Box Press Podcast

Can a Cheap Cigar Be a Good Cigar? Feat. Ernesto Padilla | Ep. 70

Best breakdown of a tobacco plant on the web! This cigar talk proves you don’t have to spend a lot on a cigar to get a great smoke. Fuma cigars are made by repurposing the tobacco that’s leftover after producing premium cigars. Hear how Ernesto Padilla (pronounced Pah-dee-yah) selects the best of what tobacco is left to craft Padilla fumas.

Ernesto and Box Press host, Rob Gagner discuss how blending tobacco for cigars is like selecting meat for hamburger. Like any good sit-down in a smoking lounge, the conversation roams—from The Cold War and the Cuban Revolution to botany and the tobacco strength. Recorded in cigar mecca, Miami, Florida.

Smoking a High-Quality Cigar is a Two-Hour Vacation

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– [Rob Gagner] There’s a story inside every smoke shop.

– [Rob Gagner] With every cigar and with every person. Come be a part of the cigar lifestyle at Boveda. This is Box Press. Welcome to a new episode of Box Press, I’m your host, Rob Gagner. I am sitting next to Ernesto Padilla. Thank you so much for joining me. Do you feel like you’re a little jaded?

– I don’t think when anybody’s, you know, I’m 49, I started when I was like 28 in this business.

– But you didn’t start Padilla Cigars at 28, did you?

– [Ernesto] Yeah.

– You did?

– Yeah.

– Because you said you had also worked for Nick Perdomo?

– Yeah, and I, and I, and I literally started it, yeah, yeah, I started, I started it there. He made a Cameroon cigar for me. While I worked for him, I said, you know, I’d like to do my own line, and I, and I did.

– Really?

– Yeah. I started there for one year. So many people started with Perdomo that people don’t know about. Drew Estate, CAO, but.

– What’s the story with your dad? Your dad was a poet. He was arrested by the Cuban government.

– [Ernesto] Yeah, he was a writer poet, you know?

– Why was he arrested?

– He, it’s a long thing.

– Give me the cliff notes. I don’t want the long story, that would take up the whole interview.

– Yeah, 1959, he was in New York, and he was called by one of his friends to come back to Cuba that the revolution had triumphed. Now you gotta understand, if you go back, and again, trying to do the cliff notes, Castro at the time had not come out to be who he said he was.

– [Rob Gagner] Mm hm.

– He had visited Washington D.C., and you can see, you know, Google him at the Lincoln Memorial and shaking hands with Nixon and the whole shebang. And, you know, my father was an intellectual poet writer from Pinar del Rio. His family were tobacco growers, well known. There’s a region there, the farms, the whole thing, whatever, it’s all still there. Traveled throughout the world. Many people in artistic community, writers, artists, philosophers, people like Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, I mean, kind of the top of their, of the people in philosophy, and different things that were going on in the world they’re talking in the early ’60s and things like that. And, and because of his contacts, going back to Cuba, they wanted someone with his background. He had traveled to Soviet Union also, many writers and artists that he knew there. And he was actually, ironically enough, asked by Che Guevara, the infamous guy on t-shirts to most Western college students who, ironically enough, enjoyed killing people.

– [Rob Gagner] What was he asked by him to do?

– To be the Minister of Foreign, of Commerce for Foreign Affairs. And my father’s like, what, what are you talking about Minister of Commerce? I’m a writer. It doesn’t matter, we have people for that. We just need you as the figurehead.

– So did he do it?

– He traveled different places. He’s traveled to Moscow. He’s traveled all over. He was in London, he was all over. He lived in many different places, spoke I don’t know how many languages, including Russian. And, um.

– But did he take the job that Guevaras?

– He was kind of like appointed there briefly, but his main thing was to really do what he was doing was to be, I know it was crazy. The way it sounds, it’s a little bit of an odd position. You know, who, who writes on their IRS forms, you know, poet, right?

– Not that he was as an IRS like that, but it’s unique to have, to be an artist, much less a poet in the modern world. Even though, you know, now at the inaugural address of US presidents, they usually have a poet. I think was started maybe by Kennedy who had Robert Frost.

– Okay.

– You know, two roads, whatever. There’s been many, actually, famous American poets since then who’ve come on, but.

– So was your dad a poet for one of the inaugurations?

– No, no, no, no. Even though he connects later on, there’s a connection there with Kennedy, ironically enough. His brother Ted, later in 1980, who helps my father get released from Cuba.

– Why was he arrested by Cuba?

– Well.

– For writing?

– Well, in nineteen sixty-eight, sixty-nine, he, remember, like I just said, he was internationally known in the intellectual circles. And he writes a book of poetry called Fuera del Juego, loosely translated to, Out of the Game. And there’s a, in Cuba and a lot of these countries at the time, there’s a thing called the Writers’ Union, which kinda, the communist world, what they would do is became very good at the propaganda game and would use artists and things like that to, you know, they were basically workshops or institutions where artists would work and do things. And he, his book won an international jury prize competition and brought out a lot of light into the plight based on his experience with what was happening with the communist world at the time.

– So your dad brought too much light, probably the Cuban government didn’t like that, and they arrest him. And how long did he sit in jail?

– Well, you know, one of the last conversations I had with him, my father was also, and there’s a lot of things my father kept to himself. I was like, who’s this bearded guy you’re with? And my mother like, yeah, that was him with Hemingway in Cuba. My father was first a writer. And his style of writing, which was more from the Nordic countries, taking inspiration from there. And we can get into the whole writing and the artistry of it. Gentlemen who grew up on his family’s estate, who were tobacco growers, always had a cigar. Interviews with him all over from the New York Times to Time Magazine, always with a cigar wherever he traveled. Worked the fields, understood what it took, what, his family had come from Spain, what it took to grow tobacco and do these things. So all his life, cigars were an accompaniment to living, to life. And we got a chance, going full circle on your question, to talk about, you know, before he passed away about many different things. And, and one of them, which was a kind of a weird subject to discuss with your father is, what was it like being tortured?

– Right. So your dad though, you said, okay, so he gets, you’re a baby, he gets arrested. He’s only there for a few months. He gets released on house arrest?

– Mm hm.

– But you moved to the United States at the age of six. So, how long?

– In 1979.

– He was under house arrest for almost 10 years. He was under house arrest for 10 years and they’re trying to figure out how to get him out, and other writers.

– Wait a minute, was he there and you moved to the United States before he got out?

– So in 1979, finally, he’s released, right? And Fidel Castro is trying to somewhat figure out what to do with him. So you can, my father, if he didn’t have the contacts he had, he’d probably be a dead man. It was more costly to kill him than it was to, you know, for many reasons.

– Okay, so again though, do you and your mother, do you have siblings?

– Yeah. I have a half brother and two half sisters.

– Do they all get on a plane and go to the United States?

– They left one year before to Spain and then they came here. And then in 1979, finally, my mother and I do get on an airplane, are able to come to Miami.

– And when were you born?

– 1972. Seventy-nine, my mom and I are able to leave. And then nineteen eighty, many different people, including the Pope, petitioned for my father’s release. And one of the people who really helped expedite it was Senator Ted Kennedy’s office. So there’s a news reel and there’s pictures of him there with my father. And I was there in New York, when my father was finally released. He had to fly to Canada and come down and whatever. Then my father went on to, you know, the Institute for Advanced Studies, the Smithsonian, and universities and different things, and kind of lived that.

From Cuba to Jamaica to United States

– So tell, you and I were talking yesterday about, okay, so you got on a plane and you, there’s no direct flight from Cuba to United States. You’re 90 miles from the United States and you had to go to Russia?

– No, no, no, no.

– Where? Where’d you go and then?

– Actually Jamaica, yeah man. And I’ve never been, I’ve never been back. I have to go back to Jamaica.

– You went to Jamaica. And then from Jamaica to the United States?

– Correct, then to Miami.

– And in the airport, your mom has no money. And somebody, an American, gave you a candy bar?

– Yeah. So, you know, it’s the classic, you know, story, right? I mean, I remember dating a girl whose grandfather was in the Battle of the Bulge. My point with the whole Battle of the Bulge thing or whatever was, this girl’s grandfather, I met because I was dating an American, obviously. He had these pictures from him when he was in the Battle of the Bulge. Regular American guy from Texas and the whole thing. But he would go back every year, and he became friends with the young, was it in the Netherlands, right? Dutch boy, who he gave that to. I don’t know how he managed to befriend him. But one of the rations that you got as a GI in Europe and World War II was that candy bar, and that connection you never forgot. And, you know, so, you know, I don’t know who the American was that gave me the candy bar. I’m very thankful if we’re out there. But, you know, I don’t forget it. And I remember that.

– Why do you not forget it? What did it mean to you to get that?

– Well, I mean, it’s a whole new world. I mean, you’re coming from Cuba where it’s not something you see readily, and, you know, everything’s new as a six year old. You know, I have a young daughter now and the experience, enduring that.

– But that kindness that that person gave you in that simple gesture, just giving you a candy bar, was impactful?

– Oh, yeah. As corny as it might sound to some people or whatever, but very much so, yeah. I mean, because I remember my mom said, okay, okay, okay, we can’t buy that. You can’t buy that. Imagine a small kid and you’re, you know, and then the American gentleman came by, he’s like, don’t worry, I got it, you know? And, you know, the rest is what it is.

– Were your brothers and sisters with you, or was it just you and your mom?

– They left a little bit earlier. My other, my brother, who’s actually a partner with me in the company or a silent partner, Carlos. And, they left almost a year earlier. They were able to go to Spain. So, we were able to go in different ways and then reconnect here. We’re still close, you know, and the whole thing. But, yeah, it was.

– Who’d you stay with while you were here, family?

– Yeah. I had my, my grandfather on my mom’s side worked for the Navy as an engineer in Guantanamo Bay.

– So he came?

– So my grandparents came in the early sixties and stuff like that. But then, in order for my father to be released Fidel Castro specifically said, you can’t be in Miami, cause you’re gonna get the Cubans in Miami riled up and blah, blah, blah, and was sent over. Before my father leaves Cuba, Castro, after everything, throws the honey, you know? You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar type technique and says, look, I know maybe we’ve made some mistakes to revolution with you or something, that kind of shit, you know, typical dictator crap. And, but I want you to know that you can go on America.

– Thank God.

Real Life Argo—Smuggling a Manuscript Out of Castro’s Cuba

– We have many institutions, colleges, universities, you can go to that are pro-revolution and you can expound, you know, just continue do your work. Your books and your apartment and your home won’t be touched. It’ll be here when you come back. So what does he decide to do after getting arrested, the whole thing? He decides to, while he’s on, while he’s being followed, you know, to the last minute to board the plane, to leave the United States, to fly to Canada, do the whole thing. It’s almost like that, what’s that movie where, with Ben Affleck about the Iran, when they, when they, where they got those Americans out of Iran in 1979, like the last minute, whatever?

– What happens? What does he do?

– What he decides to do is to smuggle the fucking manuscript out when you’re about to get the fuck out. Like maybe, remember the damn thing or write a new book. Why risk it? You’re like about, you’re like this, this out. I don’t know. I did not genetically get those balls.

– So did he do it?

– He did do it.

– He didn’t get caught?

– He didn’t get caught. And his friend tells a story cause his friend’s sweating bullets, you know, Hector Martinez, and they’re all sweating bullets and they’re all about to board the plane and the last minute. And it’s like, it’s, it’s, I mean, it’s really, it’s like a movie cause you know, the guys like waiting, you know, like escorts him to seat, escorts to him to that. And, and he thinks everything, the door’s about to close and there’s the guy’s head pops back in of the secret way out. It’s like that. It’s like.

– So, where did he pop back in from?

– You know, he comes back and, and uh, and literally as corny as it is, according to my father and his friend says, basically says, you know, I, I wish you the best in your new life.

– [Rob Gagner] That’s all he came back for?

– They’re like, well thanks a lot. I just shit my pants.

– So you’re here. You grew up here from six till now. I mean you’re, you’ve been here the whole time.

– [Ernesto] Yeah.

– And you start at 28. What got you into the cigar business? Why, why, why even try to start your own brand?

– [Ernesto] Yeah. Ridiculous.

– You’re jaded. You’re a little jaded. You said, I must be a little jaded. How old are you now, you said?

– 49.

– 49. 28 To 49. So almost 20 years.

– Mm hm. Almost half my adult working life has been in this business.

– Yeah.

– I mean, I got in it for a lot of reasons, I mean, I don’t know if a lot of people do, it’s because I like cigars. That’s not the best reason to start a business. You know what I mean?

– [Rob Gagner] Why?

– Because, I mean, you know, Mark Cuban, who’s more of a business guy, I think he, paraphrasing him, said it best, you know? And I know it sounds unromantic or whatever, but you know, you ever hear that, that, that saying don’t meet your heroes almost?

– [Rob Gagner] Yeah.

– So, I don’t make too many business decisions. I make, I make what I like decisions.

Call Him a Cigar Producer, Not a Master Blender 

– Yeah. You called yourself a producer.

– A producer. Yeah, maybe more a producer than other people. A lot of people here all say they’re master blenders. How many master blenders have you talked to this week, huh?

– Not a lot. I mean, I don’t know. I mean, I, I don’t know what title they’re giving themselves.

– Yeah. They usually like, oh the master, or not even that just in the business like, oh, he’s the master blender. There’s a lot of romance bullshit to, to the industry. Which there is a lot of romance and we don’t even need to bullshit.

– I think most of the people though in the industry that are, let’s say like in your position, the brand, this is my brand. You rely on people back, basically, at the factory who are the blenders who know the tobacco that can then get it to a level you see.

“Cigar Making is a Team Sport.”

– Listen. Anybody who, who says otherwise is full of shit. Cigar making is a team sport.

– Yeah. So you’re not a master blender?

– I’m a master nothing. I’m a guy who has a certain vision. Now listen, the design of the box from the band, okay? To the size, to the whole thing, that’s all me. And I actually also take it to other designers, friends of mine, cause I came more from that, and get their input.

– You came from the design industry.

– Well, well, I came from, from, from the advertising world, you know, people say graphic design or this or that.

– How many years did you do that before you?

– I did that for maybe six, seven years, maybe if that, you know? I mean, I knew I wanted out of advertising for so many reasons. It just wasn’t, you know, I wanted to do something. I’m, I’m a, if I don’t love what I’m doing, I, I just, I’m not motivated by the money.

– Do you love making cigars?

– Yeah.

– You do?

– Yeah. That I do.

– Do you love marketing cigars?

– Yeah. Yeah. And that’s about it. And that’s about it. I don’t, I don’t understand anything else.

– [Rob Gagner] No?

– No.

“Much Harder to Come Out with a Cheap Cigar Than to Make a Good, Expensive Cigar.”

– You said it’s much harder to come out with a cheap cigar than to make a good, expensive cigar.

