cigars

Quesada Cigars to debut redesigned Fonseca brand in New York City

Quesada Cigars announced a design overhaul for its Fonseca Classic premium line earlier this year; now the company has completed a redesign of the entire Fonseca line.

That line includes five blends: Fonseca Classic, Fonseca Vintage, Fonseca Cubano Exclusivo, Fonseca Cubano Limitado and Fonseca Nicaragua (which Quesada listed in that order in a recent press release, noting that they’d put them in order of increasing “intensity.”

“With Fonseca we have managed to offer cigar enthusiasts all types of smokes in one brand. From a medium but flavorful smoke such as the Fonseca Classic to a more intense and full-bodied smoke in the Fonseca Nicaragua. Now was the time to redesign the brand, and we have managed to do so with something that cannot be missed, a solid red lid with the iconic Fonseca Logo on it” Quesada Cigars president Manuel “Manolo” Quesada in a press release.

Updates to the line’s packaging design include a return to the original 1974 band for all the blends and a secondary band to identify each blend.

[image courtesy of Quesada Cigars]

[image courtesy of Quesada Cigars]

Further, the Fonseca Cubano Exclusivo will no longer be box pressed, although the blend will incorporate all the same tobaccos.

Quesada will be celebrating these changes with a launch event Nov. 28 at the Nat Sherman Townhouse in New York City, after which point the updates packaging and round Cubano Exclusivos will be available throughout the United States.

La Aurora 115th anniversary

[Image courtesy of La Aurora]

[Image courtesy of La Aurora]

Eduardo León Jimenes founded La Aurora 115 years ago, and the company is celebrating the anniversary with a line of cigars called, fittingly, the La Aurora 115th Anniversary. There are three different products in this collection: 115 Anniversary Edition, 115 Anniversary Limited Edition and 115 Anniversary Jar Edition.

The first, regular production cigar features an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, Brazilian bnder and fillers from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Brazil. It’s available in four formats: Belicoso, Robusto, Gran Toro and Churchill.

The Limited Edition sports an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper, Dominican binder, and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Brazil. It’s available in a Belicoso format of which only 3,000 boxes were made; the Jar Edition (packaged, as you might imagine, in a commemorative jar) will be limited to 800 jars. The cigars comprise Dominican tobaccos, along with some Brazilian tobacco in the filler blend.

Davidoff announces Year of the Pig cigar and ashtray

2019, the Chinese zodiac’s year of the pig, is nearly upon us, and Davidoff is marking the occasion, as they always do, with a corresponding limited edition cigar and accessory.

 
[Images: Davidoff]

[Images: Davidoff]

 

The $39 cigar is a pigtailed 6x54 Gran Toro featuring an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, San Andrés binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. According to a Davidoff press release, the four-country blend is “sophisticated, complex and flavourful.” Production of the cigar is limited to 9,300 boxes.

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In addition to the cigar, Davidoff is introducing a limited edition Year of the Pig ashtray. Only 300 of these aluminum pieces were made. It’s a sleek design inspired by what a Davidoff release described as “the Pig’s voluptuous curves.” While we at Cigar Snob don’t tend to think of porcine curves as “voluptuous,” we can kinda see what they’re getting at. In any case, it’s an attractive, minimalist ashtray that’s sure to turn heads. MSRP is $395.

Davidoff Chefs Edition now available

[image: Davidoff]

[image: Davidoff]

Davidoff announced the launch of its second installment of Davidoff Chefs Edition cigars, which are the product of collaboration with some of the most renowned chefs in the world: Thomas Keller, Alvin Leung, Klaus Erfort, Heiko Nieder and Shaun Rankin. The elite group has earned a total 12 Michelin stars.

“In bringing together the creative powers of international kitchen pioneers with Davidoff’s cigar visionaries in the Dominican Republic, we intended to create an extraordinary cigar experience inspired by flavours from the four corners of the world,” said Davidoff CMO Edward Simon in a press release. “These highly acclaimed Chefs and Master Blenders, whose mission is continually to push the boundaries of taste, have truly excelled in creating a blend and experience second to none.”

