Author Archive

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The IPCPR is officially leaderless.  Bill Spann, who came in as CEO to run the premium cigar group two years ago, has left.  Spann turned in his resignation last week and it was effective on Saturday.  Spann said the main reason was that he was commuting.

“My staff and many of our members know that I have been apart from my family each week since I took this position in July 2011,” said Spann. “We fully intended to move to Columbus, but unfortunately the town’s size did not afford my spouse the career opportunities she required.”

IPCPR will now look for a new C-E-O.  In the meantime, board members say IPCPR board president Finnie Helmuth will be helping to run the organization while the search is underway.


Caldwell says Bye, Christian Adds Another

Robert Caldwell who was partnering with Christian Eiroa in the Wynwood cigar line has left the company.   According to the company’s website:

Wynwood Cigar Factory a part of the Fabricas Unidas family has opened its doors in the Wynwood art district of Miami. The concept of the Wynwood Cigar Factory came from the minds of Robert Caldwell and Christian Eiroa and features a unique environment for cigar smokers and art lovers alike.

Robert has been a pioneer in the cigar industry for over 5 years. He started The Hotel Humidor Company to service the cigar needs of the hospitality industry. He co-founded The Wynwood Cigar Factory with Christian Eiroa with a dual purpose of educating consumers and manufacturing only the finest, most unique cigars possible. Eiroa joined together with Caldwell with a purpose of building a luxury cigar brand different than any other.


A statement is expected in a couple of days, but insiders say creative differences were the reason and Christian says he wishes Robert well in his new venture.

Meanwhile the Tabacleras Unidas (or Fabrica Unidas depending) coop that Christian is running is keeping busy.  He still has his line of cigars like the CLE Corojo and he is also busy with the Pura Soul being championed and blended by Robert Wright.  Robert was V.P of sales for the old Camacho and was a national sales manager with Davidoff as Eirora’s Camacho was being sold.  Now he is back with Christian and came up with the Pura Soul brand.  (He says the name represents his background having been born in Costa Rica yet growing up in New York)  The blend is all Nicaraguan and he says it is a medium bodied cigar with full flavor and a clean creamy finish.  Pura Soul comes in 5 sizes, 5” x50, 6” x 48, 6” x 50, 7” x 52 perfecto and a 6” x 60 with prices running $6.95 to $8.95.  The Pura Soul came out at the IPCPR trade show last summer but just started shipping in the last couple of weeks.




Another new cigar is coming out in the next week or so from Grace Sotolongo who joined Christian right before the trade show.  Grace is expected to debut her cigar the Hechicera or Sorceress in early October.  She says samples are already on the way.  Hechicera is another Nicaraguan blend and comes in four sizes,  4.5” x 50 robusto, 5.5” x 44 box pressed corona, 6” x 52 toro and a 6” X 60 toro gordo.  Grace describes the line as medium bodied. From the press release:

The beautiful art featured in Hechicera is the work of Grace’s dear friend Ninoska Perez Castellon. Ninoska is a journalist, radio talk show host, political commentator and a respected leader of the Cuban exile community in Miami. And recently launched her new career as an artist.


Swisher Cuts Back


Who says taxes don’t kill jobs?  Swisher International maker of Swisher Sweets says it is laying off another 250 people from its cigar making operation in Jacksonville.  The company already had laid off 150 last year.  According to the company, the jobs will move to their operation in the Dominican Republic.


“We’re seeing a shift of a lot of cigar manufacturing to the Dominican Republic and also an influx of low cost cigars being imported into the country that are driving prices way down,” said Joe Augustus, senior vice for global affairs for Swisher. “So, the pricing pressures need to be addressed to maintain our competitive position in the marketplace.”

Regulatory pressures also factored in.

“The way our tax structure is set up, it’s less expensive to be an importer than it is to be a domestic manufacturer,” Augustus said. “We’re seeing a lot of imported products paying much less in tax revenues than we are.”


The company wants to keep as many jobs in Jacksonville as possible since it has been there since the early 1900s, but sometimes other factors get in the way.


Nebraska No Smoke

Cigar bars may be a thing of the past in Nebraska….

A Nebraska judge has upheld the constitutionality of the state’s smoking ban.  The ban was passed in 2008, but a challenge from a pool hall saying the ban illegally infringed on its rights as a private business and cut its revenues.  The judge said nope the state can screw you…well not in those exact words.

And since that ruling, the state Attorney General says he plans to file an appeal to remove the exemptions in the state smoking ban that allow for cigar bars, motels and other businesses the right to smoke legally.

You cannot compromise with these people.  If anyone thinks getting an exemption is the way to fight smoking bans, they are simply crazy.



TV and Cigars and More Stealing by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

T-V shows and cigars have become a thing.  Quesada came out with the Heisenberg in honor the show Breaking Bad last year, but there is no official tie in, just that some of the younger Quesadas are fans of the program.  (The main character on the show, if you haven’t seen it, is Walter White who is a chemistry teacher but operates as a bad guy under the name Heisenberg which is also the name of a German Physicist who came up with the Uncertainty Principle in Quantm Mechanics.)


The first official show cigar I remember was when CAO had the Sopranos cigar?  It was a few years ago but that was one of the first show themed cigars I can remember. (That is if you don’t count Ernie Kovacs and Dutch Masters or George Burns and El Productos.)


Just Ducky

You probably already know about the Duck Dynasty cigar that came out at this year’s IPCPR show.  It is called the Duck Commander and is made by Ted’s Cigars.

The thing is the boys from Duck Dynasty are on a roll.  The premier of their fourth season recorded 11.8 million viewers, which set a record for a non fiction cable t-v series.  In the meantime, the boys have multiple books in the works and will even release a Christmas record called Duck the Halls.  So why shouldn’t they have a cigar?

