A Discussion with Jose Seijas

28 March 2008

So often when you think of cigar-men, you think of stocky guys in guyaberas standing in a field smelling tobacco leaves, their shirt pockets stuffed with freshly rolled puros for them to smoke all day. But there is a man who is quite different. Tall in stature and always impeccably dressed, Jose Seijas is a soft spoken gentlemen whose passion for making some of the most popular premium cigars on the market is incredibly evident, yet his demeanor is as subtle as the cocoa notes on the cigar that bears his name. I recently had a chance to chat with Jose Seijas upon my return from the first annual ProCigar Festival about some of the newest offerings coming out of his factory- ALTADIS’ Dominican Facility, Tabacalera de Garcia in La Romana.

MH: JOSE, THE PRO CIGAR FESTIVAL WAS SUCH A GREAT SUCCESS. WHAT DO YOU THINK NOW THAT THE FIRST ONE IS OVER WITH?
JS: I certainly appreciate your comments about the Festival. I think we owe a lot to Henke Kelner and Catherine Llibre and her team for all their dedication to make this event memorable. We all contributed to it, but it is fair to say that these two people took the Lion’s share of the work, and really ensured its success. Next year will be even better!
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THE JOSE SEIJAS SIGNATURE SERIES CIGARS.
The Seijas Signature came out of an effort to evolve our blends towards fuller flavor cigars. We tried different types of tobaccos until we settled on a blend composed of Dominican, Nicaraguan and Peruvian fillers, a Dominican Olor binder and an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper.
IT STARTED JUST WITH ONE SIZE IF I RECALL, AND NOW THERE’RE SEVERAL FACINGS, RIGHT?
That’s correct. The Seijas Signature started with the Toro, 50 X 6 1/8 “ in 2003. The second year we added a Perfecto (48 x 6 ½” ) and a Robusto (52 x 5”). Right now the Seijas Signature Line has, in addition to the original three sizes, a Churchill (50 x 7”); a Belicoso (52 x 6 1/8”); and two more Figurados: the Short (46 x 4 ¼”) and the Figurado, (52 x 6 1/8”)
I THINK I’VE SMOKED ALMOST ALL OF THEM, AND IT’S INTERESTING TO ME HOW UNIQUE EACH CIGAR IS TO ANOTHER, EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE TECHNICALLY THE SAME BLEND.
Of course. The shape and size of the cigar changes the relationship of all of the tobaccos, and the tobacco composition can give you an idea of the blend’s complexity. We differentiate this blend more by choosing specific components from the raw material stock: for example, the Peruvian is from the third cut, the Dominican tobaccos are a combination of Piloto from La Canela plus a specially fermented Piloto from the top part of the plant. The Nicaraguan is Viso or Ligero. The Binder is actually Olor, but its characteristic aroma reminds the smoker of dark chocolate and other countryside aromas.
AND THIS TYPE OF FLAVOR AND EXPERIENCE IS WHAT YOU GENERALLY PREFER?
The Seijas Signature reflects my style of blending: full flavor with smoothness; the absence of vegetal flavors and high acidity; and the presence of sweet tones that are confirmed by an abundant salivation.
BESIDES THE GREAT FLAVOR, AESTHETICALLY THE CIGARS ARE GORGEOUS AS WELL.
Indeed, even while your smoking it. The Olor binder burns beautifully and the Seijas Signature ash is very white, contrasting with the natural dark color of the wrapper.
SO IT IS FOR SURE A WINNER IN YOUR BOOK?
So far, The Seijas have received very flattering reports and all my team is extremely satisfied with the results. The consistency of the Seijas Signature is remarkable, both from the stand point of performance and of course flavors and aromas. It is one of those cigars that gets better and better as you smoke it.
TELL ME ABOUT THE CONCEPT BEHIND THE NEW LIMITADA LINE OF CIGARS BY ALTADIS. WHAT MAKES THEM SPECIAL?
The Limitadas are another step in the direction of providing our customers with complex blends, this time playing with different proportions of Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers, wrapped in a sun grown Connecticut binder and topped with a beautiful Criollo ‘98 seed wrapper.
The Tobacco leaves are all selected from the best of our well aged inventory kept in our warehouses. The cigar makers devoted to these brands are among the best of Tabacalera de Garcia, and each cigar is inspected for draw and appearance in keeping with our factory’s quality control standards.
SO YOU’RE USING TOBACCOS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD TO MAKE THESE CIGARS, NOT JUST DOMINICAN?
Yes. In essence, the Limitadas represent the freedom of moving across borders to obtain the best tobaccos of each territory and blending them to provide a truly wonderful smoking experience to our customers.
WILL THESE BE A REGULARLY MANUFACTURED LINE OR ARE THEY A LIMITED EDITION?
The quantity is limited to 10,000 on each brand: Montecristo, Romeo and Julieta, H upmann and Trinidad.
AND IS IT ONE SHAPE PER BRAND?
The format for each brand are: Belicoso 52 x 61/8, a Churchill 54 x 7 for the Romeo y Julieta, a Toro 54 x 6 for Trinidad and a Robusto 52 x 5 for the H .Upmann
I CERTAINLY APPRECIATE YOUR TIME, JOSE, AS ALWAYS. HOPEFULLY WE CAN SMOKE ONE OF THESE TOGETHER SOON.
Either here in Dominican Republic or there in New York… I hope so too. Saludos.