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Friday, December 19, 2014

Top 10 Dumbest of 2014

That's correct, you read it right; here is the top 10 list of the dumbest things said in the premium tobacco industry in 2014.  The issues, comments, and ideas listed here were found on social media, youtube, and throughout the internet.  We are not linking to the stupid comments or directly pointing fingers because we don't want to hurt someone's business or propagate more negativity.  But, these idiotic comments need to be isolated and destroyed before they infect more consumers and retail tobacconists.  The purpose of this list is to emphasize accuracy, acknowledge opinion vs. fact, and keep people "honest".  There are so many pontificators, loud mouths, and strongly opinionated people who are wrong, yet the internet gives them a platform to spew their nonsense.  We are here to dispel the rumors, lies and myths!  If you want a top 10 cigar list, go elsewhere... we believe taste is subjective, and apparently stupidity is an epidemic...

10.  Ashtrays Must Be Brass
Huh? What?  A recent facebook post recently emphasized how "all" ashtrays in the 1950s were made of brass and that was obviously the only material an ashtray should be made of.  Firstly, ashtrays were made from innumerable materials even as far back as the 1950s and there is no scientific or aesthetic reason for ashtrays being exclusively made of brass... just some knuckleheads pretending that their opinions are facts. 

9.  Swisher Will Destroy Drew Estate
That's unlikely, given that the people at Swisher are obviously very smart and they are buying a company for their inventory, organization, and product portfolio.  So many naysayers and fan-boys are up in arms because a big company bought another big company, but this does not predict the end times... relax people... only time will tell... But I bet the resources at Swisher will help Drew Estate continue to do what it does even better than they did it before.

8.  Must Use Matches or Cedar Spills
'Only use butane lighters when its windy, anything else would be uncivilized!'  Use whatever you want, except the liquid fuel lighters... and make sure you let the chemicals burn off the match when you light it.  Anybody saying Matches and Spills are necessary is a pompous dilettante.

7.  The Era of the $500 Cigar Has Arrived
Let's not get crazy people... Davidoff introduced a $500 cigar and they have the marketing clout to move it ( I guess), but this is not a trend... more of a marketing/public relations tactic... after all, we are talking about it. 

6.  Smoking a Cigarette in a Smokey Cigar Lounge Will Ruin Cigar Smell
The physics of this just don't add up... this nonsense was in an article about how to annoy people in a cigar shop.  Clearly the author was a cigar snob, cigarette hating, pontificator...  By the time a few cigars are lit up in a retail tobacconist, it is impossible to discern between them, much less the tiny bit of smoke emitted by a cigarette.

5.  Saturate Your Humidor With Water To Season It
This is an old but perpetual piece of bad advice.  Saturating the humidor puts it at risk to damage the joints!!! Don't do it.  Take your time with a humidifier, refill the humidifier every few days, and be patient... everything should be fine in a week or so: you shouldn't rush the process.

4.  And the #1 Cigar Is...
More marketing hype... taste is subjective... but advertising sales are quantifiable...  At least there are people and organizations in the marketplace acknowledging that their top 10/25 lists are subjective... kudos for being honest.

3.  Don't Hold Your Cigar Like A Cigarette
Holding a cigar between your forefinger and middle finger is wrong: at least that's what a blogger article stated.  Well, that's just plain stupid and I don't know a cigar maker who would agree.  Feel free to hold your cigars however you want... do what is comfortable and makes you happy!

2.  Mold vs. Plume
This year we saw a video with thousands of views on youtube with two morons staring at moldy cigars and salivating over the "Plume".  If you want good advice and education, don't get it from a couple of guys in a video who live in their grandmothers basement and claim to be experts.  Full Disclosure: we did try to find the video to link to it here because it was clearly a health hazard, but it has been removed... thankfully!

1.  Cuban Cigars Are Coming To The U.S. Soon
Hold your horses amigo... the Cuban embargo has been in place over 50 years... Don't expect "change" to come that quick.  Even if imports from Cuba were allowed immediately, they couldn't keep up with demand and the quality would become worse than it is!  

