March 13, 2012

Tatuaje Group Trip to the My Father Factory Recap

So as one of my last posts stated, I recently made my way down to Esteli, Nicaragua with Pete Johnson (owner of Tatuaje Cigars), KC Johnson (Pete's brother), Dan Welsh (owner of New Havana Cigars), Casper (Owner/ Managing Partner at GoMerch, who does all of Tatuaje's swag/media), and a few great shop owners from lower Florida. (Smoke on the water, Prime Cigar, Harbor Cigars) It was a fantastic trip and, like every time I visit the country, I learn so much. Below is a break down of what we did and where we went on each day. I'm not including all the details because I'm sure I've forgotten some in the late nights of partaking on the rooftop of hotel Los Arcos. I also took a bit of video that, as soon as Mario has chance to edit it together, I will post up. I think I got some really nice footage of the factory and the farms, but we'll see. Anyway, on to the trip recap.
Day 1: Day one was not actually spent in Nicaragua, but in Miami. Dan Welsh and I traveled from Columbus mid-afternoon and were greeted by Janny Garcia and KC Johnson. We had plans to meet up with Pete Johnson too for a nice dinner to celebrate Janny's birthday, but Pete's flight had been canceled. The four of us didn't let that get us down, as we went to dinner and then on to the new My Father factory/headquarters in Miami. The new My Father place in Miami is awesome. It's a huge building with endless offices and a surprising number of lounges. (Do these people work?) I cannot forget to mention that Jose Ortega also joined us in Miami and took a shot of Dan, KC, and I sitting in his "hurricane lounge".
Day 2: Off to the airport after a few hours of sleep to meet up with Pete and Casper, who took the red-eye from LA. Even with the lack of sleep, everyone was in a great mood and spent most of the time in the airport lounge playing Words with Friends. The flight was the same as always (wait, not even close...I was in First Class boom!) and we landed in hot Managua. Unfortunately, here's where our trip took a little detour because of trouble on the Pan American highway. The drive that normally takes about two hours to Esteli took closer to four because the Pan American was closed due to protest and violence on the road. Two extra hours in a bus to make sure we are safe? Sounds like a good deal to me, even if it sucked at the time. So when we finally got to Esteli, we headed straight to the factory and were greeted by Pepin and Jaime Garcia. Pete gave a quick tour and we settled in for what would be one of many smoke sessions in the boardroom of the My Father factory. (Cigars smoked in this session: Frank Jr., La Duena, Cojonu 2012)
Day 3: This was a our big day at the factory. Pete and some of the factory managers (who's names I didn't write down and should have) showed us all the steps in tobacco processing from barn dried leaf, to fully fermented (there is only one fermentation of tobacco...don't believe the hype) ready-to-roll product. After a trip through all the processing, we saw the rolling floor and the packaging area. Oh and I can't forget the box factory. The box factory is seriously bad ass. This was like a wood shop, but making products you actually wanted to make. Minus a few pieces here and there, the My Father factory truly is a one-stop shop. After the tour, we headed out to Pepin's newest farms. What amazing countryside. After the farm trip, it was back to the factory for another smoke session. (Cigars smoked this session: Baby Face, Little Wolfie, Petite Cazadore Sumatra, La Duena.)
Day 4: Today we started with a little smoke session at the factory (smoked a NHC Surrogate - cat's out of the bag) and then headed out to visit some other facilities located in Esteli. The group took a trip to see the Plasencia tobacco plant where Nestor Plasencia Jr. and his team showed us around their great looking building, and then on to Oliva Tobacco where Gustavo Cura filled us in on what they do. These trips, especially the one to Oliva Tobacco, were very informative to me and I learned a lot. Not to say that Nestor Jr. isn't, but Gustavo came off to me as one bad ass tobacco grower. I could spend a month with him and still not come close to the surface of what this guy knows. Big ups to both Gustavo and Nestor Jr. for wonderful tours. After those tours we headed out to what can only be described as a very special place...Pepin's La Estrella farm. These fields of tobacco were enchanting and I understand why some fantastic cigars come from this farm. We had a great lunch and then went back to the factory where I got to see Pepin roll a cigar himself, (awesome and a highlight of the trip) and had a cigar rolling competition between all of us guests. After that, you guessed it: another smoke session that started at the factory and continued late into the night at the hotel. (Cigars smoked this session: La Verite 2010, a prototype of a new brown label that we called Negligencia Miami, Little Wolfie, La Duena, Avion 2012.)
Day 5: Coming home. Again, the Pan American was closed, so we left the hotel extra early, made a swing past the factory to say goodbye to Pepin and Jaime, and traveled on to the airport. I slept most of the way so nothing of any excitement to report. Plane ride, lay over(smoked on my curb at Miami airport again), plane ride, and here I sit back at home.

Overall: What a fun and educational trip. I want to deeply thank Pete Johnson, Janny Garcia, Pepin Garcia, Jaime Garcia, Jose Ortega, Nestor Plasencia Jr., Gustavo Cura, and all the factory managers and workers that showed us an amazing time everywhere we went. I also want to thank my fellow trip goers who made having these experiences even more fun. I can't wait to go back.

For more pictures check out our facebook page here.  Video to come soon.


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