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Interview with Oliver Nickels of Rauchvergnügen (RVGN)

Interview with Oliver Nickels of Rauchvergnügen (RVGN)

What’s your story? How’d you get into the cigar business? 

We are two founders, Klaas Mahler and myself, and we come from - and still work - in completely different industries. We love cigars.

Three years ago, we were sitting with friends, smoking and brainstorming about new projects and ideas. Someone started dreaming about creating a new cigar brand. We looked at the market, we saw an opportunity, and decided to actually try our luck with a modernist cigar brand!

What does Rauchvergnuegen mean and what was your inspiration for this brand? 

The term Rauchvergnügen translates to "pleasure of smoking.” This is our credo. There are so many excellent cigar brands and products but, surprisingly, none really reflected our lifestyle - modern, maybe even somewhat stylish.  

RVGN Cigars in the U.S. at Small Batch Cigar

A lot of us are working in agile environments and live an “internet” lifestyle. We decided to create a brand for younger cigar smokers who do exactly that: alternating energetic and passionate work with concentrated and very individual relaxation. A sophisticated Rauchvergügen.

What does it mean to be German engineered? What does RVGN do differently? 

Well, a cigar is a cigar. It is handmade, and engineering could not possibly improve the production process. We understand cigar engineering as creating a unique cigar experience. It begins with the flavor of the cigar, at which we looked intensely. But the blend is always just the starting point for us. 

Take the tactile sensation of our box. It is German engineered and manufactured with extreme precision by a small company in Hameln, Germany. 


This box is no joke! Lighting up a RVGN #42 on this wet Thursday!

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The vitolas we offer include the classic style Robusto and Toro, individual Short Torpedo and Half Corona, and a very difficult-to-produce, extravagant and fantastic Gran Corona. Because one size does not fit all of your moods.

Together with the cigar, we offer you a compelling online reading list on technology, science, and personal style. If you enjoy listening to music that won't disturb the tranquility of a good cigar but is modern, independent, and not commonplace either, try our music list on Spotify. It has no Caribbean rhythms, we promise.

"The cigars I love the most are cigars that lead my palate on a discovery tour every time I smoke them. I want to be surprised and overwhelmed by discovery. That would be my perfect cigar."

With "RVGN Geprüftes Zubehör" – Certified Accessories - we recommend luxury drinks and other stimulants which correspond particularly well with our blend. RVGN Geprüftes Zubehör originates from local suppliers that we love to work with. We are not involved in the sales of these accessories, it's the network idea that counts for us. We started this network in Germany and we're establishing it in the U.S. as well.

How would you describe your line to someone that’s never smoked them before? 

You take a very fast German car and drive it a few laps around the Nürburgring racing circuit, nicknamed “Grüne Hölle - green hell”. You will probably have most of the aromas of that area: cedar wood, alpine herbs, mint, some dry leaves. Plus, coffee and some pepper. Now you subtract tar, gas, and rubber. Maybe you’ll feel a little bit of adrenaline as well. Just test-drive a German Engineered Cigar. 

RVGN Cigars Available at Small Batch

What would you say are the differences between American and German cigar smokers? 

Many German cigar smokers love Cuban cigars; they are available in every cigar shop. But there are intensive discussions between cigar smokers about quality and alternatives. Our legislature does not allow cigars to be discounted, which limits the willingness of dealers to try new brands. Plus, statistically, the average German cigar smoker is 10 years older than the American. 

In total, it makes the German market more conservative. But, together with a network of young and small brands, we are eager to move the German market into a different direction.

Which factory in the Dominican produces RVGN and how did you select them?

Our cigars are made by Intercigar S.A. We actually selected a blend first, before we knew who produced it. The owner Maurice then helped us a lot in building our brand - I don’t think we would have made it without him.

Our selection went similar to creating a technology start-up: you define what you need, and then you see if you can find something on a shelf. We blind-tested quite a few blends with friends with a strong taste for Cuban cigars. In the end, we chose the blend we found the most intriguing. Some of our friends didn’t even realize it was Dominican, and not Cuban.

What has been the hardest part about launching RVGN in Germany and the U.S.? 

Klaas and I are both used to doing business at high speed, we cannot wait. Clocks move differently in the cigar business and that really was a hard lesson to learn. 

When we first started in 2016, the new FDA regulations gave us a hard time. In total, it delayed our entry into the U.S. market by two years. Tony Serino, who distributes our cigars in the U.S., helped us a lot with these issues and we are very grateful for his incredible support.

Interview with RVGN Cigars

The German market has other difficulties to offer. It is hard to find dealers who are open to new and unknown brands, and Cuban cigars are still big competitors. 

If you could engineer the perfect cigar, what sort of characteristics would it have? 

For me, the perfect cigar is a cigar that perfectly fits the mood of your individual moment. You cannot achieve that. But you can come close - with a highly captivating, rich aroma spectrum. The cigars I love the most are cigars that lead my palate on a discovery tour every time I smoke them. I want to be surprised and overwhelmed by discovery. That would be my perfect cigar.

What should RVGN fans be looking forward to in the next 12-18 months? 

We are expanding - we want to build a network of tobacconists in the U.S. to make our brand known. We are also working on certain German Engineered Cigar accessories that we want to present soon. 

Plus, we are dreaming of a second line of cigars that we want to bring into the market. And as Germans, we’ve already dreamt the exact specifications. But the engineering might take a little time.

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