I revisited some cigars this week as well as trying a new one and there were some big news stories. I was plagued with migraines at the end of the week, so I took Friday off to recover. I think raw onions are another trigger along with red dye 40 (and maybe the yellow dyes too, not sure about that one). Anyway, I did manage to smoke a few cigars, let me ramble on about them before we get to the important stuff!
Thursday I managed to drive the migraine away with medication and selected a La Jugada Prieto Toro from the humidor, the last of the ones the folks at Moya Ruiz Cigars sent me a while back. Of course, I’m a sucker for the Mexican San Andrés wrapper, which this has. When I smoked this cigar last it was between Christmas and New Years, and I thought it had unique Mesquite flavor that I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t get that as much this time, but is certainly stands apart from the typical San Andrés wrapped cigars. It burned well, smoked well and was a very satisfying cigar. It only lasted about an hour, which was pretty short for a 6″ x 52 Toro. Another winner from Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Esteli. (note: I can’t believe I spelled La Jugada incorrectly several times in the original post and nobody called me out on it. I fixed it…it just sucks to have the correct spelling on the band and mis-spell it in the article and title!) This is in the 97 range on my rating scale for sure.
Saturday I selected a cigar that I’ve been looking forward to smoking, and just came into my possession. Gary Griffith (House of Emilio) was kind enough to send a new batch of samples, including the Gonzo Santeria Heina, a 6″ x 52 box pressed toro with a nice curly-cue cap. I gave it a V-cut and took off for an afternoon walk with the dog. We have another San Andrés wrapped cigar, and to make things better, this one has a San Andrés binder too! This cigar had a really nice espresso flavor and behaved quite nicely. One thing that freaked me out a little was the lack of a cap, then I remembered the pigtail finish. The V-cut worked well with the as the Xikar cutter lets the little bun shaped protuberance pass through the cutter. My draw and burn were perfect and I smoked it to a finger-burning little nub. I really like the broadleaf wrapped Gonzo line, and this takes it one step better. Steve Ysidron of Epicurean Cigars has another winner here. This is a stellar smoke that gets a solid 98 on my scale. (here’s where my rating scale will get me in trouble! On the linked page for this cigar, there’s a badge with Cigar-Coop’s 92 rating. If you don’t read about my rating scale on my “About” page, it may take something away from my esteemed colleague’s rating! I assure you this is not my intention)
After dinner I decided I wanted to revisit the Compounds, Elements and Musings Vanadium from a box I bought at the end of last year. I just looked, and you can get a box of these for a little over $70 some places, including one of my sponsors, Famous Smoke Shop. I bought the box a few months ago and paid somewhere in the $117 range. I’m a little annoyed now! Anyway, I bought it because the box was cool and “V” shaped, and obviously I’m a fan of the letter “V”. The empty box occupies a place on top of a bookshelf, next to one of my Adorini humidors. We don’t have any information about the blend, other than what’s listed on the box, which is Nicaragua, Brazil and Mexico, all winners in my book. I like the perfecto shape of this cigar, and it’s got the dark and dirty flavors I enjoy. These are coming along nicely, I think, although they were good off the truck. I think these will mellow over time and become a little less aggressive, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I put this at 97 for me, your mileage may vary, but for under $4 a stick and a cool box (as well as a nice lighter if you buy at the right place), how can you go wrong?
In the News
FDA Issues Deeming Regulation on Tobacco Products
On April 24, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released proposed regulations to extend the authority of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, to additional tobacco products. Currently, the agency oversees cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco.
The FDA released two options for consideration during the 75 day public comment period, effective today. Option 1 would extend the agency’s regulatory authority to all categories of tobacco products including cigars, pipe tobacco, electronic cigarettes, nicotine gels, hookah tobacco and dissolvables. Related accessories, such as lighters, cutters, and carriers, are not included in the regulation. Option 2 would extend the FDA’s regulatory authority to all of these categories of tobacco products, excluding premium cigars and related accessories.
Under Option 2, premium cigars are defined as wrapped in whole tobacco leaf; contains a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder; contains primarily long filler tobacco; is made by combining manually the wrapper, filler, and binder; has no filter, tip, or non-tobacco mouthpiece and is capped by hand; has a retail price (after any discounts or coupons) of no less than $10 per cigar; does not have a characterizing flavor other than tobacco; and weighs more than 6 pounds per 1000 units.
The deeming rule has numerous potential negative implications for the premium cigar industry. Specifically, the regulations could make the following changes:
- Impose a ban on sampling
- Require product registration and ingredient disclosure
- Impose labeling requirements for manufacturers
- Establish an arbitrary price point of $10, excluding all other products from the premium category
- Prohibit characterizing flavors other than natural tobacco
A 75 day public comment period begins today, April 25, 2014, and concludes on July 9, 2014. Public comments, data, and research submitted during this time will be reviewed, and will determine which provisions are enacted. It is critical that you remain engaged throughout the duration of the public comment period to further clarify why premium cigars should not be subject to the same regulatory framework as other products. IPCPR will provide you with instructions on how you can submit public comment.
Upon conclusion of the public comment period, the FDA will review all of the comments submitted. Any revisions to the initially proposed regulations will be sent to White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for economic review before the final regulations become effective.
