Learning from Failure.....a HSA perspective.


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It is a well worn maxim: "you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes"

....on the basis of the above I consider myself highly educated :D

 HSA have had plenty of wins over the past decade. Even faced with a difficult supply situation (back to back crop failures et al), they really haven't put a foot wrong when it comes to Edicion Limitadas and other specialties. We may bitch about pricing and availability but the reality is that they are making more money today while producing less cigars than they were a decade ago.  It is loaves and fishes stuff  indeed :cigar:

For HSA,  the one BIG failure, faux pax, turd on the rug, blot on the copybook, has been the Anejado series. 

Now you may be a lover of HSA Anejados and there is nothing wrong with that. I sincerely hope you bump into another like minded spirit one day ;)

The reality is that the Anejado project is a fail and that provides a brilliant opportunity to learn the lessons required and to dump or evolve the concept. 

There is no shame in failure, simply opportunity. 

 

Let's give them a genuine hand. 

  1. What were the problems of the Anejado program from a consumer perspective.  it is easy to say "price" but keep in mind "price" hasn't held back the success of the EL or Regional programs. 
  2. Can the Anejado project be saved...... or is it a dead duck. 
  3. Can they evolve the program into something successful? How. 

 

I will let this run a fe days and put up a coupleof samplers for a draw.  All serious respondents go into the draw :party:

 

 

 

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The very fact that the cigars released represented nothing in the lineup of the respective Marcas was the indicator to me that these should be avoided.  How can you release an aged version of a cigar

Another thread full of people who never bought the Anejados, but are sure they're terrible and will tell us all what is wrong with them, and why the rest of us are fools for buying (some of) them.

Thank you to Rob and the FOH crew for the great prize pack. Montecristo double Edmundo, RGPC and 2 unbanded cigars. I am guessing these are nudies?   Thanks again everyone. Will smoke these wi

Ive always avoided the Anejados line because it felt like a gimmick. Also for whatever reason Ive always been skeptical that they are in fact aged cigars. 

Another reason ive avoided them is because almost every review ive ever read about the Anejados line has been negative.

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I almost bought into the “Anejado” project a couple of years back with the Montecristo Churchill offering.

I didn’t. So I’ll never know, I guess...                                          

Marketing is what it is: This was a Cohiba Robusto, but now that it’s in a shiny box with 10 sticks, we’ll call it “Behike.”

The LE’s, I generally stay away from.

The regionals, on the other hand... 

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As you stated, I think price is the most obvious one.  The other being the notion of aged cigars always being "better" can sometimes be misleading.  Could poor blending from the start be the culprit?  I've only tried the Upmann Robustos from the Anejado line and didn't like them until recently when I had one and was blown away compared to the first 3 I tried.  Maybe a little more age in a better climate controlled space is what did it for me.  I think its possible that the bar was just set too high by HSA from the beginning, characterizing the Anejado line as a top tier cigar and therefore maybe people got their hoped up?  

I haven't smoked enough of them to have an opinion on this matter but I know many people think they, along with the Monte Open series are the bane of the HSA portfolio.  

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The concept may be salvageable, though the name may not be.

it's not rocket surgery. Roll quality cigars that smoke true to their marca. Age them under proper conditions. Sell them...probably under a different program name, as Anejado is pretty burnt.

I'm not a fan of the Montecristo line. Yet I enjoyed the Monte Anejedos enough to split a box with a friend. That says something.

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For the casual cigar smoker, is “aged” a reason to pay a premium of double?  Probably not. At least “limitada” is easier to understand for paying a premium. Limited edition anything, one would expect to pay a premium. In the spirit of gift giving, I’d rather give an EL since the receiver can easily understand that the cigars are special (whether they actually are or not”. When I gave a box of anejados to a smoker, I had to explain why they were “special”. It’s like explaining a joke, doesn’t work. Can the program be salvaged?, maybe. I’d recommend just slapping a different label on them, Anejados Limitada. I don’t think it would really matter if they were actually a limited edition or not. 

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What really put me off was the more seasoned and experienced people who I've seen asking "Where did these cigars come from?  Where have they been sitting all this time?"

