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Written by Kevin Godbee

Wednesday, 01 February 2006

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Legal Cuban Cigars Priced Lower than Average Non-Cubans!?!
Meet John Vogel, the Cigar Industry’s Best Kept Secret…Until Now
February 2006

For 40 years, John Vogel has been instrumental in bringing some of the best cigars to market, but like “The Wizard of Oz,” he has been the “man behind the curtain.” It’s time for cigar buffs to get to know one of the most instrumental men in the business, and to learn about his "100% genetically pure Cuban Tobacco" that is legal in the USA.
Tabacos de la Cordillera

Although he has 40 years in genetic research, Vogel is unknown in the marketplace, and deserves to be known. He's articulate and provides insights into tobacco you won't hear from other industry leaders.

Vogel’s credentials include being an R & D project leader for 20 years with Consolidated Cigar, the world's largest cigar manufacturer. Management-level assignments took him into virtually every company activity, reporting to a company director. He followed that with 20 years of genetic and agricultural consulting to the tobacco industry. His accomplishments garnered him recognition by Consolidated, the US Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, and the Windsor County Agricultural Station (in Connecticut’s tobacco-farming capital).
John with an experimental leaf
John with an experimental leaf

Since 2002, Vogel has been director of all operations at the farm and factory of Tabacos de la Cordillera™ (Highland Cigars). Vogel's German and Spanish parents raised him in Nicaragua, where he graduated with a university degree in agronomical engineering. His most relevant work focused on all aspects of agricultural research in cigar tobacco. He gained expertise in plant breeding, soils testing, fertilizer selection, curing and fermenting studies, plant disease and insect identification and control.

In his time at Tabacos de la Cordillera, he has been growing “100% genetically pure Cuban tobacco naturally”, from his proprietary bank of 47 rare, pre-Cuban Embargo “Ancestral” Cuban seeds.

Cigar Review: Your credentials are certainly impressive. How did you get started in the cigar industry?


Vogel: Upon receiving my degree in Agriculture, I began work in Nicaragua and Honduras with another agronomical engineer Jacinto Argudin. He was a leading researcher for Cuban Land, a leading tobacco research institute in pre-Castro Cuba. I also affiliated with Elio Junco, a Cuban raw material (tobacco) supplier, who introduced me to Robert Kanfman, a senior vice president at Consolidated Cigar. Mr. Kaufman, to whom I had the privilege of reporting directly, had great insight into tobacco and cigars ... he knew them from seed to ash. I knew I had found my life’s calling in tobacco.

CR: During your 20 years of experience as an R & D project leader for Consolidated, what did you leave there with as far as knowledge or contacts that you didn’t have in the beginning of your career? What are the significant highlights of those 20 years?

Vogel: I was fortunate enough to associate with industry-respected researchers and tobacco producers, who became the foundation of the Consolidated Cigar of those days. Those valuable colleagues formed a cadre of my peers in the study of genetic research and agricultural improvement.

CR: After leaving your employer, you spent the next 20 years providing genetic and agricultural consulting to the tobacco industry. What were the significant highlights of those 20 years?

Vogel: The development of many diverse varieties of tobacco for wrapper, binder and filler that were highly prized at that time. The R & D on these strains contributed to the creation of exciting and sought-after new cigars. I led tobacco research projects in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Puerto Rico. I also managed a special project to develop a commercially viable shade tobacco in the Philippines, while I worked as a consultant there for Compañia General de Tobacos de Filipinas. Several of these assignments were sufficiently long-term that my wife and I lived in these foreign countries, an enriching and broadening experience.

Vogel (at right) surveying new plants
Vogel (at right) surveying new plants
CR: How did Tabacos de la Cordillera get started? What was the impetus for starting the company?

Vogel: I was commissioned as a consultant to evaluate some tobacco in Puriscal, Costa Rica, and in so doing, found an ideal soil and microclimate there. My initial impression of the appearance of the soil was that it had the same iron-rich red color as that in Cuba’s legendary Vuelta Abajo. Further laboratory testing confirmed it was an ideal environment for the cultivation of top-quality tobacco. I used this soil to test and adapt some of the most important pre-Castro seed from my proprietary bank of decades-old seed, from Cuba’s Golden Age of tobacco and cigars. 

The test produced tobacco I have never seen, unmatched anywhere, then and today. I watched it grow into hardy, mold- and disease-resistant plants ... the leaves were a strikingly deep emerald-color, with a sticky resin, large enough for wrappers for double corona cigars. This serene and spectacular volcanic valley, now the home of our 65-acre farm and factory, has become my Shangri-la.