And the moral of the story is, don't be an idiot and believe everything you read on the internet...  If you want good information and education, make sure you are getting it from a credible source and don't be afraid to ask questions!   If you are looking for a qualified, substantive, and certified tobacconist, look no further than here.  And here is a list of other Cigar Myths...

Jorge L. Armenteros, CMT
President & Founder
Tobacconist University

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Get Certified? Building A Culture Of Professionalism

What is certification?  Why should you be certified?  And how do you become certified?  These are the questions TU President and Founder Jorge L. Armenteros, CMT answers in this video interview.  

Whether they choose to get certified to strengthen their business, brand, and professionalism or to take advantage of the promotional value provided by TU, over 1200 tobacconists have already answered these questions for themselves.  But, every day legislators, special interest groups, bureaucrats and the nanny state try to usurp your professional and individual rights, disparage the tobacconist profession, and enact new taxes.  TU exists to educate consumers, professionals, legislators, and the entire world about premium and luxury tobacco products and their history.  Without education, there will be no salvation!

Of course, if you don't believe in a code of ethics and standards, professionalism, or excellence, then certification is not for you...

"The luxury and premium tobacco industry will not exist without the retail tobacconist"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TU: Past, Present, & Future

After nearly 19 years in existence, Tobacconist University President & Founder Jorge Armenteros sits down to discuss the beginnings of TU, the importance of educating, supporting, promoting, and providing competitive advantages for retail tobacconists.  Jorge also discusses the exclusive relationship between TU and the IPCPR as well as the current and future focus of TU.

"Above and beyond ... we need to create real competitive advantages, leveraging points for these Certified Retail Tobacconists.  We need to empower them and give them more opportunities to be more profitable and more successful than they've ever had before.  That's our ambition.  That's what's next." 

- Jorge Armenteros, CMT

Monday, October 6, 2014

On Government Regulation & Legislating Taste

How do you feel about Government regulation of cigars?  The challenges are staggering for the premium tobacco industry, and retail tobacconists are on the front lines of this battle for taste and freedom: FDA, S-CHIP, Smoking Bans, smoking restrictions, OTP taxes, import duties, small cigar taxes, snuff/snus taxes, cigarette taxes, local/city/state regulations, and many many more...

In a rare, unprecedented, and exclusive interview, Jorge Armenteros, CMT, founder and president of Tobacconist University, sits down to discuss TU, R&D Cigars, the IPCPR, and everything in between. The full interview will be released over the coming weeks and months... stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Upsell, Upsell, Upsell !!!

Upselling is a sales technique whereby the seller induces the customer to purchase additional or more profitable items.   For a retail tobacconist, upselling can be the difference between success and failure.  Competing with the internet, mail order, and discount warehouses is extremely difficult, but an additional $50 a day in upsells will yield an extra $18,000 a year and this pays a lot of bills! 

While the sales techniques and culture will vary with retail tobacconists, we all have a similar pool of resources to upsell, which includes: lighters, cutters, humidification packs, other cigars, etc...  Retail tobacconist upselling can occur in the humidor as well as at the point-of-sale (POS).  Upselling big items like lighters, cases, humidors, and others cigars is great, but POS items can add up to big business over the course of the year and these are our last opportunity to add value to the customers' retail experience.  Yes, that's correct, upselling adds value!  In a luxury business like ours, there is no post purchase remorse for having purchased more luxury.  Tobacconists are selling pleasure, relaxation and taste, and our customers always want more of those things. 

Ultimately, customers who have been prompted to purchase an extra cigar, cutter, or lighter will come back and express their satisfaction at having bought that extra product.  Often the upsell is the tactic which introduces the customer to the new cigar or product they didn't know they wanted.  Upselling will help your customers discover new things, give them a "bonus" feeling, and make their purchase more exciting.  So, don't be afraid to ask.  You have to ask!

-Have you seen this?
-Have you tried this new cigar?
-Do you need a cutter with that?
-Would you like a humidification pouch?

And don't be afraid to suggest a new product:

-If you like that cigar, then you will love this one...
-I know you love that cigar, but I think this one will be a great follow up to it...
-This just came in and all of the Tobacconists are going crazy for it...

