Industry legend: Don Jose Pepin Garcia. Every industry has legends. Some unsung heroes, some famous names. Some names that will remain in everybody’s memories forever, some that fade away over time. Legends that have left us, and legends still alive. These legends all played their part to make the cigar industry what it is today. And they deserve to be remembered, to be recognized for their achievements. That’s why Ministry of Cigars is creating a series of articles about those legendary figures in the cigar industry. One of those legends is Jose ‘Don Pepin’ Garcia.
Don Pepin’s story
In October 1950, Jose Garcia was born. His large family was involved in the tobacco industry as tobacco growers and cigar manufacturers. So it was pretty obvious that his life would be focussed around tobacco. But that little Jose would grow to become a legend, nobody would have imagined on that day in October 1950.
At age 11, Don Jose Pepin Garcia started working at his uncle’s cigar factory in Baez. And that was the first step of 40 years working in the Cuban tobacco industry. He became a master roller, class 8, which is the highest class there is. Pepin became blender as well. He was the head of quality control in factories where, amongst others, Cohiba, Partagas, and Montecristo cigars were made. That was during the 1990s, when the quality of the tobacco and the rollers was still superb.
Don Jose Pepin Garcia still has records on his name. He still is the master roller with most Julietas rolled in 4 hours. He managed to make 320 of the 7×48 cigars in that timeframe. And throughout the 1990s, Pepin was consistently Cuba’s most productive master roller.
Life after Cuba
In 2001, he got the chance to leave Cuba. He reunited with his daughter Janny, who lived in Miami. And he brought his wife, son Jaime and daughter in law Dany with him. With business partner Eduardo Fernandez, he started a small factory in Miami. El Rey de Los Habanos. In the middle of Little Havana, on Calle Ocho. Eduardo Fernandez is also the man behind Aganorsa Leaf.
That’s where he made cigars under his own name. Within no time at all, every cigar smoker in the world knew the Don Pepin name. And the famous Tatuaje brand, that Pepin makes for Pete Johnson. Soon the small factory in Miami became too small. With his children Janny & Jaime, Pepin opened a factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. The factory in Esteli is now one of the three factories that My Father Cigars owns. There is a smaller factory in Esteli too, plus a small factory with a handful of rollers in Miami.
Growing tobacco & Fonseca
Don Pepin branched out into growing his own tobacco too, continuing the family’s heritage and legacy. Multiple tobacco fields are grown and cultivated by Don Pepin and the Garcia family. At their main factory in Esteli, they also produce cigar boxes. And make cigars for brands such as Tatuaje, Ashton (La Aroma de Cuba/del Caribe, San Cristobal/Paradiso), and Crowned Heads amongst others.
In a surprising move, My Father Cigars acquired the Fonseca brand from the Quesada family recently. That brings the brand back to Don Pepin Garcia. Not that he owned the rights before, but back in Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s, Don Pepin rolled cigars bearing the Fonseca name. With a few Cigar Aficionado Cigar of the Year titles under his belt, it is safe to say that Don Pepin Garcia is an industry legend.