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A Present That Retains on Giving

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Sure, sure, we all know, maybe it’s not probably the most thrilling identify for an internet site on the market, but when there’s one factor that just about each smoker of Cuban cigars would agree on, it’s this: The web site www.cubancigarwebsite.com is, bar none, probably the most complete on-line catalog of Cuban Cigars, interval.

Again in early 2010, our fearless Asia correspondent, Sam Spurr, wrote an awesome piece on it referred to as “A Present to the Cigar World”, and we felt it was time for us to revisit the topic 10 years later and see the place they’re and what they’ve in retailer for us in 2021 and past.

We spoke with the present website proprietor, Alexander Groom, Down Beneath [in Australia] and he was gracious sufficient to provide us a few of his time for this interview and to share his expertise with us. In the direction of the top of this text, you’ll additionally discover some actually superior information, so hold studying. Additionally, pay particular consideration to the photographs, as Alexander tells us he dropped a number of teasers into the pictures …

I additionally needed to achieve out to among the world’s Cuban Cigar consultants to see what they thought, so I poked Gino Ianillo (Amicigar), Rob Ayala (Mates of Habanos and Bond Roberts) and Mitchell Orchant (C.Gars Ltd) for some enter on the subject, so thanks in your contributions.

Jorge Tapies: Alex, thanks for taking to time to talk with us at present. Inform us in regards to the historical past of the CubanCigarWebsite (CCW).

Alexander Groom: My pleasure, Jorge.

CCW was began by Trevor Leask in 2006. Trevor had not too long ago bought his civil engineering enterprise and retired, and he was amassing Cuban cigars as a retirement passion.

Min Ron Nee’s improbable encyclopedia had come out a number of years earlier and was the primary actually complete reference for collectors of Cuban cigars, however the time that ebook paperwork had actually already handed, with tons of of cigars discontinued within the early 2000s. Additionally, Habanos had a brand new advertising path and had begun many new launch applications round that point, with new restricted editions, regionals, anniversary humidors, Colección Habanos and different issues coming yearly. There was no central reference for any of this, and so whereas constructing his assortment, Trevor was doing analysis and creating his personal lists of what was out there. He determined to make this useful resource out there to others, and that’s how the positioning started.

JT: And also you? How and when did you meet Trevor Leask, and what made you develop into the brand new, rightful proprietor of the web site?

AG: I had labored as a pc programmer for a number of years, however in 2008 I took a kind of a niche yr with a plan to show English in Japan. I used to be sponsored to go over with a faculty, however once I arrived, the job that they had for me fell by means of. I stayed anyway, and taught a bit casually right here and there, and did different odd jobs, however principally I had quite a lot of free time.

I had smoked casually for years however was entering into cigars critically round then and smoking quite a lot of various things. At one level I entered a blind tasting competitors on the Mates of Habanos (FOH) discussion board. I needed a listing of each cigar that matched the size of the unbanded one that they had despatched me in order that I might slim down the alternatives for the tasting. This was not possible, actually, wherever at the moment … The knowledge was there on CCW, however you continue to needed to undergo and discover all of the cigars and compile the listing your self.

I despatched Trevor an e-mail with some strategies about how he might enhance issues by including a database, which might enable a correct search perform. He was pondering of doing it himself, and we went backwards and forwards for a number of weeks earlier than I ended up constructing him a little bit prototype. Issues simply kind of grew from there. I by no means would have conceived in these early days that I might nonetheless be engaged on the positioning 12 years later … I used to be simply serving to somebody out as a result of I had some free time.

For the following few years, we labored on it collectively. Trevor ran the positioning daily and maintained all the info, whereas I did the technical stuff.

After Japan, I lived in China for a yr, after which went again to Melbourne, Australia, the place I’m at present. Trevor is in Sydney, however we didn’t really meet till round 2011, when he got here to Melbourne for a marriage. It was humorous to lastly meet after exchanging many 1000’s of emails through the years.

Round 2012, Trevor needed to retire from the positioning, and so it handed to me. There have been a few years of transition whereas I step by step took over increasingly capabilities, however ultimately we put every little thing into my identify in 2014.

I nonetheless seek the advice of Trevor on occasion, after all, and we see one another for a smoke a number of occasions a yr. He collects stamps now, and he runs an internet site for that additionally.

JT: Since Trevor left the enterprise in 2014, what have you ever maintained and what have you ever accomplished in another way on the web site?

