Last year I had my first of what would be many cigars from a very young and very exciting company. The cigar in question was the Appendix II. The company, Jake Wyatt. I first saw their brand facings last year in 2021 at a local shop and I was struck by several things. First, the cigars themselves stood out from the rest, owing to the very attractive added detail of contrasting wrapper leaf on the cap and foot of most of their blends. Second, the branding was unique in its names. Titles such as Fourth Dimension, Lucid Interval, Appendix II, Hebert Spencer, and Lithium. Last and definitely not the least, their price point on most of their cigars was well within the $10 price point. Aesthetically, these cigars were gorgeous, their price was of course attractive, and those names, they just beckoned to me like they had a real story to tell. I grabbed an assortment of their lineup, brought them home, and proceeded to summarily forget about them for several months. “Sigh”, why do I do that so much?
Anyway, fast forward to August and I finally give them a go, starting with the Appendix II, and I opted for the 6”x54 toro. The cigar was what you would expect and want from a mild-medium, Connecticut shade-wrapped stick. Creamy, nutty, subtly sweet and thoroughly smooth. Next up was the Lithium, a medium bodied smoke with outstanding balance and a very dynamic range. Finally, I get acquainted with the Herbert Spencer, and I could not have been more pleased. Hot damn, this thing was outstanding! A medium-full bodied smoke bomb that oozed with flavor and left me longing for more! Now, when I get three in a row that hit the mark I am intrigued. As a result, I sought to learn the story of Jake Wyatt.
As it turns out, this company is very much still in its infancy, founded in early 2020 and later made its tradeshow debut at the PCA in 2021. The founders are Neil Garcia, a former MLB player and cigar lover, and Gerard Abajian, a Lebanese immigrant and retired firefighter. Some of you may know Gerard and Neil as the owners of Mardo Cigars, a cigar retailer with a growing online presence. Mardo is the name of Gerard’s father who started the cigar retail business bearing his name before eventually handing the business off to Gerard and his partner and friend, Neil. The cigars themselves are produced at Tabacalera JVM in Tamboril, DR under the supervision of master blender Joel Marerro. Most of the tobaccos in their portfolio of blends are Dominican in origin with some of the wrapper leaf coming from Mexico and Ecuador. The name Jake Wyatt comes from the name of the two founders’ sons. Some of these details might seem familiar to some of us, but I soon discovered how markedly unique this company truly was.
Now, I am fortunate enough to have a friend that runs a cigar podcast, “Craft and Puro”, (check this podcast out when you get a chance, it’s a blast!) and he recently invited me to join him last week as a guest on his show along with the owners and founders of Jake Wyatt. I am stoked! Now I can get the story straight from the men in charge! It did not take long after being introduced to these two gentlemen to recognize the passion and affection they possess for their craft. These guys are not just owners of a brand, they are thoroughly involved with the creation of each of their blends and take a great pride in their involvement in the process.
“We regularly visit the factory and farms in the Dominican,” says Gerard. “We will spend weeks at a time down there playing around with the different tobaccos available to get the blends we are chasing. It can be exhausting, but at the same time exhilarating to create something that is truly ours and not simply a product that is made by others at our request.”
Listening to them expound over the course of the next several hours on what their cigars mean to them was truly refreshing. They knew that the competition in this industry was going to be rough, and that they would have to create something truly unique to attract a following. So it was that they created blends that brought something of an intrigue to the market. They both were adamant that the packaging of the brand was not going to be their priority or focus, but rather the cigars themselves. Each of their 5 core lines have that beautifully ornate contrasting wrapper leaf detailing rolled onto the cigars. “These cigars all take an extra 2 days to roll this way, but we are not trying to make the most cigars, but rather just the best cigars that we can. And that extra detail makes our cigars stand out in a crowded market,” Gerard shares. While their band work and box art are very much on the minimal side, the aesthetic experience achieved by that little extra wrapper detail really serves to accentuate the overall simplicity of the presentation.
During the podcast we all enjoyed the Jake Wyatt Lucid Interval, a blend that features a Dominican Candela wrapper leaf with Mexican San Andres maduro accents on the cap and foot for a very striking visual effect. The cigar was a joy to puff on, with exceptional construction, clean flavors and a marvelously balanced texture. While smoking together, the story of the cigar’s name emerges in a poetic way. As Neil Garcia explained, “Lucid Interval refers to a medical term for someone who has suffered brain damage, but will have a moment of mental clarity somewhere in the fog. We wanted this cigar to be that moment of clarity for anyone who smokes it, a lucid interval somewhere in the fog of their life.” All of the names in their catalogue likewise have a similar significance to Neil and Gerard. The initial blend in the Jake Wyatt lineup for example, “Fourth Dimension” is a reference to being “in the zone.” Neil’s time as a professional athlete is clearly where this name is drawn from. “Sometimes when you are performing you hit your stride perfectly and play at a level higher than normal. We want this smoking experience to bring the smoker to that next level, or fourth dimension,” says Neil.
There was a beauty and authenticity about the way these gentlemen presented their story. I found myself feeling completely absorbed by their passion, their humility and the joy they took in their work. Here were two true visionaries that wanted to create something for the world to enjoy, something that spoke to what they held dear, what they had been through. They were not content to create just a brand that simply sells, but insisted upon being authentic artists creating a work that was truly their own. Moreover, it is clear that profit is not their priority. As Gerard put it towards the end of our visit, “we wanted to make our blends as cost accessible to as many smokers as possible. We also could easily have made our business model one of higher production, but that is not what we wanted when we started Jake Wyatt. Maybe 10% of the cigar world even knows about us, which is just fine with us because if we do grow, we want to grow slowly so we can ensure we don’t lose sight of what we were chasing when we started”.
So, what comes next? I have it on good authority that a new blend is in the works, something full bodied and full flavored to satisfy the more bold palates, hopefully to be released sometime next summer. Details are still pending, of course, but I am confident that we will be graced with yet another authentic work of art from Jake Wyatt.
If you are part of the 10% of enthusiasts that have already encountered Jake Wyatt, do you have a favorite JW cigar? Was this your introduction to this brand and the people driving it forward? Let everyone know in the comments below! There are Jake Wyatt selections available here.