Marcus Daniel on CBS Sunday Morning

Marcus Daniel recently appeared on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.

You can watch the video below!

MARCUS DANIEL CELEBRATES
20 YEARS IN THE CIGAR BUSINESS

We recently celebrated Marcus Daniel Tobacconist's 20th Anniversary with a fabulous get together at the Yacht Club in Naples Bay Resort. A fantastic crowd of cigar enthusiasts joined us for what turned out to be a great time, as we sat besides the water listening to good music, having lots of fun with our raffles and other events, and of course, smoking fine cigars.

Lucky guests won some raffled items which included Marcus Daniel Cigars, Robaina Canvas Art, and an S.T. Dupont Lighter, just to mention a few. We held a fun blind tasting competition, and smoked a number of exquisite hand rolled cigars from the Marcus Daniel collection, selected by Marcus himself.

You can read more about what was going on at the celebration by viewing the previous event details.

We had a great time and Marcus would like to personally thank everyone that attended.

We had so much fun that we have decided to do it all over again in December! We will celebrate the arrival of the new HR brand, and we will have none other than the creator, Hirochi Robaina, here at the event to launch his new HR cigar! This event will also be free entry RSVP or get more info by clicking here.

HIROCHI VISITS MARCUS

Hirochi Robaina's first U.S. visit at Marcus Daniel Tobacconist.

Click here to read the full story.

Hirochi Robaina To Visit

Cuban cigar legend Hirochi Robaina to visit Marcus Daniel Tobacconist.

Click here to read the full press release.

From: Calle Ocho - To: Calle Ocho

CIGAR ROLLING on CALLE OCHO with MARCUS DANIEL 

By MARCUS DANIEL ▪OLDE NAPLES, FL – If you ever wanted to buy American, now’s the time.  We have just received another long awaited shipment of the newly released We The People™ cigars, that arrived at Marcus Daniel Tobacconist on Calle Ocho in Olde Naples from Calle Ocho in Miami.  Manufactured by Bidwell Cigar, Inc., these cigars are made by hand and are extremely limited, as not more than 200 boxes are produced each month.  The boxes alone cost $12.00 a piece and are handmade in Miami.  The beautiful bands are also manufactured in the United States.  In fact, the only component of the cigar that is not American is the tobacco itself.  Quality premium cigar tobacco is generally grown within ten degrees north or south of the Equator, which these are.  The vitolas come triple capped and are crafted in the old Cuban ‘entubado’ (tubed) tradition, which is how most great Havanas are made.  We The People™ cigars look sharp and come boxed in the finest traditional packaging of any new cigar released in recent years.  This wonderful new brand is incredible in terms of quality and is a phenomenal smoke.  Manufacturing in America is back!  We The People™ has done its part; have you done yours by trying them? 

RATED "93", Smoke Magazine 2011, Issue No. 3

RATED "92", Smoke Magazine 2011, Issue No. 4

VIEW WE THE PEOPLE CIGARS [CLICK HERE]

Avo Uvezian on Life, Love & Cigars

at 85

  PHOTO: CIGAR LEGEND AVO UVEZIAN WITH MARCUS DANIEL IN THE WHOLE-STORE HUMIDOR IN OLDE NAPLES, FLORIDA

By MARCUS DANIEL

Last summer, I telephoned a dear friend of mine, pianist, composer and cigar legend Avo Uvezian, on the 8th of July, 2011.  He shared a variety of intrigues, including an experience with Frank Sinatra.  After all, Avo DID compose the music for Strangers in the Night.

 

At 85, Avo had just returned home here in the States after completing a one month cigar tour of Europe.  He travelled between Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Moscow.  He says he doesn’t count the miles anymore.  He then told me he was on his way back to Switzerland to open an Avo Lounge in advance of the Avo Session, an annual music festival held in Basel in his honor.  He even debated whether to squeeze in a quick trip to Armenia first!  I can tell you one thing; I could retire if only I could figure out a way to cash in his flight miles.  

He went on to say:  “So, as you can see things are constantly happening, but I need to pace myself.  I enjoy flying and meeting people, but I’m not 65, I’m 85.  I haven’t even had time to touch my golf club.  It’s been already two years.  I would like to be able to have time to do that.”  

