Community Spotlight:  Carson Serino from Serino Cigar Co.

Where can we purchase your cigars?

Right now we are in the pre-launch phase. Once full launch is underway, sample packs will be available for purchase on our website. Our cigars should be available for purchase in B&M’s shortly after the release with much more coverage after IPCPR. We’re also thinking about doing a prelease exclusive online sale with an internet distributor but that all still has to be negotiated. Limited runs could possibly be solely available through our website. It’s a topic we are discussing currently as we are sitting on some badass blends right now.

What’s the strategy with launching 4 blends at once?  Pros?  Cons?

This was quite the discussion among my father (Anthony Serino) and I. The main strategy was to establish ourselves in the market as a Company that can make cigars for every cigar smoker, from mild – full bodied smokes. At first we were thinking of making different brands for each but then we decided to make a huge splash with our debut release and show the market that Serino Cigar Co. can make killer blends for all smokers. We appreciate all style of blends – I’ll smoke a connie one morning and finish the day off with a full bodied cigar. We don’t discriminate because to make an excellent Connecticut takes as much skill as making a full bodied smoke, if not more. The main pro is to establish ourselves as a small family run business that truly cares about making high quality smokes for our FAMILY of smokers. One way of doing this was by making a badass lineup that people couldn’t ignore in such a competitive market.

There certainly are cons, the main one being trying to convince a retailer to take on 4 different blends in 4 sizes. That’s quite the amount of shelf space. And the other is we’re loosing out on making a diverse brand portfolio BUT once we saw the other blends Omar Gonzalez Aleman was making we decided he truly is an artist and has so much to offer the cigar community. Our main goal now is to make the ‘Serino Royale’ our staple line, similiar to Oliva did with Serie V, and then make limited single blend runs of what Omar and ourselves are smoking.

Can you give us insight into the history behind each blend?  What’s something that someone might not know about your cigars?

All of our tobacco from Esteli + Jalapa has been aged for a minimum of 5 years from Omar’s farm. Once rolled, they have been ‘at rest’ in the humidor for about 2 years. We are big into aging and wanted our cigars to be pre-aged for release. They’re all produced by Omar Gonzalez Aleman, the former General Manager of the ‘Corona Factory’ in Havana, Cuba. He was also the master blender for the Cuban Partagas Factory. Omar now blends from his own factory also named the ‘La Corona Factory’ in Esteli, Nicaragua.

Connecticut – Its hard to make a good Connecticut. We looked at what the industry was doing and said, “Omar, make us the most traditional Connecticut you can, don’t overpower that beautiful Connecticut wrapper like others are doing. Stylize it back to the good ole days but add subtle hints of modern, complex flair.” If you smoke one, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s very creamy and lush, with an easy going draw that subtly, constantly changes. It’s an incredibly complex cigar yet very easy to smoke.

Medio – We told Omar that we wanted to produce a cigar that solely smokes as a medium body. It’s a market that hasn’t really been targeted, it’s usually mild or full. We wanted an everyday medium body cigar, a cigar someone could smoke for breakfast or after Thanksgiving dinner. We decided if it didn’t come out well we would scrap it, but he made samples and we loved ‘em. It was exactly what we wanted and the 4th blend came to existence. We were originally only going to do the Connie and the two maduro blends.

Maduro XX – Omar Gonzalez Aleman, his farm and factory produced the Hirochi Robaina 1845. He made a few samples for that line, Hirochi and Omar blindly picked their favorite blends in the mix of samples. Hirochi picked his favorite, which is now the HR1845. Maduro XX was Omar’s favorite, the one he always smokes in his ‘La Corona Factory’ in Esteli, Nicaragua. I’ve never seen an elderly man have such childlike excitement until I watch Omar smoke what is now our ‘Maduro XX’.

I’m always curious about the background story surrounding logo design.  Breaking down your logo, what is the significance behind the artwork?  20th Anniversary?

My father, Anthony Serino has been in the industry as a manufacturer for 20 years but mainly as a bundle-medium tier cigar manufacturer. He’s made a lot of the big internet company’s private label bundles and factory throwaways. He always wanted to enter the super premium market but, as a business man, knew he could only do that with the right person and more importantly the right product. My dad knows a lot about cigars and knows what it takes to compete in the premium market. To make a truly great cigar, you can’t be buying tobacco from other people like he was doing for bundles and mid-tier boxes, you need a vertically integrated operation – from growing to fermenting to rolling all with one family. His whole life, he has wanted to compete with the big premium manufacturers. Until he met Omar Gonzalez Aleman, whom happened to be setting up his first factory in Nicaragua since he left Cuba, that opportunity wasn’t feasible. Once we toured the ‘La Corona Factory’ and farms In Esteli with Omar, we knew we found our guy.

In regards to the logo, we wanted our first release to embody what cigar smokers would say is a ‘Classic’ look and at the same time let people know this was a family run operation. The branding behind our first release was to illuminate the Serino name as a manufacturer while creating a classic look. The ‘Classic’ look is what we wanted our staple line to be. In terms of future branding, look for a lot of alternative/modern branding. I really love what Caldwell/Chogui/Warped/G.A.R. has done. The best is to find that medium between classic/modern and I think crowned heads does this best.

