An Interview With Carlos Toraño

President, Central American Tobacco Corp.

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A: All of our clients, they come first. And we have to be loyal to them. And they'll be loyal to us. And we recognize how strong the relationship is with each of those clients.ery much so. And we are so happy for the success that they have because it's part of our success. And we have very good clients.
Q: Who are some of your clients?
A: We have some clients that actively promote the fact that we do their cigars and we appreciate and we honor that. But there's some that don't. It's not part of how they market their cigars. We have a very unique relationship as you know with C.A.O., where we've actually set up a separate entity that just makes their cigar. It's a tremendous relationship both on a personal level and on a business level.
Q: Say I come to you as a client, and I want to have maybe a full-flavored cigar, but I don't know what kind of tobacco I would use. Take me through that process.
A: Basically the factory already has an idea. We have talked a little bit already. We'll probably get a little background on what type of cigar you're looking at and prepare probably seven to 10 different blends with different types of cigars. And it can take a few days to make over two or three brands. This one you like, so let us begin to make small changes, and then we come to two or three that we like a lot. And what you'd usually do then is send [them] out to several of your clients, and you come back and say this is the blend that you want. And we let you know this is the blend. And for you to feel good that this brand will continue, we guarantee this is the blend and this is the way that it will stay.
If you were going to go to our factories, you would see tobacco from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, from Honduras, from Nicaragua. We experiment, we blend. Most of the cigars that we do are probably blends of at least four or five countries. When you look at the Exodus, it has five countries. And most of the blends we do, they're difficult to make. And we really have to have stocks of inventory that are much bigger than people realize for the size that we are. We make miracles with Brazilian wrappers. Miracles. If you see the Brazilian wrapper when we buy it and the Brazilian wrapper when we use it, it doesn't even look like a kissing cousin; it just looks like something else completely. I experiment a lot. And when I see something that I think is unique, I'll buy.
Q: With all these tobaccos to choose from, is there anything you've bought recently that maybe surprised you by how it smoked?
A: One of the things I love is the Colombian filler. It blends absolutely gorgeous. It tastes so rich, so smooth, so nice, and probably I'm the biggest buyer of Colombian filler. It's very good.
Q: How much tobacco do you have in inventory?
A: Close to 4 million dollars' worth of inventory.
Q: That's a lot of tobacco. You're not a huge company, yet you cover the major countries. You have a factory in the Dominican Republic, a factory in Nicaragua and a factory in Honduras—the three biggest cigar-producing countries, not counting Cuba.
A: Remember, we were brokers and dealers in the beginning, so we were always involved in these three countries.
Q: Would you ever add another country?
A: Of course, Cuba is a question mark. The answer will always be important. We will always have to consider very seriously the situation in Cuba.
Q: Perhaps someday a Carlos Toraño Cuban selection?
A: Hopefully, the answer's yes. That does not mean we would exclude anything else. I actually believe we now must realize we are like good wine. There's not only one country in the world that makes good wine, and there's not only one country in the world that makes a good cigar.
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