“Music I play every day.  I have plenty to smoke, I have plenty to smoke,” he repeated.  “But I need the two,” he said.  Avo continued “The day hasn’t even started, I just finished my breakfast, and I need to… well, my day doesn’t start until I have my first cigar.”

 

 

The interview begins…

MD:      

We started off with the fact that you’re doing a lot of traveling.  And, obviously we want to get into your cigars.  As you know, this will be Avo Uvezian on Life, Love & Cigars at 85.  So, why don’t we cut into um…  I really like that we will be discussing these things and at the same time mixing in the cigars.  Then, we can go off deeper into the interview on the different cigars you’ve been doing for the last few years, I would say. 

Avo:     

The last few years since my 75th birthday, when every year we do a limited edition, this has been going on from my 75th.  We just finished doing my 85th limited edition, which was for the first time an all Dominican cigar; wrapper, filler included.  Except the binder was a Peruvian binder, but all the rest of it was Dominican.  That was the first time that we did something like that.  I’m right now working on the 86th birthday limited edition and maybe that might be the last one but we don’t know, as time goes on, we’ll see.

 

MD:     Okay, well we sure hope there are many, many more.

Avo:     

I hope many, many more to be able to live another 14 years.  85 and 14, 99 that’s good enough…  However, when I get there I’ll see if I want to do one more year!

 

MD:      You’ll have to beat George Burns.

 

Avo:     (laughs)

 

MD:      You’re definitely more qualified as a cigar man than George Burns.

 

Avo:     

There are a lot of people who are good in the cigar business you know, but I’ve been dedicating, since my 55th birthday, until now in the cigar business- I’m very glad I did it because I enjoy it even though the rest of the world, all the countries with this anti-smoking, silly campaign that they are waging, it makes you sort of… it makes me very angry to see those things happening.  But what can you do? 

 

MD:       

Right.  I think it’s just a sign of the times.  You once mentioned that tobacco, throughout history has been a cycle of love and hate.

 

Avo:     

Listen, this tobacco has existed almost 300 years now.  And I’ll bet you 100 years from now, there will still be somebody smoking cigars.  People, politics and other things do not have a final effect on something that people enjoy.  You know?

 

MD:      Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more, I agree with you there.

 

Avo:     I mean it’s our basic right to enjoy what we like to do. 

 

MD:      People like to burn fire.

 

Avo:      

Stay away, go away.  I mean I never smoked in a place where I see that people are sitting.  I always ask them, “Do you mind if I smoke?”  Even if it’s outside, you know?  If they say, “yes” it “bothers us,” I say, “well... you came after I sat here, now move away.  If I was the one coming last I would move away from you.”  I mean I respect their rights, let them respect mine.

 

MD:       

You know 50 years ago, people in this country would have gone to war and fought and died to preserve whatever freedom it is that you enjoy doing, and now days if people, you know they say, “if I don’t do it, why should you do it?”  I mean, we’ve really come a long way in our philosophy of respecting each other’s rights and freedoms.

 

Avo:      

To what extent do you go where you don’t let people smoke, even outdoors?  Even on the beaches you cannot smoke.

MD:       

Well, I don't think it's an issue of health.  I think it's a issue of control and power and I think...

Avo:     That’s what it is and power goes to the head of the…
 
MD:

 

That’s funny you mention that.  You know where the first laws came from about smoking in public, it was in Nazi Germany.

Avo:     Really?

MD: 

Yes.  I have done the research, and you’ll find that under Hitler… He, he was a former smoker himself, a former cigarette smoker I believe, and he loathed tobacco.  He had his scientists go out and create a bunch of junk science, and he immediately started to ban smoking in public.  But I think it’s to get control of people. You can smoke here as an adult, but you can’t smoke over there.  It’s conditioning you.  I have always said nicotine stimulates your mind, like caffeine, it makes you think.  A lot of other narcotics and drugs and things, even alcohol, I mean when you drink it for instance, it kills brain cells.  Where I think the thinking man smokes a cigar or pipe.  It gets your wheels turning.  It makes people philosophize and converse with each other, it makes you think.  It is a very sobering process.  So, I think we’re on the same page with that.

