National treasure? More like an international treasure! Hiram & Solomon is sold worldwide as the official Freemason cigar. You don’t have to be a Mason, however, to buy and enjoy these boutique cigars. Several of the blends are based on Masonic lore. The cigar lines are named after hierarchical degrees and offshoot groups of the fraternal organization, including Enter Apprentice, Shriner, Grand Architect and Master Mason.
Box Press host, Rob Gagner had a smoke with owners Fouad Kashouty and his wife, Romy at 2021 PCA in Las Vegas. They delve into the world of the Freemasons, an organization known for its mysterious membership, as well as its philanthropic works. In fact, a portion of every Hiram & Solomon purchase is donated to various charities, including Cigars for Warriors. This episode of Boveda’s cigar podcast explores:
- Masonic conspiracy theories
- Freemasonry today
- Counterfeit boutique cigars
- Premium cigars, temperature changes and 2-way humidity control
To preserve the flavor and consistency of its premium smokes, the Masonic cigar brand, Hiram & Solomon packages with Boveda. Protect the flavor and condition of your sticks at home—store cigars in a humidor with Boveda for Tobacco.
– So if I went to the White House, found the cornerstone it’s gonna have…
– [Fouad] It has the…
– The Masonic symbol on it.
– [Fouad] Masonic symbol on it, yes.
– This sounds like a scavenger hunt.
– All the U.S. presidents until the last one that we know Obama, were Masons. From Roosevelt to count down in the government they were all Masons, Freemasons.
– Don’t ask me …
– All the Kings of Europe.
– How many times like my husband has been taking me around the world when we’re traveling to find those symbols.
– It’s a passion, it is.
– I would wanna find it too, it’s like a fun scavenger hunt.
– [Announcer] There’s a story inside every smoke shop with every cigar, and with every person. Come be a part of the cigar lifestyle with Boveda. This is Box Press.
– Welcome to another episode of Box Press. I’m your host, Rob Gagner with Boveda. I’m at PCA 2021 and I’m sitting across from Romy and Fouad of Hiram & Solomon Cigars, you might recognize it because it has the Freemason logo on it. Thank you guys so much for joining me. So the idea behind Hiram & Solomon actually came out of just doing a cigar for a Freemason for basically raising funds, correct?
– For charity, for a scholarship, yes.
– And were you picked for this just because your knowledge of cigars or how did that end up happening?
– When I was I mean, I became master of my Lodge after many years of serving and stuff then became a secretary of a Lodge. And I had the privilege of going back to the minutes that existed in the Lodge from the late 1800, 1860. And there technically it states that before the meeting, cigars were distributed and the meeting started. And I don’t find it as a surprise because at that time especially, the people who joined the Masons were only the rich and the famous or the powerful, the elite, because they could nobody else could afford to do such a thing. Looking back at those records to join the Freemasons at that time about $35, 1860. Which probably comes up, equate to right now with the inflation and stuff to about $45,000.
– Just to be a Freemason…
– [Fouad] At that time, yeah.
– At that time it would’ve cost you $35,000 in equivalence.
– If you say that, I mean most of them they were rich or all of them, they were rich.
– Why did they do that? Why would they want just rich powerful people to join the group?
– They’re very, what do you call it? Handpicked, selective.
– Selective who to choose to join, it’s different right now.
– [Rob] Now anyone can join, right?
– Anybody could join, but it has to be of your own free will and accord, you have to ask we never ask anybody to join. You have to ask, you have to, two people have to sign your petition, you have to be interviewed. You have to go through many tests, many degrees. You have to prove proficient in it, and you go to the three degrees, Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason, which bring us to our original line that we called our cigars the Entered Apprentice, which is the first degree, our mild cigar. The Fellow Craft is the second degree, our medium cigar and the Master Mason is the third degree, our full-body cigar.
– What’s that?
– When you fully mature…
– Yeah, when you’re fully mature you become Master Mason.
– So that means a fully mature cigar.
– So what happened is during the meetings, we used to go downstairs and share a smoke with the brothers. Everybody had cigars, we had some scotch or drinks. And the idea, I always dreamt about having a cigar that has a Masonic symbol on it, and always searched for it and never found anything in the market. You can find anything but cigars in the market at that time until now. And where we needed some money for scholarship the idea hit me I said, “Why we don’t roll 1,000 cigars? We sell it.” We needed $5,000 and by the sell of the 1,000 cigars in one week, we made $5,000. We donated to the charity, we did it again another large herd of us. And it’s still at that time, still it was a hobby. We’re very proud just holding the cigar in my hand, holding our symbol and then not until the first cigar lounge called and they say, “We heard some Masons are here asking for the cigars, can we get it?” And that was seven years ago when the whole thing turned from hobby and into a part-time job, into a full-time job, double full-time job.
– [Rob] Double full-time job.
– And now quadruple, five-time job because we’re both involved in it seven days a week now and nonstop and…
– So you both are working full time…
– [Romy] Yes, we are.
– For the brand?
– Yes, that’s our life technically right now.
– Did you ever think it was gonna able, to be able to sustain your lifestyle?
– You look for it I mean, you miss it. It’s just a few days you complain we’re tired of an event here, another event next day. Third day, when you’re not doing any events or you’re not doing the socializing of the cigar, you just miss it.
