A Few Good Links today will cover the new cigar from Room 101, why I am happy Prince Fielder is a Tiger and why Maryland sucks.
1. Jewelry craftsman and cigar maker Matt Booth has teamed up with his photographer to come out with a new blend of cigars called OSOK, One Shot One Kill. Now, if you are thinking that name is provocative let me just fill you in on the meaning: by “shot” they mean “photograph” and by “kill” they mean “killer photo.” The photographer, whose name is Edgar Hoill, is nicknamed OSOK and that’s where that comes from. If the cigar is as good as its marketing it should be great.
I like the name and it’s more understandable than one of Booth’s other cigar creations – Namakubi, which has something to do with severed heads and Samurai. I don’t have any definite plans on reviewing either of these cigars but I wouldn’t rule it out.
2. Prince Fielder did not sign with the Rangers (woohoo) but has decided to sign on as part of the one-two punch that is Prince-Cabrera. I guess if you wanted to strangle a joke out of this you could say that Prince, Cabrera and Verlander are now “Detroit’s New Big Three.” (Note to Tigers’ marketing team: I came up with the slogan so you owe me royalties if you decide to use it.)
The reason why I like this is because it puts Prince in the AL Central. The Tigers should be strong enough to manhandle their division counterparts and suppress wins enough so that none of the teams from the Central will seriously compete for the Wild Card. If baseball goes to a two Wild Card format for 2012 that means there will be five teams (Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays) battling for four playoff spots (AL West and East champs and the two Wild Card spots).
Anything can happen over 162 games but that really isn’t true. I just can’t envision a world where the Orioles or the Mariners figure out how to win enough ballgames to make it to the playoffs.
3. I’ve driven through Maryland before, it looked nice. But now I’m going to have to say that Maryland sucks because it has decided to increase cigar taxes. The size of the tax increase is a sideshow to the rationale:
“I imagine everyone’s here because of the public health side of the story,” Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said. “It’s also a revenue generating story but that wouldn’t be why you’re here, but rather to focus on the benefits to health of what we’re proposing.”
Saying that the reason they are raising taxes on cigars is for health reasons is as laughable as a guy saying he has a subscription to Playboy so that he can read the articles. States who tax tobacco use want the extra revenue and the politicians who support these onerous taxes want the goodwill they engender amongst the busybody anti-smoking groups.
A Few Good Links for this week includes a cigar company that’s transitioning into limited edition cigars only, a rapper (Or is he a hip hop artist? I’m too white to know for sure.) and the end of a favorite TV show of mine.
1. Viaje has announced that they’re only going to do limited editions of their cigars from this point on. From Cigar Aficionado: “Viaje recently announced that, from this point on, the company will only be producing small-batch production runs. Lines like the Oro and Platino that were previously regular-production brands will now be made in limited quantities only.” Honestly, I think this is a dangerous move for the company. If you don’t have regular production lines then you aren’t going to have regular customers.
Take Tatuaje as an example. They have a number of production lines that people like and smoke regularly, thus keeping the brand on their customers’ minds. With this entrenched customer base they have the ability to do a lot of limited edition cigars and, since there are already a good number of people smoking their production line cigars, there are more people who will take a chance on a limited edition cigar that costs more than twice as much as a decent premium cigar.
On the other hand, producing a handful of limited edition cigar brands is an exciting proposition. For starters, Viaje will have more control over the taste of their cigars. Instead of having to worry about producing a ton of cigars they can use what little leaf is available to make exactly what they want. Another plus about this approach is that the fact that every cigar is a “limited edition” may end up creating more demand than otherwise would be there just because of the customers’ perceived quality of these cigars. “Well, it’s a limited edition cigar so that means it’s rare and that must mean that it is better than this tawdry regular production cigar that I was going to smoke so I’m going to buy the Viaje,” or something like that line of reasoning may go on in a number of BOTL’s heads when buying their cigars.
Anyways, it’s an interesting gambit and I hope it works out for them.
