The Midas Touch: Daniel Marshall Strikes Gold With His 24-Karat Cigar

Daniel Marshall and Carlos Fuente. Photos courtesy of Daniel Marshall.

One mark of creative genius is the ability to bring forth something no one else has been able to, or that everyone said couldn’t be done. Out-of-the-box thinking may trigger the naysayers, but it also unleashes powerful forces to break new ground.

Such is the case with renowned cigar humidor manufacturer Daniel Marshall. His humidors have graced the desks of luminaries such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Al Pacino and the Prince of Monaco, as well as people of all means who value quality and luxury. Marshall’s company, which began with the young woodcrafter’s hopeful pitch to make humidors for Alfred Dunhill of London, has become a worldwide leader in the manufacturing of fine quality, affordably priced cigar humidors and accessories, with the imprimatur of a No. 1 rating from Cigar Aficionado magazine.

Marshall popularized the use of Brazilian rosewood and walnut burl, protected by his highly touted 1,000 coats of lacquer, in designing such high-end humidors as his Treasure Chest model, originally created for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was at that point governor of California. His use of precious wood veneers, aged Spanish cedar interiors, gold-plated hardware, and his signature black enamel plate bearing the recognizable DM logo have come to epitomize how a top-quality cigar humidor should look and function. But Marshall’s vision was set on a greater goal.

“I love challenges,” he says. “I wanted to be a California artist, an American artist, making luxury goods, in California, and selling them to the top luxury goods houses in the world. These companies weren’t buying from California; no one in Europe did that. But that was my passion and my dream; that’s what I set out to do, and that’s what I did.”

With his humidors featured in the world’s finest purveyors of high-end luxury goods, names like Bijan in Beverly Hills, Gucci in Rome, Cartier of Paris and Dunhill of London, as well as in tobacco shops throughout the U.S. and Europe, it’s no surprise that Marshall would then direct his creative energies to produce a uniquely world class cigar. The 24-Karat Golden Torpedo—an all-Nicaraguan puro—is covered in 24-karat gold leaf, about one gram of pure gold, making it the epitome of luxury, the world’s first, and arguably only, smokeable gold leaf wrapped cigar. 

Marshall first entered the cigar manufacturing business in 1995, during the height of the cigar boom. His friendship with cigar icon Manuel Quesada, then manufacturer of Fonseca cigars as well as numerous contact brands, gave him a foot in the door. Together they blended the first Daniel Marshall Black Label collection.

“I told him [Quesada] I wanted something very smooth, and aged, with a lot of flavor, a lot of taste. It was not one of the existing Fonseca blends, but a specially created version,” Marshall says.

The Dominican Republic cigar features a Connecticut Shade wrapper, a Mexican binder and a Dominican blend for the filler. “I wanted a creamy coffee, cappuccino/latte tasting cigar, with some spicy flavors to it. Manuel sent me five various samples from which to choose. I got together with my discriminating cigar friends, and we mutually chose which version tasted the best. The decision was unanimous, a 100 percent consensus. That original blend is still sold today.”

Its success was followed up one year later by a Honduran variation, made by U.S. Tobacco Co. (UST). The cigar business was still raging, and there simply wasn’t enough tobacco to meet the demand for cigars, so Marshall turned to the maker of Don Tomas cigars for his second offering. “The cigar had a great draw and a fantastic taste. It was a little fuller, a bit more ‘Cubanesque’ than my original blend.” 

Daniel Marshall and Carlos Fuente Jr. Collaborate on XXXVIII Anniversary

How do you top rolling a cigar with gold leaf? You can’t! But what you can do is team up with the preeminent blender in modern cigar history, Carlos Fuente Jr., which is exactly what Daniel Marshall has done to create his soon-to-be-released 38th Anniversary cigar.

The Daniel Marshall by Carlos Fuente XXXVIII Anniversary Cigar is the fruit of a three year collaboration between the two cigar industry icons, celebrating their 38-year friendship as well as Marshall’s 38th year anniversary in the business. 

The celebratory cigar is available in a classic torpedo shape and is presented in custom-crafted, individually numbered Daniel Marshall humidor-quality boxes of eight cigars. The blend is undisclosed, but is said to contain tobaccos of up to 12 years in age, with an additional year of cedar vault aging after being rolled. 

“I want to do something for you very, very special,” said Fuente to Marshall. “I am making a cigar for you, which I do for no one, to commemorate our longtime friendship, and my highest respect and admiration for you and your story. It’s an honor to be able to participate with you on this special anniversary. I poured my heart into every detail, hoping to make you proud.”

Alas, as the unprecedented demand for cigars continued, UST was unable to produce enough of its own cigars and was forced to give up all of its contract production, including the Daniel Marshall Honduran Black Label. Marshall says many of the contractors were upset and a lawsuit was filed against UST. “I was asked to join that suit but I said no. I don’t want to sue anybody in the cigar business. I want to be in the cigar world for the rest of my life.”