 

MD: 

Okay, so, I’ve got plenty there on the anti-tobacco stuff.  I’ve got some on you traveling.  Uh… how about on life in general? I know you like to joke around a lot and I know you like to spend time with people in cigar stores.  There’s something about a cigar store.  I walked into a cigar store in Kendal, Miami just the other day.  I just walked in and everybody greeted me like they had known me forever and I didn’t know any of these people.  A cigar shop is like a sanctuary. 

 

Avo: 

Well, I spend every day, literally every day, I go seven minutes from my house driving to Corona Cigar Shop who belongs to my neighbor, Jeff Borysiewicz, the young man had started in the cigar business twelve years ago selling cigars from his garage you know, and now he owns three of the biggest cigar stores anywhere.  All in the area of Orlando and in his stores he has over a couple of million cigars and I go every day to his first store, the one on Sand Lake.  I sit down with the same group, we start smoking cigars and talking about anything.  You know, it’s a social event.  I really look forward to it, even though sometimes the conversation turns to whatever it is, baseball, or the Casey Anthony case here about the..

 

MD:  Sure

 

Avo: 

Which was one of the reasons I would leave the house to get out because my wife would be watching it all day.  And I wanted to get out and I’d go there and I mean I enjoy it even if they talk about baseball and football or golf, or whatever it is with those folks.  It’s a fine time and I mean the same people come every day; it’s like a magnet to you.  A cigar lounge is what I really love, to be there because people who take time to go there and enjoy it you know, we have something in common which is good to share. 

 

MD:  What’s going on with the Avo Lounges in Europe, how are those taking?

 

Avo: 

Well, Avo lounges in Europe; the first one was started by my friend Otto Fischer in Lenzburg (Canton of Aargau, Switzerland).  And now there are 13 lounges in Switzerland.  We have three in Germany, plus we have about four in the states and we are going to open more lounges in this country because at lease that will be one place where you can go and smoke.  Even if they don’t let you smoke outdoors or somewhere, you have the right to open a place where you can smoke. 

 

MD:  Absolutely, umm… and thank goodness for that.  You had mentioned…

 

Avo: 

Ideally for me is I want to have a cigar lounge where I can sit and enjoy the cigars and put a piano there, but I want to have a view of the ocean.  I grew up in Lebanon where I was born, where we always saw the ocean.  I lived 30 years in Puerto Rico right on the ocean, and here now in Orlando, which is fine.  But, I miss the ocean.  You know, I don’t want a small lake; I want… maybe I’ll move to Saint Petersburg, somewhere on the ocean if I stay in Orlando.  If not, then maybe I’ll move to Southern Italy or Southern France, somewhere looking at the ocean.  I want to see the ocean. 

 

MD:   

Oh wow.  I hear you there.  Now, are you serious?  I mean would you consider living in Southern Europe?

 

Avo: 

Well, it all depends.  I have a daughter who is already living in Europe, in Norway.  She got married two years ago.  For me, my family comes first.  I want to be where I am with my family.  If my family moves with me, I’ll go with them.

 

MD:  Have you ever considered the Canary Islands? 

 

Avo: 

Look, any islands.  I haven’t been there.  Before I’d consider it, I have to go and see it.  I want to see who or what kind of people live there in order to know whether I’d enjoy it.  I’ve tried Southern France, I’ve tried Italy, I’ve tried all the Caribbean, you know. 

 

MD:  

Sure.  If you ever decide to check out the Canary Islands, I’ll go with you, it’s on my list.  I’d like to see it.  Plus it has a real cigar heritage there which, I’m sure you’re familiar with.

 

Avo:  Mmm... Well, yeah, we’ll go, I’ll try it.

 

MD: That would be kind of neat. 

 

[Editor’s Note: Some of the best Cuban tobacco farmers are from the Canary Islands.  The soil there is very volcanic and can be difficult to farm, so when they get to Cuba they have an edge on growing tobacco.  One of these farmers once told me in Cuba, “Growing tobacco requires so much care that their balls must pass over the tops of the tobacco plants in each row several times in order for the tobacco to come out just right.”]

 

MD:  

Let’s get into some of the… I think it’s important for people to understand your cigars because your cigars have really evolved.  You started with the… I believe the Avo Classic; I know many people have already heard of the story of how you began in Puerto Rico with your cigar career.  Cigars and music, but, I think it’s important that they know that through the basic lines you had, I believe you had the Avo Classic, and then you came out with the X.O. series?

