When the “Dojo crew” stormed Las Vegas for IPCPR 2018, we couldn’t help but get swept up in the ambiance and splendor that is Vegas—specifically, old-school, downtown, “Fremont St.” Vegas. Surrounded by classy folks dressed to the nines (they were there, amongst the sea of Elvis impersonators and nipple pasties, you just had to squint a little harder) and buzzing casinos, I couldn’t seem to shake the imagery of the classic heist film, Ocean’s 11.
Being thrust into the middle of the desert with the biggest names in the world of premium cigars had me thinking, what would happen if you were to make a heist team out of only cigar personalities…
The Leader: Jonathan Drew
Danny Ocean (George Clooney / Frank Sinatra) was the “idea guy,” capable of making a plan and putting together the perfect team. At Drew Estate (and John Drew Brands, for that matter), JD has done this time and time again, bringing in talents such as Steve Saka, Nick Melillo, and Willy Herrera—ensuring a continuous stream of innovative projects year in and year out.
Right Hand Man: Terence Reilly
Brad Pitt / Dean Martin’s character in Ocean’s 11 is the “details guy,” always concerned about the little things and making sure the team is set up for success. Aside from his dashing good looks 😉 Terence is on top. of. everything. I can’t make a post on the Dojo or whisper his name in the wind without him catching word of it.
Hacker/Surveillance: Skip Martin
I might have made this up, but I am about 40% sure that someone told me that Skip worked for Dell?… Any way you slice it, Skip Martin and RoMa Craft are so on top of their social media game that the “surveillance guy” angle would work here. Plus, Skip could send some weasel spies into any heist to gather information.
Note: I checked with Skip and he did in fact work for Dell for 14 years. #Journalism #pointProven #surveillanceGuy
Kingpin: Carlos “Carlito” Fuente
Besides being the “money man” in the crew, the kingpin used to rule the town. Now, I am by no means insinuating that Mr. Fuente doesn’t still own the town—the Fuentes have not slowed down one bit. In the ’90s, Arturo Fuente built an empire (largely due to Carlito’s innovations with the great OpusX) that still reigns today and, let’s be honest, he just looks like a kingpin! Circling back to the “money man” angle, if the group needs some slush money, I’m sure Carlito wouldn’t mind kicking in a couple shekels.
Grizzled Vet: Don José “Pepin” García
Don José “Pepin” García is a legend in this industry and he is still grinding it out like it’s day one. He began his life in tobacco when he was 11 years old. He was lauded for his skill in cigar rolling for decades; the man has literally seen it all and done it all. He is a great choice for “the veteran” in the game that is looking for one last score before he hangs up the saddle (is “hangs up the saddle” a thing? I feel like it is).
Prodigy: Klaas Kelner
In Oceans 11, Matt Damon / Peter Lawford’s character is a smalltime pickpocket with a legendary father who is looking to make his name and pull a heist that will get him out from under his father’s shadow. My pick for “the prodigy” with big shoes to fill is Klaas Kelner. Klass is the son of the legendary Hendrik “Henke” Kelner; if you haven’t heard of Henke Kelner before, you’ve probably smoked one of his cigars. Here is a profile on Henke Kelner from Cigar Aficionado in ’96.
Now, the Dojo crew went down to Davidoff earlier this year and was given a tour of the farming/factory operation by Klaas, who’s knowledge is astounding. Klaas knows more about tobacco and farming than anyone I’ve met and loves to talk about it. We were at a bar in The Palazzo at 2:00 a.m. (following the annual Dojo Party) and bumped into him—he explained tobacco seeds and hybrids to us for about an hour. Undoubtedly, he is a perfect fit for the prodigy role.
Confidence Man: Erik Espinosa
A confidence man needs to be able to spin a story and get out of a jam at a moment’s notice. I can think of no better fit than Erik Espinosa. This man can tell a story and bullshit with the best of ’em. When the Dojo Party was getting busted (yes, that happened), I looked to Master Sensei and said, “If Erik can’t get us out of this, literally no one can.” Once, at A.J. Fernández’s compound in Nicaragua, Erik Espinosa staged a moonwalking contest for a super secret cigar (that didn’t actually exist). He somehow knew that Jordan (aka Sumatra Samurai, managing editor for Cigar Dojo) would win and therefore not cash in on this fictional cigar… He can also make just about anything into a game—the perfect “confidence man.”
Explosives: AJ Fernández
This one should be self explanatory, at least for those that have witnessed A.J.’s pyrotechnics firsthand. I once witnessed A.J. light a small brush fire just for fun. At IPCPR 2018, his booth somehow caught on fire. Also, as far as our Ocean’s team is concerned, you need your “explosives guy” to be super focused and detail oriented—if you have ever been to Fernández’s factory in Nicaragua or his booth at IPCPR, they operate like well-oiled machines.
Brothers: The Protocol Boys
While Juan Cancel and Bill Ives aren’t technically related, they operate Cubariqueño Cigar Co. like a family business. If you have ever been to a Protocol event, it feels like a crazy family wedding. In Oceans 11, the brothers were common men—getaway drivers that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Now, Juan and Bill being actual police officers might be a bit of a sticking point when it comes to a heist, but I’m sure with a little (just kidding) bit of rum, they could be convinced.
Acrobat/Cat Burglar: Literally No One
In order to be our cat burglar/acrobat, you need to be flexible, agile, and able to fit in a small spaces. Let’s take this point by point: “able to fit in a small spaces” eliminates 80% of the industry; flexibility is another tough one, so many of the dudes in the industry are old fountains of wisdom, but I doubt that they could even touch their toes…