2017 in Review: Cigar Industry Highlights

Can you believe that it’s already 2018? 2017 sure went by in a flash! Let’s take a look at some of the top stories from the industry this year.

Personnel Changes at Major Cigar Companies

Let’s start by talking about major personnel changes. There were quite a few staff changes at the top of major cigar companies this year.

For starters, in January, Drew Estate’s co-founder Jonathan Drew became the company’s president.

At Davidoff in August, Andreas Schmid and CEO Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard both made their departures while Domenico Scala Beat Hauenstein took over as new chairmen for the company.

Meanwhile, Mark Pursell departed his role as CEO of IPCPR in September. In October, Janelle Rosenfeld left her post as VP of Marketing for Altadis U.S.A. Terence Reilly, National Sales Manager at Quesada, departed his company as well.

That same month, Michael Giannini joined Ventura Cigar Co. as Creative Director. In November, Swisher International selected John Miller as President.

Miscellaneous Industry News

  • We lost several industry greats this year. Gilberto F. Oliva Sr. passed away at age 86 this December, as did José Orlando Padrón at age 91. This March, we also lost Avo Uvezian, who died just two days after his 91st birthday. While we lament the passing of these legendary men, their legacies will live on through their celebrated brands.
  • This year marked the 25th anniversary of Cigar Aficionado, the industry’s most prominent publication.
  • On a related note, Apple Inc. decided this year that it has a beef with cigars. The company decided to remove Cigar Aficionado’s popular Where to Smoke app from the App Store. Apple argued that the app was in violation of its TOS despite the fact that it does not promote or sell specific products.
  • Room101 branched out into spirits in November. The famous cigar brand now has its very own gin label.
  • Hurricane Irma took its toll on cigar companies in Florida in September. Many were forced to temporarily shut down their operations until the storm passed. Nonetheless, the industry was very generous with helping out the broader community in the wake of the storm. Both Tabacalera USA and a boutique cigar company called EPC Cigar Co. donated substantially to relief efforts.
  • A few companies made notable expansions this year. Casa de Montecristo has new locations in Arizona and Florida. Davidoff opened up a brand new Camacho Factory. La Flor Domincana expanded its Tamboril factory in the Dominican Republic.

Cuba

Now that we’ve gone over some general industry news, let’s talk a bit about developments concerning Cuba in 2017. Let me go over the timeline:

  • First, let’s put things in perspective. In 2016, 4 million tourists visited Cuba. The Ministry of Tourism in Cuba reported that was a jump in 13% over the prior year. It was also a record. Many of those travelers came from the USA. After Obama opened up relations with Cuba, there were finally flights scheduled between the US and Cuba on a regular basis again.
  • Early in 2017, a number of airlines decided to either restrict their flights to Cuba or end them altogether. These included American Airlines, Spirit, Frontier, JetBlue, and Silver Airways.
  • In June, Trump announced a new set of limits on trade and travel relations between Cuba and the US.
  • In September, unusual circumstances at the US embassy in Havana resulted in the State Department culling back personnel so that only emergency staff would remain on hand.
  • In November, yet more restrictions were announced by Trump’s administration. You can still transport cigars from Cuba to the United States, but you must “fit into the revised travel categories” in order to do so.

So while the doors are not totally closed, they are moving in that direction. It has once again become challenging to find flights to and from Cuba, and many hotels in Cuba no longer accept US citizens.

On top of that, you can only visit Cuba if you fit into one of the previously mentioned “travel categories.” These include:

  • Family visits
  • Government business
  • Journalism
  • Business-related travel
  • Education
  • Religious travel
  • Public performances
  • Support for the people of Cuba
  • Humanitarian ventures
  • Private foundations
  • Information-related imports and exports
  • Other select exports

So can you still take a flight to Cuba, get off and buy cigars, and return home with them? Sure, but you will need to have a legal excuse for your presence there.

On the Legal Front

The easiest way to go over legal highlights from 2017 is just to review them chronologically as well. Here’s the rundown of major events:

  • April saw the publication of a scientific research study in The New England Journal of Medicine. The FDA provided funding for the study, which demonstrated that kids are not smoking premium cigars. Yes, we all knew this—but the FDA didn’t, so this research is important.
  • Several states raised their legal smoking age to 21 years. This included New Jersey in July, and Maine and Oregon in August.
  • In August, it was announced that the cost of cigars in New York City is set to increase significantly.
  • There was some actual good news in September in the House of Representatives. An act called “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018 (H.R. 3354)” would prohibit the FDA from regulating the premium cigar industry. It passed in the House, but still needs to pass in the Senate.
  • In October, International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers, the Cigar Association of America and the Cigar Rights of America all filed motions against the FDA concerning product labeling rules. The FDA filed back on October 24th. On December 15th, the case went to court, and is still awaiting a ruling. The case is titled, Cigar Association of America, et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration.
  • Also in October, the FDA clarified that free samples of cigars are not completely banned. They simply cannot be given out until a customer purchases a cigar.
  • 29 Republican congressmen submitted a letter to Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in December. The letter requested that premium cigars be removed from the FDA’s regulatory sphere. There is also a relevant bill in Congress (Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2017 (H.R. 564) which has garnered 133 bipartisan co-sponsors. It has yet to be passed by either the House or the Senate.

