The Cayman Cigar Company, a Grand Cayman-based non-profit, has begun exporting its cigars to the United States.
The company’s CEO, Granger Haugh, said an initial shipment of more than 5,000 cigars was scheduled to leave Cayman Thursday, 21 Jan., for the Cayman Cigar Company’s reshipping office in Tampa, Florida.
The Cayman Cigar Company is an extension of North Side’s Beacon of Hope Foundation, also known as Beacon Farms, a spin-off of the Bridge Foundation halfway house, which helps recovering addicts.
As well as creating a sustainable industry on island, Beacon Farms offers employment to people battling drug and alcohol addictions, including former prisoners, and the farm is fully staffed by people in the ‘recovery community’.
Haugh, who is the founder and principal funder of the 34-acre farm in Frank Sound, said the Cayman Cigar Company’s Tampa office will fill all US orders, while local and other international orders will be managed at the company’s Bodden Town store. Sale of the cigars for the US market, only available online, will begin next month, he said.
Haugh hopes the Cayman cigars can find a niche in the lucrative US cigar market.
The export of premium cigars made in Cayman was made possible following a court battle between the US Food and Drug Administration and the US-based Premium Cigar Association.
In August last year, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the FDA, which oversees all tobacco products, had violated the American Procedure Act in its handling of an approval process for premium cigars. On Wednesday, 20 Jan., the agency finalised its rules for the pre-market review process, but the August ruling currently exempts the premium cigar industry from the regulation.
Haugh told the Compass that following the August ruling, his company contacted the Premium Cigar Association to determine how the Cayman cigars could be imported into the US, and within 90 days had permission to do so. “We found an importer in Miami that would import them for us,” he said.
Before that, the process was “too laborious and not understandable”, he added.
The Cayman Cigar Company was founded in November 2018 as an extension of Beacon Farms. The company has stated that is vision is to “grow premium cigar tobacco, create premium handcrafted cigars and cigarillos and give back to the community”.
The company produces hand-rolled cigars made from hand-selected tobaccos, sourced from sustainable farms worldwide, and donates 100% of all its net profits to local charities.
“While we make the best cigars in Cayman, we are also growing Cayman tobacco here as well,” Haugh said. “We have a variety of tobaccos planted at Beacon Farms, and our goal is to soon create the world’s first 100% Cayman grown and rolled premium cigar for international export. This will be another first for our company and for Grand Cayman.”
He said he hopes the Cayman-grown tobacco will be available by 2023. So far, the farm has grown four crops of the tobacco, and is learning with each crop, though it’s not quite ready to be used to make the cigars. Ultimately, he hopes that the local tobacco will mean there can be a boutique cigar brand. “We’re going to try to have an ultra-premium cigar and do 20,000 where we use 100% Cayman-grown tobacco,” he said.
The creation of a market for the locally-made cigars in the US has been welcomed by Eric Bush, chief officer of the Ministry of International Trade, who said in a press release that his ministry supports Cayman companies that seek to export ‘Made in Cayman’ products, such as Cayman cigars.
“We will aid in identifying opportunities that enable people around the world to buy and experience unique, high quality goods that are produced in the Cayman Islands. Beacon Farms stands out for its innovative methods and its commitment to helping individuals in the community through its employment and rehabilitation initiatives,” he said.
The whole-leaf tobacco used by the company is blended and rolled by Cuban-trained torcedoras, or master rollers, Barbara Garcia and Maria Delvis Hernandez, who use a combination of old-world tradition and modern practices, the company states.
Garcia was on hand at the Cayman Cookout’s Rum and Robusto gathering at the Ritz-Carlton on Saturday, 16 Jan. to show how cigars are rolled.
Guests at the event were treated to a Cayman Cigar Company cigar, and were given the opportunity to purchase a second, or third, cigar if they wanted. Haugh said for every additional cigar sold, the company donated $10 to the Cayman Food Bank, which was the beneficiary charity for the event.
He said he plans for US charities to also benefit from future sales of the cigars there, via donations from his company.