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Aric Dubb – Black Star Line Cigars

Cigar Press – What got you into cigars?

Aric Dubb – I’m a Chicago firefighter by trade. I’ve been a firefighter for about six years. I was actually in the fire house and one of my buddies had a cigar called Black Pearl. He had me smoke that with him. I enjoyed it for the most part. It kept my interest to the point that I wanted to try other cigars. I tried one called Black Cherry from a lounge around here. I liked that one. And then I moved on to Dirty Rats by Drew Estate. When I smoked the Dirty Rat that pretty much did it for me. I dove into their line. The Ligas, 9s and T-52s. I went back and tried the Black Cherry again and it tasted like trash.

CP – We like to say every cigar has a purpose. Even ones that lead you to the others. How has your taste developed since then?

AD – I like full bodied cigars.. I can go to a medium bodied, medium strength cigar but my preference is full bodied. One of the strongest cigars I’ve had recently was the Man O’ War puro (A.J. Fernandez Cigars), the one with the black band and that joker was strong as hell.

CP – So anything with a lot of kick, that’s how it’s been from the beginning?

AD – Oh yeah. That’s my style.

CP – What led you to want to start your own cigar brand?

AD – It was my love of the leaf. I was sitting in my garage smoking. I had wanted to start a business for a long time. I just didn’t know what. It finally came to me when I was smoking away in my garage. Why not do a cigar brand? That’s when I started to do a lot of networking. I went to a lot of Drew Estate events, when JD was there. Every time he was in Chicago I made sure I was there and made sure he knew me. He’s got a great memory. He suggested that we talk to Sandy from El Titan de Bronze. That led us down the road to try and work with her. El Milagro (the Migration, in English) were the first two cigars as a result of that pursuit. Mexican San Andrés and a Sun Grown Habano.

CP – Was it an easy process for you to get started?

AD – I spent a lot of time chasing Sandy to get her attention. We sent her flowers because her mother had gotten sick. So she wasn’t in the factory as much as normal. She still didn’t pay any attention after that. But it was about three or four months after that we just decided to call. Her daughter answered the phone and handed it right over to her mom, Sandy. She remembered that we sent the flowers and agreed to do the blend for us.

CP – Ah, so it was the flowers, they paid off! What can people expect when they smoke the two different blends of El Milagro?

AD – The Mexican San Andrés has that tobacco for the wrapper, Ecuadoran binder and Nicaraguan Habano as the blend. It’s full bodied. It’s got notes of cocoa, earth and lots of spices. It’s got a good amount of kick to it. It won’t knock you out but it’s definitely got some power. The Sun Grown Habano is not as strong, medium to full body and full of flavor. It has the Sun Grown Habano wrapper, Ecuadoran Binder and then Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. A lot of people like that is has full flavor but won’t knock you out at all. Even a beginner cigar smoker that’s interested in more of a full flavored cigar, this won’t tear them up. I know a cigar lounge owner in Atlanta and he only smokes Cubans. He smoked the Sun Grown Habano and thought it was strong. If you’re used to smoking lighter stuff, the Sun Grown Habano Is a little stronger than a medium, but just has a ton of flavor.

CP – How many sizes do you have?

AD – Right now we just have one size per blend.

CP – That’s the same for your other brand, War Witch?

AD – Yes that’s correct. With War Witch I started off with a box pressed corona, a 6 x 46 but they’re actually making a robusto for me now.

CP – the War Witch was the first cigar of yours that we smoked. We made a post about it not long after lighting it up. Now that’s made at Aganorsa. What led you there?

AD – I met up with Sean Williams, from Altadis’ Cohiba brand. We got to talking and he was asking me what my plans were for the company. I told him that I wanted to come up with another cigar, but needed something a little more cost effective as far as the tobacco. He asked me what factories I was interested in. He named a few that he has connections with. I told him I was interested in Aganorsa. He told me to give him a day. The next day he text me and said that Terrence Reilly was waiting to talk to me. He called Terrence for me personally and that they’re eager to work with me. I called him up and sure enough was waiting for my call. We talked about tobaccos and I sent over a coupe blends that I wanted to make. One actually became the current War Witch. The way War Witch came out, I loved it right away. I didn’t have to change anything. The second blend I didn’t really like at all.

CP – How did you come up with the name for your company, Black Star Line Cigars?

