The last week of January I was fortunate enough to join with some of our fellow ABC team members on a trip to Honduras to visit the Camacho cigar operations. Team leaders Kim Nixon (Winter Park ABC) and Brian Reynolds (Gandy Blvd, Tampa ABC), along with regional managers Kara Caffrey and Gus Chinchilla, as well as yours truly headed off last Monday to the heart of Honduran cigar making. After the always exciting landing at Toncontin International Airport and a 3-hour journey by bus in the rain up into the mountains, we finally arrived to Danli, Honduras, after a long day. Dinner, drinks and several Camacho cigars later, we were all sufficiently relaxed and ready for the next few days.
A little history about Camacho cigars. They were originally founded by Simon Camacho, a Cuban exile, in 1961 in Miami. After Simon’s death in 1990, the company was acquired by the Eiroa family in 1995 and tobacco production was moved from Nicaragua to Honduras. Christian Eiroa became president of the company in 1998 and very successfully developed the Camacho label; they became a major force in the cigar world. In 2008 Christian sold Camacho to Davidoff Cigars and several years later, Christian and Davidoff parted ways–Christian eventually developed the CLE lineup, of which Asylum 13 is the most popular. Davidoff saw great potential in the Camacho label and their marketing team has made great strides in promoting these outstanding smokes.
We visited their Camacho production factory for several hours to observe the many steps it takes to create a cigar from dried leaf to finished product. We got to see the sorting of the leaves, which determined which would be wrapper leaves, which would be binder leaves and which leaves go into the filler. We watched the teams of rollers out on the production floor take this tobacco and skillfully bunch, roll, wrap and create a work of art: a finished cigar! We also visited the aging rooms where the finished cigars are stored to allow the flavors to marry together and mellow.
Then it was off to the fields in Jamastran Valley to see where the beginnings of a cigar happen. Jamastran Valley is one of the more famous tobacco growing regions of the world. Soil and conditions are very similar to Pinar del Rio in Cuba, and Jamastran is known for producing rich and full flavored tobacco. We got to observe the greenhouses where the seedlings were getting their start and on to the fields to see plants at various stages of growth. Tobacco grown here is known as sun grown; it is not protected from the sun by any cheesecloth which often results in a more full-flavored tobacco. Corojo is the main variety here, bold and bursting with flavor. Camacho cigars are known for their boldness and all Camacho cigars have at least some Corojo tobacco in them. We watched workers picking leaves and even participated without damaging any plants! It was a great experience for all of us.
The next day was an even more involved day at the production factory, as several members of our team sat down and attempted to roll cigars. Needless to say they will not be leaving their current jobs to become cigar rollers in the future! We also visited a fermentation warehouse where we could observe the steps involved in taking a raw and dried leaf from the fields and the aging process it must go through to become a leaf ready to be made into a fine cigar. A visit to their box factory to see all the steps involved in the creation of a handmade cigar box for all of their cigars was fascinating.
We wrapped up our trip with an interesting twist. Camacho was having their annual sales meeting and all their factory workers were invited to attend, as were we. ABC was mentioned during the meeting and we felt honored to be a part of this event and proud of our partnership with the fine folks at Davidoff. On a side note, Davidoff is based in Switzerland, and one of few companies with total world-wide distribution. They have teamed up with Bayer (think pharmaceuticals, chemicals, consumer healthcare) and Camacho is the only tobacco company in the world to be in compliance with GAP (Good Agricultural Practices). Essentially they are the only “green” tobacco company and their facilities are food service quality. Very impressive.
If you haven’t tried a Camacho cigar yet, give them a try! You will not be disappointed!
Steve Mungeer, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits cigar manager and Certified Retail Tobacconist
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