Archive for the ‘master series’ Category

New and Old Cigars and Taxes by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013


Benji Menendez

Sometime in April, the Benji Menendez Majestuoso makes a return. This was the limited edition cigar that took off in 2009-10.  Named for cigar master Benji Menendez, the 6 x 46 cigar gave new life to the Partagas brand and now is making a comeback as a regular edition to the Partagas line.


The cigar known as the Master Series has resurfaced over the past couple of years as holiday items but with a bigger ring gauge, 54.  Benji always has said this blend works best in the 46-ring gauge and that is what is returning.


The Majestuoso uses a Cameroon wrapper.  The Cameroon wrapper comes from Africa (the country of Cameroon.  To Benji this wrapper is special since in the 60s after the embargo there were only two types of wrapper, Connecticut and Cameroon.  Period.  And it is what Ramon Cifuentes used in the original Partagas made outside of Cuba.  To Benji and his team this cigar was an homage to Cifuentes.  Said Benji at the launch in 2009, “The original Partagas cigar was a Cameroon wrapper, but because the market changed, that cigar became less full bodied than it was perceived back in the mid 90s. What we have done is thinned that family and increased the strength but keeping the flavor.   We need the flavor. To me the important thing in a cigar is not a cigar that will blow your head off but a cigar that will give you a good taste in your mouth.  And Cameroon has that sweetness and cleanliness of smoke that you will appreciate in that cigar.”


The binder is Habano seed grown in Connecticut over fillers from The Dominican Republic (Piloto Cubano ligero) and Nicaragua. At the time of its release, many of us agreed it was one of the best cigars ever smoked with tremendous flavor and balance.  The Majestuoso will retail just under $10.


General also is releasing a new Limited Edition cigar to the Master Series in the Prominente size.  In Cuba that is also known as a Double Corona at 7.625” x 49.  The limited edition should be out in May.


A Taxing Problem

You may remember in California last summer, voters defeated a proposal to increase tobacco tax.  The other side kept hanging on past the election hoping the vote total would change, but it didn’t and they lost.  Now just six months later, they are going to try again.  This time the ballot initiative is being called “The California Residents College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014″…as opposed to the bend over and grab your socks while we shove it in deeper act.


This time the dollar increase in tobacco tax initiative will go to help pay for college…

The initiative would funnel the money, which could be as much as $750 million in its first year, through the California Student Aid Commission. Its language says the tax revenue would be kept separate from the state’s general fund and thus not siphoned off to other programs — including the constitutional guarantee for K-12 schools and community colleges, the news outlet reported.


Yeah raise the taxes a buck and watch that money flow in…NOT.


When states raise the tobacco tax, they increase the incentives for Black Market tobacco.  A recent study by the Mackinac Center showed that in New York—which has the nation’s highest cigarette taxes at $5.85 a pack –only about 39 percent of New Yorkers who smoke are paying that high tariff.   60.9 of the total market of cigarettes in 2011 came from the black market.  It is a smuggler’s paradise.

We also modeled for Maryland the impact of a recently proposed 50 percent hike in its excise tax, from $2 per pack to $3. If such an increase were enacted in Maryland, the proportion of smuggled cigarettes consumed by its smokers would leap from 26 percent of the total market to 52 percent, and would actually result in a net decline in tobacco tax revenues.

These findings are troubling enough, but even more disturbing is what appears to be an increase in criminal activity related to illicit tobacco smuggling. In just one egregious example from last summer, a Maryland police officer in Prince George’s County was sentenced for running illicit cigarettes while using his duty firearm, uniform and patrol vehicle. In 2010, a Virginia man admitted to hiring someone to kill another over smuggled smokes. Prison guards have been busted smuggling smokes into prisons.


Perhaps these legislators should consider the real world effect of their actions.



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