At the 2013 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show there was a crowd of people constantly surrounding a corner of the larger House of Emilio. In it was a brand many had never heard of, a face we didn’t recognize, a factory we couldn’t pinpoint on a map, but a ton of intrigue. It was the Guayacan booth featuring Noel Rojas. What separated—and still separates—Rojas from the rest of the House of Emilio brands is that he owns and operates his own factory, Tabacalera Aromas de Jalapa.

While there is nothing wrong with having someone else make your cigars, there’s always something a bit different about the people who chose to do it on their own. It’s a bit crazy, a bit prideful, but in the end, whether they are smaller and newer like Rojas—or larger and older—you can always tell when you meet someone who runs a factory.

Noel Rojas

This portrait was taken in Addison, Texas using a Canon 5D Mark III and a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens set at f/2.8. The shutter speed was 1/750 second at ISO 200. The only source of light was the sun, which was almost directly behind Rojas and in front of the camera. The photograph was color corrected in Adobe Lightroom and adjusted for color, contrast and sharpness, then converted into black and white using custom actions in Photoshop CC.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.