The cigar, which is made in a Toro format, draws inspiration from the five chefs’ home countries (Germany, Switzerland, the United States, Great Britain and Hong Kong) as well as the Dominican Republic, according to Davidoff, which describes the smoking experience as “multi-layered and exquisite, rich and deep in flavour. Liquorice, oakwood, Szechuan pepper and leather give way to the warm intensity of coffee, cumin and chocolate with sweet, spicy undertones and culminate in end notes of eucalyptus and spice.”

The cigar features Dominican wrapper, Mexican binder, and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

Production of Chefs Edition is limited to 5,000 boxes, which are available only at Davidoff Flagship stores and select Appointed Merchants.

La Aurora launches La Aurora Hors d'Age 2017 Limited Edition

La Aurora Hors d'Age.jpg

La Aurora has announced Hors d'Age, a new limited edition cigar that will make its debut at the IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas this month. All the tobacco in Hors d’Age was harvested in 2006. Production is limited to 6,000 boxes.

The La Aurora Hors d'Age features an Ecuadorian wrapper and binder, while the filler is mix of Colombian, Dominican and Nicaraguan tobaccos. They’ll come packaged in 15-count boxes of one vitola, a 6 x 54 Toro.

A La Aurora press release describes the cigar thusly: “It is a well-balanced cigar with a start unique to a cigar with extra years of aging, in which spicy notes of black pepper predominate, which give way to more complex and delicate flavors. The presence of wood is evident throughout the smoke but is enriched with nuances of cinnamon, nuts and even citrus. With touches of roasted coffee, its finish is powerful and creamy, at the height of a demanding smoke.”

Drew Estate announces new Tin extensions for KFC, Undercrown and Joya lines

Drew Estate announced the national release of Tin extensions to various products in its portfolio, including Undercrown and Kentucky Fire Cured. Three Joya de Nicaragua products — Joya Red, Joya Black, and Joya de Nicaragua Antaño — are also getting Tin extensions.

Fans of Drew Estate’s premium offerings might have tried the tin versions of the Liga No. 9 and T52. Each tin contains 10 4 x 32 cigars. The new tins retail for $13, with the exception of the Joya Antaño, which retails for $18.

Balmoral Serie Signaturas DUETO, blended by Ernesto Pérez-Carrillo, to ship in September

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Balmoral is getting into the collaboration game with Balmoral Serie Signaturas. The first release under this new collaboration brand umbrella will be DUETO, blended by Ernesto Pérez-Carrillo of EPC. The cigar will make its official debut at the 2018 IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas this July.

“I am honored to have had the opportunity to work alongside Ernesto on this very special collaboration project for Balmoral,” said Royal Agio CEO Boris Wintermans in a press release. “I want to push the boundaries of what can be discovered in premium cigar blending, and it is this desire that inspired the creation of the Balmoral Serie Signaturas (Signature Series) and initial conversations with Ernesto. This collaboration platform offers another avenue for us to explore, discover and release completely new and exciting cigar blends. The resulting blend for DUETO, behind Ernesto’s blending genius, makes this first release nothing short of exceptional.”

“It has been a pleasure to work with Boris and his team at Royal Agio on this special project,” said Ernesto in a statement in the same press release, “especially because we share a fundamental, common exploratory philosophy as cigar makers.”

The DUETO blend features a Nicaraguan wrapper from Jalapa, a Nicaraguan binder from Estelí and fillers from Nicaragua and Brazil. The cigar will be made available in five vitolas: Robusto (5 x 50), Ovación (5 ½ x 50), Gran Toro (6 x 52), Gordo (6 x 60) and Churchill (7 x 49). They’ll range in price from $9.75 to $12.50 per cigar and shipments will begin in September 2018.

Royal Agio introduces San Pedro de Macorís cigars

Royal Agio Cigars USA announced the launch of San Pedro de Macorís, brand meant to add accessibly priced products to the company’s lineup up handmade cigars. The brand, named for the Dominican town that’s home to Agio’s factory, will debut with two blends, one called “Ecuador” and the other “Brazil.

The Ecuador blend features a shade-grown Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, while the San Pedro de Macorís Brazil has a sun-grown Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper. Both blends incorporate Dominican binders and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Brazil.