AG: Earlier than Trevor handed over the web site, he obtained it to a degree the place he thought of it full. It was updated, included every little thing historic about which agency information was identified, and the varied textual content sections about building and packaging, and so forth, have been all accomplished to the fullest of his data.

So for that stuff, I’ve maintained it as new cigars are launched and new info involves mild, however essentially it’s the identical because it was when Trevor left.

Of the issues I’ve added, it’s principally extra technical options. I believe many customers aren’t conscious of it, however there’s much more to CCW than meets the attention, in case you register on the positioning. I’ve added options the place you’ll be able to curate your assortment, and a wishlist of stuff you need; you’ll be able to hold a diary of your smokes, which might be aggregated with others within the common scores you see on the positioning. You may add individuals as your folks, and there’s a characteristic for organizing trades, which matches up the stuff you’re lacking out of your assortment with these in your folks’ collections. These are the sorts of issues I normally add.

JT: Inform us in regards to the information loss in 2016; how unhealthy was it?  Did you consider giving up on the time?

AG: It was unhealthy!

I awoke one morning in December to seek out that my e-mail wasn’t working. CCW was additionally down, together with various different websites I hosted on the identical server. It was regarding, however I figured the host was in all probability simply having a technical subject and issues would come again on-line quickly. I lodged a assist ticket … and obtained a response explaining that their server had crashed and all information was misplaced. The crash had brought about them to find that their backup server had additionally not been working for an extended time frame.

IT professionals say that any information that isn’t backed up is information you’re ready to lose, so it was terribly lazy and silly of me, however I had little or no backed up myself. I’d been utilizing that net host for my websites for over 10 years and by no means had a major subject earlier than, and I’d simply develop into complacent.

I referred to as Trevor to inform him the state of affairs, and felt terrible, as a result of this was one thing that he had created over a few years, and had trusted me with, and in simply two years I had completely destroyed it. So for that purpose, I by no means actually considered giving up. I felt I had a duty to get well it, it doesn’t matter what.

Inside a number of days, multiple particular person had reached out to let me know that that they had been utilizing bots to scrap the positioning to create their very own native copies. I didn’t ask too many questions as to why they might be doing this. Finally it saved the positioning, so I can’t be too sad.

Over the following six months or so, I rebuilt all of the software program from scratch. Really, in some ways it was an enormous enchancment for CCW in the long run. I used to be a a lot better programmer in 2017 than I used to be in 2008, and the present website is way improved for cellphones, SEO, pace, and so forth. Additionally, the backup course of is way more rigorous at present.

JT: How is your relationship with Habanos S.A. and its distributors?

AG: I’m a part of the Habanos Data group run by Phoenicia, so by means of that group I’ve entry to some Habanos individuals, however with Habanos itself I’ve no relationship. Occasionally at occasions I’m launched to an Habanos S.A. govt, and none have ever been acquainted with my website. So I believe they don’t have any consciousness of it, to be sincere. 

I’ve good relationships with a number of of the distributors, who will ship me data on their new releases and reply questions when I’ve them and invite me for a smoke once I’m of their nation.

JT: How do you go about updating the positioning? How a lot time do you place into analysis, writing, taking the photographs, and many others.?

It varies from week to week. To maintain the database updated will not be a lot work. Through the week of the Habanos Pageant, yearly I must spend a number of hours so as to add every little thing new that’s introduced, after which through the yr, the work is simply as issues are launched. I must replace the standing and add any new info that involves mild.

After I obtain new cigars, I’ve a small studio set as much as {photograph} them. It’s all streamlined so I simply must put the cigar on the stand, take the photograph with the digital camera, after which all my software program is about up in order that it’s only a few clicks to course of the photograph and add it.

Past that, there’s the analysis, which principally comes about when somebody emails me to ask a query about some oddity. Relying on what that’s, it could be a number of hours wanting by means of outdated books and catalogs or emailing another consultants around the globe. I’ve an archive of many 1000’s of images of outdated bins and issues, so generally I would like to look by means of that, if the query is about unusual marks on a field or one thing.

And at last, there’s the technical work. I’ve a listing of options I want to add to the positioning at some stage, and there’s all the time a little bit upkeep to do right here and there. I even have a weblog, the place I write critiques and inform tales from my life.

I’ve had quite a lot of free time this yr, so I’ve been engaged on a ebook, which provides quite a lot of time.

So all up? Possibly 10 or 20 hours every week. Or extra? No matter I’ve free, actually. It’s arduous to say, as that is my passion. It’s how I select to spend my leisure time.

