RTDA Tobacco Products Buying Guide

Are there really fewer cigar smokers in the martketplace? You’d be hard-pressed to tell given the number of new cigars introduced by manufacturers this summer. Tobaccos are aged; production isn’t rushed; the fly-by-nights are gone…could it get any better than this?

by E. Edward Hoyt III

General Cigar Co., New York, N.Y., Tel: (212) 448-3800, through its Villazon & Company subsidiary, introduced its new Sancho Panza brand, first made in Cuba in 1848. Villazon’s line is hand crafted in Honduras by cigar master Estelo Padron, producing a very flavorful, medium-bodied cigar that retails at under $4 per stick. “There is a knowledgeable and value-conscious segment of premium smokers looking for a Honduran cigar with a medium-bodied flavor,” said Bill Roethel, vice president of marketing at General Cigar. Sancho Panza combines a Connecticut-shade wrapper with Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican Piloto Cubano-seed filler tobaccos and a Connecticut broadleaf binder. Four frontmarks are available: Valiente (51/4 x 50), Glorioso (61/8 x 50), Caballero (61/4 x 45), and Primoroso (63/4 x 47), with retail prices ranging from $3.20 to $3.90. Cedar boxes are emblazoned with a gold silk-screened sunset logo and a fly-leaf recounting the Sancho Panza story. Villazon teamed with Harley Davidson to raffle a special “Sancho” edition Harley Davidson FXD Dyna Super Glide motorcycle to participating retailers.

After conducting a national consumer promotion soliciting smokers to vote for a winning blend, General released the latest extension to the Excalibur line - Excalibur 1066. Under the promotion, consumers sampled two blends and voted for their favorite. “It’s not often that you have two cigars that taste so good that you can’t decide,” said Roethel. The votes came in extraordinarily close, with 47 percent of consumers choosing “Selection One,” while 53% voted for the winner, “Selection Two.” Only the binder leaf differed between the two blends, with Selection One bearing an Ecuadorian-grown Sumatra-seed binder. The winning blend follows in the tradition of the original Excalibur cigar, combining the full-bodied taste of Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican filler tobaccos with a broadleaf binder from the Connecticut River Valley. It is distinguished from the rest of the Excalibur line by a rich Cameroon wrapper. A stained wood box with the look and feel of a miniature treasure chest distinctively packages the line. Four frontmarks are available: Merlin (51/4 x 50), King Arthur (61/4 x 45), Galahad (63/4 x 47), and Lancelot (71/4 x 54). Sales-generating POS posters, shelf talkers, and ceiling danglers join eye-catching displays touting the results of the national taste challenge.

Edgar M. Cullman, c.e.o. of General Cigar Co., released his own “private collection” of Partagas 150s at the show to pay tribute to his longtime friend and mentor, cigar master Ramón Cifuentes who, with his father, built the Partagas brand. Cifuentes passed away in January 2000 at age 91. The cigars are packaged in a specially-designed Signature Series Humidor containing 50 Partagas 150s and 100 sticks of the new Ramon y Ramon tribute cigars - inspired by, and named after, Ramón Cifuentes and his father, Ramón Cifuentes Sr. The cigars are the first in the Partagas family to feature a substantially different profile, offering a more full-bodied flavor than current selections. Created by General Cigar’s Daniel Nuñez, Ramon y Ramon will be available in five frontmarks: Padre, Nino, Familia, Padrino, and Legado.

The unique humidors, 1,000 in total, feature three columns consisting of five drawers. Each is personally signed and numbered by Cullman Sr., and retails at $2,720.

Altadis U.S.A., Inc., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (800-446-5797) introduced a number of new products and line extensions. To celebrate 120 years of cigar making, Alberto Turrent of Mexico’s Nueva Matacapan Tabaco in San Andrés has created the Te Amo Aniversario. Hand rolled from Nicaraguan, Dominican Piloto Cubano, and Mexican Habana 2000 filler, Te Amo Aniversario features a Mexican Negro San Andrés binder and a 1998 harvest, Cuban-seed Habana 2000 wrapper grown in Mexico, a first for Matacapan. Eight frontmarks are offered: Churchill (71/2 x 50), Magnum 45 (61/2 x 45), Toro Natural (6 x 50), and Robusto (5 x 52) - including four box-pressed shapes, Habana #2 (61/8 x 52), Toro Maduro (6 x 50), Perfecto Natural (51/2 x 54), and Perfecto Maduro (51/2 x 54). Suggested retail prices range from $3.80 to $5.00 for the line. The Don Diego Reserve is another new line extension, richer and fuller-bodied than the existing Don Diego lines, thanks to a Nicaraguan wrapper and binder, and a blend of Dominican Republic Piloto, Nicaraguan, and Peruvian filler leaf. Eight frontmarks of this Dominican-made line are available, ranging from $4 - $6 suggested retail: No. 4 (5 x 44), Rothchilde (5 x 50), Petite Belicoso (5 x 52), Belicoso (7 x 52), No. 4 Maduro (5 x 44), Rothchilde Maduro (5 x 50), Petite Belicoso Maduro (5 x 52), and Belicoso Maduro (7 x 52). All are packed in 20-count boxes.

Now distributing the Onyx line of maduro cigars which it had previously manufactured for Lane Ltd., Altadis introduced the all-new Onyx Reserve, also a fuller-bodied, richer version of the standard line. Rolled from a blend of Dominican Piloto, Nicaraguan, and Peruvian filler leaf, Onyx Reserve features a blackened Connecticut broadleaf binder and a Nicaraguan wrapper. Six frontmarks are offered: No. 4 (5 x 44), Robustos (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 50), Mini Belicoso (5 x 25), No. 2 (7 x 52), and Torbusto (51/2 x 60). Suggested retail prices range from $3.50 to $5.

