0036 - Reinier Lorenzo of HVC Cigars on blending, his Cuban palate, and his laboratory past

If you’re a fan of Aganorsa Leaf tobacco, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the HVC brand name. We put the HVC San Isidro, which is made at the Aganorsa factory in Estelí, at number 15 on our list of the top 25 cigars of 2017.

HVC founder Reinier Lorenzo stopped by our office to watch some World Cup soccer. After the match between Portugal and Spain was over, we moved over to the mics so our publisher Erik Calviño could get an interview in. If you don’t already know his story, you might be surprised to learn what Reinier was doing for a living before he got into the cigar business.

0034 - Erik Espinosa on Murcielago cigars, bucket lists, forgetting the words to Folsom Prison Blues

Our office got a visit from Erik Espinosa, the founder of Espinosa Cigars, which is known for brands like Laranja, 601, and Murcielago.

As long as he was here, we figured we’d sit him down in front of a mic for a conversation with our publisher Erik Calviño that ended up touching on his cigars, his singing, and his bucket list.

0031 - Illusione's Dion Giolito on working with Aganorsa tobacco and pairing cigars with Dr. Pepper

In a recent issue of the magazine, we ran a story about Aganorsa, its tobacco, its cigars, and its founder Eduardo Fernández. Aside from its own brands, like Casa Fernández, Aganorsa manufactures cigars for various brands. One of those is Illusione, one of the most highly regarded of the “boutique” brands of premium cigars.

While Nick Jiménez was in Estelí reporting that story, he interviewed Illusione founder Dion Giolito. They talked about Aganorsa, Illusione, pairings and Dion's approach to cigar making.

0027 - Joya de Nicaragua's Alejandro Martínez Cuenca

The cigar industry is dominated by families whose tobacco stories begin in Cuba. But one company in particular stands out as not only having a deeply Nicaraguan identity, but also having a history that is tightly woven into that of its home country. In this episode, you’ll hear Erik Calviño’s interview with Alejandro Martínez Cuenca, the man behind Joya de Nicaragua. Alejandro dives deep into the history of Joya, the tumultuous political climate that surrounded it, how it came to be the official cigar of the White House, and what lies ahead for the brand. You won’t want to miss this one.

0024 - Chef Michael Beltran on cigar pairings, the restaurant biz, lessons from football

Spend enough time around professional chefs, and you’ll find that they are — disproportionately — lovers of premium cigars. Maybe it’s the need to relax after all the long hours in the kitchen or the fact that they have the refied palates to appreciate complex flavors. Whatever it is, it’s been our experience that you’re more likely to find fellow cigar smokers among the chef ranks than most other professions.

Recently, our own Erik Calviño got a chance to chat with Michael Beltran, the chef and partner at Ariete, a great new Miami restaurant. They talked about his perspective on food, how it was informed by his leaving Miami for a time, and how dominoes played a role in his developing a passion for cigars.

0022 - Nicholas Melillo on Foundation Cigars, Aganorsa tobacco, the state of cigar shops

The most recent issue of Cigar Snob includes a story about Aganorsa, the Nicaragua-based agriculture company that has become one of that country’s most prolific growers or premium cigar tobacco and well respected manufacturers of premium cigars.

While in Nicaragua for that story, Nick Jiménez interviewed Nicholas Melillo, the founder of Foundation Cigar Co.; you can find some of his quotes in that story in the magazine.

In this episode of the podcast, you’ll hear the full interview with Nick. We get into the company’s beginnings, what’s on the horizon on the product front, and what it been like for him to transition to life on the road in the U.S. after many years living in Estelí, Nicaragua.

0020 - Eduardo Fernández of Aganorsa, Casa Fernandez on his unusual path to success in tobacco

 Aganorsa founder Eduadro Fernández (left) and Illusione founder Dion Giolito inspect Aganorsa tobacco together in Estelí.

Aganorsa founder Eduadro Fernández (left) and Illusione founder Dion Giolito inspect Aganorsa tobacco together in Estelí.

If you shop at brick-and-mortar tobacconists, you’re almost certain in contact with loads of Eduardo Fernández’s tobacco whether you like it or not. One of the most prolific growers of premium cigar tobacco in Nicaragua, Eduardo came into the cigar business by an unconventional path.

His agricultural conglomerate, AGANORSA, includes his tobacco growing operation and his cigar manufacturing business. The AGANORSA factory, which has been known until now as Tabacos Valle de Jalapa, or TABSA, makes cigars for Eduardo’s own Casa Fernandez brand, as well as JFR, Foundation, Illusione, Warped, Viaje, and HVC.

Eduardo sat down with me for an interview not too long ago at his factory. We talked about his past ventures, how he built his tobacco empire, and what he sees in the factory’s future.

0016 - Hand Rolled cigar documentary filmmaker Steve Gherebean

Senior editor Nick Jiménez hopped on a call to interview Steve Gherebean, one of the guys behind Hand Rolled, a documentary film about premium cigars. In the interview, Steve explains how the project was born, who's behind it, and how it has changed the way the filmmakers see handmade cigars and the people who make them.