CCP 048 | Diamond Crown

The Diamond Crown Cigar Lounge is opening shop in Birmingham. The company has a rich history rooting from blending a Connecticut shade wrapper and five filler leaves rolled like a straw to get a 100% draw every time. This gave birth to one of their highlights, the Diamond Crown Black Diamond which is only 23 in the United States. The company spent three years to develope this cigar with their Dominican partners.

Listen to the podcast here:

Cigar Cafe Radio Bobby Newman | Diamond Crown Lounge | Diamond Crown Black Diamond

I am hanging out here at Cigars & More with Harris. We got Sean on, and we’re bringing a very special guest. We got Bobby Newman from Diamond Crown. We’re very glad to have him here. How are you guys doing?

We’re doing great. I’m excited to have Bobby here.

So am I. I’m jacked up to talk to you. Welcome and thanks for coming up.

Thank you, Sean. We’re honored to be here. We are opening the first Diamond Crown Cigar Lounge in Birmingham. We opened one in Vitola store, owned by Harris Saunders’ family in Mountain Brook. We’re just thrilled to be here.

Tell me more about it, Harris. You have been keeping this a secret. It’s the first time I’m hearing about it. Tell everybody what that does for you, how it affects you, and what’s going on?

One of our stores in Birmingham, Vitola Fine Cigars, is joining the Diamond Crown network of cigar lounges. They have those across the country, and so they’re sponsoring our store and cigar lounge. They have their artwork up in the lounge. It looks nice with all kinds of Diamond Crown artwork, Diamond Crown cigar bags, shopping bags, matches. The whole store is branded Diamond Crown. Bobby came and did the special launch event. They had a big party and cigar specials. I did a lot to support their lounges. They have a great program where they give us a lot of support and we’re excited to join that.

It’s a network of over 50 cigar lounges, coast to coast, from San Diego to Portland to Houston, Dallas to Miami up to New Hampshire and in between. We make a special cigar for the lounges also. It is extremely limited. It’s only made for the lounges. It’s called the Diamond Crown Julius Caeser 1895 Perfecto. Our grandfather, Julius Caeser “JC” Newman, started our company in Cleveland, Ohio. He came over as a Hungarian immigrant in 1888. We have a photo of him in our conference room taken in 1899 and he’s holding a cigar. We are America’s oldest cigar company. Grandpa JC started 1895. There are 42,000 cigar manufacturers when he started his company in May of 1895.

The reason we know that, this is public record, is that if you’re going to sell cigars commercially to a bar or to a grocery store, you had to go to the post office and you had to buy a federal tax stamp. It was one penny. The cost of the federal excise tax then was one penny per box of 50. Back then the boxes were 100 to 200 cigars. We had old boxes of 200 cigars. You’d had to go to the post office, buy four stamps, that’s four cents, and you had to glue them on the bottom of the boxes. You can buy these old boxes on eBay. Abraham Lincoln was the first American president to put an excise tax on cigars. The Union was going bankrupt fighting the south. It’s Abraham Lincoln’s idea to do this at 1865. The law was enacted in 1868 and it’s never been taken.

CCP 048 | Diamond Crown

Diamond Crown: Abraham Lincoln was the first American president to put an excise tax on cigars.

What are you guys smoking now? You’ve got something special there. Tell me about it.

There’s only 23 of these cigars in the United States. We’re smoking the new Diamond Crown Black Diamond. We spent three years developing this cigar. Our business partners who make all of our Dominican cigars which is Diamond Crown, are the Fuente family. We sell their cigars in the United States under the name Fuente Newman. To tell you about this cigar, I just want to go back very quickly. Our father, Stanford, before he was 80 years old back in 1993 said, “Before I die, we’re going to come out with the best cigar that’s ever been made in the history of the world. It’s going to be made with Connecticut shade,” which at the time was the most popular wrapper. “We’re going to double ferment the wrapper. We’re going to put five leaves, long filler in the cigar. We’re going to roll each leaf like a straw, so it’ll draw 100% of the time. We’ll do a blend. We’ll put a Dominican binder, and it’s all going to be a line of 54 ring gauge cigars.”It was like a 90 today, the equivalent.

