nicaraguan cigars is largely based on the inclusion of this ligero leaf.)

But the rain is also affecting next years crop. Planting for the next season usually starts in seedbeds between November and January. With the effect the rain has had on the soil, people are talking about not starting to plant until February. If the rain comes early again next year, it could have a serious impact on Nicaraguan tobacco and the factories that depend on it. Either way, it looks like Nicaraguan tobacco will be in shorter supply next year.

As far as quality, it is too early to tell what effect the rain will have. But farmers are less concerned about the quality as much as the quantity. This has many nervous and all are watching the weather closely, especially the brokers. If there are signs of shortages, prices will increase for filler, binder, and wrapper. The neighboring country of Honduras, also with a large tobacco industry, has not been affected by the high precipitation.

Along with the rain has come extremely high humidity. This too has created problems for the Nicaraguan cigar industry. Factories have not been able to roll cigars at full capacity, and some have been forced to stop production for consecutive days.

If the signs are clearly pointing to a shortage next year, tobacco and cigar prices could start changing now. The larger, well-financed factories should safely weather the storm. They routinely keep three years of inventory on hand as a buffer against this type of contingency. However, the small factories that buy tobacco “as needed”, may not have enough inventory available for cigar production. They will acutely feel the brunt of the price increase. This could, in turn, lead to cost-cutting to remain profitable, resulting in a compromised product.

The bottom line is that these are challenging times for the Nicaraguan cigar business. But time and time again, tobacco farmers have been tested by the elements and have successfully met the challenge. Hopefully Mother Nature will lend a helping hand in seeing this challenge to a successful conclusion.

Cigar Release: Camacho Room 101 LTD Conjura

Camacho Room 101 LTD Conjura

Update: here is our review of the Room 101 Conjura Edition Petit Corona.

The Conjura Edition, meaning Conspiracy in Spanish, is the first installment in the new Room101 Limitado series. This cigar is more full bodied than the previous Room101 released at last year’s trade show in New Orleans. A beautiful ‘Rosado’ wrapper adorns the outside of this new box-pressed masterpiece by Los Angeles based jewelry designer, Matt Booth. The cedary, yet savory flavors of Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers are complemented by the underlying spice of a Honduran binder.

Available in (4) formats:

LTDC – 48 x 4 (MSRP – $6.95)
LTDC – 50 x 4 3/4 (MSRP – $7.95)
LTDC – 60 x 5 (MSRP – $8.95)
LTDC – 54 x 6 1/2 (MSRP – $9.95)

Cigar Release: The Bowery by Velvet Cigars

Update: here is our review of the Velvet Bowery.

Velvet Cigars, located in the East Village of Manhattan, is proud to announce the release of its newest line of cigars: The Bowery, a medium to full-bodied box-pressed cigar, featuring four year-aged Nicaraguan and Honduran filler, with a Habano Ecuadorian wrapper.

“The Bowery offers box-pressed perfection, with a rich and unique flavor augmented by the flawless Habano wrapper,” says Dan Bsharat, managing partner of Velvet Cigars. “For our newest release, we wanted to offer something very different and spent 10 months on the development of the blend and manufacturing of the cigar.”

Housed in a sleek, black box with velvet red accents, The Bowery adds a new, unique option to Velvetʼs diverse offering of prized hand-rolled cigars: The Cooper, The Astor and The Tompkins. “The new line is a perfect complement to our existing offering of freshly hand-rolled Dominican cigars. Our portfolio now consists of 16 distinctive cigars, so we can truly say we have a stick for everyone.”

Each Velvet Cigar line is named for locations in NYCʼs East Village, a diverse neighborhood with a vibrant nightlife and creative sensibility. The Bowery is named after the NYC thoroughfare of the same name, just a few short blocks from Velvet Cigar Lounge. Once considered NYCʼs Skid Row, The Bowery has gone through an incredible transformation, becoming a center for culture and nightlife.

The Bowery is available for purchase beginning September 2010 at the Velvet Cigar Lounge in the East Village and at velvetcigars.com. A box of 20 cigars retails for $195-$230, depending on the size: Robusto (5” x 50), Toro (6.5” x 52), Torpedo (6” x 52) and Churchill (7” x 52).

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