This was a big deal, a court ruled against the FDA on not allowing packaging changes to premium cigars. This means cigar companies will be able to repackage / rebrand cigars as long as they do not change the cigar blend. This is a big win for the cigar industry. They will not be required to file these cigars as new products when they change the packaging. What does this mean?
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Cigar Cafe Radio FDA | Davidoff Yamasa | AVO Fogata | Pistoff Kristoff
I’m hanging in the shop with Harris. What’s up?
It’s good to be back. Big news today on the FDA front. Court ruling against FDA on packaging. A short version of it is that cigar companies won’t have to file cigar’s new products if they change branding or packaging as long as it’s the same cigar as in shape, size. It’s a big win for the cigar industry. It was won by the cigarette companies. They’re usually the ones who win the big cases.
It’s ridiculous that they had a position that if you change the packaging, then you change the product itself. It does open up some interesting questions about whether substantial equivalence is going to apply to new and re-blended cigars or if there’s going to be the sweeping guideline that says, “A premium cigar of substantial equivalent of another premium cigar.” It’s one of those things where depending on how they interpret case law, this has the potential to be even bigger than it looks right now.
It’d be great even if it’s the packaging because companies would still have the ability to rebrand or even update packaging. All the cigarette companies were pushing for it because they haven’t been able to update their branding for years.
When I saw the headline, I was hoping that it’s going to be less about the band packaging and more about the boxes. I was sitting back saying that them telling these businesses, they have to have so much gray and all these warning labels and everything. If that was going to be interpreted as some first amendment violation that would hinder those efforts too. There’s a lot that’s still in play, but there’s a small victory that may or may not unfold into some bigger implications.
They definitely have a good chance of getting some of the warning labels dial back some. A few years ago, the cigarette companies won a case when they were trying to force the labeling on the front of the cigarette packs. They won that case based on the first amendment.
I smoked cigarettes a long time ago, but I used to work for a company with offices in Canada. Some of the guys would sometimes show up with their Canadian cigarettes. They’re naming things like Black Death and 50% of the packaging is all warning labels that if you smoke this, you’re going to die. It was very exaggerated and in your face. The cigarette industry here has never had to deal with that level of labeling. For them to be pushing not just the other tobacco products, but the craft product and the luxury product of premium cigars, if there is going to be some interference type pushback that ends up undoing what the FDA would like to see.
Hopefully, this ruling is the first of more to come. We should get news soon on the injunction whether or not the court is going to grant that. I want to say this was their estimate of when they expected to hear news on that. That would be huge. That would put everything on hold while they’re fighting it out in court.
What are you smoking today?
I’m smoking the Gonzo Santeria. This is a cigar with San Andres wrapper. It’s always a great wrapper. It’s a limited production cigar. They made 150 boxes per size and they did three sizes, $450 as total. This is a Toro size. I haven’t smoked the size before, but we’ve had a few sizes of these in the past in the store. It’s their limited release that they do once a year. This may be the last year they can do it unless something changes.
I have a Gonzo in my humidor. It may be one of the CRA smokes that comes in the welcome packet.
It’s under Epicurean Cigars and Steven Ysidron that used to be with the pipe company. I ran into him at the IPCPR, and he cornered me and handed this to me. Makes me to think a lot of Padron Anniversary 1964 similarities I would say.
It’s not a bad thing to be similar to.
What are you smoking?
When I was at IPCPR, I ran into a guy at one of the smaller booths at a company I’d never heard of. Company’s called Master Blend Cigar Company. The guy that I spoke to, his name is Luis Gutierrez. The cigar that I’ve got today is a box-pressed Cuban Crown. I smoked one of their cigars at IPCPR. He grabbed me and sat me down at their booth and let me sit there and smoke it. They do mostly Dominican Puros. This one is still mostly Dominican. They’ve got a private blend, but they don’t discuss that this made of Dominican filler and binder. This one has a very dark Mexican wrapper. This is their fuller-bodied stick. It’s not very Cuban at all, but they call it a Cuban Crown and it’s pleasant.
The one that I smoked at the show was probably on day three or four, and I was about tired of smoking. I tried to stay in this medium-bodied space. This is definitely fuller than that. It’s woody, some citrus notes to it. It’s not the flavor profile where I hang out, but it’s an enjoyable cigar. They’ve got four or five different cigars. The fifth got out. It’s a brand that having never heard of them, I was impressed with them. The one that I smoked before was a traditional one. It was a Manolo Estate, the one with the white label. It was well balanced. It was very palatable, probably right in the middle of medium-bodied.
