Five years ago, Alejandro Mata developed the puro brand Alfambra. But his story is not the typical story of a cigar lover who wanted to create his own private brand. His roots go deeper.
You may have already read this story before. A passionate cigar smoker feels the urge to create his or her own brand. On the surface, this story could be summarized as follows: The story of Alejandro Mata, a Spanish businessman and the creator of the brand Alfambra, a puro that, after only five years, is selling two million units in a total of 12 European countries.
Yet Mata is not the typical wealthy passionado who contacted a prestigious manufacturer to have his private label made. His story is more deeply rooted in the world of tobacco and extends far beyond his passion or financial possibilities to a friendship with a very respected gentleman from the industry.
“I was already smoking puros at the time,” Mata explains to me, “and I owned a liquor distribution company in Málaga (Andalusia, in the south of Spain) that dealt with Havana Club rum, among others.” It was the company Pernod Ricard, and they opened the door to Cuba for him in 2005 when they invited him to take part in the 7th Festival del Habano. “But because I can be very restless and like to follow my own rhythm, one day on my own initiative I took a trip to Pinar del Río to see the land and the tobacco there. In San Luis I met an elderly gentleman and had a little chat with him while we smoked a cigar together.” That gentleman was the tobacco grower Alejandro Robaina.
The friendship between the two Alejandros was strengthened through tobacco, so much so that Mata soon wanted to produce his own brand. In 2007, he opened a “chinchal” (small shop) in Estelí with two cigar-rolling couples who rolled his cigars with tobacco from Remedios (Cuba), called La Flor de San Luis. “It soon became clear to me how hard it would be to maintain the continuity of my cigars with externally purchased tobacco. So I started to look for land in Nicaragua to grow my own tobacco, and bought two pieces of property in Pueblo Nuevo. I thought to myself, the sun rises for everyone, after all.”
In 2015, he began to produce the brand Alfambra, a medieval name for Alhambra of Granada, one of the most symbolic Arabic monuments of his native region Andalusia. “I produced 30,000 units per year of my first cigar, a medium-filler with an orange cigar ring,” says Alejandro. “When, after three years, I launched El Brujito, which was a longfiller, we sold 840,000 cigars.”
There is no great secret behind the success of Alfambra and the 6,000 cigars that he now produces every day. It is a result of the personal commitment of Alejandro Mata and his wife, a lot of work, cost savings through company expansions, and a company philosophy that favors pragmatism over of romance in order to offer the public a premium cigar at an unbeatable price.
The Spanish market, which is always complicated, buys one million of his cigars. The rest of his sales are spread over 11 European countries, and his market continues to grow. Meanwhile, all the tobacco that he uses comes from his own estates, which encompass over 50 hectares (approx. 123.5 acres) of land in Nicaragua and includes the varieties Criollo 98, Corojo and Habana 2000. He has his own factory in Estelí and is starting new projects oriented towards growth and innovation.
“You really have to like tobacco,” he assures me as he explains his current situation. “If you don’t like it, it’s impossible.”