Monday, July 30, 2007

Famous Nicaraguan 3000

Presented by Stogie Review

Famous Dominican 2000

Presented by Stogie Review

Friday, July 27, 2007

The new cigar tax: House Ways and Means Committee verdict is in, but not all is lost

This morning, I wrote to Norman Sharp at the Cigar Association of America asking for a status report regarding yesterday's House Ways and Means Committee's vote on the SCHIP funding. Here's what Mr. Sharp had to say:

"The House Ways & Means Committee approved the SCHIP funding this morning at 2:00 AM. Events moved very quickly. Although the rate for large cigars will be 44.63% with a cap of $1 per cigar, we believe there still might be room for changes."

With regard to the floor tax, which is of the utmost concern for every brick & mortar cigar store and online retailer: "The House version assesses a floor stocks tax on cigarettes only -- as was the case with the tobacco tax increases in 2000 and 2002. The Senate version would assess the floor stocks tax on all tobacco products."

In other anti-SCHIP funding legislation news, here are some other items of interest, especially if you haven't been following the story as closely:

Rocky Patel, who has been among the most vocal about the SCHIP matter, can be seen making the case for the manufacturers in two online videos. The first, at YouTube.com titled, "Facts On The New Tobacco Tax," shows Rocky explaining the ramifications of the funding if it goes through all the way.

There is also a story and an accompanying video on the legislation story with Rocky at NBC-2.com, the NBC News affiliate in Ft. Myers, FL titled, "20,000-percent tax increase on cigars?"

Another good read, titled "Some Senators Get It," appeared earlier this week at Cigarcyclopedia.com, in which U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, "I fully support initiatives that increase Americans' access to affordable health care. But, I believe Congress should not rely on budgetary gimmicks or tax increases. Instead, Congress should focus on eliminating wasteful government spending."

If you'd like to raise your voice, you can write to the House Ways and Means Committee members from your state, or contact your Senators, who will soon be addressing their version of the bill.

Finally, I'm told that "snail mail" is more effective than email, since all letters are opened and read, whereas emails can easily be deleted.

~G.K.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RTDA 2007 Preview: Hatuey Cigars

Here's a new premium cigar nugget you may want to check out. I was introduced to Hatuey cigars (pronounced, "ha-tway") by a friend who sent me some samples a couple of months ago in several sizes and wrappers. I have to admit these boutique cigars were all pretty good. Nicely handcrafted construction, well-balanced, smooth, and flavorful.

Backstory: The Hatuey Tobacco Company was founded by Gustavo and Marlon Peña, and is located in the fertile Cibao region of The Dominican Republic. The Peñas cultivate their tobaccos on farms in Bonao, Villa Gonzales, Navarrete, Piloto, Cotui, and other areas of the region. The tobaccos are all aged for two years before being sorted into the different blends which include two "Special Reserve" lines (Classic and Figured), plus a variety of bundle cigar selections.

Hatuey cigars will officially debut at this year's RTDA 2007 Trade Show and Convention in Houston (Aug. 4-8). If you'd like to learn more about this new premium cigar selection visit HatueyCigars.com, or hatueycigarsreno.com.

Thanks to my friend "Frank" for giving me a first-hand look and taste. Now it's up to Joe Public to decide their fate. I'll be watching from the sidelines.
~G.K.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Unity is a beautiful thing

Last week I wrote about the Senate Finance Committee's funding expansion for SCHIP which, if passed, would effectively send the cigar industry as we know it right down beside Davy Jones' locker.

If you missed it, here's a short except that sums it up in two sentences: "Under the current proposal, the large cigar tax rate would increase 156.4% (from 20.719% to 53.13% of the manufacturer’s selling price) and the current tax cap of around $0.05 per cigar would increase an astounding 20,413% to $10 per cigar – essentially making the cap irrelevant. All large cigars would effectively be taxed at 53.13% of the manufacturer’s selling price."

If you're an avid cigar smoker who primarily buys your cigars online, you probably saw several emails urging you to write to your Senators in Washington asking them to vote against the expansion. You probably also received dozens of similar messages from your fellow BOTL's, and I hope you took a few minutes to follow through and write. This is a very serious issue.

But rather than rehash what you've already read, I wanted to note the "unity factor" going on here. From where I sit, the hew and cry from the manufacturers, retailers, and cigar smokers has been nothing short of stunning, and we can only hope that our voices reach the ears of our so-called "representatives" in Washington with such resounding thunder that it shakes them enough to turn this motion around.

