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Entries Tagged as cigar industry

A Great Old Cigar Brand Has Returned!

April 21, 2015 · By · No Comments

So while sitting back with an astounding maduro Robusto, that was rich, sweet and loaded with zesty notes of sweet spice and cocoa, (more about that later), I began thinking about how many new  premium cigars crafted by up and coming stogy rock stars have hit the scene in just this past year alone. That would be a bad thing if all these new sticks were crap, but these new young guns are cranking out some real quality products. Some might say that we are in the midst of a new Renaissance in the tobacco industry. Skeptics would disagree, claiming that the market is over-saturated. Just follow any internet cigar group and watch this endless battle rage on. At one point, Padron was a new company, and so was Arturo Fuente and Drew Estate, just to name a few. New brands provide energy into the market, a breath of fresh air, and they keep things new and exciting. In addition, it keeps the older established companies on their toes so they can never rest on their Laurels, (Or Hardy’s for that matter)! Best of all, it boosts the economy, both in the countries of origin, and right here in the States.

Therefore, I say, (for what it’s worth) keep bringing on the goodies; you just can’t have too many great cigars to choose from!

Speaking of new cigars, we have a real top-quality gem that is making a lot of (good) noise in the industry.

The Beginning:

The Congress Cigar Company and its leading brand, La Palina, had its beginnings when Samuel Paley emigrated from Ukraine in the late 1800s.

Arriving in Chicago, Sam started his career in a local cigar factory as a lector. That person reads either fiction or popular current event stories to the rollers to break up the monotony, and to keep them from slapping a moist wrapper leaf on a co-worker's head for sipping his espresso too loudly.

His interest in the tobacco industry steadily grew, and Sam devoted his personal time to studying cigars, the nuances of their blending and the tradition of their manufacture.  His employer eventually recognized his diligence, and Sam was promoted to roller and then blender.

In 1896, Sam opened a cigar shop of his own in Chicago with an adjacent factory that he named Congress Cigar Company.  Their first product was La Palina, in honor of his wife Goldie Drell Paley.  Sam was a turn-of-the-century master artisan and would sit in the window every day rolling cigars.

His dedication and skill made the brand a household name and it shared a spot among the best smokes of the day. Sadly, when Sam retired in 1926, his beloved La Palina retired with him.

Today:

Bill Paley, a third generation cigar maker, learned an important lesson about quality from his grandfather’s proud history with La Palina and Congress Cigar.  Those values would guide the Paley’s for the next three generations and would take Bill Paley back to his roots, and the resurrection of this once famous brand.

This iteration isn’t just some run-of-the-mill remake of an old brand looking to make a quick buck, Paley set out to create some edgy modern nuances to super-charge the classic original recipe.

La Palina cigars are available in two incredibly tasty varieties!

La Palina Classic

La Palina Classic cigars are medium-to-full-bodied, earthy, smooth, and brimming with a perfectly balanced combination of sweet and spicy goodness, thanks to its mouthwatering blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan long fillers, a silky Ecuadorian binder, and a deep and oily Brazilian Habano seed wrapper.


La Palina Black Label

This amazing premium handmade is wearing a lovely seamless Brazilian Habano wrapper that is black as coal, and glistening with oil. Underneath reside some of the finest aged Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers held together by a bold and zesty Ecuadorian binder.

Being a huge maduro maven, I chose the La Palina Black Label Robusto to smoke while writing this blog. If you will kindly revert to the very beginning of this story, I believe I suitably described its magnificent flavor… I’ll bet you guys were going crazy trying to figure out what I was smoking!   No? … Oh, well!

Anyway, whether you smoke the Classic, Black Label, or both, rest assured, you are in for a very special treat!

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · cigar news · La Palina · new cigars

Habanos

March 04, 2015 · By · No Comments

The Habanos festival is over in Havana…it is not like Pro Cigar, instead it is the Habanos version of the IPCPR trade show.  They roll out new products and show off their stuff to the worldwide wholesalers and retailers.  With all the talk about the possible normalization of relations with Cuba (personally I am not sure it will happen) Habanos S.A.—the maker of Cuban cigars—predicted that once the embargo is lifted, it will immediately take 25-30 percent of the U.S. premium cigar market.  Eventually it says it would end up with 70 percent of the U.S. premium market.  No doubt the inclusion of Cuban cigars after being a forbidden fruit would increase cigar popularity.

“It would add to the mystique of the cigars that we’re making,” said Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman Cigar Co., one of the largest American cigar companies.

Of greater concern to many American cigar companies are smoking regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. Under the rules, cigar companies would be required to receive government approval before introducing new product lines and issue new health warnings.

Newman suggested the smoking regulations could shutter his company.

“We can deal with smoking bans, we can deal with the Cuban embargo, we can deal with high taxes — but we’re really concerned about the regulations from the FDA that could wipe us out of business,” Newman said.

But the interesting thing is while the Administration wants to open up Cuba and its biggest import is cigars, at the same time the FDA is trying to crack down on cigars and that would include the Cubans as well.   But there could be time to stop the FDA.  Last week, cigar makers were walking the halls of Congress to try to get support for HB 662 and S.441 which would keep the FDA out of our humidors.  There was some success in that the Senate bill now has 12 sponsors and the House version is up to 52.  We need more.  You need to write to your Congressional delegation and get them to pay attention before it is too late.  It’s easy to do it…just go here.

Then there is the whole issue of trademarks. Altadis owns Montecristo, H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta, among others both in the U.S. and the Habanos versions.  No problem there.  But General Cigar owns Partagas, La Gloria Cubana, Punch and maybe Cohiba for the U.S. but not overseas.  I say maybe for Cohiba because just recently the Supreme Court declined to hear a case on the Cohiba trademark.  Cubatabaco was suing General for the rights over the Cohiba name and the last court ruling gave Cuba the win.  General was hoping for SCOTUS intervention but that will not happen. The case now goes to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trial and appeal board.

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · cigar news · cigar shows · Cuban cigars · FDA

Davidoff Moves

March 03, 2015 · By · No Comments

In talking with Davidoff CEO Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard at Pro Cigar, he noted the success of the Davidoff Nicaragua, saying it has been the company’s biggest success since its Cuban days.  He said that the interesting thing about the Davidoff Nicaragua is that it is not cannibalizing other Davidoffs in that 70 percent of the smokers are new to the brand.

Perhaps because of this success, the company announced it is buying over 370 acres of farmland in Honduras and Nicaragua. The land is in Condega, Nicaragua and the Jamastran Valley of Honduras.  The company says it will allow them to continue to get top quality tobacco while allowing it the opportunity to experiment with new and existing seeds.

Davidoff also bought land by its box factory in Danli in order to build a new cigar factory there.  The plot is about 450,000 square feet for the new factory and the factory itself in the first phase will have 185,000 square feet, allowing for a 60 percent increase in production for Camacho, Room 101 and Baccarat.

And on the retail side, Davidoff continues to make moves opening flagship stores… the latest one comes in the company’s U.S. hometown of Tampa.  It will be a 5,000 square foot store that includes a nice lounge and the biggest Davidoff store in the world.  According to CEO Hans-Kristian every Davidoff store will have a lounge because he foresees a time when the only place you will be able to smoke a cigar is in a cigar store.

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · Davidoff

Reserva Privada

February 25, 2015 · By · No Comments

At Quesada Cigars, they showed off their newest blend made by Manuel Quesada called the Quesada Reserva Privada.

Last year at Pro Cigar, the company marked its 40th anniversary with new cigars and this year it was something special. (The box is even special with a smooth almost glassy finish –it was so smooth I thought it was plastic but no it is wood-- and a hologram on both the band and box.) The key to this new blend is tobacco from the 1997 crop.  At the time, Manolo noted that the weather was perfect that year and the leaves all looked great.   He thought that crop could be something special and working with his father at the time, the Quesadas put some away in special palm leaf bundles to let the tobacco age slowly. Now they are using that 18 year old crop in this special release.  Manolo says this is the best blend he has ever made.  It uses an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over Dominican San Vicente binder from 1997 and fillers of Dominican San Vicente from 1997 along with Pennsylvania ligero.  There will be only three sizes and initially only a few accounts will get them.  As for the cigars themselves, they were rolled in April of last year and are going to be aged one full year…which means no one outside of the Quesadas have tasted one yet.  We were told the cigars will be available in April.  The cost will be $13-$15.

Puro Vintage

Speaking of vintages…La Aurora released its newest Puro Vintage 2006 (this is the fourth edition and limited to 1500 boxes of 18.).  The Salomon uses a maduro HVA wrapper grown in Ecuador over Brazilian binder and fillers from Nicaragua, Brazil and two different Dominican tobaccos from the Cibao valley. The cigar was featured as part of the Pro Cigar auction where one of two special humidors with the cigars was auctioned off.  The special humidor contained the Puro Vintage Salomon which will be available, along with a Doble Figurado (the classic preferido No. 2 size) and a robusto gordo which were made just for the auction. 

In addition La Aurora has finished building a new replica of the company’s original factory.  Another version of the factory exists in Centro Leon a cultural museum complex donated by the Leon family and adjacent to former site of the La Aurora factory.  The new replica located in Tamboril is part of La Aurora’s educational tour of the factory.  The company has brought in real tobacco plants to give visitors a tobacco field experience without trekking through the dirt.  Another addition to the factory is Cigar World which will be an educational facility.  Plans call for seminars on tobacco to be given by former General Cigar president Daniel Nuñez and cigar legend Benji Menendez along with La Aurora’s master blender Manuel Inoa.  That would be one seminar I wouldn’t miss.

Earlier, I mentioned the Pro Cigar Auction…that is another main purpose of the organization…to raise money for charities in the Dominican Republic.  The auction on Friday night raised a record  of just over $100,000 for Voluntariado de Jesus con los Niños and Hospicio San Vicente de Paul—non profit organizations that help sick children and poor elderly.  

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · cigar shows · La Aurora · Pro Cigar · Quesada

Pro Cigar

February 24, 2015 · By · No Comments

While most of the country was shivering in the arctic cold, about 300 lucky souls spent their time in the sunny Dominican Republic last week for Pro Cigar.  This is the annual event put on by the Dominican cigar makers to showcase their products and to help educate retailers and consumers alike.

The Pro Cigar festival began in La Romana—home to Altadis USA’s huge Tabacalera de Garcia—the world’s largest cigar factory.  Most of the first day was spent relaxing at Casa de Campo, the 7,000 acre resort in La Romana.  Tuesday was the tour of Altadis where the visitors got a chance to taste the newest Romeo y Julieta..Anejo. Anejo is going to hit the shelves soon.  From La Romana, the group made the 5 hour trek to Santiago, the capital of cigar country.

Santiago is home to literally dozens of factories ranging from large to tiny, but all are devoted to making the best Dominican cigars.  Guests at the Pro Cigar Festival had to pick from the events, which made it impossible to visit everyone.

One of the new additions to the tour was Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma in Tamboril.  Jochy has been growing tobacco and making great cigars for years and just last year he was voted into Pro Cigar.  At his factory we got to see brands like Black Abyss,  the highly rated Aging Room series and the new Señorial by Jose Blanco—Jochy’s cousin.  At the factory Jose conducted his tasting seminar, having the participants try to determine which wrappers were being used  on one cigar.  There were a total of 5 different wrappers to taste—each one in a separate band.

More Tobacco

General Cigar got the participants a bit more involved.  There, attendees got the chance to make their own cigars.  Everything from actually bunching the tobacco to make the cigar, to putting a wrapper on it.  In the end, each box was a Macanudo—but most likely one that no one would ever recognize for the construction nor taste…but it looked nice.  General also rolled out a bunch of tobacco for tasting.

In addition to seeing the different tobacco leaves, the company made up little puros—small cigars rolled from the single leaf of each tobacco.  This way, you could taste the characteristics of each leaf.  There was Maduro, Nicaraguan Viso, Ligero and Seco, Pennsylvania and Broadleaf tobaccos along with leaves from Peru, Nicaraguan Ometepe, Paraguay, Dominican Olor Ligero and Colombian..all in all 24 different leaves to try.  One thing I did learn from Benji Menendez was that Paraguayan tobacco is good filler for certain blends because it has no discernable flavors so you can use it to make, say, a 60 ring gauge without messing up your blend.

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · cigar shows · General Cigar · Jose Blanco · Pro Cigar

Pro Cigar is Underway

February 18, 2015 · By · No Comments

This is the time of year when the Dominican Republic celebrates its cigar heritage with Pro Cigar.  The week-long event is limited to about 300 people so there are no huge lines, nor congestion as participants get to interact on a personal level with the nation’s leading cigar makers.

The festival began at La Romana, home to the world’s largest cigar factory, Tabacalera de Garcia—home to Altadis USA’s brands.  On Tuesday night the festival moves to Santiago--home to most of the Dominican’s cigar factories.  We will be visiting La Aurora, Quesada, Davidoff, Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma, Ernie Carrillo’s Tabacalera Alianza among others.  Gonna be a busy week and I’ll report back next week.

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · cigar shows

First Convention

February 05, 2015 · By · No Comments

The Tobacco Plus Expo was held in Vegas last week.  There were about 400 plus vendors including Rocky Patel, Altadis, General Cigar, Drew Estate, Oliva, and CLE, but the biggest thrust of the show was Vapes. Over 80 vendors came from China, where most of the products for vaping are made. The show was attended by about 1400 considering the “blizzard” on the east coast (yes some areas were hit hard but others just got a dusting and one mayor overreacted) that wasn’t bad.   Most were pretty optimistic. I admit I know little about vapes, although I do have a few friends who use them as a means of quitting cigarettes.  What I can tell you is some of the vapers at the show were almost as bad as non smokers.  I saw several walking by cigar booths and waving the smoke from the cigars away as they puffed on their electronic device.   Then there is this:

These women were in a booth and demonstrating what I found out is called Cloud Chasing. Apparently the idea is to get as much vapor as you can into your lungs and the blow out the biggest possible cloud.  In the picture I think they were only getting started.  I first saw this when I was outside the show waiting to go in and wanted to get a photo of people going in.  Two guys were behind me and they were able to basically obscure the entrance with their clouds.  I was enveloped in vapor.  Oh and it does have a scent.  While I liked the optimism of the show, I am not certain if it is born from true optimism or ignorance.  I do believe that the FDA will come down hard on the vape products, and with  vapor “enthusiasts” making nuisances of themselves with clouds, cities and states will crack down too—not to mention the taxes on them.  Alas I see the vape revolution going on now as much the same was as the cigar boom.  Ours ended naturally, I believe theirs will end by fiat.

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · vapes

Nick Perdomo: Cigars & Science

January 27, 2015 · By · 1 Comment

Estelí, Nicaragua, is home to some of the finest cigarmakers in the world. The ideal weather, enriched soil, and versatility of the region have led to it being considered the El Dorado of cigar tobacco. While many premium manufacturers are based in this area, it seems that one man in particular has truly mastered the science behind the craft. Nick Perdomo, founder and CEO of Tabacalera Perdomo, is one of the largest producers of premium cigars in the world, and is considered by many to be one of the most innovative minds in the industry. Nick has created high-end premium cigars in vast quantities while also ensuring that his products are of the utmost quality. He is able to accomplish this with an operations strategy that combines traditional methods with modern techniques and innovations.

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I’ve personally been involved in this industry for about six years, and I thought I had a pretty solid understanding of the science involved with cultivating and mastering cigar tobacco; Nick Perdomo has taken the craft to an entirely different level. Upon visiting his fields and factories, I came to understand how complicated and involved the process is, and how it is a combination of several different scientific genres, all of which Perdomo incorporates into his production.

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Starting from the selection of his farms, Nick makes sure his fields are rigorously tested before he makes a purchase and begins to plant. For the tobacco to be up to his standards, the soils need to have just the right amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These elements are essential for growing strong, deep-rooted, and flavorful tobacco plants. He has engineered his own machines for sifting and filtering through the tobacco seeds in order to obtain the highest-quality plants, and he developed a system that works in concert with the natural dry and wet seasons of the area to ensure that his plants receive the perfect amount of water. However, his innovations in the fields are just the tip of the iceberg.

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Nick’s factory, located on Perdomo Avenue in Estelí, is 88,000 square feet and nicknamed “El Monstro.” It is a thriving community unto itself and is almost completely self-reliant. This is not only the location for the processing and rolling of tobacco, but also the area where Perdomo crafts machine-made cigars, cuts and treats wood for the manufacturing of boxes, and even makes wood-based cellophane sleeves. Each one of these processes is performed with an intense amount of quality control to guarantee that the product is of the highest nature.

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Before a blend is made, several taste-testing sessions occur with Nick and other high-ranking members of his company. They use coffee with milk, a natural palate cleanser, while tasting the different flavors in each variety of tobacco, and use their findings to create new blends. Even the science of physics is incorporated into the process during one of the most important quality-control steps: Each and every cigar rolled in that factory goes through a draw test during which it is placed on a machine that’s able to measure the draw of each cigar. If a cigar doesn’t pass this level, the roller must try again. While fanatical about cleanliness and quality control, Nick treats his employees very well and they, in turn, show fervent amount of loyalty.

I spent two whole days on this tour, and I feel as though I still haven’t even scratched the surface. The process of creating high-quality premium cigars involves both science and art, and takes a man possessing ingenuity and freethinking creativity. As a mathematical musician and an analytical author, Nick Perdomo is a combination of these qualities—the best of both worlds. 

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1 CommentTags: cigar industry · Nicaragua · Perdomo

Kick Off

January 27, 2015 · By · No Comments

In addition to the Super Bowl this week, there is another kick off of sorts.  It is the first tobacco show of the year.  Held in Vegas it is Tobacco Plus Expo and mostly geared to small stores and convenience shops.  There will be some premium cigars there, but my guess is there will be a lot of vaping stuff as well and I mean a lot.  It will be interesting to see the mood of the show and see what the year may have in store.

Cloudy New Orleans

At least this first show is not in doubt. The big one is.  Last week, the New Orleans City council passed a smoking ban.   This is a cause of concern because New Orleans is set to host the annual cigar trade show this summer.  If it were my decision, I’d move it.  Why should tobacconists give New Orleans ANY money?  But the IPCPR says on its Facebook page

This legislation passed unanimously with favorable amendments. As amended, the legislation will not impact the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailer Association's (IPCPR) local members or our 83rd Annual Convention & International Trade Show. The ability to smoke in cigar bars, the convention center, and in facilities being used for private events is protected by the amendment.

The favorable amendments are a handful of exemptions that could easily be taken away.  The big one is that it allows smoking at the trade show on the floor. The IPCPR is playing for a tie not a win.  Glynn Loope of the Cigar Rights of America isn’t buying it.  He says this smoking ban is a first step and he realizes the other side goes for incrementalism.  In 2007, Louisiana passed a state wide smoking ban for restaurants and many workplaces but exemptions were made for Casinos and bars.  Now, New Orleans is taking those exemptions away. 

The original city legislation had it so you couldn’t smoke within 25 feet of a door, but that was lowered to 5 feet when the council figured out that would effectively ban smoking on Bourbon Street.  (By the way this goes into effect AFTER Mardi Gras.)

As for enforcement, it won’t be the cops giving tickets as originally planned. They already have their hands full. With Mardi Gras coming up the locals are worried about crime.  In the French Quarter, there are signs telling people to travel in large groups because of the city’s violence.  The NOPD is understaffed.

The force has lost about 500 officers since Katrina struck in 2005 and it is now down to about 1,150 — far fewer than the 1,600 that Landrieu would like. As few as 250 officers were found to be on patrol duty and responding to calls for help in May 2013, a city inspector general report found last May.

"I have been to some roll calls where there is one cop, two cops," said Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, a police union.

The Mayor, Mitch Landrieu, wanted the council to delay action so his office could study the issue.  They didn’t want to wait.

Harrah’s tried to tell the council that they were looking at a 20 percent drop in revenues because of the casino smoking ban.  The supporters say the ban will bring more business to the casinos. They always say that.  In December, the Louisiana State Police, which oversees gambling, projected a $104-million dollar loss due to a smoking ban.  I hope this goes like Atlantic City where similar arguments were made and ignored.  When Atlantic City banned smoking in casinos, it lasted about a week once the city saw the revenue drop.

Says Glynn Loope, “every job that is lost in New Orleans lies at the feet of Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell who pushed this bill.”

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No CommentsTags: cigar industry · cigar laws · cigar news · IPCPR

Estelí, Nicaragua: The Diamond of the Segovias

January 20, 2015 · By · 6 Comments

When people think of Nicaragua, they may imagine picturesque mountains covered with jungle-like trees. They may envision row after row of endless tobacco plants and small fruit stands dotting the street corners. This is the exact picture I discovered when I traveled to this bustling metropolis. Located about 93 miles north of the capital city of Managua, Estelí is the third most populated city in Nicaragua, and a huge center for commerce.

This city is filled with some of the finest craftsmen you will find in Central America. Leather workers craft boots and belts out of whatever is available to them, including iguana. The items they create could be sold for top dollar in the American market, but in Estelí, they serve more as a representation of the artists’ talents than a means of making money. The population is one of the most generous and cheerful that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. They are humble, hardworking, and content with their lives. It is an area rich in history and culture, and in recent decades Estelí has become a haven for former Cuban cigar manufacturers, setting itself up as the unofficial tobacco capital of the country.

It is the area’s weather and soil, which differ greatly from those of the rest of the country, that make it perfect for the production of cigar tobacco. Upon travelling north, the temperature drops about 10 degrees, and the landscape changes from brownish flat fields to lush, green mountains and farms. The soil is dark, unlike the reddish clay of Jalapa, and is filled with nutrients due to the volcanic rock that it is derived from. This makes the tobaccos grown here sturdy and strong, with hints of spice and a very rustic nature. Estelí produces, as Nick Perdomo calls it, “the world's best tobacco.”

Although the casual cigar smoker may have never even heard of this city, it has become an iconic region for tobacco, and home to some of the world’s biggest cigar companies; Drew Estate, My Father, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Oliva, and Perdomo are all based in this very fertile area. Most factories are located within mere miles of each other, all off the great Pan-American Highway. Their fields are spread out all over the region, with many as far away as the towns of Condega and Jalapa. Yet Estelí holds the honor of being the center for production.

Much of the population works in either the fields or the factories, with Perdomo employing some 4,000 workers. They work hard and are very proud of the products they create and of the companies they work for; there are even sports leagues that pit the different companies against each other. I had the pleasure of seeing the Perdomo softball team break even in a doubleheader with Plasencia (although the second game was definitely fixed). The fans are very supportive of their respective teams and closely resemble what one may find at a Yankees game.

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I must say I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed staying in this city. The people treat guests with respect and like one of their own. The simplest gesture receives such great amounts of thanks, for Estelí’s people know it is the smoker that employs them. And now I know that without the hard work, creativity, and overall attitude of the people of Estelí, the “world’s best tobacco” would be nothing more than a pipe dream.   

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6 CommentsTags: cigar industry · Nicaragua · Perdoma