Trifecta Tobacco - a brand that needs absolutely no introduction. They've been killing the tobacco game ever since they hit the market, and bringing some of the most unique and delicious flavor profiles around along with them. I finally got the chance to sit down with Mus, the mind behind Trifecta, so you can find out a little bit more about what goes on behind the scenes. So pack your favorite Trifecta flavor, and read with us, as we go into the mind of Mus.
Me: Alright so tell me your origin story - where did you start smoking, and what really got you into hookah?
Mus: The first time I tried hookah was in 2005. Before then, I thought it was a device for smoking other substances and I have to admit - I was a little judgmental.
Me: So you were like my family, who calls them expensive bongs?
Me: So what was the first flavor you tried?
Mus: Double Apple, the best tobacco ever, my friend!
Me: Has it been a love affair ever since?
Mus: "It's just froot." I'm quoting what my first Syrian friend said when they forced me to try hookah for the first time - and I loved it... Got into it, then started searching for hookah shops in the area... Nothing available... I saw opportunity, and things started from there.
Me: Where did you begin to get into the industry?
Mus: Officially 2009. Started with a retail, then added a lounge, then distribution in a couple states of other tobacco brands.
Me: When did you start making your own tobacco?
Mus: Around 2012/2013. Used to make it in my old apartment and go show it off to my regular lounge customers.
Me: What kind of flavors were you making at that time?
Mus: Twice the Ice and Blue Strawberry for a few months, until I figured out what was working for me.
Me: Was it all blonde leaf at that point?
Mus: Nope. Dark.
Me: Oh really? So you started with dark leaf?
Mus: Yes, I wanted to make something strong. And boy did I try some strong leaves
Me: How did that lead into trifecta coming to be?
Mus: I never meant for it to be official. I thought the market was already cornered, and I didn't see the need to start it.
Me: So how did it end up coming to market?
Mus: I started getting more and more feedback from my local customers. They wanted to buy it and I decided to apply for a license, make it in tiny batches and only sell locally. Then I realized people were buying it, I decided to share with some reviewers, and Zak (StrictlyShisha) reviewed it.
Me: And that's when it started to blow up?
Mus: Yes. Started online sales, with weekly releases.
Me: And it was a small batch type of thing?
Mus: Yes. Small ones. Demand grew, so did we, and here we are now.
Me: What made you start with blonde leaf? And it was 2014 when it first came to market, yeah?
Mus: Blonde was more popular, and in a way, way easier to work with.
Me: What made you start to make dark leaf?
Mus: I didn't feel like releasing a line, that might be harder to sell to average smokers.
Me: How did it feel when the dark leaf started to take over your sales?
Mus: Good, because it exceeded expectations. Bad-ish, because it's more time consuming than blonde.
Me: What makes it more time consuming than blonde?
Mus: With Dark, you have to try tobacco leaves and blend them based on potency... It's more unpredictable, and has more chance of scratched batches.
Me: Is that part of what lead to the batches with issues that happened last year?
Mus: In a way, yes.
Me: What exactly happened there? Or do you not want to share that info?
Mus: We got the same leaves we always use, but we realized later they tobacco was way too strong.
Me: And that effected with how it absorbed the juice, right?
Mus: Maybe. It was just too hard to tame the tobacco spiciness.
Me: So what have you done to rectify that, since then?
Mus: Focusing more on blending every box/bag of leaves after testing to keep shisha as consistent as possible. Hence the answer - Blonde, for me, is better to work with.
Me: And that has resulted in it going back to normal, right?
Mus: Yes. That batch is what made me try tobacco before starting batch production.
Me: That makes sense! So looking forward, do you have any new flavors in the works?
Mus: Always have a few in my mind... Spumoni, and maybe Grapefruit on dark.
Me: Are there any flavors that you'd like to make, but haven't because you don't think they'd do well?
Mus: Yes. A lot. Sriracha peppermint. Pinatro.
Me: ...what is pinatro?
Mus: Pineapple cilantro.
Me: Oh man, that sounds... interesting, to say the least. What is the main thing that keeps you from actually doing these flavors? Is it the anticipated feedback?
Mus: No.... number 1 issue, releasing a flavor, means more load and pressure on production. And 2, I don't wanna overshadow an already good flavor.
Me: That makes sense! So do you have any interest in branching out further from tobacco, into things like bowls, pipes, etc?
Me: What makes you want to stick to tobacco?
