Every October, we release our anniversary cigar. This is an incredibly special project for us, and it’s one we’ve found to be very popular among our clientele, but we rarely talk about what goes into creating the release. Today, we offer a peek behind the curtain into all that goes into the making of our anniversary cigar.
We usually begin about twelve to thirteen months out. In September or October, we begin talks with Henderson Ventura about the flavors and strength profile we want to showcase in next year’s anniversary release. At that time, Henderson will pull several different aged tobaccos from his inventory that he thinks will fit that description. In December, I travel to the Dominican Republic to begin working on the cigar.
On the first day, we begin by smoking each of the potential tobaccos, and making tasting notes as we go. These notes often include comments about the strength, flavors, and details regarding what part of the palate is stimulated.
The next day, we revisit a few of the tobaccos and come to a decision about what we want to use as the base tobacco for the anniversary blend. We do this over two days because it gives the pallet an opportunity to rest—something that’s critical to the process. Henderson, who’s significantly more familiar with how the tobaccos play together, will make suggestions on additional tobaccos to consider adding for the desired strength, pallet stimulation, and flavor goals. We then spend the rest of the day comparing notes and ideas.
The third day is spent adding new tobaccos to the base of our blend. During this process, we may try as many as five to ten different tobaccos, taking copious notes about what each of these tobaccos adds or subtracts from the blend.
On the fourth day, we typically have several samples created based on the previous day’s selections. This concludes round one of our blending process.
Both Henderson and I keep several of each of the sample blends and let them rest. About 45-50 days later, we smoke each of the samples and talk via phone. If Henderson is traveling, he often takes the samples with him to see how they taste in different environments. Cigars sometime perform differently in different temperatures and humidity levels. We ultimately try to find a blend that tastes great in as many environments as possible. After we’ve both smoked the samples, we decide on one or two that we both like.
The next step is having Henderson make subtle tweaks to the blend. Most of the time, we don’t make major changes, such as adding or subtracting tobaccos, but he may adjust the primings used in a particular tobacco to make it more or less dominant. After he makes his adjustments, Henderson then makes another round of samples and starts letting them age.
If I haven’t been back to the factory by the time of the trade show in June, we’ll connect in person to smoke the new versions. In most situations, Henderson has worked his magic, and the result is a nice display of the tobaccos cooperating and playing perfectly with one another. When that happens, we put the cigars into immediate production. The cigars are made and then rested for 60-90 days before being released in October.
As you might have noticed, the schedule is tight. There’s little room for error, and this doesn’t even include the process of creating the design, making the boxes, or producing the bands. Most years, we end up being forced to expedite the shipping to get the cigars here in time.
On a side note—in December of 2021, Henderson and I created a Broadleaf blend that we wanted to use for the October 2022 release. But the reality was that the blend was going to require more time as a result of the wrapper we selected. So we made the decision to “get ahead” and use that blend for XIII in October 2023. We went through the above process and had already produced most of the cigars needed for the release. This was going to allow twelve months of post-roll age before delivering the cigars. Unfortunately, the factory suffered a fire, and everything was lost. Our plan is to produce this cigar as soon as the factory is back up and running. In the next couple of months, we’ll begin the blending process for the October 2024 release.