If you end up with some spare time, you can check these guys out. I brought back four pack of them for you to try and one of them has now made its way back into my hands. Christian and Luis seemed to be cool guys. Being a relatively new company, they’re less than a year old as far as their own branding. Everybody else in Dominican Republic, they grow and sell tobacco and they do work for the bigger guys there. This is their first line.
They’re now making their own blend. Not their only business, which seems smart. They’re not trying to feed their families based on this. It takes some pressure off because they’re already doing something else.
It’s really competitive. In IPCPR, you’ve got all the big guys, you got all the medium size guys, and everyone’s building a booth that’s going to be bigger and cooler than everybody else. Then along the perimeter, you’ve got these guys operating a single table with a single humidor and some bags of smokes. Those guys are going out of their way to grab the attention of people who are walking by. That’s how I got pin down with them. I was walking down there near the food. I was waiting on Jose Blanco to free up and he said, “You’re not smoking anything. You want to sit down?”I smoked two of the four or five cigars that they’ve got and they’re good cigars. They’re not super complex. They’re very well-balanced. I don’t think I’d call them one dimensional, there’s not a whole lot of spice on this. Sean and I have talked in the past about how the woody thing, especially that smoky wood is not our favorite flavor note, but is it a good cigar? Sure.
With the new FDA rules, brands like that are in the biggest danger of going away, which is a shame because most of these guys are trying to do something different or come up with blends we haven’t seen before. It’s a shame to lose that innovation. I’m sure at some point, the IPCPR and Nick Perdomo probably had one booth. Now, he’s got a huge booth.
In the interview with Christian Eiroa at IPCPR, he was very on point talking about how with FDA regulation, the thing that the industry stands to lose the most of is innovation. All these companies coming out trying to do something new, trying to release a new product, that’s what’s going to be hampered. He said, “Cigars are going to be here.” The cigars, the predicate day. Those brands aren’t going anywhere, but it’s these smaller and newer companies who are pushing the envelope not only making good cigars themselves but pushing the medium-sized and bigger cigar companies into making better cigars because they have to compete in that space.
All of a sudden that goes away, then they lose their incentive to improve things. They may not be able to improve because they can’t release these things.
Because it’s not a substantial equivalent.
We have a few new arrivals that came in. We got a new pipe tobacco in pipe zone. It’s a cool Peterson pipes, some other brands, a little bit higher end. Usually we have the under $100 pipes, but we branched out a little bit and got a few the better ones. I’ve figured now is the time to get them since pipes are going to be regulated as tobacco products too.
Which is crazy because you’re not going to sit there and say that, “My cigar cutter is a tobacco product.” The pipe itself is a tool. They did that because they want to say that the vape equipment is a tobacco product.
They didn’t include the vape hardware. You would think they would have gone after that with what all the people use it for.
If they’re going after the liquid for the vape, then there is no reason for them to go after the actual pipe because there is no tobacco whatsoever in a pipe until you put it in it.
Apparently, it is a tobacco product.
I decided I wanted to smoke a pipe. I want to learn to smoke a pipe a few years ago because I remember my granddad used to smoke when I was a kid. I’ve got some Italian Savinelli.
That’s the brand I was trying to think of with Steve. He uses Savinelli before.
It’s a utilitarian pipe. There are some pretty pipes out there and this is not one of them, but it’s perfectly functional. On the rare occasions, where I take it on the patio and stuff it full of some tobacco and light it, it does the trick.
As long as it smokes pretty good, that’s the main thing.
The only problem I’ve ever had out of it is the pipe cleaners. It doesn’t always come out of the other end perfectly clean. I have to jiggle it and wiggle it around to get it cleaned out. It is a perfectly functional pipe. My buddy that got one same day that I did got a very pretty one. He likes it better as a result.
I have a Nero pipe that I’ve had for a long time.
It’s like Danish?
Yeah, it is and it’s a mid-level pipe.
I don’t remember exactly how much mine cost, but it was like a $40 or $60 pipe. It was a very entry level pipe. You can spend thousands of dollars on a pipe.
There’s a pipe store and cigars too in Birmingham that it’s unbelievable how many pipes there that are over $500, $1,000 specialty ones and they sell them all over the world. People call them from everywhere.
That’s where I got mine at that pipe store. We walked in there one day and the guys were there. We had way more questions than answers. We knew, with them being primarily a pipe shop, that they could answer the questions that we needed to lead us in the right direction. They said, “This is your first pipe. You’re going to fuck it up. Get a cheap one and if you decide you like it, come back and get another one.”
