Today we are interviewing the owner of Smooth Draw Cigars, Garrett Johnson. For those that don’t know, Garrett reviewed ultra boutique cigars on this Smooth Draw Reviews site and recently expanded to an online store selling these ultra boutiques, some of which he is the only distributor for. Hope you enjoy the interview and will check out his site and cigars.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Oklahoma Native. I have a beautiful wife and two dogs. I’m an identical twin. To add more of a whoa factor, my dad is a triplet—no joke!
When did you get into cigars?
My dad gave me my first cigar when I turned 18. I remember not knowing anything about them but being very curious how they make them, the details and processes involved, and what makes a great cigar.
What was the first cigar you smoked?
I believe it was a Macanudo Court Tube.
Were you immediately hooked or did it grow on you?
Oh yeah! I smoked cigars on special occasions and occasionally with my dad and brother.
Before you opened your store, you did cigar reviews at Smooth Draw Reviews, what are some of the top cigars you have reviewed?
I’m going to sound like a typical business owner and say that all of them are top cigars to me. Going back to the brand recognition and exposure goal, I’ve had a lot of fun sharing Kolumbus Cigars—from Spain, Om Mani Gold Label, and Gloria Bendita from the Domincan Republic. These three are dear to me because of the relationships with the business owners. More importantly, they aren’t sold ANYWHERE else in the USA. That makes them very special to me as a business owner knowing the level of trust with the brands and their owners.
Exclusive cigars only at Smooth Draw Cigars. That’s awesome.
You are known for reviewing ultra-boutique cigars. How did that start and how do you find out about these brands?
The internet is full of cigar reviews. At that time, all of the reviews I was reading and watching on YouTube were all what I call “main-stream” cigars (the popular and well-known brands). Curiosity got the best of me a few years ago as I tried to search rare and unheard of cigars. One day after speaking to a few small batch cigar companies, I decided I wanted to review some rare cigars. My goal was two-fold. 1. I set out to discover amazing unheard of cigars. 2. I wanted to be able to provide more exposure for them. Build recognition and familiarity they might not otherwise have.
I literally just researched rare cigars online. I love the ease of Instagram and would often message these small brands, tell them about my blog and reviews, and tell them I’d love to review some of their cigars.
I knew I was doing something right after just a couple of months when I no longer had to reach out to these brands. Instead, they contacted me.
What made you decide to open your own online business?
After reviewing rare and ultra-boutique cigars for about a year and a half, I discovered several of these businesses relied on retailers. Many of whom did not sell their own cigars on their website. Several of the business owners encouraged me to become a retailer. We had developed a high level of trust and support for one another and it only made sense to take what I was doing to the next level. Reviewing the cigars was great, but I knew I could provide even more exposure and sales if I sold the cigars myself. Another huge factor was definitely the support from my friends, followers, and viewers. As I spoke with them, they were all very excited for me and probably more enthusiastic about the idea of me starting my own online store than I was! Many of them smoked the cigars with me and wanted to have an easy outlet to get their hands on the cigars.
When did you open?
The website officially opened June 1st, 2017
Tell us about Smooth Draw Cigars.
We are an online cigar store that specializes in the sale of rare, exotic, and ultra-boutique cigars. You won’t find any main-stream selections on our site. We are the only retailer in the United States that sells the following cigars: Kolumbus Cigars from La Palma, Spain, Om Mani Gold Label, and Gloria Bendita of the Dominican Republic. Unlike many online cigar companies, quality customer service is our #1 priority. All cigars we sell are 100% handmade, have long filler tobacco, and are shipped after being properly humidified to ensure they are in smoke-able conditions.
What makes your online store unique?
Our Prices: One aspect of our company which all of our customers appreciate is our prices. Most companies who sale boutique cigars have bogus margins—that’s a new economic term 😊) They understand that what they have is rare and increase their prices and make you spend a minimum per order. My goal with our company was to offer super affordable prices and allow our customers to purchase single cigars—so they can mix and match and try new ones. In my mind, that puts my customers first.
Our selections: As mentioned before, we don’t offer any mainstream cigars. Our goal is not to compete with your local brick and mortar stores. We simply want to provide a new experience for them.
Our customer service: Two years ago, I purchased a cigar sampler on a very popular cigar website. The order came in the mail and the cigars were extremely dry, cracked, and not smokeable. After several attempts trying to rectify with their customer service line which just constantly rang and an email address that probably was never checked, I gave up. When I opened SDC, I vowed to have the best customer service. Sure, we’ve messed up—we’re human too, but we’ve been sure to correct the mistake plus one.
What are some of the brands you currently carry?
Alpha Cigars, Kolumbus, Gloria Bendita, Om Mani, Opalo 1979, Isabela, ChaliceGod13th, Providencia Cigars, and Monte Blanc. More recently added the Lincoln Bourbon by BattleGround Cigars and the Cala Habano by Cala Cigars.