According to the original message, the Finance Committee is supposed to vote on this funding this week. In the meantime, we in the cigar industry sit on pins and needles.

As an interesting aside, you may want to check out this YouTube.com video titled STOGIEMEN: A Cigar Smoker's Companion Part Two, where several cigar smokers discuss, in their opinion, the irrationality of smoking bans and point out the differences between cigar smokers and "other" smokers. At the very least, you'll relate to much of what they say, and why so many cigar smokers feel the way we do about this very unique and enjoyable pastime that we share. Doesn't it say somewhere in the Declaration of Independence about "the pursuit of happiness?"

~G.K.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Take action now or pay $10 more for your cigar later

Yesterday afternoon, my email box was inundated with messages from cigar manufacturers about a proposed tobacco tax increase now in the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. Read the following letter from the Cigar Association of America (CAA) which explains the situation in detail, and you'll know why. If you thought smoking bans were the bane of cigar smokers, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

TO: CAA Member Companies
FROM: Norman Sharp, President
July, 17, 2007

Your help is urgently needed! The proposed taxes in the current Senate Finance Committee proposal to fund expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) solely through higher tobacco taxes will have a draconian impact on the cigar industry. Indeed, it is the biggest threat to the industry since President Clinton’s proposal in the early 1990s to fund universal health care on the back of the tobacco industry.

Under the current proposal, the large cigar tax rate would increase 156.4% (from 20.719% to 53.13% of the manufacturer’s selling price) and the current tax cap of around $0.05 per cigar would increase an astounding 20,413% to $10 per cigar – essentially making the cap irrelevant. All large cigars would effectively be taxed at 53.13% of the manufacturer’s selling price. In all of the Internal Revenue Code, no other product is subject to an excise tax that approaches this level. The little cigar tax would increase 2,635% -- from $1.83 per 1,000 to $50 per 1,000. To compound the injury, a floor stocks tax would be assessed on all products in inventory.

The Finance Committee is scheduled to mark up the measure tonight. We anticipate no changes being made in the revenue provisions. The full Senate is expected to consider the legislation next week, but possibly sooner. We need you to act now and immediately contact your U.S. Senators as well as Senators in those states in which you may have a plant, distribution facility, or sales personnel. Attached is a list of Senators along with their FAX numbers and, where indicated, their email addresses. If your Senator has both a FAX and an email address, then send both a FAX and an email. To assist you in drafting your communications, attached is a document we are using for lobbying purposes.

When you contact your senators, tell them that you strongly oppose the punitive cigar taxes proposed in the SCHIP legislation and tell them how they will impact your business. Those companies with overseas plants should have their plant managers make contact with the appropriate government officials and ask that they immediately get their embassies in the U.S. involved because these tax increases pose a dire threat to the tens of thousands of workers employed in the cigar industry in those countries.

We are also asking the mail order firms to email their customers to urge that they phone the office of their U.S. Senators. If you have an email list of your customers and choose to contact them on this issue, attached is a listing of the Senators’ phone numbers. A consumer should only contact his own Senators because Senators are most responsive to their own constituents.
■ ■ ■
No one wants to see children deprived of good health care, but this proposal is way over the top. Certainly, there must be some other way to expand the program without putting thousands of good people out of business.

Here are two ways in which YOU can help stop this fund expansion from going through as it is now written:

Click this link, which will take you the legislation issues alert page at RTDA.org. You'll see a red, white & blue flashing image that says "ALERT - CONTACT CONGRESS NOW!"

Above that, to the right, enter your zip code and click the "GO!" button. That will take you to a page showing President Bush's name and your two Senators, and a quick and easy email letter. Simply follow the instructions to complete the email and click the "Send Message" button.

Or, to contact your Senators directly, you can also see the contact list of all U.S. Senators with their telephone numbers and email addresses.

Remember, your influence counts.
~G.K.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cigar Preview: Padron 80th Anniversary “Prototype”

By Gary Korb

I recently had the chance to preview the Padron 80th Anniversary "prototype" last weekend - under ideal conditions, too. The weather here was sunny and warm, and I got to smoke the cigar uninterrupted out on my deck.

I’ll start with the appearance of the cigar. Rolled to a 6¾" x 54 Double Perfecto, it was exquisite. I love the double perfecto shape (it’s my favorite), plus the length to width proportions were perfect. The Maduro wrapper had a perfectly even, dark ebony color and beautifully oily (as I would expect from Padron ;-)

I had the feeling the cigar was going to be very spicy and potent, much like the Padron 1926, but it wasn’t. The cigar drew perfectly, and the smoke was very smooth. I had a little burn problem in the first inch or two. That may have been because there was a breeze, but the cigar righted itself soon afterward and burned perfectly the rest of the way.

