An Interview with Dean Parsons of Epic Cigars

Dean Parson_Epic Cigars_Tobacco Field

From being a police officer in Canada to creating a boutique cigar brand with fans in both the U.S. and Europe, Dean Parsons, the founder of Epic cigars, has led an extraordinary life. In 2019, the Epic brand was acquired by Zander-Greg, which owns Nat Cicco cigars.  Dean Parsons is now Epic brand’s founder and brand ambassador. He also represents the Nat Cicco brand.  In this interview, Parsons talks about how he entered the cigar business, the story behind the Epic name, and his journey starting the Epic line. Fun fact: Neptune Cigars was Epic’s first retailer in Florida in 2011.

 

What is your personal story? What got you into the cigar industry?

I’ve been involved in the cigar business for about 15 years. I’m originally from the east coast of Canada. I played hockey growing up. I was in the police department in the town of New Brunswick. I was uniform patrol … SWAT Team … drug investigations. I went on a vacation in 2004 to the Turks and Caicos Islands to visit a friend. I went back to Canada, left my job, and took a position in the Turks and Caicos Islands with a resort and development group there. We built a hotel property. Now it’s called Blue Haven Resort Marina. It’s in Providenciales.



Dean Parsons_Epic Cigars_BeachHow did you get into the cigar business?

Then I went to the Dominican Republic to work with another resort and development group out of Fort Lauderdale. During my time in the Turks and Caicos, we were entertaining a lot of customers and clients and selling real estate. At the time it was really hard to find premium cigars in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In 2006 and 2007, I was travelling back and forth to the Dominican Republic, and I was bringing back Fuente and Davidoff cigars. They were premium cigars for customers. After a few trips, I decided to make a cigar. I met with some of the cigar makers, and I branded a cigar for the Turks and Caicos. We had it in all the hotels, resorts and duty-free shops. I have been a bit of an avid cigar smoker since my late twenties, but this was a full dive. It was a hobby because I had a full-time job. We had good success, but when the worldwide market crashed in 2008, we had to stop the development on our second hotel, and I took a position in the Dominican Republic.

 



How did Epic come about? Dean Parsons_Epic Cigars_House

That’s when I started to work on a concept to brand a cigar that I can take internationally and not limited to the Turks and Caicos. That’s how the word “Epic” started to evolve. I met a lot of people over the years who guided me and helped me along the way in the process. Epic, the concept, started in 2010 along with some of the original blends like the maduro and the Corojo. They did change over time. Some of the blends got better based on feedback and advice from people in the industry. I met a lot of people that gave a lot of great direction and support, so my cigars evolved over time. We launched the maduro and the Corojo in 2014. It wasn’t a massive production, but we started with those two blends and grew from there. In 2015, we launched the Habano line. In 2017 we launched the Epic La Rubia and the Epic Project E. and the Epic maduro Fuerte which is a full-bodied version of the maduro.

 



What inspired the name Epic?

I wanted to come up with a name that wasn’t being used, which is one of the biggest challenges in the industry. The inspiration came from a kite-boarding company that a friend of mine owns. It was a sport I took up in the Turks and Caicos. I was literally Googling names back in 2009, and I wondered if anybody had Epic cigars. It was available. I bought the name on Go Daddy. The most important step I took was that I started that trademark right away.

 

What can you tell us about the Epic Project E?

It is one of the most sought-after cigars that we’ve made. And having that unique tobacco band on the cigar was a great concept that me and my former sales manager Mick Grant came up with just before the trade show because we didn’t have enough time to produce a band to put on the cigar. It’s a fantastic cigar.  It has a Mexican San Andres wrapper with a Sumatra binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler.

 

Epic Maduro FuerteWhat can you tell us about your maduro line?

The maduro has a Brazilian wrapper. We have a core line of maduro, which comes in five sizes. We have a full-bodied version, which is our maduro Fuerte. It is the fullest as far as flavor and strength in our entire portfolio. The blend is based on the maduro line, but with a little more kick. That’s a cigar that people who smoke it usually buy it by the box.

 

Are your boxes mostly 10 or 20 count? Or do you do weird numbers like 13 or 17?

In our core line of products, everything is a 20 count. Our limited is a 10-count box. The Epic Maduro Fuerte Compinche is a 10 count as well as the Project San Andres and the Epic 10, which was blended by AJ Fernandez, and released just before the holidays. The Epic 10 [the brand’s tenth anniversary cigar] is pretty special for us. It was blended by AJ Fernandez, which is one of those bucket lists items you hope you get in this industry. I’ve got so much respect for AJ and his family, and for what he’s done in the industry. To have a cigar blended by him is a huge honor. It is a fantastic cigar. Only 1,000 boxes worldwide were made. In the U.S., we only shipped 790 boxes. We limited the release to 10 boxes to retailers.

 

Where are your cigars made?Epic Habano

All of our existing lines come out of Tabacalera Von Eicken in the Dominican Republic. It used to be called Charles Fairmorn. It is the same factory where Kristoff cigars are made, and a number of other cigars are produced there.  

 

How did you get in contact with Nat Cicco?  

Nat Cicco acquiring Epic was a big step. It allowed me to focus on what I love to do which is the sales and marketing, travelling, blending, and developing new products. The owner of Nat Cicco cigars, Arthur Berberian and I have been friends going back five or six years. He saw the challenges I was going through with the brand and growing Epic. He saw the passion I had and the drive. It was good timing because we went through a lot of challenges. When you dive into this business the stuff that goes behind the scenes … the challenges from production standpoint, inventory, marketing, travel, sales … that stuff can swallow you up. I went through it, and now I’m able to take a step forward from a marketing standpoint to the retailers and provide them with support. We now have more inventory, and we’re able to age cigars longer. We’re just beginning.

