Gurkha Cigars are known the world over as the Rolls Royce of cigars. Kaizad Hansotia, the genius behind the Gurkha brand, has raised the bar so high in the super-premium cigar market that Gurkha stands alone as the zenith of luxury.
If you think the world’s best cigars come from Cuba, think again. Gurkha cigars are the most sought after cigar in the world. ho is not only a cigar aficionado, but a devotee to the finer things in life.Hansotia is undoubtedly a genius. He singlehandedly changed the whole cigar industry by introducing and altering the way people thought about cigars. The rise of Gurkha as the manufacturer of the world’s most expensive, super-premium cigars and stunning packaging could be considered a story of legend. That is, if it weren’t all true. After all, Hansotia acquired the Gurkha brand in 1989 for a mere $149. Today,Gurkha produces eight million cigars per year that are sold in more than 58 countries worldwide. And while Gurkha is known for its exclusivity, it has an impressive array of 105 brands of flawlessly handcrafted, premium cigars created in a variety of strengths, tasting profiles, and price-points. No matter what your taste, there's a Gurkha cigar that's perfect for your palate. Hansotia sees to it that.
“Change is key in this business,” he said. “To stand still is to die in someone’s memory. While we continue to produce some limited edition cigars in smaller runs, we have to constantly develop new brands to bring to the forefront. With outlets such as social media and the Internet, information is readily available. If you’re not on the front page, you might as well be gone, but our genetics of marketing has always been word of mouth – which has truly been successful. Our clients are extremely passionate and promote our cigars by letting people know they love them.”
While Gurkha holds the record for the world’s most expensive cigar in its ‘His Majesty’s Reserve’ that retails for $1,750 a stick or $35,000 a box and caters to an elite clientele, A-List celebrities, and Fortune 500 CEOs to Monarchs and Sheiks, there are many facets to this “diamond” cigar company. Gurkha has an absolute cult-like following. People from all around the world go to great lengths to acquire them, it’s astounding.
The Gurkha‘His Majesty’s Reserve’ contributed to its reputation as being “The Rolls Royce of Cigars." Itis a blend of a 15-year Connecticut Maduro wrapper with 12-year-old Dominican binder and filler. Each stick is infused with one shot of the world’s finest cognac: Remy Martin’s Louis XIII, a bottle of which retails for $2,400 a bottle. Only 75 boxes are made in any given year, adding to its exclusivity along with its price tag.
“The HMR is truly unique. Its amazing aroma as well as the taste is something that you will never forget,” said Hansotia.And that is the experience he strives for with each Gurkha cigar - a memorable experience wrapped in a cloud of luxury, which leads us to the ‘Maharaja.’
Gurkha’s growth has included an even more expensive and rare cigar in the ‘Maharaja.’ The ‘Maharaja’ is medium bodied with a secret blend of the best quality tobaccos available.Thebeautiful Maduro wrapper pairs Dominican binder and fillers to create a smooth and sweet taste on the lips. It was created with the true cigar connoisseur in mind. It is not infused and retails for $3,000 a stick. As with all luxury premium Gurkha Cigars, the ‘Maharaja’ is available only in small quantities – boxes of 10 cigars - and in limited release - only 100 boxes are being sold. Also, in keeping with the Gurkha tradition of presenting cigars in unique, award-winning artistic packaging, the ‘Maharaja’ is presented in a stunning, 10-count Mahogany wooden humidor with 10 individual piano-finished mahogany coffins for each cigar. It retails for $30,000 a box.
Gurkha has also focused on expanding its popular Cellar Reserve line with the limited edition Cellar Reserve Platinum. The Platinum is a blend of 12-year-old tobaccos in the filler and is the first of the Cellar Reserve cigars to use Nicaraguan tobacco. It comes in three sizes: Hedonism (6 x 58), Kraken (6 x 60) and Solara (5 x 58) and retails for $7.99 to $9.99 per stick or $200 for a box of 20 cigars.
