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91

Montecristo White

Headley Grange Inspiration, Experimentation, and Creation

byJon Huber

If you've ever wondered how some cigars become cigars in the first place, this article entitled, "Headley Grange: Inspiration, Experimentation, and Creation," by Crowned Heads co-founder, Jon Huber is sure to shed some light on your speculation. As the title suggests, it starts with inspiration. In the case of the Headley Grange line, that inspiration all started with the first six seconds of the Led Zeppelin classic, "When The Levee Breaks." To get the full story of how a 1970's rock band and one of the world's most revered tobacco blenders put it all together. It was October of 2011, and we were a month away from shipping the first boxes of Crowned Heads’ inaugural release, Four Kicks. Despite the fact that Four Kicks had yet to make it to a retailer’s shelf, I felt as though the dishes were done with that meal, and it was time to plan the next menu. At that time, I was obsessing upon a song, "When The Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin. To be more specific, I was listening to the first six seconds of that track on constant repeat...over, and over, and over again. Needless to say, I was driving everyone in the office insane. But there was something about John Bonham’s drums in those six seconds -- ominous, thick, dense, and plodding -- that got under my skin, inside my eardrum, and would not let me go.   Allow me to go off on a tangent (as I often do) and say something about inspiration.  To me, inspiration is not something you tap into, but rather, it taps into YOU.  It’s all around us -- in the disguise of music, art, film, written word, etc. -- it’s just up to us to clear out the leaves in the gutter of our minds and let the "rain" of inspiration inside. So, I commented that, I want to blend a cigar that tastes the way that the drums sound on "When The Levee Breaks." (In fact, it became a tweet on our Twitter feed.)  I recall Mike [Conder] and I making the conference call to Ernie [Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Jr., owner of Tabacalera La Alianza and maker of three of our brands] and playing that six second loop from "Levee" to him a few times, then saying, "I want to blend a cigar that tastes how those drums sound."  The speaker phone was silent for a moment, then Ernie replied, "OK...I get it."  In hindsight, maybe it was crazy to use sound as an inspiration for taste, but fortunately, Ernie was a drummer in his former life, and got what I was trying to convey: I wanted the flavors to be thick, dense, and heavy. Fast forward to February 2012. We’d sold out of every Four Kicks shipment since November, and Four Kicks had made several "Top Cigars of 2011" lists among the blogoshpere. Mike and I were in Santiago, Dominican Republic with Ernie, and we were driving back to the factory. We’d just finished lunch at one of our favorite restaurants down there. (For the record: it’s Italian, but it’s some of the best pasta you’ll ever have, and it’s in the Dominican Republic -- go figure!) At this time, the brand that would become "Headley Grange" was simply referred to as "Project HG." Tangent #2:  Once I knew that the drums on "Levee" were the jumping-off point for the blend, I began to research that particular track further. I was watching a documentary called, "It Might Get Loud" (well worth adding to your Netflix queue).  In that film, Jimmy Page goes back to the place where the drums for "Levee" were recorded.  He explained that the drums sounded the way they did because of the acoustics of the room in which they were recorded.  The room where the drums were recorded was located in a former poor house in Headley, East Hampshire, England. Built in 1795, it was called "Headley Grange." Convincing my business partner, Mike Conder, that Headley Grange was to be the name of our second cigar brand was a whole other challenge I had to overcome that would be best suited for a follow-up article. Back to our story and the drive back to the factory. Up until that day, Project HG had undergone many variations of wrappers, binders, fillers, regions, farms, and primings; the combinations were countless. And then came the moment. I call the "Ah-ha" moment (not to be confused with the lame 80's pop band).  I don’t claim to be a "master blender" or even that I know more about tobacco than the next guy; in fact, one of the things I love about this business is that even after 17+ years, I am constantly learning each and every day. When you’re blending a cigar, there’s a lot of trial and error and experimentation with different tobaccos--until you have that "Ah-ha" moment. It’s that instant when you taste that particular blend of tobaccos, let it wrap its arms around your taste buds, and you know in your gut that this is IT.  It’s like that moment when you kiss your girl for the first time, and you know you’ve found your ‘forever’(that happened for me the night of May 5, 2010).  Well, the "Ah-ha" moment arrived for us when we lit up the most recent Project HG samples in Ernie’s car that afternoon. In the summer of 2012, we released 1,000 boxes of Headley Grange Estupendos (a 5½" x 52 vitola). Those 24,000 cigars sold out in a matter of two days at the annual IPCPR trade show in Orlando. Headley Grange Estupendos went on to receive many accolades, including one particular cigar magazine’s prestigious "Top 25 Cigars of 2012."  In the spring of 2013, we released the other four Headley Grange vitolas: Eminentes, Corona Gorda, Hermoso No. 4, and Dobles. Today, knowing that what started as an idea inspired by John Bonham’s drums is being enjoyed by cigar enthusiasts across the United States, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the Netherlands, is a very gratifying feeling.  It’s all about starting with a mere idea that haunts your brain matter -- and then through the work of a talented team of individuals -- that idea comes to fruition in the form of a tangible and consumable product.  For me, it is the reason I do what I do for a living, and why I am blessed to be able to do it.    
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Keys to the City Scottsdale Arizona

byRocky Patel

"Scottsdale is distinguished by the magnificent mountains that rise up over the desert," writes Rocky. "It's also a very hip and highly cultured city with some of the world's finest dining, nightlife, resorts, and beautiful women." Some of the highlights include resorts such as The Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain, the Canyon Suites at The Phoenician, restaurants like Mastro's Steakhouse and The Capitol Grille, plus cigar lounges like The Fox and 21 Degrees. To learn more about this "enchanting and unforgettable" city. This month we head back to the United States to visit another great city, Scottsdale, Arizona. One of my favorite memories from Scottsdale is sitting at thePhoenician overlooking the city and admiring Camelback Mountain while smoking a cigar on the terrace.  Scottsdale is distinguished by the magnificent mountains that rise up over the desert. It's also a very hip and highly cultured city with some of the finest dining, nightlife, and resorts in the world, not to mention the women are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Hop-on and let's ride cowboys! The Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain 5700 East McDonald Drive | Paradise Valley, Arizona 85253 Reservations: 855.245.2051 http://www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com/index.html Surrounded by some of the most picturesque views of Paradise Valley, The Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain is one of Scottsdale's best luxury resorts. Also known for attracting Hollywood celebs, The Sanctuary offers spacious rooms and every type of service and amenity. They have a full-service spa offering Asian-inspired treatments for the mind and body from massage therapy, to fitness classes, to a Zen meditation garden. For cocktails or wine from their impressive list of vintages, visit The Jade Bar. They have a secluded outdoor patio where you can smoke a cigar as you listen to live music and enjoy breathtaking views of the desert.  The Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North 10600 East Crescent Moon Drive | Scottsdale, Arizona 85262-8342 Reservations: 480-515-5700 http://www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale/ Located in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, this luxury retreat blends-in seamlessly with the beauty of the Arizona desert through architectural design, custom furnishings, and artwork created by regional artists and craftsmen, including pieces handmade by Mexican artists and the Huichol Indians. The resort also offers a choice of accommodations from spacious guest rooms, to luxury suites, and adobe casitas.  Canyon Suites at the Phoenician 6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale, Az. USA. 85251 Reservations: 480-941-8200 http://www.canyonsuites.com/ If you want to experience everything the Arizona desert has to offer, try the spacious Canyon Suites situated at the base of Camelback Mountain. Like the Sanctuary and The Four Seasons, this Forbes 5 star-rated resort has it all, from their world-class spa, to the hypoallergenic rooms, to fine dining, plus their daily "Hour of Joy" wine tasting from 4:00 to 5:00 PM. Speaking of wine, The Canyon Suites has an award-winning collection that will turn the most sophisticated wine lover into a kid in a candy store. And, as I noted above, their terrace provides a magnificent view while you smoke one of your favorite cigars. Mastro's Steakhouse Address: 8852 Pinnacle Peak Road | Scottsdale, AZ 85255 World-class service, highly-acclaimed cuisine, and live entertainment. Reservations: 480-585-9500 http://www.mastrosrestaurants.com/Locations/AZ/01-Scottsdale-Steakhouse-Main/Default.aspx I like to call Mastro's "Nirvana for steak lovers." Even the Gayot "guide to the good life" has claimed it as "one of the top 10 steakhouses in the U.S."  Founded in 1999, Mastro's was originally a family-owned restaurant. Now under new management, their commitment to excellent service, distinctive atmosphere and serving the finest quality food hasn't changed. Mastro's also offers a number of elegantly furnished dining rooms, including a piano lounge. In addition to their world-class steaks, Mastro's menu features fish delicacies like Chilean Sea Bass, Ahi Tuna served sashimi style, and Scottish Salmon Fillet, plus a sushi menu. Try the 18 oz. Kansas City Bone-in Strip, 33 oz. Prime, Prime Rib, or go for it all with their 48 oz. Double Cut Porterhouse. To see their entire menu, click here. The prices are upscale, but well worth it. Mastro's has also become a hot spot for celebrities, so you never know who might be sitting near you.  Elements (at The Sanctuary) 5700 East McDonald Drive | Paradise Valley, Arizona 85253 Reservations: 480-607-2300 http://www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com/food/elements.html Located in The Sanctuary, Elements offers award-winning American cuisine with Asian accents prepared by Executive Chef and Food Network star, Beau MacMillan. Elements serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, all prepared with farm-fresh ingredients, the best local, organic produce, and hormone-free meats. In addition to the smoked meats (all done in-house), shellfish, a raw bar, and sashimi, they offer vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. One of the other highlights of dining at Elements is watching the colorful sunsets on Camelback Mountain. If you're visiting Scottsdale with your significant other, dinner at Elements is the ideal prelude to a romantic evening.  The Capital Grille 16489 North Scottsdale Rd   Scottsdale, AZ   85254 Information & Reservations: 480-348-1700 https://www.thecapitalgrille.com/pages/locations/?id=8024 Located in a building inspired by famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, The Capital Grille offers relaxed elegance and classic steakhouse fare prepared with the highest quality dry-aged beef. Wine lovers will fall for their award-winning wine list with over 350 vintages in stock. If you can't decide which wine goes best with your meal, there are a number of selections chosen by their Sommelier, George Miliotes. The Capital Grille offers lunch and dinner served by a highly-experienced staff that provides first-class service. Steak lovers should try one of their signature steaks like the Porcini rubbed Delmonico with 15 year-aged balsamic, or the dry-aged Porterhouse. Seafood fans will love the Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Roasted Tomatoes, Shitakes and Mushroom Broth, or the Citrus Glazed Salmon. BARS & LOUNGES 21° Cigars & Accessories 9375 E Shea Blvd #175, Scottsdale, AZ 85260 Information: 480-551-2121 Hours: Monday - Saturday: 8:00 am - 9:00 pm / Sunday: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm http://21cigar.com/ In February of 2009, 21 Degrees opened the one and only Rocky Patel Cigar Lounge in Arizona. It's also one of the only places in Scottsdale where you can smoke cigars. The business is family owned, and because they treat their customers like family, it's extremely customer-friendly. Inside you'll find everything that makes a cigar lounge great: a spacious walk-in humidor with a big selection of premium handmade cigars, comfy leather club chairs, six big screen TV's, Wi-Fi, a 9 ft. pool table and a Golden Tee Golf arcade. Have a glass of wine, or try one of their many craft beers as you relax with your favorite cigar. Fox Cigar Bar 1464 E. Williams Field Rd. #105 Gilbert, AZ 85296 Information: 480-917-3117 http://foxtobacco.com/#!gilbert-cigar-bar/ Located in nearby Gilbert, AZ, the Fox Cigar Bar is a classic cigar bar teeming with sophisticated ambiance. It’s a great place for a date, relaxing with an after dinner drink, and perfect for enjoying good conversation without a lot of background noise. The bartenders are a throwback to the days when bartenders were bartenders; easy to talk to, extremely considerate, and masters at mixing practically any drink from their fully-stocked bar of 70 whiskeys and bourbons, 80 Scotches, 20 cognacs, and more. Beer fanatics will love their selection of 50 bottled beers, plus craft beers including small batch, specialty, and limited release brews from all over the country. The Fox has 14 taps that rotate every two days, so you're sure to find something appealing. For relaxing with a cigar they have a 500 sq. ft. humidor that spans the entire range of premium brands and rare boutique cigars.   The Casablanca Lounge 7134 E. Stetson Dr. | Scottsdale, AZ 85251 Information & Reservations: 480-970-7888 http://www.thecasablancalounge.com/ "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," as Humphrey Bogart says in the final scene of Casablanca. That's how you'll feel after a visit to the Casablanca Lounge, an elegant cocktail lounge that mixes old-world style with a modern touch. The Lounge features a number of barrel-aged beverages and specialty cocktails that you can take out on their patio with its covered cabana, comfy lounge furniture, a fire pit, and stunning views of Old Town Scottsdale and Camelback Mountain. Casablanca also has live music, and for private parties they have a hidden “Speakeasy” Room complete with a balcony, a 42-inch plasma TV, and Wi-Fi. Armitage Bistro 20751 North Pima Road - Suite 120,| Scottsdale AZ 85255 Information & Reservations: 480-502-1641 http://www.armitagewine.com/scottsdale/index.html Located in North Scottsdale, the Armitage Bistro offers Old World ambiance with an eclectic selection of fine wines, premium spirits, specialty martinis, and imported beers. The Armitage also has an outdoor lounge that's ideal for enjoying a glass of one of their numerous wine selections and a cigar. You'll also find intimate conversation areas for winding down after a busy day of sightseeing or partaking in a pre-dinner drink before enjoying a dish from their affordably-priced menu. As evening approaches, the lights dim and the music tempo picks up, converting it into a lively nightclub. If you're planning a trip to Arizona, make sure you include Scottsdale on your itinerary. It's one of the most enchanting and unforgettable places on earth.
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Farming: Color Sorting and Packaging

byNick Perdomo

Cigars from seedlings to curing, to fermentation, to rolling, and box making have all been covered. This month's chapter of Nick Perdomo's Guide to Tobacco Farming sorting and packaging completes the series. Readers who've been following the series from the beginning should now have a very consummate understanding of the tobacco growing and cigar making process. In this final installation, Nick describes the process of color sorting and packaging. As you will see, it's more than just selecting 20 cigars and sealing them in a box. It's been a great experience sharing with you how we do things here at Tabacalera Perdomo. We've come a long way over the past year, and this month's column, which covers color sorting and packaging brings us to the end of the line. I'll have more to say about this at the end, but for now, let's get started... Color sorting is the process of selecting the cigars that are as identical in color (as humanly possible) prior to packaging. Whether it's a box of 20 cigars, 25, or any other configuration, we color sort every box of cigars that goes out the door. That's why when you open a box of Perdomo cigars they look uniform and much more attractive to the eye. Marjorie Reyes, is our chief color sorter. She's been with the company for 10 years, so I have complete faith in her ability. This is a very important and specific job that's done on a white Formica tabletop with bright room lighting so she can see more detail in the colors as she and the other sorters work. According to Marjorie, she has found 72 color variations. In addition to color, she is also looking for any imperfections in the wrappers like spots, etc., and this quality control extends to packaging where they will also look for any slight imperfections before being banded and celloed. When she's completed the color sorting, Marjorie will make a bundle of 40 cigars, enough for two boxes. When you look at the bundle, you'll notice that 20 cigars are facing with the heads out, while the other 20 are facing with the feet out. The 20 cigars facing one way are for one box, while the remaining cigars are for the second box. We do this to save time when the cigars go to packaging. Plus, packaging will know that every cigar has been color sorted, so there's no room for error.   Keep your bands and your cellophane straight   From the color sorting room the cigars are sent to box banding and packaging. At these tables you'll find the workers divided between those who apply the cigar bands, those who place the cellophane wrappers over the banded cigars, and those who place the completed cigars in the boxes.   The most important thing, as with all of the processes we perform here, is attention to detail. For example, how the glue is placed on the bands, the measurement for every size cigar and brand line extension, and each is done exactly the same way for uniformity. Speaking of which, the attention to detail includes placing the band on the "face" of the cigar (the most attractive side of the cigar), to ensure that every cigar looks absolutely perfect.   For some cigars, like the Perdomo Habano, there are two bands, one at the neck plus a foot band. Another nice touch we add, which comes from an old Cuban method, is labeling the foot band with wrapper type such as Corojo, Maduro, Connecticut, etc. You may notice that when you remove the cello from a cigar some cellos feel thin, while others have a thicker feel. We use 140 mil cellophane, which doesn't wrinkle when touched, or twist when the cigar is removed from its box. Here again is another quality control thing we do. Something you may not know about cellophane is, the wrappers also have a "face" to them. There is also a barely visible seam in each cello that represents the center of the cello. Before the worker places the banded cigar inside the cellophane she must find the center of the cellophane so the band is perfectly straight.   During the boxing stage, even though the bands have been centered, the workers take the time to ensure that the cigars fit perfectly in the box. When you open a box of our cigars, it should be flawless, and that's what we try to do by taking those extra quality control steps.  Once the cigars have been banded, celloed and boxed, it's time for one last quality control step before we seal the boxes and ship them out. We have four ladies who are in charge of final quality control. First, they make sure that the box is clean and dust-free. She's also looking for any glue marks, and other minor defects. Once she's satisfied that the box is clean, she will carefully pull the cigars out of the boxes and apply glue on the inserts before placing them in the box. We do this to ensure that the cellophane is perfectly taut. The reason you want the cellos taut is so you can see the true beauty of the cigars when the box is opened, because ideally, the cigars should look flawless. As she pulls the cigars out, again she's looking for the face of the cigar because we want it to look very clean.  By the time the cigars reach this stage they have been quality control inspected 22 times. If you look at the bottom of each box, there are labels with the name of the inspector and the final sorter, so when the boxes are received in Miami, we know who made the cigar, who quality control checked the cigar and who packed the cigars. This gives us a complete time frame of that particular box from start to finish. Ship 'em out! Now that the cigars are ready to ship, we place them in one of two shrink wrap machines. The wrap is heated to 311 degrees Fahrenheit to seal the box, which then goes through a tunnel system, and the result is a perfectly wrapped box. From there the boxes are sealed in cartons, which are later placed in shipping containers where they begin their journey to our Miami facility or some other destination around the world.  In closing, I'd like to thank you all for following this series. Everything I've explained, both in writing and by showing you snippets from our video documentary comes straight from the heart. Most of all I'd like to thank you, the consumer. We can make the best cigar in the world, but if you don't buy it, it means nothing. My Dad used to tell me, "Son, you've followed The American Dream." We started in 1992 working out of my garage, and I used to deliver the cigars in my son's baby carriage because I couldn't afford a UPS account at the time. Finally, I'd like to leave you with something my Father told me that holds true for anyone who wants to be successful at what they do: "With a lot of hard work and a lot of  determination, you can get anything you want in this country," and that's the truth.  
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93

La Aroma De Cuba Mi Amor

87

Davidoff

The Cuban Cigars Embargo

byRafael Nodal

The Cuban Embargo remains a hot button with many Americans, particularly Cuban-Americans who emigrated to the U.S. shortly after the 1959 Revolution. So the question remains: Should the United States' embargo with Cuba finally be repealed? Many Cubans who have come to the U.S. in recent years have a more open-minded attitude. In our January issue, Boutique Brands founder, Rafael Nodal, shares his view on how he sees the future of the relationship between the two countries. It seems like a very simple question. Do we as Americans want to be restricted by government policy to buy and "legally" enjoy a Cuban cigar? On its face, it has a simple answer. We Americans are tired of the government telling us where to smoke, what to smoke and when to smoke a cigar.  However, as in many things in life, it is not as simple as the difference between black and white. My father taught me that you don't deal with thieves; you don't do business with criminals; you don't help bullies, and you certainly don't help dictators stay in power to continue terrorizing their people. Those principles have guided my reasoning with regard to the U.S. Cuban Trade Embargo. For those of you who may be too young to remember, the U.S. Embargo is part of a strategy by the U.S. Government to try to ignite changes in Cuba and force the communist regime towards a more democratic society. It was implemented during the height of the Cold War by President Kennedy and has been supported and upheld by every U.S. Administration ever since. During the years there have been some changes to the policy, some restrictions have been lifted, and some cultural, educational and religious exchanges have been permitted. But for the most part, the restrictions of freely doing business in Cuba by Americans have not changed. For me, it is a deeply personal and emotional issue. Having been born in Cuba, I suffered the horrendous attempt of the communist dictatorial regime to control every aspect of the Cuban peoples' lives. Control of what to say, what to think, what to wear, what to eat, what to believe in (or rather what not to believe in), what to study, what music to listen to, and what consequences will be paid for even the most minimal deviation from the government’s ideology. The U.S. Cuban embargo, for me as well as for many Cuban Americans, became a tool of punishing the Cuban regime by restricting access to American consumers and the mighty American Dollar. Since all businesses in Cuba are owned or controlled by the government, buying a Cuban cigar or any other Cuban product was seen as a way of helping the regime. The Embargo has also been a divided issue among the Cuban Americans living in exile. Those who emigrated to the U.S. during the first part of the Cuban Revolution have always strongly supported the Embargo. Compare them to the Cubans who have arrived more recently. They are more supportive of ending the embargo including a more relaxed travel and trade policy with Cuba. For many (but not all) of my American cigar smoking friends, the issue of the Cuban cigar ban has been simple. They want the opportunity of legally smoking a Cuban cigar in their favorite cigar lounge or purchasing them from their favorite online cigar store. They are tired of having to smuggle Cuban cigars into the U.S. from abroad as if they were cocaine.  For me, it is obviously more than that. The end to the embargo will not only allow the free sale of Cuban cigars among local tobacconists, it will give the American market access to Cuban government-controlled companies as well as access to loans that will help the Cuban government perpetuate its control over its people. However, as supporters of ending the embargo argue, it will also give access to American companies to the Cuban market; a market hungry for investment, while exposing the Cuban people to a world of new products and brands that they have not had access to for 50 years.  The most powerful argument against the embargo that I have heard was told to me by a person that I respect very much. As a journalist and editor of a cigar magazine, he has firsthand knowledge of the Cuban issue, and told me that "capitalism is America's most powerful weapon" - a very strong statement, in my opinion. As I travel around the world, it is hard to miss the takeover of international commerce by corporations like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Gap, Apple, HP, Starbucks, and thousands more American brands, not to mention the movie and music businesses. The world is hungry for American culture, and I have no doubt that it is all the better for it. With every pair of jeans that are worn, with every Big Mac that is eaten, with every Hollywood movie that is watched, people around the world are exposed to our American values which include freedom, democracy and the entrepreneurial spirit. There is also no denying that the U.S. Embargo has not helped bring down the Castro regime during the last 50 years. Instead, this has given the Cuban Government an excuse to justify their economic and political failures. I used to think that everyone in favor of bringing down the Embargo was a Communist or a Socialist trying to help the Cuban dictatorship. Now I realize that there are some very well intentioned people with a different idea about dealing with the Cuban crisis. So, should the U.S. remove the embargo against Cuba? Should Cuban cigars be sold legally in the U.S.? We should all answer these questions based on our own values and conclusions. That said, I cannot, in good conscience, favor removing the U.S. embargo until there is a free and open society in Cuba. I will continue to guide my views on the embargo from what my father taught me: "You don't deal with thieves, you don't do business with criminals, you don't help bullies and you certainly don't help dictators stay in power to continue terrorizing its people." In the meantime, let's enjoy the amazing selection of premium cigars sold legally in the U.S. that are created in the free entrepreneurial spirit of people like myself who work hard to earn the support of American cigar smokers by making the best possible cigar at the best possible price. In conclusion, there is one thing I do know: there is no country in the world that has so many great cigars as the United States, and one day when Americans finally get to smoke Cuban cigars legally, I hope they are made by free Cubans.
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Farming: The Art of Making Cigar Boxes

byNick Perdomo

The Art of Making a Cigar Boxes  By now we've covered almost every phase of cigar making from planting to curing, fermentation, aging and rolling. Now that the cigars have been rolled and placed in the aging room, it's time to construct the boxes so they can be shipped to a cigar store near you. As I've mentioned in previous issues, Perdomo is a totally vertical company. So, in addition to all of our land, our farming equipment, our curing barns, technology, and our personnel, we also make the boxes for our cigars. Before you can make a cigar box you need top grade timber, and plenty of it, especially No.1 Spanish cedar. We purchase our timber from our supplier on the Atlantic coast, and we only buy the very best trees. Fortunately, Nicaragua has an abundance of Spanish cedar, but from an environmental standpoint, we feel that what you take from the land you should give back. So for every tree that we cut, we plant three more in its place.  After the bark is stripped and the timber has been cut into rectangular blocks, it will later be cut by a Wood-Mizer. Depending on what type of Perdomo box we're making, this machine is used to cut the wood to the precise box dimensions. Prior to cutting we must know the moisture content of the wood, so we measure it with a device called a Delmhorst moisture meter. The reason we do this is because collecting data is critical to every phase of our operation.   Laser-Guided Accuracy The block is then placed on the Wood-Mizer and cut into planks. The cutting is laser guided, and so precise that every plank is exactly the same width. First, the operator slices off the top portion of the block so he can see how the grain of the wood runs. Once he has matched the grain perfectly, the block is cut into quarter-inch slabs. This is important, because if you don't cut exactly with the grain of the wood, when you make the box it will begin arcing. This is also one of the many steps we use to maintain quality control. The other advantage of cutting with the grain is the box will have a more beautiful and natural appearance. I see our boxes as pieces of fine furniture, and they're made that way, too. That's why we use only the very best grades of Spanish cedar and mahogany for our boxes. Because the Wood-Mizer sprays a fine bead of water as it cuts to keep the blade cool, the planks are very wet when they come off; plus you have the moisture that's already in the wood, so we kiln-dry it to a bone-dry 4½-5% moisture content. The result is a cigar box that not only has more integrity, but the cigars have a better aroma, too. Our kiln drying process is also why you'll never see a warped or sapped Perdomo cigar box.   Hey, you're kil'n me! The kilns themselves are 60-ft. high cubed containers, each installed with a kiln machine. It's like a combination heater and air-conditioner with an extractor, a condenser, and an evaporator that work together. We start the kiln at 85-degrees Fahrenheit, and increase it slowly over a period of five to seven days, the average amount of time it takes to get the moisture content down to our optimum standard of 5%. Generally speaking, we keep enough kiln-dried, quarter-inch Spanish cedar on hand to make almost 35,000 boxes. Once the planks are dry they're taken into the box factory and placed on a shaper machine. The shaper shaves another sixteenth-of-an-inch off on both sides of the plank to comply with our precise measurements for a given box. After the planks have been run through the shaping machine, they will go through the initial brushing and sanding process. This procedure begins with another shaper. This machine both presses and sands the planks down exactly 1/16th of an inch making them perfectly flat and ready for the sanding process.   Working Outside the Box To make the boxes, the boards are cut on a laser radial arm saw. Not only are the cuts incredibly accurate, we can also cut the pieces at almost any degree of angle required. The radial arm saws are used to cut pieces for constructing the walls of the box, to making a block insert, and any other interior pieces that are needed. Once the pieces have been cut to their specific angles, we can proceed with making the box itself. Using a special routing machine, all of the box corners are dovetailed, which is why our cigar boxes are so solidly made. Depending on the box, we also have to adjust for the thickness of the dovetails. For example, the Perdomo Habano boxes are thick and heavy. Since the walls are thicker, the dovetails must be cut to a thicker specification. Moreover, we have specifications for all of our lines as well as for the specific cigars sizes and shapes within each line. Rough Around The Edges Another machine we use in our box construction is a cliché machine. Using magnesium plates, it literally stamps an imprint into the wood. Depending on the box we're making, the plates will have the name of the cigar on them, like Perdomo Grand Cru, Lot 23, etc. The operator puts the plate in-between two ink-coated rollers that move up and down. It takes tremendous amounts of pressure to stamp the wood deep enough for the imprint to take and bond the ink into the wood at a depth that gives it a nice, clean look. Next, the box pieces are given a rough sanding and sent to the assembly department. First, they make sure the pieces are squared, glued together, then a heavy clear tape is applied on all four sides to maintain their integrity.    Once the boxes are set the sanding process begins. The first sanding is done on a lateral sanding machine with a belt that moves left-to-right. There's also a pulley that moves the belt up and down to work with the grain of the wood. We start with a 60 grit sanding and go all the way up to an ultra-fine 360 grit. By the end of the process the box is smooth as silk. Many of our boxes require tops that open with a hinge system. For those we make sure the lids open at a 115-degree angle, so they stand-up perfectly on the cigar store shelf. After the sanding is completed, we have a quality control person who inspects each of the boxes before they go to painting. As you can see from this video segment, we leave no stone unturned when it comes to quality control.   ¡PELIGRO! Wet Paint! Following inspection, the boxes are moved into the paint room. First they're coated with a lacquer and stained by hand. When dry, the box is sanded again before applying the second coat of lacquer. The entire process is done in a virtually dust-free room. We use an eight filter system that cleans the air and circulates it so the boxes dry naturally and uniformly, rather than using artificial lights or heat as some box makers do. Additionally, this filtration system removes most of the odor from the varnish and lacquer, which is why our cigar boxes don't have that lacquer smell you find on some boxes.  Going the Extra Mile When it comes to the final coat, we don't even touch the boxes. We place them on a coaster system that rotates the box 360-degrees on a spindle so the lacquer goes on as evenly as possible. We even designed a paint gun that sprays at a natural handheld angle so there's virtually no wasted lacquer. Check it out. We also do our own silk-screening, where we can apply up to eight different colors. As always, everything is carefully done and checked. In fact, there's so much that goes into making our boxes I could go on for several more pages. With that I'll just say that I feel it's important for you to see how we all work as a team at Perdomo Cigars, and put as much time, effort and quality control into making our boxes as we do growing and curing our tobacco. That said, I'd like to segue to one final video clip which I believe sums up how we go the extra mile in every phase of our operation: the final stage of box production. Next month: How we color sort and package the cigars.    
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Asylum 13

Substance and Style: Cigar Smoking Pro - Tips

byErnesto Padilla

Cigar Smoking Pro-Tips straight from the horse's...err, cigar maker's mouth. In this case, the cigar maker is Ernesto Padilla, a man with a strong opinion on most things, tobacco included. Learn some common pitfalls of cigar smokers. Even the seasoned vet is sure to learn a thing or two. I've visited many smoke shops throughout the country and let me tell you, you see and hear some pretty funny things on the road. Sometimes it's little habits that guys have picked up throughout the years; maybe they mimic something they saw in a movie, or learned from a cigar-smoking friend. Other times it's a well-meaning misconception about cigars or cigar tobacco that took root and spread. A lot of it is excusable, especially among people who don't smoke cigars that often. But some of it is folks (I'm looking at you, men) being afraid or reluctant to ask when they don't know something. As cigar smokers, I think it's incumbent on us to help educate our Brothers and Sisters of the Leaf. When we meet a new cigar smoker, let's take the time to introduce ourselves and talk cigars. We should ask questions, and help clear up any misconceptions. Spread knowledge, and spread the love...know what I mean? Smoking Thinner doesn't mean less-strong. Experiment with smaller ring gauges. You'll thank me. Don't inhale, and learn to retrohale. I've seen more than one guy light a cigar with the cedar sleeve still on and/or remove the outer wrapper tobacco. Don't be that guy. If the bevel on the foot is bulging or bubbling as the cigar burns, it's a sign of under-fermentation A properly-made cigar should have a flat or cone-like ash. If your cigar is plugged, you're pretty much f*cked. There's a "sick period" 7 to 30 days after rolling, so if you get a fresh-rolled, smoke it then and there, or plan to rest it for at least a month. When relighting, purge the cigar by blowing through it, and brush away all the ash (or cut behind the burn line, if possible). Don't smoke too fast. This will carbonize the sugars instead of caramelizing them (think burnt onions vs. caramelized onions). Don't brush your teeth right before smoking a cigar. In the Humidor It's okay to gently check if a cigar is under-filled, but don't squeeze the cigar too hard. For that matter, don't roll the wrapper in your fingers listening for a crackle. You won't find out anything, and you'll probably crack the wrapper. If it doesn't have cellophane, handle it with care. They're usually more expensive, and we want to showcase the wrapper. If you see little hairs on the wrapper, it's a sign that the tobacco is under-fermented. Checking if a cigar is dyed requires handling and/or wetting the cigar, and even then, it might be inconclusive. Your best bet is to ask the tobacconist. Mold stains the wrapper and your fingers, and occurs in patches called colonies. Plume wipes cleanly and covers the length of the cigar. Know the difference. Occasionally you can look at the foot of a cigar and predict a burn issue. The darker tobacco should be toward the middle, and lighter tobacco, toward the outside. Storage Cigar tobacco is very absorbent of odors, so don't put your cigar in your pocket after you spray yourself w/ cologne. Likewise, don't store flavored cigars with non-flavored cigars. Ever. Never leave a half-smoked cigar butt with unburned cigars. Like a variety? Get at least two humidors, or two zones in the same humidor. Stronger cigars need less humidity than milder cigars. Be careful with condensation, which often happens to cigars left in a car overnight. That moisture will quickly become musty-smelling. Tobacco Under-fermented tobacco won't benefit from "more time in the humidor." As a consumer, you can't recreate the heat and pressure necessary for fermentation. A cigar should be ready to smoke when you buy it. Don't waste your time aging most cigars, and then, only stronger ones, for no longer than 2-3 years. Thin wrappers like Connecticut shade or Cameroon will crack in dry climates. Avoid smoking them outside in the desert heat, or winter in the northeast. Darker doesn't mean stronger. Darker tobacco has more starches, but basically it will be sweeter. Strength comes mostly from the ligero in the filler blend. Pairing Avoid tangy, acidic drinks (OJ, most sodas) - they don't pair well with cigars. Coffees, scotches, and beer are all natural cigar pairings. Be careful pairing wines, because a cigar can easily overwhelm most wines. Certain cigars pair better with certain foods. Fattier foods tend to pair well with cigars, although this also depends on the sauce. 
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Ashes to Ashes: An Interview with Rick Rodriguez of CAO

byGary Korb

CigarAdvisor interviews CAO's Master Blender, Rick Rodriguez, who describes how he wound-up working in the cigar business. Starting in sales as the territory sales manager for North and Central Florida, Rick learned the tools of the trade from some of the most highly respected and innovative tobacco men including, the late Edward Cullman Jr., Daniel Nuñez, Edwin Guevera, and Benji Menendez, to name but a few.  The name Rick Rodriguez may not come quickly to mind, but if you're an ardent cigar smoker, you've smoked his blends; most recently, the cigars he's created for CAO such as OSA, Brazilia Carnivale, and the new Flathead selection. So how does an otherwise, ordinary guy, go from being a sales manager for one of the world's biggest cigar manufacturers to Master Blender for one of the world's most respected premium cigar brands? To find out, read on... CigarAdvisor: How did you get into the cigar business? Rick Rodriguez:  That’s a funny story. I met a guy named Dave Bullock in a Lamaze class when my wife Susan and I were having our first and only child. Dave and I hit it off. At the time he was working for Nestlé Foods. After our babies were born, Dave tried to recruit me to work with him. Fortunately I turned him down, because four years later, out of the blue I received a call from him. Dave told me he no longer worked for Nestlé and was now VP of sales for General Cigar. He wanted to talk to me about becoming a territory sales manager for North and Central Florida. After some intense negotiations (which Dave ultimately won), I took the job, and at a lot less money than I was making at the time. But the job included all the free cigars I could smoke, so I thought, how could I turn that down? So, I started my career with General Cigar in January of 2000. How did you transition from a sales person to a blender? R.R.: About four years into being a territory sales manager, I was summoned to New York to have a meeting with Mr. Edgar Cullman Sr., the owner of General Cigar. I remember this meeting like it was yesterday. Mr. Cullman was a man who chose his words carefully. He started the meeting with this statement: "Your days of selling cigars for General Cigar are over." At that moment I thought I was being fired, but instead I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. He asked me if I would like to become a cigar blender for General Cigar. I was so surprised and honored that I quickly said yes. He laughed and said to me that the training was going to be long and intense, and that I should go back and talk to my family about this decision. I told him I could speak on behalf of my family, and that I would be honored to start my training as soon as he wanted.   Three days later I was off to the Dominican Republic to begin my training. I spent the next six months in the DR training under the then-president of General Cigar, Daniel Nuñez, learning about tobacco from the seed to the box and everything in between. After my training was complete in the DR, I was off to Honduras for another six months training under Edwin Guevara, the General Manager of HATSA, General's Honduran factory. Training in every aspect of cigar making, and learning everything from agricultural practices to deep freezing was amazing. It all came together during the next five years when I learned the art of blending cigars from a true living legend—Benji Menendez.  Who were your mentors? R.R.: I would have to start with Mr. Cullman, the gentleman that gave me this incredible opportunity. Next would be Daniel Nuñez. Although he was tough to please, I owe Daniel so much of what I know today, because every day he challenged me to be the best that I could be. Edwin Guevara who mentored me in Honduras also played a big part in my career. And most recently, I feel I owe so much to Dan Carr (president of General Cigar). Once CAO became a General Cigar entity, Dan gave me the opportunity to work on the CAO brand, and put me on a special team he created to keep the brand true to its roots. Finally and most importantly, the person who taught me more than I’d ever dreamed I’d learn about cigars is Benji Menendez. What did you learn from them? R.R.: From Mr. Cullman, I learned that everybody has a job to do, and that every job is very important to building a great company. “It doesn’t matter if someone sweeps the factory floor or is the president of the company,” Mr. Cullman told me. “You should respect everybody you meet in this company. You never know what you can learn from them, just as they never know what they can learn from you.” That’s a lesson that has served me well. From Daniel Nuñez, I learned the entire process of cigar making from one of the forefathers of the Dominican cigar industry. From the beginning, Daniel started teaching me about soil and seedlings, and had me working in the fields. Once he felt I had enough knowledge under my belt, he had me work in every single aspect of cigar making. I also spent quite a lot of time with Jhonys Diaz who now runs the show in Santiago. I essentially cross-trained in every department of our factory, including the box factory. One thing’s for sure: I feel like I got a Texas A&M education from Daniel. From Edwin Guevara, I learned about how different cultures work in different factories. The way Hondurans approach cigar making is different than the approach of Dominicans; not that one is better than the other, just different. Edwin really focused on how to break down the complex processes of managing many lines of cigars and delivering each with flawless execution. He is truly a great master of the industry when it comes to that. Dan Carr empowered me to trust my instincts, as well as how to trust my team and rely on their expertise. He’s always encouraged me to lean on my colleagues in hard times and give them the credit they deserve in good times. I can hardly put into words what Benji taught me about tobacco, cigars, the factories, and also about life in general. He taught me how to walk through a factory and look at the small things that ordinarily get overlooked when someone visits the factory. For example, the condition of the tobaccos that the rollers are using. He also taught me fermentation and how you can destroy great tobacco if you're not careful. As far as blending, what he has taught me over the years would be another interview in itself. But my training didn't end there. It continues every time I'm with Benji, because you can learn something new from tobacco every day. What do you want to learn more about? R.R.:  This is an easy question for me to answer -- tobacco. Benji taught me the one thing that you can count on with tobacco is that it never stays the same. Benji would say things like “Tobacco changes on you every year and with every crop. Just when you think you know everything about tobacco, it will change on you.” He also often told me that “Tobacco is a constant learning process.” He instilled in me that “A cigar is a living thing until you light it.” I have taken Benji’s words of wisdom with me and they continue to serve me well. Tell us more about your role with CAO R.R.: My primary role is to develop new blends for CAO, and the way we go about doing this is somewhat unconventional. I sit down with Ed McKenna, the Sr. Brand Manager for CAO and we brainstorm. I take the comments I’ve gotten from the CAO fans I meet at events and use that to shape the next cigar we’re going to develop. Once we finalize the concept and get the green light to move ahead, I head to the factory to work with the team to develop the blend. And when I'm not working in the factory, I’m on the road promoting CAO. Asking me which thing I love doing more, is like asking somebody that has more than one child which one they love more. It’s impossible to pick one or the other -- I love doing both equally. How did you come up with the blend and packaging for the Flathead selections? R.R.: Creating Flathead is an interesting story. This is the first time that I had a concept for the cigar before I actually knew what I wanted to do for the blend. When I host our events, CAO fans seem to want to talk to me about three things: cigars, cars, and women. I wanted to develop a line that combined all three subjects into one cigar. As for the blend, we wanted to use Connecticut Broadleaf as the wrapper because we haven’t used it in making any of our recent blends. Once that was decided, I went to the factory and started to work with the team to develop the blend. The reason I chose a box press shape for this cigar is because I love the blend as much as I love the wrapper. What I mean by that is, many people don’t know that a box pressed cigar allows the smoker to enjoy more of the entire blend because it’s hard to close your lips completely around a box pressed cigar. In other words, when you smoke a box press, more air enters your mouth, cooling the smoke down, while delivering more of the flavor to your palate. Flathead came about when our Tobacco Operations Manager, Agustin Garcia, mentioned that we should create a flat head on the cigar if that was going to be the name. The design of the box came from my early love of hot rods. As a kid, I also enjoyed classic WWII pinup girls that I saw in the old movies. Not knowing that the pinup fashion is more popular today than ever, the combination of the cigar, the box, and the pinup girls all came together perfectly for Flathead. What's next for CAO? R.R.: In November we are launching two small batches for the Christmas holidays: "Angry Santa" and "Evil Snowman." As we did with the Brazilia "Carnivale," we will use one tobacco from an original CAO blend to create a new version of that cigar. For these cigars I wanted to use one tobacco from the original La Traviata blends (Natural and Maduro) to create the new holiday cigars. If I tell you any more secrets I could get into trouble with my boss, but look forward to some small batches and a launch of another new collection at IPCPR 2014.
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Keys to the City London

byRocky Patel

Rocky Patel takes you on a virtual tour of London's best places to enjoy cigars in a city with one of the strictest smoking bans in Europe. Rocky zeroes-in on several luxury hotels, all of which have smoking terraces, as well as great places to wine and dine. From cognac and cigars in The Garden at the Dukes Hotel, to Cuba Libre, a Cuban restaurant that's so authentic you'll think you're in Havana, to J.J. Fox & Robert Lewis Tobacconists, serving London's most exclusive clientele for over 200 years, click here to unlock the entire article.  public smoking ban, there are still plenty of places to kick back and enjoy a good smoke. You're also surrounded by history wherever you turn, which makes the experience all the better. As I've said with most of the other cities I've featured, I love London's eclectic mix of cultures. It's a lot like New York City in many ways. Great hotels, great bars, and a great selection of restaurants featuring every kind of cuisine imaginable. So, let's get started... The American Bar at The Stafford Hotel St James's Place 16-18, SW1A 1NJ London Located in the St James district, The Stafford Hotel combines elegance, tradition, and a sense of timelessness far from London's busy streets. Inside the hotel is The American Bar. So called, because in the early 1930's the West End hotels began catering to the ever-growing market of American tourists who brought with them such exotic drinks as Manhattans, Martinis, and Sidecars. The American Bar is a great après J.J. Foxes spot (see side bar) to continue smoking your cigar. They have a great wine menu and the terrace is well-heated for those chilly London winter nights. Friendly 5-Star service and a laid back atmosphere combine for a good place to grab one of their fantastic Vespers with your cigar for the evening.  Hotel and American Bar Reservations: +44 (0) 20 7493 0111 http://www.kempinski.com/en/london/the-stafford-london/dining/restaurant-and-bars/the-american-bar/ The Cigar Terrace at The Wellesley Hotel 11 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LY  The Wellesley Hotel has an authentic, 1920's prohibition-era feel, with all of the comforts of the modern age. Named after Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, this luxury hotel opened in December 2012 after a refurbishment that drew inspiration from the building’s history as a famous jazz club.   Rich in character, the Cigar Terrace is located outdoors and nicely hidden from the main road. Since it's heated from above, you don't have to worry about having to put out your cigar early if the weather is cold. The unique décor, including a great portrait of Winston Churchill (painted on tobacco leaves!), big comfy leather chairs, and a quirky selection of luxury cocktails make this a stunning and unique experience. Reservations: +44 (0) 20 7235 3535 http://www.thewellesley.co.uk/cigar-terrace.html The Bar and Terrace at The Belgraves Hotel20 Chesham Place, London, SW1X 8HQ Located on the Belgraves Hotel mezzanine, The Bar and Terrace oozes understated luxury. Though it's outside, its heated roof makes you feel like you're still inside the hotel. Open to the public, the bar is fully stocked offering a great cocktail menu. You can listen to live jazz every Wednesday, and if you're looking for some great smokes, their humidor is stocked with vintage Cuban cigars. The terrace closes at 11:00 PM, but it makes a lovely spot for an earlier smoke. Reservations: +44 (0) 20 3189 4800 http://www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels/london/belgraves/drink/the-bar-and-terrace The White Horse 1-3 Parson's Green, London | SW6 4UL The White Horse was once a gin palace and an inn for travelers. These days the White Horse is one of the best destinations for lovers of fine food, fantastic beer and fabulous wine. The exterior is classic Victorian, while the interior is decorated with polished mahogany, wood and flagstone floors, fireplaces, and intimate lighting. The White Horse is also famous for their daily BBQ and beer garden. If you like hearty beers, they have a considerable list of high strength Belgian beers, and an expansive, covered smoking section in front of the house. If you're unfamiliar with what a wonderful pairing a dark Belgian beer and a quality Maduro cigar make, The White Horse is certainly worth your while. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7736 211 http://www.whitehorsesw6.com The Garden Room at The Lanesborough Hotel Hyde Park Corner, London, England, SW1X 7TA Located in this 5-Star luxury hotel, The Garden Room definitely needs to be both seen, and experienced. It's a beautiful venue with as good a drinks list as you could realistically ask for, and houses one of London's most luxurious outdoor cigar lounges. The Garden features an extensive collection of Cuban and pre-Castro Cigars in its walk-in humidor. It's also considered to be one of the most luxurious smoking venues in Knightsbridge with the finest smoking room in all of London. The Garden Room also has a wide collection of Cognacs; some are dated as far back as 1770. Try pairing one of those with your favorite cigar. Reservations: 1-877-787-3447 (From the U.S. or Canada only) http://www.lanesborough.com/en/lanesborough-garden-room Cuba Libre 72 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 0NY Opened in 1990, Cuba Libre was one of the original restaurants in Islington, and continues to be a popular spot for its lively atmosphere, great cocktails and food at reasonable prices. This bustling little bar and restaurant is drenched with Cuban influence, making it a great little escape if you're up for a good smoke and Mojitos in the afternoon or evening. Between the whimsically painted walls, cigar art, photographs, and music, you really feel like you are in a bar in downtown Havana. They even have papier-mâché models of Che Guevara, Khrushchev, John F. Kennedy and Castro playing cards. If you like places with tons of character, great atmosphere, and a feel-good vibe, Cuba Libre is definitely worth checking out. Reservations: +44 020 7354 9998 Website: http://www.cubalibrelondon.co.uk/ The Cognac & Cigar Garden at the Dukes Hotel St James Pl, LondonSW1A 1NY, United Kingdom The secluded Cognac and CigarGarden at the Dukes Hotel provides an intimate outdoor setting with a comfy lounge that is almost completely covered. You can choose a smoke from their selection of fine Cuban cigars and savor it with one of their famous cognacs or martinis. There's just one caveat: Only cigars purchased at the Dukes can be smoked in the Cognac & Cigar Garden. That rule aside, the atmosphere alone makes it a great place to relax with friends, colleagues, or business associates. Hours: Evenings from 6:00 PM - 11:00 PM Reservations: +44 (0) 207 491 4840 http://www.dukeshotel.com/foodanddrink-cognacandcigargarden.php The Founders Arms 52 Hopton St, Bankside, LondonSE1 9JH, United Kingdom A delightful, detached gastro-pub overlooking the Thames featuring great food, cold draught lagers, and fine wines and liquors. The Founders Arms has a well-heated, but uncovered outdoor section, ideal for a smoke while enjoying the view of the river as you watch the world go (and sail) by with a pint of Young's Bitter, or a glass of Pimm's. If beers, wines, and spirits don’t do it for you, they have a Café Bar that offers teas, coffees, and cakes. Otherwise, The Founders Arms is a brew lover’s paradise.  Reservations: +44 020 7928 1899 http://www.foundersarms.co.uk/ Amaya Halkin Arcade | Motcomb St., LondonSW1X 8JT No “Keys To The City” column would be complete without recommending a great Indian restaurant. If you love fine Indian cuisine and first-rate service as much as I do, make a reservation at Amaya. Located in London's Belgravia district, Amaya's décor includes rosewood and red panels, Indian interiors and glass, terra cotta sculptures from Bengal, and Italian leather chairs. The bar offers great cocktails, and food is served from their large, open-plan kitchen, and cooked using three main grilling methods: Tandoor, Sigri (cooking over a coal flame), and Tawa (griddling on a hot, thick iron plate). The menu lists over 40 dishes ranging from seafood to game, lamb, and poultry, including more than a dozen vegetarian dishes. (Try the open flash-grilled scallops or the tandoori duck.) Reservations: +44 020-7823 1166 http://www.amaya.biz/ Until next month, cheerio my fellow brothers and sisters of the leaf! [SIDEBAR] James J. Fox & Robert Lewis of St. James Tobacconists 19 St James's St LondonSW1A 1ES, United Kingdom Purveyors of fine specialist premium and Cuban cigars to European Royalty, including the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and other distinguished customers for over 200 years. Here you can buy the best Cuban cigars, as well as premium cigars from other countries, cigar smoking accessories, humidors and more. This world-famous tobacco business started with Robert Lewis, who began trading fine tobacco on St James's Street in 1787. James J. Fox was founded in Dublin in 1881 and opened its first tobacco shop in London in 1947. Fox acquired the business of Robert Lewis on 14 September 1992, uniting two of the most respected names in the cigar world. The shop is managed by Mrs. Jean Clark who, in 1999, was the first recipient of the Cuban cigar industry's prestigious annual Silver Chaveta award as the “UK's Top Specialist in Havanas.” Since then, the shop has earned two more Silver Chaveta Awards, and has eight Royal Warrants of Appointment (issued for centuries to tradespeople who supply goods or services to a royal court or certain royal personages). JJ Fox is also among the very few shops to be exempt from the city's smoking ban.   Tel: +44 20 7930 3787 http://www.jjfox.co.uk/index.php https://www.facebook.com/jjfoxevents/info
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Shit Happens Luck - is Fickle

byErik Espinosa

Luck is a funny thing – some people have it, some don’t, some make their own. But no matter how hard you try, says Erik Espinosa, you have to be “all in.” Leave it to Erik to meet Lady Luck at the World Series of Poker – but not in a way he would expect. Remember, though – it never would have happened at all if he wasn’t all-in, with everything he does. You would think that the cigar business is all about making good cigars? Nah, it's more than that. It's about luck and risk; now I'm a firm believer in making your own luck, and sometimes you catch a lucky break here or there. But there's a lot of risk, which make the rewards and accolades so much sweeter. It's a double edge sword; it can go from "shit happens" to "good luck” in a second. Sometimes you win, sometimes you take a few lumps, but hell, you never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from… Sometimes you have to make your own luck… Tommy Lasorda once said that "there are three types of ball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happened.”  Only one of those options was ever acceptable for me; and when the opportunity arose, I made it happen. I couldn't sit around and rest on my laurels or reputation. I'm no Wally Pipp.  Who's Wally Pipp? He played first base for the New York Yankees, and was the first Yankee to win a home run title. One day during the 1925 season, he came down with a headache and asked to sit out a game. The guy who replaced him? Lou Gehrig, who proceeded to play the next 2,130 games. The rest is history - and it made Wally Pipp yesterday's news. Now, my friends know me as a storyteller - so I have to share with you one of my favorite "shit happens" moments. I love to play poker, and a few years ago, had a ticket to play at the World Series of Poker. Well, the night before, I got a little trashed…and when I mean a “little trashed,” I mean "drunk." I was staying at Caesars Palace…my alarm doesn't go off - or maybe I don't hear it - either way, I woke up at 11:50am. The tournament started at noon.  I jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and got a cab to The Rio, where the tournament was being held. I arrived ten minutes late, half asleep and half hung over…but lucky for me, they still let me register and cash in. When I got to the table, I end up sitting next to Phil Ivey, one of the world's greatest poker players. That fact didn't sink in at the time, since I was just glad to have gotten in. And I couldn’t make up what happened next… We start to play. A little time passes, and I am in the middle of a hand with Phil - I raise. He re-raises. All of a sudden, the tournament director walks over to the table and asks to see my tournament ticket. I say to the man, "I am in the middle of a hand here…I will show you right after we play it." So here we go…and on the turn, I have a full house; Phil bets. I raise. Phil folds. After I collect my winnings, I proudly show the tournament director my ticket, who calmly looks at it and tells me, "Sir, you are seated at the wrong table.” Uh-oh. “Your ticket says Table 42 Seat 1, you are sitting at Table 43 Seat 1. Please take your winnings and move to your assigned table." I instantly thought of those Southwest Airline commercials where they ask, "Do you want to get away?" Phil Ivey… His nickname is “the Tiger Woods of Poker,” having nine World Series of Poker winner bracelets in his possession, one World Poker Tour title and has appeared at nine World Poker Tour final tables. Let’s put it this way: Phil is considered to be the best all-round player in the world today. If you get him to fold, someone or something is smiling down on you… But, hey – shit happens, right? Like I said before, it can go to "good luck” in a second. And who knows what worse luck I was saved from. That goes for poker, cigars, everything. You gotta keep working; be innovative, but don't look to reinvent the wheel - look to make it roll better. At this point in my career, I feel a rebirth of sorts. I took a chance and good things are happening, and "I'm all in." I'm looking to continue to carve out my niche in this market, keeping our customers happy and the industry fresh and growing. I feel truly blessed, I have my son working with me and a loyal team that is bringing youthful energy to Espinosa Cigars. We are doing good things, we are "originals", and things are definitely looking up. Good luck or bad, I am definitely going to make the best of it.
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Keys to the City Miami

