The Next Big Thing in Cigars, Pepin
A star roller from Cuba, now in Miami, José "Pepin" Garcia is making some of the world's finest cigars.
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Nov/Dec 2007
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The large factory has given the company more room to work: all fermentation and tobacco sorting is done in Nicaragua, and the finishing steps are done in Miami.
Some were concerned about the Garcias' ability to maintain quality standards when the Nicaraguan factory opened, but so far the results are impressive. Nicaraguan cigars are responsible for some of the family's highest ratings, including the 93 points recently awarded to the Tatuaje Havana VI. The new factory's first full year in operation, 2007, should bring the Garcias' total production to nearly 5 million cigars, up from 2 million in 2006. The family's long-term goal is to get to about 7 million cigars.
Despite the recent success, it's a tough life, and it's uncertain how long the Garcias will stay in their current, cramped Miami location. "We're probably going to move," says Janny, who spends a total of two hours each day commuting in Miami-area traffic to and from work, starting at the factory at 7 a.m. and leaving at 6 at night. "We're looking for something closer to the house."
Pepin is happy with his ratings, and the industry accolades. "I feel like a millionaire when people come to me and say you're making good cigars: it makes me feel proud," he says.
Late one evening after a meal in a local restaurant, Pepin and his family are sitting outdoors puffing away on more cigars, discussing Cigar Aficionado ratings. Pepin wants to know the highest rating ever given a cigar in a blind taste test. "Ninety-nine points, for the Hoyo Double Corona," he is told. "Long ago."
He takes another puff of his cigar, and thinks to the future. "Once Cuba opens, the Cubans are going to take leaf from Central America. They have more rollers than the leaf that they have," he says. He is asked if he would keep making cigars in Nicaragua if the embargo is dropped. He says he would. Then he is asked to blend the perfect cigar in his head.
He smiles broadly at the question, and says without hesitation that it would be a combination of Cuban-seed tobaccos grown in Nicaragua and Cuba. The wrapper would be from Cuba. The binder leaves would be from Nicaragua. For the ligero tobacco in the filler, he would use two types, one from Estelí and the other from Jalapa in Nicaragua. The other filler components, seco and viso, would come from Cuba, the former from Villa Clara, the latter from Pinar del Río.
"That cigar," he says with pride, "would score 100 points."
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