Both San Pedro de Macorís blends will be packages in 20-count boxes and will be available in three vitolas: Perla (4 ⅛ x 40), Corona (5 ⅞ x 42) and Robusto (5 ⅛ x 52). They’ll range in price from $4.75 to $5.50 per cigar.

Villiger opens new Brazilian cigar factory

Villiger Cigars announced the opening of its new Brazilian factory, Villiger Do Brasil (Portuguese for “Villiger of Brazil”).

Villiger chairman Heinrich Villiger

Villiger chairman Heinrich Villiger

Villiger has been importing Brazilian tobacco since 1888. In 1979, the company opened a Brazilian Villiger subsidiary as well as a factory named Charutos Tobajara Limitada. The name Tobajara is a nod to a native tribe known for growing tobacco.

That facility is being replaced by this newer, larger one in Feira de Santana, the second largest city in the State of Bahia. For now, the factory produces only Brazilian puros like Villiger San’Doro Maduro and brands distributed exclusively in Europe, like Villiger Celebration, and Corrida.

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“Brazilian tobacco holds a special place in my heart,” said Villiger chairman Heinrich Villiger, who was present for the factory opening. “My grandparents saw the value in Brazilian tobacco when they began Villiger Cigars as very small operation in 1888, and we have continued the tradition of using this very special tobacco in many of our brands. We feel that the hard working and passionate team at Villiger do Brasil will help us increase the awareness of Brazilian tobacco worldwide.”

General Cigar launches Partagas Heritage

General Cigar announced a new blend called Partagas Heritage, which the company says “honors the heritage of Partagas in blend, box and band.”

Partagas Heritage featured a Honduran wrapper that General says it developed for this launch. The remainder of the blend comprises a Connecticut Broadleaf binder and fillers from from Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

“We set out to create a retrospective blend that celebrated the very best of Partagas to date, and took great pride in putting together the ingredients, just like coming up with a very special recipe. This was a group effort, with our blenders in the Dominican Republic and Central America working with the marketing team to achieve the final taste,” said Jhonys Diaz, who led blend development, in a General Cigar press release.

The cigars are packaged in 20-count boxes and are available in four vitolas: Rothschild (4 ½ x 50; $8.49 per cigar), Churchill (7 x 49; $9.99 per cigar), Gigante (6 x 60; $9.59 per cigar) and Robusto (5 ½ x 52; $9.59 per cigar).

Alec Bradley announces its new TAA-exclusive release

If you shop at a TAA member store, you’ll soon have access to a TAA-exclusive smoke called Alec Bradley Black Market will eagerly anticipate Black Market Illicit. This “illicit” extension is a new iteration of the already popular Black Market line.

Black Market Illicit is a 6 x 50 Toro featuring Nicaraguan wrapper. Two binders (one Honduran, the other Nicaraguan) and Nicaraguan fillers.

“This is the first exclusive series cigar Alec Bradley has developed for TAA retailers since we introduced the Prensado Figurado in 2013,” said Alec Bradley owner Alan Rubin in a press release. “We like to describe this iteration of our number one-selling cigar as Black Market ‘on steroids.’ True to its name, Black Market Illicit embodies the characteristics that have earned its namesake consistent ratings of 90 among cigar enthusiasts around the world. This iteration was specially designed to cater to TAA’s exclusive network of retailers.”

Black Market Illicit starts shipping to TAA retailers in July, packaged in 22-count boxes and with an MSRP of $8.75 per cigar.

La Palina Classic expanded with new blends

La Palina announced an expansion of its Classic line. The brand will be adding new wrappers, blends, and sizes.

“I am very proud to be expanding La Palina Classic with new wrappers and blends,” said La Palina’s owner, Bill Paley. “We have been working on these for over a year and now have the best cigars you can find at prices everyone can enjoy.”

La Palina Classic is now available in three blends: Connecticut, Rosado, and Maduro. These blends had been made available in limited quantities in 2016, but are not being made widely available; The Connecticut and Rosade are already shipping, while the Maduro will be available to retailers at the end of March.

“The Classic line has always been close to the hearts of La Palina supporters,” said Sam Phillips, president of La Palina Cigars. “It is a great cigar for a reasonable price. Whether it is our Classics or our limited editions, we strive to deliver the highest quality cigar with the most refined taste. We feel that we have achieved this with our new generation of Classic cigars.”

