Tag Archives: FDA

A Special Guest Article and a New Partagas and Joya de Nicaragua

I’m going to lead off with this great article Dan Colley wrote with some of his insight into the new regulations from his time working for the FDA. This covers the importation procedures, I’m hoping he offers more thoughts on the implementation of the regulations at a later date.


Many of you are likely familiar with my name. I am Dan Colley and have been a reader of and commenter to the CigarCraig blog for quite some time. What you may not know is that I am a retired Investigator and Compliance Officer for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I left the Agency in the mid-1990s for work in the private sector. I have been retired now for about fifteen years I’ve been a cigar smoker since about 1967.


As someone who worked daily with the many requirements of the FDA, I have become intimately familiar with the import requirements that the law has put into place for many regulated products, from foods and drugs to medical devices, cosmetics and even tobacco products. The recent regulations that FDA has been charged with enforcing contain requirements that are new to the tobacco industry and I would like to provide you with some information about how those requirements will impact you, the cigars that you love to smoke and the tobacco industry in general.


It is important to know that the FDA and the U.S. Customs Service (Customs) work very closely together to enforce the various laws that regulate imports. Customs was first mainly interested in the collection of import tariffs, but as time has passed, they have joined their efforts with other Federal agencies who have authority over imported products. For example, the FDA has authority over foods, human drugs, animal drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, and tobacco that extend beyond taxes and tariffs. The procedures for allowing these products into the U.S. legally are essentially the same with very few differences.


I would like to briefly explain the physical process that imported products go through before entry into the U.S. The first thing that must occur when a foreign manufacturer wishes to import cigars into this country is that they make a declaration to the FDA and to Customs that a shipment is heading for the U.S. That declaration will usually tell those agencies what the shipment consists of, how it is arriving, where it will be offered for entry into the US and who the involved parties are. Typically, foreign manufacturers will use companies that consolidate shipments for ease and economy of transportation. When these freight consolidators are involved, they will make the required notifications to the U.S. agencies.


When the shipment arrives in the U.S., it is moved directly to what is called a bonded warehouse where it is held for government inspection. The consignee does not have access to the shipment at this point. Once the agencies are notified, policy dictates which path the shipment will follow.


There are several paths that are possible for these shipments to take. For example, some are merely “rubber-stamped” and allowed to proceed to the consignee without any action. This occurs when the agency has a long and successful relationship with the product and the manufacturer and has every reason to believe that the products comply with all requirements. That assumption is always based on historical data and not merely presumption.


Another path that imported products may follow is that of a simple examination. In cases like this, an inspector will go to the bonded warehouse and physically examine the shipment to see if it is what it is supposed to be and in the case of perishable items, the shipment is in good shape and not visually contaminated or adulterated. If no problems are identified, the inspector will file his paperwork with the FDA and the products is then released and may proceed to the consignee.


Since cigars do not meet the classic definition of “perishable goods”, they are primarily involved with what inspectors call a “paper chase”. Cigars require pre-market approval unless they were manufactured before the date that governing regulations were put into place, so it is not usually necessary to examine them for adulteration unless there is obvious physical damage to the shipment (eg: water damage, crushing, etc.). All the agency must do is verify that the cigars are either approved for sale in the U.S. or are ones that are “grandfathered” as being manufactured before the regulations became law. This is principally a paper exercise. FDA will review filings made by the manufacturer and will also examined specimens of the labels on the product to assure that they meet the requirements of the regulations. If they do, FDA releases the products. If they don’t, they enter the detention cycle.


The detention cycle can be involved and I will not delve into it very far. I will say that there are only a few possibilities for products caught up in this cycle. First, they can be denied entry outright and returned to the entity who shipped it. Another possibility is that the product may be reconditioned, if possible. This applies mainly to products with labeling non-conformances in which they may be brought into compliance by simply applying different labeling. There are other possibilities, but they are not generally applicable in the situation of cigars.


