Tim Ozgener returns to the cigar business

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Tim Ozgener is back in the cigar industry with a new brand bearing his family name. The man who once owned and ran CAO alongside his father and sister is set to launch Ozgener Family Cigars Bosphorus. It’s his first blend in about 12 years and the start of what he hopes will be several cigars released under the Ozgener name.

“I still love cigars and found that I liked them more and more,” Ozgener said during a recent visit to the cigar lover offices in New York. “Some of the most satisfying parts of my life have been in the cigar business. I love the traditions.” He has been working on the new project, he says, “for almost two years.”

Bosphorus will debut next week in Las Vegas at the PCA show. The brand offers four sizes, each with a name reflecting the caliber of the ring. B-50 is 4 inches long by 50 rings, B-52 is 5 by 52, B-54 is 6 1/2 by 54, and B-55 is 5 1/2 by 55. All are pressed parejos. “I love the can press and the way the flavor travels through your palate,” says Ozgener. “I love how it touches every point of your tongue.”

The blend is a blend of Ecuadorian and Nicaraguan tobaccos. The wrapper is a dark leaf from Ecuador Sumatra; there are two binding sheets, one from Ecuadorian Connecticut, the other from Nicaraguan Jalapa; and the load is entirely Nicaraguan, a mix of leaves from Estelí, Jalapa and the volcanic island of Ometepe.

The smokes are made in Tabacalera Pichardo, Nicaragua. Pricing will be around $13-$15 (details are still being finalized) and Ozgener hopes to ship them in July or August, with in-store events to follow.

The name Bosphorus refers to the Bosphorus Strait, a thin and historically significant body of water that separates Europe from Asia, located in Turkey. The country’s largest city, Istanbul, straddles the two sides of the strait. The area was once the capital of the Byzantine Empire (when the city was known as Constantinople) and then of the Ottoman Empire. When Constantine the Great ruled the region, he called it New Rome.

Ozgener’s parents were born in Turkey (his father Cano, who died in 2018, was an Armenian Turk, his mother is Turkish). The name Bosphorus not only reflects the cultural mix of this part of the world, but also how cigars can unite people from different backgrounds.

“People are always in a good mood when they light a cigar. When they smoke a cigar, they let their guard down,” says Ozgener.

Ozgener Bosphorus Family Cigars

The boxes and bands are resplendent, decorated with a combination of modern and traditional artwork. At the center of the band, in gold, are the letters O and Z, a nod to Ozgener’s OZ Arts in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.

“We use the O and the Z as the main symbol, the logo,” says Ozgener. The inside of the lid shows the brand logo for the new cigar, with the Statue of Liberty in the center symbolizing her parents’ arrival in the United States from Turkey. There is also a photo of Mount Ararat in Turkey, as well as the faces of Ozgener’s parents.

Cano Ozgener, Tim’s father, founded CAO International Inc. in 1968. It was a small pipe-focused company. Humidors and cigars followed, and the Ozgeners launched CAD cigars in 1995. The brand became a hit, with a multitude of variations often presented in striking and untraditional ways. In 2007, the Ozgener family sold CAO to European cigar maker Henri Wintermans, for undisclosed terms.

In 2010, after the merger between Swedish Match and Scandinavian Tobacco Group, CAO moved from Nashville to Richmond, Virginia, and Tim Ozgener left the company.

The cigars are distributed by Crowned Heads, and Ozgener is now one of the owners of this Nashville-based cigar company. Other former CAO executives are part of Crowned Heads, including Mike Conder and Jon Huber.

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