Two new tubed cigars have been added to the Romeo y Julieta line: the Churchill en Tubo (7 x 50), at $5.50 retail, and the Clemenceau en Tubo (6 x 50), $5.25 retail. Both are made with a blend of Dominican fillers, a Dominican binder, and finished with an Indonesian Java TBN wrapper. Production will be limited to 50,000 of each size this year, with availability slated to triple next year. Since this year is the 125th anniversary of the Romeo y Julieta brand, Altadis has also released a lacquered chest containing 25 specially-banded anniversary-edition Romeo & Julieta cigars, as well as a lacquered chest containing 125 cigars - 25 each of five popular sizes.

Miniature Chests have also debuted, detailed lacquered chests containing all six of the Altadis miniature cigars: Montecristo Joyitas, Romeo y Julieta Petit Julietas, Cabañas Habanitos, Henry Clay Miniatures, H. Upmann 2000 Minis, and Santa Damiana Cigarritos. Each chest contains six eight-count packs, 48 of each miniature cigar. Chests are available depicting each of the six miniature brands.

The full three-set series of Montecristo Cigare des Arts Delacroix Collector Boxes, each featuring a separate Parisian street scene by French painter Michel Delacroix, are being offered in cases of 12 boxes. Each case contains four “blue” twelve-count boxes of Royale cigars; four “green” six-count boxes of Delacroix (7 x 46) and six Grand Delacroix (7 x 50) cigars; and five “burgundy” twelve-count boxes of Tabac cigars. All cigars are packed in full-color tubes. Each box of cigars contains a Montecristo cigar cutter, and retails for $140.

Actor George Hamilton’s signature cigar lines have been fully incorporated into the Altadis U.S.A. portfolio, and both are now being produced by the company in La Romana, Dominican Republic: Hamilton’s by H. Upmann, a rich, Indonesian Java-wrapped cigar, and the stronger Hamilton’s Reserve which has been trimmed to six shapes. Altadis is now distributing the Pléiades line, one of the earliest super-premium brands introduced in the U.S., made in the Dominican Republic and offered in five sizes, two of which have maduro versions. Suggested retail is $8 - $10. Also manufactured and distributed by Altadis now are Big Butt, a Honduran-made line in four natural or maduro sizes, suggested retail $3.10 - $3.95, and two other former Lane Ltd. brands, Royal Jamaica, and Montecruz.

Cano Ozgener, president of C.A.O. International, Nashville, Tennessee, (800-237-8226) introduced the newest and final addition to the company’s highly rated L’Anniversaire trilogy - the L’Anniversaire 1968-1998 eXtreme. Produced in Esteli, Nicaragua by Nick Perdomo’s Tabacalera Perdomo, eXtreme utilizes top-grade, fifth priming Ecuadorian Sumatra-seed wrapper. A full-bodied cigar intended for experienced smokers with well-developed palates, this powerful smoke combines five different Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobaccos, including two different Ligero fillers. “For this line we were looking for an intensely rich, powerhouse of a blend, one that is both full-bodied and strong, but complex in its flavor as well,” explains Ozgener. Five frontmarks will ship: Corona (51/2 x 42), Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (51/2 x 55), Churchill (67/8 x 48), and Belicoso (6 x 54). Retail prices run from $6.80 to 8.10 per stick, or $136 to $162 for boxes of 20.

The limited edition C.A.O. Odyssey, due for release in September, combines six different types of Cuban-seed filler tobacco, a Habano-seed binder, and sixth priming Ecuadorian-grown Rosado wrapper. Offered in a single 63/4 x 55 Perfecto format and packaged in a box of 10 individual wooden slide-top boxes, the suggested retail price for Odyssey is $15 per stick. Although limited in production - only 80,000 to 100,000 sticks will be produced, says Ozgener - Odyssey has been designed to be more accessible than last year’s Millennium Edition. A new mini premium cigar - C.A.O. Petite - is a machine-made, shortfill smoke made in the Dominican Republic. Available in Cameroon or Maduro wrappers - the same used on C.A.O. full-size premium lines - Petites are packaged in sleeves of 10 tins, suggested retail $11.90.

Two shapes of the C.A.O Gold Label - Robusto and Torpedo - are now offered in glass tubes, available in an optional 20-count upright Gold Acrylic display, 10 of each size. L’Anniversaire Cameroon has two new shapes: Toro (51/2 x 55), and Petit Belicoso (51/4 x 54), both with a suggested retail of $7.20.

Tony Borhani, president of Tony Borhani Cigars, Inc., San Diego, Calif. (800-352-2442), launched a stunning revamp of his product’s packaging - new high-gloss, 20-count lacquered boxes of either deep yellow or red for the Bahia Gold, Bahia Maduro, Gold Maduro, and Bahia Trinidad lines.

Bahia’s first non-box-pressed cigars debuted in the form of three new tubos: Bahia Gold Robusto, Bahia Gold Maduro Robusto, and the all-new Bahia Trinidad Number Four, all packed 10 to a box.

The Bahia Gold line has two new sizes, the Number Three (6 x 46) and the Number Five (4 x 38), while the Rothschild (4 x 5) joins the Bahia Trinidad line.

Bahia RH70 four-packs are self-humidified resealable pouches that keep cigars properly humidified for up to two months, utilizing technology developed by HumidiPak, Inc. Every size in the Bahia line is available in the four-pack format.

Bahia also introduced several other new firsts for the company: Ticos are hand-made, long-filler panatelas packed in 10-count glossy tins, and Bahia Mints are tiny, super-concentrated breath mints packed in round pocket tins.

