Smokeshop

SS August 2016

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38 SMOKESHOP August 2016 W hen you hear the name José Blanco in the cigar industry, you most probably think of the man who worked for years with La Aurora, and more recently the launched founded Señorial cigars. But there is an- other José Blanco, one who is younger and makes the cigars for his cousin with the same name. He goes by the nickname Jochy, one he has had since childhood. "I decided to keep Jochy because my cousin José is well known in the market." The fourth generation José Blanco in his family, 54-year-old José Arnaldo "Jochy" Blanco runs Tabacalera Palma in Tamboril, just outside of Santiago in the Dominican Republic. While not known very widely up to this point, Tabacalera Palma is actually marking its 80th year in 2016. Says Jochy, "My grandfather start- ed growing tobacco but he never pro- duced cigars. My father was the one who started making cigars in 1936 and in big quantities too. But it was not known in the U.S., because it was a very different cigar and it was made for the local mar- ket here in the Dominican Republic. It was 100 percent for the local market and the tobaccos we used for those cigars was different than what we grow today for premium cigars." As for his heritage, Jochy says he has been with tobacco all his life. "Since I was a kid I have been in tobacco. I worked with my father and played among the tobacco bales. I loved it…jumping from one bale to another." His former play space today is the site of the expanded factory and Jochy's free trade zone. The land is what used to be one of his family's farms. There re- mains a small experimental farm on the property, but mostly it consists of Taba- calera Palma; Abe Flores's PDR factory which Abe rents from Jochy; and three other factories that Jochy rents to other manufactures. Jochy grows tobacco at the La Canela farm in partnership with Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana called the Flor de Palma farm. He has many other farms throughout the Cibao valley that provide him with excellent tobaccos, tobaccos that attracted many cigar com- panies have Jochy make their cigars for them, including Rafael Nodal, who for- merly operated his own Habana Cuba Cigar Company / Oliveros factory. Oliveros was, in fact, one of the first companies to call Tabacalera Palma home. Starting in 2009, Nodal partnered with Jochy to form Boutique Blends. The first cigar they launched was SWAG. That cigar sold well and in 2011 Nodal and Jochy launched the small batch Ag- ing Room series that has subsequently been named one of the best cigars of 2011 and again in 2013. > CIGARMAKER SPOTLIGHT Tabacalera Palma's Jochy Blanco: The "Other" José Blanco A talented fourth generation tobacco grower, blender, and cigar maker steps out from shadows to develop his own brands as his reputation and market success continue to grow in stature. >BY FRANK SELTZER

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