Sun, Sep 29, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Cuban cigar makers roll out niche industry in Miami

US fans of Cuba’s legendary cigars are no longer being denied the top-quality smokes by a decades-long trade embargo, as elite rollers practice their craft in Miami factories

By Zachary Fagenson  /  Reuters, MIAMI

George Rico’s G.R. Tabacaleras Corp, a distributor in Miami, opened a small suburban factory last year offering enthusiasts the chance to learn everything about the cigar-making process.

The company does the bulk of its manufacturing in Danli, about 80km south of Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa. In Miami, it offers the deluxe “G.A.R. Deli” experience for customers who can afford to spend US$250 on a box of 25 cigars.

In a two-hour session with Rico, smokers learn that soil and seasons can affect the flavor of tobacco and also how cigars are made. They sample dozens of tobaccos and finish by creating their own blend, which is handed off to a Cuban roller.

Despite the Cuban rollers’ lofty reputation, Rico said there are more of them than there is work available. At the same time, not all rollers are as passionate as El Titan’s Sierra, who retired from cigar making in Cuba in 2011, but returned to it after moving to Miami to be close to her daughter.

“You can make a decent living, but some rollers ... want to move on to other jobs,” Rico said.

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