Now you are up-to-date on all the biggest events to shape the cigar industry through 2017. While there have been some losses on the legislative front, particularly with regards to Cuba, the industry overall has been strong. There are a lot of exciting cigar releases awaiting us in 2018, so it should be a great year ahead!

Cigar Review – Wong Kwong Guocui Cigars – Crown (The Quintessence) (王冠國粹) (National Essence)

Origin : China

Gifted by William Kilander, President of the Swedish Cigar Federation.

Little info about the cigar before we begin, since this is only available in China at the moment it was very hard to find any info on it even the name of it. But what I can find this a collaboration between Anhui Tobacco and Scandinavian Tobacco Group that started back in 2011.
I can't really find any info if all the tobacco is from China or if it's a mix. I'm still searching and will update the review upon getting the info.
Anyhow the cigar was made to commemorate Chinese nation drama - Peking Opera. Qing Emperor Qianlong, "the four emblem classes into Beijing", the integration of various artistic achievements of opera, the birth of Peking Opera.
The band on the cigar represents a classic mask used at the Chinese Opera.

Click here to read the full article...

Cigar Review – Montecristo Linea 1935 Maltes

MontecristoOrigin : Cuba
Size : 6" (153) x 53
Brand Strength : Full (line 1935)
Box Year : Pre-release
Hand-Made
Price : NA
More info about purchasing Montecristo cigars...

Note from the inspector in his previous review of the same cigar. Clic here to read it.
During the previous Festival del Habanos held in March in Havana, few brands were celebrated. The major one was Montecristo. Habanos S.A. released during the Gala dinner, at the end of the week, the Linea 1935 from the Montecristo Marca. This linea, with 3 full bodied cigars, is an addition to the medium to full classic line and the medium open line.

Click here to read the full article...

“Cigars for a Year” Contest at CigarPlace.biz

Cigars for a Year

Our friends at CigarPlace.biz just launched a nice contest, with $2,500 in prizes (all in gift certificates to spend at their site). To enter, head over to this page - there are multiple ways to get entries (e-mail subscription, social media options, etc.). Good luck!

Where to Buy and Smoke Cigars in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City

Where to Buy and Smoke Cigars in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh Ville

If you’ve ever found yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, better known as Saigon, you know that this is a fascinating city with a lot to see and do. There is beautiful French colonial architecture and a great deal of history to explore. But you may find yourself feeling a little bit lost when it comes to cigars.

This is because (to my knowledge) there really is basically just one decent shop. Thankfully there are a few classy bars, most of them located on rooftops (you might be able to buy cigars in some of those bars, but at higher prices). Here is the rundown so that you know where to go if you are ever in Saigon!

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Buying and enjoying cigars in Vienna, Austria

Buying cigars in Vienna, Austria

Vienna is a beautiful and amazing city with a rich history and plenty of culture to explore and enjoy. It was the home of Mozart, Beethoven, and Freud. Speaking of Freud—where can you shop for the best cigars while you are on your trip?

For cigar smokers, Vienna is something of a mixed bag. Cigars there are cheaper than the ones you’ll find in the UK (not like that’s hard to do), but still more expensive than you’ll find in a lot of other European countries. So don’t expect to find an outstanding deal. On the bright side, though, smoking is quite popular among locals, so a lot of bars and restaurants throughout the city will let you enjoy your stogies. There are also a few shops and bars which are absolutely outstanding.

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Where to buy (and smoke) cigars in Paris?

Buying cigars in Paris: A la Civette

This post, first published in 2009, has been updated in 2015 with more parisian cigar shops and lounges.

Paris, France is a city that I know quite well, having lived there for several years. Surprisingly, despite the interdiction to smoke indoors that has been on for a few years now, there are quite a few quality cigar shops that deserve a visit. And there are many places where you can enjoy your freshly purchased stogie. Let's start with the cigar shops:

1. A la Civette

The very first place that I discovered many years ago is called A la Civette ("at a cigar shop") and is located right in the touristic center of the city, close to the Louvre museum. Don't expect to pay a premium for the location as cigar prices are exactly the same in ALL cigar shops in France.

