Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 10 Cigars of 2009 - Let the Countdown Begin!

Cigar Aficionado Magazine has started their countdown for the Top 10 Cigars of 2009! They have a countdown clock on their website and you can register to get updates electronically! How many of them do you have in your humidor??

Let's Hear It For The Women Cigar Execs!

Good article on Women in the Cigar Industry...

*** Cigar Rights of America ***

Are YOU a member of the CRA??

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cigar Rights of America Commitment

Here's a letter that was sent to FL State Representatives from a friend of mine. If everyone writes a letter like this to your State Reps on issues affecting the Cigar Industry, what kind of an impact do you think it will have? Let's start 2010 being proactive!

"It is with great consternation that I am writing to all of you to ask that you consider not adding this onerous tax to cigars in the State of Florida. We are already reeling from the SCHIP. By imposing your tax on cigar smokers throughout the State you will be forcing many small business owners out of business at a time when none of them can endure a further burden on their income. At the same time, the state sales tax revenue will diminish even further because many dedicated cigar smokers like myself will cut back drastically or stop smoking cigars altogether. Many of my friends have already stated that this is their intention.Our Nation is in economic shambles as you are all aware, this only adds to the misery. Besides closing many small shops, there will be the snowball effect of putting many employees of these shops in the unemployment line, forcing the shop owners to walk away from their rental agreements on their store spaces, eliminating the stores' need for utilities with their accompanying taxes and fees, and ultimately causing these hard working, dedicated folks to be forced into foreclosure on their homes. Is that what is expected of our great State's Senators? I emphatically ask that you look elsewhere for a fix to Florida's sagging coffers. Please do not hesitate to reply.

A.B. (initials used for confidentiality)
Orlando, FL"

Top Cigar Stories of 2009...#5 to #1!

Top Cigar Stories of 2009 from Rich Perelman

From no. 5 to no. 1: our count-down of the biggest cigar stories of 2009!

Los Angeles, December 29, 2009 - There were plenty of great cigars on sale in 2009 from a wide variety of manufacturers. But it was a tough year to be a buyer or seller of cigars as the Obama Administration and a Democrat-dominated Congress punched harder than ever against all aspects of the U.S. tobacco trade this year, as shown in our top-five cigar stories of the year:

[5.] Two famed factories close in 2009

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At the dawn of the 20th Century, the city of Tampa, Florida has been synonymous with cigars, so much so that a brand which simply used the city's name became one of the country's most popular: Hav-A-Tampa.

Sadly, the significant increases in pricing brought on by heavy local and state taxes, plus the new SCHIP tax added on April, drove Hav-A-Tampa sales so low that the factory which made these cigars for decades - in Tampa - was closed by Altadis U.S.A. in August. After 107 years, these cigars (all machine-made) are no longer made in Tampa, but production was moved to the Altadis U.S.A. plant in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Some 495 local jobs were lost.

On the premium side, General Cigar decided to streamline its Honduran cigar production by concentrating all of its rolling operations in one factory, the former U.S. Tobacco facility in Danli. That meant that the famed Villazon factory in Cofradia, home to Hoyo de Monterrey, Punch, El Rey del Mundo, Excalibur and so many others, had to close on December 11 and will now be used for tobacco processing and warehousing. It's the end of an era.

[4.] Lounge wars!

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Major manufacturers, looking for a way to get closer to consumers, went crazy in 2009, opening heavily-branded "lounges" inside existing cigar stores all across the country.

Eight different lounge "brands" opened in 2009, for Cohiba, Diamond Crown, Graycliff, La Aurora, La Gloria Cubana, Montecristo, Perdomo and Torano Cigars, including three in 10 days in December for Cohiba, Perdomo and Torano.

We now count 13 lounge "brands" including the pioneering efforts of Club Macanudo (1996 in New York) and the Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar at Tropicana Field in Tampa (1998), plus subsequent programs for Camacho (at Comerica Park in Detroit), Avo and Gurkha.

General Cigar now has the largest number of brands with lounges with three (Macanudo, La Gloria Cubana and now Cohiba), but the runaway leader in overall locations is the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, which has the Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida and at least 47 locations of its Diamond Crown lounges nationwide.

[3.] Imports surge, then dive, dive dive

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There are blips and there are declines. Cigar imports to the U.S. are now in a clear decline, with year-over-year decreases reported for the fifth straight month for October.

The October figures, supplied by the Cigar Association of America from U.S. Customs data, showed that imports of handmade, premium cigars totaled 19.51 million, some 15.2% less than the 23.01 million imported in October of 2008. That's not only the fifth monthly decrease in a row, but the sixth in seven months and the seventh out of 10 reports this year.