Here’s the blend information we got from La Palina.

Connecticut:
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Dominican Republic
Fillers: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua

Maduro:
Wrapper: Honduras
Binder: Dominican Republic
Fillers: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras

Rosado:
Wrapper: Honduras
Binder: Honduras
Fillers: Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua

Toraño launches two new blends

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General Cigar issued a press release announcing the launch of two new Toraño blends.

One of those blends is called E-021. It features an Ecuadorian Sumatra, Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and fillers from Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. The cigar is available in two sizes: 4½ x 50 and 5 x 52 (priced at $5.49 and $5.99, respectively).

A second blend, W-009, features Nicaraguan wrapper, Honduran binder, and fillers from Honduras. This second blend is also available in two sizes: 5½ x 54 and 6 x 50 ($6.49 and $6.49, respectively).

“Our blending team in Nicaragua re-envisioned a couple of dynamic blends from my family’s original recipes. Both new lines round out the sizes available in the Vault line while continuing the tradition of exceptional blends in stand-out packaging and affordable prices. I look forward to sharing the new Vault lines with Toraño fans at cigar shops and special events across the country,” said Jack Toraño, who was recently hired as a full-time brand ambassador for Toraño, in a press release.

Punch Gran Puro Nicaragua launches

General Cigar announced the launch of Punch Gran Puro Nicaragua, an extension of the brand’s Gran Puro line which comprises four formats ranging in price from $5.29 to $6.99: 4.875 x 48, 5.5 x 54, 6 x 54, and 7 ½ x 54.

 
 

“For the extension of the Gran Puro line, our artisans built a blend that balances Nicaraguan tobaccos with a Maduro wrapper to deliver a layered, dimensional flavor not traditionally found in Nicaraguan-based cigars. We are confident that Punch Gran Puro Nicaragua will be a fast favorite among tenured smokers,” said Ed McKenna, director of marketing strategy for General Cigar, in a press release.

Produced at General Cigar’s HATSA factory in Danlí, Honduras, the blend features a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper along with Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

Maya Selva to debut a new box pressed smoke in July

Maya Selva Cigars announced the adition of a box-pressed format to its Flor de Selva Maduro line. The 6x56 Flor de Selva Pressé “will stay true to the collection's maduro blend,” according to a press release. The Grand Pressé blend comprises Honduran Habano wrapper, Brazilian Mata Fina binder and Honduran fillers.

 
Image: Maya Selva Cigars

Image: Maya Selva Cigars

 

The product will debut at the IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas in July and be available — at least at first — only in the U.S. market. MSRP will be $11.75 per cigar; the product will be packaged in cedar ten-count boxes.

At the source of Florida Sun Grown tobacco

by Nicolás Antonio Jiménez

This article was first published in the July/August 2015 issue of Cigar Snob

As the barn door opens, Jeff Borysiewicz is beaming. He’s got that look that you’ve seen on the faces of friends who are about to unveil their new sports cars. It reminds me of that look that comes over Old Man Parker in A Christmas Story when he steps outside to admire the leg lamp in his window.

But Jeff isn’t showing off a Corvette (or even a leg lamp). Once the door is open, he steps inside and pulls out in a John Deere tractor that looks like it’s been cared for as well as anything in a car collector’s garage. He brings it out of the barn, and into an open space, maneuvering it deftly — expertly, even. Expertly because back in high school, long before he was the proprietor of Corona Cigar Co., Jeff was the state of Florida’s tractor driving champion. Twice.

Jeff Borysiewicz smokes a cigar among the tobacco at his Florida Sun Grown tobacco farm in Central Florida.  (image: Zach Ramsey)

Jeff Borysiewicz smokes a cigar among the tobacco at his Florida Sun Grown tobacco farm in Central Florida. (image: Zach Ramsey)

“You know why I only won two?” he asks rhetorically, ready to deliver the nostalgic brag about his teenage tractor dominance. “I was too good. They didn’t let me compete anymore.”