Upselling is crucial to our businesses and we must train, practice, and reinforce the process.  Train your tobacconists to upsell, give them incentives, and create a culture of upselling in your stores and your customers will thank you for it!  And your business will prosper more because of it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Culebra: A Definitive Guide to an Unusual Cigar



The “Culebra” is a cigar that has been largely an enigma. Various myths and stories have been circulated regarding its history, purpose and production, but few, if any, credible sources have been cited to confirm the purported facts.

Recently, I set out to find the historical facts about Culebra cigars. In this article I will explore the early history and origins of the Culebra and I will discuss the processes for producing these unique cigars.

After searching through numerous articles, books, magazines, newspapers and the World Wide Web, I still don’t have all the answers. However, I can provide some solid resources to back up the statements that you will read below.

Historical Origins

Culebra is the Spanish word for “snake” and a finished Culebra looks like a group of snakes that are coiled together and tied off on each end. Culebras are usually constructed of 3 or 4 under-filled Panatelas, braided together and tied off at each end so they hold their shape.

The oldest and most definitive statement as to the origins of Culebras comes from an article written in New Zealand’s Auckland Star, which confirmed that, the Compañia General de Tabacos Filipinas (est. 1881) was already producing Culebras by 1890. Min Ron Nee (2003) in his book, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars agreed: “[The Culebra] first appeared in the Philippines circa mid-19th Century, a Philippines cigar industry invention.”

However, there is also evidence that Culebras were being made in the U.S. at least as far back as 1890. Noted cigar historian, Tony Hyman (2014), produced a photo of a cigar box (circa 1890) that once contained Culebras produced by the F.P. Filbert Cigar Company in Eaton, Ohio called “Filbert’s Twisters,” a 3-cigar Culebra (see illustration below). Tony had other examples including A. C. Brenkle Company’s “Twisted Smoke,” a 4-cigar Culebra made in 1914 and the “Cuban Twist,” a 3-cigar Culebra made in Wisconsin in the 1920’s (see illustration below). Since Culebras likely originated in the Philippines (Auckland Star, 1890 and Nee 2003) and with evidence of the cigars being manufactured in the U.S. as far back as 1890, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Culebra originated no later than 1885 and most likely between 1880-1885.


Purpose of Culebra: Why Were These Cigars Made?

There are many views as to why Culebras were made. One account suggests that Culebras helped to prevent thievery or black market after sales by factory workers (Tobacconist University):

Traditionally, factories have allowed their rollers a daily ration of cigars; but managers had little control over how much one person could consume. The Culebras is an underfilled cigar that retains its rustic ‘snake-like’ shape after it has been unbraided. This visible hallmark gave managers an ingenious method to ration and control employee consumption.

Via personal email correspondence, Tony Hyman stated, “That may be the ‘story’ but in viewing hundreds of pictures of Cuban factory workers, I’ve yet to see anyone smoking Culebras.” Nee (2003) also noted that, since the number of factory rejects far outnumbered the ration of cigars per day per roller, it would be cost-inefficient to allow the rollers to make such a specialty cigar rather than just letting them smoke the factory rejects. No doubt there were thieves in the industry, but making Culebras would not be an efficient way to solve the problem given that would-be thieves could simply make more Culebras to easily thwart a rationing system.

Nee (2003) has suggested that Culebras were considered by the Philippine cigar industry as a form of packaging rather than an individual vitola. “Culebras were created based on the theory that a thicker cigar can mature better. The Culebras was designed to enable a small ring gauge cigar to mature as well as a thick ring gauge cigar.” However, if putting small ring gauge cigars together was for the purpose of helping them mature better, then boxing or bundling those cigars in groups of 20, 25, or 50 would achieve the same purpose AND more efficiently. 

The more likely answer was that Culebra was a novelty form of packaging. Based on the 1890 article in the Auckland Star, the Culebra was, “A novelty… formed of three cigars plaited together.”

Nee (2003) also stated, “The Cuban cigar industry never took the Culebras seriously and very few Culebras were manufactured in the pre and post-Revolution era.” He further notes that, the Cuban H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta and Partagás were the only brands that had produced them since the Revolution.