 

Avo: 

I called it musical terms, the Preludio, Intermezzo, Maestoso.  Then it was originally X.O. Trio, then we did a Quarteto, Serenata, Notturno, Allegro, etc.  I called it musical terms because when I had met Zino (Davidoff), he told me how he named his cigars after the wines of France when he was friendly with the Rothschilds, who were growing their wines in Bordeaux. So, he called his wines after Bordeaux, so I said if he calls his cigars Chateau Margaux, Chateau Yquem, I’ll call mine musical terms, you know.

MD:  That was a great idea.

Avo: 

And after that, I made the Domaine a little bit stronger as the taste of what people wanted changed.  As they smoked more and more their tastes… they would want a stronger cigar or whatever.  You have to go with whatever the market wants.  After the Domaine, we did a maduro, and then when I started my first 75th Limited Edition, it was such a success!  Not in quantity, but in quality, it got a very high rating in Cigar Aficionado.  I think it was on that month, the top rating.  And then people wanted it.  We continued, we came out with the Avo Signature, which is basically the same blend as the Avo 75th.  And then subsequently we did every year a limited edition; Avo 76th which, I call the 22.  I was born on March 22.  From then on, every year we made a different one.

 

MD:  Do you have a personal favorite out of them?

Avo:  

If you have five children, or ten children, do you have a favorite my friend?

MD:  (laughs)

 

Avo:  Would you have a favorite son?

 

MD:  You love them all.

 

Avo:  I love them all!

 

MD:  

Okay, it’s funny you talked about the Domaine.  I was one of those guys that went through the Connecticuts of course, and really fell in love with that Domaine back in the day.  I’m still searching for that Domaine and I think I found it in the 787 there for a little while.

 

Avo: 

Yeah, that 787 was the remake of the Avo 22 which was a very, very big hit and people were asking about it even two, three years after the launching of the Avo 22.  But, we didn’t want to make a limited edition and call it 22 again, because a limited edition is done once a year.  But, had the idea to call it 787.  In a box we put one row of seven on top, in the middle a row of eight, and on the bottom a row of seven.  Seven and eight 15 and seven is 22.

 

MD:  Sure, like an 8-9-8. 

Avo: Camouflaging the whole thing, you know.

PHOTO: CIGAR LEGEND AVO UVEZIAN WITH MARCUS DANIEL AT 'A NIGHT IN HAVANA' IN OLDE NAPLES, FLORIDA

MD:   

Absolutely!  Fantastic!  Well, I see we’ve… can you talk a little about the current cigar, the 85th?

Avo:

Yes.  For the first time, we started growing a few years ago wrapper in the Dominican Republic.  And then Davidoff came out with the… Davidoff distributes my cigars all over and they came out with the Puro d’Oro, which means everything in the cigar was made from the Dominican Republic.  So, for my 85th I also wanted to do an all Dominican except one leaf of the binder which is Peruvian.  It gives it a little different taste.  But, I would say it is the closest thing to being an all Dominican cigar.  It’s sold out already, you cannot… it’s gone.  Remember when we did my 80th birthday for the first time? We came out with 300,000 cigars and we couldn’t sell all of it.  It was too much.  But, we held it for six, seven months; we didn’t bring it onto the market.  And then when we brought it back, people wanted it again and it sold out.  You know sometimes cigars kept under the right condition, even though all the cigars that we made; the tobacco has aged already the required amount of time.  But even sometimes when you have a good wrapper on it, the cigars kept under the right conditions of humidity and temperature, that wrapper can age with time.  So, what happened on the 80th?  You smoke an 80th now if you find it.  It‘s much milder than the original one, or shall we say it’s not as strong as the original one.  It is very good.  That happens with cigars.   

 

MD: 

Now, how involved is Henke Kelner?  And, I know Eladio Diaz is doing more and more.  Is Eladio actively involved in the blending of your cigars today?

 

Avo: Of course, he’s still there.  Eladio is only 58 years old, I am 85.  He’d better be there for another twenty years. 

 

MD:  Ha Ha Ha Ha… Okay, that answered the question about Eladio.

 

Avo:  

Not like some people I know who travel between Bolivia and California and then they have time to enjoy (referring to yours truly).  Some other people have to work!

 

MD: (laughs) Okay, well how about Henke, is Henke still pretty active?

