Havana Cigar Rollers: Alejandro Gonzalez Arias

Havana Custom Rolled Cigars

I would like to start this article by correcting a great injustice. I made a grave mistake with my list of 'Cigar Rollers' in my previous article by omitting one of the most important people in that position. His name is Jose (Cueto) Castelar and he is the house roller at the Parque Morro-Cabaña Cigar Shop in Havana. That would be across the bay next to the Castillo el Morro, another Havana fortress. I have yet to meet this man where he works, I've been introduced to him at an event some time ago. He's in the Guinness Book of Records for having rolled the world’s longest cigar measuring 81.80 meters or 268 feet 4 inches long. Not having met him personally on a one on one… he just simply (and embarrassingly) was forgotten. I apologize to him and my readers.

The next roller I wish to talk about is the latest addition to the higher echelons of this trade. His name is Alejandro Gonzalez Arias and he is officially the youngest of all the rollers that hold this position having started rolling at the Hotel Comodoro in Miramar, Havana when he was only 28 years old. He's now 30 and has garnered quite the following with aficionados singing his praises from every corner of the world.

Alejandro Gonzalez Arias

For those of you who don't know the history of this shop and its previous roller, allow me to enlighten you. The Hotel Comodoro isn't (and never was) the largest cigar shop (or smallest) nor was it the best stocked in the city (and still isn't) but what it did have and still has was excellent management and one of the best Cigar Rollers in the city at the time, world renowned Crisantos Miranda. When Crisantos retired 2 years ago there was a lot of talk about who was going to fill that void and take over his chair. Imagine the weight on the shoulders of this young man knowing the role he was supposed to fulfill with the whole world watching. He not only succeeded but he has, dare I say, made everyone forget Crisantos. I was a personal friend of Crisantos for years and have since become friends with Alex as well and watching him take on this enormous responsibility and grow with the shop to become part of the family has been a pleasure.

Prior to taking on this responsibility at the Comodoro Alex had only been rolling for 6-7 years and had no family members that were in the industry. He was working at a market at the Marina Hemingway (Playa, Havana) where he became friends with the house roller at the La Casa Del Habano there. He would go into the shop in his spare time and watch his new friend roll cigars. It was obvious to the roller that Alex was interested in her craft and so began his enlightenment. She taught him the basics but he took the course at the 'El Laguito' cigar factory soon afterwards so he could become a qualified roller. When I asked him if he was ever nervous knowing that he would be taking over Crisantos' old position he answered, "no". He said he knew what he was getting into and the prestige that this Cigar Shop's roller's table held.

Alejandro Gonzalez Arias

I can attest to the fact that I never noticed him waver from the task at hand and that was to produce the best possible cigar that he could, the rest would follow. The signature cigar that would draw attention to his ability despite his youth was his Behike 52. Let me clarify something, this Behike 52 wasn't named as such for what was inside the cigar, as it wasn't a Cohiba Behike in that sense. It was making reference to the vitola itself, the shape of the cigar. At 5cuc (or $5USD) it was a bargain compared to the Cohiba priced at 23cuc but let's not forget it's not a Behike in content.

Cigar Shop at the Hotel Comodoro

And so his fame spread as aficionados came to visit the man that had taken the reins of the Torcedor from the Cigar Shop at the Hotel Comodoro. This shop is in my neighbourhood and the place I go to when I want to relax with friends, which is what the staff here have become long before Alex appeared on the scene. I may have been a bit partial recommending Alex's services to everyone but he backed up my rhetoric with excellent product that catapulted him into the forefront of the Cigar Scene in Havana. Customers were surprised to see him there and not Crisantos but little by little he won them over. Some people say that he's the best roller in the country which Alex says is embarrassing to him as he doesn't think of himself in that way. A humble man indeed.

Alejandro Gonzalez Arias

I have asked him on several occasions and I'm always surprised by the answer, Alex smokes only one cigar a day and it's usually to test one of the cigars that he's rolling for the shop. It's his way of doing a quality check. If he has the choice and the moment allows it, he likes to drink a whiskey with his cigar. The pace at this shop is pretty slow with Alex only having to roll 10-20 cigars per day but occasionally during the Cigar Festivals he may have to roll many more for aficionados ordering them by the bundles. He gets his leaf from Habanos and is allowed to inspect it before agreeing to accept it. If it doesn't meet his standards he sends it back. He's a very personable young man who likes soccer, his favourite team being Barcelona and baseball (of course) with his favourite team being the hometown Industriales.