– [Rob] Yeah.
– That’s what happened when the COVID started we were literally, the first week we were like, “Maybe we needed this break a little bit.” And then after a week you know, you’d go cold turkey you just miss people, miss the whole buzz around the cigar. So we had the backyard in the house, the first week we were doing our cigar ritual in the backyard. Week two, I was sitting on the front porch. People who are like, even his brother used to call us like, “Are you guys crazy? Why are you sitting on the front porch, what happened to the backyard?” We’re going like, “I miss talking to people.” After two weeks, every dog and every neighbor with our friends would stop and talk about the cigar. Why do we wanna be in the backyard when everyone’s just feeling miserable because there is no life? Because of COVID right? This was March 12th when things started going on lockdown. After one month, everybody would stop our same time. What, like a cigar? We were just talking to people walking their dogs, walking just by, it was just all of a sudden back to normal life.
– I wanna be you guys’ neighbor, while I walk my dog I pick up my cigar, say hello how are you doing?
– It’s help me create a certain again, you can always go bad and dramatic and stay back in the backyard or just talk to people, and that’s what we did. Because cigar is an element that triggers that social life, like we said.
– What’s interesting about that is that you said everyone shifted from the backyard to the front yard. In America, the front yard used to be the socialization, the front porch, see everyone else in the community. And we got so much of that, that we got sick of it. And we wanted to retreat to the backyard to have our own opportunities, to just relax and not be basically interacting with people. And it’s so funny that you said…
– [Romy] I know an American roadblocked that.
– Right, but it’s so funny that you say like, “We went from the backyard to the front yard so we could get the exposure with the neighbors.”
– We know each and every one’s name now, and the dogs and where they come from. It just like every day, and people were like, “You were not here last week.” Oh yeah, we went to see the family somewhere else. It’s just funny and great.
– So you actually met probably people you’ve been living next door your whole life or this whole time, and now you know them by name.
– That’s right, by name.
– We know them, we know even about their brothers who’s having a surgery about…
– Yeah, they would stop and talk, some of them they didn’t smoke cigars but they liked that they could just talk with someone and we would sit there. Sometimes it was too hot like in July, in New Jersey mid-July it gets a little hot. I still prefer to be in the heat, see people, interact with them. And it’s true we will ask, “How was your brother’s surgery?” Or one of them had an intervention, a heart intervention. Is he okay, is he doing well? Come back again and let us know about it.
– So did you put out chairs, like the typical COVID chairs on the front lawn?
– The first week…
– That’s what we did.
– When they announced the six feet apart thing, one of his friends came, I have even photos of that day.
– His name is Robert also.
– Robert Molly yeah, he came and he miss seeing Fouad and they were sitting on one side of the car. We had the car parked outside the garage, so one side was Robert the other side was Fouad, I was taking the photo on top of the porch. It was so funny but they were respecting the six feet thing.
– [Rob] Yeah.
– He was smoking his cigar.
– He bought a tape measure actually and he goes like, “All right, my wife told me you can only do this and I needed proof.
– And I want to smoke, I need to smoke. He just sat there, they all smoked…
– It was funny.
– [Rob] I love it.
– Robert, but the growth of that I mean, going back to your question, the growth of the company was so much not anticipated, we didn’t never anticipate where are we gonna be. And every penny made as a profit or something was put back into inventory because we needed to keep up with the growth that we had that again, we never imagined that we’re gonna grow so much in such a little time.
– [Rob] Right.
– I call it like a premature baby, it was born. Doctors were not sure the baby will survive, normal. Like it’s a premature baby. But then that baby was so smart and then he started walking at the age of nine months, talking and doing all that thing. And well, we’re not even being able to catch up with that.
– But you just have to keep feeding it.
– [Romy] Right.
– Keep growing it, keep nurturing it.
– The baby was growing and he needed to go to college when he was 12 and we were not even ready to send him to school yet.
– That trust fund has not been set up yet.
– That’s right, but that premature baby is making us so proud, so proud.
– [Rob] That’s so good.
– You have literally that example in front of you.
– Were some of your neighbors during this COVID front yard socialization thing, were they surprised that you were in the cigar business?
– I mean they look at us, at the beginning they looked at us as though we’re an alien probably, it was just like, “What do you mean you make cigars and stuff?” Yeah we do make cigars, and we say really. And they wanted to know about it and…
– Every day there was a new episode…
– So there was always new questions, and new stuff, “What you’re smoking now?” Even though they’re not smokers, “So what you’re smoking now what’s the story behind that cigar and stuff?” So intriguing a lot of people actually.
– We got few times also, we realized also in nature, bumblebees love cigars.
– They do?
– You discover a lot of things being in the…
– It’s the aroma.
– The minute we lit the cigar, we had bumblebees and it was all on the top of it. And I go like let’s put it away, they’re there. They’ll put it back, they’re here. It’s amazing so just they know, probably they know we have very good cigars.
– The smell of the flowers, the bouquet the…
– The bees are very smart creatures, you know that right?
– The aroma is just phenomenal, I’d be attracted to it too.
– Probably soon we’re gonna have some smoked honey.