 

Avo: 

He will be 65, but he will be involved in it, of course he will be.  But, why don’t you call him and make an interview with him and ask him those questions?

MD:

Okay, I will do that.  Have you noticed any changes since Davidoff did all of these acquisitions.  Has your work schedule or life been affected by that at all? 

Avo:

Nothing affects me.  What other people do is their thing.  I still do my own stuff, and I don’t worry about what other people do.  I worry about what I do.  What I do is what I like and that’s it, you know?

MD: 

And obviously you keep your eye on the ball when it comes to the production of your cigars.

 

Avo:

Even though Davidoff bought my blend or my brand shall I say. I’m still involved because that cigar has my name.  So, I’m involved with everything that we do and I will be more and more involved with everything that pertains to my cigars, Marcus.

 

MD: 

Let’s talk a little bit about life.  Because I know that you are quite a character, and you’re a people person, and you have given me a lot of good advice over the years.  I just think that a big part of the story here is that I would like people to know a little bit about you because you have an interesting presence.  Some people are probably intimidated by you.  You know you are a hell of a musician and a very powerful cigar man.  And I just think that there is a side to you that a lot of people don’t get to see that I’ve been able to see over the years and I’d like to share that with our readers.

 

Avo:  

Well, you know my music.  You know my life is music and cigars.  I don’t intimidate people with my music; I want them to enjoy it.  I want them to enjoy my cigars.  I want them to enjoy my presence.  I’m an easy person to get close to.  In fact for me, a stranger is a stranger until I say hello to them, then they stop being strangers.  I like people and I enjoy meeting new people.  You know, in life, as you grow, you learn certain things and you try to listen to your inner self.  That’s one thing that I’ve been finding out.  When you try to do something, sometimes your inner self tells you to do this or not to do that, but you don’t pay attention.  Try to learn to listen to your inner self.  It really gives you the right advice if you know what I’m talking about.

 

MD:  

I know exactly what you’re talking about.  The love of my life’s father just recently said there are times for instance when you’re driving a car.  And you hear that little voice in you that says, “Don’t go” and you stop, or you hit the gas or whatever. He says you really need to listen to that, because he was saying that’s God talking to you there.

 

Avo: 

I can do a little experiment.  Sometimes I say to myself, “Oh, where did I leave my keys?”  Before, “Oh, where did I leave this, or where did I leave that?”  Before, I used to get excited, now I shut up and say, “Calm and listen.”  And invariably the inner voice listens.  “I left my keys there,” the voice says.  I will walk there and there is the key.  It is happening daily with me.

 

MD:  

Speaking of strangers, you were mentioning strangers.  Can you clarify for me the song, “Strangers in the Night?”  Some people say that you wrote it, did you in fact write it? 

 

Avo: 

I wrote the music, not the lyrics.  The music was my first published song in the States in 1966.  But, being a novice in the business and not knowing anything.  I had also a friend of mine who introduced me to a German composer by the name of Bert Kaempfert who was also a very good musician.  But, I wanted my song to be published in Europe before being published in the States because of the publishing rights.  The music business at that time was quite messy, it wasn’t legally right and they wouldn’t pay you royalties.  So just to make sure, I had Bert Kaempfert put his name on that thing.  But, he had given me a letter saying, “Avo, I want to recognize that you wrote it;” but I had him publish it and record it in Germany and then we brought it back here.  So I am the composer, originally I never wrote the lyrics when I wrote that song.  Somebody in the publishing house wrote the lyrics.  They called it, “Broken Guitar” and a friend of mine who was a friend of Frank Sinatra arranged for Frank to listen to that song.  In fact, we went to see him in Palm Springs, California.  And Frank said, “I love the music, but I don’t like the lyrics.”  And he had three fellows come from L.A. overnight; they wrote the lyrics- the same fellows who had written the lyrics for Les Misérables.  They wrote the lyrics and they called it, “Strangers in the Night,” and that’s how it started. 