We’ve made a lot of road trips from Miami to Orlando to see Jeff. He’s always interesting, always humble, always ready to tell you something you didn’t already know. He speaks in semi-hushed tones, pausing often to make sure he’s doing a good job and you’re grasping everything he’s says. This time, something’s different. Jeff isn’t just engaged; he is excited.

Really, really excited.

These days, when Jeff’s in the tractor, he’s not collecting trophies. He’s growing tobacco. That’s right; Orlando’s top tobacconist now has a foot at each extreme of the cigar lifecycle: one in retail space and the other at his 20-acre farm in Clermont, Fla., where he’s running Florida’s first premium cigar tobacco harvests in nearly four decades.

“There are states that have cigar shops, but almost every state used to have cigar factories,” he said. “Believe it or not, there are quite a few states that used to grow cigar tobacco. Florida was one of those. Florida grew cigar tobacco from the 1800s to the last crop, which was in 1977. I always knew there was cigar tobacco grown in Florida, but I didn’t realize how big it was. [Florida] was actually the second largest producer after Connecticut. What I found even more amazing was that Florida was the first to grow shade. So when you hear about Connecticut shade, it was actually started in Florida. Then they implemented it up in Connecticut.”

He knew he wanted to reverse the trend that he, like the rest of us, has seen in places like Tampa, where rich cigar history has been relegated to just that — history. He notes that as you drive through Tampa, many of the buildings seem to serve as “tombstones” for the factories that once operated there. For instance, there’s the Ybor factory building, which has historical significance not only for Tampa and the cigar world, but for the Cuban revolution, as it has connections to Cuban national hero José Martí’s time in exile.

That building now belongs to the Church of Scientology. Unfortunately, cigars don’t appear to play much of a role in Dianetics.

“I thought it would be really cool if, in a small way, we could resurrect Florida cigar tobacco,” Jeff said. “So I started doing my homework.”

Planting seeds

Jeff, who had also been a member of the Future Farmers of America (a national organization for middle and high school students) as a kid, has long been passionate about agriculture. In fact, while you can’t yet buy cigars with his tobacco in them yet, Corona Cigar customers are already benefitting from Jeff’s green thumb. His might be the only shop in the country with a “Watermelon Wednesdays” special. If you spend $25 on cigars, you’ll also go home with a free watermelon grown right alongside the tobacco.

Fusing his longtime passions, he took to the business of learning all he could about tobacco, how to grow it and its history in Florida.

“Agriculture and farming were always passions of mine. When I was 15 years old, one of the jobs I had was working in a commercial citrus grove. But I couldn’t afford to become a farmer, because you can’t become a farmer unless you have land. Unless your dad had it and died and passed it on, you’ve got to buy it. Land’s not cheap.”

During his successful career in premium cigars, Jeff was drawn more to farms than factories. Finally in the position to own the land he needed to join the world of tobacco growers, he now has tobacco growing on 10 of his farm’s 20 acres (which he acquired in 2012).

Of course, being one of the country’s top cigar retailers also put him in the position to pick some of the brains of the leaders in cigar tobacco. “I have a good network of people who know what they’re doing,” Jeff said. “I talked to Eduardo Fernandez. He was supportive. He was like, ‘Here are the seeds. Try it out.’ And then once we started growing I went up to Connecticut and met a few farmers up there. So we have a pretty good network of agronomists and farmers that grow tobacco — whether it’s in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Connecticut or even Kentucky.”

Still, Jeff is trying to do what nobody else has in his generation. When you’re doing something this different, the playbook can’t be the same. And everyone who’s been there and done that in Florida is either dead or decades removed from the business. There have been challenges on practically every front, so Jeff and others involved in the project are updating and revising Florida’s premium cigar tobacco playbook as they confront even routine issues. For example, the pests and diseases in Florida aren’t quite the same ones that other tobacco growers contend with. Jeff’s farm has a barrier of tall sugarcane around it (among other measures) to keep grasshoppers out.

“The biggest problem we have in America is the cost of labor. That’s not just a problem with tobacco. That’s with everything in agriculture. America is great when it comes to mechanized agriculture. That’s why we’re the leader when it comes to growing corn and grains. But when it comes to fruits and vegetables, that’s why we have such a hard time. What it costs for a farm laborer in Nicaragua (to work one day) there — it’s one hour’s pay for us,” said Jeff, adding that harvesting tobacco adds layers of complication, since there’s more opportunity for error and loss in the curing barns.

