By: Tim Blythe
Recently we caught up with Christian Eiroa to ask him a few questions. With a rich family history in cigars, Christian Eiroa is well-known throughout the industry as the man behind the original Camacho line and now his own family of cigar brands including EIROA and CLE.
Tim Blythe: What makes Rancho Jamastran different than all other tobacco farms?
Christian Eiroa: My father has been at this farm since the first day he arrived in Honduras. It used to be an old mining community owned by Halliburton and it was a part of a property that was about 20,000 acres. Through the years, my father has made this the most modern tobacco farm in the world. Everything is grown with the drip irrigation system and 24 of the 66 curing barns are climate controlled. The soil is prepared using data derived from probes buried 6’ underground to understand exactly how the root systems are feeding themselves and to monitor if the minerals are being received by the plant. The farm is certified by Bayer Cropscience’s Better Growing Practices, and is the only farm in the world certified to have a zero impact rating on the environment. It means that it is as if we have never existed and the soil does not get punished. It is the cleanest and most environmentally-friendly dark air cured tobacco farm that has ever existed, all 700 acres of it.
TB: Why haven’t more production facilities publically embraced GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and GAP (Good Agricultural Practices)?
CE: This is a process that took 13 years. It all started after I visited Estelo Padrón’s Villazon Factory in 1995 (Hoyo and Punch Honduras). I was determined to have the cleanest cigar operation out there. The process started in the factory and eventually moved over to the farm. The process is expensive and using green products does not allow you any shortcuts. It is not cheap. However, this has also placed us 15 years ahead of everybody else when it comes to the competition. The same is true with the factory. The reason it takes so long is because we have to change the local culture. Bayer reaches out to our workers, into their homes to help them develop more hygienic habits.
TB: When you began CLE Cigars, what was your goal? Has that goal changed?
CE: The goals have changed dramatically. Our intention was to only make and sell 600,000 cigars per year. However, when Asylum 13 was launched, the response was overwhelming and we had to change the model. We were also open to allowing very creative people to generate their ideas. We soon learned that cigar smokers did not respond to this well. We have since trimmed our portfolio and with the addition of Puros Indios and Cuba Aliados, our focus is to also reinvigorate brands that were very popular at one point.
TB: Despite FDA involvement and generally increased “nanny state” tendencies, do you feel like you can now do things in the cigar Industry that you couldn’t back when you were running Camacho?
CE: The point of view that I am much more mature and have a much better understating of branding and more patience when it comes to quality, yes. However, the SCHIP and now the FDA have eliminated what I found to be the fun part of this business and have stolen any chance at innovation. It is very frustrating and has me very angry.
TB: You’ve worked closely with many industry personalities over the years: Litto Gomez, Robert Caldwell, Tom Lazuka, and Matt Booth to name a few. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet, that you’d like to eventually?
CE: Yes, one of my mentors, Carlos Fuente. I would have loved to have had the chance. I admire the way he works and I have used his example in this new company. As a matter of fact, just like we modeled Camacho after Villazon, we have modeled CLE after Fuente. Quality and the preservation of the brands are the very back bone of our model.
TB: You are known for strong blends, and I know you used to enjoy the old Camacho Diplomas very much. Do you find your tastes changing?
CE: Absolutely! I am now more focused on medium-bodied cigars with richer flavor profiles. Tastes do change as we evolve and mature.
TB: What is your current favorite cigar?
CE: The regular EIROA 5.0”x50 or 4.0”x48 box pressed. I really enjoy the EIROA First 20, but I have to be completely relaxed without any distractions to truly enjoy them. It’s a romantic thing for me.
TB: When I came down and stayed at Camp Camacho almost 10 years ago, you gave me some great advice. You said to always let a cigar dry a bit before smoking, something about how it intensifies the flavor. I truly believe that is a key to true cigar enjoyment.
CE: I am glad you remembered, moisture affects the flavor of cigars greatly. It is your enemy. I can also recommend you cut the cigars at an upward angle so the smoke hits your palate and not your tongue. If you have learned to blow the smoke out your nose, then the experience is as if you had never smoked a cigar ever before.