As it reached the “bulge” in the middle, I really got the full payload of flavor. It was spicy, but not in the “hot” peppery way, which does not appeal to me. Very woody and earthy with all those nice little Padron nuances. I smoked it down to the last inch and enjoyed every moment of it. That said, it did get into my system, and I must admit that I was pretty light-headed and had to lie down for a half hour before I could resume whatever it was I had to do that day. Woooeee! I mean that as a compliment.

Padron certainly has the makings of another winner here. Here's how I scored it:
Appearance: 10
Construction: 10
Burn: 9
Draw: 10
Aroma: 9
Flavor: 9
Final Score: 9.5

Props to Jorge Padron for handing me the opportunity.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Retro-Smoke: Puros Indios No.1 Especiale

By Gary Korb

This is the first in a series of columns I've titled "Retro-Smoke." What's a retro-smoke? A retro-smoke is a cigar that I (or you, for that matter) have returned to after a very long hiatus; in some cases, years.

My debut retro-smoke is the Puros Indios No.1 Especiale, a traditional-sized, 7" x 48 Churchill. Introduced in 1995, Puros Indios cigars were one of the very first Honduran-made cigars I ever smoked, and they remain at the top of the Honduran heap for their consistently good construction, oily wrappers, and rich, earthy flavor.

I remember my first box of Puros Indios, too. I ordered a box of the No.4 Especiale because it had received a very high score in Cigar Aficionado magazine. From there, I went on to try several others in their main line, including the No.1, which I found particularly satisfying.

Ironically, except for the rare and potent Puros Indios Double Fuerte Special Edition, which features an Honduran Corojo wrapper, their cigars don't contain Honduran tobacco. The tobaccos, which consist of Sumatra-seed wrappers grown in Ecuador, fillers from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Brazil, and an Ecuadorian binder, are blended by hand under the guidance of master blender, Don Rolando Reyes.

"I maintain the Cuban tradition of old in as much of what we do here as possible," Don Rolando said in a 2000 Smokeshop magazine interview. Whatever he does to create their unique flavor, he'll never say. All I can say is, it's one helluva recipe.

Somehow, as time went on and I began trying more cigars, I drifted away from the brand. I came into my recent No.1 Especiale a couple of weeks ago, when Puros Indios Marketing Director, Frank Santos handed me one at the Famous Smoke Shop B-B-Q Bash. I fired it up about a week ago and all those wonderful Puros Indios memories came rushing back. What I also like about the No.1 is it offers a cooler smoke due to its 7" length, and the 48 ring provides plenty of dark, earthy and sweet tobacco flavors with just the right amount of spice on the finish. All-in-all, a wonderfully well-balanced premium cigar that goes back in my favorites list. Thanks Frank!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tony Borhani's ICON cigar shows real promise

This isn't an official cigar review. Think of it as a beacon directing your attention to something that in the not-too-distant future may be one of best new cigars of the year - and you heard it here first.

It all started last Friday night over dinner, when Tony "Bahia cigars" Borhani, and most of the other cigar manufacturers were in town for the Famous Smoke Shop B-B-Q Bash. I was walking around the tables doing the meet 'n greet when I spotted Tony who could easily be mistaken for Vin Diesel. (He told me he often is, too.) As he stood up, he handed me a very attractive-looking Torpedo with a black band and the word ICON embossed in silver.

I was given several cigars during the evening, but when some of us headed back to a friend's house to cap-off the evening, for some reason this particular cigar called-out to me. It lit perfectly and was remarkably creamy, well-balanced and medium-bodied. At one point the cigar went out, and drawing on it in its unlit state I realized how sweet this cigar was, too. I don't know what the blend is (Tony isn't ready to say at this time), but the wrapper looks like a Corojo, and I'm sure there's some Nicaraguan filler in there. I also noticed that the rolling on these cigars is exceptional. The spot of dark Ligero was dead center on the few samples I saw, and my cigar drew and burned perfectly all the way down.

Tony must have been doing a little test marketing, because at the event the next day, although he was handing out his Deseo cigars, a few lucky guests were also given a complimentary ICON cigar.

At least two of my co-workers who smoked the ICON agree with my assessment, but I'm even more curious to know if anyone else has had one, and what were their thoughts?

Finally, I asked Tony if he would be debuting the cigar at RTDA Houston, and he nodded, so you may be hearing more about ICON by Tony Borhani later this month as the show approaches.

~G.K.