Lee Marsh, the founder of Stolen Throne Cigars, was a prolific cigar smoker long before he started making them. Now he’s making a name for himself and the Stolen Throne line by doing things his way. Marsh talks about the recent premium cigar victory over the FDA, connecting with the consumer, and the importance of not rushing anything when it comes to making cigars and cigar life.
The First Premium Smoke
Cigar Life Guy: Tell me about your first premium cigar experience.
Lee Marsh: That’s funny, I don’t remember exactly my first premium cigar experience, but I was probably about fifteen the first time I had a quality cigar -meaning like a hand-made cigar. My uncle was in the Marine Corps and he brought some back for me and we were just hanging around and he gave me my first cigar. I do remember the first premium cigar brand that piqued my interest and what I really enjoyed about cigars and started the journey. It was the original Camacho Corojos when the Aurora family was still making Camacho. I do remember vividly my first Corojo, and instantaneously it was one of those times when you have a cigar and you say, “This is different.”. It started from there.
Lighting a Fire: Getting Started in the Cigar Business
Cigar Life Guy: Tell us how you got your start in the cigar industry. What did you do before and how does it help inform what you do with your current business?
Lee Marsh: I’ve always been a consumer. I’ve been a passionate cigar smoker for years. I was working in compliance and tech and was put in a situation where I was traveling a lot and spending a lot of my free time in cigar shops and cigar lounges all over the world. It kind of just grew. And the first time I visited a farm in the Dominican Republic that subconsciously lit a fire in me. I just kept coming into conversations that if I made cigars I would do this or I would do that. And finally, it got to the point where it was a “shit or get off the pot” situation. So I had to just go all in. I met up with Noel (Rojas) through a couple of mutual acquaintances, like Island Jim, and we just hit it off immediately. A week later I was down in Nicaragua and we started to get the ball rolling on what would be the Crook of the Crown.
Stolen Throne Cigars: Doing Things Their Own Way
Cigar Life Guy: Stolen Throne is an evocative name. How did you come up with it and what’s the meaning behind it?
Lee Marsh: So that was probably the hardest part about getting the company going. The Crook (of the Crown) was actually done well before we had a name. But naming the company and the brand was super difficult because I didn’t want to have something that I had to fake or had to pretend. I wanted it to be authentic and transparent about who we were and what we wanted to represent. It’s rooted in the sense of making your own place at the table. Doing things your own way. The Waylon Jennings style, like outlaws and being a badass. It’s about doing the things you want to do.
Cigar Life Guy: You released the limited edition Phantom Queen at last year’s PCA and the Yorktown Fleet line in 2023. When people smoke your cigars what do you want them to associate with your brand?
Lee Marsh: Realistically for us, when you smoke a Stolen Throne Cigar you’re on our journey of tobacco with us. I’m a first-generation cigar maker, so you’re experiencing all of my thoughts and hopes and aspirations, and passion when you smoke every cigar. I think what a lot of people don’t realize about us is that you can tell by our portfolio we’ve been on the market for four years and we only have four blends in two sizes. We don’t rush anything. Everything is done with a hundred percent of our effort and passion. And when you sit back and smoke our cigars you’re on that journey with us. We’ve been out for four years coming up on five years with mainly The Crook of the Crown which is still surreal to me, to be honest.
Cigar Life Guy: Stolen Throne recently took over the distribution of Ed Reed’s ER line. What was that collaboration like?
Lee Marsh: It’s one of those things that grew out of a friendship. Ed and I have been friends for a while. We met at a Ravens game a while back when he was smoking a Crook of the Crown and he had talked to me about getting in the business. He was really passionate about cigars. I kind of took him to task. I was like, “I’ll help you, but if you just want to be another celebrity with a name on a cigar,” I’m not your guy. But that’s not what he’s about at all. He’s super passionate about the culture and everything that goes into a premium cigar. He’s an avid smoker and super into what he’s doing. So when they got into the process and needed a little help navigating they reached out to me and that grew into our distribution.
Challenges in the Industry
Cigar Life Guy: What is the biggest challenge facing the cigar industry today?
Lee Marsh: I think it’s like anything else. The rising cost of living. The lifestyle is not inexpensive. It’s one of those things where people have a limited amount of disposable income.
I would say the FDA, but that was struck down today. Which is awesome. For now anyway. It’s like anything else when you’re a luxury aspect of someone’s life. For most people it’s not a hobby it’s a lifestyle. I know that I smoke ten cigars a day usually- well probably half that before I was making cigars. But it’s a part of our life. Like everything else, the rising cost of living is a potential threat.
Cigar Life Guy: What’s next for Stolen Throne?
Lee Marsh: Hopefully we just chugging along and doing everything we want to do as far as continuing to push passion and quality products. People always ask me “What do you plan to do in five years?”. Well, I hope I’m still making cigars (laughs). That’s the plan. Keep doing what we’re doing. Continue to get better. Continue to push our envelope in terms of reaching our true potential.
Cigar Life Guy: Have we missed anything? Please tell us anything else you’d like the cigar world to know.
Lee Marsh: We’re super grateful. It’s been a whirlwind for four years and we’re super grateful for the support we’ve received nationwide and internationally. For us, the consumer always comes first, along with the retailer. They go side by side. It’s overwhelming when you hear retailers that already work with us telling other retailers, “Hey you gotta do business with these people”. The majority of our growth over our first three or four years has been consumers championing the brand and going into retailers and telling them, “Hey you gotta bring this cigar in.”
photo credit: Stolen Throne Cigars