From what I understand, distributors (PCC for example) have their own 'aged' programs, where provenance is clear, storage is standardized, and the boxes are at least average regular production quality on the way in.  In comparison, all seems to be confusion with the Anejados program - no clear answers to any of those questions.  When seasoned and experienced members point out issues of this magnitude, it definitely makes me want to stay away. Combined with all of the uncertainty, the pricing made it easy to say thanks, but no thanks.

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1. I think a big problem with the program is the uncertainty that these really aren’t aged cigars. I recall you had pointed out that the upmann anejados had 3 different box code years from 07-10 I think it was? Not exactly sure, but that seemed off to me. They were usually 6-7 years old so really upon their release they should only be the one year.
The other problem is price as you mentioned. Mind you I almost grabbed a box of the upmann robusto when I was in Cuba when they were released in 2016 and I believe they were 215, not bad at that price.
Is the program salvageable? Maybe. If they really made the cigars, boxed them with the bands on them, then sealed them and put them away and displayed this somewhere, maybe more people would believe and buy into the program. Imagine they did do this during a band change like Cohiba or monte in 2014, so when you actually opened the box they had the old bands.
Price drop would help, look what that did to the Partagas maduro 1s. Before they wouldn’t sell out, now they fly off the shelves.


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As others have mentioned, the major failure here has to do with plausibility. There's simply no credible explanation for these cigars being what they're purported to be. No one could make sense of the story they were telling about the origins of the cigars or the program. 

The cigars themselves weren't bad; in fact, I've always quite liked the Monte Churchill. But the name Anejados is too tainted to carry forward. They may be able to resurrect the idea, but it'll have to be presented completely differently.

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It's a fail because the vast majority of consumers don't know about aging and its effects on Cuban leaf, and therefore won't pay more for it. That's not fixable. People will never pay more for something they don't believe is better. Long term education of Habanos customers is not even a solution -- because at the end of the day, most people A. Don't know how to smoke and therefore can't appreciate the difference between an 80 point cigar and a 90 point cigar, and B. most people have crap palates anyway.

Those who will appreciate aged tobacco were turned off by the fact that the provenance of the cigars is as opaque as the rest of Habanos. Nobody knew if the cigars were what they were said to be, and the price of entry was high -- most of us who like aged CCs age our own, so why pay extra for them?

I think there is a narrow market for these -- new aficionados who know and like aged cigars, but have not been around long enough to age their own. And if the price is low enough, and the product smells and tastes right, maybe some of the old timers will be convinced to part with a little extra coin for pre-aged regular production sticks.

Do I think this is a sustainable product line? Probably not. If the prices we've seen reflect the true cost of doing Anejados, it's just too high and will never catch on. If they were doing a cash grab and are willing to lower prices and raise quality? Maybe. A big fat maybe.

On paper it's a nice idea. But the small potential customer base plus the high cost of entry means it likely won't ever fly.

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They are not very good cigars. That's it. And most if not all are questionable as to their marca's DNA.

This is what led to the questions and discovery of the lack of transparency. If these cigars had been great no one would care what they were or care about the price. 

But the cigars are lousy as a whole which led to more questions and the fact that nothing about this program makes sense. No one cares how the sausage is made until someone gets sick from it. 

If HSA is going to tell me to close my eyes and eat something it had better be great. 

At this point, I think it's going to be virtually impossible for them to turn this ship around. These things have been around for nearly a decade now with every cigar still readily available from many vendors. Clearly there's little interest. They would need several absolutely stellar releases in a row before the program as a whole had any respect. 

But for their purposes the Anejados might work perfectly and they're laughing all the way to the bank. They're able to blow out wacky tobacco they couldn't do anything else with at high prices. 

Of course, the more turds they squeeze out risks damaging their reputation, however somehow they seem to be really containing this abortion to this specific line only. 

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On one hand, I admire the ingenuity of the program director...various vitolas rolled, only to (allegedly) assign marcas & bands later on. I’m sure they sell to the .2% who enjoy them or those who buy as gifts in DF, etc?

It comes down to quality, though, per above posters, plausibility, and consumer goodwill.  Slap the BHK band on, charge an escalating premium (...>189X CPI), sure—but the raw material of the leaf is there, the blending is there, and the cigars speak for themselves.  Some years better than others, but that’s Regionals, too.