The rarity of Culebras in the Cuban cigar industry demonstrates that the cigar was intended more for novelty than anything else. Even in the U.S., Hyman (2014) has stated simply, “It's a novelty, like Crooks, Flats, Bends, Immense, Bang-Tails, Pegged [all historical names of cigar brands], etc.”

Master Roller Vicente Perez of Don Vicente Cigars International remembers being taught by his father to make Culebras. He said it was not something that he remembers being rolled regularly and, thus, fell into the novelty category.

How Culebras are Constructed and Smoked

Vicente Perez explained that Culebras are made by starting with 3-4 panatela-sized cigars that are purposely under-filled to allow the cigars to be braided without cracking or breaking the wrapper on the cigars. The tobacco must be moistened more than usual so that they remain flexible and are easily braided without ruining the wrappers or the cigars.

The individual cigars are tied with a ribbon or string, placed about ½” down from the caps of the cigars to hold them in place. Then, the cigars are braided together with the number of twists in the braid being determined by the length of the individual cigars (the longer the cigars, the more twists). Once the cigars are braided all the way, a second ribbon or string is tied about ½” up from the foot of the cigars. The tying of the cigars together will allow them to retain their new shape, while aging. Some manufacturers will put cigar bands on the Culebras and some don’t, it depends on the roller or company. Some rollers will place a large cap over the top of all three cigars as a more elegant finish.
Once the cigars are aged and ready to smoke, any cap over the end will be removed and the ribbons or strings will be removed from the cigars. You can separate the Culebras and smoke each cigar individually. Although you can leave the cigars bound together and smoke them all at once, Culebras should be smoked individually and shared among friends.

It’s amazing that the cigars have an easy draw, even though they remain in their new bent shape. They may look a bit funny or interesting, but they can be a very enjoyable cigar and can become the talk of any Herf.


Culebras have been around since the 1800’s and were invented by the Philippine cigar industry as a novelty form of cigar packaging. There are several myths about how Culebras may have been used as a form of rationing and control over inventory and sales to the black market, but these stories are not well documented.

When I started out on my quest to find out more about Culebras, I was baffled at how little factual information is out there regarding Cuban rolled Culebras. I was able to find no sources that confirmed when Culebras were initially made in Cuba.

I have personally spoken to three different Cuban rollers about the Culebra in the Cuban cigar industry. Rosa Peña, rolled in the Cuban Cohiba factory (El Laguito) for 33 years (post-revolution), Agapito Torres worked in the Romeo y Julieta factory pre-revolution and Vicente Perez’ father rolled in the Romeo y Julieta and H. Upmann factories pre-revolution. None of them remember Culebras being rolled in those factories during the years they worked there.

Nee, stated that Culebras are very rare in Cuba and that, since the Revolution, only three brands have produced them: H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta and Partagás (Nee, 2003).

I have always been intrigued with Culebras. The fact that they smoke very well, even in their bent state, is an amazing feat of the cigar rolling craft. Each Culebra, whether it’s a 3- or 4-cigar Culebra, can be separated and shared among 3-4 people. It’s like having a small, braided mini Herf ready to happen. It’s always more fun to smoke with friends and enjoy and share the flavors and nuances of a fine cigar and the Culebra provides a ready means to do so.

Some Current Regular Production and/or Limited Production Culebras

Brun del Ré: Culebra Grande (7 x 44), Culebra Pequeña (5.75 x 26)

Davidoff: Special C (6.5 x 33)

Drew Estate: Medusa (6 x 44)

Illusione: Illusione 23 “tre in uno” (6.5 x 33)

Johnny-O!: A Culebra (9.5 X 47), Culebra (7 X 44), Churchill Culebra (8 X 47), Forbidden Xtasy (6.5 X 42), Magnum (7 X 47), Gold Medal (6.5 X 42).