byRocky Patel

Though it's always been popular for tourism, Miami has also been enjoying a wonderful revival. Hotels and businesses that were once deteriorating have been reborn, offering some of the best service, food, and nightlife you'll find anywhere. Even the pastel colors of Miami can be seen in many of the latest fashions. Whatever "scene" you're looking for, this edition of Keys to the City will introduce you to Miami's most vibrant, as well as its most intimate places to stay, dine, and party. Like most of America's big cities, Miami has a wonderful mix of cultures. It's also been a welcome home for Cuban immigrants since the Revolution of 1959. Though it's always been popular for tourism, Miami has also been enjoying a wonderful revival, making it one of the country's most vibrant and exciting destinations. Hotels and businesses that were once deteriorating, have been reborn. Even the pastel colors of Miami have had an influence on some of the latest fashions. Miami has also become the "business office" home to many of the major Central American cigar makers, some of whom have opened new factories, or contributed to the city's economy in other ways. I can think of dozens of places to stay, dine, and party, but space just won't allow it, so, I've narrowed it down as best I could. Hotel Victor 1144 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Florida33139 Information/Reservations: 305.779.8787 http://www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com As seen from the street, with its flamingo pink exterior and elegant lines, Hotel Victor boasts the ultimate in Miami Beach art deco style. Once inside, the décor is a mix of Mediterranean, Moroccan and Indian influences. The rooms are large with beautiful ocean views, very hip interior design and architecture. Many rooms overlook the pool, at which a DJ starts spinning music just before 11:00 AM. As the day progresses, the DJ begins cranking it up a notch at a time, and by evening, you've got one of the best pool parties going. People congregate around the bar, some smoke cigars, while others dance. It's one of the hippest scenes in the city.  FontainebleauMiami Beach 4441 Collins AvenueMiami Beach, Florida33140 Hotel Reservations: 800-548-8886 / 305-535-3283 http://www.fontainebleau.com/ One of Miami's most famous landmark hotels, the Fontainebleau has just had a multi-million dollar renovation. It's a bit off the beaten path of SouthBeach, but its resort-like atmosphere makes it one of the few places you can check-in and never have to leave. The hotel has over 1,500 guestrooms, all luxurious, comfortable, well-appointed, and very private. Many of the guestrooms have amazing views of both the ocean and the city, especially at night. The Fontainebleau also has four great restaurants, a nightclub, three bars, three lounges, three pools, a state-of-the-art Lapis™ Spa, and much more. If you're looking for a hotel that's quiet and relaxing, yet also offers plenty of great nightlife, stay at the Fontainebleau.  I like to call it, “Spring break for adults.” The Epic Hotel 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami, FL  33131 Reservations: (866) 760-3742 www.epichotel.com Located in the financial district of South Florida, I usually recommend this boutique hotel for business travelers. Situated at the edge of the Miami River overlooking Biscayne Bay it's close to a lot of boutiques, restaurants, and nightlife. Its location also makes it less stressful, since guests don't have to deal with the SouthBeach traffic, crowds of tourists, and other distractions. It's also where many professional sports teams stay when they're in town. Though smoking is not permitted inside the hotel, the large balconies provide a stunning view of the city, and a comfortable place to kick back and enjoy a good cigar. Since the weather is great year-round, you can smoke at just about all of Miami's hotel rooftop or terrace bars. At this writing, Area 31, which serves local and modern-American cuisine on the 16th floor is temporarily closed for a design makeover, but the outdoor terrace bar is still open for business. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel One Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Florida33139 Info/Reservations: (786) 276-4000 http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/SouthBeach/Default.htm If you're looking for "chic sophistication," The Ritz-Carlton is a complete restoration of the original 1953 Morris Lapidus-designed building with newly renovated rooms that capture the beauty and charm of SouthBeach. The hotel suites are spacious providing a warm and comfortable ambiance. The décor is sleek and contemporary inspired by Miami's classic blue, seat mist green and coral colors, further enhanced by the hotel's impressive artwork. Another plus is its close proximity to Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road where you'll find some of the best shopping, dining, and nightlife in the city. The Ritz-Carlton also tends to be more smoker-friendly than other hotels. Ashtrays are easy to find and you can enjoy a cigar at the Dilido Beach Club. It's one of the only oceanfront restaurants and lounges on SouthBeach serving fresh seafood, lamb and steak dishes, salads, sandwiches, and awesome cocktails. If you're there in the late afternoon you'll get a magnificent view of the sunset.  For evening dining, try Bistro One LR. This hip, cozy little spot serves Spanish Riviera-inspired dishes including fresh local seafood, amazing steaks, unusual desserts, and an extensive wine list. You can choose to dine indoors, or if you want to smoke a cigar, dine al fresco where you'll enjoy a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean.  Zuma The Epic Hotel Reservations: 305 577 0277 http://www.epichotel.com/miami-restaurant/zuma.html Zuma, one of the best restaurants in Miami, is in the Epic Hotel. Sushi and cedar wood fried Tsubo Miso Gake Hinadori, and No Oven Yaki are just a few of the great Asian fusion specialties. Inspired by izakaya, the informal Japanese dining style, the environment is fun and lively. It's also one of the spots where you'll find the “in-crowd;” beautiful women, celebrities, businessmen, and the like. The place rocks continuously from happy hour to last-call. You can choose to eat indoors or outdoors on the patio that overlooks the water. Zuma is also one of the few restaurants that has an indoor bar where smoking is permitted. Il Gabbiano 35 S. Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL33131 Reservations: (305) 373-0063 http://www.ilgabbianomia.com/ For lovers of traditional Italian fare, Il Gabbiano starts with a giant parmesan wheel to whet your appetite, plus antipasti and after-dinner Limoncello are served on the house. I recommend the Veal Milanese–outstanding! They also serve some amazing pasta dishes. With its inspired menu, extensive wine list, and great service Il Gabbiano boasts true Italian class, including a romantic outdoor terrace where you can look out at Biscayne Bay.  La Camaronera 1952 W Flagler St, Miami, FL33135 Information: 305-642-3322 http://garciabrothersseafood.com/ Located on West Flagler Street in "Old Havana" this little dive of a place is one of my all-time Miami favorites. Owned and operated by native Cubans, the Garcia Brothers, who emigrated to Miami in 1964. There are no tables or chairs, so you eat standing at the counter. Among their specialties are fresh, jumbo, deep-fried shrimp that you can savor with a number of tasty sauces. Other specialties include fish head soup and stews made from freshly caught fish. You can also select your own fish such as yellow tail or red snapper, and they fry it up right in front of you. It's the freshest and most delicious seafood you'll ever eat. At lunch hour, the place is packed, and you practically have to crawl to the counter to be served, but it's worth the wait. If you're looking for an authentic Cuban fish fry joint, you can't beat La Camaronera. Café Martorano 3343 E. Oakland Park Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL33308 Info and Reservations: (954) 561-2554 Opens at 6:00pm seven days a week http://cafemartorano.com/ Owned by chef Steve Martorano, a native of South Philadelphia, Café Martorano in Ft.Lauderdale is genuine South Philly home-style Italian at its best. It's a little bit of a drive from Miami, but worth the trip, and this year they're celebrating their 20th Anniversary. They also have a new location in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Seminole, FL. Both restaurants offer an inviting, high-energy atmosphere, modern interior, and a true “welcome to the family” vibe. Inside, the walls are lined with photos of famous Italians, including gangsters, and other retro-like paraphernalia. There are numerous HDTVs that continuously play the best and craziest scenes from Steve's favorite gangster movies like Goodfellas and The Godfather, sporting events, and more. It's also not unusual to see celebrities like Adam Sandler, Madonna, or actors from the original Sopranos TV series dining there. Later in the evening, it's dance time to classic R&B and rock music. Café Martorano used to be one of the hardest reservations  BARS & LOUNGES Miami has changed over the years. It's got some great new clubs, but some of the best clubs and lounges are in the city's hotels. Smoking in Miami is pretty much limited to outdoors, but most of the bars and restaurants have patios or terraces for lighting-up. Several lounges are rooftop bars offering spectacular views of the city.  The Raleigh Pool Bar The Raleigh Hotel, Miami Beach 1775 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 Info: 305-534-6300 http://www.raleighhotel.com/dining/pool_bar/ Surrounded by a beautiful garden, the Raleigh Pool Bar is one of Miami Beach's most popular bars. You can hangout at the Pool Bar in your bathing suit during the day or dressed in your hippest threads at night. You can also enjoy a cigar while you're there. If you're looking for something less hectic and more intimate, check out the Raleigh's Martini Bar. FDR at The Delano Hotel 1685 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL33139 Info: 305-672-2000 http://www.delano-hotel.com/en-us/#/explore/?id=/delano-miami-fdr/ Named for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR at Delano is a subterranean space with a sense of old world elegance and comfort where you can party in style. Combining the sophistication and allure of this classic hotel with the glitziness of SouthBeach, if you're looking for an "ideal night out" in SouthBeach, FDR is a must. The DJ’s are all pros and play just about every genre of music, from new artists to club favorites. FDR also has a second room where you can see live music acts in a more intimate setting. Skybar at The Shore Club Hotel 1901 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, FL33139 Info: 305-695-3100  http://www.shoreclub.com/en-us/#/explore/?id=/shore-club-miami-skybar/ The Skybar is also one of the hipper places to hangout in SouthBeach. The décor consists of intense, cobalt blue walls, fountains, trellises, and colorful tropical gardens. Music is provided by some of the best DJ's in town while you chill out with one of the Skybar's house specialty cocktails. The Skybar is divided into three rooms: The Redroom, with its red lacquered teak floor and a unique décor where you can sit and relax in its silk-covered French Antique Napoleon III slipper chairs. The Redroom Garden, conceived as an outdoor living room laden with colorful flowers and an eclectic mix of Asian-style furniture. Lincoln Road Another great thing to do in Miami is to take a walk along the Lincoln Road Mall. There are a couple of cigar shops and lounges along the way, plus you can choose to eat at over 50 restaurants. You'll also find plenty of bars, and you can even smoke a fresh-rolled cigars as you walk along the avenue. If you're really into the restaurant & bar scene, Lincoln Road is very cool. Little Havana and Calle Ocho Anytime you see a Cuban café on Calle Ocho (8th Street), give it a try and you won't get a bad meal. Ask for the pulled pork or pollo al la plancha with white rice and black beans. Up and down Flagler Street is where you'll find all the little cigar shops. The people are very friendly, so just walk in and say hello. You'll also see a lot of torceadors making fresh-rolled cigars. Pick one up, then pop-in to one of the little cafes for a cup of rich Cuban coffee and follow it up with some rice and beans. It's a cigar lover's paradise. 
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Zino

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Joya De Nicaragua Celebracion

Making the Case: The Cigar Boom and Bust of the 1990's

byCharlie Toraño

Back in the 1970s and 80s, cigar smoking was something your grandfather did. But then seemingly overnight, the “face of the industry” literally changed. And yet while the image of cigar smokers was changing drastically, the sheer number of cigars being imported and sold was even more mind-boggling. And then, almost overnight, the boom was over.  The fascinating thing about operating in a business boom cycle is that you are constantly kidding yourself about how long it will last. But in this cycle lay the seeds for a real cigar market that would take us into the 21st century. I’m a Miami boy, born and raised. Unlike my father who was born in Cuba, I did not grow up with tobacco fields in my backyard. Like most young kids, I knew very little of what my father did for a living. However, although he was traveling to far away countries growing tobacco (the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Ecuador), I was at least able to see the final product when I visited the warehouses in Miami. That sweet and unique smell of tobacco aging in bales would envelop me as a child when I periodically visited my father’s local offices. While I enjoyed the aroma of the tobacco and was in awe of the vast quantity of bales in the warehouse, my father and his partners were not so enthralled. Those bales represented inventory that they could not sell. The times were the 1970s and 80s and the cigar business was in a deep stall, if not a death spiral. In those decades, tobacco growers almost couldn’t give away premium aged tobacco. However, in just a few short years, the handmade premium cigar business would explode and experience a boom-bust cycle that would drastically alter the face of the industry...for the better. The “face of the industry” literally changed. Back in the 1970s and 80s, you did not see twenty, thirty, or many forty year old men smoking cigars. Smoking cigars was something your grandfather did. Almost from one day to the next, instead of a picture of your grand-dad smoking a stogie on the front porch, you now had beautiful women like Demi Moore and super athletes like Michael Jordan gracing the cover of magazines smoking handmade cigars. While the image of cigar smokers was changing drastically, the sheer number of cigars being imported and sold was even more mind boggling. At the end of 1990, it is estimated that approximately 90-100 million handmade cigars were imported into the U.S. Starting in 1992, the industry saw a percentage increase in imports of: 1992                4% 1993                10% 1994                12% 1995                33% 1996                36% By the end of 1996, almost 300 million cigars were imported. That’s a 200% increase in just six years. The boom was in full throttle. I joined my father in the cigar business on June 1, 1996. “How convenient,” you might say. By looking at the numbers above, you could reasonably accuse me of jumping on the cigar bandwagon. However, you can’t only focus on the good years. I grew up in the very lean years of the business. My father literally told me to get an education and do something other than cigars. So, while some may be tempted to argue that I was opportunistic in my timing, the reality is that I was grateful to finally have an opportunity to work in the business that had been in my family for three previous generations. To work in an industry that was skyrocketing was a wild ride. I will never forget my first industry trade show that was held during the summer of 1996 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Back then, the tradeshow was called the RTDA (Retail Tobacco Dealers of America). The RTDA was a four day trade show where distributors would take orders from retail tobacconists. By the second day of the show, I wanted to close our booth. In just two business days, we took orders that I knew we could not deliver in a year. I remember my father telling me that his concern was not that we would have to close the booth, but rather he was concerned that I would believe that the experience I was having at this tradeshow represented the reality of the cigar business. My father had been attending the RTDA for over 25 years and he had never seen anything remotely like this before.  The fascinating thing about operating in a business boom cycle is that you are constantly kidding yourself about how long it will last. The constant topic of conversation between growers, manufacturers and distributors was how long before the cigar bubble would burst. From the smallest to the largest company, the standard answer was 2-3 years. Just as every motorist pulled over for DUI only had “a couple of beers”, the end of the boom was always at least two years away.  During the boom, my father and I were involved in the manufacturing of several private-label brands. While the business was going great, the day-to-day was brutal. Every client was angry that they were not getting their monthly shipments. I will never forget witnessing the lines of clients that would stand outside the door of one of the largest handmade cigar manufacturers in the world, Nestor Plasencia. Nestor made a variety of different brands in the mid-1990s and it looked like a veritable “Who’s Who” of the cigar industry waiting for an audience with him at his factory in Danlí, Honduras. Everyone would storm into his office angry at the state of their backorders, but after a short time they would leave satisfied that all would be well. Two months later, they were back at the factory and the process would begin all over again. The reality of the industry was that the demand for cigars was much greater than the supply. Because it takes years to go from the seed to cigar, it was literally impossible to meet the demand. Thus, everyone was on back order, and everyone was upset at the business they felt they were losing because they didn’t have the cigars to ship.  At a recent Sunday Sermon, my pastor defined the process of “burning out.” He said it’s gradual, gradual, gradual, then “all of sudden.” The cigar boom did not burn out. There was no gradual, gradual; it was literally all of a sudden. As someone who made his career growing tobacco, my father was amazed at the amount of tobacco he saw being grown in the mid- 1990s in the countries of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. It seemed like tobacco was being grown in every street corner. The boom impacted everyone up and down the supply chain. After a couple of years, the cigar factories were finally able to secure the amount of tobacco needed to meet the demand. I could finally call my private label clients with good news. We were now ready to ship exactly what they ordered. After shipping the full orders for just two months, the phones started ringing: “Charlie, can you hold off on my next month’s shipment. I’m getting heavy on inventory.” Without exception, every single distributor client was suddenly in panic mode because they could not sell their inventory. Retail tobacconists cancelled orders and the cigar industry was in full retreat mode. One of our largest distributors (who shall remain anonymous) told me that they were getting more cigars in through their back door than out through the front. In plain English, more cigars were being returned to their warehouse then they were shipping. The boom was over, almost overnight. I could write an entire article about the consequences of the bust cycle. Suffice it to say that most brands that were being sold in the boom disappeared in the market, several distributors closed shop, factories closed and sold excess inventory for pennies (the lucky ones), and many growers decided to plant other crops. The biggest question left was whether cigars were just a fad that would go the way of the “pet rock,” or did this boom-bust cycle lay the seeds for a real cigar market that would take us into the 21st century? If you’re reading this article, then you know the answer. Today, thanks to the renaissance of cigars that started in the early 1990s, we have a vibrant industry that continues to grow and evolve. There is a real culture of men and women who enjoy those special moments that can only be experienced while smoking a premium cigar. I’m not old enough, nor well versed enough, to know the entire history of premium cigar smoking in the U.S. However, I feel confident declaring that today is the golden age of premium handmade cigars (Discounting, of course, the maniacal intrusiveness of government on our industry). The quality of cigars is excellent, the availability is pervasive, the variety is endless and the consumer is well informed. While the boom time was thrilling and the bust was destructive, we are all reaping the rewards that were sown during those turbulent times.
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Tobacco Farming Part 6: Leaf Classification, Stripping, Drying and Baling

byNick Perdomo

This month Nick Perdomo takes us a few steps closer to making consistently flavorful cigars as he describes how the tobacco is graded, classified, selected, and stripped before baling. The leaf classification process is among the most important stages, because it's the only way to ensure that every Perdomo blend is made with the exact same tobaccos every time. Classification includes the leaf size, type, and quality. The leaves are then ready for the stripping process (removal of the central vein), followed by drying, then placed into bales under pressure where they will continue to age. Last month, I described how we slowly ferment the tobacco leaves in the pilones, and how the leaves are continuously tested for combustion and flavor by rolling them into cigars. This month we'll focus on how the tobacco is graded, classified, selected, and stripped before baling. The next phase of production begins by sorting and classifying the filler tobaccos. We have 36 classifications per region for the filler tobaccos we grow in Estelí, Condega and the famed Jalapa Valley, amounting to a total of 108 classifications in all. We classify the tobaccos in each region first by the TYPE of leaf: Seco, Viso, and Ligero. Then we separate each type of leaf by its SIZE as a small (pequeño), medium (mediano), and large (grande). After we classify the leaves by size we then grade them in terms of their QUALITY as A (perfect), A- (a minor flaw), B (a hole or tear) and C (lots of holes). We use this highly-detailed form of classification in order to ensure our cigars are blended consistently guaranteeing great flavor profiles year after year. Classified Information Additionally, each classification, including the origin of the leaf, has its own unique flavor and aroma characteristics. For instance, Seco grande from Jalapa will have a much different flavor profile than Seco grande from Estelí. The Seco from Jalapa is sweeter and more aromatic than the Seco grown in Estelí and has excellent combustion properties. Viso from Jalapa is a medium strength leaf. Though it has a richer flavor and aroma than Seco, Viso from Estelí will be even more flavorful. Suffice it to say, Estelí produces tobaccos that are much thicker and heavier in both flavor and body.  Remember how I explained the difference in the soils among the different regions? It is during this classification stage that you can actually taste and smell how the soil and climate affects these different tobaccos. Take Ligero from Jalapa, for example. It has a nice honey-like, almost molasses aroma, but doesn't have the strength characteristics of Ligero grown in Estelí. Because Jalapa Ligero has that great aroma and natural sweetness, it blends beautifully with Ligero from Estelí, which makes for a great combination of blends. Additionally, when you look at the characteristics of Estelí Ligero, you notice immediately how much thicker the leaves are, making this a real powerhouse of a leaf. After the filler leaves have been classified, we go through the same classification process with the binder and wrapper leaves. Once again, we test the tobacco at this classification stage, which gives us an even clearer indication of what we can expect when we are ready to blend the cigars. If you like a combination of strength and complexity, a blend of well-fermented Secos, Visos and Ligeros from the different regions of Nicaragua will definitely satisfy your palate. Size Matters Because the leaves are sorted by size, if I'm going to make a 5" Robusto, I'm not going to use an 8" leaf, since almost half of it would be wasted. Remember that when you smoke a premium handmade cigar you're smoking the entire leaf. The tips of the tobacco have the most concentration of flavor, so when we make the cigar the tips are placed at the foot of the cigar. When you light the cigar you're tasting the tips and the cigar all the way through. The result is a cigar that's consistent in flavor from beginning-to-end. If you've ever smoked a cigar that takes a few minutes before you begin to taste its flavor, that's because the cigar was not constructed properly, and you're not getting the full flavor of the leaf from start to finish.  This technique that we use is very effective because it also speaks to quality control. Even more importantly, we specifically choose the size of the leaf that matches the size of the cigar we're making. A Double Corona, Torpedo, Churchill, Gordo, etc. would be made with larger leaves, because those shapes are longer and require much more material. So, whether you're smoking a 5" x 50 or a 6" x 60, the flavor is going to be consistent all the way through. And that's the key. If you're smoking a full-flavored cigar like our Perdomo Habano, you want it to have the same flavor all the way through regardless of its size.  Stripping the Leaves After we've classified the filler leaves, it's time for stripping the veins. We start with what we call a "frog strip." We literally strip the central vein down the middle at about 50 % of the leaf, so when the roller gets the tobacco it's much more pliable and the bunch remains straight. The thing we don't want is this thick central vein of the leaf rolled into the cigar. For one, you'll feel it, and two, it can make the cigar taste bitter, but we keep 50% of the vein so the structure of the leaf stays whole. If we didn't, the tobacco would be more likely to rip or tear during rolling. We have several hundred people doing this and this is a very important aspect of the process before the tobacco is baled and eventually made into cigars. This way, we have a full, long leaf when you smoke the cigar. Once all of the filler leaves have been stripped we will classify them again by width, size, and texture, then weigh the tobacco again. After they've been weighed, the tobaccos are moved to a drying room where they'll be dried naturally. Before we bale, the goal is to get the moisture content in the fillers down to around 14%, which is about 70% humidity. Each bale will weigh anywhere from 120 to 125 pounds. Each type of tobacco is baled separately, too; not only under its classification as a Seco, Viso, or Ligero, but also by the region it came from, and more specifically, the farm on which it was grown. High & Dry After the tobaccos have been de-veined, sorted and classified we move them into our drying rooms where they are separated into small stacks on large trays. We use a high-dry system that helps evaporate the water at a slow pace. Each type of tobacco also dries at a different rate. Secos, the thinnest tobaccos, take anywhere from three to four hours; Visos, which are slightly thicker, take five to six hours, and Ligeros, the thickest leaves, can take anywhere from seven to 10 hours to dry.  After the tobaccos have been dried they are placed in large cedar boxes; each box holds roughly 125 pounds. We put an identification card in the box that tells us the classification and grade of the tobacco, the pilon it's from, the priming, the seed used, and even the farm and region it came from. In the old days, the only way we knew if the tobacco was ready to be baled was by taking your finger and pushing down on the main vein until it felt like it was ready to snap. Here again is where technology steps in. Today we use digital psychrometers to measure the exact moisture level in each leaf, which guarantees that when the leaves are baled they will have that 14% moisture content. The importance of having the right moisture content is that we want the tobaccos to be just pliable enough to bale. The correct moisture level also ensures the tobacco will continue to marry and age under pressure in their bales.  Baling Out To make bales, the boxes of perfectly dried tobaccos are placed under an hydraulic press that can produce up to 1,200 pounds of pressure and will convert the125 pounds of tobacco into a bale. We only use 900 pounds of pressure; reason being, we don't want to crack any of the leaves. To see how the bales are made, click the icon and watch the video. Once the bales are completed, we move them to the bale aging room, or what we call "the bank." The room is climate controlled at 68% humidity, and we have about 50,000 sq. feet of space where we store thousands of bales. Additionally, all of the tobacco is classified in each of its stages, and because we are able to store so much of it, we always have a continual, well-aged flow of tobaccos, which also guarantees consistency in each and every one of our blends. Next month: How we ferment wrapper leaf, plus the production phase, including rolling, and draw testing.
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Confessions of a Tobacco Broker: Damien Bishcoff of Grand Island Group S.A.

byGary Korb

Headquartered in Santiago, The Dominican Republic, Grand Island Group S.A. is headed by tobacco broker, Damien Bischoff. In little more than five years, Mr. Bischoff has become one of the most sought-after tobacco growers in the industry. Cigar Advisor Editor, Gary Korb, spoke with Damien at length to learn more about the role of the tobacco broker in the making of premium handmade cigars. Cigar Advisor: What was the first cigar you ever smoked, and what do you remember most about it? Damien Bischoff: Since, as a student, I was living in Paris, my very first cigar was a Cuban, a Partagas D4 which began at that time becoming the very classic Cuban Robusto sold in France instead of the Robusto from Romeo y Julieta and Cohiba. I think it was in my second year of philosophy study at La Sorbonne, after a class, I bought it on Boulevard Saint Germain. I was very impressed by the store. It cost me quite a lot, and I smoked it in the small studio I lived in next to the Luxembourg Gardens. At that time, it was a strong, bold, Cuban-style Robusto. Though it was impressive in strength and power, I wasn't able to feel more than the strength and the good aroma, rather than appreciate all that complexity for the first stick of my life. Cigar Advisor:  Tell us a little about your background, (family, education, professional) and what led you to becoming a tobacco broker? Did you have a mentor? D.B.: My father worked as an engineer at "Big Blue" (IBM), in France but was called to do his duty as a paratrooper officer in the French Algerian-war conflict. He came back badly injured and died some years later leaving two twin sons, my brother and I, at the age of only six months. My mother stayed working at the town council while raising and educating us by herself. Fortunately, being war orphans, the French government subsidized my primary college and university education. I got a Masters in Philosophy at La Sorbonne, then decided being a teacher was not for me. So, I sold all my books and cameras to make some cash and went to live in Damascus, Syria for two years, where I decided on becoming an archaeologist, and was accepted by the Syrian Antiquities team.  A few excavations later in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, and having met some excellent scholars there, I got a Masters in Archaeology, and then went on to get my Ph.D. in Anthropology at EHESS in Paris.  After spending seven years in Istanbul, Turkey, working as the Assistant Chief of Architecture for the Turkish Republic, France made drastic budget cuts for scholars, and I didn't feel like waiting 10 years in an administration corridor for a new job in my country. In the meantime, my twin brother was in The Dominican Republic studying for his Ph.D. in Taino Indian culture and Taino art, so I would visit him for two months each year.  During one of those visits, I met some very nice people who worked in tobacco, Don Siegfried Maruschke and Dona Mercedes Mendez of the Mendez family, and later, Alfredito Jorge Gomez, with whom I learned a lot about filler tobacco. One day opportunity knocked. I was hired as the Commercial Agent of Cameroon wrapper for the Meerapfel family. Then, in 2008 I decided to open my own company, Grand Island Group SA, so I could move on from being commercial agent and become a broker. In a word, I went from a heritage-based passion to another passion: tobacco. Would you agree that tobacco, along with wine, is a more true, earth-based passion in these uncertain economic times?  Cigar Advisor:  Spoken like a true philosopher. What does a tobacco broker do? D.B.: A broker trades tobacco. In fact, I got the opportunity not only to act as a trader, in other words, not only selling wholesale from the DR what I was getting from different suppliers, but to procure a full crop from Ecuador via a grower that is independent of the big processors and growing companies. So, I slowly began making my own classifications of tobacco grades, colors and sizes, I established a logical system of processing (fermentation and sorting) not only based on the amount of tobacco I had available, but also by paying attention to the needs of the customers with whom I worked. Cigar Advisor: Where do you grow most of your tobacco? Is it primarily wrapper leaf, filler, or both? D.B.:  Nowadays, I broker the crops I get from my independent grower, then I add my own crop, which was about 110 hectares in 2012. Most of my tobacco comes from Ecuador, and is primarily wrapper.  Cigar Advisor: Without giving away any trade secrets, do you have any special methods for growing and harvesting? D.B.:  Apart from optimizing the processes of growing and harvesting, I'm not necessarily trying to produce the ultimate tobacco from the field, or from the curing process, or even from the fermentation and sorting process. I try to get the tobacco that best fits the customer's needs. Or to put it another way, I want to provide tobacco to the customer who will get the best use from it. Moreover, you can make the best cigar in the world, in your opinion, and no one will buy it if you don't look at what your customers are looking for. On another point, my tobacco is coming from the very farms we operate and control ourselves, not from different suppliers who grow with a mechanical-like formula: Do this on this day; do that on another day; this time we'll use a generic fertilizer, etc. Tobacco doesn't  work like that. Our tobacco has excellent combustion, a nice white ash, a PICO, a taste recognizable enough to assure the customer they will get a tasty tobacco, not "Brand X" Habano seed leaves. Plus, I don't believe in an agricultural model working on a maximum basis in order to minimize the overhead cost, at least for tobacco, or more precisely for wrapper. Producing big volumes for the purpose of having more weight is of no use. If you want to grow more binder tobacco, fine, but don't produce more wrapper leaf because the volume of “undesired” tobacco will impact the good batch, and not in a proportional way, but in an exponential one. In other words, there is a certain amount of care that goes into analyzing the soil, fertilizing and other soil-health procedures that have much to do with the yields of potential wrapper leaves. Then, during the picking of the primings, and depending on the type of seeds you've planted, there are other ways to increase the tobacco yield such as by controlling the amount of light exposure. Some wrappers need to be Oscuro dark to be of some value to certain buyers, while some others need to be light. There are also ways to split the crop during different stages of growing, depending on the texture you want, by controlling the sunlight exposure. Cigar Advisor: Who else works with you on the plantation and what are their primary functions? D.B.: I have an agronomist permanently there, another one from the DR that travels five times a year during the preparation of the soil, crop and fermentation. I also travel there myself. The agronomist down there is in charge of sanitary control (of the plants) program, the fertilizing program, growing process and curing process. Here in the Dominican I have someone in charge of coordinating the main Ecuadorian growing program with the commercial standards as to how we want to select (maturity, color, texture) and receive the tobacco down here in the DR. Cigar Advisor: You hear the word "vintage" a lot in the cigar business. What factors determine a truly "vintage" harvest? D.B.: A vintage harvest must be an exceptional harvest. The issue is that those vintage harvests are mainly disconnected from the vintage cigars. Vintage cigars are unfortunately much more dependent on the inventory of the manufacturers. In other words, the commercial use of "vintage" is sometimes abused, in that, the manufacturer may actually be referring to an unsold batch of tobacco they want to get rid off, rather than aged leaf that would be considered excellent. This is quite far from the exceptional quality one would expect from vintage tobacco.  In the same way, the 10, 12, and 18-year-old "vintage" tobacco is mostly or only commercial leaf. For genuine vintage leaf, you need to look at who has a real inventory of tobacco that has been aging for various years. Since the world tobacco crop is always smaller, and the demand tends to either stagnate or grow, there is always a lot of tobacco, but only a small portion of it is "good" tobacco. Looking at it as a cigar smoker, I would much prefer to smoke a punchier, tastier cigar with two to three-year-aged filler than 10-year-aged. A compromise would be four to five-year-aged filler. As for wrapper leaf, it's even more of an illusion, since filler, binder and wrapper are like wines. For example, a Bordeaux's optimal aging time is 20 years, a Bourgogne, 10 years, as far as drinking them at their peak. After that, unless the harvest was really exceptional, they will begin to decline.    Following the aging potential of cigars, a four to five-year-old tobacco will give you a ready to smoke cigar with a creamy, noble consistency, but the question is, what is the cigar's maximum potential for aging? Maybe only a few more years. However, cigars made with two to three-year old tobaccos are the best cigars to age, because the aging potential is longer. They will be punchy and tasty right now, but they will acquire nobility with aging without losing too much strength.      Cigar Advisor: How intense is the competition among tobacco brokers? D.B.: The tobacco brokers, like all in the cigar tobacco industry, are involved in the continual process of acquisition, mergers, and joint ventures. So, the competition is tough. The big companies don't want anybody entering the market. In the past two years, only a very few (less than five) independent wrapper projects in Ecuador were bought by major companies in order to prevent others from entering the growing process and wrapper sales.  As far as I'm concerned, we are among the best at what we do. For over four years now, Grand Island Group has offered what we believe is the highest quality and service. Like the boutique cigar factory trend, consumers appreciate the authenticity and passion we put into this business. Additionally, the acceptance of the customers for our tobacco gets bigger every year. This not only inspires me, it tells me we're doing things right. Cigar Advisor: What is the hardest tobacco to grow, and why? D.B.:  Without a doubt, wrapper tobacco is the hardest, because that is the leaf for which the expectations are highest. For example: texture (elastic, but thin); color (deep, but even); size (big, but manageable), combustion and ash (tasty, but it should also light quickly and burn white); and aroma, which is among the highest contribution to the blend, or liga. As you can see, the criteria are strict, yet sometimes contradictory, meaning it's difficult to get them all at the same time.   As far as the different type of wrappers are concerned, Cuban seeds are the most prolific in terms of yield and curing, while other seeds, like the more exotic tobaccos, are harder to grow and cure. That said, it's a big mistake to think that because you grow good tobacco in Ecuador you'll always get good wrapper. Suffice it to say, the hardest tobacco to grow is the one that has been specifically designated for use as wrapper.  Cigar Advisor: Is there a particular wrapper leaf that you personally favor more than others? D.B.:  I love Habano Vuelta Arriba seed grown in Ecuador. I also love the Ecuadorian-grown Arapiraca Brazilian seed, Cameroon African seed, and Sumatra seed wrappers. Cigar Advisor: Sounds like you have a certain affinity for several wrappers. Can you name a few popular cigars that are currently wearing your wrapper? D.B.:  Since I do not want to single-out any particular manufacturers, I'd prefer to keep that confidential. My apologies. Cigar Advisor:  Do you see any trends developing in terms of growing tobacco, or a particular leaf that's becoming more popular? D.B.: Everybody wants dark wrapper, but some manufacturers will often use tricks to make it dark. Developing a true natural Oscuro has become a personal aim of mine. Another trend I've observed is a demand for thin binder leaf, which is used as a substitute for binders that are being grown less every year
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Humo Jaguar

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Rocky Patel Freedom

"Substance and Style: Why Miami?"

byErnesto Padilla

When you think "cigar factory," it's easy to think of the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and even Cuba. What you may not know is that the United States once was the cigar-making capital of the world.  Today, America's premium cigar rolling business is but a shadow of its former self. So why do we make cigars here? Why make Padilla Miami 8&11 right at the corner of 8th St. and 11th Ave., right in the heart of one of the most expensive cities in America? Romario rises every working morning at 6 AM, as he has for 20 years. He showers, dresses, and heads out for breakfast at a small, authentic Cuban bodega: café con leche, buttered tostada for dipping in his coffee, and a fruit bowl of papaya, melon, mango, and mamey. Alert and ready for his day, he heads out on foot to the El Titan de Bronze factory. He reports to his supervisor, finds his bench, sits down, and lights a cigar. He methodically bunches the fillers, rolls them in the binder, then puts them into a traditional wooden mold. Once full, he closes the mold, places it into a press, and turns the crank wheel. He then turns to another press, throws open the wheel, and begins carefully applying wrapper leaves to the cigars, finishing each in the traditional Cuban style, with a triple cap. In this way, he will produce upwards of 100 cigars today. While working, Romario quietly reflects on his circumstances: from his teenage years, he rolled cigars in the Romeo y Julieta factory. Even then, the hope of a better life in America seemed a distant possibility. If not for his cousins whose emigration preceded his own, he might never have known that life outside of Cuba could offer the opportunity to pursue his life's work without the omnipresent threat of incarceration, or "political re-education," for so much as voicing an unpopular opinion. This scene plays out every day in Little Havana, a vibrant, bustling section of Miami that is rich with arts, culture, commerce, and home to thousands of Cuban immigrants and their descendants. For shame, it is also the last bastion of premium cigar manufacturing in the United States. When you think "cigar factory," it's easy to think of the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and even Cuba. What you may not know is that the United States once was the cigar-making capital of the world.  A good comparison is to the U.S. food supply. Before supermarkets, mechanized farming, boxed entrées and ingredients you can't pronounce, people bought their dairy, produce, and meat locally. In the same way, most towns had at least one cigar maker, with literally hundreds of cigar makers in some New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida towns. As it happened, though, cigarette use began to outpace cigars - slowly at first, and then exponentially. With demand and revenues dwindling, many cigar factories downsized or closed altogether. Regulatory challenges by the U.S. government didn't help; nor did the increase in materials and labor. What resulted was an exodus of cigar production to Central America, and the resultant consolidation of cigar brands. In the 1860s, more than 2,000 U.S. cigar factories employed some 25,000 people in the trade. By 1890, there were 12,000 factories, and by early 1900s, as many as 80,000 cigar manufacturing operations dotted the American landscape, rolling some 8.5 billion cigars in 1912 alone. Almost half of those were from New York and Pennsylvania; Florida, especially Tampa, followed. While Tampa's output equaled just one sixth of PA's, they were highly popular for their "Clear Havanas," cigars made in the United States using Cuban tobacco. Today, America's premium cigar rolling business is but a shadow of its former self. The high cost of transporting tobacco from Central America and elsewhere is certainly a factor, but not even the biggest one. There are the onerous administrative costs and headaches of getting special licenses to import tobacco and actually produce the cigars, every one of which must be accounted for. Then there is the SCHIP tax of 40.26¢, which must be paid on each and every cigar, not to mention the significantly higher wages paid to American workers over Central American workers. With all of those factors, it's easy to see why cigar makers aren't exactly clamoring to establish a manufacturing presence stateside. So why do we do it? Why make Padilla Miami 8&11 right at the corner of 8th St. and 11th Ave., right in the heart of one of the most expensive cities in America? Little Havana is full of Cubans, for whom cigar making is a way of life. From an early age, they learn the considerable art of handcrafting premium cigars, and their very culture dictates a profound appreciation for tobacco. Who better to roll cigars in the traditional Cuban style, than Cubans themselves? These same Cuban immigrants generally love their country and culture, but hate its oppressive dictatorship. There is something to be said for being able to do what you love while enjoying a higher standard of living than the average Cuban peasant could ever hope to accomplish, all while enjoying the considerable freedoms America offers. Then there is the climate: at its southernmost tip, Florida is a mere 90 miles from Cuba, and possesses a similar climate, with the humidity necessary to manufacture cigars to the highest possible standards. As a Cuban expat in love with the United States, I understand what it means to be torn; to love your culture and way of life, but to hate the State that controls it. It gives me no small amount of pleasure to give other Cubans to chance to live and work as they fit, under the blanket of liberty and freedom 
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Tobacco Farming Part 5: The Art of Natural Fermentation

byNick Perdomo

Last month, I told you how we separated and hung the tobaccos in our curing barns, bound them into hands, and constructed the pilons for their first fermentation. In this chapter, we'll move on to the next stage where we slowly ferment the tobaccos using a process called "natural fermentation." After the pilon has undergone the live, natural watering and aeration process, the tobaccos must rest for 12 to 14 hours. If the tobacco leaves in a given pilon are thicker, it could take up to 24 hours until they're ready. During this time period, the natural water we sprayed on the tobacco should have dissipated to the point where we can begin rebuilding the pilon for the next fermentation process.  For this round, the tobaccos are carefully placed in the pilon so that they ferment equally. Plus, as a result of the natural watering now in the leaves, the acceleration rate of the fermentation starts working biochemically along with the free radicals that cause the tobaccos to heat up. Here again, the leaves are turned periodically when the temperature reaches between 110 and 115 degrees. We shake them out once again, reconstruct the pilon and the tobacco continues to ferment. These procedures are done repeatedly until we feel the tobacco has been completely fermented to our satisfaction. As for the tobaccos that have been fermenting the longest, they are continually inspected for texture and color, as well as for some other attributes.  The Secrets To Working With Tobacco Are On Your Body My father used to tell me, "The three biggest secrets to working with tobacco is the keen use of your hands, nose and eyes." You want to literally feel the tobacco with your fingers. If it feels tacky, it needs more fermentation because the resins haven't yet broken down in the cellular structure of the leaf. These oils and resins are what help produce the tobaccos' flavor. The second thing we do is smell the tobacco for aroma. What we want is a nice, sweet, complex bouquet. We're looking for tobaccos that are going to produce a lot of complexity and flavor. We're also looking for the nice sealing of colors since some leaves will be used for wrappers, others for filler, binder, etc.  We Do It Our Way The way we ferment tobacco is quite different from how it's done in other processes. Some fermentation rooms use space heaters and water to accelerate fermentation. We don’t do that. The reason is, biochemically, when it's being processed naturally, the tobacco tells you when it’s ready. The cellular structure of tobacco contains proteins, sugars and carbohydrates. As the heat builds and the free radicals get going, the bacteria begin to dissipate. However, if you try to artificially rush the fermentation, the bad bacteria will adhere itself to the tobacco and you get that brash flavor you taste in some cigars. We want to have smooth, bitter-free tasting tobacco that has complexity, flavor, aroma, and a bouquet that you can really appreciate. The best way to do that is by naturally fermenting the tobacco. We will keep the tobaccos fermenting as long as it takes to achieve the specific smoothness, complexity, and flavor we want. On top of every pilon is a cardboard folder. Inside the folder is what we call the "clinical paper," which helps us keep track of all the tobacco we're fermenting. Like the hospital chart doctors and nurses use for each patient, the clinical paper tells us everything we need to know about the tobacco on that particular pilon. It has the number of the pilon, on what farm the tobacco was grown, the date the pilon was initially constructed, the year of the crop, the variety of seed that was used, what cut or primings were taken from the plant, the classification of the tobacco, and the weight of the pilon, which can run upwards of one-and-a-half tons, or more. Quantity Begets Quality We're fortunate that we have a lot of fully-fermented, baled tobacco on-hand. By having such a massive inventory we can take as long as we need to ferment each pilon to the peak of flavor; so there's no need to rush anything. This slow, natural fermentation process is how it was done in Cuba before 1959, and it's the only way it should be done. Additionally, because we can continue to ferment the tobacco in their bales, this allows the flavors to marry as one. The bales are aged between three to six years depending on the type of tobacco. We have some ligero that's been pilon fermented for as long as three years, then bale fermented for another three years, or more. This is the way it's supposed to be done, so the tobacco will be ultra-smooth with no trace of bitterness when the cigars are rolled.  Test and Test Again After fermentation, we test the tobacco for combustion and flavor. We take some of the fermented leaves, strip them, dry them, and roll them into cigars to make sure the tobaccos have the flavor characteristics we're looking for in the fillers, binders, and wrappers prior to the baling process. What we look at first is combustibility; how well does the tobacco is burn?; does it do so without creating a border line?, etc. Each tobacco leaf, be it Seco, Viso, or Ligero, has its own unique flavor characteristics, which is also why each type of leaf is fermented for different lengths of time. If you fermented all of the tobaccos for the same amount of time, some would be over-fermented, which is what gives you that grassy taste, while others would be under-fermented, and that's just not acceptable.  By taking leaves from the different growing regions, blending them and test smoking them, we get a good forecast of how the leaves will taste and perform after they've been baled. Each bale is made not only by texture, width, and size, but also by the farm from which it came, because each farm produces tobacco with a different flavor. As a result, we're testing all the Seco, Viso, and Ligero from each farm respectively.  Aristides, our head tobacco technician, is constantly making test cigars during this process. Sometimes he'll make a cigar with different tobaccos, or he'll make one that's all Seco from Jalapa, all Viso from Condega, or all Ligero from Estelí, for example. Sometimes, he'll make up some test cigars using different tobaccos from different regions to see how well they blend. It's the only way to really know what you're going to be working with once the leaves are ready to be made into cigars. Aristides, who's been smoking cigars and working with tobacco since he was 14, knows exactly what properties to look for in each type of tobacco. On more than one occasion he's told me that we have the most thoroughly fermented and well-tested tobacco he's ever worked with, even during all the years he worked in Cuba. When Aristides visits his family in Cuba he'll smoke Cuban cigars, and says there's "no comparison" to the quality and flavor of Nicaraguan leaf (at least the way that we do it). My late father felt this way about Nicaraguan tobacco, too. All I can add is he would be very proud of what we're doing today. Next month: Checking the different types of tobaccos by grade and selection before they're stripped and baled.
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Keys to the City: Las Vegas

byRocky Patel

"I just love the energy of Las Vegas," says Rocky Patel in this month's Keys to the City. Join Rocky for a virtual tour of "Sin City," where there's a lot more to do than give your money away to croupiers and strippers. From the aquatic ballet of The Bellagio's dancing fountains, to the succulent Lobster Thermador at Andre's, to a " Ménage á Trois" at Tryst in The Wynn, these are few of the venues you'll want to add to your Las Vegas itinerary. If i had to describe Las Vegas in one word it would be "energetic." I just love the energy that comes from this city, and being a foodie, I love the diversity of the cuisine, not to mention, you can have a great meal even in the wee hours of the night. Whether it’s one of Las Vegas's glitzy stage shows, a concert, a nightclub, a quiet lounge, or the commotion of a casino, when you're in Las Vegas, it's almost impossible not to find something fun to do. I also love the fact that you can smoke in most places besides restaurants in Las Vegas. The vibe and the charge is over the top.  The Wynn 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89109 Information/Reservations: (702) 770-7000 or (888) 320-7123 http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/ An absolutely gorgeous hotel in every way. Everything that Las Vegas wants to be and is, you'll find at The Wynn. Recently awarded a "5-Stars" rating from Forbes Travel Guide, the Wynn's natural beauty, décor, and design are stunning, while the service is first-class all the way.  Combined with its sister hotel, the Encore, the Wynn complex has over 30 places to drink and dine on cuisine prepared by some of Las Vegas's signature chefs. The hotel also has a world-class spa and an 18-hole golf course.  As for entertainment, the Wynn has a great showroom, one of the city's hottest dance clubs, and a spacious casino with all the bells and whistles. (If you get lucky enough, there's even a Ferrari and Maserati dealership on the premises.) What makes the Wynn particularly impressive for me is, it's a property you never have to leave. Just about everything you want to do in Las Vegas is right there, all in one massive facility. The Bellagio 3600 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89109 Information/Reservations: 888.987.6667 http://www.bellagio.com/ The Bellagio is also another hotel that has just about everything you need all in one place. Situated behind its famous dancing water fountains, the Bellagio reminds me of the grand palaces of France and the castles of Italy. In a nutshell, it's as classic as it gets with an old world European sophistication. Whether you choose one of their spacious guest rooms, suites, or villas, you're surrounded by opulence. If you want the ultimate Bellagio experience, you can also get a room with a spectacular view of the fountains. The hotel also has some other appealing attractions including a world-class art gallery, botanical gardens, and the Fiore Di Como, a stunning stained glass sculpture with 2,000 hand-blown glass blossoms. You'll also find some great places to eat, whether it’s the casual atmosphere of the Bellagio's Buffet, contemporary restaurants like Fix, or fine dining at  Le Cirque. As for entertainment, the Bellagio is also where you'll find Cirque du Soleil's long-running show, "O™". The Cosmopolitan 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South For reservations: (702) 698-7000 http://www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com/ As I mentioned above, the Cosmopolitan offers a more trendy, hip look and vibe. Like most of the top hotels on the strip, the Cosmopolitan has all the amenities travelers to Las Vegas look forward to: comfortable rooms, expert concierge service, spa, pool, 13 restaurants, a casino with every game imaginable, great nightlife, bars, and a shopping area with some of the most eclectic shops in the city. One of the more unusual attractions in the Cosmopolitan is their Pop-Up Wedding Chapel where you can have a "faux" wedding just for fun, or commit to the real thing on a whim. That's Vegas, alright! Il Mulino New York The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace 3500 Las Vegas Blvd South Reservations: 702-492-6000 http://www.ilmulino.com One of my favorite Italian restaurants is Il Mulino New York. This restaurant that originated in New York City is located in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, this is where you'll find true family-style Italian delicacies. You can dine in the grand dining room with its beautiful wrought iron chandeliers, or for a more intimate experience, they have a private balcony that offers a magnificent view of the Strip. Il Mulino also serves some of the most impeccable wines, and the food is absolutely decadent. Whether you prefer seafood, pasta, or veal, you can't go wrong with any dish on the menu. Andre's Restaurant Monte Carlo Resort & Casino 3770 Las Vegas Blvd. South For reservations: 702-798-7151 http://www.montecarlo.com/restaurants/andres.aspx Named for its award-winning chef, André Rochat, Andre’s is one of the "best hidden secrets" in Las Vegas. Located in the Monte Carlo, they have a beautiful cigar lounge with a well-stocked humidor, and one of the largest selections of Cognacs, Armagnacs, and single malt scotches. The menu is Contemporary French offering exquisitely prepared signature dishes like Maine Lobster Thermador, Pan-seared Duck Breast and Duck Sausage, and Adjika Crusted Colorado Rack of Lamb. If you're a wine enthusiast, you'll go wild for their extensive wine selection that spans over 15,000 vintages. The atmosphere is open, sophisticated, and reminiscent of the kind of fine out-of-the-way French restaurants from the 1950's.  Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare Located in the Wynn Hotel Reservations: (888) 320-7110 http://wynnlasvegas.com/Restaurants/FineDining/Bartolotta Open for dinner nightly from 5:30-10:00 PM, The Bartolotta is named for executive chef Paul Bartolotta, a native Milwaukeean who has been twice honored with the James Beard Foundation Award. He will blow you away with some of the most amazing seafood. The portions provide plenty to eat. The shrimp and other fish are imported from Italy, plus they also have some incredible pastas, and a magnificent wine list. I recommend the tasting menu that includes up to 14 courses. You'll need a wheelchair to leave the place. You can dine indoors or around the private lagoon at one of the "Best Restaurants in America," as named by The Daily Meal. Wynn's Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare is a 2013 Forbes Four Star Award winner. For a look at their menu, click here. Tryst Located in the Wynn For information and reservations: 702.770.3375 Hours: Thu - Sat from 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM http://www.trystlasvegas.com/ Tryst is an impressive, mind-blowing nightclub situated along a private lagoon under a 90-foot waterfall with an outdoor patio. You feel like you’re in a natural indoor/outdoor environment that is absolutely stunning. What I also like about Tryst is that it's very cigar friendly; you can smoke just about anywhere. They have a great bar, too. If you're into fancy cocktails, Tryst's signature drink is called the "Ménage á Trois" which is made with 15-year-old Grand Marnier and 24K gold flakes. If you like to dance, Tryst has a spacious dance floor with music spun by some of the world's top DJs who rotate on a nightly basis. Tryst was also chosen by Nightclub and Bar Magazine as the "Club of the Year." If you're into the club scene, make sure you put aside at least one night for Tryst. Hyde Bellagio Reservations: 702.693.8700 http://www.bellagio.com/nightlife-diversions/hyde.aspx This is a great place to hang out at night, especially if you want a quiet change from the usual club scene with that ear-splitting house music. Located on the Bellagio terrace, Hyde has some of the best cocktails in the city, great music, comfortable indoor/outdoor seating, and offers a fabulous view of the Dancing Fountains. More of a lounge than a club, the space was inspired by an old Italian villa that once belonged to a prominent Renaissance artist. Though the design is very contemporary, the décor maintains its classic Italian tradition through the use of luxurious Italian marbles, fine woods, and a Tuscan-inspired garden. It's a great place to chill with friends, enjoy a cigar, or share a romantic date as you listen to some great music and enjoy the water show. Whether you're a regular traveler to Las Vegas, or planning your first visit there, I hope you'll make it a point to add these destinations to your "must-do" list. I promise you'll be that much richer for it, even if your luck at the tables doesn't work out as planned.
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Making the Case - Why the Embargo Against Cuba Should Rightly Continue