The largest cigar molds made that were available, whether it be Nicaragua, Honduras, or Dominican Republic, were 52 ring gauge cigars, so we had to go out and we had to buy and make 54 ring gauge cigars. My brother said, “Dad, what if somebody wants to buy a thin cigar?” My father said, “I don’t care. Let them buy someone else’s. I don’t care if we sell any cigars. We’re going to make the finest cigar that we possibly can. Money is no object.” We got together with the Fuente family. We spent three years on the blends of the original Diamond Crown. We launched it at the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills with all the celebrities there. We launched the Diamond Crown in 1996 at the same time. This is under Carlito and Carlos Senior for Fuente. We launched the FFOX in Boston. It was our thinking that we’ll take Diamond Crown and we’ll go from California and spread it to the east. We’ll take Fuente Fuente Opus X and we’ll spread it to the west.

This was during the cigar boom, when everything was nuts. Diamond Crown got great ratings at the time. The only magazine around was Cigar Aficionado. It had a 94 rating. People went crazy over it. There’s never enough product, but something happened five years later. America’s taste back in 2000 and 2001. People wanted a heavier cigar, so we came out with the Diamond Crown Maximus, which was one of the first Ecuadorian sun grown wrappers. People think it’s a maduro, but we take the leaves that grow at the top of the plant and you have to age it for five years. I smoked a cigar with a year-old wrapper just to play around. It will blow your head off. It has to be aged, the Ecuadorian tobacco. In Ecuador, there is no shade cloth. It’s all sun grown, because in Ecuador, 98% of the time where the tobacco is grown is cloudy. You have a natural cloud cover. The wrapper gets very dark and very thick. It reacts to the sun. We use the top leaves and that’s why we have to age it so long.

I’m the third generation. Fourth generation is my brother’s son, Eric Newman. His son, Drew, is a 34-year-old attorney. He’s our General Counsel and working on this FDA battle with us and the rest of the industry. It was his idea of, “Why don’t we come out with a third version of Diamond Crown called Julius Caeser?” I said, “We don’t need another line of Diamond Crown.” It shows you the old folks don’t know anything and we developed this Havana seed Ecuador wrapper. It’s a Dominican binder and it’s got a blend of five different types of tobaccos from Central and South America. We put a picture of Grandpa JC, what he looked like May of 1895, with a black and white photo. We embellished it to make his face look like Julius Caesar. It is our highest-rated cigar ever. It’s got a 96 rating, and we export to 81 countries.

We sell Diamond Crown and in about 40 countries besides the United States. We can only get about 100,000 of these a year, so we have to be careful where we put it. The IPCPR of Europe is called InterTabac. It’s in Dortmund, Germany, and the entire industry is there. Every brand owner that you’ll see in the United States IPCPR is also in Dortmund. I always go around to visit six of our countries. We launched Diamond Crown Julius Caeser in Belgium, and people went crazy over it because there are other options besides Cuban cigars. My brother had an idea, “Let’s take a fourth line extension that we’ll call the Diamond Crown Black Diamond.” We and Fuente are one of the largest users and buyers of the Connecticut broadleaf tobacco grown in Connecticut. He said, “Instead of using Connecticut broadleaf, let’s use a Havana seed Connecticut broadleaf.” It’s like a heavier German beer. It’s like comparing German beer with a Coors light. It’s more flavorful and more heavy. We’re going to launch it at the IPCPR. It’s only available to the Diamond Crown lounges for the first six months. We will have a very slow rollout on this to get the ratings and we expect great ratings on this as well.

It’s very rich. It’s one you’re going to like too, Sean. Most of the time, we agree that every once in a while, we shift or our palate lineup, but this is the one we’re going to be pretty much in line with. I’m happy that we’re now down to twenty in the country. Soon to be nineteen, because I’m going to get one too.

