Written by Jamz

Saturday, 25 February 2006

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Robert Spoden of Bucanero Cigars answers questions from Top25C igar and its readers.

Bucanero cigars is what many people in the industry call a "boutique" cigar manufacturer.  That word has come to represent the many family owned smaller cigar manufacturers that pour their heart and soul into their business.  Bucanero is no different.  Bucanero was established in 1995, and is owned by the ever entertaining and passionate Robert "Bob" Spoden.  After having met and spoke with Mr. Spoden on numerous occasions, Top25Cigar thought it was time to ask Mr. Spoden some questions that would help the rest of the cigar world...enter in to the "Bucanero" world.

T25C - What was the inspiration behind the company?

Robert Spoden - This by far is a question that I could ponder for a long time. There is a big difference between an idea and inspiration. I had no idea that I would ever find myself in the cigar business. But due to a period in my life that found me searching for my future in Costa Rica. I found myself slowing my life down and searching for an answer. I was in a small village in the mountains of Costa Rica during the rainy season. My friend allowed me the use of his small home for 2 weeks. Everyday I did something I have never done before. I prayed. I allowed myself to look to the future for my answers to my questions. Days and days went by and I found my peace. Yet I had not found one answer.

The day before heading home I found a new friend. He invited me to share a drink before I departed. We sat down and talked and talked and he looked over at me and asked “What in the hell are you going to do when you get back to Tampa”? I had no answers. He suggested that I get into the cigar business.

My reply. I didn’t even smoke cigars! He offered me a mild cigar, one of his favorite blends. I sat there and smoked it and I feel in love with cigars. As the years went by Douglas honored my developing pallet with blends I sought to have made. We would go back and forth together trying different blends many out of the norm of what was being sold in the States.

As such, to this day I feel that cigar smokers require no expertise. Other than what their pallets enjoy. So as it is a cigar is an inspiration. My inspiration is making exceptional cigars and meeting the people in my travels that enjoy a Bucanero. I found my inspiration and with it my passion.

Bob Spoden (l) and T25C at 2004 RTDA

T25C - What differentiates Bucanero and Bucanero cigars from all the other manufacturers, big and small, that are in the business?

RS - Bucanero began and today holds to our mission of manufacturing a limited quantity of aged, premium cigar blends. We can not manufacture an unlimited amount of cigars. We have invested in the number of country’s fine tobaccos and due to our inventories and the expenses as such as aging Bucanero will remain as a small boutique cigar manufacture targeting the people who covet such.

T25C - Where did the name Bucanero come from, along those same lines, you have some unique cigar names, is there a story behind them?

RS - Bucanero is the name of the Spanish pirates that sailed from Spain and plundered the Moors in Northern Africa. Long before the new world was ever discovered these two regions were constantly invading each other. More so by the Moors. Southern Spain as a result has a very distinctive Moor influence. Yet these Bucaneros were similar to Robin Hood I guess. When they returned to their villages in Southern Spain they gave their booty back to their own villagers. Once I discovered this name it fit our personality.

Go to battle with the big boys! Use our strength as a small manufacture to have the freedom to make our cigars without the typical corporate compromise. Without the need to make quantity and without the need to be tied to numbers.

I also believe strongly in supporting the Ma and Pa shops across this country. Without them there would be no Bucanero. Wal-Marts may have their place in this country but not in the cigar business. A cigar shop is one of the last places in this country where you can sit down and shoot the bull with people of all different walks of life. Image if these places disappeared.

A cigar is a moment in time. One that is free of stress and many times enjoyed with a friend. I support those Ma and Pa shops.  Call me old fashion but I do not give a damn.  For many they were the first place we all got our first stogie.  To this day, it is the high point of my life.  Meeting new people, making new friends. Too many have an ego in this business that is why where ever I go people only know my name based upon a past meeting. Not on a cigar ring!  But there are also many I have had the opportunity to meet that manufacture cigars that are special people.  Just like cigars we are all different.

Each one of our blends names has a foundation. Here a few of my favorites:

Full Sail is a full bodied cigar and the name suggests a sailing ship under full wind or Full Sail.

Salsa was named for its distinctive, complex taste.  I gauge a Latin American country’s passion by the way they dance the Salsa.  To many in this country the name Salsa is a Tex-Mex thing.  Ironically both meanings seem to work.

