In an uncertain era when many cigarmakers are proceeding cautiously in the face of aggressive government regulations, a bold new cigar company has entered the playing field with guns blazing—Micallef Cigars. The Texas-based company launched seven cigar lines last year and has everything in its extensive portfolio, from an $8 smoke all the way up to a cigar that retails for more than $40. Though still a newcomer to the cigar industry, brand owner Al Micallef says he’s prepared to tackle any challenges that may lie ahead.
“I learned very quickly that you’ve got to run a cigar company like any other business,” said Micallef in a phone conversation with Cigar Aficionado. “You better be dedicated to put the time and the effort in.”
Micaleff, a Texas-based entrepreneur, already helms an impressive roster of other successful businesses, including a large expanse of ranch land in Alpine, Texas, called CF Ranch; a silicone plastic fabrication company called Jamak Fabrication, and a number of fine-dining restaurants in the Alpine and Fort Worth areas. Now he’s taking on the trials of running a cigar company.
“Ninety-five percent of my time is spent in the cigar business,” Micallef said. “My other businesses are mature. I’m dedicating my finances and time to growing this business.”
Micallef started his cigar company last year when a chance encounter introduced him to two cigarmakers from the Gómez Sanchez family.
By Micallef’s account, the Gómez Sanchez brothers, Joel and Edel, were driving through Texas when their car broke down. Stranded, the brothers stopped at the nearby Silver Leaf Cigar Lounge, in Fort Worth, Texas. They offered to roll some cigars for the patrons. Micallef, an avid cigar smoker—who spends many afternoons at the lounge—happened to be there and tried their cigars that same day.
“They had some car trouble and stopped in the lounge. They said to the manager, ‘Can we roll some cigars for you?’ The cigars were so popular they stuck around for three days.”
Micallef says he was so impressed with the Gómez Sanchez brothers’ cigars that he asked them if they would create a personal cigar just for him.
He later came to find out that the Gómez Sanchez brothers are from a Cuban cigar family with three generations of experience in the industry. The family patriarch, Pedro F. Gómez, once rolled cigars at the H. Upmann factory in Havana, Cuba, and later worked as a factory supervisor at the Nueva Matacapan factory in Mexico (owned by the Turrents). His daughter-in-law, Migdalia Sanchez, worked at the Partagás factory in Cuba. His grandchildren, Joel and Edel Gómez Sanchez, also worked in cigar factories in Cuba before moving to Miami, then Mexico and finally Nicaragua, where the family operates its cigar factory.
Micallef Cigars currently offers seven different cigar lines:
• Reserva Limitada Privada, a 7 inch by 52 ring gauge Churchill, made with a Mexican San Andrés Habano wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder and filler from Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Peru. It retails for $42.
• Experiencia, a medium-bodied cigar available in two sizes, Prominente (5 1/2 by 58), draped in a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper leaf, and La Crema (7 by 52), wearing a Mexican Sumatra wrapper. Both sizes retail for $13.
• Reata, a mild- to medium-bodied Churchill and Torpedo, both sell for $15.
• Gómez Sanchez 1RA Generación, two figurados of different sizes made with Ecuador Habano wrapper ($20, $25).
• Herencia, a medium- to full-bodied torpedo offered in both Habano and Maduro ($13, $14).
• Palacios, an Ecuadoran Connecticut Robusto ($11).
• Torcedores, a mild- to medium-bodied duo available in a box-pressed Torpedo and a Churchill, both $8.50.
All of Micallef’s cigars are rolled in Estelí, Nicaragua, at the Gómez Sanchez Family 1934 cigar factory.
Micaleff says he’s pleased with the strides his company has made in such a short time. When asked if he’s concerned about the impact from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration on his company, Micallef responded:
“Micallef has a long history of conducting business in a regulated environment. Admittedly, the cigar industry is a new business environment for us. We are confident that our business experience in other areas and our current team will meet the challenges of the FDA head on. Of course, we have high hopes that things will change, but we are planning for full FDA regulation and look forward to a long history in this wonderful industry.”