This rigorous inspection cycle will lead to a variety of other consequences as well. I’ve been told of people who order Cuban cigars from European retailers. They report that the shipments of contraband cigars arrive at their mailbox without any difficulty. This is likely because the shipper has a good relationship with U.S. Customs and its products proceed without examination. Now, with essentially every lot of imported cigars being examined as a result of the new regulations, this practice will likely come to a halt. Once an inspector sees “made in Cuba” on a box of cigars, all bets will be off. (Editor’s note: Many shipments of contraband cigars are not declared as cigars)


The bottom line is that if a cigar does not meet the letter of the law, it will not be allowed into the country. The process for making a cigar “legal” for domestic consumption is quite tedious and has not yet been completely defined by the FDA, but we can be assured, sadly, that it will be difficult and expensive for cigar manufacturers to import new blends of cigars into the country.


I hope that this has been enlightening for you. Since I have been away from FDA for quite some time, there are likely some differences in what they do with respect to regulated products, but I have learned from some former cronies who are still with the agency that the procedures remain essentially unchanged over the past 20 years.


Thank you Dan for that insiders look at the process! I think this is timely considering recent reports of cigar shipments being opened by customs, whole bundles of cigars cut in half and shipped on to the recipient as if nothing happened. Does it seem right for a government agency to destroy legal property and send it on with out so much as an apology? How is a retailer supposed to sell cigars that have been damaged like that, and they can’t return them for credit. This is where the new regulations are going to effect retailer’s bottom lines first.


Partagas_Ramon_y_Ramon_Single_Cigar EditI have a couple of IPCPR samples I wanted to talk about, first being the Partagas Ramon y Ramon Robusto. This line pays homage to Ramon Cifuentes, the founder of the Partagas brand, and uses tobacco that was grown in the Dominican Republic from vintage seeds from General Cigar’s library of seeds. The agronomists at General developed a process to regenerate these vintage seeds, and, if I recall, it takes several growing cycles to get a usable crop of tobacco with the right characteristics. The filler is composed of this special, old world tobacco, Nicaraguan Jalapa and Dominican Piloto Cubano, with a Dominican binder and a high priming Cameroon wrapper. This was one of the most interesting and enjoyable cigars I’ve smoked in a very long time. There was a spicy cinnamon flavor throughout the smoke which just kept making me think “wow, this is a delicious cigar!”. The burn and draw were perfect and the cigar had that signature round cap that General Cigar likes to use. This robusto’s size is a bit of a departure from the standard 5½” x 49 Partagas robusto, as they took the ring gauge up to 50. This a great smoke and the list price is in the $7.49-$8.99 range, very reasonable for a terrific cigar. Can you tell I was impressed? Photo is from General’s press kit, it was much better than mine!


JoyadeNicaragua_Joya Black_ToroAfter a visit to a newer local store, which I found to be rather lack-luster, with a poorly executed floor-plan and dirty and shabby lounge (although the company and the La Galera El Lector, a 6″x 54 toro which was really nice, but I failed to pay much attention to it), I had to break out the new Joya Black from Joya de Nicaragua. They are branding this along with the Joya Red and have re-branded the doble capa Cabinetta to fit the same design scheme. I’ve been looking forward to trying this San Andrés wrapped cigar since I heard about it. I probably could have chosen a better time when the ambient humidity wasn’t over 80%, as the cigar smokes a bit on the wet side. It had a great flavor though, I’ll be getting my hands on some more to smoke at the right moisture level. It was everything I want in a maduro, less the steamy smoke quality. Unfortunately, you can’t tell if a cigar needs to be dry boxed until it’s too late. Going back to the local shop I visited, it’s a shame that the owners of this chain did what I consider to be a half-assed job with this store. It’s in an area where an upscale, classy shop would do well, and it’s got more of a 7-Eleven feel to it. I hate to be so critical, but I was really disappointed in the place, but not surprised, based on some of the other stores in the chain. I’m sure my harsh criticism will be unpopular with certain people. On a positive note, the pricing was fine, the selection was not bad, although rather “safe”, and the cigar I bought and smoked there smoked well, despite the “store as a humidor” model (I wonder about the practicality of having a door to the outside directly into the humidified space, often they have to overcompensate for this and the cigars are wet).


