Interview with Nicholas Syris of LH Premium Cigars

LH-BandSmallThe Hoochly team was fortunate to spend some time with Nicholas Syris of LH Premium Cigars, Nick shared with us his story from the beginning, what brought him into the cigar industry, his current projects and his Cuban trip experiences.

Nicholas_Syris_GreceHoochly: Tell us a little bit about yourself, who is Nicholas Syris?
Nick: I’m a Greek born American Citizen.  It is apropos that my family lineage comes from tobacco farming families in northern Greece. My parents came to the United States when I was just a toddler seeking the American Dream they heard about in the “old country.”  I’m a husband and a father that believes you should always follow your dreams, do what you love, work hard and strive for success! Success for me is the continuous journey toward the achievement of my goals!

Hoochly: What did you do for work before you got into the cigar business and how did you transitioned to cigars?
Nick: I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life.  I started my first business (a computer consulting firm) when I was still in high school. I cultivated it through my college years and I never looked back!  Eventually I sold the computer consulting firm to pursue my first real passion – electronics.  I’ve always been a gadget and technology junkie so my evolution into the electronics industry was seamless. I always loved music and movies so my passion turned into a successful retail and custom installation audio/video business. With an anchor retail store based in New Jersey my company designed and installed personal home theaters. We started out in the northeast part of the state but worked with clients nationally and internationally.  It was a fun and dynamic business that allowed me to meet and befriend many interesting people.  Ironically, it was sharing a cigar that lead to a unique friendship with a Saudi Royal Prince. He also became a client and I traveled to the middle east where I designed theaters for his palaces and other Royals. It was the bond of the cigar that we shared that was the genesis of our friendship.
Lavida_Habana_Lounge_ExteriorHoochly: Tell us the story of how cigars became your business and how did LH Cigars and Lavida Habana Cigar Lounges started?
After almost 20 years in the technology business, I found myself being more consumed by my interest for premium cigars.  It seemed like everything kept leading me back to my family’s roots in tobacco.  I remember as a child spending summers in northern Greece helping my grandparents and extended family sort tobacco. I either caught the tobacco “bug” as a child that lay dormant in me or perhaps it was simply always a part of my DNA.  Now, the aroma of dried tobacco leaves is nostalgic for me.Throughout my adult years, cigars were always instrumental in forming great bonds with clients and colleagues in business.  Nicholas_Syris_and_PartnerEventually, it became my business.  My long time friend and now business colleague Omar Nasr, was tasked with putting together what became the first private cigar lounge in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was the personal business manager for that first Prince I met.  Our business relationship grew through the years, but again it was the mutual love and passion for cigars that was the foundation of our friendship. Lavida_Habana_Lounge_Inside I was asked to be a part of that project, and that project turned into the Lavida Habana Cigar Lounges.  Part of my responsibilities were to assist procuring hard to find, limited edition and “special” cigars for the private clientele of the lounges.  A number of our members are Royals and they were accustomed to the finer things and that didn’t stop at cigars. They expected excellence when it came to their own enjoyment of premium cigars.  Through a series of events the LH Premium Custom Rolled Cigar was created. It was originally crafted by master rollers in Cuba made specifically for their pallets and particular tastes.
LH__Premium_Cigars_Factory
Hoochly: The LH Cigar sold internationally started with a Cuban blend, tell us about it and how did they transitioned to be non-Cuban?
Nick: The first LH Custom rolled cigars were made entirely from Cuban tobacco. Initially it was difficult for our clients to appreciate the evolution of the cigars and how by blending tobaccos you can achieve more complex flavor profiles.  The entire world (outside of the U.S.) has a very skewed view on premium cigars.  The prevailing view is that only Cuban cigars are really worth enjoying and the rest are inferior.  It’s thought that Americans have to smoke non-Cubans because they cant’s smoke the “real” thing.  They even go so far as to call all non-Cuban cigars, “fakes!”  I wasn’t subscribing to any of that and it became my mission to introduce non-Cuban cigars to my clients.  Lavida_Habana_Lounge_ClienteleThe task proved more difficult than I initially expected. Just getting them to try non-Cuban cigars proved a struggle.  You have to understand their view point.  If you are used to a regular diet of a particular taste and flavor profile, as soon as something different was sampled, it was dismissed. They would immediately put it down and it was the end of discussion.  It was a process that took years of putting together an initial blend that was similar enough to what their palates expected but just different enough to peak their curiosities. This process culminated in the first non-Cuban blend of LH Cigars.
LH_Premium_Cigars_ Blends
Hoochly: The LH Cigar sold today you are using tobacco from many countries and regions tell us what the blend is, where are they made at and what can people expect in terms of strength, body and flavor profile.
Nick: LH Cigars today use wrappers from Ecuador, all from the same farm! Our current mild, medium and full bodied blends are all wrapped with Connecticut shade, Habano and Criollo seeded wrappers. The binders and fillers are primarily from Peru, and Nicaragua. We also use Dominican and Honduran as well as tobaccos from Brazil.  For me this is the most rewarding part of the business. We are constantly experimenting with tobaccos from regions from all over the world.  I love coming up with interesting and unique blends. It is especially rewarding when my fellow aficionados enjoy them.
LH__Premium_Cigars_Retail_Stores
Hoochly: LH Cigars were a global success and now they are available to us in the States, tell us where can we purchase LH Cigars?