byCharlie Toraño

Members of Charlie Toraño's family were imprisoned by the Cuban revolutionary regime, the fathers of his friends were jailed as part of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and most of his family and friends lost everything and had to begin a new life in a different country. So when it comes to Cuba and the U.S. embargo against her, you’re damn right it’s personal. I want you to assume that tomorrow I’m going to take everything you own and make it mine. I’m going to take your house and all of your money. If I approve of what you do for a living, you will continue to work, but at a barely subsistence level. If I don’t approve of your work, even if you’ve spent a lifetime building your dream, I’m going to destroy it.  If you have children, I have some plans for their indoctrination for which you will have absolutely no say. If I don’t approve of your opinions, I’m going to put you in jail, after which I’m either going to torture you or kill you. I will control all sources of media and information and the only travel that will be permitted outside the country will be to places that I send you. Sorry, I forgot to mention that throughout this process, you will be happy to know that I’m going to give you free medical care and I’m not going to charge you anything when I take your young ones to my schools. If you don’t know who “I” am, I’m the totalitarian government of Cuba, est. January 1, 1959.   Effective February 7, 1962, just three years after the revolution in Cuba, President John F. Kennedy issued Proclamation 3447 which established an embargo upon all trade with the Government of Cuba. The proclamation stated that the United States was “prepared to take all national and hemispheric security by isolating the present Government of Cuba and thereby reducing alignment with the communist powers.” In defense of the embargo, the Kennedy administration also said that the loss of trade income with Cuba will “reduce the capacity of the Castro regime ... to engage in acts of aggression, subversion, or other activities endangering the security of the United States and other nations of the hemisphere.” Despite the embargo, it is fair to say that over the last 50 years the Castro brothers have aligned themselves with every conceivable communist power in the world, they brought the planet to the brink of nuclear Armageddon, they unleashed havoc around the globe from Angola to Nicaragua, and the Cuban people continue to suffer under one of history’s longest-running dictatorships. Thus, some would argue that the embargo has not worked and that it’s time to lift it. I don’t agree. Both of my parents are from Cuba. They and my grandparents were among the fortunate families that were able to flee Cuba before the island became a tropical Alcatraz. My maternal grandfather was an attorney. So when Fidel Castro rolled into Havana in a military vehicle, he quickly understood the threat posed by the new regime. My paternal grandfather, Carlos Toraño, did not leave so quickly. At the time of the revolution, the Toraño family was one of the largest growers of Cuban tobacco leaf. My grandfather did what he could to resist the Marxist decrees, but eventually he was forced to turn over his tobacco farm to the State at gunpoint. My grandfather’s main tobacco farm in Cuba was ironically named “La Esperanza”, which means “Hope.” That farm is still active and growing tobacco in Cuba today, although it's now owned by the State, which stole it from him.  I am the first generation of the Toraño family born in the United States. The topic of Cuba has been a significant part of my life since I was able to put together a coherent sentence. A good part of my family life was hearing stories of the island and learning about its culture and traditions. Cuba was a dominant subject at the dinner table, and various social functions revolved around U.S. policy towards Cuba. I tell you this only to demonstrate that the topic of Cuba is personal to me. Members of my family were imprisoned by this regime, the fathers of my friends were jailed as part of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and most of my family and friends lost everything and had to begin a new life in a different country. You’re damn right it’s personal. And because it’s personal, I, and many others in my position, have a real genuine interest in what’s best for the present and future of the Cuban people.   The Cuban embargo will certainly end one day. We can all agree on that. The question is under what circumstances should it be lifted. I believe we should lift the embargo only when Cuba is clearly on the path to substantial political reforms that include the scheduling of free and fair elections, allow for freedom of expression, and rid the jails of political dissidents. To lift the embargo before these meaningful political reforms would almost certainly create a mini-China in Cuba whereby some economic freedoms may be gained, but at the expense of real political and individual freedom. The freedom of Cuba is tied to its political structure. If political freedom is gained, then economic freedom and vitality will follow. It will not work the other way around. I’m always fascinated by those who believe that if we Americans trade with Cuba and spend more money in Cuba, then the weight of these dollars and the interaction with us enlightened Americans will somehow crush the regime and/or awaken some dormant zeal for freedom in the Cuban people. This is ludicrous. With the exception of Israel and Palau, the entire world has traded with Cuba for the last 50 years. Tourists from all over the world, particularly Canada, the U.K. and parts of Europe have flocked to Cuba for decades. Has anything changed for the Cubans? No. To be fair, in general, tourists don’t care about the political freedoms or lack thereof of the Cuban people. For decades the Cubans from the island could not even stay or visit the tourist hotels, even if they could afford it. That didn’t concern the tourists. They care about nice hotels, beaches, and an overall good time. What would make the American tourist any different? It’s not personal, it’s just vacation.   Same goes with the businesses trading with Cuba. Corporations have been doing business with Cuba for the last half-century. These corporations come from all over the world. Where are the freedoms? Where are the political reforms? Why haven’t these corporations influenced or demanded more political reforms? Answer: because just like the tourists, that’s not their agenda. I’m not indicting them for it (at least not in this article), I’m simply making the point that lifting the embargo and trading with Cuba will change absolutely nothing for the Cuban people. It’s not personal, it’s just business.   Speaking of business, let’s talk about the business for which Cuba is probably most well- known: the cigar business. The cigar and tobacco business in Cuba was stolen (some prefer the word “nationalized”) by the government soon after it took power in 1959. Men like my grandfather lost their tobacco farms, owners of cigar brands like Ramon Cifuentes (owner of Partagas) and Alonso Menendez (owner of Montecristo and the H Upmann Cigar Factory) lost everything. These were real men with real families that were violently uprooted and stripped of their life’s work by the same brothers who are still in power today. The tobacco men who were forced to flee Cuba decided to recreate an entire new cigar industry in other countries like the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, the Canary Islands and a few other countries. Having lost everything, they had every right to give up on the tobacco business and pursue other industries. Instead, they sacrificed, experimented in new tobacco growing lands, created new cigar factories teaching new cultures how to make cigars, and began to market new brands. Today, there is a vibrant non-Cuban cigar industry because of the work of that generation. For those of us in the cigar industry and for those who enjoy a good cigar, we stand on the broad shoulders of those men and their families who persevered and worked tirelessly to create the industry we now love. If tomorrow we read in the newspapers that the U.S. government lifted the embargo with Cuba’s existing totalitarian government, let there be no doubt that there would be a rush of Cuban cigars into the U.S. But here’s my question: would I be allowed to go and open up a cigar factory in Cuba just because the embargo was lifted? Answer: No, because the government has a monopoly. Would I be allowed to finance tobacco growers in Cuba to export tobacco to our factories outside of Cuba? Answer: No, because the government controls that as well. So in effect, it would be a one way street from Cuba to the U.S., controlled by the Cuban government and whatever company it decides to associate itself with. This would be patently unfair to all of those who lost everything to this regimen. Cuba can and will be free again. All of us need to demand and press for political freedom in Cuba. I don’t believe pressing for an end to the embargo will achieve that for the Cuban people. The embargo is one way of expressing our condemnation of this dictatorship. We cannot give up on the dream of a free Cuba by substituting that dream for one of having a rum and Coke and smoking a Cuban cigar in Havana. I realize that there are many different views on this topic. For those of you who disagree or take offense at mine, remember, it’s always personal.  
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What's all the Hype about Small Batch Cigars? Are they worth it? You bet they are

byRafael Nodal

Small batch cigars have become one of the most popular interests among cigar smokers for their use of rare and vintage tobaccos. As a result, many manufacturers have jumped on the small batch bandwagon. "In this time of 'one size fits all,' it's good to know that there are cigars that are not mass-produced by big corporations, where the quantity is often more important than the quality," says Boutique Blends President, Rafael Nodal, who explains why these unique cigars are well worth having in your humidor. Small batch cigar production has become one of the most popular interests among cigar smokers these days. As a result, many manufacturers have jumped on the small batch bandwagon. If you were to ask, "What is all the hype about small batch, are they worth the prices?" My answer is, you bet. Cigar production is no different than making wine, Scotch or Rum. You have commercial production of wines and scotch, and then you have the real thing, the small batch productions. In this time of "one size fits all," it's good to know that there are cigars that are not mass-produced by big corporations, where the quantity is often more important than the quality. We have all seen the pictures of these factories, where you find hundreds of people rolling and making cigars. No, they are not technically machine made, but sometimes I wonder. On the other hand, mass production of cigars is a good thing. You need to produce cigars that will reach as many people as possible, like you do with any product, like hamburgers, for example. There are hundreds of thousands of fast food restaurants, sometimes three or four in the same intersection. You can buy a burger, sandwich or salad on every corner. It's convenient, cheap and fast. But if you want a good meal, do you tell your wife, "Honey, I want a great burger so let's go to McDonalds tonight." Or perhaps, you drive a little farther and pay a little more for a burger that is not already waiting for you and has to be put in the microwave before serving. The burger example illustrates my point about small batch cigars. You get what you pay for. Sometimes you want an average cigar, with an average price, for an average smoke. But sometimes you want more, you want a great cigar, for a great smoke and you may be willing to pay a little bit more; though not too much more, since I believe that a good Small Batch cigar does not have to break the bank. Though that may be the case with many of the small batch cigars on the market today, I price my Aging Room Small Batch blends as reasonably as possible. There is also another point to consider when you are talking about small batch production cigars. They are called "small batch" because the cigars are literally made in very limited numbers. Another way "small batch" cigars are defined is by the rarity and uniqueness of the tobaccos. Once those tobaccos run out, that batch is complete and cannot be made again. So, as it is with most things in life, all small batch cigars are not created equal. There are also "small batch" productions named so because the cigars are made in small batches versus large commercial production. What I'm getting at here is that only a certain amount of cigars are made at a given time, but they will continue to be produced year after year, sometimes with the same tobacco, and sometimes with an adjusted blend or different tobacco. An example of this type of limited edition cigar would be the Punch Rare Corojo. In my case, I prefer to call them small batch when, as I noted above, the cigars are made in limited quantities from the same tobaccos. For example, I get one type of especially unique tobacco in a very limited amount that has been aged for a long time, make the small batch and assign it a blend number. When that tobacco is finished, so is that batch. From there I will move on to make another small batch with a different rare tobacco and blend number. The first blend my company released using this concept was our Aging Room Small Batch M356. That blend number was derived from the date that the blend was first created: Monday, the 356th day of the year. I bought tobacco that was aged for a long time and all grown on the same Dominican farm, but there just was not enough for a high quantity production, and that's really how the Aging Room Small Batch concept was created.  The second blend we released was the Quattro F55. This blend was created on Friday the 55th day of 2012 and released at the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers trade show (the premium cigar industry's biggest event) in August that same year. The "Quattro" part of the name comes from the cigar's box-pressed shape, which has four sides. I used Dominican-grown Habano for the filler and binder, and a very limited, genuine Sumatra leaf from 2003. Like in my other blends, when the tobacco is gone for this blend, so is the batch. This new concept of small batch productions allows me and other manufacturers to use tobaccos that have been well-aged, and may even have been left over from previous productions. One advantage to this is, because there is not enough leaf for mass production, the tobaccos have been aging and curing for many years. Another important aspect of small batch cigars is that we take additional steps in making sure that this limited production is made with special care and supervision; something that cannot be done by the big commercial factories, because they need to make millions of cigars. So, the next time you're shopping for some good cigars, instead of reaching for one of the "big name" brands, try a small batch cigar. In the end, it all comes down to quantity vs. quality. 
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91

Kristoff GC Signature series

"Just a Friend" A Monthly Column by J. Drew

byJonathan Drew

Jonathan Drew shares the story of how one tory and one song unlocked a whole different meaning for him, and a room full of friends: “finally all together in one place sharing cigars, drinks, hamburgers - and the stories of our lives.” JD drops some wisdom on why we, as cigar smokers, are so often referred to as a “brotherhood” – it’s what cigar smoking is all about, that's what life is all about - camaraderie, friendship, love for our brothers and sisters.  "Everything I'm not made me everything I am" - KANYE WEST. If I can learn anything from anyone, I tend to like them. I know it's a relatively low standard at first glance, but ... It's who I am. Recently, I have been writing a lot about the past 14 years of running our factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.  A lot of hard times and pain rolled up in that factory.  So many conversations and memories trapped within the cooling room walls - just bustin’ the seams of my brain box, fighting to come out. But even with the struggle, these brutal days were the best ones of my life.  So many people who have influenced my values, beliefs and wisdom in so many ways... Some of these people were transient, just passin’ thru those green hills of Northern Nicaragua. Others never left my side. Either way, I can sincerely say that all of them have helped shape who I am as a man.  It's these personal and powerful reflections that led me to write my fourth monthly column for Cigar Advisor - "JUST A FRIEND".  As a fat, awkward, class clown growing up in New York, I guess I identified with a rap artist that some of you may have heard of - named Biz Markie.  If the name doesn't ring a bell, maybe the song "Just a Friend" does ... ("Girl, you got what I need, but you say he's just a friend").  Please feel free to hum it out loud while you continue reading.  ("Oh baby, you!") Like me, Biz Markie was also from New York and came up in the mid to late 80's.  He was the cousin of Big Daddy Kane, who was a hard core rapper that later reached even greater status after having sex with Madonna and was even in her book. His cousin Biz Markie, however, was not as well respected as Kane.  While Kane was dropping iconic hard core songs of politics and struggle, Biz Markie was making songs like "Pickin Boogers”,"Vapors", and "Just a Friend." Who'd a thought that Biz's 1989 song would have the power to influence SNACKi, over here, to name our "go-to stick" from the new KENTUCKY FIRE CURED line of cigars after it...?  Guess it really did have a lasting effect on me, but there is more to the story. It was during a 2012 cigar event at The Leaf Cigar Bar in Easton, Pennsylvania when the song came on ... and everyone, including "Fat Chops", yours truly, was singing all the words together. Well actually, we weren't just singing, we were outright screaming.  "Oh baby...!" You see, this event was heavily attended by many people who I have met throughout my travels, and most I've known for years.  We were just so thrilled to reunite together at The Leaf that night - and then it hit me... The next slice-of-life chapter behind the "Just a Friend" size of our new brand, KENTUCKY FIRE CURED actually took place after the name was fully agreed upon by the Drew Estate team - but is still significant.  It happened in our town of Estelí, Nicaragua, where all Drew Estate cigars are made.  One of our head guys at the factory, Chino, had received some very bad news while visiting the doctor with his pregnant wife. It was the 7th month of the pregnancy (and their wedding anniversary to boot) when the doc told him that they were going to lose the child - it was imminent. The blow was crushing and we were all destroyed.    Our guy, Chino, who has been with me since 1999 is like a little brother. When he invited me to come to the service at his church, which happens to be perched up in the mountain, I was definitely appreciative.  Nervous and sad, angry and bitter, emotions from every angle wisped thru me due to this injustice.  As I approached the church I saw Chino standing in the entrance way with his wife, Candy. They were melancholy, eyes red, standing on the dirt floor of a half built church and leaning on a brick frame of a door. They were down for sure, but the dignity that radiated from them was sound. As we walked inside the church the Pastor greeted us, and again, I was self conscious about the dirt floors. I guess it has been a while since I was in a place with a dirt floor, so the impact was heavy on me. Then the music started and six girls began to sing the most beautiful song I have ever heard.  Within minutes I saw Chino and Candy swaying with the music, and the healing power was amongst us.  Candy’s hands were raised as she sang along with every word.  The emotion broke me down and tears filled my eyes.   To my surprise they were both smiling, holding hands and healing right in front of me. A thing of beauty in the deep hills of Northern Nicaragua that makes one proud to have made such friends. This, I quietly thought to myself, is what life is all about: loyalty, camaraderie and friendship. For some reason all of this made me reflect upon this "Just a Friend" name that we chose for a brand that's based in Southern Hospitality. Heck, we weren't in the South of the US, couldn't be further ... But the feelings were the same.    Just a Friend stands for everything Drew Estate is about. Maybe not the exact lyrics that Biz Markie dropped that summer of 1989, maybe not a girl or any person in particular. But something more important, and profound that the cigar community shares with each other as we puff and bullshit about our lives, our problems and our victories together.  Cigars are all about friendship. 
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Growing Up Tobacco - A Tribute to a Consigliere

byChristian Eiroa

Sal Fontana spent 62 expletive-ridden years in the cigar business. These are his stories, as told by friend, co-worker, and mentee, Christian Eiroa. One of the true pioneers of the cigar industry was the late Sal Fontana. A Sicilian who grew up in NY and made a life in the cigar business, Sal's official title at Camacho was "Consigliere." He sold cigars for 62 years, but his true claim to fame was developing the monstrous Baccarat “The Game” cigars, as well as the La Fontana cigar brand. Rarely in life do we have the chance to be mentored by somebody like Sal, who had an enormously positive impact on many people. I do not think anybody will ever mark my life the way Sal did, and the memory of him spilling coffee and leaving his little cigars all over the place, walking around with piss all over his pants, always makes me smile. He was a good man and a very hard worker. I met Sal when I was about 8 years old; he gifted me a ruler calculator that did not work—it was a piece of junk, actually. He loved closeouts and bargains so whenever he saw one, he would buy it, no matter what it was. I did not start working with him until 1995, when the cigar boom started and I had moved to the Camacho factory in Honduras. By 1998 the boom was over, and I had to go on the road to learn how to sell cigars. This was definitely not something Sal was happy about, and he would stick me on the worst road trips possible – remote places like Montana and Vermont, although he always claimed they were my idea. What made him so memorable were his quotes, which were commonly used before or immediately after he would do something that would embarrass us. Sal’s explanation for this was, “Kid, at my age, I have a license to say whatever the fuck I want!” When asked “How are you feeling, Sal?”: “Fucko, would you ask me if I were 40?” When discussing offering trips as a prize for contests: “First prize, one week in Honduras. Second prize – two weeks!" When an order from a customer was a small one: “Fuck you, I could smoke that many!” When cigars were priced higher than MSRP: “… and you sleep with yourself at night?”  When developing promotions: “If they (the retailers) can’t cheat on it, it’s not worth doing.” Sal was rugged, with a colorful sense of humor that only he could get away with. He never missed an opportunity to embarrass us, and nobody was safe. Once he reached 80, he began using a scooter for the trade shows because he felt he could get pity orders, and it worked, even though he was 100 % healthy and could stand all day long. But that was Sal. “Jake, go get the fucking scooter!” In 2008, after a trade show in Vegas, we decided to take the whole crew to a restaurant to celebrate. We texted Sal the information and he was on his way. About ten minutes later Sal arrived in his scooter, but the restaurant’s tables were placed so that the walkway was narrow. Once he spotted us he made his way for our table, but miscalculated his path and bumped into an even older couple having dinner. What made these matters worse, is that he backed up three times, each time bumping the table over and over, spilling the wine on the old lady at the table.   Of course, everyone at our table was praying he would not even look at us but instead, after wedging the scooter completely under said table, he jumps up – starts walking in our direction and says: “Jake, go get the fucking scooter!” Poor Jake had to go and apologize to the octogenarian couple. When we confronted him about this embarrassment, his answer was classic: “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke”. At one point Sal had actually prepared a resignation letter because I was driving him up a wall. Fortunately, he never did resign, and eventually stood as the best man at my wedding, and became Godfather to my third child, Santiago.  “I go to Puerto Rico every year…” In 1998 I left the factory in Danlí and moved to Miami. This cigar boom had recently ended, and it was tough developing sales. One day a gentleman from Puerto Rico showed up. He operated the main duty free stores at the Cruise Ship port in San Juan, and was interested in bringing in our cigars. His biggest mistake was that he had terrible timing: Sal was in the office that day. I was 25 at the time and remember being extremely polite to this very nice, but very formal gentleman, when in walks Sal: “What the fuck, doesn’t anybody know how to drive in Florida?!” I was terribly embarrassed, but acted as if nothing had happened. A minute later, Sal enters my office and I quickly make a formal introduction, explaining that the man in my office was from Puerto Rico and dropped a hint so Sal would understood how important he was.  Sal quickly figured it out and acted accordingly...or so I thought. He quickly extends his hand and says: “Puerto Rico? Huh, I go to Puerto Rico every year…to visit my hub caps.” Wow!!! I felt the sale fall through instantly. The gentleman quickly got up from his chair, shook my hand, thanked me for my time and walked right out. Introducing Camacho in 2000 was a huge risk for us: we were known for selling Baccarat “The Game” at $3, so for us to sell Camacho at $3.95 - $5.95 was a big difference. At the time, we had worked up some samples using Havana 2000 wrappers, but the prospects never took the blend, so at the 11th hour we decided to launch a second cigar, Camacho Havana, priced at $1.95 - $3.95, just so we had something to fall back on.  Sal always said that this was a bad move, and that neither cigar was going to sell. Wouldn’t you know it that we sold more than we ever dreamt? Here we were, back at my office and I was fighting with him that he screwed me up and because of his warnings, we sold the Havana way too cheap. Sal quickly gets up and disappears for about two hours and then comes back with the most classic of solutions. “Don’t worry kid, I solved the problem. I told everybody there was a misprint on the price sheets and that the Camacho Havana Cigars were actually $1.00 more per cigar”. I fell out of my chair. It was incredible what this old guy could get away with!   We are a multi $$$ corporation… It was during the late 1990’s when we had concerns about Y2K that we decided to buy a MS Windows-based accounting software that was very expensive for us at the time. We called many firms until we decided on the one that would work best for us. This poor salesman sang and danced for us during a three hour presentation until he finally revealed the price of the software, which was $25,000. Sal spits out his coffee, looks at the guy with a straight face and says: “Fuck you, don’t you know we are a Multi Hundred Dollar Corporation?!” That guy did not know how to react, I though he was going to punch the old man. Over the years, it was impossible for his humor not to grow on you and I soon began to say things. As you can imagine, he was mentoring me in this business. Case in point: We were visited by a short lived Florida magazine that was doing a story on us. The reporter was a little rough around the edges and despite a very nice interview, he over steps and asks a very personal question: “So what are your yearly sales?” I responded without missing a beat “$350 Million”. Sal smiles at me proudly and looks at the reporter and says: “You see kid, you got a stupid answer to a stupid question.” Needless to say, the story never ran but as I think back, it was the very first time that Sal became proud of me for not taking any shit from anybody.   Hey you piece of shit… Every year Sal would get invited to a hot air balloon event in New Mexico; apparently this is a very big deal over there. Each time, Bill Richardson, the governor, would attend and spend much of his time around Sal because he too is a huge cigar smoker. One year, when Richardson was running in the primaries for President there was also a smoking ban in NM. Sal once again went to the event but this year we could no longer smoke cigars and sample them with the guests. In walks the Governor with his security detail. Sal spots him and walks across the room to greet him and says: “Hey you piece of shit, you fucked us all up with this smoking ban!”  If there ever was a moment that the security guards would beat up an old man, this was it. Richardson signaled the men to stop and actually took his time to explain to Sal that he was forced to sign it because of the way the law passed. One of our last road trips together was to NYC. We went around the city to visit the different customers and as we are heading back, it starts pouring. We ran and took cover under the St. Regis awning. Sal turns to me and asks me to follow his lead. Little did I know that he had flagged down the hotel's Bentley to give us a ride, pretending to be a guest of the St. Regis. When I asked him what he was doing, his answer was simple: “Shut up, dummy, I got us a free ride to our hotel”. Not only did he get us a free ride back to our roach motel, but he made the driver wait for us and deliver us to the Four Seasons where we were having dinner. “… He did” Sal was very close to big Abe from the Smoke Inn, and if you have never met the man, he is a gentle giant, but a massive guy. One time they were working on a design on a computer and after reaching Nirvana on the design, Abe began to kiss himself all over the place. In doing so, he turned to Sal and said: “God should have made two of me.” Sal, without thinking about it answers, “He did!” Toward the end, Sal began to tell stories about his life but always kept his sense of humor about him. He began to tell me about his experience in the business and offering me advice as to what to do with my future and he began to share: “Christian, in my career, there are probably only two people who did not like me” I asked “Max Burns?” and he followed “Ok, maybe three people.” For some reason they never hit it off and he always said, “Christian, his wife put the UG in UGLY”. Sal kept going on strong until he passed at the age of 86 in early 2011. His last days were very sad and the opportunities to meet with him were scarce. Fortunately for him his family was able to make time and he was surrounded by all of them. It almost seemed that he was most worried about making sure everybody was fine and that he expressed that he was ready to go. He still had to go out with a bang, though. He called all his big customers and said, “This is my last order, I am kicking the bucket tomorrow so you better make it a good one.” They broke the mold when they made Sal, and there will never be another like him. It was very painful starting up again knowing he is no longer around, and I think about him every time I smoke a cigar, every single time.
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97

Ashton Estate Sun Grown

86

Arturo Fuente

From Russia with Luck: Zino Davidoff, the Early Years Pt. III

byGary Korb

Europe in the 1930's. With the clouds of war still some years away, Zino takes a wife, starts a family of his own, and is now doing the purchasing and marketing for his father's store in Geneva. He is determined to give consumers what they want - Cuban cigars. Zino also devises a way to keep cigars properly humidified during the cold European winters. Later in the decade, during WWII, Zino lucks into a risky business deal that will eventually change everything. Learning how to run a business was exactly what Zino Davidoff did, and he did it with much aplomb. Now that he was settled into a career, it was only proper that a successful young man take a wife. One night in August of 1931, Zino attended a private party thrown by a cousin. "I have just the woman for you," said his cousin. "Who?" asked Zino. "She's standing over there," said his cousin, pointing to a comely young woman across the room. "Would you like to meet her?" "Very much," said Zino. "What's her name?" "Marthe. Marthe Fromer. Her parents have a coffee-roasting business in Basel. Come with me." A few seconds later, Zino and his cousin approached Marthe, who was chatting with another girl. "Marthe, I'd like you to meet my cousin Zino. I think you two would make a lovely couple." The girl hesitantly raised her hand. Zino took it gently, and with a slight bow and a smile, looked directly into her eyes and said, "My pleasure." He was instantly smitten with her, though Marthe appeared reticent and somewhat embarrassed by his cousin's remarks. She thanked him, but before Marthe could say another word, Zino said, "I will marry you." Three months after their first meeting at his cousin's party, Zino and Martha were wed in November 1931, and were inseparable for more than 60 years. Forty of those years were spent working together. They opened their first tobacco shop in Lausanne with a prime location situated in the heart of the city.  In 1936, three years after the birth of their daughter, Sonia, Zino and his family moved back to Geneva. Almost immediately after their return Zino and Marthe began working in the new tobacco store his father, Hillel, had opened several years earlier on Rue de la Confédération. Still in his father's employ were Zino's brother, Joseph, and sister, Helêne. The location of the store couldn't have been better, since Rue de la Confédération was the city's central shopping boulevard. Soon Zino began to take on more responsibility, especially in the areas of purchasing and marketing. He had a vision and was determined to take the business to an entirely new level. "We need to start building our Cuban cigar inventory," Zino insisted during one of their family business meetings." "Why do you keep bringing up Cuban cigars?" said Hillel. "The cigarette business is good." "You can buy cigarettes at any corner store these days," Zino argued. "Look at old Max Oettinger's company in Basel. He was selling Cuban cigars even long before the War." "Yes, but Max, may he rest in peace, almost lost his entire business after the war,” said Hillel. "And since Huppuch took it over, the company is even stronger. Remember Max's credo? 'Every smoker seeks to find the best supplier from whom he can purchase the highest quality smoking wares at a reasonable price.'" "Maybe his prices were too reasonable," said Joseph. "Cuba has the best quality tobacco, the best quality cigars, and I'm certain we can bring them in at a nice profit," said Zino. "Either we expand our inventory, or we may end up like old Max. Are you with me, or not?" "Business is good. I suppose we could try it," said Hillel. Joseph and Helêne nodded in agreement. "But I'm holding you accountable." After Max Oettinger's death in 1927, at the behest of the tobacco factories most prominent owners, Swiss businessman George Huppuch was appointed as the new Director of Max Oettinger AG, to save the business. Now that the Davidoff store was importing Cuban cigars, Zino took on a challenge that would dramatically change the cigar business forever - keeping Caribbean-made cigars "factory fresh." Based on his experience in Central and South America, Zino knew that handmade cigars required a certain acceptable range of temperature and humidity to stay fresh, especially during Geneva's cold, dry winters. This task would take a considerable amount of ingenuity. By the latter half of the 1930's, homes and businesses in Europe were being equipped with heating systems. They were good at keeping rooms warm, but the air was also constantly dry, and that's bad news for cigars. To help find a solution, Zino sampled cigars that were "fresh off the boat," compared them to identical cigars that had been stored in Europe, and found that the Caribbean-stored cigars were markedly better in quality and flavor. Zino needed an environment that could simulate weather conditions in Central America. After some further investigation he decided the best location was the store's basement. Though few, if any, details are available on exactly what materials Zino used to build the world's first climate-controlled humidor, we can presume that the basement was cool and relatively damp. We can also surmise that he found a way to force a controlled amount of heat into the cellar to get just the right temperature and humidity mix. However he did it, the new "air-conditioned" space worked like a charm. September, 1939. WWII is now in full swing. Hitler's troops invade Poland, which capitulates to the Nazis in short order. Within days of Poland's surrender, England and France declare war on Germany. In May of 1940, the Germans continue westward, overtaking Belgium, then France, with little resistance. The Germans were occupying western Europe at such a fast pace, they were virtually unstoppable. Times were scary. Hillel Davidoff was reminded of early life in Russia. Fortunately, Switzerland remained neutral. At least they would be spared a Nazi offensive…for now. Shortly before the Germans marched into France, Zino took a phone call from Paris that would prove to be one of the most prophetic in his career.  "Bonjour…Yes, this is Zino Davidoff." On the other end of the phone was a manager from SEITA, the French tobacco monopoly. "Bonjour Monsieur Davidoff.  I'm calling on behalf of our Cuban partners who asked me to contact you." "They asked you to contact me?" asked Zino. "Oui. They insisted on it," the manager replied. "We need your help." "How can I help you?" asked Zino. "Do you want me to join the French Resistance?" "Yes, in a way. Here in Paris there's a shipment of two million Habanos locked-up in a Customs warehouse," the manager continued. "The Germans will be here in a matter of days, and we don't want the cigars to fall into their possession. Would you be prepared to purchase the cigars?" "I would love to, but you caught me at a bad time. Last year we opened a store on Rue du Marché, and we're stretched pretty thin right now. Certainly, that many cigars would be a sizeable investment." "We can work out the payment arrangements later. Right now, my main concern is that the cigars do not find their way into the hands of those Nazi bastards," said the manager. "I'll see what I can do," said Zino. "But I'm curious. Why did the Cubans ask you to call me and not one of the big importers?" "You have an excellent reputation among the Cuban manufacturers for promoting their cigars. They respect you and your knowledge of their product. You're also an honest businessman. I don't trust the importers; and besides, if the Germans seize the cigars, the Cubans will never get their money." "Well, I'm very flattered," Zino replied, then paused. "We'll find a way to make the transaction. The big question is the purchase price." After several minutes of negotiation, Zino and the man from SEITA agreed on a price that amounted to roughly one million French francs to be paid in installments.  Zino knew he couldn't scrape up such a large sum of money without a loan, so the next day he paid a visit to his bank. Due to the amount he wanted to borrow, he was told that only the bank president could approve such a loan. Zino told him about the Paris phone call and explained why he needed to raise the money right away. "One million francs Zino? I'm afraid the answer is no," said the bank president, shaking his head. "You know me," said Zino, "You know my reputation in the business community. And you understand how important it is that these cigars get to a safe haven." "Alright Zino. Then tell me…what do you have for collateral?" Zino paused for a moment to think. Finally, he looked the banker dead straight in the eyes and with all the confidence he could muster said, "My honest face." The banker was so astonished by Zino's ballsy answer, he approved the loan and a handshake sealed the deal. When he got back to his office, Zino phoned his man in Paris to tell him the deal was a go. Risky as it was, if he could get the cigars safely to Geneva, it would be a major boom for his business. Luckily, the cigars made it to the Customs warehouse in Geneva in the nick of time; for shortly after their arrival, as predicted, Paris fell to the Germans.  Since it was imperative that the cigars had time to settle under the right conditions, Zino's immediate problem was getting the two million Habanos from the Customs warehouse into his store's humidor as quickly as possible. But due to space constraints, Zino could only transfer so many of the cigars to the humidor at a time. So, he moved as many as he could, and as the store continued to sell-off its current inventory, Zino quickly replaced it with more Havanas from the warehouse. Eventually, they all made it into the basement unscathed. During a war it's common for there to be a lack of certain goods. When word got out that the Davidoff store on Rue du Marché had Cuban cigars, customers wasted little time lining-up to buy their Havanas. The majority of them were the more well-to-do customers, mostly Swiss diplomats, who were buying Hoyo de Monterrey and Montecristos by the case. Moreover, the Davidoff's were the only tobacconists in the world that had Cuban cigars in stock right up until the end of the war.   It didn't take long for the rest of Europe to learn that the Davidoff store in Geneva was THE place for the best and widest selection of Cuban cigars. As you will see shortly, had Zino not made that deal to acquire the Habanos during the war, chances are the Davidoff cigar brand would never exist. After the war, Zino's reputation invited even more good fortune. In 1946, during a tour of Europe to promote their cigars, a small Cuban delegation visited the Rue du Marché store to pay their respects to its proprietor. As their most successful customer, the other reason for the visit was to ask Zino's advice on how to better market their cigars. During a lunch meeting at The Globe, one of Geneva's finest restaurants, Zino spoke to the Cubans about producing his own line of Cuban-made cigars. After much discussion about the blend, etc., they agreed to make five shapes, each of which would be named for the best French Bordelais wines, Premier Grande Cru Classé. The name came to Zino in a flash as he was ordering wine for the table. "So what will you call them?" asked one of the delegates. "Château Haut-Brion, Château Lafite, Château Latour, Château Margaux, and Château Yquem," said Zino. "We will call it the Château Series. There's just one more thing. The boxes." "Is something wrong with the boxes?" asked another delegate. "The boxes of twenty-five cigars each are boring," said Zino. "What if you made the boxes more square in shape and a little deeper. "What is the point of that?" said the delegate. "The cigars will be able to breathe better," replied Zino. "They could intermingle, so to speak, and wed their aromas." This made sense to the Cubans. The cigars would be bundled together in a mazo with a single silk ribbon, and placed in a square box made of unvarnished wood; in other words, a boîte nature box with a sliding cover that is still used for packaging Davidoff cigars today. As we have learned through this series, there's no doubt that Zino Davidoff had a major impact on the cigar business as we know it today. He treated his customers with respect and took a genuine interest in what they wanted, thereby creating the "model" for cigar stores to come. He invented and marketed both the cigar humidor and the double-blade cigar cutter. Additionally, his influence even changed the way cigars were packaged, and he was the first to establish a connection between pairing cigars with wine. The cigar industry owes him a lot, and as cigar smokers, we can all be grateful for his contributions, not to mention that winning smile.
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Sucka Fo' Love V.3 Dookie Love

byMatt Booth

Love is a many-splendored thing; but as Matt Booth has found out the hard way, “splendor” is a very subjective term. Especially if a lover’s splendor involves some hot, hot heat from the bowels of depravity. Let’s just say that Marvin Gaye never sang a love song about Cleveland, if you catch our drift. If you ever see Booth walk with a limp, read this article and you’ll know why. (Warning: adult content.) One fateful day, early on in my blossoming career in the premium tobacco industry, I witnessed firsthand an epic and brutally provocative conversation between two of my contemporaries in the business.  The earth of this conversation was argumentative and, in my mind’s eye, logical on both sides. The debate took place in a humble Travelodge suite in Northern California between a young salesman and his superior, both of whom shall remain nameless within this article for the sake of privacy. I will refer to these two individuals by names that, in my opinion, properly represent their stance in the conversation. Just as all my work here is the examination of the landscape of interpersonal relationships and love within the humanoid sector, likewise was their conversation. The crux of the debate was this aberrant, but poignant question: What acts between two consenting (or not so consenting – if you happen to be in to that kind of party) partners can be considered the communication of true loving feelings and what acts, if any, falls outside the boundaries of an expression of love.  As they argued into the night, the young man (hippie/freak-show/new school) challenged his manager (old school/strong-mode) asserting that if someone wants to lay down a plastic tarp, defecate on his/her partner’s chest and commence to masturbating them in their own feces – and this was how these two (or more, ehhh) people intended to love each other – then this act was indeed an act of love.  Our life veteran (old school) simply stated that this, and acts of this nature were simply “some other shit” and not acts of love. In this episode we will delve into what I like to call “Dookie Love” and other such acts of deviant sexual behavior in an attempt to find some common ground between the chest-pooping modernized sex aficionados and those of a far more traditional view on sex in hopes of deciphering whether the intimate interactions you’ve been sharing with your partner(s) is love, or simply put - some other shit.  It is difficult to say just how far back the practice of Dookie Love (or other such acts) goes. During previous chapters in the timeline of life, it is, not surprisingly, difficult to find any official information regarding such sexual behaviors as the world was a far less “open-minded” place. Historically, even far less deviant acts, like ATM (that is less deviant, right?), were considered taboo. As recently as the 1950s the hip shaking of Elvis Presley was cut from television broadcasts as it was deemed inappropriate and provocative. With that said, it has to be assumed that any record of medieval chest pooping and such would be buried deep in the archives human sexuality.  Only somewhat recently in our “modernized” and “progressive” society has it become more acceptable to push the boundaries of what may have never even crossed the minds of your parents while engaged in the act of matrimonial (or not so matrimonial) coitus. Whether you select to partake or not – just look at it this way, that pleasant young lady that bags your grandmother’s groceries every Sunday down at the local market might be baking her mom an apple pie right now, homemade with love.  That same wholesome young girl from the corner market may also (in the privacy of her own home or in the auditorium of your local underground swinger/freak show sex club) currently be hanging upside down from the rafters, utilizing a stainless steel spiked leather harness whilst a live pheasant is being forcefully jammed up her petite and wholesome brown eye. My point, my esteemed brothers and sisters of the leaf, is that you never know what is going on behind someone’s bedroom door. Now if that isn’t enough to have you look at every single person you come across sideways – let’s move on. Upon a recent visit to the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood, for research purposes of course, I unearthed a plethora of fine merchandise. I had to assume that the trinkets and gadgets offered for sale within this fine establishment were intended as tools to help people facilitate and communicate what they believed to be love with their partner(s). I frolicked amongst a fantastic selection of latex facemasks, mastodon-gauged scepters of faux-flesh and even electric shock kits. While browsing the selection there, I sought the assistance of the staff and began asking many questions, such as but not limited to: “Where exactly would you insert something like this?” and “Is there a multiple item discount?”. Many times I found myself simply asking, “Good God man, why??”  Had even I fallen off? Am I now a dinosaur of traditional and less than cutting edge practices? Marvin Gaye never sang to me about any of these apparatus. How can these be valid tools (shudder) on the shuffleboard of romance? I felt that it was my duty to my readership here that I investigate further.  I loaded the black bags filled with all of my newly acquired merchandise into my privately owned vehicle and trundled off down the road heading home. I felt the wind in my hair whilst my knees clamored with nervous energy. I then thought – whomever shall I call to help me make sense of all of this? I first anxiously dialed a one Mr. Dylan Austin (esteemed Director of Marketing for fancy cigar brands such as Camacho and *cough cough* Room101)  I then attempted to try my good friend Mr. Jim Young (president of fancy cigar brands such as Davidoff USA) and good friend Douglas Laue (CFO of fancy cigar brands such as Davidoff USA) again; I was sent to voicemail – I called my contemporaries within the industry, bloggers and consumers alike. The people I reached (I am sure) assumed that I, Matt Booth, was simply “at it again”, creating more of my signature antics for my own or our mutual entertainment. Nevertheless, I had become the little boy who cried wolf. Distraught and alone, I drug the large and cumbersome murdered-out satchels across the threshold of my living quarters.  What happened over the course of the next two weeks behind that closed door will not make the prime time spotlight of my featured article here. Just know that I spared no expense (physically, psychologically and monetarily) to explore this subject matter to the end all – be all depths of depravity and self-respectless rock bottom necessary to perpetrate every possible scenario against myself - All in the name of journalism. My goal? Bringing an understanding of this topic to light for my readership, obviously. The self-rape I subjected myself to was all encompassing and more than likely due to several adverse physical side effects that were a direct result of my experiments, impossible to recreate or perpetrate against myself again.  I had fed myself from the bottom of the waters of the river Sodom, and my palate (cigar term everybody! Do you see the connection! Yessss!) was satiated with this vermin-esque finish (and again!). I suppose my point would be this: Love is a beautiful thing – if you are fortunate enough to find it in your lifetime wrap very heavy chains around it and don’t let it out of your sight.  Make babies with someone you love and afford your offspring opportunities that you never had as a child – out of love. Find your equal, your partner and your best friend to hold and to cherish for the rest of your days. Don’t pee on them, embrace them like a decent human being. Chances are if you have the urge to bring scat play into the bedroom your copulation communication probably has more to do with loathing yourself (self-defecation?) than actually loving someone else. Maybe mom didn’t love you enough – or perhaps your dad loved you a little too much. Whatever the case may be, I’m sure there is help out there for you and I hope that my work here may have potentially shed some light through the darkness of the confusion you face every day in your forest of sexual dysfunction. It was a long and arduous road my little chitlins, but I have concluded, at the expense of the very fibers that somehow hold together the frays of my own personal sanity, that love is beautiful and clean – let’s all work together to keep it that way. 
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"Just a Friend" A Monthly Column by J. Drew

byJonathan Drew

Jonathan Drew shares the story of how one tory and one song unlocked a whole different meaning for him, and a room full of friends: “finally all together in one place sharing cigars, drinks, hamburgers - and the stories of our lives.” JD drops some wisdom on why we, as cigar smokers, are so often referred to as a “brotherhood” – it’s what cigar smoking is all about, that's what life is all about - camaraderie, friendship, love for our brothers and sisters.  "Everything I'm not made me everything I am" - KANYE WEST. If I can learn anything from anyone, I tend to like them. I know it's a relatively low standard at first glance, but ... It's who I am. Recently, I have been writing a lot about the past 14 years of running our factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.  A lot of hard times and pain rolled up in that factory.  So many conversations and memories trapped within the cooling room walls - just bustin’ the seams of my brain box, fighting to come out. But even with the struggle, these brutal days were the best ones of my life.  So many people who have influenced my values, beliefs and wisdom in so many ways... Some of these people were transient, just passin’ thru those green hills of Northern Nicaragua. Others never left my side. Either way, I can sincerely say that all of them have helped shape who I am as a man.  It's these personal and powerful reflections that led me to write my fourth monthly column for Cigar Advisor - "JUST A FRIEND".  As a fat, awkward, class clown growing up in New York, I guess I identified with a rap artist that some of you may have heard of - named Biz Markie.  If the name doesn't ring a bell, maybe the song "Just a Friend" does ... ("Girl, you got what I need, but you say he's just a friend").  Please feel free to hum it out loud while you continue reading.  ("Oh baby, you!") Like me, Biz Markie was also from New York and came up in the mid to late 80's.  He was the cousin of Big Daddy Kane, who was a hard core rapper that later reached even greater status after having sex with Madonna and was even in her book. His cousin Biz Markie, however, was not as well respected as Kane.  While Kane was dropping iconic hard core songs of politics and struggle, Biz Markie was making songs like "Pickin Boogers”,"Vapors", and "Just a Friend." My kind of dude.   Who'd a thought that Biz's 1989 song would have the power to influence SNACKi, over here, to name our "go-to stick" from the new KENTUCKY FIRE CURED line of cigars after it...?  Guess it really did have a lasting effect on me, but there is more to the story. It was during a 2012 cigar event at The Leaf Cigar Bar in Easton, Pennsylvania when the song came on ... and everyone, including "Fat Chops", yours truly, was singing all the words together. Well actually, we weren't just singing, we were outright screaming.  "Oh baby...!" You see, this event was heavily attended by many people who I have met throughout my travels, and most I've known for years.  We were just so thrilled to reunite together at The Leaf that night - and then it hit me... The "Just a Friend" song unlocked a whole different meaning for me and everyone in the room that rainy night. We were friends, finally all together in one place sharing cigars, drinks, hamburgers - and the stories of our lives.  That's what cigar smoking is all about, that's what life is all about - camaraderie, friendship, love for our brothers and sisters The next slice-of-life chapter behind the "Just a Friend" size of our new brand, KENTUCKY FIRE CURED actually took place after the name was fully agreed upon by the Drew Estate team - but is still significant.  It happened in our town of Estelí, Nicaragua, where all Drew Estate cigars are made.  One of our head guys at the factory, Chino, had received some very bad news while visiting the doctor with his pregnant wife. It was the 7th month of the pregnancy (and their wedding anniversary to boot) when the doc told him that they were going to lose the child - it was imminent. The blow was crushing and we were all destroyed.    Our guy, Chino, who has been with me since 1999 is like a little brother. When he invited me to come to the service at his church, which happens to be perched up in the mountain, I was definitely appreciative.  Nervous and sad, angry and bitter, emotions from every angle wisped thru me due to this injustice.  As I approached the church I saw Chino standing in the entrance way with his wife, Candy. They were melancholy, eyes red, standing on the dirt floor of a half built church and leaning on a brick frame of a door. They were down for sure, but the dignity that radiated from them was sound. As we walked inside the church the Pastor greeted us, and again, I was self conscious about the dirt floors. I guess it has been a while since I was in a place with a dirt floor, so the impact was heavy on me. Then the music started and six girls began to sing the most beautiful song I have ever heard.  Within minutes I saw Chino and Candy swaying with the music, and the healing power was amongst us.  Candy’s hands were raised as she sang along with every word.  The emotion broke me down and tears filled my eyes.   To my surprise they were both smiling, holding hands and healing right in front of me. A thing of beauty in the deep hills of Northern Nicaragua that makes one proud to have made such friends. This, I quietly thought to myself, is what life is all about: loyalty, camaraderie and friendship. For some reason all of this made me reflect upon this "Just a Friend" name that we chose for a brand that's based in Southern Hospitality. Heck, we weren't in the South of the US, couldn't be further ... But the feelings were the same.    Just a Friend stands for everything Drew Estate is about. Maybe not the exact lyrics that Biz Markie dropped that summer of 1989, maybe not a girl or any person in particular. But something more important, and profound that the cigar community shares with each other as we puff and bullshit about our lives, our problems and our victories together.  Cigars are all about friendship. 
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The Truths Of Risks & Rewards

byKurt Van Keppel

Last month, we reviewed the unique selling proposition, ideation and the suit of armor needed to protect your “next big thing.” So are you now ready to put it all on the line for the sweet taste of success? Xikar’s Kurt van Keppel has some time in the aircraft with this part of the process – and he’ll walk you through it, so you don’t have to feel the pain. Last time you saw this space, I was focusing on the key components of the ideation phase of entrepreneurship. First was, "what's YOUR problem?!" Every innovation starts with a unique solution to a problem - the 'unique selling proposition' or "USP," according to that Marketing class you may (or may not) remember. If your solution is truly unique and highly desirable, it alone may be sufficient to create a successful product. Truth: that's not a common occurrence. Secondly, we discussed that an additional suit of armor is often necessary to protect and grow the product.  Patents, low price and great service are examples of 'competitive advantages.’ Last time we talked, you – the entrepreneur - were getting your new idea or prototype product ready for that rigorous "shark tank" testing. The next step is deciding whether to partner with an existing distributor, or go it alone. This decision requires careful analysis and soul searching of the risk-reward relationship inherent in both scenarios. You are already familiar with risk analysis: lenders and investors do it with every investment. The higher the risk they perceive, the higher the return must be. Or, in the case of a lender, the higher the loan cost they will charge. So, it’s decision time - you may decide you can't take a high level of risk and instead choose to share your profits with a distributor, as he already has the infrastructure to deliver fast results through an established sales network. Frankly, that isn’t an unsafe bet; the broader the scope of distribution, the faster the results! At a minimum, a distributor may buy your product and distribute under your brand marketing efforts. At a maximum, he may license the product from you and handle the entire sales and marketing under his own brands. As you can guess, the reward needed increases as your distribution partner's risk increases with his investment in your brand. If you 'go it alone,’ however, you are the investor - the lender to yourself. You lend yourself the investment in dollars and sweat, in exchange for the full opportunity. This is extraordinarily risky! Truth: Less than 5% of startups succeed. And only a fraction of those succeed beyond the entrepreneur's original income: that's a terrible return on investment, particularly given the risk. And that risk is huge. You may not have to give up everything, but you better be ready and willing to. You will have to invest both time and money - there's no way to avoid it.  Truth: Time is more rare than money (it’s ever-diminishing); and you will almost certainly give up all of your free time, and perhaps all of your savings too! Here’s the kicker: If you’re lucky enough to be a part of that fraction of that 5% - you'll still need money for cash flow, particularly at the point where you must buy product in anticipation of sales. Whether that's the first sale or part of ongoing sales, this is a period of real cash crunch. Ever hear the phrase "cash is king and profit is prince?" It describes this situation really well. But more on that math later. I was a very good employee, but not very good at working for someone else. If you're like me, this rings true - you may have to, or want to do this on your own. If so, you’ll need two things - first,  a market - and then production. Fiction: “In life, there are no shortcuts.” To get the market, call your prospective buyer. Just pick up the phone! Yes, it's that simple, provided you use the right approach. A great way to say it is, "I have a unique new product that focus groups of your target consumer love. What is the best way for me to show it to you?"  Essentially, you are asking whether to use a broker to pitch your product or make a direct appointment to do it yourself. The bigger the customer, the more likely they will want you to use a broker - and they will gladly recommend which ones, saving you some legwork! They do this because the broker helps them vet opportunities. If they want to see it immediately and impersonally ("why don’t you send me one to look at"), hesitate. Your product may sell itself, but you want to give the pitch: "I happen to be in (Chicago, Bentonville, Kansas City, etc.) next week.  How about I stop in for 10 minutes with a sample and the background market research for you?” If you called me, I would agree to 10 minutes, but  would block out 30 in case I really like it. Once you have your appointment and are on your way in, review and remember this for your pitch: Features, Advantages, Benefits (FAB). Though they should really be presented BAF - because the buyer cares about his benefits first.  So, tell your story from his perspective; satisfy his (or her) wants and needs. Money – that’s what I want! Let assume the pitch was a success. So now that you have your initial purchase orders, money quickly becomes available to you in a variety of forms and costs. Truth: Do everything you can on a shoe-string budget to get to that first big order. Now is the time to cautiously assess "nice to have" versus "need to have" expenses (a patent = need to have, advertising = nice to have). Ask your vendors to give you terms, perhaps even price their product/service payable as you make more successful sales. They will probably want a premium for this, and that's OK - cash is king, profit is prince! Your bank will be your first and cheapest money source. They will lend against your assets to the extent that they are marketable (usually around 50% of your inventory cost and 75% of your accounts receivable). However, your cash flow budget may show you that you still need more money than the bank will lend. Your next potential cash source at this stage should be friends, family and others who are looking for a better return than the markets currently provide. If they’re willing to take a chance on you, you should expect to pay them a much higher-than-bank interest rate in return (between 10% and 20%, and perhaps even an opportunity to own part of the business, depending on the amount of requested investment). Truth: be sure to engage an attorney to help you draft or review the loan documents. There are also strict SEC laws surrounding the marketing of business shares to private individuals - check with your lawyer on that, too. At this stage, you may find you need even more money - or cannot find an alternative funding source. This may lead you to the worlds of Venture Capital and Private Equity. VC's invest in startups; PE's usually invest in ongoing firms. If you’re not sure where to start, your banker will have a list he can recommend to you. These funds will make much higher investments, but will take much higher returns - both 20% return on capital investment as well as an option to buy into shares at a reduced price. A good friend of mine who is part of a PE group once told me, "You don't want my kind of money if you can find it elsewhere!" If you have a unique new product, I hope this helps you get started. Next time, we’ll review the "4 P's of Marketing" and how they apply to the entrepreneur.  As a parting thought, here's a quick picture of how the cash-flow cycle can be negative while profit is positive, and therefore why the rich aren't always as rich as you may think. Remember we talked about cash, profit kings, and princes? Let’s do the numbers: Say you sell $100 dollars (easy math here) worth of your product in year one, which cost you $60.  You  have $40 left over to pay your expenses, which totaled $30, so your income is $10.  From that, your partner old Uncle Sam gets $3.50, and you also pay the bank $2.40 interest fees, leaving you $4.10 to take home.  However, on January 1 of year two, you must now buy inventory against your anticipated 25% growth rate, adding $15 to inventory cash costs - ($25 sales growth x 60% cost of goods).  Yet, clearly you can't afford that, because you only "took home" $4.10! This is only slightly simplified for brevity - you won't spend $15 on January 1.  But, another truth: you will spend it, and you will need to finance it. That's exactly why cash is king over profit.  The solution is to spend frugally and wisely, grow slowly, and find a good banker or a partner/distributor who takes on the capital risk. This is also why the "rich" aren't always rich. It's also why (WARNING: potentially political statement here) raising taxes on the "rich" can have a negative effect on economic growth - at least among the "rich" who are entrepreneurs or small business owners. Since the vast majority of American business is small businesses, I’m still holding out to see a better solution.  Good luck! Kurt Van Keppel
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Keys to the City: Houston

byRocky Patel

Houston is a melting pot of cultures, and much more, according to Rocky Patel, who takes us to one of the Lone Star State's most fascinating cities. Houston has become the homeof restaurants that cater to practically every domestic and foreign cuisine, making it one of the nation's best destinations for foodies. Join Rocky as he points out some of his favorite eateries, including Houston's finest hotels, and cigar lounges.  I visit Houston at least four times a year, and it's become a favorite for many of the same reasons I enjoy Washington D.C., and New Orleans. Like those cities, Houston has a very diverse ethnic culture. One of the reasons for this is the city's many universities and medical centers, which have attracted educators and doctors from all over the world. In turn, the city has spawned some great restaurants that cater to practically every domestic and foreign cuisine, making Houston one of the nation's best "food cities." Smoking indoors in Houston is widely verboten, but that's not much of a problem - with average highs above 60° F year-round, smoking cigars outside is comfortable and quite commonplace. Still, I have found one excellent cigar lounge that I frequent (more on that later).   The Houstonian The Houstonian offers the city's premier accommodations. Situated on 18 wooded acres in the heart of the city, its location, laid-back elegance, and unrivaled comfort are complemented by a fully-appointed fitness club and one of country's best spas—perfect if you want to keep in shape and pamper yourself. If you enjoy shopping, the Galleria is minutes away. The rooms' wide floor-to-ceiling windows face the woods, so you'll feel more like you're staying in the country than in a major city. The cushy beds and furnished baths are among the best, too. With so much to offer, there's no need to leave the premises until you're ready to check out. The fitness club alone covers 125,000 square feet, complete with top-of-the-line equipment and a cadre staff of Certified Personal Trainers, and is listed among the country's top-10 facilities. If you prefer, there's the indoor track, three pools, a rock climbing wall, boxing ring, full-court gym, or tennis courts. It's totally mind-blowing! If golf is your game, Redstone Golf Club is just a short drive from the hotel. Then there's the Trellis Spa where you and/or your significant other can indulge. Most of the services cater more to women: way too many to list here, but there's plenty for guys, too, like therapeutic massages, dry and wet steam room, a floating pool, and more. For dining, The Houstonian's Olivette specializes in regional American dishes. The Manor House is a beautiful setting for doing lunch, but the most casual place for meals is the Center Court Café in the fitness club or the Gazebo located at the pools.  The Bar at The Houstonian is fully-stocked and very roomy with plenty of comfortable seating. These large, beautifully decorated spaces can be found in just about every part of the hotel. Icon For something a little more historic, check out Hotel ICON, a cool boutique hotel with an atmosphere that's warm, inviting, and relaxed. It also has a great location, right in the heart of downtown where the business, legal, theatre, and sports districts converge. Originally the Union National Bank Building, the structure was erected in 1911. They kept a lot of early 20th century detail, so you have this eclectic mix of neoclassical architecture and vibrant, contemporary décor. The hotel is very popular with entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and celebrities for its unique design, ambiance and intimacy. Hotel ICON has spacious, beautifully decorated rooms with big, comfy beds. There's also a sizable fitness room (open 24 hours), and the Balance Urban Spa, with a full menu of therapeutic services. For dining and drinking in the hotel, there's the Line & Lariat restaurant and the L&L Bar. The restaurant menu features traditional, "down home" Texas cuisine prepared with a very novel approach.  The fully-stocked L&L Bar serves everything from iced tea to martinis and other cocktails, plus has an extensive wine cellar.  Oxheart A great vegetable-centric restaurant that only serves dinner. The menu is strictly seasonal, very modern, and prepared with meticulous skill. The Oxheart staff includes an executive chef, a baker, and a Sommelier, all incredibly talented and knowledgeable. All entrées are multi-course, and the menu changes frequently. Another thing I really enjoy is the creativity of the dishes. Some of my favorites are their warm sunflower seed soup, puffed rices and grains; smoked pine nuts; Sofrito of preserved shellfish; Heritage chicken poached with lemongrass and galangal; and young ginger grapefruit with frozen yogurt and mint. Really delicious and really cool if you want something way out of the ordinary. UNDERBELLY "UNDERBELLY. The Story of Houston Food" is one of the most eclectic restaurants in the city. The best way to describe Executive Chef Chris Shepherd's approach to "Houston Food" would be "New American Creole" with Asian fusion. Their farm-to-table approach favors seasonal produce paired with fresh seafood or meats like goat and grass-fed beef. The décor is modern Southern, with a mix of woodcuts, chalkboard art, pressed prints, and other pieces recovered from all over Houston. The dining room is spacious, yet comfortable, with high ceilings, heavy walnut tables. I love that the kitchen is open to the dining room, allowing you to see the chefs at work. There's also a community table where guests can enjoy their meals family-style. What really impressed me about UNDERBELLY. is their custom-equipped butcher shop. Chris insists that all of his meats be freshly butchered and prepared in-house (see photo). Some of the dishes I recommend are the Korean Braised Goat & Dumplings; Grilled Shrimp with Texas Grapefruit, vegetables, barrel-aged Fish Sauce and Lime; and the Crispy Farmer’s Market Vegetables in Caramelized Fish Sauce. It's one of the most unusual and delicious menus you'll find anywhere. Indika Wherever I travel I'm always looking for great Indian food, and while Houston has a number of fine Indian restaurants, my favorite is Indika, which does great Indian fusion that's extremely savory, but not over the top. Indika serves lunch, dinner and a Sunday brunch. Indika also has an excellent wine selection and a Sommelier. Proprietor Anita Jaisinghani is from Northern India and has put together a really amazing menu. Some of my favorites are the Tandoori Chicken Chaat, Seared Foie Gras, and Slow Cooked Lamb Shank made with garlic, ginger & tomato masala, and mustard potatoes. If you're in the mood for trying a little of everything, they also put together a nice tasting menu. Anita is a world class pastry chef too, so don't leave without trying one of the desserts. The Pumpkin Flan is to die for. Indika has a sister restaurant, Pondicheri, that I also recommend for traditional South Indian home style and street food with a flair. Taqueria Laredo No trip to Houston would be complete without Tex-Mex, and for me, Taqueria Laredo has THE best tacos in Houston. They do breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the prices are more than reasonable. It's basically a fast-food setup, where you stand in line and order from behind a glass case, but the food is as good as the better high-priced Mexican restaurants. Everything is made-to-order, just tell them what you want. I also recommend the nopales and barbacoa; the huevos con chili verde is great for breakfast. Anvil Bar & Refuge The Anvil Bar & Refuge is famous for its cocktails and intimate atmosphere. It’s located in a circa late 1950’s Bridgestone-Firestone tire store that was completely re-fabricated—only the original brick walls, sky-high ceilings and ductwork remain. Recycled natural materials define the décor, and impart an atmosphere of days-gone-bye. The concept is elegant simplicity with a sense of history, a place right out of those old movies where the bartenders were true professionals who took pride in their work. That's certainly reflected in their cocktails, which feature fresh ingredients like house-made bitters, sodas, infusions, and liqueurs made with locally-sourced ingredients. You might want to try their most popular cocktail, a "Pliny’s Tonic" made with dry Gin, lime, cucumber, mint, and Habanero tincture, or their "First Growth" martini made with dry Gin, pineapple, Elderflower liqueur, and sage. Anvil also has about a dozen rare craft beers on tap that they change regularly. Besides the perfect martini and other traditional cocktails, Anvil offers well-made bar fare like homemade soups, sandwiches, and a nice selection of cheeses. Downing Street Pub & Cigar Lounge As I mentioned earlier, Houston is not exactly an indoor-smoke-friendly city. But the Downing Street Pub & Cigar Lounge is the best place and only place in town where you can legally relax with a good cigar. The bar has over 100 Single Malt Scotches. Members of the "10 Club" gain access to 200 additional whiskeys from Scotland, Ireland, America, and other countries. The wine cellar is just as impressive. You'll also find a wide selection of beers on tap, as well as soups, sandwiches, salads and more. The 400 square-foot humidor stocks almost all of the major premium handmade brands (including my own, I'm happy to say), and the staff is very good at helping you pair drinks and cigars. Lockers are also available for regulars who prefer to bring their own cigars. A state-of-the-art filtration system keeps the smoke to a minimum. If you're looking for a great place to have a business lunch, drinks and cigars after golf, or a special date night, make sure Downing Street Pub is on your Houston itinerary.  Houston is the fourth-largest city in the USA, there's so much to do there I've hardly scratched the surface when it comes to wining and dining. For an extended stay, Houston also has historic districts, theatre, great museums like the Art Car Museum and the American Cowboy Museum and, of course, the Space Center. Use the places I mentioned in this month's column as a guide to get you started; you can't miss with any of them. If you're the adventurous type, I'm sure you'll discover even more great Houston highlights on your own.  Rocky 
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Tobacco Farming: How Smart Planning and the Right People Pay Off

byNick Perdomo

Estelí, Nicaragua: 4:45 AM. The air is crisp, the sky clear, and the sun has just begun to reveal itself. Nick Perdomo Jr. takes in the breathtaking view of the horizon as he walks through one of his tobacco fields. Imbued with pastel shades of blue, grey and pink, the cloud cover hangs over the lower part of the mountains like a long silky blanket just barely touching the valley below. It's the middle of the tobacco growing season, and Nick has come out to see how his beautiful, rich tobacco plants are doing... Estelí, Nicaragua: 4:45 AM. The air is crisp, the sky clear, and the sun has just begun to reveal itself. Nick Perdomo Jr. takes in the breathtaking view of the horizon as he walks through one of his tobacco fields. Imbued with pastel shades of blue, grey and pink, the cloud cover hangs over the lower part of the mountains like a long silky blanket just barely touching the valley below. It's the middle of the tobacco growing season, and Nick has come out to see how his beautiful, rich tobacco plants are doing. The fertile black soil contrasts beautifully against the vibrant green tobacco leaves that surround him. He lights a cigar and smiles as he watches the leaves rise up towards the sun. Welcome to the world of Perdomo Cigars. Nick Perdomo and his father Nick Sr., worked together for 14 years building a completely vertical cigar manufacturing company that prides itself, not only in making the finest premium handmade cigars in the world, but a true family business. "I loved my Dad," said Nick "He was, and still is, my hero. It was an absolute joy to work with him,"  In the beginning... It all started in February of 1998. The day was typically hot and sunny in Estelí. I was sitting in my office with my late dad, Nick Sr., at an old wooden table sampling cigars, and they wouldn't burn. One after the other, these things were like fire suits. Frustrated, I looked at my Dad and said, "That's it. I'm tired of it. We're going to do this ourselves." He looked back at me with his big brown eyes and agreed that it was a great idea.  We were buying most of our tobacco from brokers at that time, and this one particular broker did me wrong; about $300,000 wrong. It was his tobacco that we used to make the fire-proof cigars. After some investigation we found out that they used pure nitrogen in the ground to accelerate the growth of the leaf. Believe me, things like this are not unusual in this business. There are some really great brokers out there, but then there are a few that aren't really great either. Take fermentation for example. You can ferment the leaf as much as you want, but once the tobacco stops heating up, the cellular structure is completely fermented. At that point, you hit the wall. Tobacco must be properly cured, aged, and fermented, and in the end should blend perfectly. With all that nitrogen they used in that brokered tobacco, there was no way those cigars would ever smoke right. And that's when I said, "Enough, we can't continue doing this." It was time for our company to control its own destiny. Looking back on it now, I feel like I should thank this guy. It was a hard lesson, but it's what would fundamentally change Perdomo Cigars for the better in the late 1990's. Starting-off on the right foot My philosophy is, if you're going to do something, you might as well go full bore, which is pretty much how we've done everything. The first thing we did was start looking for good grounds to plant. I wasn't interested in buying a couple of acres, or doing a little plot thing. So, I calculated how much tobacco we needed to take us within 12 to 14 months of production. For the tobacco we didn't grow, we would deal only with the most highly reputable brokers we had been working with for years. Today, 95% of the tobacco used in our cigars is grown solely by us. We only broker a little Connecticut shade wrapper. In 1999, we finally found 14 acres of good land in Pueblo Nuevo, just north of Estelí in the Condega region, but we didn't begin growing tobacco until later that year.  The advantages of having three fertile valleys Before I get into how we developed our farm in Estelí, I want to tell you about the geography of Nicaragua, and why it's so ideal for growing tobacco. The valleys in Nicaragua are all fertile, and each serves a different purpose. What's sets Nicaragua apart from any other country (outside of Cuba before 1959), is that the regions are so far apart, they produce different types of tobacco with their own distinctive flavors.  Estelí is known for its great "strength" tobacco. It's high in the valley, about 2800 ft., so you have tons of sun exposure and very thick, coarse grounds that are pitch black with soil that's dense and cakey. It's ideal for Ligero, Viso, heavy binders and heavy sun grown wrappers. Estelí can only produce a limited amount of wrapper though, because the region has a tendency for high velocity winds, especially in January and February, which is the middle of the growing season. All that aside, the final product consists of the most tasty, powerful fillers; there lies the secret behind great Nicaraguan tobacco, and why it distinguishes itself way ahead of Honduran, Dominican, and even Cuban tobacco, for that matter. From there you head north and go further down the valley about 500 ft into the Condega region. The atmosphere is entirely different. It has lots of cloud cover, and the soil is very coarse, semi-cakey, and highly mineral laden. As a result, it produces leaves with a thinner texture and power, but not nearly as much power as Estelí, making it ideal for binders and sun grown wrappers. 95% of the tobacco in Perdomo cigars is grown exclusively on Perdomo's farms.  Continuing north for about an-hour-and-a-half, you enter the Jalapa valley. By now you've dropped down to about 2000 ft. The soil there is a very thin, sandy loam, much like you would find in Cuba. The tobacco leaves are reddish and produce more of an aromatic, sweet tobacco. If I gave you a hand of tobacco grown in Jalapa and told you to smell it, you'd notice that it smells like fresh honey-wheat bread. A hand from Estelí would smell very strong, while a hand from Condega would have a little of both, strength and sweetness. That's the beauty of Nicaraguan tobacco. All I can add to that is, when God said, "I'm going to produce cigar tobacco," it wasn't Cuba, it was Nicaragua. The old man and the seed Now that the pieces were beginning to fall into place, I needed to learn about growing tobacco. I knew the art and culture of it; after all, I grew up in it… I remember walking with my father through the dusky curing barns, the rich, powerful aromas of the pilones, the honey-like aroma of tobacco aging in old oak casks. Sometimes my father would grab a hand of fermented tobacco, spread it apart and have me stick my face in it. All of those earthy, robust and sweet aromas hitting you at once. It's  exhilarating. I can still hear the clattering of the rollers in the factory, heads tilted downward as their chavetas cut perfect arcs across each delicate wrapper leaf. …I needed to learn more about the science of growing tobacco, so we hired an agronomist who still works for us today. A big part of his job was taking soil samples from all over the farm to a testing lab he worked with in Honduras. Through him I learned a lot about soil, minerals, ph balance, etc. In 2003, we hired Aristides Garcia as our Pre-Industry Manager. At the time he was already retired, but having been a good friend of my Dad and uncle back in Cuba, Aristides jumped at the chance to work with us in Nicaragua. His knowledge of tobacco cultivation spans 67 years, and as the person in charge of all our fermentation, leaf classification, and aging, Aristides manages over 400 workers. In my opinion, Aristides is the best man in the world growing tobacco; not only from a seed standpoint, but from an agronomy standpoint. Whether it's curing, sorting, selection, fermentation, whatever, this guy is amazing. He even looks like an old tobacco man with his straw hat, creased, sun-tanned face, and a cigar perpetually in his mouth. At 83 years-old, he smokes 20 cigars a day, he can raise a 100 pound bale of tobacco over his head, and between all of his duties, he probably walks about 10 miles a day. One of the more entertaining things about Aristides is he says "ALABAO" a lot. That's his word, "ALABAO Chico!" He says it almost every other word. It's a well-known Cuban expression for "WOW!" If you ask him something like, "Aristides, how's the tobacco today," or "How's everything going?" he'll say "ALABAO!" That's actually how we came up with the name for our Perdomo Alabao cigars. Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba in 1931, Aristides was raised on a tobacco farm, and learned everything he knows about the agricultural process from his father. By the time he was 20, Aristides was one of Cuba's leading specialists in crop management. Later on, the Cuban government appointed him as the Director of tobacco agricultural and processing operations in San Juan y Martinez, San Luis, and Pinar del Rio.  What I love about Aristides is, he's an open book. Next to my Dad, I've probably learned more about tobacco from him than anyone. If I were to bring someone down and tell him, "This is my friend 'so-and-so.' He's going to be staying here for two months," Aristides would teach you everything he knew from when he was a kid all the way on. Most older tobacco people have a lot of knowledge, but they tend to be closed-minded; they don't want to teach people, and he has. But I'm not fooling myself. After all, he's 83 years old and in great shape, but he's not going to be around forever. So, what we've done is build a team of knowledgeable people who are learning from him every day. As great as Aristides is, we have a lot of outstanding people behind him; so when he finally decides to retire, we'll be in good shape with the people he's mentored, and the company can continue to move forward. If you build it, the tobacco will cure Eventually, I decided to build my first curing barns, but I wanted to do something entirely different. I was going to build them on my own property. People thought I was out of my mind, but the logic was, we could load the tobacco on a truck and bring it into the barn where we could monitor it 24 hours a day. We built three barns, each capable of storing a very large amount of crop. The barns are 85ft wide by 130ft long covering over three acres of land. I think they may be the biggest curing barns in Central America. After our first season we grew a fantastic crop of tobacco. Not only was it a fantastic first crop, it burned fantastic, it tasted good, it was consistent, and I said, "This is awesome, this is what we have to keep doing." Next month, I'll tell you more about what we do in order to grow those fantastic crops.
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Keys to the City: New Orleans

byRocky Patel

Our monthly travel maven, Rocky Patel, takes you on a virtual tour of New Orleans, as he points out the best hotels, eateries, clubs, and more in "The Big Easy.” As Rocky says, "One of the things that makes New Orleans such a fascinating city is that you can have as many as 20 different sensory experiences in one night."  One of the best things about being a premium cigar manufacturer is that I get to do a lot of traveling. It's gotten to the point where I think I spend more time in an airline seat than I do in my bed. This month I'll share my impressions  of New Orleans  - a vibrant and colorful city with a great mix of culture, music, food, and history. New Orleans has always been one of my favorite cities for its history and variety of cultures. All of this is evidenced by the city's people, cordial hospitality, music, and food -  making it one of the most unique communities in the United States. One of the things that makes New Orleans such a fascinating city is that you can have as many as 20 different sensory experiences in one night. You can casually wander from club to club, starting with a great rock band at The Famous Door, to a traditional jazz ensemble at The Spotted Cat, to a quiet little place where you might find someone playing solo piano, or accompanied by a guitar player. Even if you've never visited New Orleans, you've probably heard of Bourbon Street. Because of its popularity, Bourbon Street is where you'll find most of the tourists hanging out. But Bourbon Street isn't the only place where the action is. Even more exciting, in my opinion, is Magazine Street; that's where the locals hangout. Located on the other side of Bourbon, Magazine is where you'll find art galleries, little, out of the way dive bars, some of the best local food and drink, plus every type of music from rock, to country, to jazz and everything in-between. If you're a cigar smoker like me, New Orleans is one of the few American cities where many of the bars still permit smoking.   The Ritz Carleton 921 Canal Street | New Orleans, LA 70112 (504) 524-1331 http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/NewOrleans/Default.htm The Ritz Carleton is a very old and ornate hotel with a marvelous old world atmosphere. The lobbies are immense, while the rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed. One of the best restaurants in the Ritz is the M. Bistro. The food is spectacular, and among the M. Bistro's must-try specialties are their famous Rabbit Confit, Frogs Legs, and my personal favorite, Cajun Eggs Benedict. Hotel Monteleone 214 Royal Street | New Orleans, Louisiana 70130-2201 (504) 523 3341 or 1-866-338-4684 (toll-free) http://hotelmonteleone.com/ Located just south of Bourbon Street, the Monteleone is one of the most unique luxury hotels in the city. Having recently completed a $70 million renovation, the hotel is stellar, from the cavernous marble-laden halls to the plush décor of the suites. One of my favorite places to relax with a cigar in the Monteleone is at the Carousel Bar. Instead of tables, seating takes place on a completely refurbished antique carousel, garishly decorated with Mardi Gras masques. But the piece de resistance is, while you're enjoying a fine drink and a cigar, the bar revolves slowly giving you a continuous panoramic view of the room. The best way to describe it is, you feel like you're celebrating Mardi Gras inside a luxury hotel. In addition to the Carousel Bar, the Monteleone also offers a rooftop bar that's ideal for smoking and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter from a bird's-eye view. Magazine Street  Not everything that happens in NOLA happens on Bourbon Street. Located on the other side of Bourban, Magazine is where you'll find art galleries, little, out-of-the-way bars, some of the best local food and drink, plus every type of music from rock, to country, to jazz and everything in between.  MagazineStreet.com Galatiore's 209 Bourbon Street , New Orleans , LA 70130 504-525-2021 http://www.galatoires.com Galatiore's is the ideal place for the truly ardent gourmet. Founded by Jean Galatoire in 1905, the recipes have been in the family for generations, dating back to the Galatiore's village of Pardies, France. The restaurant also has the atmosphere of a French family restaurant, and the service is beyond reproach.  If you like Pate de Foie Gras, Galatiore's has the best I've had anywhere - even in Paris. They offer several different types of Foie Gras and a modest selection of sauces to go with them. Other specialties that set Galatiore's apart are the Cajun Oysters en Brochette with pickled relish, their famed Oysters Rockefeller, and Trout Meunière. The restaurant has two dining areas. They take reservations for the upstairs dining room, but if you want to eat downstairs, it's first come, first serve, no exceptions. 301 Tchoupitoulas St. | New Orleans, LA 70130 504.299.9777 http://www.restaurantaugust.com/ Another one of the best eateries in the city where you'll find both authentic and esoteric Louisiana cuisine. Located in a 19th century French-Creole building in New Orleans’ central business district, the restaurant was created by world renown chef, John Besh, a native of New Orleans, and has three elaborately decorated dining rooms: the main dining room, lit by crystal chandeliers, a two-story wine room, and the Gravier room which offers a more intimate setting. Some of the more popular specialties include Foie Gras Au Torchon with apple marmalade, hazelnut Florentine, and toasted brioche; Fried P&J Oysters with blue cheese, ranch, warm bacon and mizuna; Breaded Trout Pontchartrain with jumbo lump crab, wild mushrooms, and sauce hollandaise, and their 48 Hour Braised Shortrib with smoked apple and celeriac, roasted turnips and chanterelles. This is high-end formal dining at its best, making for a true gourmet experience for ultimate foodies. 2 Poydras Street | New Orleans, LA 70130 (504) 584-3911 http://www.dragosrestaurant.com/ If you've never had barbequed oysters, you're in for a real treat at Drago's. Founded by   Drago and Klara Cvitanovich in 1969, Drago's offers great seafood in a casual, family-style atmosphere at a reasonable price. The restaurant's motto is "Home of the Original Charbroiled Oysters." The house specialty, they charbroil grill the oysters in their shells until blackened. Prepared using a garlic, butter and herb sauce with Parmesan and Romano cheese, the flavors are to die for. I just love watching the butter bubbling on top of the oysters when they're served. Squeeze some lime on them and it's one of the most decadent and savory things you've ever tasted.  The Faubourg Marigny district, Frenchman Street in particular, has a nightlife scene all its own. It is also one of the most picturesque sections of the city. Originally an 18th century plantation owned by a wealthy Creole, the property was subdivided in 1806, and today the district has a very European look and feel. Old banks and local stores now serve as homes, and warehouses along the riverfront are now used by artisits and musicians as studios and performance venues.  Cochon 930 Tchoupitoulas Street | New Orleans, LA 70130 (504) 588-2123 http://cochonrestaurant.com/ For reservations online: http://www.cochonrestaurant.com/reservations/ If you want to try some of the most eclectic Cajun cuisine, add Cochon to your "must-try" restaurant list.  The atmosphere is more casual and relaxed. Popular among the young and hip crowd, Cochon has a great bar scene, but it's the food that's absolutely amazing; it's a carnivore's heaven. Their specialty is serving just about every kind of meat imaginable. I call it "eclectic fusion with Creole touches." There's plenty to choose from on the menu, too, such as Fried Alligator with Chili Garlic Aioli; Cane syrup Glazed Pork Cheeks with Mushrooms & Roasted Corn Grits; Mustard Crusted Ham Hock with Herb & Rice Salad, Catfish Courtbouillonand; and Pork & Black Eyed Pea Gumbo, to name a few.  Acme Oyster House French Quarter Location: 724 Iberville Street | New Orleans, LA 70130 504.522.5973 http://www.acmeoyster.com/  For a very traditional taste of New Orleans, the Acme Oyster House. You can kick back in a causal atmosphere enjoying buckets of oysters, cooked or raw, with a pitcher of beer. They're also known for their red beans and rice, seafood gumbo, crawfish puppies, jambalaya, large selection of Po-Boy sandwiches, and more.  The Dark Side  Voodoo  The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and Voodoo Authentica can both be found in the heart of the French Quarter.  At the Museum you can learn about all THREE kinds of zombies, obtain your very own gris-gris love potion to help win over the object of your affection or even join a tour of the famous, haunted St. Louis Cemetery #1 (a.k.a the City of the Dead) including the tomb of New Orleans' most renowned practicioner of the Voodoo arts, Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau.  Voodoo Authentica Cultural Center and Collection holds an annual VoodooFest on Halloween, celebrating the history and culture of Voodoo while educating and entertaining visitors.   House of Blues New Orleans Foundation Room 225 Decatur St. | New Orleans, LA70130 Foundation Room Lounge | (504) 310–4999 Ext. 32301 Website: http://www.houseofblues.com/venues/clubvenues/neworleans/foundationroom.php Hidden above The House of Blues nightclub, the Foundation Room is one of the most eclectic rooms in the world. It's more like a spa for the mind, than a nightclub. The décor is heavily Asian influenced; a mixture of Tibetan templedécor and furniture lined with rich vibrant fabrics from the Rajasthan region of India and one of the largest collections of original artwork. You're surrounded by rich purples, reds, and orange colors. It's really like stepping into another world. There are plenty of soft, cushiony chairs, couches, and pillows to sink into; wood carvings accent the walls. Suffice it to say, The Foundation Room has a very Zen-Karmic-Buddhist vibe to it. It's rich, decadent, and you feel like you’re in an ancient mountaintop monastery somewhere in a remote part of Asia smoking a cigar. What the Foundation Room offers most of all is sheer serenity. If you want to hear the band, there's a small corridor that leads you to The House of Blues' balcony where you can look down over the entire club and watch the band, people dancing, drinking, having fun. It's quite a departure from the tranquility of The Foundation Room. Pat O'Brien's 718 St. Peter St. | New Orleans, La, 70116 1-800-597-4823 | 504-525-4823 http://www.patobriens.com/patobriens/neworleans/ Another famous landmark where tons of fun await you such as sing-a-longs, dancing, and college fight songs. Another thing that sets this New Orleans landmark apart from other cities is their Piano Lounge. Most of the songs performed are oldies rock 'n roll, classic rock, Top 40, R&B and country. The players also take requests. Make sure you squeeze Pat O'Brien's into your vacation schedule; it'll serve you memories for years to come. Be sure to venture away from the tourist areas. Check out the artsy and eclectic shops, bars, restaurants and people on Magazine Street and the Faubourg Marigny district.  The best time of year to visit New Orleans is when the weather is more comfortable. February and March are particularly good months to visit, especially if you want to partake in Mardi Gras. October and November are the other two best months to visit. It's just one of those fabulous towns where you can never run out of things to do. Moreover, it's one of the few cities that offers a lot of places where you can light up and enjoy your favorite cigars.
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Sancho Panza

91

Avo Classic

Boutique is in the heart

byJonathan Drew

At what point does a “Boutique Cigar Company” lose its roots and become a “Corporate Cigar Company”? Jonathan Drew answers that the same way he answers, “When does a person become old?”  It’s defined in the person’s heart, their attitude and, in this case, perception. Go behind the scenes of Drew Estate Nicaragua & Cigar Safari for a look at how they do things: much differently. Most of my previous column (“Fuck Making The List, Make The Legend”) addressed the eighteen-year struggle of Drew Estate, as well as a tidbit about my personal history since our start at the World Trade Center in New York City. In writing this second column for Cigar Advisor, I figured that it would be interesting to address why I still view Drew Estate as a “Boutique” premium cigar company, even though we have become one of the largest in the world, currently producing 92,000 hand rolled cigars per day, every day… One of the things that I cherish the most about my career of cigar making is spending time in Nicaragua with the full Drew Estate and Cigar Safari team. Since 1996, I have put my heart into that country and its people, and I never could have imagined how much they would have given back in return. Not only has Nicaragua become the home to Drew Estate, but it has become home to me personally as well. Throughout the years, I have spent close to 80% of my time there, and when you spend that much time in one place, believe me - you get to know it well. Attending various Cigar Safari trips with all sorts of veteran and newbie cigar smokers has become an important part of my life, as I will explain. Cigar Safari is a tour that we run for consumers in which we take them to Nicaragua to see the sights, experience the culture, and live the world of tobacco. The trip is four days, three nights, and during each tour I get to spend significant one-on-one time with everyone attending. I truly cherish these moments, as they allow me to unwind, get to know new cigar advocates, get feedback on how we’re doing as a company, and learn what Drew Estate can do to make the cigar smoking experience better for everyone throughout the world.  If you’ve traveled with anyone before, especially to a new country, you know how much of a bonding experience that can provide. Imagine being able to show your new acquaintances something so near and dear to your heart, and something you’ve literally poured 100% of your blood, sweat, and tears into for almost twenty years. My heart swells with pride every single time I see the reactions of the attendees to our main Rolling Floor when they see it for the first time. The energy in that space is truly unparalleled; thousands of bodies moving perfectly in sync with one another, creating something so integral to our existence as a company… EPIC. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting our factory, you know what I’m talking about. I truly believe that the Drew Estate Rolling Floor is unlike any other in the world, not just within Nicaragua. Much of this has to do with the unique Drew Estate workforce and creative departments, such as the 5,000 sq ft “Subculture Studios”, made up of 36 graffiti artists who know how to get berserk with a spray can.  On the Drew Estate Production Floor, we prefer to hire people with little to no experience. We have an extremely specific method that we use when producing cigars and we find that people who have prior experience rolling with a different method tend to fall back into old habits, even with extensive training. Can you imagine the amount of muscle memory that becomes ingrained in your brain when you roll 250 to 300 cigars per day? Those habits are next to impossible to break, which is why we hire employees who are fresh to rolling, then train them for years as they reach their respected potential. Not everyone becomes a Liga Privada team member, trust me. I think this is a major part of the reason our rolling floor has such a special energy, because the “Rolleros” and “Buncheros” are extremely unique... well, also, don’t forget the music that we blast all day long… ha ha ha. Another aspect of Drew Estate Nicaragua that I am very proud of is the paternal manner in which we treat our employees at every level of the workforce. While rolling, our staff is allowed to listen to their own music, talk to their friends, and generally enjoy themselves while they make beautiful cigars, of course. Again, there is a vibe and aura at our factory that is very unique, which everyone notices when visiting us on a Safari tour. Paying the highest wages to our workers, along with providing healthcare and other benefits such as life insurance, creates a “team relationship” that grows each day among the people who “actually make the cigars”. We are not talking salesmen here (no disrespect of course, but salesmen and marketing people don’t roll cigars, factory employees do!).  I have surrounded myself with talented young professionals who have become my personal friends throughout my eighteen years in Nicaragua. I’m going to talk about a few of them below but, with over 1,450 employees at our factory, I’m definitely not addressing everyone in this article. First, I have to talk about Fat Boy, my man Jessi “Victims” Flores. Jessi has been with Drew Estate Nicaragua since 1999, after we met each other at a gas station when his fat ass jumped out of a shadow. We both had a passion for tobacco, hip-hop, graffiti, art, and all things Nicaragua. We soon combined these interests to concoct Subculture Studios, a graffiti-based art studio attached to our factory in Nicaragua (it was actually a tattoo shop in the center of Managua first). Because of the work of Jessi, Subculture Studios, and the 36 full time graffiti artists, we were recently recognized for our design work by receiving the “Outstanding Art” award for 2012 from Cigar Journal Magazine. Our Executive Director of Tobaccos and Production, known as the “Chief of the Broadleafs”, Nicholas Melillo, has been with the company for ten years now and has been a major asset in bringing our company to our current level of expertise and quality. Nick, an Italian kid from Connecticut, has been instrumental in creating blends to categorically change the traditional cigar market. Nick also manages all of our tobacco buying (somewhere in the “spend” neighborhood of 15 to 20 million USD yearly at this point), and has been made responsible for securing enough raw leaf to keep our operations running smoothly into the future. He is absolutely essential to our success as a company, as is Manuel Rubio and Jessenia Moncada, who we will discuss in a future article. In regards to Cigar Safari, one of the most important characters of them all is Pedro Gomez. Pedro is our Cigar Safari tour guide and, if any of you have been on a Cigar Safari, you know Pedro well!  He’s become a bit of a legend over the years, as he seems to know EVERYONE in Nicaragua. In fact, I’ve heard Pedro addressed as the Mayor of Estelí (the city where our factory is located in Nicaragua) more than once by Cigar Safari attendees. Some Nicaraguans sincerely think that he may one day actually become Nicaragua’s president!  Pedro will be moving to the U.S.A. in June 2013 to help lead our Events Department, visiting stores and final consumers who have gotten to know him over the past six years. This brings me to the beginning and the end. At what point does a “Boutique Cigar Company” lose its roots and become a “Corporate Cigar Company”? The answer is the same as the question, “When does a person become old?”  The answer is defined in the person’s heart, their attitude and, in this case, in the market’s perception, quite honestly. I never want to see Drew Estate as anything other than a “Boutique Cigar Company”, a company of innovation, a company not afraid to take risk, and most of all, a company who is made up of Hommies who keep it Local and Loco.
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Tobacco Farming Part 2: Where tradition and technology meet

byNick Perdomo

Nick Perdomo continues his series on tobacco farming in Nicaragua. In this month's chapter, he describes some of the old and new methods Perdomo Cigars uses to ensure their seedlings grow into strong, healthy tobacco plants with leaves that are rich in flavor. From using oxen for plowing, to high-tech computers for soil analysis, and state-of-the-art planting machines, Nick says," We apply the older standards…but if new techniques can help us do things better, I'm all over it." One of the biggest keys to Perdomo and who we are is combining old world traditions with the most modern technology that's effective. It's not a slogan, it's the truth. Last month, in Part 1 I wrote about why we decided to start growing our own crops, how we found the right fields, hired the most knowledgeable people, and what we did to store and cure our tobacco. In this chapter, I will describe some of the methods we use to ensure our seedling will grow into strong, healthy tobacco plants that are rich in flavor, plus ground preparation, fertilization, and planting.  Preparing the ground, once you've got the most fertile farmland, the soil must be prepared for growing rich and premium cigar tobacco. In the old days, you would look at the ground and say, "This soil looks really rich, so that's where we'll plant." Today, we do soil analysis by taking plugs of soil from all over the farm so we can see exactly what's in it. The ground has to be extremely fertile, yet as naturally fertile as the Nicaragua soil is, you can have a piece of ground that's totally different from a piece of ground as little as three feet away.  Every year, before we begin to grow we have meetings with the people from Bayer who show us what new products and techniques they have to help us grow even better crops. When it comes to combating diseases, everything changes annually. Right now there's a virus in Nicaragua that mainly attacks tomatoes, but it has done a lot of damage to tobacco.  It truncates the leaves; in other words, it won't let them grow any more than a certain amount. It's similar to Black Shank, but it doesn't attack the roots, it attacks the leaves. A lot of growers have had severe damage as a result, but Bayer has a new application that combats it. It's so effective that, in the 80's, if you had blue mold your crops would be ravished and you'd lose them all. Today if you get blue mold, you can treat it quite easily.  One of the keys to smart tobacco farming is knowing when your crops are vulnerable to blue mold. First you look at the atmospheric conditions. If you see that the sky is a little overcast with variable winds, that means the sun is going to take a while to come out. We call those "blue mold days." Yes, because blue mold spores travel by wind, they can attack the plants in as little as those few hours before the sun breaks through. So, you apply the Bayer product for seven days straight, and the blue mold never gets to the plant. Thinking back to the days when my Father was planting his crops, it's amazing how things have changed. Of course, we still use a lot of traditional farming methods, but today we also rely heavily on technology.  The computer that thinks it’s a tobacco plant. We have two labs we work with in Central America. As they develop new processes for analyzing soil, scientists from the laboratories will visit the farm and show us some bigger and better things we can do. With today's technology we now have these soil analysis pods that we stick in the ground. The pods are actually tiny computers that pretend to be a tobacco plant. Each pod sits in the ground for 120 days and absorbs nutrients from the ground. After the data has been analyzed, you get a punch card that tells you exactly how much nitrogen, potassium, boron, and any other elements are in the ground, including which elements the soil   absorbs. The benefit of this device is, you know exactly how many parts-per-million you need to put in your fertilizer. So if your formula is 12-12-6 and the plant is only grabbing eight parts of potassium, then four parts of potassium are being washed away in the ground. Some people will tell you it's not a big deal, because the minerals will stay in the ground, but they won't; they'll just wash into the hard pan (the ground below the rich topsoil) every time, because we are going to let the ground rest and we are not  going to grow tobacco again there for at least another year. That's also why we let our fields rest for one year before replanting. At that time the hard pan has to be broken up because it's very rich in nutrients. Normally, about 36 inches is where you hit this very fertile hard pan, which has to be broken up with row plows. In Jalapa you hit the pan at about 24 inches. So, you have to dig somewhere between 24 and 36 inches. Depending on which valley we are growing on, we work the rich organic dirt up all the way up to some four-inch row plows, so the grounds are thoroughly prepared from the bottom all the way to the very top. Why oxen make the best tractors. Because the grounds in Nicaragua are so rich and hard, when it's time to dig the trenches for planting we go "old school" by using oxen instead of  tractors. If you use a tractor to do it, even though it has finer teeth for digging in, tractors can weigh anywhere from 2,800 to 4,000 pounds. So what happens?  Due to the weight of the tractor, the soil gets compacted down again.  The result is that when the tobacco grows between the furrows, it can't get the nutrients it needs and also has trouble growing because the ground cannot have any compaction. It has to be sifted, so when the water comes in, it drains. On that note, we don't apply water using sprinklers; we have tubes running on the ground. So if the soil is compacted, the water can't get to the roots. By using a pair of oxen for sifting, between the two animals, including the yokes, you're talking about 1,800 pounds at best, plus the sifter only has three teeth. This is how it's been done for about 100 years. Additionally, the operator that works with the oxen is a master. He can control them with just two fingers on the rope, and they even know not to step on the plants. We have a number of oxen we keep on the farm so we can rotate them; this way they're never overworked. A lot of people use oxen because they can't afford a tractor, but in the end, the oxen do a much better job. This is one case in which technology takes a back seat to tradition. Sowing the seeds of love, when you have an operation like ours, in the morning you can go either to the farm or the seedbeds. If you choose the seedbeds, you walk through the greenhouses. Each greenhouse is about 40ft wide by 120ft long. You see those little green seedlings, and they're beautiful, and you think to yourself, one day they'll produce some great-tasting tobacco. In order to ensure that we have strong, healthy plants, we start with the finest grade seeds.  We use a seed cleaner to clean the tobacco seeds and separate them into three grades; A Grade (large), B grade (medium), and C grade (small).  We only use the A grade seed as they have the best characteristics to grow strong, healthy tobacco plants. We also use the best materials and the most modern technology when we plant these seeds.  We start with a nutrient rich organic soil which is blended especially for the finest premium tobacco plants. This soil is put into our growing trays which have 96 deposits, which hold exactly 96 plants.  Our seeder machine uses a vacuum system to pick up exactly 96 seeds at a time and then it places them into our growing trays.  This machine is an incredible resource, giving us the precision and accuracy we need to manipulate and protect each tobacco seed.  This is a fascinating and critical process as each tobacco seed is smaller than a grain of pepper. Once each tray has been seeded, they are put into our greenhouses.  Our greenhouses are built with special material to control the amount of sunlight that is filtered in as well as to protect the plants from any molds, funguses, or air born infections.  We use a hi-tech watering system in our greenhouse which uses micro-processors to create a fine mist, almost a cloud, which creates the perfect environment for these seeds to germinate and develop into strong, healthy seedlings. We monitor each plant closely and all of the plants with the same growth rate will be separated and prepared to be transplanted in to the fields.  Timing is of course everything, as we have each field prepared and ready for these strong healthy seedlings.  Our team does a fantastic job in coordinating our greenhouse operation with our field operations. No margin for error, we have to be constantly aware of the climatic conditions, sicknesses, infections, over-watering, and we do our best to keep them to a minimum. The reality is, you can't grow crops without people, and people will eventually make mistakes. For this reason alone you have to be so pinpoint accurate that every step must be done at the exact time, in a very specific manner, or the plant will die. There's no margin for error. We utilize a laser-like approach, and because almost everything is done manually, it's a lot of work. We have a strict calendar of work that is done daily under the strictest of guidance by team Perdomo and it’s experts. Take the furrows around our plants, for example; they're wet, yet no water ever touches the plants, only its roots. We build these little tributaries, block them, fill them with water, then let them drain on their own. You'll never see us directly water the plants. We have someone who makes sure that everything is done right. For example, say one plant somehow came out; he makes sure it gets put back in the ground. To me it's beautiful being out in these fields on these 20, 30 and 40 acre farms, plus, we have a farm in Jalapa that's about 130 sq. acres. For someone who grows corn, it may not seem like a lot of acreage, but for tobacco it's perfect, and we're one of the largest in Central America.  The transplanting machine from outer space. In the old days, when it was time for transplanting the seedlings in the ground, we would take a piece of wood cut to 12 inches, lay it down, and hand plant a seedling. The plants were separated by flipping that piece of wood over and over so the plants were equidistant from each other. It's still done that way in many parts of Nicaragua, so despite all the new technology, the old things still work. However, as well as they work, the old methods often take more time, and extra time can be inefficient. Even the old manual transplanters have their drawbacks. These machines have a wheel, and the wheel has a little clip on it. The operator sits in a chair and places the plant in the clip, as the wheel turns it places the plant in the ground. The downside is the clip can often pinch the stem of the plant. If it rips the stem, it's like getting a cut on your skin. Once it's torn, it's open to infection, so if that happens, or the stem is pinched too hard, you're essentially damaging the plant before it even gets a chance to grow.  I figured, there had to be a better way. If there was a machine that could do the transplanting with virtually no harm to the plants, that would save us a lot of time, energy and can move our men to other important jobs on the farms or curing houses. So, after a little research I found a company that manufactured just such a machine. It wasn't cheap, but man, it's been a Godsend. When the transplanter arrived, it came in a 40 foot container, in pieces. Like a giant erector set, you have to build it, then tractor it out to the field. It's big, shiny and red, and the local people looked at it like it was some kind of alien spaceship. To test it we decided to use it on uncultivated virgin land. That meant we would have to clear a new field by knocking everything down ourselves. Fortunately, my Dad who also did some construction work back in the day, had some bulldozers and front-end loaders. But even they weren't enough. We had guys with machetes cutting through the thatch. Let me tell, you, it's a jungle out there. Special props go to our V.P, Arthur Kemper, for working with the manufacturer on this huge project! Once the machine was built it was time to give it a test drive. It exceeded my expectations. The machine will transplant 240 plants a minute and do eight acres a day. Additionally, the machine opens up the ground, while at the same time adds water, algaecide and fertilizer, then covers it back up. Before we had the machine, you'd have to have 180 men to do the same job. With this machine you only need eight people. The other benefit is that it frees up 172 people, which means I can move them into other divisions of labor. Because there's so much you have to do, hanging the tobacco, sorting it, stringing it, etc., having all these extra workers available saves a lot of valuable time. Instead of having them punch transplanting holes in the ground, they can be working in the curing house or on fermentation.  It's amazing how much more efficient this machine has made us. I remember my competitors saying it couldn't be done because the ground was too thick, but it worked. So, it can be done. Plus, you get a much more vibrant plant because it has no stress and no manipulation by human hands. You have to keep in mind that when you touch a plant, if you have bacteria on your hands, that bacteria is passed on to the plant. That's another way blue mold and Black Shank are passed. By using the transplanting machine the technique is about as antiseptic as it gets. As I noted earlier, it's not all done with modern technology. We apply the older standards, as well -- not only to tobacco, but to making cigars, like the traditional techniques that you learned from your family. But if new techniques can help us do things better, I'm all over it. In my next installment, I'll get more into the growing, aging and blending process.
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76

Xen By Nish Patel

Substance and Style: State of the Art

byErnesto Padilla

In this month's installment of Substance and Style, Cigar maker Ernesto Padilla asks readers to imagine looking back through family photos 20 or 30 years from now, and ask themselves this question: What do I want to see? Do you want to see yourself drinking an Angel Tears IPA, wearing Crocs, Capri pants and a Scooby Doo t-shirt? Or do you want to see something timeless and classic? Imagine looking back through family photos 20 or 30 years from now, and ask yourself this question: What do I want to see? Do you want to see yourself drinking an Angel Tears IPA, wearing Crocs, Capri pants and a Scooby Doo t-shirt? Or do you want to see something timeless and classic? From our politicians to the things we consume, I think we're starving for authenticity in everything. The irony is, the more I look around, the more I see silliness overtaking substance. A couple of short generations ago, men smoked well, dressed well, ate well, and imbibed well as a matter of course. Now these guys are the exception, unless you count these conspicuously-coiffed hipsters who cross-post "selfies" and food pictures to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. (#yolo #swag) I blame marketers. Marketing used to position products as something substantial. It affirmed our cultural values of independence, determination, and the value of hard work. And what do we have now? The message outweighs the product! (Super Bowl commercials, anyone?) In this throwaway age of reality TV, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle, we're being marketed to so hard that the anti-marketing has become the marketing. It didn't hurt that products were once made with pride by companies that were invested in more than their bottom line. Branding was relevant to the product and to the value it offered. Packaging was designed to enhance a product; it was shorthand for a level of quality that's difficult to achieve in a Chinese factory.  You want an example? Let's look at beer: here's a traditionally-male product (no offense, ladies—just an observation) whose marketing has come to embrace all kinds of silliness. It used to take years to develop a successful brand; now we've got fly-by-night companies shoveling new shit onto the market like every other month. The Germans must be laughing their asses off at us. Sure, there are some craft brewers doing it right, but mostly I look at craft beer packaging, and it's like they pulled these goofy-ass brand names out of a book of Mad Libs. Seriously...this is the best you can do? This is putting your best foot forward?  When did beer become like the comic book industry? You're a grown man, excited about scoring a growler of scratch brew because the hop ratio was 5% different. "But you can really taste the difference! lol #craftbrewrules"  REALLY? By sheer volume, craft brewers aren't even the chief offenders. Look at the biggest names: Budweiser, Miller, Coors, etc. Their ads typically cast men as irresponsible idiots concerned only with eating, drinking beer, and fucking...not that there is anything inherently wrong these things, but how many times do these messages have to be repeated before "manhood" is replaced by "perpetual boyhood?"  Hint: It's already happening. This "loveable idiot" figure amounts to a cultural assault on what it means to be a man. And like the hair bands and Flock of Seagulls haircuts of the 80's, some things should go away. Compare this with how whisky is marketed. I don't think you'd be rolling up in Scotland with some of this silly bullshit; they'd go William Wallace on you. Scotch packaging is regal...it's badass. It looks like you're getting something serious; you know you're going to sit down and partake in a ritualized, masculine experience. Even Canadian whiskies have respectable marketing. There was a Canadian Club ad campaign a few years back, "Damn Right Your Dad Drank It." You know why? Because he was a fucking pimp, that's why. He wasn't duped by corny focus-group marketing; he drank it because he had unpretentious tastes, and it tasted good. Other ads from the series included these gems: "Your Mom Wasn't Your Dad's First," "Your Dad Was Not a Metrosexual" and "Your Dad Never Got a Pedicure." Solid, all around. For that matter, how about Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign? Now THERE'S a legit brand identity. We all aspire to be that refined, older gentleman someday. Where is THAT in craft beer, instead of goofy names?  It's not just beer, either. I see more and more silliness popping up everywhere, even in the cigar business. To me, it detracts from the product, and cheapens the experience. This is something you're going to spend good money on, put in your mouth, and hopefully enjoy. Do you want goofiness, or do you want something serious? Look, we're not painting the Sistine Chapel—this is not high art. And don't misunderstand me; many of these products have evolved tremendously over the decades. Still, is it too much to ask that marketers and manufacturers take some pride in their products? Our fathers actually believed that they could achieve something in this country. I know I still do, and I hope you do too, but I'll tell you this: over the years, I've seen American optimism undermined by cynicism. It's like we don't believe in America anymore. Remember the family pictures I mentioned that you’ll be looking at in 20 years? What you see then depends on the choices you make and the attitude you carry yourself with now. Let's trade-in "disposable" for "substantial," "trendy" for "timeless," and "bullshit" for "authenticity." 
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Substance and Style: Discovering the Hidden Pleasures Within

byErnesto Padilla

Good design is more than just making something "look nice." It's substance benefiting from style. Good design is also honest: it makes a promise, and then delivers. But above all, good design informs the good life. Don't believe me? Let me ask you this: have you ever stood next to an exotic sports car? I recently had the opportunity to do exactly that during a racing experience with Miami Exotic Auto Racing. It is an experience I recommend to anyone with a driver's license and a pulse. In 2004, I launched a boutique cigar company that focuses on the small-scale, artisan blending of tobaccos using old school craftsmanship. What you may not know is that my background is actually in design. Yes, design. In fact, you couldsay that design defines my perspective on everything, including cigars. When I create a cigar blend, for example, the process is often parallel, with the tobaccos and branding elements informing each other until they synergize into a singularity of form and function. You see, good design is more than just making something "look nice." It's substance benefiting from style. It is enjoying your cigar in quiet solitude, with the moment heightened by the aesthetics of the band and box.  Good design is also honest: it makes a promise, and then delivers. It's the way a top-shelf Scotch or wine label commands your attention, persuading you to discover the pleasures hidden within. Above all, good design informs the good life: fashion, architecture, interior design, dining—these things transcend clothing, shelter, and sustenance. They form a backdrop for the life well-lived. Don't believe me? Let me ask you this: have you ever stood next to an exotic sports car? "Think design doesn't matter? Which would you rather drive?" Exotic Auto Racing Experience I recently had the opportunity to do exactly that during a racing experience with Miami Exotic Auto Racing. [It is an experience I recommend to anyone with a driver's license and a pulse.] I arrived at the track anxious to get behind the wheel, only to be redirected to a classroom. "Safety first," they said, and after some instruction on traction, cornering, braking—basically the physics of high speed driving—I have to admit that they were right. There is a lot more to driving fast than stomping on the accelerator. With certificate in hand, it was finally time to meet the cars: a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera, a Ferrari 430, and an Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro. As a car guy and lover of the good life, I was excited. But as a designer, I was beside myself. First Impressions In nature, forms with curves tend to be more feminine, while streamlined forms are "built for speed." These cars defined the intersection of curvy and streamlined...sexy and aggressive, at the same time. As I walked onto the track, it hit me: these cars look fast without moving. Each of the cars shares a mid-engine layout which places the engine behind the cabin, ahead of the rear axle—basically, in the back seat. This functional measure results in superior balance and handling, as well as improvements in acceleration and braking, while allowing for a more aerodynamically-sound front end.  But there's more to looking fast than a sculpted hood. From their sleek lines to their oversized wheels and brakes, to the vents, spoilers, air dams, and diffusers that channel air through, into, and around the car, everything about the designs says, "Behold: I am mind-numbingly fast." And yet despite their similarities, each car promises (and delivers) something totally different. Lamborghini LP 570-4 Gallardo Superleggera The Lambo's angular body bears one of the most recognizable logos in the world, Lamborghini's Raging Bull—fitting, given the sensation of pure, unrestricted power that overcomes the driver. The Superleggera is outfitted with carbon fiber, making it the lightest road-going model in the range. Its 5.2-liter V10 is capable of 562 horsepower at 8500 RPM, easily achieving 60 mph in 3.4 seconds When idle, the engine growls like a caged beast; hit the throttle, and it becomes visceral, raw, and downright menacing. I was literally taken aback by the Lambo's power; it seemed somehow impossible that a car this substantial could so effortlessly pin me against my seat. The Lamborghini is not a luxury car so much as an over-the-top street-legal racer. With a suede dash and bold use of color, its interior was by far the loudest of the three. Its steeply-angled windshield lends a dramatic look, while allowing room for its enormous wheels (if impeding visibility somewhat). Still, for a car costing roughly a quarter million dollars, I was surprised by how sparse the interior actually was—it didn't even have power seats! But by eliminating the weight associated with the typical "bells and whistles," the designers and engineers realized an incremental performance gain. This process is by no means limited to the interior, and each such revision nets a cumulative gain in performance. Ferrari F430 While the cavallino rampante (prancing horse) design has been used since antiquity, it is most synonymous with Italian supercar manufacturer Ferrari. Here again, the car delivered an experience on par with the promise of its branding: a well-bred juxtaposition of power and agility. Even this entry-level Ferrari looks less "extreme muscle car" and more "tactical strike fighter." Stepping into the cockpit, the dash was dominated by the tachometer, an obvious nod to Ferrari's racing heritage. Though modern, it retained an air of its classic history, right down to the superb stitching detail. A lighter, more compact design overall than the Lambo, Ferrari's 4.3-liter 483 horsepower V8 takes full advantage of the car's improbably low center of gravity. Driving a car with this much power requires more management than a gearshift, pedals and a steering wheel. Ferrari really shined here by employing two technologies borrowed from its single-seat F1 racers: an electronic differential (E-Diff),as well as a steering wheel-mounted commutator switch, which allows the driver to select from a number of different handling presets. Both are world-firsts in a production car. The result is a car that was as exhilarating around the turns as it was on the straight-aways, where I managed a quarter mile in less than 12 seconds. Talk about blowing your hair back! Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro When you think "supercar," you may not think "Audi." I know I didn't. But that all changed with the R8, which was easily the biggest surprise of the three. Many are unaware that the four rings in the Audi logo represent four companies that merged to form the company. This collaborative spirit is apparent in the heavily-edited design of the R8 and other Audi models. The R8 looks conspicuously different from the Lambo or Ferrari. That's not to say that it's unimpressive, because it definitely looks the part. But if Ferrari's design is rooted in its racing pedigree and Lamborghini's in sculpture, then the R8 is a rocket ship disguised as a luxury coupé. The R8's interior also differentiated itself from the rest of the pack. This was not the spartan cabin of the Lambo or the Ferrari; instead, it had many of the creature comforts you'd expect from an upscale luxury car, including comfortable power seats. Any lingering doubts I had disappeared when I got it onto the track. As I hit the throttle, the 5.2-liter V10 roared to life like a fucking jet engine. With 525 horses screaming at over 8000 RPM, it was every bit a high-performance machine. All that power was capably managed by Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel drive system, which dynamically adjusts power to the wheels with the best traction. In short, you would have to try pretty hard to lose control of the car. All in all, I found the Audi understated, but all-business. This is the supercar to get for "ever day." Zen through High Speed The concentration required to safely operate these machines at speed is positively liberating. When you're doing 140 mph or better around the track, you're not thinking about your girlfriend bitching at you, or paying your bills, or what you're going to have for dinner. Instead, the adrenaline and g-forces working on your body force you to focus all of your energies on the task at hand. And after leaving the track, you are fundamentally changed for the better. Although I will admit some disappointment getting back into my car, stepping away from my day-to-day life and into these supercars really put things into perspective. Finding a way to clear your head is a Good Life imperative, and how you choose to do it is entirely up to you. But whether it's a Ferrari or a cigar, the experience will be enhanced because of design. 
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87

