In the year 1000, half a century before Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, a Nordic Viking named Leif Erikson, who was in charge of Christianizing Greenland, set sail for the West in order to discover new territory. When he reached the shores of a land of wheat fields and grapes, he named it Vinland, later known as North America.
It’s a well-known story, often told, at least in Europe, and its essence is now embodied in a cigar, aptly named Viking. “I don’t have a grandfather from Cuba or a ‘Don’ name,” Hawk Aanonsen, founder of Viking Cigars, says. “My heritage comes from the Vikings, and people from all over the world know their stories. So our cigars are tributes to some really tough guys.”
The Viking Spirit
Hence, they’re all stories about men. “Everything about the Viking lifestyle speaks to men,” Hawk continues. “It was about manhood and fighting. Have you ever held a sword in your hand? When you do, you smile. It’s beautiful. Every man should have a sword. I have 20 myself.” “Actually, they just found the skeleton of a female Viking fighter,” Hawk’s business partner, Arnt Ånensen, adds. “They had to protect themselves when the men were away.”
“Really?” asks Hawk. “That’s cool. Even so, there are so many soft men today. Because of society, boys are not allowed to fight in kindergarten, but, of course, they should. They’re men, and that’s how they express themselves. You can’t tell a 12 year old to be kind all the time. Of course, you should be kind, but you also want to be dangerous.” Hawk has imported cigars since 1997, and through his company, sigar.com, he is the distributor of Habanos in Norway. However, his personal Viking cigar saga started in 2008, and let’s just say, the maiden voyage was far from successful.
“I decided to make my own cigar in the Dominican Republic, and I got so screwed, it took me a few years to lick my wounds. The idea of the Viking brand has been with me for a long time, though. I had a design, but I wanted my cigar ring to be in metal, so I tried to find a solution for that.” Because, of course, a cigar named Viking needs a band made of metal. “When you make a ring, you need a mold to stamp the metal out. Since there’s a 3D effect, it’s hard to know how the silver part and the black parts come out until you try it, and every mold costs 1,000 dollars.”
“It’s like taking out the shadows in photos,” Arnt explains further. “It’s all about adjusting the light and seeing the details.” It seems to have been money well spent, though. “Apparently, some people are stealing the bands from shops,” Hawk continues with a proud smile. “It’s crazy. ‘Please, steal more!’ we say. Some people have done tattoos of our logo as well.”
This sparked the idea of making actual rings.
“Why not have them come with the box?” Hawk asks, and shows me his knuckle jewelry. The second voyage fared better. It started in 2014, when they met Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. “Since I’d had that bad experience, I really wanted to do it right this time, so we asked him if he could recommend someone to make our cigars.” “But when we told him about our idea, he said he wanted to do them,” Arnt says. “We didn’t expect that. Everybody knows him in the business, so it’s great.”
Besides Viking, the portfolio also includes Norseman and Nordic Warrior, both inspired by their own Viking stories. “There are so many stories that we could do a new cigar every two weeks for years to come.” Viking is a maduro; Norseman is spicy, with some strength; while Nordic Warrior has a Cuban feel to it. “I asked Ernesto to think about his own grandfather, of Cuba, the smells, and his memories when he blended that cigar,” Hawk says. “We wanted the Cuban DNA, his heritage, and he was very humbled by that. ‘I can try,’ he told us.”
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Spring Edition 2018. Read more