That’s more than enough for now, I thought about breaking this up into two posts, but I am far to lazy for that on a Sunday morning. Until the next time,








Filed under IPCPR, News, Review

IPCPR, CAA & CRA File Lawsuit Against FDA Today

I don’t usually post press releases, but I thought this one was important enough to pass along. Posted from my phone, so pardon the formatting.

Three major cigar and tobacco industry associations file suit against FDA’s deeming rule

CAA, IPCPR, & CRA ask District Court of Washington D.C. for declaratory injunction

For Immediate Release: July 15, 2016

WASHINGTON D.C. – The three major cigar and tobacco industry associations filed suit Thursday against the United States Food and Drug Administration’s “Deeming Rule.” The Cigar Association of America, International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association, and the Cigar Rights of America are asking the District Court for the District of Columbia for a declaratory injunction “vacate, set aside and enjoin the enforcement of the final rule” because it is violates numerous federal statutes as well as the federal rulemaking process. A full copy of the filing, which details nine counts against the FDA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, can be found here (note: the link was not included in either press release I received).

“Just over one month ago, our three associations pledged to work together to develop the appropriate response to the FDA’s new deeming rule. After a thorough and detailed legal review, we are challenging this unlawful regulatory action in federal court to protect the statutory and constitutional rights of our industry and its members. The fact that all three of our organizations are acting in one voice speaks to the urgency and seriousness of this action,” said Mark Pursell, CEO of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association.

The complaint challenges:

  • FDA’s improper application of the February 15, 2007 grandfather date to cigars and pipe tobacco, which subjects those products to more intrusive regulations than cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
  • FDA’s impermissible assessment of a tax in the form of user fees, and its allocation of these user fees only to cigars and pipe tobacco and not to other newly deemed products
  • FDA’s failure to perform an adequate cost-benefit analysis to take into account the effects of the Final Rule on small businesses as is required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act
  • FDA’s unjustified decision to require cigar health warning labels to be 30% of the two principal display panels of packages
  • FDA’s unlawful designation of tobacconists who blend finished pipe tobacco or create cigar samplers of finished cigars as “manufacturers,” which subjects those businesses to greater regulation than if they were “retailers”
  • FDA’s incorrect decision to regulate pipes as “components” or “parts” rather than as “accessories”

“The FDA ignored the law to craft these expansive and sweeping regulations and cannot justify many of the arbitrary and capricious regulations it purports to enact,” said Glynn Loope, Executive Director of Cigar Rights of America. “This lawsuit is a specific and detailed challenge to the FDA’s unprecedented assertion of rulemaking authority. “We are acting in one voice to protect the legal rights of our industry at all levels, from the manufacturer, the community retail tobacconist, to the adult patrons of cigars.”

Speaking about the lawsuit, Cigar Association of America President Craig Williamson said, “We all worked in good faith to inform and educate the FDA on the unique nature of our industry, its members and our consumers. We hoped the FDA would craft a flexible regulatory structure that accounted for the uniqueness of our industry. Instead, we got a broad, one-size-fits-all rule that fails to account for how cigars and premium cigars are manufactured, distributed, sold and consumed in the United States. The FDA exceeded its statutory authority and violated the federal rulemaking process when crafting this set of broad and sweeping regulations. This challenge asserts nine violations of federal law and rulemaking authority. We are asking the court to enjoin the enforcement of this unlawful regulatory scheme. We are confident that when the court reviews our case on its merits, we will prevail.”

Thanks to the CAA, IPCPR and CRA for their efforts to save the premium cigar industry.

Until the next time,




Filed under News

Another Tatuaje, La Gran Llave and Herrera Esteli and Some Cigar News

Kafie 1901 Coffee Co copyI’m going to start with this item from Gaby Kafie of Kafie Trading Co., maker of the Kafie 1901 cigars.  In an effort to help the CRA fight the impending FDA regulation, which, by the way, directly threatens Gaby’s business as well as MANY others, He has created the Kafie 1901 Coffee Co.donating a percentage of each sale to Cigar Rights of America to help in the fight. Here’s the text of the press release:



In light of the recent news delivered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding total regulation of the premium cigar industry, our family has decided to take action, but we need your help. We cannot do this alone.

