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Cigar Insider: Eric Hanson of Second Growth Cigars

15 Apr 2010

I recently had the opportunity to meet Eric  Hanson, the man behind the Second Growth Cigar Company. We met at the historic Georgetown Tobacco shop in Washington to chat about his project while we smoked the result of his work.

EricHanson2ndGrowthSecond Growth comes in only one size: an immense (7.9 x 54) smoke that takes a full two hours to enjoy. Produced by Henke Kehlner of Davidoff, the cigar is  mild- to medium-bodied, extraordinarily creamy, and balanced, with subtle notes of cedar and spice. The single sample I smoked had plenty of subtleties and twists to keep an attentive smoker enthralled.

After our talk, I followed up by email to get some more details about his unique project.

Stogie Guys: With so many excellent cigars already out there, why introduce Second Growth now?

Eric Hanson: You’re right, there are a lot of excellent cigars already out there. Second Growth is the elite prestige bracket of the marketplace. What is interesting about the above premium consumer is their desire for unique experiences. Second Growth is blended to be the perfect compliment to a fine glass of Bordeaux or American meritage wines.

SG: Tell us a little about your wine and cigar pairing philosophy.

EH: The philosophy is simple. It is all about complimenting not competing flavors. When paired with Bordeaux blends and American meritage wines, Second Growth provides a perfectly synchronized flavor experience. While the wine flavors emanate from the rear of the tongue majestically working forward through the palate, in perfect harmony, the smoke from Second Growth begins stimulating the front of the palate imparting its flavors while traveling to the back of the mouth. The rich fruit of the wine prepares the palate for the complex interplay of spice, leather, and chocolate notes delivered from this exceptional cigar.

SG: You worked with Henke Kelner of Davidoff on this cigar. How did he come up with this blend for you?

EH: We were at the factory on other business and decided to show Henke Sr. and Jr. the box and concept for Second Growth. Both were fascinated with the concept and immediately we started discussing the type and aging of the tobacco one would need to execute an elegant project like this. For the next few hours we smoked several cigars and reviewed many bundles of unique hybrid tobaccos. Then, like a bolt of lightning, Henke Jr. said he had the perfect cigar for this project. Earlier in the year Alladio (master blender) and Henke Sr. came up with the blend for Henke Jr.’s 36th birthday. What type of cigar do you get for Jr. for his 36th birthday? A Cuban? No! The best filler, binder, and wrapper ever grown from the aging room at Tabadom that is never to be in regular production. We all smoked the cigar and had some Chateau Gruaud Larose and we all realized we had found the perfect cigar. Father and son agreed to let us use HMK 36 and Second Growth was born. There was only enough tobacco for 19,480 cigars or approximately 1,000 boxes.

SG: The presentation of the Second Growth is unique. Tell us about the box and band you selected.

EH: The box is unlike any other vessel for cigars in cigar industry history. Each Second Growth cigar box is hand furnished by Irish master craftsman James Rowe in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We purchased 50 wine barrels from a famous Second Growth classified winery from Saint Julien Bordeaux, France, and had them flown to New Hampshire. The wine barrels had been used during the maturation of a famed vintage. The concentrated fruit aromas emanating from the barrel staves envelope each cigar, imparting a timeless elegance and accentuating the beauty of the wine-stained woodworking. The natural fruit essence from the fine wine mingles with the spice; leather and chocolate notes in the rare aged tobacco create a taste synthesis befitting the most discerning connoisseur. I think you will enjoy this smoke!

Like the box the band is also very unique and has a great story. While the label on a cigar has always acted as both advertising and badge for the cigar maker, it originated to provide a simple, utilitarian function. The cigar band was invented during a time when it was customary for gentlemen to wear white gloves. All original bands were woven from silk or cotton fabric, the band acted as a barrier to prevent the smoker from staining their gloves. We liked the elegance of the story we embarked on a journey to restore this tradition. With Second Growth we liken it to returning to this golden age of cigars by wrapping each with a wide, woven, luxurious band reminiscent of those days gone by. We believe this extra step adds the perfect finishing touch for such a rare offering.

SG: What were some of the challenges you faced bringing this cigar to market?

EH: Helping the press and blog sites to understand whom this product was designed for. The traditional cigar industry insider seems to think that for something to be special it has to be full-bodied or incredibly strong. We disagree entirely…while there is a time for strong cigars we also believe there is equal time for medium-bodied cigars that show time-honored craftsmanship and deep understanding of the interplay of different tobaccos and how to deliver a complete flavor experience with elegance and nuance; a cigar that can be enjoyed alone or with a fine glass of wine or during a great meal. That was our biggest challenge.

SG: $30 is a lot for a cigar. Why should someone buy it?

EH: This box of cigars is for the oenophile and connoisseur. Someone with an excellent palate and taste. It’s an experience of a lifetime and the train is only stopping once.

SG: When you’re not pairing cigars with wine, what is your beverage of choice with a fine cigar?

EH: Have you ever tried Vodka with cigars? H+S vodka is perfect…and yes I am biased because I am the founder of that company and the creator of that product also.

SG: After the 20,000 Second Growth cigars are gone, what can we expect next?

EH: Good question. Projects are in the works…look out for a wildly complex cigar to be paired with Big Napa Cabs and Super Tuscans. God I love this job!

Many thanks to Eric Hanson for taking the time to talk about Second Growth. For more information, visit their website.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

13 Responses to “Cigar Insider: Eric Hanson of Second Growth Cigars”

  1. Alex S Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 3:37 am #

    ehhh. That's Padron money.

  2. st Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    Is it just me, or does this guy sound like a ridiculous tool? I mean, I don't want to step on an entrepreneur, but "the box is unlike any other vessel for cigars in cigar industry history?" Please.

  3. Padronnie Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 6:15 am #

    st: Take a look at the pictures:

    I'm sure you're paying for packaging with this cigar, but honestly I've never seen packaging like this.

  4. TommyG Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    I am an avid smoker and have been for over 10 years. I have been to the Davidoff Factory and many others and was completely impressed by their production and standards of Excellence. Although I've met Eric, I do not know him well, but I am completely sold on the idea behind the cigar, and it being introduced for the oenophile. I personally love the blend and am happy to find a superb cigar of the Quality of a Padron 80, but with the subtlty Davidoff is known for. A great cigar does not have to be tres strong to be great, and this is a perfect example.

  5. st Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Padronnie – yeah, it's a very nice box, no doubt. But the fog of pretentious effluvia pouring out of this guy is just hard for me to take. But hey, I suppose there's no reason to be a hater; maybe this is just how you sell stuff to really rich people.

  6. cigarfan Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    $650 a box? I know it's Kelner, but dang.

  7. Ethan K Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Patrick S, W/o bordeaux or a meritage wine (first time I've seen that word), how is the cigar? Don't know? Send me one and I'll tell you.

  8. Patrick M Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    Ethan, IIRC meritage wines are typically high end, limited release, blended wines. Can be either red or white, although the whites tend to be rarer. Very $$$ which is why that clientele is who this cigar is marketed to.

  9. Patrick S Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 6:09 pm #


    It was an excellent cigar. Extremely smooth and very creamy, but with just a hint of spice. Certainly one of the finest mild-ish smokes I've ever had.

    I plan on having another with a great Bordeaux I've been saving. The bottle I have is an 1986 Gruaud-Larose, which happens to be where the barrels came from that Second Growth uses to make their boxes. (Eric wouldn't officially confirm that the barrels came from there, but I have it on good authority that it is the source.)

    Just to clarify Patrick M's answer about Meritage. The important thing to know is that Meritage are Bordeaux-style blends. The only difference is that to officially be a Bordeaux it must be from the Bordeaux region of France, and Meritages are from other places, most often California.

  10. Ethan K Friday, April 16, 2010 at 1:37 am #

    Patrick & Patrick, I hope some day we can have a meal and/or smoke together. I like to enjoy a bit of the good life w/ people who notice what is wonderful. I can't drink alcohol nor eat too many carbs, but cigars and great food (besides cake, candy, etc.) are enough. The cigar sounds great. If I get to DC, I'll go to this place because this guy speaks beautifully and is serious. (I'll be serious also, in asking for a discount–ha ha) Thanks guys.

  11. Sticks Friday, April 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    Although I understand his whole concept of high end wine plus a high end cigar, I have yet to find a cigar that merrits a $30.00 price tag. Maybe this one is!

  12. mike Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    I love these smokes, ya they are pricey but you only live once. Why smoke garbage when you don't have to. The box is kick ass it smells great just like wine. Once they are all sold out that's when people are going to really want them. I would get them now before its to late!

  13. John P Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    ST, the reality is that great things require great acclaim. This cigar is unique both in its packaging (I believe EH has not oversold) and in its heritage. How many cigars come from the Kelner private reserve? Instead of being a "hater" why not support the concept of a truly great cigar?