Special Cigars and Growth by Frank Seltzer

One of the things about Pro Cigar is that you always find out about new or special cigars and this year is no exception.  The goodie bags that you get at the welcome included a cutter and lighter by Xikar, a Romeo robusto by Romeo y Julieta, a Vega Fina Sumum, a Davidoff Puro d’Oro and Colorado Claro figurado, Quesada Espana and Oktoberfest, Fuente Opus X Angel’s Share and the company’s new Destino Siglo that marks the first year of the Fuente family’s second century in business.

In addition to these cigars, every night at the party an additional 5 pack is handed out.  Last night we received a Montecristo Number 2, Don Julio, the new Fonseca Cubano Exclusivo, a La Aurora Cien Anos Maduro Edicion Especial and a La Flor Dominicana Unidad.  Tonight will be another assortment as we party under the monument in the center of the town in our white shirts. I know one of the cigars will be a La Gloria Cubana special Rabito de Cochino. Using a beautifully silken Habano wrapper grown in Ecuador over an Ecuador-Sumatran binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers, this 6” x 54 cigar packs a lot of flavor and smoke.

General Cigar Expansion

All of these cigars and others from the Dominican Republic show why despite the smoking bans and tax increases, the industry here is continuing to expand.  Yup, you got it right, they are expanding.   Starting with Imperial Tobacco’s Tabacalera de Garcia in La Romana where 150 new rollers are being trained this week to increase the factory’s output (make no mistake – the training takes much longer than a week but it is going on as I write this). Yesterday, I noted the expansion of La Flor Dominicana and in my trip to General Cigar, you could not help but notice the additional rollers with more on the way.  Since the beginning of the year, the factory has hired 250 new employees with more openings waiting to be filled.  The production has increased from about 70-thousand cigars a day up to one hundred thousand according to Jhonys Diaz of General Cigar.

Despite all the buzz around Nicaraguan cigars, the Dominician Republic remains the number one producer of premium cigars for the United States, and at a news conference with the members of Pro Cigar, the numbers showed the D.R. maintains about a 2:1 lead over other countries.  About 127-million premium cigars were imported into the United States last year from the Dominican Republic (through November 2012).  While the cigar market in the U-S is growing modestly, Europe is flat and Asia is seeing more increases.  Looking at the future, the cigar makers are optimistic (hence the hiring) but they are also aware of potential challenges which is why Pro Cigar is working closely with the Cigar Rights of America, International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association and other groups to present a unified voice in opposition to keep the FDA out of the humidor.

The group also is working in Australia to fight the plain packaging laws there which might become a bigger issue in the US and Europe should the anti’s prevail.  The deal in Australia is that you cannot sell tobacco in anything other than a plain vanilla package which will have everyone looking alike.  That would mean “bye bye” artwork on the boxes.  Pro Cigar is fighting it on the grounds that it infringes on their trademarks.

Finally on a lighter note, yesterday Karoma coffee held a cigar/coffee tasting seminar.  The hour long session of course provided coffee but tons of information about the pairings.  In a nutshell here is the result, for a cigar with sweet undertones like a Maduro or the Don Carlos with its Cameroon wrapper, you’ll want to use a lighter roast.  For more full-bodied cigars, a darker roast or espresso with a slight bitterness is a better match.

Off to more factories…enjoy your day…I know I will.  (As a side note met a few people from the J-R retail side and we have been having a blast.)

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