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Published on October 10th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz


The Highclere Castle Cigar Company’s Adam Von Gootkin On Cigars, Gin, TED Talks & Pop Evil

The Highclere Castle Cigar Company was founded in 2017, as launched at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association’s Annual Conference. A partnership with the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and world-renowned cigar blender Nicholas Melillo of the Foundation Cigar Company, the cigar conceptualized by the company came about from hundreds of hours of travel and research throughout Central America and South America, including Estelí, Nicaragua.

Should the “Highclere Castle” name itself sounds familiar to you, that may be because it is the namesake of the fictional home on Downton Abbey. But the reality is that the magnificent estate in Hampshire, England has been the seat of the Carnarvon family for over 300 years.

I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Highclere Cigar co-founder and CEO, Adam von Gootkin, not only about the acclaimed cigars from the Highclere Castle Cigar Company but also Highclere Castle Gin. Mr. Von Gootkin — who once gave a TED Talk — not only comes across a smart and motivated individual, yet also as someone with a lot of fun and interesting stories to tell.

More on all things Highclere Castle can be found online at

When did you first become interested in cigars?

Adam von Gootkin: I’ve been enjoying fine cigars for years, however it wasn’t until I became friends with Nick Melillio — founder of Foundation Cigar Company — a few years back that I truly began to appreciate the incredibly hard work, dedication and art form that it takes to craft an exceptional cigar. The process is so romantic that one has to be sincerely passionate about each step of the process to get it right.

To you, what separates the Highclere Castle Cigar Company’s cigars from what else is on the market?

Adam von Gootkin: Cigar flavor profile trends have changed throughout the centuries. The seed available has also evolved and changed like with any agricultural product. The Highclere Castle Cigar is incredibly distinct and that it was created to have both the aroma and flavor profile of the style cigar smoked at Highclere Castle after circa 1900s. While many of today’s smoking trends are about huge robust powerful cigars, the Highclere Castle Cigar is delicate and creamy yet full of precisely selected flavors. It is a truly elegant cigar.

How long does it take for one of your cigars to be made?

Adam von Gootkin: It takes 3 years from seed to smoke.

How did the opportunity to give a TED talk come up?

Adam von Gootkin: TED Talk was doing its first TedxHartford event. Someone I knew from event resources was organizing it and asked me to take part. They originally asked me to speak about Entrepreneurship and being a CEO, but I changed the topic to tell a story that I thought was more relevant and a little different for me as it was highly-personal.

What is coming up for the Highclere Castle Cigar Company in the near-future? Any special events? Or tie-ins?

Adam von Gootkin: We just did a very successful cigar launch event at the Highclere Castle for the U.K. trade a couple of months ago and I am proud to say we are now available throughout the United Kingdom. Just yesterday, I returned from Cannes, in the South of France where I attended and participated in the TFWA World Exhibition Conference, which is a large luxury brand duty-free trade show. The Highclere Castle Cigar will be launching in some exciting new markets in Europe and the Middle East in the upcoming 6 months.

In November, we are hosting Lord and Lardy Carnarvon in New York City for a media and VIP event that will be exciting. I expect we will do a big bash at Highclere Castle next year as well.

Nick Melillo of Foundation Cigars and I are collaborating on a super-top-secret cigar for release next year that will be the second cigar in the Highclere Castle Cigar lineup.

Overall, is there something you wish more people knew about the Highclere Castle brand?

Adam von Gootkin: Many people know of Highclere as “Downton Abbey,” but what I find incredibly special about the castle is that it is a fully-functional 5,000-acre working estate; one of the very few left in England. They grow very high end oats for thoroughbred race horses around the world as well as botanicals and make many different products on the estate. Lord and Lard Carnarvon are very hard-working and its impressive that they have been able to keep the 300 year old working estate legacy alive.

Cigars have been enjoyed in Highclere Castle’s iconic library by visiting statesmen, royalty, famous actors, athletes and scientists. The nation of Canada was created in that library over cigars. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered King Tuts Tomb with a cigar in hand.

When not busy with Highclere Castle Cigar Company, how do you like to spend your free time?

Adam von Gootkin: I unfortunately have very little free time as we are planning the global launch of the Highclere Castle Gin for next year using botanicals from the estate. It is being produced in England’s oldest gin still and has been 3 years in the making. The gin launch along with our other companies keeps me running pretty hard but I love it.

When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my wife and our 1 year old son as well as my family and friends. I am a bit of foodie and nothing makes me happier than an evening to unwind with an exceptional dinner in great company, followed by a Highclere Castle Cigar.

As a music-centric publication, I must ask: What was the last concert you attended for fun?

Adam von Gootkin: I attended a Pop Evil concert, the bass player Matt Dirito is a good friend of mine and avid cigar smoker. The band’s energy is incredible and they have many successful hits. Matt also has an awesome charity called, Star Treatments, that helps kids with cancer and leukemia. It’s a super-unique concept that’s different and worth checking out and supporting.

Finally, Adam, any last words for the kids?

Adam von Gootkin: Check us out at @highclerecastlecigar on Instagram, keep an eye out for the gin and lastly, work hard, play hard, enjoy life and don’t take any of it too seriously.

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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident with over 20 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his then-favorite band Superdrag. Since then, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer. Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World,, Businessweek, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. Beyond being "Editor At Large" for The Hype Magazine, Darren is also the host of weekly "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" series, which airs on dozens on television and digital networks. He has also co-authored 2 published books, 2018's "Pocket Change: Your Happy Money" (Book Web Publishing) and 2019's "Good Advice From Professional Wrestling" (6623 Press), and co-hosts the world's only known podcast about David Lee Roth, "The DLR Cast."

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