CCP 064 | Oscuro
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Today, Ernesto gives credit to his father for teaching him most of what he knows about cigars. As young as 4 years old, he would spend countless hours with his father in the tobacco fields in Cuba’s prime growing region, the Vuelta Abajo. It was in Cuba where Ernesto began to appreciate the art of growing tobacco. The most valuable lessons Ernesto learned from his father were from the examples he set in his everyday life – dedication to work, humility, patience and respect. These are the same principles behind each cigar created by Master Blender Ernesto Perez-Carrillo today.

Listen to the podcast here:

Carillo Oscuro | Dusk | Pre IPCPR | Cigar Cafe Podcast

I’m hanging out here with Harris at Cigars & More in Birmingham. What’s going on?

Let’s fire up this EPC Elite Oscuro Selección.

That Oscuro wrapper keeps coming up in conversation lately. The Padrón had an Oscuro wrapper on The Hammer. La Palina‘s got a couple of sticks lately that have Oscuro wrappers. They’ve got the Oscuro Nicaragua and El Año1896. Now EPC has got an Oscuro cigar. How close to those other wrappers, to La Palina’s and Padrón, is that wrapper?

It looks very similar, dark wrapper, good-looking cigar. Fire it up and find out.

Our friends over in La Palina, Jake and Patrick, they had indicated that their wrapper was the same wrapper that Padrón was using.

That field currently is like a third party. I’m sure there’s going to be other companies trying to use that wrapper. Padrón made it so famous

There was some buzz about whether Davidoff was going to get some of that leaf. As far as Dominican’s personalities go, there are some offers with EPC now that he bargained and brokered and bartered for some of that leaf too.

He was in town and had an interesting conversation about what all they’re working on at EPC and things they’re changing. They’ve just finished a big revamp of all their packaging. They said they really want to make their boxes stand out in the shelf and give each one an identity. He spent $850,000 on that revamp of just the boxes.

I’m smoking an EPC stick. I’m smoking the Dusk which has a really nice dark wrapper on it. The pre-light draw was almost a little bit deceptive. It looks like the cigar is going to pack a whole lot of punch. The pre-light draw reminded me of some dried fruit like raisin and fig almost like the AVO Syncro. It has that note in it. Lighting it and starting to smoke, nice full medium body with a little bit of pepper spice behind it. It fits in well with what we’ve come to expect from José Blanco anyway.

José seems excited about his new role there as who they call Executive Vice-President of everything. Ernesto Perez-Carrillo brought in and hopefully help get even more people behind EPC. I love the brand. It seems like that they’ve struggled a little bit to get traction with some of these that we’re smoking. Then there are some of the smaller ones that have been really strong.

CCP 064 | Oscuro
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Oscuro: The business end of the cigar business is already starting to adapt and accommodate the new rules.

Anything in particular that you are looking forward to on the trade show this year? There’s a little bit less drama with the FDA. The rules are still in place but there’s some unknown quantity at this point. The business end of the cigar business is already starting to adapt and accommodate the new rules, whether or not they kick in later this year or next year or the year after that.

It’s still pretty much unknown how much cost to comply. I think they’re slowly starting to get a little bit of idea or plan for that. José Blanco and I were talking that it seems like cigar companies are starting to fall into one of two categories. Either the companies that you know will be around because they’re big and they can afford to go through the process or they have grandfather brands. The ones that you’re pretty confident that are going to be there. You can definitely say that EPC is one of those that will be there no matter what. Then you’ve got companies that aren’t planning to be around. They are going to try to sell as much as they can between now and the date prior to changing.

They’re already pushing back in two months at this point.

It changes again. If we’ve got to say it’s two years or whatever it is, that they’re going to push it hard and try to sell as much as they can and just close up. It is nice they push back some of the dates a little bit. I don’t think this year we have to worry as much about bringing in product that we would have to get rid of. After that cut-off date, we can’t sell.

We can’t sell what’s already out of the shelf.

It comes off as contraband.

That is a dumb rule.

I don’t know how they’ll enforce that but it would be a big deal. You don’t want to get stuck with 25% of your humidor that you have to burn.

President Trump is expected to re-tighten some of the Cuban restriction.

I did not realize that. What are they saying?

I haven’t read any specifics. I believe there are going to be travel restrictions. Scott had been talking about going to Cuba and now he may not get to go.

