When I started really trying New World cigars in 2013, it was just to educate my palate and learn about the differences between Cuban and New World tobacco. I never dreamed that I would be launching my own cigar company specialising in New World cigars with my background in Cuban cigars and being an award winning Habanosommelier. It does show that an old dog can learn new tricks.I would definitely say my social media following has increased because of my increased posts of New World cigars plus regular visits to Intertabac to meet many brand owners. I’ve had the pleasure to meet Rafael Nodal (Aging Room cigars), Rocky Patel, Carlito Fuente Jr, Daniel Marshall, Karen Berger, Yadi Gonzalez (90 Miles FDG), Emma Vicktorsson (Freja cigars), Jose Blanco (Master Blender EP Carrillo), Gaby Kafie, David Blanco, Oscar Vallarderes to name but a few of amazing cigar makers.I’m still a beginner in my mind when it comes to New World cigars and that’s what makes this journey so exciting. I’m learning something every time I smoke a New World cigar. I’d still probably say that Cuban tobacco can be the best in the world BUT (and it’s a huge but) the New World cigars are working with tobacco from all over the world and blending tobacco the likes of which Cubans cannot. As I learned from the outset, New World cigars weren’t blended for your Cuban smoker, they were blended to be different and to suit the tastes and needs of the American smoker. This is something that took me a while to learn. I made the mistake for the first couple of years of always comparing them to Cuban cigars and that’s the big mistake. When I stopped trying to make that comparison, suddenly I started to enjoy them more.All the brands I approached for exclusive distribution in the U.K. were found at the Intertabac trade show in Dortmund. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of cigar brands out there but, only a small percentage take the next step and look at a secondary market in Europe. These are the brands I have taken more interest in. I would say the majority of the big name New World brands are there. It’s the smaller newer brands for me. I’ve used a plethora of resources to research brands that interest me.I’ve chosen brands that meet my criteria:
- I like to smoke them! It’s kinda important
- They are a boutique brand
- They have a back story I liked
- They are friends
Jas Sum KralPronounced “Yas Sum Kral”, it’s Macedonian and means “I am King”. The man behind this brand is a Macedonian called Riste Risteski. A larger than life character who hasn’t just made a boutique brand that has caught the cigar world’s attention but, he’s also produced a range of cigars whilst being involved with every step of the cigar process and not just choosing an off the line cigar from one of the many factories. He’s also become notorious for sporting T-shirt’s saying “F*ck the FDA”.We spoke over Facebook for a few months and then I was lucky enough to meet up with him in Dortmund at the Intertabac show in 2016. I finally got to try his Red Knight Lancero and I wasn’t disappointed. I love his whole “F*ck the FDA” attitude, referring to the US Food and Drinks Administration who have become the biggest thorn in the side of New World tobacco producers in USA. I’m proud to say JSK was the first brand I wanted to sign up for exclusive U.K. distribution and happily he agreed.“Long live the King!”
Skull 77Laurent Taha worked with his friend Marc Nieuhaus, who owns and produces Vegas de Santiago cigars in Costa Rica. The 77 comes from the date of creation, 7.7.2014.The logo caught my eye as it reminds of the Terminator.I discovered Intertabac (the European Tobacco trade show) in 2013, I met Marc first there. I never even knew Costa Rica made cigars to be honest (I was a real newbie back then). I remember I was standing at the 5th Avenida stand watching the launch of the Bolivar Libertador LCDH cigar. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Marc smoking a ridiculously long cigar he had made, it was 18-20 inches long. We spoke briefly the next day about his cigars. The next year I returned and met Laurent who was showcasing his own brand made by Marc.This wasn’t a Costa Rican puro but a blend of tobacco. I tried the Unicos first. The wrapper was a lovely maduro which offset the black and silver Skull 77 band so well. The look was very different to Vegas de Santiago cigars. When I smoked it, I was impressed. Let’s see what we can do to promote this brand!
Principle CigarsNot only is he the owner of Principle cigars, Darren Cioffi is also a multi-record breaking slow cigar smoker. He has competed since it’s launch in the Cigar Smoking World Championship held in Croatia every year. Darren is a laid back Texan who decided to do things differently with his cigar brand. He focused his sales on the European market, not the American market. A strange decision perhaps, as America is the largest consumer of cigars in the world! Why?????Principle cigars are made in the Dominican Republic by Henke Kelner’s factory (Master Blender of Davidoff).I’ve known of Darren’s cigars for a few years but, I never really had a chance to smoke his cigars or talk to him.We happened to be both attending the Belgrade Smoker’s Weekend in 2018 and it was here I had several occasions to be able to talk to him and smoke his cigars. Darren held a cigar tasting at this event and I was wowed by his Aviator lancero. The silver band looks fairly plain until you look closer at it to see the detailing. He also uses cloth to put on the feet of his cigars, a lovely little touch.I’m a sucker for a lancero format but also for the flying pig shape (the shape is a more pronounced taper from a rounded head to a big butt with a curly tail finish) or cochant valont as it’s known in the Principle cigar range.