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JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2020

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EVERYDAY BOLD SMOKES TO INTENSIFY YOUR NEXT ULTIMATE ADVENTURE No journey is complete without Camacho’s Everyday Bold Smokes. The Camacho Box Pressed Tubos are built to intensify your next adventure, each cigar is crafted with the foundation of our legendary Original Corojo tobaccos. Available in high-grade Connecticut, Corojo, and Ecuador wrappers that deliver three undeniable journeys of flavor. This is a wakeup call to make every excursion a bold one. It’s the difference between a life lived, and a life lived loud.

SHARE YOUR BOLD JOURNEY #BOLDANYTIME

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editorials JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2020

29

FIVE TO TRY - BOURBON Scotch might be the classic choice, but America’s signature whiskey can be a hell of a pairing for cigars as well. We dove deep into five bourbons you should have in your bar.

30 BUFFALO TRACE / CASA FERNANDEZ MIAMI ANIVERSARIO 32 OLD FORESTER 100 PROOF / CUELLAR BLACK FOREST 34 FOUR ROSES SINGLE BARREL / DAVIDOFF NICARAGUA 36 NEW RIFF SINGLE BARREL / OLIVA SERIE V MELANIO MADURO 38 MICHTER’S US1 BOURBON / PARTICULARES CREMAS

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TOP 25 CIGARS Our annual ranking of the best cigar of the year is here. You won’t want to waste any time finding these at your local tobacconist. Check it out and let us know how it lines up with your favorite cigars of 2019.

52

LIMITED EDITIONS

54

GIFT GUIDE

57

OLIVA

66

Q&A – NESTOR ANDRÉS PLASENCIA

Limited-edition releases aren’t eligible for our Top 25 honors, but these three cigars deserved some special recognition.

The hardest thing about picking up each of these gifts will be holding back from buying another for yourself.

Oliva Cigar has reimagined much of the way it goes about making traditional cigars. More than that, though, the team at Oliva might just have changed things for the whole cigar industry.


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features JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2020

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LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER

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FEEDBACK

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WHAT’S BURNIN’

68

SMOKING HOT CIGAR SNOB

79

RATINGS

94

CRA - THEY SAID IT. NOT US.

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TWITTER SCOREBOARD

98

EVENT COVERAGE

WORK OF ART FEATURING BELLAS ARTES MADURO

98 SABOR HAVANA’S SMOKE THIS! 100 CIGARS UNDER THE STARS 102 CIGAR HERITAGE FESTIVAL 104 LA ZONA PALOOZA 106 DAVID ORTIZ CELEBRITY GOLF CLASSIC 107 OTAN CIGAR GROUP FIRST SPECIAL EVENT 108 CAVA CIGARS CHRISTMAS PARTY WITH ESPINOSA CIGARS 109 BOTANIKO WITH AVO CIGARS 110 WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE DRAG EVENT AT SMOKE INN

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JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2020

VO L . 12 IS SU E 1 www.cigarsnobmag.com PUBLISHER & EDITOR Erik Calviño SENIOR EDITOR Nicolás Antonio Jiménez COPY EDITOR Michael LaRocca SALES & OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Oscar M. Calviño PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Ivan Ocampo ART DIRECTOR Andy Astencio ADVERTISING COORDINATOR Jamilet Calviño DIGITAL RETOUCHING SPECIALIST Ramón Santana DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER Gianni D’Alerta CONTRIBUTING WITERS Glynn Loope CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS David Benoliel Andy Astencio Natalia Marie García EVENT PHOTOGRAPHERS Jamilet Calviño Ramon Santana Cover Photography by David Benoliel www.davidbenolielphotography.com Cover Model - Ceca Zivojinovic Cigar Snob is published bi-monthly by Lockstock Publications, Inc. 1421-1 SW 107th Ave., #253 Miami, FL 33174-2509 Tel: 1 (786) 423-1015 Cigar Snob is a registered trademark of Lockstock Publications, Inc., all rights reserved. Reproduction in part or full without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. Cigar Snob is printed in the U.S. Contents copyright 2006, Lockstock Publications, Inc. To subscribe, visit www.cigarsnobmag.com

(SUBSCRIBE TODAY) - Only $18 for one Year (six issues) of -

- Magazine delivered to you Visit: www.cigarsnobmag.com or write: subscribe@cigarsnobmag.com

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Inspired by the elegance and fine taste of the oldest of the Upmann brothers, Herman’s Batch continues his legacy and perpetuates the unique man he was. A combination of Dominican and Nicaraguan tobaccos covered in a double fermented wrapper aged for 4 years that provides an elegant balance of deep aroma and full flavor. @HUPMANN_USA

© 2020 Altadis U.S.A. Inc. © 2020 Tabacalera USA Inc.


Top 25 season is always a fun time for us at Cigar Snob Magazine — not just because we get to re-smoke the best cigars of the year, but because there’s a ton of excitement around the announcement of the list. The phone in the office starts ringing off the hook, email inboxes get flooded with questions and requests, and the web servers get pushed to their limits. I won’t lie to you; it’s a special feeling to watch the live web analytics as the screen lights up with hits from all around the world as we approach the Cigar of the Year announcement. The excitement I see on the web as well as social media are fun to be sure, but if I’m being honest, nothing comes close to walking into a cigar store and someone who you don’t know asking you, “So who’s going to be No. 1 this year?” Thanks to everyone who, in their own way, gets in on the excitement. You all make the unfathomable amount of hours of tasting, re-tasting, and deliberating worth every minute. Congratulations to the Padrón family and their entire Little Havanaand Estelí-based teams on the Padrón Anniversary Series 1964 Maduro Exclusivo being named Cigar Snob’s No. 1 Cigar of 2019. That particular cigar in that vitola has to go down in history as one of the all-time great smokes. It is a little bittersweet in that I won’t get to deliver the plaque to José Orlando Padrón and have him laugh at the unnecessary formality of it. I also want to congratulate the companies that produce and distribute the cigars that took the other 24 spots that make up our list. The work that you and your teams do to achieve a product with that level of quality is to be commended. While Top 25 takes the lion’s share of attention in this issue, our photo shoot titled Work of Art, starting on p. 68, will give you more than enough reason to flip over and take a look. Thanks to the photo shoot squad led by Ivan Ocampo and to AJ Fernandez Cigars for supplying the Bellas Artes Maduro cigars! Speaking of days that didn’t suck, I spent an entire week drinking high-end bourbon like it was water in order to put together the 5 to Try – Bourbon story starting on p. 29. Thanks to our friends at Total Wine & More (totalwine.com) and especially Pablo Estades for always helping us put that section together. Our senior editor Nicolás Antonio Jiménez and I took a trip down to Nicaragua to attend Oliva Cigar’s re-inauguration of their main factory, TABOLISA (Tabacalera Oliva S.A.). We were both floored by the changes. For me it was perhaps extra special because of my relationship with the Oliva Cigar family. I’ve been visiting that factory for the last 14 years and to see it re-imagined in that way was truly surreal. Check out Nick’s story about Tabacalera Oliva 2.0 starting on p. 57. Finally, while we were in Estelí we took advantage and stopped into Plasencia Cigars to catch up with our old friend Nestor Andrés Plasencia. The resulting Q&A starts on p. 66. Thank you for your time and gracious hospitality Nestor.

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As always, feel free to send over any feedback about the issue, good or bad, to feedback@cigarsnobmag.com. Check out our re-vamped website at cigarsnob.com. We’ve been posting new content almost daily. Of course you should already be subscribed to the Cigar Snob Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts and follow us on social media at @cigarsnobmag on most platforms. Enjoy the issue, try some of the bourbons, and smoke the best cigars you can get your hands on. I hope you, your loved ones, and your close friends have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2020!

Keep ‘em lit,

Erik Calviño ecalvino@cigarsnobmag.com


C I G A R S O F C H A R AC T E R

THROUGH THE DAY

I N TO T H E N I G H T

WHATEVER THE TASK, WHATEVER THE HOUR, WINSTON CHURCHILL KNEW THE RIGHT CIGAR CAN BE A TRUSTED COMPANION. SO THE CIGARS WHICH CARRY HIS NAME ECHO HIS CHARACTER. FROM «THE ORIGINAL COLLECTION» THROUGH TO «THE LATE HOUR» CIGARS, THEIR QUALITY NEVER SLEEPS.

A M A N A N D A C I G A R FO R A L L T I M E S AVAILABLE AT AUTHORIZED DAVIDOFF DEALERS NATIONWIDE & DAVIDOFF OF GENEVA LOCATIONS NEW YORK

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ATLANTA

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TAMPA

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LAS VEGAS

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HOLLYWOOD


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ON THE TOP 25 LIST My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT was one of my top three last year. It seems to be overshadowed by its more heralded stablemates, but I love it. Thanks very much,

Andy T. via feedback@cigarsnobmag.com Thanks for the feedback, Andy! Not only was the H-2K-CT on this year’s list, but it’s also a previous Cigar of the Year. You wrote to us after seeing our Top 25 rankings online, but we’re publishing this note in our Top 25 issue. We’re looking forward to seeing what others have to say about this list.

SEND US YOUR STICK PICS You have a great magazine. I wish there were more events in Tampa!

Joe Z. via feedback@cigarsnobmag.com So do we! We’re based in Miami, so we have easier access to South Florida events than any others, but we’re always looking for event photos from other parts of the world. If your local shop is hosting an event, tell them to make sure they get in touch with us ahead of time to talk about getting the shots in the magazine.

SMOOTH OPERATORS Just heard the December 28 podcast with Oliva Cigars COO Fidel Valdés Rodriguez. Amazingly interesting! That’s what I do for a living… I’m a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. [In my job], we too use SAP as our (ERP) system. Thanks for the podcast!

Osmay T. via Facebook We must be white belts, because we have no idea what the hell is going on here. Seems safe to assume, though, that you’re saying you also have a smart people job like Fidel, which is cool. Anyone who’s reading this and hasn’t already heard this podcast should look for our Fidel Valdés Rodríguez episode. Very intelligent guy with some very interesting insights into the back end of the cigar business. Or you can start by reading our story on Oliva Cigar’s recent manufacturing revamp in this issue.

YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY Regarding the abbreviation for your great podcast: Are you aware that in most of the criminal courts in America, CSP stands for Criminal Sexual Penetration? Just sayin’.

David S. via feedback@cigarsnobmag.com No. We did not know that.

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Timeless Sterling

Epoca Reserva

A range of classic vitolas with rich, silky body and balanced strength and aromas using well-aged Dominican fillers.

A savory blend of rich Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers, finished with a Dominican-grown binder and wrapper for a full-bodied, delicious experience.

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Timeless Prestige A complex, new world blend of six tobaccos from three countries in nine vitolas.

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Metropolitan Maduro A classically maintained expression of a smooth Dominican cigar with a Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. Mellow and slightly earthy with a classic Broadleaf Maduro flavor.

Metropolitan Connecticut Epoca A three-country blend with a rich and creamy body and zesty finish.

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Nicaragua

The traditional expression of a smooth Dominican cigar with a Connecticut wrapper. Woody, mellow and smooth. It’s truly a classic.

Timeless Panamericana

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A unique full-bodied blend of Central American fillers made in Nicaragua.

Honduras

91 CA

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Metropolitan Host Maduro

Metropolitan Host One of the best-selling premium cigar experiences on the American market. Smooth, mellow and sweet.

One of the best-selling premium cigar experiences on the American market. Smooth, mellow and delicious with a Broadleaf Maduro wrapper.

Metropolitan Habano A new presentation of an old-world Nicaraguan blend experience. Smooth and rich. CA

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Timeless Supreme A collection of full-bodied, yet restrained box-pressed Nicaraguan puros.

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Every palate. Every moment. Fulfilled. To learn more, visit www.natshermanintl.com Site limited to smokers 21 years of age or older.

1.800.MY.CIGAR ©2019 NAT SHERMAN INTERNATIONAL, LLC NSI589

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DIPLOMÁTICO BY MOMBACHO CIGARS

Love Venezuela Foundation,” a non-profit organization making a huge difference for the people of Venezuela.” Mombacho will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this product to the Nicaraguan non-profit organization Carita Feliz Kinder.

FDA CALLS HAND-ROLLED CIGARS AMONG ITS “LOWEST PRIORITY” IN ENFORCEMENT

Mombacho Cigars announced that they have begun the distribution of a new line, Diplomático By Mombacho Cigars S.A. The product is the result of a collaboration between the Nicaraguan cigar maker and Diplomático, the Venezuelan rum brand. Diplomático By Mombacho Cigars S.A., packages in 10-count boxes, and comes in three size vitolas: Toro (6 x 52), Robusto (5 x 50), and Petit Corona (4 x 44). They carry MSRPs of $14.95, $12.95 and $9.95, respectively. “It is a tremendous honor for Mombacho Cigars to be the cigar maker for this very special project. A world-class rum like Diplomático is the perfect spirit to pair with a memorable cigar, and today we make history by making this possible!” said Mombacho president and master blender Claudio Sgroi in a press release. “Inspired by the profile and character of Diplomático Rum’s aromas and balance, I made a unique cigar blend. The cigars are not only meant to go well with the rum, they are made because of the rum.” “We are excited to partner with Mombacho Cigars, a cigar company whose ideals for making high-quality products with passion reflects our own philosophy for creating award-winning rums,” said Nino Curbelo, Diplomático’s export director for North America. “Together, our brands seek to not only elevate the pairing of a fine cigar and rum, but to create a new, one-of-a-kind experience. Additionally, we are very proud to donate a percentage of proceeds to the “I

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Cigar makers, tobacconists, and smokers who follow the slow creep of government intervention in the cigar market got what some treated as good news in the first week of 2020. The FDA released a document in which it described premium cigars as a low priority in its enforcement of Obama-era regulations of tobacco products. The statement comes about six months after a Maryland judge ordered a change to the FDA’s deadline for makers of tobacco products (including premium cigars) to apply for approval from the FDA to keep those products on the market. Per the FDA document, “After May 12, 2020, FDA will make enforcement decisions on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that it is unable, as a practical matter, to take enforcement action against every illegally marketed tobacco product, and that it needs to make the best use of agency resources. FDA intends to prioritize enforcement based on the likelihood of youth use or initiation to make the most efficient use of its resources. FDA’s lowest priority among these products will include relatively expensive, large hand-rolled cigars that do not have flavors (e.g., fruit, candy, or mint), given what FDA understands to be their comparatively lower youth usage rates.” The FDA did not make reference to rule changes or the prospect of exemption for premium cigars, though CNBC reported recently that anonymous sources within the Trump administration claimed the administration was pushing for such exemptions. Even if the FDA adopts that lax attitude toward enforcement in premium cigar cases,

that only means that it would be easier to run afoul of the regulations, not that any new set of activities would be in the legal clear. For up to date information on federal, state, and local regulations and prohibitions that affect premium cigars, visit cigarrights.org.

ACE PRIME RELEASES COMMEMORATIVE BOXES SIGNED BY DOMINIQUE WILKINS TO MARK HIS 60TH BIRTHDAY Ace Prime announced the release of a collector’s edition limited-release box commemorating the 60th birthday of NBA star Dominique Wilkins. The cigars within the limited-release boxes are from the first batch of M.X.S. Dominique Wilkins cigars, which were released in 2019. Each of these limitededition boxes is signed by Dominique. The M.X.S. Dominique Wilkins blend comprises Mexican wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. “Dominique Wilkins is a great friend, whose career and reputation for Excellence and Success is unparalleled. He is genuinely one of the greatest NBA athletes of all time, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the partnership in developing his M.X.S. Signature Series cigar,” said Ace Prime co-founder Luciano Meirelles. The MSRP of these Diamond Edition cigars is $425 per 20-count box. Only 60 will be issued. They will be available through seven tobacconists: •

Davidoff of Geneva Since 1911 - Tampa

The Clayton (Chicago)

Corona Cigars & Diamond Crown Lounge (Orlando)

Corona Cigars & Diamond Crown Lounge (Lake Mary, Fla.)

