You know as well as I do - marketing and hype is part of this business - you’ve all seen the glossy magazine ads. CI’s BlendLab does the opposite. We bypass the gatekeepers, the elites, the marketers, and the middlemen - and we bring the factory and blending rooms to you directly. Something you might not know about CI is that our staff collectively spends a full 6 months per year in man-hours of time in Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. That’s a full half of a year, every year, working in cigar factories. No other retailer comes remotely close to that commitment. We do it because we believe it matters.
Among the side benefits of all that time, is how extraordinary and informative the factory experience really is. A benefit not all cigar smokers get the chance to appreciate. It’s raw and authentic, romantic and gritty all at once, but always hands on. It’s hard to put into words: there’s a rhythm to the factory, with its myriad of aromas and cornucopia of intoxicating smells, its distinct and familiar cacophony of sounds, the buzz of activity in rolling, selection, fermentation, is simply captivating - whether it’s your first trip or your 100th.
Many of us, however, would argue that pressing our noses up against the veritable candy store that is the blending room may be the biggest treat of all. The blending process is the red beating heart that drives innovation and creativity in the cigar world. In each factory at the end of the day CI sets up shop in a large conference room where tray after tray of blends are brought for tasting. The process, aside from being highly enjoyable, is also iterative and time-consuming. The variety of blends can be staggering, the distinctions sometimes extremely subtle, and the opportunities for "what-ifs" and tweaking great. Often you get to taste blends that will never be released to the public, usually due to rare or small allotments of tobaccos from a particularly good crop year or type, too small such that it could never support an ongoing production cigar.
In all cases the blending experience is one of a kind....and bringing that to CI Nation was the motivation for BlendLab. Being part of this process, even more so influencing it, is a roll in the catnip for any premium cigar smoker....you’ll see. The selection of BlendLab blends will grow in size as worthy new blends are added, and turn over occasionally as inventory allows. Based on your input and reviews, one or more of these blends will ultimately go into production and become nationally distributed brands. The main thing is that you have fun exploring!