– Yeah. Anybody can really tell you, you can, you can come out with a great cigar in relatively short time. Matter of fact, the best thing that I’ve done, or things I’m proudest of, is beside yeah, everybody like my front of this magazine, we started in 93. It’s still the go-to place and people make fun of, oh yeah Cigar Aficionado, and for some of the hardcore people. But, five different times we’ve been in that, on, in that magazines that are top 25 cigars of the year. And they’ve been doing it for a decade, maybe a little, little bit more, probably about a decade. And it’s, each time it’s been with a different factory. So.

– So five top 25 cigars with five different factories?

– [Ernesto] Yeah.

– And why does that matter?

– Huh?

– Why does that matter?

– Why? Because one of the, saying what I’m saying, one of the things that I talked to my national sales guy about is like, what’s the pushback? Where are gonna put? Well, we have Padilla, but it’s made with this different flavor, you know, you change factory saying something. It’s like, yeah, so that’s, that’s what I do. Like, what I, that’s, the brand is about using the resources that are there to come out with a certain style cigar, okay? That fits what I’m looking for. That’s where a producing thing comes. When, when there’s a lot of romance and bullshit, but it takes millions and millions and millions of dollars to start up a cigar factory, and forget factories. Factories are, we can, we can go tomorrow. I can, we can have a factory up. All of us right here, we can have a factory.

– Cause you did that for a brief moment. You tried to start a factory.

– We did, we, we did. And the people there and the things and whatever, and it was just like, stick to, stick to the game plan. My, my game plan’s very simple, you know? I worked with AJ before anybody knew who AJ was. We made cigars.

– [Rob Gagner] You worked with a lot of them.

– We started with Pepin Garcia and a little place in Miami where nobody knew it. Worked with Agonorsa. Worked with Oliva. Worked, continued to work with AJ, worked with Risa’s Guwanas. Worked with Altonde Bronson, which is on eighth street, which nobody at the time really even knew about. So now it’s like, great, everybody wants to make cigars at these places. That’s fantastic. That’s great. But, there’s a certain style of certain things I look for, certain inventories at tobacco, certain processes. Some factories can, are just not set up to do certain things a certain way. And so, you know, I, I, I’ve enjoyed it. I learned a lot from how each company kind of works. It’s been interesting.

– But it’s impressive to you that you’ve gotten five top twenty-fives with five different cigar factories?

– Yeah, because that’s what a brand is about.

– Working with that factory to produce the best?

– No. The brand is a promise.

– Of what?

– Of whatever you want it to be. We’re Porsche. We’re a performance automobile brand.

– [Rob Gagner] Correct.

– We don’t make.

– What’s Padilla, then?

– Padilla is a traditional premium handmade cigar available in all different price points. Quality at a great price with a great presentation.

– You said that, you said the sweet spot is when you can get a cigar that’s great quality for a great price. That’s like the sweet spot for you. You’re not super happy about spending more than 10 bucks a cigar. But you have one, do you have one cigar that’s over 10 bucks?

– Yeah. We have a ton. You’re smoking one that’s over 10 bucks. That cigar’s $20. That cigar’s made in America. Unfortunately, we’ve had to raise the price. We make very few of them, you know? It doesn’t add really much.

– Where’s the bulk, then? What’s the price point for the bulk of, let’s say this?

– The, the bulk runs from a dollar fifty to eight bucks, you know? Those, we have different things.

The Finest Hour. How much is that?

– It’s about a eight to ten dollar cigar depending where you are with taxes.

– [Rob Gagner] Okay.

– You know?

– [Rob Gagner] That’s good.

– Yeah. Those are made by AJ.

– These are made by AJ?

– Yeah. Manufacturer AJ.

– Beautiful.

– So, a lot of people have heard of the brand. A lot of people smoke the brand. Maybe not in your traditional brick and mortars that you might see.

What’s a Fuma Cigar?

– Why is it harder, then, to make this beautiful cigar or no, sorry, why is it easier to make this than it would be to make a fuma? To me, a fuma is like, this is, this is the lesser of the tobacco. This is the tobacco that can’t make it into this because we can’t charge 20 bucks for it. So the fuma just has to taste good. It doesn’t have to have complexity. It doesn’t have to have rich flavors and different notes and different characteristics. And it doesn’t have to necessarily even, it has to burn well, but it doesn’t have to be, you know, razor sharp burn and get judged by that. It’s just a great cigar for an everyday smoke. So why is that harder to make than let’s say a, a Padilla Miami? Something that is very high end, $20. If, if, if you give me that and I pay 20 bucks for it and it’s not great, I’m not gonna be very happy. But if I spend $4 on a fuma and it’s not that great, who cares? Flick it and go. I mean, I’m not blaming you for that. So why would that be harder to make a fuma, or a cheaper cigar, than it would be to make this?

– Because people neglect the cheaper line and that’s your first impression. And so.

– Yeah, you want a good impression. Okay.

– You need to get that right. And people are not as forgiving, regardless of price point, as you think, at least.

– Really?

– Yeah.

– Because like I said, I mean, if, if I smoke a fuma and it’s less than five bucks a piece, I’m not heartbroken over that.

– But the brand is about over delivering on the actual product, on the actual thing that you’re showing off.

– That’s, what you want do is you wanna over-deliver.

– Well, expectations, just like, wow, that was a dollar, two bucks for that cigar?

– That excites you more?

– That, that, that’s harder to do because number one, you’re doing, you’re making a lot more of them, a shitload more to them. You know, you’re making a, a lot more of these cigars.

– [Rob Gagner] Right. Because that would make sense.

– And, and to make them consistently is more of a challenge. Yes. There, you can maybe think that you can get away with this and that. This is like a no brainer. Like, it has to be.

– Do you want more?

– Thank you. It has to be, it has to be great cigars. So you know that there’s certain bales, if you know tobacco, and, and certain processes that are gonna get you there. That’s, that’s, it’s really quite simple. But now, you take a fumas. And if we were down in the factory, you’d be like, oh shit. So, with the scraps that are left over from this cigar, do you just put them all together in a, in a blend? Like, no, that would be a disaster.

– [Rob Gagner] Why?

– You wouldn’t have a blend. You would have just, just, you know.

– That’s what they do. That’s what they do with the scraps? They kind of mix them together and then you gotta put them in and then you gotta bind them. You’re using a full length binder, right? A full leaf binder.

– Yeah, two. And what, what, that’s the difference. The difference is we start sorting visos and ligeros and things like that.

– Binders or the cuts?

– No, no, the cuts.

– You start sorting the cuts?

– Yeah. The cuts are ready when, when, when the women or whoever, the rollers, are making this, you know, are already person, you know, this is what, what Raíces Cubanas does extremely well. And that’s why, when, when Cigars International, what I make this brand for, we just kind of started playing around with it many years ago. And, and at the time, there was one big factory that was gonna make it. And they were like, let, let, let, you know, let’s go, can we, can we try it there? And I said, this sucks.

– Really?

– This sucks.

– You didn’t wanna put your name on it?

– No. I was like, I’m not putting my name on this.

– Why?

– Because it sucked. I mean, I was like, what does it matter, you know, if I, if I get a nice check or whatever?

– So, that was a different factory that made them?

– Right, right. And they said, well, there’s no way. There’s absolutely no way, you know, that Raíces Cubanas can do this, the price point and the whole thing. Now hold on, hold on. They grow their own tobacco. Okay? They’ve got like how many pairs? Like, 200 pairs, 400 people, 400 rows, they got big infrastructure. I go, let me, let me worry about that. Let me worry about the cigar part.