90 Miles by Flor De Gonzalez

89

Montecristo

Cigars... My American Story

byRafael Nodal

When we talk about premium cigars, we think of good times, good friends, good food and even good drinks, but an American story? Not really, but the history of premium cigars in America is full of stories about the American Dream. Moreover, there are very few industries that illustrate the American spirit as well as the Premium Cigar Industry… When we talk about premium cigars, we think of good times, good friends, good food and even good drinks, but an American story? Not really, but the history of premium cigars in America is full of stories about the American Dream. Moreover, there are very few industries that illustrate the American spirit as well as the Premium Cigar Industry. If you smoke cigars these days, you know names like Nick Perdomo, Carlos Toraño, Ernesto Perez Carrillo, Carlos Fuente, Jose Oliva and Orlando Padrón. If you do not know my name, it will soon be familiar to you. I have something in common with all of them. We make cigars, and we are immigrants that came to this country in search of the American Dream. My name is Rafael Nodal, and I make Oliveros, Swag and Aging Room cigars, but more than that, I am a proud American, born in Cuba.  I came to this country when I was 15 years old, looking for the same thing that all immigrants come to this country seeking:  freedom and opportunity, which I call the American Dream. Not to be confused with the opportunity to have a big house, an expensive car or even a successful business. These are things that are possible only with opportunity and freedom - he freedom to work hard, the freedom to better ourselves and the opportunity to provide our children with a better future. Some say that the American dream is under attack, and I agree. However, I have faith in our country (not to be confused with the government), to make the right decisions, but that is a subject for another time. I was born in a little town called Ciego de Avila. My childhood was as typical as the childhood of any other kid born in a Communist country. At school we had two hours a day of Communist Indoctrination, one hour before school started, and another hour before lunch; two hours a day of brain washing for every kid starting in pre-school. Two hours, if you don’t count every class that we attended, like History, Geography, Physics and Science, where we were told that capitalism was bad, the threat the United States posed for mankind, and how the virtues of Socialism, Communism and the Soviet Union were our salvation. Even math was politically fueled. How can a subject like math be mixed with politics you may ask? Leave it to the Socialists and Communists to say that 2 + 2 is 3, or 5, or 7, depending on what best serves their purpose. In my so-called Communist “paradise” I received “free” education. Free if you don’t count that since I was 10 years old, I had to work every day for four hours and meet the daily goal of cutting the imposed amount of sugar cane, or pick the necessary amount of oranges if I wanted to see my parents every 15 days. Here in the United States, I remember when my kids were 10 years old. They were babies.  Leaving them alone 30 miles from my house, working four hours a day, and being able to see them only every 15 days, could be categorized as child abuse. On every block, there was a family whose only job was to “keep an eye” on every neighbor. These families worked under the direction of the CDR - The Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. If someone came to visit and stayed for more than a few minutes, you got a visit from the CDR. Or, if they saw that you cooked meat, knowing that the local store had been out of meat for a while, which was the norm, the CDR would call the police, because that meant you must have purchased the meat on the black market. Every family had a little booklet that indicated what was allowed to be purchased at the store:  a three-inch portion of bread per day, per family member; two pounds of rice or  beans, and a pound of coffee a month for an entire family. Milk was only allowed for children under 7 years old, and soft drinks were permitted only once a year during your birthday. The lack of food or clothes was not the worst part of living in a Communist country. It was the lack of freedom, and knowing that whatever you did to move ahead did not matter. Basically, the government wants to take away your will and your faith. There is nothing more difficult than growing up with no faith; no faith in the future, no faith in your country, no faith in God, your family, and most of all, no faith in yourself. Then came the day when my life would change forever. It was Tuesday, April 10, 1980. I was now 15, and it was an average day. I had just finished working at the orchard and my hands were swollen from carrying the 50 pound bags of oranges for four hours. My feet were hurting from the 30 kilometer round trip each day from the school to the work yard and back. My eyes were red and I was constantly sneezing from the pesticides they used on the orange trees. Either the goal had been too high for the last two months, or I was too weak to meet it. Not doing the required amount of work meant not being allowed to go home for 52 days. So, despite my pain and hunger, I met my daily goal for the next seven days, because I wanted to see my parents that coming weekend. But I didn't have to wait until the weekend. On that fortuitous April day, my father came to my school to pick me up with the excuse that my mother was very sick. As I would soon find out, I was actually one of the luckiest 15-year-olds in the world. If you have seen Al Pacino in Scarface, then you know about the Mariel Boat Lifts. In a matter of three months 125,000 people came in boats from Cuba to the United States entering mostly through Key West. It all started when Fidel Castro became angered at five people who had broken into the Peruvian Embassy in Havana, following which, the government of Peru granted them political asylum. On live TV Castro announced that he was removing the government guards from the Peruvian Embassy, since the guards were there to protect the embassy, not to prevent people from asking for political asylum. In less than a few minutes, while Castro was still talking on TV, more than 10,000 people rushed into the Peruvian embassy compound. This infuriated Castro even more. A few days later, again on live television, Castro said the people who had rushed to the Embassy were obviously criminals, mental health patients, antisocial-types, and homosexuals, because no person in his right state of mind would want to leave the Communist island paradise. He added that if any person living in the U.S. wanted to come and pick up their antisocial family members, he would allow them to leave the country. The only other way out was if you had papers signed by the CDR certifying that you were antisocial, homosexual, a criminal, or had a mental health disorder. The regime also used the opportunity to empty the prisons; this would show the world that only criminals would reject such a utopian paradise.  A friend of the family who had left Cuba for the U.S. in 1972 promised my father that, given the opportunity, he would return and pick us up. But before we left Cuba, we were under house arrest for 30 days, twenty of which were spent in an old baseball stadium that had been converted to a prison, where we had to sleep on the grass, and relieve ourselves on the floor. Fortunately, our friend kept his word and came for us in a rented shrimp boat. I'll never forget the name of that rusty old bucket either; it was "The Lady Lynn." After four days at sea, during which time we saw hundreds of bodies floating in the Florida straights, I arrived in Key West on May 31, 1980 with my father, my mother, my little sister, ten friends, and 280 criminals that had been taken directly from prison to the boat. A week later, we were given airline tickets from a religious charitable organization so we could relocate to New York City, where my father had another friend. This was not unusual, since there was a big effort to have some of the 125,000 Cubans relocated to other parts of the country in order to minimize the impact of so many new people in the metropolitan Miami area. For three years I lived in the crime-ridden Washington Heights area of Manhattan, where I attended both High School and Music School. (I had studied violin since I was six years old.) The adaptation to my new environment was hard, to say the least. Learning English and getting used to such a big city after spending my life in a little town was not easy. But what came very easily to me was being able to move about town freely. To be able to discuss my political and religious views openly and not have to worry about going to prison. The first time we had visitors in our apartment and no one from the CDR showed up to check on us, that was the day I knew I was free. In high school I organized musical events, and in music school I continued studying violin while taking piano classes. I was selected to be part of the Five Borough Orchestra, and played recitals at Carnegie Hall. Eventually, I was accepted into the Manhattan School of Music, where I studied with some of the most incredibly talented students and teachers I have ever known—all dreams I could never have realized in Cuba.  Then I began practicing for a conductor audition at the Julliard School of Music. Unfortunately, it never happened. The cold city winters had become intolerable for my mother, who was recuperating from an accident some years earlier. In June of 1983, 35 days before the audition, my family moved to Miami. I like to think that I would have passed with no problem and received a scholarship. After all, I had spent a year studying Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Major for my audition. Because my bedroom had no heater, I practiced in the bathroom every night for hours with an old record player I had dug out of the garbage. But, knowing all the sacrifices my parents made to get to this country, I did not want to be away from them. In 1983, Miami was a small immigrant city, not the trendy international city that it is today. SouthBeach was a retirement community infested with drugs and crime, products of the criminals sent by Castro. There was no symphony orchestra either; so far, my classical music career did not look good. I decided to enroll in MiamiDadeCommunity College as a Music Education major, and found my first real job cleaning floors in a SouthBeach hospital. Between school, a full time job, an amateur opera group that I directed, and a few violin students, I had almost no time for anything else. Cleaning floors was quite an education. Little by little I learned about other hospital departments, and worked my way into management. It still amazes me: only in America can someone go from being a janitor to the Executive Director of a national healthcare company. During my tenure as Executive Director, I met two people who would be instrumental to my involvement in the cigar business: Hank Bischoff, and my wife, Dr. Alina Nodal Cordoves. Hank had a real love for everything Latin, especially cigars, and Alina was descended from three generations of tobacco growers in Cuba. Together Alina, Hank and I started an online retail cigar site in 1997. Then, in 2002 we formed a company in Miami Lakes to distribute Oliveros Cigars. Oliveros Cigars had been in the market for many years, but was known during the cigar boom as a flavored cigar line. We expanded the line immediately with several releases of premium cigars, like Oliveros Classics, Gran Reserva and Oliveros XL for Men. Sales increased annually, but not to the extent we wanted or needed. . Many of my friends and family members insisted that we go back to the more profitable business of health care. But I was determined to make Oliveros a success. We kept trying harder and worked longer hours. We visited more stores and participated in more cigar events. Failure was not an option. As a result, I missed most of the birthday parties and school events for my three children; these are moments that you can never get back. In 2009 it became even more difficult to survive, especially after the administration at that time increased the cigar excise tax for a government-funded health insurance program for children known as S-CHIP.  During this period, I could barely sleep. It did not matter how hard we worked, things were not getting any better. That's when I realized the truth in the saying, “It gets worse before it gets better.”  One Friday night I found myself having a cigar in Miami Beach with Hank. We were celebrating being able to make the week's payroll and discussing the future. After sitting quietly for what seemed like a few hours (in reality it was only 20 or 30 minutes), it came to us. It was as if both of us had the exact same thought simultaneously. We were competing with the big mass market cigar producers by trying to make cigars for everyone, from the novice to the avid aficionado. I still remember the precise moment when we both said the same words at the same time, “We were wrong.” Maybe the aroma of a nearby Cuban restaurant was driving us crazy or maybe the continued sounds of the waves was hypnotizing us, but we kept repeating “We were wrong, we were wrong.” So it was decided. We were no longer going to make cigars for "everyone." Instead, we would introduce some of the small batch blends that we had been working on for years, but had not introduced into the market; the reason being, there was just not enough tobacco to support a large production. We were going to produce new blends for educated consumers looking for cigars with complexity and character. And that's how “Boutique Blends Cigars” was born. Things are going extremely well for us today. Our new focus on small boutique blends is paying off. I am extremely grateful to all the retailers that contact us to let us know how well the cigars are doing in their stores, and the consumers that call or visit us at the cigar events to let us know how much they enjoy our cigars. More than anything, I am grateful to this nation for giving me and my family the opportunity to earn "The American Dream." I have learned to not give up, to work hard, and when failure is not an option, it can only lead to success. The next time you light-up to enjoy one of your favorite premium cigars, it may remind you of good times with good friends, or fine food and drinks. Hopefully, it will also remind you of The American Dream.
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CAO Brazilia Carnivale Cigars Hit Retail

byGary Korb

RICHMOND, VA -- CAO Brazilia Carnivale cigars are hitting cigar shops as we speak. The 6 ½” x 60 box-pressed beauty is a limited edition release that puts an innovative spin on the popular Brazilia blend. “Carnivale” is made with ligero from the DR, Honduras and Nicaragua, and a binder from Brazil. The wrapper is a rare Habano Grueso leaf cultivated only in small quantities. Rick Rodriguez who heads up blending for CAO said, “We haven’t changed any CAO blends since we took over the brand. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t put our spin on one of them. That’s exactly what we did with Carnivale…it’s my and my team’s take on Brazilia. We added a new wrapper, made the original wrapper the binder, and cranked the whole thing up with more ligero.” You won’t miss CAO Brazilia Carnivale at your favorite cigar shop. It’s in an eye-catching, bright yellow, 12-count box, and is a must-have for the CAO collector. Single CAO Brazilia Carnivale cigars are on sale for $8.30 until the limited supply is gone. Rick hinted that there could be another small batch twist on the horizon for another one of CAO’s top blends. “My team and I have been experimenting with some fantastic tobaccos, so CAO fans should be on the lookout to see what we come up with next.”Please note that the CAO Brazilia Carnivale cannot be purchased online. It is available ONLY at local retail cigar stores.#  #  #
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Punch Rare Corojo Returns with New Figurado Shape

byGary Korb

RICHMOND, VA - General Cigar has just announced that Punch® Rare Corojo is making its anticipated annual return to retail, this time with a new, strikingly-packaged figurado that is only available as part of the Honduran brand’s 2013 release. A total of eight Punch Rare Corojo frontmarks are now available, with suggested retail prices ranging from $4.79 to $7.39 per cigar. This includes the new “Perfecto” size (7” x 48) with an SRP of $7.39 per cigar, which is presented in a keepsake, wooden cabinet-style box. Punch Rare Corojo cigars will be sold by General Cigar to retailers nationwide until May 31, 2013. The 2013 Rare Corojo release will therefore be available in cigar shops until the limited quantity is depleted. Gus Martinez, director of marketing for General Cigar’s Punch cigar brand noted, “Punch Rare Corojo started the trend toward seasonal offerings, and we are pleased to continue the tradition. Between the breadth of frontmarks and the addition of the Perfecto to this yearÂ’s lineup, we are confident that Rare Corojo will be the go-to, springtime smoke for cigar lovers across the country.” Like the recent issues of Punch Rare Corojo, the 2013 release is crafted with a lustrous, extra rich, Sumatra wrapper cultivated in the mountains of Ecuador. Grown only in limited quantity, these rare, reddish leaves give Punch Rare Corojo its uniquely smooth taste. Bound with Connecticut Broadleaf, Punch Rare Corojo cigars are filled with a select blend of Dominican, Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco, for a complex smoking experience, layered with spice. # # # About Punch Rare Corojo CigarsReintroduced in 2001 after a shortage of wrapper leaves caused the product to disappear at retail for several years, Punch Rare Corojo sold out as quickly as it returned that year. Since then, General Cigar has been able to secure a sufficient amount of the rare Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper each year for a limited annual release of Punch Rare Corojo. Punch cigars are produced by General Cigar Co. Inc., which manufactures and markets handcrafted cigars for the premium market. ® Punch is a registered trademark of General Cigar Co. Inc.
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Punch Rare Corojo Returns with New Figurado Frontmark

byGary Korb

General Cigar has just announced that Punch® Rare Corojo is making its anticipated annual return to retail, this time with a new, strikingly-packaged figurado that is only available as part of the Honduran brand’s 2013 release. A total of eight Punch Rare Corojo frontmarks are now available, with suggested retail prices ranging from $4.79 to $7.39 per cigar. This includes the new “Perfecto” size (7” x 48) with an SRP of $7.39/cigar, which is presented in a keepsake, wooden cabinet-style box. Punch Rare Corojo cigars will be sold by General Cigar to retailers nationwide until May 31, 2013. The 2013 Rare Corojo release will therefore be available in cigar shops until the limited quantity is depleted.Gus Martinez, director of marketing for General Cigar’s Punch cigar brand noted, “Punch Rare Corojo started the trend toward seasonal offerings, and we are pleased to continue the tradition. Between the breadth of frontmarks and the addition of the Perfecto to this year’s lineup, we are confident that Rare Corojo will be the go-to, springtime smoke for cigar lovers across the country.” Like the recent issues of Punch Rare Corojo, the 2013 release is crafted with a lustrous, extra rich, Sumatra wrapper cultivated in the mountains of Ecuador. Grown only in limited quantity, these rare, reddish leaves give Punch Rare Corojo its uniquely smooth taste. Bound with Connecticut Broadleaf, Punch Rare Corojo cigars are filled with a select blend of Dominican, Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco, for a complex smoking experience, layered with spice. #  #  # About Punch Rare Corojo CigarsReintroduced in 2001 after a shortage of wrapper leaves caused the product to disappear at retail for several years, Punch Rare Corojo sold out as quickly as it returned that year.  Since then, General Cigar has been able to secure a sufficient amount of the rare Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper each year for a limited annual release of Punch Rare Corojo. Punch cigars are produced by General Cigar Co. Inc., which manufactures and markets handcrafted cigars for the premium market.® Punch is a registered trademark of General Cigar Co. Inc.
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CAO Amps Up Kid Rock's Chillin' The Most Cruise

byGary Korb

Brand Fan and Guest to Set Sail to the Bahamas in "Concert" Promotion RICHMOND, VA -- CAO will deliver a smokin’ experience to guests aboard the Kid Rock “Chillin’ The Most” cruise which departed from Miami on March 5, 2013. As the winner of the CAO Concert launch sweepstakes, Justin Harris of Nashville, TN and a guest will set sail for the Bahamas on the fourth annual Kid Rock Chillin’ the Most cruise. The fan experience for Harris and fellow passengers aboard Norwegian Pearl cruise ship will include a CAO branded cigar lounge, a CAO blending workshop and live music performances by Kid Rock, plus an incredible line-up of bands he personally selected for the music festival at sea. The Kid Rock Chillin’ the Most cruise is produced by Altanta-based Sixthman. Full details about the cruise are available at www.kidrockcruise.com.Ed McKenna, senior brand manager of CAO Cigars said, “With a customized on-board cigar lounge and the chance for guests to crank up their cigar knowledge by hanging out with our cigar blender Rick Rodriguez, Kid Rock’s ’Chillin’ the Most’ is the ultimate expression of our brand. It’s also a fitting way to celebrate the success of CAO Concert, which gives a nod to our rock n roll roots.” Kid Rock’s Chillin’ The Most Cruise will be Sixthman’s 52nd full ship charter.  Beginning today, Norwegian Pearl will sail to the private island destination of Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, aka “Redneck Paradise.” Fans will spend two music-filled days on the island, with an additional day at sea before returning to Miami on March 10th. New this year is the opportunity for guests to sail on The Pearl the night before departure, for a special pre-party hosted by Kid Rock."CAO and the Concert brand mirror Sixthman's level of devotion for delivering quality experiences to passionate music fans.  Not only will guests of Kid Rock's Chilln' the Most Cruise soak in five days of moments that make life rock out on the ocean with their musical hero, they’ll have the chance to enjoy a trend setting cigar while basking in the music and sunshine of the Caribbean. CAO and Sixthman are excited to set the stage for cruisers to LIVE LOUD," said Kappy, Sixthman's sales and marketing manager.#  #  # About CAO Cigars: Handcrafted by artisans in Nicaragua, CAO is recognized among cigar lovers worldwide for its innovative blends, superb quality and unexpected packaging. The brand continually receives top ratings from cigar media across the globe, and enjoys a devoted fan base. Its most recent new collection called Concert celebrates the brand’s rock n roll heritage with a unique blend and packaging that’s styled after a classic Marshall amp.  Visit www.caocigars.com for more info. About Sixthman: Sixthman, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, creates festivals at sea designed to set the stage for moments that make life rock! Since 2001, we have been pioneering themed cruise experiences for bands, brands, and their fans and are proud to be celebrating our 11th year and the accomplishment of executing 45 full ship charters, hosting over 100,000 guests for nearly 500,000 days on vacation at sea with world class artist and brand partners such as KISS, Kid Rock, John Mayer, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 311, Zac Brown Band, Lyle Lovett, Barenaked Ladies, Sister Hazel, Turner Classic Movies, VH1, along with engaging festivals such as The Rock Boat and Cayamo. INC Magazine recognized us as America’s Fastest Growing Travel Company and the 87th fastest growing company across all segments on the INC 500 List. www.sixthman.net
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91

Acid Subculture

Altadis USA Bows H.Upmann Legacy Cigars

byGary Korb

Experience the modern legacyFT. LAUDERDALE, FL -- Once again, Altadis USA is proud to announce the new launch of its ‘H. Upmann Legacy’ selection. Ever since 1844, cigar lovers have been enjoying H. Upmann cigars, one of the premium cigar world’s best-known and most highly trusted brands. Building on the heritage of this revered brand, H. Upmann Legacy brings new excitement to the contemporary aficionado with this line of modern, fuller-bodied smokes. Each cigar is meticulously hand-crafted with vintage 2008 tobaccos grown from heirloom seeds treasured for generations. A dark, mountain grown Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper surrounds a savory binder from the cloud-cooled rain forests of Nicaragua and an intense mix of prized Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos. This exquisite blend results in a vibrant, fuller-bodied smoke complemented by a myriad of subtle and complex flavor and aroma. Country of Manufacture: HondurasWrapper: Ecuadorian SumatraBinder: NicaraguanFiller: Nicaraguan and DominicanStrength: Medium to fuller bodied There are 3 sizes available in the US market:Corona: 44 x 5 1/2" - $5.85 (SRP)Robusto: 54 x 5"- $6.50 (SRP)Toro: 52 x 6" - $6.85 (SRP)  * * *
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Davidoff launches "Short Pleasures" Assortment

byGary Korb

Basel, Switzerland -- Finding time to chill out can sometimes be a challenge. Davidoff's new “Short Pleasures” Assortment responds to the rising need of aficionados to be able to enjoy a short, pleasing break in their hectic everyday lives. The assortment of four cigars composed of the Davidoff “Grand Cru” No. 5, Davidoff “Entreacto”, Davidoff “Millennium Blend” Short Robusto and Davidoff “Puro d’Oro” Gorditos create a symphony that allows the right cigar to be enjoyed at the right time. Thanks to the different cigar formats and strengths, the modern bon viveur can choose, from mild to full body, the appropriate cigar for his chill-out moments. The innovation of the assortment is especially strengthened through the addition of a new cigar, the “Puro d’Oro” Gorditos which combines boldness and richness in a short format with a 58 ring gauge and 3 ¾? providing an intense smoking pleasure in a relatively short period of time.Kick back and relax, escape and get inspired. Enjoy your free time or short breaks with full draws, experience pleasure in a brand new way: this is what defines time well spent. Here Davidoff cigars play a decisive role. Not only an ideal gift, but also perfect for combining efficiency and pleasure, the Davidoff “Short Pleasures” Assortment shapes personal and professional lives and plays an active part in them. This makes luxury accessible in everyday life, between meetings and while traveling. The Davidoff “Short Pleasures” Assortment, the innovative trailblazer for the modern cigar experience, will be available as a limited edition at selected tobacconists beginning March, 2013.#   #   #
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Davidoff Adds Gorditos to "Puro d’Oro" Series

byGary Korb

For the first time in its history, Davidoff will soon be launching “Puro d’Oro” Gorditos : a rich and bold , short, 58 ring gauge format cigar for pleasurable escapes... Basel, Switzerland -- “Puro d’Oro” is synonymous with bold richness. The Davidoff “Puro d’Oro” Gorditos, a new additional format to the series, provide strong, intense smoking pleasure in just 30 minutes. This innovative short and thick 58 ring gauge format suits the needs of the urban aficionados who lead hectic business lifestyles, allowing them to kick back and relax or enjoy short breaks with intensely pleasurable draws. As with all Davidoff “Puro d’Oro” cigars, the Gorditos are made with 100% Dominican tobacco. The tobacco leaves are carefully selected before being stored for at least five years and perfectly blended. The Yamasá wrapper is a particular feature of the “Puro d'Oro” series. It is dried and fermented for an exceptionally long time, which gives it its darker colour, oily appearance and intense aromas. Due to the cigar’s shorter length, the notes of coffee, spices, roasted flavour and the series typical hint of sweetness develop faster. The result: a full body cigar boasting strong to intense flavours and rich aromas. As the Spanish diminutive form suggests, Gorditos are short and thick, with a ring gauge of 58 and a length of 3 ¾?. The golden bands on the head and foot of the cigar which wraps around the dark brown Yamasá wrapper with its elegant shimmer, are the special trademark of this exceptional series. Short inspirational escapes, uncompromising boldness, luscious richness: three elements of the new Davidoff “Puro d’Oro” Gorditos. A must-have and a trendsetter for everyone who loves the luxury of intense pleasure. A perfect companion for the enjoyment of a Davidoff “Puro d’Oro” in a relatively short time.This new product is produced in packs of 4 and boxes of 25, will be available at selected tobacconists in March.#   #   #
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91

Joya De Nicaragua Antano 1970

89

Ambrosia

La Flor Dominicana Debuts "Mystery Cigar" Program

byGary Korb

Coral Gables, FL -- La Flor Dominicana is proud to unveil its new event program for 2013. Known unofficially as the "Mystery Event," it centers on an unreleased cigar called the "Mystery Cigar."The Mystery Cigar is a 6 ½ x 44 (Lonsdale) Maduro. This cigar will only be seen at select La Flor Dominicana Retailer Events throughout the country. The makeup of the cigar will remain a secret, although you can be certain there is a bit of Dominican Ligero from our farm in La Canela. Consumers who come to the event can get a 5-pack of the Mystery Cigars when they buy a box of La Flor Dominicana cigars at the event. Retailers will also have a limited quantity of Mystery Cigars on hand during the LFD Events for purchase.Another exciting part of our new promotion allows LFD box buyers to have an opportunity to win a trip to our LFD factory in Tamboril, Dominican Republic. Where they get to go behind the scenes and see how cigars are made.Depending on the success of our new Mystery Cigar event it will also be coming again in 2014. Of course the natural question about this event is "will this years Mystery cigar go into production?" And of course the answer is "that depends on feedback from the smokers." We love the new cigar a lot, but we would love to get consumer feedback as we test this new blend across the nation. * * * La Flor Dominicana is a premium cigar manufacturer of the highest order. We take care to produce only the finest hand-rolled, premium cigars and are proud to use tobaccos from our own farms. We are very proud of our vertical integration and are dedicated to providing the consumer with only the finest premium products. To learn more about our company and brand please check out our website at www.laflordominicana.com and follow us on twitter @LFDCigars to learn about all the latest happenings in our company.
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Toraño Family Cigars to Distribute Palió Cutters, Lighters and "E"

byGary Korb

Miami, Florida -- Toraño Family Cigar Company is proud to announce that they have been officially appointed by Brother of the Leaf, LLC as their sole distributor in the USA as of February 15th, 2013.Toraño will distribute Palió cutters, lighters and BOTL, LLC’s brand new cigar line “E”. The agreement marks the first time that the Toraño Family will have accessories to offer along with their own cigar line. Toraño Family Cigar’s president, Charlie Toraño, along with Brother of the Leaf president, Marc Aub, felt it was a perfect fit for both companies. “Marc and I share the same business philosophy in that we both strive to offer an excellent product together with outstanding customer service. We are very excited to be able to add such a high quality range of cigar accessories to our product portfolio,” said Charlie. Marc added, “The new relationship between our companies is going to allow us to focus on maintaining our current level of quality, as well as, develop new products.” In the pursuit of precision and excellence, Palió cutters are entirely hand crafted in the USA and deliver the finest and most consistent cut for your cigars. More recently, Brother of the Leaf has developed and added a line of single torch Palió lighters and their new cigar line “E”. Palió’s superior design and construction has made it the premier choice in cigar preparation and lighting. #   #   #
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La Gloria Cubana Serie R

7-20-4 Cigars Revives Hustler Imprint for New Boutique Edition

byGary Korb

Londonderry, NH -- Kurt A. Kendall, founder of today’s 7-20-4 Cigars, has once again explored cigar history, reintroducing a second dusty brand ... “Hustler” ... a trademark that hails back to the late Nineteenth Century. It follows the company’s introductions of the 7-20-4 and 1874 boutique lines. In 2009, Kendall breathed new life into the venerable “7-20-4" brand name, acquiring the trademark for the original 7-20-4 line. It was named after the 1874-founded manufacturer in Manchester, New Hampshire. The company became the world’s largest cigar producer, until the 1962 Embargo killed its supply of Cuban tobacco. “Hustler has a misty history,” reports Kendall, “which I’m still researching. The brand dates back to a New York State birth in 1892. I selected its original box art, because it almost leaps off the shelf. It shows a dandy in full stride, toting a carpet bag and briefcase, with newspaper and ‘bumbershoot’ under each arm. The jaunty angle of the cigar in his grin says this guy’s a hustler, in more ways than one.” The Spanish cedar box holds an unusual 27 cigars, divided into three compartments. Each holds nine cigars ... all parejos ... in 5-1/2" x 52, 6" x 54 (both at $9.00 MSRP), plus 6-3/8" x 58 ($11.00 MSRP). Hustler, entirely separate from Kendall’s benchmark 7-20-4 line, is triple-capped for durability of their heads, and entubado-bunched, yielding a company-touted “vertical integrity” that ensures smooth draws and uniform burns. They are made by Tabacos de Oriente in Danli, Honduras. The tobaccos carry five years of aging, with the cigars resting another six months. Kendall first released the line in November, and they are carried at retailers nationwide ... see the “Find Our Cigars” page on the company site (www.7-20-4.com) for local 7-20-4 tobacconists. The cigars themselves boast an eye-catching twist ... literally. They are spirally-wrapped in a two-tone, barber-pole wrapper, with a dark and brawny Brazilian Mata Fina leaf and a contrasting tawny, Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut Shade leaf. The heads are finished in a traditional Cuban-style pigtail. The Jamastran and Jalapa filler is held in a Costa Rican binder. Hustler contains no relatively flavorless ligero, relying instead on the other tobaccos in the blends to gain its power. Hustler is a medium-bodied smoke, with the spiral wrapper providing a visual emphasis to what Kendall calls it’s “swirl of complex flavors and aroma.” Hustler’s first production run was shipped in November, and is sold out at press time ... coinciding with the April shipment date of the cigar’s second release.#   #   # Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Londonderry, NH
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Davidoff Cigars bring in Johnny Fearless and Dew Gibbons Design to overhaul marketing communications strategy

byGary Korb

Davidoff Cigars has appointed Johnny Fearless and Dew Gibbons Design to handle its global advertising and global brand design needs respectively. The appointments follow a four-way-pitch which will now see the successful agencies aim to update the brand’s image and marketing. Johnny Fearless has been briefed with the development of the global advertising activity, which will include print and online, alongside the development of digital content, while Dew Gibbons will lead the packaging design work for the cigars range. Neil Hughston, founder of Johnny Fearless, said: “Davidoff Cigars is one of those luxury brands with a long, illustrious past, but that at the same time is looking at the future and how it can reach an audience that might not traditionally set foot in a Davidoff store. We’re really excited about working with them to make this happen.” Johnny Fearless will also work on experiential based marketing, point-of-sale material for retailers and some in-store design.(Source: thedrum.com)
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Miami Cigar & Co. Announces Nestor Miranda 70th Anniversary LE Cigars

byGary Korb

Miami, FL -- For Nestor Miranda’s 70th birthday on Valentine’s Day (2/14/13) "the most interesting man in the cigar business" is set to release a commemorative cigar for this historic milestone in his life. The “Nestor Miranda 70th LE” will be released as a Lancero cigar from the two factories that Nestor has had a tremendous relationship with over the years. The boxes of 12 cigars will feature 6 from the My Father Factory in Nicaragua, and 6 from La Aurora in the Dominican Republic. The cigars, made in Esteli, will feature a dark Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan fillers while its counterparts from Santiago, DR will feature a Mexican San Andreas. Both cigars are medium-to-full in strength and showcase the best from both Central American regions. The cigars will be packaged in a keepsake box that resembles a car Nestor has always admired - an AC Cobra. The body of the car will lift off the frame revealing three rows of 4 cigars in the chassis of the classic automobile. Only 1,000 individually numbered boxes will be made, with 700 being released initially. The remaining 300 will remain in the humidor at Miami Cigar & Company to be released at a later date. According to Jason Wood, Vice President of Miami Cigar & Company, “We wanted to do something special for Nestor and create a keepsake at the same time. Nestor has always strived for the best, and we believe this cigar is up to the challenge.” The “Nestor Miranda 70th LE” will make its debut over the course of two days at a series of events in New Mexico on February 9th and 10th, 2013. The national release of the cigar will be on Señor Miranda's birthday, February 14th and will retail for $14.00 a stick before local taxes.*   *   *
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Gurkha Makes The Rarest Cigar In The World

byGary Korb

Gurkha chosen as the official cigar of the Delta Forces FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Dec. 3, 2012 -- (PRNewswire) -- The Gurkha Cigar Group, Inc., makers of the world famous cigar brand "Gurkha", have been selected to make the official cigar of the super-elite military group: the Delta Forces. This highly classified tier of the military are held in the highest regard for their specially trained combat skills and counter-terrorism missions and have chosen Gurkha to blend their regiment's cigar. Under the careful watch of Gurkha Chairman Mr. K Hansotia, this unique cigar is made exclusively for these brave soldiers and may only be smoked and enjoyed by a Delta Force member. This cigar is comprised of a proprietary blend using some of the rarest tobaccos in the world. Only a limited number of cigars (classified) have been produced and will not be made available to the public. Every cigar has been hand inspected under careful supervision and perfectly aged under lock and key. Gurkha is already famous for producing the world's most expensive cigar: 'His Majesty's Reserve', which has a generous price tag of $16,500 (per box of 20 cigars), but offers for the Delta Force cigar are already reported for close to $2,000 per cigar. "It is an honor and privilege to be chosen as the official cigar of the Delta Teams," said Kaizad Hansotia, Chairman of Gurkha Cigar Group. "We have a strong relationship with the military and we appreciate their dedication to serve and protect our nation." Often referred to as the Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta Unit (SFOD-D), the Delta Force are highly trained soldiers specializing in counter-terrorism missions, including hostage rescue, reconnaissance and barricade operations. Delta Force soldiers come from the highest elite branches of the military. The select few that are chosen are carefully screened both physically and mentally before entering an intensive six-month training regiment course to be carefully versed and specially trained for a multitude of the world's most dangerous, volatile and catastrophic scenarios. #  #  #
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89

Acid

7-20-4 Cigars Appoints Rick Ardito as Director of Marketing/Sales

byGary Korb

Londonderry, NH -- Industry veteran Rick Ardito (50) has joined Kurt A. Kendall’s 7-20-4 Cigars as Director of Marketing/Sales, as of August 1, 2012.  “Realizing my ‘one-man band’ wouldn't support 7-20-4's growth,” Kendall explains, “I wanted to invest in the best.  Our 17-year personal and working friendship drove me to catch him before someone else inevitably did.” Ardito is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and is now traveling nationally, building the retailer network for 7-20-4 and supporting shop owners who carry the line for the Londonderry, New Hampshire, company.  7-20-4 boutique-level premium cigars are made in Danli, Honduras.Ardito served in the US Marine Corps from 1982 to 1990.  A graduate of Miami Dade College, majoring in Psychology, he held a similar position at Drew Estate from 1997 to 2010.  After a three-year absence from the world of tobacco, during which he prepared for a teaching career, Ardito was unable to resist the lure of premium cigars.  He has joined Kendall, in a culmination of their long, close friendship.  Ardito explains: “Kurt and I are formalizing sales and distribution elements, and things are coming together much faster than we expected.  I look forward to renewing old friendships with retailers and smokers coast-to-coast, and introducing them to the unique identity and quality of 7-20-4 Cigars.” According to Kendall, “Ricks knowledge, experience and unique personality are a perfect combination of what I consider the best.  I'm fortunate and honored to have him on my team!”*  *  *
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Gurkha 125th Anniversary Edition Cigars Now in Flight to Retailers

byGary Korb

Tamarac, FL -- After much anticipation, the Gurkha 125th Anniversary Edition cigar is shipping to cigar stores nationwide! This special cigar is particularly significant as 2012 commemorates the 125th Anniversary of the Gurkha cigar, where it was this year back in 1887 at the height of the British rule that Nepalese soldiers first began to smoke and enjoy their own cigars from local tobacco, which they named: "Gurkhas." The 125th Anniversary is already an award winner, having received the company's highest ever rating of 96 points by Cigar Journal and is the recent recipient of the prestigious Golden Label Award fo r the printing, design, innovation and technical execution of the 125th Anniversary cigar band. The unique blend features an oily Brazilian Cubra wrapper, accompanied by an Ecuadorian, Habano binder and a complex combination of Nicaraguan, Brazilian and Dominican fillers. This intriguing medium bodied cigar encompasses a very smooth and complex taste profile, with flavorful notes of rich tobacco and subtle hints of sweet spice, vanilla and chestnut. The Gurkha 125th Anniver sary is available in 20 count boxes featuring four vitolas: 5 x 52 Robusto, 6 x 54 Rothchild, 61/2 x 54 Torpedo and a 6 x 60 XO with an MSRP ranging from $8.39-$10.99. Each box is hand-carved using the finest mango wood and finished with exquisite brass fittings, specially designed by Gurkha Chairman Mr K. Hansotia. Gurkha is one of the most famous brands of luxury hand-made cigars. Having extraordinary quality and premium blends of tobacco, Gurkha is known for limited release and rare tobacco products with outstanding and artistically oriented packaging. Considered the 'Rolls Royce' of cigars, this super premium brand is enjoyed by many of the world's elite including members of royalty, military, leading government officials and celebrities. * * *
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86

Nub Habano

91

H Upmann 1844 Reserve

Gurkha 125th Anniversary Band Wins Prestigious Golden Label Award

byGary Korb

Fort Lauderdale, FL)  --  Gurkha Cigar Group, Inc., makers of the super premium cigar brand Gurkha, was recently awarded a prestigious Golden Label Award for the printing, design, innovation and technical execution of the 125th Anniversary cigar band. The coveted Golden Label Award ceremony was held at the contemporary Vienna Platinum Center in Vienna, Austria, organized by Brigl & Bergmeister, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of label and paper products. Out of 12,000 entries, Gurkha reigned highest cigar brand out of all 5 categories. Working in close collaboration with TSO printers (Holland), the Gurkha 125th Anniversary band artwork features a detailed and ornate design, incorporating state of the art printing techniques to emphasize the strong logo and identity of the Gurkha brand.“We are very honored to receive this award,” said Kaizad Hansotia, Chairman of Gurkha Cigar Group. “This is even more special as this year celebrates 125th Anniversary of the Gurkha Cigar. The artwork took over a year to develop, where the goal was to create an intricate design that highlighted the strong tradition and authenticity of the brand”. The Gurkha 125th cigar blend is also an award winner, having recently received the company’s highest ever rating of '96’ points. The unique blend features an oily Brazilian Cubra wrapper, accompanied by an Ecuadorian, Habano binder and a complex combination of Nicaraguan, Brazilian and Dominican fillers. This intriguing medium bodied cigar encompasses a very smooth and complex taste profile, with flavorful notes of rich tobacco and subtle hints of sweet spice, vanilla and chestnut. After much anticipation, the 125th Anniversary will be shipping to cigar stores nationwide in the coming weeks! World renowned for their packaging and design, this is the second award that the Gurkha Cigar group has won in 2012 for their design and artwork, having already won the SAPPI European Printing Award for the printing, design and execution of the popular Gurkha ‘Royal Challenge’ artwork and crest.*  *  *
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Davidoff Unveils 2012 Holiday Gift Collection

byGary Korb

For the first time, Davidoff will offer the perfect range of cigar gifts for the holidays (Basel, SW) -- Davidoff reveals the perfect holiday gifting solution, a first for the world's most recognized luxury premium cigar brand. Perfect for the Davidoff aficionado, gifts include festive holiday sleeves wrapping an array of Davidoff cigars as well as accessories from the brand. Whether shopping for dad, friends or colleagues, the assortment features a variety of price points to allow the perfect gift for everyone. The holiday designs will adorn some of the brand's assortment packs, including the Robusto Collection, Tubos Assortment, and the 9-­Cigar Assortment, as well as its Puro d’ Oro series 10­-count boxes. Holiday items will begin shipping to Appointed Merchants November1, just in time to hit shelves prior to holiday shopping.*  *  *
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Alec Bradley Cigars Ships 2012 Fine & Rare Limited Edition Torpedo

byGary Korb

Only 2,000 boxes produced DANIA, FLORIDA, -- If it’s true that good things come to those who wait, it naturally follows that better things take a little longer still . . . and the best things, by definition, are those rare, exceptional objects of desire that reward the exquisite patience of the connoisseur. Following the success of its 2011 Fine & Rare inaugural release, a limited-edition toro, Alec Bradley Cigars is today releasing the 2012 Fine & Rare limited-edition torpedo - just ahead of the holidays and perfectly timed for outdoor smoking as languid summer gives way to crisp, cool autumn. A year ago, the 1,110 boxes of the first Fine & Rare cigar (52 x 6, toro size) sold out within 15 minutes — a reflection of the demand for, and Alec Bradley’s desire to continually improve upon, what will now be an annual vintage-dated release. Just 2,000 boxes of this new cigar, which measures 54 x 6, have been produced — and as with Alec Bradley’s first Fine & Rare, this vitola and blend are a onetime release, never to be made again. Each cigar can therefore be savored by the Alec Bradley devotee according to its vintage-dated production year— akin to an oenophile’s satisfaction over a limited bottling from his favorite vintner. The new torpedo contains many of the same components, such as the flavorful Honduran Trojes wrapper, as the original. To ensure consistency, Alec Bradley crafted the 2012 cigars in the same place as the 2011 release: Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas, produced by the considerable talents ofMaster BuncherWilmarJose Valerio andMaster Roller Juan Carlos Artica. Yet make no mistake: Although it shares its provenance with its predecessor, this new torpedo is a unique cigar. Presented in a 10-count box, the 2012 Fine & Rare will carry an MSRP of $16.50 per cigar (not including state and local taxes) and will be sold by select tobacconists nationwide and in 14 other countries. As in 2011, each new cigar will have a serial number imprinted on the band, as well as the signatures of Alec Bradley President Alan Rubin and Vice President Ralph Montero, plus factory supervisor Alex Miguel Artica, buncherWilmar Jose Valerioand rollerJuan Carlos Artica. “Certain cigars cater to a broader consumer base,” Mr. Rubin says. “Then there are those exceptional cigars that give certain smokers an inimitable taste experience. That’s what this new cigar represents to us.” One of the finest things in life? Surely. But discerning cigar lovers need not wait for this singular experience. For more information about all Alec Bradley Fine & Rare cigars, visit: AlecBradley.com | Facebook: Alec Bradley Cigars Fan page | Twitter: @alecbradley *   *   *
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92

Java By Drew Estate

Joya de Nicaragua Re-branding "Cuenca y Blanco" to "CyB"

byGary Korb

Estelí, Nicaragua – Joya de Nicaragua® (JDN), the oldest Nicaraguan cigar manufacturer, announced today that it is re-branding its new Cuenca y Blanco to “CyB by Joya de Nicaragua”. This change is being proactively, self implemented to satisfy the possibility of any unintended, potential trademark conflicts with other brands, and is being done so in the spirit of maintaining the harmony within our small industry of premium handmade cigars. The brand name change will not alter the blend in any way; the CyB cigar will be preserving its unrivaled quality and essence. “We did not realize there was any potential conflict over the name, otherwise we never would have used it to begin with”, expresses Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca, Owner and President of JDN, “It is never our intention to imitate others and rather than waste energy in a possibly long, drawn out legal dispute, simply changing it resolves any issue. I want our efforts focused solely on the working tobaccos, maintaining the quality of our cigars and satisfying our customers. Our industry is facing much more relevant challenges today that demand our united and collective efforts. We appreciate the forty-five years of trust our cigar consumers, retailers and distributors have afforded Joya de Nicaragua and it is our duty and honor to always ensure our brands continue to be the global icons of the Nicaraguan Spirit”. José Blanco, Senior VP of JDN adds, “All of us are extremely proud of CyB. We spent a year perfecting this intricate blend of tobaccos to deliver a truly unique smoking experience. It’s a medium to full bodied smoke, with lots of flavor and complexity, with a great aroma and a long finish. We may have changed the name, but the jewel we have created continues to be exactly the same!” Cigars shipped to our wholesale customers from today forward by Drew Estate, our US Distributor, will reflect this name change. Like the cigar itself, the brand’s overall design and packaging remains identical, the only difference being the name. Some legacy-boxed cigars from the initial launch may remain in the marketplace during the transition.#  #  #
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J.C. Newman & Co. Bows 2012 Gift Ideas

byGary Korb

TAMPA, FL -- This holiday season is all about affordable luxury. We have developed several new products geared at providing you the most "bang for your buck" without compromising taste, quality and construction. Take a look at some of the new items scheduled to hit shelves just in time for the 2012 holiday shopping season. Brick House Ashtray ComboThe Brick House Ashtray Combo features 3 handmade Brick House cigars set in a 2 finger custom ceramic ashtray. Originally a Cuban cigar, the Brick House brand was revived in 2009 as a Nicaraguan puro and quickly earned a spot in Cigar Aficionado's prestigious Top 25 Cigars of the Year. Critics have noted the brand's "subtly sweet flavors of nougat, caramel and pepper" and "well-constructed" body. The Brick House Ashtray Combo gift set includes 3 Brick House cigars in the popular robusto size. A beautifully crafted Brick House ashtray features the brand's historic label; a depiction of the founding family's Brick home for which the brand is named. With an MSRP of just $29.95, the Brick House Ashtray Combo makes the perfect holiday gift.Gift Set Includes:Three Brick House Cigars (robusto)One Brick House Ceramic AshtraySuggested Retail: $29.95Diamond Crown Holiday CollectionMore than just a gift, the Limited Edition Diamond Crown Holiday Collection features three Diamond Crown Cigars not available anywhere else. All superbly crafted in a larger double belicoso (6 3/4" x 54) size, the Collection offers the exquisite taste of the Diamond Crown family in three different wrappers and three different blends which are not commercially available. All three cigars are carefully packaged in a luxurious leather carrying case and Diamond Crown gift box for the holidays. The supply on this collection is extremely limited and will only be available at select Diamond Crown accounts. Gift Set Includes:Leather Carrying CaseOne Diamond Crown MAXIMUSOne Diamond Crown Julius CaeserOne Diamond Crown Cameroon SelectSuggested Retail: $57.50*  *  *
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Gurkha Cigars Bows New Shape for Cellar Reserve Churchill

byGary Korb

MIAMI, FL -- The Gurkha Cigar Group is proud to announce a new 7 x 54 Prisoner Churchill Salomon shape in its flagship Cellar Reserve brand. This cigar will replace the current 7 x 54 Churchill in the Cellar Reserve range. This decision was made due to the vast popularity and demand of the Salomon shape in the other sizes of the brand. The Cellar Reserve has quickly become a strong staple of the Gurkha portfolio and has received many accolades and 90+ ratings from leading cigar publications including, Cigar Aficionado, Cigar Journal, Cigar Snob and a recent 95 rating by Cigar and Spirits Magazine. "We feel the Cellar Reserve blend is certainly enhanced by the unique Salomon shape," said Juan Lopez, National Sales Director of Gurkha Cigar Group."After listening to the feedback from consumers and retailers, we felt this was a great way to further enhance the popularity and continuity of the brand." Cellar Reserve uses the finest 15-year old aged tobacco, comprised of an oily Criollo 1998 wrapper, that combines an aged Dominican, Olor binder with a 15-year aged Dominican filler. These cigars are housed in unique wooden boxes that aesthetically evoke a maturing wine barrel. Cellar Reserve is a delicious medium to full bodied cigar that is full of flavor and complexity. Available sizes:4 x 58 Koi 5 x 58 Solara6 x 58 Hedonism6 x 60 KrakenNew 7 x 54 Prisoner Churchill Salomon(MSRP: $7.98 - 12.94) More information on Gurkha Cigars can be found at www.gurkhacigars.com. * * *
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Davidoff of Geneva Introduces Avo 25th Anniversary Edition

byGary Korb

Tampa, FL -- This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the AVO cigar brand created by cigar icon Avo Uvezian, who began composing cigars in 1987. To celebrate the 25 years of “CIGARS IN PERFECT HARMONY,” Avo Uvezian has decided to share with you his two greatest passions, the piano and the cigar. It is this passion for music and cigars that has presented Avo with such happiness throughout the last quarter century. Today, in celebration of 25 years, Avo presents his passions to you... A stunning black lacquered, wooden ‘piano’ box, containing a short-term humidification system and a small compartment for accessory storage, brilliantly displays the “AVO 25th Anniversary Edition” cigars. Presented in a splendid 6” x 52 Toro format, the full-bodied, remarkably aromatic cigar, possesses sweet and spicy notes with a truly captivating aftertaste. The extraordinarily balanced filler tobaccos are refined with a Piloto binder and crowned with a silky Criollo, Sun-Grown (D.R.) wrapper, creating an exceptional smoking experience. Consisting entirely of Dominican tobaccos – a true Dominican “Puro” is brought to life in celebration of this special anniversary.“The packaging for this marvelous occasion is a masterpiece of its kind. The "grand piano" box, crafted specifically for the 25th Anniversary of the AVO brand, is monumental and beyond comparison.” explains Scott Kolesaire, AVO Brand Manager. “The 25th Anniversary Edition cigar is a magnificent blend that perfectly captures the passion, quality and expertise that has gone into every AVO cigar over the past 25 years.”The “AVO 25th Anniversary Edition” is produced in extremely limited quantities; only 2,000 individually numbered boxes containing 25 cigars each will be available in the United States. The retail price will be $16.00 per cigar - $400.00 per box, taxes not included. “AVO 25th Anniversary Edition” was unveiled at the IPCPR convention in Orlando, FL. and will begin shipping to Select Merchant locations within the next week.***
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Davidoff of Geneva debuts first 60-ring Avo with Heritage "Special Toro"

byGary Korb

Tampa, FL -- The latest addition to the AVO Heritage series has arrived – AVO Heritage “Special Toro” – produced only in limited quantities. The “Special Toro” is the first AVO cigar to be composed with a 60-ring gauge. The AVO Heritage “Special Toro” is comprised of specially fermented tobaccos that were hand selected by Avo Uvezian and Hendrik Kelner. The large percentage of Ligero tobaccos creates a spicy, full-bodied cigar with complex flavor and exhilarating palate stimulation. The fillers consist of three different tobaccos: Dominican Ligero, Dominican Seco and Peruvian Seco. The Binder is Dominican San Vicente, while the Wrapper is a specially fermented leaf from Cuban seed, grown in Ecuador – also used on the famed 2009 Limited Edition “Compañero.” “The AVO Heritage ‘Special Toro’ is a very exciting addition to the AVO brand,” states Scott Kolesaire, AVO Brand Manager. “In response to the requests, we have created the first ever 6” x 60 cigar to bear the AVO name. With an SRP of $9.80 per cigar, ‘Special Toro’ rounds out the AVO Heritage line perfectly, offering a size for everyone, all priced under $10.00.” Due to the limited amount of AVO Heritage ‘Special Toro’ cigars in production, an initial launch of 1,000 boxes was offered during the IPCPR convention in Orlando, FL. Each month additional cigars will be available to Select Merchants nationwide. Packaged in 20 count boxes, ‘Special Toro’ carries a suggested retail price of $196.00, taxes not included. * * * Avo Uvezian is a cosmopolitan who began his career as a musician and went on to become a composer, cigar aficionado and even a creator of fine cigars. Avo, who lent his name to AVO Cigars, has nurtured all these talents in his quest for perfection. In both music and the creation of cigars, passion is the driving force that spurs him to find perfect harmony. Of Dominican origin, the AVO brand.#  #  #
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New ad campaign features JM Tobacco’s Dominican hand-rolled value-priced premium cigars

byGary Korb

(Los Angeles, CA) -- JM Tobacco’s 2012 national advertising campaign kicks off with the January issues of several tobacco-related national publications. They will run in all six issues of the magazines. The full-page ad’s theme is “Your Daily Choice,” emphasizing the budget-friendliness of 100% select long-filler tobacco, hand-rolled JM’s Dominican premium cigars. It targets today’s frequent smokers, who eek quality and satisfaction in substitutes for their former, high-priced favorites. Boxes of the brand appear, in its three different wrappers...from left to right, the original Sumatra, the Maduro, and the Corojo. For purposes of ad composition, the cigar in Connecticut Shade wrapper is not shown. Anto Mahroukian, JM’s president, adds, “Other variations on the JM’s Dominican lineup that are not pictured are: Honeys, with honey-based flavorings and dipped heads, and ‘It’s a Boy/Girl,’ in pink or blue boxes and bands. We wanted the ad to visually remind customers that JM’s Dominican cigars come 50 to a box. This is important when comparing our box prices with the competition’s customary 25-cigar boxes." The next step, is the creation of extensive in-store sales aids...signage, shelf-talkers, posters and more...all of which draw smokers’ attention to the cigars on display in retailers’ humidors. Following that in Summer, 2012, a new ad will feature Carnero, JM Tobacco’s first full premium cigar.*   *   *
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Toraño Family Cigar Co. is a Hit at The 2nd Annual Neat Stuff Casino Night

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) -- Toraño Family Cigar Co. was happy to return as the official cigar sponsor for the 2nd annual Neat Stuff for Kids Casino Night event at the newly renovated Coral Gables Country Club. Neat Stuff for Kids is a local nonprofit agency in South Florida which provides brand new clothing for neglected, abused, and underprivileged children. Toraño family members Carlos Llaca-Toraño and Jack Toraño were present at the event as they educated event-goers on cigar craftsmanship while sampling some of Toraño’s award winning cigars. Event attendees were treated to Toraño new releases Vault and Loyal as this fabulous Las Vegas style event which featured professional grade gambling tables, show girls, and specialty entertainment. President of Toraño Family Cigar Co. Charlie Toraño has taken a special interest in Neat Stuff for Kids as this local charity nicknamed “The little engine that could,” has been awarded the highest possible rating by charity navigator for their efficiency as 96% of all donations go straight to the cause, without receiving government grants. “I commend Neat Stuff’s Executive Director Franklin Monjarrez for his vision and compassion, said Charlie Toraño. We, as a company, are more than happy to support the work that he and the organization does for kids in our local community.”*   *   *
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82

