Cigar manufacturers are eager to host consumers. If you happen to be in Honduras or Nicaragua, your request for a tour of the facilities would probably be met with excitement and a warm welcome. But, you can get more than that. As the manufacturers and retailers struggle to overcome the effects of the global recession, many are arranging cigar-centric trips designed to host you from seed to ash.
Many cigar companies are partnering with tobacconists to arrange cigar tours for their customers. Camacho brings smokers down to Honduras to spend a few days at “Camp Camacho,” where they can tour the fields, see how cigars are rolled and smoke as much as you like. Rocky Patel and Drew Estate (which makes Acids and Javas) host groups as well, in Honduras and Nicaragua, respectively. My recent trip to Pepin Garcia’s factory was a first for the company, but I strongly suspect that many will follow. WhileDrew Estate is open to individual bookings, most of the cigar trips offered by manufacturers need to be arranged by cigar shops.
Your local retailer has the connections to make a cigar trip possible, so that’s where you need to start. Bring the idea up, and make sure there are enough people in the shop who share your interest. You’ll probably need about a dozen to make the trip happen (on my trip, De La Concha and Uptown Cigar, contributing roughly the same number of travelers each).
Since the cigar companies are eager to bring you to their facilities, you’ll generally be responsible for your airfare … and nothing else. Accommodations, meals and transportation are usually included, and you’ll be provided enough cigars to keep you busy – I had one lit pretty much all day every day. The details will vary with the cigar company. Those that have rooms on the premises will put you up inside the walls, and companies that don’t will arrange for you to stay in a local hotel.
On your tour, you’ll become intimately familiar with the process of making cigars. From the tobacco fields, where the plants are bursting from the ground, to the factories, where legions of rollers showcase their dexterity, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the process by which your favorite stick reaches store shelves (and ultimately your humidor). At Pepin Garcia’s My Father operation, we saw everything, including the wood shop where the cigar boxes are built and printed. An estimated 70 pairs of hands are necessary to create a cigar, and w saw most of them.
At night, you’ll eat, smoke and hang out with the cigar company hosts and, more important, your fellow travelers. After all, what makes your favorite cigar shop special? It’s the people who smoke with you. This is what will turn your cigar trip into a memorable event.