I fell from the sky last week and landed directly on the My Father Cigars/Tatuaje 10th Anniversary party in Miami. Let me explain. If you were in South Florida (or like to watch The Weather Channel), you'd know that the region recently experienced monsoon-like storms. Well, I flew in those storms, if you can call that flying. After being chewed up and spit out by one storm cloud after the next, my plane was the last one to land before Fort Lauderdale airport finally suspended service for a while. I'm an anxious air traveler as it is, but once the flight crew could no longer hide their panic, I didn't think we were going to make it.
Needless to say, we survived the heavy turbulence, and by the time I made it to the My Father/Tatuaje 10th Anniversary party on Saturday night, I felt about 10 years older myself.
It's been a decade now since El Rey de los Habanos first opened its doors on Calle Ocho in Miami. Pete Johnson's Tatuaje brand was José "Pepin" Garcia's first client. The business relationship has since grown into a true friendship, and both Johnson's and Garcia's brands have since outgrown that small Calle Ocho operation. Though most of their production has relocated to Nicaragua, they still do a small amount of rolling in Miami. It's no longer called El Rey de los Habanos and is no longer in downtown Miami, but is now called My Father Cigars and is headquartered in an industrial park in Doral, Florida.
Last Saturday, the Garcias converted their warehouse space into a full-fledged nightclub. The flowing white drapery and Caribbean theme reminded me of the old Asia de Cuba before it closed down in New York. In other words, very professionally done.
"This is nicer than some of the Miami nightclubs I've been to " said José Ortega, My Father's vice president of sales. He gave a speech about how the Garcia's long journey brought them to this point and also thanked Cigar Aficionado for naming the company's Flor de las Antillas Toro 2012's Cigar of the Year. But before the speeches and before the live band and before the dancing, I sat down with Pete Johnson.
"I never thought I'd be here 10 years later," Johnson said. "When I first started, I used to place orders in Miami that I didn't even need. I just did it to give Pepin's rollers some work. After the Taino was named the No. 4 cigar of 2005, things really took off at the following IPCPR trade show."
To commemorate this milestone, My Father Cigars is repackaging the original Tatuaje Selección de Cazador, or "brown label," sizes in a gold foil pouch with a redesigned band and uncut foot. A new perfecto size has also been created. At the party, guests received a 5-pack of Tatuaje 10th Anniversary Noellas as well as a box containing six My Father cigars that included two My Father limited-edition smokes, two limited-edition Jaime Garcias and two previously unreleased Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary cigars. I even managed to get my hands on a sample of the new L'Atelier Maduro, though the music was too loud for me to understand the particulars of the blend.
Music blared, drinks were poured, pork was carved (there was a whole roasted pig) and cigars were smoked. I didn't get the chance to talk to Janny Garcia once the music started. As soon as there was a good dancing beat, she went on the dance floor and stayed there. Janny runs the Doral operation and is a very visible face for the My Father portfolio of cigar brands. I did, however, manage to catch Pepin. He's a great dancer, but he took a break and I asked him why he chose to stay in Miami.
"Miami is the city that received me and many other Cubans when we left our country," he said. "This is a very special place."
Indeed it is. I congratulated him on not only 10 years running his own business, but on achieving such fast growth in only a decade.
There were about 200 people in attendance, most of whom were smoking. I lit up the new El Centurion cigar, made in Nicaragua. I don't remember exactly who gave it to me or the particulars of the blend, but I do remember how great it was to be smoking that cigar in such a festive environment, and greater yet, to be enjoying it on solid ground.