AD – Black Star Shipping Line was owned by Marcus Garvey. It was a shipping company that he had when shipping goods to and from America to Ghana and different parts of Africa. A lot of people don’t know that Marcus Garvey got his name, Black Star Line from the White Star Line. That was the company that made the Titanic. So that was a spin-off of their name. I’m also a big Hip Hop fan and there is a group called Black Star, Mos Def and Talib Kweli Everything with my company means something. Even our slogan, “Cigars are a daily operation” was named after Gang Starr’s Album “Daily Operation.”

CP – I still remember walking around Chicago and seeing guys sitting outside the firehouses enjoying cigars. You guys are still doing that now?

AD – Yeah, it depends what house you’re working out of but for the most part they don’t mind. If you’re at a house with a bunch of Chiefs you may have to go in the back.

CP – Sounds like they need a good cigar.

AD – A lot of them already do enjoy cigars. But it really just depends. Some firehouses start right away in the morning and go all day long.

CP – It’s an interesting time to start a cigar brand. Especially with the imposing FDA regulations.

AD – There are a lot of uncertainties. No one really knows what’s going to happen. It’s a lot of speculation at this point. I just keep working. The factories I work with are covered and have had so many blends that I should be covered in that. New cigars and blends though, that’ll be tricky. We’re trying to get out there and come out of this FDA thing unscathed so we can grow.

CP – It’s been hurdle after hurdle since we started the mag in 2007. Hopefully this will be all for a while unless their intent is to just kill the industry.

AD – That would hurt so many people, everyone from the customer to the people rolling cigars, farmers, everyone down the line. It would be a travesty. We’re just taking it one day at a time.

CP – A lot of new brands have to get out there on the road and do a lot of events. What have you been able to do in this Covid-19 era?

AD – I had events planned and then they all got canceled. I was planning on doing other shows and events but there is just nothing going on right now besides social media for me now.

CP – We’re actually from neighboring towns and it’s great to see another Chicago cigar brand.

AD – It was Phil (Ledbetter) from Up Down here in Chicago that led me to you.

CP – Getting back to your War Witch cigar. We spoke before and you mentioned a War Witch lancero. Is that something for you or something you plan on selling?

AD – I have a great relationship with Underground Cigar Shop in Fort Worth, Texas. They are getting a new, bigger lounge and the grand opening for that is October 10th. I’m doing the lancero particularly for that event. That lancero will probably last 2 hours. They’re going to eat that up. The lancero is a popular size down there.

CP – I am starting to see more traditional sizes out there, lanceros for example. I love it. I hope that it picks up and we see more of the smaller ring and format cigars.

AD – I’ll always make a corona in some form or fashion.

CP – Is that your favorite size?

AD – No, a lancero is. It’s my all-time favorite. The first lancero I ever smoked was an L-40, from Drew Estate. That was mind blowing to me at the time. I got hit with all that flavor. Just a great size. There will be 500 of those for the event, then I’ll keep a hundred for myself.

CP – Along with Drew Estate, is there anyone else that influenced you or helped you along the way?

AD – I always liked JD’s story on how he started. Skip Martin and Mike Rosales from RoMa Craft. Speaking with Pete Johnson too, that inspired me. I’d say those were the three biggest that got me going. I was really happy with the advice they gave me. They didn’t have to talk to me at all. I’m sure they hear it all the time with people wanting to start cigar companies. I’m sure it gets old to them.

CP – So what determines what you pick out when you smoke a cigar?

AD – It could be a bit of everything. It depends if I’m doing something and I know I won’t be paying too much attention to it, I probably won’t smoke a Black Irish from RoMa Craft because I’ll feel like I’m wasting it. I’ll probably smoke something not as rare or complex. If I’m just going to be sitting down or drinking Scotch, then I’m thinking about what I’m going to pair my cigar with. I’m always trying to fine-tune my pairings. I try to find what scotch goes well with what tobaccos.

CP – Is scotch your go to, favorite pairing?

AD – It is, the smokier the better. Smoky scotch is for me. My wife hates the smell. You can smell it all through the house. If I don’t have smoke from a cigar then I have smoke in my glass. I drink all scotch from all the different regions, but Islay is my favorite.

CP – What are your favorite pairings for your three blends?

AD – For War Witch, it’s Four Roses Single Barrel. The El Milagro San Andrés is the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10. The Sun Grown would be Bruichladdich, The Classic Laddie, That one comes in a baby blue, like Tiffany’s blue bottle. We finally got those pairings down. Took a lot of work but we got it.

CP – Where can people find out more about your brands?

AD – we’re on instagram and twitter as well.