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During these unprecedented times, CIGAR.com focuses on our community of cigar enthusiasts, bringing interviews right into your home with some of the most prolific names throughout the industry. See our CIGAR.com Facebook Page for the full-length Virtual Herf Seminar with Alec & Bradley Rubin of Alec Bradley Cigars.
LH: There are definitely some topics I want to touch on today especially because a lot of our consumers always come to us with questions about brands and what it’s like to blend; but I think you two in particular have a very interesting experience that you are living right now, I mean you’ve grown up with tobacco, but you don’t come from a "tobacco family." What was it like growing up and watching your father build this business? What were your impressions of cigars as children?
AR: Well for me it was very interesting because you grow up and they have all these anti-tobacco things in school, you know in grade school, so it was very confusing for me when I would hear and see all these anti-tobacco things and then I knew what my father did for a living which was make cigars and sell tobacco. So he could never come for career day in school, but he was very proud of what he did, loved what he did, and was passionate about it. So growing up I was always very proud of him for loving what he did and enjoying what he was proud of to do every day.
BR: Yeah, pretty similar experience. I remember in elementary school for show and tell I was going to bring in a box of cigars to show people what my father did. My father was like that probably isn’t the best idea, so my father let me take a box just with bands. They were Trilogy bands, a brand that we don’t make anymore. I remember our neighbors, when we were little, would tell us that cigars are addicting and would give us lung cancer and all that stuff. So there was a general negativity around us a little bit when it comes to what our father did, but we always looked at a positive outlook of it. I remember my dad’s best friend when I was about 13 telling me that my father makes so many people happy with what he does; and that’s when I really understood what my dad did, and how many people he impacted and made happy just by making a good cigar.
AR: I got one more little anecdote that’s pretty good. I remember when I was in school I wrote a history paper about tobacco in America and because my teacher did not like it, I got a ‘D’ on the paper of which it was well-written. I just think she didn’t like the topic, so my parents had to go to the school and talk to the principal saying there’s nothing wrong with what he wrote, he wrote a good paper, you can’t give him a bad grade cause he did it on the topic he chose for it.
LH: Did you guys ever think as you got older especially going to college that you would take a different career path or were you always sort of along the lines of: I want to work with my dad I want to continue this legacy that he’s building?
AR: Our father always pushed us to go for other things and see if there was anything else we wanted to do. He never wanted to force us to do something we didn’t want to do. And as much as he pushed us away, I think that made us want to do it more. I knew from a young age this was what I wanted to do and I was very excited to start doing it.
BR: For me as I was getting ready to graduate from college, I wasn’t so sure of what I wanted to do. I was thinking about exploring other careers. I love sports, grew up loving sports, so maybe something in that area. When I look back at everything, the one thing that has always been there was cigars, the industry, the people that I’ve met, and a life that my father had worked so hard to give us. To think about all the hard work he put in, and to put our names on it was something so special and something I think about every day. What’s a better career and life choice for me but to continue to do what my father did with mine and Alex’s name on it, and hopefully get the opportunity to do the same thing for our kids that he did for us.
LH: You guys have begun to get your feet wet in the business. You have Gatekeeper which is a follow-up to Blind Faith, and Blind Faith did really well, sold out quickly in all the brick and mortar stores, so congratulations – that’s quite an achievement. How do you guys approach blending? How do you look at it knowing you have your dad’s experience, and also have all these other people in the industry that your father knows and works with that are helping guide you along your path?
BR: For me I think Alec and I have a different idea in our head of how we’d like to do it. I like to just envision what the cigar would taste like. Does it look light, does it look dark, what type of wrapper should I use? I like to picture the whole cigar in my head and taste as well before we even start. And go wrapper, binder, filler, and make our way down. I know a lot of people do it differently factory to factory, but that’s where I like to start with, a general concept.
AR: One thing that I’ve learned after being in the industry and talking to different manufacturers is that the way we do it is completely backwards from the way that most manufacturers do it. They might start with what kind of binder they want, figure out what wrapper they want to put on it, come up with the name for the project, and go from there based on what they blended. As we like to start with a general idea and concept, and then start to envision the artwork, what the cigar would taste like, and go down to the factories and blend the cigars that are supposed to meet that criteria. I think it’s a lot more difficult than going the opposite way; but I think that’s just what we’ve done for the last two projects (and doing it for the third project as well) and it’s just successful for us so far.
LH: What’s this third project going to entail, can you give us any details?
BR: Yeah, absolutely. The name of the brand is called Kintsugi. It’s an old Japanese art form where they take broken pottery and piece it back together with gold lacquer. So the meaning for the art form is that there’s beauty in imperfection. The way we associated it with the cigar/project is not too long ago we saw a very fractured cigar industry. We saw people on opposite sides not very cohesive as an industry, and the concept is how do we get the industry back together, how do we all become one, what is the gold lacquer? And weirdly enough with the circumstances that we’re in with COVID-19 and doing these Virtual Herfs—us coming on and discussing cigars, what we love, our passion, it’s given us a platform to all really get together and become a unified cigar industry again. So this project, Kintsugi, was thought of months and months ago; and weirdly enough it seems like the concept of the brand is really what’s going on with our industry as we speak.
For the full-length Virtual Herf Seminar with Alec & Bradley of Alec Bradley Cigars, visit our CIGAR.com Facebook Page.
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