Our ‘Machine-Made’ Cigars Aren’t What They Appear To Be

Our ‘Machine-Made’ Cigars Aren’t What They Appear To Be

J.C. Newman Cigar Company is, famously, the last operating cigar factory in what was once known as Cigar City. The factory, built in 1910, was inhabited by the Newmans in the 1950’s and with the Newmans, came the cigar-rolling machines used in their Cleveland, Ohio factory.

These machines, however, are not making small cigarettes or cigarillos. There is no button to press that will churn out our cigars in an automated way. Instead, highly skilled workers operate these machines, to create a variety of American-made cigars. How these machines work, and what we make with them, is 100% vintage.

 

From Cleveland to Cigar City: 1930’s Machines

The cigar rolling machines that we have in our factory are the same machines that Julius Caeser Newman used in his Cleveland, Ohio factory. They came with the Newmans to Tampa, Florida when the Newman family moved in 1954. These machines built by AMF – the same company that builds bowling ball return machines – are no longer manufactured.  Because of that, we have a team of mechanics that build new parts when and if the machines need them. We also have several machines that are out of commission that we’ve kept and recycled; their parts are now used to keep the others operational.

Our machines, however, are not what you might picture. Machine-rolled cigars carry an ugly connotation, but unlike companies that utilize new technology to create millions of tobacco products a day, our machines require a human touch. The operator uses foot pedals, much like those seen on vintage sewing machines, to set the pace of the cigar rolling. The machines roll less than 16 cigars per minute and would not be operational without an individual controlling and running them. On average, we’re making appx. 60,000 cigars daily in our Ybor City cigar factory; far less than those of big tobacco companies.

 

Machine (Assisted) Bundle Cigars

 

 

Although the cigars are not 100% hand-rolled, they are still incredible products. The short-filler tobacco comes to us from Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic, and J.C. Newman PENSA in Estelí, Nicaragua. The wrapper tobacco comes in from all over the world. Every element of the cigar is quality in nature, but is either leftover from premium cigars, or was turned down by tobacco inspectors that noticed slight blemishes on the leaves. These leaves are sold at a lower rate in our favor! The blemishes may take away from the appearance, but never the flavor.

The cigars we roll in our cigar factory are bundle cigars; they are sold in bunches rather than our premium handmade cigars that are sold individually, or by the box. You may be familiar with some of the cigars we roll here. Mexican Segundos, Trader Jacks, Tampa Trolleys, and even the cigar Stanford Newman named himself, Factory Throwouts to name a few.

We’re proud of all the cigars we roll in our El Reloj factory. We employ over 100 incredible cigar blenders, rollers, and packagers. Because of these machines, we are able to keep the traditions of cigars in cigar city. Pick up a Tampa-made cigar today and don’t forget to tag us on social media with the hashtag #jcnewman when you smoke it to leave us feedback! 

What is J.C. Newman PENSA and What Do We Make There?

What is J.C. Newman PENSA and What Do We Make There?

You may have heard the term J.C. Newman PENSA when researching our company, especially in the last few weeks. The name is actually an acronym, the letters of which stand for, ‘Puros de Estelí, Nicaragua Sociedad Anonima.’

This factory, located in the rapidly growing city of Estelí, Nicaragua, is the origin of many of our highly-acclaimed cigars; most notably Brick House, Quorum, and Perla del Mar.

The number of cigars imported from Nicaragua continues to grow year over year and Estelí is the epicenter for the industry. Why is Estelí such a hot spot for Nicaraguan cigars? The soil, the culture, and the people.

Nicaraguan Soil and Growing Region

 

 Estelí, Nicaragua is a major region for tobacco growing and rolling. More than 15 cigar manufacturers have their Nicaraguan operations in Estelí, and that doesn’t even include the tobacco farms.

With its rich, volcanic, fertile soil, tobacco seeds easily take root in the valleys of Estelí. The black soil produces thick leaves that are full of flavor and a unique spice; our Brick House wrapper leaves are grown on farms that are mere miles away from our J.C. Newman PENSA factory.

The growing season falls between September and May. The rainy season occupying most of the summer, reinvigorating the soil for strong, aromatic leaves.

The Factory and J.C. Newman PENSA Employees

 

 

 J.C. Newman PENSA and the over 800 employees there are one giant machine, working in a perfect circuit to bring your favorite cigars to local retailers.

Tobacco comes in from all over Nicaragua (and all over the world) and is fermented, sorted, and stripped at PENSA, giving J.C. Newman full control of the cigar creation process.

Hundreds of skilled rollers make between 400 and 600 cigars daily with such precision and delicacy, it can only be described as an art form.

Future for J.C. Newman in Nicaragua

 

As our cigars continue to grow in popularity, J.C. Newman PENSA continues to expand. Brick House, Quorum and Perla del Mar cigars require more rollers, more quality assurance, and more tobacco that needs to be cured and sorted, every year.

