elcome to another episode of Smoke Rings. Today I'm speaking with Justo Eiroa of Aladino Cigars. Tune in as we chat about Justo's background in the cigar community, the history of Cuban cigars, and the development of Aladino as a brand, established by Justo and his father, Julio, as a cigar company that proudly represents the golden era of Cuban cigars.
Note: The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.
[Tyler Caldwell]: Hello everyone, I'm Tyler Caldwell with Smokingpipes, and today, we're going to talk a little bit about Aladino Cigars.
[Justo Eiroa]: Hey, everybody! Hey, Tyler, thank you for having me here, it's a great place to be.
[TC]: Not a problem, yes, sir.
[JE]: It's a beautiful place. You guys are a very cool operation.
[TC]: Thank you.
[JE]: You guys have — everything's set up. I didn't know the pipe business was that big.
[TC]: Oh, it's massive.
[JE]: It's incredible. It's massive, yeah.
[TC]: So, let's get into it. Let's talk a little bit about the history of Aladino.
[JE]: Okay. And I'll start, and one of the things that you'll see in our bands — to have a little bit about the history — we have 1947-1961 on all our bands. And those were the dates: '62 was the embargo of Cuban cigars, and 1947-1961, according to my dad, was kind of the golden era of Cuban cigars. That's where Churchill smoked the cigars in World War II, the La Cura Child, and John F. Kennedy. Everybody was about the cigars, it was a huge industry in the United States. You're lookin' at that, and I learned recently that in Tampa, Florida, back then in the early '60s before the embargo, they were hand-rolling 500 million cigars!
[JE]: Which is more than what we sell today in the industry, it was that big. So, what happened was, when the embargo came, Cuba was not able to export, or Tampa was not able to export tobacco into the U.S. because of the embargo. All these factories that were rolling half a million cigars a year needed to find a supplier. So, my dad was part of the Bay of Pigs Invasion 'cause he was first pro-revolution against Batista, but then, after Fidel declared himself a communist, then he said, "We don't agree with this," so he was part of the Bay of Pigs, and then the Bay of Pigs Invasion, he was not able to disembark because they pulled the invasion out. So, what happened was, he was returned to the U.S. side, and then he had to finish his tour in the U.S. Army.
[JE]: In 1962, when he came back, the Oliva family — John Oliva and Hannah Oliva — actually took my dad to Honduras because they already started a pilot program in our current farm by the Honduran government, which was Banco Desarrollo de Formento, which had a pilot program going on there with one of my dad's mentors that had become the head of the Tobacco Institute in Cuba. He started a pilot program that had sent the seed in 1960 to Honduras. So, my dad went there to sort the leaves, and then he stayed there, and then from there on, he became the most dominant grower of tobacco, and started supplying tobacco to the tobacco industry in Tampa. And then, later on, he became also one of the largest growers of Candela in the world.
We dominated Candela; you'll see in our portfolio, we're slowly trying to kick back the Candela. And we've got a secret project coming out with you guys pretty soon, so, hopefully, that should be pretty neat, so that's one of the things. So, 1947 and 1961 are those days, and Aladino is Aladdin. And when you smoke an Aladino, it brings you back to the Cuban era of smoking cigars.
[JE]: That's more or less a summary of the story.
[TC]: And going into that aspect, as I work in the retail store, I often point people who've come in looking for something on that Cuban-esque side to Aladino's entire portfolio.
[JE]: And I think we're very proud of that. Our Corojo, or authentic Corojo actually, dictates that. And one of the things that we do, our brand not only focuses on all the traditional older smokers, but the way we blend and the way our profiles are done is also for the new generation of smokers. The 25- to 35-year-olds are who we want to capture, the young generations like you.
[JE]: I'm kind of the old generation, the next 15-20 years. I might not be able to smoke, but these are the cigars that provide medium body but full flavor.
[TC]: Yeah, sure.
[JE]: So therefore, anybody, so if you're a mild- to medium-smoker, you're able to smoke it, but at the same time, if you're a fuller smoker, we give you so much flavor that also satisfies your palate.
[TC]: Absolutely. Do you want to discuss which one you're smoking?
[JE]: Oh, absolutely. So, right now, I'm smoking a Queens Perfecto Connecticut. It's early in the morning, we were just having coffee as we walked in. And this is probably my favorite morning cigar. This is a mild cigar, but it's full of flavor. So, like I said, we blend for flavor. I mean, we want people to enjoy a clean flavor of cigars; we don't give you bitterness at all, it's all about the flavor. And then, following, going up the ladder from Connecticut, we go to our Classic line, which is this cigar up here, which has a Habano wrapper. Then, we also have our Cameroon wrapper, which we've grown in Cameroon by ourselves.
When we started the Cameroon project in 2016, and you'll see that one will be coming up; you guys will be one of the first stores to have it: the Sumatra. We started growing Sumatra in 2016 too. So, we first wanted to get the Cameroon on our way and get it perfected. And now, we're coming out with that. And then, the one that we first came out with in 2016 when we started Aladino was our 100% Corojo; filler, binder, and wrapper, a true Puro of what we used to do in the old days of Camacho. Following that, we have the Vintage, which is a filler and binder of Corojo, but it's got a Habano wrapper. So, it provides a nice spiciness to it.
[JE]: And we like to pride ourselves for becoming one of the leaders in selling Lanceros. I mean, it's a difficult cigar to do, but at the same time, we have kind of perfected it. And we're very proud of that.
[TC]: I will have to say, the Vintage selection has been my personal favorite, especially in the Lancero. I'm a big Lancero fiend. So, that is normally what I gravitate toward when I select an Aladino product.
[JE]: Well, you are one of the smart guys, and people need to understand: the thinner the gauge, the more the ratio of wrapper you're smoking, which is the most expensive part of a cigar. So, when you're smoking a Lancero, you're smoking more wrapper than you're smoking filler and binder. Therefore, you have a way more intense flavor profile from a cigar smoked in a Lancero.
And then, we came out with the Corojo Reserva, which is also a true Puro. This is one of our top-selling cigars in stores, limited in the amount of cigars that they could get on this because it's the higher primers of the Corojo plant. And this is probably the most intense cigar, but at the same time, it's also very smooth. And I stay away from this because I'm a lightweight when it comes to smoking, but you could see a lot of the smokers that are really enthusiastic about smoking go for the Reserva. My dad and I are medium smokers. My brother likes stronger and bolder stuff. But tastes are made for different consumers, after all.
[TC]: Yeah, everyone's palate's going to be different. And that's what I like about Aladino; there's something for everybody.
[JE]: Yeah. And I think with the variety of products that we have, we try to do something for everybody. So, you could go from a Cameroon to a Connecticut to a Corojo, and then we came out with a limited edition, which, actually, we sold all 600 boxes, so as soon as we finish up, I'm going to buy a couple boxes 'cause I was left without inventory, so ...
[TC]: We can make sure that happens.
[JE]: So, I have to buy a box back from you. And then, going back to our tradition, back in the early '80s and late '70s, we were the largest grower of Candela wrappers, and we started last year with all the farm stores. All the retailers who have been to the farm were able to get some Candelas. And it was a huge success last year. So, this coming year, for TPE, we'll be launching the Toro size.
[TC]: Okay. Interesting.
[JE]: But we're going to open up to the rest of the stores because a lot of them were calling us up, and saying, "Hey, you guys, we want the Candelas," and I said, "Look, we just wanted to have a pilot program of x amount of boxes," and most of the boxes sold out pretty quickly. Within two or three weeks, everybody had really good feedback on the Candela. And so, I think we're going to be able to do that this year, and we'll probably open it up for more stores.
[TC]: Very nice. And finally, let's talk about the one I'm smoking here, this is the Aladino Maduro in the Corona size.
[JE]: That is a fantastic cigar — it's got a San Andrés wrapper. Actually, all the wrappers that we have here, we grow ourselves, but we buy that kind from Mexico. It's a San Andrés Mexican wrapper. Our fillers and binders are Corojo; it's medium body, very smooth, and you can see it's one of those cigars that is a go-to. We haven't made it in a Gordo yet, but we have a Corona, a Lancero, a Toro, a Robusto, and a Cazador, which is a 6" x 46, all box-pressed.
[TC]: And this is the only cigar in your portfolio that is a box-pressed, correct?
[JE]: Yeah, that's the only one that we have as a box-pressed.
[TC]: Very cool. So, a little known fact that most consumers don't understand is where the Aladino name comes from.
[JE]: Well, as you know, Aladino is the genie that brings you back to the Cuban era. And back in 2008, we actually had a non-compete ... my dad had a non-compete because we sold the Camacho brand to Davidoff. Therefore, we weren't able to come out with cigars. But we still kept the farms and we kept the tobacco. And after the non-compete was over, we were able to come out with Aladino, and one of the attributes of Aladino is that it was the most authentically Cuban brand there was at that time. So, the idea is that when you smoke an Aladino, you're going back to the magical, golden era of Cuban cigars.
[TC]: Sure thing.
[JE]: Yeah, so, that's a little bit of a short story about us. Hopefully people will get it, so everyone, please enjoy, and thank you for having me here. This is a wonderful day, thank you.