Christian Eiroa: The Corojo King

For his young age, Christian Eiroa can boast an impressive career. When you take into consideration that the 44-year-old didn’t light his first cigar (a La Fontana from his father’s company) until he was 20 at a family Thanksgiving dinner, you can imagine that Christian Eiroa never had time to waste. Even though he already worked diligently on the parental farms as a child, his cigar career didn’t start until after his studies. He made Camacho one of the most well known and renowned cigar brands … and in 2008, sold it to Oettinger Davidoff. Probably the biggest mark that he made on the world of cigars was his predilection for Corojo tobacco. Christian led the tobacco variety into a new heyday. And with his latest brands like Eiroa, CLE or Asylum he is – conservatively formulated – extremely successful in his business. This all happened with breathtaking speed.


CLE Signature: With his name, Christian Luis Eiroa vouches for this cigar from Honduras and doesn’t make any compromises

It is only 22 years ago, that the Eiroas bought the brand Camacho, then produced in Nicaragua, from the family of the deceased Simon Camacho – that was in 1995. Three years later, Christian Eiroa was 26 years old, he took over the management of the family company called Caribe Imported Cigars and took to experimenting with new blends for Camacho. He secured the owners of the Two Guys Smoke Shop to test the blends with their customers. David Garofalo remembers it fondly: “Yes, we were the guinea pigs for Camacho. It was both exciting and an honor at the same time. For a whole year, we got our customers to judge various formats, rings, box designs and packaging sizes; strong, less strong, but never mild blends, as well as various price categories. Following that, Camacho was launched nationally and internationally with staggering success.” This breakthrough can be determined by a date – the RTDA show 2000 in San Antonio.

Christian Eiroa still finds it amusing today: “We were offering a Camacho Habano and a Camacho Corojo. They were supposed to sell at USD 1.95 and 2.95 retail and were sold out in a blink. When I said to my business partner, Sal [Salvatore Fontana] that we’d made a mess of things and had sold them too cheaply, he went into his office. A while later, he came back triumphantly and declared that the problem was solved. He had just called all the retailers and told them that there had been an error in the printing of the prices. In the end, everyone paid one dollar more.” However, the breakthrough on the market was not exclusively due to the price. It was the Corojo that Christian’s father had cultivated with a lot of love and which had fascinated the entrepreneur.
“Corojo doesn’t yield very much,” Christian explains about the variety. “The plant is small in stature and perhaps 170 centimeters tall, is susceptible to blue mold, and you only get between 20 to 30 percent wrapper from it. That’s why, since 1987, the variety has been gradually replaced in Cuba. From the new hybrid seeds like Corojo ’99 and ’06, you may get double the amount of yield, but the authentic seed produces an incomparable taste; strong and sweet in the finish. Simply very pleasant. That’s why I love it so much.”Incidentally, the Corojo seed was developed by a certain Diego Rodriguez on his farm Santa Ines del Corojo near San Luis in the province of Pinar del Río; for a long time his wrappers were considered the best in the world.


The Eiroa CBT Maduro (CBT stands for Capa, Banda, Tripa) is rolled from the top primings of the planet

The family left Cuba because of Castro’s revolution. The grandson of the farmer and close friend of Christian’s father let him have the valuable seeds for further use. Christian Eiroa used the Corojo so well in his new cigars that it led to a veritable Corojo hype. Camacho broke one sales record after another, Christian recounts. “From 2001 until the sale of the brand in 2008, we experienced an 82-month-long success streak. Every day, every week, every month, we topped our sales from before – seven years long.” The success, however, had its price. With the growth of the company (back then at about 12 million cigars and 1,300 employees) so did the tasks and also the level of responsibility. Christian Eiroa clocked up around 90,000 miles in his car, additionally flying almost 200 hours per year. He barely spent any time at home with his family and children, and he finally realized that he was exhausted. This circumstance will probably have favored the sale of the Camacho brand. Christian remained at Oettinger Davidoff for a few more years, until his brand was integrated into the new owner’s business. After that, he had time for his family, for fishing, flying, and golf …

Five years ago, Christian Eiroa returned to the cigar business, and that was with a key consideration: “What would you do differently if you could start over again?” He founded CLE Cigars, the initials stand for his full name, Christian Luis Eiroa, in Honduras, and – together with his long-time friend Tom Lazuka – Asylum Cigars in Nicaragua. Mainly with Asylum, Christian satisfies his urge to be crazy, and from time to time, a bit childish. “I love experimenting, making mistakes, being spontaneous, and implementing crazy ideas,” he discloses. And again he succeeded in making cigar history, this time with abstruse formats such as 6×60, 7×70, and 8×80. And again he started a trend on the market, which almost forces other manufacturers to follow suit. Without further ado, he acknowledges that the success was an unexpected stroke of luck. “For the more traditional CLE project I invested about four, five months of planning; Asylum Cigars, on the other hand, was born in three hours.”

Last year, Christian Eiroa produced about three and a half million cigars; that is, almost 20 percent more than in 2015. “We’re a healthy business with solid growth,” he says, satisfied. “Of course you could also make more. But then you’d also have to make compromises, like with the product or your quality of life. I feel very comfortable with the size of our company.” While the main market for his products is naturally the USA, at the same time Christian is convinced that Europe and Asia will continue to become more important in the future. France is already a very good market for CLE Cigars, likewise Spain. Thanks to the hard work of Hanspeter Hagmann, whom Christian came to value when he was still top manager at Oettinger Davidoff in Basel, today his cigars are also represented in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia, just to name a few countries. CLE Cigars mainly produce two brands: CLE, currently with seven lines, and Eiroa with three lines (see info boxes), whereby Eiroa, with the brand’s hand-picked leaves, extra-long maturation and partly special wooden boxes from controlled cultivation, are at the top end of the price scale.

The Eiroa 4 x 48 was named cigar of the year by Cigar Journal in 2015

The Eiroa 4 x 48 was, incidentally, Cigar Journal’s cigar of the year in 2015. The most recent Eiroa series with the sobriquet The First 20 Years marks Christian’s first 20 years in the cigar business; the emphasis obviously being on first … Christian Luis Eiroa is undoubtedly one of the most definitive personalities of the cigar business. … and at the same time, an extremely winning contemporary. His inner work-animal is energetic, impatient, restless and rebellious – in any case, however, driven by competitiveness and winning. Privately, he is rather quiet and loves peace. What he likes most is to withdraw to his home theater alone and watch a good film or sports broadcast. Then he pours himself a glass of Jack Daniels, lights a cigar and likes to lose himself in thought while watching the fleeting wisp of smoke. The second 20 years have now begun …




100+ Years of Tobacco Tradition

In the late 1800s, Generoso Eiroa emigrated from Spain to Cuba with dreams of finding greater opportunities. His involvement with tobacco began around 1913 when he secured a job as a boat captain for the Cuban Land and Leaf Tobacco Company. In 1915, he purchased a 99-acre farm in the Vuelta Abajo valley and he would later name it La Victoria, after his wife, Christian’s grandmother, Victoria.

The CLE Collection
CLE Azabache (TAA Exclusive 2016)
5 x 50, 6 x 54, 6 x 60 (medium-full)
CLE Chele (box-pressed)
5 x 50, 6 x 46, 6 x 52, 6 x 60 (medium-full)
CLE Connecticut
5 x 50, 5 3⁄4 x 46, 6 x 60, 6 1⁄4 x 54 (medium)
CLE Corojo
5 x 50, 5 3⁄4 x 46, 6 x 60, 6 1⁄4 x 54 (medium-full)
CLE Habano
5 x 50, 5 3⁄4 x 46, 6 x 60, 6 1⁄4 x 54 (medium-full)
CLE Prieto (box-pressed)
5 x 50, 6 x 46, 6 x 52, 6 x 60 (medium-full)
CLE Signature
5 x 50, 5 1⁄2 x 46, 6 x 52, 6 x 60 (medium)

All boxes have 25 cigars. The Chele and Prieto lines are rolled at the Nicaraguan American Cigars, S.A. (NACSA) factory in Estelí, Nicaragua; all the other cigars come from Eiroa’s factory Aladino in Danlí, Honduras.

Asylum Cigars
With a few exceptions, Asylum Cigars are produced in Estelí, Nicaragua, at NACSA. The lines Asylum 13 Corojo and Connecticut, Asylum Insidious and Insidious Maduro, as well as the Asylum Nyctophilia come from the Eiroa factory Aladino in Danlí, Honduras. The three lines Insidious (mild), Insidious Habano (medium) and Insidious Maduro (medium+) are promoted as cigars for novices. The sizes range from small a Corona format to a Robusto and Lancero all the way to a huge 8 x 80 | 203 x 32 mm.
The Asylum Schizo lines are particularly inexpensive bundle cigars (mixed filler), which are also produced in Nicaragua.


Copyright Images: Juan Carlos Reina

His journalistic career began in 1979 as a freelancer for German-language newspapers in the US, and later for Austrian media including Die Wochenpresse and Das Wirtschaftsblatt. For ten years he also produced programs for over 60 radio stations around the world. In 1994, Reinhold C. Widmayer devoted himself to all things cigar, publishing technical articles in cigar magazines. He began working for Cigar Journal in 2001 and became editor-in-chief in 2005; under his auspices the journal has established itself as the world’s leading cigar magazine.


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