Mus: It's something I do myself, I can control, I'm responsible, and I can manage it.
Me: And you think you couldn't have that if you branched out?
Mus: I'm not saying if Trifecta wasn't around, I wouldn't have done bowls, hookahs or coals. It's not about branching out, I can't import something and put Trifecta on it just for sales. It's not worth expanding to other products at this time if I'm not involved in production.
Me: Do you think you'll ever get to the point with trifecta that you'll be able to be more hands off?
Mus: I think I am at that point. But I've been doing it, and the thought of being hands off, bores me already.
Me: So you prefer much more to be involved with it?
Mus: Yes, absolutely. I wouldn't know what to do with myself.
Me: That makes sense, I mean it's something that you've put a ton of time and love into. So lets talk industry in general - what do you like about the industry right now, and what do you dislike?
Mus: That's a such a vast topic... I like that there are more competitive products, and more enthusiasts. I like seeing people in the industry getting along.
Me: What do you dislike?
Mus: I will keep what I dislike aside, I try to stay positive.
Me: That's fair enough. What kind of change do you think the industry needs to survive in the future?
Mus: You've got me thinking deep for this one...
Me: That's the point!
Mus: I hope for fair regulations, 1st. And for everyone to get along, and smoke whatever you want, with whatever coals, and any setup.
Me: What do you think the communities can do to help stimulate that?
Mus: I want the communities to be fair to vendors, and industry people. Believe it or not, everyone stresses enormously, spends time and money to come up with products. Giving feedback is amazing. Making it a goal to bring the product down is too much. It creates false arguments, and we end up missing the point.
Me: So you think more positivity and praise for the good products, and feedback for all products to improve on?
Mus: Criticizing is part of the deal as well.
Me: But constructive criticism, not just product bashing, right?
Mus: Yes, exactly.
Me: So what's your feedback - what companies do you think are doing things right, right now?
Mus: Honestly, we are a point overall where most brands are coming in with good stuff, and to me its a big change. Better quality products is what sells. There are better standards today.
Me: So you think the majority of brands are bringing quality to the table right now?
Mus: I'm not saying that. That's my overall thinking. Again, there is so much that could be better. I choose to stay on the positive side of it. I have no interest in starting debates right now.
Me: Okay, I think I understand. What do you think is the cause of the fascination right now with the European market?
Mus: I don't know... in Europe they are fascinated with US products. I think in a way hookah enthusiasts, collectors, like to get something different, the kind that's a little harder to get. It's human nature. I'm that way too.
Me: So you think it comes from the nature of collectors to want something that's harder to attain?
Mus: I think so... I have yet to try a hookah that "changes my life," or any other product. If I really want, I will get it - but not because its way better than I have. You see what I'm saying?
Me: Yeah I think I get what you mean. Alright, so just a few quick fun questions: cats or dogs?
Mus: Dogs all the way. I have two.
Me: What are your deserted island top three flavors? Only three flavors you'll smoke till you die.
Mus: Double Apple 50/50 (half Nakhla, half Al Fakher), static starlight. TTI.
Me: Static starlight is super underrated. What's your daily setup ?
Mus: Shika Penpen, and Old MZ stainless occasionally.
Me: You're a straight foil smoker, right? I actually accredit you with why I smoke so much foil now - you always told me to test flavors with HMD and foil.
Mus: Yes... straight foil.
Me: Do you ever use HMD's?
Mus: Rarely. Most of the time if I'm curious how a flavor would taste.
Me: So you only do it for science, right?
Mus: Yes, precisely.
Me: Do you think HMD's are a good thing overall for the community?
Mus: Of course, customers love it. I think HMD's are great. They make a lot of hookah smokers experience easier to manage.
Me: Yeah absolutely. Do you think we'll ever get to a point where foil isn't even used?
Mus: Who knows? Everything is possible, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.
Me: Absolutely agreed. That about wraps up the interview, do you have anything you want to say to the readers?
Mus: I want to say thank you, to all Trifecta customers for being amazing. And I send my best regards to everyone in the hookah community.
I'd like to thank Mus for joining me today, and bearing with my onslaught of questions. If you're interested in picking up some Trifecta for yourself, you can find it at TrifectaTobacco.com, and all of your favorite vendors.
That's going to wrap up this interview, but I want to know: who do you want to see interviewed next? Is there anyone in the hookah industry that you want the inside scoop on? Let us know in those comments down below! As always, thank you guys so much for reading, and happy smokes!