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An Interview With Jose Orlando Padrón, Chairman, Padrón Cigars Inc.

The patriarch and founder of Padrón Cigars Inc. has been making cigars since 1964.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

(continued from page 1)

Q: So some big companies cannot respond to the market properly?
A: Look what happened before to the factories with big stocks. What happened after the boom [last time] was that there were over 10 million cigars in Nicaragua, at 10 cents a cigar. It's not convenient to mention who bought them.

Q: Your cigars are always difficult to find in the market, especially the Aniversary. Why?
A: The answer is simple; we produce 15 or 20 percent of our production for the Anniversary. We have had problems with production sometimes. For example, last month we took a 15-day vacation and there was a negative impact on production levels. However, our system is to prioritize quality over quantity. Our biggest production was in 1981, when we sold 6 million cigars. I don't think we will ever produce more than this figure. If we get to 6 million, that's where we stop.

Q: Why can't you produce more?
A: Because it's very difficult. You would need more rollers, more tobacco, and [you get] more problems.

Q: So a lot of the problem is the infrastructure?
A: Exactly, and we have no need for that. What we have to do is maintain what we now have. We have to make sure that the smoker is satisfied.

Q: Isn't the trend nowadays for tobacco companies to launch new products and new brands all the time?
A: Exactly, and saturate the store shelves. We buy raw material for what we are doing, for four, five or six years. What other factories do is they launch new brands every year. Just think of one factory that has 20 brands. How many sizes will it have for each brand? I will say it's a lie to anybody that tells me that they can make more than three blends in one factory. Not even a fortune-teller could invent so many different brands. The client pays for this.

Q: But why is it so difficult to make lots of different brands in one factory?
A: The problem is that you have to have enough raw materials to maintain the blend. That's the most important thing.

Q: This is the problem now in Cuba, right? There are factories making 10, 15 brands? There are also brands that are manufactured in several factories. Isn't that very difficult?
A: Each factory should produce a maximum of four brands each. To have a factory produce more than four brands would turn it into a factoría, a place that produces dresses, shirts, clothes. The difference between a factory and a factoría is that a factory has to guarantee the raw material to maintain a stable blend. A clothes factoría needs to promote its merchandise and keep up to date with fashion trends. They are totally different, one from the other. Just imagine, a factory that makes 1 million cigars will need, for each brand, a minimum of 450 quintales [22.8 short tons] of tobacco.

Q: Is that for a year?
A: Forget about the time, we're saying for the production of 1 million cigars. Imagine, just multiply 30 million cigars by 450 to know how many quintales must be in stock!

Q: Is that why Padrón never makes more than one brand?
A: Exactly. It's very important to be serious and professional in this business. Seriousness means that when a client smokes a cigar it should always smoke the same, taste the same, and have the same qualities. When a factory produces many different brands, it will have to be changing the blends all the time. Sometimes factories will have perfect blends but other times not.

Q: But don't you think that in 20 years Padrón's blends and flavors have changed?
A: Yes, they have changed. Of course. Initially I changed them because of Nicaragua. But listen: cigar production must be taken seriously, that is what I was taught and what I want my sons to learn. When a client talks to you it should be to congratulate you, not to say "This cigar is awful." What we have to maintain is the smoker's trust, that Padrón will never fail them.

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