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Sunday, April 09, 2006
Don Benigno Cigars was created nearly 10 years ago in beautiful Costa Rica, although the story of Don Benigno, and his family's tradition of cigar rolling began generations before.
Don Benigno Arronte was was born in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba in the 1950s. Pinar Del Rio, right in the middle of the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba, is known as the international capital of tobacco cultivation. Pre-revolution Cuba had hundreds of cigar factories throughout the country. One of these factories, Ceniza (Spanish for ash), was owned by Benigno's grandfather. Benigno, at a very young age, was involved in Cuba's tobacco world.
In those times, most affluent (and often most experienced) cigar smokers would not be caught dead smoking a brand name Habano, rather they had a personal tabaquero, or cigar roller. Their tabaquero, often a friend, would roll them the best cigar possible, using the finest materials and strictest quality controls. One of Benigno's uncle's, Jose, was a reknown master cigar roller and personal tabaquero for many prestigious friends and clients, mainly from Spain. It was this uncle, that taught young Benigno how to roll cigars. Jose loved to roll cigars, and rolled his own cigars up until his death several years ago.
Following the Revolution, the needs of Cuba changed, and the Ceniza Cigar Factory closed as the large cigar factories of Havana took precedent. Professionally, Don Benigno and his family pursued other callings. Don Benigno studied education, and became a history professor, but his love of cigars and cigar rolling never ended. A life long smoker, he rolled his own cigars while living in Cuba. Not only were the name brand cigars too expensive for the average Cuban, but he was unable to find a cigar that consistently satisfied his needs as a smoker.
In 1997, Don Benigno immigrated to Costa Rica and immediately pursued a career in his true calling, cigar rolling. Starting with basically nothing but his skills and bare hands, Don Benigno Cigars was born. First on his kitchen table with the most basic tools, Don Benigno quickly gained notoriety in Costa Rica's cigar smoking circles. Shortly there after, Don Benigno opened his first Cigar Shop in a historical district of San Jose near the city's beautiful National Theater (Theatro Nacional) where he rolled cigars and administered the store.
After building a solid clientèle, and wanting to focus more on the production of his brand, Benigno and his wife rolled cigars full time in there home. Don Benigno was please with the success of his signature cigar brand, and with the help of a close friend and fellow cigar smoker Gary Naffer they developed a logo, rings, and a box design, and registered the brand. These designs have not changed since their creation.
Within no time, Don Benigno knew that they were going to be unable to keep up with demand, and had to find additional cigar rollers to help produce the now popular Don Benigno Cigar. Starting first with one, and incrementally adding more, Don Benigno hired career cigar rollers from Costa Rica. Knowing that he needed to instruct them in the meticulous art that had been passed down to him, Don Benigno cautiously moved them through the ranks in his family workshop. But, being trained educator, he had great success teaching them his family's methods.
Today, Don Benigno has become the Cigar Guru of his adopted country, Costa Rica; he has been interviewed by the local media both for feature pieces as well as a source in cigar related articles, he is frequently visited by national and international dignitaries who are (or become) friends and clients, and hundreds of tourists annually are introduced to his cigar when they arrive to Costa Rica and ask, "Where can I get a great cigar?"
The story continues today, in a quiet suburb of San Jose he produces his cigars with the tradition of excellence that he was taught in his youth. Don Benigno Cigars are a limited production that cigar aims to satisfy the most demanding smoker. His commitment to quality, skilled methods, and impeccable final product have distinguished Don Benigno as a True Cigar Master.
For More Information about Don Benigno Cigars, see the link in my earler post.