A Thought On Last Week’s Biggest News — In an effort to try to go deeper or contextualize a story further, I’m going to add a small feature to the Weekly News, which is otherwise mostly put together by Brooks. Each week, I’ll try to write a bit on what I think was the biggest or most interesting news of the last week. Fortunately for me, there are few weeks easier to start with than last week.

On Thursday, the Cigar Association of America—an industry trade group—put out data that indicated that there were more premium cigars imported to the U.S. last year than in any other year according to its records. While it’s not surprising that there were a lot of cigars imported in 2021, it is surprising to me that this was the most ever. The period ranging from Q4 2021-Q3 2022 is even higher. It’s been no secret that cigars—like many other luxury products—were experiencing intense demand in a world altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s difficult for me to fathom that anytime in modern times would rival the fabled cigar boom of the mid-to-late 1990s. It’s an impressive accomplishment and rather ironic that it happened during a global pandemic.

The more pressing question is what does the slowdown look like—and to be clear, the slowdown has started. Both in the CAA’s data—Q4 2021 was down 6.8 percent compared to the same period in 2020—and in the annual report from Scandinavian Tobacco Group—it told investors that it was not only expecting a return to normal but that it has evidence that sales have begun to slow down. For everyone’s sake, the industry would benefit immensely from avoiding a Q4 2019 scenario where there was an extremely high amount of unsold inventory in the U.S. forcing a race to the bottom sell-off from some manufacturers at the end of the year. — Charlie Minato.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.