Written by Daniel Lopez

Friday, 16 January 2009

User Rating: / 1

eo 601erik espinosa

Over a phone conversation with Eddie Ortega of United Tobacco, who is one of the creators of 601 brand of cigars, plans were made to visit Nicaragua to get a glimpse of a new project being worked on by United Tobacco. The 601 cigar brand was created by United Tobacco of Miami, Florida by Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega in conjunction with none other than, El Rey De Los Habanos factory owned by Jose "Pepin" Garcia in Nicaragua. El Rey De Los Habanos is one of the premier cigar factories in Nicaragua right now.


Eddie Ortega is one half of United Tobacco and I have known him for about 1 year now. Over his years in the cigar industry he has gained a great rapport with his piers in the rest of this small cigar community. Eddie was actually the very first person that ever interviewed on film when he was double teamed in English and Spanish by the two ladies AJ and Siedy.

Day 1

Arriving in Managua, Nicaragua I am greeted by a cell phone saleswoman before I can hit the customs line. On my previous trips to Nicaragua I was often limited to calling back to the USA only when my Blackberry service would allow it, which I soon learned that Blackberry lies about their service abilities and the phone never works when you want it to. A quick US twenty-two dollars later, I was loaded up with 100 minutes that could call back to the USA anytime I wanted to. As I make my way through customs I am loaded with a duffle bag and a camera bag with all my gear. One thing I have learned about traveling, do not check baggage. As I exit the airport, I am met by a crowd of people holding signs for friends and relatives. A sign marked "Daniel Lopez" is easily seen through the window of a sliding door held by Byron. Byron is a small framed man with a red shirt that reads 'EL REY DE LOS HABANOS'. Immediately Byron asked if I am hungry, so we hit up the airport, "El Tip Top" chicken place as we wait for the others' flight to arrive.

The goal of this trip would be to bring back as much information about everything I see so that I can share it with the members of this online community.  I see it as a personal challenge to try to document everything during my trips in order to give the members great info. I also feel that if I do not do a good job then in some way I am letting down my fellow members. I see each trip as a privilege and not as the work that it entails during and post trip. Video is my easiest line of directly expressing the trip and in some ways writing can fill in the gaps as well. I am not a writer as most can see through the poor use of grammar and general phrases that I use. I blame this on my lack of paying attention in English class, too busy trying to land a girlfriend that would later become my beautiful wife.

Managua, Nicaragua airport does not have many flights in and out each day, so it was a good guess that the plane we heard landing must have Eddie Ortega and Erik Espinosa on it. Byron and I head over the exit and meet both Erik and Eddie along with a new friend JC (Jean Carlo) a retailer from Florida. As we load up our bags to head for Esteli, Nicaragua I am handed a 601 black label.  I had actually tried every cigar in the 601 line except for the Connecticut because most of the times I tend to prefer the more full bodied
cigars. In my head, I thought this would be a great cigar to smoke on our road trip to Esteli so, I fired it up................OK wait a minute this is kind of strong. I looked back to make sure it was the black label and took a few more puffs. I sat for a while really trying to grasp what I was smoking. Up until that point my favorite 601 cigar was the green label but, now I was really getting so much flavor out of the black that I was going to need to think about it.

Never having met Erik Espinosa of United Tobacco before I knew nothing about him or how the bond between both him and Eddie Ortega had started. I would soon learn that Erik Espinosa is nothing less then one of the coolest guys you could ever get the chance to hang out with. I simply can not imagine how much fun these two guys have but, I would soon find out that they know how to get work done, and then kick back, and relax when the time is right. On this trip, they were going to test the final blend of the new Cubao cigar that would be released at this years IPCPR in Las Vegas. Two words “Get It!”


As we traveled the highway, we noticed that a few big trucks were traveling and found out that a truck strike was in effect. Entering Esteli, Nicaragua we passed cigar factories and crowds of people filling the streets going about their daily lives in this busy area of Nicaragua. We arrived at our hotel which is the best in Esteli called Los Arcos. I like staying there because it is safe and the AC blows cold. We drop our bags in our rooms and we head off to the factory.

A few minutes later we arrive at the El Rey De Los Habanos factory of Jose "Pepin" Garcia. Pepin meets us at the front door and welcomes everyone with handshakes. Having met Pepin at an event before I did not think I would be nervous but for some reason I really was. I am introduced by Pepin to his son, Jaime Garcia and his son-in-law, Amilcar Perez. I was now standing in the factory of one of the most respected names in cigars today. To top it off, I was getting the chance to hang out with two of the coolest cats in the business, Eddie and Erik.

We made our way up to a meeting room. We take our seats, as Pepin brings in some cigars for all of us to smoke. I take a few minutes to study the cigar. After a quick flame, it is "Spice" that hits my lips. The spice is great however the cigar transforms into a different cigar quickly. This cigar is earthy and very complex, so complex that even if you are concentrating it will surprise you. A bad habit that I have with cigars is I tend to chew on them. Most wrappers taste very nice to me because they have a few flavors that I like. The funny thing is over the span of my trip, I would find myself chewing the heck out of these cigars to get that entire great flavor out of the wrapper. The wrapper has a taste that should be bottled up and sold.

The new CUBAO cigar has an Ecuador Sumatra Oscuro wrapper that is amazing. It also contains filler and binder from the Jalapa and Esteli regions of Nicaragua. This cigar will be a hit and it really completes the United Tobacco line of cigars. Erik and Eddie would also tell me about plans for a special release cigar called “Mi Barrio” or (my neighborhood) that will be a seasonal release four times a year. Each of the four limited boxes released will have an original painting done by Cuban artist Edin Gutierrez.

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