by Jose Kevo
May 20, 2005
The small warehouse was basically abandoned the day I passed by. Rows of rolling stations dominate the central area, enough to accommodate 56 employees who can twist upwards of 1,500-plus cigars on any given day. Since this was the holiday season, most were still on vacation, but I was very impressed with efforts to extend the full-blown tour for an individual randomly walking in off the streets.
A display table off to the side contains small clusters of the four varieties of tobacco that are used. Three are Dominican and the others are Cuban. The acrid smells became all but overwhelming when stepping into the sealed curing room where piles of tobacco were scattered around for drying. Between the heat and sudden sneezing, continuing the spiel in the warehouse was a welcomed option.
The man and woman, who had given up their day off, were eager to demonstrate how they craft the cigars. The seven-step process was done with such ease, my mind was calculating how each employee managed to roll only 27 cigars a day based on the numbers given above. They didn't mind having photos taken, but make sure you've brought a flash. Otherwise, pictures will be fuzzy in the darkened interior with rapid hand movements.
The company office doubles as a make-shift cigar store, where an entire wall is lined with shelves containing different blends and quantities. The gentleman in charge had just proudly shown be their biggest seller, The Hummer, in honor of Bill Clinton and Monica. An escorted tour group arrived before we could talk specifics, but I was invited to stay and look around. Unfortunately, nothing was marked with prices. Perhaps they're also willing to haggle over prices, but over the years, I've heard many local people brag about the company's cigars in both quality and price.
The cigar company is located in the western section of town 1 block off of Avenida Padre Abreu at the corner of Lopez #31 and Tribuciomilloa #24. The building is rather unsuspecting, but any taxi or motoconcho driver will know exactly where to find it. A tour with shopping can be completed in 45 minutes. Either pay your driver to wait or catch a new ride on heavily traveled Abreu.
Weekday hours of operation are sketchy based on quota-quitting time, so consider mornings the best bet. Organized tourist excursions include your own official guide that will translate information. Independent travelers will need to have Spanish-speaking abilities to understand the tour, though English was quickly substituted when it came time to make a potential sale.
From journal The Tourists ARE Coming!