We are excited to share with you an amazing interview with Felix A. Mesa of El Galan Cigars, who is not only passionate about cigars, but also a great guy with an awesome story about how he got inspired to start this up-and-coming cigar brand.
HoOchly: Who is Felix A Mesa? Tell us a little bit about yourself
Felix: “Felix A. Mesa is a great lover of the taste of a good Cigar. I am Cuban, 41 years old, son and grandson of the third generation of a humble peasant family from the former province of Las Villas, today called Spiritus Santis in the Cabaiguan town where I was born and grew up in a field called the Purial which is a tobacco region in Cuba. I left Cuba with a dream which could not realize there for the reasons that many know; there you can’t do registration marks, much less sell tobacco and to be able to pay tribute to a family who deserved it as many others to achieve experiences and wisdom in this beautiful tobacco industry.”
HoOchly: How did El Galan Cigars get started?
Felix: “El Galan begins in 2010, I created this first brand name as a dream to achieve but I knew very well that it was very hard because USA is such a tough and competitive market, I even received criticism from people in the industry and in general for not being a recognized brand name. However, my desire to follow a dream, my dedication, my love and passion and great debt to my family to bear not only their name but also their legacy, were all stronger than what I had to face, what I still face and will continue to face. It never gets out of my head all the things I owe to my family and to keep that legacy alive is my responsibility. These are the reasons why I want to continue to move forward and grow each day.”
HoOchly: Where does the name El Galan come from?
Felix: “The name El Galan—Spanish for “gentleman”— comes from a saying my grandfather always shared when he noticed well-dressed men, often wearing a dress jacket or a nice shirt but with poorly constructed and bad quality cigars sticking out of their pockets, this was something that would ruin that “gentleman” look and my grandfather used to make fun of those men. My grandfather always thought that a good cigar with good construction and looks made all the difference in making a man look good and portray elegance. El Galan pretty much is someone who personifies all things that make someone attractive, inside and outside. I give thanks to God and my family, to whom I dedicate every experience I’ve lived through and learned from, and so, I am creating all these cigar names based on their names and stories.”
HoOchly: How about the Doña Nieves line, where does the name and the vitola names come from?
Felix: “The Doña Nieves name comes from my grandmother, whose name was Nieves Manso. Therefore, that cigar pays homage to her, whom I admire dearly for being such a great human being and having a “manly heart” since she worked in tobacco farms until she was 86 years of age.
Because of the time she spent under the sun, Doña Nieves’ skin was dark and leathery so my grandfather Jorge began calling her “Negra Macha”, a nickname that referred to her dark complexion and tough countenance. And so, all the vitolas were named after Doña Nieves’ many nicknames; the “NEGRA MACHA” size was born as a 5½ x 54, then we have the 5 ½ x 50 which is the “NIEVITA” this is what I used to call my grandmother and lastly the 5 ½ x 50 is the “MINGA” which is what my mother used to call her.
Doña Nieves set a great example for me to follow in life, since she was never afraid to do hard work and whatever she worked on she did it with love—including growing corn, rice and beans. I truly learned a lot from my grandmother, not only because of her good advice but also because of all the good things she did, I call her a “lion heart” woman.”
HoOchly: So are the characters illustrated in the labels your family members?
Felix: “Yes they are. In the Doña Nieves band I have the picture of my grandmother Dona Nieves working on her farm in Cuba. In the label of EL GALAN SPECIAL RESERVE I have a picture of my mother Ana Nancy in the farm removing tobacco buds and my grandfather Francisco, her father, working on his farm “El Guagen”. It really is a great honor for me to have them in my bands.”
HoOchly: Other than El Galan and Doña Nieves, What other cigar brands you smoke?
Felix: “My favorite brands besides my cigars are Fuente and Oliva, without leaving behind all other existing brands out there. Fuente makes a great cigar, they have many years in the business and they have the process down; Their discipline is out of this world and it transpires to their product; the aging on their tobacco, the good taste, the aroma and draw makes them unmistakable. The Fuentes are a great family, I take my hat off to them, they set an example to many of us and it is a pleasure and an honor for me to be able to call them friends. Another favorite brand is OLIVA, they are also a family who knows what they are doing and the quality and great construction of their cigars is admirable. I am also honored to meet this great family, I respect them tremendously and admire their passion and love they put into their craft. I take my hat off to them as well!”
HoOchly: What can you tell us about the blend of El Galan cigars and what makes them so unique and flavorful?
Felix: “El Galan Reserva Especial uses all Nicaraguan Tobacco and El Galan first release uses all Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers with Ecuadorian wrapper. The trick to a good cigar is in the blend, for example you can use a “criollo” but based on the year the taste will be different and wrappers like the “corojo” and “habano 2000″ have so many secrets and different flavors and functions, I can’t really disclose all of our secrets but what is not a secret and I say it loudly is that if you are not disciplined, passionate and do things from the heart, the blend will just not work.”
HoOchly: What can we expect from El Galan in the future? Any new blends in the horizon?
Felix: “At this moment and in the future, El Galan, is always thinking about working hard to bring out the best. We will expand to stores all throughout the country. The US has a clientele that has great taste and knowledge in cigars, thanks to those cigars aficionados is that we can grow, however the product must be consistent and high quality and that is our main focus. This year, we will be releasing a new cigar under the Doña Nieves line, I can’t reveal the name or the blend yet but it is a name I’ve been thinking of for quite awhile and I’m excited about it because it represents what’s on my heart when I think of my grandmother Doña Nieves. It will be a great smoke with a very unique blend and you should keep your eye out for it!”
HoOchly: What is your favorite cocktail or spirit and which one would you recommend to be paired up with your cigars?
Felix: “My personal favorite and the one that compliments my cigars perfectly is a Spanish wine called Crianza Ribera del Duero, it is a great balance of dry fruit with a long leathery finish.”
HoOchly: El Galan is a relatively new product in the market and it already has recognitions from CigarSnob and a full article about it. To what do you attribute this successful reception in such short time?
Felix: “The Galan is a reflection of my family, which lives by a philosophy of nurturing strength from within—and that is something we are born with, not something we learn and therefore, I always do my best and motivate my workers at the El Galan Cigars S.A. in Esteli, Nicaragua, to better themselves every day. The work we do does not depend on me alone nor on my way of thinking but on my way of communicating all ideas to them, always looking for solutions to whatever comes next without fear. I have a team whom I respect because I know strength is in the numbers and communication is very important in the cigar industry. I’m always emphasizing discipline as it is the only thing that will take you where you want to go and achieve your goals. One should also never forget where we come from, staying humble and doing only what’s right—and I am of the belief that we are capable of transferring all that into a tobacco product.”
HoOchly: Where can we get El Galan and Doña Nieves and what message you have for the aficionados?
Felix: “El Galan and Doña Nieves can be ordered from El Galan Cigars Store in 9523 SW 40 Street, Miami FL 33165 and we ship via UPS. Also, our website at www.elgalancigars.com lists all the retailers that carry El Galan and Doña Nieves around the country. And my wish for all cigar aficionados is that if they haven’t yet tried them, to go ahead and get them, then tell me what they think as I would like to hear their take on them. I also would like to tell them that if you have a dream, make sure to pursue it without losing faith since love and hard work can earn great successes during that journey.”
“Thank you Carolina for the interview and I’m always grateful for the interesting questions. Greetings from Felix A. Mesa.”
(Interview was conducted entirely in Spanish)