Kyle Hoover, co-founder of Ezra Zion Cigar Company, has turned a long-time passion for cigars into a top-notch brand that rivals some of the premier names in the business. Founded in 2012, Ezra Zion blends some of the industry’s most flavorful boutique cigars. Each one of their cigars uses specially selected tobaccos from Nicaragua to create a memorable smoking experience.
“I know a lot of companies talk about their tobacco being the best thing ever, but we source the top five percent of the AA Grade Nicaraguan stuff,” said Kyle.
Kyle and his business partner, Chris Kelly met years ago at their local church and became long-time smoking buddies before they decided to start a company together. They were ‘regular’ guys with ‘regular’ jobs. They spent several years learning about tobacco and blending before they brought their first cigar to market at the IPCPR trade show in 2012.
“We decided to start the company because, basically, we felt like it was something that God had given us the idea to do,” said Kyle. “The idea to start a cigar company popped into my mind one Saturday afternoon while I was smoking and praying.”
Hoover is a deeply religious family man who prides himself on passion and hard work. He and Chris are ordinary family men from Texas whose families go to church together. Chris is a volunteer firefighter for his local fire company and Kyle takes his kids to school every day.
“Ezra Zion Cigar Company is a small family-owned business that really cares about people and wants them to have a great smoking experience,” said Kyle.
The company’s unyielding commitment to excellence stems from an emotional and extremely touching story behind the name ‘Ezra Zion’. Kyle lost his son, Ezra, at a very young age and Chris lost his daughter, whose middle name was Zion, just two hours after her birth. They wanted to come up with a great name that was personal to their families, hence the name Ezra Zion. To honor their children, their names live on through the company’s unprecedented values and promise.
Kyle and his partners have become extremely knowledgeable in the art of blending. They have worked alongside iconic figures in the industry who have brought them an immeasurable amount of knowledge that has delivered some of the most complex, desert-like flavors on the market today. Early on, they decided to become ‘students of tobacco’ and absorb as much knowledge as they could from industry experts.
“We didn’t learn to blend quickly. We made what seemed like hundreds of horrible practice blends,” said Kyle. “We did have people we looked to as mentors and still do. The desire to learn and continuing to learn is something that we will always put at the forefront of our cigar making.”
Kyle and his company are very competitive and have a deep passion for perfection, “OCD”, as they often like to say. They are not afraid to use high grade tobaccos and they never sacrifice quality for quantity. For instance, the Tantrum is a one-of-a-kind Nicaraguan puro that is blended using ‘antique’ tobaccos that were quite expensive and extremely limited in quantity. Only 1500 boxes were produced, and because they exhausted the complete supply, the Tantrum is a once-in-a-lifetime production. Available in just one vitola, 4.44 x 44, it is a full-bodied stick that is loaded with flavor. Kyle likes to refer to it as a ‘baby powerhouse’.
The beauty of being a boutique brand is the ability to use super premium tobaccos that may not be available in large quantities. The Casa Fernandez factory, where most of their blends are hand rolled, has opened doors and given Ezra Zion opportunities and access to tobaccos that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible. Ezra Zion is not concerned with quantity like the mass production companies. They would rather produce a small run of high quality cigars for smokers to savor, albeit in short supply, rather than let the tobacco sit in a barn somewhere unexplored. The poet, Lord Alfred Tennyson said it best, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Ezra Zion’s quality control is second to none. The company’s pristine operations produce cigars constructed perfectly. They are flawless, firm and flavorful. Each batch of cigars is thoroughly inspected and personally tested by the owners.
“We smoke cigars from every batch of production. We are constantly smoking our cigars to check the quality,” said Kyle. “I am not a fan of mediocre cigars.”
A successful cigar business “starts first and foremost with great cigars” and continues with good “old-fashioned American hard work”.
“We strive every day to not only deliver the best cigars we possibly can, but to be a great company to do business with,” said Kyle. “We love our customers. We genuinely care about the people who take the time to engage us. From the retailer who puts our cigars in his humidor to the smoker who posts a picture on Twitter; we love people and want to be a blessing to them.”
Ezra Zion cigars aren’t sold by online retailers, but are available online. If a brick-and-mortar shop sells online then online sales are permitted so long as the price point is the same as the physical location. Online retailers without a physical shop are not allowed to sell Ezra Zion cigars. Cigar Federation, an online source where Ezra Zion cigars are sold, is a prime example. It is the online store for Delaware Cigars, which is a 27 store chain owned by Gary Griffith of House of Emilio and Emilio Cigars.
Ezra Zion Cigar Company has yet to celebrate its two-year anniversary and already has five extremely successful blends that are currently available on the market today. The company is constantly working on new blends and is currently in the midst of testing some. They take their time to create perfect blends rather than force a blend to rush production. The Jamais Vu, for instance, took 14 months of blending and testing before it was brought to market as the company’s ‘flag ship’ stick.
When blending, Kyle and his partners know they struck gold when two things happen. First, “We know we are onto something when we take a puff of the cigar and then we reflexively look at it,” said Kyle. “When a cigar really impresses you…you look it over as you blow out the smoke…it demands more of your attention.” Secondly, “We look for the cigar to induce expletives. If we smoke a cigar and start to get ‘passionately descriptive’ about it, we know we’re arriving at the finished blend,” Kyle explained.
Ezra Zion’s passion and commitment speak volumes for the company’s success. The genuine love for people and cigars by the owners is unprecedented and unparalleled. Their willingness to exhaust resources and spend top dollar for quality tobacco is commendable and unheard of in a cut-throat industry primarily driven by profit and production numbers.
Like the company’s mission statement states, “We want to be a blessing to all we come in contact with…from the guy planting the tobacco seed in the dirt to the smoker who lights up one of our cigars…and everyone in between.”