From the sizes and vitolas, to the overall construction and flavor, Warped Cigars are made the Cuban way, using techniques like the Cuban triple cap, historic covered foot, or entubado bunching, at either El Titan de Bronze factory in Miami or at Casa Fernandez's Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. in Nicaragua. Many of their sticks are produced only by category 9 torcedores. As a boutique manufacturer, each Warped release is unique in construction and flavor, yet all Warped Cigars are noted for their consistency. On part two of this episode of Smoke Rings, I'm joined once again by Kyle Gellis, founder of Warped Cigars. Tune in as we discuss his first cigar, various hobbies and interests, plus some crazy doppelgänger stories you won't want to miss.
Note: The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.
[Tim]: What was the first cigar that made you say, "Wow", or that made you want to do this as a passion. And also, if you can remember back, what was the first cigar you smoked? You said it was a Montecristo?
Kyle: It was a Montecristo No. 2, handed to me by my father. I was on the balcony of the cruise ship with him, and we smoked 'em and that is a memory I will never forget.
[Tim]: Was that also the first cigar that made you say, "Wow, holy crap this is amazing?"
Kyle: I think it was just the experience of that one made me say that, just because of everything that was going on. It's kind of like that rite of passage with your father, and it was kind of a cool thing. But I think that the cigar that made me look at blends differently was a custom roll that I smoked with my friend, Ryan, in 2008, 2009. It was a Reynaldo custom roll. It was a 5 1/2 x 44. And it just made me look at everything differently. Just the sweetness of it, the fruit notes to it, the subtle spice to it, the aroma to it, you know. Everything. I'm like, "Wow. This is what a cigar should be," and then that was the inspiration for La Colmena.
[Tim]: I was gonna ask you 'cause you also have a Don Reynaldo.
[Kyle]: My Don Reynaldo was actually inspired by my family; my dad's name is actually Ronald. But we call him Reynaldo as a joke. So, it was just Don Ronaldo and he likes it; he thinks it's very funny.
[Tim]: Okay. The next question is, if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently, or would you?
[Kyle]: I don't think I would. I think that the trials and tribulations that I went through early on, from not finding a factory to having doors slammed in my face. I think that all just gave me the drive. I think if I went anywhere else other than Titan in the beginning, I think I would've been sueded, I would not have seen the Cuban aspect of it. I think everything happens specifically for a reason. Where I ended up, who I work with now, I think it all ended up that way for a reason. We are surrounded by such a small group of great people, with great material and a great mentality. I believe that it was all meant to be this way, and so far, it's been fantastic. I have my Cuban family, who I love very much, and I'm always learning from them. We always laugh, and it's crazy to think that we've been together for this long. But, you know, we're still going. We're still happy and everything is just — we were just talking to Sandy about a week ago, and she was like, "I saw you on Cigar Aficionado" or whatever; she's always so excited.
[Tim]: And then she told me you look skinny and you needed to eat a sandwich.
[Kyle]: Yeah, exactly. She said I need to eat, she said, "You're too skinny." She started talking, and she goes, "I can't believe it. I remember when this skinny little white kid came in to my shop." She says it with so much endearment, but she started laughing. She goes, "I remember when you walked in. I just remember when you walked in off the street."
[Tim]: Just a small kid with a passion for something.
[Kyle]: "You wanted to learn and you came in," and I'm like, "Sandy, I remember; it's been 13 years." And we just started having a good laugh about it.
[Tim]: That's awesome. I mean, that the more you hear about it, the more realize: That's just a great story and it's cool that you still have those connections and you keep those. I mean that's a testament to a person hold on to those relationships over distance and time. So that's a good thing.
[Kyle]: Yeah, I talk to her constantly, I see her all the time. Even when I get back, I'm down there next Thursday, I'll be at Titan and then Saturday as well. I usually try to go on Saturdays; it's a little more quiet. It's always kinda cool when you go down there. Like, I'll be sitting in the back and you know, I'm talking to her, or I'm in the bail room working, and she's like "Kyle, come out, some people are here and their favorite cigar is La Colmena." And I'm like, "Did you tell them I'm here?" She goes, "No." So it's a surprise for them when I come out, 'cause people can find me down there. We don't do many events, so me being out and being seen, people are excited. But other than that, it's a whole thing, 'cause I can give them the whole tour, go over a blend with them, and smoke with them; we get lunch, coffee, you know, it's a whole thing.