Charles P. Stanley Cigar Company (St. Louis)

Club Macanudo (New York City)

Soho Cigar Bar (New York City)


BLACK LABEL TRADING COMPANY SHIPPING LAST RITES VIATICUM

Black Label Trading Company has begun to ship Last Rites Viaticum to retailers this week. This small-batch release is hand crafted at BLTC’s Fábrica Oveja Negra in Estelí, Nicaragua.

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“Last Rites has always been a special cigar to me. To celebrate our sixth anniversary, I wanted to do a Special Edition of the Last Rites. The Viaticum is an evolution of the Last Rites blend. It uses most of the same tobaccos but in different proportions and primings,” said BLTC’s James Brown in a press release.

vidoff of Geneva Since 1911 cigar bars to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.; the property is best known for its new 450-foot guitar-shaped hotel.

Last Rites Viaticum’s blend comprises an Ecuadorian wrapper over a Honduran binder and fillers from Honduras and Nicaragua. It’s available in 20-count boxes of one format, a 5 x 54 Robusto Box Press. Single-cigar MSRP is $15.

DAVIDOFF’S NEW LOUNGE AT THE HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO IN HOLLYWOOD, FLA.

“Since inception, it has been the mission for Davidoff of Geneva since 1911 to provide aficionados around the globe with extraordinary stores and lounges to enjoy premium cigars. The new Davidoff of Geneva since 1911 licensed boutique at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood reinforces this proposition, and even more so with the quality of partner we have in Eric Douglas and the Seminole Cigars team,” said Davidoff of Geneva Americas president Dylan Austin in a press release.

Davidoff has partnered with Eric Douglas of Bol Hospitality to bring one of its Da-

Davidoff ’s Lounge at the Hard Rock will have its grand opening January 8 and 9.

The new location’s 1,924 square feet include a walk-in humidor, a cigar lounge, and a full bar.


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BOURBON IF YOU COULD CAPTURE, FERMENT, AND DISTILL WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AMERICAN, THE RESULTING SPIRIT WOULD UNQUESTIONABLY BE KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY. HERE ARE FIVE ACCESSIBLE, HIGH-QUALITY BOURBONS ALONG WITH CIGARS THAT COMPLEMENT EACH OF THEM.


BUFFALO TRACE Prohibition with a special government permit for “medicinal whiskey,” one of only four distilleries to be granted such a permit. In 1984, under the leadership of Elmer T. Lee, who also has a whiskey named after him, the distillery introduced the first single-barrel bourbon called Blanton’s.

Courtesy of Buffalo Trace

tles of the aforementioned three, but if you’re taking the baby steps of a journey down the bourbon trail, you’d be wise to start with the distillery’s signature bourbon, Buffalo Trace. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more apt representation of the bourbon category.

The country’s oldest continually operating and perhaps most decorated distillery was given the Buffalo Trace name in 1999. It had previously been called George T. Stagg Distillery. The Buffalo Trace name comes from the pioneering days when settlers and pioneers followed the trails or traces made by millions of bison moving west. One of the more significant traces, the Vincennes Trace, is also commonly referred to as the Great Buffalo Trace. Aside from having an easier path to travel on, pioneers also used the bison’s ability to find fertile foraging ground useful. That path led early pioneers to settle in the area where the Buffalo Trace Distillery sits back in 1775. By 1787 the first shipments of whiskey from this area were being shipped to New Orleans by river.

FRANKFORT, KY. 45% ALC. BY VOL. FOLLOW THE HERD Buffalo Trace is a hot commodity these days and for good reason. Some of the most sought after bourbons are produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery; think Pappy Van Winkle, Blanton’s, and W.L. Weller, to drop a name or three. Search for #bourbon on Instagram and you’ll be inundated with experienced bourbon lovers flaunting bot-

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Since 2000, the distillery has won more than 500 awards, including 21 distillery of the year awards from the spirits business’s most respected publications. I wasn’t joking when I said it was likely the country’s most decorated distillery. One of the things that I appreciate about Buffalo Trace is that as you look back into their history you find the names that adorn the bottles played prominent roles in the formation of the distillery; in other words the names and stories on the bottle are genuine parts of the distillery’s long and well-documented history. For example, in 1897 Albert Blanton started as an office boy at the George T. Stagg Distillery and, after working in just about every department of the distillery, became president of the company in 1921. He kept the distillery afloat through

This rich history, coupled with the ever-growing popularity of their whiskeys, has resulted in flocks of visitors to the distillery tours, to the tune of more than 200,000 per year. In 2013 the National Park Service highlighted the site as an example of pre-Prohibition industrial architecture by designating the distillery as a National Historic Landmark. Among the six different complimentary tours offered by the distillery is a National Historic Landmark Tour, which focuses on the buildings, architecture, and history of those years.

TASTING NOTES Pardon the cliché, but if you look up Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey in the spirits dictionary (no such thing exists, but maybe it should), you’d probably find that big ol’ buffalo staring back at you. Buffalo Trace brings those quintessential bourbon notes of vanilla, brown sugar, spice, and oak along with a lush, citrus-like brightness to it. The finish is long and round, resonating on your palate well into your next sip.

Casa Fernandez Miami Aniversario

PAIRING NOTES I DECIDED TO PAIR THIS BOURBON WITH THE CASA FERNANDEZ MIAMI ANIVERSARIO. THE CREAMY CEDAR AND PEPPER FROM THE CIGAR SLOT THEMSELVES RIGHT IN THE GAPS LEFT BY THE BUFFALO TRACE. AFTER SEVERAL PUFFS, THE CIGAR TAKES ON A MORE TOASTED NUT CHARACTERISTIC WHILE THE BOURBON’S SPICE DIPS WAY DOWN ON THE PALATE.


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OLD FORESTER 100 PROOF able glass bottles and decanters bearing their brand’s name. If it takes you more than half a second to see the problem with this arrangement, you’re probably the sort of kindhearted person that I want taking care of my cigar and bourbon collection when I’m old and senile.

others. It was originally founded as J.T.S. Brown & Bro. and after several partnerships and name changes, the name Brown-Forman was changed for good in 1902. The company was founded with Old Forester as its flagship product and it remained so until the acquisition of other brands like Early Times, which would go on to be one of the country’s best-selling bourbons for a span of 30 years. Later, with the acquisition of Jack Daniel’s in 1956, Old Forester slid further back in importance. But today with the bourbon boom still going strong and recent releases aimed at bringing back the brand’s pre-Prohibition glory, Old Forester’s popularity is on the rise.

Courtesy of Old Forester

TASTING NOTES

Before long, unscrupulous bar owners were pouring cheap or adulterated whiskey into the branded decanters and selling it to their customers as the good stuff when in fact they were peddling cheap swill. So in 1870, when George Garvin Brown left a career in pharmaceutical sales for a life in bourbon, he didn’t want to put his investment in the hands of unscrupulous barkeeps. Old Forester was the first bourbon to be sold exclusively in sealed and signed bottles. The move worked and soon patrons were asking for Old Forester by name, not in bars, but in doctors’ offices and pharmacies! That’s right. Before Old Forester became a household name in bars and saloons, it was sold in pharmacies as a medicinal product. Remember Brown’s previous career?

SHIVELY, KY. 50% ALC. BY VOL. FIRST IN THE BOTTLE Adulteration of spirits is a problem as old as the spirit itself. In the 1800s, distillers sold their bourbon to bars in barrels and jugs straight from the distillery. The well-respected distillers also supplied the bars and saloons with refill-

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Originally it was named Old Forrester (notice the double “R”) after Dr. William Forrester, who endorsed the product. It’s believed that the second “R” was dropped to create a bit of distance between the doctor’s good name and a product that was by now liquoring up the masses in bars and saloons up and down the river, but there’s no proof of this. Today Old Forester is part of Brown-Forman’s whiskey portfolio, which includes Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, and Canadian Mist, among

It hits you on the nose with a powerful alcohol punch at the start. Give it a second and keep nosing the whiskey and you’ll notice more delicate notes of straw, honey, and rye bread start to emerge. For tasting purposes, I drink this 100 proof bourbon neat, but for regular consumption, it’s perfectly acceptable to add a couple of drops of water. On the palate the whiskey delivers up front spice and chocolate with background flavors of vanilla, oak, and cinnamon.

Cuellar Black Forest

PAIRING NOTES WHEN YOU’RE DRINKING A 100 PROOF BOURBON WITH THIS LEVEL OF INTENSITY, YOU NEED TO COME CORRECT. I CHOSE THE CUELLAR BLACK FOREST FROM VILLIGER CIGARS. THE CIGAR’S SWEET EARTH AND WOOD BACKBONE CREATE THE IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR THE OLD FORESTER TO SHINE, WHILE THE BOURBON BRINGS OUT A RICH CREAMINESS IN THE CIGAR THAT MAKES THIS A PERFECTLY COMPLEMENTARY PAIRING.


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FOUR ROSES SINGLE BARREL Japanese brewing giant, Kirin. And they’ve done a fantastic job of setting the distillery and its brands up for long term success by investing in infrastructure and giving the talented team in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky the autonomy they need to consistently make great whiskey. One unsubstantiated version of the brand’s history is that it was founded in 1888 by one Rufus Mathewson Rose, a distiller from Atlanta who named the whiskey for the four Roses — himself, his brother, and their two sons. Sounds plausible because Rufus owned the R.M. Rose Distillery, but it was in Atlanta and the company history doesn’t make any mention of the Four Roses brand. For the record, neither Rufus nor R.M. Rose Distillery is mentioned anywhere on Four Roses’ companyapproved history.

LAWRENCEBURG, KY. 50% ALC. BY VOL. CINDERELLA OF BOURBON Four Roses Bourbon hasn’t had an easy life; its history is murky, no one really knows where its name comes from, and at one point it was owned by a company that didn’t want it to succeed. Before we go down that rocky road, let’s point out that today the distillery is owned by the

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Four Roses states that in 1884 Paul Jones, Jr. moved his grocery business from Atlanta to Louisville. Apparently, the only thing we know for certain is that Four Roses was started by a gentleman from Atlanta. Nothing to see here, move along. Four years after the move, in 1888, Jones established the Four Roses trademark. The purported story of how he came up with the Four Roses name stems from a proposal that Jones made to a Southern belle upon falling hard for her beauty. It is said that after receiving Jones’ proposal, she replied that if her answer were “yes,” she would wear a corsage full of roses on her gown to the upcoming ball. She arrived at the ball wearing a corsage of four roses on her beautiful gown. The Four Roses website states, “He later named his bourbon ‘Four Roses’ as a symbol of his devout passion for the lovely belle.” It’s a wonderful tale, but rumors of an old bottle with a label explaining a different origin story have made their way around the message boards. I’ve never seen it. The rumor is that the label tells the story of the Rose family’s four daughters. Whatever the case, the spirit that bears the name on the bottle is exquisite and in a sense the lore surrounding the name adds a bit of mystery to the brand. But what is by far the strangest part of this brand’s history is how poorly it was handled by the defunct Seagram Company. Seagram acquired Four Roses in 1943; at the time Four Roses was the best-selling Kentucky straight bourbon in the country. Inexplicably, Seagram launched a cheaper blended whiskey under

the Four Roses brand in 1945. The product, obviously trading on the success of Four Roses Bourbon, sold well but the resilient bourbon was still the best seller. Again, for reasons that I will never understand, Seagram leadership decided to pull Four Roses Bourbon from the U.S. market and sold only the blended whiskey with a packaging that was almost identical to the bourbon, only the word “bourbon” was missing. Eventually savvy consumers caught on and sales of the Four Roses blended whiskey dropped. Fortunately, while Four Roses Bourbon could not be purchased in the United States, it was still alive and thriving in European and Asian markets. So when Kirin purchased the company in 2001, they moved swiftly to re-introduce Four Roses Bourbon into U.S. markets.

TASTING NOTES This single-barrel expression is a beautifully balanced whiskey with a complex nose of pear, maple syrup, vanilla, and spice. If you’re struggling to pick up notes on the nose, try nosing the whiskey at different angles and depths in a Glencairn glass or similarly shaped tasting glass. On the palate it is full-bodied and smooth with an explosion of cherries, wood, and apple pie with a long, luxurious finish.

Davidoff Nicaragua

PAIRING NOTES I WENT THROUGH SEVERAL ITERATIONS TO FIND THE BEST PARTNER FOR THIS COMPLEX SPIRIT BUT THE SEARCH WAS OVER WHEN I ARRIVED AT DAVIDOFF NICARAGUA. BOTH THE BOURBON AND THE CIGAR ARE POWERFUL ENOUGH TO GO TOE TO TOE YET SUBTLE AND DELICATE ENOUGH TO BRING OUT THE BEAUTY IN EACH.


CHRISTIAN EIROA CLE CIGARS

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NEW RIFF SINGLE BARREL Lewis founded New Riff Distilling in 2014, he vowed to make whiskey the way it was made by the great bourbon makers of the past. The idea is to celebrate Kentucky whiskey tradition and honor it by using the same methods of sour mash, open fermentation, copper column still, and a second distillation using a doubler. On their website, New Riff proudly proclaims, “This is the way we make whiskey in Kentucky, for which we do not apologize.”

fore Mr. Lewis wants no part of it. To be more specific, when you drop a cube of ice in your whiskey, the temperature change causes the natural fatty acids, esters, and proteins in the spirit to clump together and make the whisky look cloudy in your glass. The majority of large distillers use a process called chill filtering to remove those elements that could cloud your whisky. The argument from chill filtration detractors like New Riff is that those fatty acids, esters, and proteins are part of the distillate and removing them for cosmetic purposes isn’t necessary and could take away from the quality of the final product. From a traditionalist standpoint, I applaud this approach.

Courtesy of New Riff

TASTING NOTES

NEWPORT, KY. 56.3% ALC. BY VOL. THE NEW GUY IS GOING OLD SCHOOL One of the newest players in the bourbon game is dead set on doing things the old school way. When liquor retailer and entrepreneur Ken

36 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

If you’re not super-nerdy about the art of distillation, you might be wondering what some of these things that Mr. Lewis is not willing to apologize for are about. Let’s start at the sour mash. When you begin to make whiskey, you take a combination of grains (corn, rye, malted barley, and in some cases wheat) and water and ferment it. The exact combination or recipe of grains is critical to the final product and is commonly referred to as the “mash bill.” For a product to be labeled as bourbon, the percentage of corn in the mash bill has to be at least 51, but is commonly higher. To ferment this mashed up combination of grains, the distiller adds yeast; the yeast consumes the sugars in the mash and produces alcohol. When they talk about a sour mash, they are referring to the process of taking some amount of the spent mash from a previous fermentation and using it to condition the new mash being fermented. Think of it like using starter dough to make a new loaf of bread. Another area where New Riff takes things back to the early days of bourbon is in their lack of chill filtration. The process of chill filtration is strictly for cosmetic reasons and there-

The beauty of this product is that because it is bottled at barrel proof from a single barrel, there will be a noticeable difference from barrel to barrel. This bottling is from barrel number 15-4540 and it has a nose of rich vanilla, caramel apples, oak, and spice. The palate is full-bodied and well balanced with more vanilla and spice up front with well-integrated tannins on the long finish.

Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro

PAIRING NOTES THIS BOURBON SCREAMS FOR AN OLIVA SERIE V MELANIO MADURO. THE BOXPRESSED CIGAR’S SMOOTH CORE OF COCOA, ESPRESSO, AND PEPPER ARE A PERFECT COMPLEMENT FOR THE BOURBON’S HEAVY VANILLA AND CARAMEL APPLE. BECAUSE THIS WHISKEY IS BARREL PROOF, YOU CAN EXPERIMENT WITH ADDING A DROP OR TWO OF SPRING WATER. YOU’LL GIVE UP VISCOSITY BUT GAIN NEW ACCESS TO HIDDEN FLAVORS THAT CONTINUE TO COMPLEMENT THE PAIRING.


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MICHTER’S US1 BOURBON cigar industry. It’s easy to forget that while we don’t have too many big cigar brands on the market with similar stories set in the United States, there are homegrown brand names with incredible stories in other sectors. Take Michter’s, for instance. Or, more precisely, the whiskey company that eventually became known as Michter’s. In 1753, a Swiss Mennonite farmer in Pennsylvania named John Shenk created a company — naming it, with calling-card Mennonite simplicity, Shenk’s — and started making whiskey from rye grain at a distillery in Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountain Valley, where rye was a staple crop. As the story goes, the whiskey was so sought after and highly valued by the time the Revolutionary War began that George Washington himself made a trip to the distillery and stocked up on the spirit to keep his men going through the winter at Valley Forge. Two centuries later, Michter’s is able to boast that it’s “the whiskey that warmed the American Revolution.” Sure, there must have been other distilleries helping keep the revolution lubricated, but it’s probably also true that a visit from Washington gives you more right than others to fly that flag.

build a career in whiskey that included a stint as President and CEO of Austin Nichols, which distills Wild Turkey) went into business together and brought Michter’s back on the scene. One of the first key steps in reviving the brand — aside from the boring legal stuff — was to move things to Kentucky and tackle the job from the heart of the bourbon world. The company is still run from Louisville and the duo ultimately succeeded in not only bringing the Michter’s name back from the great bourbon beyond, but in earning it a place among the most recognizable spirits in the category.

TASTING NOTES This 91 proof bourbon presents a light amber color in the glass with a nose of corn, caramel, and vanilla with a bit of camphor. The mouthfeel is somewhat thin with flavors of oak, corn, cinnamon, dried fruits, and a dose of pepper.

Particulares Cremas

Pennsylvania Dutchman Abraham Bomberger bought the distillery in the mid-1800s, after which point it was known as Bomberger’s for decades.

LOUISVILLE, KY. 45.7% ALC. BY VOL.

The passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919 brought the beginning of the Prohibition era and forced practically everyone who was making hooch to slam the brakes on production. The distillery bounced back when the 21st Amendment opened the door to legal booze again, but the next several decades were characterized by instability for the company, with the reins changing hands from one owner to the next and the company finances staying on shaky ground. It was during that time that Lou Forman, one of the owners of the distillery, named the brand after his two sons, Michael and Peter. Michter’s. See what he did there?

AMERICA’S REVOLUTIONARY BOURBON

Michter’s remained on a rocky road through to the late ‘80s, when a downturn in the whiskey market at large led ownership to declare bankruptcy and abandon the company completely.

The cigar world is replete with brands that boast long histories spanning as far back as the preSandinista era in Nicaragua, the pre-Castro days in Cuba, or even the earliest years of Cuba’s

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Joseph J. Magliocco (a Harvard Law grad who had poured Michter’s as a bartender in college) and Richard “Dick” Newman (a retired Marine who’d gone on to

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PAIRING NOTES TH E PARTIC U LARE S C RE MAS FROM S I N DICATO B RI NG S TON S OF C E DAR AN D C REAM AN D S E E M S TO BALANC E OUT TH E H EAVY NOTE S OF CORN AN D OAK I N TH E WH I S KEY. AS TI M E PAS S E S, TH E WH I S KEY’S VAN I LLA, PE PPE R, AN D DRI E D FRU IT B ECOM E S MORE AN D MORE PROM I N E NT AN D STARTS TO B ECOM E PRE S E NT I N TH E PARTIC U LARE S’ S MOKE.

EDITOR’S NOTE WE PARTNERED WITH TOTAL WINE & MORE (TOTALWINE.COM) TO PUT THIS FEATURE TOGETHER AND PABLO ESTADES WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN MAKING IT HAPPEN. THANKS, PABLO.


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ith another year in the books, we’re excited for you to see this, our eighth annual Top 25 list. Every 12 months, we compile a list of all the cigars that have scored 91 or better in the calendar year’s ratings sections. We then re-taste those cigars — smoking, smoking and smoking some more — until our panel arrives at a consensus on this ranking of the year’s top smokes. This was another odd year for the cigar industry. Nicaragua was still reeling from political unrest for much of the year. The whole cigar community remained preoccupied with the problem of government regulations and prohibitions. And — at least according to some of our sources in cigar making — tobacco shortages were an issue across the cigar industry. These and other factors made this list unusually difficult to compile. We found ourselves surprised — sometimes pleasantly and other times not — by how much our impressions of cigars had changed over the course of the year. There was even more re-tasting and more deliberation than we’re used to. Longtime readers are likely familiar with the nuances of our approach to this list (everyone in the cigar-ranking world has their own unique approach). For the newbies among you, here are a few notes that will be useful for understanding this list. First, our list puts some weight on the relative newness of a brand. There are cigars out there that have been reliably excellent for as long as Cigar Snob has been doing these rankings. In the interest of making this list more useful to you, we do consider how recently a cigar was released (although, as our Cigar of the Year pick demonstrates, old standbys remain in the running). Second, limited-edition cigars are not eligible for inclusion on this list. Instead, we only consider regular-production cigars, which we define as being products that are in ongoing or regular annual production, even if in small quantities. Contrast this with the limited-editions we exclude, which are those cigars that are made in one round of manufacture and then aren’t slated to ship again. Again, we do this in the interest of making this list useful to you as a cigar smoker and shopper. We always look forward to feedback from readers. Tell us what you think of the list by emailing us feedback@cigarsnobmag.com; we’ll publish and respond to some of that feedback in the next issue of Cigar Snob.

N⁰ 1

PADRÓN 1964 ANNIVERSARY MADURO

WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua VITOLA: Exclusivo PHYSICAL SIZE: 5 1/2 x 50 MSRP: $ 12.30 RATING: 94

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Tabacos Cubanica in Nicaragua

That this is Padrón’s first time in the number-one spot on our Top 25 list will probably come as a surprise to many — although we know that Padrón’s club of superfans, the Bastards, are well aware; they wouldn’t let us forget that we’d never named a Padrón Cigar of the Year. That’s just the way the cookie had always crumbled. Between the emergence of other exciting, delicious cigars and the fact that our rubric gives a little extra weight to more recent releases, the time had just never come for this company — even though some Padróns are among our team’s all-time favorite cigars. This year, though, we were so consistently impressed by the 1964 Anniversary Maduro in this Exclusivo vitola that there was no denying Padrón’s time had come to top the rankings. It’s tough to beat the Exclusivo expression of this blend, which explains why the vitola is so popular.


N⁰ 2

ROCKY PATEL AGED, LIMITED & RARE - SECOND EDITION

WRAPPER: Ecuador BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua VITOLA: Toro PHYSICAL SIZE: 6 x 52 MSRP: $ 14.00 RATING: 93

N⁰ 3

LAS 6 PROVINCIAS MTZ

WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua VITOLA: Toro PHYSICAL SIZE: 6 x 52 MSRP: $ 16.50 RATING: 93

TAVICUSA in Nicaragua

Before we had a chance to try this cigar, Rocky Patel fans were telling us it was the best thing the company had ever made. That’s high praise for a cigar made by a company with so much longevity and such an extensive portfolio. At the very least, we thought, this cigar dressed the part. The name is a straightforward pitch for the cigar, but the band is loaded with the kind of opulence that has characterized the Rocky Patel brand identity for so long. On lighting the cigar, you’ll find that the smoking experience delivers big flavor, balance and elegance that’s only possible with excellent, aged tobaccos in expert hands. This is an excellent smoke that you’ll want to stock up on for your home humidor.

Tabacalera AJ Fernandez in Nicaragua

This is the second installment in Espinosa’s Las 6 Provincias series. The name translates to “The 6 Provinces” and each blend is named for one of Cuba’s six provinces — that is, according to the map of the island as it existed before the Castros’ Communist takeover redrew the lines. The previous release was LHB, which was an homage to the Havana province. While there are limited edition variants of each release, the limited component is actually the packaging. LHB came in a nifty swinging box. But the MTZ’s limited edition boxes are gorgeous, creative, one-of-a-kind works of art that draw from Cuba’s iconic architecture, with hand-painted stained glass designs sitting over window shutters that open to reveal the cigars. With this release, the team at Espinosa are flexing all their cigar making and creative muscles. The result is the highest-ranked cigar they’ve ever had on our Top 25 list.

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N⁰ 4

RAMON ALLONES BY AJ FERNANDEZ

WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua VITOLA: Toro PHYSICAL SIZE: 6 x 52 MSRP: $ 13.00 RATING: 93

N⁰ 5

General Cigar still owns the Ramon Allones trademark for the U.S. market, but this brand is both manufactured and distributed by A.J. Fernández, who has breathed new life into yet another old Cuban brand from his Estelí factory with a Nicaraguan puro. There was a time we were talking about “the year of AJ,” but here we are, years later, with AJ-made products still claiming more spots on this list than any other cigars. It’s not just us. A.J. Fernández’s maniacal attention to detail is helping him build a legend of consistency and smokers are still wild about the cigars. He’s a capable cigar maker with an obscene amount of his own tobacco and a reputation that’s leveraged by clients large and small. What’s more impressive is that the guy who’s lighting fires under some of the oldest names in cigars and packing his proverbial trophy case is barely into his 40s.

OLIVA SERIE V MADURO ESPECIAL

WRAPPER: Mexico BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua VITOLA: Double Robusto PHYSICAL SIZE: 5 x 54 MSRP: $ 9.40 RATING: 93

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Tabacalera AJ Fernandez in Nicaragua

Tabacalera Oliva in Nicaragua

This year marks the start of a new chapter for Oliva Cigars. Not because of a rebrand or new blends, but because of a major expansion and reimagining of the company’s manufacturing process. Under the leadership of J. Cortes’ Fred Vandermarliere and Oliva chairman José Oliva, TABOLISA (the factory that produces the bulk of Oliva’s cigars) has grown, become more efficient, and adopted technology that is groundbreaking in the old-school world of handmade cigars. It inspires a new kind of confidence in not only Oliva, but the future of cigar making. The Serie V Maduro Especial, whose Mexican wrapper brings an added sweetness to the classic V, began as an annual limited-edition cigar. Now it’s a regular production product that comes in four vitolas, each of which had been produced for one of the previous limited releases. With the evolution of its manufacturing, look for Oliva to lead the industry into new standards for consistency.


N⁰ 6

FUENTE FUENTE OPUSX 20 YEARS

WRAPPER: Dominican Republic BINDER: Dominican Republic FILLER: Dominican Republic

N⁰ 7

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Toro 6 x 52 $ 8.30 92

The H-2K-CT Toro took Cigar of the Year honors when it was first released in 2015. All these years later, we’re still enamored with this cigar, which sports a Habano 2000 wrapper grown in Connecticut, hence the name. It’s a beautifully executed cigar that can stand up to big pairings and still keep you coming back for more.

Tabacalera AJ Fernandez in Nicaragua

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Duma 5 x 50 $ 9.00 92

SIN COMPROMISO

WRAPPER: Mexico BINDER: Ecuador FILLER: Nicaragua

That an OpusX is going to be special is always a safe bet. The brand has special significance in Fuente’s history since it was the product that proved Carlito Fuente could make a Dominican puro (far less common at the time the brand debuted). It figures they’d make something impressive to celebrate two decades of OpusX.

My Father Cigars in Nicaragua

DON LINO AFRICA

WRAPPER: Ecuador BINDER: Cameroon FILLER: Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

N⁰ 9

Believe 5 3/4 x 52 $ 30.56 92

MY FATHER EL CENTURION H-2K-CT

WRAPPER: USA BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 8

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Tabacalera Arturo Fuente in Dominican Republic

Miami Cigar collaborated with AJ Fernandez to revive this brand, which – appropriately enough — features a binder from Cameroon. Nestor Miranda has always been fascinated by Africa, which made this project especially fun for him. Fun fact: these vitola names are all African words for animals. Duma is Swahili for “cheetah.”

Joya de Nicaragua in Nicaragua

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Seleccion Intrepido 5 2/3 x 46 $ 15.95 92

The Sin Compromiso No. 5 Parejo was our 2018 Cigar of the Year, and this No. 9 pick is evidence that the Sin Compromiso lineup is rock solid. Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust uses its own tobacco in these cigars, which are made by Joya de Nicaragua.

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N⁰ 10

HERRERA ESTELI NORTEÑO

WRAPPER: Mexico BINDER: Honduras FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 11

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Lonsdale 6 3/4 x 44 $ 9.25 92

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This cigar (in the 4 ¾ x 52 vitola named 1959) took the No. 1 spot on our list of the Top 25 Cigars of 2016. Its leather- and chocolate-forward profile has endured in one of our all-time favorite cigars manufactured by My Father. Naturally, the Lonsdale burns hotter and delivers more of that Mexican San Andrés flavor than the 1959.

Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co. in Honduras

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Toro 6 x 52 $ 12.00 92

DAVIDOFF ANIVERSARIO

WRAPPER: Ecuador BINDER: Dominican Republic FILLER: Dominican Republic

There aren’t many stories in the cigar business like Willy Herrera’s. When he became Drew Estate’s master blender, the company was already a staple with well-known calling card brands. He still managed to carve out a space for himself and build his reputation with his own style, of which Norteño is a fantastic expression.

My Father Cigars in Nicaragua

THE OSCAR MADURO

WRAPPER: Mexico BINDER: Honduras FILLER: Honduras & Nicaragua

N⁰ 13

Toro Especial 6 x 50 $ 8.75 92

LA MISSION DE L’ATELIER 1955

WRAPPER: Mexico BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 12

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

La Gran Fábrica Drew Estate in Nicaragua

Oscar Valladares is one of the most interesting and exciting cigar makers to follow. In a market where the conversation is almost always about Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, Oscar is among the few who are keeping Honduras not only relevant, but cool. With this cigar, he shows he can do maduros with the best of them.

TABADOM in Dominican Republic

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

No. 3 6 x 50 $ 25.40 92

The limited-edition Aniversario became a regular production Davidoff cigar in 1991. Today, it’s one of the most popular cigars in Davidoff’s core “white-label” lineup. And for good reason. It delivers all the refinement of a brand that’s come to be synonymous with luxury while delivering just a little more strength than most white labels.


N⁰ 14

ILLUSIONE ONEOFF

WRAPPER: Honduras BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 15

Robusto 4 7/8 x 50 $ 15.00 92

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Toro 6 x 50 $ 9.30 92

The core Antaño line is a powerhouse and one of the most iconic Joya cigars. When we heard they were doing an offshoot that sports an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, we were excited to try it. The cigar delivered. Great Connecticuts like this are hard to come by, and Antaño CT was the most pleasant cigar surprise of the year.

Plasencia Cigars in Nicaragua

Candente 5 x 50 $ 15.00 92

GUARDIAN OF THE FARM

WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

When it was first launched in the early 2000s, OneOff was owned by Italian tobacconist Andrea Molinari, who had the cigars made by Plasencia. When Illusione’s Dion Giolito purchased the brand in 2017 to have it made by TABSA, he hit an absolute home run.

