Big Cigar Brands vs Small Cigar Brands

 

Thomas:
So what's up Thomas?

Brandon:
Not much, just surviving.

Thomas:
Thanks for doing a video with me, man. So we tried to do one of these videos in the past, and I don't think it ever made it to the internet. It got lost.

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
But what I wanted to talk a little bit about, I thought it would be interesting because one thing that I hear a lot is guys that are loyal to small factories and big factories.

Brandon:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Thomas:
And about a year ago, we took a trip to the DR, and I thought it was a great trip not only because we had a great group of guys and we had fun, but we also got a chance to see a little bit of everything. We got to see the big factory. We got to see the mid-size factory, and the small factory. And over the last year, I can't tell you how many times people are like, "Small factories make the best cigars because they care about the quality," or guys saying, "XYZ factory, big factory makes the best cigars and other guys don't have access to the tobacco that they have." And I think there's a little truth to all of it. So when we were in the DR, we had a chance to go see ... we got to see all three. And what's kind of your opinion? I just would like an unbiased opinion as to what your experience was in a small factory.

Brandon:
I guess going in, I had that same stereotype, that smaller factories, there'd be more care and attention in terms of the process, that went into making the cigars, but after having been to Davidoff, LFD and then Henderson Ventura's factory, what I found is that there's a lot of care that goes into making cigars in all three of those factories, that they all pour their heart and soul into the cigars they make. They do it differently, and they're on very different scales. But I mean, I guess quality control is what I'm trying to get at, that they do it very differently, but they all have different quality control processes in place to make sure that the cigars that they produce and actually ship to the US or Europe or wherever are the best quality cigars that that factory has made.

Brandon:
I saw that at Davidoff firsthand, I saw that at LFD and I saw that at Henderson. They do it very differently, the way they track the tobacco from the time it goes into the rollers' hands, from the time it goes into the boxes and into the cardboard boxes, and then when it gets shipped. They track the tobacco, but they all just sort of do it differently. But there's a process in place, and they all probably believe that theirs is the best process.

Thomas:
They're doing everything they can to deliver the best product possible, right?

Brandon:
Yeah, and they do it differently. And for obvious reasons, Davidoff is going to do it different than LFD and LFD is going to do differently than Ventura and vice versa. But in the end-

Thomas:
Everybody's striving to make the best product.

Brandon:
Everyone is striving, right.

Thomas:
It's not like Davidoff has taken shortcuts because they're Davidoff-

Brandon:
No, I mean they're-

Thomas:
... and it's not like Henderson is just sitting there going, "Well, I don't have the resources to do it," right?

Brandon:
Right, exactly.

Thomas:
They're all doing it in different ways. One thing that I ... what I ... and everybody values something different, right? I'm not here to change anybody's mind. I just thought it was interesting to take somebody who's never seen these factories before and then ask. One thing that is kind of auspicious to me is you're sitting with Henderson and he's walking around the factory, smoking every cigar off every single table, right?

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
And his dad's doing the same thing. His brother's there, his sister's there-

Brandon:
I think his mom's there.

Thomas Laff:
Their name's on the door, right? They take a lot of pride and you know that on any given day, every cigar that comes out of that factory, they've smoked a cigar off of every single table. And they're going, "This blend's right"-

Brandon:
You do know that they've smoked their own cigars.

Thomas:
Yeah.

Brandon:
Exactly.

Thomas:
And that's something that they can do that the big guys can't do.

Brandon:
Right.

Thomas Laff:
If you're putting out 20, 30,000 cigars a day, there's no way you're going to walk around to eight couples or twelve couples and pick a cigar up off every single table. You can't do that if there's 400 couples.

Brandon:
You can't. Yeah.

Thomas:
Right? And so that's a measure that they can do that the big guy cannot do, right?

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
When you walk into Davidoff and you see the scale of Davidoff, and by the way that's one of their factories.

Brandon:
Right.

Thomas:
That's where Davidoff comes from.

Brandon:
[crosstalk 00:04:26].

Thomas:
But you walk in and you see 200 couples. There's no way that you're going to go touch every one of those cigars. But one thing that Davidoff has is they have the barcodes that are scanned and every single-

Brandon:
They can track that tobacco from the time it gets into the factory from the time it leaves-

Thomas:
And you're smoking a Davidoff right now and you bought a box of those, right?

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
If something happened and that cigar blew up on you, and we reached out to Davidoff, they could literally tell us-

Brandon:
They could tell us who rolled that cigar.

Thomas:
... who rolled the cigar, what quality control manager signed off on that cigar, who sorted the tobacco, what field it came from, how long it was aged, where it was stored, what temperature, what level of humidity, all of that, right?

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
And there's something really cool about that. And if we went to buy a box of Henderson cigars and there was a problem, we could call Henderson, and we could talk to Henderson, and we could talk to him about it. He's not going to tell you who rolled that cigar probably, right?

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
Maybe he could, but I doubt it.

Brandon:
Yeah. No.

Thomas:
But we could call and we could speak to Henderson. You're not going to call and talk to Davidoff, Right?

Brandon:
Exactly.

Thomas:
So, they all have something a little bit different to offer, but ultimately, like you said, they're all delivering the best product possible.

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
And so I think, you support who you like to support. You support guys that you like. You support brands that you like, cigars that you like. But ultimately, I think there's a value in all three sizes and LFD, LFD kind of fell right in the middle, right. They had quality control people walking around where-

Brandon:
Oh absolutely.

Thomas:
... whether you're in Ventura and Henderson Ventura the quality control people at their factory, LFD, the owner was there, and he walked around with us and he knew what was going on in his factory, but he also had quality control people, kind of measuring each process and making sure that those were being done right, but then you go to Davidoff and there's like, everybody's got a different color shirt on, based on their role. It's just a different experience. But one thing that I've always believed is good cigars come from big factories and small factories alike, and average cigars come from big factories and small factories, right?