Only the post-SCHIP surge months of February and March showed substantial increases and there was a small, 2.63% increase reported - with some surprise - for May. Otherwise, it's been downhill.

The Dominican Republic, the bellwether nation for the health of the U.S. premium cigar industry, fell to third place among exporters to the U.S. in October with a total of just 5.61 million cigars, down 35.4% from the 2008 total of 8.69 million. Honduran cigar production, which has been down all year, fell again in October to 6.28 million, down 14.4% from the October 2008 total of 7.34 million. Nicaragua has been the only bright light among the three major cigar-producing nations for the U.S. market, heading toward its sixth straight year with increased premium-cigar exports to the U.S. For the month of October, Nicaragua led all premium-cigar-exporting nations at 7.42 million cigars, up 10.2% over the 6.74 million in October 2008.

Year-to-date figures showed increases for the Dominican Republic (thanks to heavy buying prior to the activation of the SCHIP taxes), a major drop for Honduras and continued strength for Nicaragua, which will likely have another record year for exports to the U.S.

When the full-year figures are in, U.S. premium-cigar import totals will be higher than for 2008, but well behind the 300-million-plus years of 2004-07. It could be worse.


[2.] U.S. Food & Drug Administration given oversight of tobacco

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A long-desired goal of the anti-tobacco movement is to have the tobacco industry regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. With a heavily Democratic Congress and a Democrat in the White House, it only took six months to pass and sign the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act" on June 22.

It took even less time for the F.D.A. to not only begin exercising its regulatory authority, but abusing it. The legislative package that gave the F.D.A. control also eliminated the sale of flavored cigarettes (excepting menthol, of course) as of September 22, but the F.D.A. went further, saying that any flavored tobacco product that a consumer could essentially use in the same way as a cigarette was also banned, including little cigars.

That's not what the law says, and Kretek International of Moorpark, California, filed suit to obtain a declaration of whether its new Djarum Filtered Clove Little Cigars can be sold. That case is pending.

In the meantime, the City of New York voted to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products – specifically including cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe and hookah tobacco – effective in late February of 2010.


[1.] Democrats pass SCHIP legislation, funded by new tobacco taxes

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Barack Obama was sworn in as U.S. President on January 20 and 14 days later he signed into law an extension and vast expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

The new SCHIP program is funded by a series of new taxes on tobacco products, raising the Federal tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes or little cigars to $1.01 and sending the Federal tax on cigars from 20.719% of the wholesale price with a tax cap of 4.875 cents per cigar to 52.75% of wholesale with a tax cap of 40.26 cents per cigar, effective April 1. On a box of 25 cigars, the new tax added at least $8.85 to the price.

Never mind that the amount of taxes to be collected will quickly be less than the cost of the new SCHIP program, or that the rise in taxes will create new criminal activity. The SCHIP bill, combined with the F.D.A.-oversight law, may make things difficult for the cigarette trade, but are devastating blows to the relatively tiny premium-cigar industry in the United States.

All told, few in the cigar trade are sad to see 2009 left behind. We'll have a look ahead to what promises to be a turbulent 2010 in our New Year's column coming up on Friday.

~ Rich Perelman

Top Cigar Stories of 2009 - #10 to #6...

Re-post of 2009 Top Stories in Cigar Industry from Rich Perelman...

Los Angeles, December 28, 2009 - Charles Dickens died in 1870, but he accurately summed up the U.S. cigar industry in 2009 in the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . ."

Maybe it was a bit worse than better, as we recount our choices for the top-10 cigar stories of this tumultuous year:


[10.] Two giants lost as Schneider and Lara pass

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Two men intimately connected with the ascension of the Davidoff brand to worldwide success were both lost during the month of October: Ernst Schneider and Avelino Lara.

Schneider died at age 88 in Basel, Switzerland on October 13. He was the head of the Oettinger Group that purchased Zino Davidoff's store in Geneva and its associated brand name in 1970 for the unheard-of sum of four million Swiss francs (about $970,000 U.S. at the time), but he knew what to do with it. In Dieter Wirtz’s 2006 book, Davidoff: Legend - Myth - Reality, Schneider remembered "We badly wanted a brand of our own and wanted it to be known worldwide. That is why I engaged Zino with his charisma and his magical name to be ambassador for five years. But I stayed in the background."

It was Schneider who had the idea to take the Davidoff name that was so highly regarded in cigar circles and expand it to leather goods, apparel, toiletries and many other items that are today available under the Davidoff name. He took over the reins at Oettinger Imex in 1962 when it was simply a tobacco-products distributor in Switzerland and when he handed control to Reto Cina in 1998, it was doing business in more than 100 countries with sales of more than two billion Swiss francs annually (about $1.96 billion U.S. at today’s rates).