JT: So if this isn’t your full-time job, what do you do for a dwelling?

AG: Nicely, as I mentioned, my background is as a pc programmer. I don’t try this a lot precise coding daily anymore, however nonetheless, I work at an internet startup. 

JT: Do you solely smoke Cuban cigars?

AG: In fact!

JT: Any ideas on compiling an identical catalog of New World cigars? Do you suppose there could be a necessity for it?

I’m positive there’s a want for it, but it surely received’t be me who does it!

Truthfully, I do know virtually nothing about non-Cubans. However the place do you begin and cease? Nicaraguan? Or all South and Central American? Indonesian? Dutch? A variety of these things is simply actually bought within the US market, so is that the boundary, or do you embody all of the native cigars from everywhere in the world as effectively? It could take years of analysis to even actually make a begin.

The world of Habanos at the least, is manageable, and that’s sufficient for me. There are a number of greater than 200 regular-production cigars, about 20 to 30 restricted releases yearly, after which a thousand or so discontinued fashions for the reason that revolution. A giant collector might in all probability acquire virtually every little thing.

I don’t suppose there’s any approach one particular person might do a world cigar web site on their very own – it will must be a collective effort, like Wikipedia possibly, or a severe business endeavor. If anybody needs to take this venture on, I might be blissful to license them the software program behind CCW. Ship me an e-mail.

JT: Since you’re the final supply for lots of people, we surprise the place you go for correct info?

AG: For brand new stuff, principally simply Habanos press releases and sources within the trade. Plus, we’ve the objects which might be on the cabinets, so if there’s some query you’ll be able to simply consult with the product.

For discontinued issues it’s more durable. Establishing the dates when issues have been discontinued is particularly arduous, as cigars are generally produced for a number of years after they’re formally discontinued. Or vice versa: they’ll be out of manufacturing for years earlier than being formally discontinued. And generally a retailer will report one thing as discontinued, however, actually, it simply means it’s now not out there at their provider, or maybe they’ve a advertising motivation to maneuver some inventory that has been sitting for a very long time. For that, I’ve to make a finest guess. I’ll seek the advice of as many sources as I can and attempt to come to a consensus reply.

For the long-ago discontinued stuff, effectively, there are the important thing books, the Min Ron Nee ebook, the Adriano Martínez Rius books, The World of the Habano ebook, and so forth. Simon Chase used to do nice analysis, a few of which was revealed in Cigar Journal, and he was an awesome useful resource for me once I had questions. There are individuals like him who’ve entry to the archives of the distributors who’re very useful. Plus, I’ve a group of outdated catalogs myself to consult with. There are numerous mysteries within the historical past of Habanos, and generally even impeccable sources will contradict one another. In these instances I put what I believe is the most probably fact after which maybe add a word if there’s a severe query.

JT: Are you a collector as effectively? If that’s the case, what do you accumulate?

AG: I’d desire to not be a collector. For me, cigars are to be smoked. However, as my images and tools has gotten higher through the years, I’ve discovered that I usually have a necessity to return and rephotograph issues, which after all is not possible when these issues have been smoked.

So as of late, I’m a collector by necessity. I attempt to acquire at the least considered one of every little thing. And if I can, I’ll attempt to get at the least one different, in order that if I discover some must smoke the primary one, I’ve a backup. And if funds and provide enable, I’ll attempt for 2 or three extra so I can smoke these wherever I really feel prefer it.

For normal manufacturing cigars it isn’t that arduous. I’ve virtually every little thing, and I can restock if I run out. The principle time I must spend shopping for rather a lot is when a brand new band is launched, and I must rebuy each cigar within the model.

For the restricted version and LCDH releases it’s normally not so arduous to discover a field. For the regionals, I purchase what I can. Some are simpler than others. And for the true rarities, of anniversary humidors and so forth, there are a number of beneficiant collectors who will present me a single on occasion.

On high of the cigars, I additionally accumulate outdated catalogs and fascinating books as reference materials, and I additionally hold most of my outdated bins.

JT: What do you usually smoke? Inform us about your favourite cigars, your all-time favorites, and what are you smoking at present?

AG: Nicely, the reply is that there’s nothing I usually smoke. I wish to attempt various things. I hardly ever smoke the identical cigar twice in a single yr. I like a budget stuff simply in addition to the costly.