"100% genetically pure Cuban Tobacco"

CR: Some manufacturers promote cigars claiming to have a certain amount of pre-embargo Cuban tobacco. Many leading experts out there claim there is no such thing as pre-embargo Cuban tobacco at this point. Given the number of years since the start of the embargo, it is highly unlikely any of the tobacco was able to survive without having been rolled into cigars.

In contrast, but still similar, Tabacos de la Cordillera promotes “Cigars with tobacco from pre-Embargo Cuban seeds” and equates your cigars with Cubans from the 1950’s. As you can imagine, when I brought this up to my cigar smoking compadres, the idea was met with some skepticism. What do you say to the skeptics?
 

Vogel: I do not claim to have pre Castro tobacco. I have the reproduction units ... seeds ... of several dozen pre-Castro varieties I acquired over the years, through my associations with other genetic researchers and tobacco producers. These seeds, which I have maintained and improved with the proper plant selection, genetic breeding, plant pathology and agronomy practices, demonstrate the success of our production theory. Each one of our ancestral Cuban seed strains is genetically mapped for its properties and characteristics, and we have the genetical finger print of it.

About 12,000 precious ancestral seeds...the foundation for all current crops Leaves are genetically tailored for size and rectangular shape, to yield more usable wrapper
About 12,000 precious ancestral seeds...the foundation for all current crops Leaves are genetically tailored for size and rectangular shape, to yield rare usable wrapper

CR: Aside from Cuba, the countries most associated with cigar production are the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. How did Tabacos de la Cordillera come to be located in Costa Rica? Is all the tobacco grown there?

Vogel: I have conducted research in all of them and many others, and have chosen the Puriscal area in Costa Rica to reproduce our seed. I believe Costa Rica is emerging as a major source of quality tobacco, and am proud to say our tobacco and cigars are Costa Rican.

CR: What are your three favorite Tabacos de la Cordillera smokes?

Vogel: Though I like all of our cigar lines for their unique flavor and aroma profiles, I must say the Cumbres de Puriscal Gold, Silver and Green are my personal favorites. Likewise, each shape yields a unique smoking experience, but I personally favor our coronas.

CR: What is your perspective on the current status of the cigar industry?

Vogel: I believe we are on the verge of making a major change in the status quo. With the unique product obtained from genetically maped pure pre- Castro seed, we produce a cigar second to none, at any price. More importantly, our command of the genetic and agricultural aspects enables us to repeat it consistently.

CR: What can we look forward to in the future from Tabacos de la Cordillera? Can you tell us of any new cigars coming out in the next few months or year?

Vogel: Our extensive collection of proprietary seeds means cigar smokers will have many diverse cigars to choose from in the near and distant future. We will soon be offering several new cigar blends and wrappers ... your readers and others will have the opportunity to participate in a pre-release sampling and selection program, to help us determine which new products to offer to the general smoking public. Presently, we are a small company, in no hurry to grow. Like the essence of perfumes, our goal is to offer unique flavor and aroma profiles to knowledgeable smokers who truly appreciate the finest. We offer an invitation to you and your readers come visit us in our Shangri-la, so you will be aware and appreciative of Tabacos de la Cordillera. We know there is much skepticism about our claims by those who have not experienced our cigars, and I thank you for this opportunity to tell what is unique about us, as well as reviewing the cigars for your readers.

John Vogel of Tabacos de la Cordillera
John Vogel of Tabacos de la Cordillera
Transplanted seedlings take hold in fertile, red soil
Transplanted seedlings take hold in fertile, red soil

You can learn more about Tabacos de la Cordillera and purchase their cigars on their web site: Tabacordillera.com

The Cigar Review staff will be reviewing several of these cigars in the near future. This article will be updated with links to the reviews. We eagerly await receipt of our samples.
Kevin Godbee
Kevin Godbee
Editor & Publisher
Cigar-Review.com

News releases for Tabacos de la Cordillera:
Cigars With Tobacco from Pre-Embargo Cuban Seeds
Tabacos de la Cordillera Offers New 5-Pack Samplers for Popular Toro Shape

Update Feb 10, 2006: Purisco™ Azul Corona Maduro Review

More Cigar Industry Interviews:
Drew Estate Interview with Steve Saka – December 2005

Interview with Carlos Toraño

Interview with Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars

Camacho Cigars Interview 




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