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perdomo esteli tobacco plantation volcanic soil

The Perdomo Experience: From Seed to Smoke

Nick Perdomo has come a long way in 20 years. He claims Nicaragua’s excellent water table and Estelí’s volcanic soil helps create ideal tobacco growing conditions. To build their appreciation of cigars, retailers and consumers are invited to enjoy a tour that showcases every part of the Tabacalera Perdomo in Estelí, where even the owner of the company no less is playing tour guide.

 

A din is created as 18 visitors enter Tabacalera Perdomo’s cigar rolling facility; rollers bang chavetas on their tables signaling a warm welcome to the people who ultimately enjoy their handiwork. This is no ordinary tour of a factory’s rolling facilities. Over two days visitors are immersed into Nick Perdomo’s fully vertically integrated operation.

nick perdomo tour tobacco growing lesson robi leon

Photo: Samuel Spurr

“From seed to smoke” is often proclaimed in the industry, but this is exactly what is delivered on a tour that showcases every part of the company’s Estelí cigar-making facility: from the seedling greenhouse, to the fields, curing barns, box factory, sorting tables, rolling floor and ageing room. On this particular tour, the owner of the company no less, Nick Perdomo Jr, is playing tour guide.

Other tours are led by his senior team including his brother Billy and Vice President Arthur Kemper, but what is most authentic about the tour, and what gives his staff great recognition, is the fact that at each stage the relevant manager leads the session.

Nick began offering these tours to retailers four years ago to build their appreciation of cigars, but it soon became evident that consumers were just as keen to attend. “Three years ago I started bringing consumers in which I really enjoy”, says Nick. “On other tours, visitors spend time watching cigar production and that’s pretty much it so I think we provide a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ on our tour.”

It’s a must do for any cigar geek.

Part of the reason for offering the tours includes Nick’s deep appreciation of his customers, whether they be retailers or consumers. “My customers built the brand”, states Nick. “Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. Customers and retailers put faith in our cigars and built my business.” The Perdomo experience gives visitors close to three full days in Nicaragua. Two tours run each week from the start of January through to the middle of March, and with up to twenty people on each tour, Nick or one of his team has personally welcomed a huge number of cigar enthusiasts over the past four years. Tours operate in the first three months of the year so visitors can see farms full of tobacco and get the seed to smoke experience before the region’s wet season arrives.

nick perdomo silvio mendoza explaining unique tobacco seedling growing system

Photo: Samuel Spurr

During the day the cigar tourists experience the pride, passion and determination of Nick and all who work for Tabacalera Perdomo, while evenings are spent socializing over games of dominoes with the extended Perdomo family and senior staff, giving visitors an acute appreciation of the family nature of his business.

“Seeing the amount of detail and care that goes into the product was amazing”, declares Deborah Rulli, owner of Medford New Jersey’s Main Street Cigars. “To see it first hand was overwhelming. Cigar retailers and enthusiasts must put this trip on their bucket list. It’s a must do for any cigar geek. There is more knowledge in Nick Perdomo than from anyone I know.”

Deborah’s husband John adds, “this trip will enable us to better educate our customers by relating to them how much effort goes into each and every cigar. From what I know and what I’ve seen Perdomo is head and shoulders above their competitors. The seed germination process was absolutely astonishing.”

cigar tourists nick perdomo factory 2012

Photo: Samuel Spurr

Charles Hukriede, a Florida-based cigar lover, appreciated spending time with Nick along with the cigar making process.

“The attention to detail is phenomenal, as is the amount of hands required to create one cigar. After seeing everything, it is hard to imagine they create a cigar at the price they sell it for.”

For some, just learning more about tobacco was enlightening. Anthony “A. J.” Jennings, an Australian-based New Zealander said: “Our time in the fields and learning more about the tobacco growing process was most interesting. Why and how they pick certain leaves and not others is intriguing.”

Fellow Perdomo Cigars Australia client Ree Hannaford said: “I enjoyed meeting the extended Perdomo family and learning more about cigars from people such as Uncle Tony. Rolling my own cigar with help from Sarah Gonzalez was an experience I’ll never forget!”

The American Dream

Nick Perdomo admits his life story has the makings of the classic “American dream”. As the son of a Cuban exile who started his cigar business in his garage, he has worked, as he puts it, “his butt off”, to now head one of the world’s largest cigar businesses – one that makes his product available in almost every international market.

aristides garcia portrait cuban tobacco grower perdomo

Photo: Samuel Spurr

His success has come in no small part from the support of his family and a core group of staff, some of whom have joined him after long stints in the Cuban tobacco business.

Head of the Perdomo production facility, Sarah Gonzalez was a former manager in Cuba’s H. Upmann factory, and knew Nick’s late father Nicholas and grandfather Silvio in Cuba.

Nick met Sarah by accident in a Miami restaurant after Sarah noticed some of Nick’s early cigars and asked to see them. Upon holding them, Nick immediately realized Sarah knew a thing or two about cigars.

Aristides Garcia, a legendary Cuban tobacco grower in the Vuelta Abajo region, joined Nick in Estelí twelve years ago. Fitter than the oxen who plough the fields, he’s provided Nick with great insight into all facets of tobacco growing and curing.

20th Anniversary Cigar

To celebrate 20 successful years, Perdomo is releasing a 20th Anniversary cigar in 2012 and the market can expect a medium to full-bodied blend using tobacco from Condega and Ometepe. “We actually planned to release the cigars in 2011, however we have some unique packaging planned and our band makers in Holland are having a tough time finishing it as it involves different types of gold”, informs Nick.

“The cigars are going to be phenomenal – they were made using aged tobacco and were ready two years ago.” Nick, a known perfectionist, claims the 20th Anniversary cigar is the toughest project he’s ever worked. He and the company have worked painstakingly to make it the very best for such a milestone.

The Next Decade

From small beginnings, Nick’s cigar company has spread across North America and into Europe and Asia. He’s looking forward to more growth in the European Union and Australia and entering markets such as Argentina and Brazil. “Our European market has grown immensely. Through NTK, our Russian market is through the roof.”

nick perdomo portrait cigars inventory aging room

Photo: Samuel Spurr

“Our bonded warehouse in Frankfurt, Germany, is helping our European distributors such as Don Stefano and hopefully we’ll continue growing in Australia. We are really proud of Jason Nelson (Perdomo’s Australian distributor). We think he’s done a phenomenal job.” Proof of the brand’s growing popularity in Europe are two $11million deals for machine made cigarillos. Nick is also looking forward to the next ten years for another reason: involving his son, Nick Perdomo III, who is currently finishing university, in the family business. “I look forward to my son coming on board”, says Nick, with the deep sincerity of a proud father. “He is going to be an attribute.”

World of Perdomo

Nick’s constant drive towards perfection is evident in his attitude to business. “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that it takes ten years to get a customer and takes three seconds to lose a customer”, articulates Nick. “We strive to be the best in everything we do.” People lucky enough to attend a Perdomo Cigar Tour get a taste of what it takes to be the best.

 

This article was published in the Cigar Journal Summer Edition 2012. Read more

Samuel Spurr

Samuel Spurr has been Cigar Journal’s Asia-Pacific contributor since his first feature on the Australian cigar scene in 2006. Regularly writing, Tweeting, and Instagramming about cigars, he’s recognized in Australia as a cigar authority and frequently hosts cigar master classes.


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