Garcia at his El Rey de los Habanos Inc. cigar factory in Miami
By David Savona | Cigar Aficionado December 2007 issue
A star roller from Cuba, now in Miami, is making some of the world’s finest cigars
The uninitiated might be forgiven for walking right by El Rey de los Habanos Inc. From the street the tiny cigar factory looks just like any other shop in Little Havana, Miami. There’s the Cuban flag on prominent display in the window, the word “cigars” in large letters, and the de rigueur plastic sign high above, emblazoned with the name of the place. Inside, only a dozen cigarmakers work in the surprisingly quiet atmosphere. The casual visitor might assume that the cigars rolled here would be like those found at any other chinchalle in Little Havana, Ybor City or Union City: something fun for a quick puff but not a serious smoke. • The person making that assumption couldn’t be more wrong.
The grandly named El Rey de los Habanos, or King of the Cuban Cigars, factory is the home of one of the world’s most talented cigarmakers, Jose “Pepin” Garcia, and the birthplace of some of the market’s hottest brands. Twenty-one times since opening its doors in 2003, the company has scored 90 points or more in blind taste tests (see table on this page) in Cigar Aficionado and Cigar Insider, the magazine’s semimonthly newsletter. The 57-year-old Pepin runs the show here as well as in a new, larger factory in Nicaragua. He works alongside his son, Jaime, and daughter, Janny, to make under contract such highly acclaimed cigars as Tatuaje and Padilla, as well as producing his own Don Pepin Garcia brand.
Pepin’s cigars are bold, impeccably crafted and memorably flavorful. They have appeared in the Cigar Aficionado Top 25 list of best cigars in the world for three years running, and the company makes two of the cigars on the most current list, including the No. 9 smoke of the year, the Tatuaje Cabinet Noella. It’s a performance to be envied by virtually every cigar company, save for Padrón Cigars Inc. and Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.
“To me, in the last five years, the most exciting person and cigar concept to hit the industry has been Pepin Garcia,”...