After three years of development, Ed Nikka, president of Hoja Cigar Company, Burbank, Calif. (800-984-1213), debuted the Hoja Perfecto, which will only be available at a limited number of tobacconists nationwide. The Perfecto line is hand made in Costa Rica at Tabacalera Tambor from vintage 1996 Nicaraguan and Dominican filler, Dominican binder, and Ecuadorian wrapper, four frontmarks are offered: Prado (6 x 44), Delicado (5 x 50), Nino (4 x 52), and Invectos (6 x 54). The Perfecto line is box pressed, aged 120 days, and presented in limited cabinets. Only 292,000 units will be made. The company also introduced new packaging across its line of Hoja Yellow Band and Hoja 1965 cigars.

Toraño Cigars, Miami, Fla. (800-724-4277), introduced the Carlos Toraño Signature Collection Maduros, handmade in the Dominican Republic and featuring a sun-grown Brazilian maduro wrapper, Piloto Cubano binder, and long filler from the Dominican Republic. Protected by a layer of Spanish Cedar, cellophane-wrapped, and packaged in a special 997 Series keepsake box, four frontmarks are offered: Toro (6 x 50) $4.75 retail, Churchill (7 x 48) $5.35 retail, Torpedo (6 x 52), and Perfecto (5 x 51), both $5.95 retail.

Black Pearl, a powerful new Dominican cigar from super premium producer La Perla Habana, Burbank, Calif. (888-441-2447), was created for the mature palate of connoisseur-level smokers. “We chose dark-fermented Connecticut broadleaf wrapper for our Maduro, which was a hit at last year’s RTDA,” says Doug Wood, president, La Perla Habana. The wrapper is coffee-black, which classifies Black Pearl as an oscuro. The wrapper’s added body complements the cigars’ potent Cuban-seed filler and Nicaraguan Cuban-seed binder, making this the powerful blend in the La Perla line, says Wood. Scarcity of the extra-select wrapper holds the initial release of this limited reserve cigar to 3,000 boxes, which began shipping immediately following the RTDA. Black Pearl is available exclusively in a 51/4 x 52 format. The cigars are double-banded at the foot of the cigar to protect from scuffing, packed in cedar boxes of 20 cigars, and retail $8.80 per stick, at keystone.

Davidoff of Geneva, Stamford, Conn. (800-232-8436), has extended the Zino Mouton Cadet line with an elegant figurado, the Zino Mouton Cadet Torpedo. A specially-developed blend of tobaccos is utilized for the Torpedo, somewhat stronger than the classic Zino Mouton Cadet line: Honduran tipo Habano filler tobaccos - seco and ligero; Honduran tipo Habano binder; and Connecticut Ecuador wrapper. The Torpedo’s refined, mild flavor is described as comparable to the flavor and aroma of the Zino Mouton Cadet No. 8. The cigar, measuring 5 inches by 54 ring, is wrapped in cellophane, in packs of four or boxes of 25.

Zino Mouton Cadet No. 6, the “compact format” of the Zino Mouton Cadet line measuring in at 5 x 50, is now available in stylish, black aluminum tubes lined with cedar. Aromatic and mild, No. 6 Tubos are offered in either matching black three-packs, or in cedar boxes of 20.

Davidoff has also added a toro format to the Aniversario line: the Aniversario No. 3 Tubos. Cedar-wrapped and packaged elegantly in white tubes, either in cedar boxes of 20 cigars or in full-color three-packs, this “long robusto” measures 6 x 50. A blend of Dominican Piloto Ligero, San Vincente Seco, and Olor Ligero, the No. 3 has an Olor Dominicano binder leaf and Connecticut wrapper, delivering a highly aromatic blend similar to the “Double R” in flavor, but more full-bodied. It will appeal to smokers favoring stronger, fuller-flavored cigars.

Several line extensions to the Don Tomás label were displayed by U.S. Cigar Sales, Inc., Tampa, Fla., (888-624-4271). Don Tomás Dominican Selection is the first Don Tomás from the Dominican Republic. A full-bodied cigar featuring an extreme box press, it is rolled from Dominican, Nicaraguan, Mexican, and Brazilian filler leaf and a Mexican binder. The cigar is finished with a new hybrid wrapper developed exclusively by U.S. Cigar and grown on its own farm in the Talanga Valley. Christened “Talanga Cubano,” the wrapper is a rich, oily, reddish leaf that lends the cigar it rich, robust character, according to Bent Ahm, director of operations for U.S. Cigar’s Dominican factory. Double-banded and packed in full-color boxes, Dominican Selection is offered in seven classic shapes: Churchill (7 x 48), Lonsdale (61/2 x 44), Belicoso (6 x 54), Corona Gorda (6 x 50), Panatela (6 x 38), Corona (51/2 x 42), and Robusto (5 x 50). Launched just prior to the Dominican Selection was the Don Tomás Cameroon Collection, a medium to full-bodied cigar offered in four perfecto shapes plus a robusto format. Filler leaf (Dominican, Brazilian, and Mexican) and binder (Cuban-seed Dominican-grown) tobaccos are aged at least four years. The star of this blend is the genuine sun-grown wrapper leaf from Cameroon, aged three years. The cigars are also double-banded and packed in full color boxes.

U.S. Cigar Sales now offers two sizes from the flagship Don Tomás line, made in Danlí, Honduras, as Tubos. The full-color aluminum tubes require no humidification, are individually UPC coded, and are packed in 20-count self-contained counter displays to generate impulse sales: Interlude Tubos (61/2 x 44) or Allegro Tubos (51/2 x 50). In addition, three sizes of the Ecuadorian-wrapped Astral line are also being offered in tubes: Lujo (61/2 x 44), Descanso (51/2 x 42), and Beso (5 x 42).

