New Bill Would Cap Tax On Cigar Sales In Illinois

A state lawmaker is proposing a tax cap on cigars sold in Illinois.

State Rep. Jonathon Carroll’s bill would place a 50 cent cap per cigar in place of the current 36% tax. The rate doubled from 18% in 2012.

“This bill corrects something in the taxation system that really hurts some of our local merchants,” Carroll said. “People have more of an incentive to order cigars from out of state than buying them in Illinois.”

Mike Gold with the Arango Cigar Company in Northbrook said when he started in the business in 1981, online sales amounted to about 25% of cigar sales in the country. He said with the current taxes in place, that number has now grown to about 65% of all sales.

“Clearly our brick-and-mortar stores have suffered tremendously during this time period, and now with COVID, many of them are barely surviving and have already closed,” Gold said.

In December 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the city of Chicago’s ordinance imposing a tax on other tobacco products, or “OTPs.” The court sided with the plaintiff that the city’s ordinance is preempted by the Illinois Municipal Code, which states home rule municipalities that have not imposed “a tax based on the number of units of cigarettes or tobacco products before July 1, 1993, shall not impose such a tax after that date.”

The federal tax cap on large cigars is 52.75% of the sales price, but not to exceed 40.26 cents per cigar.

Julie Newman, president of the Cigar Association of Illinois, said the high tax is actually depriving the state of revenues.

“When consumers want to buy a box they do so where the tax rate is lower or does not even exist at all,” Newman said. “In turn, this deprives Illinois of much-needed sales tax dollars and OTP tax dollars.”

The cigar industry is facing another challenge. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has reintroduced a tobacco tax increase as part of a bill that is otherwise intended to address maternal mortality. The Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act (MOMMA’s Act) would change the tax code and treat the entire tobacco industry as cigarettes. The result is an estimated 500% to 1,000% increase on the tax for premium cigars.

The website Cigar Authority reported the bill would raise the costs for manufacturers, retailers and consumers, and jobs, businesses and the ability to buy and enjoy a premium cigar will be at risk.


Top Dominican Cigars To Buy Now

It’s no secret some of the best cigars in the world are made in the Dominican Republic. They vary in terms of flavor and strength, from the mild to the more muscle-bound. Here are 11 of the top-scoring Dominican cigars of 2018, and the three that have been given our highest accolade. They’re smoking beautifully right now.

Casa Cuba Doble Tres

This slim cigar (it measures 5 1/2 inches by 44 ring) is the thinnest in the Casa Cuba line, a brand blended by the great Carlos Fuente Sr., who passed in 2016. Elegant and refined, this corona is a must for any Fuente fan.  

93 points • $9.93 • Medium

E.P. Carrillo Encore Majestic

Rolled in Santiago under the watchful eye of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, this all-Nicaraguan Encore isn’t the powerhouse you might expect. At 5 3/8 inches by 52 ring gauge, it shows notes of English breakfast tea and caramel around a pleasantly woody core (and it won the 2018 Cigar of the Year).

96 points • $11.50 • Medium

Arturo Fuente Hemingway Classic

Draped in an African Cameroon cover leaf, this perfecto measures 7 inches by 46 ring. The Hemingway line is composed entirely of shapely figurados, but this relatively skinny size is particularly striking. 

92 points • $9.55 • Medium 

Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Robusto

Donning a dark, Ecuadoran sun-grown wrapper and measuring 5 1/2 inches by 50 ring gauge, the Ashton VSG Robusto (as it’s commonly abbreviated) is a full-bodied blend that smacks of oak wood, cocoa and nuts. Bold, yet balanced.  

92 points • $11.25 • Full 

Ashton Aged Maduro No. 60

For maduro fans, this big cigar (7 1/2 inches by 52 ring) has a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. It’s a perfect after-dinner cigar that will last all night. Smoke it when you have a couple of hours to unwind.

92 points • $12.40 • Medium

Romeo y Julieta 1875 Cedro Deluxe No. 2

A relative bargain from Altadis that comes with a cedar sleeve. Underneath is an Indonesian cover leaf, and with a sub-$7 price tag (before taxes), this 5 1/2-by-44 smoke is a budget-friendly performer.

92 points • $6.72 • Medium

Trinidad Santiago Belicoso

Trinidad Santiago is rolled by cigarmaker Jochy Blanco, and it contains 100 percent Dominican tobacco. The 6-by-52 Belicoso has an earthy profile.

92 points • $9.90 • Medium

Villiger La Flor de Ynclan Torpedo

La Flor de Ynclan is Villiger’s fresh take on a long-discontinued Cuban brand. Don’t let the light Ecuadoran wrapper fool you—the Torpedo (6 by 52) has plenty of character and strength. Unlike most Dominican cigars, it’s made in Santo Domingo.

