Company: Black Label Trading Co
What’s next for BWS?
BWS will keep growing at a slow and steady pace. We are still just getting things out in the market. The 1st new release is scheduled to be the Green Hornet this summer.
What can we expect from the 2016 release of Morphine?
2016 Morphine is the best yet. I think the vitolas chosen for this year’s release really highlight the blend to it’s full potential.
What’s your comfort zone when it comes to cigars? Which tobaccos do you feel most comfortable working with?
I’m partial to Nicaraguan tobacco but I’m always interested in something new. This year we have worked with Dominican tobacco in a few projects and I look forward to using it more.
How about outside of your comfort zone? Do you see yourself doing something in the near future that you wouldn’t have thought a couples years ago you would do?
I’ll work with any tobacco as long as it’s interesting and adds something unique to a cigar. I’m always playing with different options.
Seeing Oveja Negra really brought home how much expertise goes into every cigar. What’s something that fans of BLTC and BWS might not know about how you do business?
I think people in general underestimate what goes into a cigar. Most people don’t know that I live in Esteli and spend 10hrs a day at the factory. We put 100% into what we do every step of the way.
Everything we do at Oveja is small and focused. We own every step of the process.
What’s the deal with BWS? Why not produce Killer Bee, NBK, and Rorschach under the BLTC brand?
BWS is just different. BLTC has it’s own look, feel and existing fans. We keep BLTC true to what it is. BWS is a much different style cigar wise. BWS is like my playground where things don’t have to fit a mold or profile. There is no pre-conceived notion of what BWS should be. It gives me the ability to experiment.
What’s next for Oveja Negra? When I was there it was less than a year old – any changes planned for next year?
Oveja has had a great year so far. Our private label business is taking off and we plan to keep expanding that.
What surprised me most about your operation was the attention to detail. Whereas other shops are applying the wrapper to a cigar in under a minute, Over Negra took almost a minute just to apply the cap. How much of that love translates into a good cigar experience?
I think all of it does. If your going to do something, do it to the best of your abilities!
Cigar smokers have a LOT to be excited about these days, but what about you? What possibilities keep James up at night thinking of the what-ifs?
I’m always on to the next thing. I have plenty of cigars on the shelf just waiting to be released. I love this industry and how it allows me to express myself through cigars.
How about industry hurdles? Our members range from smoking their first cigar to being collectors for decades. Any light you’d like to shed on what affects our favorite hobby?
The industry is tough. No other way to put it. Tons of competitors, low margins and lots of hustle. You have to stand out. It’s that simple.
I always see you and Angela together. What roles do each of you play in your day to day operation?
Day to day she is the GM of Oveja and I focus on product design & development.
For you, what’s the most satisfying moments of your career?
Anytime you put your heart & soul into something and people like it, that always feels good. So anytime we put something out that people go crazy for, I’m satisfied.
The most disappointing is not knowing the fate of the industry with the FDA looming. I, like so many others in the business, can see the future potential of where the industry is going. If it’s not able to continue to grow, I think disappointing isn’t even close to describing that scenario.
Has there ever been a cigar or concept that you wanted to bring to market but just couldn’t get it to work out?
Plenty, it’s all about timing. The year goes by pretty quick when you measure everything in four month intervals. It’s a balance of keeping new product coming but not over saturating things.
Any plans to grow tobacco in the future?
Maduro vs Oscuro: are they interchangeable terms like we often read these days or are they different?
Maduro is Maduro and around here in Esteli, Oscuro just means dark, or more dark. Example – if you get a batch of Habano that is darker than natural but not quite Maduro – we use the term Habano Oscuro or dark Habano