The XXXVIII Anniversary cigar by Carlos Fuente. Daniel Marshall’s latest cigar project.

When the dot-com boom of the go-go ’90s finally burst, and cigar sales tapered off as well, Marshall refocused his attention back upon his humidor business. But he never abandoned the cigar side of his business. The original Dominican collection continued. “We’ve always had very select accounts that carried both our cigars and our humidors. Cigars just weren’t the primary focus of my attention.”

Then, in 2008, Manuel Quesada scored Cigar of the Year honors from Cigar Aficionado with his Casa Magna Cigar collaboration with Nestor Plasencia. Marshall, who to this day is still friends with Quesada, says, “I said, ‘I love this cigar; this is my style, it’s Cubanesque in taste, it’s popularly priced, it’s all about our philosophy of being of value; I’m known as affordable luxury.’ So I said, I want to have Nestor Plasencia make my cigar with Quesada.”

That cigar became the DM2 Red label Nicaraguan, a full-bodied, spicy yet creamy all-Nicaraguan puro. The line is available in six classic Cuban shapes, plus a 6 x 60 Gigante. As an ultra boutique brand, it has received an enthusiastic reception wherever it has been placed. Perhaps more importantly, however, it served as the platform for the creation of the 24-karat Golden Torpedo.

Asked how the concept came into being, Marshall recounts its origins as a “prop.” “It was made as an ornament, to be in 20 ultra-bling Scarface humidors that I made for the head of Universal studios to give to Al Pacino and the guys from the movie. It was an over-the-top cigar that I wanted to put in each one of these 20 special humidors, where they would get the humidor, love the humidor, and then they would open it up and say, “Wow! There’s a cigar, a 24-karat cigar! What do we do with it? Do we frame it, do we mount it, do we smoke it, do we eat it?  So that was it. I made the Tony Montana style cigar, and I thought that was the end of the story.”

By his own telling, Marshall had no interest in marketing the gold leaf wrapped cigar. He did research the toxicity of gold, whether it could be ingested, and found that it could be safely eaten with no adverse effects. He then developed a method of hand-applying the gold leaf, one leaf at a time, utilizing a natural substance to adhere it to the wrapper leaf of the cigar. But he never felt it was a commercially viable product.

And then, as fate would have it, during the 2011 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show, noted author and connoisseur extraordinaire Rick Hacker was visiting the Daniel Marshall booth. Hacker is known for his articles on cigars and spirits appearing in lifestyle publications, including The Robb Report. He happened to notice the 24-karat Golden Torpedo on display, along with the Scarface humidor, and asked Marshall, “What is that?” Marshall responded: “Rick that’s nothing, don’t write about that, don’t talk about it. That is just decoration to go inside the Scarface humidor. Please, look at this solid sterling silver humidor. This is something I’m really proud of. Would you consider that for the Robb Report?” 

But Hacker was smitten by the golden cigar, offering to do a story on the silver humidor for a future issue. He asked if he could “borrow” one of the cigars, show it to his doctor, and with his approval smoke one. Marshall adds, “Two weeks later he came back with the news that I was going to be in a full-page editorial in The Robb Report titled ‘Rolled Gold.’”  When Marshall asked if Hacker had been able to smoke the cigar, as Marshall himself had never smoked one, Hacker replied, “Daniel, the most amazing thing is that it leaves a pure golden ash!”

 As a result of that article Marshall had inquiries from around the globe, wanting to report on his Golden Cigar, featuring it in both cigar and lifestyle magazines such as Playboy, Maxim, GQ, Luxury Magazine, Jewelry and others. As Marshall himself says, “It’s a jewel of a cigar. It’s cigar jewelry.”

Marshall applies each layer of gold leaf by hand to make the 24-Karat Golden Torpedo.

Since then, the cigar has become a cultural touchstone, enjoyed by personalities like Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato, rapped about by hip-hop megastar Cam’ron in his song “Golden Baby.” It even played a starring role in Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, with guest comedian Steve Harvey. Harvey personally endorsed the cigar in a video, emphasizing that this is what he smokes with each of his sons when they come of cigar smoking age.

The cigar’s popularity has not waned, with Marshall stating that “we’re always backordered. Right now we have a backlog of 700 gold cigars. I cannot make enough of them. They’re released on allocation to my distributors.”

He adds, “I do it myself. I roll the cigars in gold, and then I sign the cabinets. I do it in the evenings to relax. It’s my meditation, my joy and my passion.” 

When asked why he thinks he’s received so many celebrity endorsements, Marshall waxes philosophical. 

“Celebrities, or people with means, know quality, and they appreciate quality,” he says. “They want quality in their lives, and they want to deliver quality in everything that they do. They want to buy the best, to be associated with the best, and they will get behind products that they truly believe in. But it’s not just celebrities. People from all walks of life enjoy the Golden Cigar. It’s the ultimate celebration cigar.”

It’s been said you can’t argue with success. As long as that maxim holds true, Daniel Marshall will continue to succeed, bringing joy and celebration to people’s lives, one golden cigar at a time.