I brought twenty with me. I hand carried it up here. Originally, they were for the Diamond Crown grand opening in Vitola, in Mountain Brook, which is the nicest area in Birmingham. We’re down to seventeen cigars.

CCP 048 | Diamond Crown

Diamond Crown: The largest cigar molds made that were available, whether it be Nicaragua, Honduras or Dominican Republic, were 52-ring gauge cigars.

You’re into the IPCPR. We’ve been talking about it for several shows. Give us an update on what’s going on. Is there any chance that we’re going to see this go away or minimized in any way? I know you’re very involved, so please inform us on what you know. 

We have a three-prong attack. I speak for the CRA, Cigar Rights of America, the Cigar Association of America, and the IPCPR, which is our big trade show. In three-prong attack, the first battle will be to convince Congress to pass our bill, which has been in Congress. We’re now in year five to exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation. That’s number one. It was in the 112th Congress and it was taken out, but he’s no longer in Congress, so we have our bill on the AgriPro Bill that may or may not be even heard. At the end of the day, our bill will be heard in September before the government shuts down. The United States government budget ends their fiscal year in September, and it’s called a continuing resolution or omnibus bill. We are lobbying very hard to get that passed in September.

The second wave is the FDA has a 449-page regulation. Not all of them are cigars. We’re tied in, unfortunately. E-cigarettes are on there and liquors. There are more questions in the regulation than there are answers, so litigation is certainly another tool that we are looking at. The third tool is to work with the FDA, which is tough. I want to be politically correct, so let’s say working with the FDA, to give them answers. The way the regulation is now, any cigar that has come out on the market and been sold commercially across state lines from February 15, 2009 until August 8, 2016, will have to go under a review by the FDA, which means that we have hundreds of brands that have come out since February 15, 2007. We have to do either a pre-market review or substantial equivalent, which means that we’d have to send the cigars to a lab to test what’s in there.

Only God knows what’s in there because there’s no chemicals added on a handmade cigar. It’s nature. There’s nicotine in tomatoes. There’s nicotine naturally in many products that are grown. When they passed a 2009 Family Tobacco Prevention Act, it was the intention of Congress to limit youth access to tobacco and limit the harmful effects of nicotine addiction, neither of which apply to the FDA. My brother and I and his son Drew, we invited the FDA last March. They spent a whole day in our factory. We have a factory in Tampa, we have a factory in Nicaragua, and we then partnered with the Fuente family. The FDA knows that there is a difference between a premium cigar and the non-premium cigar.

They say there are many questions. Also, there’s the question of sampling. In that regulation, the FDA promulgated and said. “You can’t sample premium cigars.”I’m sitting in with Harris Saunders and he’s got four gorgeous shops in Birmingham. He has five tobacco express shops around the area. He’ll tell you sampling is the lifeblood. You come out with a new cigar competitor, you’ve got a sample. I want to send you a cigar. Legally, I cannot send you a cigar after August 8th, which we think is unconstitutional. More than that, the smokeless division, like Copenhagen, they are allowed to sample in adult venues, so why aren’t we allowed that? Another thing with flavors in premium cigars like Drew Estate and Acid Cigars. The FDA has said that they are going come out with a regulation on flavoring.

Like Joe Camel with Camel Cigars? They’re to appeal to youth audience.

The FDA know better than this. Everyone’s carded in premium cigar shops and hopefully in convenience stores. Premium cigar is not in convenience stores, but our tobacco outlet. Cool cigarettes or menthol cigarettes are allowed by the FDA. Here’s our premium cigar industry, which in every sense is less than one tenth or one percent of the entire tobacco category in units. We’re like a grain of sand on the largest beach in the world. How can you say, “You can’t have a characterizing flavor, and you can’t sample.” We don’t know what characterizing flavor means. The cigarette industry is still allowed to have menthol. That certainly is an added characterizing flavor. That’s why there are more questions.

You mentioned August 8th. What’s going to happen between now and August 8th to drag this on a little further? Or is that not going to be possible?  

We’re going to try and get a stay of execution. We’re going try to get an injunction.

