Date: June 2009
Author: Zen Cigar

Don Pepin Garcia and Hal

Last Friday we had the privilege of having one of the most popular figures in the cigar industry at Empire Cigars – Don Pepin Garcia!

Pepin showed up promptly at 3pm and the festivities began with Empanadas and Mojitos. Our pal Hal Rubin, the owner, also splurged on a few bottles of Zaya, a 12-year old rum from Trinidad which was absolutely fantastic.

There were great promotions that night, discount on boxes of DPG cigars and a free 5-pack with every box purchase. Box purchases earned a ticket for the raffle which included a few pipe and baseball cigars and a few ashtrays as well.

Don Pepin Garcia Cigars

Of course I got a picture with the Don and was able to spend some time chatting with him. He speaks very little English so most of my questions went through his interpreter and international sales manager, John Gonzales.

I thanked him for his product and contributions to the cigar industry and began peppering him with questions in between Pepin signing boxes and taking pictures with other patrons.

I asked him what his favorite of the cigars he makes, he quickly replied his favorite is the My Father, blended by his son Jamie. This clearly was a special cigar for him as he smoked two during the event. He also said he really liked the Tabacos Baez which have just recently made an in line wrapper change from an Ecuadorian Connecticut to an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper which gives it a darker color and richer flavor. He also said they will be making a slight tweak to the blend in the near future.

At one point, Dave gave Pepin a LFD Cheroot and he said he liked it but did not smoke all of it.

I asked him what wrapper leaf he really wanted to get his hands on, he smiles and tells me he has some really neat stuff in the works. Pepin told me he has gotten his hands on the new Havana seed from Cuba as well as (wait for it) Pelo de Oro. Pelo de Oro, the Golden Hair, is the father of modern day Corojo wrapper. Pelo de Oro was THE wrapper in Cuba decades ago, but was very susceptible to blue mold. In fact growing it is outlawed in Cuba. The Pelo de Oro is lighter in color than Corojo and has a little more natural sweetness. El Corojo was created from a cross between Pelo de Oro and Sumatran, which is much more mold resistant. I’ve heard rumblings this Pelo de Oro wrapped cigar will be called the 1922 or soemthing like that, more details will be released at the IRCPR. I have also heard of a sandwhich blend he is working on from the Tabacos Baez blend, called the Tabacos Baez SF.

He also spoke at length about his time in Cuba, where he was in charge of QC at a factory outside of Havana. Interestingly he said at the time when he worked there (years ago), all of the cigars made in that factory were the “same” except for wrapper color and band. He said they made Montecristos and Romeos there as well as some smaller labels. He also said that, and I have heard this from many others, that Cuba is getting tobacco from the DR and Nicaragua as they do not have nearly enough tobacco to supply the demand. This is really no surprise as Altadis owns a controlling stake in Habanos, SA and certainly has access to hoards of tobacco.

I asked him if he still rolls cigars, referring to the Salomones he used to roll for the JJ line and the Tatuaje RC series. He said he is now too busy to roll, but he has trained one girl to roll all of the Salomones in his Miami factory.

I thanked him for helping to bring back the lancero, and he smiled and said that they key to the lancero is in the art of the roll. I had always thought lanceros could not be booked, but he said that in his factory, the only way to get a good draw with a lancero is the book, which he called the accordion fold. Only the best rollers in his factories are allowed to roll the lancero, so if you want the DPG cigar made from the best rollers, seek the lanceros!

He was also very excited about his new factory, that will be fully operational in October and will be the largest factory in Nicaragua. If my memory is correct, he said he will be capable of producing 70,000 cigars a day!

One thing clear from the start, was that Pepin loves his work and takes great pride in what he makes. Even more so is the work of his son, Jamie, who blended the My Father for Pepin. With every puff he took of a My Father, you could see him brimming with pride from his son’s work. He was also very grateful of the help folks like Pete Johnson and Ernesto Padilla in making Don Pepin Garcia a household name in the cigar community.

Pepin was extremely gracious and friendly, the event was a huge success and I feel privileged to have spent some time chatting with one of the “Masters”. Many thanks to Hal, Derek & Dave for throwing such a great party!

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