Another week, another interview. This time with one of Instagram’s most well-known personalities — @bk23xxiii — also the person behind the amazing W.R.Roth Luxury Goods. We hope you enjoy this read and thank you for your time. Your support just by reading this means the world.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you?
I am just a normal guy with a passion for cigars and a few of the “finer” things in life!
What’s your honest take on the eternal debate of Cuban vs non-Cuban cigars?
I think it is all about preference. One is not necessarily better than the other. To me, it is more about the history and craftsmanship of a Cuban cigar that truly creates the appeal. There are so many great Dominican and Nicaraguan cigars out there, especially cigars like the OpusX Lost City and many others from other regions, but there is something special about a hand-rolled Cuban, even more so, one with a little age on it. Take the Behike line for example, I would put a 2010 Behike 54 up against any other cigar in the world and confidently take the band off and do a side by side comparison to any non-Cuban expecting a vast majority would see the quality of the beautiful wrapper, the taste of the medio-tempo, its perfect draw and incredible flavor and without knowing its origin, select it head and shoulders above the competition. All that said, the relativity of whats “better” all goes back to personal preference… which means the debate will continue a bit longer.
Based on that, what’s your personal preference?
I am a fan of the more medium-bodied Cubans personally, but that depends on what I am pairing each particular cigar with. I smoke mostly, if not exclusively, Cuban cigars though.
Cigar smoking can raise some unwanted attention. Do people in your area still get surprised to see you have a cigar?
I am always courteous of the people around me and either smoke at home or at a place where it is acceptable like a cigar bar or the smoking area at the Four Seasons where you can often find me with a cappuccino, steak, and cigar. People tend to be aware that they are in an acceptable area for smokers and have the option to sit elsewhere if it bothers them. Even then, however, I still tend to ask the people nearest me if they mind before I light my cigar, just as a courtesy.
Usually, people have two first-time moments: the first cigar and the cigar that ignited the passion you have today. What were yours?
Mine was a single moment that still resonates to this day! I was on the golf course and living on the East Coast of the United States, summertime can be quite hot and humid. That day, in particular, was a bit “buggy” because of the humidity on the course and the gentleman I was playing with offered me a cigar to “keep the bugs away” as the smoke would deter them from flying so close to your face. It just so happened he handed me a Cuban Montecristo №2, still one of my favorite cigars to this very day! From the moment I cut and lit it, I fell in love. Now, I am the kind of guy who tends to delve deeply into things I become passionate about, so I immediately went out and began trying other cigars until I developed my palate. The rest is history, as they say!
Give us some detail about your collection, what do you have in your humidor?
My humidors consist of mainly Regional, Edicion Limitada, Reserva and Grand Reserva Cuban cigars. I have spent the past 15 years trying to collect every regional Cuban made and I am getting pretty close. Although, “Collect” is not a good word, as every cigar I have is fair game when it comes time for a smoke!
What’s the best cigar you have ever had?
That’s such a hard question, its like picking your favorite child. I have had so many amazing smokes, some because of the pairing, some because of the conversations with friends while smoking them, but if it purely based on quality, construction and the flavor profile that most appeals to me, I would have to say the Partagas Lusitania Gran Reserva. That or its Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva companion… both are truly incredible cigars!
Based on that, what’s the perfect pairing for it?
The Partagas Lusitania Gran Reserva pairs wonderfully with a well-made cappuccino. The creaminess and roasted coffee bean of the cappuccino and the Lusitanias’ graham cracker undertones, sweet leather and honey complimented by a rich earthiness make the two a match made in heaven!
Everyone has their ritual when starting a cigar session. What’s yours? Yes, we want all those little details.
Every cigar I smoke I choose to make an experience. It tends to be my “zen” or an hour of “Me Time”. I surround myself with things I enjoy, take in my environment and decide what pairing is most suitable to my cigar and equally, my mood. I take into consideration many details, including which style cut, what drink pairs best, food I want to incorporate, etc. For example, I love Port wine with a medium body cigar and a nice charcuterie mix of meat. Cheese, nuts, and chocolate on a warm spring day. If it’s a bit cooler out, I may go with a great scotch, a steak on the grill and a longer, more robust cigar. Again, it is all about creating an experience for me. I am not much of a “quick smoke” guy… I like to savor the moment.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
Yikes, I suppose other than the Behike 54 or the Partagas Lusitania GR, the Por Larranaga Sobrasaliente UK regional might be a cigar I could NEVER get tired of smoking! Although they have become so hard to find, it tends to be my go-to stick when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by my humidor and cant pick something to smoke.
