Marvin R. Shanken interviews the man behind Hoyo de Monterrey and Punch.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
(continued from page 3)
C.A.: Did you spend a lot of time down in Honduras?
Blumenthal: No, no. I don't speak the language.
C.A.: Did Frank go down there a lot?
Blumenthal: Frank still goes down there. But at that time, Frank and I were not partners. In the 1960s, Danby-Palicio was a separate company. Villazon was a separate company. I had an option to buy 25 percent of Villazon and Co. So sometime around 1970 we decided to put the whole thing together. There were three of us: Frank's brother, Joe, myself and Frank. Each of us owned a third of the factory. We just combined the whole thing. For some reason, which I still don't know today, the combined business just opened up and boomed.
And even though in Honduras we had to teach everyone how to make cigars, it worked. It was funny at first, because we actually started the factory in Honduras. While we were teaching people, we didn't know what to do with the cigars. We put them in bundles. We were the first ones to put cigars in bundles. These were the cigars made by the students. They were our learner cigars, and we sold them very cheaply. They sold well.
C.A.: When did you start producing the Hoyo and the Punch in Honduras?
Blumenthal: Around 1969.
C.A.: But you continued to put Cuban tobacco into those cigars long after you started making them in Honduras. Was that tobacco still part of the original acquisition of Cuban leaf you made before the embargo was imposed?
Blumenthal: As I told you, I had played my hunch that there was going to be an embargo, and Angel Oliva got the Cuban tobacco for us. The last shipment that came before the embargo was primarily for us. And later, we bought Cuban tobacco from the Garcia y Vega company, which had decided it didn't have enough inventory of Cuban leaf to continue making them. They had not built up a huge inventory because before the embargo, the price was already high, and they hadn't bought any more. In 1965 or '66, the American Cigar Company had decided to get rid of all of its Cuban tobacco. They were going to add a new blend, and they sold us all their Cuban tobacco. That was a lot.
C.A.: So from the time that you guessed the embargo was coming until after the embargo was imposed, how many cigars worth of tobacco did you accumulate?
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