Congress has been drumming out votes support for changing the predicate date. With all that’s going on with the gun rights agenda, where do we get caught up in that? Does that impact us, because it basically grinds Congress to a halt?

We have been up in Washington a hundred times in the last five years in this fight, walking the halls with many of our competitors. The word in Washington is a buzzword called unintended consequence. If that filibuster is not lifted, we will be an unintended consequence. In the military, they call it collateral damage. We don’t want to do that. Back in 2012, there’s 435 members of Congress. We had 221, which was a majority, on our bill to exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation. At the time, we had maybe twelve senators. Today, we have 21 senators. It’s the same bill that defines what a premium cigar is and we are all fighting for our lives. If we fail in litigation, if we fail in Congress, we will survive as an industry. It would just be a little bit harder to do business.

It’s going to change how we do things. We’ve been talking about how those changes may come about, whether some regional brands that have been around for a long time would be ripe for picking up. We see them, we have them here in the Midwest. They have them everywhere. If you’re allowed to buy a company that’s had a blend that’s older than that, would they now be right to be bought and those would be your new blends going forward to meet the demand of people who want the new blends? I’m one of those guys that says, “What do you got new? What’s out there that’s new?” because I want to try new cigars.  

That’s the big danger because if we fail legislatively and in the Courts, there’s a three-year window. My brother and I and his son, Attorney Drew Newman, and many others in the premium minister were invited to listen to Mitch Zeller’s WebEx, which is about a 45-minute one-way conversation. If you had questions, you could email them to the Center for Tobacco Products, CTP. CTP is under the FDA. One of the things that he said that scared us is that any brand that has come on the market from any company in the world after February 15 2007, when your three ends, if you don’t hear from us, the FDA, or the Center for Tobacco Products that we have authorized your brand to stay in the market, then you have to remove it off the market.

CCP 048 | Diamond Crown

Diamond Crown: There’s no chemicals added on a handmade cigar. It’s nature.

They’ll come in, they’ve got thousands of agents, they’ll come into places like Cigars & More in Vitola, and they’ll be looking for these brands. They will have a master list. They’ll find Harris and his father and brother. They’ll find the manufacturer. Also, all these new brands have come out. We’ve come out with brands. Fuente has come out. Magnum R, Casa Cuba, we’ve had sizes of FFOX come out since after February 15, 2007. All these will have to be removed off the market. Not only us, but there’s a lot of boutique manufacturers. Pete Johnson is an example, with his cigar Tatuaje. He is a good friend and a fine cigar, but he’ll have to remove it. There’s so many questions. We have some very smart people. I’m not a fan of the administration. They’re very anti-business, but the premium cigar industry, all the entire industry, including the big boys like General Cigar, are coming out to this. We’re all marching together to fight this draculan regulation.

That’s good to know that everyone’s hand-in-hand. If you were a betting man, what kind of chances do you have of seeing at least a watered-down version of this? What do you think?

I may be drinking the wrong Kool-Aid, but I’ve said this from day one. My gut said that we will get some type of light regulation. We will have to register the products. It’s hard to believe that we are going against the constitution. It’s illegal to regulate an industry out of business, and this is what they’re trying to do. It may not be under this administration. If we get Clinton or Trump, obviously with a republican, we should get relief. Bill Clinton is a huge cigar fan as we all know, so we may have to wait to the next administration.

The big irony is that we’ve been waiting, everyone has been waiting since 1961 for the Cuban embargo to open up. The great irony, if we were to open up today, it would be illegal to bring Cuban cigars in because they will have to jump through the same hoops that we do. They have to apply as well. There is no substantial equivalent. They will have to do a pre-market review, so they’re going to have to send their cigars to a lab that will be able to analyze what’s in that cigar and they’ll have to spend a minimum of 5,000 hours, which means you have to hire an attorney or attorneys and accountants just to fill out the forms, which we’ve seen.