– Yeah, yeah, yeah, there you go, smoked honey.
– That’s good for business, that’s a good idea right there smoked honey.
– Heard it here first. Get a trademark quick.
– That is there, right?
– [Rob] Exactly.
– July 11.
– So in that process of teaching people, did you get anyone that was now interested in becoming a Freemason?
– Yes, we did absolutely, absolutely.
– [Rob] Really?
– [Rob] Did they sign up with your Lodge?
– Not just our Lodge, what happened it’s through the cigar and again, it wasn’t planned for. When you sit in a cigar lounge questioned at what you are smoking, you go like this, “Oh I know the symbol, my father was a Mason I wanna join, but I never know what to do.” Or I was intrigued. And we start getting also emails, texts through social media and everything that, “I wanna join, I never know what to do.” Throughout the world, almost 400 people now joined because of the cigar, we were able to put them in a specific Lodges in their countries or cities, and to encourage them in a way and to see the result of it. I was technically bribing them in a way, if you finish your first degree, you let me know you send me proof, I will send you the Entered Apprentice Cigar. You do the Fellow Craft, I’ll send you the Fellow Craft. You do the Master Mason, I’ll send the Master Mason cigar. And all of a sudden I’ve been mailing cigars after cigars.
– Celebratory cigars as you achieve your milestones.
– And surprisingly, I mean many even our retailers became Freemasons also. And more surprisingly many of the major brands owners. I don’t wanna say who I will tell you after, are Masons, Freemasons themselves.
– Wow, unbelievable that’s so much connection.
– I’m talking major, major brands.
– Yeah, so many connections.
– And on daily basis, they interact with us on Instagram, on Facebook, that’s the fastest way they can get to us or at him at least. And there is always like a quest or curiosity, like a question in general. But a lot of them directly one, like we don’t know how to join a Lodge. There are countries where Freemasonry is very…
– Yeah it’s a top secret, kept like taboo kind of thing. It’s not a taboo, but they just don’t like to talk about it. So they used to ask, Fouad, where we can join, How we can join? Do you know someone we can?
– Yeah, it’s not like it’s advertised like you said, you guys aren’t advertising like.
– Never advertised, never asked…
– The difference with like the Knights of Columbus, because I grew up Catholic, it was like it was kind of advertised, like you should join you should be a part of this. Freemason, I wouldn’t even recognize a building unless it had the Masonic symbol on the outside. And isn’t it true, some of the buildings don’t even wanna put the Masonic symbol on the outside.
– Especially outside the U.S. you will not find a Masonic symbol in front of a building.
– [Rob] Why is that?
– It is just as I said, a secretive or taboo or considered…
– Is it kind of considered a threat to the internal government or something?
– No, actually we don’t, and our obligation is we support the government of the country that we live in and that’s how we take our obligation. It doesn’t mean we support dictatorship or anything. And we don’t discuss politics unlike what people think. We don’t discuss politics or religion.
– No politics, no religion.
– And no religion. So we accept you the way you are, whatever you believe in.
– [Rob] So it’s not a Christian base?
– It’s not Christian-based, it’s not Muslim-based…
– [Rob] Not Jewish.
– Not Jewish, no it’s not.
– It’s a monotheist, you have to believe in one God.
– You have to believe in one God, that’s the first requirement, you have to believe in God. I don’t know who your God, but one God. And we call him as a universal name, the Grand Architect, who is the guy who designed the world.
– Which is this.
– Which is this cigar named after that.
– The Grand Architect.
– Yeah, which we made it the powerful Corojo…
– Double Ligero.
– Ligeros to denote technically that strong…
– This sounds like a rabbit hole I could get down real quick. The Architect, the Grand Architect, why did you use corojo? Because it’s powerful, because like I love this. This is the stuff that I love to just read about.
– Each one of our cigars name denotes technically either an experience or a degree, or some kind of teaching that as Masons we are taught, or we keep on teaching at the same time too. So each one.
– It’s so cool.
– Like the Traveling Man, which is this one here the one with the purple band. So one of our teaching is for a Mason to always look for the light. The light for us means the truth, the knowledge, and the light always rises from the East. So we say, we’re traveling to the East I mean, we’re looking for the knowledge we’re looking for the light we’re looking for the truth.
– Enlightenment, so we are called also a Traveling Man. So if I’m gonna ask you are you a Mason? I can ask you the same thing, are you a Traveling Man? So that’s where the name come from, Traveling Man. And what we did with that exactly cigar, we put four different kinds of tobacco in it to technically show that you need to travel from East, West, North, South, the four corners of the universe towards where we supposed to be.
– Is it challenging to try to build a cigar based on that premise because…
– [Fouad] Very, very challenging.
– Now you have…
– [Fouad] Very challenging.
– To go seek tobacco from North, South, East, and West?
– Very challenging, very challenging, but so far we did. We succeeded and we keep on doing it also. But as we go, we talk about more cigars coming and why that was named that.
– Who’s making these cigars for you?
– Most, all our cigars besides two lines are done at the Plasencia Factory in Esteli.
– [Fouad] Yes.
– They have a lot of tobacco from East, West, North, and South.
– Yes, and that was one of the reason because they have really reached to many tobaccos and stuff like, yeah. The last two lines that we did, Cigars for Warriors and another cigar called the Curamus, are done at the PDR factory with eight florists.
– Yeah we had the Cigars for Warriors cigar when I talked to Storm on another episode of our Box Press. So if you haven’t reached that one, go see the Cigars for Warriors, How a Cigar Saved My Life. Great interview, great cigar by the way.
– [Fouad] Thank you.
– As well as these I mean, phenomenal. Romy, I have to ask you, because Freemasons is for men only, what does it mean to you to be married to a Freemason?
– Well my father was a Freemason and he was a Freemason in Beirut in Lebanon, and it’s a top secret thing to be a Mason there. They don’t tell you about it, they don’t talk about it you will never know…
– They didn’t tell you about it even?
– No, I knew it because there were some meetings held in the house, but I knew that I shouldn’t even tell anybody that my father is a Freemason.
– [Rob] Your father?
– Yeah, my own father my proper father, yeah.
– It’s very secretive outside the U.S.
– It’s very secretive, even in Europe.
– Is there a reason why that is?
– Is it what?
– Is there a reason why that is?
– I don’t know, even in Europe up until now in Sweden if you look and ask anyone, “Where is the Masonic Lodge?” It’s not even on Google, if you Google the Masonic Lodge in the United States, you just say Masonic Lodge near me you’re gonna find all the Masonic Lodges addresses. In Sweden, in Stockholm, even in Denmark, in Copenhagen, we were looking for, he loves to visit them. And we were trying to Google, right? There is nothing on Google in Sweden that shows a Masonic building, or Lodge.
– We had to physically to search.
– We asked people the would all say…
– Get in touch with some people that got in touch with us that are Swedish brothers, I will call them and for us to find the place. But they don’t like to advertise it. Now in Europe, specific let’s say in Germany, and Austria, and Italy during World War II, they were part of the, they were persecuted and yeah part of the whatever genocide or the…
– The Holocaust and stuff, so Masons were killed because they were getting the symbol or something. That’s why the German Masons do not wear the square encompass as you see, they wear what they call the small flower, forget-me-not flower, the blue one. And until now, so and Soviet Union, the same thing they were fought badly in Soviet Union. China right now does not allow any Masonic Lodges. Even in Greece sometime, the Greek Orthodox Church fights the Mason and does not allow their members to be part of the Masonic group and if they know they will excommunicate them technically. But things are changing definitely and why is that? I have no clue.
– So yeah coming to that, when I met him it’s also by chance, I realized that yeah I’m meeting a Mason. So I found in my house in Beirut, I remember that my auntie had some, a box that I left there. I said, “Remember there was a key, it was a certain key, like a metal nice key, do you still have it?” She said, “Yeah, it’s in the box.” So I sent, I told her to ship it to the States. And then when my husband saw that and he goes, “Oh, your father was a Grand Master at some point.” And because you know, there are like signs or some secret things there. So weird right, things happen for a reason sometimes. And I met, it’s an amazing organization meeting each and every one of them trying to be better people. And as much as they can support each other, it’s a really good thing.
– Masons in general, most of their work is technically nothing but charity. We operate as the Shriners, if you’re familiar with the Shriners at all. Shriners, you have to be a Mason to become a Shriner. So after you take your third degree, you join different subgroups. One of them is the Shriners, one of them is the Scottish Rite and Knight Templars and different other groups. The Shriners operates 20 hospitals in the U.S., few in Canada and Mexico, and they’re totally free for whomever cannot afford, and from all over the world. They bring kids, there are pediatric kids for burn centers and with pediatric, they bring them with their family. They feed them, they keep them until they’re healed and they send them back. Shriners alone from all the other Masonic groups they do almost $3 million in charity daily, on a daily base. And then you have the Scottish Rite, which they do the dyslexic centers free also for everyone. And different groups take care of different kinds of charity that’s on top of Masonic Lodges, doing scholarship, helping communities’ food banks, and all other stuff. Which most people do not realize that and we do not advertise it also. I mean, we do not advertise but I’m talking about it. But it’s good sometimes to bring it up to the thing.
– But it’s also important to highlight the fact that it’s for everyone, not necessarily…
– My mom was a nurse for a Shriners Hospital. And it just kind of warms my heart hearing that story, because she would say that there’s no cost to these families…
– [Fouad] Yeah no cost.
– And they need help.
– And not necessarily a Mason, the family.
– Right no it wasn’t, you didn’t have to be a Freemason it was anybody who needed help.
– And their top resource center for burn and pediatric, unbelievable the work they do.
– Absolutely, so amazing to see how many people…
– And that’s what it brings to the Shriner cigars that we have, that we created. We try to put as much tobacco in it to show that universality of the Shriner. And we ended up putting six different…
– Regions in it.
– And countries, five countries.
– Five countries, six regions, so…
– Five different countries and six regions in the Shriner cigar. Which by the way, should win a packaging award from halfwheel because the package, the box is literally a Shriner hat that comes off with the tassel and everything. It’s phenomenal, if you haven’t seen it look it up online. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
– And that was created for when we did the first international meeting for the Shriners and we created those boxes, and they went tremendously well.
– [Rob] Unbelievable.
– It gets raffled sometimes in events or something, and so seeing the person who won that piece gets so emotional.
– [Rob] I know.
– You just look at it like, “Wow, I’ve done something small myself.” We participated in making that person that happy you know, it’s exciting, you see the excitement in their eyes. A week ago one gentleman, he renovated the kitchen in his own Lodge which is in, which state was it?
– In Montana.
– In Montana. And as a reward, they just wanted to thank him and the Lodge gave him one of our boxes, it’s a bone box of the 300th anniversary. He came just to tell us he just didn’t want anything but when he received that, he couldn’t thank them more. He couldn’t feel like more appreciated for the job he has done, he didn’t take any money to renovate that thing, the kitchen. And he got the box that meant so much to him. And he was expressing it.
– And he came, he was here and he was telling us the story. And many stories like this that we hear and…
– It is just like, little details that make somebody so happy.
– It shows us that for whatever the reason we created this company, it did serve the purpose. Because when I get a Mason who’s been 15 or 20, 30 years Mason, and he smokes that Master Mason cigar, and I get a text from him or a message saying, “It took me back to the experience when I had my degree to that night where everything happened to me and it just made me so delightful.” That text by itself for me, it keeps me going. So, it’s beautiful, it’s something no other cigar company has. We all have great cigars, everybody in here has great cigars.
– [Rob] Right.
– We have something that different that as I call it, we never invented cigar, we never invented Masonry, but we mastered combining both of them together. They’re both brotherhood, cigars it’s a brotherhood thing it’s a sisterhood. And the Masons, the same thing too, combining them together was the blessed technically that anybody can even dream of.
– And although the female gender doesn’t really exist within the Lodge, within the organization itself. But the respect that Masons Freemasons around the world have for that lady, for the wife, or the sister, for the mother is tremendous, it’s very high. So probably this is the only time I don’t hear, why women are not Masons? All female who belonged one way or the other to a Mason family, they come to us with, “Oh my God, my grandfather, my grandpa, my brother, my father-in-law, somebody in the family. They just come to us and telling us about their story about this, the history behind their you know, approach to the Masons or to the cigar itself it’s so amazing.
– Yeah, so it’s felt.
– Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
– To the relationship with your husband, or father, or brother.
– Oh yeah, it kind of took it deeper in the passion.
– Robert, our motto is we take good men and make them better. We try to make them better person for themself, a better father, a better husband, better brother, a family person, better citizen, and that’s our goal. And if we do that with even the few of us, we accomplish what we needed to do.
– I asked my husband one day, how come you don’t have meetings on Sunday? It’s because that’s the only day where everybody’s you know, he said it’s against the policy because it’s family day.
– It’s God’s day, family day.
– It’s a family day it’s God’s day, God is your family that’s it, you go to your family. Nothing comes before your family, no matter what obligation you have in your Lodge you still have to attend your family event before anything else.
– Family, business, then Lodge.
– That’s how…
– Family, business, Lodge.
– [Fouad] Then Masonry.
– So you need your business to take care of your family.
– If you would not do it in this order you’re not supposed to be here.
– It’s interesting, are most Masons involved in some sort of business, or does business translate to just your work?
– No, I mean, you’ll find all kinds of…
– They don’t have to own their own business or be an entrepreneur.
Famous Masons, Including Hiriam & Solomon Founder
– No, no, no all kind of walk of life, we have everything from janitors to senators, to U.S. presidents or kings and everything.
– All are Freemasons?
– All of them I mean, our first Grand Master in the U.S. is George Washington, so Ben Franklin, most of the signers of the constitution, General Lafayette these are all Freemasons. Eisenhower.
– So is a lot of what it takes to get to the next level of being a Freemason, almost historical education, do you have to know the history?
– Self-improvement, self-realization of who you are and self-empowerment, and of course you got to put some work on it to, and when I say some work I’m not talking about anything secretive it’s to serve your brothers, to serve your community to serve, make sure that you’re a good family. And that’s how you advance.
– Do you have to study?
– Yes, there is some studies absolutely to be done, yes. And some testing after the studies even, like a school. You have to prove yourself.
– Continuing education.
– Continuing education, and what we say is you get out of the Masonry what you put in you don’t wanna put in anything, you’re not gonna get anything. So you’re not gonna, you’re not there.
– It’s nothing material.
– Yes. Yeah, you don’t wanna empower yourself, you don’t wanna learn, not much we can do for you.
– So what level have you achieved?
– I’m personally a 32nd degree Mason.
– [Rob] 32nd?
– [Rob] Degree Mason.
– The highest you can go is 33.
– 33 is the highest?
– [Fouad] Yes.
– So after you hit Master Mason, you have 33 more.
– 30 more, 30 more degrees, yes. But now the third degree is the ultimate for everyone and it’s acceptable, after that it’s more and a different group of the Scottish Rite, which take you from the three to the 33rd degree.
– Okay, so can you achieve the 33rd degree?
– Yes it’s…
– More work to be done.
– More work to be done, more time you’re gonna spend you gotta prove to yourself definitely. And many, many, many years of work.
– Now, as far as the charity aspect of this, is there a charity aspect to this brand?
– [Fouad] Yes, every cigar.
– [Romy] Every cigar we have.
– Is it a certain amount or is it at freewill to your discretion when you feel like it’s needed?
– It’s all free will but technically we, every events that we do we give back at least a dollar for the specific event. On top of it, at least 10% of the profit, dollar per cigar, at least 10% of our profit goes to charity. Some of the charity that we chose like the Cigar for Warriors is 100%, we don’t make a penny out of it. And some other like the Shriner, for instance, it’s much more than that, so far in our short existence and this is our seventh year, over $120,000 were donated to charity, and we are a small company. We’re not a big company. We’re on our way to become one of the major brands.
– We’re loud, but we’re not that big.
– But yeah, so we’re proud of that. We do whatever we can.
– [Rob] That’s wonderful. Whether it’s monetary fund or donation of cigars for them to raffle off, or employing those people sometimes, which is not counted as a charity, definitely but it does help.
– And when we also have a special line, apart from the normal line that we had the regular line, which is the Enter Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Traveling Man, the Master Mason, we do have something called the Grand Master’s line now. So we were first approached by the Grand Master of New Jersey, Worshipful Master Gregory Scott, he was smoking his cigar there, and also he chose his own charity, which is a dyslexic center. And we donated $10,000 a month ago, two months ago to his charity. The next one was the Curamus, which is the new Grand Master.
– Talk about that.
– Yeah, the Curamus…
– The creation of the name and…
– Well yeah again, it’s the line of the Grand Masters now. And they also choose their own charity. we asked them to decide where they want the donation to go. And Monacelli, Worshipful Master Monacelli, decided to have, his motto was we care for each other. And then we created in Latin Curamus means, we care and Cura itself means cure, we care to heal. So the new line is the Curamus the one that we rolled in the Dominican Republic, and a broadleaf Pennsylvania. It’s an amazing cigar going so well, doing great. Full body. And that’s the second to our line of Grand Masters. The two coming upcoming ones are the North Carolina Grand Master and the Georgia. And we’re hoping this domino effect will help us even be more involved in philanthropy and in charity because those lines will be even higher in the experience and the participation in charities. So those lines are gonna be the new Grand Masters line. Well, hopefully worldwide, hopefully.
– When we say Grand Master I mean, let me explain a little bit, every state has a Grand Lodge, which has the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge oversees all the Lodges in that state. And each Lodge has a master, so we have the master, the Lodge, the Grand Lodge, Grand Master, which changes some state one year, some states it’s two years. So this is where the Grand Masters now start realizing that they can use us. Whether for charity or to promoting the Freemasonry at the same time, and that’s why we’re coming up as she said right now, two new Grand Masters and the Scottish Rite also…
– So we already have four cigars, four different Grand Masters already existing. And then we’ve been having everywhere in the world, also inquiring about what do we do? What should we do for the next Grand Master thing?
– Are you guys distributing the cigars to Europe and all across the world?
– Yes, we are.
– We’re in about 30 countries right now, in this pandemic the last six, seven months we opened up Russia, Serbia, Dubai, Beirut, UK, Switzerland, Belgium. And on top of all the islands, would it be in a…
– There are official distributors there’s already in most of the countries we already told you about. And then we have something…
– We are even in Malaysia and Singapore.
– India is gonna be our next market, it’s just about logistics. It takes time to register, to do the proper homework before we go in the market there,
– Now are people able to only buy these from retail smoke shops, or can they buy them at the Grand Lodges or the Lodges themselves?
– No, everything is through retail shops beside one specific cigar right now we sell it through the Curamus, the Grand Master of cigars. It is available for retailers but we do sell it online also. And the purpose for that is just to collect as much as we can, so we can, the more we collect the more we donate also. So it is sold at the full price, it’s not discounted at our website, just one line and that’s it.
– And we don’t sell on our proper website because of the respect that we have for the retailers. They do a great job they’re also investing a lot of their money, their work, their time. It’s out of respect a lot of people go, “Why didn’t we go like online during the pandemic?” That’s how we support the retailers, if we were selling it online we make more profit, it’s sure definitely. And it was so easy just to post it and ship it. But you know, we have always shook hands with those retailers, they traveled they came to us. We met them during these big events we need to respect that too.
– Absolutely, to support the brick-and-mortar stores we’re big at that also.
– Let’s talk a little bit about that retailer opportunity you had an imposter distributing cigars underneath the Freemason label and you had to go, you were so dedicated that you went and captured all those cigars and bought them back on your own dime to not ruin the brand, how difficult was that for you?
– It was difficult. I mean, seeing it at that time it was like, “What’s the next step? What should we do?” I know we were confused what to do, whether we let it go or stop, but we knew if we let it go, more is gonna come. So what first thing we did is registered the rights for the Masonic square and compass and the G on the cigar. So we were the only company now we do that. And we commissioned whomever it can be, go buy everything we have in the market. And I found out that actually the guy who was a Mason also, who did it.
– He was a Mason?
– He was a Mason that find out without him knowing probably that we existed or he knew, I’m not sure. And he asked permission he said, “I have few inventory left, please give me 90 days to sell it out.” And we did give him 90 days to finish what he had we didn’t want him to lose at the same time too.
– So we cannot control the quality, it wasn’t about just the square and compass itself.
– The way we found out about it, it’s some of the people who’s rating cigar got in touch with us “Stogie Press” actually it was the one. She said, I’ve got a cigar it’s your cigar but I don’t find any information out on your website. So automatically people related that cigar to us. And that’s how we saw it and we investigated and stuff.
– There’s nothing against anyone, the thing is how it’s related to your name. That’s the reason why you don’t, you’re not sure about the quality, you’re not sure about where the brand is manufactured.
– That’d be very confusing for the consumer. You know, it’s like coming out with knock-off Cubans, very confusing.
– [Romy] That’s right.
– Very hard.
– Yes, yes.
– Well maybe also, the best qualities or the best, the biggest brands, they always have a fake. Maybe we’re at that level already.
– Yeah there you go, take it as flattery.
– We have our fakes now, it makes us proud.
– It feels differently but you know, whatever.
– See the positive side of it.
– Actually, I just received a text today from a brother in Arizona, sending that he saw a cigar with the G on it. And he was like, “This is not yours, do whatever you need to do.” I just got it.
– Just today.
– Yeah, right now.
– So now you’re on another quest to figure out.
– Today 12:48, yeah.
– Who’s doing another…
– So I have to find out who did this now is send them a nicest, sweet letter first, saying please change it.
– Some of them they don’t know, some do not know.
– Yeah, some don’t.
– Some people try to do something new, they don’t do their research before, then they realize.
– It’s ignorance, is what it is.
– We did get couple of calls, a couple of texts saying “I’m gonna do this only for our Lodge.” And they did ask permission saying, “Can we put it? And it’s gonna be only for our Lodge, it’s gonna be 1,000 cigar for our charity, is that okay?” And absolutely it’s okay, go ahead and do it. Then we send them that it’s okay to do it as long as you’re not gonna market it or come close saying that this is a Hiram & Solomon or… Don’t create the confusion for consumers that this is Hiram & Solomon Cigars.
– I have to ask the name, Hiram & Solomon what is that originating from? I’m ignorant of that.
– No, you say that it’s your field, it’s an Old Testament.
– Old Testament, Solomon is no one but King Solomon, King of David, who God commissioned to build his temple. And the Old Testament say that King Solomon when he was ready to build the temple under the order of God, he sent to the neighboring country the City of Tyre, which is existing in Lebanon right now, south of Lebanon. He was a very powerful king, very rich, he asked for his help, and the mountains in Lebanon were full of cedars, huge cedar trees. And he asked for the timber and cedar tree to build the temple. So King Hiram, King of Tyre answers back. He sends them all the laborers, he sends them over and on top of it, he sends his chief architect, which his name happened to be also Hiram, but he was known as Hiram, the widow’s son. So that’s Hiram King of Tyre, Hiram, the widow’s son, and King Solomon. Masons took that story and build it into our, that legend, built it into our teaching where Solomon was known of his wisdom, so wisdom. King of Tyre was known for his power, so strengths. And Hiram, the widow’s son, the architect, he built buildings, so beauty. So wisdom, strength, and beauty, those are three major teaching of Freemasonry. And that’s why you see some of the Scottish Rite buildings and stuff that they’re huge buildings. Most of the buildings in the world the castles, or even the Congress in the U.S. the White House they’re all dedicated as Masonic buildings.
– Even the White House?
– All of them, when they…
– Masonic buildings?
– As a Masonic commission, they were ordained in a Masonic fashion to be built. So the cornerstone has the square and compass on it, until now.
– So if I went to the White House, found the cornerstone it’s gonna have the Masonic symbol on it.
– [Fouad] Yes.
– This sounds like a scavenger hunt.
– All the U.S. presidents until the last one that we know Obama, were Masons. From Roosevelt to count down in the government they were all Masons, Freemasons.
– Don’t ask me how many times…
– All the Kings of Europe.
– Like, my husband has been taking me around the world when we’re traveling to find those symbols. It’s a passion, it is.
– I would wanna find it too, it’s like a fun scavenger hunt. Hey, by the way.
– It was more challenging when we traveled to the countries where the Masonic symbols were not exhibited or created like here.
– How did they hide them then?
– There’s always a sign.
– Are they still on there?
– They’re, there, yeah. The cornerstone is hard to find. They should be there I mean, I’m sure if you take a tour or something, definitely, if you read about it, definitely. Definitely, yeah, but most of the signers of the constitution were Freemasons.
– I don’t think the White House will let me in, hey by the way I’m here.
– I’m just looking for the cornerstone.
– Just the cornerstone.
– Fouad told me it’s here somewhere.
– I know this guy he’s a 32nd he told me to come here, come on.
– And I believe him. But yes, The Statue of Liberty itself was donated by the Freemasons to…
– That was a gift from Paris.
– From France yes, by the Freemasons.
– By the Freemasons.
– See they leave that out part of the story you know, this gift from France.
– But also Freemasons do not talk about what they do. They just do and move on.
– Yeah, that’s it, that’s kind of nice.
– They don’t take the pride of, I need to be known for doing this or that.
