On January 9th, 2023, I got to do one of my favorite things – to name my #1 Cigar of the Year. The honor went to Alec Bradley for the Alec Bradley Fine & Rare BC-(13)4EV. It’s always fun to name a cigar of the year because with it comes accolades from so many people. But this year, something really unexpected happened. Right after this announcement, there were at least three people who contacted me saying a sale of Alec Bradley was imminent to Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG). One even said to me, “You might have the first #1 cigar ever to be sold off to another company!” Especially in the cigar industry, many times rumors have a way of taking a life of their own, so the speculation quickly faded from my mind. A little over a month later, while I was at Procigar attending a Quesada Seminar, news broke of the sale of Alec Bradley. Now that Alec Bradley has become integrated into STG’s Forged Cigar Company portfolio, I decided to reflect back on Alec Bradley. Alec Bradley is a brand I’ve covered on Cigar Coop for more than a decade, and I’m very excited for the next chapter for Alec Bradley at Scandinavian Tobacco Group. For this story, I’ve selected seven things I’ve covered along the way on Alec Bradley. These are not listed in any particular order.
Launching a Cigar into Space
In 2013, Alec Bradley Cigar Company released a cigar known as Mundial. The name “Mundial” is Spanish for World. Prior to the launch of this cigar, Alec Bradley took the words “launch” and “world” literally and embarked on a unique marketing campaign. Just prior to the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show, a five-pack of the cigars was literally launched into the stratosphere.
The company used GPS tracking to locate the five-pack, which was later put on display on IPCPR. My guess is Alan Rubin still holds this very special set of cigars.
The Mundial went on to become the #10 Cigar of the Year in 2013 for Cigar Coop. An unusual thing about the Mundial is the cigar’s unique “Punta Lanza” or spear shape. It is was tapered on the foot but rounded on the cap. In 2021, the cigar was discontinued.
Below is video from the launch in space by Alec Bradley.
Video Credit: Alec Bradley Cigar Co.
The Alec Bradley Road Warriors
There is no doubt some of the more interesting personalities in the cigar industry come from its sales representatives. A little over a decade ago, Alec Bradley did something I don’t think I had seen any other company do before – the company came up with a marketing plan for its sales force. These guys were called the Alec Bradley Road Warriors!
If you follow the cigar industry, you will know the sales force spends many days (and nights) on the road, so the name was appropriate. What was really cool was seeing each of the sales representatives get a nickname – such as “The Player,” “The Southern Gent,” “The Rockstar,” etc. Of course, they were led by their sales leader, George Sosa (aka “The Masterchief”). The nicknames reflected something about that person’s personality or background.
A few years ago, Alec Bradley once again turned to its sales force – but this time, asked them to get involved in developing some regional releases – exclusively to that sales representative’s territory -and somewhat reflective of the personality of the rep.
Alec Bradley New York
2010 was the year that New York slapped a massive tax of 75% on the wholesale cost of cigars. It was a move that could have destroyed brick-and-mortar business in New York. To help the retailers in New York, Alan Rubin decided to create a cigar exclusively for New York retailers known as Alec Bradley New York. While some other manufacturers would follow suit and do the same, the Alec Bradley New York probably got the most attention.
A few years later, the Alec Bradley New York would get a national release for a short time.
Triangles, Diamonds, and Texas-sized Lanceros
In the industry, Alec Bradley is known for some innovative sizes. There was the Alec Bradley Trilogy, a cigar rolled and pressed into a Triangle shape. It made a comeback a few years ago.
There were also some diamond-shaped vitolas with the Nica Puro Diamond Rough Cut, Black Market Estelí Diamond, and Gatekeeper Diamond Press. These limited-edition cigars were inspired by the Trilogy line. Instead of pressing cigars into a square or rectangle shape, these three cigars were pressed into a Diamond shape.
Finally, we have to mention the Texas Lancero. This is a fun twist on the lancero, which is known for its long slender 7 x 38 size (or close to those dimensions). The Texas Lancero took the approach that everything is bigger in Texas, and it brings a 7 x 70 offering to the table. Like a traditional lancero, the 7 x 70 Texas Lancero is finished with a pigtail on the cap.
The Pain of Winning a Cigar of the Year
In 2011, Alec Bradley Cigar Company would win Cigar Aficionado’s #1 Cigar of the Year with the Prensado Churchill. It was a historic occasion because it not only became the first Cigar Aficionado #1 out of Honduras, but Alan Rubin became the first non-Hispanic cigar maker to take the honor.
What typically happens when a Cigar Aficionado #1 is handed out is that there is a major increase in demand – and that’s exactly what Alec Bradley saw with the Prensado Churchill. But about a year later, the company noticed quality control issues from its production factory, Raices Cubanas – namely, the cigars were being made underfilled and couldn’t be smoked. Concurrently, some problems were being exposed with the factory’s operational procedures as the demand increased. This had a ripple effect on the whole Alec Bradley portfolio.
Rubin would go down to Honduras to address all aspects of the cigar-making process. While it took a while, he got things back on track in 2014.
Ten Tobaccos in One Cigar
This intrigued me from Day One – Alec Bradley’s Fine & Rare project – namely putting ten tobaccos in one cigar. This has become one of the most anticipated annual releases every year. It also served as Alec Bradley’s most premium release to date. Fine & Rare would land on the Coop Countdown three times – including Cigar of the Year in 2023.
The first Fine & Rare made its debut on 11/11/11 (2011), and the second Fine & Rare made its debut 10/11/12. For the most part, Fine & Rare has been an annual release. The good news is that STG appears to be continuing the tradition as a new Fine & Rare was showcased at the 2023 PCA Trade Show
The Next Generation
If you have watched our Prime Time Show, you probably are familiar with this commercial read:
“Alec Bradley is a family company, Alan Rubin named the company after his two sons, Alec & Bradley when they were just little tykes. Now they are all grown up, working alongside their dad, making the best damn cigars you ever smoked!”
In 2018, in addition to working with their father, Alec and Bradley embarked on launching their own brand of cigars within the Alec Bradley portfolio. This would be a brand that they would financially launch and operate as a business within a business while at the same time continuing to work for the mothership Alec Bradley brand. Alec and Bradley Cigars had three major national releases: Blind Faith, Gatekeeper, and Kintsugi. Each release seemed more successful than the previous one.
Perhaps the thing I would take away is that Alec and Bradley’s presence within Alec Bradley Cigars seemed to open up what Alec Bradley did as a whole to a younger demographic of cigar enthusiast. The great news is that Alec and Bradley Rubin are continuing with STG along with folks like Jonathan Liposn, Michael Serota, and other members of the sales team. It makes the next chapter of Alec Bradley quite exciting.
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted
Video Credits: Alec Bradley
Originally posted on October 29, 2023 @ 6:18 am