Return to Camp Camacho
by David "Doc" Diaz
Thursday, April 05, 2011
[Note: for more information on how you can win a Camp Camacho Trip, visit our official Crush & Roll West contest page.]
My return to Honduras and Camp Camacho marked an anniversary, of sorts. This trip commemorated my initiation into cigar tours abroad. Back in January 2007, I embarked on my first cigar tour that would take me from Costa Rica to Honduras and a visit to 3 different factories. [See all the Camp Camacho Photos here.]
Starting in the region of Puriscal, Costa Rica, I visited Tabacos de la Cordillera and Vegas de Santiago farms and factories. After 4 days in Tico-landia, I hopped on a plane that took me to the capitol city of Honduras, Tegucigalpa and then on to Danli, the premiere tobacco region in Honduras and the home of Camp Camacho.
In the 5 years since then, I've had my passport stamped 21 times, all in search of cigar nirvana. On March 12, 2012, I returned to the scene of the crime and to the farms and factories of Camacho. Along with 15 other cigar sojourners, I toured the tobacco farms where Julio Eiroa still oversees the cultivation of his famous “Authentic Corojo” tobacco.
We also toured the curing and fermentation facilities, the box factory and the rolling gallery where such cigar brands as Camacho, Baccarat, La Fontana, and Room 101 are made. We witnessed the entire process, from seed to smoke, all in the tropical environs of Danlí, Honduras.
This type of expedition is a dream come true for any cigar lover and the chance to smoke cigars at the epicenter of Honduran tobacco operations has no equal.
There were 16 people who took part in this trip, which included myself and quite a few retailers and their employees. It also included 3 Camacho staff members and a host of contributing employees. It takes a lot of organization to put on a tour like this one and there are hundreds of details that cannot be overlooked if you are going to make the trip a success.
The fountain of information about everything Camacho came from Sandra Ochoa, who has been trained in every phase of the operations by none other than Julio Eiroa himself. Sandra has proved herself to be energetic, knowledgeable and passionate about the industry. She spent the days leading our tour of the factories and farms and was accessible to all of us throughout our tour in Honduras.
Also involved in the planning and execution of the tour was Jr. Brand Manager, Zoe Everhart, who was intimately involved in the pre-planning, coordination and scheduling both before and during the tour. Finally, there was Carlos J. Escalona who provided insights into the company operations and served as a translator during many parts of the tour. Zoe and Carlos spent nearly every waking minute with all of the participants of the tour. They were leading the way at the farms and factories and they were ever-present whether at poolside or at our daily meals. And of course, they partied with us: from dancing, to card games to karaoke, Zoe and Carlos were great sports and attentive to the needs of the group.
Camacho is one of the very few manufacturers that have their own residences where they host tour groups. In fact, the only other one that I know of is Drew Estate in Nicaragua, which sponsors their Cigar Safari tour and have accommodations on their property. All other cigar manufacturers that I've visited expect you to book a room at a local hotel. That is all fine and good and the hotels will give you a pampered experience whilst you light up stogies in abundance. However, a visit to Camp Camacho is what I would call a more "authentic" experience; complete with variable water temperature, no wireless Internet and an occasional gecko in your bedroom. I have to say that I like the atmosphere at Camp Camacho. And, don't misunderstand me; the living conditions aren't bad at all. The main residence is a beautiful country home with a pool, outdoor game and barbecue area, a full bar, and more. The "camp" rooms are clean, neat and more than sufficient to enjoy your stay, which would be about CIGARS, not room service.
Current State of Camacho
Five years ago, Camacho was on a hot streak with many great cigars in their portfolio and with a firmly entrenched customer base. But, in 2010 things would change as Davidoff purchased the Camacho brand and my return to Camacho would be filled with questions about the changes.
First, let me say that Camacho is alive and well and looking toward a future filled with fine new cigars and a continuation of their old favorites. That said, there have been several changes that were quite noticeable and I will be talking about those changes along with the other highlights of the trip.
Tthe new position of Camacho under the umbrella of the Davidoff Company is as follows... When Davidoff purchased Camacho, they purchased the brand and the Camacho name for use in the cigar world. They also purchased the rolling and box factories. Julio Eiroa kept the farms and owns all the tobacco that comes from the farms. This includes the buildings where the tobacco is processed. So, Julio continues to own the farms, the curing barns, fermentation and leaf processing facilities.
Obviously, Davidoff must have tobacco to continue to make all the brands under Camacho, which would include Baccarat and others. However, the contractual obligations of Julio Eiroa to provide tobacco for the continuation of these brands was not disclosed. It seems plausible that Davidoff would have negotiated a tobacco purchasing deal, but since I wasn't able to extract the answer to this question while I was there, I will leave it at that until I am able to get further information.
