Monday, June 13, 2011

Sam Leccia: Master of His Own Domain
Those who know me understand I have a fondness for a good cigar. I won't smoke just anything though. Behind me are the grocery store brand days. No, I am not a cigar snob, but I know a good one when I smoke it. My taste in cigars has grown as has my taste for a fine wine.  

Late last year I had the opportunity to photograph a cigar launch event at Taylor's Cigar Lounge in Long Beach, CA. It was there that I met Sam Leccia, the then face of Cain/Nub Cigars. I had never spent the time to watch someone handcraft a cigar before. To say it was cool would do it a disservice. I photographed Sam as he handcrafted some beautiful cigars for people. Many comments heard throughout the night related to the fact that they looked too beautiful to smoke. They were right. The artful precision he took to make each one unique was incredible to watch. At the end of the night I was handed one of his hand-rolled creations. To this day it was one of the best cigars I have ever smoked. I had to sit down for over an hour to relish it.

Sam puts his heart and soul into what he believes in. He has since departed from his former employer and formed his own company, the Sam Leccia Cigar Company. As he prepares to launch his first master creation, "Debut", he recently took some time out to answer a few questions for The SoCal Bowhunter.

The Master crafting a signature blend in Long Beach, CA in 2010.

SoCal Bowhunter: Hi Sam! I know a lot has happened since the last time we saw each other. Let me back track a bit, what made you want to get into hand-rolling cigars and creating unique blends?

Sam Leccia: I have been smoking cigars since I was 15. I used to go into the walk-in humidor at the local mall just for the aroma. I was hooked early on. Like most people that I run into, I was fascinated with the rolling process of cigar making. I used to deconstruct just to learn how to re-make them. I would switch wrappers from different cigars, then re-arrange the blend. they never looked pretty, but it was a great leaning experience. I rolled my first cigar from raw tobacco about 11 years ago, and have become better and better at it. I like to try different things to get different results. it's just something I enjoy doing. I have been able to turn my hobby into my life, and for that it is very gratifying.

SCB: Your debut cigar, aptly named "Debut" is about to be launched. Would you describe the blend for us?

Sam: I am very excited about the
"Debut". The dark oily wrapper is Habano grown in Ecuador. The blend consists of tobaccos grown in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Santo Domingo. It is a med to full blend with a chalk white ash, and a nice draw with ample amounts of smoke. The flavors I would describe as a hint of coffee, almond, and a rawness that I really enjoy.

SCB: How many names did you have to go through before choosing
"Debut" as the front-runner? 

Sam: Hundreds. Literally hundreds. Some I will use for future lines, but
"Debut" kept sticking out and was appropriate.

SCB: I am going to take a guess and say that you've probably already sold out of the first run, with just pre-orders, right? When can we expect it to hit the market fully?

Sam: The response has been truly humbling. I have been overwhelmed with it all, and I couldn't be more appreciative.
"Debut" should start shipping in July.

SCB: Knowing your unique style, have you any plans for future cigar blends?

Sam: I have lots up my sleeve. One thing that I am doing right off the bat is playing around with some limited release cigars and some unique prototypes. The best part is, you will not be able to buy them, you will have to find them. I will be hiding one in a select amount of boxes of the debut. I think it's a fun way to get out some of the things I plan on releasing in the future.

What type of box will you be packaging these in? Is there a special wood that you like for this blend?

Sam: Funny you should ask. The boxes for
"Debut" will not be made of wood. The boxes are made here in the USA, and are made from 100% recycled and 100% non toxic materials. The rains forests in Honduras, Nicaragua and Brazil are being depleted in devastating numbers. While I do not propose to be "green" I am proud of the fact that I am not responsible for one tree cut from the rain forest. I am excited about the packaging. It looks great, I hope others follow suit.

SCB: Any plans in the works to do a tour to promote the Sam Leccia Cigar Co. line?

Sam: I will certainly be hitting the road. I can't wait to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

SCB: Being the graphic designer and photographer that I am, I have to say that I am totally digging your logo, ahem, I mean brand. Some brands are just tossed around, but this one totally fits you. Any special significance behind the design?

Sam: Well, the Ankh cross that centers the logo is one of the oldest known symbols in the world. It represents eternal life, or some interpret it to mean Eternal Peace. Either way, I like that. As far as the rest of it? what better to protect Eternal Life than with Mythical dragons. It just seemed fitting, I think it's a 21st century rendering of the past. I respect history and traditions, so much so that I hope to create my own.
SCB: Now you know, if you do make it out to SoCal again for an event, you can guarantee I'll be there, camera in hand looking for those unique shots.

Sam: Well I would hope so, we had a blast last time we got together, and I look forward to hanging out again.

SCB: For the outdoorsman, that love to chill outside with a smoke and a tasty beverage, what would you suggest to go with the Debut? Normally, I love a good scotch or a slightly chilled bourbon.

Sam: Well, I like all those that you suggested. I think it mostly depends on my mood and the weather. Some good microbrew beers are always a fine compliment to a good cigar. My rule of thumb is simple: if it has a proof I'll drink it, and if it burns, I'll smoke it.

SCB: If we found you enjoying a
"Debut" in Pittsburgh where would it be?

Sam: While it certainly wouldn't be hard to catch me at some of the local cigar shops here in the Burgh, I truthfully enjoy a cigar when I can be alone enjoying it by the Monongahela River or just hiking in the woods. I get very little alone time, which is how I like it, but I do value the moments I get to be alone. I like to reflect and make new goals with myself, soul searching kind of stuff, and a cigar helps pull that out of me.

Sam, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to answer my questions. We all look forward to seeing things once again take off for you. Cheers!


  1. Al, I really enjoyed the interview, and looking back at those shots you captured, I am very impressed! I hope you get a chance to photograph one of his events again, because it is such a cool setting.

    I will have to keep my eye out for the Debut.

  2. Awesome interview and photo! My husband loves his Spanish Crook cigars but these sound too good not to try. I'll definitely be on the look out for them.

    I love your Webbed Foot Photography logo too. Very creative and eye catching!