Interview with Jon Kindig of Casta Cigars
One of the great benefits of being a cigar blogger and event host is that I get to try great new products and meet the people behind them. Casta Cigars is one such brand. In February of 2018, we hosted a great pairing event featuring Casta Cigars and Ardbeg Single Malt Scotch at the Carneglie Club in Manhattan. We heard great feedback on the cigars so it only seemed natural to get some of the backstory in the form of an interview with Jon Kindig, the co-founder of Casta Cigars.
MC: Alright Jon, let’s start with the basics. Where are you and your family originally from?
My family is Swiss German. We received a land grant from William Penn and settled in Lancaster Pennsylvania in the late 1600’s.
MC: How long have you been a part of the cigar industry, and what brought you in?
JK: I have been in the cigar business for over a decade, and have been smoking cigars for almost 30 years. I owned a mid-sized HVAC business in the 2000s, and when the mortgage crisis took a toll on my business, I decided it was time to move on. I was in my early 40’s and was trying to figure out what to do with my life. A childhood friend said “ Jon, you love cigars, why don’t you make your own cigars.?” Having a huge passion for cigars, I thought ‘why not?’ My great great grandfather Alvin DeLong grew tobacco for a living in the Manchester area of Pennsylvania. So I guess tobacco is in my genes.
MC: Was there a particular moment when the opportunity of owning your own cigar brand was presented to you, or did the idea develop over time?
JK: As I mentioned above I was ending one career and looking for the next. And wanted to do something my heart was in. And thought no one currently using rare tobaccos. And the emphasis on cigars lately seems to have gotten very commercial. I realized there was an opportunity to use great tobacco to make small batches of cigars. Even though we’re considered a “boutique brand” I almost like to think of our cigars in the fashion of micro brews. We use better ingredients, charge a little more, and generally provide a better smoking experience.
MC: Are you a full time cigar brand owner, or do you have other work that you do alongside running Casta?
JK: Cigars are my full time gig. While living in Dominican Republic learning all I could about the cigar industry, I was approached many times by experts living there. And asked If I could repair or install systems, Air-conditioning systems. My reply was always the same. I could, but that chapter of my life was finished. I was completely dedicated to creating the best cigars.
MC: Where does the name Casta come from? Tell us a bit of the backstory there.
JK: The name Casta translates from the Spanish word casta, which means breed. I thought yes, good word, cigar smokers are a certain breed of people. My family, also was in the horse business for many generations. We provided the horses and Clydesdales that were hitched to the Conestoga wagons that took the settlers out West. We had many thoroughbred horses. And in my mind I like to think of our cigars as thoroughbreds.
MC: In an industry that experienced a boom in the 90’s and a continuing renaissance on the boutique brand side, what sets Casta Cigars apart from the major brands?
JK: Casta Cigars is focused on providing a great smoking experience. Cigars are a passion for us! I wanted to set us apart from everyone else. Especially when the cigar industry seems stuck in time to a degree. I wanted to bring a fresh new vibe to the industry. We want to to appeal to the modern and younger cigar enthusiast “millenials” who are looking for eye appeal and honest straight-forward information. We also want to appeal to the traditional cigar smoker. Everything about Casta breaks from the cigar “norm”, from our bands to our packaging and our goal to stay as green as possible. For example, no wrappers, recycling boxes instead of sending them to a landfill somewhere, and promoting humidor use. The serious smoker should always have one.
MC: Your website describes Casta Cigars as something of a small-batch minded company. Why have you decided to keep production in limited runs?
JK: Our goal was never to be the biggest cigar company! Again we like to consider ourselves the micro-brew of cigars. Small batch, high quality, awesome smoking experience. That’s a hard standard to maintain in itself, especially when you get too big.
MC: Another interesting part of the story is the ages of the tobacco that you are working with. Your website claims the tobaccos in your cigars are aged upward of 15 years. How did you come by such rare tobaccos?
JK: Our fifteen year old Brazilian tobacco was introduced to us by Lancaster Leaf Co. (correction all our tobacco is all 15 years aged). When I explained to them that we wanted to be different and use something that no one else in the industry is using, they introduced us to some rare tobaccos (most of which are not currently being used by other cigar companies, primarily because of cost and availability). Differentiating ourselves from everyone else was absolutely the way to go. I feel a true cigar enthusiast will pay little more for something that is unlike anything they’ve ever smoked before.
The 75 year old tobacco came from Domestic Tobacco of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Geoffery Ranck (owner of Domestic Tobacco) was a personal friend of the family. I mentioned to him my desire to produce high quality, small batch cigars in the Cuban fashion. He told me that in one of his tobacco warehouses he had the perfect tobacco, which his father had purchased. The rest is history.
MC: Any last thoughts for our readers?
Yes. Please support the fight to exclude premium cigars from “the end of cigars” legislation!