Q & A With Cigar Manufacturer Robert Caldwell | Caldwell Cigars
With all of the stuff out there regarding cigars we thought “What does a real live cigar manufacturer think about the cigar industry, the emerging era of boutique cigars and the cigar lifestyle?” Because it is a lifestyle, it’s about relaxing, listening to your favorite music, sipping your favorite beer, wine or liquor (tequila, scotch or whisky) and being with your pals or by yourself. I’d like to give a special thanks to Robert Caldwell for being our first manufacturer in “The Cigar Manufacturer Spotlight.
1.) The cigar business seems to be a closed knit group. Businesses seem to be handed down from generation to generation. How did you get into the business?
It is a closed knit group but the barriers to enter the market are very low. This creates an opportunity for guys like me. I think that 20 years ago there was much more mystique behind manufacturing but today that veil has lifted. We have pioneers like Jonathan Drew, Pete Johnson, Ernesto Padilla, Dion Giolito and Matt Booth to thank for paving the way for guys like me. I kind of stumbled into the industry. I originally started making cigars for upscale hotels and restaurants. From there I ended up building a cigar factory and brand in the arts district of Miami (Wynwood Cigars) and then just progressed into the Caldwell project naturally.
2.) Small boutique cigar manufacturers seem to be the hottest ticket in town. What makes them unique? Is it similar to a craft beer maker? Are they a mixed bag of quality vs junk?
I think it is a bit of both. I think that every industry is a bit of both though. And I think that we are much like the craft beer industry save for one detail: craft beer company’s are excellent at branding and marketing. The uniqueness of the boutique realm of cigars is the opportunity that small manufacturers have to work with tobaccos different than those that the big boys play with. Major brands have to concern themselves with volume. Boutique brands don’t have to make millions upon millions of cigars a year. We have better access to the unique leaf that is forfeited due to it’s limited nature.
3.) If you are a new company how did you start? What inspired the new brand and what are you doing differently?
I’m using only grade A tobaccos and a unique spectrum of leaf that allows for me to blend cigars that don’t taste like anything else on the market. I know it is a bold statement but I am more than comfortable making that claim.
4.) How do you pick your tobacco and your wrapper?
I have a great grower (Leo Reyes) who provides me with excellent tobacco. Only the best. From there it is putting the blends together.
5.) What is different about the manufacturing process.Do you oversee manufacturing?
I micro-manage the hell out of it. But on a daily basis, Henderson Ventura oversees it. He and his father own the factory.
6.) What characteristics or flavors do you want people to realize in your cigars?
Hopefully they will smoke them and not be able to put their fingers on what else it tastes like.
7.) Is tobacco like wine in that different climates and soil produce different characteristics in tobacco leaf?
8.) Besides your own what cigars do you smoke and what do you like about them?
I love Davidoff. I’m really into Herrera Esteli right now as well.
9.) Obviously every novice cigar smoker in the US wants Cuban cigars. Is it the mystique or do they really make superior cigars. I’ve always found them to be rather harsh. I’ve heard that there is really no difference anymore. How would you respond to that question?
I think a lot of it is mystique but there are some damn good Cuban cigars out there. Cohiba Lancero is amazing.
10.) Does anyone make a good flavored cigar or are they all just junk with flavoring?
I’m not into flavored cigars but is say drew estate is the best.
11.) What is your favorite tobacco leaf and where is it grown.
Hmmm that’s an impossible question. There are too many.
12.) Is there any domestically grown tobacco that is as good as foreign tobacco? If not, why not?
There are great tobaccos abroad and in the us.
13.) What is your favorite thing to drink while smoking your favorite cigar. I’m aiming at some kind of whiskey,scotch, tequila, craft
14.) What do you love most about the cigar business?
Seeing people love it as much as I do.
15.) With so much negative press surrounding cigars and legislation to curb their use what have you done and what can our readers do to make sure their voices are heard?
Send letters to the government and join CRA!
Thanks again Robert.