Joya de Nicaragua in Nicaragua

PLASENCIA ALMA DEL FUEGO

WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 17

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

JOYA DE NICARAGUA ANTAÑO CT

WRAPPER: Ecuador BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 16

TABSA in Nicaragua

When we named Plasencia Alma Fuerte our 2017 Cigar of the Year, the company was just barely into this new chapter of making its own super premium smokes. We said then that they were here to stay, and Alma del Fuego (which translates to “Soul of the Fire”) shows we were onto something.

Aganorsa in Nicaragua

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Apollo 6 x 44 $ 8.20 92

Named for the real-life dogs who guard Aganorsa tobacco (kind of… we’ve met them and they look more interested in napping), this cigar is a collaboration between Aganorsa’s Max Fernández and Warped Cigars’ Kyle Gellis. At 44 ring gauge, the Nicaraguan puro is the thinnest cigar on this year’s list.

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N⁰ 18

AGING ROOM BIN NO. 2 NICARAGUA

WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 19

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Olas 6 1/8 x 46 $ 9.60 92

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After a trip to Hawaii, John Huber had an idea for a surf-inspired cigar brand; Las Mareas is Spanish for “the tides.” The smoking experience here is far more evocative of Cuba than Hawaii. Crowned Heads has a longstanding relationship with My Father, but this is their first cigar made exclusively with My Father-grown tobacco.

Tabacalera Palma in Dominican Republic

Chaveta 5 x 50 $ 7.20 92

SINDICATO MADURO

WRAPPER: Mexico BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

In the beginning, before it was acquired by Altadis USA, Aging Room’s portfolio consisted entirely of Dominican-made cigars like the Bin No. 1 that made our 2014 rankings. Bin No. 2, which is made at the Plasencias’ gorgeous Estelí factory using that family’s tobacco, is easily the most exciting cigar in the Aging Room lineup.

My Father Cigars in Nicaragua

LA GALERA 1936 BOX PRESSED

WRAPPER: Ecuador BINDER: Dominican Republic FILLER: Dominican Republic

N⁰ 21

C Major 5 3/4 x 54 $ 13.25 92

CROWNED HEADS LAS MAREAS

WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 20

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Plasencia Cigars in Nicaragua

A year ago, La Galera Maduro was ranked 23rd on this list. With the 1936 Box Pressed, Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma jumps up a few spots. The 5 x 50 Chaveta is named for the blade that cigar rollers use to cut tobacco leaves on their tables, which is in keeping with the cigar factory theme for La Galera vitola names.

Aganorsa in Nicaragua

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Toro 6 x 54 $ 12.00 92

Sindicato is owned by a large group of tobacconists who benefit from intimate knowledge of and relationships with the best cigar makers in the world. It’s no wonder that they turned to Aganorsa for this San Andrés-wrapped cigar, which was blended by the legendary master blender Arsenio Ramos before his death in 2018.


N⁰ 22

HIGHCLERE CASTLE VICTORIAN

WRAPPER: Ecuador BINDER: Brazil FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 23

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Hermoso 6 x 46 $ 10.46 92

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Most Nicaraguan cigars are from Estelí, but Mombacho’s picturesque factory is in one of Nicaragua’s tourism hubs, Granada. The colonial building might be the historic city’s most visited attraction; this beautifully executed cigar shows master blender Claudio Sgroi can make cigars as beautiful as the city they come from.

El Galán Cigars in Nicaragua

Super Toro 6 3/4 x 52 $ 10.00 92

DIESEL WHISKEY ROW SHERRY CASK

WRAPPER: USA/Connecticut BINDER: Brazil FILLER: Nicaragua

The manufacturing expertise of AJ Fernandez, the blending of Nicholas Melillo, and the historical heft of Highclere castle, one of the most significant Victorian mansions in England (and fictional titular home from Downton Abbey), make for a special cigar with a powerful blend that we wouldn’t have expected given the old-world castle connection.

Mombacho Cigars in Nicaragua

VEGAS DEL PURIAL GRAN RESERVA

WRAPPER: Ecuador BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 25

Robusto 5 x 50 $ 14.00 92

MOMBACHO LIGA MAESTRO

WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua

N⁰ 24

VITOLA: PHYSICAL SIZE: MSRP: RATING:

Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars in Nicaragua

The 7 x 38 Lancero took the No. 3 spot on last year’s list. This year, we were blown away by the Super Toro expression of Félix Mesa’s most decorated line, which was named as an homage to Félix’s grandparents on the farm on which they grew tobacco in Cuba. Few grandsons ever do this good a job of advancing the family legacy.

Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars in Nicaragua

Robusto 5 x 52 $ 8.49 92

It’s fitting that we round this list out with an AJ-made cigar. This follow-up to the original Whiskey Row is also the result of a partnership between General Cigar and Louisville-based Rabbit Hole Distilling. Pedro Ximénez Sherry casks are used to finish Rabbit Hole bourbon before they finish this cigar’s Arapiraca binder.

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Alejandro MartĂ­nez Cuenca Joya De Nicaragua

Dion Giolito Illusione Cigars

Carlos "Carlito" Fuente, Jr. Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.

Erik Espinosa Espinosa Cigars

Karl Malone Barrel-Aged by Karl Malone

cigarsnobmag.com/podcast

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Only regular production cigars are eligible for the annual Top 25 list, but we hate to make anybody feel left out, especially when they’re working to do something truly special. Of all the limited-edition cigars we smoked this year, these three were some of our favorites.

DAVIDOFF ROYAL RELEASE

COUNTRY: Dominican Republic

VITOLA: Robusto LENGTH: 5 1/2

WRAPPER: Dominican Republic

RING: 55

BINDER: Ecuador

PRICE: $ 80.00

FILLER: Dominican Republic FACTORY: TABADOM

PRODUCTION: 5,000 Total Cigars

We tried Royal Release blind. A member of the Davidoff team handed Erik Calviño and Nick Jiménez a couple of these, unbanded, and simply asked us to let him know what we thought. Almost immediately, we agreed that this might have been the best Davidoff product we’d ever had. The cigar’s not only limited, but also priced for exclusivity. At about $80 a pop, it’s the most expensive cigar that’s made its way into the ratings section in the history of this magazine.

LA AURORA 115th ANNIVERSARY LIMITED EDITION

COUNTRY: Dominican Republic

VITOLA: Gran Toro LENGTH: 6

WRAPPER: Ecuador

RING: 58

BINDER: Dominican Republic FILLER: Brazil & Dominican Republic FACTORY: La Aurora

PRICE: $ 19.00

PRODUCTION: 12,000 Total Cigars

La Aurora made two cigars to mark its 115th anniversary. One of them was a regular-production release. The other — which had a different blend altogether — was a limited-edition cigar that was packaged either in boxes or commemorative jars. We fell hard for this limited release while touring the La Aurora factory in the Dominican Republic. It’s also one of the most beautifully packaged La Aurora products we’ve ever seen. A great gift for any cigar lover.

H. UPMANN 175th ANNIVERSARY

COUNTRY: Nicaragua WRAPPER: Nicaragua BINDER: Nicaragua FILLER: Nicaragua FACTORY: AJ Fernandez

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VITOLA: Churchill LENGTH: 7 RING: 50 PRICE: $ 18.00 PRODUCTION: 150,000 Total Cigars

When we were introduced to this at the 2019 IPCPR trade show, Altadis’ Rafael Nodal told us it was the single best cigar he’d ever smoked. Even if he’s being an Altadis homer, that’s incredibly high praise. The blend is a collaboration between A.J. Fernández (who manufactures the cigar at his Estelí factory) and Altadis’ Grupo de Maestros. It commemorates the 175th birthday of the legendary Cuban-born H. Upmann brand.


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VALENTINE’S DAY IS AROUND THE CORNER. WE FOUND SOME GREAT GIFTS YOU CAN USE EVERYWHERE FROM YOUR MAN CAVE TO YOUR OFFICE. LEAVE THIS ISSUE OPEN TO THIS PAGE ON YOUR COFFEE TABLE AND HOPE SOMEONE CAN TAKE THE HINT.

GIFT GUIDE

BENCHMADE 1500-191 CIGAR CUTTER benchmade.com

$450 This cutter combines the novelty of totally uncommon design with the reliability and quality of one of the most respected names in knives. People who like blades know Benchmade. If there’s a daily application in which consistently clean cuts matter, isn’t it cigars? METAL ART OF WISCONSIN SPEAKEASY VAULT metalartofwisconsin.com

$220 There’s something inherently cool about hidden storage. So what’s cooler than a home bar? A hidden home bar! We’ve had one of these Speakeasy Vaults — with its steel American Flag — in the office for a while now and it’s caught the eye of every visitor passing through. For added security, there’s an optional RFID fingerprint scanner that can grant access to 20 of your most trustworthy friends.

CIGAR OASIS MAGNA 3.0 cigaroasis.com

$249 If you’re serious about maintaining a large cigar collection, you’ve got to get serious about humidification. The Cigar Oasis Magna 3.0 accurately controls humidity for humidors up to 60 cubic feet. Humidors that size are typically marketed commercially for storing up to 4000 cigars, but if you like to display your boxes (and you have the room in your home) it’s not so farfetched that you’d use this in your man cave. Our office’s cabinet humidor is equipped with a Cigar Oasis Magna 3.0, so we can vouch.

JBUDS AIR EXECUTIVE TRUE WIRELESS EARBUDS jlabaudio.com GRAF VON FABER-CASTELL ROLLERBALL PEN TAMITIO BLACK EDITION graf-von-faber-castell.com

$250 Faber-Castell is probably a familiar brand name to you; Graf von Faber-Castell is the name on this company’s higher-end writing instruments. This all-black rollerball version is more our style, but there are several color and tip variations available. The pen writes beautifully, is built to last, and has enough German heft that you don’t need to treat it too gingerly.

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$69 Admit it. There’s absolutely no good reason for you to have spent $150 to $250 on AirPods. For a fraction of the price, these get you better battery life, an adjustable fit, and a charging case with just as much stored power. Plus, the black earbuds just feel a little more adult appropriate — ”executive,” even — than those white ones.


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Oliva Cigar has undergone a transformation and adopted new technologies that might revolutionize the way premium cigars are made. BY

NICOLà S ANTONIO JIMÉNEZ


here’s something paradoxical about life in Estelí. At least it looks that way to me, an outsider, whenever I visit that Nicaraguan town that’s become one of the world’s cigar capitals. On the one hand, it’s a city that’s been characterized by relative economic boom. Yes, there’s still poverty in Estelí. But there’s been an undeniable growth in this small city over the last 10 to 15 years. Any casual observer who’s been more than once will tell you they’ve seen palpable transformation — from the energy that you feel on the street to the emergence of new service industry jobs, entrepreneurship, nightlife and hotels. Or, as we like to do half-jokingly at Cigar Snob, you can look to what we call the chicken restaurant economic index. Estelianos love their chicken — fried, roasted, grilled — and each time we’re in this place it seems that another half dozen chicken joints have popped up, whether big, polished brands like RostiPollos or small tin-roofed shacks that make you salivate 58 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

from across the street. Sorry about that chicken tangent, but it’s a thing. And I like chicken. Anyway, where’s the paradox? The paradox is that even as fast food, new cars, modern nightlife and consumer technology become more ubiquitous in an increasingly modern Estelí whose prosperity has more or less served as a force field shielding it from the political and economic volatility that are so common in other Nicaraguan towns, there’s no escaping the fact that all that is due to one of the most traditional, anti-modern exports imaginable: handmade cigars. Not only are they made in roughly the same way they were a century or more ago, but they’re also manufactured by businesses that have been slow to abandon analog anything. There’s stubbornness to the cigar industry. Maybe that even contributes to the romanticism around cigars. You can see it in the tools and the facilities. In the clinging to paper and pencil over apps and spreadsheets whenever possible. Commitment to old school methods might set

Aside from radical changes in operations, Oliva Cigars’ TABOLISA factory in Estelí got a major facelift. The upgrade amplified the building’s curb appeal with Spanish colonial accents. cigars apart from much of the rest of our lives, but within the cigar world, it’s the standard, the conventional wisdom. That’s what makes the transformation of Oliva Cigars so groundbreaking.

Oliva was acquired by Belgian cigar manufacturer J. Cortès in July 2016. At the time, there was concern — as there often is in cigar circles on news of this sort of acquisition — that the change would impact the quality of the cigars that so many had come to love. Carlos and Gilberto Oliva were stepping back from their respective roles with the company, and José Oliva, then the CEO, would be transitioning to a position as the chairman of Oliva’s board. Gilberto Oliva, Sr., the company founder and


family patriarch, was in the twilight (and, as we later learned, the last year) of his life. So what would it mean when a company known to American smokers for some of the best handmade cigars in the world was taken over by J. Cortès, which makes more than 500 million cigars a year for (primarily) the European market? It wasn’t long before we realized that this transition was a best-case scenario. For one thing, the relationship hadn’t sprung out of the blue. Back in 2013, J. Cortès was making machine-made cigarillos for Oliva — using Oliva tobacco — for distribution in Europe. They were called Oliva Viejo Mundo. So the two companies, and indeed the two families, had had ample time to feel each other out. The Olivas and the Vandermarlieres were a natural fit for one another; both are proud of their cigar heritage, concerned with legacy, committed to quality, and — in the parlance of Cubans — buena gente.

We took our second full day in town to check out all that Oliva had been up to. And holy smokes, had they been busy.

The factory’s new facade is, indeed, impressive. What was once a spartan, bland building has been given a Spanish colonial makeover that put a bright, fresh face on the end of what had

The tour of the factory began, as would any tour of a home, at the front door. What had once been a crowded office space just feet from the primary rolling floor is now a proper reception area leading to a break room, conference rooms and offices — all of which were being worked on mere hours before, so there wasn’t any furniture in there yet. Erik and I both felt a little underwhelmed; the tour hadn’t quite started with fireworks. But the first big, pleasant surprise was just around the corner.

The cigars didn’t change much under new ownership. Oliva fans breathed a sigh of relief. In isolation, the fact that the cigars hadn’t changed much was just reassuring. A sign that Fred Vandermarliere and the J. Cortès team were committed to preserving all that smokers loved about Oliva and acting as stewards of the family’s legacy. But that fact didn’t exist in isolation. More than being reassuring, the preservation of Oliva quality has been a genuine feat in light of the fact that it was achieved even during the process of a top-to-bottom transformation of the manufacturing processes behind the cigars. Cigar Snob publisher Erik Calviño and I were in Estelí in December for the grand opening (or… re-opening?) of TABOLISA, the factory that produces most of Oliva’s premium cigars. We had lunch with another Estelí cigar maker and let him know what had taken us to Nicaragua. “Oh, they did some incredible work,” said the brand owner I’m not naming because, well, you never know in the cigar business. “I haven’t been in there, but even the new facade of the building… it’s nice to see. I’m happy for them.” We heard similar things from the handful of cigar industry people we caught up with over the course of our trip.

last two years,” said J. Cortès CEO Fred Vandermarliere during an interview on a balcony at the Oliva residence in Estelí. “You know, after we acquired [Oliva Cigar and the factory], I was very proud. But while refurbishing a whole factory, it’s like living in your own house while you’re refurbishing your own house. You can imagine [what it’s like] when you have to start cooking in your bathroom, you know? Maybe you don’t cook the same way or with the same quality as you cook in your own kitchen. But here we could [keep up quality]; and we did it very slowly over a two-year period. We wanted to respect the quality of the product and we did not want anybody to have a feeling like, ‘Something is going on there.’”

