This post is a little overdue, But it’s time I tell y’all about a little trip I made down to central America.
I started smoking cigars a few years back. Flavored at first and my preferences have very slowly changed to a more traditional “regular” cigar. But as a cigar smoker, and I am only recreational, 2-3 per week, I attend a festival here in town. I am a member of the group “CATS” on Facebook. Which is Cigar Aficionados Trades and Sales. Annually, they host a festival here in San Antonio. The first was at Josabi’s, and the next 2 were at Tejas Rodeo on the north side. The 4th is rapidly approaching. CatsFest
People fly in from all over the country, pay for hotels and then pay tickets for this thing. I’m local. I drive like 8 miles and am there. So, I can afford the extra little bit to throw at a VIP ticket. Heh. Part of being a VIP is a dinner the night before the festival. There are usually some pretty heavy duty individuals there, Like Jonathon Drew of Drew Estate, and Tom Lazuka of Asylum. And on the third festival VIP dinner, they had a raffle. Your dinner ticket was your raffle ticket, so you could only have one ticket, and win one time. (This is important, because the Dorsett’s win everything). Now I say only once. But I had an unusual circumstance. A coworker and friend had also bought a VIP ticket, and was then deployed to a US Embassy downrange. I won’t say where. But he couldn’t come to the festival. I took his ticket and collected his festival ‘samples’. Oh!
During the festival, in addition to some good music and good food (Akaushi beef at Tejas rodeo), you will get some freebies from various cigar vendors. A cigar from this brand, 3 cigars from that brand. Maybe a humidor or two for the VIPs. It’s a good day. You get a lot of good stuff to sample, and meet some cool people from around the country. Back to the story!
So I collected Chris’ stuff for him since he wasn’t there. I got 2 of everything an gave it to him. But on the VIP dinner, I had 2 tickets. And by a stroke of luck, I won a box of cigars. But who won it? Did I? Or did Chris? Easy enough. I just split the box in half. Then I pretty much resigned myself that that was all. NO WAY would I win twice. I was only half listening. But sure enough I did. And it is the best raffle prize I have ever won. I won a trip to Honduras from Eiroa cigars. Actual airfare. Hotel. Food. Now in all fairness. We won the trip from Tom Lazuka, from Asylum cigars. their tobacco comes from Eiroa farms as well. So just to give him some recognition. But again. Who won the trip? Me? Chris? Easy solution. We both went. And per the particulars of the trip, we had to buy one ticket, but everything else was taken care of.
It was awesome!
So we started out emailing a rep for Eiroa, named Gabrielle Eiroa, in Miami. And yeah, I friended her on fb, she is as beautiful as her name sounds. She hooked us up with a ticket from San Antonio, down to Houston, and then direct in to Tegucigalpa. Surprisingly short. Flying direct from Kuwait City to Dulles, some 14.5 hours makes everything seem like a short flight. Buuut. While checking in, I took advantage of the upgrade offer on united and went from Houston to Tegucigalpa first class. 95$. Chris and I picked up a couple of bottles of scotch. One to drink while there (we had no idea what the drink situation would be) and a bottle to put on the bar for our host. On the flight I sat next to a girl named Cheryl. Guess where she was headed! She quickly coached me on how to speed through customs. “Just say you’re going to Danli” which is a big town for Honduras.
Now, we didn’t go alone. The big cigar companies evidently fly some store owners and reps down routinely during high growing season for promotional tours. You stay, and get to see how a cigar is grown and made. And smoke some too. this is the trip Chris and I were on. Everybody else there was a store owner, a spouse, a cigar rep. And then Chris and I.
So we arrived in Tegucigalpa, and waited while everybody else came trickling in. I think just two or three flights total an hour or two apart. We had to get through customs, not too bad. Locals seemed to know what we were doing when we said, “I’m going to Danli”. Once we were all present and corralled at the airport, we jumped in a couple of provided vans and were on our way to Eiroa farms, which are near Danli. It’s around 90km I believe. It took 2-3 hours. The roads are one lane, narrow and twisty through mountains. It was late January in Honduras. So it was around 90, and beautiful. We drank and smoked the whole way there. They had beer and smokes for us. Thanks Mike Wydra! And once we arrived, we claimed a room. Yeah. they have a building on there property that is just 5 rooms per side with simple amenities. two double beds, a bathroom. No tv. Way better than Afghanistan or Iraq! From there we had to walk a couple of hundr3ed yards to casa Eiroa. It’s actually a hacienda built by Halliburton as part of a gold mining operation back in the day. Now it’s just Christian’s house. Pool. Huge veranda, Partially covered. They cooked us dinner out there everyday. It was all traditional Honduran stuff. And it too was way better than the Stan or Iraq. We ate like kings really, and I’d get it from a restaurant here if I knew where to go.