La Flor Dominicana: Culebra Especial (6.5 x 30), Culebra Gorda (6.5 x 38), Double Ligero Culebras (7.5 x 39) [Limited to Puff  ‘N’ Stuff]

Partagas (Cuba): Culebra (5.625 x 39)

Tatuaje: Tatuaje Black, “The Old Man and the C” (7.5 x 38), El Triunfador “The Old Man and the C” (7.5 x 38)


Auckland Star (1980). Volume XXI, Issue 150, (26 June 1890), page 5.

Cigar Press Magazine Online (June, 2010). Culebra Cigars. Accessed July 6, 2014. Available at:

Habanos S.A. website. Available at:

Nee, M. R. (2003). An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars (Jan. 2003, pg. 94).

Tobacconist University website. Tobacco College: Cigar Shapes & Sizes. Accessed July 6, 2014. Available at:

Personal Interviews (All interviews took place between June 16 and July 11, 2014)

Tony Hyman is a Cigar Historian and Curator of the National Cigar Museum. Website available at:

Rosa Peña works at Don Vicente Cigars, Las Vegas Nevada. Rosa has been a cigar roller for 48 years. She rolled at the El Laguito factory (Cohiba) in Cuba for 33 years. Subsequently, she left Cuba and rolled at the Graycliff factory in the Bahamas for 11 years and then moved to Las Vegas and is currently rolling at Don Vicente Cigars.

Vicente Perez is owner of Don Vicente Cigars, Las Vegas Nevada. Vicente learned to roll from his father, Victoriano Perez Montego, who rolled at the Romeo y Julieta and H. Upmann factories in Cuba. He has been rolling for 30+ years.

Agapito Torres rolled in Cuba in the Romeo y Julieta factory (pre-revolution).


Monday, July 7, 2014

The R&D Manifesto


Welcome to the future.  You can read all the "standard" info about R&D Cigars on the TU website in the R&D Lab.   Essentially, R&D Cigars are small batch, TU Certified cigars created with an educational purpose: educating your mind and palate.  At TU, we want to be about something (#beaboutsomething); we believe in substantive professionals and products.  We see more hyperbole and cult-of-personality marketing in the premium cigar industry than in perhaps any other.  Yet, there is enough substance, history, and tradition in the luxury tobacco industry that exaggerations are unnecessary.

While contemporary cigar marketers are busy creating outlandish and tantalizing brand names, using "sex" to sell, or trying to convince you that the picture of them inspecting leaves in the fields are authentic, retail tobacconists are working with consumers, face-to-face, on a daily basis.  While a cigar vendor can type up a bunch of alluring words on a website or for an advertisement, retail tobacconists are being accountable, honest, and educating their customers so they will return and become satisfied regulars.  Trust is the cornerstone of credibility and every successful retail tobacconist knows that.  It is easy to sit around in an office all day and concoct fancy words, but the real premium cigar industry exists in the retail tobacconists store because that's were the consumers are.  Retail tobacconists do not have the luxury of BS-ing customers: they must #beaboutsomething.  

With that said, we do recognize that marketing in the cigar industry is exciting and interesting.  There is so much innovation and communication happening that it is hard to keep up.  And at the very least, its never boring.  But, TU is not about exaggeration and empty words.  We want to #beaboutsomething.  Ultimately, if you call everyone a "master" or "legend" or if everyone is like "family" or your "brother",  then those words will lose their value.  The words we use at TU mean something; that's why we have the largest glossary in the industry, and we take those words seriously (ie. Flavor = Taste + Aroma,  Maduro is both a color description and fermentation process, and our certified retailers have a "real" store, not just a virtual one). 

At TU, we want to #beaboutsomething, and R&D is.  As you will see in the R&D Lab, extraordinary efforts have been made to educate your mind and palate.  While taste is, and will always be, subjective, we can teach and illustrate facts, history, and enhance your appreciation of luxury tobacco in the process.  While we look forward to many years of researching and creating educational products, we also hope that TU R&D will help and inspire others in the industry to take it to the next level and #beaboutsomething. 