He would dance in the room and he’s been planning a trip. I’ve been wanting to go too. I didn’t really think that they would change it fast. I was not aware of that; so tightened back up.

I don’t think it’s been quantified how tight ‘tight’ is going to be.

What does that mean?

I think he has posted about it on Twitter, so it’s candid now. The Supreme Court has decided now that Twitter posts count.

I wonder how that would affect people who have trips that are already booked. I think Scott already booked it.

He was pretty sure he was going to do it. He was talking about by the end of the year. Steve was also talking about it too.

About the restrictions?

About planning the trip.

He’s been there several times.

He goes every year. If he’s been going for seven or eight years, he’s going to have one of those special visas anyway.

I’m going to guess that will still be possible.

Any events that you do know about with IPCPR this year yet?

Yes. Big news is Davidoff is not having the Davidoff Dinner because of the location change of the entire show.

It’s the Las Vegas Convention Center instead of the Sands Convention Center, part of the Venetian.

It’s basically the less nice convention center in Las Vegas. They’re having their big event. Everything else seems pretty normal though. Some of the companies are still doing smaller dinners. Ashton is still doing their Annual Big Cigar Dinner. My Father is doing theirs.

We had really good dinners with My Father and Gurkha. I thought the dinner that we went to with Ken was great. They were more intimate. My Father’s dinner was a party. We were a table of eight or ten people who we mostly knew. Folks from Cutters, guys from Champs were there. It was fun. Even the Golden Band Awards last year.

The other big news is they’re having the 38 Special play. Rudy Giuliani is the speaker. It will be great, I think. He’s a big cigar smoker. I went to the A Night to Remember event in New York and he was there. Everything else seems pretty normal. It seems like most companies would be at the show, even the smaller guys. Some people thought that this might be the year that a lot of smaller companies just didn’t attend. I have heard that some companies are scaling back with space a little bit, maybe trying to save a little bit of money. I think overall it will be pretty much the same as last year.

CCP 064 | Oscuro
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Oscuro: Some companies are scaling back with space a little bit, maybe trying to save a little bit of money.

It’s going to be a little different with the shuttle running back and forth between all the hotel venues are out.

It’s a little less convenient. It’s not quite all right there, the encore shuttles and all that. The normal people who complain about things are complaining that it moved. They’ve been complaining about anything. I would be interested to see next year what it’s like. At some point it will change again because of the FDA rules. It just got pushed off a year because of some dates getting moved a little bit. Maybe this year’s still pretty normal.

As a multi-story tailor, they’ve changed up the way that they did the passes this year. You fall under the three to five store retailers so they’re getting three passes.

They restructured all the tiers where it’s a full and flat-rate. They also charge us twice as much. That probably makes sense. There are four instead of one store. The good news is that we got more passes. It will be interesting to see even if you have one store, they raised it from two or three. They really want to get more people at it, so more passes. They’re still not allowing consumers to come in. You have to technically still be an employee of one of the stores that’s in it.

This year, they have an internet media membership option. Even for podcasts and bloggers and stuff that aren’t affiliated with brick and mortar stores or even online retailers, they have a patent too.

In the past, they might have been letting these guys in for free. They make it more official with the passes. That’s smart because that has been a complaint in recent years that the attendance of the show has been down. People who buy are there but they do need more people there in general. I’m curious to see if giving more passes actually works or not.

Is your dad going this year?

He is not. He decided to say home. My brother might go though. I haven’t heard yet. He’s never been before but he goes to some other shows. We’ll see if he goes. It would be really good and interesting to see what people are talking about. The big talk will be companies pushing, “We’re going to be here.” It’s like José Blanco. That’s his big push, “If these other guys are going to be here, we’re going to be here.” You need to get behind companies that are going to be here. It’s still really hard to predict which ones will be here. There are a lot there on the pass. It may depend if they lessen some of the regulations or not.

Has there been any progress to curtail the regulation? I know that new regulations have impart. This isn’t really a new regulation now.

They say it’s a lot harder since it’s already been logged in the Federal Registry. They said that if it had not been published yet, it would have been much easier to just cut it. José Blanco was saying that Rudy Giuliani has been trying to facilitate meetings with the White House since he has a lot of connections. They met with Trump’s sons to talk about it and they were friendly towards it. They have not been able to get a meeting with the president about it. They’ve had trouble getting all the way to him.

Maybe CRA can tweet him. We should start tweeting Trump about it. That’s what we’re going to do. It’s going to be our grassroots effort.

