Kristoff Cigars’ president and founder Glen Case spent 18 years working in the financial services industry before starting his cigar company in 2004. How does a man go from being an executive overseeing product and business development for one of the top five banks in the U.S. to heading a bustling business and popular cigar brand? We sat down with Case to get to know more about him and his brand in a personal interview.
Cigars & Leisure: Since its launch in 2004, Kristoff has become one of the fastest-growing boutique brands in the industry. You’re constantly on the road and making appearances at events—what feedback have you heard from cigar enthusiasts about what makes Kristoff one of their favorite cigars?
Glen Case: Some of things I hear constantly are about our quality and consistency throughout the years—we pride ourselves on this fact. Every Kristoff cigar is draw tested, we use a bunching technique called entubar, which is a centuries-old Cuban technique. Moreover, all of our tobacco is double- and triple-fermented, giving it a very smooth, full flavor, without any bite or bitterness. It is this balance, flavor, and smoothness that I also hear about regularly.
What thought process or considerations come into play as you’re crafting a new cigar for your brand?
There are a number of factors that go into blending a new cigar. The first step is assessing potential gaps in our product mix, including the strength profile and emphasis on country of origin. Next, it’s about sampling various tobaccos and experimenting with different blends to derive a cigar that fills a particular product gap.
Once the blend is finalized, then it’s about acquiring the finest “grade A tobacco and ensuring availability of the tobacco is sufficient so as to not to short-supply the market.
You started off as a banker in Chicago and quit your job to head up your own cigar company. What inspired you to chase after your dreams and passions rather than a paycheck?
After spending 19 years in the corporate world, I realized I was not having fun anymore, doing what I was doing. I knew then that it was time for a change. I’ve always aspired to have my own business, and given my passion for cigars, I decided to take the leap into the industry. I haven’t looked back!
Is there a certain idea or phrase that you keep in mind that drives you and your brand?
I wouldn’t say it’s an idea or phrase, but rather a philosophy. It’s a philosophy of continuing innovate through new blends, to provide cigar enthusiasts with the same quality, consistency, and unique flavor profile they’ve come to expect from Kristoff.
We understand you’re a fan of camping and the great outdoors in general. What’s your favorite vacation destination?
My wife and I enjoy a number of activities, including snow skiing as well as vacationing in tropical destinations. I am a big fan of the outdoors, and I’d like to say we go camping, but “glamping” —a cross between glamour and camping—is probably a better descriptor. We have a 34-foot travel trailer with all the comforts of home. Given my busy travel schedule, we like to get away for a long weekend when we can. There are a number of beautiful locations within one to two hours from where we live outside Chicago.
Give us your personal favorite pairing. Choose a Kristoff cigar and pair it with your favorite spirit, beer, or other drink.
Wow, I have a few favorite pairings, but if I had to choose, I would say my Sumatra with one of my favorite scotches, such as Monkey Shoulder.
Consider a cigar enthusiast out there has never smoked a Kristoff cigar. Which cigar would you recommend they start off with and why?
This is a difficult question because it really depends on what that person likes to smoke in terms of their strength and flavor preferences. However, not knowing those details, I would suggest either the Original Maduro or the Original Criollo. Both blends are smooth, medium-bodied cigars with lots of flavor. They also happen to be the first and second best-sellers in our line.
Also, we’ve created a tool on our website that recommends specific blends based on your cigar preferences. It’s a pretty slick tool. (You can try it at my.kristoff.com)
We know you’re a big supporter of groups like the Cigar Rights of America and the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailer association. Why is it important for all cigar smokers to get involved with groups like these, and how are they important to your own brand?
It is critical that everyone gets involved and supports these organizations—manufactures, retailers, and consumers alike. For manufactures and retailers, our livelihood depends on it. Moreover, our freedom of choice is at jeopardy, as is our right to enjoy a premium cigar.
It is important to Kristoff, and many other manufacturers’ survival, depending on the FDA’s deeming regulations.
On that same subject, what are your thoughts on the looming deeming regulations expected from the FDA?
The FDA has delivered a final rule to the White House, and we all need to come together to shape and mold this process for maximum protection of the industry. The deeming regulation is one thing that keeps me up at night. Right now I’m hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
You have the opportunity to speak directly to cigar enthusiasts across the U.S. and abroad. What parting message would you like to leave with them about Kristoff and what’s in store for the company.
With more than 18 different premium blends, there is a Kristoff that is sure to satisfy most enthusiasts’ palate. We are currently working on a number of new blends to give cigar smokers even more choices within the Kristoff line, and we continue to expand in both the U.S. and internationally. So, if you haven’t tried Kristoff, please do.
For more, check out the Corojo Limitada from Kristoff.