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EO 601 Cigars Espinosa and Ortega are 1000 Percent Right
Written by Daniel Lopez

Friday, 16 January 2009

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eo 601erik espinosa


1000 Percent

Ok so we grab a deck of cards and I quickly learn that Erik Espinosa is a friggin' card magician and savant at all games of cards especially a game called Scopa. Eddie Ortega is his card partner and it is quickly apparent that I need Erik on my side in paired card games because those two teamed up meant that you would never win. Scopa is an Italian card game played with a 40-card deck. It is commonly played between two players or two teams of two players each. Playing a game of scopa with these guys was crazy. During the game, I heard two key phrases that Erik would say. One was when he was sure of what the other person had he would say "1000 percent right!" which is funny because most people say 100 percent. The other phrase was "I would bet my balls" which was funny because the way he said it you knew he would. We switch partners and play for money and time flies fast. I learned that Erik and I shared the same love for poker. My poker skills are decent but, I often lose since I play until I am out of money. I wish I had never learned the game Scopa because it is very addictive. During the games, we smoked cigars and feasted on various foods.

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Dinner time already? I showered up and got ready for dinner. We all gathered at a great restaurant called La Chagueta which is a common hangout for a lot of other people in the cigar community. I feasted on shrimp in a great cream sauce and we all tried a lancero that Pepin brought along. This was really cool just hanging out and being able to feel comfortable around these guys. During dinner I also had the chance to meet Nestor Placencia Jr., one of the most famous cigar manufacturers and growers of our time. Eddie and Erik then asked me if I had ever been to a bar with a Karaoke player in it before and I said no.

An hour later, we were walking into a Karaoke bar with music blaring. At first we were the only people in the bar. Erik took the first shot at singing with his rendition of Hotel California and then a few Spanish songs. Eddie told me to search for a song to sing so I asked where the book with the English songs was. After about 30 minutes of searching, I found a couple of songs. Little did I know that more people had filled the bar after I made my musical choices so it was getting pretty crowded by that time? People were truly having a lot of fun singing favorite uplifting songs they knew and loved. As time went on, I was kind of wondering how they would like my singing. As a man handed me the microphone at our table, I saw the name of the song pop up on the screen and then heard a dead silence. Get this, the country song "Don't Take the Girl" by Tim McGraw is a mood crusher and not very well known in Nicaragua. A follow up with "The Fireman" by George Strait is a not that popular song either. Through both songs, my buddies Erik and Eddie sang along with me like true friends. Who cared what other people thought? We were having fun and that was all that mattered. We ended the night there and headed back to the hotel to get some rest for the next day.


Day 3 Friday

I woke up and headed down for breakfast in the lobby of Los Arcos. After breakfast, I grabbed a few shots of Eddie and Erik on the steps of the doorway of the hotel. The reason I picked this was because of the colors. As I sat crouched on the curb from across the street I realized that I may be sitting too far out into the street as a scooter buzzed passed me. After a few more shots, I changed angles and ran to my room to get the rest of my gear so we could leave the hotel and head to the factory.

We arrived back at El Rey De Los Habanos and Pepin asked if Erik and I were ready to head back to the farm. Today was a special day because some of the first tobacco that was from the farms was being put into pilones for curing. We would watch as it was layered and it was simply amazing. As we stood there with Pepin we gave him his space. Erik and I discussed the look of Pepin as he gazed at the pilones rising higher. Like a proud father, Pepin was staring at the people and his hands were modifying the layers as they rose. Certainly a moment that I will not forget anytime soon.

As they sat down taking some time to remember how it all started, I decided to take some video of Pepin and Erik talking about how they met and the new farm. As we started filming Pepin said that no one would understand it in Spanish, but I assured him that it did not matter. I planned to subtitle the videos, but later decided not to. Pepin spoke about how it was alot of hard work and Erik said that it was a long way from how it began. They spoke of the early days and a bit about the future. One thing I also learned was that keeping the blends exactly the same is a priority for both Pepin and 601. Erik went on to tell me that if they can not have enough tobacco to make the blend for years then they do not do it. The goal for 601 is longevity.

Being at the farm was great and since I had the time to get Erik by himself I wanted to get some details about 601 filmed. We set up in front of the field of the younger plants that would be the future 601 cigars when they grew up. Erik was a champ through the filming answering all of my questions. You see when you have a passion for a cigar like he does it simply comes natural to be able to talk about them for hours. Before we knew it we were ready to go back to check on Pepin's new factory again so we left the farm and made our way there.

With the box factory already operational at the new factory, Erik and I took some time to check out the rooms filled with empty 601 boxes. I snapped a few pictures of the boxes with Erik and we watched as Pepin made sure everything was going well that day in construction. Checking on the new factory construction as well as the farm each day has become part of Pepin's daily routine that he really enjoys. He is fully immersed in every detail and aspect of how things are made and set up. Talking with the architect of the factory there is no doubt that Pepin has thought of everything to make the factory run like clockwork and construct the cigars we all like. Before I knew it, I lost everyone again. Off in my own world of amazement at everything around me I decide I better find the guys. Pepin and Erik were waiting for me and ask me if I am ready to go and I say yes. As I stood there I thought to myself "What will it look like when it is complete?" Some day I want to return to see the completed factory.

Returning to the current factory, I gather Amilcar and Jaime for a few minutes to shoot some video about them. Now these guys together are a blast to be around. Their sheer knowledge they have of manufacturing and creating new blends is really astounding. As we film, the favorite song of all the factory workers comes on and everyone starts singing the words which was truly unexpected. We finish filming and we are about to head back to the hotel to get showered up for dinner and drinks, but we stopped for a quick arm wresting match. Known as the Popeye of the town, a young man starts kidding with Eddie about arm wresting. Eddie tells him he will take the challenge so the match is on. The match starts and Popeye tries to take Eddie out, next it is Eddie's turn and here it comes. A brief amount of time later we are all cheering as Eddie takes Popeye out and wins the arm wrestling match. That was cool to watch and I caught in on video too!

Time for dinner and the Italian restaurant we go to is one of the best in Esteli and dinner is absolutely great. Over conversation with the guys, I find out we will be heading to a bar that has a live band. We finish dinner and arrived at a thatch roof bar with an excellent band. Playing great music everyone enjoys each others company. Not being a big drinker I do enjoy some very nice rum and then start to plot my idea of how to get a bottle from the duty free back into the country. I really enjoyed hanging out because we all had alot of time to really sit and talk as we listened to a great band. We leave the bar and head back to the hotel so we can be up early for the next day.






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