For this weeks Women's Crush Wednesday, Cigar World had the opportunity to sit down with Angela Brown, Marketing Director of Black Label Trading Co, to learn about how she broke into the industry and a few of her favorite cigar pairings. 

 

Jean: It was so great running into you at PCA. I’m so glad you agreed to do this interview. Cigar World wants to bring more awareness to the amazing ladies in the industry, so you were just an obvious choice.

 

Jean: What first got you interested in cigars?

Angela: In college, I would smoke cigars occasionally with my friends. My best friend, Stephanie, and I would hang out at a few of the nice cigar bars in Houston. Fast-forward 17 years, when I convinced her to partner with my husband and me in Black Label Trading Co.   

 

Jean: Tell me about how you got into the cigar business and with Black Label Trading Company.

Angela: My husband, James & I would smoke cigars on the weekends, and this developed into a side passion.  We had a travel business at the time based in Central America, so we were traveling frequently to Nicaragua.  There, we toured the tobacco farms, bodegas, and cigar factories. We got to know Armando Leiva, one of the production managers at a cigar factory that we visited. He became our mentor and years later a partner and production manager in our own factory.

James spent a lot of time working with him on blends and started making small batches for our clients.  The feedback was so positive that we decided to take it to the next step.  We launched Black Label Trading Co. in 2013 with 6 blends in 3 vitolas, which was a bit unheard of in the industry.  Our goal was to launch a company and not just a cigar and to do that; we wanted to show the range of profiles that James was capable of blending.  His history as a sommelier helped prepare him for blending cigars and understanding the different characteristics of tobacco.

Jean: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment with BLTC?

Angela: I was a bit hesitant to go full-time with BLTC because I was still managing our travel company.  But in the first year, it was clear that we could not do both and that we needed to choose. I am proud of my bravery in taking the plunge and doing what was needed to get it going. The first step is always the hardest.

 

Jean: So you were telling me that you currently live in Nicaragua. How is all of that going for you?

Angela: In 2015, we decided to be fully invested in the brand, meaning we needed our own factory.  We decided to start a small boutique cigar factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra.  This meant we needed to live in Nicaragua full-time to get it started.  That meant moving our family; our 7-year-old son, adopted street dog and cat.  I thought it would be for 1 year, and now we are reaching our 10-year mark. Thankfully, we all grew to love Nicaragua for more than just its tobacco.   

Jean: Anything you miss about living in the US?

Angela: We miss the variety of food, shopping and of course family.  But overall, we are quite happy to live in Nicaragua and fully believe we would not have been able to make BLTC what it is today without making this commitment.

 

Jean: What would you say is your favorite part of working in the cigar industry?

Angela: Everyone always talks about how cigars bring people together but for me this appreciation is more about all the people it takes to make the cigars. I manage our factory and love our employees and the mutual impact we have had on so many lives. They have become our extended family several of whom started working for us when we began.

 

Jean: And what is your favorite drink to pair with your cigar?

Angela: In the mornings I’m all about a good cup of black coffee or chai tea to pair with my cigars.  By afternoon I’m needing a cool drink and prefer a sparkling water and then of course sunset is all about a good cocktail or glass of red wine.  Also love champagne with cigars anytime!

 

Jean: As a woman who might be new to the cigar smoking experience, what would you recommend they try from the BLTC portfolio?

Angela: I usually suggest to people, whether female or male, to begin with our white labels: Royalty, Santa Muerte, Porcelain, or Rorschach Sumatra. Then it’s a gradual shift into the black labels that will be medium into the full category. James does not tend to blend for strength but rather profile, so it may taste strong but won’t necessarily be, or vice versa.

 

Jean: I also must point out that I think you have amazing style. Those pink sneakers you were wearing at PCA were dope. What inspires your look?

Angela: My husband has always been more into style than me. Several years ago he got really into sneakers and little by little I became intrigued.  He points out the history, designer, themes, collabs, year they were made, etc and I started really respecting his ‘hobby’.  Anyone who follows him on social media will see that each day, he pairs a cigar with a sneaker, and for him, it tells a story (@blacklabeltradingco). He’s taught me a lot and I have started having fun with it as well.  We both like to be expressive with our style, artistic tattoos, designer clothing, and shoes!  It’s fun and who doesn’t love giant pink sneakers.

 

Jean: What do you like to do when you are not working or smoking cigars? Any hobbies, passions or interesting activities you like to participate in?

Angela: Travel; I love experiencing other cultures and places and try to go on at least 1 impactful trip each year.   Also, I take pride in being a Surfer Mom; which I really enjoy. A few years ago we moved to the Pacific Coast and this opened the door for new activities. Our son started taking surfing lessons and now he is really fun to watch. I didn’t know we would be living near one of the best surfing beaches in the world so that worked out.

 

Jean: Anything we should be looking forward to this year from Black Label Trading Company?

Angela: We always have a lot planned and do our best to keep it fun and interesting. At PCA, we came out with the Black Works Paper Crane and, shortly afterward, the BLTC Orthodox. Next up we will be releasing Coffin Nails in 10-count paper boxes, which will be packaged in a new format for us.  Later in the year we will be releasing a new version of BLK WKS Intergalactic with a Pennsylvania wrapper on it.  And, of course, Bishops Blends will be released later this year and finishing off with Morphine. We are pretty excited since this is the 10th year anniversary of Morphine so we have some special things planned.

 

Jean: Well, I want to thank you again for taking the time to do this interview. We are looking forward to everything BLTC that is coming and showcasing more of your products on Cigar World.

Angela: Thank you for taking the time to hear my story.  Being a woman in the industry in the position I am in makes me very proud to share my experiences and hopefully inspire other woman to share their passions for cigars.  I enjoy being La Jefa of Fabrica Oveja Negra, I never would’ve imagined I would be managing a cigar factory in Nicaragua but can’t it imagine it any other way.  

You can watch Angela in her travels and adventures on her IG @bltc_angela

 

Previous Article: The Best Bigger Cigars for the Summer

Long summer evenings cry out for big, delicious cigars. Whether you’re out camping, hanging with friends, or just chilling on your back porch, these plus-sized cigars will supply you with at least 90 minutes of solid enjoyment.

Next Article: Cigar World’s Summer Cigar & Drink Pairing Guide

Cookouts. Barbecues. Camping trips. Lawn games. Summer is the perfect time to engage in many of our favorite activities. And, of course, we recommend enhancing your summer engagements with a tasty cocktail and a premium cigar! If any of that sounds appealing to you, you’re in the right place. Check out our summer cigar and drink pairing guide!

 

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