The FDA test told us this. Everything I say is transparent and written down. The FDA said that it would take 5,000 hours of work. It’s been estimated only by us in the industry but it’s been quoted in The Wall Street Journal. It would take between $300,000 and a million dollars per size. Not per brand, but per size. In the Diamond Crown Black Diamond, we have three sizes, so it means we would have to submit three separate submissions. With the Cuban cigars, they probably have 500 different sizes under the various labels, so there’s a huge hiccup here. It’d be an embarrassment to the administration because Obama has been down there trying to lift the embargo. It has to be lifted by law only by Congress.

The way you described it, it sounds like a good example of the old adage that if it moves, tax it; if it keeps moving, regulate it and if it stops moving, subsidize it. It seems like our industry is hitting the middle phase of that because they’ve already done the excise taxes. They’re moving towards regulation. Are they looking to kill it so that they can take it over?

The answer is yes, they would like tobacco to go away. You can’t legislate morality. That was proven in the 1920s when they started with the prohibition. People will always be smoking, and people will always be drinking. The huge irony is that in the district of Columbia, you can purchase under an ounce of recreational cannabis or marijuana right in the district of Columbia, the heart of the federal government. You’re saying you could do that legally, but now you’re trying to put the premium cigar business out of business. Go to Colorado. You go to Washington you have to be over eighteen or 21, you can buy up to an ounce of marijuana. You can buy it in candy. You can buy it in gummy bears.

If you’re not a resident of the state of Colorado and you go visit, you can buy up to a quarter ounce if you are over 21.It’s crazy. I never even thought of it that way, but that’s true. You can go and buy weed in Colorado and Washington DC. Just go walk in and get it, but they’re going to try to run the premium cigar business out of business.

There’s 24 states right now that medical marijuana is legal. I was out in California about five years ago with my children and my wife and we stayed in Hollywood. I’m a salesman and a brand owner, I went across the street. They had big sign that says cigars on. I walked in there and there was a man and a young fellow sitting behind bulletproof glass. I said, “I like to look at your cigars.” They said, “This is not a cigar shop. This is a medical marijuana dispensary.” I said, “What is that?” He handed me a brochure underneath the bulletproof glass and it had a picture of US Postman who had had back problems. I said, “What does this mean?” He says, “If you have any type of physical ailment or you have anxiety, go next door and there’s a physician there, a medical doctor, and for $50, he will write you a prescription. You can come back and you can buy up to an ounce of medical marijuana.” I said, “Are you kidding me?” He said, “No.” I said, “How many of these are there?” He said, “There’s 800 dispensaries in California.”

We have 24 states. I live in Florida in 2014. If you want to change the constitution in Florida, you have to have a constitutional amendment, which means you have to get 600,000 signatures. The state of Florida says that if you have a constitutional amendment, you have to get 60% or more to put your amendment on the constitution of Florida for the last ten years. It went on and it got 59.6% of the vote. It missed it by a couple tenths of a point. This constitution will go on the state of Florida and we expect it to pass. Florida is now the third largest state in the United States. We have 20 million people with 883 people coming in a day in the state of Florida. One of the reasons there is no state income tax regulation, we are not over-regulated, like the great state of Texas or the great state of Alabama.

CCP 048 | Diamond Crown

Diamond Crown: You can’t legislate morality. People will always be smoking and people will always be drinking.

Or the great state of Illinois.

Don’t get me started in Illinois. We do a lot of business in Illinois. They doubled your state cigar tax and then you know what’s happening in Crook County. I probably stepped over the political correctness boundary talking about Chicago and these ridiculous taxes on cigars. 

Here’s the problem. There are more people leaving than coming in. We’re only one of two states that that’s happening. We are a laughing stock of the United States and they make it so difficult. I was a business owner here in Illinois. They made it so damn difficult for you to make any money here. People that make it here, God bless them. I’m glad they can do it. I found it extremely difficult and they certainly didn’t do anything to make it easier for us.