Not only is TABOLISA’s Oliva lounge one of the most beautiful we’ve ever visited, but it’s also got a clear view of the rollling floor that produces Oliva cigars. [photo courtesy of Oliva Cigar] been a long, nerve wracking process for much of the Oliva team. Things came down to the wire, with much of the construction, wiring and other aspects of the renovation being completed the very day of the grand opening ceremony and the first tours of the factory. In a way, it was a fitting way to cap off the two years leading to this day. “The quality [of cigars] was consistent in the

Our jaws all but dropped to the ground when we were ushered into the factory’s VIP lounge. You read that right. Not many cigar manufacturing facilities have this sort of thing, although some do. For instance, ABAM (the Dominican factory that makes Villiger products like La Flor de Ynclan) and La Aurora both have nice lounges, and they both feature floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking production from above. But two things are special about Oliva’s lounge. First, it’s rich. Deep, dark wood and leather and a bar and the kind of lighting and ambience you might expect from your city’s swankiest cigar lounge (if your city has anything like this at all). Second, this lounge is on the ground level. While that might not seem noteworthy, it makes all the difference in this case, because it’s adjacent to TABOLISA’s sprawling new rolling floor. Unlike some other factory lounges, this one doesn’t require that you walk up to windows or peek over at TV screens to see the action. Here, you feel like you’re right in it. “We wanted to remember the Havana of the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s, with a big bar, dark woods,” said Oliva COO Fidel Valdés Rodríguez. “We want visitors to come into the factory and be part of JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

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the process. That’s the idea. When you are sitting there, you are in the production. We are not hiding you from the process. We are not hiding you from our employees. You are there, seeing how they do it. When [smokers] have that experience, the next time they enter a retail store, the first image that comes to them will be the factory where they sat and had a cold beer or whiskey with employees working, rolling the cigars.” There are plans to offer tours in the future, so you will have your opportunity to experience this lounge for yourself. That said, there are plenty of great cigar lounges in the world — many of them with bars and leather chairs. What’s really special about this one is the view. And that, in a way, is available for you to experience right now. Before the overhaul of TABOLISA, cigar manufacture happened in several spaces. Today, there is one sprawling rolling floor. The lighting is bright and the floors are shiny — eat-off-them shiny. Unusual for a cigar factory, to be sure. As you walk through the rest of the facility, you’re struck by just how clean everything is. And by how thoughtfully the process has been laid out. That thoughtfulness is possible because the whole thing was reimagined from soup to nuts. And the contrast is so stark because, in the past, Oliva had been forced to grow its facilities piecemeal, as its business grew. “We made the new building more future-proof,” said Fred. “It was a beautiful factory, but clearly a factory that grew step by step.” As I mentioned earlier in this piece, cigar manufacture at TABOLISA used to happen in multiple areas. Similarly, there were areas for tobacco storage scattered about, and they couldn’t always be next to each other. The same was true of other parts of the tobacco processing and cigar making process. Because growth was dealt with and adjusted for bit by bit, this was the first time in a long time that the maps had been redrawn — not only to account for the current status of the company, but in anticipation of future growth.

Fidel was born in Cuba, where he studied to be a telecommunications and electronics engineer. He was managing related systems for 18 airports in Cuba, with 250 technicians under him, when he left Cuba in 1996. Scratch that. When he escaped Cuba in 1996. “Moving is when you get a visa and you can go. I escaped,” Fidel said. “Economically, I was living fine in Cuba. All my motivation was political. I wanted a different life. I didn’t want that future for my daughter.”

But that's the kind of failure it takes to find real, groundbreaking successes. And where Fidel did find technological solutions, he hit home runs. Heading first to Venezuela, it wasn’t until 1999 that Fidel arrived in the United States. He started his first job in the U.S. on his second day. At the airport in Albany. That is, the McDonald’s at the airport in Albany. Familiar stomping grounds. Not quite a familiar gig. “I said that one day without work is one dollar that I don’t have in my pocket,” he said. It wasn’t long, though, before Fidel found himself a new programming job at a cable company, and then later as a technician at SEPSA, a company that manufactures equipment for railroad transportation. By his second year at SEPSA, he was the director of engineering, and then later he was put in charge of all North American operations. All this while getting himself an MBA.

“When you’re looking from the outside, it became an illogical flow, you know?” added Fred. “When you really want to make good cigars, it’s very difficult to do that when the flow is not perfect.”

All of which is to say that Fidel is insanely capable and that Oliva just about hit the jackpot when they somehow learned that he’d moved to Miami after SEPSA was sold.

Through this transformation, Fidel was the tip of the spear — and there are very, very few people in the cigar industry who would have been capable of leading this effort and executing it the way he did, not only when it came to designing new systems, but also when it came to finding opportunities to bring new technologies into the production process.

“I don’t know how they found my résumé because I really was not looking for any position at that moment,” Fidel said. Still, he had an interview, then a meeting with José Oliva, and Fidel “fell in love with all the problems they had.”

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At first, Fred was a little skeptical. He wondered whether it was the right move to bring someone

in who’d never worked in cigars. What’s more, Fidel wasn’t even a cigar smoker at the time. “José was right, you know? He said the part of the passion, the part of the tobacco, the part of the blends, the part of the cigars ... That was okay. The cigars had a proven track record. But there were some things that we could make sure that we could deliver because one of the biggest hiccups when we acquired Oliva was indeed the delivery of the products. And I think in that sense, Fidel was a very smart choice. Fidel is a very smart guy and smart guys are very often also quite stubborn, so if Fidel says, ‘it’s this way,’ to get him off that you really have to come with very convincing points, evidence.” Fidel came into the job a little cocky, by his own admission. “It was a big change, but I said, ‘I can do this so easily.’ [A project] in the transportation system could have 25,000 or 55,000 components. The [cigar] has five, six, seven? Then you have the box, the rings, so it could be like 11, 12, components. You know? Piece of cake!” he said, before adding the much simpler reality he ran up against. “No.” Fidel learned the hard way that there were parts of this cigar thing that robots and technology just weren’t equipped to tackle. For instance, if you’ve ever toured a cigar factory you know that an important part of the process is color sorting, especially for wrapper leaf. Any factory will have at least one room in which workers — usually women, because they tend to be able to see color better — examine leaves, rapidly sorting them into piles of like colors. Fidel’s idea was to accomplish this with high-quality cameras for automated optical sorting. This sort of thing is common in wine, for example. Take a picture of any cigar and zoom way in; you’ll see that even a square millimeter of the leaf contains variation in color and texture. So when Fidel built a robot using “the best camera in the world” for this sort of thing and “failed day and night,” he realized what he was up against. The process is far more complicated than the number of components would suggest. But that’s the kind of failure it takes to find real, groundbreaking successes. And where Fidel did find technological solutions, he hit home runs. Take, for example, the process of monitoring pilones of fermenting tobacco. In an operation like Oliva’s — which is by no means the largest in Estelí, let alone the world — you’re talking about 500 pilones of fermenting tobacco at any given time. The pilones are literally just piles of tobacco in which the weight of the pile generates heat that spurs fermentation. Standard practice is for


TRUE STORY.

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each of those pilones to have a long thermometer somewhere near the midway point of the pilón, with an analog dial just outside the pilón so you can read the temperature. A worker — maybe more than one — goes from pilón to pilón reading the thermometer and making note of its internal temperature on a nearby clipboard. Mime that process. Or just imagine it in your head. You walk up to a pilón. You take a look at the thermometer, perhaps moving some tobacco out of the way — gingerly so you don’t damage it — then you walk another 5 feet or so to the clipboard, where you note the temperature. Repeat that process 500 times. As we approached the pilones of fermenting tobacco at TABOLISA, Fidel and Fred, who led a tour together, made sure everyone had gathered around before the big reveal of Oliva’s diminutive innovation. Fidel explained the typical method of monitoring temperatures and Fred explained the pitfalls. There’s no guarantee that you’ll check the temperature at exactly the right time. The reason you’re monitoring temperatures is that when your pilón hits a certain threshold, you’re supposed to start the process of “turning” the pilón. That is, a small group of workers will move the tobacco into a new pile, rearranging the leaves so that a new set of leaves is in the hottest part of the pile. Turn it too soon, and you’ll have stopped short of the intended flavor and color. Turn it too late, and you’ll have overheated and damaged the to-

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Oliva’s cigar production used to happen on multiple rolling floors scattered about the factory. The new floorplan calls for one large, brightly lit gallery. Oh... and maybe the cleanest floors in cigar factory history. bacco. In either case, you’ll have ruined priceless tobacco, or at least you won’t have gotten all the value you could from it. Fidel reached into the pilón and pulled out a small plastic device, about the size of a pen. The device is attached by a cable to a square piece attached to the wood panel that separates this particular pilón from the next. “That’s a revolution in the tobacco industry,” said Fred, with more enthusiasm and pride than almost anything else he’d pointed out on the tour. The pen-sized device is a Wi-Fi connected thermometer and hygrometer. Every one of Oliva’s pilones is connected wirelessly to a system that allows monitoring of all these temperatures from one computer. When any pilón reaches its threshold temperature, the system automatically sends a message to a manager’s phone alerting them to the need to reshuffle the tobacco and start the fermentation process again. The system worked almost too well; Fidel hadn’t anticipated that the technology wouldn’t care how soundly managers were sleeping and they all got notifications at 2 a.m. at first. Maybe it sounds simple. But this is a big deal. Ev-

ery bit the “revolution” that Fred says it is. What’s more, the technology is brand spanking new, developed by Oliva and Swift Sensors, a U.S.based company. We never got the particulars of the deal, but Fred and Fidel noted that Oliva will be getting a cut of anything Swift Sensors makes selling this new technology for tobacco monitoring to other factories. There’s also the new system for regulating humidity in fermentation and other stages of tobacco processing. “We also implemented a new humidification system,” said Fidel. “It’s one of the systems that produces the best humidity output with 5 microns of water, which means it avoids any type of dripping, avoiding the damage of the leaf.” While it might sound less cool than a WiFi-connected pile of tobacco (Erik took to calling them “SmartPilones”), this too is a big deal. Moisture is a necessary ingredient in the fermentation process, as well as aging and just about any stage at which humidity matters. When you’re managing the humidity levels for 500 pilones of fermenting tobacco, it can be hard to do so in a graceful, precise way. You want humidity, but let a drop or two of water fall on your tobacco, and you might just blemish it, making it unusable as wrapper on a premium (and especially super premium) product. If the water released by the system keeps water to 5 microns, that ceases to be a concern.


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ACID KRUSH CLASSICS, AMBROSIA CLOVE TIKIS, DEADWOOD SWEET JANE, ISLA DEL SOL, KENTUCKY FIRE CURED, LA VIEJA HABANA, LARUTAN DIRTIES, LIGA PRIVADA CORONETS, TABAK ESPECIAL CAFECITAS, UNDERCROWN CORONETS.

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For reference, 5 microns is about the size of a single red blood cell. So… pretty small. In addition, the water at the Oliva factory is filtered five times before it ever comes in contact with tobacco. They’re all measures that add precision, predictability and efficiency to the existing process rather than creating a brand new one. Not all the change has been in those aspects of the operation that touch tobacco directly. Employee satisfaction, sustainability and social responsibility were also a major focus of the transformation at Oliva. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that, despite all this new tech, we’re still talking about a factory in a place where life outside the workplace can be rough. So Oliva has paid special attention to how their employees’ lives are made better by having jobs at this company. For one thing, the building is now one that Oliva workers feel like boasting about. For another, the facility has several outdoor picnic areas you might see and confuse for small courtyards in an apartment complex. And, most importantly, Oliva has gone all in on supporting a primary school called Escuela Oliva, which offers an exceptional education to the young children of Oliva employees among its nearly 2000 total pupils. “We have to make the same transformation at that school as we did for the Oliva factory because we believe that if we want to make a big change in the community, it has to start with education,” Fidel said. “We don’t just want to say it. We want to really practice it.” Oliva is also working on becoming energy independent, relying as little as possible on the local utility. For now, they’re at a place where the company is able to run without interruption in the event of a power outage, which isn’t infrequent in places like Estelí. The company’s roadmap, though, calls for an extensive installation of solar panels and other measures.

There’s a lot more that’s changed about the way Oliva makes and sells cigars, but there’s not enough room to get into all the minutiae here. Especially if we’re going to get into how cool it was to visit Oliva’s brand new box factory. “The Olivas had a box factory almost from the beginning. They started [making boxes] very, very, very soon when they were still quite small,” said Fred. “I think that’s the most entrepreneurial part of the whole equation. I have to say, I don’t know if I’d really start from zero immediately making my own boxes, but they did. And now at the end of the day, of course I can be very happy and proud that we have [the factory]. When I arrived, the box factory was clearly also something that

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started from scratch. Almost in a hut.” The Olivas’ hut-like box factory was slated for an upgrade before J. Cortès acquired the company, but the Vandermarlieres kept the Oliva plans and built out a box operation that is absolutely stateof-the-art. We had a chance to tour that factory in the early evening and I can’t imagine a factory for wooden boxes feeling any more modern. In fact, this facility and the cigar factory are both up to American and European standards of safety in manufacturing. You’re just more conscious of it at the box factory because it’s a process that involves more noise, sharp tools and safety goggles. It feels like a lot could go wrong — and I imagine that in more hut-like conditions, which are not uncommon in Nicaraguan cigar box factories, it often does go wrong. But this factory would be right at home in any American town, and it’s producing first-rate products, from the Serie V Melanio boxes with the false bottoms for Boveda packs to some slick new Nub humidors. “I don’t think it’s necessary to make your own box to make a good cigar. But across the board, everything will be of the highest possible quality, with respect for the people,” said Fred, adding that it was just as important in the box factory — particularly in areas that involve paint — to ensure that air circulation systems kept workers breathing safely. While you don’t need a box factory to make a great cigar, a box factory can help ensure you deliver a great cigar on time. Boxes are sometimes the bottleneck that leads to backorder problems. And backorders had, for a considerable amount of time, been an issue for Oliva. “When the processes started,” said Fidel, referring to the broad process of overhauling Oliva’s operations that began in 2017, “we had a huge backorder of almost 4 million cigars. By March two years after, which was the plan, we had zero backorder in the system, meaning we are making our commitments with retailers, with the end consumer, with distributors, that every purchase order they place with Oliva they are receiving according to the agreement.”

So much of the Oliva factory is new, cool and exciting. There’s a small section of it, though — really just a few square feet — that punches way above its weight on emotional impact. The Founder’s Corner came together at the very last minute. Not because it was an afterthought, but because people had deliberated on how to handle the tribute to the Oliva and J. Cortès’ founders — especially Gilberto Oliva, Sr. — for so long, coming up short of any concept that felt right.