That’s a good advice on pipes. I always tell people, “Don’t get the cheapest pipe. We have a lot of basket pipes that are $30 range that are the cheapest.”
Are those the secondhand pipes or are those new?
They’re not used but they’re your basic $25, $30 pipe that if you jump up to the $40, $50 range, it’s a huge quality job. It’s always a good idea if you’re thinking about getting into pipe. Don’t get the absolute cheap. You go up one level and then you’ll be good.
If you go from smoking cigars and you invite pipes into your lifestyle, you will never complain about cigar burn ever again because it is such a process to load them up and get them to burn freely. There was this truck driver who came in one day to that pipe store. This was the day we were in there shopping. This guy walked in the door with a lit pipe with no matches, with no lighter and it never went out. I have never ever had that happen.
When I was at Auburn, it’s when I got into smoking my pipe a lot with some friends and roommates. We would sit out on the porch and smoke a pipe probably a couple times a week all the time. Cigars too but it seemed like it was mostly the pipe. I haven’t got into those much since then.
There are so many options with pipe tobacco. I know that it doesn’t make a huge part of the business that you have here. There are so many different options because you’ve got bulk stuff. You’ve got stuff in the ten.
We got a new one called Rum & Maple. Everyone has loved it. It smells exactly like pancakes and it tastes like that too. Even when it’s burning that smells like that.
Is that the pipe that your wife is going to let you smoke?
That’s what everybody keeps saying. Everybody knows loves the smells.
What they told me is that as a cigar smoker, there are some pretty typical blends that are heavy on like Turkish Latakia and stuff like that. That’s pretty much the area where I’m going to want to live. I get like the bulk nine to five tobacco and I have a little bit. I got 110 of Dunhill Early Morning pipe, which is fantastic but has so much nicotine in it. I have to cut it with the bulk stuff to even be able to smoke it without getting a headache.
The tens are great, but some of those can have a lot of power packed.
Dunhill cigarettes are $10 a pack in Birmingham. A ten of their pipe tobaccos are probably $25 or $30. I can’t smoke it by itself. It’s fine, but I need to cut it with something lighter.
I was reading that the TAA, Tobacco Association of America, donated $50,000 to the IPCPR and CRA Legal Fund. They are not very involved with legislative stuff, but they’re starting to fund that a little bit more.
That’s good because I know a lot of the complaints from a lot of the cigar makers from the manufacturer side of it has been that there have been retailers who have not been as involved on the frontline as they would like to see. That hampered some of the grassroots efforts to beat this up front.
The CRA talks about that a lot. They’re doing a big push on their websites. It’s CigarRights.org. Congress is coming back into session, so they’re doing a big push trying to get people to contact their congressman, voice their opposition to the FDA regulations, and with the language going through congress supporting that, staying in there.
The strategy with congress right now is to include some of the budget cuts and stuff into the Omnibus Bill.
Congress has a certain number of appropriation bills they are required to pass every year no matter what. They have to pass Agriculture Appropriations Bill and some other ones. The Ag Appropriations Bill is de-funding of the FDA regulations of premium cigars attached to it. It’s got to make it through the House. It’s doing a good chance, but the harder part is making it through the Senate.
Because the Senate’s going to edit it and it has to be voted on and its final state by both Houses before it goes anywhere.
The hard part is some of the big tobacco companies like Altria that owns Black & Mild and Swisher have mega lobbying dollars. If they don’t want it in there, they pretty much can get it taken out. It’s a question that’s point of whether or not they will let it go through. I haven’t heard where they stand on it.
We would think with Swisher being where they are, owning part of Drew Estate that they would at least have some rub in being less regulated. Some of their lines than all of them.
You would hope that would at least make them not oppose it, maybe campaign for it. I did see where Altria won a court case with Black & Mild. The word ‘mild’, you’re not going to be allowed to use that as a descriptive term anymore. They were given an exemption for that because it’s in their brand name. They have the mega bucks to lobby with so they’re not going to have to change that.
What would they have change that to? They have other lines too. Is it Black &Gold or Gold &Mild?
Black & Mild Wine. I would have heard it a lot because that’s what people know.
I haven’t smoked the Black & Mild in so long. That was with all of my friends smoked when they are younger. I always thought they smell great, but they taste like crap. That was a big part of me thinking I didn’t like cigars.
Most people who don’t know a lot about it and they think of a cigar, it’s Black & Mild or one of those Swisher Sweet. We need to do an episode on gas station cigars.
