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Cigars Across America: U.S. Cigar Makers

Michael Frank
From the Print Edition:
maduro issue, Winter 93/94

(continued from page 6)

Miami, Union City, New Jersey; Tampa, Florida; Las Vegas and Los Angeles all have at least one cigar factory to their credit. But the factories, or chinchales, are rarely located next to the local mall. Finding them can be difficult and usually requires some patience.

Don't expect timely customer service. When you enter a chinchal you are really stepping onto the factory floor, even if the factory is only two or three rollers strong. In time you will be helped.

Now comes the hard part. If your Spanish skills are lacking or you have only a scant understanding of cigars, you may be bullied into buying something you don't like. Be firm. Even with the language barrier, your money speaks Esperanto, and you should demand that you get the cigar that you're looking for. Here are a few rules:

Consistency

The biggest knock against small operations is that they can't afford to buy and store large quantities of leaf. This is true. Most chinchales rely on the goodwill of men like John Oliva, president of Oliva Tobacco, one of the largest, privately owned tobacco-trading companies in the world. "We bend over backward to help these guys. They're all that's left." Oliva says that it is rarely profitable to store tobacco in small quantities, but with so few rolling operations left, he is happy to accommodate them. Oliva says the chinchales "pay more to carry less," but keeping less tobacco in-house is also costly because the maintenance of leaf quality is relinquished to another party. And once preaged cigar tobacco winds up in a chinchal, it is likely that other, more powerful cigar manufacturers rejected it.

There is also a problem at chinchales with inconsistent maintenance of cigar humidity. (Miami is the exception, where most chinchales have walk-in humidors.) At some shops, cigars are rolled and simply left out in a cupboard until they are purchased. Buying straight from the rollers' table is better in this case.

Sizes and Blends

At many chinchales, the blend is the same throughout the size range, so choosing a size is less important than finding a shop that creates the right blend for your taste. This takes some experimentation. If you ask politely, you may be able to determine which tobaccos are used, but there is no better barometer than your taste buds.

Some places actually make unusual sizes like pyramids, but it is more common to find simple sizes like double coronas or Churchills and even smaller ones, like miniatures.

Prices


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