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.