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Written by Gary J. Arzt

Monday, 26 May 2008

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Cigar Review writer and traveler at large, Gary J. Arzt, sat down for an interview with Enrico Garzaroli: Hotelier, Wine Connoisseur, Raconteur, Bon vivante and Cigar Maker. Enrico Garzaroli founded the Graycliff Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas. For the sophisticated traveler, not seeking sand and sun on the lush beaches of the island, Graycliff has always been a secluded, elegant haven in Nassau proper.

With individually decorated rooms and suites, and lush gardens, the hotel offers some of the finest food available in Nassau and the Caribbean in general.

Garzaroli, a considerable physical presence, is, to put it simply, a man who appreciates and enjoys the finest things in life. So, it was natural that he would create his own cigar, one that would consistently satisfy his discriminating palate.

I sat in the gardens, at Graycliff, enjoying a ‘refresher course' on Grayliff cigars, Garzaroli and good living!


Gary: Tell us a little bit about Enrico Garzaroli; who he was and what he had done before opening Graycliff in 1997.

(We kept Enrico's accent in the following transcription.)

Garzaroli: Well I was born in Italy, my father had a factory for stockings...about 500 girls or more working there.....he kick my butt out of the factory......so he sent me to the Culinary Institute in Stresa Italy to learn about hotel management, traveling, not being an idiot when going out to eat and drink, know how to live and stay in a place anywhere in the world... as he was exporting to a lot of countries.......well I was pretty good and when I finished he then decided to be a partner in an Hotel in Luxembourg with the local airline Luxair, Icelandair and the Banque International a Luxembourg and so my hotel career started.

I found the tax haven Bahamas and the property Graycliff ... the new Government was going to be installed and all English people wanted to sell and leave because very afraid* ... so I bought  ... and it turned out quite a nice success.
But a lot of work, attention to details, attention to trends and try to be on top of things all the time ... develop new ideas about wines, cigars, cognacs and all good aspects of life.


Gary: *(NOTE: Enrico's reference is to the government of Prime Minister Lynden Pindling.)

Gary: Inasmuch as Graycliff always contained one of the most impressive cellars in the world, as well as an exalted collection of Havana cigars; is it safe to assume that you were always a wine and cigar lover?

Garzaroli: As I had a great passion for wines in Italy and a decent collection when I moved my residence I brought a container of wines with me...officially as personal consumption!! I purchased a few cellars here from persons leaving the island, and started to buy in London and everywhere wines. Now I have probably one of the largest wine collections in the world and the oldest bottle dating back to 1727, a museum like a cognactique with Cognacs, Armagnacs, Rhums, Malts, Grappas and distilled rare items....

I used to smoke few cigars in Italy I developed a decent culture on them especially the Havanas, became very friendly with Nunez Jimenez that wrote most of the old tobacco books and with Avelino later...started to sell Cuban cigars and bring Avelino here at Graycliff to roll some nice stuff for my clients, when the quality and availability of the Cubans started to be very poor, I decided to start my own company, and see how I could emulate my previous mentors.


Gary: When did you first meet Avelino Lara?
Avelino Lara - Cuban Roller of Graycliff Cigars

Garzaroli: I met him on a trip to Cuba in 1988, when he was still managing El Laquito, the place where Cohiba was, and is produced. It was one of my early trips there.

Gary: When did you determine to bring him to the Bahamas?

Garzaroli: In '92 he made several (4, 5) visits to Nassau, since he was getting ready to retire. We talked, he explored Nassau. We explored the possibility.

After he retired that year, he moved to Nassau.

Gary: When I first met Lara, he was sitting at a rolling table in the foyer at Graycliff, rolling cigars, naturally. Even then, was it your intention to create a real brand rather than just have him roll cigars for your hotel and restaurant patrons?

Garzaroli: It was a time where there were increasing production problems, blue mold, etc, and I was also unhappy with the lack of availability. I felt that with Avelino here, I could produce a quality cigar, not a Cuban cigar certainly, but a quality cigar that would be reminiscent of the Havana. And, we could control and maintain the quality and consistency. A cigar worthy of the Graycliff name.

Gary: At that point, did you have a vision of taking the brand beyond supplying your clientele at the hotel?

Garzaroli: Not really, but my son Paolo felt it would be welcomed in the market, and I have to say, he was right and he has done a tremendous job with it.

Gary: How much time did the creation of the blend take?

Garzaroli: It took some two years to convince the Bahamian Government to give me the license...started developing the Graycliff blend with a decent amount of trials and retrials, but we were waiting for the license anyhow.Graycliff Cigars

Gary: Was your son Paolo involved at the outset? What responsibilities does he have?

Garzaroli: Paolo, my son was basically involved a little with the Cuban cigars and then almost immediately for the sales of the Graycliffs. He now travels all over the United States, as well as Europe and Asia, developing sales and handling our relationships with tobacconists that carry our cigars.

Gary: What role does your daughter, Roberta, play?

Garzaroli: My daughter Roberta is handling some PR for the Graycliff Hotel and our cigars. When it comes to our exhibit at the annual RTDA, she is very involved, and was responsible for the development of our booth, its layout and the décor…which is reflective of the Caribbean ambiance of the Bahamas.

Gary: When I first met Avelino's son, Abel, he was a youngster. Imagine my surprise when I saw him at the RTDA, several years ago, rolling cigars. What roll does Abel, play? The fact that he now resides in Florida is no impediment to his function?

Garzaroli: Abelito is now more available for functions and everything instead of applying all the time for visas and visas and waiting for answers....and one visa per travel...so now much more flexible.

Gary: So, this is truly a family company!

You have expanded the line tremendously since the initial introduction of the original ‘red label.' Do you plan further extensions?

Gazaroli: Now we are only planning to consolidate the blends, come out with some small releases for different occasions.

We are working on developing our new 100% organic Guatemalan espresso blend and our chocolate line, and a complete new packaging for our cigars...to start. Few more things are brewing that I cannot tell you now.

Gary: In what countries, besides the United States, are Graycliff cigars sold?

Garzaroli: We sell the cigars in quite a lot of places around the world. We started, of course, with the United States market and we have expanded, over the years to Europe, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong etc. We have always been selective as far as those we sell Graycliff cigars to. We only sell to authentic tobacconists.

Gary: I met a young man, Vince Garone, in Miami a couple of years ago. He's based in New York and explained he was working on ‘brand extensions' for Graycliff…beyond hotel, restaurant and cigars. Can you give us any idea what is in the future for the Graycliff name?

Enrico Gazaroli - Founder of Graycliff CigarsVince has a great deal of experience with branding. After 34 years, in which we have established a brand, a clientele and a reputation, we are looking at capitalizing on that asset. We are looking at such things as coffee, chocolates, wine, and other high quality products that can be reflective of the Graycliff name, just like our cigars.

We have also had conversations about other hotels with the Graycliff name and ambiance and quality. One possibility that is particularly interesting to me is in Dubai.

But, I don't have to tell you, Gary, these projects are a long time in the making.

Vince deals with all of that from his office in New York.


To view the complete range of Graycliff Cigars go to www.graycliffcigars.com

Here are links to buy Graycliff Cigars:

Graycliff 1666
Graycliff Chateau Gran Cru
Graycliff Crystal
Graycliff Double Espresso
Graycliff Emerald
Graycliff Espresso
Graycliff Original
Graycliff Original Release (1997)
Graycliff Professionale




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