Nick: I always considered LH Cigars an international cigar because they were first available outside the United States. But for me as an American it was always my dream to offer LH Cigars to the U.S. market.  Having been in retail all my life, I understand the plethora of choices already available to the American cigar smoker.  With literally over five thousand options available, did I really want to become the five thousand and first choice in an already crowded market?  The LH cigar grew organically overseas as our initial private clientele took and shared their LH cigars with their friends and fellow cigar lovers in other parts of the middle east and world.  I thought I should do the same and started getting people to smoke them here in the U.S.  I am slowly and methodically introducing it to new markets, one at a time.  Currently we have retailers in pockets throughout the U.S. We are looking for the right partners and brokers to help us continue to spread the LH word.  If you contact us at our website www.lhcigars.com, we would be happy to direct you to a retailer near you.  If there are no local tobacconists near you that carry LH we have a couple of our retailers that will ship to you!
Smooth_Draws_Radio_Show
Hoochly: Tell us about your collaboration with Smooth Draws Radio Show, what is your segment and what topics do you cover?
Nick: I was initially interviewed by the show as the brand owner of LH Premium Cigars.  Gary Laden, the driving force and host of the Smooth Draws Radio Show, based out of ESPN Radio 1230, The Fan, in Atlanta was very interested in my Cuba travels and experiences. He asked me if I was interested in being a contributor to the show.  What started out as a weekly segment, “Nick’s Notebook: A Cigar Enthusiast’s Guide to Cuba,” has now turned into me being a regular in a co-hosting capacity. For those of you outside of Atlanta, you can also hear us streaming live at SmoothDraws.com.  All of the episodes are available on demand via our website as well.
Cigar Guys Radio ShowWe offer a two-hour cigar lifestyle show every Saturday morning from 10 AM – Noon eastern standard time. It’s packed full of different segments ranging from cigar and spirits reviews, contests, Smooth Draws University (where we cover the basics), news and lots more. We encourage our listeners to call in. We engage with our audience and keep the show informative, entertaining and upbeat.
cuba1Hoochly: Tell us about your trips to Cuba, how long you’ve been going there and how often do you go?
Nick: I’ve been legally traveling to Cuba now since 2009.  As of late, my travels take me there on a very regular basis.  In fact now, because of my radio segments on Cuba travel and cigars I’ve begun to host some guided trips to Cuba. Our listeners, and those that follow us on social media can legally travel with me on one of my trips.  If anyone is interested in joining me in Cuba, please visit: http://www.smoothdraws.com/#!hosted-trips-to-cuba/u1oao
Nicholas_Syris_CubaHoochly: What do you do when you go to Cuba and what is the experience all about?
Nick: It’s all about the interaction with the Cuban people! People to People and cultural exchange. Oh, and did I mention I smoke a couple of cigars when I am there?  Seriously, for me it’s all about the cigar culture and experiences and enjoying them in the birthplace of the premium cigar!  You can listen to my cataloged segments about my travels and experiences to Cuba here: http://www.smoothdraws.com/#!hosted-trips-to-cuba/u1oao
Hoochly: What are your favorite Cuban cigars?
Nick: My personal favorite is the Cohiba Siglo VI.  The Cañonazo vitola also being a favorite cigar size.  That is my commercial favorite anyway.  The best part of visiting Havana is being able to experience some of the top master rollers private personal blends that they only share with visitors to their particular Casa del Habano.
Nicholas_Syris_National_Hotel_CubaHoochly: What is your favorite place or places in Cuba to smoke a cigar?
Nick: The first place that comes to mind for me, as well as for many cigar aficionados, is at the Hotel National. The back terrace or patio to be more precise is ideal. It’s a very popular meeting area for cigar lovers that have traveled from around the world to come, meet fellow cigar enthusiasts and have a fantastic smoking experience.
Nicholas_Syris_Cuba_Hoochly: What can you tell our readers about your personal views on cigar smoking and what does it mean to you?
Nick: Smoking a cigar for me has always about the experience.  It revolves around a premium cigar, but that’s just the beginning. The ambience of your venue always affects that cigar’s personal enjoyment. The social aspect of the cigar experience is really a critical component.  I’ve always said that the cigar is the great equalizer where people from all walks of lives, different cultures and various socioeconomic backgrounds can all bond over the experience of enjoying a cigar.  It’s where a Greek-American can connect and become friends with Royals from Saudi Arabia. It’s all about the cigar. I’m sure that is what the Taino Indians first discovered when they smoked tobacco. Then you had the peace pipe…. Okay, I’m really getting off topic here.  My point being simply, cigar smoking is all about the experience. Sure, the flavors and aromas enhance the ambiance and the social aspect complete it and make it an event! That’s what drew me to first becoming a lover of the leaf and then to wanting to be a part of this industry!
13 replies
  1. Joel Hoffman
    Joel Hoffman says:

    having been given one of these fine cigars by Ken Rein aka Dirty Grandpa i can attest these are quality cigars best shared in friendship

    Reply
  2. Tim McCabe
    Tim McCabe says:

    It’s always great to hear about how brand owners got their start in this business. Smooth draws is also a good show to tune in if you haven’t yet. Thanks for taking the time to give us some insight on your brand. Hope to try them someday. Thanks Hoochly for another great interview.

    Reply
  3. Omar Nasr
    Omar Nasr says:

    LH wouldnt be where it is now without the relentless passionate efforts of Nick of which the love of cigars especially quality premium cigars
    Are the core of it all
    👊😎😊💥💥💥

    Reply
  4. Perietta Migranté
    Perietta Migranté says:

    I enjoyed reading about the genesis of LH Premium Cigars as well as learning about Nick Syris’ personal history. The Lavida Habana cigar brand is on my top cigar bucket list. Thank you for the awesome interview.

    Reply

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