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
It really just comes down to finding somebody that you like, that blends the cigar to your liking. And then a brand like when you're deploying your cigar dollars, you pick a retailer that you want to support, and then you pick a cigar brand that you want to support. And most of these are small to mid-size companies. Davidoff is a quite large company, but even those guys, I mean, this isn't a bunch of corporate execs walking around in three-piece suits-

Brandon:
No.

Thomas:
... and a factory full of millionaires, right?

Brandon:
No, definitely not.

Thomas:
It's still kind of a family business.

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
You're still feeding people in a second or third world country. You're still supporting kind of a cottage industry, right. So I just ... I believe that there's good that come from all three. And that's kind of what I wanted to ask you. And then another thing that I always find interesting is ... and by the way, I mean, cigars can be expensive, right. So I'm not naive to that. Everybody's got different budgets, but when you were there, if I just took you and you weren't a cigar smoker and I showed you this industry, and you saw the processes it went through, and then I told you that in the United States, that cigar is $14. Would you believe it?

Brandon:
Yeah. After having seen what I've seen. Yeah.

Thomas:
Yeah. See, to me, when I see the whole process, it's just like when you see a room that's got $30 million worth of tobacco in it, that's not going to be used for five years, and then they've got $30 million worth of tobacco that's not going to be used for four years and three years. And you look and you're like, "There's $200 million for the tobacco just sitting here." Right?

Speaker 2:
Yeah.

Thomas:
I think if you took ... I think if you really saw the process from the beginning to the end, and you had no idea what cigars cost, I think you would think it's a $100 product.

Brandon:
Oh. And that's ... I know what you're saying. Yeah. So, yeah. I mean, do I have a ... when I see the price of a Davidoff versus another cigar, after having seen what I've seen, I can ... I understand why that cigar is more expensive.

Thomas:
Yeah. When you see a company sitting on $120 million worth of tobacco, right.

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
For your enjoyment five years later, and you're thinking about that investment and you're in business and you're like, "Shit, how do they do it?"

Brandon:
Yeah. I mean, they've got to age that tobacco, I mean, that's obviously one of the beautiful things about Davidoff cigars is the age of the tobacco and how long they have to sit on it. And then all of the quality control processes that they have in place, that costs money and that's not free. And ultimately the consumer pays a little bit more, but in my opinion, it's worth the extra money to smoke a Davidoff cigar, and you're right, I mean, it's-

Thomas:
It's really a pretty good value when you see the whole process.

Brandon:
Right, it is.

Thomas:
When you walk into a cigar shop and you think they're just sticks sitting there on the shelf and it's just rolled up leaf, right?

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
You're like, "$14 for a cigar?" Or whatever, ten bucks, eight bucks. I mean, there's a lot of great $8 cigars. They don't have to be a $14 cigar. It's just, you're like, "Aw man, why are they so expensive?" Then you go there and you go, "How are they so cheap?"

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
That's kind of the point of it to me, it's just when you see the amount of investment it takes, the amount of manpower it takes, the amount of real estate it takes.

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
And then they're delivering the product to the United States with taxes and all the other bullshit that comes with cigars, right.

Brandon:
Yeah. And then you got to make money right? And so yeah.

Thomas:
And then you're like ... at the end of the day, for me, I feel like I'm getting a pretty good value at eight bucks or nine bucks or fourteen bucks, sitting around for an hour and a half to enjoy a product that took five years to make.

Brandon:
Yeah.

Thomas:
And that's kind of what I ... that's the value of traveling to these countries, these cigar countries has been for me. It's just really appreciating the value proposition in cigars. So let's wrap it up with a few of your favorite cigars, man. What do you like?

Brandon:
Well, obviously I like ... My favorite cigar, [crosstalk 00:10:45] my deserted island cigar would be the Davidoff Nicaraguan for sure. And then if these are out-

Thomas:
What's your favorite value, sub-$10 cigar?

Brandon:
Oh, La Hacienda.

Thomas:
That cigar at eight bucks is fantastic.

Brandon:
Yeah. For me, I've probably smoked a thousand of those, if not 2000. And if there's a better value for a cigar I haven't come across it, and I've smoked just about every one in that humidor, and-

Thomas:
And then Davidoff Nicaraguan. You like box-pressed or round?

Brandon:
Boxed-press. I don't know what it is about the box-pressed. I just like the way they draw and the way they taste. To me, it's just different. Even with this cigar, I like the box-pressed much more than the round cigar, but Padron, the Padron '64 series, I love those cigars about as much as this.

Thomas:
Give me one more.

Brandon:
One more. Probably the maroon HR by Hirochi. That is one of my favorites. And-

Thomas:
That's one of those cigars that a lot of people don't know about but once you put it in their hand, they fall in love with it.

Brandon:
Right. Yeah. It's a great cigar. And then just real quickly Henderson ADventura. I like the Blue label. I don't know the outfit, the name of that particular cigar, but I really enjoy that cigar.

Thomas:
You talk about supporting somebody you like, that's a guy that basically opened up his home and a week of his life to just give us some cigar knowledge.

Brandon:
Yeah. He treated us like family. It was really unbelievable, how well we were just taken care of when we were there.

Thomas:
Yeah.

Brandon:
They treated us like we were cousins. It was-

Thomas:
People in the cigar industry tend to be good people, but Henderson may be one of the best guys in the industry. Anyway, man, last question. And we'll toast to it. What is your favorite drink with a cigar?

Brandon:
My favorite? Gin and tonic.

Thomas:
There you go. Same, brother. Thanks for spending time with me, man.

Brandon:
My pleasure.

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