[caption id="attachment_16257" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sam Waltz
Cigars have enjoyed a special place in American history virtually since the first landings of the colonists who found that the American Indians had cultivated tobacco and developed a good smoke.
While tobacco has been grown in favored climates and soils across the country - as proximate as Kent County and even by Amish in Lancaster County, Pa., Delaware seems never to have had its own cigar-producing company. Until now.
Chris Weber, 32, who was raised in Hockessin and lives today in Middletown, owns and runs Veritas Cigars, which he founded in 2011 with buddy David Larason, who some time ago moved on to other ventures.
Found at VeritasCigars.com, Weber is hosting whatever is the equivalent for cigar smokers of a tasting at 6 p.m. on May 17 at the Firestone Roasting House restaurant, on the Christina Riverfront at 110 S. West St.
Attendance numbers are limited, so RSVPs to Burgh1983@Yahoo.com, an e-mail address that reflects the Weber family roots in Pittsburgh where his DuPonter father attended Carnegie Mellon and his mother attended Pitt.
"It's rewarding for me to see the country - even Europe, as well - rediscover the taste and quality of a good custom-blended distinctive-tasting boutique cigar," said Weber, whose cigars can be found in a number of places, including a Peoples Plaza cigar store.
As the entrepreneur for seemingly Delaware's first-ever commercial cigar-making company, certainly on an international scale, Weber reports that his Veritas product is even being well received in Europe.
"The cigar industry in Europe is a bit different, because Europe does not really have a home-grown cigar tobacco, so it imports most all of the cigars that it smokes there. And, given size and scale and distance, Europe so far has attracted only a market for the big mass produced cigars, except perhaps for Spain which tends to enjoy a great import relationship with Cuban cigars.
"Veritas Cigars, where we have four active blends with two more being introduced this year, is to the better cigar smoker as Dogfish Head craft beer to Miller Lite, and we've found that the European is moving to embrace our product even more quickly than the US market, although we've been well-received here, as well.
"I met a lot of the leaders of Europe's tobacco importing industry at our annual trade event here in the US last summer, and we built some great relationships over a smoke. Later, in September, at InterTobac, Dortmund, Germany, many of them hosted me.
"I was there again last month, in April, and they actually rearranged the meeting schedule by a few weeks for the meeting of the EU "˜cigar ambassadors,' the quasi-official and sometimes official position in each of the EU nations for the individual who coordinates cigar imports and sometimes even pricing and distribution.
"When they heard I was in Berlin, they called to ask me to come to Marseilles, in Southern France. When I said I had no easy way to get there, one of them sent a jet for me, to bring me down. It's not a big deal, it was a Lear Jet, nothing like a Gulfstream," Weber said with a laugh.
I first met Weber and Larason three or four years ago, when they asked me to research and write their business plan. I did so, and developed my Ph.D. in the cigar industry, albeit as a total and committed non-smoker, so I haven't even tasted the product I wrote about.
But Weber and Veritas were recommended to me by a good friend, peer and colleague, now retired Chester County judge Dan Maisano, a Salesianum School grad of the 1960s, and a cigar (and Scotch) aficionado who has returned to his own law practice, and who encouraged this column.
"Honestly, it's the robust taste that I like, and the way it smokes," said the Honorable Mr. Maisano. With this column in mind, a Scotch in his hand and a bourbon in mine, I asked him more about Veritas as an objective cigar smoker.
"It's steady, and it's consistent. It's just a great cigar, with some great blends, my favorites being the 412 (named for the Pittsburgh area code) and the Veritas Maduro," he said. "It's a stellar smoke, and it just pairs well with a favorite Scotch, or bourbon, or wine!"
When Maisano and some friends host their Cigar Club nights at the University and Whist Club, home to one of the largest in the area, they often feature the Veritas line.
Weber grew up in Hockessin, but graduated the tony Phelps School in Malvern, Pa., in 2002. He briefly attended Widener University for the summer, and fall, but stayed just long enough to get a parking sticker for his car, concluding that he was not cut out for college, or that it was not cut out for him.
He served in the Marine Corps from 2003-09, before coming back to Delaware.
His cigars are custom-blended and rolled in Esteli, Nicaragua, on a unique geological formation, Ometepe, a volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, where only three cigar companies have legal rights to the tobacco grown in a unique and fertile volcanic soil. He also since has added a line blended and rolled in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
At his Firestone event, Weber said he will be showcasing the four blends that make up the heart of his line, plus two new blends that he is bringing out this year.