Robaina's plantation

Friday, 30 May 2014

Alejandro Gonzalez Arias (house roller) Hotel Comodoro Havana

                The chair behind the Rollers Bench had been empty for several months at the Hotel Comodoro Cigar Shop in the Miramar district of Havana. Anyone who knew the previous roller, Crisantos, was anxiously awaiting who would fill that seat. For those of you who don't know, Crisantos was known to be one of the best rollers in the city. He vacated his position due to retirement. I for one had made several visits to the shop while it had no roller. Knowing everyone there (excellent service) and being close to where I stay when I'm in Havana, having no roller didn't stop me from dropping in. I enjoy smoking a cigar and having a chat with the store manager Andre who has become a friend over the years. On my trip in January the replacement had finally arrived. I had the pleasure of meeting him the week he started but didn't have the time to have a lengthy chat. However, this trip I prepared to have a sit down and ask him a few questions.
                Alex is very young to be in this position, the youngest roller I know working in a cigar shop. Most of the rollers in the cigar shops in Cuba, male or female, are all around retirement age or nearing it. That doesn't mean he can't roll a cigar. As a matter of fact he does a fantastic job. I have yet to try all his vitolas but I can tell you his signature Behike 52 is the bomb. Watch out for this guy, he's only 28 and I can't imagine what he's going to be like 20-30 years from now. Born in July 1986, single with no children, he's never traveled outside the country and lives almost within walking distance of the Hotel.

1. How long have you been in the industry and do you have any family members that are in it?

    I've been rolling for 6-7 years and have no family members in the industry.

2. How did you know you wanted to do this and what was the process?

    I was working at the market at the Marina Hemingway and there was a roller there. Everyday I would watch the roller and in time we became friends. She could tell I was interested and one day asked me if I wanted to learn how to roll cigars. She taught me the basics but I took the course at the 'El Laguito' factory to become a roller.

3. What is your favourite Vitola to roll?

    The Behike 52.

4. How many cigars do you smoke a day and what do you like to drink with them?

    I smoke one cigar a day, I like to test what I'm rolling, it's my way of doing a quality check. When the moment allows me I like to drink a whiskey with my cigar.

5. Were you nervous knowing you would be taking over Crisantos' old position?

    No, I knew what I was getting into and the prestige that this Cigar Shop's roller's table held. Customers are surprised to see me there and not Crisantos but little by little I'm winning them over. It's a long process but I do the best I can and hopefully I will be accepted.

6. How many cigars do you roll a day and who picks the leaf?

    The amount of cigars I roll a day depends on demand. Right now it's about 10-20 per day. The leaf is sent to us by Habanos but I have the right to inspect it before accepting it and if it doesn't meet my standards I can send it back.

7. What's your favorite sport?

    Squash. (the answer actually surprised they even have squash courts here)

8. Really?? I meant to watch?

    Football (which means soccer to us North Americans)

9. What about baseball and do you have a favorite team?

    What Cuban doesn't like baseball was his answer (it was like a no brainer). Industriales is his favorite baseball team. When it comes to soccer he says that he likes it all as long as it's a good game but if he had to pick a team he named Barcelona.

             Alex is a very personable young man who doesn't seem to have an ego. I bumped into a couple of fellow Canadians visiting the shop while Alex was out and asked them what they thought of his cigars. They answered that they loved Crisantos' but that Alex's are better. When I told Alex about the encounter and what he thought about what they said he answered with, they're not better, just different, every roller has his liga (blend) and every smoker has a preference. Mine are not better, they may just appeal to some more than others. I can tell you that his signature cigar, the Behike 52, is fantastic and is worth the visit to shop to try (and buy). As for his other Vitolas, I purchased one of each and will try them in the near future. While I was there I was looking for something long and skinny, like a Lancero, but he didn't have any. He had me pick the Vitola I wanted from a book and within the hour I had my cigars....I loved it. Watch out for this guy folks and pay him a visit.....and please tell him I say hello.

Alejandro (Alex) Gonzalez Arias
Hotel Comodoro
3ra y Calle 84
Miramar, Playa, Havana
tel. 204-5551 ext.1272


His Lineup


This picture was taken last January, the week Alex started work at the Comodoro. He remembered my taking this picture and told me on this trip that these were the first cigars he rolled for the shop. Wow, what a score.

Alex with co-worker

Hotel Comodoro