At around 10 pm, I was suddenly aware that I had taken up more than an hour of his time just chatting. Though we didn't talk much about Carolina Blue, Chris has big plans, and 2023 could be the year he and his cigars break through and become a household name. I did my due diligence in preparation for my interview with Chris, but I quickly found that I was having a great conversation with an interesting person who had seen and done a lot.
Carolina Blue is headquartered in Huntersville, located just north of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County. It is a scenic suburb with an agrarian and industrial past: fertile salt and pepper soil and rail service attracted prominent businessmen who founded mills, plantations, and schools. Tobacco and cotton were the primary cash crops.
Chris briefly spoke about his roots in tobacco farming, though his childhood experience and his current business appear to have no meaningful connection. He spends a lot of time in the factory and farms in the Dominican Republic, seeking the best tobacco for his products. Most, if not all, of the tobacco grown in his home state of N.C., goes into cigarettes and is inferior in quality to the premium tobacco found in Carolina Blue's impressive portfolio.
The cigar that stands out the most is the Habano. The dynamism, complexity, and construction put this cigar in competition with any great Habano on the market. The first pull was full of grass and pepper with a touch of leather. The leather gained strength, and I detected a hint of nuttiness about a minute in. The second third had smooth coffee and cocoa notes to round out the complexity. The pepper remained throughout, leaving a glow of mild spice on the lips. This cigar would pair well with a light roast coffee or a cocktail featuring coffee liquor.
Considering that he was packing for another weekend trip on behalf of Carolina Blue during the conversation, it would have been perfectly understandable if his mind was on more important things. If it was, I couldn't tell. Chris was fully engaged and insightful. Traveling is complicated and fraught with uncertainty. Even the best-laid plans can go awry. Flights can be overbooked, delayed, and canceled. Regulations, long waits, and nerves can make people stand-offish. Reservations can get mixed up, and the unknown can be a massive inconvenience.
Most of us keep our heads down and grind through the ordeal. When I asked him about his rigorous travel schedule, Chris had carefree wisdom in his tone, indicating that he had learned to navigate chaos with a smile. His kindness struck me as a low-key charisma that disarms people with their guard up. That type of easy-going way makes people relax and engage positively.
We talked a great deal about cigar culture and the quality of boutique cigars. We both agreed that boutiques often have more to offer than regular production cigars for the culinary cigar enthusiast. I never got around to asking about his service in the armed forces. There were a lot of questions I didn't get to, but a man only has so much time.
My conversation with Chris reminded me of a quote by Jerry Porras, which reads as follows: “When you put together deep knowledge about a subject that intensely matters to you, charisma happens. You gain the courage to share your passion, and when you do that, folks follow.”