For those that aren’t familiar, what’s the Todd Vance story?
I got started in the cigar business about 13 years ago. I got lucky and applied for a job with Esteban Carreras and was fortunate enough to get it. I was a rep for them for 4 years, at that time a sales position for AJ Fernandez became available in TX, OK, LA, MO, KS. After 3 years of being a rep, I became Director of Sales for AJ Fernandez.
After that, I moved to Cornelius & Anthony cigars as Director of Sales for 4 years. Once they were sold, I went to Work as VP of Sales with Hirochi Robaina, Spencer Drake, and White Hat Tobacco.
Fast forward to 2020 and COVID-19 shuts down everything. Hard to go see cigar stores when all of them are closed. In July I got a phone call from Tony Barios (owner of Stallone Cigars) asking me if I would like to run the North American side of his business.
At first, I was apprehensive as I had not heard of the company and did some due diligence. I found out that they have been growing tobacco in Venezuela for decades, most of it goes to the production of European cigarettes. But they also sell a personal, family line of cigars in South America, Portugal, Italy, Spain, and the Caribbean.
Tony sent me samples, I received them, smoked them, and was truly amazed by the flavors and quality of the cigars. Two days later, Tony emailed me the price list, that's when I became hooked. It's every salesman's dream to have a great cigar at a fantastic price point.
Well, Stallone cigars are exactly that: great tasting cigars made in a factory (La Perla) in Esteli, Nicaragua known for making top-shelf cigars. Stallone Cigars are top quality, made with expensive tobaccos like US Connecticut, San Andres, Pennsylvania Broadleaf, and Brazilian Corojo. Stallone cigars are also inexpensive. Our Cigars start at $6.80 and our most expensive is $10.25.
Which factory did you tap for Stallone Cigars, and how did you choose them?
La Perla is a factory in Esteli, Nicaragua known for producing high-quality cigars.
Paul Stulac has worked with them, Rodriguez cigars in Key West has had a long-standing relationship with them. La Perla is owned by Guillerm Peña, a Master Roller and Blender from Cuba.
All Stallone cigars are triple capped and rolled by tobacco professionals who must have 10 years of rolling experience to work at La Perla. That's why we chose this factory.
-Let’s break down the Stallone lineup. What are their characteristics, and what would you pair them with?
US Connecticut wrapper
Absolutely perfect with a cup of coffee albeit Cuban or Americano or any time of the day that you want a super creamy, buttery, toffee, medium-bodied smoke.
Alazan Habano, 96 rated
Ecuadorian Habano wrapper
A good hoppy IPA really balances out the Nutty, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, and natural sweetness of this great cigar.
Brazilian Corojo wrapper
Rich and complex, this cigar demands a top shelf Scotch like a Glenmorangie or Johnny Walker.
Our Black Stallion workhorse. This cigar is an everyday all-day performer. It works well with anything from coffee to beer, to Mead, to Wine and any other spirit you like.
San Andreas wrapper
Sound familiar, like something else you may have tried in the past and loved? Yup me too. So I challenge you to try this cigar and see what I'm talking about. The perfect pairing is Sipping Tequila or sipping Rum and also Espresso or Cuban coffee. $8.25-9.20
Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper
Broadleaf is a giant leaf, resilient, thick, and soaks up sunlight like a 19-year-old spring breaker in a bikini. It's full of flavor, strength, and nicotine. The tobacco is strong enough and pairing it needs to be toned down. A good craft Hefeweizen beer, red wines like Malbec, Beaujolais, Merlot, and American Bourbon is a perfect pairing for this bold kick-in-the-mouth cigar.
If you could give one piece of advice to new cigar enthusiasts, what would it be?
Don't be a band smoker. I have said for years that there is zero correlation between what a cigar costs and how good it is. You can find many great cigars at or below $10, you can also pay much more for terrible cigars.
You are a unique individual, nobody else has the same flavor profile that you have. Find cigars that match up with what you like. Also, ask the people that work in the shops. They have smoked it all and can point you towards cigars with the flavors you like.
And never judge someone because of the cigar that they smoke. I remember a story I heard: a man was smoking a cigar when he got the news that his daughter that had been missing for over a month had been found safe and sound. That cigar reminds him of the happiest day of his life. Sometimes you never know the reasons behind the scenes.
What’s an average day in your shoes?
Well, that depends on the day of the week. If it's a Monday, then I'm on the phone trying to follow up on the promises, sales calls, orders, and paperwork from the week before.
Tuesday - Friday is mostly dedicated to traveling the US and seeing customers and potential new clients, as well as doing Events, cut n lights, and Zoom interviews.
As I mentioned earlier having a low cost, great flavored, well-constructed cigar is every salesman's dream, because nothing is better than getting a text or a phone call with an order attached. It makes all the other things you do worthwhile.
Which trends do you see for 2021 in the cigar industry?
I see a few things coming:
- A trend back to smaller ring gauges
- A move away from traditional cigar boxes; they are simply a dinosaur and we need to find a better packaging alternative.
- Believe it or not COVID-19 was great for the Cigar business, forcing people to change the way they smoke cigars, from building their own smoking sheds and converting garages, to adult tree houses. Customers bought more cigars not knowing when they would get out of the house again.
For those lucky enough to have their local shops open, the stores became a place to relieve stress and help with a sense of normality, there is no telling how many marriages were saved this past year because some cigar shops were still open. When this is over, I hope customers remember the importance of their local Brick and mortar cigar shop.
If someone were to take your personality and blend it into a cigar, which sort of characteristics would it have?
Funny you should ask this question; this is why I think Stallone Cigars and I match up so perfectly.
Like a cigar, I would be wonderfully nutty, smooth, and creamy, with a little bit of spice. Also inexpensive with zero sense of pretentiousness. My goal would be to give you more than what you paid for and to always leave you with a happy sense of contentment, just like a Stallone cigar.