Owner: Jose “Jocky” Blanco
Jochy, for a long time you were behind the scenes of a lot of popular brands, but that has started to change and you’ve become more of a public figure. How does that change sit with you and how much harder does that make your job?
It’s a lot harder because normally in the past I did not travel. I was focused on the farm, focused on the factory. Now I have to also be a little more focused on some travel, but it’s interesting. We had to make a change because the FDA situation pushed us to have our own brands.
It’s a different world. I like it. I’ve found really good people in the market, good retailers, good friends.
It went from not existing to a brand new brand to being in… How many retailers now?
A little more than 500. But it’s not the quantity that matters. What impressed us is the reception of the consumer and the reorders form the stores. That for us is the main point because it tells us that the consumer loves the product. We’re trying to do a great cigar at a reasonable price. We are really vertically integrated and that helps.
Tell us about your family’s history in tobacco.
My grandfather was a grower. My father founded Tabacalera Palma, the factory, in 1936.
Hence the 1936 Box Pressed. That’s a good segue into the 1936 Box Pressed. What sort of smoker would you say this cigar is for?
It’s an easy cigar for almost every smoker. The taste is totally clean, medium, with a lot of flavor. Of course, experienced guys will know that it’s a great cigar, but I think that a new smoker will enjoy it also, because the tobaccos… New smokers, normally they like more mild cigars. These cigars, a good smoker will know and feel that it’s a medium cigar. The tobaccos are well fermented and really aged. That helps the cigar to be very clean, which helps a new smoker enjoy it also.
The 1936 Habano has Ecuadorian wrapper, Criollo 98 binder, and the filler is Piloto and Criollo 98. What we did in this blend was to mix tobaccos of the same varietals, but from different farms in different regions. Why did we do that? In La Canela, we produce Criollo 98. We also produce Criollo 98 in Jacagua. Same seed, same tobacco, same treatment, a little bit different taste. La Canela is a little stronger, more peppery. Jacagua is a little less strong, more flavor, and more sweetness. So blending those same seeds from different microclimates helps us to create this great cigar.
You had all this time making cigars for other brands and then there’s this transition to focusing on La Galera. How do you let smokers know about the history of the company and communicate your expertise in tobacco?
Some of that is in the branding. The names came from the factory. La Galera is the heart of a cigar company. It’s where the magic happens, where we make all the cigars. Then all the sizes have names related to the galera, like Chaveta, Cortador, Pegador, Bonchero, Lector. So we tried to transmit to the consumers the factory side. We’re also trying to teach our sales people what we use, the means of everything, so they continue that education.
What’s it been like actually being on the road and seeing people’s response to your cigars in real time?
Something I like about being on the street is seeing the satisfaction on the faces of the consumers when they try the cigars. They tell us about the cigars and the quality and how they are surprised about what we’re making.
My last trip was to Texas. Especially in Dallas, I was surprised at how people enjoy and love cigars. Texas is a really great state for cigars. It’s incredible. And the taxes are low. It’s a really friendly state. And, of course, I love the ribs and sausages there.