A.J. Fernandez: A true master with Midas touch - An Exclusive Interview

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Εγγραφή: Σάβ Φεβ 03, 2018 10:43 am

A.J. Fernandez: A true master with Midas touch - An Exclusive Interview

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"Discipline and Passion": These are two words that best describe AJ Fernandez, the "man with the perfect sense of taste".
He was born in San Luis, Pinar del Rio, “Mecca” of Cuban tobacco, in 1979. " There has been nothing but tobacco in my world; my father worked with tobacco, same as my grandfather, same as my uncle. Tobacco has been in my life ever since I was a baby, it's in my blood ", he said later.
In 2003, at the age of 24 years old, he left Cuba and started making his own cigars in a garage in Estelí, Nicaragua.
Soon it was news all over that there was a talented young Cuban who makes excellent cigars. This was followed by huge progress in very short time, at first making cigars for clients like Rocky Patel, Cigar International, Gurkha, Padilla etc.
His first success came with the US-bestsellers "Man O' War" cigars, that he had been blending for Cigar International, followed by "Diesel".
In 2010, he first produced his own label, the "San Lotano" cigars. The following years, he continued with "Pinolero", "Oval", "New World", "Enclave", "Bellas Artes", "Dias de Gloria", "Viva la Vida", "Last Call", "Ramon Allones" (non-Cuban version) etc. whilst not stopping working with other brands.
Today AJ Fernandez is one of the biggest cigar-producers in the world, with his own farms in Condega, Jalapa, Estelí, Pueblo Nuevo, Quilali and Ometepe. Furthermore, his company owns two large factories, "Tabacalera AJ Fernandez" in Estelí and "San Lotano" in Totogalpa.

This is the exclusive interview he gave to Cigarsforum.gr

Εικόνα

1. CF: “AJ Fernandez” is a very popular brand in the cigar scene, with a rich a continuously growing portfolio. Could you please tell us about your first steps in the cigar industry? When and how did the AJF cigar project begin?

AJF: The company started 20 years ago from humble beginnings making cigars from the garage of a house with a few rollers, we have grown from there to be one of the largest cigars manufacturers with 3 factories and 12 farms, making 42 million cigars annually with a staff of over 3,500 people.

2. CF: How important is the cigar and tobacco business to Nicaragua, and how much you think has today’s cigar market changed since the 90’s?

AJF: The cigar industry is a very important part of the Nicaraguan economy and provides essential employment for many people especially in the Esteli region. Tobacco production is one of the three main exports for the country along with coffee and rum.
The industry has developed greatly since the 90’s and the use of new technology has allowed us to further develop our manufacture and the way we work. However, the core elements of hand made cigars have changed very little over the years.

Εικόνα

3. CF: If you had a way to describe all your cigars and your philosophy, what would that be?

AJF: Passion, Discipline and Great Tobacco.

4. CF: How many different cigars series have you currently got it production and how many people do you currently have under employment in your business?

AJF: We employ over 3,500 people and produce as part of our own portfolio 7 separate brands.

5. CF: What are 3 key things that go into making a new blend?

AJF: This is always a challenge to bring a new blend to the market. It is about the quality of the tobacco, the taste of the cigars and the consumer needs and likes.

Εικόνα

6. CF: Are you satisfied with the impact of your cigars in the European market?

AJF: Our International business, including Europe, continues to grow each year. We now sell our brands in over 70 markets. Our business across the globe has produced outstanding results and of course there is always room for further expansion.

7. CF: Based on the market’s current conditions, do you think a mediocre or basic cigar would succeed in selling big, especially when it’s backed up by a consistent and costly marketing strategy?

AJF: As all our production is hand made, premium long filler cigars we do not see our place among the basic or lower value cigars . We do have a bundle product in Blend 15 and this will remain the value for money cigar within the AF Fernandez portfolio.

Εικόνα

8. CF: If you could pick three cigars from all your labels that are special to you, which would these three be? And why?

AJF: Picking three cigars from the AJF portfolio is not an easy task. All our brands and blends hold a special place within the company and with AJ himself.

9. CF: Who you think is/are the most “inspired” tobacco blenders in the cigar industry today outside of Cuba?

AJF: We have many competitive brands that are available, and it would be unfair to highlight any individually. Within the industry there are blenders who have over the years brought their own special ethos and way of working to the industry and those brands that have been in production for many years are the ones that continue to inspire the industry as a whole.

Εικόνα

10. CF: Based on your experience, what do you consider as being different between Cuban and non-Cuban cigars (if there is any difference), with regards to the quality of the tobacco leaves but also with the level of production? Have you ever considered or been intrigued by the thought of making a cigar by blending together Cuban and non-Cuban tobacco? Do you think this would be of any real interest?

