For the fourth consecutive year, I completed assessments of the entire set of new releases for the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA). I have some analysis on this, and I discuss the future of continuing this coverage on Cigar Coop.
Analyzing the New TAA Releases for 2017
What is to follow is a subjective analysis by this author. The following are the scores for the 2018 Exclusive Series Releases
- Kristoff TAA Exclusive 49 (92, Box Purchase)
- Tatuaje TAA 2017 (91, Box Worthy Consideration)
- Crowned Heads The Angel’s Anvil 2017 (91, Buy Multiples)
- Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial TAA Exclusive 2017 (91, Buy Multiples)
- La Flor Dominicana TAA (2017) (91, Buy Multiples)
- La Palina Bronze Label (91, Buy Multiples)
- Alec Bradley Black Market Illicit TAA Exclusive (Toro) (90, Buy Multiples)
- Asylum 13 Box Pressed 70 x 7 (TAA Exclusive) (89, Buy One)
- Rocky Patel Martinique (TAA Exclusive) (87, Try a Sample)
AVERAGE SCORE: 90.4
The average score for these TAA cigars was 90.4. Last year, the average cigar score review on Cigar Coop was 90.84. While there have been scoring changes implemented, they have roughly reduced the average score by 0.5 points. Taking that into consideration, a rough conclusion can be released that the TAA Exclusive Series has come in around the Cigar Coop average.
Eight of the nine cigars did manage to earn a “Buy” recommendation on the value scale. Six of the cigars were good enough to recommend purchasing multiples. Tatuaje’s TAA Cigar earned box worthy consideration while Kristoff’s TAA release came in at a full box purchase. The price point comes into factor here.
I’ve long said there are too many TAA cigars and it has diluted the field. Don’t get me wrong, the cigars are good as I recommended buying 8 of 9 of them, but the TAA Cigars represent the best manufacturers bringing their best foot forward to the U.S.’s best retailers. In my opinion, the bar should be raised to well above average with these releases.
The Future of Cigar Coop TAA Coverage
Covering the TAA Exclusive Series is quite difficult. Next to delivering IPCPR coverage, it is the hardest thing covered on Cigar Coop. For the past few years, I’ve grown more frustrated with trying to deliver this coverage within the Cigar Coop framework. With a potentially large number of TAA releases coming for the TAA’s 50th anniversary in 2018, the difficulties of covering these cigars is becoming quite evident. Given the 50th anniversary is a big milestone for the industry, I will make sure Cigar Coop does due diligence this year, but starting in 2019, it might be time to re-evaluate our coverage.
Cigar Coop reviews each and every TAA release. We have done this four consecutive years since 2014. With the number of TAA releases rising, it’s a costly effort procuring the cigars. At times it’s a challenge finding the cigars, as not every cigar is at every TAA retailer, but most importantly its a huge challenge of learning about what the cigars are.
A question I often get asked is – why don’t you just go to the TAA Convention and cover it? In reality, I don’t think the TAA wants media anywhere near the convention. The exclusive cigars are a small part of the convention. The big item is that attendees at the convention are able to as a group to negotiate high volume discounts. This is information that understandbly is not something retailers want media having access to. While there are some TAA retailers who have media outlets, they are very protective of the large volume buying that takes place.Therefore, true independent media must rely on either the manufacturers or TAA to provide information about the cigars.
If you follow the Cigar Coop model, for most cigars we report on the release first, then we assess the performance of the cigar at a later date in a review. Our goal is to provide as much information to the reader about the cigar as we can. Whether the cigar has hints of honeysuckle or is medium-bodied is less important. The goal is to paint as complete a picture of the release and give our thoughts on it.
Getting the information on any cigar varies from company to company. Getting a thorough press release is the easiest way, but not every company does that. Some companies strictly will only communicate with retailers as opposed to media. Some will only deal with Cigar Aficionado, some exclusively use social media, and some won’t talk to anyone at all. On the whole, I think it’s easier getting a cigar from a company as opposed to getting the information to report on it.
The perception is that the TAA Exclusive Series represents the best manufacturers bringing some of their best product forward to some of the best retailers in the country. You would think it would be a simple process to get information- a big announcement on these products being showcased or a series of press releases. This has been the furthest thing from the truth. Over the past few years, as the number of TAA releases have increased, this problem has been amplified. While we get a few press releases, the lion’s share are instagram teasers or direct emails to retailers. This becomes a huge drain on Cigar Coop bandwidth and resources to chase this down
Press Releases are always an interesting paradox. What I have learned is that when it comes to single shop exclusives, many companies do not want to invest the time into doing the press release. They rely on the retailer receiving the exclusive to market the release. Many retailers don’t have the marketing or background to do this. The result is that the press release often never gets issued. A few years ago, Cigar Coop tried to make a push into the single shop exclusive market – and when I encountered this paradox, I realized it was a segment of the market that was too difficult to cover based on our criteria and bandwidth, so single shop exclusive coverage was significantly reduced to only covering those shop exclusives where information has been pro-actively given to us.
It is my belief this paradox has always carried over to the TAA releases. Many manufacturers don’t want to do it, and the TAA ones just don’t have the experience. It’s not a knock on either party, but it’s becoming more of a reality that it simply is becoming too difficult to deliver the type of coverage we have under the current set of parameters. Much like I had to take a hard look at investing in single shop exclusive coverage, I am now taking a serious look at the future of TAA Exclusive cigar coverage on Cigar Coop for 2019. We would never totally abandon the coverage, but simply focus on the cigars we are able to report on.
In fairness, some manufacturers and TAA retailers have been willing to help, but it’s simply coming down to bandwidth and ROI on the Cigar Coop end if this is worth it. The ideal scenario would be to have a single announcement of the TAA products much like the way Habanos S.A. announces its releases.
With 2018 being the 50th anniversary of the TAA, we are going to attempt to do our full coverage and assessments for the 50th anniversary. What 2019 brings, I am not sure yet. I would hate to provide less than full coverage, but it might be necessary.