Tabacalera Perdomo, Miami, Fla. (888-642-5797) - formerly known as Nick’s Cigar Co. - unveiled a torrent of new product facings at the show, all hand-made at the company’s new facilities in Estelí, Nicaragua. Third-generation cigar maker Nick Perdomo, Jr. introduced the new pinnacle of the company’s lines, the Perdomo “Estate Selección,” a deeply-aged Nicaraguan puro with distribution that is limited to only 200 select tobacco shops domestically. Crafted from an intricate blend of five-year old Cuban-seed tobaccos grown in Estelí, Nicaragua, the cigars are finished with a Nicaraguan rosado wrapper, grown exclusively for the Perdomo family and triple fermented. All cigars are box-aged for 14 months prior to retail shipment. Estate Selección is available in five sizes: Imperio (51/2 x 48), Regente (5 x 54), Aristocrata (7 x 54), Prestigio (61/2 x 55), and Monstro (61/2 x 54-60). Retail prices range from $8 for the Imperio to $12 for the Monstro. All five sizes are packaged in laser engraved mahogany boxes lined in Spanish cedar, 22 cigars to box. Total production of Estate Selección has been limited to 250,000 cigars, and the manufacturer is limiting availability to traditional stores.

“We feel that it is time to reward the loyalty of our finest tobacconists,” explains Albert Argenti, company spokesman. Estate Selección will not be sold through alternate distribution channels such as direct mail catalogs or over the Internet. Retailers, in fact, are required to sign affidavits limiting availability of the cigar to over-the-counter sales.

A new extension of the Perdomo2 line has been introduced, featuring a maduro wrapper hand selected by Nick Sr. and his son, Nick Jr. The leaf has a deep, rich appearance with a solid tobacco core of flavor with hints of slightly sweet, dark chocolate tones, the company says. Perdomo2 Maduro continues the line’s tradition of an extreme box press, and is also limited to a production of 250,000 sticks. To differentiate from the original, Cameroon-wrapped line, product packaging features yellow bands and labeling, rather than red. In addition, the entire Perdomo2 line features a new size: Entero, a 53/4 x 54 figurado, retail price $7.50.

Two sizes have also been added to the La Tradicion Perdomo Reserve line: the No. 4 (51/2 x 54 perfecto), and the No. 5 (63/4 x 54 perfecto), are available in either rich Rosado or triple-fermented Maduro wrappers and retail at $6.99 and $7.49, respectively. Tobaccos are double-aged Cuban-seed, and the cigars are box-pressed.

A new release of the of the company’s moderately priced Dos Rios line was shown. A box-pressed Habano, Dos Rios is carefully packed in 35-count royal mahogany “casks” lined with Spanish cedar. Incorporated in the standard blend are deeply-aged Nicaraguan ligero tobaccos, grown exclusively for the family; flavorful Dominican leaf; and a double-fermented Ecuadorian-grown Colorado wrapper. Six frontmarks are offered: Especial (57/8 x 44), Rios Extra (61/2 x 46), Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 50), Esplendido (7 x 50), and Pyramid (61/2 x 52). Retail prices range from $3.35 for the Especial, to $4.80 for the Pyramid.

Finally, Cuban Bullet is now also available with an aged Nicaraguan maduro wrapper. Aimed at the cost-conscious consumer, Cuban Bullet features specially-aged and cured Nicaraguan tobaccos, described as “loaded with creamy smoothness on the palate with a sweet cedar finish.” Cuban Bullet Maduro is available in five sizes: .454 (4 x 54), .550 (5 x 50), .554 (5 x 54), .654 (6 x 54), and .750 (7 x 50). All five shapes are packaged in slide-top cedar boxes of 25, and retail between $1.99 and $2.75.

Swisher International, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla. (800-322-4311) has taken its well-known flagship brand, Swisher Sweets, into new territory with Swisher Sweets Premium Selection. The brand’s first hand-made cigar, Premium Selection is made in Honduras from long-filler tobacco and a Connecticut-seed wrapper, and packed in full-color, paper-wrapped boxes of 20. Three popular shapes are offered: Robusto (43/4 x 50), Long Corona (6 x 42), and Slim Panatela (61/4 x 33). Case packs contain 25 boxes. Swisher Sweets Cigarillo Grande are new short-filler small cigars from Honduras featuring a natural-leaf Connecticut-seed wrapper and a European-style “V” cut head. Eight of these mild sweet cigarillos are packed in hinged tins. The new Honduran-made Bering Filter Cigars utilize Habana 2000 wrappers and deliver a “smooth, rich flavor.” They are offered in 20-count, full-color European-style packs, ten packs per full-color countertop display.

J.C. Newman Cigar Co., Tampa, Fla. (800-477-1884) introduced a new La Unica cigar - the La Unica Cameroon Series, featuring a genuine West African Cameroon wrapper. Developed by Stanford Newman and Carlos Fuente and made in the Dominican Republic by Tabacalera A. Fuente, the cigars feature a new blend of five-year-old Cuban-seed Dominican tobaccos, and have a “creamy, yet uniquely spicy flavor,” says Eric Newman, president, J.C. Newman Cigar Co. Four shapes are being offered: Torpedo, Belicoso, Churchill, and Robusto. The cigars bear a new lithographed band, are packaged in 25-count cedar boxes, and retail between $5.75 and $7.50.

Two new limited-production sizes have been added to the Diamond Crown line. The Diamond Crown Figurado No. 6, perhaps one of the most unusual shaped cigars ever created, was personally designed by Carlos Fuente, Jr. - a 6 x 46/64 perfecto. The Diamond Crown Pyramid No. 7, a 63/4 x 54 pyramid introduced last summer, has now been released in a maduro version.

The newest addition to the Cuesta-Rey Centenario Collection, a medium- to full-bodied line with “creamy, rich flavor” is the Cuesta-Rey Tuscany (5 x 50). Handmade from a vintage blend of Cuban-seed filler, aged four years, and finished with a Connecticut wrapper, Tuscany is packed in aluminum tubes.