The Texas Star was named for my great appreciation the State of Texas has for allowing cigar smoking in just about any eating establishment in their state. Texans also love their Maduros.  It was only meant to be sold in Texas.  But this country has Texans in every state of the union.  It‘s still hard for me to believe that the Texas Star is being sold now in just about every state in the Union.  I never intended it that way.  It was my appreciation of Texas and their cigar friendly state.  Texans seem to have this feeling of strong independence.  I appreciate this.  In their own way they are rebels.  One of my favorite songs is from Ry Cooder.  Girls from Texas.

Bucanero Z. When I name a cigar it has to stand for something I believe in.  I always admired the personality and what was behind the character of Zorro.  He fought for the poor and weak and I admired that as a child and do so today.  It may sound a little bit childish to some but not to me.  I see nothing wrong in keeping ones childhood hero’s around in our later years.  Yes, they may be fictitious but the good they portrayed is not.

Pirates had there good and bad characters. But their type of character is not the sole possession of pirates. There are many who have had the back bone to do things in life that others would not even try to do.  Hero’s have touched us all in just about every way imaginable. The Peg –Leg Maduro I named not after a sailor with a wooden leg but one of the most colorful characters unknown to many in this nation.

Peg- Leg Smith was the first Anglo ever to transverse the Northern pass, the pass through the Rockies to San Francisco and the southern pass north west of the Santa Fe New Mexico to Southern California.

In the north he was captured by the Sioux in the dead of winter.  He escaped totally removed of his clothes in the freezing cold. With a number of Sioux in hot pursuit he traveled 200 miles to a fur trapper’s cabin and survived.

Once headed through the Rockies on his way to San Francisco (Spanish) he was attacked by a grizzly.  He lost his scalp from ear to ear and he stitched it back on with a sewing needle.

In the south he was shot by a Comanche arrow in the leg.  He escaped and to survive, alone he amputated his right leg.  When he came into Taos, New Mexico the Pueblo Indians referred to him as the man with the wooden leg.  Peg-Leg.  Truly one of a kind!

Finally The Treasures of Costa Rica. My love for Costa Rica dates back to 1969.  As a young man I travel up from Panama while in the Army and ventured into Costa Rica.  I discovered a land like no other.  I have ever since been in love with the country and its people. To honor this small country and its people I named this Puro, The Treasure of Costa Rica.  To some this may sound a bit absurd since cigars and Costa Rica would appear to be miles apart.  But to me they are not.  Tobacco can be found all over the world.  It just so happens I feel we discovered a small and special place that grows some very special tobacco.  Honored it as so.

The rest of our blends the Windjammer, Clasico Maduro, El Capitan, Don Douglas Cabinet Series and the Canon Cubano are names more recognized and their meanings easily understood.

T25C - With 11 years in the business, what are the key aspects Bucanero look for in each cigar you make? In other words, what policy do you follow when making a good cigar?

RS - Regardless of the finished strength of each blend be it mild, medium or full body there must be full flavor.  We draw test each cigar before it is hand rolled.  Assuring a perfect draw from one box to the next.  We also take great strides to assure that each blend is the same from one box to another and from one year to another.  We want our cigar smoking lovers to be able to have a selection in our line that allows for a totally different smoking experience.

T25C - How do you draw test your cigars?

RS - Via a Draw Master machine calibrated to proper elevation heights.  This process naturally slows down the rolling process and adds to the expense of production.  But without it human error will allow for plugged cigars.  Something we have never experienced in all of our years in production.  I see nothing more alarming than to have someone buy a box of Bucanero’s and have a plugged cigar.  Sure a cigar can get plugged by shipping shock.  But this process is out of our control.  Sure a cigar can get plugged with over humidification but again this is not a factory issue.  In all of the years we have not had ONE box of our cigars returned from a retailer that was a plug issue due to construction. Not one.

T25C - How many rollers do you have?  Do you grade the rollers depending on their experience and abilities?

RS - We employ a process of rolling cigars that allows us to use 10-15% more aged tobacco.  When you pick up a Bucanero to light it.  You will notice it feels slightly heavy and it is firm on all sides.  No soft spots and a perfect draw. Our process is well kept.

T25C - Other than a world of competition, what do you classify as the toughest aspect of the cigar world?

RS - Our business is broken down into two types of manufactures.  Those who produce millions of cigars annually and those who are smaller companies that in most cases do not have the advertising revenues to make their products names a household recognized brand.  The only true way for a premium cigar lover to enjoy an undiscovered blend is to smoke it.  They must also be educated and directed to a cigar that meets their pallet and strength range.  Unfortunately you can not roll up a magazine ad and smoke it.

