Carl and Ruben took Instagram by storm, there is no other way to put it. Probably the youngest blood on the cigar community and with immense knowledge about cigars. They are very active on their account with giveaways (in which we had also the pleasure to participate), partnerships, and even a very entertaining podcast. They have no filter when talking about cigars and that is the way it should be, don’t you think?
Thank you very much for accepting our interview, it is a pleasure to personally meet you. Who are you?
The pleasure is all ours! Thank you so much for inviting us! We are Carl and Ruben, two Swedish university students who love all things cigars (pun intended) but most people online know us as ‘The Stogie Lads’!
What motivated you to start producing content for the community?
We had both long been interested in cigars before we started our account roughly three years ago. We had both also been part of the cigar community on Instagram for a long time as followers with our personal accounts. We followed all the big accounts, but as two regular guys and university students, the lavish lifestyles and incredibly rare and expensive cigars that they smoked didn’t represent our personal cigar experiences. This inspired us to create an account that represented what we personally wanted to see. Nice cigar pictures, sure, but most importantly with content behind it. No staged pictures or unobtainable cigars and always a caption that discussed and reviewed what we smoked in the picture and gave the content some depth.
How is the cigar scene in your country?
Firstly we’re very proud of how many big Swedish cigar accounts there are on Instagram! The scene here in Sweden is pretty good for how difficult our government makes it for us. Two years ago smoking at outdoor servings such as cafés and bars was made illegal so we can no longer sit outside at a café and enjoy a cigar. Smoking indoors at any “public” establishment is also strictly prohibited so lounges, in general, are a no-go here. Other than that, the one thing the government can’t do anything about, our wonderful community, is going strong and filled with some of the kindest people we’ve ever met!
Do you prefer having a cigar alone or with others?
We’re both very social people and are firmly in the mindset that the best enhancer for a cigar is the environment around it. Although we both love the meditative and ritualistic side of enjoying a cigar in solitude, we both think it’s hard to beat a great cigar surrounded by some even greater company!
Enjoying a cigar: inside or outside?
While a perfect day outdoors with a nice cigar can be perfect, the fact that we live in Sweden makes those days a little too rare for our liking. Cigars are enjoyed with all the senses and a cold and windy day that ruins the burn of a cigar and removes any aroma around it can easily deteriorate the moment. In general, when sampling a very fine cigar we prefer being indoors in perfect conditions to truly appreciate the cigars on all levels!
We’re going to talk about cigars, no matter their origin. However, we have to ask: Are you more of a Cuban or a non-Cuban cigar person?
Carl: I’m in principle a lover of all good cigars no matter the origin. This, however, doesn’t strictly mean I smoke cigars from all countries at an identical ratio. I’d say my split is roughly 60% Cuban and 40% non-Cuban, where Nicaragua is my favorite non-Cuban cigar producing country.
Ruben: Through testing many different cigars from various origins I’ve really learned to appreciate the differences in taste that each region can produce. I still have several regions to explore but so far I still lean toward Cuban cigars when talking strictly about region-specific preferences.
Imagine that the embargo on Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
This is a thought that makes us both shudder and also perk up with the thought of all the opportunities that would open up. If the embargo is lifted between the US and Cuba and Habanos stays the sole maker of Cuban cigars, we can’t really see anything other than a disaster. Cuba can barely keep up with demand as it is and struggle to deliver the quality both in construction and consistency that we have come to expect from our beloved cigars. If the US, the world’s biggest consumer of cigars, can suddenly openly purchase cigars from Cuba, demand will outweigh supply even further, prices will skyrocket and quality will, in turn, suffer even further. The perfect scenario would be to completely open the Cuban cigar market for outside producers and privatize it once again so that the Cuban cigar industry can flourish as much as it did pre-revolution!
You recently started a podcast. How is it going so far?
It is going very well! This is definitely one of the most fun projects we’ve started as ‘The Stogie Lads’ as it’s just us recording a normal chat we would be having anyway and sharing it with everyone out there! We chat about a myriad of cigar-related topics and have a lot of fun doing it. We were just recently able to upgrade to a completely professional setup with mics thanks to some breathtakingly kind fundraising by our amazing followers which we’re eternally grateful for!
If someone reading this wants to start a podcast also, what is your main advice?
I’d say the first thing is to not worry all too much about the gear. Don’t spend insane amounts of money on equipment before you’ve even started as the most important thing is the content and quality of the show itself. Secondly is to structure the show decently so it’s not just a messy hour of rambling between whoever is recording. The last thing is what we all learned in school as kids. To have fun. If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself it will really show in the end product and people will have an easier time listening to the podcast if it doesn’t sound forced and awkward.