We all did some nasty mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
I got lucky and did a lot of research before making too many mistakes, again, I take my passions very seriously. The biggest mistake I made early on was cutting too far down the triple cap. It led to many wrappers unwinding and cigars falling apart mid-way through. A quick way to waste a cigar.
Tell us some details about being on the cigar accessories business. What are the challenges of producing products people love?
My company W.R. Roth is a reflection of my love for high-quality products and true craftsmanship at a reasonable price. I wanted to create something special, a collection that stood out in the market and was unique in style and design. Although my first product, the Avant-Garde II is a luxury cigar accessory, I hope to encompass a full line of luxury goods from leather pieces to other essential items. It was important for me to play a large role in the development, design, production and quality control of the products so I decided to make them in America and give final approval of every product shipped. Luxury goods are a challenging business and cigar accessories is a saturated market but I hope people see the passion, dedication to quality and craftsmanship that go into everything from the product to its functional packaging. The first two pieces are very limited in production and use real Indonesian python and forged carbon fiber as an intro to the quality materials W.R. Roth will utilize.
Imagine that the embargo to Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
Honestly, I think that would be unfortunate. The US market is so large that the supply vs. demand would create quality control issues and hurt the production of these amazing cigars making them far less desirable and likely unable to continue to be hand-rolled.
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing in your country?
There are a few private clubs but not many have been executed well. These smoking restrictions have certainly made it difficult for retail and private cigar bars to provide a quality experience. Pricing, food requirements and sales ratios to allow for alcohol to be served are a huge deterrent for business owners. We are certainly seeing the impact and very few have been able to step up and provide an enjoyable place for cigar smokers to spend their time.
Fake cigars are a real problem, we see them popping everywhere. What’s your take on the counterfeit industry and what can we do to minimize the damage?
Unfortunately, it is a massive issue and the only way to combat it is to educate and inform the consumers. Most fakes are sold in touristy areas so stay away from buying cigars at port locations or beaches. Never buy anything with a glass top and be wary of buying online. The good news is that there are plenty of forums and online resources as well as a great community of BOTL on Instagram and other social media outlets. If you are looking for Cubans, try to buy from La Casa Del Habano (LCDH) or a trusted source!
What’s your favorite cigar accessory? You can’t say your own!
I cant? Ok, well second from my W.R. Roth Avant-Garde II, I have a sterling silver David Yurman butane cigar lighter that is hand-carved. It’s a beautiful wave pattern and only 5 were ever produced. It is very rare and a true work of art.
Are you a soft-flamer or a torch lighter?
I suppose I prefer a torch as its easier to touch up a cigar and a bit more precise, but there is certainly something special about a soft flame or a cedar match! The good news is, they all work.
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
I have got an exceptional group of friends that I have met over the years on Instagram and speak to daily, all of which are cigar aficionados in their own right. Some have very modest pages but exceptional collections, others post great pics and are a wealth of knowledge. It wouldn’t be fair to pick a favorite but there is a growing group of men and women who are passionate about cigars and I am certainly enjoying watching cigars become “cool” again! It is not just old guys with smoking jackets anymore, it is making a resurgence and people’s passion for great cigars shine through in their posts!
Instagram is one of your main digital platforms, how do you see the removal of the Like counts that is already live in some countries?
Frankly, I think it is a terrible idea! One, we are far too “soft” as a society. If your ego is hurt by a lack of “likes” you should understand there are so many more important things in this world to worry about. Get off your phone and go be productive. Two, it opens the door for “Influencers” ( I hate that term) to buy fake followers and nobody be able to catch on based on the unrealistic ratios of followers to likes, etc. For example, if you have 500,000 followers but only get 800 likes, likely that person bought their followers. Or if you have 10,000 followers and 5k likes its also a telltale sign of purchased likes. I think Instagram should have just left things alone and left their algorithm the way it was years ago allowing people to choose what they see and in order of it being posted. That said, I also think people should realize that social media is a great outlet to share who you are, be creative, express yourself and give people a glimpse into your life. It should not be a place where you go to look for role models or be influenced by other opinions. 75% of what you see on social media is someone portraying the best aspects of their life, or faking it. Take it all with a grain of salt. Use it to be inspired, see the world through other peoples eyes, but never let it make you feel insecure or unworthy. Remember, when Instagram goes away as MySpace did, all these IG “Models” will be working at the mall and all the “Ballers” will have to sell their Gucci to pay their rent. Be true to yourself, not people you don’t know who only judge you based on your pictures.
Thank you for your time to read this profile interview. It means the world that you dedicated a bit of your time to do it. Share your thoughts on the comments. We are eager to listen to you and bring you value every single day. Have a great one!