Final yr, veteran cigarmaker and tobacco man Eladio Diaz, 69, collaborated with Freud Cigar Co. proprietor Luis Torres, 45 to provide a cigar known as Agape, a limited-edition launch made fully of Dominican tobaccos. Diaz, who spent his profession as Davidoff’s head of high quality management, left the Swiss firm in late August of 2021 to department out on his personal and begin a family-run manufacturing facility known as Tabacalera Cabrera within the Dominican Republic. Torres, who’s had a protracted skilled life in cigar retail, additionally went impartial.
Each Torres and Diaz just lately paid a go to to Cigar Aficionado headquarters in New York Metropolis for a Q&A the place they mentioned their new chapter within the cigar world, overlaying all the pieces from luxurious manufacturers to unexplored tobacco appellations. Managing editor Greg Mottola performed the interview whereas Torres translated the inquiries to Diaz in addition to his solutions.
MOTTOLA: It’s been fairly a yr for you. How do you want being a free agent making no matter sort of cigar you need?
DIAZ: I used to be tied right down to what different folks wished. Now, I decide what I need to do along side my sons and spouse, doing what ought to be accomplished and exploring what might be accomplished on the earth of tobacco.
Q: The 2 of you collaborated for the Agape model. Wasn’t it intimidating to work with somebody like Eladio?
TORRES: Sure and no. He’s a really shut buddy of mine. There’s love and mutual respect. Know that he was uniquely ready to comprehend my imaginative and prescient to make a mix that’s been celebrated by everybody who’s tried it. I used to be intimidated to have my identify on the field alongside his. It’s nothing I’d accomplished earlier than. In the case of mixing, he’s the grasp.
Q: How has the market responded to your cigar?
TORRES: Agape launched in July. Sixty 5 % of the stock has already left the door. Individuals are speaking about it on social media. It’s been the toast of each retailer. An unimaginable response. We labored very arduous on it. This was the primary cigar that was rolled at Tabacalera Cabrera. A labor of affection.
Q: Let’s return a number of years. Eladio, you had been born within the Dominican Republic, proper?
DIAZ: I used to be born in Santiago Could 28, 1953. I’m Dominican.
Q: How lengthy had been you with Davidoff?
DIAZ: I commenced in 1988 with Oettinger Davidoff, however I began at Tabadom in 1984.
Q: When did Davidoff buy Tabadom?
DIAZ: Tabadom offered the whole thing of its shares in 2001 to the Oettinger Davidoff group.
Q: What did you do for them?
DIAZ: Supervisor of manufacturing. All manufacturing and high quality management.
Q: What number of cigars a yr had been you liable for?
DIAZ: Between Avo, Griffins, Zino and Davidoff, 25 million a yr.
Q: Have been you with Hendrik Kelner initially of Tabadom within the Dominican Republic?
Q: Have been you ever capable of be inventive at Davidoff?
DIAZ: I’ve had the reward to all the time be creating and all the time be dreaming up blends.
Q: Is there any explicit Davidoff mix you are taking credit score for?
DIAZ: The entire blends are mine. Frankly, all of the blends are superb. However there’s one mix specifically that I dreamt up for my very own sixtieth anniversary. Oro Blanco.
Q: Davidoff’s notorious $500 cigar [Now $600]? What was it like making that cigar?
DIAZ: I come up at 3:45 within the morning day by day. And I’ve these sensory components in place in my thoughts. Six tobaccos inside the filler. And the youngest tobacco had 10 years. The oldest, 19. The opposite ones had between 13 and 14 years. I am going to the manufacturing facility and I roll myself the primary 10 cigars. And I arrived on the aromas that I dreamt of. I Despatched 25 cigars to Charles Awad, the COO of Davidoff on the time. He calls me and sends an e-mail. “Why don’t you come to Basel?” And I ask why? “They need to speak to you with respect to this mix” he says. “That’s my sixtieth,” I answered. They mentioned no. This mix is just too good. Get on a aircraft.
Q: What occurred if you arrived?
DIAZ: After I get to Basel there’s a advertising and marketing man and Charles says “How a lot do you assume we are able to promote this for?” I don’t’ know something about advertising and marketing I’m a tobacco man. I mentioned timidly “$125? 150?” That value is commensurate with the aged tobacco. Awad says “No. This might go for $500 within the U.S.” And that’s how Oro Blanco began.
Q: Are you stunned that folks pays a lot for one cigar?
