Christian Eiroa has been a longstanding member of the cigar industry. His family is responsible for bringing to the market the varietal of tobacco I love- Honduran Original Corojo. Last week I was able to spend some time with him and his organization over the 4 days Brandon and I were in Honduras. There are many ways to describe the man - intense, intelligent, hard working, and direct at the surface level but this trip to Honduras also showcased a side to the Christian and the CLE Brand that is hard to see at a 15 minute meeting during a trade show or cigar event.
The Asylum partnership with Tom demonstrates a side of Christian I hadn’t seen before in the previous meetings but was on full display during our time in Honduras - loyalty. Whereas CLE and Eiroa are brands steeped in Honduran roots and tradition, Asylum is edgy, forward thinking and appeals to a different cigar smoker. Asylum came to the market with a focus on large format cigars (6x60 and 7x70) and aggressive price points. Christian thought the idea was crazy (thats where the name came from) but agreed to make the cigars in order to tell Tom “I told you so”. Little did either of them know that the brand would explode in popularity, and larger sizes (8x80 and now even 9x90) would follow suit. While large and crazy sizes put Asylum on the map, they also make more traditional formats of their blends, offer the sweet tipped Insidious and will soon offer cigars that are “steeped” in flavor.
A majority of the sales staff have been with Christian for a significant portion of their career. One of the pillars of Christians success is “Total Quality Management” which incudes a commitment making sure his employees are happy in order to maximize their performance. These aren’t just words, complaints are encouraged and addressed quickly, and it is apparent Christian truly cares about his people. For instance, not only does he know if a family member of his staff is sick, he asked about their health, examined a recent picture and commented that they had put weight back on since he had last seen them. It was clear on this trip that this commitment to staff works, his staff is full of rockstars and they work hard to exceed the high bar that Christian expects.
There are other aspects of the business that demonstrate his commitment to the future. I call these conscientious innovations - Victoria Del Corojo (the Erioa family farm) was one of the first farms to install drip irrigation (using only water that has been treated via reverse osmosis) for their crops and is the only tobacco farm to receive the Bayer Cropscience certification. This certification represents a dedication to cleanliness, natural processes that eliminate unhealthy additives and mitigating the effect the company has on the environment. Also, tens of millions of dollars have been spent to eliminate inefficiencies and build capacity at the factory for years to come -without adding artificial process or eliminating tradition.
CLE cigars are very deliberate in the ways they impact their community. Not only are Christians factory workers some of the best paid in the industry, they also have access to medical care on site as well as financing for transportation and homes. Small details matter as well, the workers are paid via direct deposit during the week (forcing them to have a bank account) which helps them save for the future. Most factories pay via cash on Friday, which can result in poor spending habits (Honduras has a high alcoholism rate). CLE also operates a foundation developed on the words “Success unshared is failure”. This foundation helps those with lower resources in Danli, as well as improving the environment. The foundation has helped build schools, provide school supplies for children, healthcare to the community (including breast cancer screenings) and planted trees to mitigate any effects on the environment.
I have been a fan of what the Eiroa family produces since I entered the industry. They grow the best Corojo in the world. Now, after this trip I have an even deeper respect for what the company represents. The Eiroa family produces some of the finest cigars in the world, they bring new and exciting options to a wide variety of cigar smokers and they do all of this in a responsible and conscientious manner for the environment and their community.
- Nate Simonds