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Inside Cuban Cigars—A Talk With Cubatabaco Head Francisco Padron

Cigar Aficionado meets with Cubatabaco's top official, Francisco Padron, to discuss Cuba's cigar industry.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 2)

C.A.: So what you are saying is that if you take away the half million of the Siglo series, then the rest of the Cohiba range is about 1.5 million cigars?
Padron: Yes. More or less.

C.A.: That's terrible.
Padron: No. No more.

C.A.: Production has really gone down.
Padron: Cohiba should be at about 2.5 to 3 million cigars a year in the right situation. Remember this. Don't tie Cohiba to the rest of the crop because we select the tobacco from very few farms. Maybe there is a disaster in most places, but maybe in one of those small places the crop was wonderful. We take care of those special places.

C.A.: So when you have limited resources for the tobacco crop, you prioritize them to go to these top-quality farms first?
Padron: Yes. We try to maintain Cohiba first.

C.A.: What do you recommend that consumers buy now considering the difficulty in supply of such fine cigars as Cohiba Siglo, Hoyo de Mon-terrey Double Corona and others?
Padron: It depends what you like.

C.A.: That's not what I mean. For instance, we have given a great score to the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona (99 points), but nobody seems to have it. Are you increasing the production of the Hoyo Double Corona?
Padron: For all the fifth- and sixth-category cigars [the highest level in craftsmanship in Havana cigars], there is a definite problem because we did not have a good crop of big wrapper leaves.

C.A.: Could you tell me the approximate production of the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona?
Padron: I don't have the figure in my head. It was more or less the same production as last year.

C.A.: That one size: is it 50,000 or 20,0000? What is it?
Padron: Really, I don't have those figures in my head.

C.A.: Let's go to another subject. Davidoff.
Padron: That is history.

C.A.: I understand it's history, but the people at Davidoff have said to us in the past that if the situation changes they would like to come back to Cuba....
Padron: Forget about it. As long as I am in Cubatabaco, forget about it. That is history. We don't need Davidoff. Life has proved that we don't need that name. And that's the most important thing.

C.A.: So they have to hope that you will go so that they have a chance to deal with somebody else.
Padron: Maybe if the next person in my position is a fool; maybe they will have a chance. Why do we need Davidoff? What for? They killed their own chances!

C.A.: We did a story a year ago about the Trinidad cigar, Castro's personal cigar for gifts. This has started a great mystique. Everybody wants to see it. Everybody wants to hold it. Everybody wants to smoke it. Is there any possibility, on a limited basis, that you might take the Trinidad out of just being a private stock for Fidel and diplomatic friends?
Padron: I don't think so because he is going to tell us, "fellows, why don't you create your own brand? Whenever I come up with a brand name, you take it from me." He already told me that I should pay him a royalty for the Cohibas I sell (laughs). He is right, you know.

C.A.: Does Castro stay in touch with what is happening in the world market for Havana cigars, and how the demand and image are growing, and how they are a great asset in terms of image to his country?
Padron: I have already told you the instructions he has delivered to me. He said, "Padron. Quality first. Quality first." He says that if we have a short crop, then we must have a short production of exportable cigars. It's quality first.

C.A.: Is there any product from Cuba that is exported that has the importance in terms of top image like Havana cigars?
Padron: I think that our lobsters and our shrimps have a very high image. Of course, our rum is also very well known. Also, our coffee is excellent.

C.A.: A week ago in London, there was an auction to help raise money for medical relief in Cuba at which time boxes of pre-Castro cigars and others went for very high prices. There was one box of 50 Cohiba Lancero cigars that had Fidel Castro's signature on top. That sold for a record £12,500, or about $18,750 (The money was raised for Cuban medical relief). Does Castro know about this, and what was his reaction?
Padron: He was surprised. He laughed and said, "well, if you need any more boxes to be signed, just let me know." He was just joking, but he was very, very proud.

C.A.: So you might do this again?
Padron: That depends on him.

C.A.: How did you get him to sign the box in the first place?
Padron: He decided to do it. That was up to him.

C.A.: Someone had to ask him?
Padron: I didn't do it. I am not sure how it happened.

C.A.: Has Cubatabaco ever held back stocks of cigars, and, if so, do you have any stocks of Cuban cigars from before the Revolution?
Padron: We have a few stocks of these cigars (from 1959 and older). Not many. Just a few. We always keep some of them in stock.

C.A.: They are not for sale?
Padron: No, they are not for sale.

C.A.: Have you thought about producing vintage-style cigars where you note when they were produced or from which harvests?
Padron: No. What we are going to do from [1994] on is that we are going to make tastings of next year's production all over the world. For example, in Spain we are going to make a tasting of the Montecristo for the relaunch of the brand there. We are deciding what we are going to do exactly at the moment. We might launch a Romeo y Julieta in England and Montecristo in Spain and so on. We are deciding on the size.

C.A.: Would it be marked on the box?
Padron: No. I don't think so. As you know, you can have the same blend every year. It is always a little different, but you try to keep it almost the same.

C.A.: Are there any new brands you plan to bring out with in the near future?
Padron: We were really ready to come out with a new brand, but then we had this agreement with Tabacalera.

C.A.: What were the names of the brands?
Padron: I am not going to tell you.

C.A.: Are there any new sizes of existing brands coming out?
Padron: No.


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