Ernesto Carrillo, president of El Credito Cigars, Inc., Miami, Fla. (800-543-7131), released the La Gloria Cubana Serie R No. 6, a 57/8 x 60 cigar that completes a three-size robusto extension of the La Gloria brand that began last year.

The flagship La Gloria Cubana line has been extended with the Hermoso, a 41/2 x 48 cigar in natural or maduro, packed unwrapped in boxes of 30, suggested retail $3.35, as well as a new Churchill size (63/4 x 48) Glorias en Cedros, cedar-wrapped and packed in a stylized white tube. The 41/2 x 40 La Gloria Cubana Minuto has been repackaged in a Cuban-style five-pack box with 10 boxes per tray.

The Churchill-sized La Gloria Cubana Limited Edition, of which only 100,000 are being produced, will be available for Christmas. The cigar, which will retail for $8, is made with tobacco set aside to mature for two years.

Puros Indios Cigars, Miami, Fla., (Tel: 800-992-4427) has introduced its long-awaited first box-pressed cigar. The new size, called the Cigar King (6 x 48), is handmade at the company’s Danlí, Honduras factory, utilizing the established Puros Indios blend of Brazilian, Dominican, Jamaican, and Nicaraguan long filler, and Ecuadorian binder and wrapper leaf..

Yossi Kviatkovsky and Dixi Monaco of Cupido Cigars, Costa Mesa, Calif. (Tel: 888-287-4361), introduced three new additions to the Cupido line. The Capitan, a full-sized torpedo (6 x 54), has been a year in the making, utilizing tobacco from the 1997 crop. Hand rolled at the company’s newly-expanded facility in Estelí, Nicaragua, the Sumatra-wrapped Capitan has a “smooth, slightly nutty taste” and produces Cupido’s hallmark white ash, notes Kviatkovsky. Suggested retail is $195 per 25-count box. The company also introduced a new shorter smoke, the Corona Canela box press (51/2 x 42), rolled from the 1996 crop and wrapped with Habana 2000 Rosetto leaf, described as having a “creamy smooth, but robust flavor.” Finally comes the Cupido Chicos, a hand-rolled mini cigar packaged 10 to a box and presented in a dispenser pack which holds 15 boxes, ideal as an eye-catching point-of-sale display.

Also displayed were the Don Kiki bundles, new since last year. Five sizes are offered, with suggested retail ranging from $43.90 to $49.72 - Robusto (5 x 50), Lonsdale (61/2 x 44), Churchill (7 x 52), Presidente (8 x 52), and Torpedo (6 x 52).

The Eiroa family of Tabacos Ranchos Jamastran, Danlí, Honduras released its long awaited Camacho Corojo and Camacho Havana cigars through its Miami-based distribution subsidiary, Caribe Imported Cigars, Inc. (800-367-0782). In an industry first, the Eiroas have returned to a long-abandoned Cuban variety of wrapper leaf for the limited-production Camacho Corojo: a first-generation Cuban corojo-seed wrapper grown on its own Jamastran Valley farms. The variety - first planted in Cuba nearly 70 years ago - was gradually replaced there with higher-yielding hybrids instead. The Eiroas have spent several years fine-tuning the blend of the new Camacho while amassing and aging sufficient wrapper to finally release the cigar in limited quantities. By harvesting two different primings of the same corojo wrapper, either a natural or a darker shade version is being made available. Seven sizes are offered: Petit (51/2 x 42), Nacionale (51/2 x 44), Monarca (5 x 50), Cetro (61/2 x 44), Toro (6 x 50), Figurado (6 x 54), and Churchill (7 x 48). Retail prices range from $3.95 to $5.95. Due to the extremely low yield of corojo plantings - about one-seventh of a typical Connecticut-shade crop - production will be limited to only 500,000 cigars, and less than 40 retail accounts.

To replace the original Camacho line, which was discontinued last year, Eiroa’s are also releasing the Camacho Havana. Featuring the same filler blend and binder leaf but with a more readily-produced wrapper leaf - a Cuban-seed criollo also grown by the Eiroas - it will be widely distributed, retailing between $2.25 and $3.95.

The company’s Baccarat Casino line, introduced earlier this year, was also prominently displayed. A departure from the sweet, flavored Baccarat line, Baccarat Casino instead has a Honduran-grown Cameroon-seed wrapper.

La Flor Domincana’s Litto Gomez and Ines Lorenzo-Gomez showed retailers two new tubo cigars, distributed by Premium Imports, Coral Gables, Fla. (800-543-7131). The La Flor Dominicana Tubo No. 100 (63/4 x 49) and Tubo No. 200 (6 x 44) feature an Ecuadorian wrapper and a blend of filler and binder leaf from the Dominican Republic. Suggested retail is $7.95 and $6.50, respectively. Also recently introduced are La Flor Dominicana Grand Maduro, a stronger, full-bodied version of the company’s flagship cigars that feature Nicaraguan and Dominican filler, a Dominican binder, and a Connecticut-grown broadleaf wrapper. Grand Maduro is offered in either the No. 5 (61/4 x 52) or the No. 6 (53/4 x 54), suggested retail $8.25.

Agio Cigars USA, Tampa, Florida, (888-867-2446) the U.S. importing and distributing subsidiary of Holland-based Agio Cigars, is now the primary domestic source of the full line of Panter and Agio cigarillos and small cigars, including Mehari’s. Over 35 varieties are available, offered in tins, plastic packs, and cardboard European-style flat boxes.

The company’s Balmoral Royal Selection (red label), hand-made premium long-filler cigars from the Dominican Republic, is also available in a selection of Maduro (green label) shapes. Balmoral Royal Selection Maduro, is a blend of Dominican Olor and Piloto Cubana filler; Dominican Olor binder; and a Brazilian maduro wrapper from Bahia. It is offered in five shapes: Churchill (7 x 48), Lonsdale (61/2 x 42), Torpedo (61/4 x 52), Corona (57/8 x 42), and Robusto (5 x 48).