 

How important is social media to your brand’s success?

Instagram is our number one touch point with smokers. I manage that page. I spend three to five hours a day interacting with people on Instagram, answering emails, messages, re-posting, tagging. You name it. Most of them don’t realize they are communicating with me, but now more than ever you want to make that connection with the end user that supports your brand and your retailers. We can do that through social media. We sell cigars every day and we make referrals to our retailers through Instagram. Getting to do this interview today [on Instagram] is another step in the right direction.

 

Do you enjoy being a brand ambassador more than being a founder/owner?

To me, it is more enjoyable because to oversee all aspects of the business is a challenge itself. It’s too much for one person. You need to have a team to be successful not just from a back end standpoint, but we are in the process of building our sales and bringing the right people on board.

 

Aside from the Project E what is your other top popular blend?

The maduro has always been that cigar. The maduro Fuerte is a full-bodied version, which is great for the novice as well as the seasoned smoker. The maduro line has an Arapiraca wrapper. It really is a neat cigar. It has a lot of flavor. It has been our flagship from day one. That’s definitely the cigar that sells the most. I love working with the Brazilian wrapper. It is just awesome.

 

Is there a trend to use Brazilian tobacco? Or is it very limited?Epic Maduro Reserva

It is limited. It is hard to find, but we buy it in volume when its available.

 

Have you been more successful overseas or in the U.S.?

As of recent in the U.S., but there was a time when we were selling more Epic in Germany than in the U.S.

 

Why Germany?

We have a distributor there. The Kleinlagel family, and they have been in tobacco for over a hundred years. They have an awesome sales team. They are passionate about cigars, and they have an awesome network.

 

Dean Parsons_Epic Cigars_Inspecting CigarsWhat is your favorite tobacco to work with? And your least favorite?

I’m still learning and experiencing new tobacco. About a year and a half ago, I was with Noel Rojas [of Rojas Cigars known for the KSG] for a few days in Texas. He took me by his warehouse, and we were sampling all these awesome tobaccos from Nicaragua.

 

Do you think you are going to work with Noel Rojas?

Who knows? We’ve got a new blend in production in the Dominican Republic. We got new things that our team is working on in Nicaragua, so we have a lot on our plate. Noel is awesome. He’s the King of the Small Ring Gauge [KSG].

 

What is your preferred vitola to produce?

I’m a big fan of coronas and lanceros. You just get so much more flavor from them. But, if I’m on the golf course, I’ll take a 6” by 60 in a maduro. If I’m smoking for purely pleasure, which is what I do most of the time, I’ll smoke a lancero or a corona. They’re not the best-selling sizes and it costs extra to add a lancero to your portfolio. Obviously, the best-selling sizes are the robusto, gordo, and bigger. We added the lancero when I started. We’re going to stick with them.

Epic Reserva Maduro Lancero

 

What smoking tips would you give to smokers to enjoy their cigar-smoking experience?

To keep in mind that a cigar is a hand rolled product. From time to time you are going to get a cigar that’s tightly rolled or plugged and the best thing to do is bring it back to the retailer. Put it down and light another cigar. Just don’t have a bad experience if a cigar is not drawing. It happens. Just don’t fight with the cigar. If it’s not drawing and your tried to massage it, and it’s not working just put it down and light another one. I tell retailers if you run into that problem, please let us know and we’ll reimburse you for the product. We want the smoker to have a good experience.

 

Any other tips?

Another tip is to be aware of what you’re smoking and what you’re pairing it with, because not everything pairs great together. I’m not a big IPA guy. I’ve had a couple of IPAs with a cigar and it completely threw the flavor profile of the cigar off. Also, what you’ve eaten during the day, whether you slept good or not affects your smoking experience. All those things affect your tastes.

 

Someone said they like the fact that you stand behind your cigars. It’s not just business.

This is a business that you’re either in it, or you’re not. You cannot half-ass this business because people can see past that. There’s a lot of other businesses where you make more money with less effort, less time, and less trouble. What drove me to get into this business is the relationships, the camaraderie and the enjoyment. It is personal for sure.

 
Can you tell us about any new releases for 2021?

We are working on a new core line for Epic. It is going to have a Cameroon wrapper, but that is all I can tell you right now.

 
Do you think you will be creating new lines?

We still have a lot of retailers to reach out to so we can grow our retail base in the U.S. We’re focusing on the core lines that we have. We might come out with some limited editions. Or we might add a new size. Or take something that is limited and add it to our core line. We got a bunch of things in the works.


Image(s) Sources:
Images are listed in order of appearance from top to bottom.
Dean Parsons of Epic Cigars standing in tobacco field, www.instagram.com, https://www.instagram.com/p/CHVRU70lM02/,  Accessed on March 29, 2021
Dean Parsons of Epic Cigars at the beach, www.instagram.com, https://www.instagram.com/p/CMIjhEBlDTx/, Accessed on March 29, 2021
Dean Parsons of Epic Cigars leaning on wall, www.epiccigars.com, http://www.epiccigars.com/home.htiml, Accessed on March 29, 2021
Dean Parson of Epic Cigars inspecting cigars, www.epiccigars.com, http://www.epiccigars.com/home.html, Accessed on March 29, 2021


Published on March 29, 2021.



By Luzzie Normand
Co-Founder & Editor; Neptune Cigars Inc.
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