Monday, February 28, 2011
Welcome to Plasencia Cigars.
First, My Father's Cigar. Next? Plasencia. Long a staple and fixture of Nicaraguan tobacco, Nestor Plasencia is a veritable legend in the cigar business. Way before most of the people came to Esteli, it was Plasencia and the Padron Family leading and doing their thing here.
To be honest, even though I've got a wooden Plasencia ring gauge identifier hanging on the wall of my humidor, I hadn't seen nor smoked a Plasencia cigar in many years. Yet, even though I haven't smoked a Plasencia, with 80 brands under their care, I've undoubtedly smoked something made within these hallowed walls.
Tracking the fermentation bundles.
And hallowed they are. While My Father's Cigar is modern, massive and relatively simple, the Plasencia factory is steeped in tradition. The Spanish colonial architecture is gorgeous. Large, thick wooden entry doors, tiled floors, stucco walls, tile roof and a large water fountain in the center courtyard remind you of the hacienda era with images of large fields of tobacco, white guyaberas and stylish Montecristo straw Panama hats. It is how I would like to live.
The rollers here at Plasencia can roll between 30,000 to 35,000 cigars per day, as we tour the factory, I'm offered a pre-release 5 Vegas churchill cigar. How could I say no? The churchill is large, tasty and robust.
Rotating the bundles.
We're here because Claudio The Rancher is childhood friends with Nestor's son, Nestor Plasencia, Jr. We see the fermentation rooms, the rotation and the company cafeteria. At the cafeteria I'm curious to sample what real cigar rollers eat but they're only open for lunch and it's way past lunch.
The aging room is massive and we spy a set of maduro cigars being finished aged for release. Amongst the 50 cigar bundles wrapped in paper, my cigar is pulled from the 200 count aging boxes. I fantasize about having these very 200 count boxes in my humidor back home and how happy I would be.
Stripping out the center stem.
In the rolling room, things are moving at a brisk pace as the end of the day is nearing. Rollers roll and their cigars are inspected, approved and noted on their chits for payment. Each cigar is also tested in a draw machine which ensures that each cigar allows the proper amount of air through and eliminates plugged cigars. Impressive, considering that they make thirty thousand cigars daily.
There's a hierarchy to the rollers room. The best and most senior rollers are towards the front where they roll the larger and complex shapes, like figurados. But one roller catches our attention. He's rolling a camouflage cigar taking bits of colorado, maduro and claro wrappers and pasting them together to create a literal camouflage wrapper. Like any good C.I.A. op, no one seems to know who these cigars are being made for - not the foreman, not the inspector, not even the roller himself. Rumors abound that it's a prototype for the military but reliable information seems difficult to source. Disinformation seems to be the best weapon for this cigar.
The Aging Room.
We end up in the box room. Boxes here are made elsewhere and then filled in this room. Women work diligently affixing the bands to the cigars and then lining boxes with the finished cigars and preparing them for shipment to their customers. I manage to buy a small box of Plasencia torpedos to take home with me.
As we wait in the courtyard by the fountain, someone mentions that Mike Copperman from Bethesda is also in the house tasting cigars and would I like to see him. I find Mike in their formal tasting room sampling a variety of cigars for intended purposes unknown. You know it's a Small World when you find someone from back home not only in the same country or city but in the same cigar factory.
It is a Small World. Afterall...
Maduro cigars aging.
200 count aging boxes.
Bundles of 5 Vegas cigars waiting for release.
Pressing the filler and binder.
Assembling filler and binder.
The forms for getting paid.
Testing the draw of each cigar.
Camouflage cigars - client undisclosed.
Assembling the tobacco bits for the camouflage wrapper. Amazing.
Rolled torpedo cigars - my favorite.
Pulling the pressed torpedos for the wrapper.
Finishing the torpedo tip.
Inspecting for quality.
The inspiration behind the perfect label positioning.
Ana offers a token of appreciation.
Bundles of banded cigars awaiting boxing.
Essentially the cigar cupping and blending room.