Lara worked for many years as a roller and later as the head of the legendary El Laguito factory outside of Havana. He told interviewers that he worked not only to create the commercial version of the Cohiba blend in 1968, developed strictly as a diplomatic gift for the Castro regime, but also with Zino Davidoff to develop the Davidoff series in 1969 (it went on sale in 1970).

Lara retired as the chief of the El Laguito facility in 1996 and, so the story goes, had been to the Bahamas as a tourist and met Graycliff owner Enrico Garzaroli and arrangements were then made to allow Lara to relocate to the Graycliff complex and begin rolling cigars for patrons of the resort’s top-shelf restaurant.

The obvious quality of the cigars and the skill of the then-75-year-old Lara led Garzaroli to ask him to create a special blend just for Graycliff and just a year later – 1997 – the Graycliff brand was born. That blend is still available today in the Graycliff Original brand, with a red-and-gold band.

Lara died, also at age 88, on October 27 and was buried in Havana.


[9.] A new world-record cigar!

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Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt has stunned the world two years in a row by not just setting new world records in the 100 m and 200 m dashes, but smashing marks thought to be untouchable for years to come. So it was for Wally and Margarita Reyes, who set a new world-record for the longest cigar in history in November.

On November 21, they completed a stunning 196-foot, 3-inch long cigar (59.82 m) to highlight the 11th annual Cigar Heritage Festival held in Centennial Park in Tampa, Florida to raise money for the Ybor City Museum Society.

The final assembly was done in the presence of a validator from the Guinness Book of World Records, and if certified, would an amazing 47 feet, 6 inches to the old record of 148-9 by Cuba’s Jose Castelar Cairo set last year. It would be the second record for the Reyeses, who created a then-record 101-foot-long cigar (pictured above) that weighted more than 53 pounds at the 2006 Festival. This edition weighed in at about 112 pounds. Both were created, for the most part, at the Reyes’s shop, the Gonzalez Habano Cigar Co. in Tampa.


[8.] Cuban planting and production both down


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Even the Cuban cigar industry is feeling the punch of the worldwide recession.

"Cuba slashes tobacco acreage amid flagging demand" read the headline on a story from the Reuters news agency on October 5, noting a Cuban National Statistics Office posting on its Web site that 30% less tobacco is expected to be planted this year.

The stark reduction was attributed to "financial restrictions that made it impossible to count on the necessary resources." The National Statistics Office notice indicated that the expected crop yield for the upcoming 2009-10 season is 22,500 tons, down 16% from the previously-planned total of 26,800 tons. The acreage to be planted with tobacco will shrink to 49,000 acres, well down from the 70,000 acres planted for the 2008-09 crop.

Habanos S.A. officials told attendees at February's Festival del Habano that the island’s cigar business dropped by 3% in 2008, but the Reuters story also noted a forecast for 2009 that sales would retreat another 15% in 2009 "because of the recession and the smoking bans adopted in a growing number of places as a public health measure." Reports that several of the major Cuban cigar factories had seen layoffs and were well below their full production capacity were also confirmed in the Reuters report.


[7.] Smoking bans continue their march across America

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After years of debate, Michigan became the 38th state to adopt some form of smoking ban in public places in 2009 and smoking bans in bars, restaurants and even in outdoor settings such as parks and restaurant patios continued to proliferate.

Although primarily aimed at cigarettes, the smoking bans obviously impact cigar smokers and there was some push-back against such bans, notably in Indianapolis (where a ban was tabled), in Los Angeles (where a ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas has been trimmed) and in Texas, where a furious battle ended with no statewide ban adopted, but with anti-smoking forces vowing to continue.

The push against outdoor smoking has one anti-smoking academic - Michael Siegel of Boston University - so concerned against eventual blowback that he started a Web site - http://www.tobaccocontrolintegrity.com/ to catalog the quarter-truths, half-truths and outright lies being told in the advancement of the anti-smoking case.


[6.] More brands than ever before!

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One would think that with so many negatives, the number of brands available to U.S. smokers would be diminishing. Exactly the opposite is happening.

There are more nationally-marketed brands being sold to U.S. smokers than ever before. According to the 2010 edition of our Perelman’s Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars, more than 1,473 brands are in production, with 1,321 handmade brands, even more than at the height of the Cigar Boom in 1997 and 1998.