Usually, people have two first-time moments: the first cigar and the cigar that ignited the passion you have today. What were yours?
Carl: Mine, rather fortuitously, was the same moment! While living in Brazil a friend brought some Romeo y Julieta No 2s to a poker night and gave me one to smoke. I had read about cigars with great enthusiasm before but had never tried one. Although many people’s first cigars are usually quite poor, I was lucky enough to smoke a great beginner Cuban stick that made me fall in love with cigars from the first puff! A moment I’ll never forget.
Ruben: My first ever cigar was a Macanudo Diplomat which was a much nicer cigar than I realized at the time. The situation however was not ideal as I smoked it outside on a friend's patio while trying to stay out of the rain that was pouring down. However, the experience was intriguing enough for me to want to continuously explore more. The moment that really ignited my passion was when Carl moved back to Sweden and we had access to a beautiful patio overlooking the Swedish archipelago that became our haven for cigar smoking.
What’s the best cigar you have ever had?
Carl: Ranking cigars, a very subjective thing, objectively is always difficult but choosing a favorite cigar moment through sentiment is a little easier. A moment that’s still unbeaten for me was New Year’s Eve in 2019 when Ruben came over. The day was absolutely perfect and I enjoyed a Juan Lopez Seleccion No 1 that smoked flawlessly with intense layers of complexity. Another moment I’ll never forget!
Ruben: When talking about the best cigar, the entirety of the surroundings of the occasion leaves a much stronger imprint of the cigar experience. Aside from the experience that Carl mentioned, which is also one of my favorite cigar memories, the time we visited James J. Fox in London and had the possibility to smoke a Quai d’Orsay Coronas Claro in their lounge is an experience that stays undefeated in my book.
Based on that, what’s the perfect pairing for that specific cigar?
Carl: That day we had some coffee and a box of chocolates which paired beautifully with the sweetness and floral notes of the cigar. I could imagine a port wine or a nice rum would be amazing with that cigar too.
Ruben: I remember that we paired the cigars with an espresso or two which might not be the perfect pairing for that given cigar but still went very decently. If I were to have that cigar again I might try it out with champagne.
Everyone has their ritual when starting a cigar session. What’s yours?
Carl: I don’t think my ritual stands out all too much but I like to go through all the motions so to speak. I like to thoroughly inspect my cigar when I take it out of the humidor, smell the wrapper, the foot to give a little hint of what I’m in for flavor-wise. I vary from regular straight cuts to v cuts depending on my mood and I always like to very slowly toast the cigar carefully and evenly when lighting, never rushing the process.
Ruben: Before lighting up the stick I generally like to take in all aromas from the wrapper, test out the draw and note some flavor from dry-haling. I also like to think about the journey the cigar has taken to reach my hands at the point. I am constantly amazed by the craft that goes into every single cigar and how that makes every stick unique. And like Carl, I also toast my cigar slowly and detailed so I give the stogie the best conditions for a good burn.
Tell us about your collection. What does your humidor look like?
We have too many humidors between the two of us honestly haha. We both made the mistake of buying decently small-sized desktop humidors that we thought would last us a while back then. Little did we know how quickly a cigar collection accumulates and we quickly scrambled to find more storage solutions. Now we use a mix of classic wooden desktop humidors, “tupperdors” and acrylic jars to store our cigars. We both separate our collections between the stuff we’re aging and saving for a long time which is a lot of limited edition Cuban stuff, regional editions, and hard-to-find non-Cuban stuff like special edition Davidoffs and Andalusian Bulls for example. Then we also have a separate stock of cigars that we’re planning on smoking in the not-so-distant future which is a huge mix of everything you could think of in terms of both Cuban and non-Cuban cigars.
When we meet someone, we usually give away one cigar as a gesture of good faith. What was the best cigar you have been offered?
Carl: We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been gifted some ridiculously nice cigars from some amazing people we’ve connected with through Instagram. It is always difficult to narrow it down but if I had to, solely on how legendary this cigar is, it would have to be the Behike 52 we were given by @cigarkingsweden!
Ruben: It’s crazy the number of good cigars that come to mind when thinking about this question, some cigars that we could probably never get a hold of! Out of all the amazing gifts we’ve gotten from so many awesome people, @3_amigos_cigar_club and @cigarkingsweden gifted us a Cohiba Talisman each.