Alex is a very personable young man who doesn't seem to have an ego. I bumped into a couple of fellow Canadians visiting the shop while Alex was out and asked them what they thought of his cigars. They answered that they loved Crisantos' but that Alex's are better. When I told Alex about the encounter and what he thought about what they said he answered with embarrassment... "no, they're not better, just different, every roller has his liga (blend) and every smoker has a preference. Mine are not better, they may just appeal to some more than others." I can tell you that his signature cigar, the Behike 52, is fantastic and is worth the visit to shop to try (and buy). However, I've been smoking his Robustos lately and they're my latest love now. Something to keep in mind if you go to see him or any other roller, you can get Alex to roll you something he doesn't have in stock in his humidor if he has the mold and you have the time. I have him roll me some Lanceros when I arrive in Havana to smoke while I'm there, it may take him a couple of hours.

There you have it, a simple story about a humble young man who does his best to make Cigar Aficionados from around the world happy. Please pay him a visit if you're in the area and don't forget to say that I recommended you see him.

Alejandro Gozalez Arias with Matteo

Alejandro (Alex) Gonzalez Arias
Hotel Comodoro
3ra y Calle 84
Miramar, Playa, Havana
tel. 204-5551 ext.1272

16 Comments on “Havana Cigar Rollers: Alejandro Gonzalez Arias”

  1. That was a great article !

  2. Matteo Speranza says:

    Thanks for the kind words Jeff.

  3. Great read thanks

  4. Matteo Speranza says:

    Thank You Matt

  5. Thanks a lot to everyone and enjoy my cigars.

  6. I agree with Matteo. I pre-ordered a few bundles of cigars prior to going, based on a friend’s recommendation. I am glad I did. I am a fan of medium strength, medium bodied cigars, which these have been so far. They were great young, and have since transformed into something wonderful after a year and a half. They are not a big, powerful cigar. They are a nuanced, particular flavored profile; something like Hoyo’s and Upmann’s in my mind.
    I grabbed some lonsdales and canonazos. To me, those canonazos are in my wheelhouse, BUT he did roll me a Fundadore before I left (proper size and appearance)….the best cigar I smoked while I was on my trip.

    Alex has tallent, no doubt, but he was also a super nice guy, which is wonderful as he was the only roller that I could sit and talk to. A couple of the other rollers that I went to either didn’t seem to have the time, or were just not into talking to me. I spent a few hours in that shop browsing, smoking and chatting. It was what we all want when we travel to a place like that.
    I cannot recommend going to this shop enough !

    :Zedman05

  7. Thanks a lot Adam Z for you opinion and I hope see you soon here again smoking with us.

  8. Matteo Speranza says:

    Hey Adam,
    I can’t speak about the others because I know all of them and with all except one (who I don’t visit often) I get good treatment, however, I’ve heard stories which are very disappointing about a couple of them. I have heard nothing but good things about Alex and it’s all natural with him, he’s simply a nice guy and I’m glad to call him a friend. See you in July Alex.
    Matteo

  9. Beautiful article Matteo! I’m flying to Cuba on December 9th for 2 weeks and will definitely go to the shop to meet with Alex and buy (a lot) of cigars from him :)

  10. matteo speranza says:

    Good to hear Ludwig!!

  11. Hey excellent article!! Im from mexico so, Is there a way to get and send cigars from Alex to Mexico? Is there a way to contact him?

  12. matteo speranza says:

    Hello Antonio,
    He’s on Facebook as “Alejandro Glez”. Send him a message through ‘Facebook Messenger’ and see if he responds. He’s on his phone often while at work. Good Luck.

  13. Thanks for the article, it as a great pleasure for me to read it !
    I’ve seen Alejandro twice (latest time in July 2018) and we spend great moments with him, talking about cigars and wines (my business in France).
    I love his Sublimes and I bought again this year to bring back to Paris.
    I’m waiting to go back to La Havana to see him again !

  14. matteo speranza says:

    Thank You. Will be in Havana for the Partagas Encuentro this November?

  15. Unfortunately not.
    Simply because november is very busy for me in my job.
    I’d loved to be there for the Partagas encuentro 2018…

  16. matteo speranza says:

    Sorry to hear you won’t be coming but happy the business is doing well.

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