Many came from established manufacturers adding new lines. Gurkha introduced nine new brands in 2009; Rocky Patel had six, Alec Bradley five and even four new lines of Montecristos came to market. But there were also brands like Doublegun, Fogo, White Buffalo and Zoidian that are being marketed by small distributors, all looking for a piece of the world's largest cigar market.

Is a crash coming for these brands as well as those of established manufacturers and distributors? That’s a 2010 story.

We'll review our top-five stories of the year on Tuesday.

~ Rich Perelman

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cigar Trade Shows Equal Jobs & Economic Impact

Reposted from the Las Vegas Review Journal


EDITORIAL: No smoking at the tobacco show


More folly from local Nanny Staters


The Tobacco Plus Expo and the Retail Tobacco Dealers convention (the latter held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center) drew 27,000 attendees with a $41 million economic impact over the past six years, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors authority.


But last year, due to Nevada's Draconian law against indoor smoking, exhibitors and attendees at the Tobacco Plus Expo -- scheduled to return to the Convention Center in March -- were not allowed to sample tobacco products.


Near the end of the 2009 Legislature, lawmakers repaired that problem with a modest patch. Amending a bill already in the works to limit stalking, they added an amendment to AB309 to allow smoking at tobacco conventions.


Now comes the American Cancer Society with a lawsuit. Because the measure was added as an amendment to the anti-stalking measure, it violates the state constitution's single-subject rule, the society claims.


In fact, the prohibitionists appear to have read the constitution incorrectly. The single-subject provision was installed to block voter initiatives which contain hidden, "Trojan horse" provisions. It has never before been considered a limit on lawmaking by the elected legislators.


"The title of the law refers to smoking and stalking as the crimes," Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Lorne Malkiewich said. "There are many laws passed that include more than one crime."


This lawsuit is likely to fail. At which point, the courts should order the prohibitionists to reimburse the convention authority and Nevada's taxpayers their legal costs. But more important is what this effort again demonstrates.


It would be an understatement to say the tobacco prohibition zealots -- this latest effort demonstrates once again their goal is step-by-step prohibition, not merely "protecting the children," who tend to be thin on the ground at tobacco conventions -- don't give a hoot about Nevada's jobs or economy. Look at all the kitchen and food-service workers who lost their jobs when the smoking ban hit bars and taverns.


Now, with Nevada still up to our armpits in the worst recession in half a century, the zealots want to reverse a modest and common-sense attempt to keep tobacco conventions heading this way by allowing attendees -- adults who have paid to be there -- to sample exhibitors' perfectly legal wares?


That's like saying your booze and lingerie conventions are welcome in Saudi Arabia -- though of course no one in attendance will actually be allowed to taste the hooch or see the underwear.


This is Nevada. Those who don't like gaming, drinking, smoking and a host of other adult activities long tolerated here have 49 other states to choose from. But that's precisely what they can't stand, isn't it -- the thought that somewhere, even if it's far away in some remote and forbidding desert, adults may be participating in a consensual activity of which they do not approve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cigar Blog #2

The other day I was talked into trying a really interesting cigar the Liga Privada T52 Robusto thank you Tommy. I wasn't a huge fan of the original Liga Privada #9 but I thought why not try it. He provided me with some interesting information. Drew Estate's President, Steven Saka was looking for something unique. He discovered a farmer in Connecticut who was experimenting with a new sun grown Connecticut broad leaf stalk-cut which he called, "American Habano." The filler is a combination of Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Honduran Tobaccos.

The Liga Pravada T52 has a very dark wrapper which is very oily. The pre-light aroma was very mild but pleasant and a cut with a Monte Blanc scissor cutter revealed a very good draw with an interesting flavor that left a slight sensation of pepper on the tip of the tongue.

The first about quarter of the cigar burned perfectly releasing oils from wrapper. The ash was light grey almost white. Revealing taste notes with hints of cocoa and pepper.

About half way into the cigar it was still was burning perfectly releasing a sweet aroma into the air. The cigar started getting a little more bold in flavor. The taste notes released another note of cedar which was a pleasant surprise.

About an inch from the end all the way through I had to touch up the cigar a few times but it still burnt well. The taste opened up even more to bolder spicy cigar. This cigar i would classify as medium to full smoke. I was very impressed at the construction and quality of the tobacco used. I'll be the first person to tell you I'm not usually a fan of Drew Estate cigars. But I've recommended this cigar to a lot of my friends. I hand them the cigar and they ask me what it is. I wait for them to take a couple of puffs before I reveal that it's a Drew Estate cigar. Try this cigar and let me know what you think.

Cigar Blog #1

I've been tossing around a few cigars in my head which one should I write about and I decided to go big right off the bat. I actually planned my 30th birthday celebration around this cigar the Casa Fuente Robusto.

