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 de Valle de Jalapa S.A. in Nicaragua. Many Warped cigars are produced only by category nine torcedores. As a boutique manufacturer, each Warped release is unique in construction and flavor, yet all Warped cigars are noted for their consistency.
Since its initial debut, Warped's range of premium cigars has received widespread critical acclaim, consistently scoring 90+ ratings in Cigar Aficionado and other major industry publications. That success, however, didn't happen overnight. The brand's achievements reflect years of hard work and dedication, of passion and perseverance.
Warped Cigars founder Kyle Gellis has been immersed in cigars and cigar culture since childhood. His father was an avid cigar connoisseur and taught him much about the subject, even allowing Kyle to choose and cut his cigars for him. "He'd let me cut it," Kyle said in a previous interview, "and then he'd have me sit with him while he smoked it in the study at home." As Kyle watched his father smoke, he would listen to his father's analysis of the cigar's draw and flavor, taking note of the overall experience. "He would explain to me, from the consumer's perspective, what he liked and didn't like about the cigar he was smoking. So I learned about cigars from the consumer's perspective from a young age."
The Story of Warped Cigars, courtesy of Warped Cigars
The first cigar Kyle ever smoked was a Montecristo No. 2, given to him by his father. "I was on the balcony of the cruise ship with him when we smoked them, and that is a memory I will never forget. The experience of that first cigar made me say 'Wow,' just because of everything that was going on. It was a rite of passage with my father, and it was a really special thing." It was more than the mere experience of sharing a cigar with his father, however; its smoothness and subtle spice set the precedent for what Kyle expected from a good cigar, a standard that stuck with him through college.
While pursuing a degree in Marketing, Kyle noticed something about the cigar market: no one was producing a true Cuban style cigar. Other blends seemed to focus on bold notes of black pepper and dominating spice, but Kyle was looking for the same subtlety and nuance he'd found in his first Montecristo. For this, Kyle knew he needed to create his own blends. "I knew what I wanted in terms of a blend. I wanted to create something that was light- to medium-bodied, but still complex and flavorful. Back then, that really wasn't the trend. It was more spice. There were still more classical sides, but it was more spice driven." Even for someone as passionate and learned as Kyle, gaining entry into the cigar industry was no easy task. It was a process of trial-and-error, of enduring many rejections for a single success.
He would explain to me, from the consumer's perspective, what he liked and didn't like about the cigar he was smoking. So I learned about cigars from the consumer's perspective from a young age. - Kyle Gellis
"I lived about an hour north of Miami. When I turned 18, I hopped in my car and drove down to Little Havana, and I just went from factory to factory, knocking on doors, seeing who would work with me. There were a lot more factories down there at that time, and I had many doors slammed in my face, except for one. That was Sandy at El Titan, and almost 13 years later, I'm still working there."
Even as El Titan became like a second home to him, those early years were still a challenge for Kyle. "It was kind of mind-altering, because I was learning a whole new aspect of blending. Luckily, I had a lot of the right teachers, I was around the right people." Kyle has come to appreciate the initial obstacles. "I think that the trials early on, from not finding a factory to having doors slammed in my face, it all just gave me the drive. If I'd gone anywhere other than El Titan in the beginning, I think I would've been sueded; I would not have seen the Cuban aspect of it."
That traditional Cuban influence is a core tenant of the Warped brand. From blending and construction to artwork and branding, Warped is heavily inspired by traditional Cuban cigars, especially when it comes to rolling. Critical to Kyle's initial instruction was a woman named Maria, who was a torcedera at Titan. "She'd recently arrived in Miami from Cuba, so I was able to learn manufacturing and rolling from her, the true Cuban way. All the rolls were Cuban, so I was immersed in the culture and techniques they'd brought back from their old country."
Even Warped's range of core vitolas and artwork are informed by old-school Cuban manufacturers. "When we did our first IPCPR show, the trend was extra large 60 and 70 ring gauge cigars. We released a 36 ring gauge with La Colmena. By doing that, we attracted a lot of people because we were just so different. We were exclusively different. Everyone in the cigar industry was just following the same trends and they still do to this day. I didn't want to be like everyone else, so we came out with small sizes and brought back traditional looking boxes. We were exploring traditional roots, looking back at Cuba and vintage artwork, but modernizing it a touch."
I think that the trials early on, from not finding a factory to having doors slammed in my face, it all just gave me the drive. If I'd gone anywhere other than El Titan in the beginning, I think I would've been sueded; I would not have seen the Cuban aspect of it. - Kyle Gellis
Critical to Warped's initial success was the community of early adopters it fostered through this exclusively different approach. "One thing that we enjoyed was how so many consumers adapted to the changes we were implementing. They just adopted it. They took it and they ran with it and the vision we had. We're forever grateful for all those consumers who believed in us." That community was paramount considering that Warped has never had official sales reps. "Traditionally, cigars are sold on a sales rep system. My vision was to always be different. I wanted to break down this system. When you go to a rep, the rep is just going to go to the shop owner and then try to pitch it. My strategy was to go directly to the consumer and pique their interest. I wanted consumers to go to the store owner and say that they want Warped cigars. This approach is more positive for the shop and it's more positive for the consumer. And that's the route we went. We have no reps, we have no brokers, we have no distributors. Our staff is full-time, in house, only with us in our offices in Jupiter. It's allowed us to really be who we are, because our team is 100% dedicated solely to Warped."
An Overview of Warped Cigars, courtesy of Warped Cigars
Warped continues to defy expectations and pursue their exclusively different path, having recently branched out into the pipe tobacco industry in collaboration with Cornell & Diehl. Warped's first pipe tobacco release, a limited edition blend called The Haunting, shifted the paradigm for cigar leaf-based blends. While many similar mixtures include Latakia, The Haunting consists primarily of cigar leaf and Virginia tobaccos, showcasing the delicious cigar notes and complementary sweetness of the Virginias. It's a blend that bridges the gap between cigars and pipes, catering to cigar and pipe smokers alike. For those who missed out on last year's edition, a new run of The Haunting is scheduled for release this fall.
Aside from that limited-edition release, Warped has expanded its core line to include a number of regular production blends as well. Kings Stride, Cloud Hopper, The Red Hunt, and Until The End are all excellent mixtures that challenge the status quo, representative of both Kyle's exclusively different approach and his commitment to quality and consistency, a commitment that has evolved and solidified since he first cut his father's cigars as a youth.