Earlier this year, we decided to introduce to market a specialty grade organic coffee from Honduras. Our family has been in the coffee business since 1933 in Honduras. Our new line “Kafie 1901 Coffee” is intended to give coffee lovers an experience like no other. Quality is our utmost focus. This Grade 1, Organic, 100% Arabic bean coffee from select farms in Honduras will be the ideal pairing for a premium cigar. We are also proud to announce that all of our coffee will be roasted and packaged in the United States, thus creating jobs here at home. As with all our offerings, we guarantee the finest quality product.

With the FDA dropping this bombshell on us and the entire premium cigar industry, our business plans have now evolved. We have taken the initiative to partner up with Cigar Rights of America (C.R.A.), under the guidance of Executive Director Mr. Glynn Loope. In an effort to protect our rights as cigar makers, brand owners, retailers, and connoisseurs, a percentage of each sale will benefit the mission of Cigar Rights of America. The C.R.A. works to protect the premium cigar industry in the United States, and throughout Central America. Now more than ever, we all need to come together and fuel this common cause.

We feel strongly that this venture will not only raise much needed funds for the C.R.A., but it will also create a greater awareness of the attack we are under. It is essential that we all unite towards this common goal.

Our coffee will be available through a participating retailers network. Inquiries are welcome. Your feedback and support is greatly appreciated.

Together we can make a difference,
Dr. Gaby Kafie
President and Founder
Kafie Trading Company, LLC

It’s very important that we continue to contact our elected officials to let them know that what the FDA is doing is over-reaching and unconscionable. They are going to put thousands of Americans out of work, and tens of thousands in Latin America.  It’s unnecessary and wrong, and it needs to be stopped.


Tatuaje_HavanaVI_NoblesThursday I took a half-day from work as my wife and I were going to a concert in the evening (read the review on my wife’s site here), so I selected a robusto for a pre-concert walk. I had received a great little care package from regular reader, Dan, containing, among other things, a couple of the Tatuaje Havana VI Nobles and I was itching to give one a try.  First off, I’m confused as to why these aren’t listed on Tatuaje’s website, I thought this was a pretty common line, and I see them listed at all the major and not so major online retailers. I’m quite sure I’ve seen these in brick and mortar retailers too, and may even have bought one or two there. So why this line isn’t listed on the site is anyone’s guess. Whether it’s on the company website or not, it’s a solid smoke, medium bodied, delicious cigar. It had some nice Mocha notes and a little spice and burned perfectly and was a perfect accompaniment for a walk on a beautiful spring day. Thanks to Dan for sending it, and I will get to the others very soon!


LaGranLlave_TorpedoFriday I dug into some samples I received from Michael Argenti recently, samples of his new line, La Gran Llave. according to a Cigar Aficionado article from February announcing the line, the blend consists of a dark Mexican San Andrés wrapper, an Ecuador Habano binder and Nicaraguan fillers. These are made at the AJ Fernandez factory, and, quite frankly, they look like cigars made there, and that’s not a knock.  The torpedo I smoked was beautiful, box pressed and pretty flawless. I was actually surprised to read that it had a San Andrés wrapper, which I read after smoking it. It didn’t look, feel or really taste like a San Andrés wrapped cigar, and I can usually pick that sort of thing out, or, I should go look again. It was a great tasting cigar, a little coffee, some woody notes, a very enjoyable smoke. It was a quality cigar, and I look forward to further exploring the blend.


HerreraEsteli_TAA ExclusiveYesterday I selected a cigar that’s exclusive to Tobacconists Association of America (TAA) from Drew Estate, the Herrera Esteli TAA Exclusive.  This is a 6″ x 52 size which is a common vitola with Drew Estate, and is Willie’s first cigar with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, and has a Brazilian Mata Fina binder and Nicaraguan fillers. I’ve enjoyed the Herrera Esteli line in the past, it’s an elegant blend, very refined and flavorful. The addition of the Connecticut Broadleaf gives it a meaty flavor, at least on first lighting, which was unexpected. I lit the cigar and it took me a while to figure out that It had a flavor quality like a grilled steak. Very interesting. It burned well enough, although it hit a stretch in the middle where it took some effort to keep burning. It could have been that there was a lot of moisture in the air since it just rained, or a void, but I don’t get a lot of problems with Drew Estate cigars. It was odd, but easily overcome and didn’t negatively impact the experience.  There’s now two TAA cigars I’d pick up (no TAA stores around though!), and I’ll revisit the other one this week hopefully. Another good one from Willie Herrera and Drew Estate.