The cigar itself comes in a glass tube, perfect if you want to throw it in a bag when you are hunting.  It is a toro measuring 6 x 50 with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Dominican Piloto Cubano binder and fillers include U-S broadleaf, Dominican Piloto Cubano, Dominican Habano and Dominican Criollo 98.   It is not a strong cigar, rather is it creamy and mild.   They cost about $6.50.


Sons & Cigars


According to Cigar Aficionado, the Duck boys won’t be the only show with its own cigar.

Through a licensing partnership between Twentieth Century Fox’s Consumer Products division and Meier & Dutch cigar distributors, Sons of Anarchy now has its own line of cigars, humidors and accessories.

The star of the show, Ron Perelman is a huge cigar fan and is usually seen smoking a cigar in almost every episode.  If you don’t know, Sons of Anarchy is a program about a gun running motorcycle club and now is in its 6th season.

“The production team at Fox was already purchasing cigars from us for the show anyway,” said Stephen McDevitt, director of sales for Meier & Dutch. “So last year, 20th Century Fox actually contacted us to do a project like this. It was their idea.”

 Officially called Sons of Anarchy by Black Crown, the new cigars will be adorned with the club’s ominous Grim Reaper symbol—a perfect replica of the biker’s patch found on the back of every member’s jacket in the show.

The cigar is a line extension of the Black Crown brand which the company owns and will be made at the ST Danli factory in Honduras.  It will use an Ecuadorian Sumatran wrapper over Nicaraguan Criollo 98 binder and Nicaraguan fillers.  It will come in 5 sizes, Prospect at 4.5” x 60,  Toro at 6” x 54, Gordo 6” x 60 and a Torpedo at 6.5” x 54.  Retail is going to be between $5.50 to $6.50.

CA also says there will be a line of accessories out later this year.

Two 75-count humidors—one in saddle-bag leather and one with metal corners—and a pewter ashtray look as though they’ve come straight out of the Sons of Anarchy clubhouse. They’ll retail for $200, $175 and $50, respectively. If you want to show your devotion to the Sons in public, a three-finger cigar case ($50) also dons the club’s Reaper symbol, as does the Xikar Xi4 cutter ($50).


So far it has not shown up on the show yet…but you know it will.


Thieves Strike Again

Back at the end of July we told you about some cigar thieves who stole a quarter of a million dollars worth of cigars from a South Florida warehouse.  Well apparently it has happened again.  This time to someone we know…Alec Bradley.  On Satuday September 7th, around 630 in the morning thieves cut a hole into the roof of the company’s warehouse and loaded up pallets of cigars into a stolen truck and got away.  Police are investigating and Alec Bradley posted about this on Facebook yesterday afternoon.  The company asks for people to be on the lookout for anyone suspicious selling their products.


More Taxes


I know many retailers will cheer this move, but it looks like Congress is going to try to impose an internet sales tax.  I do not understand why a retailer based in say the east coast should have to pay Texas sales tax if they do not operate a store here.  Nor should they have to pay usurious tobacco taxes.  It simply rewards the moronic legislators who keep thinking that they can tax tobacco to death. (Hello New York).

This legislation should die, but in the meantime, you may want to contact your Senators and Representative and tell them taxing the Internet is a bad idea.

While you are at it, you might want to take another shot at your Congress people to ask them to support HR 124 and SB772that will protect the cigar industry from the FDA’s clutches.  There is more talk from House Democrats who want the administration to put out new rules for e-cigs and cigars.

The group of legislators also sent a separate letter to Republican leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Waxman is the top Democrat, requesting a hearing on the health risks posed by the tobacco products and the FDA’s authority to impose new rules.
The FDA, which oversees cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, has been working on regulations to expand its oversight to e-cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco, which are currently exempt from its rules.

They will keep pushing to put the FDA into our humidors, we MUST stop this. So far we have 124 sponsors for the House bill and 11 for the Senate.  We still need more.  Please do your part.







J Lo is back, Elections and More By Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Nope not that J Lo, instead it is much older, Juan Lopez  a very old Cuban brand that had been sold by Altadis but then kinda got dropped. As I reported from IPCPR, the company is re-invigorating the brand while keeping the classic Cuban look.  Today the new Juan Lopez is a Nicaraguan puro using a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan Criollo binder and Nicaraguan fillers.  These are really tasty cigars and come in three sizes Number one at 5” x 54, Number two 6” x 54 and Number three at 6” x 60 in 16 count boxes…the best news is the price, around $5 each.


Elections Matter

There is a lot of East Coast news going on today.  First up is the New York City Mayoral primary.  This is the time to finally get rid of Nanny Bloomberg.  I have not paid really any attention to the politics of NYC, although I assume the next mayor will be almost as bad as Bloomberg.  But at least Weiner’s experiencing shrinkage….in the polls that is.

With that being said, there is a guy running on the Republican side that ya gotta love,  John Catsimatidis.   Last week he held a “friendraiser” at Cigar Inn in New York.  (He didn’t expect contributions since he is a billionaire.)  According to midtown store manager Geshon Sakha:


  “He enjoys a cigar every now and then,” Mr. Sakha said of the candidate, who frequents the uptown location. “He comes with his friends Saturday morning after breakfast. He smokes a few different brands—sometimes Davidoff, sometimes Padrón and sometimes the house blend.”

Despite the beleaguered-minority role cigar smokers and the emporiums that service them project—”He will abolish the Nanny State,” Mr. Sakha vowed of Mr. Catsimatidis.


Although the candidate himself was a bit more circumspect.  He even refused to smoke a cigar because “there was a reporter from the Wall Street Journal” in attendance.  The reporter from the Wall Street Journal, however, was impressed with our culture.


