I claim that I ‘matured’ into the family-oriented cigar industry 10 years ago, after spending 25 years in the corporate tobacco trade. At the time, I was working as a country manager for a global firm and my children were at university in the UK. The opportunity came along to take up a consultancy role at Tor Imports, a UK-based cigar importer and distributor, and re-locate back to a beautiful part of Britain to be closer to them. The company was at a crossroads and not sure which route to take. So, in 2012 I made a life-defining decision to take over the business and started spreading the word of New World Cigars.
Have things changed over the years?
My first job in the industry was as a young salesman selling Marlboro from the boot of my car to 25 retailers a day in the East End of Glasgow, while my most recent cigar event was at the Ritz Hotel in London, presenting and sampling New World Cigars to ambassadors from 37 embassies and their VIP guests! The most obvious changes have been increased legislation and very high tobacco duty taxation. Although not a gateway to cigarette smoking, cigars are treated under legislation and taxation almost identically to cigarettes. This makes it difficult for a business with limited resources to keep up with the regulations and to ensure that we are fully compliant, but we do. Our information back in 2009 suggested that the market share of Cuban cigars versus New World Cigars was estimated to be between 95:5–90:10, and it is now closer to 70:30–65:35, with some areas outside of London being 55:45 in favour of New World Cigars. We will continue to see this trend develop as cigar smokers become more demanding over quality, varied choice and wanting more value for their money.
Is it true you coined the term ‘New World’ in relation to cigars?
On my first visit around cigar retailers, I picked up that they defined hand-made cigars into two segments, Cuban and Non-Cuban. Thinking about it on my way back to Devon I thought that ‘non’ was such a negative description and inferred that they were poorer quality. In comparison to the wine industry, no one refers to French wine and non-French wine! Individually, cigars from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Honduras were fantastic quality but had low profiles or exposure in the UK. So, after further research, we decided to join them all together and use their collective strength. We trademarked ‘New World Cigars’ and set about on our mission of changing the language of the industry.
What do you feel makes New World Cigars unique?
Most of our cigar-making partners are family-owned businesses, with either the name of their family or their country of origin on the cigar band or box. This means that they want to produce the best they can. An example is that since Cigar Aficionado started ratings and awarding a No.1 Cigar of the Year in 2004, New World Cigars from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Honduras have been awarded this accolade on 12 occasions out of a possible 15. Cigar makers from the New World are not limited to using tobacco from only one country and can carefully select tobacco from around the world to create new and innovative blends, strengths and taste profiles. Many of our cigar-making partners are exiled Cuban families, with long histories of farming and tobacco growing. When they left Cuba, in the late 1950s, they brought their skills and a pocketful of seeds with them. They not only make award-winning cigars, but support hundreds of families in poor communities in Central America and Dominican Republic, helping finance scholarships, healthcare and food to bring a better life to these proud people.
What’s on the horizon?
In 2017, British American Tobacco announced to us that they were withdrawing their Dunhill and Charatan brands from the global handmade cigar and pipe tobacco markets. So, in 2018 we purchased the Charatan brand from them. Charatan is our bestselling cigar, made for us by Joya de Nicaragua in Esteli, Nicaragua. This now gives us the flexibility as brand owners to create new blends and sizes, from around the New World, and the opportunity to take the brand to the global markets. This summer we will add a new vitola to the range for the first time in several years and also launch a limited production cigar using mature tobacco from Joya de Nicaragua’s aging rooms, which we will call the Charatan Colina or Charatan Tor in English. Going forward, we hope that we can continue to forge and support our existing and new relationships at home and abroad, and also continue to be able to meet the stringent demands of anti-tobacco legislation without losing our raison d’être – who we are and what we represent.
Cigar & Whisky Pairing
Balmoral Añejo XO Petit Robusto FT and Royal Lochnagar 12 Years Old
The Balmoral brand of cigars are produced by the family-owned Dutch tobacco company Royal Agio. The brand dates back to 1895 and is named for Balmoral Castle, the Scottish residence of the British Royal Family. The Añejo XO range is famously constructed by hand using sun-grown Brazilian Arapiraca wrappers that are aged for an average of 10 years. Dominican Olor is used both as binder and a component of the filler blend, which also includes Nicaraguan tobacco and exclusive, stalk-cut Brazilian Mata Norte. To top things off, the Petit Robust FT (4 1/4”, RG48) is completed with an attractive pigtail cap. The pre-light aroma is of raisin, milk chocolate and leather. These notes are evident in the first third, with the addition of peanut and a savoury, meaty note – think beef satay. Into the second third we have dark chocolate and espresso at the forefront, which continues to the end. This full-bodied smoke sits mostly in the medium range of strength and benefits from a sweeter whisky pairing. The 12 Years Old expression from Royal Lochnagar, located just a short walk from Balmoral Castle, fits the bill with its notes of sweet red apple, toffee and honey.