I want to take 100,000-foot view of what’s happening in Washington. We export to 81 countries. We have an office in London. I go to Europe once a year, sometimes twice a year, and the EU has made regulation after regulation. I was with our importer in Spain in Madrid last September, and he told me that the government admits to 27% on unemployment, but the unemployment between 18 and 25 is 55%. I said, “Juan, how can that be?” He said because EU regulations are so tough that when you hire an employee and if they’re not a good employee, you can’t fire him. They practically have to cut your wife’s throat for you to fire them, so everyone’s afraid to hire anybody. If it wasn’t for Germany, the EU would have collapsed. You see what’s happening over there. We don’t want this to happen in America.

Let’s talk about Brick House. That’s another one of your brands that’s a premium brand. I know that it sells well here in Illinois. Any newlines from Brick House? Anything going on there? 

Brick House was one of Grandpa JC’s first brands in 1895. He took it off the market in 1937. It was a Cuban wrapper binder, long filler cigars. I don’t know why he took it off, but we brought it back about eight years ago. If you look at the box, there’s a picture of a red brick house and Grandpa JC. Unless you’re native American, we all came from overseas, and to honor his boyhood home in eastern Hungary, he lived a little tiny village, he had the only brick house in the village. Coincidentally, he lived upstairs with his four brothers and two sisters, his mother, and his father. It was a tavern where people would go to eat, drink, and smoke, and we brought it out. It’s a Nicaraguan Puro wrapper binder filler.

The first year, it got 92 ratings and 91 ratings. We want to come in under the market price-wise. We wanted to give a great value, which it still is. It’s the number one seller in Brick House and it’s made in our factory in Nicaragua that my brother and I own 92% of. It’s a factory built five years ago. We invite you and all the audience to come see us in Tampa. We make 65,000 cigars a day in Tampa. They make close to 80,000 cigars a day in Nicaragua. We’re the second largest cigar factory in Nicaragua in Estelí. There’s about 37 different factories. We’re second only to Drew Estate. They make more cigars per day that we do, but what put Brick House on the market is when we came out with a Mighty Mighty, which was 6×60.

The Mighty Mighty maduro is made with an Arapiraca wrapper. It’s from Brazil has a unique taste. It takes us a year to turn it from a medium brown to a dark color, and it is the Brick House Mighty Mighty maduro. Then we came out of the robustos. We’re coming out at the IPCPR with a Brick House Toro Maduro. Toro and robusto used to be the best-selling sizes. Ask any smoke shop in the United States the best-selling sizes. It used to be toro or robusto. 6×60 is now the new standard.

Is that true for you Harris?

When we started ten years ago with our premiums cigar stores, it was pretty much a toro or a robusto or maybe a torpedo and every two or three sizes. Now it’s toro, 60, maybe even a 70. It’s really changed. It is a big trend to the big ring-gauge cigars.

I’ve had them. Some I enjoy, most I don’t. I’m a 52, 54 guy. I don’t understand that real big ring gauge. 60 probably is as big as I’ll go.

My dad died in my brother’s office ten years ago. He was 90 years old in twelve weeks, and he used to say, “People’s mouth must be getting bigger.”When he was born in 1916, the standard cigar was like a 5×42, 43 Perfecto. America is the land of big things. I grew up with Coca Cola in six ounces. Now you can get a 64-ounce Coke at a convenience store.

I asked this of everybody. What other cigars do you love? I assume you don’t smoke just your own cigars. You try to see what the competition is like. We don’t like to talk about others while you’re on, but what do you smoke? What do you love right now?

If you had to go to a desert island and you were allowed to take, besides your wife, one woman, that your wife would allow you, one cigar, your favorite beer, your favorite spirit, your favorite wine, what would you take? I would take the Julius Caesertoro, the Diamond Crown Julius Caeser toro. I’ll tell you what else I really enjoy. We don’t own the brand, but we represent them, and that’s the Arturo Fuente Hemingway series. Cameroon wrapper. The Short Story, you can’t beat it. Great value, also the Magnum R, and the Casa Cuba.

As the person ages, usually your tastes become more sophisticated or they get heavier. If you grew up on Coors Light or Bud Light, that’s why this craft beer is much heavier. I’ve got a 22-year-old son that started drinking Bud Light as a typical college kid at eighteen years old, and now he’ll only drink all these new craft beers, Cigar City Beer in Tampa. The stuff is so heavy. It’s not for me, but these adults, 21 and over, have been exposed to these new craft beers.