The Balmoral Royal Sumatra Selection are machine-made, short-filler cigars made in the Dutch tradition, using predominately Indonesian tobaccos, giving this line a unique and distinctive flavor. The filler is a blend of eight different types of tobacco, including Indonesian Java, Havana-seed, and Brazilian tobaccos, finished with an Indonesian Java Besuki binder and an Indonesian Sumatra sand leaf wrapper. Four shapes are available: Diana (33/8 x 20) in 20-count boxes, Highland (43/8 x 31) in 10-count boxes, Overland (51/4 x 34) in 5-packs; and Corona de Luxe (44/5 x 42) tubes 5-pack. All cigars are cellophane wrapped.

SAG Imports, Miami, Fla. (800-272-5396), introduced the newest line extension to their Fonseca brand, the Vegas De Fonseca, featuring a unique sun-grown Cameroon wrapper that is aged in Tercio. Connecticut broadleaf is used for the binder to create strength and a little sweetness to the blend, while the filler is Dominican-grown Cuban-seed, with aged Nicaraguan ligero to add power to the blend. The cigar is blended to be medium to full bodied, “but not one-dimensional.”

Matasa’s master cigar blender, Manuel Quesada, started to age tobacco in the Tercio method in 1997, and the tobacco is now coming to perfection. Under the Tercio method, bales of tobacco are compressed in palm bark to age, the traditional method used from the 1800s until the 1970s when major manufacturers adopted other less expensive methods. Sr. Quesada’s great grandfather started to use this method in Cuba in 1876. Palm bark is less porous than other materials that are now used, and the method imparts special full-flavors from the deeper fermentation this method creates. The tobacco in the new Vegas De Fonseca is all aged in this method.

The Vegas De Fonseca is packed in a full-dress box featuring Quesada’s great grandfather on the cover. There are 3 figurado shapes out of the six available. The figurados are the Vegas Petite (41/2 x 40), Belicos (61/4 x 52), and the Vegas #10 (6 x 44/50) range in retail price from $2.95 to $6.00. The standard shapes are Vegas #2 (6 x 43), Sobrinos (51/4 x 50), and the Anteros (7 x 50) range from $3.95 to $4.75. All cigars are box pressed.

SAG also announce that the Petite Belicoso (41/4 x 40) size has been added to the Fonseca Vintage line. Fonseca will debut a gift pack that features a wood box with four Fonseca cigars, a cigar cutter, and lighter. The retail price will be $3.95 for the Petite Belicoso and $17.95 for the gift pack.

Aquarius, a brand new Brazilian puro - fashioned entirely from tobaccos grown in the Bahian region of Brazil - made its American debut at the show. The line was developed specifically for the U.S. market by noted Brazilian producer Menendez Amerino & Cia Ltda., a premium cigar and tobacco company established jointly by the Menendez family of Cuba and the Amerino family of Bahia, Brazil. Aquarius, imported and marketed by the newly founded BR Cigars Corp., Bethel, Conn. (203-748-8137), is hand-rolled from a blend of two tobaccos cultivated in Brazil’s Bahia growing region: Mata Fina, which is light and aromatic, and Mata Norte - slightly stronger and sweeter. Four shapes are being offered: Corona (61/2 x 42), Robusto (5 x 52), Double Corona (71/2 x 50), and Torpedo (7 x 50). Suggested retail prices range from for the corona to for the torpedo. Cigars are packed in full-color boxes of 20. “Brazil is one of the best kept secrets in the world, and fine Brazilian cigar tobacco has always been part of that secret,” notes Fabrice Jaubert, international director at Menendez Amerino.

Last year Drew Estate, Brooklyn, N.Y. (888-224-6376), created a buzz with the introduction of its aromatic ACID cigar line. This year’s answer is the intriguing launch of Natural, which leaves the aromatic herbs and oils aside and instead turns to “horizontal blending” of 100% tobacco for its flavorful theatrics. Gourmet tobaccos from such remote tobacco regions as Louisiana, Syria, Turkey, Haiti, Italy, and China join those from more familiar sources including Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico, among others, taking cigar blending into interesting new territory. Jonathan Sann, president, Drew Estate, calls it blending with “vivid imagination.”

There are 10 cigars in the Natural line, incorporating shade-grown Nicaraguan, broadleaf maduro, and African Cameroon wrappers. Every cigar has a uniquely different composition of filler and binder blends. “Natural is the most independent tasting cigar on the market,” says Sann, due to the case-cured and flue-cured tobaccos that add sweet aromas to the customary fermentation process.

Natural is divided into three separate lines - the green-label Aqua Systems: Jucy Lucy (3 x 38), Elixir 5-50 (5 x 50), Egg (egg-like), and Mixed Elements (6 x 54); the yellow-label Virgin Cuban-seed: Green Hero (61/2 x 54), Root (5 x 55), and Dirt (4 x 42); and blue-label Time: White Rabbit (8 x 44), Clean Robusto (5 x 50), and China 5 (5 x 42). Natural is packed in 24-count white-washed cedar boxes, with the exception of Jucy Lucy in 40-count boxes and Egg in 6-count boxes. Suggested retail prices range from $3.89 to $7.35, with the exception of “Egg,” which carries a suggested price of $9.45. All formats have various combinations of pigtail or flagged heads; and pigtail, cocktail, or flagged feet. Product samples of Natural at the RTDA show were individually packed in bamboo tubes hand-cut from the riverside farms of Drew Estate’s cigar rollers in Nicaragua. Over 30 hours of non-stop driving by truck brought the bamboo straight to Drew Estate’s tiki bar booth at the San Antonio show.

