Surprisingly, Kennedy Achille, also known as Tobacco Kennedy or ‘T.K.,’ initially dismissed cigar smoking. However, as the story unfolds, the unexpected journey of Kennedy Achille into the world of cigars reveals a fascinating transformation. Once a friend introduced him to the cigar life, there was no turning back. From starting Stogie TV to launching Black Smoke Miami, T.K. has become a media force in the cigar industry and “filled a void” in the black cigar market. Today, T.K. talked to Cigar Life Guy about his journey from being a cigar novice to shooting documentaries for A.J. Fernandez and creating the first cigar magazine devoted to people of color.
Tobacco Kennedy: First Premium Experience
Cigar Life Guy: Before we delve into your journey, can you tell me about your first premium cigar experience?
Kennedy Achille: My first premium cigar experience was at a cigar lounge called Stix in Dania, Florida. I used to fight about cigars with my best friend Alonzo all the time. I didn’t smoke then, and he used to smoke cigars in the backyard all the time. We were roommates, and I’d tell him to keep it away from the house. He would say, “One of these days, you’re going to end up smoking a cigar.” Then I would say, “Yeah, I don’t see that happening. Good luck.” I went into the cigar shop (Stix), and it was a horrible experience because I covered my nose, thinking, “What is this place?”
I was anti-cigar smoking and anti-smoking anything. Next thing you know, Alonzo tells me, “Stop being a little bitch”. So he gave me a Connecticut cigar, the lightest of the light, a house blend. After the first hit, I looked at him and said, “Man, is this what I have been missing out on?” The next day, I came home with a thousand dollars worth of cigars. I was hooked. But here’s the crazy part. They weren’t premium cigars (laughs). It was a thousand dollars worth of house blends and infused cigars. So I’m walking around like I’m the damn man with a chocolate-infused cigar (laughs).
I elevated myself to this cigar shop (my favorite in the United States), Cuenca’s, in downtown Hollywood. I walked in, chest out like I knew everything about cigars, and purchased a Java (laughs). The owner, Miguel, a legend in the cigar game, was an old-school Cuban. It’s a tiny shop, and I light my cigar. In broken English, I hear Miguel say, “Who in the hell is smoking a chocolate cigar?” Everybody was looking around, and I immediately dropped my cigar, and one of the guys slipped me a New World. I had no clue. It was a New World by A.J. Fernandez. It blew me away. First of all, it was intense. I had just graduated from infused not even a year into cigars, and I was smoking my first premium, an A.J. Fernandez.
Tobacco Kennedy and Cigar Life
Cigar Life Guy: How did you get into the cigar industry? Additionally, what did you do before, and how does it help inform your current endeavors?
Kennedy Achille: I got picked up by A.J. (laughs). I also got hooked on the cigar experience. I initially thought there were only a few lounges in Florida, and friends had to tell me, “No, there’s a lounge over here; there’s a lounge over there.” The next thing I knew, I was jumping from lounge to lounge to lounge. And I thought people didn’t know enough about all these places, so I grabbed a camera and created this platform called Stogie T.V. — a YouTube channel that showcases the world of cigars.
I started going from cigar shop to cigar shop, but I wasn’t charging anyone. I just asked if I could promote their lounge and film it. In exchange, I’d get a cigar. And that’s precisely how it went. I started getting views, but they differed from what it was about then. I just wanted to do it. It grew and grew.
I went to the Great Smoke in Boynton Beach, Florida, and heard my name called out. It was a rep from A.J. Fernandez, and I didn’t know who that was then. They said, “We know who you are. We love what you do with social media. Come by the office. We want you to film in Nicaragua.” I thought they were pulling my leg. Nope. The following week, I went to the office. All types of gifts — shirts, hats, cigars, cutters, lighters, and boom, I’m on a plane to Nicaragua.
They were for real. So I did the documentary on the A.J. Fernandez facilities in Nicaragua, and when I came back to the States, the doors of the cigar industry blew open. That’s when it took off. I started getting brand calls asking, “Whose cigar are you smoking during your podcast? Whose shirt are you wearing? What cutter and lighter are you using?”
What made it so unique was that I was the only black doing it then. At my first trade show, you could count the amount of blacks on one hand. Now, we flipped the ground, but I was the only one media-wise back then. You had the legendary Sean Williams. Scott Chester. I remember a few faces: Cigar Mike. He’s my mentor. But at that time, it was rare for a media outlet to pump this kind of content. For a black guy to be in Esteli, Nicaragua, at A.J. Fernandez facilities and his house filming? It was unheard of. It opened everyone’s eyes, and I became the poster child, media-wise, for the black cigar industry. That’s how that took off.
Behind the Name: From Tobacco Kennedy to T.K.
Cigar Life Guy: As we explore your background, could you share how and when you acquired the nickname ‘T.K.’ (Tobacco Kennedy)?
