Cigar News

cgr pix-habanos chevron 150hx183Los Angeles, January 6, 2011 – No doubt about it, this was a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The New York-based attorneys for Habanos, S.A. filed suit in U.S. District Court against Ismail Houmani and his La Casa De La Habana series of four shops in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Plymouth, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio. He's been in business for ten years, but Habanos is now claiming that his store name is confusing similar to the 150-outlet La Casa del Habano worldwide chain of shops which sell Cuban cigars and accessories.

Habanos has a longstanding policy to sue anyone and everyone whose brand or trade names might have any impact on their own trademarks; as David Goldstein, one of the attorneys representing Habanos noted in comments to the Associated Press, the Cubans would otherwise own trademarks that were nothing more than a "worthless piece of paper." Even with the U.S. trade embargo, the Cuban government has been allowed access to U.S. courts to protect its registered patents and trademarks, and Cuban courts are open to U.S. companies for the same purpose.

The fact that this suit was filed, however, is only the beginning of the story. While Habanos has had success in some cases, it has lost others, notably the long struggle with General Cigar (now a unit of the STG joint venture between Scandinavian Tobacco and Swedish Match) over the U.S. rights to the Cohiba trademark. The first La Casa del Habano was opened in Mexico in 1990, but Houmani has been doing business in the Detroit area for a decade without incident and since there are no La Casa del Habano stores in the U.S. due to the embargo, it's hard to imagine that there is much damage or confusion.

Nevertheless, the suit is on.
~ Rich Perelman

cgr_pix-torano_family_logo_150x219Los Angeles, January 6, 2011 – The Single Region blend from the Torano Family Cigar Company showcases the harvest from a single farm and the brand will now be highlighted one store at a time in the new "Single Region Tour."

The new program was announced on Monday, with the kickoff slated for January 19 at the Havana Connection store in Richmond, Virginia. The event will not only feature the new Single Region cigar, but also PT’s Coffee Roasting Company of Topeka, Kansas, which similarly offers specialty micro-lot coffees from around the world.

"The zeal of highlighting regional flavors made the collaboration between Torano and PT's Coffee a natural one," said Charlie Torano, president of the Torano Family Cigar Co. "The events offer great-tasting cigars paired with French-pressed micro-lot coffees that complement and enhance the flavor of both."

The first Single Region release, introduced last summer, is the Serie Jalapa, made with tobacco grown only at a small farm in the Jalapa region of Nicaragua called El Estero. According to Torano, the tobacco fields are irrigated by an ancient stream and the leaves are rich and aromatic.

The Single Region Tour schedule is now being formed, with listings on the Torano Web site, and on its Facebook page and Twitter feed. Thus far, a half-dozen dates have been booked, starting in Virginia this month and continuing in Orlando, Florida in February (Corona Cigar). Longview, Texas in March (Tobacco Junction) and at Habana Premium in Albany, New York in May.
~ Rich Perelman

cgr_pix-in_the_humidor_150hx148Los Angeles, January 5, 2011 – When the Utah legislature raised the state's tobacco tax to 86% of the wholesale
price and included a floor tax on all existing inventory in any shop on July 1, 2010, Gary Klc had had enough.

He closed Jeanie's, the popular State Street smokeshop that his family had owned and operated for more than a half-century, on June 30, noting that if he had stayed open one more day, he would have owed about $125,000 in taxes for his existing inventory. It was the largest cigar store in the state.

Klc locked the door and left, but Luay Alawi and Raad Alkamel, owners of the close-by Smoke Break Hooka Outlet, decided to pick up the pieces and have re–opened the shop.

"We started thinking about reopening Jeanie's as soon as we saw the 'For Lease' sign on the building," noted Alkamel in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. "Jeanie's had been a part of downtown for many, many years, and we didn't want to see it go away."

Alawi and Alkamel have been working to restore the shop to look as much as possible as it was before closing, even asking former customers what brands they would like to see in the humidor. They have a handshake agreement with Klc to use the Jeanie's name for a year, with Alawi adding that "After that, it will be up to Gary on whether we will be allowed to continue to use it."

With an 86% tax rate in the state, it will not be easy to keep Jeanie's going, but in the end, that decision will be made by the shop's customers. As one of the commenters on the Tribune story noted, "Score one for the little guy."
~ Rich Perelman

cgr pix-jm dominican yellow box 150x203Los Angeles, January 5, 2011 – Among both the connoisseurs and the penny-punchers, the JM's Dominican line has long been one of the open secrets of the U.S. cigar market: a quality cigar at an everyday price. Now this versatile line has a fourth wrapper option: Corojo.

The new Dominican-grown Corojo-wrapped blend joins the Connecticut Shade, Sumatra and Connecticut Broadleaf maduro editions to give smokers looking for a value-priced gem even more choices.

The new Corojo is made at the JM Tobacco Co. factory in Santiago and utilizes a Connecticut Broadleaf binder and medium-fill Dominican-grown filler leaves for a delicate and naturally sweet-tasting cigar. In development for several months, the Corojo was introduced "to bring something new to our loyal customers, who have made JM's Dominican cigars so successful" said JM's president Anto Mahroukian.

As with the other styles, the JM's Dominican Corojo is offered in boxes of 50 cigars in all eight shapes, up to the 6 1/2-inch by 62-ring Gordo Grande. And with retail prices ranging from $1.20 for the tiny Petit up to a modest $4.38 - including the Federal SCHIP taxes - for the Gordo Grande, it's a very affordable line.

As to quality, the JM's Dominican line starred in our 2006 tasting, earning an "A" - Exceptional grade (now 4 1/2 stars in our current grading) for both the Connecticut and Sumatra-wrapped versions. Pretty good for a line where the 6 3/4-inch by 50-ring Churchill retails today for $2.60!
~ Rich Perelman

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