Robaina's plantation

Thursday 18 April 2013

El Laguito Cigar Factory (Havana) A Return Visit

                It's been a few years since my last visit to El Laguito and I have to thank a Canadian friend who allowed me to tag along with a larger group that was visiting that day. The group was being led by my new friends Nino Munoz at and Rob Ayala at, both great sites. Thanks guys. The factory is actually a large mansion located in the Municipality of Playa surrounded by other large mansions which are now Embassies and Protocol houses owned and managed by the Cuban Government. The house is on a wide boulevard with a driveway leading up to the main building. It sits on a fair sized, immaculately manicured piece of property. They were mowing the lawn with some homemade contraption while we were walking to one of the buildings. It used to be the house of British Industrialist Casimiro Fowler Jimenez, a sugar trader but was abandoned when the new government took over in 1959. In 1961 the house began to be used as a school for rollers.
                 The Cohiba Brand was created in 1966 with a little help from Fidel, it was the first cigar brand to be created after the revolution. 'El Laguito' became a factory in 1967 and was to take on the task of being the only one to roll the new Cohiba Brand and nothing else. It would be that way for years and still to this day they only roll Cohibas here at Laguito. At that time the workforce at Laguito was 100% female. It was it's founder, Celia Sanchez Manduley's (Fidel Castro's Secretary to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers & Major Participant of the Revolution) idea to add women to the social activities of the Cuban People in order to release them from the stereotypical role women had up to that point. Although Cohiba's creator Eduardo Rivera and later the famous Avelino Lara, both men, were the first 2 directors of the factory, Emilia Tamayo took over the position in 1995. She would be the first and only female factory director at that time and there wouldn't be another for 10 years. By then Emilia had been working in administration for 20 of the 30 years of Laguito's existence. It wasn't until the early 90's that men were added to the workforce for equality reasons.
                  Originally Cohibas were rolled only for diplomats, visiting dignitaries or heads of state but in 1982 the Cohiba was launched as a new brand and sold to the general public. Cohiba Cigars are the most expensive to buy but with good reason, the tobacco used to make these cigars is picked from the finest tobacco leaves selected from the best Vegas in the San Juan y Martinez & San Luis growing areas in the Vuelta Abajo Region in Pinar del Rio. They put the Cohiba's filler leaves through a third fermentation in barrels (the only brand that does this, other brands do only 2) which gives the blend a smoothness unlike the others. Today, Celia's picture hangs in the entrance to the main building, it's almost as if she's overseeing the goings-on of the factory from beyond the grave. Celia Sanchez died in 1980 of lung cancer but her legacy lives on. The factory is no longer staffed with 100% female workers but they do outnumber the men. It's a very prestigious place to work at and jobs are handed down to family members of current workers. Unless you have a family member working there, it would be next to impossible to get a job at 'El Laguito'.
                  The allure of this factory hasn't faded through the years, I was still very excited to be here. We were led by a charming lady named Berta, an expert roller who now works in quality control. She guided us through the entire process of the making of a Cohiba cigar at Laguito, from start to finish. It's a beautiful set-up with the various rooms of the house being converted to different departments of a factory. By normal standards this is a small factory. The couple of hundred workers can't possibly keep-up with the demand for Cohibas. Over the last few years most of the other factories around the country have been rolling Cohibas to help meet that demand. I did notice an awful lot of Behikes being rolled on the day of my tour. What does this mean?? The demand for Cohibas or the best Cohibas has not diminished through the years, if anything it's increased with the new emerging markets.
                  It was a great score to have been able to take this tour and show all of you what an amazing place it is. It really is the mecca of cigar factories. Unfortunately it's closed to the public and not an easy access place. Hopefully I'll get to go back but for now I hope you enjoy the pictures and video clips.

Copy and Paste the links below if you want to check out a couple of video clips taken inside the factory.

Celia Sanchez

Homemade Lawnmower

 Adding moisture to the tobacco before processing

The Lector's table

Our tour group

Our terrific guide Berta

Nino Munoz and Rob Ayala


  1. It is very nice picture and nice post.cuban cigars a good filet.

  2. I'm glad to you for share this amazing visiting to the Laguito's, and show a little bit of where my favorite flavor come from.

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