And the worst?
Carl: A family member of mine who knew I like cigars once smoked a bit of a Cohiba Maduro 5 Genios at a New Year’s Eve party but didn’t come close to finishing it. She didn’t know much about cigars so she thought she could save it in a ziplock bag and give it to me as it wasn’t fully smoked. Obviously, this cigar was completely unsmokeable and smelled awful, but the intention was certainly very kind!
Ruben: For lack of bad gifts, I’ll have to say a cigar that Carl and I bought very early on in our cigar smoking days which I don’t even remember the name of. We bought it at a corner store type of place and definitely wouldn’t gift it to my worst enemy today.
What do you think about cigars as a type of investment, like watches and cars?
In general, our attitude to most things is “to each their own”. However, if people enter the world of cigars with the sole intention of profiting off of this hobby and the people that are passionate about it, we find that hard to respect. If you’re a big cigar smoker yourself and sell some stuff from your stock every once in a while, that’s totally fine. It is when people who have no interest or intention of smoking or enjoying cigars whatsoever and only buy up limited edition cigars to sell to real aficionados that we’d have a problem is. At the end of the day, cigars are a product that is meant to be savored and smoked and not treated as a collectible and a price tag.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
Carl: I’d have to narrow it down to my favorite vitola overall, a Corona Gorda, of my favorite brand, H. Upmann. The H. Upmann Magnum 46 is a cigar I’d probably never tire of, although I’d certainly miss all the other wonderful cigars out there!
Ruben: A cigar that has always impressed me is the Ramon Allones Specially Selected. This question is extremely difficult but the RASS was the first cigar that came into mind.
We all made some honest mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
Carl: A couple of years ago, Ruben and I were out in the countryside on a spring evening sitting outside on the patio planning to smoke a cigar while it was pitch-black outside. I had already cut my cigar but forgot my lighter indoors so I had to go and get it. I had laid the cigar down on the table outside while fetching my lighter indoors and when I got back outside I just picked it up and started lighting what I assumed to be the foot. When I finally tried to smoke it I didn’t feel the band anywhere by my fingers and the draw was extremely tight. I realized I had lit the cigar the wrong way in the dark and it was pretty much unsmokable. A true rookie mistake!
Ruben: In the early days of our cigar-smoking we knew as much as that the cigar needed to be cut and it needed to be lit. We had read up plenty on the lighting, the basics at least, to slowly light the cigar and not torch it (though it might not seem like it taking Carl’s answer into account). However, we had not paid as much attention to how the cutting should be done. Of course, this wasn’t embarrassing at the time since we didn’t know any better, but looking back at some of the cuts of our cigars I can’t help but cringe at how much we took off the top.
As a customer, what do you look for in a cigar retailer?
Good stock, prices, and customer service are highly important to us. Availability and good shipping are also high on our list. It is also always a huge plus if the people behind the shop are also big cigar fans themselves such as you guys!
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing?
It’s tough to answer for the whole world as regulations vary so drastically between countries, but here in Sweden that certainly is the case. Indoor smoking, as we discussed in a previous question, is greatly restricted so the only viable option is smoking in your home or at a private members club. It is definitely growing here and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
What’s your favorite cigar accessory?
Carl: Recently it has been the Colibri V Cutter. Even though I have fancier and more expensive cutters around, this thing just cuts cigars like a hot knife through butter! The Perfec Draw tool also comes in handy when smoking Cuban cigars from time to time.
Ruben: Every time I get to use my leather carrying case that Carl gave me once for my birthday I automatically feel more chipper!
Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter person?
Carl: I prefer the precision of a torch lighter, as well as the versatility as you can also light cigars outside with some wind.
Ruben: As mainly outdoor smokers the torch lighter often comes in clutch.
Talking about accessories, tell us more about your merchandise. What inspired you to produce it?
This will probably be the least professional story ever haha! When we revealed our new logo that we had spent some time designing, the response was overwhelmingly positive which really warmed our hearts. Some people DM’d us asking if they could buy the logo as a sticker and we went online to make that happen. The site where we created the stickers also automatically created an entire catalog on an online shop with merch with our logo on it. To our surprise tons of people loved it and got hoodies, mugs, and stickers which was absolutely awesome and touching to see!
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
Carl: I’d have to say Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson. The guy is a big lover of cigars, he says they’re his only vice in life, and his incredibly kind and positive attitude in life is inspiring! He was also quite the wide receiver in the NFL!