“The proposed regulations released by the FDA Center for Tobacco Products demonstrate a misguided attempt to regulate the premium cigar and pipe tobacco industries,” said IPCPR President Finnie Helmuth. “While IPCPR is encouraged to see progress in defining the unique tobacco products our retailers carry, this regulation remains flawed. The facts are clear: premium handmade cigars are not desirable to, marketed to, or affordable to America’s youth. The products our retailers sell are a celebratory luxury enjoyed by adults, and do not have the same habitual use patterns as other tobacco categories. We do not believe it was the intent of the United States Congress to regulate premium cigars under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. IPCPR looks forward to working with FDA moving forward, and encourages all interested parties to submit comments on how this rule will affect their small businesses.”
The proposed rule can be read in full at http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/Labeling/ucm388395.htm
Please contact Kip Talley, IPCPR Senior Director of Federal Legislative Affairs, with any questions or concerns. His email is email@example.com.
OK, this is important….you MUST go to this link: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2014-N-0189-0001 and leave your comments (It’s not as easy to find as you might think, which is why I’m making it easy for you). Be sure to express that you are in favor of option two, but there need to be some things fixed. You need to tell them that saying a cigar is a “Premium” cigar if it’s only over $10 is absurd. You need to tell them that a weight requirement for a cigar to be considered premium is ridiculous. The business about having events and samples and flavorings are important too. If these pieces of the puzzle are not addressed, having “Premium” cigars exempted from the regulation will be a hollow and meaningless victory. Perhaps someone who really knows can leave a comment below to verify this, but I believe that the over $10 segment is actually a pretty small part of the premium cigar picture. Would you consider the Vanadium cigar I talked about above to be something other than a “Premium” cigar? I don’t know where they got that arbitrary number, but it’s ridiculous. I’m pleased that the FDA is, at least, considering the fact that handmade cigars are different from mass market cigars, but this needs to be fixed. Only public comments will give us any chance. I’m also not too thrilled that tobacco products are lumped in with electronic nicotine delivery devices. Except for looking like smoking, how are these the same? Tomatos and eggplant contain nicotine, but you won’t see me smoking them! Don’t get me wrong, I think electronic products should be regulated, they are chemicals, not naturally occurring products. Keeping the FDA out of our humidors is important!
Note: Shortly after posting this I received this handy chart from Gary Griffith of Emilio Cigars showing the breakdown in sales by price range over the last year in his 26 stores. I think it supports my assertion that the majority of premium cigars are below $10. Thank you very much Gary!
In other news
NEW YORK, NY – April 28th, 2014 – The newly independent La Sirena Cigars announced today the acquisition of New York based cigar brand, Old School Cigars. The acquisition was a strategic move for La Sirena to increase their portfolio and gain immediate market share. Old School Cigars is best known for its 3 Lines: Stixx, Jaxx and Jaxx LT.
“La Sirena’s acquisition of Old School Cigars represents a natural fit. Both companies are New York based premium cigar brands featuring unique blends and a high level of cigar expertise,” said Arielle Ditkowich, President and Founder of La Sirena Cigars. “It just made sense to me, as we [La Sirena] continue to grow quickly. I was looking to blend a mild cigar and, during my research, I came across the sweet Connecticut wrapper on the Jaxx LT.”
Beginning immediately, the distribution of Old School Cigars will be handled by the La Sirena Sales team. All orders may be placed through the La Sirena Cigars website, by telephone or email, or by contacting La Sirena regional sales managers. La Sirena Cigars will continue to produce the La Sirena Original and Merlion by La Sirena blends.
“La Sirena continues to gain momentum since our independence in January. Arielle realized we needed to produce a mild, yet full flavored cigar to even out our portfolio. We liked the Jaxx LT so much, we made an offer to buy the company,” said Max Mogil, Vice President of National Sales & Marketing. “This is just the first of many exciting announcements for La Sirena. In addition to the Stixx, Jaxx and Jaxx LT, we’re looking forward to the 2014 IPCPR where we will debut our third line under the La Sirena brand.”
Daniel Ditkowich and the Holman Family founded Old School Cigars 7 years ago producing a number of blends over the lifespan of the company. La Sirena will continue to produce the “Jaxx” made by Tavicusa S.A.in Nicaragua, the “Jaxx LT” made by Plasencia in Honduras and the “Stixx” made by the Quesada Family in the Dominican Republic.
The acquisition will be effective as of April 25th, 2014. As part of the transition, existing Old School stock will be sold with original Old School labels with future production to be labeled “Jaxx by La Sirena”, “Jaxx LT by La Sirena” and “Stixx by La Sirena”.
La Sirena Cigars will be announcing more exciting updates soon. Find out first by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @lasirenacigars
In my uneducated opinion, this is a great strategic move for La Sirena, it instantly brings in relationships with 3 major factories, Quesada, Rocky Patel and Placencia. La Sirena and Merlion are already made in My Father and La Aurora, respectively. These are all BIG factories with great reputations, so the sky’s the limit for Arielle and company! I’m looking forward to checking these out, as well as the upcoming Oceano line later this year.
That’s more than enough for now! I’ve got a noon Flyers game to watch, I hope they can win another one in Madison Square Garden! After that I’ll have to find something nice to smoke to either celebrate or drown my sorrows!
Until the next time,