Cigar.com: How did you get your start in the cigar industry?
Kaizad Hansotia: That is a very interesting question. It was purely by chance. In 1989, I was in Goa, India in a beach resort where I stumbled upon a Portuguese gentlemen making and selling cigars. We started a conversation and a few drinks later I purchased all of his cigars. At the time, I was in the watch industry and I thought the cigars would be a great gift to give to my clients. However, once I started giving them out to our good customers and our duty free clients, they wanted more, and one thing led to another and ever since then I have been in the cigar industry. Mind well my family has been in the trading business over 150 years in India and overseas. We have always been involved in tea, coffee and tobacco.
CC: Your cigars were immediately popular and your brand quickly earned the reputation as the "Rolls Royce" of cigars. What do you attribute this to?
KH: Well, from day one when I started in the cigar industry, everybody had the same boring concept and the tobacco blends and packaging were all the same. We decided to change all of that and any time rare, premium, quality tobaccos became available, I used them in my cigars. Price was not an issue for Gurkha. Every company targets a price point and then they make the cigar. We do just the opposite, our formula was very simple, get the best tobacco in the world, get the best packaging in the world and give our clients what they pay for. If you buy a filet mignon steak, you expect to get a filet mignon. From day one we have always focused on quality and not the quantity. That is the reason why our cigars are produced in very limited amounts.
CC: Your cigars tend to be the most expensive in the world. The Black Beauty, Beast, Titan and Crest all sell in excess of $25.00 per cigar, not to mention the His Majesty's Reserve which retails for $750.00 a stick. What is it about your cigars that make them so expensive?
KH: Gurkha is the most expensive cigar in the world. We make small batches of cigars and focus entirely on quality. Each project takes us at least 2 to 3 years in planning. All of our cigars are aged extensively and every leaf of tobacco we use is of the highest standards possible. Even the cognac that we use in the His Majesty's Reserve has to be the world's best. We have a 30 to 40% rejection rate when checking our cigars during quality control, only the finest, flawless cigars are selected to be Gurkhas, and that is why our product is very expensive. We also only use the most experienced rollers in the factory in Danli. Fidel Olivas, the master blender, and the Torano family have a lot to do with Gurkha’s quality. We never send out cigars that are not aged or matured to the highest degree and have gone through an extended process of quality checks. Finally the flavor and the taste of my cigars are both checked constantly, and only when they are just right are they released, and worthy of the Gurkha name. Gurkha is a cigar for the true cigar aficionado and the person who likes the finest things in life.
CC: As the maker of the world's most expensive cigar, do you fear people will try to outdo you?
KH: They try every year and they fail drastically. We have a reputation and a following that far exceeds anybody trying to outdo us. Most of our clients are Fortune 500 CEOs, celebrities, Heads of State, and people who truly enjoy an epicure of luxury. Gurkha has been around in one form or another since the 1800s. It is the last 18 years that the masterpieces of Gurkha have taken their place as the World's finest and most expensive cigars.
CC: In addition to your cigars, your packaging and design concepts are also very extravagant. Where do you get your ideas from?
KH: This is the difference between me and most people in the cigar industry. Many people who have had pedigree in this business are such traditionalists that they are scared of trying anything new. The reason why Gurkha has been so successful is that I have come from a completely different background.
CC: Do you have anything new planned for 2008 that you would be willing to share with us?
KH: We have several projects for 2008. Two specifically for Cigar.com and only Cigar.com customers will be able to get them. They will just have to wait and see and so will you Alex.
CC: Can you blame me for asking? I thought maybe you would slip up and let the cat out of the bag early. On to the next question, what is your favorite cigar and why?
KH: I get asked that question at least 10 times a day and my only answer is: "whatever I am smoking at that moment". There are plenty of great cigars out there, but if I had to choose one or two, they would probably be the Gurkha Beauty and the Gurkha Black Dragon.
CC: Anything you would like to add before we wrap up?
KH: It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Cigar.com. You have a wonderful company, putting out a wonderful high end catalog and coming out with some interesting products and concepts. Gurkha will support you all the way and also to all of your customers.