 

MD:  

That is fascinating!  You had mentioned something about him calling you originally, kind of an exciting moment because I guess Frank Sinatra was already a pretty big star.  Yes, I had met him ten years before seeing him in Palm Springs and I had a chat with him once at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.  But anyway, when that happened and they still wouldn’t pay me my royalties, that’s when I got disgusted with the music business per se, not with music ever God forbid.  And that’s when I left the states, I left New York.  Also, when my first wife died, at that moment I left New York and I went to Puerto Rico and started my second life and there I started making cigars.  The idea of making cigars was born there, Puerto Rico.  The idea of making cigars started there.  A friend of mine that I met who came to hear me play piano when I had come to Puerto Rico, I started playing piano again to earn my living and after one year I remarried and I had my first daughter after three boys. That’s when I started my cigars because a friend of mine, somebody who met me there, an Armenian who heard me playing the piano.  He said, “You and I have something in common.”  I said, “What is it?”  In his very British accent, this gentlemen’s name was Jack Melkonian.  He said, “I’m half Swiss and half Armenian.”  We made friends and that’s when… 

Avo’s telephone rings… 

Avo:    

Hold on one minute…  “Hello?”  “Yes ‘name withheld,’ hold on one minute.”  I got a call from Europe, Marcus.

MD: Okay, call me back.

Avo: Okay.

The interview resumes… 

MD:  I have a feeling you were about to mention your daughter Karyn’s godfather?

Avo:

Yeah, well he’s the one with whom I met in Puerto Rio, we became friendly.  He invited me to Switzerland to have Karyn’s christening.  After the christening, we went to have dinner and afterwards we asked for a cigar and when the bill came, this was 29 years ago, almost 30 years ago.  A cigar at that time was over 22 dollars.  And, he said, “Why don’t you make cigars, you’re in Puerto Rico?”  That’s how I started.  I came back and made research that the closest place to Puerto Rico was the Dominican Republic.  I started traveling there during the day because during the night I used to play the piano. So I used to go to the Dominican to make research, met Henke at that time and that’s how I started the cigar business.

 

MD:  Ah-hah, I see.  Do you still stay in touch with Jack much?

 

Avo: Always, of course!

 

MD:  

On love.  Need some advice on love.  I know a lot of your music, a lot of times- love is a centerpiece for a lot of your songs.  Are you inspired by love, has love inspired you to… is there a close connection between love and music?

 

Avo: 

Of course, there is a connection between love and music, love and life, love with everything.  What you do is you enjoy life, right?  If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you don’t love it, then you’re not enjoying.        

 

MD: Ahhh… so, you’re saying there’s more to love than just boy meets girl? 

 

{Break: Avo proceeds to offer me personal advice on love, “Off the record…”}

 

The interview continues… 

 

MD:  Yes sir!

 

Avo: Not being personal here by any means.

 

MD:  

Sure, Sure.  Uhh… I need a little bit more in the love section.   This is Avo on Life, Love and Cigars.  We need some philosophy here.

 

Avo:  

There is not much I can tell you.  I enjoy life.  I enjoy my family, and I enjoy my daughter.  I love people.

MD:  

Well, there’s a song on your, “Cigar Store Boogie” album, where a young couple is standing there.

 

 

 

 

Avo: Oh, Oh...  Why Can’t We Dance (Once More)?

MD:  Yes, yes.  What can you tell us about that?

 

Avo: 

It’s about a couple of people who were listening to me playing the piano while I was in Puerto Rico and one guy’s wife asked him to dance while I was playing.  He was too busy talking to somebody else; he didn’t pay attention, and his wife got upset after the second time she asked him to dance.  She got upset and she asked the waiter to bring her a double martini.  And at the end of the night I said, “Let me dedicate a song to you.”  And I started improvising that song, “Why can’t we dance once more, as we used to dance a long time ago, when we were in love?”  I started improvising that song and started talking about these things.  And then at the end I said, “Finally, did they dance?  Yeah, they finally danced.  Did they fall in love again?”  We don’t know.  All we know is that once more again they started dancing.  Listen to that song again, it’s an interesting story.  I didn’t want to put it on the record, but they insisted I do it and a lot of people liked that song a lot.

 

[Editor’s Note: I once asked Avo a long time ago, “How long did it take you to write that album?”  Surprisingly, he told me he wrote it in one day!  It’s a great CD, and mandatory listening for anyone who enjoys partaking in fine cigars.]