Ruben: I have to second Carl here and say, Ochocinco. An extremely fun and active guy on social media, and he even replies.
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?
We actually posted a video on this exact topic on our YouTube channel a few days ago. What a coincidence! It’s such a shame that the counterfeit industry is so rampant, especially in Cuba. Some people there live in extremely dire situations so the fact that they’ll do anything to make a little money doesn’t surprise us, but as cigar lovers, it’s so sad to see it affects what we love! I think what we can do mostly is continue to try to help educate people as much as we do. You guys bring a lot of awareness to the issue which is fantastic!
How do you see the future of Cigars on social media?
Probably just getting bigger and bigger. As time moves on, younger and younger generations of cigar smokers are introduced to this wonderful passion, and the younger they are the more likely it is that they’re present on social media. Hopefully, the community just keeps growing because we love all the amazing interactions and people we’ve met through social media!
Did something surprise you in the cigar community?
Carl: One thing that immediately pops into my mind was when we did our “face reveal” back in the spring of 2020. We had been posting on our account for two years but we had remained completely anonymous. Part of that decision to stay anonymous was the fact that we didn’t know how welcoming and accepting people would be if they saw that it was two 20-year-olds running the account. We thought that people might dismiss us as young, naive, and uninformed merely based on our youth. What really surprised us was how compellingly positive all the reactions were. Not a single person said anything remotely negative when we finally revealed who we were behind the account!
Ruben: So much about the community surprised me since we hadn’t really been in the community before we started the page. Before then I had basically only followed the biggest cigar pages out there and hadn’t discovered the “real” community like we have today. The biggest surprise is how open and social this community is and also genuinely interested in the hobby. With the results at hand, it’s not difficult to understand that such a dedicated community would follow suit from this unique and loveable hobby.
What is the most overrated cigar for you? And the most underrated?
Carl: The My Father Le Bijou 1922 Box Pressed Torpedo that won cigar of the year a few years back with 97 points was, unfortunately, one of the worst cigars I smoked last year. It had this unpleasant acidity to it that made it very tough to enjoy. A very underrated one I’ve smoked is the Alonso Menendez Robusto. It has a pretty rustic look as Brazilian Mata Fina tobacco doesn’t make great wrapper leaves in an aesthetic viewpoint. It smoked beautifully, however, and is still to this day the most chocolate-heavy cigar I’ve ever smoked!
Ruben: I don’t think I’ve tried a cigar that I’ve thought was very overrated. There have been some cigars that have fallen short of expectations but didn’t really have anything to do with the public hype around them. An underrated cigar though is the Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 which for a very low price was extremely enjoyable, especially paired with a Porter. This pairing as a whole is very underrated in my opinion.
What brand have you never smoked and probably never will?
Gurkha. Don’t need to drop too much hate on a brand but some of their marketing gimmicks don’t sit all too well with us.
What is your “Unicorn” cigar?
Carl: I’d love to smoke a pre-revolution Cuban cigar one day. A true relic of history. On a more attainable level perhaps a Cuban Davidoff!
Ruben: A Bolivar Gold Medal would be extremely cool to come across, or getting your hands on one of the 4000 original Cohiba Behikes would leave any cigar-lover speechless.
What are your Top 5 favorite cigars?
Carl: So difficult, but I’ll just rattle off the 5 best cigars I’ve smoked decently recently off the top of my head:
- #1 Cohiba Siglo V
- #2 Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No 2
- #3 Padron 1926 No 35
- #4 Bolivar Belicosos Finos
- #5 Rafael Gonzalez North Star
Ruben: In no particular order these are my top 5 regular production cigars:
- Juan Lopez No 2
- Romeo y Julieta Churchill
- Trinidad Reyes
- H.Upmann Mag 46
- Ramon Allones Specially Selected.
Finally, do you want to send a message to the community?
Keep being awesome! You guys have accepted us into this community with open arms and made this passion into one of the best parts of our lives. We’ve never been part of, nor seen any community that is as accepting, positive and kind as the cigar community. Thank you guys for taking something we already love and elevating it to yet another level!
A message to the community
Thank you very much for giving us a bit of your time by reading this article. It really means the world to have you with us. If you want to follow our daily activities head to our Instagram, where we try our best to bring the community together by sharing our love and knowledge for cigars. Have a great day.
Please note that smoking is bad for your health and we do not encourage it at all. These articles are written to show the differences between cigars and never to influence anyone to start smoking. If you are a cigar smoker, please respect others around you.