Despite that complication, a visit to the Clermont farm at the end of a workday gives you a look into a small but vibrant operation. Workers seem happy with the job and appreciate what Jeff — who is here frequently and has made it a point to get his hands dirty — is trying to accomplish. They even ask for more of the cigars that Jeff is handing out; you don’t tend to see that kind of interest in cigars among the staff at many foreign farms and factories.

Fruition

After having given Criollo tobacco a shot with his inaugural crop, Jeff currently growing nothing but Corojo 99, which he says is more expensive to grow since it offers a smaller per-acre yield than Criollo.

“We’re sticking with what customers see more value in. If we were trying to do yield, we would grow Habano 2000. But that’s not what this is about,” he said, putting a flame to a single cured leaf he’s pulled from the barn to demonstrate what he describes as the cigar’s suede aroma. I hold the leaf in one hand (the other holds some fresh corn I’m snacking on after pulling it right off the stalk next to the tobacco plants) as we walk up and down the field. It burns slowly, steadily, and evenly until there is nothing left of it.

Jeff Borysiewicz examines tobacco in the curing barn on his Florida Sun Grown tobacco farm.  (image: Zach Ramsey)

Jeff Borysiewicz examines tobacco in the curing barn on his Florida Sun Grown tobacco farm. (image: Zach Ramsey)

Jeff’s tobacco, grown under a new company he formed for this project called Florida Sun Grown (FSG), offers smokers the promise of something new, which doesn’t come along every day in tobacco. Jeff is confident not only that the revival of premium Floridian cigar tobacco will — at least in a small way — bring new excitement to cigars, but also that he (and any Florida growers who follow his lead) will be able to do business without running into some of the marketing issues that Connecticut growers have.

“Connecticut never protected the name Connecticut,” he said, referring to the use of that state’s name to describe certain kinds of tobacco regardless of the tobacco’s provenance. “That’s the biggest issue they have [is that] they allowed the industry to call tobacco Connecticut shade when it isn’t Connecticut shade. It’s Ecuador. And I understand why people do it. If you can buy tobacco that looks like Connecticut shade, might even be a little cleaner, tastes similar, why not buy it for half the price? But as a retailer, I see customers don’t know whether it’s Ecuador or Connecticut.”

The Florida Department of Agriculture, according to Jeff, is “actually good” about helping people in the agriculture industry certify to consumers that their products are of Floridian origin. Jeff and other farmers have orange farmers to thank for that. In the ‘70s, Jeff says, they worked with the state to stamp out products claiming to be made from Florida oranges when, in truth, they were made from concentrate (especially Brazilian) and merely packaged in Florida.

“We get what’s called a certificate of origin from the Department of Agriculture that certifies this tobacco is from Florida. That’s the lesson that the guys in Florida learned on orange juice that the [tobacco growers] in Connecticut never learned,” Jeff said, noting that that’s of particular value given Florida’s reputation. “Florida’s historically known as the cigar state. We’ve got the cigar city of Tampa. We’ve got the little factories in Miami. And Florida, fortunately, has a perceived premium value to consumers when it comes to agricultural products.”

Jeff’s hope is that, some day, we’ll see a cigar whose most noteworthy leaf — the wrapper — was grown on his farm.

“Eduardo Fernandez, who I hold in really high regard, says, ‘Always shoot for growing wrapper, because when you grow wrapper, you’re always going to get filler. But if you’re not shooting to grow wrapper, you’ll never get wrapper.’ So we teach our farm staff that we want only good tobacco going up on the sticks [in the curing barn] to dry,” he said. For now, wrapper-quality tobacco remains less likely because the Corojo 99 that FSG is growing tends to be too thick and heavy, especially since none of it is grown under shade.

Absent wrapper tobacco, Jeff would be pretty excited to see his product in just about any part of a cigar. He describes the profile of his Florida Sun Grown Corojo as having the flavor and aroma of suede, “like a pair of desert boots.”

Just when we’ll see (and smoke) this tobacco in our cigars is unclear.

