Fire Destroys Giant Curing Barn at Tabacalera Estelí

Esteli, Nicaragua - A wildly burning fire destroyed the massive tobacco curing barn on the farm of Tabacalera Estelí on the outskirts of Estelí, Nicaragua on May 13.

The barn, owned by cigar maker Henry "Kiki" Berger, contained a large portion of the company's freshly harvested tobacco crop from the company's three-year-old farm. Local firefighters and company employees battled the fire throughout the evening, but were unable to save any of the structure or its contents from the intense blaze.

The barn, which was only about two years old, was built in the traditional Cuban style, with a thatch roof rather than the corrugated sheet metal used throughout the country. Berger, in a tour of the facility with Smokeshop magazine last year, explained that the cooler temperatures inside the barn as a result of the thatch roof was much gentler on the curing tobacco. To support the sheer height of the building and its contents when full, Berger invested in an extremely strong metal infrastructure.

"He's heartbroken and deeply saddened to see the largest curing barn in Nicaragua go up in smoke," said Al Gutman, sales director of the company's Miami-based distribution facility, Cuban Crafters, Inc. "He was very proud of it, as many were in Estelí."

Johnathan Sann Drew, found Drew Estate, one of many cigar manufacturers located in the cigar-making town of Estelí, noted with irony that Kiki appeared to have a standout crop this year.

"I could tell that everyone was genuinely happy for him, as he had worked so hard in building this progressive facility from scratch," Drew said via the Internet on the night of the fire.

Some of Tabacalera Estelí's crop was still in the field awaiting harvesting at the time of the fire.

Court-Ordered Stay Keeps General Cigar's Cohiba Brand on Shelves for Now, But Recall Looms

New York - Following the cancellation of General Cigar Co.'s Cohiba trademark in March by Southern District of New York Judge Robert Sweet, retailers and distributors have been but on alert that a recall and sales ban of the brand is likely to occur in June.

General Cigar was granted a temporary, 40-day stay to allow the New York-based manufacturer the opportunity to formally file for a more permanent stay, according to executive vice president David Danziger, who revealed in a letter sent to retailers in early May that such stays are "rarely granted."

Danziger stated in the letter that the company, which manufacturers its Cohiba brand in the Dominican Republic, believes it has strong grounds for ultimate reversal of the decision, but the time frame for a final ruling could easily exceed a year.

As a result of General's letter, many retailers were advising customers to make their purchases of Cohiba and Cohiba XV (Extra Vigoroso) brands while they were still available.

Hi-Tech, Free-Form Look for Alec Bradley

Alec Bradley Cigar Co.'s new site (www.alecbradley.com) breaks away from the usual site architecture.

"We wanted our entirely new Web site to be more informational and [to] stimulate navigation," says Alan Rubin, founder and president of Alec Bradley Cigar Company. "But, we also started with a clean sheet of paper, and designed it as 'non-symmetrical,' lacking the usual boxes and straight lines. Instead, it is visually free-flowing, which is more fun for visitors."

The hi-tech looking site features links splashed almost randomly on the pages for a fun navigation experience. Several sub-pages deviate from the norm, as well, with titles like "Fidel-a-Rator," a page that exposes "the biggest secret in the industry," which is about Cuban cigars. All the product-related information is conveniently found on the "Brand 411" page, while an Events page tracks more than 200 cigar events planned for the coming year, and encourages repeat visits with cigar contests.

Tobacco retailers have their own private section, where they can download free Alec Bradley artwork including posters, sales flyers, and brochures for subsequent reproduction. Prospective authorized Alec Bradley retailers can apply to the company online, via the "Sell Our Cigars" section.

States Raise New Issues Over Cigarette Marketing
B&W's Hip-Hop Kool Campaign, Flavored Cigs, Draw Fire

Over 30 states and territories announced plans in May to sue the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., accusing the company of targeting youths with a hip-hop-themed marketing campaign for its Kool cigarettes.

The lawsuit was initiated by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who sent the letter of intent to the company, based in Louisville, Ky. Under the Kool brand, Brown & Williamson held emcee battles and DJ competitions across the country. Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe also sent Brown & Williamson a letter informing the company of violations surrounding the marketing campaign and ordering the company to stop using rappers, DJ's, and dancers to market their Kool brand of cigarettes, which he felt targeted African-American youth.

Brown & Williamson complied and notified Rowe that they had ceased the marketing campaign.

Separately, Massachusetts public health commissioner Christine Ferguson has demanded that cigarette makers stop marketing versions of their products with added flavors, claiming the practice is a violation of the 1998 MSA agreement. Ferguson sent letters to the heads of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Kretek International, and Quintin USA demanding that they stop marketing Kool, Camel, Salem, Liquid Zoo, and Stars cigarettes with extra flavors.

Kretek International's vice president and director of sales said that Stars and Liquid Zoo had been discontinued some time ago, but that the company does offer other flavored brands.

An R.J. Reynolds spokeswomen said the flavored cigarettes, which are generally sold at a premium price in excess of $6 per pack, "are made, developed, and tested with adults." Brown & Williamson spokesperson Mark Smith said "Adults want flavors," noting that flavored consumer good products in numerous categories has exploded in recent years.

Altadis U.S.A.'s Extra-Net Site Benefits Retailers

Altadis U.S.A.'s extra-net site acts as a "virtual sales rep" providing retailers with important information about Altadis U.S.A. products, programs and promotions. Authorized RTDA retailers can access the site via password for information about new products, tobacco specials, retail display allowance programs, printable bar codes, price lists, order forms, co-op advertising information, and downloadable ad slicks.

For more information, retailers may call (954) 772-9000 ext. 2036.

Continued on next page...