The Cellar Reserve line was first introduced back in 2006. It grew with so much success thatHansotia decided to expand the line.“When we were introducing our ‘brick and mortar’ brands, we wanted something that was going to stand out in the marketplace,” said Hansotia. “We created the original Cellar Reserve to be an all Dominican cigar. It sold incredibly well, so we made a second cigar that we launched in 2011. We called it the Cellar Reserve Limitada and it featured aMaduro wrapper. In 2014, we modified the cigar again and introduced the Cellar Reserve Edicion Especial. That cigar is made with 18-year aged tobacco and a Corojo wrapper. Finally this year, we decided to bring the blend to Nicaragua and created our first 12-year aged Cellar Reserve from that country and launched the Cellar Reserve Platinum! The entire family of Cellar Reserves are tapered with a pigtail at the cap, which has become a signature of the brand.”
Despite the Cellar Reserve cigars being in one family, each has a different flavor profile. The vintage Gurkha Cellar Reserve uses the finest quality 15-year-old aged tobacco, an oily Criollo 1998 wrapperand 15-year old Dominican filler. It’s rated a 97 and named Top 10 Cigar of the Year.The Gurkha Cellar Reserve Limitada is a rich and robust cigar using the finest quality 15-year aged tobacco with a Brazilian ArapiracaMaduro wrapper. It has a 90 rating. And the Gurkha Cellar Reserve Edicion Especial has a Corojo wrapper and 18-year aged tobacco. It rated a 93.
“The truth be told, the Cellar Reserve family of cigars is so popular that we struggle to keep up with the demand,” he said.
Additional growth has come from the popular blends in its innovative and affordable East India Trading Company line.
The most recently released East India Trading Company cigar is the Heritage. It has been so well received that Gurkha can hardly keep up with production. It is flying off the shelves of the 9,000-square-foot humidor in Gurkha’s headquarters.The Heritage has a Rosado Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and Dominican, Pennsylvanian and Nicaraguan fillers. It’s medium bodied and comes in three sizes: Robusto, Toro and XO. It’s hand rolled in Nicaragua and comes in a rare 35-count box. This cigar was blended by the blending team at American Caribbean Cigars in Nicaragua with the input of Gurkha’s in-house blender and National Sales Director Juan Lopez and Hansotia. This flavorful blend has rich coffee and dark chocolate tones with a subtle and well-balanced spice present throughout. It retails for $7.99 - $9.99 a cigar.
“A true aficionado will not be disappointed with the wonderful collaboration of flavors in our Heritage cigar,” said Hansotia.
And there are several brand new lines being manufactured in limited edition to be released exclusively at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR)84th Annual Convention & International Trade Show in July in Las Vegas.Hansotia is keeping the details close to his vest, but he hints to an extension to the line of Cellar Reserve “tubes” and two or three other tubes, including a new limited edition cigar called ‘Dynasty.’ The flavorprofiles will be between medium to heavy, but what makes them so unique is that their production will be limited to half a million sticks for the whole world. The demand for Cellar Reserves exceeds more than two million alone, but that’s what makes Gurhka Cigar Company boutique. There are limited edition and limited quantities per skew.
“Gurkha’s signature trademark is intentionally not designing cigars for the mass market like everybody else,” said Hansotia, “but the stores that carry Gurkha will continue to have them.”
Back in the ‘90s when the cigar boom began, Gurkha captivated the world by starting the world’s first super-premium cigar vertical. “We came from an industry that had no pedigree and took it to a whole new level,” said Hansotia. “We created an entirely new category for cigar smokers and maintained it for all these years with the ‘His Majesty’s Reserve,’ and now the ‘Maharaja.’ To stay competitive, we came out with new blends that no one else thought of. And that’s what makes Gurkha so powerful. The ability to think outside of the box and then act on that creativity.”
