Daniel Marshall has been successful in the humidor business since 1982, and embodies the lustrous pioneering spirit that surrounds the American dream. In 1995 he got into the cigar business.
The humidors of the virtuoso artistic craftsman Daniel Marshall are situated at the most noble of locations all around the world like silent, contemporary witnesses of highly enjoyable hours. Given the attractive creations, you don’t think of the hard work that has gone into them at first. “In my work the wood chips fly into the sweat on my face,” laughs the 51-year-old Californian proudly.
“My humidors have kind of made history – in politics, in film or with luxury brands such as Bally Switzerland, Cartier, Dunhill of London and Hennessy.”
Al Pacino’s hit film Scarface even led to a contract for a series of one-thousand Scarface humidors to package the Blu-ray release of this iconic film. Then Marshall mentions king’s palaces, three American presidents and Hollywood stars, like Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando, who have also been delighted by his fine humidors, often also along with his cigars.
“Many of our designs have been used for other purposes than a humidor,” he enthusiastically tells me. “As chests for the finest shoes, jewelry, but also for Cognac, Marlon Brando’s Hollywood scripts, Thomas Keller’s truffles, and chess pieces.”
His greatest challenge was making a huge humidor, covered in alligator skin, for the star designer Bijan, who ordered a faithful reproduction of a wealthy customer’s private jet and sold the humidor for $125,000.
“Lifeboat” for Cigars
“The story of the Noah’s ark humidor, which defied the apocalyptic mood of nature, sounds like a miracle,” he continues, and explains, “A client told me that his cigars survived Hurricane Katrina in a Daniel Marshall humidor unscathed. The numerous layers of lacquer acted as the perfect insulation. The box operated like a lifeboat in the flooded home in New Orleans.” Exciting like a Hollywood thriller.
This fits well with the marketing concept of Daniel Marshall, who is well fraternized with the cigar-smoking glitter and glamour stars who seek out the quality of his humidors and cigars. Whereas he himself is nothing of a cineaste dandy; he comes across as smart, solid and always grounded.
The most recent culmination of his exclusive handicraft work is a solid oak humidor display case that has 24 private lockers in the first, worldwide, Daniel Marshall (DM) Cigar Lounge in the sophisticated Kitzbühel Country Club, located in Austria. With this lounge, the enterprising businessman opened a new line of business at the beginning of 2013.
That this exclusive refuge is nesting precisely in the small Alpine country of Austria is no coincidence. Marshall’s long-time friend, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced him to the best contacts in his old homeland. “I’m proud to be involved in charity projects with the former governor of California. With sales of my humidors I support social care projects for school children.”
For half of the year Daniel Marshall travels for business. “I feel like a modern Marco Polo,” says the tall man, who wears the finest boots made from real crocodile skin. “From Texas, naturally,” he grins. “My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best,” the charismatic Californian quotes Winston Churchill and mentions in passing that, back in 2003 during the “global battle for the best humidor,” he emerged as the winner, taking the award for the number one humidor in the world.
In the 31st anniversary year of his company, Marshall jetted to clients in Algeria, India, South Korea, Holland, Berlin, Cologne, Geneva, Zurich, Madrid and Rome and showed his presence in new markets like Brazil, Asia, as well as the Middle East, where he is planning other DM cigar lounges. In January he was in India for three days with Mr. Schwarzenegger.
“There I met the Nobel prize winner Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri. For me, he’s a saint and shining light. He and Mr. Schwarzenegger inspired me with the project ‘Lighting a Billion Lives,’ which will provide power to one billion people who live without power across the world, to create the world’s first solar-powered humidor.”
The Californian, who is bursting with ideas, paints me a picture of his newest creation. I ceremoniously sniff the aromas from a table top humidor fashioned out of a 50-year-old Balvanie whisky barrel, a liaison with the highly awarded Balvenie single malt whisky. Marshall’s unique Whisky Stave humidor was introduced at the IPCPR 2013 trade fair, along with his “Passion for the World Collection,” with the first edition being the “Austrian Humidor,” embellished with the gold-plated Austrian coat of arms of the golden eagle as well as the most valuable cigar safe in the world – a solid gold 14-carat gold humidor.
At events across the globe, the tasting of the noble whisky connects Marshall with the tasting of the “most exclusive cigar” on our planet. The Daniel Marshall 24kt Golden Torpedo is a triumph with a wrapper made of 24-carat gold leaf. “It’s a cigar for special “Golden Moment” occasions, which everyone has to celebrate in their lives.”
