Eddie Ortega: No New Cigars (for a reason)
When I asked Eddie Ortega what new cigars he has coming out this year, I wasn't surprised by his response. The man behind the 601 line doesn't have anything new hitting the shelves this year, and I'm pretty happy about that. So is he. Eddie – and Ron Melendi of De La Concha and Israel Markevitz of Uptown Cigar, with whom I spoke about this issue – believes that there isn't much need for new brands right now. Retailers have plenty of product in their stores, and consumers have no shortage of choices.
The cigar market is jammed right now. Every year, more than a handful of people get the brilliant idea that retailers need another line of cigars to pitch to cash-strapped consumers, and the established players tend to bring a steady stream of new concepts, exacerbating the situation. Of course, we need this: we can't let the cigar market go stale. But, we have to cope with a lot of bad ideas to get the good ones (I'm pretty excited about the Tatuaje vintage, for example).
The decision not to venture back into the market with a new line can be intimidating: it's a break from convention, which can always be unsettling. So, it's a bit gutsy not to follow the herd, but Eddie's air of confidence is hard to ignore ... as is the fact that he's right.
Through 2010, Eddie will focus on the cigars he already has on the market and ensure that as many people as possible realize that they should puff on a 601 at least occasionally (his personal preference is for the blue label). Even without a new product this year, Eddie has enough on his plate – and we have plenty to enjoy.
Gallery: Eddie Ortega at Pepin Garcia's Farm