Say what you will about cigars and cigar bars, but they may be among the few places in New York—a city, despite what anyone contends, that indulges elites and that traffics in exclusivity—where you’re accepted, whether hedge-fund manager or handyman, simply because you possess the intellectual gifts to enjoy cigars.


The other person running for mayor on the republican side Joe Lhota has famed cigar smoker Rudy Giuliani in his corner.

Mahogany goes Ashton


Philadelphia is getting a new/old cigar bar on Thursday.  The Ashton Cigar Bar opens right above Holt’s store in Center City at 1522 Walnut.  The locale was the home to Mahogany since 1997, but Holt’s decided it would be better for them to own the joint. So Holt’s and Ashton’s owners –Robbie Levin, his son Sathya and daughter Meera — will be running the place. After some remodeling, the new Ashton Cigar Bar will debut with the feel of a luxury cigar bar and of course will carry the Ashton, Ashton Aged Maduro, Ashton Cabinet and the Ashton VSG  among others, but according to the Phildelphia Business Journal it will have a few new wrinkles:

In addition to a wide range of cigars, it will have more than 200 whiskeys and signature cocktails. The space is outfitted with plush lounge chairs, flat-screen televisions and a state-of-the-art air purification system.


“We’ve taken significant steps to make all of our guests feel welcome, even those who may not have ever set foot in a cigar bar before,” said Levin. “Our customized air purification system comes from the same manufacturer that provides systems for many of the country’s top hospitals and casinos. Our goal is to keep the air crisp and clean at all times.”


Sathya and Meera are the third generation in the family business.



Disney to Drop Sosa


By the end of the month, Downtown Disney will be closing its only cigar shop.  Fuego by Sosa Cigars has been a mainstay of the area for many years.  I have never visited the place because of my aversion to The Mouse.  (Yeah, I worked briefly for Disney through one of its tentacles.)  But lots of people are upset that Fuego is going away because it offered an adult oasis in the Disney universe where you could get an adult beverage and smoke a cigar. (Given Florida’s nutty smoking laws this is a great thing.)


The official reason is that Disney is doing a remodel of Downtown Disney and as a result the company is not renewing the lease of the store.  There is a petition to fight the move.  You can go here to sign it.


A House is Not a Home

My House in Winter


Ocean City









A house is not a home, but today I am feeling a bit out of sorts.  You see the two homes pictured above were my homes for a good part of my life.  As a T-V guy, I mostly lived in apartments and moved around a bit…a lot actually.  The Ocean City home was my grandparents who bought it in 1957 and we would stay there every summer..  It stayed in the family until 2006 (49 years) when we sold it to help pay for my mother’s medical care.  A developer bought it and leveled it and put up two huge two story condos.  Alas, Ocean City is not now I remember it anymore.  Too many people and with the big structures no breeze from the ocean.  You need air conditioners now, before we never needed them even three blocks from the ocean.

The one on the left was the first home I actually bought in 1985.  It was built in the 20s and while it had its problems, it was home to me and my family.  Pets who lived and died there and my lovely wife who decided we needed more room and were tired of the Mc Mansions going up on our block.  We sold the house in July having moved across town.  Yes the old place was a bit drafty at times, needed work but it was a home.  Today I drove past and saw that the developer who bought it has made it no more.  Pity.

all that remains

Another two story Mc Mansion will arise.  The thing is our old neighborhood was a “conservation district” to prevent or limit this type of thing.  What ended up happening was that WE would have had to stick to strict guidelines if we wanted to fix our house..but the developers get a pass.  Another brilliant government solution.   Progress is great, but sometimes it stinks.


A Short Week by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

I hope everyone enjoyed the Labor Day weekend with a fine cigar.  (Alas, I was working a convention and didn’t not get that chance…sob.) After last week’s blog you should have been able to load up.  And I hope you were able to pair your smoke with a fine beverage.  But before I get to this week’s topic, there was some news.


Blanco Back Home


Jose Blanco

Jose Blanco is back home in the Dominican Republic. Jose is known to most cigar lovers as a friendly, knowledgeable cigar maven.  Many people know Jose from his long stint as head of sales for La Aurora where he helped the company bring out the popular Cien Anos, the La Aurora 1495 ( still one of my favorites especially in the corona size) and the La Aurora 107 among others.  Jose also became widely known for his famous blending seminars he held at conventions, tobacco stores and for cigar groups across the U-S and around the world.  A little over two years ago, Jose left La Aurora and the Dominican Republic to become Senior Vice President of Joya de Nicaragua. He worked with Alejandro Martinez Cuenca on the CyB ( which was a cigar initially bearing both their names, Cuenca and Blanco but due to legal reasons had to be shortened to the initials).   His contract was for two years, and late last week it was announced that he was leaving Joya to return to the Dominican Republic.  Jose, Emma and his son Jasper are now in La Romana, to be specific Casa de Campo, having left Managua. (So he is now living right next to the Dye Four golf course, with a pool and the ocean just a couple of minutes away…he says recently he has seen Michael Jordan and even Justin Bieber there at the resort.  Guess I will HAVE to go visit and then beat him in a golf game.) He says he is doing a bit of consulting and taking it a little easier.  (After all he is older than me.)  Jose still is not certain of his plans as of now, but it is pretty certain that he will be returning to the industry he loves after a little down time.


Now with that bit of news out of the way, let’s go to this week’s topic.  Cigar lovers and morons.


Business Insider is an Internet publication that I cannot quite get a grip on.  Sometimes it has good stuff…others…well.  Anyway last week, it published an article  “8 Tips For Drinking Whiskey Without Looking Like A Newbie” (they must love capital letters there).


One of the tips is good. It is the first one which talks about moving from bourbon to scotch and which ones to try.  Gotta say I agree with the recommendations of Oban14, The Balvenie Doublewood 12 or Laphroaig.