[Tim]: That's pretty awesome. It's cool that you can connect to people like that. And they're surprised to see you; that's awesome.
[Kyle]: Yeah, it's really nice.
[Tim]: All right, a little bit about Kyle 'The Man.' What are your hobbies? What do you do when you're not blending and packaging and promoting cigars with this video. What do you do for fun?
[Kyle]: I have two very large dogs. I usually like to decompress and play with them. We live about two miles from the beach, so we constantly go to the beach with them. And then, wine's a big passion of mine. So just learning about wine and the history of it — from Bordeaux to Roan, Burgundy, you know all that kind of stuff. I used to run a lot; I used to run very long distances. I had to stop doing that. The hip gave out, but you know, it's okay.
[Tim]: The hip gave out and you're that young; you gotta be careful.
[Kyle]: Yeah, the doctor said, "Do you wanna walk normally when you're a little bit older, or do you want to—" And I'm like, "No, I do. I do." And he's like, "I suggest you stop running." So I did.
But, for me, being so involved in Warped, my mind is constantly on it. Decompression to me is when my mind can just shut off, and that's when I'm playing fetch with the dogs, or we're out and about, or I'm having dinner with friends, or cooking. I love to cook. I also like to come up with pairings for wine and scotch and bourbons with food and host people at the house. Things like that.
[Tim]:That's pretty awesome. We talked a little bit about the wine. The wine has nothing to do with the cigars? Or do you blend based on what you're drinking and things like that?
[Kyle]: No, not really. I'm a huge fan of wine, and I started producing wine a few years ago in Napa. I did do a Syrah out of Santa Barbara; it's called Moments in Havana. They wouldn't let me smoke in the winery when I was blending, so I had them bring all the material outside on the curb, and I blended the wine outside on the curb while smoking the cigar. So it's called Moments in Havana; it's since sold out, but it was a Syrah that I blended with cigars in mind.
[Tim]: Nice, congratulations. All right, so before we get into the next fun part the interview. Why don't you tell us where people can find you on social media.
[Tim]: Nice, nice. All right, we're getting into the fun questions now. Some of them were user submitted, so we're just gonna go ahead and call this like the Rapid Fire Round. We'll start off easy, what's your favorite movie?
[Kyle]: Ooh. That's a hard one. I would say Godfather or Boondock Saints.
[Tim]: Godfather III, right?
[Tim]: Favorite song and also favorite album?
[Kyle]: Favorite song and album are on the same thing. That would be Dead Presidents off of Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z.
[Tim]: That's a very respectable choice. You're obviously a foodie; you said you like to cook and all that, so favorite food?
[Kyle]: Oh, steak.
[Tim]: Can I ask the cut? 'Cause I lived in the midwest.
[Kyle]: It depends. I'm a sucker for a good Filet, but Strip has become in like a very good portion of my life now.
[Tim]: Ribeye all the way.
[Kyle]: Yeah, you and Scott would get along, then, in the office.
[Tim]: Scott, I'm coming down, we are gonna eat a Ribeye.
[Kyle]: Yeah, I took him to Cut, and he made sure to get the Ribeye, over in Vegas, so yeah. Ribeye's a little heavy.
[Tim]: You go to Nicaragua a lot. You live in Florida, which is a destination place, but where do you vacation?
[Kyle]: Oh, Scotland. Edinburgh.
[Tim]: Scotland is your go to? Yeah. And that's probably 'cause of your love of all things related to booze, correct?
[Kyle]: Correct, but also one of my very long-time good friends, Ryan, lives there with his wife and his daughter, and I just love seeing him and traveling around Scotland. I mean, it's a beautiful beautiful country. It lets my mind shut off. But then also, I love going to France as well. Paris in October and Champagne.
[Tim]: That's pretty awesome. This next question is from a friend in the industry who posed this question to us at the trade show: If you could erase one movie and erase one song from your memory, so that you could watch them and listen to them again for the first time, which would they be?
