Cigarmaker A.J. Fernandez has been very busy. So busy that he's bought another factory. In October, Fernandez purchased the former San Rafael factory in Ocotál, Nicaragua from Fidel Olivas. It's now been renamed the San Lotano factory (after Fernandez's farm and cigar brands of the same name) and will officially open on January 3, though activity has already begun after the soft opening last month. In addition, Fernandez has taken over production of the 601 brands, which he will be producing for Erik Espinosa.
According to Fernandez, his Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory is at maximum capacity and he needed the new facility to meet growing demand.
"We have to fulfill all of our back orders and the new factory will help us get caught up at once," said Fernandez. "It's 117,000 square feet and we have room for 240 cigarmakers between bunchers and rollers, which is equivalent to 120 rolling tables."
In addition to the new factory, Fernandez has accepted a new client: Erik Espinosa of La Zona Cigars. Espinosa has turned over production of all his 601 brand cigars to Fernandez and the San Lotano factory.
"My La Zona factory in Estelí has been producing quality cigars for close to five years now," Espinosa said. "But I am unable to expand its production since I have already outgrown it. It's a perfect opportunity for me to finally meet the demand for my cigars."
Espinosa's 601 brand comes in many varieties, including 601 Blue Label Maduro, Green Label Oscuro and Red Label Habano, as well as 601 La Bomba and 601 La Bomba Warhead. In terms of volume, the 601 series is collectively Espinosa's largest cigar line.
The San Lotano Factory is managed by Fernandez's father, Ismael, and Alberto Padilla.
The former San Rafael factory used to produce the El Baton and Brick House brands for J.C. Newman before the company moved the cigar lines to its own factory. Fernandez said that the facility was in fairly decent condition, but needed some remodeling to look more like his factory in Estelí.
The new San Lotano factory will be producing brands like New World Connecticut and Diesel, which is a high-volume cigar line that Fernandez produces for Cigars International. He'll also be producing some new, upcoming brands at the San Lotano factory as well: Enclave Broadleaf, Free World and Dias de Gloria.
This article first appeared in the December 5 edition of Cigar Insider.