Te Amo

86

Alec Bradley American Classic Blend

Toraño Family Cigar Co. Announces Winner of Grand Prize Trip to Arrington Vineyards

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) February 6, 2012 -- Toraño Family Cigar Co. is happy to announce Timothy Hudson as the grand prize winner of the month-long Toraño-Arrington wine fridge contest. This contest saw 25 lucky winners walk away with a Toraño branded stainless steel wine fridge and the grand prize winner being awarded a weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee to visit Arrington Vineyards. Timothy Hudson of Allentown, Michigan, who is an avid fan of Toraño brands, heard about the Toraño-Arrington contest and decided to make a trip with his brother to the nearest participating cigar store,Jenuwine Cigar Factory Outlet in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Hudson was originally introduced to smoking cigars while playing cards with friends. He quickly moved up to premium handmade cigars and notes that one of his favorites is the highly rated Toraño Exodus 1959. While at Jenuwine and having a smoke and sampling the Arrington Vineyards-Toraño Antebellum Private Barrel Reserve wine, Timothy entered the contest by purchasing a box of Exodus. Timothy was later excited to hear that he won the raffle for the stainless steel wine fridge and was about to get a bigger surprise after he was automatically entered to win the grand prize. A few weeks later at Toraño headquarters in Miami, Florida, Toraño Family Cigar Co. President, Charlie Toraño, reached his hand into a drawing box and pulled out the winning entry awarding the grand prize trip to Timothy Hudson. Timothy said that he was floored when he received a call from Jack Toraño. After gathering his thoughts he could only laugh out loud as he remembered that he promised to take his brother on the trip if he were to win. Timothy stated with a grin that he would envision taking his girlfriend to Arrington Vineyards for a romantic get away, and then jokingly said that he spoke too soon by inviting his brother. Jokes aside, he said that spending a weekend with his brother while smoking cigars and drinking award winning wines is more than he could ask for. The grand prize trip to Nashville, Tennessee will be an all-expense paid weekend experience with the highlight being a VIP visit to Arrington Vineyards complete with a tasting of their exquisite wines. Kip Summers, the winemaker and one of Arrington Vineyards’ partners with Kix Brooks(of Brooks and Dunn fame), will lead the tour and wine tasting. Also on the agenda will be a gourmet lunch on the outdoor bistro tables overlooking 75 acres of sheer beauty. Timothy will enjoy some of Toraño’s finest cigars as they are joined by Charlie Toraño himself. The experience of smoking some of the finest cigars, while sipping on award winning wines, will surely be a treat for any true cigar & wine enthusiast.For more information on Arrington Vineyards, please go to www.Arringtonvineyards.com.
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Torano Family Cigar Co. Hosts 2nd Annual Toy Drive In Miami

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) - Toraño Family Cigar Co. partnered up with media sponsors Cigar Snob magazine, Social Florida magazine, and South Florida Luxury magazine along with local radio station 880 AM The Bizfor the second annual Toraño Family Holiday Toy Drive on December 7th. This toy drive benefits Neat Stuff for Kids which is a Miami based non for profit organization whose main focus is to provide brand new clothing to children who come from abused and underprivileged homes. Toraño Family Cigar Co. hosted over 300 guests at Andalus restaurant located in the vibrant Design District in Miami. Guests were asked to bring an unwrapped toy to be part of this amazing gathering which featured Torano family’s award winning cigars and cocktails courtesy of Abuelo Rum and Chambord Vodka. Guests were also treated to delicious bites courtesy of Andalus which specializes in gourmet Spanish cuisine. Toraño Family Cigar Co. was represented by Carlos Llaca-Toraño and Jack Toraño who provided a wide array of Toraño cigars to include new release Loyal. Guests smoked Toraño’s best under the Miami stars in Andalus' smoker friendly terrace. Carlos and Jack were only happy to cut and light cigars for guests while sharing information with event goers about Toraño family history and its cigars blends. Franklin Monjarrez, Executive Director of Neat Stuff for Kids who is a Toraño cigar smoker himself said, "It is special when a local company like Torano Family Cigar Co. cares enough about the community to once again host this amazing event benefiting our charity which helps the children who are among the most needy. " Charlie Toraño, President of Toraño Family Cigar Co. said, "We appreciate the support we receive from our community here in South Florida and the best way to show that appreciation is to give something back to those who need help the most. Neat Stuff for Kids is truly an amazing organization that touches the lives of underprivileged children every day. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to host this Holiday event for the second time which brought awareness to its cause."*   *   *
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91

Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real

Camacho Signs Three-Year Sponsorship With the Orange Bowl

byGary Korb

PINELLAS PARK, Fla.-- PRNewswire -- Davidoff of Geneva and the Orange Bowl Committee announced today a new 3-year agreement making Camacho Cigars a "Corporate Sponsor" of the Orange Bowl Festival, which includes the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Discover Orange Bowls and 2013 Discover BCS National Championship. The sponsorship includes a large presence at several game day events at Sun Life Stadium leading up to the 2012-2014 Discover Orange Bowls and 2013 Discover BCS National Championship. Football fans, VIP's and Committee members will have access to on-site Camacho lounges where premium cigars can be enjoyed throughout the day. At the Orange Bowl Game Day Fan Zone, the Orange Bowl's largest pre-game event, guests can relax before kickoff in a beautifully appointed Camacho Club Lounge. There will also be two cigar lounges located in the designated smoking areas of the stadium on the Club Level for attendees of the Orange Bowl VIP pre-game party. "Being that our roots stem from South Florida, it's a great honor to be partnered with such a class organization that does so much for the community," said Dylan Austin, Head of Marketing at Camacho Cigars. "We pride ourselves in affiliating with quality brands, especially those with strong South Florida ties, like Camacho Cigars," said Michael Saks, Chief Operating Officer of the Orange Bowl. *   *   * About Camacho CigarsFounded in 1961 by Simon Camacho, Camacho Cigars® was acquired by the Eiroa family in 1995. Now part of the Oettinger Davidoff Group, Camacho Cigars® is one of the key players in the international cigar market. The flagship Camacho brand, made at Rancho Jamastran in Danli, Honduras, is comprised of 11 premium and super-premium line extensions: (Super-Premium: Diploma, 10th Anniversary Corojo, Liberty Series, Triple Maduro™, Select) (Premium: Corojo, Connecticut, Coyolar, Havana, SLR and Room101). Camacho Cigars also has 7 core brands, including Baccarat The Game, America's #1 selling premium cigar. www.camachocigars.com. About the Orange BowlThe Orange Bowl is a 341-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South Florida community. The Orange Bowl Festival features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the Discover Orange Bowl on January 4, 2012. Other OBC core events include the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance presented by Sports Authority, Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, Orange Bowl Sailing Regatta Series and Orange Bowl Paddle Championships. For more information on the 2011-12 Orange Bowl Festival and its events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program, log on to www.orangebowl.org.
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Drew Estate Cigars Debuts iPhone App

byGary Korb

MIAMI, FL – Drew Estate Inc. announced today that they have launched a Drew Estate iPhone app. The app is free of charge, and incorporates the following features:Browse Drew Estate’s cigar brands, including description, size, and quantity informationFind nearby stores that carry Drew Estate brandsVisit the Kult Shop, Drew Estate’s online store, to purchase unique Drew Estate branded merchandiseBrowse through photos and videos from Drew Estate’s Flickr and YouTube accountsBrowse Drew Estate’s Facebook, Twitter and blog postsFind Drew Estate events based on locationBrowse through details, photos and videos from Drew Estate’s Cigar SafariRead Drew Estate’s story, written by founders Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel, including picturesManage subscriptions to "From Under the Bridge", the official Drew Estate newsletter Drew Estate built the app from the ground up, customizing the features to suit their needs. A dedicated iPad and Android app will follow in the coming weeks.When asked about the reasoning behind Drew Estate’s decision to develop an app, company co-founder Jonathan Drew said, “I believe the new trend of mobile phones and devices replacing computers is something that can’t be ignored, and we at Drew Estate wanted to be the first cigar manufacturer to enter the mobile app market. We are very active online through social networking and our website, so the choice to develop a dedicated app was an easy decision.”Marvin Samel, Drew Estate co-founder, had this to say: “Most of us at Drew Estate already use iPhones on a daily basis, and we wanted an app that would not only let us communicate with our fans but also allow them to find our products quickly and easily. We’ve had a store locator on our site for years, but the app’s Store Locator takes it one step further and makes the process of finding a local tobacconist that carries our cigars that much simpler.”To download the app, use the link below from your iPhone, or use the keywords “Drew Estate” in the App Store.http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/drew-estate/id464197748?mt=8For more information on the Drew Estate iPhone App, please email John Brooke.*   *   *
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Counterfeit Cohiba Cigars Seized in Key West

byGary Korb

Richmond, VA -- General Cigar announces that federal and Florida state law enforcement officials yesterday seized more than 3,000 counterfeit COHIBA® cigars from seven tobacco retail stores located in prime tourist areas of Key West, Florida. Individual cigars were sold at approximately $20 apiece. Based on current estimates, the approximate street value of goods seized was more than $60,000. The counterfeit cigar seizures followed a lengthy investigation conducted in cooperation with General Cigar Company, which is the exclusive owner of the COHIBA trademark in the U.S. The lead law enforcement agency for yesterday’s seizures was the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, assisted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Florida Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco Bureau of Law Enforcement, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Dan Carr, president of General Cigar said, "The seizure of counterfeit COHIBA cigars yesterday represents a clear victory in General Cigar’s fight to protect our cigar bands from counterfeiters and trademark infringers. We look forward to continuing to cooperate with federal and state law enforcement officials in Florida and have offered to assist in any prosecutions and future investigations." *   *   *
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General Cigar Names Alan Willner New Vice President of Marketing

byGary Korb

Richmond, VA -- General Cigar is pleased to announce that Alan Willner has joined the company as vice president of marketing. A consumer product marketing veteran with 20 years of experience, Willner will play an integral role in increasing the company’s market share. As such, he will oversee General Cigar’s consumer and trade marketing, public relations, CRM, event and innovation platforms, and will also spearhead international sales and marketing initiatives. Additionally, Willner will direct Club Macanudo® in New York City. “We are thrilled to have someone with Alan’s unique blend of strategic planning, brand building and product development expertise. Alan’s experience and vision will help further define our brands and we look forward to the contributions he will make toward driving deeper market penetration and consumer engagement,” said Dan Carr, president of General Cigar. Willner joins General Cigar from Starr Hill Brewery where he held the position of president and CEO. Starr Hill is an award-winning, craft brewery and partner of Anheuser-Busch. During his tenure at Starr Hill, Willner dramatically increased distribution and created new products which resulted in Starr Hill becoming one of the fastest growing breweries in the U.S. and one of the largest in the competitive mid-Atlantic region. Earlier in his career, Alan held leadership positions with the Coors Brewing Company, Diageo and Nabisco. “As premium cigar smokers increasingly seek connectivity with the brands they enjoy, and as retailers seek new ways to expose consumers to the premium cigar lifestyle, I am excited about the opportunity to work with our team of cigar masters and artisans to bring their passion to life.” As Vice President of Marketing, Willner will join the company’s management team and will report directly to President Dan Carr. Willner is a graduate of Arizona State University and also studied at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He previously served as Chapter President for the American Marketing Association.*   *   *
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New low battery indicator enhances accuracy and performance for Xikar digital hygrometer

byGary Korb

Kansas City, Mo. -- On October 1, 2011, XIKAR added a new feature to the Digital Rectangular Hygrometer to improve its function. The new low battery feature will improve the overall performance and eliminate miscalculations on humidity and temperature in the humidor. "This feature helps identify when a new battery is needed thus ensuring accuracy" - Scott Almsberger, EVP. XIKAR Digital Rectangular Hygrometer will accurately report humidity to +/- 2% at 70% RH and temperature to 1 degree F/C. XIKAR's humidification products; 50ct, 100ct and 250ct humidifier and cigar bar achieve a consistent 70% humidity when used with XIKAR PG Solution. Distilled or tap water is not recommended because it will not regulate humidity. For more detailed information about XIKAR's two-way humidification and proper procedures, please visit www.xikar.com and view the educational videos on humidification, storing, lighting, cutting and transportation of cigars. XIKAR, Inc., industry leader in cigar accessories, is dedicated to providing value to consumers through product innovation, highest quality at a fair price. XIKAR stands behind each of its products with a total satisfaction - Lifetime Warranty.*   *   *
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86

JM's Dominican

89

Padron

Altadis USA Announces Corporate Sponsorship Of Cigar Rights of America

byGary Korb

Fairfax, VA – At a time when those that simply want to enjoy a great cigar are under attack as never before in history through: onerous taxation, smoking bans, and threats of increased regulation, Cigar Rights of America announced today a new corporate sponsorship from one of the largest cigar manufacturers on earth. In making the announcement, Altadis USA’s General Manager of Premium Cigars, Javier Estades, stated, “We are pleased to announce our new partnership with Cigar Rights of America, and we look forward to working together to help our industry and to build a more positive environment for all of us who appreciate and enjoy the premium cigar lifestyle.” Janelle Rosenfeld, VP of Premium Cigar Marketing added, “By partnering with CRA, Altadis USA hopes to advance a pro-cigar agenda, working with other industry partners, to protect and build our wonderful premium cigar industry from the fields of the Dominican Republic, to the local retail tobacconist, to the consumer’s back porch.” Altadis, USA, the maker of such noted premium cigar brands as H. Upmann, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and Trinidad, has been producing these acclaimed cigars since 1918. The company has production facilities in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Florida, and Richmond, Virginia; along with associated production facilities in Mexico and Nicaragua. Altadis USA also sponsors the Montecristo Relief Organization, which has raised millions of dollars to assist victims of hurricanes and natural disaster. CRA Board Chairman, Jeff Borysiewicz, noted, “Cigar Rights of America is certainly pleased to now add Altadis USA to its growing list of Corporate Sponsors, which has grown from an initial dozen to over thirty-five manufacturers and over 700 retail tobacconists in three years. CRA has evolved from a five-city tour to a fifty-state membership in a short period of time. The cigar industry, at all levels, now presents a unified front against all forms of government intrusion. Altadis USA, with its national premium cigar network, can certainly advance the CRA cause.” CRA Executive Director, J. Glynn Loope, closed by saying, “The objective is to reach as many consumers with our message as possible, and this new Corporate Sponsorship with Altadis USA will certainly advance the mission and success of Cigar Rights of America. We look forward to working with their corporate staff and premium cigar national sales force to reach the retail and consumer community, in addition to addressing the many political issues confronting each of us at all levels.” *  *  *
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Toraño Family Cigar Co. Bows Wine Refrigerator and Arrington Vineyards Promotion

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) - Toraño Family Cigar Co. has partnered with Arrington Vineyards for a spectacular contest that combines two of the finer things in life: premium handmade cigars and award winning wine. This contest awards 25 lucky winners a stainless steel wine refrigerator that holds twenty-four bottles of wine and qualifies them for a Grand Prize trip to Arrington Vineyards in Nashville, Tennessee. The idea for this exciting collaboration sprung from the personal relationship between Bruce Lewis, Toraño’s VP of Sales and Marketing, and Kip Summers, the winemaker and one of Arrington Vineyards’ partners with Kix Brooks (of Brooks & Dunn fame). Lewis and Summers have had a mutual admiration for each other’s respective industry for a very long time. The scenic beauty of the vineyards, coupled with an array of incredible wines, has led to many cigar smoking occasions at Arrington. Toraño Family Cigar Co. wanted to share this special experience with one of its consumers. Toraño Family Cigar Co. is ready to award 25 Toraño branded wine refrigerators in a raffle at select stores around the country. The wine fridge promotion will last for thirty days at each store and will culminate in an end of the month grand event to award the wine refrigerator. Toraño will offer unique merchandise and specials at each store during the month long promo. The most unique item is a bottle of Arrington Vineyards-Toraño Antebellum private barrel reserve wine. This Toraño private label wine was created by Arrington Vineyards and was made specifically to compliment the fine cigars created by the Toraño family. This distinctive wine has been aged for 16 months in oak wine barrels then aged a further 6 months in Tennessee whiskey barrels. The pairing of Toraño cigars with the Arrington Antebellum can be experienced only at select tobacconists. The grand prize trip to Nashville, Tennessee will be an all-expense paid weekend experience that will feature a grand tour of the Arrington Vineyards facility complete with a tasting of their exquisite wines. The contest winner will be treated to a gourmet lunch on the outdoor bistro tables overlooking 75 acres of sheer beauty. The contest winner will enjoy some of Toraño’s finest cigars as they are joined by Charlie Toraño himself. The experience of smoking some of the finest cigars, while sipping on award winning wines, will surely be a treat for a true cigar & wine enthusiast. Charlie Toraño is proud to share his Toraño -Arrington private label wine as he knows the value of “making time to burn” with a great cigar while being able relax with a fine bottle of wine. He looks forward to being able to award 25 lucky winners a stainless steel wine refrigerator and is excited to make his way to Arrington Vineyard with the grand prize winner. For more information on the 25 participating stores, prizes, and Toraño -Arrington in store specials please go to www.Torano.com. Also, for more information on Arrington Vineyards, please go to www.Arringtonvineyards.com.  *   *   *
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Toraño Family Cigar Co. Continues to Strengthen Its Team as Jack Toraño Joins the Family Business

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) - Toraño Family Cigar Co. has taken another step to strengthen its team as President Charlie Toraño is proud to announce the hiring of fellow family member Jack Toraño as the Marketing & Customer Relations Manager. Jack Toraño brings along an excellent reputation for customer service, branding, and public relations. The addition of Jack Toraño is the latest in many big moves made by the Toraño Family after taking back their distribution. Jack Toraño, a native of Miami, Fl. got his start in the tobacco business when he was employed with Lopez Leaf Tobacco in the early 80’s. With a last name like Toraño it isn’t a surprise that he started his career in the tobacco business, but where he went next is quite an interesting tale. Jack Toraño found himself in Chicago for the last 16 years working along-side his brother Sandy Toraño in a company called Scandal Music. Scandal Music wrote jingles for television and radio commercials. Jack’s strong sense of branding and marketing in addition to his lively personality allowed him to help create ads with companies such as McDonalds, Nintendo, and was even part of the team that created the very successful “Real Men of Genius” campaign for Bud Light.  A highlight for Jack was when Scandal Music had the privilege of creating music for the Oprah Winfrey Show. Jack’s love of premium cigars brought him back to Miami and into the family business. Charlie Toraño felt that Jack’s background in advertising and his personable manner made him a perfect fit for the new look and direction of the Toraño Family Cigar Co. "Jack is the prodigal son of the Toraño family. It took us 16 years to get him back in Miami," Charlie Toraño continued, "it’s always a great feeling to work alongside family members as we all carry that same passion for cigars." The past year has been one of great change for the Toraño Family. New logo, new company name, new brands, and new faces round out the positive changes that the company has undergone. "I feel strongly that we have all the right pieces and persons in place to move Toraño Family Cigar Co. into a position to provide retailers and ultimately our customers with the best cigars and service possible, said Charlie. Jack Toraño will replace Oliver Hyams who is going to work with his father, Gary Hyams. "Oliver is a great friend and a fantastic person. Oliver has been an important member of our team but I, more than most, understand Oliver’s desire to work with his father.  I wish him much success," Charlie added. A leader in the cigar industry, Toraño Family Cigar Company is a four generation company currently based in Miami, FL. It enjoys a rich heritage and history in tobacco growing and manufacturing. For more information: www.torano.com. Please also follow Toraño on Facebook: Toraño A family Cigar Company or on Twitter: @toranofamcigars.*   *   *
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90

Ashton Aged Maduro

88

Alec Bradley Prensado

Cigar Industry Veteran Sherwin Seltzer Retires from General Cigar

byGary Korb

Richmond, VA - General Cigar announced today that industry veteran Sherwin Seltzer will retire at the end of October, thus concluding a storied career spanning more than half a century in the premium cigar category. “There comes a time when you have to stop and do something else. I’ve had a great run in this business but at this stage in my life, I want to devote my time to Iris, my wife of 51 years, and my children and grandchildren,” comments Seltzer, who will continue to serve as General Cigar’s vice president of trade development until October 31. Dan Carr, president of General Cigar remarks, “Sherwin is one of those people you meet in life and never forget. He has a great sense of humor and always makes people feel at ease. Because of this, he made great contributions to General Cigar, particularly in developing relationships with our trade partners and in acting as a mentor to people in all areas of the business. While we will all miss working with Sherwin, we consider him family and look forward to hearing about his adventures during retirement.”Sherwin began his career in the industry in 1956, working for Brown Williamson, a cigarette company, before joining Faber, Coe and Gregg, best known for importing Cuban cigars to the U.S. After a stint in California, during which time he launched Faber’s national products division, Sherwin returned to New York in 1978 to work for Joel Sherman of Nat Sherman & Company.In 1980, Sherwin joined Villazon & Company, maker of iconic Honduran brands such as Punch®, Hoyo de Monterrey® and Excalibur®, and was quickly promoted to vice president of sales and marketing, working with Danny Blumenthal and Frank Llaneza. When General Cigar acquired Villazon in 1996, Sherwin’s career flourished. He worked hand in hand with industry icons including Edgar Cullman, Daniel Nuñez and Benji Menendez. He ultimately concentrated on sales and trade development, an entrepreneurial position which allowed him to focus on trade relations and channel expansion. Sherwin remembers, “When General Cigar acquired Villazon, it was a turning point in my career. Edgar Cullman was like a godfather to me and together with his son Edgar and grandson David Danziger, they developed what I feel are the best brands in the industry. They also built a tremendous foundation for today’s General Cigar Company.” Sherwin feels he’s leaving the company at the right time. “I have complete confidence in Dan Carr. He’s a terrific guy, and I know he’s going to keep moving the business forward to even bigger and better things. He has also developed a really talented management team, along with great people in the factories, and in sales and marketing. I’m retiring knowing that the company will continue to be the best in the business.” When asked what advice he would give to someone who wants to enter the cigar business, Sherwin simply answers, “Get a job with General Cigar.” *   *   *
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Angelo Dundee Celebrates 90th Birthday with a box of Cigars from Toraño Family Cigar Co.

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) -- Hall of Fame boxing trainer Angelo Dundee celebrates 90 years of age with a reunion with a piece of his glorious past and a gift from the Toraño Family Cigar Co.  The legendary Dundee who trained 12 world boxing champions (most famously Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard) had the chance to slow down for one of the few times in his 90 years to reminisce about days past as he was presented with mounted brick from the original 5th Street Gym which was torn down in 1994. Having turned 90 on August 30, 2011 Angelo Dundee was all smiles over the weekend as invited friends and fans came into the new incarnation of the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach which opened last year. Dundee who is still spry at 90 can’t get away from his passion of boxing as he sat ringside giving pointers to young boxers hoping to one day be Dundee’s 13th world champion. Friends wished him well for his birthday as he posed for pictures and signed autographs. Two special surprises came his way as boxing fan Ken Drodvillo surprised Dundee with a brick from the original 5th Street Gym and Torano Family member Carlos Llaca Toraño presented him with a box of Toraño Reserva Selecta. Dundee seemed to get a bit nostalgic as he had a physical piece of a building which represented the golden age of boxing in his hands and the box of cigars took him back to the days of a free Cuba which is where he spent much time working with Cuban fighters. Dundee joked about his travels to Cuba using his “dirty-Spanish” which was a mix of his bad Spanish and his bad Italian to communicate with Cuban fighters. Dundee recounted how he started smoking cigars because of his frequent trips down to Cuba. Dundee looked over the glass tubes which encased the Torano Reserva Selecta cigars and was excited to call his son Jimmy over to show them and talked about plans to smoke them during their next poker night. Carlos Llaca Torano said,” It’s an honor to represent the Torano family during special moments like these. To be in the presence of a living legend like Angelo Dundee as he turns 90 is quite humbling.”*   *   *
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Jose Blanco Named Senior Vice President of Joya de Nicaragua

byGary Korb

Esteli, Nicaragua --  On August 29, 2011, Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. (JDN) appointed Jose Blanco, formerly a director of La Aurora Cigars, as Senior Vice President. Blanco is bringing his 29 years of marketing, public relations, and tobacco blending experience to this legendary Nicaraguan cigar company. He will be responsible for overall brand and blend development and will be reporting directly to its owner, Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, and the company’s Board of Directors. Working closely with Drew Estate, their US Distributor, and their worldwide partners, Blanco will also be responsible for interacting with the public. He will be relocating from the Dominican Republic to Nicaragua in order to fulfill his duties. Blanco, age 61, is a cigar expert held in high esteem throughout the industry who is known for being simultaneously outspoken and gregarious. Cigars and tobacco have always been part of his life. As a youth he was tasked with sorting tobacco from his father’s farm and began regularly smoking cigars at the age of 16. He was hired by Empresa León Jimenes CxA in 1982 and spent 18 years in its core beer and cigarette divisions. In 1999, due to his passion for cigars, he was promoted into their historic cigar company, La Aurora S.A. Utilizing tobaccos from many nations, he was instrumental in the development of new products such as the 100 Años, Aurora 107 and 1495 Series. He also served as the public representative for the company and is heralded for his tobacco blending and tasting seminars until his retirement from the company in June 2011. Guillermo León, the owner of La Aurora, credited Blanco for being a big part of the company’s success in a statement to CigarAficionado.In comment to why he decided to accept the position at JDN, Blanco states, “Joining Joya De Nicaragua allows me to do what I love and feel passionate for: working with tobacco. It is a choice that I feel very happy about and makes me look into the future with great enthusiasm. Joya De Nicaragua is in my opinion an honorable company with strong tradition and history, which I value highly. Furthermore, it will be a great honor to work with my dear friend Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca. In this company I visualize growth, creativity and overall great potential."Of Blanco says Dr. Martinez Cuenca, "Welcoming Jose Blanco as Senior VP of Joya de Nicaragua is a profound honor and pleasure for me. Jose will bring new blood and fresh ideas to our legendary company that will allow us to expand our lines of production. His experience in blending and marketing will complement our own efforts and will undoubtedly result in a great contribution to the development and growth of Joya de Nicaragua in both the US and worldwide markets.”“I have always respected Jose,” states Steve Saka, President of Drew Estate, “He is one of the few guys in our business that will tell you what he really thinks. I like that in an individual, plus he is as crazy about cigars and tobacco as I am. He is a total cigar geek so I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to work with him to grow the love for Joya de Nicaragua. He is going to be a great fit.”Jonathan Drew, Owner and Co-Founder of Drew Estate added this comment via an iPhone video, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure he knows all about cigars, but the thing I like best about Blanco is his accent. Sometimes it is Dominican, sometimes it is Bronx, but it is never one of those Dominican-Bronx accents.”*   *   *
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Carlos Toraño Sr. presented with Lifetime Achievment Award by Cigar Journal Magazine

byGary Korb

(Miami, Florida) - Toraño Family Cigar Company was bestowed a great honor as the patriarch of the family Carlos Toraño Sr. was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by Cigar Journal Magazine to commemorate his service and dedication to the tobacco industry. The Cigar Journal Magazine’s annual award ceremony took place on July 19, 2011 at Lavo Italian Restaurant located inside The Palazzo Hotel during the 2011 IPCPR Trade show. The ceremony was attended by leading figures of the tobacco industry, Grammy winner Arturo Sandoval, Hollywood producers, and other notables. The ceremony featured awards for 17 different categories. This year’s ceremony featured a twist as the trophy awarded to the winners was redesigned to resemble a crystal chaveta. In the words of the Cigar Journal, the chaveta is the symbol of the cigar-maker’s art. The ceremony was hosted by the Cigar Journal’s Chief Editors Reinhold Widmayer and Colin Ganley. After awarding 16 awards for categories such as best brand, best cigar, etc. there was only one crystal chaveta left. After a short introduction Widmayer announced Carlos Toraño Sr. as the lifetime achievement award winner. Too much applause, Carlos Toraño Sr. walked on stage and graciously accepted the award from Widmayer. Carlos Toraño’s first words were that he was humbled to receive such an honor. After a short speech he walked off stage to pose for pictures with his son and current president of Toraño Family Cigars Co. Charlie Toraño. Charlie was heard whispering in his father’s ear, “Congratulations, you deserve this dad”. On winning the award Carlos Toraño Sr. stated, “I am truly honored to receive this award from Cigar Journal Magazine. This industry has been very special to my family and I, and we look forward to continuing the Toraño tradition for years to come.” Founded in 1916 by Santiago Toraño, the Toraño Family Cigar Company is recognized as one of the oldest tobacco families in the cigar industry. Carlos Toraño, at the age of 16 was part of the nationalization of Cuba in 1959, where his family’s tobacco fields were taken away and were forced to leave the island. The family however continued to seek out the finest quality tobaccos from many countries around the world. After being educated in the United States, Carlos Toraño Sr. joined the family business and followed in his father’s footsteps by continuing the tradition and legacy of his grandfather in buying and distributing tobacco. In 1997, the family owned and operated its first factory.*   *   *
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Toraño Family Cigar Company Teams Up with Dwayne Wade to Help Kids

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) -- Toraño Family Cigar Co. had the honor of being asked to be the official cigar partner at "The Party with a Purpose" event hosted by Miami Heat superstar Dwayne Wade at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel &Casino to benefit the Kids2Camp fund. Taking place on Wednesday July 13, 2011 the red carpet event was a spectacular affair where event goers mixed and mingled with NBA Champion Dwayne Wade and other athletes to include current Miami Dolphin wide receivers Devon Bess and Brian Hartline. Also in attendance was former Miami Dolphin tight end and current voice of the Miami Dolphins Joe Rose. The event, which took place poolside at the Hard Rock Hotel, featured cocktails and pork cooked in "La Caja China" which is a traditionally Cuban way of roasting pork. Continuing with Cuban tradition Toraño Family Cigar Co. was well represented as Master Roller Felipe Sosa and Carlos "Llaca" Toraño were in attendance as they cut and lit some of Toraño’s finest cigars for event goers. Dwayne Wade stood on stage to thank sponsors and event guests for helping raise awareness and funds for the Kids2Camp fund which provides scholarships to disadvantaged or disabled youth as well as the opportunity to attend camps. As he was finishing his speech the “voice” of the Miami Dolphins Joe Rose announced that the Toraño Family had a special surprise for Wade as Carlos Llaca-Toraño presented Wade with a box of Limited Edition Carlos Toraño 2008 Tribute Churchill Cigars. A gracious Dwayne Wade thanked Carlos as he opened the box with excitement. President of Toraño Family Cigar Co. Charlie Toraño was unable to attend the event but stated, "As a cigar company in Miami we are proud to take part in functions to help the less fortunate in our home city. We felt privileged to be asked to take part in such a special event." A leader in the cigar industry, Toraño Family Cigar Company is a four generation company currently based in Miami, FL. It enjoys a rich heritage and history in tobacco growing and manufacturing. For more information: www.torano.com. Please also follow Toraño on Face book: Toraño A family Cigar Company or on Twitter: @TORANOFAMCIGARS. *   *   *
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76

JM's Dominican Connecticut

Willy Herrera Joins Drew Estate

byGary Korb

Miami, FL – On June 15th, Willy Herrera, formerly the blender and master cigar maker of El Titan de Bronze, joined Drew Estate. Willy is bringing his unique cigar skills and talents to this dynamic, rapidly expanding premium cigar manufacturer. He will be responsible for creating and crafting handmade, traditional cigar blends under his own moniker within their Esteli, Nicaragua-based La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate and will report directly to Drew Estate's executive board. Herrera is best known for overseeing and directing daily operations and production at Little Havana's El Titan de Bronze (ETB) located on Miami's famed Calle Ocho for the last 6 years. Established in 1995, this family owned and operated "fabriquita" hand rolls cigars utilizing Cuban entubado techniques and manufacturers premium handmades for wholesale and retail sale. Also, ETB is the manufacturer for Miami Cigar's new Casa Miranda brand and the reblended Padilla "8&11" to be reintroduced at this year's IPCPR tradeshow. ETB will continue to be operated successfully as an independent factory under the watchful eye of its owner, Sandy Cobas."I have decided to join Drew Estate for many reasons," says 38-year old Herrera, "first and most importantly, I've known Jonathan for a number of years and separate of business, we have become good friends. I have long admired his approach and innovative style and I feel that we can combine Drew Estate's sense of style and fresh new ideas with my old school, traditional Cuban way of making cigars. Their factory is amazing and more so their production team is top flight. Plus, DE has deep inventories of exceptional tobacco and great relationships with all the top growers which will afford me the opportunity to have at-will access to amazing leaf. I am very anxious to get started and know I will be able to create fantastic cigars for consumers to enjoy."Jonathan Drew, Drew Estate's Co-Founder and Master Cigar Maker, states, "What I respect most about Willy is that he's authentic. Let me explain further. When I moved to Nicaragua to manufacture cigars in 1998, I only knew how to blend. I knew nothing about the inherent characteristics of heavy leaf, how to determine good crops from bad, how to ferment tobacco through pre-industry, or how to make the entire process functional in a factory setting. It took my young team and I many years to become what we have and we learned through the school of hard-knocks. Nothing came easy." Drew continues, "Watching Willy make magic in his small factory in Miami was inspirational to me and a major reason why I pursued the new relationship. Willy ran his factory for over six years, including the purchasing of tobacco, curing, blending and quality control - he has earned his rank as a real manufacturer, plus he's humble, honest, and cool as hell. He's a real Don.""Our goal is to give Willy the freedom to create his own unique style of cigars within our operation," explains Marvin Samel, DE's Co-Founder and Executive VP. "Almost a factory within a factory, so as to allow him to succeed on his own merit. Ultimately the intent is for there to be brands that are not only 'Willy Hererra' by name, but are ones that are truly those of his creation and efforts, not just some marketing gimmick."According to Steve Saka, Drew Estate's President, "We are very excited to be adding Willy to the team. Six years ago when I joined Drew Estate many thought I was crazy, but I saw something in JD, Marvin and the company that many didn't. I knew they could become world-class, master cigar makers and that they were capable of doing much more, they just needed to be directed and nurtured. Today we are known for not only making great infused cigars, but also some of the very best traditional cigars in the world, in what is arguably the best handmade premium cigar factory in Nicaragua. I see the same spark in Willy, he has the talent to become far greater than he already is, he just needs the environment and resources to blossom. We can provide both.""Although Willy is very anxious to get started, we are going to make him take a deep breath," adds Saka. "We are going to afford him the opportunity to spend the upcoming year in Nicaragua, to work with our team, to feel, to smoke and to blend with our and other new tobaccos. We also want to afford him the chance to spend some time on the road visiting cigar smokers around the country not only to introduce himself, but to listen and learn. There is no rush or timetable, what is important to us is that Willy become part of the team and for him to focus solely on creating the great cigars we know he is capable of."Herrera will be joining Drew Estate at this year's annual International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada this July 17th thru 21st, 2011.*   *   *
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Senior Cigar Executives Return with Passion and Launch C&C Cigars

byGary Korb

Bradenton, FL, June 22, 2011 -- (PR.com) -- C & C Cigars (www.CandCcigars.com) announces, with much excitement, the beginning of its journey in the cigar industry. Joe Chiusano took over the presidency of Cusano Cigars after his brother Michael Chiusano resigned. Joe Chiusano is joined by Jeff Aronson, Maurice Tisseur and Shane Hays. Every member of the C & C Cigars team has prior experience at large Manufacturers/Distributors in the cigar industry. C & C will be hand crafting cigar blends that follow their philosophy of providing consistent, high quality cigars at reasonable prices. People love to buy products that are better than the price they paid and stores love to sell to satisfied consumers. Everyone at C & C Cigars has a great passion for the cigar industry. "The C & C team knows you can’t tell someone that your product is a great value. Value is determined by the customer when he gets more than he paid for."- Jeff Aronson "The team at C & C Cigars is dedicated to providing service second to none and ensuring that both retailers and consumers know that they are part of a family they can trust," said Joe Chiusano. "Our number one goal is to provide products that consistently meet and exceed consumers’ expectations." C & C is launching two handmade product lines from the Dominican Republic that are consistent with our value product philosophy. C & C LRMD is a Limited Release natural maduro boxed in three sizes. Roll Back is a tray and refill bundle line offered in three sizes and two wrappers. Roll Back will be offered in a creamy Connecticut Shade and rich natural maduro. C & C Cigars will be showcasing these products to retailers at the I.P.C.P.R. Tradeshow in July. Retailers can find C & C Cigars at booths 0971-0973.*   *   *
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89

Don Tomas Clasico

91

Rocky Patel Sun Grown

Toraño Family Cigar Company to distribute Sam Leccia cigars

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) -- The Toraño Family Cigar Company is proud to announce that they will be the exclusive distributor for the newly formed Sam Leccia Cigar Co. effective June 14, 2011. This distribution agreement brings together two entities with different styles and looks, but that nonetheless share the same enthusiasm and innovation in producing the highest quality cigars. “We are excited about working with one of the industry’s most creative minds. Sam Leccia has a unique energy and approach to the cigar industry. We look forward to the collaboration between our two companies,” said Charlie Toraño, president of Toraño Family Cigar Company. “I have always had great respect and admiration for the Toraño family. Their expertise and history in growing tobacco and manufacturing great cigars is well known. Since their announcement last year whereby they took back control of the distribution of their brands, it’s clear that Toraño is focused on expanding its distribution company and providing tobacconists with the service and cigars they deserve. I strongly feel that this team will play an invaluable role for the growth of Sam Leccia Cigar Co,” said Leccia.The newly formed Sam Leccia Cigar Co. was formally announced via press release to the world this past May 27, 2011. Leccia’s innovative style sets him apart from most, but his dedication to crafting handmade cigars with the finest tobacco is what drives him.Sprinting out of the starting blocks, the first creation for the new company is appropriately named “Debut.” The cigars are a twist of Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador and Santo Domingo tobaccos blended together, to give a unique smoking experience. Leccia is proud of his company’s first brand, and excited about working with this team. Retailers, if interested in Sam Leccia Cigar Co. products should contact their Toraño Family Cigar sales rep for pre-ordering. After taking back their own distribution in August 2010, the Toraño Family Cigar Company underwent several changes, to include a successful re-branding effort, new ad campaign, several key hires, the introduction of three new brands, and a partnership with Graycliff Cigar Company. This new agreement with the Sam Leccia Cigar Co. continues the recent trend of aggressive moves by the Toraño Family. The Toraño Family Cigar Company will be present at this year’s upcoming IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, unveiling two new brand launches that will be announced in the coming weeks.*   *   *
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Montecristo Relief Organization to Provide Assistance to Joplin Tornado Victims

byGary Korb

In response to the devastating tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri this week causing catastrophic damage, human suffering and loss of life, the Montecristo Relief Organization is immediately donating $25,000 to provide vital aid to victims and to recovery assistance. Additionally, the Montecristo Relief Organization will match, dollar for dollar, the first $75,000 in contributions made by Altadis U.S.A. and CBI employees, customers, consumers and vendors. If you would like to contribute and have your donation matched by the Montecristo Relief Organization, please send your check made payable to the Montecristo Relief Organization/Joplin fund to: Montecristo Relief OrganizationJoplin Tornado Reliefc/o Altadis U.S.A.PO Box 407179Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33340-7166 Help and support is needed immediately, so time is of the essence. The Montecristo Relief Organization will match donations made by June 15, 2011. Funds will be distributed to both the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army designated for specific aid to the Joplin disaster. We thank everyone in advance for joining us in this vital relief effort. The Montecristo Relief Organization was established in 1999 by Altadis U.S.A. after devastating hurricanes swept through the Caribbean killing thousands of people, injuring millions, and causing unimaginable suffering. Since its inception, the Organization has donated millions of dollars to build homes, schools, medical facilities and provide scholarships and economic opportunities to disaster victims in the Caribbean and the United States.For more information, please contact Janelle Rosenfeld at (954) 938-7837 or jrosenfeld@altadisusa.com. *   *   *  
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Graycliff Cigar Company Appoints Toraño Family Cigar Company as Official U.S. Distributor

byGary Korb

Miami, Florida – The Graycliff Cigar Company and the Toraño Family Cigar Company are proud to announce that Graycliff has officially appointed the Toraño Family Cigar Company as its exclusive distributor in the U.S.A. as of June 1, 2011. “After many years of doing our own distribution, we decided that it was best if we partnered with Toraño to handle that part of our business, so we could focus on the production side,” said Paolo Garzaroli, President of the Graycliff Cigar Company. “We chose Toraño for the similarity in our family values and because our respective cigar brands will complement each other very well.” “We are excited about this partnership between Toraño Family Cigar Co. and Graycliff Cigar Company. Graycliff is a super-premium brand and we are honored to be given the responsibility to grow its distribution nationwide. This union of two very passionate tobacco families will only enhance both of our positions in the cigar industry,” said Charlie Toraño, President of Toraño Family Cigar Company. After taking back their own distribution in August 2010, the Toraño Family Cigar company underwent several changes, to include a successful re-branding effort, new ad campaign, several key hires and the introduction of three new brands. Graycliff Cigar Company saw this as the perfect partners for the two companies to grow their brands in the premium cigar market. The Graycliff Cigar Company was founded by the Garzaroli Family when Enrico Garzaroli fell in love with cigars but was unable to find that “perfect” cigar to complement what Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant has always been known for: excellent cuisine, fine wines and luxurious accommodations. The Company began production in January 1997 in Nassau, The Bahamas. What then began as a single roller in the restaurant entrance way has now expanded to an award winning boutique Cigar Company with 16 master rollers, each an expert in their various format.*   *   *
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Zino Platinum cigars partner with ClubWPT for online Poker Tourney

byGary Korb

Zino Platinum Cigars and ClubWPT are giving cigar smokers a chance to play for a Zino Platinum VIP Package every day this month. All you have to do is go to ClubWPT and register for membership. With a ClubWPT VIP Membership, you're eligible to participate in one of the most popular online poker tournaments where the prize package is the coveted Zino Platinum VIP Package (approx. retail value of $100). These premium packages include cigars from both the Zino Platinum Scepter Series and the Zino Platinum Crown Series. See tournament schedule below. Start your two-week FREE TRIAL* today! The tournament schedule is as follows (all times are Eastern time zone):Mon -10:15Tue - 10:15Wed - 8:15Thu - 10:15Fri - 10:15Sat - 10:15Sun - 10:15To create your ClubWPT account click here.NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A purchase will not improve your chances of winning. Must be 18 or older to join the club and/or play online games. All prize claims are subject to verification. Restrictions apply. See Terms and Conditions for additional eligibility restrictions, prize descriptions and ARVs (Approximate Retail Value), odds, how to play without becoming a paid club member and complete details. Any prizes pictured are for illustrative purposes only. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. - *Trial memberships are limited to one per person.*   *   *
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Ashes-to-Ashes: An interview with Berta Bravo, "The Guayabera Lady"

byGary Korb

Berta Bravo, better known in the business world as "The Guayabera Lady," is a Cuban émigré who, as part of a third generation Guayabera family tradition, has been in the garment industry her entire life. Her grandfather, Nicolas Gonzalez Puga, opened a clothing store for her father, Don Pepe, in the early 1940's. He and his wife (also named Berta), worked together for almost 50 years offering high quality textiles for the manufacturing of Guayaberas and other fine linen goods. Following in her parents' footsteps of hard work, dedication and perseverance, Berta works out of her own shop in Coral Gables, Florida. Now a familiar personality at cigar events, trade shows and on YouTube, the perpetually upbeat Berta has enhanced her exquisite line of Guayaberas with fine art in the form of stylish fashions for men, women and children.Cigar Advisor: What was the first cigar you ever smoked, and what do you remember most about it? Berta: My first cigar experience, besides being unforgettable, was extremely funny - afterwards, that is! My son Joey and I went to a Cuban-themed party at a local club. Of course, they had a cigar roller. Joey, a cigar smoker, had tried teaching me the "how to's," but I forgot!  I choked and coughed so hard, I cried....all this in public! The first time I truly enjoyed a cigar was at my first IPCPR in 2008. We (Joey and I) smoked La Herencia de Cuba cigars over Black Label on the rocks after a long day's work. CA: Please tell us a little about the origins of the Guayabera shirt, it's functionality, place in society, etc. Berta: The Guayabera is "casual elegance!" It's the number one garment for the cigar smoker. It's a garment that originated decades ago and is still in full flesh.  It's art, elegance and tradition throughout generations, just like a good cigar. CA: Your family emigrated from Cuba in 1966. Tell us a little more about your family and growing up in Cuba. Berta: I had a beautiful childhood. We had a family business. My uncles ran the grocery store; adjacent to it my parents ran the textiles & clothing store, and behind that was my grandparents' house. Every day was Thanksgiving day! We lost our businesses to the Communist regime in 1963 and emigrated to The States on February 1, 1966. CA: Who are your typical customers? Berta: Thank God I do not have stereotypical customers! My customers are moms, dads, grandpas, and businessmen and women.  They come from all walks of life; from the coffee shop attendant to the business entrepreneur; there are absolutely no social or economical boundaries when it comes to the Guayabera consumer. CA: Where does your inspiration come from when creating a new design? Berta: Mostly from the younger generation. But I also ask myself, "If I were 15, 25, 35, 45, 65, 75, what would I wear? What changes can I make to make it more appealing, while still keeping it traditional?" CA: Your very active on Facebook. What effect has social marketing had on your business? Berta: It has been excellent. I can honestly tell you, besides the business I have acquired, I have found good honest people that I am honored to call friends. For me, it's all about relationships. CA: How do your designs for women and children compare in terms of sales as those for men? Berta: Yes, I design equally for women and children as well as for men. There can be a room with 100 men all wearing white Guayaberas, and each one can be different. That's what I do best. CA: Are Guayabera shirts only for cigar smokers or those in the cigar business? Berta: Absolutely NOT. Guayaberas are for everyone; although they are the number one [clothing] accessory for the cigar smoker. They are comfortable, elegant, and they have four big pockets for your cigars, lighter, cutter, business cards, and more. CA: For what other occasions are Guayabera shirts worn? Berta: Guayaberas can be worn from a christening to a wedding; from black tie to beachwear - there are really no limits. CA: Have you ever designed Guayabera clothing for weddings or other special occasions? Berta: I have been honored to not only design for weddings, christenings, fifteens ("Sweet Sixteen" in Spanish culture), and even Bar Mitzvahs, to name a few. I've even been fortunate enough to be invited to many of my customers' family gatherings, as well. CA: Have you noticed a crossover for Guayabera-style clothing as a fashion trend? Berta: Oh, definitely! CA: You're also an avid cigar smoker. What kind of cigars do you enjoy smoking? Berta: I enjoy smoking Jaime Garcia, My Father Limited Edition, La Reloba Mexican Wrapper, El Triunfador, La Riqueza, Alec Bradley Prensado and Tempus, Medina 1959, Don Gonzalez, to name a few. CA: You've been doing a lot of traveling over the past several years. In what way, if any, has this helped your business? Berta: It's the same as with cigars. Cigars don't sell themselves, people sell cigars. Although technology plays an important role in everyday business, I've found that most people like good old fashioned eye contact, a firm hand shake, and a friendly smile. It's the best way of building long term customer relationships. CA: Do you have an apprentice, or have any of your children shown an interest in following you into the business? Berta: My youngest son, Joey, is very involved in the business, and the eldest of my granddaughters, Samantha, says she's "The Guayabera Lady, Jr.," so I believe we have the 4th and 5th generations in the making. CA: What gives you the most pleasure from what you do? Berta: The fact that I don't just have customers, I have friends.  For this, I thank God and count my blessings everyday. Besitos and blessings!Watch the video below to see a tour of The Guayabera Lady store.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EScJjhiztEw (_[ca]__{{{~ How to contact The Guayabera LadyWebsite: www.theguayaberalady.comFacebook: www.facebook.com/The-GuayaberaLadyEmail: berta@theguayaberalady.comStore InfoThe Guayabera Lady475 Biltmore Way Suite 102Coral Gables, FL 33134(305) 443-9797
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Zino Platinum launches new Z-Class Series Line

byGary Korb

Zino Platinum, an ultra-premium cigar brand, introduces the new Z -Class Series, the first new line in 8 years, joining the already established Crown and Scepter Series. The Zino Platinum Crown and Scepter series launched in 2003 will be complemented by a third line: The new and modern Zino Platinum Z-Class Series was inspired by motion. It was created to accompany a fast-paced affluent lifestyle, embodying ambition and opulence. The new blend features a Dominican wrapper, accented by a Peruvian binder and Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers. These carefully selected, aged tobaccos create a spicy medium-to-full bodied cigar that surpasses the degree of perfection that Zino Platinum smokers demand. The Z-Class Series is complete with four classic formats: The 654 T (Toro), 550 R (Robusto), 546 P (Piramide), 643 C (Corona). Each shape has its own unique strength, flavor and aroma to allow for pleasure and variety. The power of Z-Class comes from a Dominican wrapper, Peruvian Pelo do Oro Visus binder and Jalapa Especial Ligero, Esteli Ligero, Cuban Seed Ligero, San Vicente Ligero filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Honduras. The packaging continues to be innovative: All formats are packaged in an attractive and modern custom tin of 20 cigars accented with sleek black bands and is currently available at select merchants.*   *   *
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Alec Bradley to Release "American Classic Blend" Cigars

byGary Korb

New premium cigar series marks an affordably-priced return to early 20th century American cigarsDANIA, FL – Perhaps a parade would have been more in order. Alec Bradley Cigars is pleased to announce the release of their newest premium cigar series, Alec Bradley American Classic Blend. Following the lead of the company's "outstanding"-rated Tempus, Family Blend, and Prensado cigars, this patriotic-inspired selection offers a mild to medium-bodied blend of specially-aged Nicaraguan Estelí and Condega long-fillers, Nicaraguan Jalapa binder, and a Honduran-grown Connecticut Shade wrapper. Scheduled to launch in conjunction with Memorial Day, the Alec Bradley American Classic Blend isn't your father's cigar - it's your father's-father’s cigar; the kind of old-school feel, Tampa-style cigars that were smooth, sweet and complex. The cigars will retail from $3.95 to $5.50 (higher tobacco taxation states excluded), and are expected to arrive at tobacconists just in time for Memorial Day weekend. "We wanted to make an affordably-priced handmade cigar like the cigars that were popular in America during the early part of the 20th century," said Alec Bradley Cigars President, Alan Rubin. "Even with the SCHIP tax, the customer is getting a high-quality smoke at a very reasonable price."The American Classic Blend is presented in boxes of 20 cigars in the following six sizes:Corona: (42 x 5 1/2)Robusto: (50 x 5)Toro: (50 x 6)Churchill: (48 x 7)Torpedo: (52 x 6 1/8)Gordo: (60 x 6) "Since there are so few people around that would remember what this kind of cigar would have tasted like, it was a real challenge for us," added Mr. Rubin. "Eventually we found just the right tobaccos, and I believe we hit the nail on the head. The cigars have an excellent balance of flavor, complexity and depth. Cigar smokers can expect a very smooth, creamy smoke with sweet cedar notes and a distinct nutty flavor on the finish. "For more information on Alec Bradley American Classic Blend cigars, visit the Alec Bradley Cigars Fan page.***
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87