But then the whole thing kinda falls apart.

The Editor’s blog at the Washington Free Beacon goes after Business Insider’s tips and it is pretty funny.  Starting with the Business Insider’s tip number two which assures newbies that they are not doing it wrong.

Whiskey snobs may say there’s a “right” way to drink the stuff, but just relax. Simoneau has seen every request, from a Laphroaig 10 year Manhattan (a cocktail usually prepared with rye) to Johnnie Walker Blue and ginger ale. Point being: You don’t always need to drink it neat.

Look, I’m going to be blunt here: Johnnie Walker Blue is the most overrated whiskey on the market. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine scotch. I enjoy it. It’s smooth! But it’s only a slight upgrade over Johnnie Walker Black in terms of taste and it’s four times more expensive. You might as well eat twenty dollar bills; the effect is the same and you’ll get some much-needed roughage.

However, for the love of god, if you’re going to pay for that slight upgrade in taste enjoy it and do not drown it in sugary sweet soda. If that’s how you’re drinking your Johnnie Walker Blue, you are doing it wrong. I can ASSURE you of this. ALL CAPS ASSURE.

Also: If you’re going to enjoy a whiskey and ginger ale, it shouldn’t be scotch. Jack and Ginger is fine! Antique Weller and Ginger? Great! But scotch is too smoky; it doesn’t go well with the ginger ale at all. Again: If you’re ordering a scotch and ginger, you’re doing it wrong.


Gotta say I agree…As for buying an app so you can pronounce the names of scotch.  Don’t do it. The Editor and I agree again…just watch Brian Cox’s pronunciations that he did for Esquire on YouTube.

There are other bits about the whiskey in the Washington Free Beacon and it is all worth reading.



And to me there is nothing better than having a fine scotch and a cigar with friends.  Face it; cigar smokers are a social group.  We like to sit around and talk while we smoke.  It is how we pass the time.  And my guess is you have made many friends while smoking a cigar.

Well CNN recognized that, finally. The put together a short video on – get this –’’the secret world of cigar lovers”.  Who knew this was a secret? Anyway it is less than 3 minutes.  Enjoy.

IPCPR Cigars Are Arriving by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Ok we told you a lot about the new cigars that are out this year..trouble has been you could not get them until now.

Here is a brief respite from the usual goings on to let you know that as we approach September the cigar makers are filling orders and we got em in stock. Last week, I told you about the tasty Nica Puro from Alec Bradley being available but this week there are more.


CAO Flathead

This was one of the stand outs at the IPCPR show. Rick Rodriguez decided to do a throwback to the era of pin ups and muscle cars and came up with the CAO Flathead as an homage to that muscular engine which ruled the high powered cars in the 50s.  The result is a cigar with a lot of power behind it.  All of the cigars are square pressed, which means sharper corners than the usual box press.  The strongest of the bunch is the V642 Piston, which is a a 6.5” x 42 lancero.  The flavor develops right away and the strength is there throughout.  The V554 Camshaft is a 5.5”x 54 robusto which begins a bit softer than the Piston but still develops the power as you smoke it.  The

V660 Carb is a big boy measuring 6” x 60 but remains dwarfed by its brother the V770 Big Block measuring 7” x 70.  The last two have more flavor than strength.  Said Ricky if you put that kind of strength like in the lancero in a cigar that big, your head would explode.


Star Crossed

This is a cigar you probably haven’t heard much about…the reason is that it is new and made just for us.  Star Crossed refers to the star crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet.   You already know about the Romeo from Romeo y Julieta which made number three on the Cigar Aficionado top cigars of last year…well this is another modern take on the old reliable Romeo Y Julieta.  It comes in boxes of 10 and uses an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers to provide a kind of spicy yet sweet flavor.  They have shipped and are available now, oh and if you buy a box you get the chance to win a trip for two to Verona, Italy.  Not bad huh?


Montecristo Connoisseur


This past year, Altadis has put out regional cigars for New York, Texas, Las Vegas and Chicago.  The trouble was with these specials you pretty much had to be in the above cities to get one.  No more.  Because people wanted to try them, I do like the Texas version but I could be prejudiced, Altadis decided to put together a Connoisseur Edition Collection which features 2 of each of the regional cigars for a total of 8.  You get 2 New York’s which measure 6”x60, 2 Texas editions again at 6” x 60, 2 Las Vegas which are 6” x 54 and two Chicagos which are 6” x 50.  Each has the traditional Montecristo flavor but perhaps amped up a bit.  The New York uses an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and Dominican fillers.  The Texas uses the same wrapper but changes the binder to Dominican, with Dominican fillers. The Las Vegas has a nice San Andres Criollo wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and Dominican fillers and the Chicago uses an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over the Nicaraguan binder and Dominican fillers.


Cedar Room

These are more cigars from Altadis which have not really been talked about. They are the Cedar Room.  These are really aged cigars, but from some short runs. They were made mainly for the European market and then set aside in the cedar aging rooms in the huge Tabalacera de Garcia factory.  They were kinda forgotten about but now have been found.  For the most part these cigars were only used for special events at the factory, but now you can taste the finely aged smokes at a great price.  They are different tobaccos, I honestly don’t know all the combinations but for the price (between $2.60 and $3.20 each) how can you go wrong?


El Centurion

This was a cigar I told you about back in February that it was getting re-born.  The original El Centurion was a limited edition and pricey cigar.  The newest incarnation from Jaime Garcia and the My Father factory in Nicaragua is in my mind a better tasting cigar at a much better price. And the best thing is that they have shipped! Jaime used a Maduro Nicaraguan Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and for the filler he uses Nicaraguan Criollo 98 and Corojo 99.  They come in four sizes—Robusto at 5.75” x 50, Toro at  6.25” x 52, Belicoso at 5.5” x 54 and a Toro Grande at 6.5” x 58.  They run just over $6  to $7 and change.