AJF: People and consumers often talk about the difference between Cuban and non Cuban cigars in several aspects. The main difference from our perspective is the quality that we put behind each and every cigar that leaves our factory. Smoking one of our brands or blends today should be the same taste and enjoyment each time.

11. CF: What is your opinion on the huge rise of prices of Cuban cigars during the past one and a half year?

AJF: There is no doubt that the cost of production of cigars has increased and will continue to do so in terms of labor costs and the cost of raw materials and tobacco. Each company will determine for themselves the right price structure for their brands. All non Cuban manufacturers have clearly benefited from the increased pricing and lack of availability of Cuban cigars in Europe and across the globe, outside of the USA of course.

Εικόνα

12. CF: You were born and raised in Cuba. Years after you left the island and after everything you have achieved in the cigars industry, can you now imagine what your life would be like if you had stayed there forever?

AJF: This is impossible to answer, we can not look back but only forward and do our best for those who work for the company and to deliver the best possible cigar to our loyal and new consumers.

13. CF: What are your plans and your dreams for the future?

AJF: To continue to drive forward and bring to the cigar consumer the best tobacco and cigar blends that offer the choice they want in the market place. AJ Fernandez as a company will continue to grow and deliver great tobacco.

Εικόνα

14. CF: What is the perfect cigar?

AJF: I could say one with the best balance and character but in reality, the perfect cigar is the cigar that I am smoking right now, whichever of the AJF brands or blends that may be.

15. CF: Your cigars being available in the Greek market too now, how do you see the response by the Greek aficionados?

AJF: Greece is still an emerging market and we are very pleased to be able to offer our brands to the consumers there and thank them for their support and trust in us and have no doubt that it will continue well into the future.

Εικόνα
These users thanked the author Τάκης for the post (total 4):
suleygiannisEpicure Vbabylon11alexandros
papa was a rolling stone...
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Εγγραφή: Σάβ Φεβ 03, 2018 10:43 am

Re: A.J. Fernandez: A true master with Midas touch - An Exclusive Interview

Δημοσίευση από Τάκης »

Very special thanks to our very special guest for his interesting interview.
Always a pleasure to meet passionate people from cigar world.

Mr. Fernandez, it’s an honor and a big pleasure to have your remarkable presence in our forum.
Greek aficionados will certainly appreciate your input greatly.

We have a big fan here: http://cigarsforum.gr/viewforum.php?f=115
papa was a rolling stone...
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jgeorgost
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Εγγραφή: Κυρ Αύγ 15, 2021 10:44 pm

Re: A.J. Fernandez: A true master with Midas touch - An Exclusive Interview

Δημοσίευση από jgeorgost »

It’s an honor to have an interview from such a successful businessman from the cigars industry.

Thank you so much Mr. AJ Fernandez for your time and for your thoughts!
"Any cigar smoker is friend, because I know how he feels." - Alfred de Musset

🇨🇺 ❤️ 🇨🇺
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Epicure V
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Εγγραφή: Σάβ Σεπ 25, 2021 7:24 am

Re: A.J. Fernandez: A true master with Midas touch - An Exclusive Interview

Δημοσίευση από Epicure V »

Great interview with one of the industry leaders. Mr Abdel Fernandez thank you for your time!!
It's really an honour having such an interview here, this is greatly appreciated.
We are looking forward to meet you in person when you visit Greece.
in vino veritas
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alexandros
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Εγγραφή: Πέμ Φεβ 08, 2018 4:31 pm

Re: A.J. Fernandez: A true master with Midas touch - An Exclusive Interview

Δημοσίευση από alexandros »

Many thanks for your time Mr Fernandez
Great interview
οὔτε γὰρ ἄρχειν οὔτε ἄρχεσθαι ἐθέλω
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sigaras
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Εγγραφή: Δευ Νοέμ 26, 2018 9:30 am

Re: A.J. Fernandez: A true master with Midas touch - An Exclusive Interview

Δημοσίευση από sigaras »

Thank you Mr. AJ Fernandez for your very interesting interview!!
Many thanks also to Takis and to cigarforum.gr !!!
" κι έγιναν τα πάθη μας καπνός..."
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Petran
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Εγγραφή: Πέμ Φεβ 08, 2018 3:28 pm

Re: A.J. Fernandez: A true master with Midas touch - An Exclusive Interview

Δημοσίευση από Petran »

Many thanks to Mr. A.J. Fernandez for this fascinating interview!

Sir Takis, good job pal!
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