90 Miles Reserva Selecta

89

Aging Room Small Batch

Zino Platinum and Ron White Celebrate Innovative Partnership

byGary Korb

Famous for his love of premium cigars, comedian Ron White’s broad and successful portfolio will now expand to include Zino Platinum Ambassador. Zino Platinum, the premium cigar brand, known for its creative approach to marketing, has joined forces with White in 2011 in an innovative relationship designed to expand both brands’ audiences by creating awareness in new markets. The extent of White’s involvement will include, but not be limited to, special appearances at Zino Platinum events and a Zino Platinum Ron White Signature cigar blended to his tastes and preferences for his personal use. White’s first appearance as an Ambassador will be at the March 29th nationwide launch of the new Z-Class Series in Palm Beach Gardens, Fl, where he will take part in the unveiling of the product, the first new line of Zino Platinum Cigars in 8 years. As the partnership evolves, White will be making appearances at select retail outlets and supporting various creative marketing efforts. In 2002 Zino Platinum was developed by the Oettinger Davidoff Group in partnership with American marketing specialists, revealing an entirely new approach to design, marketing and publicity. Zino Platinum represents a fusion of time-honored cigar tradition and the hip culture of today and tomorrow. Zino Platinum Cigars’ various shapes, tastes, blends and aromas are all respectfully drawn from the best of classic cigar customs. Zino Platinum cigar smokers are youthful, ambitious, strong, proud, successful, fashionable and bold. Today Zino Platinum is still at the forefront of pop culture and the leading lifestyle brand in the cigar industry. Zino Platinum uses the best traditions of the old school and the innovations of the new school to create a dynamic market opportunity. Ron began his career two decades ago and now is one of the most successful comedians, recording artists and entrepreneurs in the United States. Best known for his uninhibited comedy shows, White shot to fame after his appearance on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. His career includes two Grammy-nominations, a Gold Record, numerous one-hour specials, a New York Times Best Seller and CD and DVD sales over 10 million. White will make special appearances alongside Zino Platinum at retail events across the US in support of the brand. * * *
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Serie N Day Marks First Virtual Cigar Tasting

byGary Korb

Richmond, VA—Team La Gloria Cubana® has designated Friday March 25, 2011 as Serie N® Day and will commemorate the occasion with the premium cigar category’s first-ever national virtual cigar tasting which will be broadcast on www.lagloriacigars.com/serien. On March 25, 2011, Team La Gloria members Michael Giannini (director of marketing), Rick Rodriguez (cigar master in training), Yuri Guillen (director of manufacturing) and Leo Peraza (master cigar maker) will host a virtual tasting broadcast from the El Credito Cigar Factory in Miami’s Little Havana district. Live streaming video of the tasting will be available beginning at 6:00 PM (EDT) on the Team La Gloria website and will continue throughout the evening, with additional interactive broadcasts featuring Serie N Day retail events at 6:00 PM Central and 6:00 PM Pacific. Select Serie N retailers across the U.S. will participate in a live, open forum chat on Skype which will be part of the virtual broadcast. Participants watching live on the website will be able to communicate directly with Team La Gloria members and with fellow Serie N enthusiasts through tweets and Facebook updates which will be addressed by Team La Gloria members during the broadcasts. Director of Marketing Michael Giannini commented, “Serie N is a very unique cigar, both in taste and appearance, so we created an innovative event to capitalize on the buzz that’s been generated for the product within the digital media space. By including the retail community and in welcoming questions and comments from our existing consumers and those who may be enjoying the product for the first time, we will be able to ride the groundswell by capturing increased interest in the product.” To get in on the excitement surrounding Serie N cigars, consumers of legal smoking age are invited to pick up the March issue of Cigar Aficionado which contains a coupon for a free Serie N cigar, redeemable by accessing the list of participating cigar retail shops across the U.S. available on the Team La Gloria website: www.lagloriacigars.com. Leading up to Serie N day, Serie N social media promotions will take place on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/teamlagloria), Twitter (www.twitter.com/lagloriacigars), YouTube and the Team La Gloria site. Detailed information about these promotions can be found on the “promotions” section of the Team La Gloria website.For complete details visit www.lagloriacigars.com/serien. # # # La Gloria Cubana, Serie N, Macanudo, Cohiba, Punch, Partagas, Hoyo de Monterrey, Excalibur and Club Macanudo are registered trademarks of General Cigar Co. Inc.
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91

J Fuego Origen

"The Journey" - The Toraño Family legacy lives on DVD

byGary Korb

By Gary Korb Produced by The Toraño Family Cigar Company, The Journey is a 30-minute documentary on DVD that spans four-generations of Toraño family history, from their origins in Spain, to their first tobacco farms in Cuba, to their cigar factories in Honduras and Nicaragua. The Journey appropriately opens with a rising cloud of blue cigar smoke. Following a brief introductory segment on the history of tobacco, the family story is told by Carlos Toraño Jr. and Charlie Toraño, who give their personal accounts of what it was like to grow up in a tobacco growing family. Their story begins with Charlie's great-grandfather, Don Santiago, who left Spain in 1916 to find work in Cuba. Shortly after his arrival, Santiago fell in love with tobacco and became a broker. Eventually, his three brothers, Jaime, Jose and Carlos joined him and they emerged the leading growers and brokers of tobacco in Cuba. Santiago passed away in 1952, but by 1956 the three brothers were operating 17 farms in various regions of the country; Santiago's farms were located in the Vueltabajo region of Pinar Del Rio. Shot mostly on location in the Toraño Family factories, the film in interspersed with family photos, movies, and archival news footage from the Cuban Revolution. This latter chapter in the family's history is told in great detail by Carlos Jr., like the following story which took place on New Year's Eve 1958 when he was 16. "We went horseback riding. It was midnight. We were coming back from visiting the Plasencia farms, and as soon as we got back to the house, everyone was very excited. It was about two o'clock in the morning when we heard the news that Batista had left. This was very unexpected." At that time, Carlos Jr. was on winter break from a boarding school he was attending in Florida. To get back to the States he had to leave from Havana, and to get to there from their home in San Luis they had to pass through at least 10 towns. Many of the roads were closed and what follows is one of the other reasons the 120 mile trip took six days: "To cross through each town, my father had to stand on the hood of his car and give a political speech for about 5 or 10 minutes," says Carlos. "When we got to the other side of town, he had to do it again so we could leave the town." [When we finally got to Havana], you could see the whole city was collapsing very fast." In the summer of 1959 Carlos returned to San Luis to visit his family, only to find that his brother in-law was in prison and Carlos Sr. had been in jail for a couple of days. "On August 28, 1959 I left and never came back," says Carlos. (It's interesting how he remembers the exact date he left.) Moreover, in the 50 years since Carlos left the island he remarks, "Not a day goes by without talking about when we will return to Cuba." When the revolution began, a lot of Cubans who went to the U.S. didn't think it would last very long and that they would return home soon. Carlos Sr. remained in Cuba and tried to save the business, but in 1960 all of the farms were seized at gunpoint and nationalized. Shortly after that Carlos Sr. joined the exodus and moved to Connecticut where he found work with his brother-in-law, Ramon Cifuentes, at the Partagas cigars factory. Eventually Carlos began to look for new places to grow tobacco. This led him to The Dominican Republic to which he brought the first Cuban Piloto Cubano seeds. As Charlie explains, men like his grandfather were so passionate about their work, they would go anywhere they could continue to grow tobacco. This is essentially how the cigar industry found new homes in such countries as The Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua. At the heart of the film lies the importance of family. It wasn't until the early 1990s that Toraño began making cigars exclusively. Charlie, the first of his generation born in the U.S., joined the family business in 1996. A lawyer by trade, Charlie remembers asking his father if there was room for him in the business and Carlos replied, "There's no room for you, but there is a need for you." Charlie also points out that although he never knew his grandfather, it was through working with tobacco and cigars that he got to know him, because for Charlie, and the company as a whole, the family story is told through the quality of their cigars. The film also points out that culmination of all this rich family tradition is found in their flagship blend, the Toraño Exodus 1959 cigars selection, as "every cigar is a result of that 1959 exodus." Since it's been 50 years since the family left Cuba, the film also fittingly introduces their Toraño Exodus 1959 50 Years cigars.  "The bond people have with a brand becomes strengthened when they get to hear the stories behind the cigars, " adds Charlie. The Journey deftly portrays via this oral and visual history how the Toraño's were able to stay the course over the past 50 years. Despite the adversity they encountered in Cuba, by keeping the family together and continuing the tradition that Don Santiago began in 1916, the Toraño's have become one of the most successful and respected cigar manufacturers in the world.  That said, to Carlos Toraño Jr., success is more than working the fields and making a great cigar. The true meaning of success is "to live wherever you want to live, do what you want to do, and to work with your children." (_[GK]__{{{~
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Alec Bradley Cigars reveals new corporate brand identity

byGary Korb

DANIA, FL – Alec Bradley Cigars is pleased to announce the debut of their new corporate look and feel. The new Alec Bradley brand identity boasts a simple, yet easily identifiable logo exhibited by a strong monarchial red crest and four-spired crown. “Our new identity is dynamic," said Alan Rubin, President and CEO of Alec Bradley Cigar Company. "As we evolve as a company, we feel there is an emotional disconnect between our traditional styled cigar lines and our current contemporary logo. Our new look is more identifiable to the consumer. For our company to build an emotional connection with cigar smokers worldwide, they must feel comfortable with who we are as a company and confident with where we are heading. It is in this context that we feel our new look portrays more of who we are as we move forward." The new logo will be displayed on the company's corporate letterhead, as well as on Alec Bradley cigars packaging, promotional gear, & in store marketing materials. “Our focus groups have given us tremendous feedback,” added Rubin. For more information on Alec Bradley products, visit Alec Bradley Cigars online at www.alecbradley.com.#   #   #
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Natural By Drew Estate

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Excalibur

Torano Family Cigar Co. takes part in 5th Annual Boca Raton Concours D'elegance

byGary Korb

Hosted by Jay Leno, event helps raise funds for Boys & Girls Club of Broward County(Miami, FL) -— Toraño Family Cigar Co. along with co sponsor Prime Cigar & Wine Bar were chosen to be the featured cigar sponsor at the Boca Raton Concours D’elegance. The Concours D’elegance was a massive three day fundraising event for the Boy & Girls Club of Broward County where thousands of car enthusiasts from around the world were in the presence of the finest pre-war and post-war automobiles and motorcycles ever created. Hosted by star comedian and car enthusiast Jay Leno the Boca Concourse D’elegance was a spectacular three day event. The event kicked off with an amazing Indianapolis 500 themed hangar party at Boca International Airport featuring exotic cars, custom motorcycles, extravagant boats, private jets, vintage aircraft, and luxury motorcoaches. Saturday’s festivities included a Gala dinner, auction, and a show by Jay Leno. Both these events served as warm up acts for the Sunday main event which welcomed 10 thousand to the Boca Raton resort and club as over 200 of the finest collector cars and motorcycles in the world gathered on the pristine golf course of the famed resort. Toraño Cigar Company’s very own Carlos Llaca Toraño, Master roller Felipe Sosa, and Marketing and Customer Relations Manager Oliver Hyams along with Ryan Leeds of Prime Cigars & Wine Bar were on hand at each event providing tasting opportunities and selling Toraño’s finest cigars of which 20% of proceeds went directly to the Boys & Girls Club. Carlos Llaca, Sosa, and Hyams were happy to provide education and mingle with event goers while pushing to help raise funds for this amazing organization. Toraño Family Cigar Company and Prime Cigars & Wine Bar were astonished to learn that the Boca Raton Concours D’elegancein collected 3 million dollars over the weekend events. The 3 million dollar total earned the Boca Concours D’elegance a record for most money raised for a charity at an automotive event in the United States. Charlie Torano stated, “We have made a decision this past year to be more involved in our community and as a company we are humbled to be part of this record setting event.”*   *   *
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Cigar Interview: Jon Huber

byGary Korb

(Toastedfoot.com) Part Three: A New Day – Marriage and Crowned Heads Anyone that follows you on Twitter knows that you’re recently engaged and will be married this summer. First off, congrats, and second, what are your plans for honeymooning!? Thank you very much. Wow, I am so excited about marrying my girl. Her name is Laura and she is my best friend, my heart, my love, my happiness, and my soul mate. It was worth waiting 45 years to find her. The moment I put my arm around her, I knew my life had changed forever. We’re planning on honeymooning in Italy and it will be the first time there for both of us. We’re very excited, and thank you to the Twitter community for all your well wishes. It means a lot to Laura and myself. Since your official departure from CAO, walk us through a typical day for you.I left CAO on December 17. I took 1 week off during the Christmas Holiday to spend with family and just get away from it all. But since then, I’ve been “back in the studio,” so to speak, and we’ve been going at the creative process full steam ahead. A typical day (if there is such a thing) begins at 6:00am when the alarm goes off. I grab a cup of coffee and go for a 30-minute walk through the neighborhood with Laura. Afterwards, she gets ready for her workday and I usually do some sort of workout–either jumping rope or pushups/crunches for another 20-30 minutes. Then I get a shower and get in the office by 9:00. Since leaving CAO, who have you confided in within the industry, as you’ve made decisions about your future?That really is a short list of people; they know who they are and I prefer to keep it that way. What advice have you been given during this interim?To be honest, there hasn’t really been a whole lot of advice coming my way. I’ve just always maintained that God has a plan for me (for all of us) and that the right opportunity would present itself when it’s supposed to, where it’s supposed to, and how it’s supposed to. Your time at CAO marked a time of innovation and forward thinking. How will you carry this into your next venture?I don’t think you can sit down one day and say, “I’m going to be innovative.” I believe innovation comes from within and it’s a result of what’s inside of you and how much it needs to get outside of you; you’re just there to enable the process. It’s kind of like if you have to say that you’re “cool” (a word I abhor, by the way), then you’re probably not. You’ve known and been friends with Pete Johnson for close to 15 years. Many speculated that you’d partner with Tatuaje. Did you consider it?Yeah, I met Pete at my first RTDA show in Cincinnati back in 1996, and we’ve been friends since. It’s no secret to Pete or anyone else in the industry that I’m a big fan of what he’s done since he came onto the scene with Tatuaje in 2003. I respect not only what he’s done with Tatuaje, but also that he’s maintained his integrity while doing so. Did I consider working with Tatuaje? Not really. I don’t think there’s anything I could bring to the table there that Pete’s not already capable of doing himself. Would I consider working with Pete, though? That’s an entirely different question. *   *   * To view Part One click here.To view Part Two click here.Re-posted by permission.
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Montecristo Cigars to Sponsor Michael Irvin Radio Show

byGary Korb

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL -- Montecristo, Altadis U.S.A.’s flagship brand, and the world’s most famous cigar, has signed on as the exclusive cigar sponsor of the Michael Irvin Show on WQAM 560 in Miami. Irvin is the former Dallas Cowboy star receiver and pro football Hall-of-Famer and has enjoyed a distinguished career in sports broadcasting on both television and radio. The highlight of each broadcast is the Montecristo Guest of the Day, which features interviews with past and present celebrities from the world of sports. Michael’s guests have included such important figures as Paul Horning, Heisman Trophy winner and member of pro football’s Hall-of -Fame; Mike Fratello, former National Basketball Association Coach of the Year, current New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes and many other prominent stars. In return for the interview, each guest is rewarded with a box of Montecristo cigars. Sports enthusiasts can listen to the interviews by visiting www.altadisusa.com or Facebook at The Cigar Life. The Michael Irvin Show can be heard each day between noon and 3:00 PM.*   *   *
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Torano Cigars: Past, present and future

byGary Korb

New documentary, "The Journey," will debut on DVD in late January(Miami, FL) -- 2010 was an exciting year for Toraño Family Cigar Company. On August 1, 2010 the family took back its distribution and entered the fall with a brand new look and feel, as well as three new brands: Single Region-Serie Jalapa, which was recently rated 92' in the January 2011 issue of Cigar Aficionado, Master by Carlos Toraño, and Brigade, awarded "Best New Value-Priced Cigar of 2010." They also released several new line extensions including the 92' rated Exodus 1959 50 Year Box Press, which ranked #12 on the list of "Top 25 Cigars of the Year" by Cigar Aficionado. From charitable events and partnerships to a wide myriad of unique events, the brand was included in activities in South Florida and all over the map, up until the year's close. The Toraños' were very appreciative of all the great, positive responses they received throughout these efforts. This month will see the launch of the Toraño Family’s new DVD entitled "The Journey." This captivating documentary will take the viewer through the four-generation history behind the Toraño name in the tobacco industry and give insight into the trials and tribulations that the Exodus of Cuba had on the Toraño Family. This DVD will be available at local cigar stores. Starting this January will also see the start of two new types of events that will travel to cigar retail stores across the country in 2011. Firstly, come and meet the man behind "Master." Toraño’s Master Roller, Felipe Sosa, will be featuring this collaboration blend where he will be rolling cigars for patrons. Customers who have the pleasure to watch him in action will get a chance to win some great raffle items, too. Toraño was also recently thrilled to announce the launch of the "Single Region" Tour. The tour will showcase one of the family's newest blends, Single Region-Serie Jalapa and will feature a dynamic new partnership with PT’s Coffee Roasting Co., an award winning industry leader in specialty micro-lot coffee. These events will offer great tasting cigars paired with French-pressed micro-lot coffee that is sure to appeal to the palates of connoisseurs of cigars and coffee alike. * * *
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12th Annual Montecristo Cup raises funds for victims of natural disasters

byGary Korb

(Ft. Lauderdale, FL) -- The highly successful 12th Annual Montecristo Cup Charity Pro-Am golf tournament, which benefits the Montecristo Relief Organization, was held this past December 1st through 5th at the world class Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas.Over 100 amateurs and professionals from the PGA tours attended the pro-am, which is known as "the ultimate marriage of golf and cigars" and has earned a reputation as one of the finest pro-am golf events of its kind. Participants enjoyed three days of tournament golf on the resort’s renowned Ocean Club course as well as fabulous food and spirits, unlimited luxury cigars and the camaraderie that brings people back year after year. In addition to the spectacular golf – amateurs played with a different pro each day – guests enjoyed the resort’s many amenities including the exhilarating water sports, spectacular marine life exhibits and, of course, the Caribbean’s largest casino.Festivities included the popular silent auction featuring Altadis U.S.A. cigars and humidors, original artwork by renowned artists, fine jewelry and watches, autographed sports memorabilia, golf equipment and apparel and much more.Funds raised at the live auction will build additional homes at the Montecristo Village, currently under construction in Honduras. When completed, the Village will consist of more than 100 homes, schools and community services.The Montecristo Relief Organization was founded in 1999 to provide ongoing aid after two devastating hurricanes caused unimaginable death and suffering in the Dominican Republic and other areas of the Caribbean.Over the years, the charity has raised over $4 million to fund the building of homes, schools and medical facilities. Hundreds of wheelchairs have been donated for the sick and injured. Scholarships have been provided for children who would otherwise have not received educations. Economic opportunities, such as tilapia fish farms, have been created to provide the needy with sustainable incomes. Funds have been donated to Operation Smile to bring new hope to children with severe facial deformities.Additional aid has included over $1 million raised by the charity together with Altadis U.S.A. to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina.#   #   #
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601 La Bomba

Torano Family Cigar Co. hosts South Beach toy drive to benefit Neat Stuff For Kids

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) - Toraño Family Cigar Co. was in the holiday spirit as they partnered up with Neat Stuff for Kids for a toy drive which benefited abused and neglected children. Neat Stuff for Kids is a Miami based non for profit organization whose main focus is to provide brand new clothing to children who come from abused and underprivileged homes. Toraño Family Cigar Co. hosted over 400 guests at China Grill located in South Beach. Guests were asked to bring an unwrapped toy to be part of this amazing gathering. Event goers were treated to complimentary cocktails provided by Prairie Organic Vodka, delicious bites provided by China Grill, and of course award winning cigars provided by Toraño Family Cigar Co. Toraño Family Cigar Co. was represented by Carlos Llaca-Toraño who provided a wide array of Toraño cigars to include new releases Single Region Serie Jalapa and Master by Carlos Toraño. Guests were only happy to smoke some of Toraño’s best next to the majestic waters of Miami Beach.Franklin Monjarrez, Executive Director of Neat Stuff who is a cigar smoker himself said: “I am honored to have met with Charlie Toraño to undertake this amazing event to help Neat Stuff for Kids deliver toys to the children who need them most.” Charlie Toraño, President of Toraño Family Cigar Co. looks forward to partnering up with Neat Stuff for Kids in the near future. “I look forward to Toraño Family Cigar co. being more involved in the community in the near future as we can’t lose focus on those who are less fortunate,” Charlie said.#  #  #
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Torano Family Cigar Co. sponsors ribbon-cutting ceremony for renovation of historical South Florida mansion

byGary Korb

(Miami, FL) - Toraño Family Cigar Co. had the honor of being the official cigar sponsor at the ribbon cutting event of the architecturally relevant Mediterranean Mansion in South Beach, Miami. This historical building is the sister venue of the famed Versace Mansion where world renowned designer Gianni Versace lived until his untimely death. This ribbon cutting event was a post Art Basel event which featured the art work of 20 accomplished artists in the South Florida area. The Mediterranean Mansion is a magnificent work of architecture. Originally constructed in 1931 the mansion was later redesigned by the legendary J. Wallace Tutt. Tutt, who designed Casa Casuarina (formerly the Versace Mansion) sadly passed away shortly after putting his final touches of genius into the mansion. Tutt was quite proud of his last project which boasts three separate two story buildings that are designed with an ancient Italian-inspired aesthetic, complete with whitewashed stone and Mahogany wood-upholstered trim, offering a total of 8,800 square feet of luxurious living space. South Beach became a bit more exotic as the Mediterranean Mansion opened its doors on Wed. the 8th of December with a spectacular cocktail event as over 300 guests enjoyed cocktails from Brown-Foreman, art, music and some of the finest cigars courtesy of Toraño Family Cigar Co. Toraño was represented at the event by president Charlie Toraño and vice president of marketing, Bruce Lewis. This amazing event which was held under the Miami stars was a perfect setting as guests had the opportunity to sample a variety of Toraño's best cigars including new releases, Single Region and Master by Carlos Toraño. Charlie Toraño and Bruce Lewis were gracious hosts as they chatted with cigar aficionados and cigar novices alike about the passion that goes into creating hand crafted cigars. Event goers were only happy to light up as they sipped on cocktails while taking in the beauty of the magnificent art and architecture which encompassed the evening. Charlie Toraño was shocked and honored when asked by the Mansion's owners Brian and Mary Tuffin to take part in the ribbon cutting ceremony along with local politicians and celebrities. With a cigar in hand and scissors in the other Charlie snipped the red ribbon with other notables which signified an important architectural accomplishment in the Magic City. The Mediterranean Mansion was successfully designed to be an alternative space in the city of fun and sun. The Mansion offers the sights and sounds of a secluded Villa in an exotic country while being just a few foot steps away from the trendy and white sands of South Beach. Charlie Toraño said, "It's quite inspiring to be part of an event which showcases the architectural genius of Wallace Tutt, I am humbled to be here at the opening of his final project."*   *   *
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Toraño Launches “Single Region Tour,” Paired with PT’s Premium Coffee Roasters

byGary Korb

(Miami, Florida) - The Toraño Family Cigar Company, makers of some of the finest cigars in the world, is excited to announce the launch of the Single Region Tour. The Tour will feature one of the Toraño Family’s newest blends, Single Region-Serie Jalapa and will also highlight a dynamic new partnership with PT’s Coffee Roasting Co, an award-winning industry leader in specialty micro-lot coffees. The partnership and this unique new tour will kick off officially on January 19, 2011 at Havana Connection in Richmond, VA. The Single Region-Serie Jalapa blend is made from tobacco grown exclusively from a small farm called “El Estero” in the northern-most region of Nicaragua called Jalapa. A centuries old natural stream irrigates this farm. The water from this stream, together with rich soil composed of sand and red clay, have enabled this farm to grow some of the finest and most aromatic tobacco in the world. PT’s Coffee Roasting Co, based in Topeka, KS roasts over 100 tons of premium specialty coffee annually and is among the leading roasters reviewed by industry resource Coffee Review, receiving the guide’s highest ever rating of 97 points. PT’s Coffee was also featured in Roast Magazine as “Roaster of the Year” in 2009. Within any given region and farm, micro-climates create a unique character and superior quality due to soil, shade, temperature and other natural occurring conditions. For years, specialty coffees have highlighted the distinctive flavors that come from these micro-lots. With Single Region Serie-Jalapa, cigar consumers can now experience the same high quality flavor by smoking a cigar where the blend originates from tobacco grown entirely from one region and one farm. "The zeal of highlighting regional flavors made the collaboration between Toraño and PT’s Coffee a natural one,” stated Charlie Toraño, president of Toraño Family Cigar Company. “The events offer great tasting cigars paired with French-pressed micro-lot coffees that complement and enhance the flavor of both.” The story of how each product was made will serve as a captivating lesson to connoisseurs of cigars and coffee alike. The Single Region Tour will visit cigar stores across the country. Supporters and aficionados can log onto the Toraño website or Face book page for a full list of dates and locations. These dates will also be sent out via Twitter. # # #
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Rocky Patel American Market Selection

84

La Gloria Cubana

La Aurora debuts "Broadway" cigars series exclusively for New York State

byGary Korb

New Cigars will be introduced December 20th in New York City MIAMI, FL - Miami Cigar & Company, the exclusive U-S distributor for La Aurora cigars, announces help is on the way for New York. Tobacconists are suffering under a harsh tobacco tax of 75% at wholesale cost, which prices many cigars out of the average smoker’s reach.  La Aurora vice president Guillermo León says it is time for action to help smokers.  As a result, León and Miami Cigar and Company President Nestor Miranda are releasing a special Broadway Series by La Aurora with a suggested retail price of $12.25, which includes the onerous NY state tobacco tax. Miami Cigar & Co. is now the second major premium cigar manufacturer to offer cigars made "exclusively" for New York. Last month, Alec Bradley Cigars announced they will be releasing their Alec Bradley New York Cigars edition on December 10 to New York State tobacconists. León says, “New York has always been special to me and my family.  What has happened with the cigar taxes in New York is tragic.  Since we cannot lower the taxes, we worked hard to lower the cost of this cigar without compromising quality.”  Adds Miranda, “We are beginning to try to help tobacconists with the Broadway series by La Aurora just in time for Christmas.” On Monday, December 20th, Cigar Inn on Second Avenue in New York City will host Guillermo León, Nestor Miranda, and Miami Cigar Vice President, Rene Castaneda, with a private dinner to launch the Broadway series.  The debut cigar in the series will be the "Sumo Toro" (shown) measuring 5 ¾ X 54. The blend uses a double wrapper of Ecuadorian Sumatran and Nicaraguan over a Dominican Corojo binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru. Cigar lovers should note that the Broadway Series cigars will only be available at tobacconists in New York state.#   #   #
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A Cigar is Born

byGary Korb

How one smoke shop found a great master blender By Gary Korb Did you ever wonder how some cigars make it to the marketplace? Let's take a look at one particular case. It's the "True Hollywood Story" behind the Nicaraguan Selection 6000 cigars series. IT ALL STARTED ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO when Arthur, cigar placed firmly in cheek, called Jeff and Hal into his office. "Guys, our Nicaraguan Thousands selections are doing very well. I think it's time we add another SKU. I'm putting you on a plane to Managua in the morning. Here are your tickets. Now get out, and don't come back without something really special. I don't want another Buho!" The next day, Jeff and Hal were speeding along at 33,000 feet en route to the Nicaraguan capital. From there they would pick up a rental and drive about 150 miles north up the Pan American Highway to Estelí. "I gotta tell ya' Hal, I'm not sure we can pull this one off," said Jeff. "We've scoured just about every factory we could find by now. How are we going to top ourselves? ...Hal?...Hal." Hal was already asleep, dreaming his usual dream of coaching the Albanian national soccer team to a World Cup victory. When Jeff and Hal arrived in Managua, it was pouring. The last thing you want to do is drive up the two lane Pan American Highway in the rain. Even on a good day it's treacherous, and it's common for other drivers to pass you on one of its cliffhanging hairpin turns. There's really no point in even wearing a seat belt. If you fly off the road, you're instant vulture food, and no one will find you anyway. Four hours later they had made it to Estelí in one piece and checked-in to the La Campiña, their usual lodgings. "I'm hungry," said Jeff sliding his bag under the bed. "I'm going to see if anyone's in the kitchen. If not, I'm going out back and I'm gonna kill one of those chickens myself." As they sat at a table on the indoor patio and ate their chicken sandwiches, Jeff frantically dialed every connection he had in Estelí. "I think we're crap out of luck amigo," said Jeff. Hal, who could keep a cool head in the middle of an alien invasion said, "Don't worry, something will come up. It always does." Hours passed. Jeff lay on his lumpy bed staring at the ceiling with a cigar sticking straight up from between his teeth and began counting the little holes in the ceiling tiles. Suddenly, his cell phone rang. It was Arthur. "So, did you find anything yet?" "We just got here," said Jeff. "That's no excuse. The hotel is costing me $10 a day." "But it's a monsoon here. The local roads are flooded." "I don't want weather reports," snarled Arthur. "I want cigars, and good ones, too." Then the phone went dead. Jeff put his cell down on the night stand. "I'm going to take a cold shower," said Jeff. "Whaddya miss your wife or somethin'?" laughed Hal. "No, as usual there's no hot water." Just as he grabbed a towel, Jeff's cell rang again. "This better not be Arthur again," he thought. "Hello? Si…Oh, Amilcar. Que tal?...Uh huh…Uh huh…Sure, we can be there tomorrow." "What's up?" said Hal. "See this guy who just called? His name's Amilcar. He's been calling me for months to come see his new factory and try his cigars, but I don't know; for some reason I never called him back. I figured he must have thought I wasn't interested." "Until now," said Hal with a smile. *   *   * The next day the weather cleared and the oppressive Nicaraguan sun smiled upon our two travelers as they drove to Tabacalera Villa Cuba. Amilcar Perez Castro was waiting for them outside, and after the obligatory handshakes and introductions in Spanish, he escorted Jeff and Hal into his factory. Following a short tour of the place they settled down in a small office down the hall from the rolling room. A wooden, weather-beaten tray with cigars was on the table. A pretty young Nicaraguan woman poked her head in. "Ah, Maria. Cafecito, por favor," commanded Amilcar, and she darted down the hall. "So what do you think gentlemen?" "Nice operation," said Jeff. "Sure, sure," echoed Hal. "I've got something I really want you to try," said Amilcar as he reached into the tray and handed the guys each a cigar. "Go ahead and light up. I have to check on something in the factory. I'll be back shortly. Enjoy." Jeff and Hal gave each other a quick stare and lit-up their cigars. About 15 minutes later Amilcar returned and found the guys nodding their heads in approval. "So, you like?" "Si, we like," said Hal. "If you like them enough, they're yours," said Amilcar. "I made them for a U.S. customer who defaulted on the order. Now I'm stuck with them. There are only so many sizes, but I'll make them worth your while." "It's got a nice peppery start then smoothes right out. Nice and full, too. I like that," said Jeff. "What else have you got around here?" Jeff turned to Hal, and half-whispered, "This guy's the bomb. If we can make a good deal on these, we're heroes. Plus we've got a new source for our house brands. Who knows? The sky's the limit!" Hal nodded. The guys thanked Amilcar profusely as they left the factory, and called Arthur on the way back to La Campiña to tell him about the cigars and the deal. "Have him ship some samples back. We'll give them a go-round with the others and see what they think." *   *   * Needless to say, the cigars were a hit back at Smoke Shop headquarters. A deal was struck and the Nicaraguan Selection 6000 was born. Two weeks later, Jeff and Hal were on their way back to Estelí to follow-up with Amilcar on the cigars. Everything was going perfectly according to schedule, and this time even the weather cooperated. The guys pulled up in front of the factory and practically leaped out of the car to meet their new friend and smoke some more of his splendid cigars. When they got inside, Amilcar was there waiting for them in his office. "Gentlemen, please sit down," he said, as he waved his hand toward the two chairs in front of his desk. "Maria! Cafecito por favor." Amilcar's face looked nonplussed. "What's up Amilcar? Everything OK with our 6000 order?" said Jeff. "I have good news and bad news." "I'll take the bad news first," said Jeff. "I am very sorry, but I'm not going to be able to make any more 6000." "Porque no?" "Well, that's part of the good news. About two hours ago, Rocky Patel was here. You know I've been making some cigars for him, si? I am very happy to tell you that Rocky and I are now partners in this factory, which means I will now be making cigars for him. The 6000's are all yours, of course, but I can only ship you what I've got." A long pause ensued. Suddenly Jeff jumped out of his chair. "I say, congratulations are in order!" Then Hal stood up and they all shook hands and traded hugs. "You're goin' to the top now my friend," said Jeff. "To the top!" *   *   * The following day, as their plane took off from Augusto C. Sandino International in Managua and ascended toward the morning sun, Jeff and Hal looked at each other, and you could tell they were thinking the exact same thing at the exact same moment: "The sky's the limit." (_[ca]__{{{~
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Rocky Patel Cuban Blend

Montecristo Relief Organization provides fund for wheelchair foundation

byGary Korb

(Tampa, FL) The Montecristo Relief Organization has made another in a series of substantial donations to the Wheelchair Foundation. This most recent contribution will pay for 110 new wheelchairs to aid the sick and injured in impoverished and storm-ravaged areas of Honduras. The Montecristo Relief Organization was founded in 1999 by Altadis U.S.A. - a company with a reputation for treating its employees as family and giving back to its communities - after two devastating hurricanes swept through the Caribbean causing unimaginable terror and destruction. Over 11,000 people were killed, millions injured and millions more left homeless and without means of support. Over the past 11 years, the Montecristo Relief Organization has donated millions of dollars to build homes, schools and medical facilities and provide scholarships and employment opportunities for victims of natural and economic disasters in the Caribbean and the United States. Anyone interested in learning more about the lifesaving work of the Montecristo Relief Organization or making a donation is invited to call (800) 210-2783 or visit montecristorelieforganization.com.*   *   *
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Toraño Family Cigars are A Hit at the Reopening Of The 5th Street Gym

byGary Korb

Muhammad Ali, Angelo Dundee, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, and Bert Sugar also in attendance(Miami, FL) - Toraño Family Cigars had the honor of being asked to be a part of history. South Beach is once again ready to be the center of the boxing world as the legendary 5th Street Gym re-opened its doors 17 years after the original closed down. Toraño Family Cigars was the official cigar sponsor of the grand re-opening. The original 5th street gym opened in 1950 by the late Chris Dundee and his brother Angelo Dundee who was most famous for creating a number of champions most notably Muhammad Ali. At 89 years of age the still spry Angelo is bringing back the 5th Street but this time with a group of young gentlemen lead by Dundee protégé Matthew “Matt” Baiamonte who will be sure to carry his legacy for future generations. A spectacular private grand opening event took place with Toraño as a major component in the festivities.  Taking place on Thursday September 23rd the red carpet grand opening of the 5th Street Gym brought together a special group of individuals who have been trained, inspired, or touched by the magic of the original 5th Street Gym. Guests included Angelo Dundee along three time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, “The Fight Dr.” Ferdie Pacheco, former Heavyweight Champion Shannon Briggs, Tommy “The Duke” Morrison, Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Stewart, Hall of fame boxing writer Bert Sugar, former heavyweight champion Pinklon Thomas, former Light-Heavyweight Champion Glen Johnson, International Jazz superstar Nicole Henry, Miami Beach Mayor Mattie Bower and various others.  Toraño Family Cigars was well represented as the patriarch of the family Carlos Toraño was in attendance along with Carlos Llaca and Master Roller Felipe Sosa. Event guests were treated to cocktails and some of Toraño’s finest cigars as they mixed and mingled while trading old tales of the original 5th Street gym while looking ahead at the promising future of the new incarnation. Dundee who at 89 still has a sharp mind and quick wit joked with Carlos Llaca that he never grew past his diminutive status because smoking cigars stunted his growth. Dundee, a wonderful story teller went on about falling in love with cigars when in Cuba while training boxers in the early 50’s. Bert Sugar (also present) was happy to grab a few Toraño Virtuoso cigars in between chatting and posing for pictures with boxing enthusiasts. Legends in their respective professions Carlos Toraño and Angelo Dundee chatted and posed together for pictures at this historic event. South Beach was once known for producing and training some of the best boxers in the world. Before the night clubs and the sexy strip we know now as “South Beach” there stood the original 5th Street Gym. This run down gym so mythological and legendary it was nicknamed “OZ”. Chris Dundee or the “Wizard of Oz” and Angelo Dundee or known as the “Prince of Oz” trained countless world boxing champions to include Carmen Basilio, Sugar Ray Leonard, Willie Pastrano, and of course “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali. Celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Jackie Gleason, Joe Louis, and others would make their way to Miami just to touch the magic that was housed inside the walls of the 5th Street Gym. The new 5th Street Gym was only a dream until today. Carlos Llaca said, “It was truly an honor for the Toraño Family to be a part of this historic event. This may be the last time that Muhammad Ali, Angelo Dundee, and Dr. Ferdie Pacheco will be under the same roof together.” That last quote from Carlos was a poignant one as Ali stricken by the Parkinson disease made a very rare public appearance. Not a dry eye in the house as chants from the crowd of “Ali, Ali, Ali” drowned out the music when Ali was guided by his sister in law to sit with his former trainer Dundee, and Dr. Ferdie Pacheco. Ali, too tired from the long journey from his home in Arizona exited after 20 minutes. With a simple wave to the adoring crowd he was gone. Those 20 minutes were electric enough to keep the Miami city lights on for days as invited guests had a difficult time holding back their emotions from catching a glimpse of “The Greatest.” Toraño Family Cigars was honored and humbled to be part of such a historic event. Talking boxing, smoking great cigars, and sipping on cocktails in the presence of legends makes for a great evening. # # #
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Gran Habano discontinues 3 SLS & Cabinet Selection lines

byGary Korb

MIAMI FL - Due to the overwhelming success of our new Azteca cigar we have decided to cease production of the highly-rated 3 SLS and Cabinet Selection lines. This difficult decision will allow Gran Habano to maintain our high level of quality and consistency within our core lines and any special projects that may be in development. Gran Habano's current inventory of 3 SLS and Cabinet Selection cigars will be depleted by the end of 2010. At the current pace we expect our final shipments to be sent out in September. About Gran Habano CigarsGran Habano Cigars was founded in 1995 by Guillermo Rico and his son George Rico. Using only the best raw materials on earth, Gran Habano begins the growing process with Habano and Corojo seeds which are grown on company-owned farms in Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The process comes to fruition at our boutique factory, which focuses on quality control and high-end productivity making it one of the top cigar companies in the world. For more information visit the Gran Habano Cigars website.*   *   *
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Drew Estate Releases the Liga Privada Ã

byGary Korb

Miami, FL – Drew Estate officially announced its intent to release into the market the much-heralded “Dirty Rat” during the IPCPR 2010 tradeshow as the first cigar within its new Liga Privada Ãœnico Serie. Ãœnico, which translates to “unique”, will be a new line of special cigars that fit in neither the existing Liga Privada No. 9 nor T52 lines.According to Steve Saka, Drew Estate’s President, “At this point, we have made 200 or more Liga Privada blends. There are probably 9 or 10 of them so far that are exceptional, however their blends differ from both the No. 9 and the T52 branded cigars. They’re cigars that work as a particular size, such as a lancero or corona, with the blend being unique to that particular vitola. The ‘Dirty Rat’ is a great example of this, so we have decided to introduce this as the first cigar in the Ãœnico line.” The “Dirty Rat” is a stout 5 inch by 44 ring gauge corona with a fan-twist finished head utilizing their Stalk Cut and Cured, Connecticut Sungrown Habana capa, which is the same wrapper featured on the Liga Privada T52. That is where the similarity ends, as this is a spicier, even more peppery blend of primarily Nicaraguan tobaccos from almost exclusively the Esteli Valley. Packed in a 12-ct presentation box with a suggested retail price of $12 per cigar. “We realize this is expensive for a small format cigar, however due to the difficult nature and time consuming task of proportioning five different filler tobaccos and hand bunching such a complex recipe into a corona size the cigar’s price is a direct reflection of what they actually cost to handcraft,” adds Saka. “I personally love this cigar, to me it is a direct reflection, taste and body wise, of the greatest Cuban-made coronas I have ever enjoyed, however it is likely too strong for most consumers and it is definitely not for those who are concerned with stretching their buying dollar. This ‘Dirty Rat’ is intended for the connoisseur smoker whose first and foremost concern is enjoying an unparalleled smoking experience.”The “Dirty Rat” will not be a limited release, as some have speculated. Drew Estate intends to produce them in small batches as long as there is a demand for them in the market. The first boxes are currently being packedand shipped from their Nicaraguan factory and can be expected to arrive on the shelves of Liga Privada Appointed Merchants beginning in September 2010.For more information, please visit: www.drewestate.com.*   *   *
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Partagas

Alec Bradley Cigars Partners with Mercedes-Benz at Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance

byGary Korb

DANIA, FL – Alec Bradley Cigars, once again, has partnered with Mercedes-Benz to deliver a first-class experience for their VIPs at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. According to the event’s website, “Once each year, on the third Sunday in August, 175 of the most prized collector cars and motorcycles in the world roll onto what is often called the best finishing hole in golf — the famed eighteenth fairway at Pebble Beach. Tire meets turf and transformation occurs: the stage is set for one of the most competitive events in the automotive world.” The name Pebble Beach exudes the ideal of excellence and celebrates style, qualities that Mercedes-Benz sought when identifying partners for their VIP experience.  In addition to the Concourse d’Elegance, Mercedes-Benz and Alec Bradley have partnered for the last two years at that very famous golf tournament that takes place at Augusta National, where VIPs enjoyed the 94-rated Tempus, as well as other Alec Bradley selections. The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is not a contest of speed, but of excellence, a concept that does not escape Alec Bradley Cigars president, Alan Rubin. “Being associated with a global, premium brand, like Mercedes-Benz, at one of the premier life-style events in the world is truly an honor and quite humbling. We enjoy working with Mercedes-Benz and look forward to doing so again at future events,” states Rubin. The 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which was held Sunday, August 15, featured some of the finest automobiles ever made along with a number of very special cars from some of the most revered eras in automotive history.For more information, please visit www.alecbradley.com.*   *   *Photo source: pebblebeachconcours.net "Best of Show Nominees"
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General Cigar Celebrates 50 Years with National Cigar Event Series

byGary Korb

Richmond, VA—General Cigar will commemorate its golden anniversary with a ten-city tour that will hit chic, cigar-friendly venues across the U.S. beginning on July 27 at Chicago’s swanky Vertigo Lounge in the Dana Hotel, and ending on November 11 at the legendary Foundation Room in Las Vegas. The complete event schedule appears on the General Cigar 50th anniversary website www.cigarcelebration.com. At each event, General Cigar will welcome tenured cigar enthusiasts and fellow connoisseurs drawn to the lure of handcrafted cigars to celebrate the company’s past 50 years of artistry in cultivating venerable brands such as Macanudo®, Punch®, Partagas®, Hoyo de Monterrey® and La Gloria Cubana®. Benji Menendez, the legendary cigar master who recently celebrated his 58th year in the premium cigar business will be on hand to regale event attendees with glorious stories spanning five decades of tobacco cultivation across Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and the U.S. Emerging cigar masters Michael Giannini and Rick Rodriguez and other key General Cigar staff will also be present to pair a selection of the company’s new and critically-acclaimed cigars with fine wines, spirits and hors d’oeuvres. Debo Mukherjee, vice president of marketing for General Cigar comments, “At General Cigar, we take great pride in our heritage and our unparalleled tobacco expertise. We developed this event series to celebrate the people whose passion and mastery have made General Cigar one of the world’s foremost producers of premium cigars. Invited guests will not only have a chance to experience the premium cigar lifestyle in a connoisseur’s setting, but will also have a rare opportunity to learn about tobacco cultivation and blending from Benji Menendez, our cigar sage, and from the emerging cigar masters who will take our company into the next half century.” General Cigar Co. Inc. manufactures and markets handcrafted cigars for the premium market. Committed to delivering cigars of the finest quality, General Cigar also produces Macanudo, Cohiba®, Partagas, Hoyo de Monterrey, Excalibur®, La Gloria Cubana and several other leading premium cigar brands. In addition, the company grows its own premium Connecticut Shade wrapper tobacco, as well as natural and candela wrapper in the Dominican Republic. General Cigar also operates Club Macanudo®, a cigar bar in New York City. Based in Richmond, VA, General Cigar sells through tobacconists nationwide. For more information, please visit www.cigarworld.com.# # # ®  Macanudo, Punch, Partagas, Hoyo de Monterrey, La Gloria Cubana, Cohiba, Excalibur and Club Macanudo are registered trademarks of General Cigar Co. Inc.
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Macanudo Cafe

95

Kristoff Ligero Criollo

Toraño Cigars takes sole ownership of its distribution with a new look and company name

byGary Korb

(Miami, Florida) July 15, 2010—The Toraño Family, makers of some of the finest cigars in the world, is proud to announce that effective August 1st the family will distribute its own brands. To add to this exciting news, Toraño launches a new company name, a new logo and two retail exclusive cigar brands. The company name is changing from Toraño Cigars to Toraño Family Cigar Company to truly capture the family legacy and emphasize that this is a family-owned company. The taking over of its distribution is the result of the family’s decision to enhance its personal relationships with the trade and consumers. “We are energized and excited to be announcing these positive changes,” said Charlie Toraño, the company’s president. The new logo, which combines a contemporary, yet classic look, is symbolic of the company’s new direction, one which will focus on the introduction of innovative cigar brands, unique blends and building a strong Toraño Family Cigar community. “We recognize the value of building communication,” Charlie said. “There’s no better way to reach cigar smokers and the trade than through social media, the Internet, the use of viral campaigns and the personal touch and interactions at cigar events that only the family can provide.” The IPCPR in New Orleans will be the platform for the unveiling of Master by Carlos Toraño and Single Region, two retail exclusive brands. The company is also offering a value priced bundle cigar named Brigade. “I am looking forward to seeing everyone at our upcoming annual trade show and personally showing all of the changes which are taking place,” Charlie said. A leader in the cigar industry, Toraño Family Cigar Company is a four-generation company currently based in Miami, Florida. It enjoys a rich heritage and history in tobacco growing and cigar manufacturing.*   *   *
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Camacho Cigars Signs Partnership with Bayer CropScience

byGary Korb

Miami, Florida, July 19, 2010 – Camacho Cigars, a key player in the international cigar market, and Bayer CropScience, the world’s leader in crop science and crop protection, have signed a working partnership under the Bayer Food Chain Management program. With this new alliance, Camacho Cigars has become the only tobacco company in history to be in compliance with strict international standards for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). By complying with the practices set forth by Bayer CropScience, Camacho Cigars ensures the responsible management of natural resources, bio-friendly pesticides, industrial safety, and biosecurity. The Food Chain Partnership is the first of many steps in Camacho’s plan for a higher level of social responsibility and it’s furtherance in manufacturing the highest quality cigars in the world. On June 29, 2010, Camacho Cigars and a team of Bayer executives welcomed select members of international media to visit their tobacco fields at Rancho Jamastran and cigar factory in Danli, Honduras. Following the daylong tour of Camacho’s operations, a press conference was held at Las Lomas where the partnership was officially signed."It’s an amazing feeling being the world’s first tobacco company to have partnered with Bayer CropScience. After five years of adopting Bayer’s standards for good agricultural and manufacturing practices, the official signing of this collaborative makes all of us very proud. It’s incredible to see the practices that have been implemented so far and the effects it’s had on the culture and day-to-day lives of the people that work for us in Honduras," said Christian Eiroa, President and CEO of Camacho Cigars. As the newest member under the Bayer Food Chain Management program, Camacho Cigars joins the likes of companies such as Heinz, Nestle, and KRAFT; all of which, comply with the same standards.For more information on Bayer CropScience, click here. #  #  #
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Guillermo and Nestor go to Washington

byGary Korb

Miami, FL, -- Guillermo Leon and Nestor Miranda, in conjunction with Washington, DC’s oldest continuously operated tobacco shop, will play host to the Congressional Cigar Association at a reception in the nation’s capitol on Tuesday, July 20th. While the event is a first for Leon and Miranda, the CCA holds quarterly events where manufacturers of premium handmade cigars educate the group on cigars, the manufacture of cigars and other various aspects of the industry. At the reception, Leon will focus on his recently introduced La Aurora 107. The cigar commemorates the 107th Anniversary of La Aurora’s founding. The company, part of Grupo Leon, is the oldest cigar maker in the Dominican Republic. Introduced in May 2010, the 107 has been an instant success, much as La Aurora’s Cien Año, Preferido, and 1495 Series. Miranda, the man behind Tatiana flavored cigars and the Nestor Miranda Collection, is the co-founder of Miami Cigar & Company, a twenty-one year old enterprise that distributes La Aurora cigars and Leon Jimenes cigars. As one cigar magazine recently described him, Miranda, "The most interesting man in the cigar industry!" The Congressional Cigar Association is an officially recognized bipartisan organization of Congressional staffers from The House and Senate, all of whom are cigar aficionados. The organization's purpose is to create a bipartisan atmosphere amongst staffers of both parties and the cigar smoking community.In the current climate, where cigar smokers are being heavily taxed by the Federal Government, as well as in numerous states, and with the advent of smoking bans and prohibitions, Leon and Miranda see this event as an opportunity to foster a better understanding of the industry and its contributions to the economy. Moreover, CCA events are frequently attended by Congressmen and Senators who enjoy the relaxing, contemplative benefits of fine cigars. Organized by CCA, the reception will be supplied with La Aurora 107's and Nestor Miranda Collection cigars, making for  an afternoon of conviviality and good cigars all within view of the Capitol and The White House. For more information on this special event, click here.On Thursday, 22 July, there will be a private dinner held at the Blue Duck Tavern, located in the Park Hyatt Hotel. Limited to ten guests, the cost per person is $200. The guests will be seated in Chef Brian McBride’s private dining room. Guillermo Leon and Nestor Miranda will also be present to introduce their new cigars, and share in the camaraderie that cigar dinners such as these always engender. *   *   *
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90 Miles 1980