Right now they feel like it’s lost in the shuffle. He’s got a lot of other big things right now and this is a low priority for them, which is probably understandable. The interesting thing to see in the next six months is what really happens. The court case is coming up, it’s being heard. There are still some possibilities there. We will still see a lot of new releases because most of them were booked before the deadline. This year is still going to be normal.

I have seen some of the releases that are expected. The IPCPR page does have at least a partial list. They seem to be trying to be conservative about what they are publishing with regards to the release dates. I imagine they’re not creating issues for cigar makers in general.

They’re a little hesitant to put out things that would make it look like they are new releases. There will be technically re-releases. Has Sean been smoking any cigars lately?

He smoked the OpusX 20 or the Lost City. He has smoked the Andalusian Bull. I missed out on the last box that went through Pat Creek. I wanted to sell it as a box and it didn’t pan out. I have smoked some stuff that I really like lately. I have one cigar that surprised me and that I was not a big fan of it, Crowned Heads Le Careme. I think that’s a fantastic smoke, especially at the price. Somebody compared it to smoking chocolate mousse and there’s pepper spice in it. That’s a really good blend that I like right now. That AVO Syncro South America Ritmo, I’m not a big fan of that. I like the Syncros. I have long been a fan of AVO cigars in general, not so much like the Domaine line, the limited edition stuff that they put out every year. I heard South America and I thought Amazon Basin, I thought Ecuardorian Sumatra or Habano. I didn’t get any of that smoking that cigar. I did get my hands on one of the First 20 Years Colorados. That’s a solid stick I have ever rolled out. There’s some risk that they named it the First 20 Years because that was such a fantastic cigar that naming it The Greatest Cigar Ever Part 2 seems to put a lot of hype behind it. It absolutely fits in with the Chalet and the Prieto and other really good cigars that Christian Eiroa has been putting out lately. I know that we talk a lot about how my palate fits into that Nicaraguan flavor profile, but Christian Eiroa is going to get done with that too.

Is it just me or does it seems like Davidoff has released a lot of cigars lately? All The AVO Ritmo came out, the 60 ring gauge Black Label Davidoffs came out; Nicaragua, Yamasa, Escurio. There’s a box for Nicaragua 60’s. It was four that all of a sudden came out right after the Ritmo and then they put out a box for us too. It’s all of a sudden a lot. They wanted to get all of it out before the show.

They have it available at the show. Their Yamasá release last year was really impressive. I still prefer the Nicaragua to the Escurio or the Yamasá. They did a good job unveiling that cigar.

CCP 064 | Oscuro
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Oscuro: Yamasá release was really impressive.

What other new releases are you hearing about?

Other than the incomplete list that’s available at, I haven’t heard a lot of buzz about what to expect this year in the way of releases.

I wonder if that’s because they really don’t want to publicize that and run the risk of the FDA coming in and say no. A couple of companies that we don’t have cigars from right now in the stores aren’t necessarily new. One is Foundation Cigar Company, Nick Melillo, formerly a Drew Estate Master Blender. His company is Tabernacle. We do have the upsellers right now in a few cigars. Tabernacle is the one that we have been getting a lot of request for and a lot of people are talking about it.

That’s something which reminded me of formerly a Drew Estate. Steve Saka has outdone himself with the Muestra de Saka. I would like to be in a room with him again. The Sobremesa came out with the Mi Querida.

He’s released another size and blend of Muestra de Saka.

What he lacks in number of lines, the quality of the lines are amazing.

Another one for us is AJ Fernandez. We have some of his collaboration blends, but we don’t have one from his other core lines. New World, Enclave, a few of those are probably some of their most requested cigars we have not had this year.

I have long really liked the New World since the first time that I got my hands on them. That’s a really great cigar. I smoked with Parks there. He’s the rep for this territory. He dropped in a pack and hung out with me. He brought me an Enclave and some other cigar in their line.

AJ Fernandez is on fire right now. With his collaboration ones, we just got the H. Upmann 1844 Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez. That one people are really liking, great price; the Hoyo de Monterrey, AJ Fernandez, General Cigar and several other ones too. We have one coming in the Romeo Nicaragua AJ Fernandez blend. He was the one that everybody wanted to do stuff with in the last year.

We missed about talking a little bit about our Ross Bridge event. We are doing cigars and happy tasting. I’m looking forward to that. I’ll see you later.

See you next time.

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