STILL PLENTY TO BE THANKFUL FOR
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5/12/2009, in category "Outlaw Press"
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Charles Dickens’ famous opening in his 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities is fully apropos for cigar enthusiasts on this Thanksgiving:
Los Angeles, November 27 – Charles Dickens’ famous opening in his 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities
is fully apropos for cigar enthusiasts on this Thanksgiving:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness. . .”
Despite many challenges for cigar lovers, there was still plenty to be thankful for:
Whether from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua or elsewhere, when has there been a time of more aged tobacco, better knowledge on the part of manufacturers or more enthusiasm to make great cigars?
The quality of cigars and the enormous choices available on the U.S. market are unrivaled in recent history. The 2009 edition of our Perelman’s Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars included profiles on 1,360 cigar brands in all, including a sensational 1,209 handmade brands, the second-most in our 15 editions. Only during the Cigar Boom was the number of brands higher, but the overall quality of today’s cigars are second to none.
In addition to more brands than ever before, the variety of shapes expanded considerably in 2008 with a raft of short, fat shapes that offer plenty of flavor but in a format that can be enjoyed more quickly. That’s critical considering the compressed opportunities to smoke in most major cities in the U.S.
Among the best-sellers in many shops are the short robustos of less than five inches in length and ring gauges of 50 up to 64! The Nub line from Oliva established what may be the outer limits on this type of smoke with six sizes ranging from a 3 3/4-inch by 54 or 58-ring robusto up to a four-inch by 66-ring robusto or torpedo.
And yet, at the same time, the elegant Lancero – 7 inches and just 38 ring – also made a substantial comeback this year. And almost everyone is making perfectos again.
Cigar packaging is also better than ever, with more and more brands being offered in packs of three, four or five cigars each. And many makers are expanding the number of shapes which are offered in air-tight tubes, making it easier to take fresh cigars on the road.
Previously reserved mostly for cigarillos, manufacturers are also beginning to introduce elegant tins to handle cigars of standard sizes, even up to Toros and Churchills. The stunning new Crest Sampler tins from Gurkha may be the vanguard of a new way to look this kind of “case” for the future.
Although the pressure on retail smokeshops has never been greater, there are many now which have added extensive lounges and even full bars to allow cigar lovers to smoke inside the shops. This isn’t possible in some cities or even states (such as the state of Washington), but where smokeshops have been protected, at least some have become true havens for cigars and the people who love them. The well-known J.C. Newman Cigar Co., makers of the popular Cuesta-Rey, Diamond Crown and Quorum lines, went so far as to create standards for the best in lounges and has designated nearly 50 shops as “Diamond Crown Cigar Lounges.”
In-store activities are also at an all-time high, with more than a dozen manufacturers actively holding events and tastings all across the country. General Cigar introduced its new Macanudo 1968 blend with more than 450 events nationwide in about three weeks! And no one who attends a monthly bash at Kansas City’s Outlaw Cigar Co. – complete with an Abrams M1-A1 tank or Apache attack helicopter on site – will ever forget it.
Cigars and the people who smoke them are also being noticed by others. A high-end Swiss confectioner, The House of Grauer, has introduced a three-line series of chocolates which are specifically designed to be paired with cigars. Colibri introduced a torch lighter – the Reload – which eliminates the problems of refilling torch tanks before they’re completely empty by offering replaceable tanks. And even with smoking bans, some high-end restaurants are creating special accommodations for cigar lovers with heated, outdoor patios.
And more and more smokers and members of the trade are pushing back against the efforts of the anti-smoking lobby to interfere with the enjoyment of a completely legal product.
The Cigar Rights of America organization was formed in 2008 to give cigar lovers a grass-roots voice and CRA has already been heavily involved in fighting proposed regulations in Los Angeles. Smokers and shop and cigar-bar owners have been working overtime in Boston and Dallas to stop or mitigate proposed bans. The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association and the Cigar Association of America worked feverishly behind the scenes to help defeat the potentially-crippling SCHIP bill (with thanks to President George W. Bush for two vetoes that were sustained) and to soften the impact when it comes up again (and will likely pass this time) in 2009.
And Amar Patel of Magnum’s Cigar, Wine and Liquor Emporium took on the Arizona Department of Health Services and after losing at the trial court level, was rewarded in September when the Arizona Court of Appeal held that his cigar shop – which includes a bar – is in fact exempt from the state’s smoking ban. This kind of activism, although costly in time and money, is now one of the requirements for shops to stay in business.
All of these things are positive and make cigar smoking and cigar smokers a fun and engaging part of a society which is being challenged financially, politically and socially.
There is no doubt that the impact of smoking bans and pressure against cigarettes is being felt by the cigar trade. It is no longer possible, in many cities and most states, to enjoy a cigar indoors anywhere other than at home or in a cigar shop or cigar bar (if there is one in your town). Tobacco’s place has been challenged many times in its history – it was banned in as many as 13 U.S. states early in the 20th Century – but it has always rebounded. Here’s hoping that in a year, the seeds of freedom for cigar smokers will have not only been planted, but have taken root.
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