“We are not producing cigars for everyone. We are introducing new blends for educated consumers that are looking for cigars with complexity and character.”
Not a bad mission for a boy that was picking oranges in Castro’s Cuba at age 15!
These are the words of Rafael Nodal (not to be confused with tennis champion Rafael Nadal), but he wasn’t always passionate about cigars. In fact, he was working in health care finance when he was bit by the cigar bug. His family had left Cuba in 1980, resettling in Florida as so many Cubanos had, and Nodal had built a life there over the years. While visiting a business contact in Little Havana he wound up at Nick Perdomo’s place (yes, that Perdomo) and was given a La Tradicion to smoke. He fell in love right away and had puffed through a whole box in short order.
Health care finance could wait.
Nodal launched a website in 1999 to distribute Florida cigars, including Oliveros flavored cigars. Working for the brand as a consultant, he started to learn about blends and the cigar business. This gave him the confidence to launch some of his own brands, both of which ultimately fell flat (XL for Men and King Havana). People don’t always talk about their less successful ventures, but Rafael is forthcoming. His is a journey of persistence and passion, which ultimately paid off not long after he met his next partner, Jochi Blanco of Tabacalera la Palma.
Jochi had produced cigars for a few big brands like Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo, and with Nodal he created a blend called “Swag.” Swag sold well, and the two blenders took another stab, creating the M356 cigar under Nodal’s new brand: Aging Room (owned by Boutique Blends). He was seeking Cubanesque cigars, which he explains in the following way:
“I remember the aroma of my grandfather smoking a Cuban cigar, smoking the cigars in this little park by my house. And that aroma and that flavor was unique, I believe. And so when I say about Cubanesque, it is just a different type of flavor that reflects the type of tobacco and flavors and aroma.”
The M356 gave Nodal the confidence to make more blends, and things finally came together in the world-class Quattro F55, Cigar Aficionado’s No. 2 cigar of 2013, which earned a 95 rating! Nodal’s status as a successful cigar maker was a done deal. He’s also a highly skilled violinist, and he views blending and composition in much the same way:
“When you blend a cigar you’re creating a profile of flavors. Not much different from creating music, where you take the musical notes and arrange them in different ways to create a melody and harmony that reflect your own feelings. It’s the same process really. If I’m using tobacco or using musical notes, I’m looking for the same thing in the end.”
How sweet it is!
Please browse our selection of Aging Room Cigars at your leisure.