For 2018, James and Angela Brown brought a new larger booth into IPCPR to showcase their Black Label Trading Company (BLTC) and Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) brands. The booth was not only one of the standout ones in terms of design, but it was one of the most welcoming ones. This year the booth served not only as the home to Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio, but also to the Emilio brand.
The Browns have made some strategic moves in terms of production and distribution. Back in 2015, they opened their own factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra in Estelí, Nicaragua. A year later, they joined Boutiques Unified (the rebranded House of Emilio), and immediately became an integral part of the alliance. Fabrica Oveja Negra would soon start to assume production responsibilities for both the Nomad and Emilio brands, which are also distributed by Boutiques Unified. In particular, James Brown had put considerable effort into relaunching Emilio (which had been dormant for a while), so it made sense to have Emilio in the booth. Concurrently the operation of Fabrica Oveja Negra has now been sought out by other brands looking for the boutique factory to handle production. The result was the Browns ended up moving into a larger facility for the Fabrica Oveja Negra operation.
I consider the Browns long-time friends, and being that they are based in Nicaragua, my immediate concern was how they were doing given the civil unrest that country is facing. While the situation down there is far from being resolved, both James and Angela seemed positive things will get better soon. It was very clear to me they considered the Central American country their home.
The situation in Nicaragua didn’t deter the Browns from having a few surprises. While much of the attention was on the Black Works Studio Yellow Jacket, there were a few other things that should be quite intriguing to BLTC/BLK WKS fans.
The Black Works Studio Yellow Jacket is another offshoot of popular Killer Bee line. It actually is the third offshoot, joining the Green Hornet and Kato lines. All three wrappers are highlighted by a base wrapper along with accents used on the footer and on the cap. The Yellow Jacket is probably the most unique of the Killer Bee releases to date. This cigar is highlighted by an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper and Ecuadorian Maduro is used on a closed footer and in a swirl design around the cap. The remainder of the blend is all-Nicaraguan tobaccos and the cigar comes in one size – a 4 1/2 x 46 Petite Corona.
Connecticut Shade is also popping up on a limited release under the Black Label Trading Company line. This year, the company’s annual Deliverance limited edition release will feature a Connecticut Shade wrapper and it is being packaged as Deliverance Porcelain – complete with a very sleek elegant white box. The cigar will be a 5 1/2 x 48 Robusto in a 16-count box.
Another of Black Label Trading Company’s limited edition lines will also see some changes. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Morphine line. As a result, there will be three versions of the Morphine: Corona (5 1/2 x 42), Robusto (4 1/2 x 50) and Lancero (7 1/2 x 42) The big changes are the Robusto will be a box-pressed (the first in the Morphine line) while the Lancero will be a barber-pole that is a combination of San Andres and Ecuadorian Maduro (it’s a little hard to see in the picture below)
As for Emilio, the return of the Grimalkin was center stage. The original Grimalkin is one of the cigars that put Emilio on the map. Earlier this year, Emilio had brought back the Grimalkin with production this time being handled at Fabrica Oveja Negra. At this year’s show, Emilio also unveiled a special limited edition that is meant to coincide with the Halloween season. It’s a Robusto-sized Maduro version of the blend and will come in special orange colored boxes.
Meanwhile, there was a blast for the past as the Emilio AF Suave has been re-launched. This was a line launched back in 2012 by Emilio. This is the Connecticut Shade edition of this cigar. The bands got a much-needed facelift.
One thing is quite clear – Emilio has Fabrica Oveja Negra’s footprint on it heavily now. The factory has produced lines such as Emilio Cavatina, and Emilio LJZ. It’s a very different brand than when it was spearheaded by brand developer Gary Griffith. The brand seems to be finding itself again little by little and that’s a good thing for cigar enthusiasts.
Emilio also showcased other brands as well, such as the Emilio Fifteen.
The third company under the Boutiques Unified umbrella, Nomad Cigar Company, had separate booth space and we will cover this in a future Spotlight installment.
2018 Product Reports
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop