Keeping a Secret From Pepin
Posted: Jan 17, 2009 12:51pm ET
Yesterday in Miami I stopped at El Rey de los Habanos Inc., the tiny Little Havana fabrica where Pepin Garcia, his family, and 11 cigar rollers make some of the best cigars on the U.S. market. Pepin splits his time now between Nicaragua (where he has a much, much larger operation) and the U.S., so I was happy to catch him stateside during my too-short visit to south Florida.
The Garcias keep knocking it out of the park with their cigars. They have considerable expansion plans and several new projects including growing their own wrapper, increasing production capacity and adding new sizes. Look for more on that in an upcoming Cigar insider.
We sat down in his small backroom office with John Gonzalez, his vice president of sales, and they offered me my choice of size in the My Father blend. I asked for a No. 3, also called the Crema. It’s six inches long by 49 ring, with a slightly tapered head that makes it look like a shorter version of Cuba’s Conde 109.
I lit up, and the cigar instantly delivered a nice kick of earthy flavor. It went perectly with the little cup of Cuban coffee I sipped. (I think it was No. 5 of the day for me at that point.) I love the Crema, and so did the rest of the tasting panel. (We gave it a score of 93 points in a November issue of Cigar Insider. Check out the ratings in our tasting database.) It has exceptional balance, with toasty qualities and a touch of cocoa. There’s just a touch of dry character on the finish, not so much that it’s a negative. Pepin talked about the dry flavor, saying that effect was an intention of the blend. However it was put together, it works great.
Pepin and Gonzalez told me a great story about the cigar. The blend was created by Pepin’s son, Jaime, and he didn’t want his dad to know what he was doing. So he swore the Nicaraguan factory to secrecy and started working on the blend in private.
Everything worked well, until someone slipped up in Central America and Pepin found out that Jaime was working on something new without the jefe’s permission.
“I found out, and asked Jaime for three cigars,” said Pepin (with Gonzalez translating.) Jaime gave them to him: three cigars made with Nicaraguan filler and binder from the Garcia’s farms, and a dark, rich Havana-seed wrapper that was grown in Ecuador. “I said, ‘I’m going to smoke them tonight,’” said Pepin.
He smoked them. He loved them. And then he was moved when his son told him the next day that he intended to name it “My Father.”
It’s a heck of a tribute to a dad from one of the great father-son teams of the cigar industry.
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