I had an old boss in my first job in IT. He was a former Army Ranger. He was a bouncer in a club and he owned his own internet service provider business back home. Every once in a while, he decided he wanted a cigar and it’ll always be a Swisher Sweet Outlaw.
That’s one of the better ones if you had to smoke one.
It’s ugly. It looks like a turd, but it makes sense having smoke those before, why Swisher got involved with Drew Estate because of the wrapper leaf. I don’t know if it was infused or dipped, but it was sweeter. That was one of my first cigar experiences.
At least mostly tobacco versus like Black & Mild are like a weird homogenized mixture of a paper, glue, and tobacco shavings.
But the Black & Mild smelled so great.
The pipe tobacco, that part does smell nice. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a cigar company that made a premium version of that. Premium pipe tobacco cigar. Have you tried the new Davidoff Yamasá yet?
I actually got four at the show and I probably smoked two of them. I feel like our predictions about them were completely off. It is in no way, shape or form anything like the Puro d’Oro. It’s a little like the Nicaragua that I like. I like it better than the Escurio. I liked the drink that they paired with it. It was that fruity bourbon drink. It went well. I’ve smoked two of them. I’ve got at least two more sitting in my humidor. I don’t know if I sent one or you sent one to Sean or maybe both of us did because I know you got two.
That one’s off to a good start. It’s in stores everywhere. They shipped it before IPCPR. Everybody seems they say what you are saying. The Escurio was good, but they didn’t love it.
The Nicaragua’s great. The cigars that came out of Davidoff this year are fuller-bodied than Davidoff tends to be. The cigars that are coming out of Drew Estate in their Kentucky Fire Cured and Liga lines are a little bit less intense than those tend to be. What Drew Estate has put out this year is a little less intense than what we’ve learned to expect from their non-acid lines anyway. Those tend to be medium plus to fuller-bodied. Their new sticks are comfortably in that medium-bodied range. They seemed to be interested in introducing their cigars to a different segment of the market while still developing their core brands, reintroducing the Flying Pigs and introducing them in the existing lines.
It is interesting to see what direction cigar companies were going with that.
That goes hand-in-hand with Davidoff is that it is a turned up version of last year’s Syncro Nicaragua. It’s a little more intense, the same flavor profile, a little more spice, little higher priming is what it amounts to. I enjoyed it. I like all the cigars whether they’re medium-bodied or fuller, but I like the new release from AVO.
It’s the second Nicaraguan AVO release because it’s the Syncro, or Fogata. People did not love the Syncro. The first release they may have liked it and still the basic seller but people like it. This one, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
It is not a super intense Nicaraguan profile because Davidoff is still going to use some of the lighter-bodied Dominican tobaccos and stuff and all of their blends. They’re introducing these Nicaraguan leaves to change the flavor profile and to change some of the intensity. If you were to sit back and say that last year’s Syncro Nicaragua was like a six of ten on intensity. This year is maybe an eight of ten and it steps up nicely.
It has got more going on. When you’re smoking it, it’s more on your palate, more flavor. The Yamasá was the same thing to me. Like you said a lot of similarities to the Nicaragua, but had some new things going on. A little stronger, not a lot but a little bit. I thought it was good.
I can get my wife to drink bourbon if I could get the recipe for that drink that they had. They posted the recipe and I never took a picture of it.
You want a strong, overwhelming bourbon taste, like a little bit of it. You have any other cigars you’re going to be smoking soon or anyone’s on your plan?
I smoked an Alec Bradley Tempus and that was one of them that I’ve missed out on from my runs through Alec Bradley’s line. It’s one of the cigars that they’re looking forward to reintroducing to the consumers this year. Since they didn’t release anything new at the show, they’re trying to highlight what they have done, what has done well for them, and push for a second life cycle for some of those products. I smoked the Mi Querida from Steve Saka from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. I thought that was fantastic.
Everybody’s excited about that. Those hasn’t come in for us yet.
It had so much going on in that one little cigar. I had the Toro or Robusto. It’s a typical size cigar. It’s very rich. It had a very heavy mouth fill to it, lots of black pepper. Then it had some more interesting stuff. There are some leather. There was some cinnamon. Mixed in with all of this, it was almost creamy. We talk about how finding a creamy cigar is not necessarily the easiest thing to do .In a cigar with a dark wrapper, you’re not expecting it, but it was a very well balanced, very complex cigar. Steve Saka has got a winner there. I also smoked a new one from Montecristo this week. I smoked their new Pilotico. What do you think?
I liked it. I thought it was interesting. It was different than any other Montecristo’s.
