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JJ: Good morning CIGAR.com and welcome to this morning’s episode of the Virtual Herf Seminar. My name’s Joey; I’m filling in today for Lindsay. Unfortunately she couldn’t make it, she’s working on some really exciting updates for CIGAR.com, so that’s the good news. The bad news is you have me for the morning, so I will do my best to guide us through this hour and get you some entertaining information. Luckily, we have with us today the most positive man in the cigar industry. Someone that can easily anchor an hour of discussion. We have Terence Reilly from AGANORSA Leaf.
TR: Thank you for having me. What kind words, what an introduction, thank you.
JJ: You grew up in New England, but your family has always had some ties to cigars. Maybe we can start there and talk about how you got into the cigar industry in general?
TR: So my name is Terence Reilly, which is about a gringo name as you can possibly have, but my father is from Miami and he’s half Cuban/Spanish—however you want to define it. His father, my grandfather, he was in what’s the precursor to the CIA. I think it was called the OSS. After WWII, they sent them down to Cuba through God knows what and, while he was down there, he met my grandmother who was a Quesada—from Quesada cigar family. They got married, and my father grew up in Miami. The family connection, they went from Cuba after they donated everything to Castro to the Dominican Republic. So that side of the family was always in cigars, and it goes all the way back to the 1800s.
When I was younger, I spent the summer one time in the factory. I went down to the Dominican, said hey, I’d like to spend some time with the family and have a good time, and with that I’ll go work at the cigar factory. I didn’t even smoke at the time. I really enjoyed being down there, and you see the whole process of how difficult it is to make a cigar, and how much effort goes into it, and the relationships. We’d go over to my uncle’s house on a Sunday have some tasty beverages, eat lunch, play cards, and smoke cigars. I said wow, there’s something special about this industry. There’s not a lot of jobs where you’re basically doing what most other people do when they’re not working. So I thought that was really cool. I got involved, and I worked with my family for about 10 years, and about three years ago now in December—I can’t believe it’s been that long—I’ll be with AGANORSA now.
JJ: I loved that you pointed out one of the advantages of working in the industry is you get to do basically what people do to relax as a job. Do you feel like you still smoke as many cigars as you did before? Like when you’re not working, are you smoking cigars? I’ve always had this thing where it’s now that I smoke cigars for work, if I’m on vacation, I feel like I smoke less…do you get that at all?
TR: It’s very different from being at the office and checking blends for consistency, construction, flavor, all these types of things than it is sitting on your back porch with some buddies and having a drink and smoking cigars—so those are two different experiences. When I’m at home, or we go out some place, I do enjoy having a cigar. I’m actually really enjoying it rather than sitting there and analyzing it, saying okay is this tasting the way it tasted last time? That said, sometimes when I come back from trips—back in the olden days when we still traveled—I would take a few days off from that, because when you’re going to a lot of accounts with a lot of customers and consumers, you’re pretty much smoking cigars day-in-and-day-out four to five days in a row. I’d come back from that and give it the weekend to re-calibrate my palate.
JJ: Do you feel you smoke different cigars when you’re not working? I know for me, I tend to smoke more Connecticuts when I’m not working, because I might only smoke one to two cigars that day versus the normal four. I feel like I can appreciate a lighter cigar a little more—do you have anything like that?
TR: I would say generally, I aim for Connecticut. Sometimes on Saturday morning, I’ll wake up very early and go workout. Afterwards, on a Saturday, I’ll sit out, have my coffee, and I’ll have a cigar. For that I almost always have our AGANORSA Leaf Connecticut. I love the flavor on that, and basically I’m on an empty stomach, so I don’t know that I want the strongest cigar available. It’s always either that or Guardian of the Farm.
I would say that I’ll go on the lighter side in those types of situations. Throughout the day at the office, it’s really more of whatever needs to be checked on. We have a new brand out, we want to make sure that the first batch is tasting the same as the second batch, and it’s less determined by what I want to smoke than what needs to be smoked.
JJ: We had a question come in from David here—for people that aren’t as familiar with the anatomy of what makes up a cigar—what makes something full-bodied or more on the mellow side. What is that kind of distinction? You have the Connecticut wrapper, but there’s got to be a little more going on there, right?
TR: Some people approach it different ways. In terms of just a simple strength, the higher primings of the plant you’re using, the stronger the cigar is going to be. Even if it’s a Connecticut wrapper, which is generally associated with lighter cigars, if you’re using Visos and Ligeros—which are the leaves that are further up on the plant—you’re going to get more strength. The nutrients in the plant, they want to go to the flower at the top, but they cut off the flower so they go to the leaves. They still trend upwards, and the top leaves have more access to the sun, so you get a thicker, heavier tobacco from the top and, as you go down, it becomes thinner and strength generally decreases. In terms of how you get the strength, it’s going to be what tobaccos from what part of the plant—how much is Ligero, how much is Viso, how much is Seco at the bottom.
JJ: I see a lot of different reviews or consumers talk about is this difference between body and strength, or profile and strength. I think that gets confusing for a lot people, because sometimes you’ll have these Connecticut cigars, Connecticut-wrapped that have a lot of Nicaraguan tobacco in there and they have a lot of flavor—they’re still really full-flavored, but not as strong. I think that’s a weird distinction to make. You can have a really strong cigar that’s very smooth, not spicy, but there’s a lot of kick behind it.
TR: Absolutely. Like our AGANORSA Connecticut is a great example. Very, very flavorful, but not going to knock you over. To your point, yeah there’s kind of a kick that the cigar has where some point probably in your smoking life, you had a cigar in the early stages of your smoking career or just on an empty stomach—one day you kind of get that kick. That’s what strength is. It’s that. It’s when a cigar gives you that feeling, that’s the strength.
For the full-length Virtual Herf Seminar with Terence Reilly of AGANORSA Leaf, visit our CIGAR.com Facebook Page.