I had a realization while driving back to Managua to leave Nicaragua after one of the best vacations I have been on in my life. This fact alone is amazing since the drive is quite perilous and requires dodging people, cows, and cops wanting to shake down a gringo. Those who have driven from Managua to Esteli know exactly what I am talking about.
Let me take you back for some context. A little over two years ago, I had a meeting with Skip Martin at Pipe World, the local B&M where I live in Round Rock, Texas. I was doing internal social media analytics for Dell, and Skip was also working at Dell while just starting the CroMagnon brand – a cigar that received an 88 ranking from Cigar Aficionado this week.
That first meeting was for me to learn a bit more about cigars and for Skip to learn a bit about what I do, and our friendship has grown from that point along with Skip’s business. Skip formed Roma Craft Tobac with Mike Rosales and launched the Aquitaine and the Intemperance lines. If this wasn’t enough, he basically moved to Esteli and opened a cigar factory with Esteban Disla (more on him in the next article).
During the last two years, our friendship has continued to grow, and around New Year’s 2013, Skip invited me to come down and spend a week with him in Nicaragua. I gladly booked the trip with my miles, and set off to learn all I could. I learned a lot that I will detail in blogs over the coming weeks, but I also learned that there is still 99% of this amazing industry that I still don’t know.
I have been a long time cigar smoker, but until this trip, never a cigar appreciator. Don’t get me wrong - I love cigars and knew a little about the process, but this trip opened my eyes to the very complicated process of taking a seed all the way to smoke. Not only is the process technically hard, but there are several pitfalls along the way that even the best tobacco men can fall prey too.
I acknowledge that I, still, in the grand scheme of things, don’t know shit about tobacco - Jose Blanco wasn’t kidding when he tells me he is always learning and doesn’t know everything – but this is where things have come full circle. For the last two years, starting with that first meeting with Skip at Pipe World, I have been learning about cigars, and now it is my turn to sit at the “local shop” with you and share what little knowledge I gained during my trip.