Then bed and up early. Yeah, there were a lot of jokers on the trip. Somebody told we would leave early, so Chris and I were up and at the pool around 6 -6:30. Feh. Breakfast was around 8-8:30. Oh well. The coffee is phenomenal! I drank a lot of it, and I don’t really drink that much coffee. But after breakfast, Eggs and bacon and plantains, which I now love. We were on our way out to the farm.
Quick note. It’s important for y’all to know that Christian Eiroa has OCD. He cannot stand filth, and it shows in his factory and farms. EVERYTHING is spotless. Everywhere. Ie, the floor of his barns? Dirt. Nothing else. Factory? Military clean. I felt like a jackass everytime I had an ash fall from my cigar. You can tell in the pics. Cleanest barns I’ve ever seen.
1st day. We got to drive out in pickups, and we sat in the back, not in the cab. It was like elementary school all over for me. So yeah, if you’re a prima donna, DON’T go on a cigar tour in central America. I imagine they’re all pretty close to the same. And the amenities are not plush. So there were Chris and I in the back of a pickup, smoking, en route to an actual tobacco field. We stopped and Christian Eiroa himself explained to us some growing strategies for tobacco. Like providing the plant with as little water as possible. It forces the plant to grow a more robust root system to get the water it needs. Also, it seems that the purpose of every plant, just like us, is to reproduce. So whenever the tobacco plant flowers, it will then devote it’s full energy and growth to the flower and reproductive process. And THAT is not cigar related. Yep. They cut that shit off ASAP. When the plant first buds, and the bud is called a ‘jumper’, they cut that shit off ASAP. ALL y’alls tobacco comes from Eunuch plants. ðŸ˜‰ Then we ate lunch. And after lunch we got to go to the curing barns. We got to see tobacco, that we saw harvested, strung up and hung for curing. Then we got to go through several barns to see tobacco in various stages of the hanging process. Now. Most of the girls working those giant skewer needles to hang the tobacco had cloths around there necks. It’s hot, they sweat and start wiping their forehead, face, and neck. And they’re handling raw tobacco all day. so yeah, if they don’t have that rag, and wipe with their hand, they’re applying nicotine directly to their skin, ALL day long. And later on, we got to go see the tobacco being aged, and how they rotate “hands” of tobacco (a group of leaves tied together) to prevent molding and such. We even got to see them make the boxes for the cigars.
Back to the casa for dinner and another night. We drank beer provided and many people had a bottle or two we shared out. Beautiful night. Just bullshitting with a couple of cigar industry heavyweights (Eiroa and Lazuka). He also gave us all an Eiroa signature series cigar. Blue label. Awesome smoke if you can find one. And oh, that was just a specific give. They constantly had a plentitude of cigars from CLE, Asylum, and AlAdino. I smoked around 10 cigars a day while down there.
2nd day. We loaded up into the vans again and drove into Danli. This is where their actual factory is to roll, box and ship their cigars. We spent the morning watching the whole process. And for a culmination just before lunch, we were invited to roll one ourselves. And by roll, the rolling was already done, we just had to put the cover and cap on it. They had some volunteers help us. Mine, who’s name started with an “E”, but I couldn’t get it, my Spanish is evidently much worse than in Rota, was a real stickler. I loved it. He made me do it myself instead of just doing it for me. I have a cigar in my humidor right now, that I covered. It’s way cool. then they let us go out in Danli for a bit, with an escort. Some people went into a grocery store and bought some coffee. It was that good. And a couple of girls bought some dresses. Cheap Cheap. We rolled back to the casa Eiroa, and restarted drinking and smoking. They pulled out the big guns for us on our last night there. Christian again hooked us up with premium goodness. We all got a “First 20 years” before available in the US. And to tell you the truth. Right now, That’s what I’m smoking. Pretty much just that cigar, though I am thinking about trying an Asylum or two. It’s too hard to find that stick in a boutique. Yeah. I’m threatening to workover my local cigar shop sales guy. I want him to carry my favorites! But in addition to premium tobacco goodness, they brought in some professional bartenders, ( I bought a couple of bottles of Flor de Can~a on the cheap and carried them back to the US) and pulled out a Karaoke machine. There are in fact no videos of me singing “Love Stinks” or “Angel is a Centerfold”. And there will not be.
3rd day. We loade dup early as people had different flights back. Chris and I again upgraded to first class for 95$ from Tegucigalpa to Houston, and had the short hop back to San Antonio. Customs wasn’t too bad. But the van ride back to the capitol! Wow. Again, it’s only around 90km. But takes 3 hours or so. Trying to pass on that road. I’m counting my blessings! I had friends who wanted some genuine Cubans now that they’re legal in the US, but there were none available in the airport. Too bad. I hooked them all up with a “First 20 years” when I got my box in.
Now I am a cigar snob. My regular drinking buddy gives me qa hard time about being snooty and only smoking my one favorite, or if I’m in a store, either Asylum or CLE. Tastes change.