We hopped off the bus, cigars in hand, and formed a greeting line as people started to pour in from the terminal.
Johnny Brooke was first out of the terminal and came over to chat.
Then Zain and Shiyong (from Reddit).
Then Dave from CATs, and James (from BoTL), and lastly Kito.
Aaron, Anna and Bill (all from CATs) showed up a few minutes after that. I previously had the pleasure of meeting Aaron and Anna on RedditCATs 1 in 2013.
Kenneth shot some footage of people arriving and introducing each other.
We made introductions and then boarded the the bus and headed to the restaurant in Managua for lunch.
Brooke showing us his tattoo.
I was introduced to Juan Ignacio the Executive President of Joya de Nicaragua and then I found an available seat. I had the fortune to sit between Aaron and Kito and across from Tom and Gloria from CATs who I had the great pleasure of meeting on multiple occasions in the past.
Lunch was as amazing as I remember from last year. This time around I went with tasty beef (I learned last year Nicaragua was a huge beef producer), a pile of rum and some fried cheese. Thinking I was stuffed beyond belief, they brought out this delicious flan desert. I couldn’t finish and elected to enjoy an espresso with the 2nd cigar I had lit up during our feast.
After lunch we hopped back on the bus for the long right to Esteli. Last year we went to Granada and did a lovely boat tour of Lake Managua. This year they wanted to switch things up and instead we’d be getting some surprise factory tours that hadn’t been done before.
Traffic was not too bad, relatively speaking for Nicaragua, and we listened to some awesome hip hop which eventually devolved into country music. Johnny Brooke had to intervene with some Beatles after the country music became too much for most of the bus to bear. Poor Henry took the brunt of the displeasure.
Eventually we rolled into Esteli well after sun down and dropped luggage off at the Drew Estate factory.
We were advised that we would be getting a surprise tour of the Espinosa La Zona factory and everyone was pretty excited. The Espinosa factory, like most factories in Esteli, was a very short ride away.
We arrived at our destination and disembarked to organize. Around the corner we went inside to the factory floor which was quite small in comparison to other rolling areas I’ve visited in the past. Espinosa employs about 18 pairs of rollers at the time of the tour.
The smell was of fresh tobacco was amazing. From there we went up a long fight of stairs to the balcony. Our on a table there was 2 La Bomba ashtrays along with some Espinosa sampler packs for each of us. One of the cigars inside was a 601 Napalm.
Inside we toured the resting room, again the smell of tobacco was intense and fantastic.
Here’s Henry posing for a shot.
We talked for a bit and asked some questions about Espinosa cigars
Afterwards we made our way downstairs to head back to Drew Estate.
The rooms were assigned, and by coincidence I ended up in the exact same room as last year. I moved my luggage and personal belongings in and said hello to my new roommate Dave. I gathered my traveldors and shirts and took them over to Jessi to have them eventually painted by him and his talented crew. Jessi was working on some stuff for the upcoming trade show and was happy to talk to us for a while.
I left Subculture Studios and headed upstairs to replenish my now dead cigar.
Rahim introduced me to Angel from Oliva Tobacco, who I embarrassingly mistook for working for Oliva Cigar company. After a healthy and well deserved ribbing we talked at length with Angel and John E. Oliva Jr about the growing conditions for the various Oliva Tobacco fields in different countries. We discussed seeds, blending and I asked John a number of questions about his time with the company. John and I talked at length about tobacco taxes in Canada and the lack of areas to smoke cigars.
By then we were called downstairs for an amazing dinner. I had the great pleasure of sitting with Marielos, Jonathan Drew, Brooke and Jessi. After dinner we all sat around on the patio drinking, chatting and smoking for a time.
Henry came out partway through the evening and handed out some delicious Feral Flying Pigs for everyone to enjoy. As Unicos are almost impossible to come by for me I was glad to get my hands on one.
Little known fact, Henry absolutely loves cake. You should ask him about it.
JD followed that up with some scotch tasting with the Talisker 57 and Bowmore. We proceeded to nerd out about scotch for about 30 minutes to an hour.
From there we all sat around the pool and talked about the new Tesla X gull wing electric car.
The guys from Outlaw Cigar stopped by.
It wasn’t too longer afterwards I was pulled upstairs for some poker.
Shiyong should change his Reddit name to Great_White
Sat down with Rob, Rahim, Shiyong and Zain. I must not have been paying attention because I was ‘$40’ of chips down before I recognized that we were playing for actual money and not for fun.
By that point it was quite late and I finished the cigar I had been working on for the game and headed to bed to retire.
I think the total damage done from morning to finish was about 13 cigars.