– But they’ve never done this before, right? Raíces Cubanas has never made a fuma like this before?

– They, they had some fumas, or whatever. But I, I specifically told him, and that was specifically, that’s why it’s so much more challenging this, the numbers, the volume is much bigger. And in order to achieve a fumas, you’ve gotta have a large production of premium cigars going on.

– [Rob Gagner] Right, because you want good scraps.

– Right. And now other people make fumas, they’ll just maybe buy from other factories and do this or whatever.

– And then mix it all together?

– Right. And it gets mixed up.

– While you’re sorting it?

– Right. So now, while they’re doing their thing or you’re seeing the scraps and you’ll see them tear and you’ll see whatever, you know, end of the day, things are getting and it’s getting sorted. Like, in anybody who’s been to a cigar factory, and even been to these places.

– [Rob Gagner] Yeah, they sort.

– It’s like, that’s a, that’s that’s a lot of, for long leaf, of course. When you get baled and things like that, that’s fine.

– [Rob Gagner] So how are you making a budget cigar by sorting the scraps?

– Well, it, it, thankfully.

– How do you hit that price point?

– Huh?

– How do you hit that price point?

– Volume.

– Volume?

– Volume. Low margins, but very, very high volume. So I mean, just that brand alone, I think most boutique companies would love to have that volume and it sells by itself. The guy who, I think there’s a lot of people out there that smoke expensive cigars and then also are looking for a great cut the lawn, shoot the shit, you know, even golfing, you know? I notice a lot of golfers actually smoke cheaper. I don’t know if they’re cheap. I don’t know if they’re paid that much money.

– No, I do as well because it’s like, I’m not paying attention.

– Are you paying on the ground? Or yeah, exactly.

– I’m not paying attention to the flavor.

– Okay. Okay.

– I would hate to smoke this on the golf course. It’s great and everything, but when you’re doing something else.

– Right.

– I’ve heard a lot, from a lot of people, when I wanna smoke a cigar, high quality cigar, I wanna sit down and I want to just relax and I want to be present with that cigar. It’s a, we said at Tobacco Grove, Jeff always said, it’s a two hour vacation.

– Mm hm.

– I’m not necessarily taking a two hour vacation with a fuma.

– Mm hm.

– It’s not, that’s not a vacation to me. That’s just traveling.

– But a bad cigar is gonna ruin your golf game.

– I get it.

– And it’s gonna ruin your day regardless because I can’t, listen, I smoke everything. I smoke everything. I try to smoke everything. New cigars, sending them to me from my friend Phil. It’s like, this guy’s like huge, he’s a stock broker and he is a huge cigar guy and he sends me everything. And I actually met up through Jonathan Drew, whatever. And you know, and then he sent me the Drew Estate factory smokes and we smoke all different kind of stuff. In this business, we talk a lot about the ultra premium, which we do and, and I’ve got cigars there. I mean, we’ve done cigars that are very expensive, very limited there. Even, um.

– Yeah, it’s sitting right here. It’s 20 bucks a cigar.

– Well, no, we’ve done even more expensive than that. But, and some of them just became that way because we become rare. Like we did 1932 special humidor that Pepin Garcia did back in the day. And those were at the Casa de Montecristo in Chicago. I think they were selling them for $60 each. Or people get into finding the original Pepin made ones and those have taken off into their own kind of world of collecting and all that stuff.

– But a fuma’s not gonna upset me. Like, if I’m golfing and I just don’t like it anymore.

– But here’s the thing.

– She’s, it’s gone.

– Once you discover a cigar that’s a good inexpensive cigar like that.

– Yeah, but that’s not taking. That’s not taking.

– You’re like, I know this is a good cigar.

– Exactly. But that’s what I’m taking golfing.

– [Ernesto] Exactly. That’s fine. That’s fine.

– So I take that golfing because my focus and my concentration is on my golf game, which is not very great by the way, but I still like it and enjoy it so I do it. And you know, if I’m sitting here smoking a Padilla 88 or a Miami, it’s like, shit this is a good cigar. I can’t focus on my golf game. I can’t even make a putt right now because the cigar’s so good. But if it’s a fuma and it tastes good, it just rounds out my experience. Like, I like smoking tobacco, premium tobacco cigars. So the fuma fits with that because I can focus more on my golf game and I can still enjoy a great cigar that’s not going to make me feel like I’m missing out on something because I didn’t give it the attention it deserves.

– Well, I mean I do several. I do another one called Padilla Prime Cuts for our website. Small factory, a friend of mine, European, started. He’s obsessed with cigars too. The price of that cigar’s a little higher so I couldn’t go direct to the consumer because, I mean not, I had to go director consumer on that one because it would just be too expensive to do. We’ve done, but we sell a ton of those to Germany, to Israel. We sold internationally where it’s very high taxation, you know, all over the world. And people are still want a really good experience. So we have that. And we also have, you know, moving on up, you know, the Finest Hour, we do the, a ton of cigars that are long filler, good stuff, made at Raíces also Cigars International. Some other things, we just did a, a four pack, great, very nice four pack with the Boveda in it.

– [Rob Gagner] Yeah.

– So I should have had my warehouse didn’t give it to me. Really nice looking where you get one of each of the Finest Hour line, one of the Padilla 88s that got in the Top 25 Cigars of the Year. That was the first time doing one of those packs and I actually really liked, liked, you know, resealable with the Boveda, you know? So, yeah, I’m excited about that. Maybe doing a few more of those, and then we’ve got a new project coming out with AJ, another kind of high-end cigar called For Whom the Bells Toll.

– Yeah.

– Box Press, Broadleaf, Nicaragua.

– So let’s go back to this fuma thing. So, I get it.

– A guy wants to talk about a $1.52 cigar forever.

– Well, you’re saying it’s harder to make.

– It is harder to make.

– So I gotta figure that out. I don’t understand that.

– Yeah, if you were, if you were to go down and start a brand and you were like, Padilla just got a million cigar order for this, to make, you know, this cheap cigar, you would see how much work.

– So just make a cheap cigar and just sell it. They’re gonna buy it. So what do you want?

– Anyone will buy anything once.

– You wanna sell it.

– But over 20 years?

– So, how many times have you sold, how many cigars of these fumas have you sold?

– Millions.

– Multiple times?

– Millions of these cigars I’ve sold.

– Because you want to keep that going. You want the customer to pick up Padilla fuma and smoke it and then wanna smoke it again?

– Yeah. The, the best compliment.

– You’re not one and done.

– One of the great things, because we started before social media was around, before even the iPhone was around. Jesus, I forget that. Now, someone like myself can interact directly with the end consumer. And, you know, so some of these new cigar clubs come up and then they, and they’re like, you know what, man, I love your cigar, but my God, this Cazadores, which is another short filler cigar, I love that. Or I love the Padilla fumas, or I love your Picadores, or love this. I’m like, you still care. Like, absolutely. You know? And I wish I would’ve brought one because if brought one to you and if I didn’t even tell you it’s a short filler, many people would be shocked, and I’ll send you some, they’re like, wow, this is actually a good cigar. But, a cigar is nothing without quality premium tobacco inside of it. A factory is nothing without tobacco.

– Bad ingredients is bad ingredients.

– You can’t, you can’t cover it up. There’s no sauce. There’s no whatever. So imagine taking premium cigar cuttings, right, and now using that. It’s basically like a, a ribeye or, or filet mignon, you know. Let’s say eat it for that night or it’s leftover or whatever, and, and making a hamburger with it or Wagyu Beef.