92 points • $12.00 • Medium to Full

La Aurora 1903 Cameroon Churchill

Six bucks for a Churchill? Count us in. At 7 inches by 47 ring gauge, this high-scoring smoke—made by the oldest producer of cigars in the Dominican Republic—is one of the best values you’ll find on the market.

91 points • $6.00 • Medium

La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chisel

Dark and gleaming with oils, this is an eye-catching figurado shaped like a stonemason’s chisel. And like the tool for which it is named, it has strength. Measuring 6 inches by 54 ring, it’s a big, bold cigar packed with powerful tobacco.

91 points • $9.70 • Full

Project 805 Petite Corona

If you’re short on time, but big on powerful cigars, look no further than the Project 805 Petite Corona. This 4-by-40 firecracker sells for less than $5 and is blended solely from Dominican leaves, including a tobacco called andullo that’s uncommon in most cigars.

91 points • $4.99 • Full

Three D.R. Classics

Fuente Fuente OpusX Double Corona

Exceptionally crafted, complex, full-bodied, this is a triumph of cigarmaking. The Dominican puro measures 7 5/8 inches by 49 ring. Despite its official price of about $17, don’t be surprised to see it command much higher prices at retail due to its prestige and scarcity. 

95 points • $17.34 • Full, 2005 Cigar of the Year

La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull

La Flor Dominicana’s Litto Gomez has an affinity for cigars with interesting shapes. First there was the Chisel, a wedge-shaped cigar, and now there’s the Andalusian Bull (above), a curvy Salomon born from an old cigar mold that he found in Belgium. At 6 1/2 inches by 64 ring, the Bull showcases a powerful marriage of strength and spice while remaining balanced. 

96 points • $15.80 • Full, 2016 Cigar of the Year

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Eye of the Shark 

Eye of the Shark is a modified Arturo Fuente Don Carlos cigar, rolled with a special blend and presented in a unique shape measuring 5 3/4 inches by 52 ring. The cigar is box-pressed at the bottom and tapers into a rounded belicoso. As the full-bodied cigar burns, new layers of complexity unfold with every puff. A must-try cigar.

97 points • $12.75 • Full, 2017 Cigar of the Year


New Speakeasy With Pizza, Cigars, And Secret Password Hits The Colony

A speakeasy bar concept from Atlanta, Georgia, is coming to Texas, with the first location opening in the Dallas area. Called Red Phone Booth, it’ll open at Grandscape, the mixed-use development in the Colony.

A release says that it’ll open in The Grotto, Grandscape’s entertainment and dining hub, in late 2021.

Red Phone Booth is a lounge founded in Atlanta, known for its 1920s Prohibition atmosphere. The name is key: The only way you gain entry is by dialing a secret phone number on a rotary phone in an antique London red phone booth. #exclusive

They serve:

  • food, including Neapolitan-style pizza
  • craft cocktails using fresh-squeezed juices
  • cigars, which they elevate via a walk-in humidor and a high-tech air filtration system

First launched in downtown Atlanta in 2016, Red Phone Booth is in expansion mode. They have a location in Nashville, plus one set to open in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood this summer, followed by two franchise locations in Florida later in 2020.

The Grandscape location with be a 4700-square-foot space across from Quartino, an Italian restaurant and wine bar. If you’ve been there, you know what we’re talking about.

But their more meaningful neighbor is the Cigars International retail store, also on the property, with whom they’ll form a symbiotic relationship. Cigar enthusiasts can buy a cigar, then mosey on over to Red Booth (after dialing the secret phone number on the rotary phone in the antique London red phone booth, that is) and light up their cigar on-site.

They’re investing time, money, and effort to combat the smoke with these high-tech tools:

  • a fresh Air Makeup system – a 100 percent fresh outdoor air system accompanied by seven 2,500 cfm air purifiers to replace and scrub the air in the venue approximately every three minutes.
  • Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization, a cutting-edge air purification available that breaks down and render viruses inactive. They say that this technology is used at the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins.

Red Phone Booth founder Stephen de Haan says in a release that they were impressed by the passion and enthusiasm of the Grandscape team as well as its collection of boutiques, shops, dining, and entertainment.

“We are extremely excited for guests to turn back time 100 years to the roaring 20s and enjoy our award winning prohibition experience,” de Haan says.

Developed by Nebraska Furniture Mart, Grands cape will comprise three million-plus square feet of retail, entertainment, dining, residential, office, and attractions. Construction is underway on the first phase of the 95-acre lifestyle center and includes Galaxy Theaters, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Scheels sports store.


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