In the future, when you come across R&D Cigars at a TU Certified Retail Tobacconist (CRT), you will know that everything about those cigars is authentic and the tobacconist who is curating them is credible because he/she is the first professionally certified tobacconist that had to pass a test to sell you a certified cigar.   Furthermore, all of the personal and product certification standards are transparent and freely available on the TU website: including but not limited to our Code of Ethics & Standards, the TU Academic Curriculum, our Glossary, Tobacconist Tips, FAQs, and all of the standards of TU Certification.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dear FDA, Tasting Is Essential


Tasting Is The Only Way To Distinguish

What is the difference between these two nearly indistinguishable cigars?  They are both premium, Nicaraguan, Churchill sizes with similar construction techniques.  They would both commonly be described as "rich, earthy, and mild to medium strength".  In addition, they both have the same suggested retail price of $6.50 USD.  Yet, one of these cigars is a masterpiece that was a limited production (approx. 55,000 produced) while the other reflects mediocre fermentation, poor construction, and inferior or unimpressive ingredients... in my opinion.  Both of these premium cigars come from the same place, are described the same, are priced the same, and look the same!  The point is, you wouldn't know the difference unless you smoked one.  And you could even prefer the one that I don't like, because taste is subjective!

Of course, for every person that appreciates the flavor complexities, richness and nuance of a premium cigar, there are many who simply think they "stink" or think they all smell and taste like "tobacco".  But nothing could be further from the truth (see Flavor Descriptor Tasting Chart below).  There are also people in the world who don't like the taste of clove, bar-b-q, whiskey, wine, meat, fennel, broccoli, etc.... The same is true for smells: just visit a perfume or candle store to prove the point that there is something for everyone.  Variety is indeed the "spice" of life, taste is subjective, and there is no accounting for taste!

A cigars most important flavor qualities are impossible to ascertain without tasting or sampling it.  And unlike a bottle of wine or fine spirit, which can be sipped a few times and understood and savored by the consumer, a cigar cannot be sampled in just a few puffs.  Why?  Because the nature of a liquid is that it is perfectly blended while premium cigars are crafted with five to eight distinct leaves, in varying proportions.  Each of these leaves must be measured and placed in a hand crafted bunch which will combust at the perfect rate:  perfect combustion is what releases the flavor properties of a cigar. So, in order to assess the qualities of a cigar, it must be smoked, in its entirety. 

The hand blending of multiple leaves in premium cigars makes it is natural to expect differences between cigars that were created at the same time using the same blend; but there will also be changes over time due to production realities.  Weather conditions (sun, temperatures, humidity, cloudiness, rain, etc...), soil rotation, and countless other variables make it impossible to plan and predict what a cigar blend will be in the future and what a cigar will ultimately taste like.  So, while consistency is important when creating cigars, it is impossible to achieve.  Recipes do not exist and blends have to vary.  For this reason, consumers and professional tobacconists must constantly taste and sample premium cigars to determine whether it suits their taste.  There is no accounting for taste, and shallow and factual descriptions are not nearly enough information to base decisions upon (e.g. rich, earthy, and mild to medium strength).

Premium cigars, like fine vintage wines, are released in limited, boutique, vintage, one-off, and rare editions.   As an agricultural product that is cultivated, cured, fermented, aged, blended, and hand crafted, the limited, rare and special nature of cigars is inherent to the product.  Premium cigars cannot be created via recipes, rather, they are a cigar makers artistic interpretation of what has grown out of the soil.  And since taste is subjective, this can be a very esoteric process and product.  Ultimately, only consumers can help to quantify or judge taste by determining whether or not that cigar is successful in the marketplace.  But, it is simply impossible to regulate, judge, or impose, taste.  There is no accounting for taste.

When you buy a car, you know the horsepower, MPG and other vital stats and specifications and you get to test drive it.  When you buy a turkey at the market, you know the calories, carbs, weight and other nutritional information.  And, of course you can have a reasonable expectation of what that turkey will taste like because there is very little variability in turkeys.  But, in case you don't, your super market may have someone there promoting and offering samples of that turkey. 

Every industry and product class has reasonable methods for sampling, assessing, and tasting products because it is necessary.  In the luxury tobacco industry, it is imperative.  Ultimately, not allowing samples and tasting of luxury and premium tobacco products would undermine and destroy the whole industry.  Limiting sampling and tasting will handicap retail tobacconists, undermine consumers, and stifle all creativity on the part of cigar makers.  If sampling and tasting is outlawed, the cigar industry will be left with a handful of generic or homogenized products created by the worlds largest corporations, leaving behind an industry that looks more like the mass-market cigarette industry rather than the boutique, artisanal, and creative industry that exists today.