I feel like a modern Marco Polo
In June 2013 Marshall presented it in the Bulgari Hotel along with legendary Edward and Eddie Sahakian from Davidoff of London. “At this special UK-launch, it was a great honor and privilege to witness 30 Habanos snobs par excellence savor the Nicaraguan Daniel Marshall Cigar. Paying guests included banking executives, sports figures, Hollywood agents and real-estate moguls, and the crown princes of Bahrain and Qatar were also present,” says Marshall. And yet, the DM Golden Torpedo, composed of the finest Nicaragua tobaccos, came across extremely well.
Women Brand Ambassadors
At the moment, Daniel Marshall is making a humidor collection especially for women from the finest crocodile leather. “I’m trying to win over more women to cigars and am creating a premium long filler for the ladies.” He nurtures many friendships with passionate cigar smokers, among them society celebrities such as Natalie Cole, the Canadian slopestyle champion Kaya Turski and dancer Brandy Lee.
Marshall is currently working with supermodel Hana Jirickova to create a special cigar for women. Hana adorns the covers of the world’s top fashion magazines and appears as an avant-garde Hollywood vamp in the photo with the DM Golden Torpedo.
Of course, Daniel Marshall also offers products that every-one can afford and refers to his cigar line as the DM Red Label. This is available in five formats costing between US$4 and $8.
That the DM Red Label Robusto was awarded the same points as the Cohiba Siglo III in the Cigar Journal tasting makes him very happy. “I was able to invest all my passion into the DM cigar series right from the beginning, without being under pressure for a constant gain,” says Marshall, who entered the cigar business in 1995.
“My businesses are well cushioned by the flowering humidor business.” And the marketing of his cigars also brings in good business figures.
“In Germany the first 200 boxes sold surprisingly fast,” as was reflected in the positive balance following the launch of his cigars in Europe, where Kohlhase & Kopp and House of Smoke act as his distribution partners.
For the creation of the Red Label series, he’s putting his trust in the excellent know-how of Nestor Plasencia and his long-time friend Manolo Quesada in Nicaragua.
“It’s important to me to use the best tobaccos and to complete the blend as well as the aging without any time constraints.” Before the cigars are shipped to customers, they mature for one year in his humidor aging room. Daniel Marshall Humidors & Cigars are headquartered in Santa Ana, near Los Angeles. There, depending on the season, he has 20 artisans working with him.
Homage to Papa Joe
“I owe my career to Joseph D. Bain a.k.a. Papa Joe,” Marshall says, reflecting on himself as a 19-year-old dreamer surfer boy from Malibu Beach. “I come from a middle-class family, fell in love with the grand-daughter of the best-situated insurance magnate. Papa Joe wanted to loan me 15,000 dollars to finalize my dream: building a 40-foot sailboat. As young as ten, I won the Golden Hammer Award as a model architect, awarded by the popular American magazine Mechanic’s Illustrated.”
Out of gratitude Marshall made a three-cigar, portable travel humidor out of teak for the passionate cigar smoker Joe Bain. It more or less became the mother of all his later treasure boxes. “I had the opportunity to personally present my first work to the luxury gift house, Alfred Dunhill. This resulted in a long journey, which took me from New York to London all the way to Paris. I can still see myself in my tiny hotel room, where I made the last corrections to sample humidors that Dunhill was to approve. It became the key to my success.”
When, a few years later, the young Daniel Marshall touched the handle and opened the door of the famous Parisian jeweler, Cartier, it became clear to him that “[his] wheel of success was going to turn pretty fast. I was convinced that I would conquer the luxury labels of Europe and realize my dream to be a California designer and manufacturer to the top luxury gift houses of the world.”
Daniel Marshall looks at me with a beaming smile and says, “In every person’s life there is a Papa Joe. Papa Joe represents the special people that come across our paths and give us the leg up, the encouragement and inspiration that we can achieve our dreams.” He comes across to me like a modern itinerant preacher in anti-tobacco times. “Cigar Smoking is about the mutual experience, like in prehistoric times at the bonfire.”
He leaves me with this quote that defines cigar smoking for him, “Cigars are the modern-day campfire.” This brings us cigar friends together, beyond all social difference, in perfect harmony.” Just like the lingering notes of chocolate from a DM Red Label Robusto, Daniel Marshall’s maxim stays with me for a long time.
“Everything rides on our dreams … and the relentless pursuit of harmony and beauty.”
Daniel Marshall Porfolio 2013
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Winter Edition 2013. Read more