“I was young and drunk off my ass at a beach in Goa," says Kaizad Hansotia, owner of Gurkha cigars. "There was a guy selling cigars out of a little hut, and they were branded Gurkha. I was intrigued." Hansotia then did what any drunk entrepreneur would do – he negotiated and acquired the brand for $149. The year was 1989.
For those unfamiliar with military history, Gurkhas were legendary Nepalese soldiers renowned for their skill in combat, ferociousness, and fearlessness. They’re often remembered along with their signature weapon: the khukuri, a forward-curving knife with a 10-15 inch blade. As an Indian Army leader once said, "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha."
Badass dudes, for sure.
Hansotia himself was born in the regional neighborhood of the Gurkhas: India, to be more precise. He was educated in England and ultimately the family business brought him to South Florida, where he spent his remaining teenage years. What business? His father distributed watches to duty-free shops. What better product line to add to that than cigars?
No, really. That’s how things got kicked off!
One of Hansotia’s key insights early on what that the industry didn’t offer much that was super high-end. Dull cedar boxes really didn’t stand out. He wanted something that would satisfy discriminating international buyers with substantial personal wealth. Thus, the first Gurkha cigars he made in the early 1990s came out of the Dominican Republic infused with cognac.
This was a decently creative idea, at the time. Now, we’re used to cigars being infused and flavored to the moon and back, but Hansotia was ahead of the curve. Of course, humble cognac alone isn’t really enough to move the needle with the richest people in the world. The first release would later be outdone by outlandishly luxurious smokes like His Majesty’s Reserve (or “HMR”), which was infused with Louis XIII Cognac and sold for $250 per, and today has versions retailing for a thousand dollars.
Now that’s more like it! And by “it,” we mean “out of everyone’s price range for cigars.” The company would go on to create other exclusive wonders such as the camel bone humidor, which sold for $115,000. Products like these, of course, were made for global oligarchs with money to burn.
Fortunately, the company makes a wide variety of other smokes for the rest of us mere mortals to enjoy, and some are quite nice. The Gurkha 125th Anniversary cigar, in particular, would be a good place to start if you want to smoke one of the company’s highest-rated cigars (that don’t require you to take out another mortgage on your house).
Today, you might find Hansotia in his office at Gurkha cigars headquarters in Tamarac, Florida, ashing into a bronze skull ashtray cast from a mold fashioned from the skull of a defeated Taliban leader. He’s a different type of warrior than that you might find on a battlefield, but no one can deny he’s conquered a big ‘ol chunk of the cigar industry with diligence and boldness.
That’s an effort we can respect.
Please browse our selection of Gurkha cigars at your leisure.