Unclear mission/purpose, unclear marcas, and unclear raw quality all just serve to irritate the consumers/prosumers on the Anejados line. HSA of course had to engineer a way to sell those cigars, but they’ve pissed in the well.  I can’t say I will approach any new release with (sliiiightly) more skepticism, but it does raise the guard and hackles a bit. Cubacigar did it right the first time out & seem to sock away a good amount of stock; Pacific Cigar, but seems like a trickle; and now H&F.  Apples & oranges of market, sure, but the HSA mantra can’t always be, ‘when in doubt, add another band’ forever. Mas Anejados—>La Mas Anejados.  But now I’ll just think of burning cardboard taste. Couldn’t they have just shredded the bales for minis instead with less margin/PR hit?

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So what's the difference between Anejados and the Cosheca Reservas? Anejados cigars rolled for the purpose of keeping, where as Coshecas is tobacco thats been held for a few years and then roled later?

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If my critiques were addressed, I still wouldnt buy them. Not interested in the line until I see some consensus on some worthy releases. It's just not interesting. But i want transparency of aging conditions, time tracking/stamping as well as not trying to create a new blend/vitola 8 years in the future without being able to experiment that new blend.

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They should follow the distributer aging process. Box the cigars and stamp them like normal, add a special sticker indicating its part of the aged program, then release them when they are aged. Making new vitiolas for marcas that don't even exist isn't the right way.

Then they should get advice from Rob on how to select the best boxes to put into the aging program. No one wants dull, toothy, veiny, light colored wrappers, especially at a premium price!

The few I have had, were mediocre at best. Now that my stash of cigars is built up pretty good, I dont need an anejados program because I'm capable of aging them myself.

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I've had 3 boxes of Anejados - Montecristo, Upmann, HdM. The comments on this page actually shows how many people have never actually had their own boxes / gave it a proper shot, and simply wrote the program off based on bad reviews they had read.

My Upmann / HdM boxes were stamped with '06 and '11 codes. Forgot about the Montecristo / factory codes because I tossed the boxes already. I probably have only 1-2 sticks each of the Upmann/HdM left.

I have to say, I do like all the cigars from the program. The Montes were really great. I finished that box several years ago but I only have good memories. The Upmann / HdM boxes though, had terrible construction. Out of 25, probably 15 were plugged (like tent-peg-plugged), and another 5 were tight. The remaining few though, were actually excellent. I thought that the blend and flavours combined with the age were a pretty good combination. 

3 hours ago, El Presidente said:
  • What were the problems of the Anejado program from a consumer perspective.  it is easy to say "price" but keep in mind "price" hasn't held back the success of the EL or Regional programs. 
  • Can the Anejado project be saved...... or is it a dead duck. 
  • Can they evolve the program into something successful? How. 

1a. Construction. HSA will not be trying to sell tent peg GRs or Behikes. If they want Anejados to fit into the upper-middle class (be the bridge between ELs and regular production), they need to at least have better construction than the average regular productions. (this isn't to say ELs don't have their own problems)

1b. Persisting rumours. I'm going to call them rumours because I haven't seen them proven either way. Innocent until proven guilty right? As mentioned by others above, there were many rumours saying that these aren't aged cigars, nobody knows where they came from, etc. Some other rumours I heard were about oversupply and they simply stashed these cigars away to be sold (at an extra premium) when the demand grew bigger.

2. I think it can be saved. Paying a premium for aged cigars / special vitola not in the current regular production of that marca / special blend? Sounds like what many people do on auction sites.

3. Simply speaking, I think the two key problems I identified should be resolved. For the first, conduct some actual QC. It really shouldn't be that difficult. For the second, the best way would probably be to conduct some tours of their storages. Bring in some reputable cigar writers, etc, let them see / smoke some of the cigars that are currently aging. If there is at least some evidence of this, people would be less suspicious (less, because some people will always be). Or even let people know when these cigars were being originally rolled - let people see that "hey we are rolling this marca/vitola to be stashed away", and prove it by not releasing those cigars till x years later. A bit more transparency in general would help. 