Expensive and not so Expensive Cigars by Frank Seltzer

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

World’s Most Expensive Cigar Sold


Last year at the IPCPR, we told you about the World’s Most Expensive Cigar.  Regius of London was offering one double corona for the price of $70,000! The deal was, if you bought this cigar, Regius CEO Akhil Kapacee would come to you and personally clip it and light it. And then, the buyer and his or her tobacconist get an all-expenses-paid VIP trip to Nicaragua, where they will be able to blend and name a cigar according to their own tastes. Further, the buyer also gets 1,000 of this custom blend.  Well that cigar has now sold.

Callum Jones and the World's Most Expensive Cigar


Cigar merchant Mitchell Orchant in London sold the cigar for  £ 40,000 (which with the exchange rate today is about $63,000, so it is a bargain).  Mitchell told us at the show the cigar was sold, but it was late last week when the official word went out. and monies had been exchanged.  The buyer was Callum Jones, a young man who made millions in the coffee business.  As promised, Regius owner Akhil  Kapacee was there in London to cut and light the cigar.


“We are delighted that Callum has decided to enjoy the best,” said Mr Kapacee as he handed over the unique cigar. “Not only will he enjoy this cigar, but we will personally fly him to Nicaragua where he can see firsthand how the cigars are made. It will be the trip of a lifetime for a cigar lover. We will also blend and roll 1000 special Regius cigars to Callum’s personal flavour, size and strength profile.”

Upon lighting the cigar, Callum said: “This is one of the best cigars I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I’m looking forward to finding out how these cigars are made”.

Regius also has cigars for the rest of us with the black label made by the Plasencias in Nicaragua and the white label blended by Manuel Quesada in the Dominican Republic.  The company also introduced the Orchant selection (named for Akhil’s good friend Mitchell) but this is very limited with only 200 boxes of 10 available in the U-S.


More Affordable

For those wanting a pure Nicaraguan cigar that is well within our reach, I have talked about the new, old Alec Bradley Nica Puro.  It is a good smoke and has begun shipping.  They range from a robusto to a gordo and the prices range from $6.30 to $7.65.


Pro Cigar Opens

I neglected to mention during the trade show that registration for next year’s Pro Cigar Festival in the Dominican Republic is now open.  (It usually fills up fast.) The 2014 version will be a bit different than past years in that the traditional Wednesday informal dinner has been replaced with the opportunity to have dinner with your favorite cigar maker.

The festival begins Sunday, February 16th in La Romana where you will stay at the fabulous resort Casa de Campo.  On Monday you can take a Catamaran trip to a beach or just hang out in the hotel.  Tuesday is a tour of the huge Casa de Garcia factory located right outside the hotel.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the festival moves to Santiago where there are tours of General Cigar’s factory and fields, La Aurora,  Davidoff’s factory and fieds , Corporacion Cigar Export, MATASA, and new this year will be tours of the Fuente Charitable Foundation,  Tabacalera La Alianza ( Ernie Carrillo’s factory) and La Flor Dominiciana’s factory and fields.


You can register for single events, but the package all the evnets is available for a discount at $895. According to Pro Cigar VP Manuel Quesada, if they happen to go into the black, it only means the participants did not eat, drink or smoke enough.  It is truly a terrific event and registration is here.

They are still coming at us..


The New York Times this past week hit on a favorite meme of the tobacco control group in that flavored cigars are luring kids into smoking.

No editorializing in this “news” story:

In 2009, Congress passed a landmark law intended to eliminate an important gateway to smoking for young people by banning virtually all the flavors in cigarettes that advocates said tempted them. Health experts predicted that the change would lead to deep reductions in youth smoking. But the law was silent on flavors in cigars and a number of other tobacco products, instead giving the Food and Drug Administration broad discretion to decide whether to regulate them.

Four years later, the agency has yet to assert that authority. And a rainbow of cheap flavored cigars and cigarillos, including some that look like cigarettes, line the shelves of convenience stores and gas stations, often right next to the candy. F.D.A. officials say they intend to regulate cigars and other tobacco products, but they do not say how or when. Smoking opponents contend that the agency’s delay is threatening recent progress in reducing smoking among young people.


The article quotes all the usual suspects about how bad the smoking is for the “kids” yet everyone interviewed was over 18…they are worried about the 18-24 group which in most states is legal for smoking.  The article is one to try to push the FDA into taking control over cigars, something the legislation did not address.

Flavored or not, the issue is one of government control over a product we love.  Again be sure to send yet another petition to your Senator and Congressman to support the exemption for premium cigars from the FDA.

My Old Kentucky Home by Frank Seltzer

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

A couple of years ago someone must have really been pushing Kentucky Fire Cured tobacco.  It was something you didn’t hear about then this year, bam three makers are using it, albeit in different blends.  For me, mostly it is over the top, but perhaps like a fine peaty scotch you can come to appreciate it.  Heck I know now I love Ardbog and other peat bombs.

Ok you already know about the Kentucky Fire Cured My Uzi Weighs a Ton (they will be shipping soon)  and I’ve told you about Sam Leccia’s Black label using the Kentucky tobacco…but there is one more.

George Rico has a small factory in little Havana.  He and his family are Gran Habano and George’s factory is part of the George Rico STK project.  STK comes from the saying Stay True Kid, which George has taken to heart.  Last year he came out with the Zulu Zulu from the STK side and he also debuted a robusto cigar in Hawaii called the Barracuda.  The one from last year was very limited, only 100 boxes of 20, but now he has tweaked the blend and is able to make more. The new Barracuda uses Nicaraguan Habano from 2002 for the wrapper over a Jalapa binder and Jalapa and Esteli fillers.   He has also added sizes, a 5.625” x 46 Corona Gorda and a 6.5” x 54 Toro along with the 5 x 50 Robusto. They retail between $7-9 each.