Another thing I've noticed since the purchase of Camacho by Davidoff is that Christian Eiroa is not as visible a figurehead of the brand. Prior to the purchase of the brand, Christian was very visible in Camacho advertising and was seen more often at local cigars shops and cigar events of various sizes. I wondered (out loud) whether the Davidoff parent company will style Camacho leadership as they have done with Davidoff. When you talk about Davidoff cigars, there are three main people who are intimately involved in the blending and packaging and will also determine what cigars will make it to the showroom floor. Those people are Henke Kelner, Eladio Díaz and Hendrik Kelner Jr., with the senior Kelner most likely having the largest say. But, when it comes to sales and marketing, these gents have very little involvement. Marketing and Sales are taken over by a team of people within the different countries where the cigars are sold. The only time I've seen the Kelner's involved with marketing and sales are during the yearly IPCPR, where they deal primarily with retailers and distributors and during their product promotion campaign for one of their newest line of cigars, the Puro d'Oro.
In contrast, Christian seemed way more involved in all facets of the business, prior to the purchase by Davidoff and he was very prominent in ads for various cigars and in communicating directly with retailers and distributors, not just at the yearly trade show, but throughout the year. All of this is just my own observations and opinions, but I believe that Camacho made its bones with this kind of approach and were purchased, in part, because of their marketing muscle. So, why change a winning formula and withdraw Christian as an integral part of marketing, sales, etc.? I voiced this observation while at Camp Camacho and was not given any light into the current situation. As I said, these are just my own observations and I would add that I am not levying an opinion one way or the other about which method is the best one. What I am saying is that Camacho developed a pretty darn good business and loyal customers and retailers with their approach to marketing and sales and I for one have been very curious about what I see as a change in their past practices. Once again, I will have to leave this for a future discussion.
Cigars and New Cigars I Smoked
Let me start out by commenting on some of the cigars that we were able to choose from during the trip. There was never any time in the trip where we were at a shortage of cigars to smoke or libations to drink. So, what was available to smoke? Well, it might be easier to say what wasn’t available, because really we were treated to a wide range of smokes made by Camacho.
From the Camacho Core line there were Baccarat, La Fontana and Legend-Ario.
From their Premium line of cigars we were able to smoke the Camacho
Corojo, the Connecticut, the Havana, the Coyolar and SLR Maduro. Finally,
from their Ultra-Premium line, we had the Camacho Triple Maduro, the
Camacho Corojo 10th Anniversary, and the Camacho Diploma. I typically
started the day with something light to medium, like the Connecticut
or the Havana, then graduated to the Camacho Corojo, Maduro, or Legend-Ario.
But at night, we were staring down the barrels of the Triple Maduro,
Corojo 10th Anniversary and the Diploma. Okay, not to mention a generous
portion of Flor de Caña rum or Johnnie Walker Black.
But it didn't stop there... we were also able to dip in to the stocks of Room 101 cigars including the new Namakubi. And, what was really cool was the opportunity to sample two cigars that have not even been released yet. One new Blend was a cigar that is 100% Corojo and built to pack a punch. That cigar was sneaky strong with full body, but with a nice bittersweet chocolate note on the retrohale.
We tried another new blend that we didn’t find out any specifics about, but it was amazing. This cigar had it all: great flavor and body, excellent balance and complexity. Of course, I was a bit biased because the cigar was made in my favorite size from Camacho, the 11/18. There is really no greater excitement than to sample a cigar that hasn't yet been released and the two I tried at Camp Camacho were ample proof that there are plenty of arrows left in Camacho's quiver.
Core Features of the Tour
If the trip can be distilled into its core features, it would have to be the time spent walking the fields and the factories. You may have seen videos about the different aspects of bringing a cigar from seed to smoke, but there is no substitute for being there. To learn about why different types of tobacco have a unique flavor, it helps to experience the texture and thickness of the leaves and feel the stickiness of the resins. To understand how the curing and fermentation process rids the tobacco leaves of noxious by-products you need to step into a fermentation house and smell the off-gassing of ammonia. In short, tobacco processing and cigar making is a multidimensional sensory experience.
A trip to most any farm and factory can be a magical experience and
my two tours at Camp Camacho have represented the very best of what
a cigar enthusiast can hope to be exposed to. I hope to be able to
share this experience with some of my brothers and sisters of the leaf and
I am happy to announce that I will once again be traveling to Camacho
in 2013 and my partners in Crush & Roll West, in conjuction with
Camacho will be raffling several trips to Camp Camacho during this
year. For more details, please visit the Win
a Camp Camacho Trip web page.
About the Author
David "Doc" Diaz is the publisher and the editor of the Stogie Fresh Cigar Publications. He has served as an educator, researcher and writer and has taught in the Health Education and Health Science field for over 30 years. He possesses an earned doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. Doc is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT), having received this certification from the Tobacconist University and is a member and Ambassador of Cigar Rights of America (CRA)blog comments powered by Disqus