Al Micallef is a renowned Fort Worth, Texas businessman and innovator. His dossier is a diverse one. He’s been an entrepreneur his whole life. Dating back to his young roots in Detroit as the proverbial lemonade stand kid, Christmas tree lot owner, and as a rust cleaner salesman he’s made his mark. As his endeavors became more refined, Al Micallef has overseen businesses as far reaching as silicone rubber companies, ranchland development, and hot spot restaurants. He’s a self-made man and a Doctor of Jurisprudence to boot. It’s no surprise this Renaissance Wrangler has successfully made the transition from cigar lover to President and Founder of a successful brand in a couple of years.
His partnership with the respected Gomez Sanchez family in 2016 helped make his brand a rising star in the industry. The Micallef Reserva (with its $42 price point) garnered a lot of buzz and has been highly rated in a variety of industry publications and other media outlets. The Micallef portfolio is distinct and price points have enough spread to include most enthusiasts. The brand has proven its ability to connect to new and seasoned smokers alike.
Randy Mastronicola, Editor-in-Chief of Cigar & Spirits Magazine, recently met with Al Micallef to talk about what’s on the horizon as the company continues to build its standing in the cigar industry.
Randy: Your backstory is compelling. Can you share how you made the leap from being a cigar lover to brand owner?
Al: Cigars have always fascinated me. I’ve built a lot of companies but it just made sense to combine the business aspect of my life with my personal passions. I’ve been fortunate. For example, auto racing, sailing and flying, ranching, restaurants, horse racing, and polo have excited me throughout my life. I’ve been able to foster much of that in business enterprises.
Randy: What is the essence of your cigar story?
Al: I’m a one-on-one, hand-in-hand person. What I mean by that is, I love people and moments. Some of my best recollections have been with a cigar in hand. Family experiences and celebrations are part of why I want to make some of the top cigars in the world. I want other people to know that as well and make an impact.
Randy: In regards to making an impact, you’ve always been philanthropic in your leadership role. Tell us about some of that.
Al: I take great pride in loyalty. As an employer and from my employees. The fact we’ve put over 250 children of our employees through college is something that is important to me, our culture is important to me. It’s essential we have that mindset, now more than ever.
Randy: You’ve described our cigar world as “really smart men who share important moments together.” Why do feel that way?
Al: It’s all a part of what drives me. For example, opening a restaurant. The Alpine Reata jumped out at me in 1995. I just wanted a good place to eat with good people to share it with. Our ranch businesses come from that mindset. Good people find each other and with the right support, you get rewarded with optimum results, most of the time anyway. The Silver Leaf Cigar Lounge in Fort Worth is an example of die-hard smart guys who share a love of cigars. The Royal Academy of Cigar Connoisseurs at Silver Leaf was instrumental in our beginnings. Our cigars became superstars there. These are the types of places where good people gather and it motivates me at the age of 74.
Randy: What else continues to inspire you in the cigar industry and beyond?
Al: I have a legitimate belief in our product. I’ll put our cigars up against any cigars out there, and I have. I’ve done impromptu blind challenges with our Reserva, for example, and it’s beaten some very top line, well respected cigars. For us, it’s all about quality control and vision. The next three to five years are crucial and we’re off to a wonderful start. I’ve owned over 25 companies in my lifetime and our cigar brand is the first one to actually use the Micallef name. Our partnership with the Gomez Sanchez family speaks to that as well. Their roots go back to Cuba in the 1930’s. They have, what I believe, are impeccable skills and their reputation is first rate. I feel our product and the development of our relationship will result in a powerful legacy.
Randy: Al Micallef, it was a pleasure spending time with you. I’m looking forward to what Micallef will offer the cigar universe in the next several years.
Al: Thank you, Randy. Same here with Cigar & Spirits Magazine.