DIAZ: It’s very stunning. It’s superb with 9 totally different tobaccos. Made by the supervisor and supervised by me. However sure, it stunned me that folks would pay a lot. For a smoker searching for one thing totally different, that’s the cigar.
Q: Did anybody make you a proposal to work for them when you left Davidoff?
DIAZ: Sure. Altadis. However I thought of Tabadom my household. I used to be type of raised there. I’ve an affinity for that place. I wished to create one thing lasting for my household.
Q: Is that why you went out by yourself?
Eladio Diaz at one of many rolling tables at his family-owned manufacturing facility, Tabacalera Diaz Cabrera within the Dominican Republic.
Q: Luis, how did you get your begin within the cigar enterprise?
TORRES: I’ve all the time been in luxurious items. To carry the attitude to cigars was nice enjoyable. To carry higher merchandise at larger value factors. I used to be employed because the GM at Davidoff on Madison Avenue in 2011. I had labored for Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard beforehand within the jewellery and watch sector. My mandate was to raise the sector and the worth factors and to construct group. We elevated enterprise by $1 million.
Q: You imply gross sales within the New York Metropolis Davidoff retailer?
TORRES: Sure. We achieved that by bringing in Dunhill and S.T. Dupont equipment. On the cigar finish we introduced in larger value factors. Nice enjoyable.
Q: How lengthy had been you there?
TORRES: For seven and a half years.
Q: You then went to Casa de Montecristo.
TORRES: In June of 2018. I used to be there a yr. I wished to do consulting and determined I wished to do one thing new by myself. By happenstance all these items got here into place.
Q: What made you need a cigar model?
TORRES: I all the time wished to do a luxurious cigar. One thing distinctive and totally different. I had concepts about packaging I had concepts about blends. I assumed Freud was the proper namesake. Individuals speak about Churchill and rightly so, however Freud was such a prolific cigar smoker, it made sense.
Q: Eladio, was having your individual model a part of the long-term plan? Or did you not give it some thought?
DIAZ: No, not essentially. In actuality I all the time thought that Tabadom was my very own factor. It was born with me. It felt prefer it was part of me.
Q: Eladio, you may have a manufacturing facility now. Speak about that operation. The place is it?
DIAZ: It’s a small manufacturing facility we opened in January of [last] yr. And the concept is to attempt to do one thing that has the flavors and aromas that I need to create. One thing of excessive worth and artisanal worth. It’s within the Pisano Freezone in Quinigua, close to Through Gonzales. 4 or 5 kilometers away.
Q: What number of rollers?
DIAZ: Ten rollers, or 5 pairs.
Q: Is it troublesome to get materials?
DIAZ: No. Twenty-five years in the past, Tabadom would purchase tobacco from Leo Reyes. I’ve a really clear understanding of the tobaccos he grows. His stock is a number of the greatest.
Q: Let’s speak in regards to the Agape model. Apart from saying that Agape is a Dominican puro, the mix is just about undisclosed. Why the key?
TORRES: We wished thriller. Not that I’m apprehensive about anybody else copying it. However I wished it to have some intrigue.
Q: Luis, the cigar you make with Eladio falls underneath your umbrella of Freud Cigar Co. How did Freud Cigar Co. come about within the first place?
TORRES: Enterprise capitalists David Stadnyk and George Tsafalas had been pals of mine and approached me in Miami a couple of luxurious cigar model. They took me out to a lavish dinner on a Thursday. The following week, I used to be on a aircraft to the Dominican Republic to speak to Eladio. I visited Eladio and William Ventura. I knew that I wished to work with each. As a consequence of Eladio not being prepared, our first line was with William Ventura. Our second line was with Eladio.
Q: When was this?
TORRES: This was in June of 2021.
Q: Luis, there are quite a lot of nice cigars in the marketplace proper now. What do you assume you carry that isn’t already on the market or that hasn’t already been accomplished?
TORRES: I don’t assume that there are quite a lot of nice luxurious cigar manufacturers. I believe the market would profit by having one other voice. Once you have a look at our packaging, our storytelling and now one of many best blenders to have accomplished this, it’s a compelling story and a narrative that’s resonating with customers. In a crowded market I believe our story is impactful.
Q: How so?
TORRES: Once you have a look at a field of Agape and also you see the seal the QC seal, the band, it’s like a jewel field. Individuals have actually taken to what it seems to be like, not simply the scrumptious cigar that it’s.
Q: You assume the market is crowded?
TORRES: Sure, however on the posh finish, there’s room for development.
Q: Your cigar can be fairly costly. [The Agape has a suggested retail price of $30.] What do you say to the patron who’s outraged on the value?
TORRES: I believe it’s an inexpensive luxurious. It’s an expertise for one thing curated and one thing dreamt up by somebody as illustrious as Eladio. That’s price $30. From what we’re seeing, individuals are agreeing.
The gold labels and detailed embossments of Agape’s packaging sign the cigar’s place as a luxurious product.
Q: Eladio, you hear a lot about Nicaragua as of late, however you’re employed principally with Dominican tobacco—why is Dominican tobacco so essential to you?
DIAZ: In actuality, Dominican tobacco has totally different organoleptic properties from Nicaragua. Nicaragua produces superb tobacco, however there isn’t any firm, with few exceptions, working solely with components from Nicaragua.
Q: You imply there aren’t many Nicaraguan puros?
DIAZ: You’d be stunned at what number of firms use Dominican tobacco and don’t say it within the mixing. They don’t make it public, however quite a lot of them—greater than you’ll know— use Dominican tobaccos. The ph is right. It’s not volcanic soil, so the flavour is totally different. However we at the moment are discovering areas within the Dominican Republic that provide properties a lot totally different from the tobacco we’re used to in that nation.
Q: For instance?
DIAZ: Within the southern a part of the nation, I’ve contacted some growers and they’re creating Compania of San Juan Las Matas de Farfán. The flavors are totally different from the Cibao area, fully totally different from what the end-consumer thinks of when contemplating the Dominican Republic.
TORRES: He’s not simply content material with what the Cibao valley has to supply however searching for new modern tobacco flavors, aromas, and so on.
Q: Luis, you’re just about a start-up firm. Once more, so many start-ups have all headed to Nicaragua. Two of your cigars are made in The Dominican Republic. What made you go Dominican in mild of Nicaragua’s immense recognition?
TORRES: A number of the greatest blends come from the Dominican Republic. It may be a breath of contemporary air when all the pieces is Nicaraguan. Our gross sales brokers don’t have a Dominican cigar as a result of the market is attuned to Nicaragua. This cigar is proudly Dominican. It exhibits that there’s a chance there.
Q: Eladio, are there any key tobaccos you get pleasure from working with?
DIAZ: A local tobacco. There’s one seed specifically that’s glorious and offers totally different aromas. Quin Diaz. It’s a local seed.
Q: I’ve by no means heard of it.
DIAZ: Individuals haven’t commercialized it.
Q: Why not?
DIAZ: The yield will not be very nice. But it surely’s glorious and I adore it.
Q: You had a tragedy of types just lately. The manufacturing facility the place one in every of your Freud manufacturers are made just lately burned down. William Ventura. How has that affected the cigar line?
TORRES: We had been very near them. They mentioned they will rebuild greater and higher. We nonetheless plan to have the subsequent batch of Sigmund to come back to market.
Q: Was it a setback?
TORRES: Sure. We had been hoping for a second batch earlier final yr. Now it’s spring of this yr. Superego.
DIAZ: It’s essential to know that most individuals smoke the model, they don’t smoke what their palate calls for. It’s a must to educate their palate. Identical with consuming, identical with ingesting a nice wine. Individuals are not smoking and having fun with the best way they need to. They’re simply blowing smoke. They’re smoking a model.
Q: Being a tobacco man, do you assume packaging is essential?
DIAZ: Similar to the wrapper, it’s the very first thing you see. Packaging attracts you to the product.
TORRES: It took 4 months to develop the packaging. We wished it to be disruptive. Wished the seals to be totally different. Huge. Previous. We wished the cigar band to be intricate. We wished it to shine with gold tones and the embossing. It needed to be becoming of a restricted version and the primary cigar that Eladio created out of the gate.
Q: So, what’s subsequent?
TORRES: We now have a regular-production model with Pelo de Oro tobacco known as Alter Ego. We’ll even have a restricted version known as Sigmund. For his birthday in Could. After which Agape 2023 as this yr’s restricted version.
Q: Luis, being in retail, you’ve had your finger on the heart beat of the market, and perception as to precisely what the patron desires. Have you ever seen the shopper evolve or change through the years?
TORRES: Sure, they’re gravitating towards conventional sizes. I believe the large ring gauge development is ending and individuals are turning into extra educated. I don’t need to sound snobby, however cigars like lanceros, lonsdales, coronas, you’re seeing the patron gravitate there. And I’m completely happy to see that. The buyer is getting extra attuned to what an ideal cigar ought to be.