I spent day four (Thursday) of ProCigar 2015 on one of the more interesting tours, split between Corporación Cigar Export (CCE) and Quesada Cigars. Or at least that’s what the program said.
Our morning started off heading to De Los Reyes, the new name for CCE as announced at the annual white dinner on Wednesday. The name change affects only the premium factory run by Nirka Reyes Estrella, her father, Augusto “Foofy” Reyes, is in charge of a mass market factory in Santiago, a partnership with Swisher. Nirka’s factory reminds me a lot of Joya de Nicaragua: it’s colorful, clean, spaced out and an interesting clash of tradition with a twist from a younger generation.
In a week full of visits to cigar factories, De Los Reyes impressed. No, it wasn’t the fact that every employee had embroidered shirts (and pants) with the new name on it. Rather, this was the most well run tour I’ve ever been on. Sure, the Bloody Mary bar outside helped, but the tour was divided into six stations, each manned by a different person including the company’s private label clients like Phil Zanghi of Debonaire and Gustavo de Hostos of Puros de Hostos.
Each station lasted about 10 minutes, meaning there was a new face right around the corner to lead you through the new step. After being invited to roll a cigar and band a cigar, we headed out to Saga, a new restaurant owned by the Reyes family and the source of two of the better meals I’ve had in the country.
From there it was off to Quesada Cigars where we were greeted by whatever this is.
After that, Manuel “Manolo” Quesada Jr. led us on a tour around the company’s facility, in Manolo fashion: blunt. We were once again joined by a factory’s clients: Bill Sherman and Michael Herklots of Nat Sherman, Arielle and Danny Ditkowich of La Sirena/Old School Cigars and Mike Bellody of MLB Cigar Ventures.
Quesada follows a similar trend: a very open mixture of Manolo, the patriarch representing one generation, and Q5—the generation made up of his children, nephews Hostos Fernandez Quesada[ref]Two Hostos, one article.[/ref] and Terence Reilly and honorary son Michael Herklots—pushing for modernity. While there may not be a carriage house feel to tobacco storage, Quesada has its own quirks one of which I can’t recall seeing anywhere else—molds pressed with the cigars stored vertically. Hostos told me it’s the way Manolo has always done it, so they keep doing it.
The Quesadas toured a large group around the factory explaining its processes from tobacco processing to packaging, something that ultimately culminated with the announcement of the new Quesada Reserva Privada, a release the family is very proud of.
Thursday is the odd night out as far as ProCigar’s Santiagos dinners. The cocktail hour on Tuesday is the first time many people see each other—and the first event in Santiago—Wednesday is the legendary White Party and Friday is the grand finale. That being said, Thursday’s dinner was still spectacular: cigars, drinks, music, dancing, food and conversation—in some sort of order.