2019 was a very different year for cigar maker James Brown and his team at the IPCPR Trade Show. This year, Brown exhibited a the 2019 IPCPR under the name of Oveja Negra Brands. While Black Label Trading Company was the brand that started it all for James Brown, over the past few years he has come into the Trade Show with multiple brands. This year, Brown was a part of four brands under the umbrella of Oveja Negra Brands.
The common denominator of all of the brands is that Brown’s factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra is handling production. There is also common distribution from Scott Zucca’s operation, which has been known as Boutiques Unified and House of Emilio in the past.
As for the brands, Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio are brands founded by Brown. Meanwhile, Emilio is the brand owned by Scott Zucca, which earlier this year consolidated its operations with Brown’s brands.. The fourth brand is Dissident, a brand resurrected by Benjamin Holt, has worked as a sales manager under Brown.
Black Label Trading Company
While the rebranding of Emilio and re-launch of Dissident were big stories under Oveja Negra Brands, Black Label Trading Company was certainly a busy brand as well. This year the big change was the revamping of the core lines by Black Label Trading Company. Royalty, Salvation, Lawless, and Last Rites have been given new unique artwork for each offering designed by James Brown. The blends were also tweaked.
Porcelain, which was released as a limited offering under the Deliverance brand last year now joins the other four core line offerings. This gives the Black Label Trading Company brand a regular Connecticut Shade offering.
As for Benediction (a current core line offering), the company says it will not be offered as a part of the series.
Black Label Trading Company also introduced a small batch line extension to Last Rites known as Last Rites Viaticum. It’s a modified version of Black Label Trading Company’s Last Rites blend. The cigar was made as an exclusive offering to those retailers who attended the Trade Show on a first-come, first-serve basis.The blend features an Ecuadorian Maduro wrapper over a Honduran Habano binder and a combination of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobacco. It will be available in one size – a 5 x 54 box press. It will be presented in 20-count boxes with pricing set $15.00 SRP per cigar.
There is a new event-only cigar known as Santa Muerte Barrio Santo. This cigar was first showcased at the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show. Barrio Santa features an Ecuadorian Maduro wrapper over an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and fillers from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. The cigar is available in one size – a 5 1/2 x 48 vitola packaged in 20-count boxes. Pricing is set at $10.00 per cigar.
Finally, Black Label Trading Company’s annual limited release Morphine is returning for the sixth consecutive year. This year’s release features three previously released vitolas in the line: Lancero, Short Robusto, and Box Pressed Corona Gorda.
Black Works Studio
This year, Black Works Studio was the quietest of the four brands. For 2019, Black Work Studio introduced an event-only extension to its NBK line known as NBK Lizard Kings. The cigar exemplifies the artisan qualities the Black Works Studio brand brings to the table – complete with its artwork and barber-pole wrapper.
This is a brand that has been undergoing an extensive revamping that started earlier this year with Emilio AF1 and Emilio AF2. Production of all the brands has moved to Fabrica Oveja Negra. In addition, new packaging and artwork was introduced. During the days when Gary Griffith ran the brand while the cigars were highly acclaimed, they were the subject of criticism when it came to the packaging. Since Brown has gotten involved with the brand, the packaging issues have gone away – and this year’s releases demonstrated that.
In addition, Emilio AF-Suave has been renamed to Emilio Suave. It also has been moved to Fabrica Oveja Negra and has received a packaging upgrade. It is worth noting that Suave was showcased at the 2018 Trade Show with different packaging. That packaging was scrapped for the 2019 design.
The Emilio La Musa is back. La Musa was a brand that was created when Gary Griffith was still the brand developer. At the time a decision had been made to rebrand the Emilio Grimalkin as the Emilio La Musa Mousa. Plans were to expand La Musa to include several blends. A second blend, Emilio La Musa Melete was released, but no further expansions happened. This time it’s simply “La Musa” – returning as a single blend in two different sizes. The cigar itself is a Nicaraguan puro. Like the other Emilio releases, it is being made at Fabrica Oveja Negra.
The return of Dissident possibly got the most attention of any of the exhibits at the Oveja Negra Brands booth. Before Holt purchased Dissident, the brand had gained a small, but passionate cult following from 2013 to 2015 when it was in the market. I’ll infer most of the attention not only came from those who remember the brand, but those who were curious about what the brand was about and what Holt would do with the brand. This year the two lines that Dissident had on the market, Soap Box and Bloc return. In addition Dissident Home, a cigar that never made it to market now gets its opportunity to launch. The 2.0 Dissident lines not only feature different blends now made at Fabrica Oveja Negra, but different interpretations of the various lines – which have resulted in different packaging.
Dissident Soapbox comes with a different look and a different blend. The cigar is highlighted by a Brazilian wrapper over an Ecuadorian binder and fillers from Nicaragua. While the sizes are similar, gone are the old names of Rant, Rave, and Tirade; replaced by more the more traditional names of Petite Corona, Robusto, and Toro Gordo. Each of these three sizes will be presented in 20-count boxes. Soapbox is a regular production offering.
Dissident Bloc has undergone a larger transformation. The computer/video game theme that was present with the line has been changed and replaced by a theme that resembles the “bloc” that was present in Eastern Europe three decades ago.
The blend for Dissident Bloc features an Ecuadorian Maduro wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos. While the line remains box-pressed, gone are the old names of video game references and now are replaced by more traditional names Box Press Robusto, Box Press Toro, and Box Press Lonsdale. Bloc is a regular production offering.
When plans were to release the original Dissident Home in 2015, the cigar was going to be a Honduran puro. The 2019 Dissident will feature an Ecuadorian Maduro wrapper and a Corojo spiral over an Ecuadorian binder and 100% Estelí Nicaraguan filler. The cigar will come in one size – a 6 x 54 box-pressed Toro. It will be presented in 20-count boxes. This is intended to be a limited production offering.
2019 IPCPR Product Reports
- Black Label Trading Company Revamps Core Offerings and Adds Porcelain to Lineup
- Black Label Trading Company Last Rites Viaticum to Launch at 2019 IPCPR
- Black Label Trading Company Releases Santa Muerte Barrio Santo Event-Only Cigar
- Black Label Trading Company Morphine Returns for 2019
- Emilio AF1 and AF2 Relaunched
- Emilio Suave to be Showcased at 2019 IPCPR
- Emilio La Musa Returning for 2019
- Dissident Soapbox to Relaunch at the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show
- Dissident Bloc to Relaunch at the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show
- Dissident Home to Debut at 2019 IPCPR
Bear Duplisea contributed content to this report.
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted.