The story of Flor the Copán in northern Honduras officially starts in 1975, when members of Tabacos Hondureños, a tabacco growing company that was founded about a decade earlier, got together and formed a company that would produce cigars. The story of tobacco in the area, however, starts much earlier than that, long before Danlí became the most important tobacco region in the country.
“Tobacco wasn’t big here until the Eighties and Nineties, when the Cubans and Nicaraguans came over because of the political situations in their countries,” says the general manager of Flor de Copán, Jorge Portillo. “Santa Rosa de Copán was founded on tobacco in the middle of the 1800s. That’s when they started growing tobacco here.” As there are still people outside the city making these local-style cigars, the area of Copán is considered the first of the tobacco industry in Honduras. There’s even an annual city cigar festival. “In August every year for the last 14 years, we have crowned a Queen of Tobacco. And we organize nice things related to tobacco,” explains Portillo.
So the tradition is strong and, to this the day, Flor de Copán is one of the biggest employers in the city. “We always tell our employees that we need to maintain our level of quality to produce the same volume, since the factory is an important part of the city’s economy. Today we have about 650 employees. Each harvest, we also hire about 60 to 70 people and we’re the only factory that still exists in the area since the Seventies.”
The factory opened one year after the company was formed, producing cigars for various clients. It started off with 30 couples of bunchers and rollers and made 5,000 cigars daily for clients in the United States. In 1980, Flor de Copán garnered its first big customer and started to increase production for the European market. At the end of the Eighties, sales decreased due to an unstable market in America, from which the main orders had come, but “ Thanks to the European market, which experienced a big boom, things turned around and, in 1994, during the boom, we started increasing our production again,” says Portillo.
Three years later, Flor de Copán was bought by Consolidated, which later merged with Seita. By that time, the decision had already been made to move to what is the current factory, which was much bigger. Production increased from 30,000 cigars per day to 65,000, and there was no change to the company politics. The year 2004 was the next important one in Flor de Copán history. It was when Seita, or Altadis U.S.A., as it was now known after merging with Tabacalera S.A., was sold to Imperial Tobacco [Imperial Brands since 2016]. “Again, we kept the whole team and didn’t change our philosophy, and that’s something we’re very proud of,” explains Portillo. “ The factory is still run by Hondurans.”
It is said that cigars originally come from Honduras. The Copán district of Honduras is a mountainous area and the combination of warm days, cool nights and dry air makes it perfect for tobacco growing. At the archaeological site of Copán, near the factory and tobacco fields, is where the alleged oldest cigar in history was found: a twist of tobacco left half-smoked by a Mayan priest, about 1,500 years ago.
As a factory, Flor de Copán also gives name to their most well-known Honduran brand in Europe, the Flor de Copán brand, awarded the Cigar Trophy for Best Brand Honduras in 2008. FdC Linea Puros Robusto won the Cigar Trophy 2010 for Best Cigar Honduras. It is a brand that has had a long Honduran tradition since 1795. Dedicated and experienced manufacturers keep careful watch over all the details of its hand-made process to ensure its high quality.
Flor de Copán’s cigar essence comes from a blend of Honduran long fillers harvested in the most exclusive tobacco regions of the country. Together with Tabacalera de García in the Dominican Republic, Flor de Copán also produces cigars for the Imperial brands once made famous by Cuba, like H. Upmann, San Luis Rey, Gispert and Romeo y Julieta, for the US market. “Honduran cigars have a different character to Dominican ones. Being both excellent cigars, Honduran cigars are known to be very sweet and aromatic,” says Elmer Suarez, tobacco and new products development manager.
Now the company is looking forward to celebrating the factory’s 40th anniversary. “We’re going to make a special edition anniversary cigar that will probably come out in December,” discloses Portillo. “Honduran tobacco and our people are the best assets we have. We’ll keep focusing on creating more jobs and opportunities for our people and surprising our customers with the best Honduras tobacco products.”
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Autumn Edition 2016. Read more