Utah’s Apostate Cigars draws from symbols, stories in Book of Mormon

“We’re just trying to have a little bit of fun with it,” one of the brand’s co-founders said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kendrick Woolstenhulme and Brandon Oveson at Beehive Cigars in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.

The cigars have names like The Sword of Laban, The Zarahemla and The Liahona, all references to places and objects in the Book of Mormon. But Apostate Cigars co-founder Kendrick Woolstenhulme doesn’t want to give the impression that he and his business partner, Brandon Oveson, are poking fun at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Instead, “we are trying to be respectful to the belief system,” Woolstenhulme said. “We’re just trying to have a little bit of fun with it. ... I think most people take it in the spirit that it’s intended.”

Both born and raised in Utah, they are former Latter-day Saints who served proselytizing missions for the faith — Woolstenhulme in Scotland and Oveson in the Dominican Republic. The two left the LDS Church as they grew older and “evolved in different ways,” Woolstenhulme said.

Woolstenhulme founded local cigar shop Beehive Cigars in 2009, and Oveson worked there as a manager. After selling and smoking cigars for years and talking with customers about what they wanted in a cigar, branching out into crafting their own cigars seemed like a natural progression, Woolstenhulme said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Apostate Cigars at Beehive Cigars in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023.

They got in contact with a man named Jochy Blanco, a prominent tobacco grower and owner of the cigar factory Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic.

Blanco introduced Woolstenhulme and Oveson to his tobaccos, which they blended to create the taste profile they were looking for, Woolstenhulme said. Their Utah-based Apostate Cigars was created in 2020, and the cigars, influenced heavily by Beehive State culture, hit store shelves in December 2021.

Apostate Cigars continue to be handmade in the Dominican Republic. They are then shipped to Reno, Nev., and distributed from there to tobacconists and smoke shops all over the country.

A new community

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Apostate Cigars at Beehive Cigars in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023.

Latter-day Saint scripture tells the story of the Word of Wisdom, a health code that bars the use of tobacco and alcohol among church members.

In the 1830s, LDS Church founder Joseph Smith started a school for men in Kirtland, Ohio. During meetings, attendees would smoke pipes, chew tobacco and spit on the floor, which Smith’s wife, Emma Smith, was tasked with cleaning afterward, the church’s website said.

Concerned about conditions in the school, Emma Smith spoke with her husband. According to the church’s website, Joseph Smith prayed and received the Word of Wisdom in a revelation from God.

Once Woolstenhulme and Oveson founded their cigar-making business, they named it Apostate Cigars at the suggestion of a friend, because “tobacco smoking is not really something that a lot of people in the area embrace,” Woolstenhulme said. “And so the act of smoking a cigar in Utah is somewhat of a rebellion.”

For the two of them, “smoking cigars is all about the experience, the aroma, and the taste,” as well as “the social atmosphere,” Woolstenhulme said. After they both left the LDS Church, “we found a new community in the cigar world,” one “that kind of replaced the community that we lost,” he said.

They decided to lean into Latter-day Saint symbolism and stories for their branding, with each letter of their Apostate logo representing one of their cigars.

The smoking experience

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Apostate Cigars at Beehive Cigars in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023.

All of the labels on the Apostate cigars feature the name of the cigar written in both English and in letters from the Deseret Alphabet, a phonetic alphabet that early church leader Brigham Young urged church members to adopt in the 1850s.

The beehive-shaped “P” in the Apostate logo is for the cigar called The Deseret, a reference to the State of Deseret and a Latter-day Saint scriptural term that is said to mean “honeybee.”

This cigar, which Woolstenhulme and Oveson smoke and discuss in a video linked to their website, was crafted to be sweet and “dessert-like,” they said. It even resembles a honeybee in appearance, with gold stripes and a “stinger” on the end.

In the video, Oveson said that as he smokes The Deseret, which is filled with tobacco from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, he gets flavors of chocolate, dried fruit and baking spice in the “very decadent cigar.”

The first “T” in Apostate is shaped like a sword, representing the cigar called The Sword of Laban, which was “the weapon both belonging to and used to execute its namesake” in the Book of Mormon, the website said. “The cigar will cut through your normal routine to bring you a truly engaging smoke.”

In a video of Woolstenhulme and Oveson smoking and talking about the cigar, Woolstenhulme said, “This cigar always sends me down a rabbit hole of flavor, and I’m always trying to figure out, ‘What is that note?’ And I can never quite figure it out. And so I just have to smoke another one.”

The two of them have released six cigars so far under the Apostate Cigars brand. The seventh and eighth, Moroni’s Trumpet and The Endowment, are still being formulated and will be released sometime in 2024, according to the website.

After all eight are released, Woolstenhulme and Oveson plan to release limited-edition sizes of their cigars. The current Apostate cigars are all available in only one size.

To the discerning palate, Woolstenhulme said cigars can range in taste from a floral sweetness to a darker, more caramel-like sweetness. Sometimes the smoker will get notes of chocolate, coffee, fruit or honey. Spices like cinnamon or nutmeg can emerge as well. But most importantly, the best tobacco should be “smooth and sweet” in aroma, he said.

“A good cigar is blended to transition, so you’re not getting like a monotone flavor throughout the whole thing,” Woolstenhulme said. “It’s kind of this tapestry dance with different flavors that kind of weaves in and out, so that each puff is a little bit different than the last.”

For more information, visit ApostateCigars.com and follow @apostatecigars on Instagram. Apostate Cigars are available locally at Beehive Cigars, Jeanie’s Smoke Shop, Tinder Box in Murray, and Tobacco Barn in Ogden.