All in time

For now, there’s no word of any product release around a blend that includes Jeff’s Florida Sun Grown tobacco. But that doesn’t mean it’s not on its way. FSG has a twentieth-anniversary project in the works with Davidoff that should incorporate the Florida tobacco, and Drew Estate — thanks in part to Jeff’s good friend Jonathan Drew — has bought multiple crops from Jeff.

“We’re hungry for that circle to be completed,” Jeff said. The eagerness in his voice is unmistakable. This guy wants people to taste what he’s been growing. “We want to get cigars back so we can sell them and others can sell them. Once the tobacco’s gone, it’s out of our hands.”

That eagerness isn’t only rooted in the raw excitement of a newcomer to the tobacco growing scene. It also comes from a desire to see a return on the investments Jeff has made. Drew Estate — the only company currently buying tobacco from Jeff for anything other than a Corona store exclusive — is taking a more deliberate approach to decisions about the tobacco. Jonathan Drew says that the first batch of tobacco the company bought has been fermenting in Nicaragua (in pilones with Broadleaf) for about a year and a half now and test blends have begun.

The second crop, weighing in at about three tons, was enough to create a dedicated pilón for fermentation. While the company didn’t have enough wrapper tobacco in that crop to reach its wrapper goal, they remain optimistic, as it can take a long time to achieve not only quality, but consistently wrapper-grade tobacco.

“You could take a lot less risk by buying tobacco that’s already out on the market,” said Jonathan in an interview at his Miami office. “It’s a very risky proposition what Jeff and Drew Estate are doing. When you think about Drew Estate, our strength is American tobacco. I’m interested in cultivating American tobaccos. Who buys the most American tobaccos of premium cigars? When it comes to American tobaccos for premium cigars, there is no bigger purchaser right now — not Altadis, not General, not Davidoff, not Fuente. I think this will be the third year in a row that we’re the largest purchaser of American tobaccos for premium cigars. And the largest purchaser of tobacco from the Connecticut River Valley. We buy the most.”

This is Jeff’s dream and Jeff’s vision. I’m a character in his play.
— Jonathan Drew

Clearly, Drew Estate has an interest in purchasing American tobaccos; Jeff’s farm might provide yet another way for them to expand their portfolio of cigars featuring American leaf beyond tobaccos from Connecticut and Kentucky. And that’s just what Jeff has been trying to do. Further, Jeff has his own passions that his latest project fit into perfectly.

For one thing, he’s a Florida guy through and through, and he’s deeply passionate about playing a role in reviving the premium cigar identity of the state in which he was raised. For another, the co-founder and former chairman of Cigar Rights of America wants to demonstrate in yet another way that keeping government regulators away from premium cigars is an issue that can benefit all kinds of American workers.

But mostly, when you tour the Florida Sun Grown farm with Jeff, you realize that he’s excited — giddy, even — about the idea of making something and having that become a part of his livelihood. From curing the crops to repairing farm machinery, Jeff clearly loves every aspect of his passion project.

“This is Jeff’s dream and Jeff’s vision. I’m a character in his play,” said Jonathan. He makes sure to add, though, that he thinks it’s too early to tell whether and how Jeff’s tobacco will figure into the industry. “It’s like we’re in the second inning … It takes six, seven, or eight years before you can say that you have something that’s consistent every year.”

“What will end up happening is, I’m hoping, that we’ll be able to have [our tobacco in] some national brands,” said Jeff.

Some things can’t be rushed, and yet Florida tobacco’s day in the sun can’t come soon enough.

Altadis launches another heritage brand: Por Larrañaga

 

Altadis U.S.A. announced that it will ship a new “heritage brand” at the end of May 2016. Por Larrañaga was first born in Cuba in 1834 and is one of the oldest brands in the Altadis U.S.A. portfolio, according a press release.

“Known for its smooth, rich and sweet tobacco leaves, it has a reputation for consistency and high quality,” the release continues. “We treat all our brands with the utmost respect and class. The rebirth of Por Larrañaga is exciting for all of us here because we are about to share with aficionados a one-of-a-kind cigar that expresses both the heritage and the history of Por Larrañaga.”

