Written by Gary J. Arzt

Monday, 03 November 2008

User Rating: / 1

industry updates

Congratulations to Nick Perdomo, CEO of Tabacalera Perdomo, on his election as a Councilman in his home town of Miami Lakes, FL (article). The town can look forward to the application of a true entrepreneur's POV in solving the town's problems, and a successful businessman's solutions being proposed.

Councilman ... Mayor ... State Senator ... hmmmmm ... who knows what the future holds. But, in the meantime, here's hoping Nick keeps turning out cigars like his Lot 23, Habano, and the new Patriarch.

Espinosa y Ortega, owners of 601 and Cubao, two (2) very hot brands that are superb cigars made by ... guess who, the Maestro, Jose Pepin Garcia, have concluded an agreement with Miami Cigar & Company,

for the distribution of both brands in the United States (article). E y O retains the international distribution, and, both Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega will continue to be actively involved and all aspects of sales and marketing. The goal was to increase sales by availing themselves of Miami Cigar's excellent, in-house sales staff and telephone sales operation.

Nestor Miranda and Rene Castaneda, Miami Cigar's President and Managing Director/National Sales Manager, both expressed satisfaction with the arrangement and confidence in the contribution they will make in taking E y O to the 'next level.'

My good friend, Paul Hernandez, manufacturer's rep in the cigar industry, and co-owner of Aromas of Havana in North Miami Beach (14781 Biscayne Blvd., N. Miami Beach, F 33181 - 305.940.0988 - ) called me on Wednesday, 1 October, and asked me what I was doing Friday, 3 October. "I have some appointments and plans, but, what do you have in mind?"

What Paul, who is the rep for Illusione cigars had in mind, was that I should meet Dion Giolito - about whose cigar marketing I had just written a rather critical article! Believe me, the prospect did not stir me; but, as a courtesy to my friend, I agreed.

We met at Paul's store ...

What I did like about Dion is that he spoke about tobacco and cigars with the same passion ... and knowledge of intimate detail, which he had when speaking about Site 51, Roswell and the Trilateral Commission.

And Illusione is an excellent cigar.

Illusione 888 Cigar
Illusione 888 Cigar

I walked into Puros Fine Cigars (10792 Coral Way, Miami 33165 - - 305.222.2217) in the early afternoon of Tuesday, 7 October, and saw Alejandro Alcorta, the dynamic young tobacconist, sitting with an individual I recognized as well as a woman I did not recognize.

He was talking with David Blanco, maker of Los Blancos cigars. I had first met David, although he didn't remember me, at the IPCPR in Las Vegas. As I told him, he must be more memorable than I am. Nonetheless, I did remember his cigars. They have substance and are worth trying when you see them at a tobacconist.

Davidoff has acquired Camacho  (article) and I don't think the consolidation in the industry is over. As far as internet/catalogue retailers are concerned, Famous and Thompson and Mike's Cigars are still independent. Considering Altadis purchase of JR and Swedish Match's acquisition of Cigars International, it likes like the 'majors' want in on the retail end. And, they all have plenty of cash.

I hate divided loyalties ... but I'm having real trouble now that Espinosa y Ortega has introduced their Cubao cigar. Up until that cigar hit the market, I smoked an awful lot of 601 cigars - the oscuro La Punta and corona; the Habano Rabito, torpedo and toro. Now, I'm almost torn between those and the Cubao lancero, torpedo and the soon to be released panatela, with a nice 'flag' cap.

At the RTDA in Houston in 2006, an old friend, a tobacconist, with a large shop in the Northeast, said to me, in a conversation about my good friend Pepin Garcia, "How many people can you dance with!" Well, aside from the Pepin Garcia Blue label, Black label, JJ - his own brands; Pepin is successfully dancing with Espinosa y Ortega (Cubao and 601), Ashton (San Cristobal, Old Henry and Benchmade), Pete Johnson (Tatuaje, Cabaiguan and La Riqueza. And now, Jaime Garcia has blended and produced My Father, to honour Pepin and they have introduced Tabaco Baez. The man's dancing as fast as he can.

San Cristobal by Ashton

The thing that always amazes me is that Pepin's cigars have a 'signature.' I can always tell a Don Pepin cigar. That said, none of the above listed, highly rated cigars are the same! The common element is a full bodied, rich flavour.

So, all I can say is: I hope Pepin keeps on dancing.

