2nd Annual Nicaraguan Cigar Festival Announced

2nd Annual Nicaraguan Cigar Festival Announced

The 2nd Annual Nicaraguan Cigar Festival, titled “Sensations of my Country” is scheduled to begin April 5th and conclude on the 8th. The festival will be held in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, and also in Granada, Jalapa and Estelí.

Whether you are in the industry or a cigar enthusiast, you are invited to attend. This festival, held by the Asociacion Nicaraguense del Puro (ANP) celebrates both the excellent cigars manufactured in Nicaragua and also the beautiful country itself. As a participant, you will get the chance to enjoy premium Nicaraguan cigars and also experience the beauty and culture of Managua, Granada, Estelí, Jalapa and the Masaya Volcano National Park first hand.

$600.00 buys you a welcome at the International Airport Augusto C. Sandino, transportation to hotels, cities and events on your route, a welcome cocktail party and much more. You will be provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner each day and accommodation in Estelí for two nights. ANP will provide you with premium cigars crafted by its members for your enjoyment throughout the Festival as you tour the capital city Granada, the National Park Volcano Masaya and the islands of Nicaragua. You will be admitted free of charge to the Estelí fair and the raffle for judges for the Miss Tobacco 2011 contest. You will enjoy Nicaragua’s finest rum, Flor de Cana, complimentary of ANP, and also be gifted with the ANP Collectors Edition Festival 24 Cigar Box 2011!

You will only need to cover your own airfare and accommodation for two nights in Managua. You can register your participation in the Festival on the event’s website.

Host cigar makers include:

Padron, Plasencia, Rocky Patel, My Father, Oliva, Joya de Nicaragua and others.

Crowned Heads – a new brand from an old hand

Crowned Heads – a New Brand from an Old Hand

Most of you probably heard the news back in December about Jon Huber’s departure from CAO International. His sudden move came in light of a merger between Scandinavian Tobacco Group and Swedish Match which relocated company headquarters from Nashville, TN to Richmond, VA. Huber was CAO’s Director of Lifestyle Marketing since 1996 – a long run with a solid company, resulting in many lauded cigar blends like La Traviata. Since announcing his decision, Huber’s fans have speculated over the backlash this could have on CAO’s creativity and what Huber’s plans would be next. Until just yesterday Huber has been tight-lipped about his future – but now he has revealed it: a brand new company called Crowned Heads.

Crowned Heads will be a boutique company instead of a huge corporation – Huber says, "It's going to be very different from what we did at C.A.O,” and expresses his enthusiasm for a fresh, scaled back, more personalized approach. “If I'd wanted to work for corporate America, I would've gone and sold copy machines or something. To each their own, however, I will say that it was an amazingly liberating feeling to be out from under the corporate 'machine' that was ST Group.”

Along with Huber, Crowned Heads will feature other great minds from CAO. Mike Condor, CAO’s former Senior VP of Marketing, Michael Trebing, CAO’s former Creative Media Manager, and Nancy Heathman, CAO’s ex-graphic designer, all have decided to take their place by Huber’s side to make Crowned Heads the best new cigar company around.

Huber hopes to have a cigar ready to show off at this year’s IPCPR expo but says he is still searching for the perfect blend – by the end of this year he plans to have five sizes ready for the market. We can count on one thing–Huber is putting great care and creativity into developing a business that’s different. If he puts that same creativity into his cigars, we’re in for an experience at once matchless, distinctive and very exciting.

Washington: two pro-smoker bills at a heavy price

Washington Proposes Pro-Smoker Bills – At a Heavy Price

After six years of oppressively harsh smoking laws, Washington State is finally considering caving in a little … and taking a lot.

The two separate bills, Senate Bill 5542 and House Bill 1683, would enable cigar smokers to enjoy their freedom once more inside a limited number of tobacco shops and cigar lounges.

In 2005, Washington State universally banned indoor public smoking in one of the harshest smoking measures ever passed. Even inside bars, restaurants and tobacconists, cigar smokers were forbidden to light up.

Just as restaurants and bars can apply for a liquor license, the proposed bills would allow tobacconists and cigar lounge owners to apply to the State Liquor Control Board for an endorsement of their status. This in turn would allow them to receive an annually renewable license to permit their patrons to smoke in their establishments.

Sadly the bills come at a very heavy toll for business owners. Only 100 cigar lounges and 500 tobacconists will be able to receive licenses. The costs to these business owners will be expensive, to say the least. For tobacconists, a license will cost $5,000 per year. For cigar lounge owners, the fee is downright exorbitant: every year cigar lounge owners will have to pay a whopping $15,000 to renew their licenses.

If the bills do pass – it will certainly be a step forward in reversing the Washington State public smoking ban. The cost will put a huge dent in the finances of local businesses though, and there’s no doubt that Washington State is still trying to punish cigar smokers and purveyors in the trade – even while restoring some of their rights.

Cigar Release: Miraculous Templar Cigars

Cigar Release: Miraculous Templar Cigars

Los Angeles based diamond broker David Rafaeli takes a few trips a year to the brokerage centers of Antwerp and Tel Aviv. During one of his trips to Tel Aviv he set eyes on an unusual diamond. The green-yellow stone contained a perfectly formed equilateral cross, a replica of the symbol of the Templar Knights. The symbols corners represent eight points; the eight virtues of the Templar Knights: Brotherhood, Piety, Loyalty, Honesty, Honor, Charity, Spirituality and Devotion.
Cigar Release: Miraculous Templar Cigars
This discovery inspired David Rafaeli to launch a new cigar line. Miraculous Templar cigars are handmade with prime Dominican Cuban-Seed long-filler tobacco. The cigars come in boxes of 50 with the option of 3 different sizes; a 5x50 robusto, a 6x50 toro and a 6.75x50 Churchill (a 50-ring churchill? Hm...). All of these cigars are also available with a maduro wrapper. They are priced between $95 and $115 per box.