The Alpha Cigar Company Absinthe Infused that you carry really made an impression on me. I had no idea about Absinthe and never really reviewed infused cigars. Do you have any cigar/s that caught you off guard like that and made a lasting impression on you?
That’s great to hear, Scott! The Absinthe Infused Maduro certainly caught me off guard as well. I want to have as authentic of a review as possible so I do not read anything about them prior to the review. So, experiencing that many notes and flavors in one cigar was quite a ride! The cigar has 15 different herbs and notes which is a pretty fun experience for the first time.
Isabela Guerrila had the same shock value for me. It’s a bigger ring gauge and packs a punch, flavor wise.
Some of these cigars are super rare in terms of U.S distribution. Can you talk a little about that?
I’d love to. We are thrilled to have three brands on our “shelves” so to speak that are not sold anywhere else in the US. That means no other store carries them and they are exclusive to SmoothDrawCigars.com. I’m not speaking for any particular brand, but something I found out early on in this business is that a lot of small batch brands don’t want to sell their cigars in stores. As crazy as that sounds, it makes sense if you think about it. Think about your personal experiences in a shop. Most consumers go to their brick and mortar store to pick up cigars they are familiar with. Even folks who don’t smoke on a regular basis typically don’t buy cigars they’ve never heard of before. This is the advantage we have as an online store. Many of our [future] customers have never heard of the brands we sell. We are confident that once they try them, they will fall in love and want to try them again.
Any cigars out there you are looking to try?
I’m always willing to try new cigars on a regular basis. I have a list of some cigars from Battleground Cigars that are in the que for reviews. I also have a few really rare cigars from Felipe Gregorio Cigars such as the Pelo de Oro Torpedo and the 1957 Series FG56 that are calling my name in my humidor.
What are some cigars you enjoy on a regular basis?
If I say all of them, am I a cop-out? Haha. I regularly smoke several of the brands we carry. Aside from boutiques, some of my go-to cigars are the Liga Privada #9, anything my buddy Jorge Nichols rolls from JNV Cigars, La Gloria Cubana Series N, and Nubs.
How have you been received in the community?
Let me ask my mom…. J I think most spectators are very skeptical. It’s challenging selling cigars no one has ever heard of before. It’s even more challenging selling rare cigars and competing with the mainstream brands. However, there is nothing more satisfying than having a customer contact us to let us know how much they enjoyed the cigars they purchased—which I can confidently say it happens all the time!
You have done some recent live events, care to discuss some of those?
Definitely! To create more exposure of our rare cigars, events are key. I’ve recently attended a clay shooting tournament for a local organization here in Oklahoma. They had nearly 300 shooters in which a sponsoring company purchased several cigars and allowed me to pass them out and talk to attendees about our cigars. Most recently, I teamed up with a local winery for a Cigar and Cabernet pairing event. We’re always looking for opportunities to get involved with the community. My goal is to get connected with a few golf courses in the near future to provide cigars for tournaments and charity events.
That’s great stuff. Wine and Cigars never really crossed my mind until I paired them and often I find myself pairing a great red wine with a nice cigar and it’s always been good.
What do you see happening in the future for Smooth Draw? Any projects you care to talk about?
We are currently working on a referral program that I’m extremely excited about. As a consumer myself, I love being rewarded for promoting businesses. So, we are working on a program that we think our customers will really love and truly benefit from.
We’ve also recently joined forces with a non-profit organization called Warriors for Freedom. They host events to help service members, veterans and their families reconnect with their community, provide peer to peer support and camaraderie. I’m really excited to announce we’ve added a way for our customers to donate cigars to the troops on our website. We are also assisting with their annual fundraiser in February. We’ll donate several boxes of cigars to hand out and allow all attendees to have a relaxing and enjoyable evening with a cigar.
I am personally looking forward to trying many of the cigars you carry. I have been intrigued by many of the cigars you carry for some time. What are some must try cigars in your opinion?
Definitely the ones you can’t buy anywhere else. I’d recommend trying all three of the Kolumbus Cigars. You can’t go without at least trying all of the Absinthe Infused and Defuser series from Alpha.
I appreciate your time and before we go, do you have anything else you care to discuss?
I’d encourage everyone who reads this interview to go to our site. Take some time reading the reviews, seeing what others have to say about them. If you have any questions, I encourage you to contact me. Our contact information is on our website. We love answering questions for beginners or providing suggestions based on your personal preferences. As always, thank you for supporting us and all of the small-batch and boutique brands we work with.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or contact Garrett on his site.
I hope you enjoyed the interview. If you have anyone that you would like to see an interview with, let me know. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends!