There are a lot of boutique cigar companies that have popped up over the last three years, but there are very few companies who have a “Tobacco Jesus” who works with them, much less are partners with a tobacco Jedi.
I met Esteban Disla a few times before this trip - once when he was at Heroes and Legacies in Austin, Texas and a second time during IPCPR 2013. During my trip to Nicaragua, I got to know Esteban more intimately and understood why he is so special.
Esteban was born in the Dominican Republic, where he learned how to bunch and roll cigars. This doesn’t seem special, but outside of Cuba, it is very rare to see someone who has mastered bunching and rolling, since they are two distinct processes.
Esteban moved to Nicaragua and started working at La Reyana, where his education began. He learned almost the entire process from seed to smoke here - how to grow tobacco, how to cure tobacco, how to ferment tobacco, how to process and grade tobacco, how the packing process runs, and how to run a factory. The amazing part of this story is that for each of these processes, he started as the low man on the totem pole and worked his way up. After he reached the top of one process, he started at the bottom of the next process, and worked his way up.
From there, Esteban started at Scandinavian Tobacco and was running their manufacturing. This is when he made a life changing decision. He began working with Skip to create CroMagnon. These cigars weren’t made at a “factory” - they were made in a building behind Esteban’s house where, after his 8-5 at Scandinavian, he would work late with other rolleros and buncheros to make the CroMagnon.
As you can probably imagine, his current employer didn’t take too kindly to him making cigars for Skip after work hours. Esteban could have stopped, but instead he quit and partnered with Skip full time.
The reason all the above is so important is this: Esteban knows his shit and is one of the most humble people I have met in my life. Having learned most every facet of the cigar business, he is able to make things happen that most boutique cigar makers can’t. For example, I saw Esteban walk into a tobacco seller and get tobacco which was reserved for someone else because he had a relationship with them. Also, when I asked the three pairs (buncheros and rolleros) why they didn’t work for another cigar maker, they said because there is no one better than Esteban.
The takeaway is this: if you want to make a great cigar, year after year, you need someone like Esteban, who is a trusted and knowledgeable partner. Without Esteban, Roma Craft would be a shell of what it is today.