That wraps this weekend’s post up. I received some other press releases, but everyone else posts those anyway, there was new information from Córdoba & Morales Cigars, Gran HabanoSchrader Cellars and Fratello. I hope the fact that I rarely post the press releases doesn’t stop people from sending them! It’s just that a bunch of others already do it.  If you want me to post that information, I’ll work it in, just let me know


Until the next time,




Filed under News, Review

Cigar Rights and Some Alec Bradley Cigars

I usually present the cigars I’ve smoked over the last few days, but I had a weird experience this week, and I’m going to hold off on talking about those cigars until I give them some more humidor time and revisit them. All I’ll say is I smoked two cigars that had a really odd finish, and while they were from the same company,  they were made in completely different factories. Unless they had a common component that had a flavor that just didn’t play well with my chemistry,  I’m going to give them a do-over in a couple weeks. It was weird and had me second guessing myself! In other news, Cigar Rights of America has published a response to the FDA’s deeming document with excellent recommendations on how to respond, and we MUST respond in numbers, or life will change negatively for many thousands of people. Glynn Loope, the director of the CRA made a comment that no cigar related anything should be published without including a link to http://cigarrights.org/fda-response.php. I created a simple animated 125×125 graphic and included it at the top of the right-hand column on this site (scroll down for mobile users), I don’t think my advertisers will mind being bumped down a spot for this. Anyone who wants to use it is free to to so, and if someone with talent in creating graphics (I have none) wants to improve upon it, please do. We need to make an intelligent and unified response to the FDA’s proposed destruction of cigars as we know them.


JMs_AB_JLYesterday was Saturday, and I had received an email earlier in the week that one of my long time favorite local shops was having an Alec Bradley event. I’ve been begging to get email notices about JM Cigars events for years, and finally got on the list! I figured it would be rude if I didn’t stop in. Jonathan “The Player” Lipson, the local Alec Bradley rep, is a good guy and I like Alec Bradley cigars. I smoked a Nica Puro robusto, of course, one of my go-tos, mostly to see if that odd taste I was getting was me or not. It wasn’t, as the cigar was excellent as usual. The event was well attended for a spring Saturday afternoon. I’m not sure if it’s just that Jonathan does a lot of events or what, but I find myself going whenever I see one pop up, and, as a result, I seem to have quite a few Alec Bradley cigars in my humidors. I picked up a few American Sungrown torpedos too, for five bucks these are impossible to pass up!

AB_Maxx_RoboloAfter a blustery storm blew through,  I decided to keep with the Alec Bradley theme, and took a walk with an Alec Bradley MAXX Connecticut Robolo, which is a BestCigarPrices.com exclusive (the size, not the blend It turns out the Maxx Connecticut line is a BCP exclusive, thanks to Jason there for the update).  Something about the 4½x60 size appeals to me, not sure why that is.  This cigar has fillers from Nicaraguan, Colombian, Mexican, and Honduras, with a Connecticut wrapper, which I assume is Ecuador Connecticut judging by the flavor and the price point, however both BestCigarPrices and Alec Bradley’s sites just say Connecticut, so I could well be wrong. These can be had in the five dollar range. I found this to be a really nice, milder smoke with great flavors. The burn and draw were very good, and I burned my fingers a little finishing it up. It probably smoked for over an hour, not bad for a four and a half inch cigar. In the Maxx range, I’ve only had the Brazilian wrapped version, which is exclusive to another retailer, and I really liked that cigar. This one was tasty, perhaps a better choice for earlier in the day than I smoked it, but a very nice cigar. Thanks to Jason at BCP for providing this sample.


That’s all for now.  It’s Mother’s Day, so if you have one in your life, try to do something a little special for her today.  Until the next time,





Filed under Editorial, Review

A Post-Flyers-Loss Liga Privada UF-13, a Toraño and a Pre-Flyers-Win Kings Cigar

UF-13 DarkCigars are funny things, they can be a celebration, or they can pick you up when you’re down. Sunday I needed a pick-up cigar after the Flyers lost to the Rangers in a playoff game they needed to win.  I went for one of the best cigars I have in my humidors, a Drew Estate Liga Privada Serie Unico UF-13 Dark. I’ve had the good fortune to have smoked a bunch of these and, I have to say, I like them. The size (5½” x 52) works very well, its perfectly balanced and satisfying. It’s consistent in flavor and always burns perfectly. UF stands for Unico Fuerte, and I suppose these are a strong cigar, but I don’t take them as much stronger than any of the other Unicos, or Liga Privadas for that matter. These aren’t inexpensive, but they certainly are a nice treat every now and then. I give it a 98, but very close to a 99.


Torano_1916_ToroMonday I chose a cigar from the Toraño 90+ sampler that I broke into a couple months back after giving it a one year rest.  This cigar was the 1916 Cameroon toro, a traditional 6 x 50 wrapped in a cedar sleeve. As I joked on my Instagram picture, one is to remove the cedar sleeve before lighting.  You think it’s funny until you’ve seen someone try to do it. Not cool.  This cigar commemorates the year Santiago Toraño moved to Cuba and got into the tobacco business.  I’m personally glad he made this move, as the Toraño company is one of my favorites.  This cigar is really tasty! It’s sweet and medium to mild, and maybe even creamy. I enjoyed the heck out of this cigar, if I had one complaint it would be that the ash didn’t hang on too long, but that’s a very minor complaint. It had the Camerooniness that I really like. I should smoke more Cameroon wrapped cigars! It’s another 98 on my rating scale.


Kings_Baron_RobustoLast night, before the Flyers staved off playoff elimination, I sat out in the garage and smoked a Kings Cigars Baron, which is their Ecuador Connecticut wrapped cigar. I had the robusto size, and this either came from the IPCPR show, or from a package I received from them just before the  show. I really like the Conde, which is the San Andres maduro offering, and the Habano wrapped enormous King of Kings is tasty. The guys behind the brand are fun guys to be around too. Anyway, this was a nice, mild smoke that was up the middle for me. The flavor was good, but didn’t really distinguish itself from other cigars in the Connecticut category, which I admit I pass over more times than not. It was very well made, burned well and wasn’t offensive at all, and it was satisfying. While my personal preference is for something different,  I think this is a good example of a Connecticut cigar. I give the Baron 96, but the website gets a 91. I love these guys and they are innovative and creative, but the website is a pain in the butt to get any information from, and not being able to silence the audio turns me off (warning to those who click the links here).  Flashy isn’t always better, at least in my opinion.


This is going to get old fast, but it’s important that we make our voices heard with the FDA.  I have to say that Halfwheel.com published and excellent piece on why $10 is a ridiculous reference point for the FDA to deem a cigar to be “Premium” and, therefore, exempt from regulation.  FIVE REASONS WHY THE FDA’S $10 PRICE EXEMPTION WON’T SURVIVE


Here’s the link again to voice your opinions on how they define “Premium” Cigars.  http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2014-N-0189-0001


I can’t stress the importance of convincing the FDA to exclude cigars from regulation (at least for now) by letting them know that the price and weight of cigars is irrelevant in determining that they are “Premium”, that they are hand made from all natural ingredients (and that can include ‘flavoring’ as far as I’m concerned) is all the criteria needed. As Charlie Minato at Halfwheel properly points out, the state of New Hampshire has a recognized definition of a premium cigar, it being: “Premium cigars are cigars made entirely by hand of all natural tobacco leaf, hand constructed and hand wrapped, wholesaling for $2 or more, weighing more than 3 pounds per 1000 cigars, and kept in a humidor at the proper humidity.” (Thanks to Dave Garofalo and Victor Vitale and all those who worked to write this definition! It’s close enough).  Anyway, hit the link above and let them know what you think.


Well, tonight is Game 7 of the Rangers and Flyers and I hope the Flyers play like they did last night!  I’m not quite ready for hockey season to be over, although it does free up my schedule to smoke larger cigars!


Until the next time,





Filed under Editorial, Review