“This is a huge honor for us to be chosen to be the release location,” Burns manager Wes Thornton said via email. “The cigar is being made in the Dominican Republic by the La Aurora Cigar Factory, which is a factory I've had the pleasure of visiting two times."
Burns managers have developed a strong relationship with one of the brand managers at Miami Cigar & Company, Barry Stein, assistant director of marketing for the distributor, said.
What: Launch of the Merlion cigar
When: July 28, 7 p.m.
Where: Burns downtown at Chattanooga Billiards Club
How much: The event is free, but attendees can spend $10 to get a sample of the Chattanooga Whiskey 1816 Reserve, 1816 Cask and one of the new La Sirena Merlion cigars
So, when Thornton expressed a desire to host the party, the option made sense to company leaders, who are big on encouraging a feeling of family, and Burns employees are family, Stein said.
Chattanooga Whiskey is partnering for the event, too.
The event is free, but attendees can spend $10 to get a sample of the Chattanooga Whiskey 1816 Reserve, 1816 Cask and one of the new La Sirena Merlion cigars, Thornton said.
The cigar is called the Merlion, and it comes in three different sizes. It’s made with six different tobaccos from four different counties.
“It translates to a really complex cigar,” Stein said. “All of our projects are 100 percent natural. There is nothing added to the cigars to give them flavor.”
The cigar will be available at Burns a couple of weeks before its release at an annual trade show.
Debuting it before the show is a risky move.
“If the reporters were to come out that they didn’t like the cigar—it would be a nightmare,” Stein said. “It’s dangerous to do it before the trade show, but a positive launch can become positive sales.”
The cigar industry was booming in the late ‘90s, Stein said.
“A lot of people picked up the hobby of cigar smoking, but then it hit a little bit of a lull,” he said. “It seems like it’s coming back to the boom stages.”
He wouldn’t say the industry took a “major hit” during the recession, but it changed how much people wanted to pay for cigars.
Now, members of the industry are fighting to be excluded from Food and Drug Administration regulations that would “cripple the cigar industry,” Stein said.
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA “certain authority” to regulate the tobacco products.
Initially, the language in the law didn’t include cigars, Stein said. But now, FDA leaders want to include them.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the cigar regulations could mean the ban of certain flavors, size limitations and marketing/advertising restrictions.
But industry leaders like Stein say that cigars aren’t the same as cigarettes and shouldn’t be regulated in the same way.
“Cigars have never advertised toward kids—premium cigars, we’re not talking Philly blunts,” Stein said. “We kind of feel like we are under attack.”