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.

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.

Ep. 0011: Carlito Fuente on plans for a new Arturo Fuente cigar factory in Estelí, Nicaragua

At 2018’s Puro Sabor festival in Estelí, Nicaragua, Carlito Fuente of Arturo Fuente cigars dropped a bomb of an announcement. The Fuente cigar family — known for its Dominican-made cigars — let the cat out of the bag about its plans to open a cigar factory in Estelí. The Fuentes don’t do anything halfway, which means that this one company is looking to change the landscape of Nicaraguan cigars.

What’s more, Carlito announced that the person running the Fuentes’ Nicaraguan operations from seed to cigar would be Félix Mesa. There’s a chance you’ve heard the name. Felix is the owner of El Galán Cigars, which has a small factory in Estelí, as well as a retail store near the CIgar Snob offices.

Félix isn’t a household name in the cigar world, so when people learned that the guy at the helm of what’s sure to be a massive operation would be a relative unknown, it generated even more questions.

On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I had a chance to sit with Carlito Fuente and get deeper into the story. Why Nicaragua? Why now? Why Félix Mesa? And what should smokers expect to see coming out of this expansion and into their humidors? This interview is the first time Carlito’s publicly gone into this level of detail on the issue.