But one of the most interesting things out of STK is the American Puro.   Coming in three sizes, a 4.75” x 52 Robusto, 5.875” x 54 Toro Grande and a 5.625” x 46 Corona Gorda,  Rico is using all American tobacco…that is tobacco from the U-S with the Kentucky Fire Cured, Pennsylvania and Connecticut broadleaf fillers over a Habano wrapper and binder grown in Connecticut.  Rico goes even further in that the boxes and bands are made in the U-S and the cigar is rolled in his Miami Factory.  How is that for an All American? The retail prices are $8 to $9.


Chinese Cuban?


Roberto Pelayo Duran was born in Cuba.  He learned about tobacco growing up there and he later set up the Pacific Cigar Company, which helped distribute Cuban cigars to Canada and Asia.  Now out of Cuba and living in Hong Kong, he is growing tobacco in Ecuador, and making cigars in Esteli and just opened a warehouse operation in Miami.  He debuted at the IPCPR show his first creation, Azan.  Azan is actually an old Cuban cigar brand.  The name dates from 1928 when Wan Ben Sen, who later adopted the Cuban name of Domingo Azan, and his brothers started producing handmade cigars from the center of Cuba.  Azan’s great granddaughter Maria Isabel Alvarez Azan is part of Duran’s team and is very happy the old brand has been resurrected.  Initially, the cigars were sold primarily in Asia and with the show, they are now being offered in the United States.


There are two primary lines, the White and Burgundy, with the White label being the premium one.  It uses an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and fillers from Jalapa and Esteli,  Nicaragua  along with Brazlian Matafina.   The cigar is medium bodied and comes in three sizes Robusto 4.875” x 50, Robusto Extra 5.5” x 52 and Campana (torpedo)  5.5” x 52 and retails between $6- $8.


The Burgundy line, which is priced for everyday smoking,  again uses Nicaraguan binder and fillers with an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper.  It has four sizes from Petit Corona 5.125 x 42,  Short Robusto 4.75” x 50 , Robusto 4.875” x 50 and Short Campana 4.375” x 46 and will retail between $3.50 to $4.


Azan is also making a Special Edition Maduro Natural.  The cigars are made of 100 percent Maduro tobaccos and come in two sizes—Robusto Extra 5.5” x 52 and Campana at 5.5” x 52.



FDA  going after E-Cigs We are Next


On a recent NPR show, the top people from the FDA basically said they are going after e-cigs.  Why should you care?  Well the FDA is supposed to regulate tobacco and e-cigs don’t contain any.  But apparently that is not stopping them.  The FDA also is not supposed to regulate cigars so what do you think they are going to do?

In the broadcast, the head of the FDA’s Tobacco control division Mitch Zeller said:

The thing that’s most interesting about e-cigarette is that we look at individual-level risk, what is the risk, say, to a current smoker who would be otherwise unable or unwilling to quit, if that person completely substituted all of their conventional cigarettes for an e-cigarette, that’s individual-level risk.”

 But the FDA won’t consider the individual…

“… Policy is going to be made here at the population level, and there’s population-level harm.  Who is actually using these products?  And how are they being used?  Tim [McAfee] talked about this earlier.  Are current smokers going to be less inclined to quit, and more likely to engage in what we call dual use of both the combustible version and the electronic version?  Are kids going to start using e-cigarettes?  These are the kinds of questions that we have that ultimately comes down to behavior, and right now we have far more questions than answers.”


So bottom line, you have to be involved.  As of today there are 117 co sponsors of the bill to protect cigars in the House and only 11 on the senate version.  Please take a minute and sign the petition to keep the FDA out of our humidors.

Little Guys by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

We have talked a lot about the big manufacturers but there are others who while known are still growing.  Take Boutique Blends for example.  The company has a bit of an identity crisis. Many people are not sure of Boutique Blends, but do know of Oliveros.  Rafael Nodal and his partner Hank Bischoff started the company  in February 2002.  When the company started it was to distribute Oliveros, but about  two and a half years ago.  They started with SWAG and then they came out with Aging Room.  They have evolved from Oliveros into Boutique Blends because according to Rafael, they is more what they do…make small batches of cigars.  They take terrific tobaccos and make small batches of cigars.  How many?  Well it all depends on the size of the cigars each blend has…bigger cigars mean fewer available as the use more of the tobacco.


This year at the show, the company released its  Aging Room M-21 Fortissimo, a 5.75”x 47 Salomon.  The Fortissimo is limited, there are only 3,000 boxes of 10 being made with a retail price of right around $13.  The company is adding to its Aging Room line with a new Maduro, which will come in 5 sizes; Presto 4.5” x 48, Rondo 5”x 50, Mazzo 6”x 54, Major 6.5” x 60 and Alto 7” x 47.  They run from about $7.75 to $9.  If you notice some music terms for the names, Nodal was a classically trained violinist in Cuba and came to New York at age 15 during the Mariel Boat lift to study at the Manhattan School of Music.


The other new thing from Boutique is the Wild Pack.  This pack has 5 different blends which eventually will be added to the Aging Room line.  Nodal says  the 6” x 50 cigars will each have a number and he wants feedback from smokers as to which one they prefer.  The winner becomes the next Aging Room release.  Cost for the Wild Pack is $96.




