Trip to Camp Camacho - Part 2
Woke up around 8:30am, immediately lit a Quai D'Orsay Gran Corona and sat by the pool to enjoy the quiet morning in Danli, Honduras. The many mojitos the night before were manifesting themselves in the form of a sledgehammer pounding inside my brain. The group ate breakfast, piled into the pickup trucks and set out for the Box Factory!
In this picture they are breaking down the larger cedar boards and the others are of final assembly and finishing.
The workers worked very quickly, but with excellent precision. Also on these premises, Camacho manufactures furniture like stools, chairs, etc, all of which would make a cool addition to anyone's smoking room.
One thing I saw at Camacho was that the company made everything it needed. Essentially it was self sufficient. Back into the pick-ups, and onto the good stuff, THE FACTORY!
We pulled up to a large, non descript building in downtown Danli and entered through the side street. We were greeted at the side door with bottles of water and sodas then led into a conference room to relax for a few minutes. Terry, our guide, talked about many different things while addressing the group, from being a better tobacco shop owner to Cuban cigars (I won't go into detail about that speech, but there was some propaganda). We were treated to an authentic Honduran lunch with assorted taco-like items and salads before entering the rolling floor. I have to say that was the best meal of the trip by far. We were led into the rolling floor, bussling with people all over, rolling, bunching, sorting, stripping, checking; it was too much to take in at once.
I chose to break this part down into sections, instead of lengthy explanations I will let the pictures do most of the talking.
The incoming leaves are stripped on the, you'll never guess it, stripping machines! These are all over 100+ years old, and when they break down the folks at Camacho create their own parts to fix them since there is none available.
Loading the Stripper
Stripping Machine from the Side
Stripping Machine from the Front
Stems from the Stripper
The freshly stripped leaves are piled up, and moved for the final sorting by color. During this sorting the leaves are moistened by hand with water, piled then distributed to the bunchers. This station is also where the bunchers and rollers acquire the glue for their work. The binder, wrapper and fillers are sorted and distributed at this station.
Sorting Stripped Leaves
The bunchers are up first in the process.
They have an entire section dedicated to this, as well as several other benches throughout the expansive factory.
The binder is placed down, then the blend is ripped to fit then assembled and rolled in something like a giant cigarette roller.
They use small amounts of the glue (muselix) during this process.
The finished bunch is inserted into the mold and clamped for 30 minutes, then it is rotated and clamped for an additional 30 minutes prior to leaving for a rollers bench. Every aspect of this process is watched over by several supervisors who check the quality, consistency and speed of the workers. Also they are checked daily by someone who takes a mold to the drawmaster machines in the factory.
These machines check the airflow through the bunch to be sure there are no plugs, and also that there is enough tobacco.
Onto the rollers, these men and women average one cigar every minute. When you watch their hands it's really amazing to see the speed and precision with which they work.
The wrappers are stretched out while the bunch is rolled, then the tip is finished, capped and bundled. It's hard to keep up with them even with your eyes! We were given the opportunity to roll our own cigars and let me say I am NO cigar roller, smoker: yes, roller: no. I managed to roll 2 very nice looking cigars which are currently aging in my humidor. One has a nice oily sheen while the other is pretty ghetto. The shine on a cigar's wrapper comes from the wrapper being stretched properly and tight. To achieve this consistently one needs much time and practice. I glanced over at some of the supervisor's sheets to see the productivity of the rollers and noted that some were even up to 35-38 cigars every 30 minutes! That's pretty speedy IMO. Many of the rollers were women as well, enjoy the pix!
Roller Rolling a Figurado
Roller Finishing Off a Head
After the rolling is completed the cigars are bundled in newspaper where they are left to sit for approximately 6 weeks. This is to allow some of the extra moisture to evaporate and the cigars to marry all the tobacco inside.
After, they are moved to the sorting room.
Only women work in the sorting rooms due to their acute sense of color variances.
Here piles and piles of cigars were being shuffled about to match color. Each flat tray holds 25 of each vitola.
After sorting, the cigars are transferred to be labeled and cello'd.
The bands are all applied at the same level using a box with markings to keep the heights the same.
The cigars are then boxed and checked again before being shrinkwrapped.
After the final boxing, the cigars are put in a giant freezer for approximately 12 days to help kill off beetle larvae. Then from the freezer they ship to the USA, then to our local shops.
This trip opened my eyes to what goes into making a quality cigar. It's not just a bunch of leaves. The way people spoke about and handled the tobacco showed their respect and love for it. It was clear that everyone involved in the process cared about making a quality product, and were working as a team to achieve this goal. I want to thank Christian Eiroa and all the people who made this such an amazing experience for my crew and I. I look forward to visiting again!!!
David Cooper hails from Long Island and has been smoking cigars for about 5 years. When not relaxing with a cigar and his french bulldog, Morty, he designs jewelry and spins music.