What’s the most ridiculous advice you’ve received in the cigar business to date?

That branding alone can sell cigars. It may be true with the initial buy, but to quote Omar, “Make a cigar that people will always go back to their humidor for.”

What’s the best advice that you’ve received?

In terms of marketing, avoid huge media outlets such as the big magazines for release. Give your product to the people, social media, and let them decide if your cigar is worth buying. Always put the cigar before branding and profits. It’s all about the end user and the actual cigar.

How did you come into the cigar industry?

My father has been in the industry for 20 years. He really loved cigars and kind of jumped into it blindly back then. I was 7 years old when this happened. I’ve been around cigars my whole life, a lot of retail stores, a lot of factories, a lot of characters for sure, a lot of memories, and none I’d ever trade! I was the first in my family to go to college and went up to Florida State University double majoring in entrepreneurship/marketing with full intention of going into the industry with my father upon graduating. Luckily for me, in my final two years of schooling we met Omar Gonzalez Aleman and had an opportunity to build a brand for years to come. As a person that likes the creative aspect of building brands while simultaneously being an avid cigar smoker for a large portion of my life, it all kind of lined up.

Any favorite drink pairings with your cigars?

Omar and I are in agreement with cuban coffee over everything else. After that, a good bourbon, a well made old fashion or something as simple as root beer. I must say pairing our cigars with micro craft beers has been my recent obsession.

I noticed that your cigars will sell in boxes of 20.  Was there some consideration to do boxes of 10, or was 20 always the goal?

20 was always the goal. There are a few exceptions: future 6x60 or larger gauges, lanceros, and possible limited editions.

Do you have an idol in the cigar industry?

From a personal standpoint, Omar Gonzalez Aleman. I’ve been around a lot of cigar folks growing up but no one has taught me more about the process of making cigars than Omar. In terms of sheer legendary status and historical contribution, Alejandro Robaina.

What do you think of 60+ ring gauge cigars? Will you be offering them in the future?

Here’s the thing with 60 gauges and larger: my father loves ‘em plus they sell and some offer unique flavor profiles. Omar likes ‘em too if the blend is right. Personally, I like smaller gauges 56 and below. I’m working on the ‘Ol man! We may have a couple big gauge releases further down the road in boxes of 10, but future brands will mainly consist of cuban-styled smaller gauge vitolas.

What’s your opinion of the ‘limited edition’ craze lately?  Any possible ideas further down the road? 

I love it! There are some great blenders out there and I don’t think the cigar community quite understands how talented some of these blenders are. Limited releases allow them to showcase their artistry. We love that we have a partnership with Omar and how much enjoyment he has creating new blends – the man’s a wizard. From a creative standpoint it also gives me the opportunity to come up/play with different branding ideas. I like what Ezra Zion is doing right now!

How did you choose the vitolas produced for each of your cigars?  

All of our Vitolas are based on what Omar best thinks will showcase the blend for what we’re going after. For example, the Medio really shines at a bigger gauge and we have Robusto Gordo 60 gauge and a 60 gauge bellicoso. The Maduro XX is crafted in a traditional cuban style, all of them are smaller gauges with the biggest gauge being a 54 sublime. No one knows his own cigar better than Omar, so we come up with the blend style and Omar blends ‘em to size.

Any plans to join us in the Cigar Noise Virtual Lounge?

Absolutely, in the near future. Noise Nation rocks!

What are some of the biggest obstacles that you’ve faced so far?

Putting a rep. team together that is as passionate about our product as we are. A lot of reps have many brands in their profile and it’s very hard to reproduce the same passion for your brand as when you’re producing them. A lot of reps want to go with the easy sell first and don’t want to battle with bringing a new brand to market. Its coming together though, we’ve been finding the right people lately and once they try our cigars it makes it easier.

If you had to create a puro from any region other than Nicaragua, which region would you choose? 

Cuba first and probably Honduras second. Eventually, I’d like to make a hybrid cigar with Nicaraguan/Cuban tobaccos. Omar has a deep lineage with cuban tobacco, he talks about the possibilities all the time!

How are you trying to position yourself in a retail humidor?  Preferably, would you rather compete against the boutique market or the establishment?

I’m really all for the boutique market, definitely not competition. We see the boutique boom as blenders finally getting their time to showcase their talents from generations of experience. We don’t want to compete, we just want to make sure our cigars are consistent and offer something new/different compared to our fellow industry folk. There are so many good cigars being produced, it’s really an exciting time for the cigar industry.

Batman or Superman?

Batman, always! I’m actually a huge batman fan.

BONUS:  I just want to thank Cigar Noise Nation for all their input and excitement for our brand. We make cigars because we love them and we love sharing the experience of smoking a cigar with others. That’s what its all about, the cigar and the community. Thanks Dave and CN!