Abe Flores is a small guy too, but he is very busy.  Not only does he have his own line of cigars PDR, but he is also creating new blends for others as well.  He makes the highly rated, La Palina Classic for that company. His own PDR line includes blends like the PDR Small Batch Reserve.  This year, Abe added a maduro, the PDR AFR 75 Edicion Limitada.  It uses a dark San Andres Maduro wrapper over a Criollo 98 binder grown in Nicaragua and Dominican Habano, Connecticut Broadleaf and Nicaraguan Criollo 98 fillers.  The AFR-75 comes in three sizes, Sublime at 5”  56, Edmundo  at 6” x 58 and the Inmenso at 7” x 60.  They are priced at $14.75, $15.75 and $16.75 respectively.


The other new cigar from PDR is  the A. Flores Gran Reserva 1975 Corojo 2006.  The wrapper if a 2006 Criollo grown in the Dominican Republic, the binder is Dominican Olor and the fillers are Dominican Corojo and Nicaraguan Habano.The Gran Reserva comes in three sizes, a half corona at 3.5” x 46, Robusto at 5”x 52 and a Grand Toro at 6” x 54.  The half corona retails for about $5 and besides coming in moxes of 50, it also comes in tins of 5.  The Robusto goes for $12.35 and the Grand Toro is $14.10.


Bloomberg loses but keeps trying


By now you have undoubtedly heard about our favorite nanny—Michael Bloomberg—who lost his Big Gulp fight.  Yup a second court ruled he overreached in trying to get his health department to ban big sodas in restaurants and some other venues.  The appeallate court ruled unanimously that hizzonor went way over the line in trying to ban the drinks ”for the health of the kids”, just like smoking.  Unlike the smoking ban, where the City Council agreed with the moron, err mayor, this time the council did not have a say and Bloomberg acted on his own.  The courts have ruled that this not only violates separation of powers but would eviscerate it.


Bloomberg says he is going to appeal…BUT since he will be soon out of office it may be up to his successor to continue or drop the appeal.  Nice to see New York has so much money it can afford to waste it on appeals of stupid laws.  If only we could get something on the smoking ban.


By the way, you may not have seen the nanny’s latest declaration of war.  It is on elevators and escalators.  It is like the Nazis, they started with something “everyone” thought was evil and continued working their way up.  Bloomberg started targeting smokers, then trans fat, then salt, then sugary drinks and now the Otis creation.  (When will New Yorkers wake up?)


The city is proposing new legislation that all new buildings and any under renovation would be required to give the occupants access to at least one stairwell. Never mind the security concerns.  The buildings would also have to post signs near elevators pointing to near-by stairs.  Another bill would permit the use of hold-open devices for the stairwells.   Since denial isn’t only a river in Egypt, Bloomberg says all his panderings are actually improving the city.


“Somebody asked me the other day: ‘Well isn’t all this nanny … stuff hurting business?’ And I pointed out we had a record number of companies moving here, we had record-number of private sector jobs here, we had record-number of tourists.”


Uh huh…and I have a bridge for you.



AJ, Swisher? and really hot smokes by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

A.J Fernandez makes some great cigars.  The San Lotano series…Connecticut, Habano, Maduro and the Oval ( which was named to the top 25 list of CA last year).  They are adding another new limited line to the group with El Mayimbe.  Mayimbe comes from the Taino Indians on Quisqueya Island (another name for Hispanola, ie. where the Dominican Republic is and it is a province in the eastern portion of the Dominican Republic) and loosely translated  El Mayimbe  means village chief.  According to the company, in Latino culture Mayimbe is someone everyone loves to be around.


The cigar itself uses a select Pennsylvania broadleaf wrapper, over Fernandez’s Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan, Honduran Jamastran and special private filers.  The cigar comes in four sizes in a 10 count boxes; robusto at 5” x 56,  toro at 6” x56, Churchill at 7” x 56 and a torpedo at 6” x 56.  These are pricey cigars with the suggested retail ranging from $14.20- $15.




During the show, I told you about Tom Lazuka with Christian Eiroa adding a new size to his Schizo line.  The 7” x 70.  Well in the rush of the convention I forgot to say it is already here.


Big Dog

The potentially big dog at the trade show was a name most premium cigar folks are not used to.  Swisher.  The company, which makes a bundle off of its mass made Swisher Sweets, is jumping into the premium side with both feet.  The company has hired Alex Goldman as its president and his family has a long history in the business and many connections.  For the new project, Alex and Swisher reached out to well known manufacturers for their new cigars.  Casino Gold HRS is being blended by both Nestor Plasencia , Sr. and Jr. and made in their Honduras factory.  The cigar uses a Jalapa Habano Rosado wrapper over Cemeroon binder and Ometempe, Jamastran and Esteli fillers.   It comes in 5 sizes,  Ace 6.25” x 62, King, 7” x 54, Queen 5.75” x 52, Jack 6”x 44 and a Joker Belicoso at 5” x 52.  The suggested retail ranges from $5.45 to $6.95.


The Kismet comes out of Augusto Reyes Corporacion de Cigar Export in Santiago.  It is a true Dominican puro and uses a 2006 Dominican Corojo wrapper over  Dominican binders and fillers.  Again it comes in 5 sizes; Fate 6’ X 60, Destiny 7.25” x52, Luck 6” x 50, Fortune a 6.25 x 54 Belicoso and Chance 5.5” x 46.  Being from the Dominican they are a bit more in price, ranging from $7.10 – $8.50.


Gold Strike is the company’s Nicaraguan made bundle which has an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper over an Indonesian Besuki binder and Nicaraguan fillers.  There are two sizes, a 7 x48 Churchill and a 6.25” x 50 Toro with suggested prices of $6.99 and $6.75 respectively.  They come in bundles of 15.


