Going into the family business is not always easy. Often one has to sacrifice personal ambitions, placing family interests before anything else. Having grown up in family businesses from a young age and worked with my father until my late 20s, I am fascinated by the dynamics and evolution of family businesses. In the world of cigars, so many brands are built by generations, especially those with roots in Cuba.
Patriarchs of the cigar world like Nestor Plasencia, Carlos Fuente, José Orlando Padrón and Gilberto F Oliva all picked up from those who came before to build globally recognised cigar brands and, in some instances, the brands that continue to be led by their children and grandchildren.
At the same time, with the growth of the industry, especially with New World, there are increasingly cigar brands that do not have that history, though they do tap into it, through collaborating particularly with cigar tobacco growers with generational history. Casdagli Cigars’ roots are also generational, but not in the cigar world.
In the early 1800s, Nicholas Casdagli established the first in a line of family businesses, a trading and shipping company in what was the Ottoman Empire, primarily trading in Russian grain. His grandson Emmanuel Casdagli expanded the family business interests into Arabian horse breeding, shipping of raw Egyptian cotton and manufactured cotton goods and tobacco. Emmanuel Casdagli & Sons was based in Cairo and Manchester, for a while, until 1956 when they were expelled from Egypt and operated purely from the UK. In 1964, the business was shut down, but the family has continued to have business interests primarily in the luxury space.
Established in 1997 by Emmanuel’s great great grandson Jeremy, Casdagli Cigars (initially as Bespoke Cigars) was born following a meeting with master torcedor (roller) Carlos Valdez Mosquera. Their first small batch cigars were rolled by Mosquera, using Cuban tobacco but, following his retirement in 2013, Casagli has expanded the ranges to cigars with origins in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Peru, primarily rolled in Costa Rica.
These include the Traditional Line (2013), the Club Mareva Line (2014), the Basilica Line (2015) and the Cabinet Selection (2016), all produced by the Kelner Boutique Factory, which is run by Hendrik Kelner Jr, who comes from a family of master blenders. His father was master blender for Davidoff Cigars.
I haven’t smoked a lot of Casagli’s cigars, but I have sampled The Daughters of the Wind, which was released in 2018 and, along with the Cypher 3311 (2022), is rolled for them by the Costa Rican boutique factory IGM Cigars, a family business based in San Jose. The line is inspired by the Arabian racehorses that the Casdagli family used to breed. I particularly enjoy the Dahman, a toro with Ecuadoran wrapper, a Costa Rican binder and a blend of Peruvian and Dominican filler. It is medium to full bodied with the flavour profile listed as “rich notes of caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking spices”.
My current favourite Casdagli cigar is the Villa Casagli Pigasus, a pyramide 54-58 by 5” cigar with an Ecudoran wrapper and binder and a blend of Peruvian (two), Dominican and Nicaraguan tobaccos as the filler. While it is medium to full bodied, I find it to be an easy and smooth draw with both a sweetness and spiciness to the smoke. It is handcrafted for Casdagli at the Tabacos de Costa Rica boutique factory.
While Casdagli does not have the profile that some other cigar brands have, they have been growing and expanding steadily across the world, including in SA, off the back of well-crafted and flavourful cigars.