My wife and two wonderful friends of mine took a trip to Vegas to find this amazing cigar. Our plan was to go to Casa the first day and pick up a box then gamble the rest of the time. We ended up going to Casa Fuente just about everyday we were there.

I've been aging these cigars for a year and they are just as flavorful as the fist day I brought them home. The pre-smoke draw is just like breathing it's so open. As I first lit the cigar there was a hint of cedar aroma in the air. As I smoked my way through this wonderful cigar the cedar taste gave way to a smooth taste of citrus. This cigar was so wonderful i didn't want to put it out in fact I smoked it so far down that cigar started to get the taste of skin from my fingers. I would personally say this cigar is one of my favorites of all time. Not only is this cigar amazing to smoke but it also brings back wonderful memories.

This cigar retail for about $25 if you ever find yourself at Caesars Palace I recommend stopping by Casa Fuente.

Tiger Woods Update: In The End, There Is Only One Judge...And It Isn't Me

Most of the feedback we have received about our endorsement offer to Tiger Woods has been positive.  However, there have been a few people who were upset about our decision to make such an offer.

Here is an email that was sent to me:

Endorse Tiger???? Why don't you give him an award for destroying his wife while you're at it?? You just lost a customer, but then, I'm sure that doesn't matter...you'll have Tiger.

So here is our "Official Response" to those who are outraged by our endorsement:

While Corona Cigar Company does not condone Tiger Woods' extra-marital affairs, there is no denying that Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers of all time. (And let's not forget all the good that Tiger has done with his generous charitable contributions.)

We respect the Woods family's privacy and wish the best for them as they go through this difficult time. With support from the community including local businesses such as Corona Cigar, we hope the healing process may begin.

With that said, we believe that Tiger Woods will soon return to the golf course. Nothing pairs quite as well as enjoying a premium cigar on a golf course. Many of our customers are golf enthusiasts and many golfers are cigar enthusiasts.

We hope Tiger Woods accepts our offer to be the official spokesperson for Corona Cigar Company.

Get to know your Cigar Execs...

Here's a good article out of Richmond, VA...hope you enjoy!

The Future of Tobacco with the FDA

I'm passing along a great article from my friends at Cigar Novicionado. As we head into a new year, the United States Food and Drug Administration has called for public comment on the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Let's remind them of our rights by submitting comments to their website: FDA's Regulations website. Thanks!

Monday, December 21, 2009

What's on your list of Top 10 Cigars of 2009?

Here's a link to a list I found of "potential" Top 10 Cigars for 2009! You still have time to add one of these to your list for Santa ;)

"Congress, Tobacco, and a President Who Lights Up"

Great article from this quarter's edition of "CIGAR MAGAZINE" written by Sam Kazman! A must read for all.

Hello!

Hello everyone! Looking forward to discussing Cigars while covering Freedom and Fair Trade in the Cigar Industry!

Best and Long Ashes,

CigarLibre

Friday, December 18, 2009

Corona Cigar Makes Endorsement Offer To Tiger Woods

Sports News

Orlando-based Corona Cigar Company Offers Tiger Woods "Smokesperson" Deal

$100,000 Endorsement Deal Extended to Troubled Golfer

Orlando, Florida 12/18/2009 05:44 PM GMT (TransWorldNews)

Orlando, Florida December 18, 2009 - Central Florida's largest and most exclusive premium cigar retailers is offering a lifetime supply of cigars and a $100,000 endorsement deal to Tiger Woods, bucking a trend set by several of the troubled golfer's current or former sponsors, including Accenture, Gatorade and Gillette.

"Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time and, although we do not condone his or anyone's alleged extramarital affairs, nothing pairs better with golf than a premium hand-made cigar," said Jeff Borysiewicz, president and founder of Corona Cigar Company.

According to Borysiewicz, Woods has frequented Corona Cigar in the past accompanied by his long-time friend Charles Barkley, the National Basketball Association's former all-pro power forward.

"Who are we to judge? We welcome Tiger to our stores any time and are quite serious about the sponsorship offer," Borysiewicz said.

There has been no word from Woods regarding Corona Cigar's proposal.

About Corona Cigar

Corona Cigar Company is a leading premium cigar retailer with three cigar superstores and cigar bars in Central Florida's Greater Orlando area and online at www.CoronaCigar.com. Including membership in other leading civic, trade and consumer organizations, Corona Cigar is a founding sponsor of Cigar Rights of America (CRA). Jeff Borysiewicz, founder of president of Corona Cigar, is a member of the Board of Directors of CRA and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR).