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An Interview with Ruben Ysidron

Ysidron created the first branded cigar for Savinelli 15 years ago, and the standards have been high ever since.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Jay-Z, May/June 2009

(continued from page 1)

Q: So you're not related to the Fuentes, but you have the same uncle.
A: Exactly.

Q: That's a bonding experience, for sure.
A: Around '93, I said, "We need to get back into the cigar business," maybe not representing someone, but making our own cigar with the Savinelli name.

Q: And how was that received? Did you have to suggest it?
A: I had to suggest it to the Savinelli family. The Savinelli family was involved for 133 years at that point, in pipes. I said to them, We're going to make a cigar line. So I met with Carlito, and I said, "We want to do a cigar." He said, "Ruben, our production is maxed out."

Q: You went to him first?
A: I went to Carlito first. He said, "I can do something, but you're going to have to wait." I said, "I can wait for the best." I consider them one of the best cigarmakers in the world. Nine months later, we started working on different blends.

Q: What's that process like? Take me through the creation of your first cigar.
A: I sat down with Carlito and his father, and we started talking, first about what kind of cigar do you want, what kind of flavor do you want it to have, and the most important subject was wrapper. They said, "We have this wrapper, and we have that wrapper," and they were quoting me prices per pound. They said, "This wrapper is $10, and this wrapper is $12, and this wrapper is $15, that wrapper is $20." I said, "What's that wrapper?" He said, "Connnecticut [seed tobacco grown in] Connecticut." I said, "That's what I want." I went with Connecticut for the Savinelli ELR [Extremely Limited Reserve].

Q: Once you heard it was the most expensive . . .
A: Once I heard it was the most exclusive, one of the best wrappers out in the marketplace, I said that's what I want the Savinellis to have.

Q: Is that what you talked about with the Savinelli family?
A: No, no. It was basically just talking that we wanted to go into the cigar business—they didn't know about the cigar business. I said, "I think the cigar business is a good diversification for the company." Prior to that we tried to diversify: men's walking sticks, men's wallets.

Q: Did any of those lines work?
A: Some of them worked, most of them didn't work. I said, [Cigars are the] perfect diversification for the company. It took a little convincing.

Q: What was it like working on the cigar?
A: We put 10 blends together. The 11th one was the magic one. I was [originally] there 10 days. We came away with three or four blends. I said, "This really isn't what I want," and they made some more blends. One day, Carlito called me up and said, "You have a definite thing in mind for what you want—this is blend No. 9 and you still haven't found what you want."

Q: You were being picky.
A: Yes. And the 11th one, when I smoked it, I said, "This is it. This is the one."

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