 

MD: 

Optimism.  I am sure on the surface we all appear one way, but deep down inside, anybody who is driven and anybody who loves what they do, which I know you do, I know I do, is quietly optimistic.  Are you feeling optimistic?  Do you think that maybe we’ll have another cigar boom, perhaps when the economy turns around?  Nat Sherman started in 1930, right in the middle of the Depression.  I’m wondering if you… what your thoughts are– the fact that we’re right in the middle of a…

 

Avo:  

I think that… I see in my travels.  A lot of young people are smoking now.  The hope of the cigar future is with those young people, not the old politicians who make the rules.  The young people enjoy it more and more.  They are going to enjoy it.  Whether it will be a boom or not, as long as they smoke cigars, be happy.  If it’s a boom okay, if not, they’ll still smoke.  And they will smoke!  Nobody is going to stop them.  Can you try to stop me from smoking cigars?  No, you can’t.  Those young people also, if they like it, they will continue smoking.  If you have a million young people, or ten million young people around the world smoking, or 100 million, of the 100 million, if 50 million keep on smoking, you’ll still have a business.  So don’t give up.  But fight for your rights, that’s the whole thing.  Make it known to the politicians that you are against what they are trying to do.  

 

MD:  Absolutely!

 

Avo: 

You have to fight it.  So join the Cigar Rights of America and do something about it.  Don’t stay in one corner and not say anything.  If somebody hits you, you hit them back.

 

MD:  That’s beautiful!  Do you see new smokers in Europe too?

 

Avo: 

Oh, plenty, the same thing.  Why should they be different than America, or Africa or Asia?  Everybody, everywhere it’s the same thing.  The world is smaller today, it’s not what it used to be.

MD:   

Now, I’ve also noticed that the Cuban blends have become milder.  Do you think they’re trying to…?

Avo: 

I don’t know.  I’m not a very big fan.  I’m not being negative because I don’t smoke them as much.  I enjoy our Dominican, locally, and Nicaraguan made cigars.  Before I was fifty years old I didn’t smoke much, so I didn’t smoke Cubans.  And after that there were no Cubans available, and in my travels I would again sometimes try Cubans and I will tell you something.  I prefer our cigars to them, much more.

 

MD: 

That’s interesting, because you see obviously with Cuban cigars, there’s been a monopoly on that market and there’s not a large variety between the blends.

 

Avo: 

That monopoly is eroding very, very fast.  That monopoly of Cuban cigars only pertains to Europe.  Even in Europe, more people are enjoying the Dominican and Non-Cuban cigars than Cuban.

 

MD:  I was there recently and I noticed a huge introduction.

 

Avo: 

Those people are used to Cubans because they were the only cigars they could get.  Now, more and more Nicaraguan and Dominican and other country’s cigars are available.  Whoever makes the best cigar will be succeeding, that’s all.

 

MD:  

Absolutely, survival of the fittest. I recently reviewed a Juan Clemente cigar after he passed away last year. I’m sure you knew him.  Is there anything you can add on Juan Clemente?

 

Avo: 

Oh he was a very nice man frankly, he was a French man, and he liked music also.  I met him personally, but I am not very familiar with his cigars.  He was a good person, a friend.  I never became very close to him as a friend, because he lived in the Dominican and I lived in Puerto Rico.  I’d meet him there whenever I would go there, in fact he belonged to the Pro-Cigar Group which at that time was Henke and Manolo Quesada and Juan Clemente was also a part of that group, that’s how I used to meet him.

 

MD:  

I met him for the first time at your 80th birthday party in the Dominican Republic.  So, I agree, he was a very nice man.  Well, we hope to have you back down here at the store in Naples again soon and thank you very much for your interview Avo, it was great!   

 

Avo: I’ll be back when you’re ready.

 

MD:  You got it. Thank you!  Goodbye.

 

Avo: Bye.

 

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Kauai Cigar Company

PHOTO: LES DRENT, FOUNDER & GROWER, KAUAI CIGAR COMPANY

By MARCUS DANIEL 

Les Drent is the founder and grower of three companies: LBD Coffee, LLC, Coffee Times, Blair Estate Coffee, which is estate- grown, top of the line, organic coffee, and last but not least, Kauai Cigar Company.  Les started growing tobacco in 2004, he had a love and passion for cigars since he was a kid, his grandfather smoked them regularly and would enjoy them at the ball games.  Les can remember how terrific they smelled and eventually puffed on a few.   

