President: Al Micallef
Senior Master Blender: Edel Gómez Sánchez
The cigars we’re including in this Brand Breakdown feature are produced by a partnership between the Gómez-Sánchez family and the Micallef family. Let’s start with the former. Edel, why don’t you give us a brief history of your family in the cigar industry?
Edel Gómez Sánchez: My grandfather started, many years ago, as the first one in our family to get into the cigar industry. He worked in Cuba at Partagás, H. Upmann, and other places starting in about 1934 or 1936.
He was a roller?
E: Yes, he was a roller, but he worked in other capacities and got to know the whole process. My mother’s side was involved, too. My mother worked thirty-something years at Partagás, H Upmann, and other brands. She also traveled to other countries like Spain, Chile and Peru as part of her work.
That’s where we come from. I started at Partagás. I lived in an apartment building in Alamar (a district in Havana) that was occupied only by people who worked in cigars. Since I was a kid, I would always visit the factories and I liked it. My grandfather wanted me to go down that path, but my mother would have preferred for us to be doctors. My siblings and I all ended up in cigars, though. I have been in the industry since I was 16 years old. We continued the family tradition and now we’re living in the U.S.
My grandfather lived in Mexico, where he worked at Te Amo, and my brother started a small factory in Mexico with help from my grandfather and Alberto Turrent. We moved production to Nicaragua and now there we are, enjoying all the great tobacco that we have access to. We’re delighted to be able to enjoy developing our business and putting my family’s knowledge to work.
We’re also thrilled to have gotten to meet Al, who is a great person. We met in Texas and he has recognized the knowledge that my family has and the level of quality we are capable of achieving in our cigars.
Al, what about your own background before you hooked up with the Gómez-Sánchez family?
Al Micallef: I have a variety of backgrounds. My major businesses from the last 40 years have been manufacturing products for the auto industry, but our holding company owns restaurants, oil and gas interests, and land development, as well as aircraft companies that lease and manage aircrafts. I also have a variety of businesses that were startups and that we eventually sold. We were the largest distributor of South African wine at one time. So, we’ve been through this before. It’s just a business that I have passion for because I enjoy the product and I enjoy the people. Other cigar smokers generally are pretty interesting people, generally at the high end (of the market), and are pretty successful.
What’s the story behind this line’s name and what might you suggest smokers pair it with?
E: We named Experiencia — which is the Spanish word for “experience” — for my mother because she had so much experience and we learned so much from her.
The 52 x 7 La Crema (which has a Capa Clara Mexican wrapper) is a cigar that is very flavorful and strong. It’s very good and works well with bold wines. It works especially well with wines that are on the sweeter side.