 

A little bit more premium marketing would help. However, as with many CCs, we really don't know much about them other than the few press releases, and that little card in the box. I find that this is pretty standard across all CCs, so this shouldn't be something that we bash the Anejados line with. Having said that, better marketing would also help (though this would then be used as a stick to bash the ELs for having relatively poor marketing). 

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As a young smoker, public opinion has a strong sway in my opinion and purchasing. So many cigar vets have been displeased with the line that it’s tainted my view of them. 

I find aged cigars intriguing. However, age without a strong history of being a great cigar doesn’t make them any better. The project can be resurrected using strong blends and sizes the masses already love. I’d much rather buy an aged box of Monte 2s than an aged Monte I’ve never heard of. Other members ask “why buy aged when I can age my own?” To answer that question I’d ask the folks buying aged stock on Bond Roberts and go from there. Time and impatience come to mind. 
 

Again, I’m young in the cigar world and look to vets for direction on which sticks to get. My tastes are becoming more refined, but until I have a good grasp on what tickles my fancy, I’ll keep leaning on y’alls experience to ensure the best possible smoking experience.

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Like everyone else, these cigars don't taste like aged cigars but rather cardboard and harsh instead. Their price aren't that good while I can get aged regular production cigars too. This statement is based on two H. Upmann Anejados Robustos, that are one of my disappointing cigars.

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1 hour ago, Meklown said:

The comments on this page actually shows how many people have never actually had their own boxes / gave it a proper shot, and simply wrote the program off based on bad reviews they had read.

Many people have liked certain Anejados, particularly the Monte Churchills. But I've had enough of them and there are those here who've smoked several boxes of several cigars and the common sentiment is that these are not great and are unlike just about anything else HSA has made in at leaat 25 years. Many more here have extensive experience smoking cigars aged since 07-11 from either distributors or self-aged and these Anejados are nothing like them. Basically, they don't taste like they should taste.

2 hours ago, Meklown said:

 

1 hour ago, Meklown said:

Persisting rumours. I'm going to call them rumours because I haven't seen them proven either way. Innocent until proven guilty right?

Only in a court of law. When it comes to my money, guilty until proven innocent. 

1 hour ago, Meklown said:

Paying a premium for aged cigars / special vitola not in the current regular production of that marca / special blend? Sounds like what many people do on auction sites.

For known quantities like regular production, yes. For cigars that are supposedly aged but are mediocre at best I think most people are assuming they won't improve with even more age. There's a reason aged Cohiba sells well--reputation for aging well and they start off good.

2 hours ago, Meklown said:

For the second, the best way would probably be to conduct some tours of their storages. Bring in some reputable cigar writers, etc, let them see / smoke some of the cigars that are currently aging. If there is at least some evidence of this, people would be less suspicious

I agree that would go a long way but I suspect they can't because the whole thing is a sham. No one has ever seen anything related to these Anejados let alone third party witnesses. 

They obviously have no intention of being any more transparent and I'm just amazed they continue to crank them out. And they keep getting more expensive. I wouldn't be surprised if the Trini Fundys are in the $750 range. 

I just hope the distributors tell them to shove these things. They have the power to end this nonsense and they should have learned their lesson by now. Don't take these! Let them pile up on the island.

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12 minutes ago, NSXCIGAR said:

I just hope the distributors tell them to shove these things. They have the power to end this nonsense and they should have learned their lesson by now. Don't take these! Let them pile up on the island.

Given that many of the larger distibutors are half owned by HSA....that may be a difficult proposition :D

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I've smoked the HDM and HUpmann and own a box of the Partagas (can't remember the box code but will check later).

I've had really good experiences with the HDM and Hupmann ones but this box of Partagas are really plugged and so I've struggled every time I've pulled one out to smoke, I think I've tried 5 so far.  

If the providence is indeed true then I don't think they are selling for crazy prices but I would say if they really do want to try to rescue the brand they should make a Cohiba version and make sure it tastes bloody good.  Usual Cohiba mark up and I'm guessing they will fly off the shelves and would pay for most of the programme.

As others suggested maybe draw a line in the sand and if they still have these sticks, sell them under another line and people will give them more of a chance.

 

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