Cigars & Leisure we interviewed Michael Herklots, vice president of retail and brand development at Nat Sherman. For those that may have missed it, here’s the interview in its entirety as we continue to celebrate Nat Sherman and its contribution to the cigar industry.
Cigars & Leisure: It’s Nat Sherman’s 85th anniversary. Even though there’s an 85th Anniversary Nat Sherman Cigar, what cigar from the company’s catalog would you say is your favorite?
Michael Herklots: That’s obviously a very difficult question to answer. I am really proud of all of our cigars, and in particular those that I’ve had the privilege of working on. The Timeless Collection was the first, which has really been a star in our portfolio. With all of that being said, personally I love the Joel Sherman 75th Celebration. I think it has incredible balance, sensational flavor, and offers a “journey,” start to finish, that is exciting and compelling. It’s too bad they’re limited.
The Fall 2015 issue of Cigars & Leisure is all about New York City, and Nat Sherman is a New York-born brand. What qualities do you think are shared between the vibe and spirit of NYC and the Nat Sherman brand?
Great question. New York City is a melting pot … so is Nat Sherman. Nat Sherman is a lot of different things to different people. Nat Sherman was a person, is a place, and is a thing. Many things … our extensive lineup of luxury cigarettes, as well as our impressive portfolio of premium cigars that offers every price, size, and experience anyone could ask for…. New York is a magical place. Amazing history. Every type of person, from endless countries, speaking endless languages, people coming and going…. There’s polish. There’s grit. There’s money. There’s poverty. Uptown. Downtown. East. West. But in the end, it’s all New York.
Nat Sherman is New York. It embodies that spirit. Anyone can experience Nat Sherman, and frankly should experience Nat Sherman. It’s a brand that’s alive. It’s nostalgic, but it’s relevant. It’s known globally yet still calls New York City home. In the end, New York City is a place that some people call home, and other people simply come to visit, but for everyone it’s a place that’s unforgettable. I believe the Nat Sherman experience could be described the same way.
Nat Sherman is a family brand. Since you’ve started working with the company, what have you learned from working with the Sherman family?
I learn new things every day from them. One of the most important lessons, though, is that in the end, morality, ethics, honesty, and integrity are far more important for long-term growth than quick fixes, shortcuts, and shady maneuvers. Their 85 years of success is proof. And our next 85 years will be further testament to that strategy.
There are a people who are curious about cigars but intimidated by smoking them. What advice or tips would you give to those hesitant about starting to smoke cigars that will take them from being a spectator to a cigar enthusiast in no time?
Visit a local tobacconist. Being a tobacconist is a privilege. It’s a duty. It’s a profession. By and large, those of us fortunate enough to make a living in this industry do so because we have profound passion for it, and we want to share it with others. Visit a store, and ask questions. And equally important, be sure to take notes, and keep track of the things you like and don’t like. Just like wine, beer, whiskeys … when you first taste wine, it tastes like wine.
Eventually, you can taste the difference between red and white and develop a preference. Then you further develop a preference for a particular grape, like a pinot noir over a cabernet, sauvignon, or malbec. Then you develop a preference for a certain terroir like Napa or Bordeaux. It’s quite the same in premium cigars.
What’s your favorite place in New York City to take someone, where you can enjoy a nice dinner and cigar?
Adding dinner into the mix is quite difficult, as there are only a few places that permit eating and smoking at the same time. I’m fortunate to be a member of the Grand Havana Room, which is spectacular. Club Macanudo also tops my list for dining with a cigar. That said, I equally enjoy dining without smoking and changing venues for a cigar after a meal. Lately, a meal from Charlie Palmer’s Aureole or Geoffrey Zakarian’s The Lambs Club is frankly tough to top.
Photography by Dustin Cohen