Currently the only place that one may purchase these cigars are The Las Vegas Palms Casino or The Four Seasons Hotel. For those of you that do not live in the vicinity of these places, the company is looking forward to branching out and possibly bringing these cigars to a local store near you.

Outdoor smoking banned in New York City

Smoking banned in New York City

In a pretty darn fascist move, and despite the petition I posted about a few months ago, the New York City council has approved a city-wide ban of smoking in outdoor public spaces, eight years after the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants went into effect. We’re not just talking about doorways here—this ban will apply to wide open spaces too, like beaches, public squares, and the city’s 1700 parks.

The vote is scheduled to become law in about 90 days, right as the weather starts warming up. Robert Jackson, a non-smoking Manhattan Democrat, criticized the measure, calling it “totalitarian.”

… And it is. Central Park, one of the areas you won’t be able to smoke in anymore, is 843 acres. 843 acres, and not exactly crowded acres either. The exposure to second-hand smoke in public squares and street corners is already so fleeting that its effects are probably negligible, and the city council is telling us that 843 acres isn’t enough space to have a smoke without endangering someone’s health? Even in a city as crowded as NYC, that’s a lot of space. The massive pollution already present in the city does not seem to worry anyone though. The hypocrisy here is blatant and astounding.

The motion passed in the city council with fairly overwhelming support in a vote of 36 to 12. The new law will make New York City one of the least smoker-friendly parts of the U.S. Considering the largely liberal population of the city, this is a disturbingly conservative move. Nor will it necessarily stop here. Smokers are advised to keep an eye on NYC for further developments.

One more step in the right direction

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Since 1962, the US embargo on Cuba has been detrimental – to say the very least. Wayne Smith, current director of the Center for International Policy’s Cuba Program quite possibly sums it up the best with his remarks on the embargo, stating that “really hasn’t done the slightest bit of good.” Fortunately enough, the Obama Administration is taking positive strides in hopes to remove the embargo altogether. While no one can explicitly state that there will be a removal any time soon, there has been definite progress in the matter. Now, it is possible for Americans to send $500 every three months to non-family members in the country.

This is an addendum to legislation that allowed for US residents to send funds to family members in the country, a policy that assuredly wasn’t necessarily in the best interests of the Cuban residents. With the sanctions in place, it gave unhappy Cubans someone to blame for their economic state, causing even more divide between the two countries. The most telling thing about removing the embargo is that it will allow for Cubans to understand that the sanctions against them is not the sole detrimental aspect of their country – allowing for them to see the weak points in their government.

But, what makes this especially great is what it means for cigar aficionados, as we’re just that closer to being able to enjoy fine Cuban cigars. While this may not mean that we should be priming ourselves for these fine goods, these moves are assuredly a step in the right direction. Since 2009, we’ve already seen much progress in lifting nearly all restrictions and remittances as far as the island nation is concerned. With growing pressure by the U.N. and other entities with economic interest, we may see an end to the blockade sooner than previously anticipated.

Cigar Aficionado releases their Top 25 cigars of 2010

Cigar Aficionado releases their Top 25 cigars of 2010

Every year, a lot of cigar smokers wait for Cigar Aficionado's Top 25 cigars of the year. Some of them swear by this list and make their purchasing decisions solely based on the ranking. At the same time, many aficionados I know and the majority (am I right?) of cigar bloggers are rather sceptical about it, thinking that it might be based on advertising revenue more than on anything else. I stand somewhere in the middle. I simply think that one shouldn't give any extra weight to the CA's list over any other list out there.

As for the list itself, I thought it was very likely for Cohiba Behike to become #1; I must admit that this cigar was rather well-marketed and the quality is there, although the reviews were somewhat mixed. However, I do not really approve crowning an incredibly expensive and hyped cigar for the second time in a row. This being said, there are some quality sticks in the list, it definitely deserves a look. But not a 25-boxes buying spree.

Smoking ban in Spain

Smoking ban in Spain

What a difference a day can make. On January 31st, 2010, you could be sitting in a Spanish tapas bar enjoying a nice stogie with some friends. But, do the same thing a few days later, and you will be slapped with a big fine. That’s right – one of the countries with the highest Cuban tobacco consumption per capita in the world has banned smoking.

If you are in Spain, you are no longer allowed to enjoy your fine cigar in any restaurant, bar, or enclosed space that is open to the public. Plan on ignoring the law and lighting up anyways? Expect to pay around $40 for a first offence, all the way up to $100,000 for repeat offences. The owners of the establishment you light up in will also be on the hook for big monetary fines.

While the Spanish government reports that smoking kills over 50,000 people per year, they seem to have acted in a rash manner. Have they really thought about the consequences to the rich Spanish social life and the tradition of having a drink and a cigar with friends? The venues that now prohibit smoking are a very large part of the Spanish economy, and if people are not allowed to enjoy a smoke there, they might no longer show up. How can that be good for a country that is struggling financially?

What repercussions will the smoking ban in Spain have on their hospitality industry, their entertainment industry and the overall state of tobacco consumption countrywide? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure – a lot of cigar smokers are unhappy about it.

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