When you think of a Montecristo, you start to think of that lighter, almost Cuban flavor profile. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to get real Cuban Montecristo’s, but they’re white series and stuff like that. It’s in the ballpark. It had a little more going on to it.
That one will do well. That one is regular production. A little bit more expensive price point but the epic No. 2s have been very popular. It seems people like Montecristo’s in that price range.
It’s hard for me not to like a cigar when I’m sitting out back on the patio with the big green egg going and everything. I work one day a week. I lit the grill on fire and made a couple of racks of ribs for dinner. From 2:00 on, I’m out on the patio with a laptop and two cigars and six hours of Applewood smoke. It makes for a good work day. If ever my wife says, “I want to do ribs this week,” it’s like, “Yeah.”
Maybe one day I’ll be able to cook something again.
I’m learning that apparently, people with children don’t get to cook flashy food.
We’re in survival mode. We’re trying to make it through the day.
I was talking to my co-worker and Tony Bourdain had this internet video where he was in a glass blowing factory. The guys had taken the burners and put a tighter burner on it. There’s 3,000-degree furnaces. We’re running 600 or 700 degrees. He made a seared New York strip fillet and made a Steak au Poivre out of it. I saw the video. In the first minute and a half of the video, I said, “I have to cook this.” The next time we go to the store, I found some USDA Choice, which is most of what you’re going to find. Fillet’s at a completely reasonable price. I ended up slicing it up and made a pan sauce for it. I showed a picture of it to one of my co-workers. She looked at me and said, “You don’t have kids, do you?”
I normally end up having whatever the kids had, chicken pot pie. They’re good but it’s not on that level.
KRAFT Macaroni &Cheese, SpaghettiOs. We need to have a barbeque. Find some carcass and set it on fire.
Anything else going on?
My sister’s getting married. She doesn’t live here but they’re coming in to town for their wedding. I’m supposed to be officiating the wedding. I got ordained. I have sent them the speech and they have sent me their vows. They’re going to end up reading their vows off of their sheet of paper. I’m going to take a backup copy because they’re going to forget. Here at the Botanical Gardens, they’re getting married. She and her fiancé have been together for a decade.
Older or younger than you?
I’m the oldest of six. My sister’s younger. Her twin is coming into town. It’s like a dozen people at the wedding. My wife’s doing all the pictures. She’s taken my camera. My sister’s a photographer so she’s going to take some pictures too. I get Fleming’s for free afterwards and I like Fleming’s. I like that caliber of steak when I don’t have to make it. We’ll be in Fleming’s doing salads and appetizers and steaks. There’ll be a wedding cake at the end. They’re delivering the cake topper. It’s another wedding that I don’t wear a tux too. I’m continuing the streak.
Is this your first wedding to officiate?
It is. I’ve got another one. One of my friends in high school is getting married. She asked if I would do it when she found out that I’ve gotten all my paperwork in order. I run into her here and there. She doesn’t live. She lives in Texas. Whenever she comes here to visit her dad, we tend to run to each other at a restaurant or something like that. She gives me a heads up. They’re getting married at the cathedral in New Orleans next October. I get to make a trip to New Orleans. I’ll probably let Jason know before I go if he’s still there. My wife has family in New Orleans, so we’ve got a million things that we want to cram into that trip.
I got ordained because my sister asked me to. My parents asked me to do their vow renewal for 35th or 36th. My sister was like, “That was really good. Would you ever consider getting ordained? Alabama’s laws are picky.” They don’t necessarily take all of the internet ordaining’s. I made sure to double-up. I made sure to choose at least one that the State of Alabama sis happy with. Hopefully, everything goes well and my sister doesn’t spend the next 40 years of her life bitching about that time her brother carried.
I’m more than happy to do weddings, if I smoke a cigar like I do it too. If you have a venue that’s outdoors and you want to make that children. Send me a message on Twitter.
Sounds good. See you next time.
Talk to you later.
- Gonzo Santeria
- Epicurean Cigars
- Steven Ysidron
- Padron Anniversary 1964
- Master Blend Cigar Company
- Cuban Crown
- Nick Perdomo
- Peterson pipes
- Rum & Maple
- Dunhill Early Morning pipe
- Black & Mild
- Drew Estate
- Swisher Sweet
- Swisher Sweet Outlaw
- Davidoff Yamasá
- Puro d’Oro
- Kentucky Fire Cured
- Flying Pigs
- Syncro Nicaragua
- Nicaraguan AVO
- Alec Bradley Tempus
- Mi Querida
- Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust