The story of Marvin Samel: Shaping the cigar world

June 12, 2024

The story of Marvin Samel: Shaping the cigar world

The cigar world has had its fair share of larger-than-life personalities, but few can match the audacious vision and unwavering grit of Marvin Samel.

From an entrepreneurial genius to directing some of Hollywood’s greatest names, discover more about the one-of-a-kind story of Marvin Samel.

Who is Marvin Samel?

If you’re a cigar aficionado, chances are you’ve puffed on a Drew Estate smoke at some point. For those who haven’t, it should be next on your list.

If you have had the pleasure of sampling sticks from this esteemed brand, you’ve experienced the handiwork of Marvin Samel. An icon in the industry, Samel is one of the visionaries behind transforming a small boutique brand into one of the most innovative and beloved names in the industry.

Marvin has been in the cigar game for many years. Together with his frat brother, Jonathan Drew, he was an owner of Drew Estate. The pair launched the company back in 1996 from a small retail kiosk in New York City, when it was far from an estate and still just a humble startup.

However, Samel had much bigger dreams beyond being a local tobacconist. Marvin wanted to shake things up and bring an edgy, artistic flair to the typically stuffy cigar world. With an insatiable passion for tobacco and an entrepreneurial spirit, Marvin helped turn Drew Estate into a powerhouse known for bold, unique blends and distinctive marketing.

The company’s inventive lines like ACID, Undercrown, and Liga Privada captured the hearts of cigar lovers worldwide. But it was about more than just great smokes. Marvin’s dedication to creativity and out-of-the-box thinking have helped make Drew Estate a name that resonates with those craving something different.

Marvin Samel and Drew Estate

When Marvin and Jonathan founded Drew Estate in the mid 90s, it was a tiny operation barely keeping its head above water. However, the duo saw its potential and transformed it into something truly special.

Marvin brought a fearless, break-the-rules mentality to everything he did with Drew Estate. They breached flavor boundaries by infusing cigars with wild flavors like wine, herbs, and even tea with the game-changing ACID line. Ever wondered how we got the iconic Liga Privada No. 9? It only exists because of Samel’s eagerness to trial blending ultra-premium ligeros into one knockout cigar.

Drew Estate wasn’t just pumping out cigars — it was delivering an experience. The packaging looked like artsy graffiti. The events had an underground, anti-establishment vibe. As a co-leader, Marvin ensured the company spoke directly to the new wave of cigar enthusiasts.

His approach worked incredibly well. Today, Drew Estate is a powerhouse of cigar lines distributed in over 80 countries, with its most popular cigars routinely named among the industry’s best by aficionados. Marvin’s innovative mindset helped revitalize what many considered an old-fashioned world.

Perhaps the boldest move was opting for a vertical approach to Drew Estate’s operations. This allowed the founders to control every step of the cigar-making process from seed to store shelf. That kind of autonomy is uncommon and gave Drew Estate an incredible advantage over its competitors.

Signature cigars from Drew Estate

Drew Estate has several world-class lines within its portfolio. Each showcases the company’s dedication to quality and innovation in the cigar industry, catering to different tastes and preferences.

Tabak Especial

The Tabak Especial line features cigars infused with a rich, gourmet coffee flavor. They have a blended Nicaraguan filler and Sumatran binder, and are available in two wrapper varieties, both cured for two years.

The Dulce features a Connecticut Shade wrapper that is sweeter than its counterpart. Once lit, you can expect creamy notes combined with a delectable coffee infusion.

The Negra is rich and robust, thanks to its bold Maduro wrapper. While also featuring coffee notes, the Negra is more espresso whereas the Dulce is cappuccino. Don’t let the intensity put you off – the Negra is sweetened for chocolate, making it a wonderful dessert cigar.

Buy Now

Factory Smokes

Factory Smokes is Drew Estate’s more budget-friendly line, providing good quality, everyday cigars at a reasonable price. They are handmade and offer various wrapper types and sizes.

The Connecticut Shade variety features a softer, creamy profile. Smokers will enjoy touches of cocoa and cream blended with more sophisticated notes of leather and cedar.

Need a sugar boost? The Sweets has a sweetened cap that gently mellows the spicy notes of this stick. More hints of leather and cedar can be detected, combined with coffee and nuts bound by a Habano wrapper.

The Sungrown variety is known for its woodsy top notes with additional fruity components. The Maduro, however, takes this line one step further up the richness scale. As well as the coffee and chocolate notes experienced with every Factory Smokes variety, this stick delivers extra caramel sweetness and additional spice.

Buy Now

Undercrown Shade

The Undercrown Shade line is known for its balanced and smooth flavor profile. These smokes feature an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper, a Sumatran binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler.

In terms of flavor profile, expect a creamy draw with notes of nuts, cream, honey, and subtle spices. Undercrown Shade is a medium-bodied cigar well-suited for both novice and experienced smokers.

Buy Now

For most people, co-founding one of the top cigar companies in the world would have been enough of an achievement. But Marvin Samel has never been one to rest on his laurels.

A few years after the sale of Drew Estate to Swisher International in 2014, Marvin stepped away from the company and the life of cigar manufacturing.

Marvin started working on his latest creative endeavor — breaking into the film industry. He began documenting his family’s life, eventually turning these snippets into a screenplay.

The finished movie, iMordecai (2022), which he also directed, has an epic cast that includes Sean Astin, Carol Kane, and Judd Hirsch. A heartwarming comedy, it’s based on Samel’s personal experiences during a stressful period. It tells the story of Marvin (Astin), his father, Mordecai, (Hirsch), and his mother, Fela (Kane), who is showing early signs of dementia.

The film centers around Mordecai’s new friendship with a young phone technician, sparked when Marvin takes his father to replace his outdated flip device. It’s a poignant and uplifting celebration of family and the humor to be found in more challenging times.

As expected, iMordecai also includes several references to the cigar industry. A group of real-life cigar makers feature in a scene, while the fictional Marvin is preparing to sell his cigar company. The cigar-making process is also discussed — the company’s sale depends on a new, special blend, which needs more time to age.

As for what’s next for the real-life Marvin, only time will tell. In several interviews, he has mentioned his passion for film and storytelling, meaning iMordecai could be the first of many projects — watch this space.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What's trending now...