I’m an enormous fan of the H. Upmann model. Simply final weekend I had a Magnum 50, which is a cigar I haven’t smoked in years, and I used to be reminded how improbable the model could be when it’s on. I keep in mind at one level I had a field of H. Upmann Monarchs from the final yr they made that cigar that have been simply superb. They have been my go-to field for some time, and I gave them to a number of individuals who have been new to smoking and who beloved them after which later requested me why they may by no means discover any cigars that have been pretty much as good as that one. The Noelias within the jar are additionally improbable cigars.

On a regular basis, effectively, it’s arduous to say. The most effective experiences with cigars are once you respect them with good meals, good drink, and good mates.

I’ve had the pleasure of smoking the Montecristo Maravillas No.1 from the 2005 ebook humidor a number of occasions, and that’s an epic cigar. And I really like the 2003 restricted Cohiba Double Corona. I as soon as had a Partagás 150th Anniversary cigar that I discovered was transcendentally good, after which years later I discovered that the instance I had was virtually definitely pretend. I want I might discover one other pretend like that! I’ve had an actual one since, and it was nice, however not as ‘subsequent degree’ as I keep in mind the pretend being.

JT: What recommendation would you give somebody who’s beginning to construct their or personal Cuban cigar assortment?

AG: Wow, beginning … it appears so way back. After I first began smoking, I used to purchase simply singles on the liquor retailer, after which after some time I had a desktop humidor and would purchase bins in obligation free once I travelled. The primary severe field I purchased with the intention of growing older was a field of Cohiba Siglo IV that I bought on a visit to Cuba in my early twenties. I suppose that might be the beginning of my assortment.

Maybe not recommendation, however a suggestion: attempt the CCW Assortment Administration instrument. I could also be biased as a result of I constructed it, however for my wants it’s the excellent instrument for curating a group.

For recommendation, I might say to attempt quite a lot of issues. Purchase singles, samplers, and commerce with different people who smoke. Should you discover one thing that basically excites you, purchase a field. The usual cigars that everybody is aware of just like the Monte 4 and PSD4 are nice cigars, however there may be a lot extra on the market. Strive a Partagás Culebras; these are nice. Strive a Romeo [y Julieta] Cazadores, and a Larrañaga Montecarlo, a Sancho Panza Beliscosos, a Quintero Favoritos, and a La Gloria Cubana Medaille d’Or No.4. There are such a lot of totally different sorts of cigars on the market, even in common manufacturing, to say nothing of the limiteds. In order that’s my suggestion. Don’t purchase bins immediately. Strive quite a lot of issues and determine what the most effective cigars in your style are.

JT: Do you understand that at present the positioning is a reference to all Cuban cigar people who smoke worldwide? Have you ever ever considered monetizing this?

AG: I’ve considered it, positive. However how you can do it?

I don’t wish to do promoting, firstly as a result of I really feel it’s a little bit crass, but in addition as a result of virtually all of the potential advertisers are the non-Cuban manufacturers. It appears incorrect to promote these manufacturers on a website that’s all in regards to the love of the Cuban cigar.

So subsequent may very well be a membership price. I wouldn’t wish to cost that for the essential website, as a result of it’s not appropriate to cost for info. Data ought to all the time be free. However maybe in the future, I’ll add a premium characteristic that goes past the encyclopedia of the positioning and offers further worth to individuals. And possibly then I’ll cost for that. I’ve no plans for what this may very well be, although.

The monetization technique I might be most probably to do is an affiliate hyperlink system, the place I might show the costs of cigars at a variety of shops instantly on CCW, and customers might click on by means of to buy, giving CCW a fee. I like the concept as a result of it will really be useful for my customers to allow them to evaluate costs at totally different shops and assist them discover rarities. The issue is that for it to work I would want to get a variety of distributors onboard and overcome all of the technical challenges of integrating their methods with my web site.

So, confronted with these choices, I’m blissful for it simply to remain a passion.

JT: So that you don’t make any cash from this website? 

AG: No, there are a number of donations yearly, but it surely’s virtually by no means sufficient to cowl the operating prices, not to mention the time. It’s really a labor of affection.

JT: You talked about writing a ebook? Is that this a cigar ebook?

AG: Sure, it’s roughly a ebook model of Cuban Cigar Web site. It covers what I consider as the trendy period of Habanos, from the early 2000s till at present. It ought to have all of the CCW info on relationship bins and so forth, and the manufacturing of cigars, and historical past, together with a catalog of all of the manufacturing and special-release cigars in that interval. The ultimate model might be round 700 pages.