That brings us to the issue of what happens to the cigar industry with the opening of the embargo against Cuba? “The best cigars are no longer made in Cuba,” Hansotia said. “Top cigar companies such as Davidoff, Gurkha, Flor Dominicana, Drew Estate, Padron and Pepin Garcia all produce premium cigars that can stand up and compete with a Cuban cigar any day of the week. And while Cuban cigars were considered the forbidden fruit while they were embargoed, once they become readily available, their mystique will soon dissipate.”
There are several reasons for this, he continues. “Cuban cigars are one dimensional in their flavor base. They don’t have the complexity that blended cigars have. The tobacco isn’t grown in different soils from other well-known tobacco nations such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua or Honduras for example. Quality control outside of Cuba is 10 times better than it is inside Cuba. Hand rolling cigars is tiring and only the best rollers in the world can be consistent with their rolling style throughout their entire shift. The demand for skilled rollers will increase elsewhere. Other countries, willing to pay more, will be able to lure quality workers away from Cuban factories.The Communist regime has left its mark on half a century of workers. Isolation and neglect of the Island Nation has potentially destroyed what was once a truly unique crop. Wages are still low. Morale is low. Labor conditions are still poor and the labor force remains unmotivated. There also remain rumors that the land has become bad for farming. All of these changes will cause the already inflated prices of Cuban Cigars to raise substantially.”
And while the demand for Cuban cigars will most likely increase in the short term once the embargo is lifted because even the casual cigar smoker will be interested to see what they’ve been missing all these years, it won’t be a permanent situation. “The increased demand will probably cause a lower quality product, creating disappointment and sending the regular cigar smoker right back to his or her favorite brand,” he said. “All of these points are, however, positive for the rest of the cigar-making world. Consumers will initially get their “fix” and be driven to better quality cigars made outside of Cuba.
“Gurkha is the last of the high-end boutique companies,” Hansotia said. “It’s because the mindset of the major cigar brands is to make as much money as possible by selling to the masses and trying to take market share. This is the goal of most cigar and tobacco companies. The management of the Gurkha brand is the complete opposite. We are similar to that of Ferrari. We manufacture the finest quality cigars and that is what we sell, we don’t produce to meet a demand or try to take over shelf space and market share in stores.”
And each Gurkha brand has its own artistically created packaging further separating that brand from any other.“Gurkha is the only company in the world that makes boxes from $250,000 to $3,000,000 in strictly limited editions. They’re so rare, that they are now considered collector’s items and as an investment for one’s portfolio. People are waiting in line to purchase our exclusive boxes because they know they’ll appreciate. The Black Dragon Edition Especial 2007 sold for $125,000 and resold in 2011 for $640,000. That’s quite a nice return on investment.”
As for the future, Hansotia’s philosophy is to remain humble to his roots and true to the essence of the brave Gurkha soldiers for which the brand is named. “Thinking in terms of developing the Gurkha brand, I follow the market and research what people are talking about,” he said. “I ask consumers in shops that I travel to worldwide for their input. I want to know what drives their palate when developing new cigar lines. I never sacrifice quality and the level of tobacco that we use. Additionally, I want to know that there is a diverse flavor profile, body, and size available for everyone. Most of all, I want to make sure that our sales staff educates consumers on what’s right for them rather than focusing on the next sale. More than anything, we are selling an experience—The experience of smoking a Gurkha and that has to be memorable.”
In closing, he said “Sex, alcohol and smoking are fundamentals of nature. No matter how big the fine or punishment, it would be impossible to ban sex. The same is true about alcohol and smoking. Prohibition is a case in point. Smoking is and has always been a part of a ritual. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, people want to relax and they will turn to one or all of those three things to facilitate it.”
Gurkha Cigars quietly carries on a century-old tradition of excellence by bringing the finest cigars to connoisseurs worldwide from its International Headquarters in a beautifully appointed facility in South Florida. Gurkha is a must have for any cigar smoker, be advised once you try these most alluring of all sensations and taste you can never go back to smoking anything else. It truly is the nectar of the gods.For additional information, visit www.gurkhacigars.com.