By: David Fisher
David Fisher: Hello Alec. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Just to inform any of our customers who may not already know, you are the son of Alan Rubin. Your father launched the Alec Bradley cigar brand back in 1996. Despite the household name within the cigar industry, you are still fairly new to the business. Tell us about when you were first introduced to cigars?
Alec Rubin: Hi Dave. Thank you for having me! As you mentioned, my father launched Alec Bradley in 1996. I was 4 at the time and my brother, Bradley, was 1. For anyone that doesn’t know, my father named the company after us. That being said, we were born into a cigar family — I can’t remember a time when cigars weren’t a part of my life. When I was 9, I began to realize that cigars were very important to my father. I recall him coming home from work and every night after dinner, I would join him in the backyard while he smoked through different blends. At the time, I didn’t understand what cigars were, but I was curious. While he was smoking, I was constantly asking questions about cigars — where they came from, how they were made, and so on. That turned into a tradition or ritual for us; and over the years it has evolved.
I was formally introduced to cigars when I was 18. I began smoking with my father in the backyard — that’s when I understood. Even now, I go to my parents’ house once a week. We have dinner and afterwards, I follow my father to the backyard. That’s one of the ways we carry on tradition.
DF: When did you know that you would follow your father into the cigar industry and was it a difficult decision?
AR: My father has never pushed me to join the family business. But when I was younger, I always liked the idea of cigars. My father would let me sit in on work meetings and listen, because he knew I was interested. When I was old enough to smoke I went to a lot of local Alec Bradley events with him. They were always fun and the people I met at the events were great!
I wanted to see more, so I started traveling with my father to out-of-state events and I found the same thing. One thing led to the next and I fell in love with the industry! I heard the cigar industry had a certain romance to it. I didn’t necessarily understand what that meant until that moment. At that point, it was a fairly easy decision for me!
DF: What is your favorite aspect of the cigar industry so far?
AR: The industry excites me and I don’t think I would do it justice by pinpointing a favorite part. I love the fact that I get to work with my father and grandfather every day; and we get to do something that we are passionate about. I also enjoy the people that I get to meet at cigar shops and events. Cigars have a tendency to bring together people that might otherwise just pass each other on the street. And that is a unique quality this industry has.
DF: Do you have any favorite blends within the current Alec Bradley portfolio?
AR: Over the last few years I have been asked this question a lot and I never really know how to answer it. Our portfolio of cigars has such a wide variety of flavors, so one is never better than the other — each is just different. I ended up realizing that my favorite cigar is the one that I’m smoking in that moment, because I am able to smoke exactly what I’m in the mood for.
DF: Your father wasn’t born into the cigar industry and didn’t reach success overnight. What have you learned from him in terms of work ethic that will assist you in your own future within the company?
AR: Over the years of watching my father grow Alec Bradley Cigars, I have learned a lot about business and the work ethic that’s required. I think the two things that have stuck out to me the most are to be diligent and never settle.
My father is a perfectionist and it shows. If something isn’t right, and that could be something as small as an element of a band being 1 mm too far to the left, he will work tirelessly until it is fit to bear the Alec Bradley Cigars logo. It may slow the process down some, but in the end, it’s always been the right move.
DF: Now that you have joined the company as part of the next generation, what is on the horizon for Alec Bradley cigars? Where do you see the company in 5 years and what do you think the biggest challenges will be along the way?
AR: Alec Bradley has a great team! We are a family and I feel like we can all grow together. I’m excited that Bradley may join us, but we’re still not 100% sure. I look forward to learning the ins and outs of my father’s business and moving up in the company. I would like to see the company grow and expand and become not just a household name, but an industry leader. In 5 years, Alec Bradley should be in every cigar smoker’s humidor!
The biggest challenge, right now anyway, is the FDA. I think it’s going to be tough navigating the rules. We are learning more and more every day. But right now, it feels like creativity is being stifled. We are growing abroad, which I think is helpful to the creative process and we are still able to play with tobaccos and make new blends — but who knows if they’ll ever hit the US Market. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to help carry on my father’s tradition and help expand his vision of Alec Bradley.
DF: Is there anything new you are planning to work on that you can share with us?
AR: The focus right now is delivering the Alec Bradley message. Like I said, the end goal is to make sure every cigar smoker has a place for Alec Bradley in their humidor. In the meantime, we’ll still blend and create… and hopefully cigar smokers will have the opportunity to try something different.
DF: Besides cigars, do you have any other hobbies or passions?
AR: Like my father, I’m an avid golfer — I don’t get to play as much as he does. Because, I actually work for a living… haha! I love music and I have a collection of old vinyl. The one’s I haven’t listened to in a while — my father is still yelling at me to get out of his garage. I’m also a film fan. I’ve been working through the American Film Institute’s (AFI) top 100 films list. Classics like Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, Dr. Strangelove — the list goes on and on.