It Looks Familiar
by David Garofalo
Have you ever looked at something you never saw before and thought, WOW… that looks very familiar? Sure you have, we all have. People, places and even things. Even things like cigars might look familiar to you for some reason or another, and there might be a very good reason for it… maybe it was done on purpose. It might be a brand new cigar or a cigar you have never heard of before but it looks so familiar.
Sometime it takes me a long time to figure out what it reminded me of, but eventually it hits me. It could be the colors, patterns, shape or the overall layout of the band, but to me, it is sometimes as plain as the nose on your face.
Case in point an old cigar that dates back to 1840, a cigar that has seemed to all but disappear up till now called HENRY CLAY. Not a fancy band, not elaborate in any way, a band as simple as it could be.
Basically a square red box surrounded in gold using white block letter in all capital letters. The cigar was always pretty rustic in appearance, rough and dark. It was so unappealing in its form it always carried a low price tag. As tasty as it was its appearance forced this cigar to be a value smoke.
Fast forward 175 years later and you have ILLUSIONE ROTHCHILDES. The moment I saw it I just couldn’t help but recall Henry Clay. It looks just like it in my opinion… tell me you don’t see the similarities… go ahead. As I smoke the Illusione, I can’t help but think it was “inspired” (that’s the nicest way to say it isn’t it?) by Henry Clay which is still being sold today.
The value pricing, the dark rough wrapper and unquestionably the cigar band. I’ll even go as far, as to say, the way they placed them in bundle form inside the box. Maybe it’s paying tribute to Henry Clay? I don’t know for sure but it sure looks familiar, but that’s just one example. The cigar industry is full of examples.
Next is CUESTA–REY, another cigar brand from the 1800’s that still sits on cigar shop shelves today. This brand is interesting because it started in Ybor City a district in Tampa Florida and was sold to J.C. Newman Cigar Company in 1958 from the original family. While I was visiting Cuba I went to the H. Upmann Factory and noticed the factory name was once Cuesta Rey & Co. as seen on the top of the factory building here. Why do they have the name of a brand that started in America and still being sold in America and not in Cuba on their building? It’s called the H. Upmann Factory and it says Cuesta Rey on the building. These things puzzle me… Anyway, I digress… back to Doesn’t This Look Familiar.
I remember when LA AROMA DE CUBA came out again, as it too was a brand name of the 1800’s. At first look I noticed that the brand was looking to capture an old world look but again it looked familiar to me. The colors of yellow and red, the image of the woman, and the oval circle with gold borders… it looked just like CUSTRA REY to me. Can you see it?
One of the most used claims in the cigar industry for many years have been manufacturers coming out with a product and pitching it to the retailers and the consumers as “It’s just like a Padron.” Either because it is simply made in Nicaragua, its dark tobaccos or its box pressed. Some brands even take it all and even make it look familiar enough that maybe, just maybe they can trick your mind and taste buds. This is a blatant example of it with a brand called Nica Libre. Do you see the similarities? It’s not by accident in this case for certain. They make the claim all the time. By the way, I have taste tested it personally and it’s not even close in taste. Not even close.
But here is something that is close, again not in taste but it certainly looks familiar. Here is the new Davidoff Winston Churchill. They incorporated the famous Davidoff script with their white and gold signature colors and incorporated the bust of the late, great Prime Minister. When I saw the look of the new Padron Cigar that will be launched in just a couple of weeks at the IPCPR trade show I thought it looked familiar but I couldn’t place it until I light up a Davidoff Winston Churchill while admiring the cigar as I smoked it and suddenly it hit me. Looks familiar again… but this time I saw it in two separate brands, Davidoff and Spirit of Art.
Lots of brands today “pay homage” to… or are “inspired” by famous Cuban cigar brands. There are so many to name but here are a few. The Cuban HOYO DE MONTERREY EPICURE and the TORTUGA by Victor Vitale of Legacy Brands. Can you see it? How about COHIBA BEHIKE and L’ATELIER, the sizes and even the pit tail cap match… they look similar to me. There are so many examples of this but you get the point.
I’ve seen it in packaging, design, colors shapes and even in people. PEOPLE… Ya…People. Sometime you see someone and they look familiar. Here is a person in the cigar industry. Do you know who he is? This is an early picture from the early 90’s so look closely. If you’re pretty certain you know who it is you probably have it wrong.
He created a unique cigar in the early 90’s which was the early days of the cigar boom. Celebrities smoked his cigars including Steve Tyler from Aerosmith and countless others. His cigars were different and so was he. Both, the cigars and the man got a lot of attention. He used a unique method to give a flavor to his cigars he created and used crazy names for their sizes.
This guy is big into art, transforming furniture and skateboards into pieces of art with his flair. Still think you know who this is?
The man’s name is Lars Teten, and his cigars are called Lars Tetens which still exist today. Do you think he looks familiar? Even if you never heard of him, doesn’t he look familiar? If you thought he looked like Jonathan Drew… so do I.
We are just days away from the IPCPR Cigar Trade Show and I will be walking the show and looking at the new cigars that will be released. I always get so excited to see “what’s new”. I smoke so many cigars and have to make decisions as a retailer, like which to take on and which not to. After 4 days and after literally 100’s of cigars, they all begin to taste the same. I then have to rely on my gut feeling. Sometime I get a good feeling maybe… just maybe because, “It Looks Familiar.”