Maybe the most interesting outing from Royal Gold will be the Nirvana.  It won’t be ready until October and it is being made at the Drew Estate factory.  At the show there were no samples of this one.  It uses a Cameroon wrapper over San Andres Negro binder with Nicaraguan filers from Jalapa and Esteli.  Jonathan Drew and the Goldmans go way back so really it is no surprise that the two have gotten together again.  Nirvana comes in 5 sizes—  Silencio at 4” x 44 for $9.15, Corona Gorda at 6” x 46 for $9.65, Robusto at 5” x 52 for $10.35 and a Toro at 6” x 52 and a Torpedo at 6” x 54 both priced at $10.85.


When asking Alex Goldman about the challenges of making a premium product for Swisher, he said he thought it might be tough, considering their place in the machine made universe, but was surprised about how open the manufacturers were to him and the concepts.  He also said having Swisher’s backing was amazing in that if he wants to do an event, he makes one call and it is all handled for him.  Swisher has an event staff just to do that.  It should be interesting.


Hot Smokes


If you are in Florida and someone has a great deal on cigars for you, it may be too good to be true.  It seems several people broke into a cigar warehouse in South Florida and stole a quarter of a million dolars worth of cigars.  The thieves, who were caught on tape, stole 700 cases of cigars from the warehouse.  No word on WHICH cigars were taken.



Still More Cigars by Frank Seltzer

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

In May, we told you about the tenth anniversaries of both My Father cigars and Tatuaje.  At the show last week, My Father showed off the newly completed band for  its tenth anniversary cigar.  Only 2000 boxes of these will be made     and the Nicaraguan puro measures 6.5” x 52 uses Criollo, Pelo d’Oro and Habana tobaccos. The company also added a box pressed La Dueña coming in  6.5” x 52 Toro Grande.  We already talked about the El Centurion  which is now coming out.    This is a new blend of the old cigar which was out about 6 years ago.  Jaime Garcia tweaked the blend and it will be in regular production…and a bit cheaper than the previous incarnation, running around $7 to  $8.50. El Centurion comes in four sizes 5.75” x 50 robusto, 5.5” x 54 belicoso, 6.25” x 52 toro and the 6.5” x 58 toro grande.

French for The Workshop

Pete Johnson is out with his special 10th as well.  It is a brown label blend with a closed foot.  Available for this year only with the commemorative band.  Pete’s other venture, L’Atelier released the L’Atelier Maduro. Coming in 3 sizes – 4.5” x 44, 4.5” x 54 and 5.5” x 56—it is a nice ful flavored smoke using the dark Maduro wrapper combined with the Sancti Spiritus leaf which is a hallmark of the brand.  Prices for the Maduro range from $6.50 to $9.50.

The other new addition to L’Atelier is the Extension de la Racine (Extension of the Root).  The idea behind this extension is that every year only one size will br created and available for that year only.  This year’s release ( ER 13) uses a Criollo wrapper with Sancti Spiritus for the binder with a combination of Nicaraguan fillers.  The size if 5.875” x 52 and will cost $9.25.

 La Flor Dominicana

At La Flor Dominicana, the company is offering a new Factory Press Limitado, using a very dark Sumatran wrapper over a Nicaraguan Binder and Dominican fillers.  Litto Gomez also is coming out with an A size in the Double Ligero line.  Measuring a whopping 9’ x 47,  it uses a Sumatran ligero wrapper over Dominican fillers and binder.

The Chisel is getting a new addition as well, called Chapter One, it is the first cigar blended by Litto’s son Tony who now works in the factory.  Tony says it is the strongest Chisel to date.  It uses a Brazilian Oscuro wrapper with a Connecticut Broadleaf binder to kick things up a bit, over Dominican filers.  It measures 6.5” x 58.  Litto says Tony made the cigar bigger then flattened it. It is a limited edition coming in boxes of 10.

 La Matilde

Speaking of La Flor, the company now has a factory that is open to the public down in La Romana.  It is run by former Altadis USA factory head Jose Seijas and the store/factory is called La Flor Dominicana Experience.  At the factory Jose’s rollers make the Air Bender for Litto…but they also are busy making another cigar, it is called La Matilde.  While not ready to display at the show, Jose was talking about the new project.   The name, according to Seijas, comes from one of the first factories in the Dominican Republic back in Santiago in 1867.  It was also the name of a factory in Tampa back in the early 1900s.  Seijas is making La Matilde in four sizes a Corona at 5.5” x 44, Robusto 5.25” x 54, Grande 6”x 60 and a Toro Bravo at 6.5” x 54. The cigar is mostly Dominican tobaccos with a little Nicaraguan filer and a Habano wrapper.  The price will range from $6.50 to $8 and should be available in November.



Oliva has added to its Serie V line with the Melanio Gran Reserve Limitada.  Named for the patriarch of the Oliva cigar family — Melanio Oliva – this Serie V contains the flavor and power  you would expect in the line, but with more smoothness.  The wrapper is Ecuadorian Sumatra, but from a special proprietary seed, over a Nicaraguan Habano binder and fillers. It actually debuted late last year and scored impressively in the ratings.  Coming in 5 sizes, the Melanio is a premium priced cigar ranging from $7 – $14.



I neglected to mention another cigar coming out of Christian Eiroa’s incubator.  Asylum has released the Ogre.  This is a true big boy measuring 7” x 70.  What makes Ogre distinct is its barber pole wrapper which uses a light candela mixed with a dark Habano over Nicaraguan binder and filers for a distinctive taste.  MSRP on the Ogre, which comes in boxes of 30 is $8. Of course there is Christian’s core CLE Corojo line which is very taste as well, but it actually came out at last year’s show.


Aged Cigars

From Altadis there is another special project called the Cedar Room Selection. These are some short run cigars that were set aside to in the company’s huge Tabacalera de Garcia factory’s cedar room.   These cigars were only used for special events at the factory but now, you’ll soon be able to enjoy the special tobaccos used to make these limited cigars.


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