Tobacco Flavor Descriptors from the Tobacconist University Certified Cigar Review Blueprint:

bbq bittersweet anise alfalfa ammonia
gamey black cherry black pepper barnyard astringent
leather blackberry cardamom bell pepper bitter
manure buttery chili pepper cardboard burnt match
meaty caramel cinnamon cedar diesel
musky  cherry cloves charred dry
roasted meat chocolate cumin dark roast coffee harsh
smoked meat citrusy ginger dusty kerosene
venison coffee mulling spice espresso lead
creamy nutmeg flowers mineral
currant smoked pepper fresh cut grass rust
dark chocolate sugar grass salt
dried fruit wasabi hay soapy
fruity white pepper herbs sulfur
honey hickory tar
marshmallow manure
molasses mesquite
orange peel mildew
plum moldy
raisin moss
sugar moss
toffee mushroom
vanilla musty
white chocolate oak
old cellar
raw nuts
roasted nuts
wet forest
wet grass
wine cask

Jorge L. Armenteros, CMT
President & Founder
Tobacconist University

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Response to the FDA


Dear FDA,

I am writing with regard to premium cigars being regulated by the FDA and treated the same as cigarettes and other nicotine delivery systems.  Premium cigars are different.  They are handcrafted as organoleptic delicacies: no different than fine wines or gourmet foods.  As a consumer, retail tobacconist, and president of the organization that certifies professional and luxury tobacconists (Tobacconist University) I can attest that premium cigar consumers are adults who enjoy the relaxing, social and meditative value that the products are meant to convey.  In addition, fine premium cigars are delicious and not used out of habit.  The majority of our customers smoke approx. one cigar per week, to unwind and savor their time. 

Furthermore, premium cigars cannot be defined by their retail price (ie. $10) because there are many inexpensive varieties, and while I prefer the flavor profiles of more expensive cigars, taste is subjective.  Some consumers even prefer premium cigars that have infused or hints of other flavors: the same applies to fine wines and gourmet foods.

Ultimately, premium cigars are made from whole leaf dark tobaccos (not homogenized or processed).  They are bunched by hand (often with the assistance of a Lieberman machine - which is a simple strip of canvas which helps compress the tobaccos evenly), and wrapped with a leaf of wrapper tobacco.  Wrapper tobacco in particular is an exquisite leaf which is cultivated like rare orchids and applied by extraordinary crafts-men and women.  The transformation of rustic leaves into a beautiful premium cigar takes years to unfold and it must be seen to be appreciated.  I would welcome the opportunity to share these processes with the FDA.  Hand crafted premium cigars are a special artisanal product and their cultivation and manufacture is an amazing and beautiful process.

I hope that you will take these facts into consideration and keep the regulation of premium cigars (and pipe tobaccos) separate from cigarettes and smokeless tobaccos.  We currently have many creative boutique products in the marketplace and it would be a shame to find the premium cigar industry consolidated into a few massive multi-national corporations.  Similarly, it would be a travesty to see retail tobacconists decimated by over regulation.  Currently, retail tobacconists represent the best of America and the premium cigar industry.  As the president of Tobacconist University, I represent hundreds of small retailers who work hard to service their customers and help them savor their time.  We take great pride in our walk-in humidors and giving customers an immersive aromatic experience while they shop.  We're an old-fashioned business selling hand crafted products which take years to create.  And we love our products, customers, and our old-fashioned shops. 

I would welcome the opportunity to help share with you any of my information, educational tools, connections, or access to this special industry.  At the very least, please visit a certified tobacconist and experience the passion and professionalism that we provide.  In our modern world where information travels at the speed of light, and change is increasingly unsettling, retail tobacconists and our consumers appreciate simple values like relaxation and hand crafted luxury products which help us savor our time.


Jorge L. Armenteros, CMT
President & Founder
Tobacconist University