When Kyle Gellis, owner of Warped Cigars, saw that one of his brands was being counterfeited online, he turned to the wine world for inspiration. Gellis has implemented a sophisticated anti-counterfeit scanning system similar to those used by some of the most high-end wineries in France and California.
“A few months back, we noticed that people were posting Sky Flower vitolas [on the Internet] that we never made,” Gellis told Cigar Aficionado. “The cigars were fakes. Someone had copied the bands, reprinted them somewhere and put them on random cigars, telling a story of how I gave him the cigars and swore him to secrecy about the origin. The cigars were selling for over $100 on private forums and members were being ripped off.”
In response, Gellis contacted Prooftag, a French security company that specializes in authentication—the same company that handles security labels for many exclusive wine companies whose expensive bottles are heavily counterfeited.
“Our system for authentication guarantees our customers the ability to manually scan each limited cigar we create and match the individual code on the label to authentication,” Gellis says.
Here’s how it works: A label is affixed to the cigar’s protective cellophane sleeve. Each label has a QR code, serial number and a proprietary Bubble Tag design (it’s a pattern of little, effervescent bubbles, as in Champagne or seltzer). You can either scan the QR code with your phone or manually punch in the serial number through the Warped website. Once you’ve done that, all the information about the cigar should appear onscreen, plus an image of the bubble pattern on the tag. If the pattern on screen matches the bubble pattern on the label, the cigar is real.
As an added security measure, the tags disintegrate once removed, keeping counterfeiters from removing a genuine security label and sticking it on another cigar.
For now, Gellis is only putting the new security seals on his limited-edition cigars, such as the Moon Garden and the Flor del Valle Skyflower. You should start seeing them on his cigars after the IPCPR trade show this summer.