J.C. Newman PENSA is currently the second largest cigar factory in Nicaragua and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. With a team of master blenders and seasoned cigar makers, J.C. Newman will continue to create new blends and brands showcasing the unique flavor of Nicaragua. The recent addition of the TAA exclusive ‘Ciento por Ciento’ is one such blend example. Keep your eyes on us as we continue to create beautiful Nicaraguan cigars for you to enjoy.

Drew Newman and Early Trips to the Dominican Republic

Drew Newman and Early Trips to the Dominican Republic

My family’s partnership with the Fuentes began in 1986 with the launch of La Unica, our first cigar handmade at Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic. This was followed by the introduction of Cuesta-Rey and our Diamond Crown cigar brands. In 1990, our partnership deepened with the formation of the joint company now known as Arturo Fuente Cigar Company, which distributes Arturo Fuente cigars in the United States.

Because of our close relationship with the Fuentes, my father, Eric Newman, and grandfather, Stanford Newman, would frequently fly down to the Dominican Republic. They went there to meet with Carlos Fuente, Sr., and his son Carlito and to blend and develop new cigars together.

When I was nine years old, I convinced my father and grandfather to take me along with them on to see the Fuentes. I still do not know why they agreed to let a nine-year-old tag along, but I absolutely loved the trip and the experience of traveling with my father and grandfather.

This first trip was the start of an annual pilgrimage for three generations of Newmans. Over the next decade, my father and grandfather planned their March trip to the Dominican Republic around my school’s spring break schedule so that I could travel with them each year.

On the flights from Miami to the Dominican Republic, I remember looking out the window and being amazed at how the color of the water changed from dark blue of the Atlantic Ocean to the beautiful turquoise of the Caribbean. Because the Santiago airport had not yet been built, we flew into the resort town of Puerto Plata. While everyone else on the plane was dressed as if they were destined for the beach, my father and grandfather wore coats and ties. At the airport, we were greeted by Carlito who picked us up in his car and drove us across the mountains to Santiago.

As a young kid, I remember the Dominican Republic as a lush, tropical oasis where everything felt foreign. Not only did everyone speak a different language, but the food, music, and even the driving habits were nothing like home.

On my first trip, I remember walking into Tabacalera A. Fuente and being surprised at how different the Fuente cigar factory felt from “El Reloj,” my family’s historic cigar factory in Tampa. It was large and bustling and, to a small child, the Fuente factory felt like a maze full of adventure.

The bouquet of aromas of the Fuente factory left a strong impression on me. I remember being surprised at how the factory did not have a single smell, but rather different aromas in different rooms due to the various tobaccos being used. More than once, the smell of fermenting tobacco was so overpowering, that I had to run outside to find fresh air.

The days were very long on these trips. Carlito would pick us up from the hotel after an early breakfast and we would not return until after a late dinner at night. The hardest part of these trips for me was that Carlos, Carlito, Stanford, and Eric would frequently work through lunch – frequently forgetting to feed me, too.

During the day, when the grownups were reviewing spreadsheets that I did not understand, I would often sneak away and wander through the factory on my own. I remember being mesmerized at how the cigar rollers would swiftly roll each cigar, one by one, to the beat of the Dominican merengue playing from the speakers. At least once per trip, I would get lost in the Fuente factory and someone would have to help me find my way to the front office.

On my third trip when I was 11 years old, we visited the tobacco farm that would later become known as Chateau de la Fuente. At that point, there was nothing there other than tobacco and barns. This was long before the gazebos, Hemingway House, and other facilities were built. The farm was pretty rugged. At the end of the day, I remember the adults lighting up a prototype cigar made from special tobacco from the farm. Unfortunately for me, the only refreshments that the adults brought with them were ice-cold Presidente beer and Brugal rum. No one had thought to bring water or something else for me so I had to just sit there until they finished their prototype cigars.

One of the things that sets the Fuente and Newman families apart from other cigar companies is that we are two, four-generation family businesses.  Both of our families have been passing the family tradition of handcrafting premium cigars from generation to generation for more than 100 years. 

When my grandfather passed away in 2006, our three-generation trips to visit the Fuentes in the Dominican Republic ended.  Today, however, I am fortunate to be able to continue traveling with my father, Eric, and my uncle, Bobby, to see the Fuentes in the Dominican Republic and our factory in Nicaragua, and to help promote and sell our family’s cigars around the world. 

“It is very special working in a family business. One my proudest moments in our company was at the RTDA (now IPCPR) trade show in 2005. One afternoon, my father, Stanford, and son, Drew, and I decided to walk around the show. As we passed one booth, I overheard another exhibitor say to someone else, “Wow – there goes three generations!” Hearing this filled me with pride and made me feel very grateful to be able to share our family tradition with my father and my son.” – Eric Newman.