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Hooten Young: Veteran’s Vices

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Through this column, we’ve been fortunate to meet veterans from every branch of service and all walks of life. Some of these brands are one- and two-man startups. Others have developed brands with national or even international recognition. Few bring with them the gravitas of a career like Norman Hooten’s.

Norman joined the Army on a Special Forces enlistment contract in 1980, inspired deeply by the events of Operation Eagle Claw — the failed attempt by U.S. Special Operations to rescue American hostages being held in Iran. His career started in 5th Special Forces Group, first on a SCUBA team before transferring to one of the now-defunct Special Atomic Demolition Munitions teams. SADM was a Cold War-era program that equipped various special operations teams with backpack-sized nuclear weapons, which would be hand-carried to their targets by airborne or waterborne insertion, emplaced, and set with enough time delay for the operators to (hopefully) exfiltrate the area before detonation.

He’d eventually be selected for an assignment in 1st Special Forces Operation Detachment – Delta. While assigned to Delta’s C Squadron, Hooten deployed to Somalia for Operation Gothic Serpent. This infamous mission led to the book, then movie, Black Hawk Down. After that mission, he remained with 1st SFOD-D until his retirement in 2002. Following his military career, he went on to head the Federal Air Marshals’ Global Response Team, then the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center in Jordan.

But it would be his son, Noah, who got him into cigars, during his time as a cadet at West Point. Says Norman: “He brought the practice [of smoking cigars] home with him on leave, and we used to spend hours talking over a good smoke. I realized that it was one of the few times in life where everything just slowed down, and the bonds between family and friends became closer by virtue of the time spent together.” It was through the West Point Parents’ Association that Norman met his now-business-partner, Tim Young, who had an existing relationship with cigar maker Azarias Cordoba. Cordoba made a batch of custom cigars for the 25th anniversary reunion of Gothic Serpent veterans, where Norman says they handed out close to 300 cigars. Almost immediately thereafter, requests for orders started pouring in, and the Hooten Young brand was formed on that smoke. Less than a year after the 25th anniversary of the Mogadishu mission was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, so they released their second cigar, Operation Overlord.

Along the way, they picked up Mark Taylor and George Miliotes. Mark brings his own wealth of experience to include time served with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, NGMTU Scout Sniper School, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Federal Air Marshals and the U.S. Border Patrol, among others. George is one of 263 Master Sommeliers worldwide. He’s the founder and owner of Wine Bar George at Disney Springs and was the director of beverage and hospitality for over 40 locations of Capital Grille and Seasons 52. It was George who discovered and developed Hooten Young’s third product offering, a 12-year-old American Whiskey. With a mash bill of 75-percent corn, 21-percent rye, and 4-percent barley mash, it’s distilled to 170 proof and aged in second-fill American Oak barrels.

Hooten Young’s brand motto is “Made To Remember” and everything they put into their product lines is intended to birth products worthy of veterans and their sacrifices — including the 10 percent of all sales that they donate to various veteran-related charities and causes. Their cigars are available for direct purchase on their website, and the whiskey is available on with brick-and-mortar distribution in process at time of writing. The next time you need to commemorate an anniversary of your own, or just want the world to slow down some, let Hooten Young help you while they help our nation’s veterans in the process.


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