[Kyle]: Ooh. If I could erase it? It would have to be my favorite movie, then, 'cause I wanna relive that experience. It would probably be Boondock Saints again. Just because of the first time I saw it. You know, being Irish and all of that, it's relatable. Plus also living in New York, and then going to Boston a lot as a kid like, you understand it.
[Tim]: It's a great cult classic movie. What about a song?
[Kyle]: Probably, 22's off Reasonable Doubt. Just because being able to hear all that the lyrical play on it is amazing. Probably those two.
[Tim]: Okay. Those are good answers. Do you wanna give a shoutout to your pets? What are your dogs names?
[Kyle]: Oh, Apollo and Sarto.
[Tim]: Apollo and Sarto, okay. Do you have any celebrity doppelgängers, or has anyone ever told you you look like somebody?
[Kyle]: Yeah, I do. So there are two stories that are funny, and they're both about the same actor. So when I was living in the city, this was probably 8 years ago. I had no beard, it was just stubble, and my hair was parted to the side. It was the beginning of winter, so I had a peacoat on, and the collar was popped because the wind coming down the avenue was treacherous. I had sunglasses on and all that, walking, and all the sudden, a group of people started staring at me. I was waiting to cross the street, and they came over and they said, "Can we take our picture with you?" And I pulled my other ear bud out and I was like, "What did you just ask me?" They said, "Can we take our picture with you?" I was like, "Sure?" It was a group of teenage girls, like the mom was there. So they started taking pictures, and I'm like, "Who do you think I am?" I had no clue, and they're like, "You're Ryan Gosling." And I went, "No, I'm not."
[Tim]: You didn't even wanna play it up?
[Kyle]: No, I did the second time. In the second story I did. I was on the subway, and there was a tourist couple that was there. They had a very large camera. So they were like staring at me, and I'm sitting there, and you can see he's trying to pull like one of the snaps and not be obvious with it. So I was like, "Do you guys need a photo?" She's like, "Yes, do you mind? I can't believe I'm meeting Ryan Gosling," and I'm like, "Ah, thanks for being such a big fan," and taking a picture with her and stuff like that. They got off the subway all ecstatic, and I'm like, "that was really funny." Both the same person.
[Tim]: But nothing with the beard?
[Kyle]: Oh, Connor McGregor with the beard and suit. Yeah. If I shave my head lower and the beard was a little bit shorter, yeah. I've been stopped for that before. Not as many tattoos and not nearly as large.
[Tim]: All right, the next one's the last one. I've seen this happen in the industry over the years, and I still don't fully understand it, but I can appreciate the art. Have you ever seen anyone that's came up to you and wanted to show you their tattoo of Warped, or any of your brands, or anything Warped related that they've gotten on their body?
[Kyle]: Yes. It was the Oso bear. It was on his forearm. And the story of it was really humbling. I asked him, "Why did you get that on your arm?" and it happened that it was the last cigar that he and his father had smoked together before the father passed. So he got that tattooed on him. I was very happy. And I'm like, "That's amazing. I'm so glad you got that memory." So that's the only tattoo that anyone's ever gotten of any of our brands. I'm still waiting for someone to get a tiny Kyle tattooed on them somewhere, but, they haven't done that yet.
[Tim]: Get a tiny Kyle, Instagram him, Facebook him, and let him know where it's at. You never know what's gonna happen.
[Kyle]: If you get a tiny Kyle tattooed on you, I'll give you a box of Moon Garden.
[Tim]: You can't just get tiny Kyle, though, you have to get the full picture of him, just like the pen.
[Kyle]: Yeah, just like the pen. Just bring that to the tattoo artist be like, "I want this, but full size."
[Tim]: Yeah. There we go.
[Kyle]: Do you have a personal question you wanna ask? Yourself?
[Tim]: What's your Warped favorite cigar? It's somethin' I just wanna know.
[Kyle]: Sky Flower. La Colmena is right there, but Sky Flower, just because of the specialness of the medio tiempo leaf and things like that, it's really hard to beat.
[Tim]: Okay, awesome. Well, that's all I have. I want to thank you for coming by and sitting down with me and answering these questions. We're so glad we have Warped in our portfolio, and look forward to everything you have to offer in the future. And congratulations, again, on your success.
[Kyle]: Thank you so much, I appreciate it. Thanks guys.