If you’re working on the rolling floor, you’re facing its direction in your seat. Nothing fancy or ornate. Just some pictures on the wall. Even that, Gilberto, Sr. might have balked at. He was, by all accounts, about the work. He didn’t want the pomp and circumstance and the idea of cigar celebrity didn’t interest him. How do you memorialize a guy who you’re certain would have preferred to fly under the radar, just getting things done? “When you entered the front door [of the Oliva factory before the remodel], you’d walk through the second door, and then in the very small room you had a desk and a chair,” said Fred. Those were Gilberto, Sr.’s. “You had Gilberto sitting there and chewing on his cigar and talking about tobacco. When we acquired the company in the beginning, he was the best quality control that I could have. When [the transition after the acquisition] had not gone in a way he loved, I’m sure he would never have sat there. The fact that he stayed there was confirmation for me. I always said, ‘Nothing will change.’ I wanted that image of him sitting there, that desk, somewhere in the factory.” In the last few hours before the first tour of the newly transformed factory, the Oliva team made a call. “I think it was an emotional moment for everybody,” said Fidel. “We want him present. But we don’t want to be overly elaborate from the point of view of design. Also, we didn’t want to put anything like ‘In remembrance of Gilberto.’ We also didn’t want the look of a saint or something. We wanted something that said he’s there, his presence is there. At least in the day to day stress when you pass there you remember him. And it’s something employees want to have there.” Sitting right in front of the wall of photos depicting the Olivas and the Vandermarlieres are a simple desk and office chair — the ones Gilberto Sr. used in his office. Maybe the notoriously austere cigar maker would have rolled his eyes at the idea of WiFi-connected pilones and 5-micron humidification. Maybe he would have preferred to do things that old school way rather than bring tablets and tech into the mix. Oliva is in new hands, and they’re giving it a new form that just might transform the premium cigar industry beyond most people’s imaginations. But through it all, Gilberto’s legacy will continue to imbue that revolutionary approach to cigar making with the soul and tradition that made the cigars famous to begin with. Subscribe to the Cigar Snob Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. There, you’ll find the full versions of our interviews with Fred Vandermarliere and Fidel Valdés Rodríguez.


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WITH

NESTOR ANDRÉS

PLASENCIA

We met Nestor Andrés Plasencia at his factory cigar lounge in Estelí Nicaragua for a conversation about his hometown, tobacco trends, and why cigars are deeper than business for the Plasencia family. INTERVIEW BY ERIK CALVIÑO AND NICOLÁS A. JIMÉNEZ

and the people, if we show the respect that we have for the place, people will feel respect for the work that they’re doing.” And that was a lesson that I learned at a very early age from my dad.

NJ: The mentions of your dad are a good segue. Give us the abridged version of who your family is and your history in tobacco. NP: My pleasure. I always approach these [interviews] as a chance to tell the beautiful story of the Plasencia family. It’s a love story about the family and tobacco [that spans] 154 years. My great grandfather’s uncle went from the Canary Islands to Cuba in 1865 and started growing tobacco that year. Then my great grandfather went from the Canary Islands and started working with his uncle, then he bought a farm. He made the farm a little bigger, then my grandfather came, worked with his dad and his brothers. In 1965, my dad came [to Nicaragua] and started working the farms and fields. So a hundred years after the family arrived in Cuba, my father came to Nicaragua because of the Cuban revolution. We’re very blessed to be born in this beautiful family and this beautiful industry. We grow tobacco for many people in the industry and we make cigars for many people in the industry. We’re blessed that the people trust their brands to us and we want to do the best job. And also we’re working with the Plasencia line. We started doing it most heavily about three years ago when we launched the Plasencia Alma Fuerte.

NJ: Cigar smokers may have seen that difference — where, almost overnight there was this new player that was not new. “Plasencia” was a name that was very familiar to some, but often only vaguely. What spurred the decision to change gears like that for the family and the company? NP: I have no words to express the passion that we have for this beautiful industry. Seeing my dad and what he’s accomplished. My grandfather, all the hard work that they did. We’ve grown tobacco for 154 years. Listen to this: without skipping any crop. Despite revolutions, blue mold, we never missed a crop. So that’s the passion that we have for this beautiful industry. And I say we have to tell this story. Not because of an ego thing, but because of the resilience that my family has, especially my dad and my grandfather. They moved all their family, with nothing in their pockets, to start all over again in a different country. Man, that’s amazing. I don’t have that experience. I said, “What’s the challenge that we have?” As the fifth generation in this industry, the challenge that we have is to tell the story of these amazing people and what they have achieved despite any circumstances. When you have a goal in mind, no matter what you’re going to accomplish it. So that was one of the main reasons. The other reason is we were and we are vertically integrated. We grow the tobacco, we ferment the tobacco, we select the tobacco, we age the tobacco, we make the cigars. But we’re missing the most important part, which is the connection with the final consumer. Why do we do all this stuff? I truly believe that we make people’s lives better with cigars. So imagine that you can say that with your name on a product. That’s an amazing blessing.

NJ: What was the itch like before you launched these brands? Was there this feeling of anxiousness? You’re doing all this work and then other people’s names end up on all the products. NP: That’s fine because it’s a wonderful relationship we have with all these guys. But

NJ: What should we call this room we’re in? NP: The Plasencia lounge within the Plasencia cigar factory, which is the most beautiful cigar factory in the world.

EC: It’s a small factory, but it feels like you’re walking into someone’s home and it’s got a courtyard in the middle like an old Spanish home. I’ve always been a fan of this fábrica. NP: And the thing is that we want our people to feel comfortable. They have great working conditions. I think they can express it in their part of the product that they’re making.

EC: When I [first came] here, I remember that one of the things that jumped out at me was how clean everything was because making cigars is not a clean process. NP: We learned that from my dad. He said, “We have to show respect for our work

66 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

you know, it’s not the same. In 2019, I went to the UK, France, Switzerland, Germany. And I went to cigar shops and I saw this cigar that we make. I was a witness to the tobacco being in the fields. It’s easy to say, but if you start thinking about it... I’m a farmer, man. I spend a lot of time here in the factories. So I witness this tobacco being planted, being harvested. I was a witness to the tobacco in the fermentation process. In the aging process. I was a witness when the cigar was being made. And then I go to all these places in the United States, New York, Atlanta, Florida, Texas, and I see that. What a sense of...

NJ: It’s like you finally invited yourself to your own party. NP: That’s a good way to say it. It’s a great feeling. We just had a holiday in Mexico with all the family. My father, my mother and my brothers, their partners and everybody. We went to Guadalajara and stopped by a cigar shop and the guys there were so happy. They had Plasencia cigars in their lounge. One guy told me, “When my kid was baptized, we celebrated with Plasencia Alma Fuerte.” Imagine that. People are celebrating their most important moments with a product that you’re


making. It gives me goosebumps, man.

moving up the ranks at Plasencia?

NJ: Speaking of Alma Fuerte, that’s what the two of you are smoking right now. It was our 2017 Cigar of the Year.

NP: It depends on the person. There’s never a timeline where you say you have to do this for many, many years. It depends on you and your willingness to work. For example, our quality control manager here has been with us 22 years in this factory and he started making cigars. The girl in charge of logistics has been with us for 15 years and she started packaging cigars. When I see those success stories, that’s…

NP: We’re so blessed and so grateful to you guys for that ranking. That put us on the map since day one. That was the same year that we launched the product on the market and we came with the number one cigar. EC: You still smoke the cigar right now and it’s like, “Damn, this is good.” NP: It’s an amazing feeling because we were preparing for this moment. The family talked and said, “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right. We’re gonna do it to the best of our abilities.”

EC: And you came out with a cigar that was expensive right out of the gate… To come out of the gate with a $22 cigar. I remember people saying, “I think these guys are nuts with that price point. Who the hell is going to buy a $22 cigar if you’ve never heard of it?” But all you had to do was smoke it. And it was a home run from the second it hit the shelf. A well-deserved number one. Hands down. There was no question about it. NJ: You wanted to talk about all the people who make the cigars possible. In this case, it’s a lot of people because of how much growing Plasencia does. Talk a bit about that work and the people who do it. NP: It’s a lot of work. We toured some farms in Honduras this morning and I said, “The tobacco seed is so tiny that in one gram of weight, you have 10,000 seeds. Imagine that. That energy that this little seed has in 50 days is going to be the size of a small bottle of water. But then you transplant that plant into the final field and in another 55 days it’s gonna be ready for harvest.” It’s so amazing seeing the plant growing. And then all the little details that you have to see to, the amount of fertilization that you have to add to that plant. You have to know the soil. My father said, “Tobacco talks to you. You just need to learn tobacco language. Knowing when that leaf is going to be ready to be harvested. Knowing how much time that tobacco has to be in the curing barn in order to change from green to yellow to brownish, and then you have to take that leaf to the fermentation process. There are so many steps, but if you have motivated, passionate people ... That’s why I always give credit to the people because we can’t do this by ourselves.

EC: It’s an army of people. NP: In the growing season, we’re almost 9,000 people total between Honduras and Nicaragua. We grow 3,100 acres of tobacco. Our last crop was 5.5 million pounds of tobacco. But in order to do it right, you have to have the right people in place. The managers, the people in the fields, the people in the factories. I’m a big Tony Robbins follower. I went to a business seminar he has. He said you have to see what your X factor is in your business. What is your differentiator? I was thinking about it and I said, “Our biggest differentiator is our people. We invest in our people.” We hired Tony Robbins coaches for our guys over here so they know how to run logistics, customer service. You can be innovative, not just in product. You can be innovative in every aspect of your business. If you have a good product, if you sell a good product, the customer’s going to have a great experience and they’re going to keep buying it. The retail shop’s going to have better margins. We’re going to have better margins. A business where everybody wins is a business that will be sustainable for many, many years. And that’s why we have been in the industry for 154 years.

NJ: People might be struck by the acreage you described a moment ago. And then the fact that early in this discussion, Erik mentioned this is a small factory. So there’s this sort of duality there. Talk a bit about what that factory side of your operation looks like. NP: We have four factories, two factories in Honduras and two factories in Nicaragua. In this factory specifically, we make all the most premium lines. We are talking about some Alec Bradley products, Nat Sherman products, Montecristos, Romeos, Buenaventuras, Crux. And all the Plasencia lines except Cosecha 146, which is made in one of our Honduran factories. So we separate the factories depending on the product that we’re making.

NJ: What’s it look like for somebody who’s getting in at the ground level and then

EC: You know, earlier you said we’re not changing people’s lives, but rather making them better, but you are also changing people’s lives. NP: Oh yeah. For people over here we’re changing people’s lives. Something I’m very proud of is the daycare centers that we have for the children of the workers. This year, we’re going to have 300 kids in daycare centers where we supply Montessori style education. So it’s a first-world quality education in a third-world country. The only way that the people can succeed is through education. So we supply that. It’s a beautiful thing. So everything that we do has a bigger meaning for our people.

NJ: We talked before we started the interview about all the changes that Estelí has been through. Talk a bit about that from your perspective. NP: I was born here in Estelí. I think I’m the only guy from Estelí who is in the cigar industry as a brand owner. For me it’s an amazing sense of happiness when I see the development of my own city. When I see the roads are better, when I see better opportunities for the people that were born in the city, it’s great. I think it’s the best time in history for cigar lovers right now. The quality of the cigars that every manufacturer is making is amazing. That brings wealth, that brings growth, that brings better conditions to the people. People are able to send their kids to school and everything. For me it’s this great sense of happiness when I see that, especially in my own town. EC: It’s been two years since I’ve been here in Esteli, which is the longest stretch that I have ever gone without coming to Estelí. I’ve seen it grow, but I typically will come multiple times a year and so I see the growth in slow, small increments. But in this span of two years, which has not been an easy time for Nicaragua… when we arrived I kept seeing signs and I was like, “Okay, that’s new. That’s new. That wasn’t here last time, that wasn’t here last time.” NP: I’m seeing it every day. It’s striking. And there’s more investment. We just bought another farm in Jalapa. And it’s safe here. My family’s here, my kids are here. If you saw that people were fleeing the country and stuff like that, then you’d have to be worried. But it’s the opposite. I brought my team from the United States. If it were dangerous, I wouldn’t do it.

NJ: We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about your cigar portfolio. We mentioned that the two of you are smoking Alma Fuerte. I’m smoking Alma Del Fuego, which is newer ... NP: That was the line that we launched [in 2019]. It’s another hundred-percent Nicaraguan cigar and we are very happy with the reception as well. We also have Plasencia Alma del Campo that we launched two years ago. All the cigars that have the Plasencia brand are 100 percent tobacco we grow ourselves. We want to control everything in all the cigars that have the Plasencia band on them. So we have those, we have the Plasencia Reserva Original as well, which is the only organic cigar in the world. That’s my baby. When I came out of university, I learned how to grow some vegetables organically. So I started experimenting with organic growing. Your biggest asset besides your people is the field. So more organic material and more good things for the soil means better tobacco. And then we have the Plasencia Cosecha 146 that is a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobacco that we grow. That cigar is made in Honduras.

NJ: Thanks for having us! Anything you’d like to add here? NP: I just want to thank you guys and thank your readers for enjoying this beautiful industry. Bring in friends, family members and expose them to this beautiful experience. You are not gonna regret it. You’re gonna make people’s lives better.

Listen to the full interview with Nestor Andrés Plasencia on the Cigar Snob Podcast (available at cigarsnobmag.com/podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts).

JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

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78 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020


48 cigars JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

79


LANCERO Herrera Esteli Habano Edicion Limitada

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

$ 12.46 Lancero 7 38 Ecuador Honduras Nicaragua

Vegas del Purial Gran Reserva

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Lancero 7 38 Ecuador Nicaragua Nicaragua

N I CA R AG UA An impeccably constructed lancero with a smooth, flavorful profile of cedar, soft spice, and subtle earth balanced by caramel, roasted nuts, and a hint of pepper on the finish. Produces an excellent output of medium bodied smoke.

$ 1 7.00 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Flama 6 1/2 38 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

My Father La Promesa

N I CA R AG UA Covered with a dark brown wrapper with a reddish hue produced in a pressed format and finished with a covered foot. Ultra-flavorful with a profile of earth, pepper, and strong espresso complemented by notes of dark chocolate and toasted almonds.

$ 10.00

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Lancero 7 1/2 38 Ecuador Nicaragua Nicaragua

Espinosa Laranja Reserva

90

N I CA R AG UA Delivers a core of earth and pepper accompanied by more subtle notes of cocoa, leather, and baking spices along a flawless draw and burn. This medium to full strength blend is consistently well made and finished with an oily, reddish brown wrapper.

$ 10.00 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Lancero 7 1/2 38 Brazil Nicaragua Nicaragua

The Wise Man Maduro

N I CA R AG UA Creamy and smooth with a profile of cedar, cashews, and soft pepper balanced by notes of bitter coffee and soft spice. This well-constructed lancero has a classic look and is covered with a clean, light brown wrapper. Medium bodied.

$ 11.45

90 80 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

A highly aromatic and balanced blend with a core of deep pepper, cedar, subtle earth, and toasted almond complemented by a touch of butterscotch and cinnamon. Produces an excellent smoke output along a perfect draw and burn.

$ 9.80

Plasencia Alma del Fuego

91

N I CA R AG UA

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Lancero 7 1/2 40 Mexico Nicaragua Nicaragua

N I CA R AG UA Loaded with flavors of cocoa, wood, earth, and bitter coffee accompanied by a strong black pepper note. This medium strength blend is consistently well constructed providing an easy draw while producing an excellent smoke output.


JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

81


GRAN TORO Davidoff Nicaragua

$ 18.90

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 60 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Fuente Magnum R

An impeccably balanced and complex blend covered with a clean, medium brown wrapper with a slightly reddish hue. This medium-plus strength gran toro delivers a core of cedar, nuts, earth and deep pepper complemented by a long, creamy finish.

$ 12.35

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Super Sixty 6 60 Ecuador Dominican Republic Dominican Republic

AVO Syncro Nicaragua Fogata

91

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C Creamy and smooth with tons of cedar, cinnamon, and cashews balanced by leather and a touch of soft spice. Consistently draws perfectly and delivers an excellent output of aromatic, medium strength smoke.

