Inquisitive factory tours and an innocent social gathering at a local watering hole transformed a thriving real estate broker into a boutique cigar brand owner. Dean Parsons, founder of Epic Cigars, was enjoying a night out on the Dominican Republic after a long day of touring the Fuente, Davidoff and Aurora cigar factories when he met a couple of guys named Eddy Fontana and Rolando Villamil.
Unbeknown to Parsons, Villamil is a master blender with 35 years of experience in the cigar industry. He was behind all the original Kristoff blends for Glen Case from 2005-2008. After a few trips back and forth from Turks and Caicos, where Parsons was selling real estate, to the Dominican Republic, Parsons and Villamil blended a cigar together called, Turks Select.
The duo made 50 thousand Turks Select cigars exclusively for the Turks and Caicos Islands. In 2006 the cigar was sold in all hotels, resorts and duty free shops across the islands. In late 2008 when the global recession hit, the real estate market in Turks and Caicos tanked as well, which triggered the demise of the Turks Select. Parsons, a Canadian transplant, found work on the Dominican Republic in sales and marketing for a real estate developer from Florida. This allowed him to spend a lot more time in cigar factories mastering the trade.
In 2010, while lounging on the white sandy beaches of the Dominican Republic, Parsons bought the domain name, Epiccigars.com and trademarked it. From that point on he started working on blends with Villamil until he officially launched Epic Cigars in 2013.
The Maduro Reserva and the Corojo blends were Parsons’ inaugural releases. He has since added the Habano to expand the company’s portfolio. The Maduro Reserva boasts an intriguing blend of tobaccos and remains the company’s best seller.
“The Maduro is our best selling blend,” said Parsons. “We use the Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper on it that has a lot of great flavors. It is my favorite of the three as well. I like the 5 ½ x 46. I like the size. I like the flavor.”
Underneath the Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper, the Maduro sports an African Cameroon binder with Dominican Piloto Cubano, Seco and Nicaraguan Viso fillers. This blend is especially unique because of the Cameroon binder, a leaf most commonly used as a wrapper.
“In the Maduro and Habano we are using a Cameroon binder, which a lot of guys aren’t doing,” Parsons said. “A good friend recommended I use it as a binder, not the wrapper. After we blended it and let it sits for a couple of weeks then months, it got better and better and better.”
The Corojo is cloaked in an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper that envelopes a Dominican Olor binder and all Dominican fillers: Piloto Cubano, Seco, and Ligero.
“All of our cigars are medium to full in body and full flavored,” said Parsons. “The Habano grabs both ends of the spectrum. I can introduce the Habano to someone who is new to smoking, whereas the Maduro and Corojo are more for experienced smokers.”
Parsons is hands on with all company affairs, including blending and quality control. He is in the factory two to three times per week when he is home on the Dominican Republic and overseas much of the operations. Villamil stockpiles an overabundance of tobacco at his factory from all over the world including Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Africa, Venezuela and more. Together, he and Parsons do all the blending and quality assurance. Villamil picks out the tobacco and Parsons decides on the final blends.
Heading into the 2014 International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers convention (IPCPR), Epic Cigars was available in five shops. However, Parsons added 18 new stores at the show. Now, only three months later, Epic Cigars are sold in over 50 stores nationwide.
“Our goal is to get into 100 stores by January/February and to be at 250 by the end of next year,” said Parsons. “The key is getting quality retailers and working with them and providing product and doing events to get behind the retailers.”
Looking ahead, Parsons will work to build his brand while adding new blends and line extensions to existing blends. His other foreseeable goal is to add more sales representatives to widen his expanse and feature Epic in shops all across the United States.
“We are making quality cigars. The construction of our cigars is premium and the quality control is top-notch,” said Parsons. “Rolando has been making quality cigars for 35 years.”
There are more business deals made in bars than boardrooms and Dean Parsons is a testament to the power of interpersonal relationships. A leisurely trip to the Dominican Republic turned out to be a life changing event that has introduced the world to a new cigar worthy of #epicmoments. Epic Cigars lives up to its namesake and deserves every accolade that has been bestowed upon it since its inception.