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Tabacalera Fernandez - Simply Amazing
Written by Daniel Lopez

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

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A full belly and a morning cigar already half smoked we arive at Tabacalera Fernandez. As the gaurd escorts us to the office area a charasmatic young man welcomes us to the factory. Recognizing him as none other than the A.J. Fernandez I introduce myself as Daniel Lopez of Puff.com. I drop my gear and sit down for a cold refreshment and one of the new cigars by the Fernandez Tabacalera. Like a proud father A.J. starts the tour of the factory with me and I quickly realize that this young man has master blending skills. I have been to a number of factories at this point so it was a bit of a shock to see things at this factory that really are different then other factories. From double fermentation, chewing pieces of tobacco, to rolling cigars that have been aging between your fingers to listen for the crack, this factory is different.

hands

The smell of cigars being rolled in mass is one that should be bottled and sold. Usually when you enter a rolling room you get this smell that hits your senses and sometimes you can smell a hint of amonia. This is NOT the case here in the Fernandez Tabacalera rolling room. This room smells like an aging room which totally throws me off. Why would this be? I would later find out during a tour of the fermentation areas located in another area of Esteli, Nicaragua that this tobacco is actually aged twice. Now this is really interesting how they do it as well. First they sort the tobacco into either viso, seco, or ligero and ferment it in pilones. Next after the pilones have passed through and undisclosed amount of aging time the pilones are then separated by texture and placed into smaller pilones of the same textures. Amazing is not the word for this because the shear fact that the cigars become so consistent in construction is for the fact that the rollers are working with the exact same materials for each cigar.

cigars_rolled

Next we make our way to the aging room and that is where another step Nof the magic takes place. In this area Kris Katchaturian gives me a bit of insight on the way Fernandez Tabacalera deals with shipping cigars and I am surprised by his words. Kris explains that there is no set time that the cigars have to sit before they are ready for the consumer. He explains further that each time it is different since cigars are a natural product and you must listen to the product. I ask him about what he means. A.J. and Kris go on to explain to me how to roll a cigar between your fingers and listen for the crack. Crack? Yes, cigars that are in the aging room are rolled and they are moist. After time they adjust to the perfectly temperature and humidity controlled aging room and start to acclimate themselves to the set humidity and temperature. I grab the video camera and start shooting so that the members of Puff.com see it for themselves. One thing that I will try to keep in mind is that since A.J. only speaks spanish there will be many long hours translating for sub titles in English. I do feel that it is very important to do this because it will give the members of Puff.com every opportunity to understand the process of blending, aging, and the other aspects of this great factory.

Energy! Enthusiasm! These are the two words that describe A.J. Fernandez and Kris Katchaturian so I decide to do something special for an intro for the premier video. With help from a second camera held by "Swanson" we set out to shoot a cool entrance video. After setting up we get our entrance shot and A.J. and Kris are greeted by the sounds of hundreds of chiveras clanking against the rolling tables and cheers from rollers themselves. Respect for the men that put food on the table is a common thing here and working hard is rewarded as seen in many cases throughout the trip.
abdel_fernandez

Damn Lunch time already? It is apparent as the masses of employees get up in perfect timing to leave for lunch. After picking out a few cigars for after lunch we head out to eat. As we roll through the streets of Esteli, Nicaragua I noticed that we where heading to a familiar spot for lunch. Los Chiguetos is a local eatery that is favorite for many of the cigar manufacturers that I have visited in Esteli. We arrive at the restaurant and I decide to take the small video camera inside with me. As we make our way to a table we are invited to sit with a leaf distributor that sells to all of the manufacturers in the area. We shoot some introduction footage and light up some cigars right before a crowd of women walk in and sit at the table next to us. Now please remember that we are in the heart of tobacco country and in a place within that country that is the heart and soul of the economy. Esteli, Nicaragua in my opinion and others as well is dependent on the cigar industry so what happens next is nothing less then shocking. So at this point I am there ordering food with about 8 guys and 2 of us were smoking when a crowd of ladies walked into the restaurant. We were actually seated on the patio of the restaurant were we would not disturb people with the smoke. The ladies middle-aged decided to sit at the table next to us.

Three minutes into them sitting down I could hear them talking in spanish about the smoke. The hands raised to cover the noses and they all began to make a fuss. They finally turned around and asked us in spanish to "Please PUT THAT OUT". Personally I was friggin shocked. The community we were in would be near to nonexistent if not for tobacco. I really could not believe they asked us to put it out. So here is what we did. Actually since it was a lady and she asked all of us we actually put the cigars out. She was not mean and we had been smoking all day long anyway and it was time to eat. We were amongst good friends so we did not let it ruin our lunch. NOW as soon as everyone finished we all forgot about the women and lite up cigars not even thinking about it. The women then dealt with the smoke until the check came and we all said our goodbyes to each other and left. Pretty crazy.






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