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Interview with Erik Huberman, Cigar Aficionado

CT: Can you give a quick overview of what you do professionally and why you do it? What do you
find most meaningful about your work? Does it involve cigars or tobacco in any way?

I’m Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO of Hawke Media. We’re an outsourced CMO and marketing team, so basically what we do is work with brands to identify their goals and marketing strategy. Then, we are able to spin up experts on an a la carte, month-to-month basis to build out their marketing—whether that’s Facebook marketing, email marketing, website design, or overall marketing strategy. I found that it’s really frustrating to find help in marketing. It’s really hard to find and afford talented marketers to hire in-house, and then you end up operating in a vacuum. If you’re trying to hire agencies, 99 percent of them have no history or background in being successful at actually growing businesses, and the few that are decent tend to be really expensive, want long contracts, have high minimums, or want something else that makes them hard to work with. The end result in the marketing ecosystem is that if you’re not a Fortune 1000 or a very sexy funded startup, you don’t get access to great marketing. The ecosystem felt broken, so we built Hawke Media on the concept and purpose that every founder and every company deserves top tier marketing. We’re going to bring it to them. My work does not involve cigars or tobacco in any way.

CT: Describe your first experience smoking a cigar. What attracted you to cigar smoking and what are some of the small details you remember?

It was a very old friend from birth’s wedding. We were hanging out in Tahoe in April, and it was snowing. We were drinking scotch and smoking cigars. I’ve always enjoyed the smell, but I’d never actually tried a cigar. I would always just turn one down because I didn’t know what I was doing, but these were a bunch of old friends. After a couple of drinks, I decided I would try one. The taste is similar to the smell in a good cigar, so it was a nice experience. It’s a good memory with some of my oldest friends. I’ve never had an interest in smoking cigars consistently, but from then on, although it hasn’t been often, it’s still a nice thing to do from time to time.

CT: What is your favorite cigar and why? What do you look for in a cigar?

When I was in Cuba, I bought cigars similar to Cohiba Esplendidos rolled in maple that have a sweet undertone. I was drinking Cuba Libres, which are actually just a rum and cokes, and smoking the cigars. That little bit of sweetness with the maple in there was a really nice combo.

CT: Has your taste in cigars evolved over time? What are some of the other cigars you have enjoyed
over the years?

I also enjoy Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo cigars. Because I had very little experience with cigars before going to Cuba, most of my true experience came from smoking a lot when I was down in Cuba. I got a good taste for it very quickly. After Cuba, I tried smoking some random cigars back in the States, and they were awful. I’m already spoiled when it comes to cigars, and a nice Cuban—whether it’s a Cohiba, Montecristo,
or Romeo y Julieta—is the best.

CT: Do you have a preference for where the tobacco comes from? If so, where and why? Cuba because, from my limited experience, they seem to make them the best.

CT: Describe your perfect setting / environment to smoke a cigar.
A pleasant night. Not too hot, not too cold, drinking scotch or rum, smoking a cigar, usually somewhere near a beach or on a beach, but somwhere nice outside for sure, with good people around. Last time I smoked
was my wedding.

CT: A lot of people enjoy smoking cigars at events such as weddings, corporate events, bachelor parties, birthday parties, etc. Of these events, what is your favorite event to enjoy a cigar in and why?

Definitely weddings because it’s a chance to actually take a moment with the people who are there. Weddings, especially for the groom, who’s usually one of the people smoking, are a crazy time. It’s nice to just sit down with some of the great people there, smoke, and hang out. It’s also usually at a point in the day when it’s needed. At a bachelor party, cigars usually come out, but it’s not like smoking a cigar at a wedding. At a bachelor party, you’re probably in the middle of the dance floor jumping up and down, whereas at a wedding you’re hanging out, taking a second, and that’s why it’s fun.

CT: Do you ever give cigars as gifts? If so, who do you give gift them to and on what occasions?

I wouldn’t say I give cigars as gifts. I brought back a lot of Cubans, so I share them with friends. It’s random, but that’s just my gifting style. I’m not really a big occasional gifter. I’m more like, “You’d enjoy this. Here you go.”

CT: What are creative ways cigar aficionados can incorporate cigar smoking into a business setting?

For people that like cigars, it’s a great opportunity to just get away from everything and hang out for a second. If you’re trying to build a relationship with someone and have a good conversation, it’s a lighter way to do so, the same way people use golf and other activities. It’s an opportunity to get to know someone and hang out. Because of the limitations of what you’re going to be doing when you’re smoking a cigar, you’re probably not sitting in an office or a busy place. You’re separating yourself and just talking to people.

CT: Do you find that your friends who are not cigar smokers understand the cigar culture? If not, what key points do you explain to them?

I don’t really take it upon myself to be an ambassador of the cigar world. If you’re into it, great. If you’re not, we don’t really talk about it.

CT: What is one thing you haven’t mentioned yet that you would like everyone to know about your love for cigars?

It’s worth visiting Viñales, which is the cigar country in Cuba, because it’s really green and beautiful, like the Napa Valley of Cuba. It’s nothing like you would expect, and it’s really where I fell in love with cigars. It’s more the memory of being out there than anything.