We get this phone call at least a dozen times a day, “I went into a cigar shop for a Don Kiki Brown Label cigar and they told me it’s sold out.” Cigar smokers tend to be understanding about the out-of-stock problem. The cigar shop owners also call us complaining about this Don Kiki Brown Label shortage. They’re not as understanding. When you get a shop owner on the phone yelling at you that you’re depriving him of one of his best sellers it has an impact. Talk about someone messing up your day. No wonder I smoke 5 cigars a day.
We’re confessing about our own frustrations. We bend over backwards for our customers and yet there’s not much we can do about this shortage. While we do have them in stock while this post is being written, we know that our inventory of Don Kiki Brown Label cigars will be depleted in a matter of days. The Churchill is one of my personal favorites. It starts out with a well balanced and complex floral, licorice & spice taste. It then develops to a smooth earthy taste that develops rich Cuban coffee and cocoa notes. I’m a chewer so the head gets a little wet while I’m smoking it. That actually enhances the flavor for me and allows it to build up to the very end. While the Toro has received higher ratings, a 94 in Smoke Magazine, to me the Churchill allows the taste to build up even stronger during the end. What’s also great about this cigar is that it does not leave that strong, and sometimes nasty, taste in your mouth that some cigars do. It’s the result of proper curing and aging.
So now back to the shortage. What’s the problem? Are we making too few? Is the price too low and the demand too high? The fact is that it’s a little bit of each. For starters, Brown Labels are handmade with a special Criollo tobacco wrapper that only grows in the Cupido field of Tabacalera Esteli. The small Cupido field produces a very limited amount of tobacco, but it’s so gooood! During any one growing season you only get about 400 pounds of wrapper suitable for Brown Labels. Translated to cigars, that’s about 60,000 cigars or 2,640 boxes. If you divide it between the four sizes the result is about 660 boxes per size. Not all the sizes are produced in equal amounts so this is a rough calculation.
Another issue is the time that the tobacco used for this cigar has to be cured in pilons. It takes over 3-years of curing and aging before the tobacco is ready to be rolled into a cigar. Now if all the tobacco cured and aged at the same time, we would know when to expect the cigars. Unfortunately, nature doesn’t work that way and we get the shipments only when the tobacco, and subsequently the cigars are ready. Some of the tobacco leaves require more curing and aging than others. This is affected by many factors, including how sunny the season was, the amount of rain and many other factors beyond our control. Nature is in full control of this situation. Besides nature we have Kiki to deal with. He will not release them until he determines that they’re perfect.
Now finally the pricing. Since we started the Cuban Crafters cigar company we have always stuck to our initial concept of boutique premium cigars at affordable prices. We’ve faced various increases in cigar taxes, raw material costs and fuel prices. The amount of cigar shops selling our products has also increased and is currently at about 800 shops. Instead of increasing prices we’ve managed to keep our cigar prices affordable because we ourselves are cigar lovers. You gotta love this business to be in it. While many industry insiders keep telling us to raise the prices of the Brown Labels to balance out the demand, we’ve kept them relatively low and will continue to do that. This cigar is considered by many as the best value in the industry.
Now that I’ve vented out our frustrations and explained the reasons for the shortage, I’m feeling like a Don Kiki Brown Label. It’s a little late so I’ll just chew on a Churchill until I can smoke it tomorrow.