2. Snoop Dogg (I remember when I was younger, probably over a decade ago, my local sports guy, Fred Roggin, tried to say Snoop’s name and it came out “Snoopy Dog Doggy.” Just a funny anecdote, that’s all.) has decided to take the cigar industry by storm! He’s created a cigar brand (read this if you want to waste a minute of your time) that will sell for about $0.50 a cigar… and he claims they’ll taste great. Sure.
Seriously, I just don’t get it. There have to be hordes of liquor companies, clothing companies, alternative lifestyle concerns and others clamoring to get him to affix his name onto their product; so why cheap cigars? Cheap flavored cigars at that. Well, I guess if Congress or the socialists in CA decide to ban flavored cigars the fact that Snoop will no longer be the new dogg in the cigar industry would be a slight silver lining.
3. Chuck, which I’ll admit isn’t an amazing show, is a show that I love to watch. It’s hokey and has some awfully dumb story lines but it also has this irresistible quality to it that isn’t hard to explain. Lots of action, a couple of pretty girls, bad guys that have to be defeated (and always are) and the geeky, down-on-his-luck lead character, Chuck, has blossomed into the hero with the girl of his dreams. I guess the main reason I like this show so much is because it is escapism at its nerdy best. I usually gravitate to shows that have a darkness about them (Dexter, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Nip/Tuck, Deadwood, Hell on Wheels and, holy crap, I watch too much television) but Chuck has carved out a position on my personal favorite TV show list of all time. I’ll miss it when it’s gone in a week.
A Few Good Links this week is going to focus on a list of the lists of top cigars, some news about Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and an update on the (so far) sad tail of a slugging first baseman without a bag.
- The Consensus: 2011 Awards via halfwheel: Ever wanted a Metacritic-esque survey of the cigar world? (Incidentally, I think that would be a good idea. It would need constant updating and there would have to be some kind of resolution as far as scoring goes, should certain sites be weighted more heavily, what about vitola… I digress.) Well, halfwheel has come out with a survey of what the cigar blogging world thought were their favorite cigars of 2011. I will only tell you that Undercrown was the consensus top pick according to them. If you want to see the rest of this amazing post (like top brand, factory, country and some trends) you’re going to have to click on through.
- Stephen King wrote one of my favorite fantasy series of all time in The Dark Tower. In late April there will be a new addition to this series with The Wind Through the Keyhole, which will basically shed some light on the main character’s past. I think it’s kind of like Godfather 2 in that there are some elements that take place during the natural progression of the story and there are some prequel elements as well. This will be mostly prequel though. With the movie/tv-ification of this series in peril the new book is at least something to look forward to.
- While Prince Fielder’s normal pace is slower than most his current pace is maddeningly slow. I’m guessing his agent, Scott Boras, is playing a game of chicken with all of his client’s potential suitors but there comes a time when you have to wonder whether or not this was a bad move. And then I see a little piece of news like this and I’m thinking the AL West is where the real arms race is.
I don’t normally look at the inserts that come with a package but this one caught my eye because it was different. Cigar Journal, which is the cigar magazine of record for Europe, as far as I know, was able to have a shortened version of its magazine inserted into a shipment of cigars that I recently received. I’m guessing they paid for this placement although I can’t rule out someone surreptitiously putting it in the box.
As far as promotional inserts go this one actually got my attention. I entered a contest one of their advertisers is hosting, which is nothing more than me signing up for more emails, and I even read some of the shortened articles. Their Top 25 (which is something I have to get on, although it will be a Top 10 for me) was interesting because it featured a few cigars that I am unfamiliar with and now will look out for the next time I see one in a shop.
What really got me though was the short format of the whole thing. There weren’t these long winded articles about luxury items having nothing to do with cigars; it was all about cigars. I don’t know about you but if I want to learn something about the BMW M3 I’ll head on over to Car and Driver or Top Gear. (I’m sure they have some of that in their magazine as well but probably not as much as that other magazine. Can that even be possible?)
