When planning our venture to Florida, the cigar capitol of the world, we had only 2 objectives: attend The Great Smoke 2015 and visit El Titan de Bronze.
Our first day in FL was very welcoming, so much so that the kind state graced us with a cold weather record-tying 42 degrees! (thanks a million, global warming…). That’s nothing special here in our local Denver climate, there wasn’t even much difference in temperature from when we got on and off the plane; I’m only assuming it was Florida’s way of giving us a nice and easy adjustment period.
This small factory, located in a neighborhood that feels like a missing chunk of Cuba, is responsible for creating some of the best cigars in the world
After a quick night’s sleep, our attention shifted to more imperative matters. Many cigar smokers have heard tales of the legendary El Titan de Bronze, a small cigar factory located in Miami’s famed Little Havana. It’s understandable, after all, this small factory, located in a neighborhood that feels like a missing chunk of Cuba, is responsible for creating some of the best cigars in the world. La Palina’s Goldie series, Warped Cigars, and the eponymous El Titan de Bronze – these are just a few of the more prominent cigars churned out of the tiny factory.
Speaking of tiny, you have no idea! Walking in to the shop, you are immediately greeted by the roller’s workstations. Maria Sierra, one of the best cigar rollers in the world, a legend, sits only a few feet away! She speaks barely a lick of English, completely content to be left to her work. Here, at a rolling station contained within a 10ft square room, she rolls the entire line of La Palina Goldie cigars – literally, that’s all she does! Maria, like all ETDB rollers, is classified as a category 9 roller. She also has quite a story – when she was only a teen, she was selected among a group of 30 young girls (to which only a handful remain today), to be trained to roll cigars for Castro. She was trained by Avelino Lara (creator of Cohiba) at the prestigious El Laguito factory in Havana, Cuba, as well as Castro’s personal roller Rivera Irizarri. Maria rolled in Cuba for 32 years before making her way to America in 2011, when she simply showed up at ETDB one morning, unbeknownst to owner Sandy Cobas. Today Maria is 65 and is completely content doing what she does best!
Soon, David (nephew of the great Willy Herrera) recognizes our Dojo shirts and gives us the full tour. This consists of about 5 rooms: the entrance, which includes the rollers and a sales counter, a storage/shipping room, two fermenting rooms – one for raw tobacco and one for rolled cigars, and a back office room. We were impressed with its size, that so much could come from a factory the size of a small ranch home! But they insisted it was plenty, in fact ETDB had recently expanded, nearly doubling its original size…
Thousands of cigars, the best in the world, right at your fingertips—it’s a powerful feeling
Naturally, we spent a good, long while in the fermenting rooms, which housed nearly their entire inventory in two, separate, closet-sized rooms. Full wheels of cigars lined the shelves, and in a room of that size, the aroma was intense! Thousands of cigars, the best in the world, right at your fingertips – it’s a powerful feeling. For those wondering, there were only a few of the new Goldie vitolas that we could find, hidden on some of the top shelves – a release that has yet to be announced.
But the highlight of ETDB, the place where these amazing cigars really come from, goes down in the back office. Here you will find owner Sandra Cobas, chatting with whomever decides to visit on a given day – today that happened to be us. We couldn’t believe the hospitality of Sandy and her team, we showed up unannounced, and within only a few minutes, we were offered lunch, cigars (courtesy of Brian Chinnock of Chinnock Cellars), pastries – you name it! We ate and smoked on “the table”, a small unassuming table that they insist will never leave the establishment, it was at this table that every major cigar to come out of ETDB was conceived – soon we found ourselves discussing our own future plans… We can dream, can’t we?!
Sandy kept us busy for hours, telling stories of the old days, involving Jonathan Drew, Carlito Fuente, and of course, her son-in law Willy Herrera. It’s amazing how even the superstars of the cigar world hold ETDB with such high regard! Sandy stressed to us the boutique environment she has so-meticulously crafted, it’s something she isn’t willing to compromise on. Of course her factory could take on more work, expand ten fold, but that’s not what she wants. Not anyone can simply walk in and have a cigar made at ETDB, their clients are hand-selected, and the old adage “quality over quantity” is held to a very high regard. This shop represents a dying breed, it’s the last bastion of pre-embargo, mom & pop cigar shops – it knows what it needs to be and what it needs to do, and that’s exactly what it does best.