Cigar Makers

5 Cigars That Made My Career: Michael Giannini of Ventura Cigars

5 Cigars That Made My Career: Michael Giannini, General Manager/Creative Director of Ventura Cigars

Michael Giannini is a name some cigar smokers might not instantly recognize, but odds are, you’ve smoked at least one of the cigars he’s had a hand in developing. Among them are cigars made by La Gloria Cubana, Foundry cigars, and most recently, Archetype, Case Study, and PSyKo cigars. Now a resident of California, Michael was born and raised in Philadelphia. While studying to be a Psychologist, his pre-cigar business career was spent as a chef. Working so intimately with food is what helped Michael develop his palate, so if anyone knows flavor, it’s Michael.

His career in the cigar industry spans almost 40 years, starting as a pipe tobacco blender and retail clerk at a local Philadelphia tobacco shop. That gig led to a fulltime sales job after the Cigar Boom, working first at Ashton Cigars, then at La Gloria Cubana. After the La Gloria brand was sold to General Cigar Company in 2009, Giannini took a senior marketing role working alongside Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, founder of the Dominican-made La Gloria Cubana cigars. During his time there, he created Team LGC, where he launched groundbreaking products and initiatives including the creation of the Foundry Tobacco Company, General Cigar’s innovation platform, which took an eclectic approach to traditional premium cigar making.

I sat down with Michael in his Moorpark, California office on the grounds of Kretek International where he now serves as General Manager and the Creative Director for the Ventura Cigar Company. Since joining Ventura, Michael has been leading the brand’s vision and development for all of its proprietary products.

“As we continue to receive top ratings for our Archetype, PSyKo, and Case Study brands, we’re also forging bold, straight paths toward new products and steady growth,” says Michael.

Michael has worked with so many blends over the years, the resulting cigars would probably be easier to weigh than count. So, while smoking some new PSyKo Seven Nicaragua Robustos, I handed my cell phone to my son Eliot, and asked Michael to recall the cigars that had the strongest impact on his illustrious career.

#1. Macanudo Portofino

Size: 7″ x 34 Panatela
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Shade
Binder: Mexico
Filler: Dominican
Strength: Mellow

One of the true classics among Dominican-made cigars that remains a regular favorite for new cigar smokers, Michael discovered these mellow tubo cigars many years ago while working as a chef. His head chef had given him 10 Portofinos to try as an alternative to smoking a pipe. As one who enjoys the flavor and aroma differences between pipe and cigar tobaccos, Michael still smokes the occasional pipe, saying, “It keeps my palate sharp.”

#2. La Gloria Cubana Serie R No.5

Size: 5½” x 54 Robusto
Wrapper: Sumatra (Ecuador)
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaraguan Ligero & Dominican Olor
Strength: Full

Renowned for its beefy ring gauges and full-flavored profile, the La Gloria Cubana Serie R selection delivers an amazing spiciness, and powerful, yet refined flavor. Working in sales for General Cigar, Michael discovered this cigar on the recommendation of one of the regional sales managers. Also available in a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, this cigar was created by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, whom Michael began working with on blends one year later.

#3. Foundry Cigars

Wrapper: H 47 Pleno Sol, aged 8 years (Costa Rica)
Filler & Binder: Proprietary (including tobaccos from Nicaragua, Mexico, and Brazil)
Strength: Medium-plus

Released in 2012, the Foundry Tobacco Company was Michael’s brainchild, and the cigars were unlike any others on the market at the time. Inspired by the Steam Punk trend and garnished with a metal gear around the band, the line featured five proprietary tobaccos from four different countries – leaves that had never before been used by General Cigar. Although they are no longer in circulation, Foundry remains one of Michael’s most rewarding projects.

#4. Archetype Dreamstate

Size: 6″ x 50 Toro
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: (Multinational)
Strength: Medium

The Archetype selection is inspired by the work of psychologist Dr. Carl Jung and mythographer Joseph Campbell who defined ‘archetypes’ as the constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures. Archetype Dreamstate offers a smooth, mild to medium-bodied cigar enveloped in a silky Connecticut-seed wrapper that reveals a complex bouquet of fruit, vanilla and white pepper.

#5. Archetype Strange Passage Short Robusto

Size: 4½” x 50
Wrapper: Box-pressed Habano (Ecuador)
Binder: Honduran Corojo
Filler: (Multinational)
Strength: Full

This cigar received a 92 in Cigar Aficionado for its multi-dimensional, full-bodied flavor profile that changes gears throughout the smoking experience. The blend is a full-flavored fusion of prized long-filler tobaccos from different countries bound in a Honduran Corojo leaf and box-pressed in a flawless Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The result is an impressively complex, medium-full smoke with notes of fresh-roasted coffee and aged wood that segue to an earthy, fruity and spicy finish.

Bonus: PSyKo Seven Nicaragua (Not Yet Released)

Wrapper: Vintage Desflorado (Nicaragua)
Binder & Filler: Nicaragua
Strength: Medium

Since Michael was so passionate about the PSyKo Seven Nicaragua, I let him have one more for the road. Created by Indiana Ortez, daughter of famed master blender, Omar Ortez, this cigar is not officially due out until after the 2019 IPCPR trade show. Michael notes that it’s “one of the most impressive cigars” he’s had the opportunity to smoke and market.

With thanks to Michael Giannini.

Five Cigars that Made My Career is a recurring Cigar Advisor series.