– That’s a good way of putting that. Yeah. Like, you can have a hamburger with regular ground beef, and pork, or you can go ribeye, chuck, and the pork, and some nice filet or something?

– [Ernesto] Yeah.

– Okay. That I get. Makes sense.

– But it’s not that easy to make.

– You’re looking for the premium ingredients. You’re trying to sort the premium ingredients.

– Not only that, but you’re making a blend.

– Yeah, exactly.

– You’re making a blend. You’re not just, you’re not just throwing.

– Because the chef is gonna go, I want 15% ground beef.

– Do people know, do people know how a premium cigar’s made?

– Yeah.

– People know this, the people in the camera? Hello?

– I mean, you can ask them if you want.

– Do you know how a premium cigar is made?

– Yeah, I do.

– [Man Behind Camera] I do.

– How, how is it made?

– It’s made by putting tobacco in a bunch, putting it in a press, putting a binder on it, and then putting a wrapper on it.

– So there’s, there’s a, a plant over here.

– He’s gonna get up and grab a plant. He’s got stuff falling out of his pockets. He’s got. He’s cutting down the vegetation, guys. I’ve never had anyone do this in a interview.

– So.

– It’s getting interesting with Padilla.

– Yeah. So this is this, imagine this is a tobacco plant, right? So over here we have the ligero, right? So ligero is a certain type of leaf. Closest to the sun, smaller, thicker, highest nicotine content.

– [Rob Gagner] Intense.

– Intense. This is what’s gonna give us cigar it’s power. By the way this is from friends at Uncle Sam.

– [Rob Gagner] Okay.

– But, so, then you have, going down in strength and going down also in flavor, but each component does a different thing in a cigar. So a cigar, when you see tobacco plants, it’s not like they just pick them and they just roll them together and then that’s it. No. There’s the engine, there’s the transmission, there’s a suspension. There’s all these different things that come together to make a car. The same thing with the cigar. So, inside a premium cigar, these, these different things are also how we place them inside a cigar. You can’t, you can’t place this over here. Many times, when you can look in the cigar, can’t see it all the time. I have to put my things on, but there should be relatively a darker color in the middle. That’s ligero.

– Because it doesn’t burn as well. It burns slower, so you need to surround it with the hotter, easier to burn tobacco.

– So then we have viso, which is many times, well, factually it is little bit milder in strength, Fuller in flavor, okay?

Seco?

– Seco, okay? And then, you have libra de pie, this is junk, volado.

– Yeah, volado.

– And, and basically what you see here, this, this like first priming, sometimes it would get thrown away. But now, because some idiots decided that making 70-ring gauge cigars and selling them like they were like Toros or Robustos, I’m getting more cigar. No, you’re getting shitty tobacco. You’re getting an uninteresting blend and you’re getting a lot of air in there which doesn’t make for, for great flavor. So we need to do a better job educating consumers that, you know, I don’t know why they love it. So, this is kind of, you’re looking at tobacco plant, you know, this is what you have. You have different primings, they do different things, and that’s, that’s part of it. And then you have a different plant, which is now what’s gonna be a wrapper. For example here, this usually Habano Ecuador. So Ecuador, I don’t know why it doesn’t get talked about enough, the country of Ecuador, but Ecuador is the workhorse of the premium non-Cuban cigar industry because of the amazing wrappers that are made in Ecuador, Habano Ecuador, Connecticut Ecuador, Sumatran Ecuador. It is the land of wrappers. There is no better place.

– It’s because of the shape.

– So there’s a valley, right? And a natural shade, a thin cloud cover comes over, right? Now, remember photosynthesis, biology class, you know, that’s how a plant, this thing, was eating. You know, these little things here, it’s actually, Richard Feynman was a physicist. Great guy. Go Google a book called, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”. And he worked on the Manhattan Project and he was a physicist.

– Side note.

– Yeah, an amazing guy. But, it’s really amazing because I think in, on, on YouTube or something, it talks about, you know, Feynman answers little basic questions about the universe.

– Are you a rabbit hole kind of guy? You get down a lot of rabbit holes?

– No, I’m just curious guy. I don’t even understand how people are not curious about the world they live in, right?

– Well, yeah.

– So like, when you heat up something, and he talks about it, the atoms, they start bumping against each other that creates friction, creates, you know? And, and he starts talking about like, you know, that bouncing right there, that altered those atoms. How we look at everything is hard and things like that. But you know, the, the light rays, the rays from the sun hitting here, it’s, he’s talking about, you know, the absorption of carbon, the things that does and all the people in the environment. But it’s an amazing thing.

– But if you shade it a little bit, then it doesn’t absorb as much light, which doesn’t give it as much intensity, which then provides an opportunity for a different flavor profile.

– Well that, but we’re also looking for elasticity. We’re looking for that plant to, which is a big solar panel, if you will, looking for that fuel from the sun. So now we’re looking for thinner veins and things like that. If you look at Connecticut Broadleaf, that’s a big monster of a, of a, of a leaf, grown up there. And it’s stock cut, meaning what I just did. And then they prime it, that does different, has different effects and all that. And sorry about that plant. Yeah.

– We’ll bill you later.

– Right. Right, I’m sure. So that’s a little story on how cigars are made. Now.

– How does that tie into the fumas, though?

– Well now, but now we’ve taken a whole leaf, we’ve, we’ve selected certain things. We, we’re now putting in the, in the, in the curing barn.

– [Rob Gagner] Yeah.

– Right? So there’s like very tall, long barn, doors on the side. Now, when you have a whole leaf and you make a premium cigar, you, you.

– You don’t use the whole leaf, you cut off the edge, you cut the vein out.

– Right. But also when they fill it, you’ll see that they’re putting it here, right, for their base. And to, to they’ll, they’ll break off depending on size and put here and different things so you don’t have any soft spots, but then there’s leftover residuals. And in there, it will have a little bit of ligero. It might have a little bit of viso. Someone that’s trained, that knows how to properly sort, is going, that, that, these ladies are sitting there like like ninjas, you know, that can like probably spot ligero from a mile away. Just amazing to see. Which that one’s an easy one, or whatever, But we start and now we know that, hey, this percentage of ligero with viso, with maybe seco for a short filler. So we got, we got these two binders. We got that. So we’re actually doing a blend where other people would just be like, we’re just filling a physical object and whatever. And then.

– [Rob Gagner] That makes sense.

– You get burn. And then, one of the main issues you have with, with Cubans and with short filler not properly done is.

– You’re constantly get little pieces in your mouth, not with these fumas. Try it out, you’ll see why.

– Why is that? Are you not chopping it up more?

– Because when we construct a cigar, it’s another step on it. You know, we particularly, and him specifically, has trained a different pair of rollers, okay, on how to do this the way we want it done. So the longer pieces, you know, are always and, and towards your mouth, things of that nature, yes.

– The head of the cigar?

– The head of the cigar and things like that. We tried using two binders, you know? So a lot more care is put into to those cigars than most people would do or care, but.

– I think the hamburger analogy is great. Because what you’re trying to do is say.

– It’s simple. It’s, it’s that simple.

– No, no, no. Because what, I’ve seen it at high-end restaurants where it’s like, this is 25 percent ribeye, 15 percent pork, and you know, grass fed beef, the other portion. So you’re getting this recipe for a great flavorful hamburger, but it’s hamburger still. It’s still chopped up meat in a patty.

– I’m, I’m not a, I’m not a chef or whatever, but I am curious, as you say, you know, and one of the interesting things about cuisines, certainly the world’s most famous cuisines. And I think most chefs would say that the French, if you go to French school for cuisine is one of the, the higher tiers, if you will, and we can get into all that. But one of the things about French cooking, was some of the dishes were country dishes. And, and this has happened in all cultures, from using what resources you had to make a dish. But for this, the cigar that we only do 200 boxes every quarter, you know, we’re looking up its rear like you wouldn’t believe. You know, all the heads are triple capped. You know, the way we do everything, the, the filler, I mean, it’s a whole different ball game. The same with this, the, the tobaccos we use with that, knowing how many we can make of certain things. I’m not saying making a super premium cigar is easy. Don’t get me wrong. There’s there’s other complexities to it.

– All right. So, here we go. How can a cigar smoker develop their palate? Give me the Padilla way.

– Well, it’s not like you go to the gym and you do X amount of repetitions and you do that.

– [Rob Gagner] Why not? I can do repetitions. I can smoke a lot of these.

– You can smoke a lot of those, I mean.

– [Rob Gagner] Aren’t I gonna get better if I smoke more of these?

– You know, a child, like my child, likes certain things and you have to start introducing them to different flavors and walk them along. There is no palate police or that, or this or that. You, you do, there are certain people who like certain profiles. There’s people like.

– I can show you my palate police badge, I’m a secret police for the palate police.

– Well, there seems to be a lot of people in this industry that think, you know, that way. That you have to like, like certain things or like whatever. Like one of the big mistakes that we make is we, with new cigar smokers, like you gotta smoke a Connecticut only.

– [Rob Gagner] Oh, I hate that.

– You know? So.

– There’s so many better cigars out there and Connecticut doesn’t mean mild and, and approachable.

– And, and we’ve done Connecticuts that can blow your head off too.

– Because this is, this is mild and approachable.

– Right. Exactly. It’s balanced.

– Balanced, I love that word.

– Okay.

– When I smoke a cigar, I go, ooh this is balanced. I like that.

– Look.

– And, also not necessarily balanced where it’s monotone flavor, the flavors that are coming out are well played out. It can change. It can move. It can develop a new flavor as long as it’s balanced. So how do you develop your palate then?

– So how you develop your palate is by.

– You gotta buy expensive cigars?

– No, not at all.

– So then what do you do? What do I do? I’m new to cigars.

– [Ernesto] Yeah.

– What is the Padilla develop your palate in this formula?

– Okay. This is just a guide, okay? And people will say, well, there are people who advertise anyhow, just a fact, and this and that. Okay, you can obviously go here. I think you should smoke a Padrón Anniversary. If you get a chance and overpay for this, maybe on a trip, and try it go, that’s fine. Or this Montecristo made by AJ or a Padilla 88, which is number 21. I would say, the party doesn’t get started in here on most of these top 25 list, you know, until you get out of the top 10 list. Because there’s usually a lot of commitments that are needed there. But yet, they need to fill the other things. So you, the gems are usually, and I’m not saying that because we were number 21. We’ve been, we’ve been high up on the list before. But a lot of the gems are many times towards the back, towards things that you wouldn’t. So I actually, when I was drinking more wine and they had the list, I would actually look at like more the middle of the road. Because towards the, the front is always super expensive, always super hyped, it’s hard to get, this and that. Fine, you’ll try, but there was like some, some rock stars, companies that maybe didn’t have the budget, you know, the resources. They have to make a better product.

– So you’re saying for me to get out there and try some middle of the road cigars.

– No.

– And see what I like? No?

– Just because you’re new to cigars doesn’t mean you have to smoke a Connecticut. There’s many brands, many things, like you can smoke the Padilla Sun Grown, medium body, lots of flavor. Our Connecticut, which is voted in Cigar & Spirits Magazine for the top, it was number 11 on the top 20 cigars of the year. Very unusual because Connecticut don’t really make those type of lists. That’s a cigar, I’m not a big Connecticut guy, but wow. Very creamy, medium body, lots of flavor, approachable, things like that. A lot of times, when you walk in a cigar store, a lot of guys feel a little intimidated. I understand that. They don’t wanna look stupid. They don’t want to whatever. So they’ll go, eh, kind of just trying it out and, and you’re, you don’t wanna get outta your comfort zone, you know? So.

– Why not? I got a full humidor at my disposal. I can go in there and pick whatever I want.

– Yeah. At first you don’t want to be, you know, going too far until you get acclimated to.

– But in most cigar shops, I would say that you could pick 10 cigars and I would say over seven of them would be very approachable. There’s not too many cigars out there that are so bad.

– Depends. How well.

– [Rob Gagner] That you’re like, whoa, I was not expecting that.

– Well, right now I would say because of the amount of cigars going out that the quality is not where it was. There was a boom and, and, and things like that, so.

– I thought the quality during the boom was worse when it was booming than it is now.

– Well, yes, because the industry as a whole was not ready. Plus, you gotta understand something, prior to 2007, not a lot of people used Nicaragua and Habano Ecuador wrappers and things of that nature.

– [Rob Gagner] Right.

– Yeah. It was like Dominican with Connecticut or Dominican with some.

– But that’s expansion no matter what, because like you said, everyone went from Cuban had to go elsewhere to find out how to grow tobacco.

– What you should do if you have a budget, whatever it is, is once a week, however much you’re smoking, try, you know, something a little different. Forget the hype, forget the guys that are sitting there with, oh, you gotta try this cigar. Forget all that. Forget the gimmicks. Forget anything that’s blingy, weird, odd, whatever, you know? You can, you can just start with a regular Padrón Thousand Series. There you have just a very basic Nicaraguan profile. You could try an Aladino out of Honduras, now you can see the difference between Nicaragua and Honduras and see similarities, but yet they have their own character. I tend to be more Nicaragua than Honduras, even though I’ve made cigars in the Dominican Republic for different reasons. But, just try little by little to try different things. Now, things like Stogiebird, things like, you know, these clubs that have come out, it’s great way to kind of get around and try some different things. But you’re never gonna develop your palate if you’re always smoking the same thing. And also, please forget the country of origin when they tell you, oh, this is a Honduran or is it Nicaraguan?

– [Rob Gagner] Why?

– Because, because they’re always blended with different countries. It doesn’t.

– But you just said, Aladino, Honduras. You get to experience.

– Because that one is, that one is.

– The Padrón you know, Thousand Series, that’s?

– Exactly. Because those two, okay, are 100% what they call Puro. 100%.

– I don’t know anything about cigars. I’m new to cigars. So why, how would I know that? How do I know?

– Oh, hopefully you have a freaking cigar store clerk that guides you.

– But I don’t. What if I don’t?

– Well, you’re watching me and you’re gonna learn. That’s why, that’s why you watch this shit. Why you’re on the toilet right now.

– You’re nowhere on social media all the time telling me this stuff, how am I gonna keep getting cigars.

– That’s why I came here.

– Okay. Thanks for fitting this in your schedule, Padilla.

– Yeah. You know, so I can tell you, you gotta, but one of the things, with our line at least, for example, the Finest Hour, a Connecticut. A Nicaraguan.

– We got a Connecticut, an Oscuro, and a Sun Grown.

– [Ernesto] Yes.

– Is that it?

– [Ernesto] In that line? Yes. So.

– That’s all you need, huh?

– And in three of the most popular sizes of America, Robusto, Toro, and the one size I really never wanna make again, 6×60. I hate it. Because it sucks.

– I like the My Father Connecticut 6×60. It’s gorgeous. I think it tastes better than the smaller ring gauged ones.

– I, I don’t like it. I don’t like the.

– But you make a cigar size you don’t like?

– Yeah.

– Why?

– At times you gotta compromise, you know, there’s the demand for it. But that’s it, that’s, that’s as far as I’m going.

– So what’s different between your 6×60? You’re not picking the bottom of that plant, are you, and putting it in there?

– On the 6×60, you, you are really on the edge.

– Of?

– Of everything.

– So are you saying you put the bottom of the plant in there?

– No. But at that point, because of the price point starts kicking up and you can see the price, the difference between eight to ten dollars, you know, between a Robusto and a 6×60. That makes sense. Like, okay, it’s a bigger cigar or whatever, but cause people are like, wait a minute. Hey, I’m company X. I’m giving you a 7×70 for the same price as a fucking Toro because I like ya. But people smoke cigars for different reasons. People smoke cigars because the same reason they buy a Rolex. It’s not to tell time. All right? People buy.

– They buy a Breitling to tell time.

– Yeah, well someone gave this to me as a gift and I really, you know, I never look at it for time. I always go like this.

– Really? I always look at my watch.

– [Ernesto] Really?

– I’m a watch guy. I like mechanical, or not mechanical, but just, I like a watch to tell time. So proud of that too.

– I mean just keep, keep experimenting, keep experimenting.

– Okay. So that’s the key is keep experimenting.

– Yeah. You gotta try different things. Don’t be afraid.

– You’ve really pointed us in the right direction.

– Well, listen, there’s a lot of misconceptions. Look, this a Oscuro right here.

– Uh huh.

– If you’re relatively new or even experienced in cigar smoking, you can smoke that cigar. Just because of cigars is Maduro does not mean it’s gonna be fuller.

– Okay. So don’t judge it by the color? Don’t judge a book by its cover.

– Correct. Because I can give you a Connecticut that will, if you’re a new cigar smoker, will, will like, it’s too overwhelming.

– It’ll light you up.

– Yeah.

– So that’s, that’s, that’s.

– Because you put the strength in the cigar, not on the outside of the cigar.

– Yeah. And many times people that don’t know how, what they’re blending, you see a lot of new guys in factories and stuff like that, they’ll wanna overpower it and it kills the flavor. You’re getting this sensation.

– Yeah, right. Because it’s not as good of complexity.

– It’s, you’re killing that, that, that leaf is killing it.

– I would say, the first rule to new cigar smoking is the one we just said, don’t judge a book by its cover. This is dark. Doesn’t mean that it’s strength, doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be too powerful for you. You better pick it up, smoke it, and decide for yourself. No one can tell you otherwise.

– Nice, you’re ashing up the thing. Look, a Maduro wrapper, many times, will have a higher.

– [Rob Gagner] You cut my plant down.

– Huh?

– You cut my plant down I just ashed it a little bit. It’s fine.

– Right, right. A Maduro that, when you ferment, you have starches, you have sugars. Things are going on.

– Most people don’t know that that’s what you’re tasting when you smoke.

– Okay.

– You’re tasting oils and sugars.

– So, the Maduro has that higher content. Like in a Broadleaf, you’ll have almost a molasses sweetness to it.

– Yeah, because you’ve cooked it longer to make it sweeter, you know? You’ve pulled out more of the sugars in there.

– Right. Yeah.

– You, you’re not gonna do a, what is Candela? Candela’s not gonna be this big sweet molasses, dark, rich, earthy flavor.

– [Ernesto] Stay away from that shit.

– Candela’s gonna be like sweet, like green tea.

– You’ve shocked the process.

– Like grassy.

– So you can keep, yeah, so you can keep that color.

– So we’re gonna see a Padilla Candela next year?

– Nah, people always say Candela, I’m like, what the fuck? That’s, that’s.

– You don’t think it has a spot for cigar culture?

– No. And it was, it was very much done for like the 70s kind of thing to, to quickly.

– The 90s thing, because they couldn’t cure the tobacco long enough because of the boom.

– It’s just a way to just get shit done and it kind of stuck there, but it’s.

– How long does it take to cure Candela tobacco?

– I have no idea on that because I don’t mess with that.

– 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 2 Weeks?

– I, I have no idea.

– It ain’t months.

– No.

– It’s not years.

– No. And, and it’s not, not my thing. I look, Habano Ecuador Sumatra, Cameroon is a great wrapper. It’s not used too much. I had an opportunity to meet Rick Meerapfel Senior before he passed away from the Netherlands. His family has goes back many, many years. Great stories about growing tobacco in Africa. And that’s really the interesting place. Like, how many other places are there that might grow some fantastic tobacco that we haven’t really approached yet? And I’ve tried some different places. Botswana, I think I tried some. I tried right on the border of Argentina and Brazil there was something extra interesting going on. But West Africa, Cameroon. So look, let me back up now that we’re on that subject. If you really wanna know the history of premium cigars, you have to understand the history of the Cold War. So how do we, how does the Cold War tie in to non-Cuban premium cigars?

– Yeah.

– What are you talking about?

– They have no connection in my mind.

– You know, well, Anderson Cooper, I’m gonna tell you. Prior to the Cold War, prior to the Cuban embargo, which happened in 1961, I believe. Does everyone know what happened with the Cuban embargo?

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, they all know.

– The Cuban Missile Crisis?

– They can look it up. They’ll Google it.

– Okay. Google, Google the Cuban Missile Crisis. So after that happened, after that incident happened, first President Kennedy calls his head guy, Pierre Salinger and says, I want you to pick up all the H. Upmann Coronas that you can.

– Yeah, this is Cuban embargo. We know Kennedy stocked up and he’s good for the rest of his life.

– [Ernesto] He does the whole thing. I remember I was having dinner with Bob Franzblau, who’s the, the original owner of Thompson Cigar Company.

– [Rob Gagner] Yeah, yeah.

– And he would have a trip where he invite certain vendors, you know? The guy did well, had his own private jet. He’s like, I can pick you up on the way down to, he would have it in Key West. I’m like, I can just drive down, but okay. And then, he’d fly you down. And he had a big Hatteras fishing boat. And I remember Rob from Xikar some other people. Christian Eiroa was on that trip, different people. And then every night after fishing or whatever, we would, the white, you know, linen tables set up and guys and great food or whatever. I sat there with Bob and I was kind of curious, I go, the owner at the time of Thompson, now it’s owned by Cigar International. And, and but, Thompson was from 1916 was the original catalog of, of cigars. They even have a small factory at one point. They had a rebellion there at Thompson because they wanted to do machine made and all the rollers freaked out. You can Google all this back in like the 20s or something like that. And they had to place the factory right outside of Tampa, because all the cigar rollers were Cubans and whatever, get into that history. But because of this embargo, the market was forced to look for other places to grow premium tobacco. There wasn’t any. Dominican Republic did not have an industry, did not have agriculture for cigars. Nicaragua has nonexistent. Honduras, Mexico, all this. The Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, they’re owned by Spain, where a lot of Cubans who are in the cigar industry, Plasencia, myself, Padrón, our, our history actually dates that those little volcanic islands. Actually, the Spanish, when they had the, the new world, brought over some of that and started growing it there out of curiosity. At that time, Benny Menendez, I think was the Montecristo fame and other people started a brand called Montecruz. And it became very big and very popular and they looked for places to grow it. And one of the places they got the wrapper was West Africa and Cameroon. The Dutch had been there and everything and you know?

– How did tobacco get to Cameroon?

– That’s a long runabout story. But a lot of them, you know, cigarette Burley and things like that is a different strain than what we use, and stuff like that. But every, in the 70s in Paris, there would be a big show or, or auction of that tobacco. It was just like a huge thing. It was a thing. And so a lot of, Bob was telling me, a lot of that, what was used then was Cameroon. And then they started getting into using some Dominican. And then the, the industry transitioned, Dominican kind of started, you know, here’s some of these families and stuff like that. They brought over some seed strains planted there. But then, they started going to Nicaragua. Everything was fine until they started, the Civil War started in the 80s there was some problems there. Honduras was really taking over. But there was a huge market in the United States at the time from the Cuban exile community. And my father would smoke Padróns and things like that. They were a cafeteria cigar, which we could still go get from Padrón that you won’t see and probably screwing up the whole market in little yellow boxes, which are still there. And they were the fumas, which are still made by Padrón. They’re a great cigar. If you’re ever in Miami, go to what, you see in little Havana or some other place, go to Versailles, for example, the famous Cuban restaurant cafeteria, they all have an outdoor window where you get your Cuban coffee and you would get your cheap fumas. That was the thing, that was you got, you got. And so these Padrón fumas and he sold millions of them. And then Camacho, back then in the 70s not the Camacho you know now or whatever that was bought out, it was a big brand with the Cuban exile community also. So it was a big demand at that time. Cigar smoking had kind of declined a little bit with some of Anglo American, but cigar smoking was all over America. I, I mean all over. There were factories in Pennsylvania to, I’ve seen him in Iowa. I’ve seen them all over.

– [Rob Gagner] Montana.

– Everywhere.

– [Rob Gagner] Tons of them.

– Incredible.

– [Rob Gagner] Over 109.

– Incredible. I mean the industry was huge.

– [Rob Gagner] Check out that episode.

– Is there?

– Yeah.

– I don’t know about that one, but I do know that the amount was.

Big Sky Tobacco Company or Cigar Company is from Billings, Montana. And he had all this history on all these because they all were running out with the railroad. You gotta watch the episode. Over a hundred cigar factories in Billings, Montana. Why?

– [Ernesto] Because there was a huge demand for premium cigars since Bob Franzblau buys Thompson two years later.

– [Rob Gagner] Not even premium, fumas. Stuff just to smoke.

– Right. Well, without getting to the whole history, Key West was the largest late 1800s, 1890s or whatever was the, after American Civil War was the biggest producer of premium cigars. And if you ever, if you love history or whatever, go down there. The Gato Factory was the governmental building of Key West is down there, things like that. Then they moved over to Tampa. Okay, so you have a big history harbor city, immigrants of Cuba and Italian descent. And so, if it wasn’t for the, for the Cuban embargo placed by Kennedy, we’d probably be still messing around with some Cuban cigars. But at the time, Cuban tobacco was actually imported to Tampa and there was something called, that was called Clear Havana, which was a blend of some Sumatra in it with either a, a some Cuban and things of that, and, and sometimes a wrapper and things like that. It was a mix because of the duties of actually bringing in from Cuba. Only really, really top people smoked a Cuban. So that’s kind of a misnomer that people think it was just Cuban cigars. But because of this embargo, because of what happened, the demand, the market.

– [Rob Gagner] Get pushed out.

– American entrepreneurism, I mean, boom. And here we are, we have a whole new industry because of it. What’s next? We’ll see. I hear the Chinese are trying to create their own cigar industry and bringing people over and trying to amend the soil there. The soil, like wine, is essential to growing premiums. You can grow tobacco anywhere. It’s a weed. It’s, it’s, you can grow it in Philly. You can grow at certain seasons obviously, or whatever. But there’s only certain soils, you know, like Connecticut River Valley, it runs into Massachusetts.

– You’re the second person today to tell me that it’s a weed. That’s interesting.

– Yeah. And it’s related.

– As it grows, it grows for what, 60, 90 days? 60 days.

– Yeah.

– And it’s done, it grows fast.

– She’s related to, she’s related to tomato. She started off in Peru is where they found the old.

– Can you hear tobacco grow?

– I haven’t talked to it or heard it grow. But, if you’re ever curious, you can get you some seed strains, you can grow it in Minneapolis and you’ll see her, see how sticky she gets and whatever. She’s an interesting, interesting.

– Is it good when it’s sticky or is it bad?

– I mean, she’s doing her thing, you know? And then it has a flower.

– Yeah.

– On the top with the little seeds?

– Yes, yes, and the companies that most people haven’t heard of, like A.S.P., which stands to for Alberto Silvio Perez which is a top, a top , and really experimenting with, with hybrid seed strains and things like that. It’s, people think also many times in our industry, that’s just romance, but there’s a tremendous amount of science that goes into it. I mean, it’s, it’s an interesting thing. It’s a shame that we don’t, I don’t know. I guess it could be too much to talk about, but if, if you’re watching this it’s because you have more than just a casual passing interest in cigars. So you might wanna know a little bit more about all the things that are involved in making a cigar. And it’s, it’s a tremendous, it’s, it’s impressive the amount of work that it takes, it really is. It’s, it’s wow. I’m still like awed by what it takes to consistently make a good premium cigar, whether it’s our fumas or a Miami or Padilla 88. It’s, it’s, it’s a tremendous amount of work, so.

– Well said. Takes a lot of work just to make a cigar so enjoy them. Cherish them. Ernesto, thank you so much.

– [Ernesto] Yeah, thank you for having me.

– For being here, sitting down with me, educating us, getting into the thick of it, going off on tangents.

– Yeah. Good luck with the editing.

– But as always, if you got cigars, you gotta protect them. The best way to protect them is to keep them humidified with Boveda.

– Boveda.

– That’s the only way. It is the way. And as always, grab a Padilla cigar and use Padilla’s motto. Get out there, get outta your comfort, comfort zone every once in a while and try a new stick, try a new cigar, see what you like.

– And you’ll like different things as you continue to smoke and evolve.

– Always the stuff you’re gonna gravitate to, but get out there, try some new stuff. Thanks for watching another episode of Box Press. Thank you.

– Thank you.

Highlights of this episode:

  • 04:08 Who writes poet on their tax form?
  • 06:19 One of the last conversations Ernesto Padilla had with his father
  • 09:20 From Cuba to Jamaica to the United States
  • 12:14 Real life Argo—smuggling a manuscript out of Castro’s Cuba
  • 16:55 Cigar making is a team sport
  • 18:22 It’s much harder to come out with a cheap cigar than to make a good, expensive cigar
  • 21:51 You can spend $10 or less for a good cigar!
  • 22:50 What’s a fuma cigar?
  • 24:00 A cheaper first cigar is a smoker’s first impression of a cigar brand
  • 28:34 What’s a good budget cigar for a first-time cigar smoker?
  • 28:57 Smoking a premium cigar is like a staycation
  • 32:14 Why buy a cigar sampler pack
  • 35:40 Do you know how a premium cigar is made?
  • 36:13 Cigar trivia—parts of a “tobacco” plant
  • 37:59 Think twice about buying a 70-ring gauge cigar
  • 38:37 Why are cigar wrappers grown in Ecuador?
  • 44:45 Tips to develop a cigar palate
  • 45:35 One of the biggest mistakes a new cigar smoker can make
  • 49:48 The next 3 cigars you should buy at a cigar shop
  • 53:49 Best first cigar: don’t judge a cigar by its color

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