The blend — which Altadis U.S.A. describes as medium-bodied — features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, a Dominican Piloto 2012 binder and a filler blend comprising Dominican Piloto 2012 and Olor Crop 2013 tobaccos.       

Por Larrañaga will be available in three vitolas: a 5 x 52 Robusto ($8.00), a 6 x 46 Gran Corona ($8.50), and a 6 x 50 Toro ($9.00).

 

Córdoba & Morales launches "Cubanesque" Finca Santa Fe

On May 5, Orlando-based Córdoba & Morales Cigars launched the limited edition Finca Santa Fe cigar, which co-founder Azarias “Z” Mustafa Córdoba describes as “Cubanesque.”

It features a Criollo ‘98 wrapper from Nicaragua, with the rest of the blend comprising tobaccos from Nicarague, the Dominican Republic and Peru. The tobaccos were aged in rum barrels for a year, according to a press release.

 
Image: Córdoba y Morales Cigars

Image: Córdoba y Morales Cigars

 

“Finca Santa Fe bears the name of the San Luis farm, nestled in Cuba’s famed Pinar del Río Province, where my grandmother Celestina Córdoba Morales was born,” said Azarias in that press release. HIs grandmother would have celebrated her 110th birthday this year. “Much like the distinct strength, flavor and aroma of the tobaccos from this famed Cuban region, the Finca Santa Fe will deliver an unforgettable cigar experience reminiscent of the golden age of Cuban cigars. We thought this was a fitting way to celebrate not only my abuela’s birthday, but our company’s five-year anniversary.”

The cigar is 6 x 52 and production is limited to 200 five-count boxes and 800 10-count boxes. MSRP is set at $20.

Camacho announces Powerband and Camacho Master-Built Road Tour

 
Image: Davidoff of Geneva USA

Image: Davidoff of Geneva USA

Camacho Powerband is the latest cigar to be added to the brand’s Master-Built Series lineup. It’s “inspired by the power, performance and acceleration associated with a classic V-twin engine,” according to a press release.

The distinguishing characteristic of this cigar appears to be in the filler; strong tobaccos (including three different ligeros) are amplified by Camacho’s “proprietary Powerband bunching process that maximizes airflow for peak performance.” We don’t know what exactly that means, but we’re looking forward to trying the cigar out and perhaps even cutting one open to see if we can’t decipher it all.

There’s a lot happening in this blend. The cigar is made with two Corojo ligeros (one from Estelí, Nicaragua and the other from Honduras), and Dominican San Vicente ligero. In addition, the filler includes Piloto Cubano and San Vicente viso tobaccos. It’s all completed with a San Andrés binder and an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper.

Camacho Powerband will ship in the U.S. June 13 and will be available overseas nearly a year later in May 2017. Retail pricing is set at $11 to $13 per cigar. The new brand will be made in three vitolas: Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 50) and Gordo (6 x 60).

A full nationwide promotional tour will start at Davidoff of Geneva Since 1911 Tampa on June 10, 2016 and makes tops at tobacconists in several dozen states through the end of the year.

 

Schrader Cellars and Nat Sherman collaboration to ship later this month

 

Schrader Cellars, which produces Cabernet Sauvignons out of Napa Valley, announced the release of the Limited Edition Schrader MMXIII Cigar. It’s the winery’s second cigar (the first was the Schrader Doco-Est MMIX, which was released in 2010). The Schrader MMXIII was created with guidance from Nat Sherman’s Michael Herklots at the Quesada Cigars Factory in the Dominican Republic.

The Schrader MMXIII, nicknamed “Sparky Two,” combines fillers from Nicaragua, Peru and the Dominican Republic with a Dominican binder and wrapper. The perfecto is 6 inches long, with a 42-ring-gauge open foot, and expands to 60 ring gauge at its center before tapering back to a 38 at the cap.

“This format provides a profound platform for development of flavor and aroma, much like how a wine can change in the glass, and throughout the bottle,” said Michael in a press release.

The cigars will ship to members of the Schrader mailing list May 10. On May 17, they’ll be made available at the Nat Sherman Townhouse and other retailers that carry Nat Sherman products. The 2,500 six-pack boxes will be priced at $84 each.