In mythology, the griffin is a powerful creature with the rear-end of a lion, wings and talons of an eagle, and its head a mixture of both featuring a beak and mane. Griffin’s were tasked with guarding treasure and cherished possessions. The Griffin’s cigars are reminiscent to that grand stature.
The mastermind behind The Griffin’s cigars is Hendrik “Henke” Kelner. Kelner grew up in a tobacco family. His father, a Dutch tobacco broker, was against Henke’s entry into the tobacco industry because it would cause competition between family members since other members were already established in the industry.
In accordance with his father’s wishes, Henke studied engineering in Mexico. However, after his graduation Henke could not find a job in his field. In 1969, his father had passed and a friend of his father offered Henke a job at Tabacalera S.A., which produced mainly Dominican cigarettes.
Henke was originally working under the loose title of “engineer”, but he soon became the general production manager. In 1979, he had worked his way up to be the general manager of operations and convinced Tabacalera S.A. to expand their cigar venture. A couple brands were developed for the American market and one for the European market.
The European-targeted brand was named The Griffin’s. A fitting title which attracted European aficionados since the griffin is featured in beloved European folklore. The brand was created for Bernard Grobet, a Swiss club owner.
In 1984, Henke left Tabacalera S.A. and started his own cigar venture, Tabacos Dominicanos, known as TabaDom. When he left he took The Griffin’s brand with him and expanded its line options and its target market.
Three years later, Avo Uvezian commissioned TabaDom to produce Avo cigars. In 1988, Bernard introduced Henke to Dr. Ernst Schneider, who had bought Zino Davidoff’s business in 1970.
This friendship benefited all of them and that same year Avo cigars began selling in the Davidoff shop. Oettinger Davidoff president and CEO since 2011, Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, credits Henke with contributing a great deal to the success of Davidoff.
Henke’s expertise and dedication earned him the unofficial title of Santiago’s most trust worthy tobacco guru. Henke has also been involved in the production of several distinguished cigar brands such as Ashton, Zino, and Winston Churchill.
According to Henke, “the only way to make quality cigars is to have control through the entire process”. He lives by this philosophy and TabaDom has become a large corporation with several branches overseeing different parts of the production process. This dedication to high-standards has landed TabaDom a spot in the Pro Cigar Association of Dominican Cigar Manufacturers.
Prosesadora de Tabaco Palmerejo handles growing, harvesting and processing the raw tobacco in Jicomé, Dominican Republic. O.K. Cigars, a branch of TabaDom, produces The Griffin’s alongside Avo and Zino cigars. Davidoff is in charge of distributing The Griffin’s cigars.
The Dominican tobacco used in The Griffin’s cigars is grown in the Cibao Valley, one of the most fertile areas on the island. The cigars are wrapped with some of the finest tobacco leaves on the market including Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut and Nicaraguan Habano wrappers.
Henke’s TabaDom empire has been transferred into the competent hands of Hamlet Espinal. Espinal was personally mentored and groomed by Henke to take over the business. Fans of The Griffin’s and other Henke and Davidoff brands can stand assured the integrity of those cigars will be upheld.
Against his father’s wishes, Henke joined the cigar industry but chances are his father is looking down upon Henke with pride. The competitive atmosphere he feared would break down family ties took Henke to the forefront of success and the cigar industry is grateful.
The Griffin’s name foreshadowed Henke’s success. He became a legend just like the creature his brand was named after. When you enjoy a cigar from The Griffin’s, you’re smoking something that only a beast could be trusted to protect.