Cigar Aficionado

A Tale of Two Factories

My trip to Nicaragua last week was short and sweet. I was there for the Nicaraguan Cigar Festival and file a story for Cigar Aficionado (you'll read more about that soon). You saw my visits to tobacco fields, but I also took the time to visit two very different cigar factories in Estelí, the town in northwestern Nicaragua where most of the country's cigars are made.

The first time I visited a cigar factory in Nicaragua (back in 1999) I was surprised by its relative silence. I was five years into the job at that point and had visited several factories in the Dominican Republic. Dominican cigar factories are quite festive. Loud music often plays and cigar rollers converse loudly with their fellow workers as they go about their business.

Not so in Central America. The factories aren't quite silent, but the workers tend not to chat as they roll or bunch. You hear noise of course, but that tends to be the slap of chavetas on rolling tables, the squeak of chairs moving as people get up to move to cigar presses, the closing of doors—that sort of thing.

Nicaraguan factories make phenomenal cigars, and I had the pleasure to visit two very nice ones on this last trip. My first stop was at one of the mid-size factories in Estelí—Tabacos Cubanica, owned by the Padrón family. This is where all Padrón cigars are made. (Padrón once made some of its cigars across the border in Honduras.)

At this facility, which makes around 5 million cigars a year, the workers are divided between rollers and bunchers, with the rollers (all female) sitting in front, and the bunchers (all male) sitting in back. They make everything from Padrón 2000s to Padrón Family Reserves here, using dark, rich tobaccos. The cigars from this relatively modest cigar factory have won our highest accolades, winning Cigar of the Year three times. Take a look inside.

The second factory I visited is My Father Cigars, owned by the Garcia family. The company's My Father brand is made here, along with Tatuaje Havana VI, Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial, La Aroma de Cuba (in many forms), San Cristobal and many others. In 2009, a My Father No. 1 ranked No. 3 in our Top 25 Cigars of the Year.

There's a great deal of space here, and it was designed by former engineer Jaime Garcia, so it has a smart flow of product. Tobacco moves through the building, is made into cigars, then out another end, packed in a box made elsewhere on the facility, which is big, colorful and modern.

The workers are arranged differently here, with bunching/rolling teams sitting side by side. The rolling gallery is also much larger. Take a look.

Two factories in Nicaragua, each with its own style and personality, each making award-winning cigars.

"Dennis T- Birmingham, MI with all of the cigar smoking bans and aggressive tactics by anti smokers it is a surprise to me that the industry continues to prosper. With a new Cigar Bar about to be approved in our fair City it is proof that while we may be down, we are not out. Nice article and congrats to the Padron and Garcia families." —April 25, 2011 11:16 AM
"Thanks David for these visits I realy enjoy them. Keep up the good work. Looking forward for other visits and information. " —April 17, 2011 22:44 PM
"Thanks for the inside look of a cigar assembly operations. As a new cigar smoker, I would be interested to see where the El Baton's are made - just a thought for future travels! " —April 16, 2011 23:29 PM
"David, next time slow down when panning the room you movesso fast the view was a blur. The Pardon's appear to have a very professional work place. Everything appears to be in its place. In my opinion the Padron's are the best non-Cuban Cigars. " —April 15, 2011 10:24 AM
"David Savona Any reason why the Padron factory has only female rollers and male bunchers? Whatever the reason, it is working quite well. Nicaragua, makes some of my favorite cigars, Padron, My father, Tatuaje.... Nice write up and we always love those videos Dave. George" —April 13, 2011 19:44 PM
"Those factories seem so much more modern, organized, and efficient than the Cuban factory videos we've seen before. Seems the Cubans could learn a thing or two from these guys." —April 11, 2011 23:50 PM
"Excellent write up David and great video. Those Padron's look very tasty. It's great to view different factorys and workers making these fabulous cigars. Thanks for the update." —April 11, 2011 21:05 PM