Montecristo 75th Aniversario cigars make Robb Report's "Best of the Best"

byGary Korb

Robb Report magazine, the esteemed global luxury source, has honored Montecristo 75th Aniversario with the distinction of “Best Cigar” in its prestigious “Best of the Best” issue. Every June, Robb Report publishes its annual “Best of the Best” special issue, which represents the culmination of an entire year’s search for excellence in every aspect of the luxury lifestyle. Honorees are selected by Robb Report editors and contributing writers. Montecristo 75th Aniversario’s selection to the “Best of the Best” list is considered the highest distinction a brand can achieve. For over 30 years, Robb Report has served as the definitive authority on connoisseurship for ultra-affluent consumers seeking the very best that life has to offer. Montecristo 75th Aniversario was created in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the world’s most revered brand. Distinguished by its continued devotion to the pursuit of perfection, the aristocratic Montecristo brand bears a noble legacy that sets it apart at every level. The exquisite Montecristo 75th Aniversario is skillfully handcrafted by the world’s finest artisans at the famous Tabacalera de García factory in the Dominican Republic. This rich, fuller-bodied smoke features a spectacular, dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper surrounding the finest Ecuadorian, Honduran and Nicaraguan long filler tobaccos. Critics and connoisseurs alike have hailed Montecristo 75th Aniversario as the ultimate luxury smoke. The limited edition cigar is available in five- or 20-cigar cedar presentation chests with sliding drawer, or in a majestic 150-cigar tabletop humidor expertly constructed of richly finished lacquered wood.*   *   *
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Gran Habano Makes World's Largest Smokeable Cigar

byGary Korb

By Gary Korb It's big. It's VERY big. More specifically, it's GARGANTUAN! And it's coming to the Cigar Expo on Saturday, June 26th. Guinness, are you getting this? Being touted as the world's largest "smokeable" cigar, George Rico of Gran Habano Cigars has created what he's calling the longest and biggest cigar in the world. Scheduled to be on display under the main Vendors tent at the Expo, with enough encouragement, George may even light it up. If so, it might be a good idea to alert the authorities at the local fire house to be on standby. His fear is that once his super-stogie gets going, it will get so hot under the tent, the tent itself might become part of the ash. Blended with the same tobaccos as used in the Gran Habano No.5 Corojo cigars, the stick is appropriately called The "Gigante," and measures 18.9 feet long, by 3.3 feet wide. It's probably also fair to presume the cigar will be very full-bodied. If you don't have a ticket to the Cigar Expo, at least you can peruse the photos George sent to Retail Store manager, David Zayas, shown here. So, will the world's largest cigar receive an "outstanding" rating, or will the Lehigh Valley be consumed in a fragrant fog? For more details contact Dave in the store. (_[ca]__{{{ Also see these related storiesPuffingCigars.comTampa Cigar Examiner
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Alec Bradley Cigars leads industry by adding QR codes to their marketing mix

byGary Korb

Smartphone users now have instant access to information on cigars and more via new mobile optimized website DANIA, FL -- Having a link to a company's website encoded in one of their t-shirts may sound like something from a Steven Spielberg movie, but one cigar company has made such cutting edge technology a reality. By incorporating QR codes in their advertising and point-of-sale material, Alec Bradley Cigars, the makers of such highly-rated cigars as Tempus, Prensado and Family Blend, is the first company in the cigar industry to add this powerful new tool to their marketing efforts. These 2 and 3-dimensional, state-of-the-art bar codes will allow consumers who own mobile devices with QR code readers to link to more information about Alec Bradley cigars, accessories, swag, promotions and more - instantly. QR codes, (internet-speak for Quick Response) are used to take a piece of information from a variety of media and connect to it via the camera in mobile phones. The media can be anything from website links, to text, photos, videos and more. Their primary advantage over regular bar codes is that they can store exponentially more data. Alec Bradley Cigars is using QR codes in their ads, shelf talkers, T-shirts, and other merchandise, giving mobile device users the ability to go directly to their website in seconds. For example, a consumer can scan the QR code on a shelf talker in a cigar store or other retail location. The code takes them to a link where they can then see key details about that particular line. To accomplish this, Alec Bradley has created a mobile-optimized site for their Select Cabinet Reserve (SCR), Family Blend, and Prensado selections. Other lines will be added. "We've always paid great attention to detail when creating cigars,” said Alec Bradley Cigars president, Alan Rubin. "In applying the same kind of detail to our advertising and point of sale material, we've seen a very positive response to the technology. In a very traditional industry, it is important to see how technology can be a powerful tool to enhance our customers’ experience, and this is only the beginning.” To take advantage of Alec Bradley's new QR code scanning capability, a mobile device user must have a QR code reader on their mobile device's camera. For more information visit AlecBradley.com.
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Swedish Match and Scandinavian Tobacco Group sign agreement to form a new company

byGary Korb

(CISIONWIRE) -- Following the announcement January 15, 2010 that Swedish Match and Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG) intend to form a new company with a core focus on cigars; Swedish Match today announces that the transaction agreement has been signed by the parties.Swedish Match will contribute its entire cigar business with the exception of US mass market cigars, and will contribute its remaining pipe tobacco and accessories businesses. STG will transfer all of its tobacco businesses (cigars, pipe tobacco and fine cut tobacco) into the new company. The new company will also include distribution of lighters and matches supplied by Swedish Match in relevant markets. Closing of the transaction, which is subject to competition authority approvals, is expected to occur during the third quarter, 2010. "This is a major step towards our ambition to leverage our combined skills in the global cigar and pipe tobacco industry. By creating this value enhancing business platform with worldwide reach, we are better positioned to drive growth, profitability and long term shareholder value," said Lars Dahlgren, President and CEO of Swedish Match AB. Swedish Match will hold 49 percent of the shares in the new company, with the remaining 51 percent of the shares to be held by STG's shareholders. Jørgen Tandrup, currently Chairman of STG, will become the Chairman of the Board and Conny Karlsson, Chairman of the Board of Swedish Match will assume the role as deputy Chairman for the new company. As previously disclosed, Anders Colding-Friis, CEO of STG will be the CEO of the new company. STG will compensate Swedish Match with 30 MEUR to account for the shareholding and the relative differences in enterprise values on a cash and debt free basis. The cash consideration has been adjusted for exclusion of Swedish Match's minority stake in Arnold André from the transaction. Based on the Swedish Match and STG 2009 full year results, the new company would have had an annual turnover of approximately 690 MEUR, EBITDA of approximately 140 MEUR, and a volume of more than 2.5 billion cigars. The STG tobacco business normalized full year 2009 Sales and EBITDA were approximately 320 MEUR and 70 MEUR respectively, employing about 3,500 employees. For the full year 2009, the normalized Sales and EBITDA for the businesses to be contributed to the new company by Swedish Match were approximately 370 MEUR and 70 MEUR respectively, employing about 7,000 employees. The main advisors to Swedish Match in this transaction have been Sundling Wärn Partners and KPMG Transaction Services. *   *   *
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La Aurora to handout free cigars with release of new 107 Aniversario

byGary Korb

MIAMI FL -- Miami Cigar & Company, the exclusive distributor for La Aurora brands in the United States, announced the release of the La Aurora Serie 107 Anniversario to mark the company's 107th year of operation in the Dominican Republic. As part of a year-long campaign to "Rediscover La Aurora," 107 retailers across the U.S. will be giving away 107 robustos on April 30th. Miami Cigar president Nestor Miranda says, "We have represented La Aurora for over 20 years and feel this is one of the best cigars they have made so far. We believe so much in the 107 that we are giving cigar smokers the chance to try it for free. All anyone has to do is buy a cigar, any cigar, at one of the participating retailers on April 30 and we'll give you a free 107."  La Aurora vice president Guillermo Léon adds, "We realize that while our family has been making fine handcrafted cigars for more than a century, some cigar smokers still have not tried our products and others remember when we only made cigars in the mild range. La Aurora has been developing medium to full bodied cigars with full flavor and we want to let people know how we have changed. The Rediscover La Aurora is part of our outreach to those smokers."The 107, which uses a Sun Grown Ecuador wrapper over 6 year old fillers and binder from Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, will come in boxes of 21 with a suggested retail price between $6 to $8, plus any local taxes. There will be 3 sizes: Robusto (4.5x50); Toro (5.5x54); and a Belicoso (6.25 x 52).  The 107 will only be available at brick and mortar tobacconists. #   #   # For more information visit RediscoverLaAurora.com.
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Nicaraguan charity to benefit from CigarAuctioneer.com signed box auctions

byGary Korb

Easton, PA -- (TransWorldNews) -- On Tuesday, April 6, CigarAuctioneer.com, the internet's leading cigar auction website, posted four very special cigar auctions. Each auction features a box of handmade Nicaraguan cigars autographed by their respective manufacturers, and from which the proceeds will go toward helping a worthy Nicaraguan charity. The idea for the auctioning the cigars came from Arthur Zaretsky, who, in December of 2009 attended the first annual "Sabor y Aroma de Nicaragua" tobacco festival in Esteli. The festival was organized by the Asociación Nicaragüense de Puros, an organization comprised of Nicaragua's leading tobacco growers, cigar manufacturers, and other related industry professionals. Headed by renown cigar grower and manufacturer, Nestor Plasencia, some of its high-profile members also include such manufacturers as Padron, Oliva, Drew Estate, Joya De Nicaragua, the Don Pepin Garcia Family, and Perdomo. According to Mr. Plasencia, the main goal of the organization is to "educate cigar consumers and promote the benefits of Nicaraguan tobacco products." But the association does much more than that. Its members help supervise and improve the overall quality of Nicaraguan tobacco and cigar production, while also promoting the importance of the tobacco industry to the country. The association's efforts have helped forge a stronger bond between the manufacturers and the Nicaraguan government. One of the by-products of this relationship will be more cooperation in the area of government regulation. Moreover, it should be noted that Vice President of Nicaragua, Jaime Morales, as well as Robert J. Callahan, the American Ambassador to Nicaragua, also attended the Sabor y Aroma festival. In addition to the field and factory tours, industry seminars, and other festival events, there was an auction to raise money for Nicaraguan charities. One of the items up for bid was a box of Padron Family Reserve cigars signed by Orlando and Jorge Padron, which was won by Arthur. Zaretsky. Upon returning to the U.S. Mr. Zaretsky decided to hold a similar charity auction on CigarAuctioneer.com in which one of the lots would include that very same autographed box of Padron Family Reserve. Calls were also made to several other Asociación Nicaragüense de Puros members asking to donate their own signed cigar boxes. The resulting donations included a box of Liga Privada No.9 Flying Pig signed by Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate, a box of My Father No.3 signed by Don Jose "Pepin" Garcia, and a box of Oliva Serie V Torpedo signed by Jose Oliva. All bids started at $1.00, and the money raised by the auctions will go to the Asociación who, in turn, will donate the money to the Santa Lucia Home for The Elderly in Nicaragua. The one-time only cigar auctions will end on Monday, April 12 at 9:59 PM (ET). For more information and to participate in these special box auctions, interested bidders should visit CigarAuctioneer.com. #   #   #
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CigarAuctioneer.com announces major makeover

byGary Korb

Easton, PA -- Bidding for premium cigars online just got a whole lot easier and a lot more fun. CigarAuctioneer.com, the internet's most popular cigar auction website, has unveiled its new and improved features. In addition to a new logo and page layout, gone is the garish orange color scheme, now replaced with a cooler bluish-gray palette. Featured auctions are displayed in two sections on the new home page, and a third section keeps you in the know of auctions that are ending soon. There is also an enhanced search feature that allows you to simply type a keyword or brand name into the search field at the top of the screen and the result is a page displaying current auctions which match your search term. For example, if you're looking for Rocky Patel Cuban Blend cigars, type it where prompted and hit "Search." Not only is it helpful, but it makes finding your favorite cigars on auction that much easier. After searching by keyword or for a particular brand, you'll notice the page you're on contains two tabs to choose from: "Current" or "Future" auctions. That means you'll know whether your favorite cigars are currently being featured as well as when they'll be up for auction in the coming days or weeks. For people who prefer to search by presentation, there is an "Auction Category" tab which allows users to search for cigars by cigar boxes, bundles, 5-packs, cigar samplers, single cigars, cigar humidors and cigar accessories. According to CigarAuctioneer website developer, Bryan Deffley, the biggest improvement is the real time countdown. "During the last 24 hours of an auction, if you are viewing the detailed auction page, any bids placed by other users are automatically displayed," said Deffley. "You no longer have to refresh the page to see new bids." There are many additional improvements such as an instant overview of your site activity. This can be  found by visiting the "My Auctioneer" page, where users can view "Items I'm Bidding On," "Items I'm Watching," as well as a history of all the items the user has won and lost on a single page. For improved organization, the "My Account" section has been changed from one long page for every account setting, to being separated into different logical pages accessible from a drop-down menu. This includes billing information, credit cards, shipping preferences, and order consolidation (giving users the ability to combine their auction wins into one neat, weekly order). There are also links to pages for updating email addresses, opt-in/out email preferences, and order history. Cigar smokers who want to take the remodeled cigar auction website for a test-drive should visit www.CigarAuctioneer.com.  #   #   #
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89

Ashton Cabinet Selection

92

7-20-4

Toraño Cigars Bows New "Roots Run Deep" Tour for 2010

byGary Korb

2009 saw Toraño Cigars' Carlos and Charlie Toraño personally appear at thirty-plus select tobacconists nationwide, as part of their "Our Roots Run Deep" Tour. The special-theme events brought several new and exciting surprises to the world of premium cigars. Now, they have announced a second round of Tour dates for 2010, in light of the stir they created last year. Likewise, the Toraños promise even more new and thoughtful treats for smokers and retailers alike. Board chairman and president, respectively, the father and son are highly-recognized and respected in the dark-tobacco world, as their family-owned company approaches its 2016 centennial.  Being rightfully proud of their Cuban heritage and their legendary history in the craft of premium tobacco and cigars, the two launched their nationwide Tour last year. To say it was a success puts it mildly. "We averaged over a hundred guests at each event," recaps the younger Toraño.  "The smokers' excitement, combined with the upbeat ambience, special deals, unique Toraño merchandise, authentic Cuban food and beverages...simply ignited the three-hour cigar parties. Felipe Sosa, our ten-year veteran roller...I believe he's the best in the country...rolled a specially-blended cigar made exclusively for attendees of these Tour events." We then announced this previously-unnamed cigar "Tour Blend 2009." Due to its acclaim, we decided to produce limited runs of the cigar in a 6" x 50 Toro shape, selling them only through retailers who hosted the events. "Dad and I divided our attendance at the parties," Toraño states. "The Tour was our most successful promotional campaign ever ... not only for our cigars, but for the recognition and praise we received from at each retailer's shop.  To be face-to-face with the enthusiasm regenerated us time after time." The Tour was also the springboard for Toraño's latest blend in the Exodus series, following the original Exodus 1959 ("Gold") and Exodus Silver, two of the consistently highest-rated cigars by the media.   Christened "Exodus 1959 - 50 Years," it celebrates the 50-year triumph by the Toraños and other tobacco families over the Castro regime.  A unique new blend ... rich, with a smooth, gorgeous wrapper ... the new Exodus 1959 - 50 Years (nicknamed "Copper") is gaining marketplace attention and sales momentum.  According to Toraño, "We see Exodus 1959 - 50 Years taking its place in popularity, alongside its predecessors." The Tour begins this February 26 and 27, at two Dallas-area Up In Smoke shops.  Contact information is posted in the "Future Events" calendar on the Toraño cigars website, as are some upcoming tour dates. All will appear on the calendar as the tour takes shape. The Exodus 1959 - 50 Years will be spotlighted, along with the new Companion Pack, a "Buy Three, Get One Free" four-cigar sampler, all 6" x 50 Toros: Casa Toraño Natural, Casa Toraño Maduro, Cameroon 1916, and Virtuoso. *   *   *
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Relief Organization Extends Fundraising Deadline for Haiti Earthquake Victims

byGary Korb

The Montecristo Relief Organization is extremely gratified by the response to its donation-matching program. Checks keep pouring in, and Altadis U.S.A. retailers are continuing to schedule fundraising events. Therefore, the Organization is pleased to announce that it has extended the deadline of its donation-matching program until March 15th. The Montecristo Relief Organization is close to its goal of raising $250,000 by matching the first $125,000 in contributions made by Altadis U.S.A. employees, retailers, consumers and vendors. This is in addition to the $25,000 donated by the Organization immediately after the disaster. All funds are going directly to Food For the Poor, which is providing desperately needed food and water as well as other assistance to victims on an ongoing basis. Those who would like to contribute and have their donation matched by the Montecristo Relief Organization, should please make checks payable to Food For the Poor and send to: Montecristo Relief Organization, Haiti Earthquake Reliefc/o Altadis U.S.A.PO Box 407179Fort Lauderdale, FL 33340-7166 The Montecristo Relief Organization was established in 1999 by Altadis U.S.A. after several devastating hurricanes swept through the Caribbean killing thousands of people, injuring millions and causing unimaginable suffering. Since its inception the Montecristo Relief Organization has donated millions of dollars to build homes, schools, medical facilities and provide scholarships and economic opportunities to victims of natural disasters. *   *   *
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87

Vega Fina

Camacho Cigars Partners with Matusalem Rum

byGary Korb

Camacho Cigars proudly announces its new partnership with Cuba's oldest rum brand, Matusalem Rum. Together they will be joining forces for more than 360 nationwide events, which will showcase an array of Camacho cigar brands and Proximo's, Matusalem Rum. The partnership will introduce Matusalem Rum, as the official rum of Camacho Cigars. At select events, attendees will be given the opportunity to taste Matusalem Gran Reserva & Matusalem Ron Clasico. Event participants will also receive a Matusalem tasting guide detailing hand-selected Matusalem Rum recipes. "We are very excited to work with Proximo Spirits and Matusalem Rum," said Dylan Austin, Marketing Director for Camacho Cigars. "Rum has always been synonymous with cigars and I feel that this partnership is a perfect alignment for our two brands." "I am very pleased about the partnership between Ron Matusalem and Camacho Cigars," said Scott Schiller, Marketing Manager for Matusalem Rum. "Our brands share the common legacy of being original Cuban brands of superior quality. I look forward to furthering our brand recognition by being aligned with a respected brand like Camacho Cigars." # # # For more information visit Camacho Cigars online.
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General Cigar to kick-off 44th NFL championship game in style

byGary Korb

Richmond, VA -- General Cigar will light up the Super Bowl with events in Miami and New York that promise as many NFL stars and A-listers as the Big Game itself. According to Debo Mukherjee, vice president of marketing for General Cigar, "In taking ownership of these Super Bowl events on behalf of the premium cigar category, we are able to satisfy our goal of connecting key influencers and consumers of iconic luxury brands. In addition, our partnership with Justin Tuck allows us to expand our commitment to promoting literacy in Latin America by helping to raise funds for his domestic literacy initiative." To kick off the festivities in its hometown of Miami, La Gloria Cubana will represent the premium cigar category at EA Sports' star studded Madden Bowl XVI Championship which will be held at the Clevelander on Thursday, Feb. 4. Sport Illustrated dubbed last year's Big Game party as "the best party of the week" and this year's event is shaping up to be even hotter, thanks in part to the addition of the La Gloria Cubana Lounge. While hip hop artist Game and the NFL's brightest stars including (Chad Ochocinco (Bengels), Chris Johnson (Titans), Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars), DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) battle it out for supremacy in Madden NFL 10 on Xbox 360, the elegant La Gloria Cubana lounge will offer a bird's eye view of the competition. Within the luxury lounge, guests can enjoy a selection of cigars straight from the hands of renowned El Credito Cigar Factory rollers and the La Gloria Cubana brand team. La Gloria Cubana will also be the official cigar brand at Steelers Alum and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris' Super Bowl LIV events. For the seventh year in a row, General Cigar will join Franco as he kicks off Big Game weekend with his annual Immaculate Reception & Dinner fundraiser on Thursday, Feb. 4 and The Franco Harris/Lydell Mitchell Grid Iron Golf Tournament on Friday, Feb. 5. Nearly three dozen current and former players will be on hand to join Franco in helping raise money for "Soldier's Angel's," a non-profit organization that supports deployed soldiers and their families. The list of confirmed attendees for Franco's events includes current and retired players such as Parnell Dickerson (Buccaneers); Dave Duerson (Bears); Brian Kelley (Giants); Lydell Mitchell (Baltimore Colts); Matt Robinson (Jets); Jon Runyan (Eagles); Erik McMillan (New York Giants); Marv Fleming (Miami Dolphins); Andy Russell and Mel Blount (Steelers) and Bryon Williams (Packers).  La Gloria Cubana and Punch cigars will be sampled at both the Immaculate Reception & Dinner and on the golf course. Also in Miami, General Cigar will be the exclusive cigar partner for the Rolls Royce Owners' Celebration which will be held on Friday, Feb. 5 at a private estate in Miami. Nearly 300 Rolls Royce owners, celebrities and current and retired NFL players will be on hand to view the soon-to-be-released 2010 Rolls Royce Ghost and enjoy a selection of La Gloria Cubana cigars in the branded lounge that will be erected on the waterfront property.  On game day (Sunday. Feb. 7), General Cigar will support Justin Tuck and Ryan Grant at Hudson Terrace in New York City for their Big Game party to benefit Justin's R.U.S.H. for Literacy charity and to raise funds for the American Red Cross' relief efforts in Haiti.  The event will feature a heated outdoor smoking terrace, complete with cigars from La Gloria Cubana, as well as Macanudo cigars and Cohiba cigars. *   *   *
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Fuente & Newman Families send supplies to Haitian earthquake victims

byGary Korb

TAMPA, FL – A 200-mile road between Santiago, Dominican Republic and Port-au-Prince has become a lifeline for thousands of Haitian survivors. The Fuente family, cigar producers in the fertile tobacco fields of the Dominican Republic, are using this corridor to funnel desperately needed supplies to affected areas in and around the capital city. Trucks full of water, canned food, basic medical supplies, blankets, and tents are making the journey directly to the devastated areas in a matter of hours, compared to U.S planes which are backlogged for months trying to get to the city's crippled airport. "We have a direct route to Haiti," said Carlos Fuente, Jr., "we want to get as many supplies down there as we can. The Cigar Family Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit charity started in 2001 by the Fuente and Newman families. In addition to contributions by the founding families, the foundation is also taking public donations. To help, please send cash or check to Cigar Family Charitable Foundation – Mission Haiti, P.O. Box 2030, Tampa, Fla. 33601. Because the Fuente and Newman Families underwrite all administrative costs, 100 percent of donations go directly to aide the people of Haiti. For more information you can contact the foundation at info@cf-cf.org. #   #   #
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General Cigar Contributes to Haitian Relief

byGary Korb

RICHMOND, VA— General Cigar announced today that the company will make a multi-faceted contribution to bolster relief efforts in Haiti. According to Dan Carr, chief operating officer, "As a company with strong ties to Haiti, we are deeply saddened by the recent tragedy and feel we have a responsibility to assist the country.  In recognizing the immediate need for financial donations, and the necessity for sustainable support, we have committed to a long-term action plan to help in the rebuilding of the country." Responding to the devastating earthquake, General Cigar will utilize its "Social Fund" in addition to employee donations to make a financial contribution of an undisclosed amount to Haitian relief. This donation will be funneled through the Association of Industry of the North Region, a Dominican-based organization which will disperse funds collected by General Cigar to Catholic charities in Haiti. General Cigar is currently working to develop a comprehensive agricultural outreach program to support the island nation which has been plagued by deforestation and infertile soil. While this endeavor is in development, General Cigar has already pledged to sharing resources including the expertise of its team of agronomists who will assist Haiti by implementing reforestation and soil management programs. General Cigar's commitment to supporting Haitian relief efforts stems from its comprehensive corporate citizenship program which is underwritten solely by the company. Since 1992, General Cigar has been actively assisting the people of the Dominican Republic and Honduras through a variety of programs geared toward improving literacy and education, as well as providing agricultural and environmental support for the developing nations. #   #   #
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11th annual Montecristo Cup raised funds for victims of natrual disasters

byGary Korb

The highly successful 11th Annual Montecristo Cup Charity Pro-Am golf tournament, which benefits the Montecristo Relief Organization, was held this past December 2nd – 6th at the world class Casa de Campo Resort in the Dominican Republic. Over 100 amateurs and professionals from the PGA tours attended the event, which is known as "the ultimate marriage of golf and cigars" and has earned a reputation as one of the finest events of its kind. Participants enjoyed three days of tournament golf on the resort's renowned Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore courses as well as fabulous food and spirits, unlimited luxury cigars and the camaraderie that brings people back year after year. Festivities included the popular silent auction featuring Altadis U.S.A. cigars and humidors, original paintings by renowned artists, fine jewelry and watches, autographed sports memorabilia, golf equipment and apparel and much more. Participants were also treated to a tour of Tabacalera de García, the world's largest premium cigar factory, where such legendary brands as Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, H. Upmann and many more are handcrafted. The Relief Organization was founded in 1999 to provide ongoing aid after two devastating hurricanes caused unimaginable death and suffering in the Dominican Republic and other areas of the Caribbean. Over the years, the charity has funded the building of homes, schools and medical facilities. Hundreds of wheelchairs have been donated for the sick and injured. Scholarships have been provided for children who would otherwise have not received educations. Economic opportunities, such as tilapia fish farms, have been created to provide the needy with sustainable incomes. Funds have been donated to Operation Smile to bring new hope to children with severe facial deformities. Additional aid has included over $1 million raised by the charity together with Altadis U.S.A. to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. "We are extremely grateful to the many people who have supported us over the years," said Jim Colucci, Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing at Altadis U.S.A. "The financial aid we have received has made a huge difference in the lives of those who depend on us to help rebuild their dreams. *   *   *
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89

Montecristo Platinum

90

Ashton Heritage Puro Sol

Montecristo Relief Organization Reaches Out to Haiti

byGary Korb

In response to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti this week causing catastrophic damage, human suffering and loss of life, The Montecristo Relief Organization is immediately donating $25,000 to Food For the Poor, a group already on the ground in Haiti providing vital assistance. Food For the Poor is responding to this terrible tragedy by supplying desperately needed nonperishable food and water to the earthquake victims immediately and will continue to provide ongoing aid and relief for rebuilding efforts. Montecristo to Match DonationsIn addition, the Montecristo Relief Organization will match dollar for dollar the first $125,000 incontributions made by Altadis U.S.A. employees, customers, consumers and vendors. If you would like to contribute and have your donation matched by the Montecristo Relief Organization, please send your check made payable to Food For the Poor to:Montecristo Relief Organization, Haiti Earthquake Reliefc/o Altadis U.S.A.PO Box 407179Fort Lauderdale, FL 33340-7166 Help and support is needed immediately, so time is of the essence. The Montecristo ReliefOrganization will match funds donated by February 15th. We thank everyone in advance for joining us in this vital relief effort. The Montecristo Relief Organization was established in 1999 by Altadis U.S.A. after several devastating hurricanes swept through the Caribbean killing thousands of people, injuring millions and causing unimaginable suffering. Since its inception the Montecristo Relief Organization has donated millions of dollars to build homes, schools, medical facilities and provide scholarships and economic opportunities to victims of natural disasters in the Caribbean and the United States. #   #   # Altadis U.S.A. also produces and distributes Montecristo cigars.
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General Cigar Announces Modesta Fondeur's Retirement

byGary Korb

Richmond, VA - General Cigar announced today that Modesta Fondeur, executive vice president of tobacco and operations will retire on December 31, 2009, and will continue as an advisor to the company. "I have enjoyed a wonderful career over the past 34 years and am thankful for the opportunities that I have been given. I am looking forward to my retirement because I will be able to enjoy the luxury of continuing the work that I enjoy, while having more time to devote to my family and friends," said Fondeur. Dan Carr, chief operating officer of General Cigar comments, "We are grateful to Modesta for her dedication to the company and are proud to have had such an iconic businesswoman on our team for more than three decades.  Not only has she been instrumental in developing our sophisticated cigar processing operations, but in the years leading up to her retirement, she has always devoted herself to developing our employees. My team and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with her." After graduating from the Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra of Santiago, Modesta joined General Cigar in June of 1975 and began her career in the company's finance department.  In the 1980s, she was appointed comptroller of General Cigar's Dominican operations.  While overseeing the company's finances in the Dominican Republic, Modesta took it upon herself to study the company's manufacturing processes; it was this initiative that carved out a new career path for Modesta.   In the 1990s, she made a quantum leap into an executive level position within the formerly-male-dominated manufacturing division. Since then, Modesta made a swift ascension to her current role, in which she supervises nearly 6,000 employees in the Dominican Republic and Honduras. Committed to giving to people in need, Modesta was responsible for developing a comprehensive literacy program that has benefited company employees as well as the people of the Dominican Republic and Honduras. Modesta resides in the Dominican Republic with her husband Pedro. A proud mother of a son and daughter, Modesta has one grandchild and one on the way. Jhonys Diaz, the company's vice president of operations, oversees the farming and cigar making operations and will take on an increased role after Mrs. Fondeur's retirement. Fondeur stated, "I have worked alongside Jhonys for the past 11 years and during that time, I have seen him demonstrate tremendous leadership and a strong passion for the business. I am confident he will drive General Cigar forward."  *   *   *
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Montecristo Relief Organization brings smiles to scores of children

byGary Korb

Smile Train is a wonderful institution whose medical professionals work to repair severe facial deformities on children and young adults in impoverished countries. Funds recently donated to Smile Train by the Montecristo Relief Organization have paid for over 100 of these life-changing surgeries. The Montecristo Relief Organization was established in 1998 by Altadis U.S.A. after several devastating hurricanes swept through the Caribbean killing thousands of people, injuring millions and causing unimaginable suffering. Since its inception, the Montecristo Relief Organization has donated millions of dollars to build homes, schools, medical facilities and provide scholarships and economic opportunities to victims of natural disasters. Each year, Altadis U.S.A. and its retailers sponsor exciting in-store events to benefit the Montecristo Relief Organization. This fall, tobacconists across America are hosting Operation Hope – a spectacular celebration of cigars, camaraderie and caring to raise funds for the Relief Organization. Cigar lovers won’t want to miss this memorable event filled with fun and good cheer. In return for a $75 donation, attendees receive a fabulous gift package of Montecristo cigars and accessories valued at over $125 and share in the good feeling of giving something back to those is desperate need. The date and details of the event can be obtained through local tobacconists or by visiting montecristooperationhope.com. *   *   *
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94

La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero

94

Kristoff Maduro

The largest cigar lounge in Washington, DC opens at FedEx Field

byGary Korb

Cigar loving Washington Redskins fans can now enjoy the ultimate smoking experience while watching their favorite team at the elegant new Montecristo Club, which recently opened at FedEx Field. The Montecristo Club is Washington DC's largest cigar lounge and the only one in America to be located in a football stadium. Located on FedEx Field's exclusive Club Level, the lounge accommodates over 1,000 guests. Spacious and warmly welcoming, the beautiful Montecristo Club features plush leather chairs, a full bar, flat panel TV’s for football viewing and a stellar selection of premium cigars including Montecristo, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, Trinidad, and many more. The Montecristo Club is the only place where smoking is permitted in the stadium. It was created to offer enthusiasts a smoker-friendly, luxury destination for enjoying their favorite cigars while watching the game. The Montecristo Club will also accommodate tailgaters in the FedEx Field parking lot where Montecristo girls will be on-hand in golf carts selling cigars. *   *   *
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Montecristo cigars highlight 2009 Legends of Basketball celebrity golf tour

byGary Korb

The legendary Montecristo cigars were right at home among pro basketball legends at the welcoming dinner for the 2009 Legends Celebrity Golf Tournament on Friday evening, September 18th in Atlanta. Montecristo Classic was the official cigar for the evening. The Legends of Basketball is an organization of retired professional players. Hosted by Julius “Dr. J” Erving, the 2009 Legends Celebrity Golf Tournament dinner drew over 100 stars from the 1950’s through the 1990’s, including Rick Barry, Dolph Schayes and many other great players from the past. Guests who attended the welcoming dinner were treated to Montecristo Classic cigars for enjoying while dining and mingling. A drawing was held for a beautiful Montecristo humidor, which was won by legend Don Meineke, the first player ever to win NBA Rookie of the Year (1952). *   *   *
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Ernesto Perez-Carrillo launches innovative new website to introduce highly anticipated new cigar brand

byGary Korb

NEW YORK -- Famed cigar maker Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is still a few months away from debuting the inaugural cigar from his newly formed company, but the legendary cigar maker is providing a taste of his unique approach with the launch of an innovative "Coming Soon" website that mashes up Google Maps with real-time short messaging service Twitter. The new site (www.epcarrillo.com) offers the first look at his new company, EPC Cigar Co., and is constructed in such a way as to celebrate and propagate the passion that people all over the world have for cigars. The temporary website, which acts as placeholder until the full website launches late next month,  "scrapes" Twitter to capture and display any "Tweets" that mention the word "cigar" or its euphemisms in real-time anywhere in the world. By using Google Maps, the site then layers the Twitter information over a map to show exactly where that person is located. Considered one the world's premier cigar makers, based mainly on his success in creating the famed La Gloria Cubana cigar, Perez-Carrillo announced recently that he would forego retirement to start his own boutique brand of cigars under his newly formed company.  His limited-edition inaugural cigar is expected to be available for sale in December. Until then, his newly unveiled website will serve to inform, update and engage cigar lovers while they await the introduction of E.P. Carrillo Edición Inaugural 2009. "The making of cigars is still rooted in old-school techniques, but the marketing of a cigar brand has evolved tremendously to the point where our creativity and communications are not constrained by any means," said Perez-Carrillo.  "We wanted to launch this brand with a website that was truly unique – one that not only would capture the essence of this brand, but to somehow capture the passion that cigar smokers have for cigars." The main website which launches in October will be the first brand site to be entirely built using the Google Maps interface. Ernesto and DeVito Verdi felt an interactive map would be a great way to share the story behind this new brand. The Google Maps API also lets us include some interactive features that support the larger cigar community. One example is a "Places To Smoke" this page allows cigar fans to upload their favorite spots for enjoying cigars. Fans can also partake in a geographic journey, as they follow the path from the tobacco farms in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras and Ecuador (where the E.P. Carrillo tobacco is grown), to the factory in the Dominican Republic where the cigars are rolled. Cigar retailers also benefit from this format because the platform pulls in live data from Google, keeping the information current and correct. "Cigar smokers have such a strong connection to Ernesto that we felt it necessary to create a site that strengthened that passionate bond," said Tyler DeAngelo, digital creative director at DeVito/Verdi, the agency that created the site.  "This is not your typical site to support a cigar brand – or any brand – but then again, this not a typical cigar maker, or cigar."  (_[ca]__{{{
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Tatiana takes the helm at Tatiana Cigars

byGary Korb

Miami, FL, -- Tatiana Miranda, daughter of Miami Cigar & Company’s Marianna and Nestor Miranda, has been appointed Brand Manager for Tatiana© Flavored Cigars. The brand was named for Tatiana in 1996, by way of apologizing to her for a startling omission in a Cigar Aficionado article of the company and the Miranda family. The autumn 1996 issue of the magazine (Demi Moore on the cover) carried an elaborate story on Miami Cigar & Company. The company was then seven years old and one of the leading boutique cigar companies. The focus of the article was Marianna Miranda, the company founder, Nestor Miranda, Director and their late son, Daniel; all active in the business. Daughter, Tatiana, at that time a high school student, often helped her mother at the office, and was extremely upset that she was not mentioned in any context in the article. Tatiana has decided to take an active role in managing the highly successful cigar line. Tatiana, the brand, commands a market share, in the flavored cigar category, in excess of 43%.* Tatiana cigars are produced in five (5) sizes: La Vita (5 x 38) Classic and Classic Tubes (6 x 44) Dolce (5 x 30) Miniatures (3.5 x 26) Depending on the size they are available in rum, vanilla, honey, cherry, amaretto, cappuccino, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, tropical, mandarin and natural. There are three additional blends that might be described as more exotic or esoteric. They are "Groovy Blue," "Night Cap" and "Waking Dream." "I think of them as a combination of a cigar and a cocktail," said Tatiana. "They are very popular with women and men, although men tend to claim they are purchasing them for their wives!" "Flavored cigars tend to be purchased by people that want to smoke cigars, but want a little something to alter, not mask, the flavor of the tobacco," Rene J. Castaneda, company Vice President commented. "They are also very attractive to women due to their aromas." In 2008 the company added Tatiana "Mocha" a cigar that provided a hint of mocha, so as not to overwhelm the tobacco flavor, but gave off a very luscious mocha aroma. The brand outsells the only competition it has. "I intend to be very proactive, promoting the line; doing events and making other appearances on behalf of the brand. After all, it is my brand," Tatiana said with a smile and a wink. The cigars are all long filler and excellent tobaccos are used. Production is handled by La Aurora in Santiago, Dominican Republic.   (_[ca]__{{{ *Based on a survey of 275 tobacconists that carry multiple lines of flavoured cigars.
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Perez Convicted in Cigar Counterfeiting Case

byGary Korb

Investigation is Ongoing MIAMI, FL -- Lauro Perez, who was charged in a federal indictment with one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and six counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods, was convicted on all counts on Tuesday, September 15th, by a Miami jury. The jury rejected Perez’s argument that all he did was innocently copy Cuban products he alleged are being sold worldwide. The jury concluded that, under U.S. law, Perez violated the trademark rights of the U.S. trademark owners, including the trademark rights of Altadis U.S.A. Inc. and its various subsidiaries in the famous MONTECRISTO, ROMEO y JULIETA, and TRINIDAD brands. For having been found guilty of the conspiracy count, Perez can be sentenced to up to five years of imprisonment. For having been found guilty of the counterfeiting counts, Perez can be sentenced to up to ten years of imprisonment. In addition to incarceration, Perez may be subject to fines, restitution, special assessments, parole terms, or forfeitures that may be applicable. Sentencing will take place on November 23, 2009. *   *   *
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89

Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon

Cigar Advisor Diary: August 8, 2009

byGary Korb

By Gary Korb Left for New Orleans from Allentown, PA at 9:40. Arrived in NOLA around 1:30. Weather was hot and sticky. Checked in at convention center with Arthur, Jeff, Mike K., and Hayward to get our registration passes. Ran into Jeff Lee, Hendrik Kelner, and others from Davidoff cigars on the line. Hellos all around. Also saw Sal Fontana from After registering, I saw Michael Giannini from El Credito cigars, who literally gave me the Macanudo lanyard off his neck to clip on to my registration ID. So much better than the cheap rubber band that comes with the pass. What a guy! From there we bumped into some other execs from General Cigar, including Keith Sparacio, Seeana Tobin, and Dan Carr. From that impromptu meeting, I lassoed one of their new offerings, a La Gloria Cubana Serie R No.3 - a 4 1/2 by 56 Rothschild. Here's the thing: it seems that almost every year, my first cigar of the show is a cigar from General. I don't plan this; it just seems to work out this way. Anyhow, it was a terrific smoke. Very smooth, perfectly balanced, robust, but not overpowering. Strong flavors of charred wood with earthy undertones, some spice, and a pleasant river of sweetness running through it. Smoked it to the bone. Out on the street, we ran into Mike Chiusano and J.T. from Cusano Cigars. J.T. offered some Cusanos; I chose my current fave, their Rare Cameroon '59. Also present was Michael Herklots from the Davidoff cigar store on Madison Avenue in NYC. There was talk about this year's show attendance. Someone mentioned that they were expecting about 700 exhibitors this year. From there, we headed for the Hilton where IPCPR was having their convention eve retailers party. On our way over their ran into Nestor and Nestor Jr. Plasencia, who joined us at the party. Lots of great food, and by this time we were really hungry.  Some of the people we ran into there were Abe Flores of Pinar Del Rio Cigars, Arthur Kemper of Perdomo cigars, Mitch Kogen from Exclusive Cigars (Kristoff cigars), and Glenn Gutin from CigarTV.com The overall vibe was pretty good tonight. I'll take that as a positive sign. Tomorrow the show begins in earnest, and I hope that vibe continues. More to come...
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Macanudo Announces Winner in All-Star Promotion

byGary Korb

Richmond, VA -- Macanudo®, America's best selling brand of premium cigars recently awarded Joshua Stevens of St. Charles, Missouri with the grand prize in the brand’s All-Star promotion. In addition to winning two tickets to the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game which was held at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri on Tuesday, July 14, Stevens received deluxe hotel accommodations in St. Louis as well as tickets to the Fan Experience and Home Run Derby for himself and a guest. According to Debo Mukherjee, vice president of marketing for General Cigar, parent company of Macanudo, "A creative execution of our 'American Passion" ad campaign features baseball, an American pastime that, like Macanudo, has inspired a devoted following. We therefore developed the Macanudo All-Star sweepstakes to align these two pastimes and award one lucky consumer and a guest with a trip of a lifetime to see the All Star game in person.  The promotion was quite successful, having been executed at brick and mortar tobacco shops nationwide, in addition to being featured by leading online cigar retail websites." In order to win the coveted trip, Josh visited his local Tinder Box cigar shop in St. Charles, MO and purchased the specially-marked Macanudo All Star four pack which contained a free Macanudo Café Hyde Park cigar. Upon purchase of the four pack, he was given the lucky scratch off card and ultimately learned that lady luck had smiled on him. Stevens commented, "I am a big baseball fan and it has always been my dream to see the All-Star game. When I saw the Macanudo promotion at my local Tinder Box, I had to enter. You can imagine how excited I was when I found out that I'd won." The Macanudo All Star promotion kicked off at retail in February 2009 and was supported at tobacco shops with point-of-sale materials, and events created to garner increased excitement for the promotion.  In addition to tickets to local Major League baseball games, limited-edition Macanudo baseball jerseys and Macanudo-branded baseball hats, complimentary Macanudo Café Hyde Park cigars were given as prizes at retail events. Online premium cigar retailers also participated in the Macanudo All Star promotion by including scratch off tickets with orders placed for the special Macanudo four pack. #   #   # ® Macanudo is a registered trademark of General Cigar Co. Inc. 
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Room 101 Connecticut

87

Jameson Black Label

Cigar Industry Leader Announces Retirement

byGary Korb

Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- Altadis U.S.A. announced today that Theo Folz, the company's President and CEO, will be retiring on September 30, 2009. He joined the company twenty-five years ago and has been in the industry 46 years. With such legendary company brands as Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Dutch Masters, Philliesand Backwoods to name just a few, Folz has lead Altadis U.S.A. to a premier position in the cigar business with unprecedented sales and earnings levels. Highly respected and regarded through out the entire tobacco industry, he is known as an icon. Folz has made a huge contribution in making Altadis U.S.A.'s cigar business the force that it is today. He has been a dominant figure in the history of the U.S. and indeed the worldwide cigar industry. Theo and his wife, Connie, look forward to global travel, fine food and wine and enjoying their sport fishing boat. Folz says, "It has been an honor to be a part of such a vibrant and historic industry." He will be succeeded as President and CEO on October 1, 2009 by Gary Ellis, currently CFO, who has been with the company for over 20 years.
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IPCPR Diary for Wednesday, July 16, 2008

byGary Korb

By Gary Korb Today is the first day I've had a chance to write up my report at a decent hour. And because of the time for our plane flight out tomorrow, it will also be the last report until I return to the office on Friday, so here goes: My first appointment of the day was with Kurt Van Keppel, president of Xikar, Inc, who was kind enough to grant me a second interview in as many months (see the June Ashes-to-Ashes). Today, Kurt expanded on the proper way to season a humidor and spoke about the Xikar crystal-based humidifiers. Additionally, Xikar is also marketing an adjustable digital humidifier. You need to do the salt test to calibrate it, but once you set it, it sticks. I got the very informative segment all on video, too. Kurt then introduced me to master woodworker, Jon Bixler, formerly of Madelaine, who is now making top-grade and affordably-priced cigar humidors under the Xikar name. Jon takes great pride in his work, and I videotaped a short segment with him on his methodical approach to making cigar humidors, and how he gets the woods so lustrous. These are beautiful boxes and they come fully-equipped, too; really thick walls, aromatic Spanish cedar, Xikar digital hygrometers & humidifiers, and they all make that great WHOOSH! sound when you drop the lid. I also learned a little about wood veneer. Jon's veneers are all genuine oak, mahogany, ebony et. al -  not painted on - and you can really tell. In fact, if I didn’t know better I would have thought all of the humidors were solid wood. Right next door to Madelaine was Jesus Fuego, who treated me to my first cigar of the day, a Jesus Fuego Gran Reserva Corojo No.1.Corona. I'm a huge fan of Jesus's work, and it was a wonderful smoke. His cigars are really starting to catch on, and I wish him the best of luck. After that I stopped by the SAG Imports booth, where I had a very enjoyable conversation with one of the cigar industry greats, Manuel Quesada, master blender and founder of Fonseca Cigars. I asked Manuel how he thought the show was going, and he was very candid, saying it was a good show, but it could have been much better. We also spoke about the impact of the smoking ban here in Las Vegas. In case I haven't mentioned it yet, smoking is no longer permitted in public areas in Las Vegas except in the casinos. (Even at the Davidoff dinner last night at the Bellagio, we were only permitted to smoke outside on the patio outside the ballroom, in the humid, 90-degree heat.) Manuel told me it took four months of negotiations to get permission to allow smoking in The Sands Expo Center, and the deal wasn't even set in stone until two days before the show opened. He also felt that the formation of private cigar clubs could be one of the best solutions to the ever-increasing smoking public bans. This year Manuel has introduced two new blends both of which will only be available at B&M cigar stores. The first is Casa Magna, a full-flavored Nicaraguan puro which he developed in collaboration with Nestor Plasencia. The second is the Cubano Viso Fuerte an more full-bodied follow-up to his highly-rated Fonseca Cubano Limitado cigars selection. This blend features a Dominican longleaf and Broadleaf filler blend, Dominican binder, and is wrapped in a lush Honduran-grown Cuban seed Criollo Viso leaf. Manuel handed me some samples, which I'll review in the weeks ahead. Well that was pretty much it for this morning. Later today, I'm going to be doing a video with Nick Perdomo who will talk about his new Perdomo Patriarch cigars and some other new lines they're introducing. So, I've got a lot of work ahead for me in the next few weeks. Please look for my reviews on these cigars and the videos as they get posted, and until then... ...happy smokes!
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IPCPR Trade Show 2008 Preview: Cigars to Watch

byGary Korb

By Gary Korb As many of you are already aware, the IPCPR (International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association) trade show, formerly known as the RTDA, will be getting underway on Monday, July 14 at The Sands Expo & Convention Center at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. I'm really looking forward to this year's show because some great-tasting new cigars, several of which have already reached cigar store shelves, will get to soak-up the trade show spotlight and be judged by the buyers. There are way too many new cigars to cover in this column, so look for my reports from the show in the days ahead. In the meantime, here are more than a few to whet your appetite. Alec Bradley CigarsCertainly one cigar that a lot of show attendees will be barking for like seals is Alec Bradley Cigars' new Tempus cigars selection. Already in many B&M cigar stores, Tempus is one hot cigar. This full-flavored Honduran, Nicaraguan and Indonesian blend stars a rare, 7-year-aged Honduran wrapper, and has already received mind-bending scores including a "94" from Cigar Insider for the Churchill-sized Centuria, and more recently, a "91" from Cigar Snob magazine for the Robusto-sized "Terra Nova." (Check out my blog on the Tempus "Genesis." [http://cigaradvisor.blogspot.com/2008/06/my-weekend-cigar-tempus-genesis-and-nub.html]) Arganese CigarsAmong the recent newcomers, Arganese cigars has become a highly-respected premium brand.  (Check out the great SMOKE magazine interview with Gene Arganese). Speaking of strong, they'll be debuting their new CL3 and ML3 cigar lines in Corojo Ligero and Maduro Ligero respectively, which they call "the only cigar in the world to the third power!" One review I read on the CL3 indicated it as a real powerhouse, and the ML3 also to be quite potent, yet sweeter with strong earthy flavors, laced with espresso and dark chocolate. Though I prefer my cigars more medium-to-full, I can't wait to sample these. Hey, someone's gotta do it. CAO CigarsOne of the cigars I'm looking forward to smoking from CAO cigars is their new CAO LX2 ("Ligero times two"). The LX2 is a dark, spicy, full-bodied cigar that combines a Nicaraguan wrapper and Honduran binder with a core of two diverse ligero filler tobaccos - Dominican and Nicaraguan. If it's consistent with past CAO new releases, it should be exquisitely smooth, flavorful, and have some very cool packaging to match. Cusano CigarsCusano cigars will be showcasing their revamped Cuvée cigars, as well as officially introducing their new Habano LXI Sun Grown and '59 Rare Cameroon. I smoked Robusto samples of the LXI and 59 Cameroon, which were quite impressive, so I'm looking forward to test-driving some of the larger sizes, like the 5¾” x 58 double perfecto "preferido" shapes. Davidoff CigarsDavidoff of Geneva has already introduced their new Reserva 12 Limited Edition 2008, but I was unable to get my hands on a sample. Rolled in a flawless Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper, the 5½" x 52 Robusto Extra cigar is blended with five filler leaves, some of which have been aged for 12 years, and is described as "strong and complex" with an impressive aroma. (I'll have to have a talk with my friend and Davidoff cigars sales rep.,  Tom Smith, when I get to the show about that sample. ;-) Drew Estate CigarsDrew Estate Cigars (known best for their ACID cigars, is introducing Tabak Especiale, a new coffee-infused cigar that will take the place of the Kahlúa cigars they used to make for General Cigar. Offered in Connecticut and Maduro wrappers, Jonathan Drew calls the latter, "The quintessential infused cigar. "Heavy and rich, with a lot of mocha to it." Also look for Chateau Real Maduro, a dark, medium-bodied cigar that will complement the original Chateau Real cigars in the U.S. Connecticut Shade version introduced in Las Vegas two years ago. "It's got some meat without being overpowering," say's Jonathan. "A good afternoon cigar." E/O CigarsEspinosa/Ortega, the folks who brought you the awesome 601 selections, will be spotlighting their new full-bodied Cubao cigars line. Like the 601 cigars, Cubao was created by Don Pepin Garcia with a full-bodied, spicy and complex Nicaraguan blend. G.A.R. CigarsGeorge Rico, whose Gran Habano cigars and 3 Siglos cigars have put him and his father, Guillermo on the radar screens of premium cigar smokers will be debuting his new G.A.R. cigars. I recently wrote a blog about an unbanded G.A.R. cigar preview sample that George gave me. G.A.R. is a full-flavored Honduran blend that I found to be creamy, earthy and woody laced with sweet tobacco flavors. I can't wait to sample the finished product at the show. La Aurora CigarsTabacalera La Aurora will be reintroducing (sort-of) their Leon Jimenes 300 cigars selection. The cigars, which boast an exquisite African Cameroon wrapper, debuted in 2006, but La Aurora cigars president, José Blanco felt the cigars still needed more time. So now, two years later, they're fully aged, and should be quite extraordinary. La Flor Dominicana CigarsLa Flor Dominicana cigars will be showcasing a new five-cigar box presentation called the Los Perfectos Sampler. The cigars are all rolled to 5 ¾" x 54 perfecto shapes. Two of the cigars are unbanded, and although we can assume they will contain some of Litto Gomez's prized Dominican leaf, he's keeping the blend a secret for now. Nub CigarsFinally, there is the recently released nub cigars, created by Sam Leccia and manufactured by Oliva cigars. I've already sampled the 460 Connecticut. I though it was quite nice, but I'm more curious to see how the show attendees react to this innovative new concept in premium cigar design. Perdomo CigarsPerdomo cigars will be introducing their new Perdomo Patriarch® cigars line. Made in honor of Nick Perdomo's late father, Nick Sr., Patriarch® boasts a rich, robust and complex-tasting blend of all-Nicaraguan tobaccos from Esteli, Condega and Jalapa. The cigar will be offered in six traditional shapes in both Nicaraguan Corojo and Maduro wrappers. Another cigar that will be debuting in the Perdomo booth is the Perdomo 10 Year Anniversary cigars selection. Created to celebrate "the next generation" of their La Tradicion Perdomo Reserve cigars line, the blend boasts a beautiful Cuban seed wrapper. According to a company announcement, the smoke is "a symphony of complex flavors including almonds, coffee and cocoa on a smooth, silky finish." Remember the Perdomo2® ("Perdomo Squared") selection? Well they're back. Debuting at this year's show with an all-new blend is the new Perdomo2®, a box-pressed, medium to full-bodied cigar that will be presented in boxes of 40 cigars. Reyes Family cigarsReyes Family cigars, the family who brought you Puros Indios cigars and Cuba Aliados cigars, has already released two new lines, Premier Maduro and Classic Natural (both Ecuadorian Sumatra seed wrappers), which are available only at retail cigar stores. I've already smoked samples of each, and they've all been wonderful. Both versions offered a creamy smooth smoke and had a nice balance of flavors with that signature Reyes Family earthiness. So, until my plane touches down at McCarran International, that's all for now.
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Back from Honduras and Nicaragua

byGary Korb

By Gary Korb First allow me to apologize for not being able to follow up over the past several days from Esteli as mentioned in my previous message. When I finally got to the hotel I couldn't get a strong enough Wi-Fi signal on my laptop, and to make matters worse, the plug on the hotel's wall cable connection was busted. Believe me, this is no surprise in a place like Esteli. However, Esteli's natural beauty, and the hospitality we were shown by people like Nestor Plasencia, Nick Perdomo, Gilberto Oliva, and Victor Calvo (of Tabacalera Tambor), and Toni Borhani, among the many other wonderful people we met there, more than make up for its lack comfortable hotel accommodations. During my excursion I got to see the entire cigar-making process, and more, including some processes which many of you may not be aware. According to Nick Perdomo, who gave us a personal tour of his facility, there are 3,100 stages the tobacco goes through to completion of the cigar. Hard to fathom, but when you see it, you understand what he's talking about. Due to the abbreviated workweek, plus the fact that I had so much work, email, etc., to catch up on today, I regret that I can't get into too much detail in this post, but I wanted to at least post something. I assure you that in the weeks to come I will reveal in prose and video all of my experiences last week. I kept an audio journal that needs to be reviewed, plus I have almost four hours of video to edit. Thanks for checking in and please stay tuned. I've got some real goodies for you. In the meantime, I'll try to get some of the other columns on this site updated.
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The Cigar Smokers Must-Read of the Day - CAO America Cigars on YouTube

byGary Korb

Actually, this the "must see" of the day. In honor of the upcoming release of their new "CAO America" cigars selection, CAO International has created an inspiring "World Premier" video at YouTube.com. Using archival footage, the documentary-style short takes the viewer on a tour of great moments in America's history. The soundtrack was done by CAO’s Director of New Media, Michael Trebing, Watch it here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb5_xlfcnng But wait, there's more video!If you'd like to see how CAO gets that perfect pinstripe on the CAO America wrapper, watch "Making an American Cigar."http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jisx_cdpkg Very cool!
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CAO spices up 7th Annual Latin Grammy® Awards

byGary Korb

Nashville - CAO, one of the world's foremost premium cigar manufacturers, has been chosen as the exclusive cigar to be served at the backstage artist/VIP Green Room during the 7th Annual Latin Grammy® Awards show to be held Thursday, November 2, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This will mark the first time New York City will host the Latin Grammys, which will be broadcast on the Univision Network at 8:00pm (ET/PT).  CAO will feature an assortment of its award-winning cigars, including CAO Gold, Cx2, Brazilia and CAO The Sopranos(SM) Edition.  Guests of the Green Room will also receive headwear provided by CAO M.E.R.C.H.  "CAO has a track record of participating in numerous awards shows, professional sports-related events, movie premieres and the like," commented CAO Chief Marketing Officer Jon Huber. "We believe the Latin Grammys are a perfect fit for CAO; when we were approached to provide cigars, it was an easy decision to make." CAO was selected for two consecutive years as the official cigar sponsor to the People's Choice Awards and, in addition, has been the cigar of choice for events involving such celebrities as Janet Jackson, Nicky Hilton, Outkast, Mötley Crüe and Tommy Lee.
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The Edge Finds a New Band

byGary Korb

No, I'm not talking about the U2 guitarist. I'm talking about "The Edge" by Rocky Patel cigars. This cigar, which debuted in 2004 sans bands to give the cigar a rustic, old Cuban-style appearance, will now wear a collar at the foot. Similarly, The Edge Light cigars will also sport the new bands. According to my source, the decision to add the band was in part because some retailers were actually replacing their sold-out Edge stock with cheap bundle imitations of the naked cigars. How low can you go, right? The banded Edge cigars are slated to arrive at the end of this month or early September. The boxes will remain unchanged. ~ Gary Korb
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Alec Bradley Black Market

91

Oliva Connecticut Reserve

CigarAdvisor.com Debuts in Time for RTDA 2005

byGary Korb

CigarAdvisor.com is a new website designed as a unique educational resource for cigar smokers seeking advice and information about imported premium cigars. CigarAdvisor.com will feature cigar tips & terminology, cigar reviews, links to a wealth of other cigar resources, and a daily cigar blog. Coinciding with this year's Retail Tobacco Dealer Association Annual Convention and Trade Show in New Orleans, a new cigar information website has just made its online debut. CigarAdvisor.com, subtitled, "Your online premium cigar consultants," is aimed at cigar smokers seeking advice and information about imported premium cigars. The website will feature useful cigar tips and terminology, cigar blending, humidors, accessories, and a daily blog. For the unveiling, CigarAdvisor.com will be showcasing daily reportage from the RTDA Convention. The primary function of CigarAdvisor.com is to provide a useful educational resource to help cigar smokers learn more about their favorite pastime, while also helping them make more informed decisions about cigars they already smoke or are planning to try. The philosophy behind the new website is simple: the more you know about the things you love, the more you can enjoy them. CigarAdvisor.com also plans to enlist others in the field such as cigar columnists, master cigar blenders, humidor makers, marketing personnel and cigar consumers themselves, to contribute their own expertise to the site. "Because there are now so many premium cigar brands from which to choose, CigarAdvisor.com will be especially helpful to those who are new to cigar smoking," said, CigarAdvisor.com Editor, Gary Korb. "Tobacco legislation is also a very important issue to a lot of cigar smokers, and we'll be doing our part to keep them advised on what's happening at both the State and Federal level," Mr. Korb added. CigarAdvisor.com will provide a continuous stream of news on all tobacco-related subjects via an RSS feed from tobacco.org, as well as news from such resource sites as Cyclopedia.com and others. Additionally, links to practically every major cigar manufacturer and cigar communities will also be integrated into the site. Another goal of CigarAdvisor.com will be to create a special cigar review panel made up of both new and veteran cigar smokers who will provide their personal opinions and ratings. This will give visitors a fresh online source where they can read unbiased opinions on new cigars that are released throughout the year. CigarAdvisor.com's daily reports from the RTDA Trade Show will be featured on the site's homepage where links can be found to virtually everything else related to cigar culture and the enjoyment of premium cigars. As the site develops, CigarAdvisor.com will seek any and all knowledgeable contributors who are willing to donate their time in exchange for a little limelight and some good cigars.
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