Kennedy Achille: That happened in 2017. It was just “Hey, T,” and I was like, “What is T?” and they’d say, “Tobacco.” Then it was “Hey, K” and “Hey, T.K.”. And I was like, what is this? And they would say, Tobacco Kennedy. I had people calling me “Stogie,” “T,” “AT,” and “ATK.” I just accepted it and ran with it; I responded no matter what they called me, but “T.K.” is what stuck, so T.K. it is.
Educating the Cigar World and
Cigar Life Guy: You started Stogie T.V. and have written books for the cigar smoker. So, why is it important to educate the cigar world? Can you also describe the joy you get sharing your knowledge of something you love?
Kennedy Achille: I firmly believe that the more you know, the more you buy. At that time, there was such a vast amount of tobacco, and I didn’t know all the tobacco that was out there. I was only familiar with two or three brands, and when I got to the trade show, I was like, “Who are all of these people?” Who is this Rocky guy, Drew Estate, Avo, and who are these Padron people? I was blown away. When I realized people should have been more educated, I took it to heart. I thought, let me be a springboard, and I ran with it. Educating people on “this is this” and “this is that”. The result is that the more you know, the more you buy.
Tobacco Kennedy on Black Smoke Miami
Cigar Life Guy: The Black Smoke Miami is becoming a legendary event. How did you develop the idea, and what makes it such a unique event?
Kennedy Achille: The Black Smoke Miami filled a void. More blacks were watching my platform. More blacks were getting involved in various positions, working in lounges and becoming podcasters. I am following my blueprint and creating their blueprint. But there was still no cigar event that showcased people of color. I took a leap of faith.
At that time, I met people who owned lounges, cigar brands, or just regular people who enjoyed cigars. I wondered why there was not an event that catered to the black market. So, I created it by taking a leap of faith in 2017 and launching the event. My idea took off like wildfire and became the first cigar event that showcased people of color. It was a beautiful thing. In the first year, 800 people showed up. The following year, it jumped to 1,500. In the third year, there were 6,000 attendees. It blew out of control.
Founding the Black Smoke Magazine
Cigar Life Guy: As the founder and publisher of Black Smoke Magazine, you play a pivotal role. So, why is it essential to provide a platform for the Black cigar community?
Kennedy Achille: We do everything like everyone else does. But there needed to be a platform. There was no showcase. There was no black cigar magazine. The blacks you saw on Cigar Aficionado cover, such as Michael Jordan. Great, but we can’t relate to Michael Jordan. We’re not all multimillionaires. I wanted to put someone on the magazine that we can relate with. Someone that we can touch and feel, and that you see and can say, “Hey, I know that person.” I want someone we can relate with, even from a distance, like, “Wow, they’re from Tampa, or they’re from Georgia.” Someone you can say, “When I get there, I can meet them.” You won’t go to Chicago and say, “Hey, Mr. Jordan.” But it’s not going to happen. (Laughs). So, I created the platform because I needed to fill a void.
Cigar Life Guy: What have been your favorite feature stories and collaborations for the magazine so far?
Kennedy Achille: I’d have to go with the first feature story for the magazine. It featured Christine Morgan out of Atlanta, Georgia. With her mobile cigar lounge, a black woman makes big waves in the cigar industry. She has a huge mobile cigar lounge. In fact, it’s so big she hauls it with an F350. And for a woman, a black woman, in the cigar industry to do that was beautiful. But once again, what magazine was knocking on her door or our door to say, “Hey, we want to feature you”?
Cigar Wealth Spoiler Alert
Cigar Life Guy: As we wrap up our discussion, could you share what’s next for you?
Kennedy Achille: Spoiler alert. (Laughs) You got the exclusive. My new book is “Cigar Wealth”; it’s a book on how the cigar industry got to where it is. I teach those same methodologies to people who want to start their businesses. So, there are a lot of strategies and techniques that the cigar industry uses, and as an entrepreneur, one of the hardest things to do is to grow. I learned so much from the cigar industry. I put all those experiences and techniques into the book and applied them to entrepreneurship. Cigar Wealth will be available on March 1.
Cigar Life Guy: Have we missed anything? Finally, please tell us anything else you’d like the cigar world to know.
Kennedy Achille: You grow. I’m growing. In fact, I was the last human being to interview Orlando Padron. He taught me so much about growing. And you always learn something new. Even when I was interviewing him before his passing, he was still learning about tobacco. So I said, “But you’re Orlando Padron, The God of cigars!” (Laughs). You know, we grow every day. Although I have a new book coming out soon, who knows what will occur from that over the next ten years? All I know is I’m here to stay, and I’m here to grow.
Check out the latest from TK (Tobacco Kennedy), Black Smoke Miami, and Black Smoke Magazine here.
Photo credit: Kennedy Achille