$ 11.90 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Special Toro 6 60 Ecuador Mexico Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

San Lotano Dominicano

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C A flavorful, well-balanced blend with a core of cedar, nuts, cinnamon, and tanned leather complemented by a soft spice. This medium bodied smoke is consistently well made and covered with a clean, reddish brown wrapper.

$ 10.00

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Gordo 6 1/4 60 Brazil Dominican Republic Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Balmoral Serie Signaturas Dueto

90

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C Flavors of earth and pepper at the onset are complemented by notes of oak, molasses, and bittersweet cocoa on this thick gran toro. Produces an excellent output of thick, creamy smoke with a rich aroma.

$ 12.65 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Gordo 6 60 Nicaragua Nicaragua Brazil & Nicaragua

Punch Rare Corojo

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C Loaded with flavors of earth, red pepper flakes, and wood accompanied by hazelnut and a touch of cocoa. This thick, well-constructed gran toro provides an easy draw and plenty of medium bodied smoke.

$ 8.2 9

89 82 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

El Doble 6 60 Ecuador USA/Connecticut Honduras, Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

H O N D UR AS A thick, box-pressed gran toro covered with a supple, milk chocolate colored wrapper. This mild to medium strength blend has a core of sweet cedar, nuts, and maple syrup complemented by a subtle touch of spice.


Pictured left to right: Eric Newman (third generation) , Drew Newman (fourth generation), & Bobby Newman (third generation)

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JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

83


TORO HVC Ediciรณn Especial 2015

92

$ 8.96 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 52 Mexico Nicaragua Nicaragua

My Father La Opulencia

Superb balance and complexity along an excellent smoke output loaded with flavors of dark chocolate, molasses, and sweet cedar joined by notes of tanned leather and soft spice. Medium to full strength.

$ 11.80

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 54 Mexico Nicaragua Nicaragua

Camacho Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

N I CA R AG UA An impeccably constructed, box-pressed toro covered with a clean, dark brown wrapper with a toothy texture. Delivers a blend of earth, pepper, and cocoa powder accompanied by more subtle notes of leather and hazelnut. Mediumplus strength.

$ 10.00 Toro 6 50 Mexico Honduras Brazil, Honduras & Dominican Republic

La Coaliciรณn

H O N D UR AS Ultra-flavorful with an earthy sweet profile highlighted by notes of molasses, espresso, deep pepper, and roasted nuts. This mediumplus strength blend is finished with a dark, toothy wrapper. Produces an excellent output of thick, aromatic smoke.

$ 13.50

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Siglo 6 52 USA/Connecticut Indonesia Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Coabey

N I CA R AG UA Covered with a dark, oily wrapper with a rich, chocolate and barnyard aroma. Produces an abundant amount of medium strength smoke with a profile of dark chocolate, cereal, hazelnut and a touch of toasted oak on the finish.

$ 11.00

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 54 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Brick House Maduro

N I CA R AG UA A thick, well-constructed toro covered with a dark brown wrapper with excellent oils. Draws and burns consistently well producing an excellent output of aromatic smoke with notes of earth, pepper, and toasted oak complemented by a touch of sweet spice.

$ 6.70

89 84 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

N I CA R AG UA

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 52 Brazil Nicaragua Nicaragua

N I CA R AG UA Consistently well-constructed and covered with a clean, dark brown wrapper showing only slight veins. Draws and burns well while producing a profile of earth, pepper, and cedar complemented by a touch of bittersweet cocoa and clove.


JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

85


TORO Gurkha Nicaragua Series

$ 9.95

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 54 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Trinidad Espiritu Series No.1

91

A flavorful blend that opens with smooth pepper and cedar accompanied by notes of cocoa, toasted oak, and a hint of salted nuts. This medium-plus strength toro is finished with a clean wrapper with a velvet feel.

$ 10.15 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 54 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Oscar Valladares Altar Q

N I CA R AG UA Delivers a flavorful and balanced core of cedar, roasted almonds, pepper, and cocoa complemented by a rich, creamy textured spice on the finish. This medium strength blend is covered with a beautifully applied, light brown wrapper with excellent sheen.

$ 10.50

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 52 Ecuador Honduras Honduras

AVO Unexpected Passion

H O N D UR AS Impeccably built and covered with a gorgeous, light brown wrapper and topped with a neat, tightly cropped pigtail. Delivers a smooth, creamy profile with notes of toasted oak, subtle earth, and deep pepper complemented by honey and cinnamon roasted nuts.

$ 10.50

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 50 Ecuador Dominican Republic Dominican Republic

Protocol Sir Robert Peel Habano

90

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C Produces tons of thick, creamy smoke with flavors of nuts, cedar, soft spice, and light coffee balanced by notes of leather and hay. This mild to medium strength blend is covered with an inviting, light brown wrapper with only slight veins showing.

$ 11.95 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 52 Ecuador Nicaragua Nicaragua

Nova Club Edition

N I CA R AG UA Beautifully box-pressed and covered with a nearly flawless wrapper, this medium-plus strength blend opens with an intense pepper blast that settles to incorporate flavors of wood, cinnamon, earth, and a touch of bitter coffee.

$ 18.00

89 86 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

N I CA R AG UA

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Toro 6 50 Ecuador Dominican Republic Dominican Republic

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C A consistently well-made toro that provides a perfect draw and burn leaving behind a solid, compact ash. This mild bodied blend has a core of wood, soft spice, and subtle earth complemented by a touch of sweetness.


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BALMORALCIGARS.COM JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

87


ROBUSTO Davidoff Winston Churchill The Late Hour

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

$ 1 7.50 Robusto 5 52 Ecuador Mexico Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Aladino Maduro

Superbly balanced and complex with a flavorful, oaky core accompanied by notes of black pepper, sweet roasted almonds, and a background grassy flavor throughout. This medium to full strength blend produces an excellent output of thick, creamy smoke.

$ 10.50

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 50 Mexico Honduras Honduras

San Lotano Oval Maduro

H O N D UR AS Impeccably box-pressed and covered with a clean, dark brown wrapper with only thin veins showing. Flavors are well balanced with a background of earth, oak, and deep pepper complemented by up front notes of cocoa, dark roast coffee, and tanned leather.

$ 9.60

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 52 USA/Connecticut Nicaragua Honduras & Nicaragua

Micaleff Grande Bold Mata Fina

91

N I CA R AG UA Uniquely shaped and covered with a dark, toothy wrapper, this medium strength pressed robusto has a profile of mocha, walnuts, earth, and deep pepper with a touch of creaminess on the finish. Draws and burns impeccably while leaving behind a solid ash.

$ 8.99 VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

556MF 5 56 Brazil Nicaragua Nicaragua

Camacho Coyolar

N I CA R AG UA Ultra-flavorful with a profile full of up front black tobacco sweetness joined by notes of oak, leather, roasted almond, and a touch of smooth spice on the finish. This well-constructed blend produces an excellent smoke output with a medium-plus body.

$ 8.50

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Rothschild 4 1/2 50 Honduras Honduras Honduras

Partagas 1845 Clasico

H O N D UR AS A full strength blend that opens with an intense, earthy profile complemented by notes of sweet spice, espresso, and dark chocolate with a rich, tanned leather aroma to accompany it. This short robusto consistently draws and burns exceptionally well.

$ 6.49

88 88 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 50 Ecuador USA/Connecticut Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C A rustic-looking robusto covered with a bumpy, medium brown colored wrapper. Provides an open draw and delivers a core of wood and soft spice accompanied by subtle notes of chestnut, vanilla bean, and a hint of leather. Mild to medium strength.


ROBUSTO Sobremesa

$ 11.45

N I CA R AGUA Superb balance and consistently excellent construction. This medium strength blend has a profile of chocolate, black American coffee, and earth complemented by deep pepper, roasted nuts, and a creamy texture. Leaves behind a solid, compact ash.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto Largo 5 1/4 52 Ecuador Mexico Nicaragua & USA

92 Nat Sherman Timeless Supreme

$ 9.45

N I CA R AGUA Beautifully pressed and finished with a rich and oily reddish brown wrapper. This medium-plus strength blend delivers a profile of sweet pepper, wood, nougat, and a heavy dose of roasted almonds. Provides a firm draw and produces tons of dense, aromatic smoke.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 56 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

91 Viva la Vida Jester

$ 11.60

N I CA R AGUA An ultra-flavorful robusto covered with a dark, oily wrapper that has been impeccably applied. This medium to full strength blend has a core of intense pepper and toasted wood accompanied by more subtle notes of molasses, chicory, and a hint of hazelnut.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 54 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Black Label Trading Co. Santa Muerte

$ 10.00

N I CA R AGUA A well-balanced blend with a core of cedar, pepper, and baking spice accompanied by leather and almond cream. This consistently well-made robusto is covered with a medium brown wrapper and topped with a neat triple cap. Excellent smoke output.

90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 4 3/4 52 Ecuador Ecuador USA, Nicaragua, Mexico & Dominican Republic

90 Joya Copper

$ 7.10

N I CA R AGUA Opens with a blast of pepper that settles to incorporate more subtle flavors of toasted oak, cinnamon, and a hint of sugar cane sweetness. This consistently well-made robusto is covered with a beautiful, dark, reddish brown wrapper.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 1/2 50 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

89 Fable Fourth Prime

$ 9.50

N I CA R AGUA A pressed robusto covered with a toothy, dark brown wrapper with excellent oils. This fullbodied blend produces tons of thick, meaty smoke with a profile of espresso, bittersweet cocoa, pepper, and earth with a somewhat gritty texture.

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Mersenne 5 1/4 56 USA Ecuador Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

89 JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

89


ROBUSTO Mombacho Casa Favilli

$ 10.95

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 50 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

AJ Fernandez New World Connecticut

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Beautifully constructed and covered with a neatly applied, medium brown wrapper showing minimal veins. Medium strength with a flavorful profile of nuts, vanilla cream, and baking spices complemented by a touch of pepper and earth.

$ 7.20 Robusto 5 50 USA/Connecticut Mexico Brazil & Nicaragua

Alec Bradley Project 40

N I CA R AG UA Smooth and aromatic with a profile of cedar, vanilla cream, and nuts balanced by soft pepper and cocoa powder. This medium strength robusto is impeccably constructed, providing an excellent draw and leaving behind a solid compact ash.

$ 5.25

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 50 Nicaragua Brazil Nicaragua

A. Fuente Rosado Sungrown Magnum R

91

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

N I CA R AG UA Delivers a smooth and creamy profile of sweet cedar, nuts, baking spice, and a touch of leather in the aroma. Produces an abundant smoke output of mild to medium strength smoke while leaving behind a compact ash.

$ 7.87 R 52 5 52 Ecuador Dominican Republic Dominican Republic

Warped Cloud Hopper

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C Covered with a supple, light brown wrapper with only the slightest veins showing, the blend delivers a beautifully balanced profile of cedar, nuts, cinnamon, and soft spice with an excellent draw and an even burn. Medium strength.

$ 6.50

90

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No. 485 5 48 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua

Villiger La Libertad

N I CA R AG UA Opens with a blast of black pepper, which settles to incorporate flavors of cocoa, wood, and a touch of sour apple. This medium strength blend draws and burns impeccably while producing an excellent smoke output.

$ 5.36

89 90 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

N I CA R AG UA

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Robusto 5 52 Ecuador Nicaragua Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

D O M I N I CA N R E P UBLI C Covered with a light brown wrapper with a slightly reddish hue, this medium strength blend delivers tons of cedar and spice complemented by nuts, cream, and a hint of citrus on the finish. Draws and burns exceptionally well.


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91


CORONA Mi Querida Triqui Traca

$ 11.75

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

No. 648 6 48 USA/Connecticut Nicaragua Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Rocky Patel LB1

A smooth and flavorful blend with a balanced profile of deep pepper, espresso, dark chocolate, and heavy cream. Construction is consistently flawless producing an excellent draw, even burn, and abundant smoke output. Medium-plus strength.

$ 8.25

92

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Corona Gordo 6 44 Ecuador Honduras Honduras & Nicaragua

Herrera Esteli Brazilian Maduro

91 90

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Lonsdale Deluxe 6 44 Brazil USA/Connecticut Nicaragua

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

LC46 6 46 Ecuador Nicaragua Nicaragua

Gran Habano Corojo #5 Gran Reserva 2012

89

H O N D UR AS Rich and creamy from the onset with a core of walnuts, chocolate, and butterscotch complemented by an aroma of tanned leather with a soft pepper note on the finish. Excellent construction producing plenty of medium strength smoke.

$ 9.28

Crowned Heads Las Calaveras Ediciรณn Limitada 2019

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Corona Gorda 5 5/8 46 Nicaragua Nicaragua Nicaragua & Costa Rica

Charter Oak

N I CA R AG UA Covered with a dark, reddish brown wrapper with a beautiful sheen, this medium strength blend delivers ultra-smooth flavors of earth, toasted oak, coffee, and soft pepper balanced by a touch of ripe fruit sweetness. Excellent smoke output.

$ 10.50

N I CA R AG UA Beautifully produced with a dark, reddish brown wrapper with excellent oils and a velvet feel. Generates an excellent smoke output with flavors of wood, almonds, and a touch of cream accompanied by notes of pepper and cocoa powder.

$ 8.10

H O N D UR AS Earthy and smooth with flavors of roasted nuts, cocoa, wood, and pepper. Consistently well constructed and covered with a clean, dark brown wrapper with a supple feel. This medium strength corona draws well and leaves behind a solid ash.

$ 5.00

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N I CA R AG UA

VITOLA: LENGTH: RING: WRAPPER: BINDER: FILLER:

Petite Corona 5 1/4 42 USA/Connecticut Indonesia Nicaragua

N I CA R AG UA Opens with an intense blast of pepper and bitter coffee, later joined by oak, molasses, and dark chocolate. This flavorful corona is covered with an exceedingly dark wrapper with a coarse, toothy texture.


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reaucrat can destroy you?”

Mark Steyn, as Guest Host on The Rush Limbaugh Show “This is a classic example of an Obama era overreach by the regulatory state that Trump actually should be able to roll back and reverse.”

Dr. David Zorn, firm of Mangum Economics and author of the report “The Public Health, Financial and Employment Impacts of Excluding Handmade Cigars from Coverage by FDA’s Final Rule”

They Said It. Not Us. By J. Glynn Loope Executive Director Cigar Rights of America

ver what seems an eternity, yet has only been since the 2016 “Final Rule” was issued by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to regulate cigars, a tremendous body of research, testimony, interviews, commentary and narrative has been generated and issued on this clear case of bureaucratic overreach. National media pundits, members of congress, ambassadors and judges have made note of their disdain, confusion and opposition to the approach being taken by this federal agency. It makes this point in time seem like a unique opportunity to revisit some of the more noteworthy quotes or commentary, which work to tell the story of how one little industry has fallen victim to federal solutions in search of problems.

United States District Judge Amit Mehta, U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Columbia “Requiring the premium cigar industry to incur substantial compliance costs while the agency comprehensively reassesses the wisdom of

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regulation, before the warning requirements go into effect, smacks of basic unfairness. In the court’s view, the prudent course would be for the FDA to stay the warnings requirement as to premium cigars. The court’s displeasure with the FDA’s handling of the status of premium cigars, no doubt, provides little consolation to the industry.”

Joint letter of the Ambassadors to the United States from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua “Some of the regulations that are proposed by the agency would prove disastrous to the centuries old cigar industry that provides over 300,000 jobs among our three nations, and represents millions of dollars in export revenue. No regulatory measure should threaten such jobs, and hence raise the specter of political and economic consequences within our region.”

