Nicaraguan heritage is very important to Enrique Sánchez, founder of Global Premium Cigars. When he walked into Néstor Plasencia’s office in 2010, he was told to emphasize his roots. It was not the first time – and certainly not the last – that he took the cigar legend’s advice.
“He explained that there were so many cigar makers out there taking pride in Nicaragua, but none of them were actually from here,” Sánchez tells me in the blending room at the Plasencia factory in Estelí. “If you embrace it, then no one can take it away from you, which is why I always take a Nicaraguan flag to events.” It is also the reason why he named his line 1502: that was the year Christopher Columbus arrived in Nicaragua.
“That’s when it all started: On his fourth and last trip, Columbus got lost in the Caribbean when he suddenly spotted land. Columbus kissed the ground upon his arrival and named it Cabo Gracias a Dios [Cape Thanks to God]. It was the border area between Nicaragua and Honduras, and the first time Nicaragua was a point of reference.”
Turned Down and Picked Up
Going back to that day in Plasencia’s office, a confident Enrique Sánchez presented his business idea, only to be shot down completely. “He cut me off and told me it would not work. I was persistent, but he asked me not to waste his and my time. I was devastated. Six months’ worth of research down the drain. But the funny thing is, I don’t even remember what the idea was.”
However, that meeting was not quite over. “He turned the question around. He asked, ‘Why don’t you make a cigar of your own?’ To tell you the truth, I had never thought of that idea. I had been smoking cigars for 28 years, but I didn’t know the first thing about the process of making them. It was a very seductive idea – one that I could not refuse. My wife thinks he must have seen something in me that I could not see myself.” Sánchez decided to seize the opportunity and start his own brand – at first with two partners, and then on his own.
“My partners decided to shut down the company, so I continued on my own and renamed the company Global Premium Cigars.” A name not chosen at random. “My mission is to sell my premium cigars globally. I don’t need them to be in every place, but everywhere.”
His first lines produced under the name 1502 were Emerald, Ruby and Black Gold. “I needed to be taught everything, but the people I worked with were patient with me. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with what we came up with.”
Today the portfolio has three more additions: Nicaragua, XO and Blue Sapphire. “I started blending Nicaragua when my wife was pregnant with our first child. My son was born in the US and I didn’t want him to forget his heritage, which is why I decided to stick with 100-percent Nicaraguan tobacco from all regions. I saved the first box we made of this cigar for his 18th birthday. Our Blue Sapphire cigar is also made from 100-percent Nicaraguan tobacco, but not from all regions. For XO we used 18-year-old tobacco.”
You can find 1502 in the US, Germany, Slovakia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Israel, and, as this article was being written, Global Premium Cigars was working to expand to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine and Romania.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Summer Edition 2017. Read more