Tor Imports

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Tor Imports is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Tors’ temperature and humidity-
controlled storage humidor
Team Tor
Tor Imports operates in one of the country’s most strictly
legislated markets. Founded in 1992, it supplies UK-based
retailers with a premium range of cigars and other high-
end tobacco products, all of which are imported from some of
the best manufacturers in the world. As a sign of the quality
products that Director Scott Vines works with, Tor exclusively
distributes eight of the last 14 cigars voted the best in the world
by industry-leading magazine,
Cigar Aficionado
Once you mention the word tobacco, there’s usually a sharp intake of breath. But
like most things in life, the truth is not simply black and white. There is a world of
difference between a mass-produced cigarette and a fine, premium, hand-rolled
cigar, which is designed to be enjoyed.
Artisanal products aimed at adults
We employ a small team of ten and primarily supply a range of handmade premium
cigars imported from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Mexico, as
well as a range of pipe tobaccos and high-end associated accessories to retailers,
specialist stores, hotels and restaurants in the UK. We do not distribute cigarettes.
Our major problem is that we get caught in the cigarette crossfire. Our most
popular size of cigar is what’s called a Robusto. Depending on the brand and the
type and age of tobacco leaf included, this cigar may retail at between £10 and
£50 – each. Premium cigars are no gateway tobacco product; children don’t drop
by the cigar specialist store to pick them up. The type of tobacco used in hand-
rolled cigars is completely different to that used to make cigarettes; no chemicals
»Director: Scott Vines
»Founded in 1992
»Based in Devon
»Services: Hand-rolled cigars,
pipe tobacco and accessories
»No. of employees: 10
»Supplier of the Year for the
Association of Independent
Tobacco Specialists; 2016 and
Tor Imports
Highlighting best practice
or preservatives are added. Cigars are
simply the dried, rolled leaves of a
strain of black tobacco.
We see our cigars as a lifestyle choice,
just like drinking in moderation.
The entire premium cigar category
is less than one per cent of tobacco
consumption in the UK. Unfortunately,
we are treated the same as
multinational companies selling billions
of cigarettes. We must ensure we fully
comply with all statutory requirements,
such as placing health warning stickers –
by hand – on every cigar box and tin of
pipe tobacco. In 2017, the management
time and cost of implementing new
EU TPD2 legislation was ten per cent
of our gross margin and, to ensure
compliance, this overhead keeps
increasing. For a small rural business of
our size, that’s hard to swallow.
We spend a lot of time educating the
trade about how this artisanal business
supports families living in poverty
in Central America. We co-ordinate
educational trips for our customers to
Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic
to visit the cigar factories and the
people who make them so skilfully.
We also act in an advisory capacity
for our customers – telling them what
they must do to make sure they are
compliant with constantly evolving
legislation. That helps them to focus on
selling the products, comfortable in the
knowledge that they are compliant.
Most of our customers and clients
are family-owned businesses. Joya de
Nicaragua, for example, is Nicaragua’s
oldest premium cigar manufacturer
and has managed to keep its doors
open through war, revolution and
crippling poverty over the past 50
years. They support hundreds of
families in Central America’s poorest
country, helping finance scholarships,
healthcare and food to bring a better
life to these proud people. Ambassador
Guisell Morales-Echaverry, from the
Embassy of Nicaragua explained:
I wish to highlight the
significance of the cigar industry
in Nicaragua, where we can
vehemently affirm that it is
one of the cornerstones for
combating poverty.
Above all, the cigar industry
is one of families, from co-
operatives of growers and
producers to owners and
importers, like Tor Imports. In
the last few years, the industry
has experienced a steady
growth. By 2015, according to
the Nicaraguan Central Bank,
it generated 11.5 per cent of
the total employment under the
free zone regime and globally
exported US$200 million, which
represents 6.2 per cent of the
total country exports. Today,
the cigar industry is one of the
largest employers in the country.
Lastly, when one thinks of cigars,
one should not only think about
the passion of cigar smoking, but
also be mindful as policymakers
and consumers, of the benefits
that this industry brings to
developing nations and to British
family businesses.”
La Joya tobacco fields in
Estelí, Nicaragua
We spend a
lot of time
educating the
trade about
how this
families living
in poverty in
At our base in Devon, we maintain a
bonded warehouse, which is humidity
and temperature controlled. Cigars are
created purely from an organic product
and if treated with care and kept in
the right conditions, they can be laid
down – and can improve in flavour –
for decades. Each cigar will have passed
through up to 300 pairs of hands
before it reaches the end user; the
harvest of its leaves will be many years
in the past. Tobacco leaf improves and
mellows after careful ageing, and the
cigar connoisseur can pick out these
subtle and complex notes in the smoke.
Cigars are tasted, never inhaled.
As a business, we face a significant
duty burden, but we are resigned to
it and consider it a cost of operating
in our chosen sector despite many UK
end users choosing to buy their cigars
from lower tax jurisdictions.
Looking at new opportunities
Track and trace security for handmade
cigars is coming in 2024, which is
another major headache for our
business. A handmade product – and
one made with certain leaves from
certain parts of plants grown in certain
parts of certain fields in countries
spread across the world – is incredibly
difficult, if not impossible, to trace.
In the last 12 months, we purchased the
Charatan brand from British American
Tobacco. Within that brand portfolio
is our best-selling cigar, handmade in
Nicaragua. We also manufacture and
market the Torjet lighter – a market-
leading jet flame lighter distributed
primarily within the convenience sector
in the UK. We are looking to expand into
other world markets with both products.
Our business key performance indicators
moving forward are very simple. We
must try and keep that all-important
balance between innovation, quality
and value on the product side and
profit, cash flow and stock availability
on the commercial side. We work in a
very tough operating environment, but
it remains a pleasure to deal with the
many families at both ends of our supply
chain, who have become our customers
– and, more importantly, our friends.
We hope that we can continue to
forge and support these relationships
at home and abroad – and continue to
be able to meet the demands of anti-
tobacco legislation without losing our
raison d’être – who we are and what
we represent. We’re a small business
dealing with a luxury product; and we
all need one of those in our lives every
now and again.
Each cigar will
have passed
through up to
300 pairs of
hands before
it reaches the
end user
Joya de Nicaragua
cigar rolling floor at
Nicaragua’s oldest Cigar
manufacturer, Estelí,

This article was sponsored by Tor Imports. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.