Tucker Carlson, Host of Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News “The FDA admits that these (cigar) regulations will destroy companies and jobs…The terrifying thing about this is, what are you going to do if you’re a business and you learn that some regulation written by an unelected bu-

“Compliance with the regulation will be so difficult and costly that it threatens to put almost all U.S. handmade cigar manufacturers and importers out of business. Using FDA’s own cost estimates, the regulation will cause 85-90 percent of domestic cigar manufacturers and importers (320-338 small businesses) to go out of business, leading to the loss of 5,300 U.S. manufacturing and importing jobs. Because handmade cigars have the highest cost of compliance per cigar, almost all of the cigar manufacturers and importers that go out of business because of this rule will be manufacturers and importers of handmade cigars.”

Dr. Brad Rodu, University of Louisville, in testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship “All tobacco consumers in the United States deserve truthful information and guidance. The sweeping FDA indictment ignores scientific evidence and misleads cigar smokers.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio “The FDA, in conjunction with the National Institute of Health, conducted a comprehensive study of tobacco use. The FDA’s own research concluded that premium cigar smokers account for 0.7 percent of all adult tobacco users and the median age of the first regular use is 24.5 years old. The FDA-NIH research was also unable to provide any data on youth that consume traditional cigars frequently or daily. This is because premium cigars are not made for children, marketed to children or consumed by children. This begs the question of why premium cigars are wrongly being regulated under a law aimed to reduce youth consumption of tobacco.”

U.S. Congresswoman Donna Shalala, former U.S.


Secretary of Health & Human Services for President Bill Clinton “Hand-rolled cigars constitute an important part of south Florida culture. While I am working to reduce nicotine addiction in the United States, I agree that premium cigars do not contribute to widespread addiction or youth usage in the same way that other tobacco products do.”

Testimony of Charles Maresca, Director of Interagency Affairs, for the U.S. Small Business Administration, to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship “For a small business cigar manufacturer, FDA estimates compliance costs to be $278,000 to $397,000 in the first year, $292,000 to $411,000 in the second year, and $235,000 to $257,000 in the third year. Although many small businesses have argued that the costs will be much higher than FDA’s estimates, the agency’s own numbers will prove to be too much for most small businesses to pay to continue to manufacturer premium cigars.”

Former U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta “You can argue that this (cigar regulation) is a national security issue, because when economies collapse in some of these countries, what usually fills that void is not anything that will be good for America.”

These statements represent only a fraction of the commentary and filings that have been made in defense of the premium cigar industry. Collectively Cigar Rights of America, Cigar Association of America, and the Premium Cigar Association have filed over a thousand pages of public comment to the FDA, in 2019 alone. This includes definitive analysis on the demographic profile, public health issues, usage patterns, and implications of regulation. Thousands of pages have been filed in federal court explaining how this represents a clear case of bureaucratic overreach, including dozens of presentations to executive branch agencies, and hundreds of congressional office briefings. This has resulted in the full U.S. House of Representatives passing a proposed exemption for premium cigars from FDA oversight. The same language has been adopted numerous times in committee. The platform for this message has been the legislative agenda pursued by the premium cigar industry since 2011. Between April 15, 2011 and today, 333 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 members of the U.S. Senate have signed onto premium cigar exemption legislation, representing consumers of premium cigars from 45 states. Individual and joint congressional letters to both the Obama and Trump Administrations have included the signatures of over 100 legislators. So what does this mean as we enter yet another Presidential Election year? We have sent the message to both ends of PennsylJ. GLYNN LOOPE IS THE EXvania Avenue, and ECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CIGAR the courthouse that RIGHTS OF AMERICA (CRA), sits between them. WHICH IS DEDICATED TO It’s time for the buPROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF reaucratic cloud THE GROWERS, MANUFACthat looms over this TURERS, RETAILERS, AND artisan industry to CONSUMERS OF PREMIUM be removed before CIGARS. yet another uncertain November.

JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

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The cigar world is on Twitter and we aim to keep track of who’s leading who. The following is a scoreboard of the cigar world’s most relevant Tweeples. The list is sorted by number of followers and broken into groups: Top 20 Twitter Cigar Companies & Reps, Top 10 Twitter Retailers, Top 10 Online Cigar Tweeps, Top 3 Twitter Cigar Organizations, and Top 3 Cigar Radio Twitter accounts. If you have the numbers and belong in one of these groups, stand up and be counted! Set us straight via Twitter @cigarsnobmag.

TOP CIGAR COMPANIES (sorted by Twitter followers) Rocky Patel @RockyPatelCigar......................................... Drew Estate Cigars @DrewEstateCigar............................. Padron Cigar @PadronCigars............................................ CAO International @CAOCigars......................................... Alec Bradley Cigars @AlecBradley.................................... La Flor Dominicana @LFDCigars....................................... Jonathan Drew @JonathanDrewArt.................................. Camacho Cigars @camachocigars.................................... Ashton Cigars @ashtoncigar............................................. Pete Johnson @TatuajeCigars........................................... Xikar Inc @XIKARinc......................................................... La Gloria Cubana @lagloriacubana.................................... Nick Perdomo @PerdomoCigars....................................... Miami Cigar Co @miamicigar............................................. Punch Cigars @punchcigars............................................. Ernesto Padilla @PadillaCigars......................................... Davidoff Cigars @Davidoff_Cigars.................................... AJ Fernandez @ajfcigars.................................................. Avo Cigars @AvoCigars..................................................... La Palina Cigars @La PalinaCigars....................................

34148 32537 27839 25590 21080 20161 19076 19054 17935 16678 14909 14869 13114 13031 12935 12393 12148 12033 11959 11641

TOP CIGAR ORGANIZATIONS CRA @cigarrights............................................................. 14775 Premium Cigar Association @PCA1933............................. 8256 Tobacconist University @tobacconistU............................. 4596

TOP CIGAR RADIO Cigar Dave Show @CigarDaveShow................................. 11501 Smooth Draws @SmoothDraws....................................... 4328 KMA Talk Radio @KMATalkRadio...................................... 2298

SOME OF OUR FAVORITE TWEETS, MENTIONS, AND RANDOM SOCIAL MEDIA GOODNESS.

TOP CIGAR RETAILERS & REPS Famous Smoke Shop @FamousSmokeShop...................... Mulberry St. Cigars @MulberryStCigar............................. Cigar Hustler @cigarhustler.............................................. Cigar Row @CigarRow..................................................... Jeff Borysiewicz – Corona Cigar Co @CoronaCigarCo....... Michael Herklots–Nat Sherman @MichaelHerklots............ Barry – Two Guys Smoke Shop @Barry2Guys................... Cheap Humidors @cheaphumidors................................... Lindsay Siddiqi @TheCigarChick....................................... Palm Desert Tobacco @palmdsrttobacco.........................

14423 13429 11365 8122 7489 6559 6340 5327 5242 4931

@Lsufootball via Instagram Big Joe Energy

TOP ONLINE CIGAR TWEEPLES David Voth–Sex, Cigars, & Booze @SexCigarsBooze......... Cigar News @CigaRSS .................................................... Cigar Events @CigarEvents............................................... Cigar Federation @CigarFederation.................................. Robusto Cigar Babe @RobustoBabe................................. Stogie Boys @StogieBoys ............................................... Cigar Evaluations @CigarEvaluation................................. Cigar Inspector @CigarInspector ..................................... The Stogie Guys @stogieguys........................................... Tom Ufer @cigarsmonkingman..........................................

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148322 15792 14746 12395 10478 8607 8568 8294 8036 6511

@sisterinsmoke via Instagram A handful of happiness. Thank you @708Cigars for spoiling me #708cigars #humidorstocked #loversoftheleaf #LifeStyle #pssita #LadiesWhoSmoke #CIGARSNOBLIFE


JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

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EVENTS SABOR HAVANA’S SMOKE THIS! Doral, Fla.

Doral’s premier tobacconist hosted its annual Smoke This! event on Dec. 7. It featured wine, spirits, and food from Sushi Sake, Divieto Italian Cuisine, Christy’s Coral Gables, Ruth’s Chris Steak House Coral Gables, Diced, Chef Paella, Mega Wine & Spirits, Breakthru, Brown-Forman, Republic National Distributors, Zafra Rum and many others. A slew of cigar makers and brands were represented and attendees went home with loads of cigar loot.

Alma and Jorge Valdés, Juan Carlos Bermúdez (Mayor of Doral), Ed Hudak (Coral Gables Chief of Police) and Aquiles Legra

Belkys Sánchez and Liz López

Billy Kiod, Noel Rodríguez, Mario and Willy Knapp, Ileana Galindo and Arnold Palmer

Carlos Llaca, Armando Lapido, José Morel and Mike Denys

Billy and Nick Perdomo, Ralph Valdés and Nestor García

Ana Isabel and Reinier Lorenzo

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Rafael Nodal, Jill Meyers, Candela Díaz and Ernesto Kranwinkel, photo bomb by José Morel

Yanay Jordan, Javier Rosario and Angela Lewk

Johel Orta, Charlie López, Starky Arias and Pierre Jebian

Ray Muralez and Moe Idraquez

Omar Fernández, Adriana Ortega, Frank Santos and Albert Tamargo

Félix Mesa and Manny Iriarte

Yula Miranda, Osmani Díaz and Ahmed Fernández

Massiel Prieto, Joaquin Saladrigas, Richie Rodenhaus and William Saladrigas

José R. and Juan Pérez and Manny García

Mike Reyes and Jeff Wolach

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EVENTS CIGARS UNDER THE STARS WITH VILLIGER Miami

This year’s annual Cigars Under the Stars dinner was catered by Ruth’s Chris Steak House with cigars provided by Villiger Cigars. Purchasing a ticket got you a bag with six Villiger cigars, a lovely scotch tasting by Macallan, and the option of choosing from a wide selection of wines supplied by Mega Liquors. Jorge Valdés, Aquiles Legra, María Cristina Arrazola and René Castañeda

Barbie Calviño and Lissette Díaz-Nanavichit

Nick Rodríguez, Vanessa Fisher, Jeannie Suárez and Juan González

Yasser Pichardo, Julio Morales and David Delancy

100 | CIGAR SNOB | JAN / FEB 2020

Thomas Schmied and María Cristina Arrazola

Gabriel Vachon, Ana María Vilaro and René Castañeda


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EVENTS CIGAR HERITAGE FESTIVAL Tampa

The Cigar Heritage Festival — presented by Arturo Fuente and J.C. Newman — never fails with its plethora of experiences for guests. We’re talking about gourmet food, beer, wine, over 150 vendors selling all kinds of art, giant cigar mobile lounges, and cigar rolling demonstrations alongside the biggest names in the industry. Attendance was free, although there were paid VIP packages available as well. Plus the event was pet friendly!

Aimee Cooks, Stacy McDevrid, Monica Foster, Cynthia Fuente Suárez, Kara Guagliardo and Adria Rebbecchi

Brian Chinnock, Mike Thomas, Keith Andersen and Danny Wiliams

Lisa Figueredo and Liana Fuente

Juan López, Jeremy Weiner, Tamara Hoyland and Cristina Santana

Greg and Justine Frood

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Bob Oliveri, Christine Morgan and Dominic Abbruzese

The team from Vincent & Tampa Cigar Company

Oscar Sanabria and Ralph Babilonia


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EVENTS LA ZONA PALOOZA Miami

La Zona’s annual, intimate gathering of cigar lovers — especially those active on social media — was as fun as ever. Always a collection of characters, La Zona Palooza featured beers by Khoffner Brewing, an espresso making seminar, Thanksgiving food, barber services, domino games, and plenty of Espinosa and La Zona swag for attendees, who came from all over the country. Charlie López, Erik Espinosa, Starky Arias and Natalia García

Orlando and Erik Espinosa

Jordan Whitehouse and Kevin Fornash

Elegant Plume “Drida”

Rudy Wong, Jorge Reyes and Erik Espinosa, Jr.

Robert Gerardi, Chas DeFelice, Kevin Hughes and Bob MacDonald

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Lee Overley and Eric Ahi

Clay Depew, Ken Tsukiyama and Jolene Methvin


JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

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EVENTS 12TH ANNUAL DAVID ORTIZ CELEBRITY GOLF CLASSIC Miami

Nothing like some golf and cigars with the one and only David “Big Papi” Ortiz at his annual Celebrity Golf Classic. Guests came together for a great cause to benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. With the ambitious goal of raising $2 million, he plans to create the only pediatric catheterization lab in the Dominican Republic. Pedro Martínez, Ray Lewis and Michael Vitka

Jon Lester and Alonzo Mourning

Jose Bautista

Armando Silva and Rogelio Ribas

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Kameel Jiwa, Jed Dirksen, Jim Rice, Omar Antigua and Alex Wertheim

José Manuel Victoria, Jennifer Mercedes and Freddy Sang

Eduardo Rodrigues and Jesus Luzardo

Gary Sheffield and José Manuel Victoria

Ivan Ocampo and Michael Lowell


EVENTS OTAN CIGAR GROUP FIRST SPECIAL NIGHT

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic OTAN Cigar Group began as an informal social club of Dominican cigar smokers, but being a part of that group got so fun and their herfs became such big draws that they had to organize a little more formally. This “first special night” was an incredible event at Santo Domingo restaurant La Cassina, complete with swag bags, a raffle, great food, live music and more.

JAN / FEB 2020 | CIGAR SNOB |

107


EVENTS CAVA CHRISTMAS PARTY WITH ESPINOSA CIGARS Miami

Cava Cigars hosted their annual Christmas party alongside Espinosa Cigars. Though it was a literally chilly night (by Miami standards), guests were able to warm ourselves with great food and beer provided by Sushi Sake while surrounded by great company. Things also heated up in some serious domino matches that were taking place in their newly covered patio area.

Yahimara Fernรกndez and Giselle Rosales

Santi and Santiago Aragรณn and Mauro Caballero

Andy and Jackie Chirino

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Barbie and รngel Barrios

Frank Serratone, Elsie Peralta, Chela Chick and Alfonso Peralta

Gervasio Baez, Ileana Borlado and Fitzgerald Astacio

Fernando Arencibia and Gianni Blustein


EVENTS CIGARS, CARS AND WHISKEY AT BOTANIKO WESTON Weston, Fla.

Terra Group, a real estate developer, hosted a night of indulgence in the finer things at its Botaniko gated community in Weston, Fla., during which guests enjoyed AVO cigars (Classic, Syncro Fogata, Syncro Nicaragua, and the Syncro Ritmo) as well as opportunities to check out and test drive Ferraris, participate in a whiskey tasting, and drink craft beers in the model home at the luxurious development.

Keller Williams Realty Team

Ivan Ocampo & Jorge Salon

Neal Petri, Lionel Martínez, & Mark Foxwell

Christina Hedrick-Jones & Rosa Canao

Andrés Márquez & Rafael Del Monte

Avi Merav, Susan Merav, & Keren Merav

Lina Barrosso, Rigo Plasencia, & Daniela Espinosa

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109


EVENTS CIGAR WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE DRAG SHOW Boynton Beach, Fla.

Back in February 2019, Smoke Inn’s Abe Dababneh, Rocky Patel’s Nimish Desai, and Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust’s Steve Saka made a bet. They’d take four months to try to lose some weight. Whomever shed the most pounds would have to show up to an event in drag. In a show of sportsmanship and solidarity, the two winners decided to join the loser in undergoing the transformation for the event at Smoke Inn. In the end, we were all … winners?

Abe Dababneh, Nimish Desai and Steve Saka

Fred Rewey and Steve Saka

José Morel, Steve Hernández and Nimish Desai

Frank Herrera and Abe Dababneh

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Profile for Cigar Snob Magazine

Cigar Snob Magazine January February 2020