At the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Victor Vitale of Legacy Brands. I have been familiar with Vitale’s work in the cigar industry, and had only communicated with him via email. When I met Vitale in person, I found someone who has not only incredible knowledge of the cigar industry, but some incredible passion for this industry. During our conversation we discussed his company Legacy Brands and his new products – the Tortuga 215 Reserva, and the Ora Vivo Armand Assante. As the name indicates on the latter product, the Ora Vivo is a cigar being done in partnership with acclaimed film actor Armand Assante.
Since he got into the business in 1995, Vitale has been involved with many cigar brands over the years. This includes such names as Hammer & Sickle, ORTSAC 1962, and Ashford Bentley. Vitale had been involved in cigar production, distribution, and sales. He had a global distribution company called The Cigar Agency. Vitale recently sold that company to focus on his true passion – cigar production. Vitale wanted to get back to his roots – getting the right tobacco from the right growers and producing great cigars.
To focus on producing cigars, Vitale started a company Called Legacy Brands. As the face behind the company, the Victor Vitale silhouette is the marketing. The cigar brands under Legacy Brands are currently Tortuga and Ora Vivo.
Vitale explained to us that the company has a small batch, limited production focus. The company is using an appointed merchants program to distribute its product. If the level of production and tobacco supply cannot meet the demand of the current appointed merchants, no more Legacy Brands retailers will be opened. At this time Vitale does not have a sales force. He told us the appointed merchants do a great job in promoting the product – along with the consumer-based Tortuga Ambassadors program.
Vitale did tell us the trade show was very successful for him and that he approached the ceiling level he had set for the number of appointed merchants.
Tortuga 215 Reserva
|Tortuga 215 Reserva
The latest addition to the Tortuga line of cigars is the Tortuga 215 Reserva. This follows up previous cigars released under the Tortuga brand including the Tortuga Edicion Limitada 2011, Tortuga Maduro, and Tortuga Connecticut. All of the Tortuga cigars have been limited production, and the Tortuga 215 Reserva is no exception.
I learned a little about the name of this brand. The name actually came from Vitale’s father. Tortuga is Spanish for “turtle”. Vitale felt the name was very appropriate for the brand in terms of the focus on quality and not rushing a product to market. As he explained to me when it comes to his product, “Everything is done very slowly. Unless it’s right, it (the product) can’t be met“
As for the 215 in the name, this is a tie to Vitale’s roots in the city of Philadelphia. 215 represents the area code for the city. Vitale lives in New Hampshire now, but plans on returning to Philadelphia at some point in the future.
We previewed the Tortuga 215 Reserva back in July. It is a box-press Nicaraguan puro available in four sizes – Alma (5 x 54), Diplomatico (7 1/2 x 58), Tributo (6 x 56) and Triunfo 6 x 60. The line of cigars is more on the non-traditional side in that there is a focus around big ring gauges. This was done as a result of consumer feedback during the evolution of the cigar. It was the larger ring gauges had the most positive response. Vitale explained to us he opted to go to the non-traditional larger ring gauges because he wanted to, Fuel the passion of my followers and my consumers. I don’t want them to have to work or change what they are used to doing.” While the sizes are non-traditional, the banding and packaging is much more traditional. In regards to this paradox, Vitale said “How unique would it be to come out with an entire new line completely non traditional, which is the exact opposite of what of what the product is.”
Rest of the Tortuga Line
According to Vitale, the Tortuga 215 Edicion Limitada 2011 is nearing the end of its run. This is simply because of the availability of the tobacco for this blend. Vitale mentioned the only two sizes that are still available are the 5 1/2 x 56 and the 6 x 60.
Vitale mentioned the Tortuga Maduro and Tortuga Connecticut have finished their run because the tobacco size has been exhausted. Vitale mentioned he will be redeveloping them, but probably not until 2015. He wants to take his time and not rush the process.
Ora Vivo Armand Assante
|Ora Vivo by Armand Assante
This is the new line being launched in collaboration with actor Armand Assante, Gary Macchione of Boutique Cigar Brands, and Vitale. The Ora Vivo Armand Assante will be a Nicaraguan puro that will be launched in four sizes (5 x 54, 6 x 56, 7 1/2 x 58, and 6 x 60).
Vitale explained to us how the project developed. Assante is not only a big cigar enthusiast in his films, but a passionate one in his everyday life. He had always wanted to be in the cigar business. He had tried once before and wanted to take another run at it. Macchione was friend of Assante’s and the two approached Vitale about doing a cigar. In fact, Assante had been familiar with Vitalte’s Tortuga line.
Vitale felt bringing Assante in would be a big positive for the cigar industry, but wanted to make sure that the fit was right. Vitale described to me on what he proposed to Assante in that initial meeting: “If this is something you are looking to do as a license and put your name on it, I’m not interested. If this is something that you want to create because its a personal passion of yours and this is something you waited your whole life to do; and you are looking to create a legacy, than I am interested and I will partner will you.” Assante agreed and the project was born.
What followed was a weekend that Vitale would spend with Assante testing blends. Vitale told us that he really sensed the passion that Assante has for the cigar industry. After sampling many blends, a decision for the final blend was found. Assante made the final decision on the blend, and he came up with the name. The plan is for Assante to name the four vitolas that are being released.
Assante was at the IPCPR Trade Show for nearly the entire week. He spent time at the booth not just promoting a product he is very proud of, but talking to many people in the industry about the passion he has for cigars. Vitale was even more impressed with Assante’s passion and humbleness.
The Ora Vivo Armand Assante will officially be launched at a couple of events in New York City this Fall. Vitale said he is working on a program to bring Assante to a small amount of events as well.
Vitale is a well established member of the cigar community. It was really with the launch of Tortuga where he made the turn into the small batch boutique cigar world. He’s done an excellent job at building solid cigar brands and taking his time to get his products right. Perhaps as impressed as Vitale was with Armand Assante’s passion, I was equally impressed with Vitale’s passion. The next few months appear very exciting for Legacy Brands and I look forward to keeping an eye on what Vitale and his company will do.