Alec Bradley is the name of a popular brand of handmade cigars established in 1996 by Alan Rubin, the son of an importer of hardware supplies. Rubin launched his brand, named after his children, at the tail end of the cigar boom of the 1990s and entered a clogged market. After failed initial schemes at producing cigars targeted to golf courses and flavored after-dinner cigars, Rubin managed to carve out a tenuous niche selling budget-priced cigars to tobacconists. In 2007 the company managed to break through to a broader market with the introduction of its full-flavored "Tempus" line. As of 2011 the company was selling between two and three million cigars annually to consumers around the world.
Alan Rubin (born circa 1961) was the son of a hardware importer who ran a Florida-based company called the All Points Screw Company, specializing in sales to manufacturers of cabinetry. Alan entered the business immediately after finishing college and helped the firm change its emphasis to the sale of hurricane fasteners, a booming business in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
In 1996 the prosperous hardware concern was sold and Rubin used part of his proceeds from the sale to seriously launch the new cigar company he had envisioned and incorporated shortly before. The new company was named Alec Bradley after Rubin's children.
Rubin attended the 1996 Retail Tobacco Dealers of America trade show and eventually found a small manufacturer in Honduras who agreed to make cigars for him. Rubin later recalled the relationship was one-sided and costly. "It didn't work out very well," he said in a January 2011 interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine. "He was taking my money and not giving me product."
The first cigars by Alec Bradley were known as "Bogey's Stogies" and were designed to be sold through golf pro shops for golfers to smoke on the course. Manufactured from 1997 to 1999 — the deepest years of the "cigar bust" which followed the faddish cigar boom of the 1990s — Bogey's Stogies proved an unprofitable venture. By the spring of 1999, Rubin found himself approximately $60,000 in debt and facing failure of his venture.
In 2000, Rubin hooked up with cigar industry professional Ralph Montero, who came to work for Alec Bradley and was instrumental in shifting its direction. Rubin and Montero were convinced that they needed to gain space in the retail shops of specialty tobacco sellers and managed to scrape together enough money to launch a new product line called "Occidental Reserve," using Henke Kelner, a maker of cigars for the cigar brand Davidoff.
Some 500 sample packs of the new cigars were prepared and mailed out to retail shops, which were followed up with phone calls soliciting business. About 300 new customers were won for the company with this last-ditch gambit, according to Rubin.
The company followed up its low price Occidental Reserve line with a new triangular cigar called the "Trilogy." The unusual new cigar shape was both an attempt to lure consumers with a fresh-looking new product and an attempt to replicate the feel of a 46 ring cigar in the hand with a more weighty 50 ring product.
"...I didn’t really love box-press or the semi-presado, I didn’t really like that feel, so I went to Home Depot, and they happened to be demo-ing a DeWalt table saw, and I asked the guy, 'Does this thing cut angles?' he said, 'Yeah,' and I said, 'I’ll be right back.' I went out and I bought wood, I had him cut it on angles, and I bought some wood glue, and I made molds. I used a hand-vice that we had in the back of the office, and I started pressing cigars in a triangular shape."I made a V-shaped mold with an open top, and I used a flat top on it. That’s how we started to press them. When everyone would leave the office, I’d put two in there, and the next morning, I’d come in and take them out. It was hard to convince people here that it was what we should do, but once they started smoking it, they realized that it was really comfortable in their mouth and in their hand, and they embraced it."
Rubin followed up his triangular cigar in 2005 with another new line, this time a stout 50 ring gauge called "Maxx." Both of these new releases were well received in the industry, helping the struggling company to survive.
In 2007, Alec Bradley achieved its greatest success to date with the introduction of a new full-bodied line called "Tempus."
Rubin later recalled:
"Every cigar that we did prior to Tempus was mild, mild-to-medium, or medium. Tempus gave us a more full-bodied cigar, a little more strength, a high level of satisfaction in the flavor profile. It was really the next level of cigar for us. Alec Bradley became the [official] brand with Tempus. We felt the cigar warranted it."
The new Tempus line was produced by the Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubana factory of Danlí, Honduras, known for the manufacture of Cuban-style cigars with triple-capped heads. A special Trojes tobacco from the Jalapa Valley of Nicaragua was used for the product, which met with critical success from cigar connoisseurs.
Over the years a number of manufacturers have been used to make Alec Bradley's various products, including Raises Cubanas of Honduras, Nestor Plasencia in Honduras and Nicaragua, and Henke Kelner in the Dominican Republic.
The Alec Bradley Prensado won the 2011 #1 spot in Cigar Aficionado Magazine skyrocketing the companies brand into contention with other world renowned cigars
Alec Bradley product lines
- Bogey's Stogies (1997–1999)
- Occidental Reserve (from 1999)
- Maxx (from 2005)
- Maxx Brazil
- Maxx Connecticut
- Cuban Spirit
- Tempus (from 2007)
- Prensado (from 2009)
- Select Cabinet Reserve (from 2009)
- Tempus Family Blend (from 2009)
- American Classic Blend
- American Sun Grown
- Black Market
- Family Blend
- Harvest Selection 97'
- Nico Puro
- Raices Cubanas
- Spirt of Cuba
- David Savona, "A Conversation with Alan Rubin," Cigar Aficionado, vol. 19, no. 3 (April 2011), pp. 130-133.
- "The Man Who Moves Time: Alan Rubin," Smoke magazine, vol. 14, no. 1 (Winter 2008/09).
- Alec Bradley official website, alecbradley.com/ Retrieved March 16, 2011.