Miami Cigar & Company is the latest to name added to Pepin's dance card. The successful Nestor Miranda Signature Collection has gone through a re-blending at the hands of the Garcia's ... and the cigars become available this month.

The initial blend has been enhanced; the wrapper is now exquisite ... and the flavour has been, as Emeril Legasse says, "...kicked up a notch."

Having been present when the two first sat down together, I knew this would come to pass, and I am sure there are miles to go in the relationship between the iconic cigar maker and the quintessential cigar marketing man!

I met Jean Clemente, a Frenchman formerly in the jewelry business in Hong Kong in 1986. He was there to introduce his Juan Clemente cigars. Yes, like Philip Gregory Wynne, who called his cigars Felipe Gregory, Jean had 'Latinized' his name for commercial purposes!

A success in Europe and Asia since then, he has never had a presence in the U.S. market. Now, Steve Harvey, CEO of The Orleans Group International, has made a deal with my old friend, Jean, to distribute Juan Clemente in the United States. I'm happy to have been the one that introduced them.

While not having the same profile as the stronger, full-bodied cigars that I like, Juan Clemente should give some of the mild to medium cigars a run for their money. And, who knows where Jean could take the blends once they establish a foothold in the market.

Juan Clemente - Obelisco
Juan Clemente - Obelisco

I was in Washington for a few days and managed to visit two (2) of Gary Pesh's Old Virginia Tobacco shops (formerly Tobacco Barns) ( ). Gary's father purchased a shop from David Berkebile, of Georgetown Tobacco, when David chose to downsize in order to devote himself to things more pertinent than business, although, the shop in Georgetown continues to receive his attention, and the thrive - as the real ' go to' place for fine cigars and accessories. The 'shop' Mr. Pesh acquired was hardly more than a kiosk at the Iverson, Maryland mall. Today there are seven (7).

OVT's Pentagon City shop is the smallest ... really pretty much shop and go. But, as it is in a mall adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton, where I was staying, it worked out very well.

A relaxing visit to the Falls Church, VA shop at Seven Corners Center was relaxing and enjoyable; as I met and spoke and smoked with a couple of very interesting people.

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ... " the first line of Charles Dickens' novel of the French Revolution, is equally well suited to describe the situation cigar smokers find themselves in.

A plethora of great cigars are on the shelves of tobacconist shops, and we enjoy the greatest choice and quality in my memory (50 years of smoking). And yet, we are beset by the forces of 'evil.' People who don't want us to enjoy ourselves and our small pleasure; taxes; local and state laws that are at once prohibitive and draconian; the prospect of the SCHIPS tax and other efforts to stop cigar lovers from smoking. The states will do everything they can to inconvenience us, but they won't do the one thing that will get them what they want: Ban the sale of cigars. Why, because they love the tax revenue.

Don't despair, to the rescue, we all hope, comes Cigar Rights of America ( the grassroots organization that intends to fight for our rights!

The problem I'm seeing is that too many of you smokers are content to complain and beef about the restrictions and the other offenses to our sensibilities; but not willing enough to pony up a paltry $30 to join.

Come on, people, it's the price of four (4) or five (5) quality cigars. I smoke seven (7) or eight (8) a day. If it came to it; I would cut down for a day in order to have the funds to join. Thirty Dollars is 'pin money,' and CRA needs the heft if they are to be effective.

Get on the web site and join ... if you really want to be able to keep smoking.

Jon Caputo has, obviously, done the first roll up of cigar web sites, and he has some terrific plans for what will, in a couple of months be There will be interesting developments, changes, improvements as he intends to better serve the smokers and the industry.

I copied the illustrated chart, out of an Italian book, so long ago; I had a full head of hair. Check it out; you may recognize yourself, you may recognize a lot of your cigar smoking friends. I got a kick out it when I first did it. I'll tell you this, I wasn't happy with the 'me' that my 'nephews', Alejandro Alcorta and Alex Llaneza, recognized!

Cigar Holding Chart

"If I paid ten dollars for a cigar, first I'd make love to it, and then I'd smoke it."
George Burns

NOTE: Burns smoked El Producto cigars. He started smoking at 14 and five cents was all he could afford. The cigar, for Burns, w as a theatrical device and a puff of smoke from it was used to punctuate his monologues; ergo, he needed a cigar that stayed lighted. Surely, all the non-tobacco elements of the El Producto facilitated that aspect. Burns also used a cigar holder.

Zino Davidoff said, "Smoking a cigar through a holder is like drinking a fine Bordeaux through a straw."

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