Felipe Gregorio, Inc., Alexandria, Va. (800-392-0981) added several new lines and shapes to its extensive selection of ultra-premium cigars, and company president Philip Wynne urged retailers to remain “independent” by supporting the industry’s dedicated boutique manufacturers. At the extreme high end is the Felipe II Fusion, a rich, complex cigar intended for advanced smokers whose palates are accustomed to strong, Cuban-style cigars. It is blended from aged tobaccos grown entirely by the company in Jalapa, Nicaragua, all fermented together rather than separately, as is common practice. A rich chocolate-brown Havana 92 wrapper completes the blend. Gregorio specifically constructs the cigars to pack a strong punch mid-way through the cigar by the orientation of the filler leaves. Three frontmarks are offered: F1 (7 x 48), F2 (6 x 46), and F3 (5 x 54). Suggested retail prices range from $14 to $16.

Also at the company’s high-end are the new Petrus Fortus Añejo, a blend of aged Dominican Piloto Cubana and Brazilian Mata Fina tobaccos, finished with a dark Cameroon wrapper. They are described as “subtle” in strength with a “rich, long-lasting taste,” and are available in three sizes: Añejo 1 (7 x 48) at $16 retail, Añejo 2 (6 x 54) at $15 retail, and Añejo 3 (53/4 x 46) at $14 retail.

On the opposite end of the company’s price range is a new candela-wrapped line called Iguana. The top-selling style of cigar in the U.S. during the 1960s, fast-cured Candela leaf retains its green hue; Iguana pairs this mild wrapper with Dominican Olor and Piloto Cubano tobaccos for a mild, sweet smoke handmade in the Dominican Republic. Four shapes are available: Baby Iguana (4 x 30) in 10 or 50 stick packaging, suggested retail $1.60 and $1.50 per stick, respectively; Mama Iguana (5 x 38) at $2 retail; Fat Iguana (51/2 x 54) at $3 retail; and Papa Iguana (7 x 48) at $3.75 retail.

Poderozo Extra Strong are box-pressed Nicaraguan puros - rich, earthy cigars with a dark wrapper. Available in either Churchill (7 x 48), Corona Grande (6 x 46), or Robusto (5 x 50) formats, suggested retail $1.85 to $1.95.

Several new sizes have also been added to existing lines. The Petrus Dominicana includes a No. III (6 x 52), $5.75 retail. In the Felipe Dominicana line, retailers can select a sixth shape, the Lord Winston (63/4 x 54), suggested retail $7.00. Finally, the flagship Felipe Gregorio and Felipe Black adds an eighth format, Mystic Knights (61/2 x 55), suggested retail $8.70.

Indian Tabac, Naples, Fla. (888-766-5387), displayed the company’s first perfecto shaped cigar series, the Cameroon Legend. Company president Rocky Patel’s goal was to create a full-boded Dominican cigar, something he felt was missing in the industry. The limited-edition Cameroon Legend blends all Dominican ligero filler and a corojo binder with a Cameroon wrapper that Patel describes as “nothing short of exquisite.” Striking, boldly-designed cedar boxes feature the same full-color graphics found on the Cameroon Legend bands, holding 25 cigars. Three shapes are offered: Perfecto (5 x 52), Perfecto Grande (61/4 x 54), and Figurado (51/4 x 36/52). Suggested retail prices range from $6.80 to $7.90.

Two new Deluxe Tubo cigars were also released - box-pressed cigars packed in typically Indian Tabac-style aluminum tubes. The corona retails for $2.50, and the Churchill for $3.45.

Ashton Distributors., Philadelphia, Penn. (800-327-4866) has added several new shapes to existing line. The Ashton Virgin Sun Grown line has grown with the addition of Spellbound (71/2 x 54), and Enchantment (43/8 x 60figurado). Suggested retail prices are $12 and $10, respectively. The Ashton line has two new formats packaged in aluminum tubes: Imperial (51/2 x 44) at $7.25 retail, and Monarch (6 x 50) at $9. A Pyramid (6 x 52) shape has been added to the Aged Cabinet Selection Maduro line.

Alec Bradley Cigar Co., Plantation, Fla. (888-426-4397), which has assumed distribution of the five-size line of Montero Maduro cigars from Davidoff of Geneva, introduced its newest line, Occidental Reserve. Produced by Hendrik Kelner of Tabadom in the Dominican Republic, the cigars are rolled from 1996 harvest Dominican Piloto, Olor, and San Vincente tobaccos and finished with a 1998 harvest U.S. Connecticut-shade wrapper. Five frontmarks are available: Churchill (7 x 48), Torpedo (6 x 52), Toro (6 x 48), Corona (61/8 x 43), and Robusto (47/8 x 50). Wholesale stick prices range from $1.16 to $1.42, or $28.93 to $35.41 for bundles of 25. The company is also offering Kelner Seconds in ten shapes, either in bundles of 25 or in bulk, in units of 200 cigars.

Global Tobacco Corp., Miami Beach, Fla. (800-873-9826), distributor of Regalos cigars, introduced Havana Cloud, targeting the mass-market and price-conscious premium cigar smokers. A milder blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan long-filler tobaccos, Havana Cloud is available with either an Ecuadorian-grown Sumatra or a Mexican Maduro wrapper. Five shapes are available: Robusto (5 x 50), Corona (51/2 x 42), Panatella (6 x 38), Churchill (7 x 49), and Cigarillos (4 x 26). All are packed in hinged wooden boxes of 5 cigars; cigarillos in slide-top wooden boxes of either 5 or 10 sticks. Suggested retail, from $3 to $4.

Two 19-inch. countertop displays have also been made available: either a 48-box unit for Havana Cloud cigars, or a 24-pack Havana Cloud Cigarillo unit.