It all started while in his friend Ron Oda’s garden, a Japanese man who had an incredible botanical assortment of different plant species in his garden.  As Les was looking at the various unique plants he said: “What’s that one?”.  Upon learning that it was a tobacco plant, he thought to himself, “Why can’t I grow this here in Hawaii?”.  Les received his first Sumatran tobacco seeds from Ron’s garden and began growing on a couple acres he had leased on a plot of land in the eastern region of the island in Kapaa, Kauai.  He soon discovered some Sumatran seed that was growing wild on the island and began experimenting with it… he realized everything grew so well, and continued to search for even better seed.

Les continued experimenting and improving his growing techniques, which in turn improved as he obtained better seed; namely Cuban (Habano) seed.   “This is really a hobby”, says Les.  He wanted “to not only see if I could do it, but see what else I could do”.  He also mentioned “the more tobacco we can keep here and fool around with… it peaks our curiosity”.  “When I first started, I didn’t’ really see it going anywhere, I thought I’d just sell to a few gift shops around here.  I had no idea the cigars would be so well received by the locals, tourists and connoisseurs.  It’s nice to do something different than what everyone else is doing here, which is primarily growing coffee”.  Surprisingly, the numbers coming in from the cigars were bigger in three years time than he had seen in the past thirteen years in the coffee business. 

(Author’s Note: One thing is for certain, these cigars are very different- they are unique… I can’t quite put a finger on it, but I like them.  They offer me something different, unusually different than your everyday standby.)  

Les began reading a lot of old agricultural documents from the 1930’s that he found in the University of Hawaii Library system, many tutorials on how to grow and ferment tobacco.  He also pulled some old reports from the early 1900’s from Connecticut.  One 1907 report on agriculture had even documented in great detail the different varieties of tobacco.  The bottom line of Les’ research is that he soon came to the realization that Hawaii can grow tobacco that is as good as that which is grown in Cuba.  He studied things like how to build a tobacco barn and received a lot of mentoring from industry figures in particular John Oliva, Jr. of Oliva Tobacco Company, in Tampa.  Les’ partner Victor Calvo with Tabacalera Tambor has also been very helpful, in many areas including for instance how to use float trays for seeds.  As you can see, he acquired a lot of information from history and present day tobacco men. 

When speaking with Les, he pointed out that he files 84 different reports per year for federal, state, and local governments, plus the new SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program), which sent the federal tax from a nickel to almost 41 cents per cigar.  Whoa!  Oh, and don’t forget, Hawaii has a whoppin’ 50% state tobacco tax on top of it all.  He went on to say that labor in Hawaii is $15.00, actually closer to $18.50 per hour after paying worker’s compensation, TDI (temporary disability insurance), and things such as the unemployment tax.   

Ah… when Les first realized he needed additional licensing to make cigars in Hawaii, he decided to strictly become a grower.  That is when he teamed up with Victor at Tabacalera Tambor in Nicaragua.  He would send tobacco down, and they would make the cigars there.  Then there came the Federal Manufacturer’s Permit, the Federal Import Permit; this gave him the ability to work on the Grand Alii, which means “Royalty” in Hawaiian.  He has been fermenting the tobacco on the island and is two weeks away from launching this new blend, which is 100% Kauai grown; binder, filler, and wrapper that will be completely made by hand in Hawaii, making it a true Hawaiian puro.     

The growing process in Kauai is done organically, but once the tobacco is sent to Nicaragua, it loses its organic status due to fumigation.  The Grand Alii will be 100% certified organic, because the tobacco will not leave the island during the manufacturing process.  Yes, this is the certification process through the USDA’s national organic program.  Many moons ago, Les stated he was “working towards being able to do everything here… the Grand Alii will be a very limited production and the vast majority of production will still be made in Estelí….” 

Soon Les will be opening a 3,000 square foot retail coffee roaster and cigar parlor with four cigar rolling benches, where they will be rolling cigars.  It will be the only one of its kind on the island.  When vacationers disembark the cruise ships, they’ll be able to enjoy a fine cigar and premium cup of Hawaiian coffee. 

Despite incredible challenges, Les pushes on and defies adversity in these difficult economic times.  When most people say they “can’t make it!” or “it’s impossible!” Les has turned a dream into reality.

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