The controversial HR brand, which has been troubled by distribution disputes and legal issues since last summer, has finally found a distributor. Houston-based White Hat Distributors, a newly formed LLC, has agreed to import and sell the HR brand, along with the other cigar brands produced by Hirochi Robaina and the Nicaragua-based La Corona factory.
According to White Hat owner Spencer Drake, HR cigars have been sold sporadically throughout the United States—and in a very limited capacity—since September. Now that White Hat has contracted to pick up HR, the brand should be hitting a much larger network of retail tobacconists by the end of March.
"I have an active sales team that consists of nine independent representatives," said Drake to Cigar Aficionado. "La Corona stopped producing the HR brand last year once the company started having issues with its distributor, but production started up again in September."
According to Drake, La Corona had produced an inventory of 100,000 HR cigars before it halted production in April of 2015. After complications arose between La Corona and its then distributor Cubanacan, the cigars sat in Estelí unsold. This year, part of that aged inventory will start channeling back into the market again, along with more currently rolled HR cigars. Drake said that they are not changing the bands or the retail prices, however HR cigars will be re-packaged in 10-count boxes (rather than 20-count) once the IPCPR trade show starts this summer.
The HR brand was started by Cuban farmer and tobacco grower Hirochi Robaina, grandson of the famed Alejandro Robaina. Released in 2014, HR cigars were distributed in the United States by Cubanacan until Robaina and HR producer La Corona parted ways with Cubanacan last year. A formal announcement of the split came in July.
Since then, the brand has had no significant distribution and La Corona owner Omar Gonzalez Alemán has filed a lawsuit against Cubanacan for trademark infringement and breach of contract. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. Despite the turbulence, White Hat intends to move forward with the HR brand and distribute the cigars by the end of March.
Hirochi Robaina confirmed via email to Cigar Aficionado that White Hat will be in charge of distribution.
HR cigars are composed of all-Nicaraguan tobacco within an Ecuador Havana wrapper. Made in four sizes, the cigars retail from $18.99 to $21.99. White Hat will also distribute future brands from the La Corona factory, including two new upcoming lines considerably less expensive than HR.