Just like wine you must have had the opportunity to sample and sample until you discover that special blend.  Cigars are no different.  A true cigar store will assist you in discovering something special, a cigar that you may not be familiar with but lights up your pallet.  Finding a special cigar probably is the hardest thing to do in our industry.  There simply has been in my opinion to much sizzling type advertising that proclaims this or that cigar to be the greatest thing since sliced bread when they are not!  I feel consumers are sometimes made to feel buy the sizzle before you buy the cigar.  Many through experience have felt an advertising betrayal.

T25C - On your Home page you state you use Tobacco from Ten Different Nation, just curious about the reason for this and how long do you age your Tobacco?

RS - We manufacture 11 different premium blends.  In order to achieve each blend having a totally distinctive taste we blend each of these blends with combinations of 3-5 year aged tobaccos from these assorted countries tobaccos.  We set very high standards on the tobaccos we use and we purchase at a considerable expense only the finest bales available from these countries.

T25C - How much rest does a Bucanero Cigar need before it’s at its optimum flavor for smoking?

RS - I suggest when purchasing a box of cigars that you allow it to rest in your humidor for 30 days.  Why?  Well it depends on how you purchase your cigars. If you buy your cigars from a cigar shop that regulates its humidor environment perfectly then excess or low humidity problems will not have affected your purchase.  If you buy cigars that require shipping time then these cigars are exposed to high or low levels of humidity and in some cases shipping shock.  I prefer to smoke a cigar at 67% humidity levels.  It gives the opportunity for a precise burn, although some will forgo the perfect burn for a more moist cigar that will have some burn problems but due to more moisture has a slightly higher level of flavor.

T25C - Tell us about your Costa Rican Maduro wrapper used for el Capitan. How would you compare the taste from this to maduro wrappers from other countries? What plant is it from? Is it difficult to find adequate wrapper-quality leaf from Costa Rica?

RS - We were I believe the first to use a Costa Rican wrapper.  We took some heat for this.  There were a couple of articles years ago suggesting that this unconventional tobacco was a lower standard tobacco.  Well I didn’t see it his way.  Costa Rica is a country with an excess of 200 different environmental regions.  Many are very small.  As a result most have no commercial value.  There is nothing worse than to make cigar by the millions and not have enough wrapper to meet the demands of manufacturing.  As a small manufacture this presents no problem.  The Costa Rican Maduro has a unique espresso flavor.  It also has hints of cocoa. It is absolutely delicious with a red wine or simply alone.

Costa Rican tobacco greatly varies in taste from one region to another.  So many now offered a Costa Rican wrapper or filler since the days we first introduced the El Capitan Maduro.  But they did so on the success we enjoyed from the people who found this cigar to be exceptionally flavorful.  When a manufacture has success with a blend it is only common sense that many will try to copy it.  Unfortunately the quantities and the tobacco flavors vary through out Costa Rica and this can cause a larger manufacture to think twice about meeting demand using the limited quantities of Costa Rican tobacco.

T25C - How many alterations are made on a cigar when makes its first step from thought to reality, and how many tasters are involved in the process?

RS - We probably have exceeded today with experimenting with over 700 blends. Since we use tobaccos from so many countries as opposed to lets say 2 or 3, blending we feel is an art that is the most important aspect of manufacturing our cigars.  With the number of country tobaccos we age we have a wide range of blending possibilities.

T25C - The old Don Douglas blend CAO's were many folks favorite smokes. Will you continue to collaborate with this great blender or was the Don Douglas line a one time deal?

RS - Don Douglas retired.  But to this day many of his blend creations are still a major part of our blend line.  The Don Douglas line is a tribute to him.  One of the finest blenders of our time.

T25C - Can you give us information or a hint on your forthcoming Anniversario cigar?

RS - We are still in the final steps developing this cigar. I t has to be something special.  In fact, whenever we produce over the years a new blend as a small manufacture it must be special and totally different.  We can not afford to rush into market any new blend.  When someone smokes a Bucanero it must have all of the characteristics of what we stand for.  The final Anniversario will be completed by May 2006.

Special thanks go out to Mr. Spoden for taking the time to answer our questions.  Having had the chance to meet many people in the cigar industry, Bob Spoden is one of our favorites.  A true entrepreneur and free spirit, Mr. Spoden and what he has created with Bucanero should be cherished not only just for the cigars they make, but for personifying all that is right in a free enterprise America.  Good products from good people will always have a place in the market.  Here's to many continued years of success for Bucanero Cigars.

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