I’m working with a boutique writer of high-quality works. The imprint is pretty new, however the editor in chief has a background in publishing specialist encyclopedias. We’re going by means of the modifying course of now, so hopefully we ought to be able to take pre-orders across the time this interview goes to print, after which intention to have the books printed earlier than the top of 2021. It’s quite a lot of enjoyable. We’ll have a number of totally different particular editions with every kind of little particulars that cigar lovers will respect. All the main points and a mailing listing signup might be on my web site.

JT: So why a ebook when there’s already an internet site with this info?

AG: Nicely, the ebook has a number of of my private opinions, and so forth, and extra detailed notes about some issues which might be on the web site. Plus, after all, it is going to have greater high quality photographs printed in actual life measurement, and all of the textual content has been rewritten in a extra refined fashion. There’s one thing good about leafing by means of a top quality ebook whilst you smoke a cigar, which you don’t get from searching an internet site in your telephone.

However my actual motivation is that web sites are extra fragile than we predict. I noticed it in 2016 when negligence practically ended CCW, but in addition across the similar time, there was the sudden demise of Nic Wing, the editor of the UK Cigar Scene journal. The journal had profiled CCW, and Nic and I might correspond often, so after all I used to be upset once I learnt that he had handed. It was worse, although, to see that a number of months later his internet hosting payments had stopped being paid, and all his websites went offline. A lot of his arduous work simply disappeared. You may nonetheless discover it on archive websites if you recognize what you’re on the lookout for, however for brand spanking new customers it’s all misplaced perpetually.

In order that’s the true benefit. If I can get a number of thousand books out on the earth then that’s the final word arduous backup.

JT: What can or will you inform us about your plans for the long run? What’s your imaginative and prescient for CCW for the following 10 years? 

AG: Oh effectively, I’ve no actually agency plans for it. If the ebook goes effectively, I’ve concepts for one more two books I might do, in addition to a number of different merchandise for cigar lovers. Folks have been frequently asking me to do an app model of the positioning for greater than 10 years, so I’d try this sometime.

I would like to develop the positioning to cowl pre-revolution stuff as effectively, however the scope there may be so huge. I’ve slowly been accumulating analysis on this space, so I could construct on that in the future. I’ve additionally considered permitting individuals to publish critiques and to make the positioning extra collaborative, however I waver backwards and forwards on this as a result of I like that it’s only a factual website in the meanwhile, with out opinions. However we will see. There are different huge information potentialities as effectively, monitoring field codes and costs and traits over time. I’ve a listing of potential options on my desk that I wrote about two years in the past. There are 14 objects on it and 5 have been accomplished, so hopefully in 10 years they’ll all be accomplished!

JT: Lastly, ship a message to your outdated and new readers. 

AG: To the outdated readers: Thanks a lot in your assist through the years! 

To the brand new readers: Welcome!

I hope to get pleasure from a pleasant Cuban cigar with you all sometime! 

 

To shut, I needed to share with our readers a number of feedback from Cuban cigar consultants everywhere in the world. 

Rob Ayala from Mates of Habanos (FOH) and public sale website Bond Roberts tells us: “With out query, Cuban Cigar Web site is the best useful resource on Cuban cigars at present. Its founder, Trevor Leask, is among the true gents of the cigar world, and Alex Groom is a visionary who’s taking CCW into the long run. It’s outstanding that CCW is a non-commercial enterprise born from a love of Cuban cigars and the individuals who smoke them. The worldwide cigar group (Habanos S.A., distributors, retailers and shoppers) shouldn’t solely give thanks for his or her immense contribution however actively help with the continued upkeep of this valuable asset.”

Gino Iannillo from Amicigar – The Friendship group tells us:I’ve all the time checked out Trevor’s work with large starvation as I needed to study as a lot as doable. Cuban Cigar Web site was and nonetheless is the primary reference on the internet for Cuban cigars and, I believe, for the entire group. All of us are grateful to this fanatic and to his pal Alexander Groom who helped him initially and has now taken the venture ahead. Alexander has pushed the positioning to the next degree, additionally with the assistance of many mates from FOH who hold every little thing constantly up to date.”

Mitchell Orchant from C.Gars Ltd within the UK instructed us: “I actually have tabs to the web site consistently open as I take advantage of it day by day as the very best and complete useful resource out there. The truth that it’s frequently up to date makes it invaluable to me.” 

Cuban Cigar Web site Contact Data

E: [email protected]

Alexander Groom
Parcel Locker 1006963954
260 Elizabeth Road
Melbourne, Victoria 3000
Australia

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