By Lincoln Salazar and Randy Mastronicola
IF YOU WERE AN NBA FAN during the league’s renaissance in the late 1980s and ‘90s, it would be nearly impossible to dispute that Karl “The Mailman” Malone’s dominance led to one of the most storied careers in the league’s history. His status as the premier power forward of his generation is virtually undeniable. Indeed, Karl has one hell of a basketball resume: In college, Karl was a standout Louisiana Tech power forward as an All-Southland selection for his three years at the university, and he was the Southland Player of the Year in 1983. His NBA career is beyond reproach—the stuff of legends. Karl was a Utah Jazz superstar from 1985 to 2003, and a two-time Most Valuable Player. (He garnered the awards in 1997 and 1999.) The Mailman appeared in 14 NBA All-Star games, and was awarded the game MVP in 1989 and 1993. He’s a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-time Team, and his number 32 was retired by the Utah franchise in 2004. Karl was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Karl played on the Olympic Dream Team along with many of his contemporary superstars. They obliterated every country’s basketball squad and won Gold Medals in 1992 and 1996. Winning double gold the way they did is one of the United States’ shining Olympic accomplishments. The teams featured Karl, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing and his legendary Utah Jazz teammate John Stockton. Collectively, they are regarded as the most dynamic powerhouse team to ever represent a country in Olympic history.
Karl Malone is developing quite the resume in new arenas as well, namely, in the cigar and spirits world. He’s the sole United States importer and brand ambassador for the E. León Jimenes 110 Anniversario super-premium rum. It’s a limited production spirit by La Aurora, S.A., and is produced by the iconic Ron Barceló brand. Karl is a long-time cigar enthusiast. Spend five minutes with him and you’ll see his passion is on par with many cigar industry leaders. Karl has developed a lasting bond with the president of La Aurora Cigars, Guillermo León Herbert. Their connection is real. La Aurora is the oldest cigar factory in the Dominican Republic, with a rich family tradition like the Malones’. Karl has become a kindred spirit with the company and the country, and their cigar collaboration has produced the Barrel Aged by Karl Malone. The Malone-customized cigar uses tobacco aged in rum barrels, and has been recognized for its craftsmanship and complexity.
Back to the rum and that double gold mention, I quote The Mailman: “It’s Karl Malone coming out of the gate running rum. What do Karl Malone and E. León Jimenes Rum have in common? Double gold, baby!”
To wit, the E. León Jimenes rum was awarded the Double Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this past April.
Lincoln Salazar, CEO & Publisher of Cigar & Spirits Magazine, spoke with Karl recently, and we present the highlights of their conversation below.
Lincoln Salazar: I had the opportunity to try out the E. León Jimenes 110 Aniversario Rum at the La Aurora factory in the Dominican Republic. It’s distilled with Ron Barceló, correct?
Karl Malone: Yes, Barceló. It’s eight years in virgin white oak barrels, and two in French barrels. That’s what gives it that color—you put some 10-year ingredients in it. I want to point that out: we’ve made sure it’s 10 years. I’m truly the luckiest man alive pertaining to cigars and meeting La Aurora with Mr. León. [Guillermo León Herbert is the president of La Aurora Cigars and grandson of Eduardo León Jimenes, who founded the company.]
They just welcomed me, and my family, with open arms, and when I say class… They always say “the speed of the ship is speed of the captain.” Mr. León and the way he is with his employees, it’s awesome. Think about this: They accepted us in, and they have been just amazing. We have been down there probably no less than 15 times.
Yes, the whole company is family, very welcoming. We had the greatest experience in the Dominican Republic with La Aurora as well. Me and our Editor-in-Chief, Randy Mastronicola, smoking La Aurora cigars and experiencing the rum.
You can get any La Aurora blend, and it pairs with this rum perfectly. When you’re talking about the perfect pairing, that’s just not a sexy thing to say. It’s real stuff. They’re like family to us. It would take you two seconds to convince me, “let’s take a trip to the DR.” That’s how ready I am. The DR is my Rome. I call Mr. León “The Godfather.”
Want more? Read the rest of the article in our digital issue of Cigar & Spirits!