Talk to us about Mo. What's your story?
I grew up in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. I always had this crazy entrepreneurial itch, during college some friends and I started a small t-shirt company which is now defunct but that really gave me my first taste in how to get stuff done when you don’t have a boss telling you what to do or how to do things.
After college I went into the corporate world and did forensic accounting then traded physical commodities such as corn, soybeans, etc. After a while of being in the corporate world I realized that it wasn’t for me and I had to further explore doing something for myself. Once the ball was in motion on Patina, I stepped away from my corporate career and managed a cigar shop in the Chicago suburbs to learn the retail end of the business.
After reviewing and podcasting, what made you want to get into the manufacturing side of the cigar business?
My buddy Drew and I started the Sultans of Smoke review blog and CigarCast in 2014 where we tried to put a twist on how cigars were reviewed. People found some humor in the fact we used Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies as the basis our rating scale. While doing Sultans, Drew was like man we should do a cigar for the blog. At that point we James Brown had just moved Black Label into their own factory at Oveja Negra in Esteli and said he would make us a cigar. That was really my first exposure to the world of cigar manufacturing and the true art involved in the process.
It was also at that point I really fell in love with learning about tobacco and blending and the creativity that goes into putting it all together. It really is an art form that was very interesting to me. It’s a way to express myself through the cigars and be a part of people’s lives even when I can’t be physically present.
Where did the name Patina come from?
Patina is the embodiment of something that is timeless, that whatever object is covered with a patina has survived through all types of elements that nature has thrown its way. I feel as human beings our experiences in life are our patina and what makes us who we are.
You basically launched Patina with eight different cigars. How would you describe each of them?
To go back to the notion of classic or timeless, I really feel the cigars are timeless and cut across multiple palates and will appeal to smokers today, tomorrow, and infinity. One thing all the blends have in common is that they emphasize balance and flavor.
It's funny you say that they are basically all different cigars because I can certainly appreciate that viewpoint. To further your observation, all the cigars are blended with the same tobaccos but some sizes utilize different parts of the leaf than other sizes. For example, the Habano Corona Gorda doesn’t use any ligero whereas the other habano sizes all do. If we look at the CT, we are able to get that extra little kick to it with utilizing more or less ligero depending on the size and what we were trying to accomplish with the blend.
I'm a guy who smokes multiple cigars a day and I wanted each size to allow the consumer to smoke a Patina every day or even multiple times a day and feel satisfied but not burnt out.
Why did you choose to work with Casa Favili and Mombacho? What was the turning point that you knew they'd be the factory for Patina?
This is really a two-word answer, Claudio Sgroi. However, I imagine you’d like me to explain further so I will.
Mombacho made damn good cigars, but even more than that they are amazing people that shared the same long-term strategic vision for Mombacho that I saw for Patina. Additionally, there was one brand made at Casa Favilli and that was Mombacho and today Patina is the only other brand made at the factory which was a huge factor for me.
Now getting back to Claudio, I once referred to him as the DaVinci of tobacco, but we are talking about a guy who cut his teeth working with Henke Kelner so that pedigree really had me intrigued. I meet Claudio and our opinions about what makes a cigar great were hand in hand and that’s where I really knew that he was the guy I wanted to work with.
"Patina is the embodiment of something that is timeless, that whatever object is covered with a patina has survived through all types of elements that nature has thrown its way."
Lastly, I didn’t want someone to just blend a cigar for me and I’d put a fancy band on it and call it mine. Working with Claudio allows me to be involved in every step of the process and to continue learning. In my opinion, this is good for not only Patina but Mombacho as well because Claudio and I will constantly push each other on perfecting a blend, there’s no such thing as good enough, it has to be perfect, period.
Many of us dream of blending our own cigars, but you've actually done it now with two different brands. What's it like?
More than anything, Patina is my expression of what I love in cigars and I wanted to share that with everyone. I want Patina to be a part of a guy or girl’s normal cigar rotation. I want Patina to be the cigar when you’re having a rough day and you know lighting a Patina will help make your day a little bit better. I want Patina to be the cigar you go to when you’re having a great day and you want to cap it off.
I tell people all the time that there is nothing in the world that connects people like cigars. When you’re in that cigar lounge, it doesn’t matter how much money you make, where you’re from, what color you are or what religion you are, it’s about enjoying your cigars together.
Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than when I see people smoking in groups, laughing and enjoying one another’s company and I see that teal and copper foil band popping knowing that I’m a part of that experience.
All in all, Patina is my small way of hoping to bring joy to someone else through my expression of what I believe to be a great cigar.
What's next for Patina?
I am going to continue to focus on building the brand with the CT and Habano for the near future. There will be a Patina CT Broadleaf line and some other stuff I’m keeping secret for now which is part of the fun. I hope you all jump along for the ride!