– But most, a lot of famous people throughout the history from musicians to Leonardo DaVinci, Einstein, Bach, Beethoven, these are all Masons. Mozart. Most of the play of Mozart has Masonic degrees in them you will not see them until you are a Mason. And you went through the degrees to see that play. The Swan, “Schwanengesang” by Mozart, it’s a Masonic play. And many, many, many others.
– Unbelievable, in order to get more into it…
– Buzz Aldrin.
– Mason. And let’s just say that there’s also a cornerstone with a Masonic symbol by the American flag on the moon.
– By where?
– On the moon. Because he was the second person who went on the moon and there…
– Holy cow!
– He put the Masonic symbol there. We conquered the world.
– All over, all over.
– A lot of people ask me, “You guys control everything in the world?”
– Nothing, but the universe.
– We don’t control everything, we control the most important parts.
– There you go.
– But people have that idea about Masonry, much more than what we really are.
– The more secretive you are, the more intriguing it is for people.
– Now why most of the Kings and generals and stuff are Masons? Beat me, I don’t know. I have no answer. All the Kings of England, they were Masons. Every King of England, before he became king, ordained as a king, he was supposed to…
– Prince Philip was I mean…
– Each king, each English King, they were Masons. All and most, all Europe’s prince and emperors, even the Middle East King Hussein, Algerian and Algeria. Everyone, they were Masons.
– Wow, unbelievable.
– Unbelievable, thank you so much both of you for bringing obviously this brand to life, the exposure, the opportunity on our behalf as Boveda to work with you, we appreciate that.
– Thank you, thank you, we do believe…
– Well that was well it was one of our, also we were so proud to have Boveda and kind of a partnership with Boveda in a way. It was great, and we even had people like, “How did you manage to have a Boveda sticker on your boxes?” Then I go like, “Because we are great cigars.”
– And because we know Rob.
– They believe in us, we believe in them.
– We know Rob.
– And we know Rob.
– No, seriously.
– We were very happy you know, our first shipment that came right now actually is with Boveda, has the Boveda stickers on them and they’re all displayed at our place right now, and we’re very proud of that actually. And we feel it gives it, takes it to another class. That attention to detail, this is an attention to detail, a commitment to the customers to deliver those cigars in the perfect way possible. And we do believe in this product, I personally use it myself definitely. And way before I started this even.
– Yeah, we use it on our…
– So soon you will see a For My Humidor poster coming up from Hiram & Solomon.
– We’ll be proud to do that…
– Why not maybe a special Boveda cigar. The business woman is here.
– There, now we’re talking. I appreciate you guys both. Romy, Fouad, thank you…
– Appreciate the opportunity actually for us being here.
– Thank you so much for telling your story this is just the beginning of the story, you guys. There’s gonna be more to come because there’s just too much to cover here, you’ve heard so many stories I hope you get an opportunity. They can go to hiramandsolomon.com to find out more about the blends.
– About the blends, about our story.
– And about your story, and then can they also see what retailers carry your cigars?
– With a ZIP Code, yes.
– Yes our website, you put your ZIP Code, it’ll give you all the retailers around you.
– And you can follow them on Instagram, Hiram & Solomon Cigars.
– We’re gonna soon probably have a small section also about our relationship with Boveda…
– [Rob] Wonderful.
– Why do we love Boveda. Yes, we do use Boveda on a daily basis, in our boxes in the house, I don’t even use anymore any distilled water or anything in all of my humidors. I just put my Boveda there, all the way.
– No mess.
– We should actually, believe it or not there were a couple of people that we know in Saudi Arabia actually…
– Yeah, they were having a shortage of Boveda.
– That they have a shortage of Boveda, we sent them a box over there, we shipped it to them.
– Oh, thank God.
– Yeah, during the pandemic with the lockdown happening they couldn’t find it.
– You were helping them protect their passion.
– You owe us more Boveda!
– What do you want from me? They said, “Boveda.” Sure, okay.
– They always also ask us the percentage they need to buy and I just try to explain to them, if you’re just seasoning or if it’s very warm, like my son lives in London and the houses in London are quite warm and hot in a way. When I lived there, I lived in my house it was too warm and I kept the window open all the time, because it was too warm. So I used my Boveda to regulate that all the time. I didn’t need to worry about when I’m traveling, what’s gonna happen to my cigars. They were always in great condition.
– People always ask me that, how come temperature doesn’t matter with Boveda? And I’d say the same thing about you have central air or a furnace for your home, right? So the relative temperature is 77, you turn on the AC and it drops it down to 68. And what keeps it there is the furnace or the AC. Boveda uses salts…
– [Romy] Humidity level is the most important part.
– To keep it right at 69, so if the temperature goes up, Boveda starts to engage and keep it at 69% relative humidity. It’s amazing.
– Excellent product, and no wonder you guys always win the product of the year with “Cigar Journal”.
– [Rob] Yeah right.
– I vote for it.
– I appreciate that, I voted for you.
– [Romy] Thank you, so much.
– Congratulations as well on those nominations.
– [Fouad] Thank you.
– And again, check out Hiram & Solomon Cigars online. And if you need Boveda to protect those cigars, go to bovedainc.com. Thank you guys, so much.
– Thank you, Rob…
– Thank you for the opportunity.
– Thank you, so much.
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