In the morning, I love a Diamond Crown Classic, the Connecticut Shade, and I don’t like smoking a heavy cigar. After a great meal at nighttime, dinner, there is nothing better than smoking a heavier cigar. I had mentioned the Fuente brands and our brands. I got married at 40 years old and she used to say the only person I’m ever allowed to have an affair with is Meg Ryan. Meg Ryan was a hottie twenty years ago. Now, she puts the collagen in her lips and she looks terrible. She’s no longer my favorite.

CCP 048 | Diamond Crown

Diamond Crown: After a great meal at nighttime dinner, there is nothing better than smoking a heavier cigar.

There was your hall pass is what you’re saying?

As far as Meg Ryan, the next woman, I have to think about that. There’s so many choices. Our first cigar dinner I ever did was 1988 in Sarasota, Florida. We smoked indoors everywhere with Carlito, Carlos Fuente Junior. Somebody asked him the question and said, “Carlito, what’s your favorite cigar?”He thought about it for a minute. He said, “How can you choose among your children?”which was a great answer because he didn’t want to give the answer.

I wanted to tell you my dad is a Montesino fan. He has smoked Montesinos for 25 years. We’ve been begging for a rebranding because it’s been the same damn cigar for 25 years.

Thank your dad for his business and he’s got good taste. One other thing that the FDA has told us and the industry in the regulation is that you have until August 8th, the premium industry, to come out with a brand. After August 8th, you can no longer come out with any brands. Friends of ours in the industry, they’re coming out with 55 new brands. It’s incredible, and we’re doing the same thing. We’re not going to come out with 50 brands. We’d probably have a stable of twelve to fifteen new brands and new line extensions that we have to come out with between now and August 8th. We’re spending 80% of our time on this whole FDA mess, which includes coming out new brands. We own the name Ponce de Leon. For us, it takes us years to come out with a brand because we have to do that. So much goes into the branding and blending and so forth.

Before our grandfather died, JC Newman, he had registered over 100 brands and we’ve lost a lot of the brands by federal law. If you don’t use a brand in five years, anyone could take it. We have a brand called Inspiration, and we haven’t used it in many years. We are coming out with a brand called Inspiration. We’ve got Paramount, St. Regis. All you got to do is you have to come out the brand before and you have to ship it interstate by August 8th of this year or earlier. I bet there’ll be over a thousand new brand to hit the market. The FDA regulation says, “Just come out with it. You’ve got to ship it over your state line and then people would draw back.”We’ll have to see what the regulations are. The FDA doesn’t even know what these regulations mean.

My idea for the Irish Hillbilly’s gone. That’s done. I can’t do that.  

You could still do it, but before August the 8th.

How the hell am I going to do that? I have to ship it over state lines, right?  

That’s correct.

Even if the cigars are ready, you have to have boxes ready. You have to have the branding, the packaging and everything because you can’t change that after August 8.

You’re not supposed to, that’s correct. It’s a huge nightmare. The premium industry has been turned upside down.

Thank you so much for coming. It was a pleasure to talk to you. It’s very rare that we get someone like you to come on the show, and we really appreciate it.

Thank you for inviting me. We want to come back every year and do a Diamond Crown event with Harris. He’s got four shops surrounding Birmingham in five tobacco express stores. Birmingham is Atlanta 40 years ago where you can still travel. It’s a beautiful city and it bowl surrounded by beautiful hills. I’m not with the Chamber of Commerce, but I went to school up the called Sewanee The University of the South. It was about two hours north of here in the mountains. If I had to move, this would be probably the first area I’ll move to.

I’m with you on that. I’ve been trying to get my wife to move down there and I’m getting some pushback.

Sean is just jealous that we get good cigars from guests sometimes.

A little. I’m not going to lie to you.

Text me your information. I will take good care of you.

Thank you. I really appreciate it. Have a great day.

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