As many of you may know by now, I tend to gravitate to smaller companies for interviews and articles, and recently I had the privilege to have a conversation with one of the owners of another very new and fresh cigar company: Brandon Oveson, VP and co-owner of Apostate Cigars. Along with his business partner Kendrick Woolstenhulme, Brandon got his start in the cigar business as a retailer. His cigar shop, Beehive Cigars, can be found in the Salt Lake City area of Utah. Being one of the more unfriendly states in the country towards tobacco, Beehive Cigars is one of only three primary cigar retailers in the entire state of Utah. With Mormonism heavily influencing state policies = Utah currently imposes a “sin tax” of 86% on all wholesale tobacco products – Brandon has always been acutely aware of the challenge he personally must face in his business endeavors.
During the 2020 pandemic Brandon and Kendrick, like many others in the retail industry, decided to take the leap into producing cigars of their very own. Both gentlemen were brought up in the Mormon faith but left the faith before embarking on a career in cigars. In the Mormon religion, smoking cigars is forbidden, thus making Brandon and Kendrick apostates to Mormonism. During a conversation with some friends about idea names for their new cigar company’s business one friend bluntly asked them, “you mean you aren’t going to name the company Apostate?” Ever since then they have totally embraced Mormon religion imagery in their cigar blends.
All of the individual blends made by apostate reference Mormon themes and imagery found in the Book of Mormon or in Mormon culture. The one we smoked during the interview was titled the Deseret, which was a tantalizing 5”x 54 robusto made with Dominican and Nicaraguan long fillers, a Cuban-seed Dominican Piloto binder leaf, and a Mexican San Andres wrapper leaf with Ecuadorian shade stripe accents on the cap and foot. The word Deseret is a term found in the Book of Mormon which means honeybee, which the striping motif on the cigar is modeled after. The cigar burned beautifully delivering an abundance of dense full-bodied smoke, rich dessert like flavors with nuances of cocoa bean, espresso, dark chocolate, oak and earth. I discovered in our conversation that the Deseret along with the rest of their catalog is produced at the great factory Tabacalera Palma Under the supervision of Jochy Blanco.
As Brandon would explain, “Fortunately for us we were able to establish a great working relationship with Jochy as retailers. When the pandemic struck, and we found ourselves with more time than we knew what to do with we decided to start a brand of our own and we immediately knew we wanted to work with Jochy. The Dominican Republic still allowed for travel in 2020, so we were able to go down to his factory and work out what our blends would look like. Quality of the tobacco is never a worry for us because all of Jochy’s filler leaves are aged 5 years, so we never have any aging or fermentation concerns working with him”
Another cigar in their lineup is one dubbed the Feathered Serpent, and as the reptilian name suggests, it features the green candela wrapper that is so rarely seen in today’s market. “I knew that when we made the Feathered Serpent that the wrapper had to be green, it had to be a candela. But when we told Jochy what we wanted, that we wanted a candela, he flatly told us, ‘No! I don’t like candela, nobody likes candela!’ But we knew that we could come up with something great, something that people could enjoy in the morning with a fresh palate when they could taste all of the fine nuances that candela can give. So, we told Jochy just let us make the blend and if you don’t like it, we can scrap the idea. We eventually brought him a sample, asked him to smoke it, and he lit it up in his office chair in front of us. He smoked in complete silence for 10 minutes, and we were just scared to death because he wasn’t saying anything. Finally, he leaned forward on his desk and said, ‘that’s a fucking good cigar.’ Thank God!”
Moving forward, Brandon and Kendrick have their sights on having seven core line cigars for Apostate, each with their own specific vitolas. Currently four blends are on the market with two more slated to be released for distribution this July at PCA. For someone who had next to zero family involvement in tobacco to speak of (he did say his great grandfather used to smoke a pipe), Brandon shows incredible passion for and knowledge of the leaf. Apostate Cigars, with their ongoing collaboration with Jochy Blanco and Tabacalera Palma, is a team to watch in the boutique cigar world, and we cigar lovers can all be grateful for their apostasy.