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A Conversation with Alan Rubin

The founder of the Alec Bradley Cigar Co. talks about the reversal of fortune that put his smokes near the top.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Matthew McConaughey, March/April 2011

(continued from page 3)

Q: Did Tempus introduce you to a different type of customer?
A: It did. You start out as a baby, you're eating Cheerios and rice. As you grow, your palate widens, you want more satisfaction, you want more flavor. You want that feeling. Tempus gave us a line that was more substantial.

Q: Did it also open up a new price point?
A: When I first started we were selling cigars that were around $2, and then Havana Sun Grown was a little more expensive. But we gave them more. Regardless of price, if they get more, if the experience is worth more than they paid, generally the consumer is very happy.

Q: Is that your philosophy?
A: I think price and value are mutually exclusive. If a guy spends $20 for something and it was a $50 experience, you're still happy.

Q: You sell cigars that someone else makes. Do you think there are misconceptions about companies like yours, that don't control their own manufacturing?
A: I think so, because I think they don't understand the involvement. I don't know what other people do. From our side, we're involved in every part of it. When we came to do Alec Bradley Prensado, Raices had not done a box-pressed cigar. I showed them what we needed to box-press cigars. We try and bring something of value down to Central America or the Dominican Republic when we go there.

Q: How many factories do you work with?
A: We work with Raices Cubanas [located in Honduras], we work with Nestor at San Marcos and also in Danlí [Honduras], we work with Henke [in the Dominican Republic] and then we work with Nestor in Nicaragua.

Q: Do you ever see the day when you will have your own manufacturing operation?
A: I do. In doing a partnership, so that we don't get so caught up with manufacturing that we don't stop taking care of our customers in the market. If we partner with somebody in the factory it would be because we're on the same page. We want them to continue what they do best, but grow together.

Q: Let's talk about Family Blend.
A: This was a blend we did for our fathers here in the office. Their signatures appear on every box. When Tempus launched, we couldn't keep up with production, so when we would do events we handed out Family Blends with no bands. We didn't have enough Tempus. And people liked the damn thing. People went nuts. People asked what is the cigar with no band? Ralph and George [Sosa, the vice president of sales] and Christopher [Manso, one of the company's Midwest sales reps] sat me down and said we have to bring the cigar out to market.

Q: When was Family Blend launched?
A: April 2009, when it had one size.

Q: And today how does it match up?
A: It's probably in our top three.

Q: Take us through your product line.
A: Spirit of Cuba sells in the $2 range. It's a sandwich fill cigar [made with long and short filler]. This is what we call our transition cigar. We have Maxx, we have Maxx in Connecticut, we have Maxx The Vice, Tempus Family Blend, Prensado, Select Cabinet Reserve—those last three all were launched in the same year, all sell for $6 to $12.

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Comments   6 comment(s)

stantine972 May 2, 2011 9:19pm ET

I love those Alec Bradley's

Chris A May 2, 2011 11:00pm ET

surely miss the Trilogy triangle press

Matt Turner — Prince George, British Columbia, Canada,  —  May 15, 2011 7:55pm ET

Good interview. Makes me wish I could talk to Alan and let him know his company makes mostly great cigars, (particularly the family blend) but has terrible customer service. I run a well established cigar - review website and have attempted to contact Alec Bradley several times regarding their products. Sadly, I've never received a single response. Goes to show success and service don't always marry up.

Robert Martin — Flushing, New York, Queens,  —  September 30, 2011 5:46pm ET

you can never go wrong with a Alec Bradley cigar!!! November 10, 2011 10:17pm ET

So a slightly belated amendment is needed here. Be it through luck, or the magic of the Cigar Aficionado website, shortly after my last comment I was contacted by George Sosa from Alec Bradley. Not only did I receive an apology for the troubles I'd had contacting someone, but George provided outstanding service, answered all my questions, and ultimately helped me find the product I was looking for. Hats off to George and the rest of the team at Alec Bradley!

Christopher Hosford December 29, 2011 6:16pm ET

It's 12/19/11, and I'm vacationing in St. Augustine, Fla. I visited St. Jorge tobacco shop -- nice lady behind the counter along with her dog, Missy -- and naturally, my favorite cigar, Paul Garmirian, wasn't being carried so I bought 5 different ones -- some known, some unknown -- to do a taste test during my vacation. The sole AB was the company's "American" Classic Blend, which I don't see referenced in this story. Anyway, I rated it close to the PG ... a mild, natural smoke and at $5 a terrific smoke at a good price. It's a little loosely packed and thus burns a bit quickly, but evenly. I'll definitely buy more ABs in the future when I return home to the Bronx, NY.

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