One thing that did catch my eye was the little snippet about Cigar Journal’s newest member: James Suckling. Now, I already knew he was their newest employee but I have to admit that it was odd seeing him in a different publication other than Cigar Aficionado or Wine Spectator. Suckling was always more interested in Cuban cigars so the change makes sense for him, I guess. While thinking about him I now remember I still haven’t seen his ode to Cuba: Cigars: The Heart and Soul of Cuba.
Going over to that site I quickly realize that it’s actually a pay to play community. As cigar media business ventures go this is probably a decent one for him. There are obviously a lot of Cuban cigar devotees and others who are just interested in learning more about the Cuban cigar history and culture. Personally, I would fall into the latter group but I don’t know if I fall into that group enough to become an active member of that community. Maybe I’ll buy the documentary someday; not a priority though.
As I divert my eyes from the screen for a moment they fall on a picture of Cigar Journal’s staff gathering for a team photo in St. Moritz, which has to be one of the better places to hold a tasting panel. A couple of pages later there are pictures of cigar luminaries like Guillermo Leon, the tattooed Pete Johnson and Pepin Garcia receiving awards from Cigar Journal. All in all that awards ceremony looks like it had more meaning than any Academy Awards ceremony.
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, if you want to you can get access to all their editions on their website for free. I’m sure the magazine is better than looking at the digitized version and I might consider subscribing in the future. That insert, A Taste of Cigar Journal, was actually a pretty deft piece of marketing.
Both of these sites have a couple of things in common. First, they are about selling cigars and cigar accessories. Second, they are auction sites. True, Cigar Sniper goes the penny auction route and Cigar Sprint Sale, which is brought to us by Cigar.com (and Cigar.com is owned by Cigars International), goes the countdown to purchase route. More on that later. The other thing that these sites have in common, which is something that I did not totally grasp until quite recently, is that they both share exquisite timing; they were both launched right before the American shopping season. That’s strategery right there!
Cigar Sprint Sale has that name for a reason: it is a sprint to see who is going to win the item on the block. Basically, it works this way:
- New item goes up – and only one item is available per lot, first come only served
- It starts at a certain price – usually around MSRP
- Every second that the item is not purchased the price of the item goes down – it can go down a dime or more than that depending on how expensive the item is
- All this time there is this little red man racing from a start line to a finish line picked by the proprietors of the site and if that little red man were to reach the other end then there would be no sale
- If, on the other hand, and this other hand has always been the case when I’ve been looking, someone will bite and buy the product before it hits its reserve
It’s actually a pretty ingenious setup that they have going. The whole sprint motif gives the buyer all the motivation that they need to buy that product that they want, especially at the price it’s going for. Another motivating aspect is that for each lot there is only one product available at a time. So you better act fast or that deal may be gone for good (or it may come back in a few hours, you never know).
Yeah, sure, this site sounds a little addicting. So do all the other auction and deal sites out there. If you are the type of person who cannot control their buying habits then you have to stay away from these sites because even though you may be getting a deal on certain items that doesn’t mean it’s a great thing for your personal finances when you have bought a dozen “great deals” in a single day.
On the other hand, if you can exert a certain modicum of self control or you have a plentiful enough supply of money to make your self control problems a moot point then a site like Cigar Sprint Sale can be a good place to find great deals. For example, I have seen the Xikar XTX Double Flame lighter go on this site for considerably less money than any other site online is asking. That’s a good thing. I’ve also seen Don Pepin Garcia Series JJs go for much less than they normally would and the same goes for a number of great cigars.
But that’s the thing with sites like this. If you are willing to devote some time to it then you will find some great deals. Cigar Sprint Sale also has a mix of products that does tend towards having some good quality cigars. Sure, there are going to be some value sticks thrown in frequently, but if you wait long enough you will find cigars that you like.
The question is: are you willing to wait long enough to get a good deal but not too long so that someone else doesn’t get the product you want?