The place has a strong tradition as it first opened its doors in 1716. A la Civette boasts a large walk-in humidor with a good selection of Cuban cigars (all of them are available by single) and it also has non-Cubans like CAO, Ashton VSG or Padron 1964 (most of them at prohibitive prices, of course). By the way, if you want to enjoy your cigars straight away, there is a nice café just opposite the cigar shop, where you can smoke outdoors.

Here's the address if you ever have a chance to visit it:
157, rue Saint-Honoré
75001 Paris (Google Maps link >>>)

2. Le Lotus Madeleine

Le Lotus Madeleine

This one was close to my office and I visited it many times. Less tourists (and customers) here, so if you're lucky you can have a long talk with the owners who know their products very well. The selection is arguably more narrow, but I always managed to find something nice. Located in a small street near Madeleine metro station (Google Maps link >>>),

3. Publicis Drugstore

Publicis Drugstore

Right on the world famous Champs Elysées (n° 138, Google Maps link >>>), the Publicis Drugstore is a decent choice if you need a quick fix. A lot of different cigars are available in the walk-in humidor, unfortunately the advice is nearly non-existent and the staff could have been friendlier. I've been there three times and always had the same experience.

Here are a few more locations that all have a decent range of Habanos (and sometimes non-Cubans):

  • Le Corona, 30 quai du Louvre, 75001 Paris.
  • La Boîte à Cigares, 23 rue de Rome, 75008 Paris.
  • Tabac du Châtelet, 8 rue Saint Denis, 75001 Paris.
  • Maison Lemaire, 59 avenue Victor Hugo, 75016 Paris.

Now that you purchased your Behike, you might want to give it a try immediately!

In France, it is forbidden to smoke indoors but there are places where you can still enjoy your cigar, even in winter. They are equipped with an electronic system that eliminates smoke and you have to fetch your drinks yourself (the waiters can't enter the area). The problem with these "fumoirs" (smoking rooms) is that a lot of them are located in 5-star hotels, which means there's a certain dress code and drinks can cost over 20 EUR. This is why most of the time I go to the Cubana Café, located 47, rue Vavin (Google Maps link >>>). Affordable drinks, a comfy smoking room, and some tex mex food if you're hungry - that's a good mix in my book.

If you prefer more upscale places though, here are a couple:

  • Cigar Lounge Kléber (Hôtel Peninsula Paris), 19 avenue Kléber, 75016 Paris.
  • Le Cigare Bar (La Maison Champs Elysées), 8 rue Jean Goujon, 75008 Paris.
  • Fumoir (Hotel Maison Athénée), 19 rue de Caumartin, 75009 Paris.

Please don't hesitate to share your favorite cigar places in Paris in the comments area!

Best Cuban Cigars of 2014

This year we're as usual a bit late with the 'best of' Cuban list, sorry about that. On the bright side, this delay gave us a chance to smoke all of these cigars again in the beginning of 2015, which confirmed the ratings.

Like last year, the list is composed of cigars that we smoked in 2014 (with mostly recent box codes). Without further ado, here's the list.

1. Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe

Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe

Surprisingly, the Hoyo de Monterrey brand secures the #1 spot again! This time it's a LCDH-exclusive release called "Epicure de Luxe". It's definitely the best Cuban cigar I smoked in 2014 and I finished my first box in January 2015. Planning to open my second box this fall!

2. H. Upmann Connossieur A

H. Upmann Connossieur A

The H. Upmann Connossieur A is another quite exclusive release which is available at La Casa del Habanos but also in Habanos Specialists shops around the world. Flavor-wise, this cigar is as good as it gets, if you like the delicate and balanced Cuban profile, you'll be in for a treat. Overall there were a few construction issues (mainly burn) in these cigars though, otherwise they could have easily made it to the very top of this list!

3. Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto

Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robustos

Unfortunately, overall in 2014 I had way less time to dedicate to smoking than I wished, due to work and health issues. In this context, small cigars like Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto really shine and I'm fairly sure that this was my most smoked cigar in 2014. If properly aged, it packs everything Cuba has to offer in a rather small format.

4. Cohiba BHK 52

Cohiba BHK 52

Reliable, consistent, posh: the Cohiba BHK 52 is just as good as last year, and is a perfect special occasion smoke all-around. This is my first choice for informal meetings with business partners.

5. Vegas Robaina Famosos

Not really a mainstream cigar, the Vegas Robaina Famosos box that I kept in my humidor since 2012 gave me some very pleasant moments on the rare occasions I could enjoy a cigar indoors in winter.

What were the best Cuban cigars that you smoked recently?

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