While at the 2008 International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers – IPCPR (formerly known as the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America – RTDA) this past July, I had the pleasure of meeting Johnny Soyak, or, “Forbidden Johnny” as he’s known in the cigar industry. Johnny is the creator of the famous Cigar in the Bottle, and this is his story….
A few years back, Johnny discovered a wonderful French alcohol in the Normandy region of France, known as Calvados. This spirit, “Grand Pommier” (French for “The Great Apple Tree”), made by the Pere Magloire Calvados distillery, utilizes hundreds of different red and green apples which they grow in the region to make their Calvados. The apples are hand-selected at differing times throughout the growing season, washed in purified water, then juiced. The juice is double-distilled and placed in French oak casks and aged for another 30-40 years. Johnny told me that this double-distilling makes the Calvados more like a cognac rather than a brandy.
Johnny sent Carlos Fuente, Jr. a “blind taste” of the Grand Pommier XS Calvados. Carlos Jr. thoroughly enjoyed this fine sample! He responded back to Johnny, saying, “These are the finest grapes I’ve ever tasted.” Johnny replied, “They are not grapes, they are apples!” Carlos Jr. was very intrigued. With one hand, as if he was holding an apple, Carlos Jr. would say, “Forbidden Apple.” With the other hand raised, he would say, “Forbidden X.” This continued: “Forbidden Apple…” Forbidden X…” “You must be Forbidden Johnny!”
With that, Carlos Jr. set out to create an unmatched cigar that would be the perfect pairing for the Calvados. Prior to all of this, in the early 1990’s, the Fuentes had planted the “forbidden” Cuban seed in the rich soils of the Chateau de la Fuente fields of the Dominican Republic. The tobacco produced from these plants would soon become the world famous Fuente Fuente Opus X, the first puro, where the filler, binder, and wrapper were all grown in the Dominican Republic.
Unknown to Carlos Jr. at that time, this would be the tobacco used for his new cigar. Using the best aged leaves from this Cuban-seed tobacco, Carlos Jr. sought out his best rollers to create an original masterpiece. Once the cigars were rolled to a perfect 6 3/8 x 49, they were placed in imported empty French oak Calvados casks for 45-60 more days. This was the birth of the famous Fuente Fuente Forbidden X cigars!
Through trial and error, Johnny patented a bottle that encapsulates this cigar. With a custom Humidipak which assures ideal conditions for the cigar, the bottle is filled with Grand Pommier XS Calvados, leaving the appearance that the cigar is suspended in the Calvados – a truly awesome illusion and a remarkable centerpiece for anyone’s collection. The combination of the cigar inside the Calvados, we have the induction of the Cigar in the Bottle. Johnny gives credit to his partner Matt Bogosian in helping to launch this remarkable ensemble!
Here’s something a lot of us don’t know: The Fuente family’s leadership and support to their homeland. Created by Carlos Jr., the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation (http://www.cf-cf.org) continues to give back to their country in immeasurable ways, including a Cigar Family Community Complex, which will house a school, medical facility, adult training center, and a recreation facility. There are several other projects underway, including water sanitation, health projects, and youth development and support. 100% of contributed money goes directly to the charity. All overhead expenses are underwritten by the Fuente and Newman families! And a portion of every Cigar in the Bottle sold goes directly to this charity. They have numerous charity events, including the famous Toast Across America. Please check out their website for more information and contribute to their cause!
Now, on to the exciting news! Can you get any better than the Cigar in the Bottle? How about a new release? That is correct! Forbidden Johnny and Carlos Jr. are coming out with a new Forbidden X project. I can’t give you all the details, but I’ve seen the design (Wow!) and I’ve seen the new band (Oh my!!). Want a hint? What is the best known spirit that accompanies cigars? Soon to be released! I am certainly looking forward to this one!!
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