Havana Honeys, Inc., Las Vegas, N.V. (800-987-9992), is the importer and distributor of Havana Honeys, hand-made, long-filler cigars from the Dominican Republic. The company has worked diligently to extend distribution of its extensive line of flavored cigars to numerous other firms displaying at the RTDA. A mild cigar rolled from Cuban-seed tobaccos and finished with an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper, Havana Honeys are offered in five sizes. The Del Sol (51/2 x 42) and Rio (5 x 36) are packed in wooden boxes of either 25 or 10, while the Bueno (7 x 36) is offered in boxes of 16 sticks. All three of the these larger shapes are available in Honey or Vanilla flavors. In addition, the Poco (31/2 x 20), which is packed in 50-count upright wooden canisters; 12-count pocket boxes; and 10-count hinge-lid tins are all available in either Honey, Cherry, Rum, Amaretto, or Vanilla.

Garo Bouldoukian, founder of Garo Habano Fine Cigars, Glendale, Calif. (800-995-4276), displayed the two newest additions to his company’s line of cigars: the Garo Classique and the Garo 2000.

Rolled from Dominican-grown Piloto Cubano long filler and binder, and finished with a Nicaraguan-grown Habana 2000 wrapper, the Garo 2000 Millennium Limited Edition is described as “powerful, medium bodied,” and is offered in four figurado-shaped frontmarks: Minerva (5 x 50 perfecto), Vesta (6 x 52), Aurora (61/2 x 52), and Hera (61/2 x 52 pyramid). The cellophane-wrapped cigars are packaged in dark blue cedar boxes of 25.

Garo Classique is the company’s first box-pressed line, bearing a reddish Dominican rosada wrapper, Dominican-grown Piloto Cubano and Costa Rican filler and Pilot Cubano binder. Described as richly flavored and full bodied, Classique is available in four frontmarks: Symphonie I (5 x 50), Symphonie II (6 x 50), Symphonie III (7 x 50), and Symphonie IV (61/2 x 50 torpedo). Bearing an all-new label design, Classique is packed in cabinet-style, hinge-top boxes.

Jeffrey Avo Uvezian’s nextGeneration cigar, distributed by Quality Cigar Partners, LLC, Union, N.J. (888-657-7665), has a new Nicaraguan line extension, bearing a white label to distinguish it from the original Dominican (black label) line. Created by Uvezian and Nick Perdomo Jr. at Tabacalera Perdomo in Esteli, Nicaragua, nextGeneration Nicaraguan Blend is composed of four varieties of vintage Nicaraguan long-leaf filler tobaccos, Ecuadorian-grown Havana 2000 binder, and a two-year-old Connecticut-shade wrapper. The new blend is supported by direct marketing, personal appearances by Uvezian at premium tobacco shops, and retailer participation in a series of cooperative in-store promotions. Uvezian first introduced his premium blend of nextGeneration Cigars in 1997. “My premium boutique brand reflects the passion and standards of quality I insist on ….. after all, it is my name and picture located on every box of nextGeneration,” notes Uvezian. The white label nextGeneration cigar is available in four sizes: Churchill (7 x 50), Robusto (5 x 50), Corona (6 x 45), and Torpedo (61/2 x 50-54). Suggested retail is $5.20 per stick, $5.50 for the torpedo.

LiGar, Margate, N.J., (877-765-4427) has extended its line of flavored cigars with Cognac Churchill and Rum Churchill, hand-made, long-filler cigars from Nicaragua that are cured with fine liqueurs. Each cigar is individually wrapped, then packed in 18-count, airtight full-color metal canisters. The new formats join the existing Vanilla Corona or Amaretto Corona cigars. All cigars are also offered in “It’s a Boy” or “It’s a Girl” editions to celebrate new arrivals.

USA Tobacco Distributing, a new wholesale distributor based in Ventura, Calif. (877-646-0100), debuted custom packaging for several cigar brands it distributes. Havana Honeys, handmade little cigars from the Dominican Republic utilizing Cuban-seed tobacco and flavored with honey, are available in clear-top, hard-cased plastic 4-packs (16 units per counter display, suggested retail $4.99 - 5.99) or as singles in a 32-unit honey pot display, suggested retail $1.99 - $2.49. Tee Time are hand-made, sweetened little cigars merchandised with the golfer in mind; they are available in either clear acrylic 3-packs (suggested retail $4.99 - 5.99) or 8-packs (suggested retail $7.99 -8.99). Prime Time flavored mini cigars are now also available in hard shell 8-packs, either cherry, cinnamon, raspberry, or vanilla flavored.

At Cusano Cigars, imported and distributed by DomRey Cigar, Ltd., Sarasota, Fla. (800-347-1921), company president Mike Chiusano showed the new Cusano Hermanos Vintage Exclusivo, an impressive double-tapered preferido featuring a double-fermented Connecticut shade wrapper and a stronger blend. Presented in boxes made by Dutch humidor manufacturer Picus, the cigars retail at $10, keystoned. Much of the current action at Cusano Cigars is with their bundles. The Cusano M1 bundle, wrapped in Connecticut shade, and the Cusano P1 bundle, wrapped with a Colorado maduro leaf, retail at $2.50 per stick, and are merchandised in a four-facing lucite bin. Four shapes are offered in these medium- to full-bodied cigars, 20 sticks to a bundle. Also shown was the newest Cusano C2 bundle, a milder medium-bodied smoke featuring Cuban-seed and Dominican-seed long-filler leaf, a Dominican binder, and a Connecticut-shade wrapper. Three shapes are available - corona, toro, and presidente - packed 25 sticks to a bundle. Suggested retail, $2.10, keystoned. The company’s entire product line is rolled by Hendrik Kelner at Tabacos Dominicanos, S.A. in the Dominican Republic.

Merchandise Report

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