The working day is off to a start and the entire workshop is excited. Romeo believes his beloved Juliet is dead and cigar rollers thump their jackknives time and again. The lovers are trapped in a family feud, yet the day’s cigar output is going as smooth as ever. Each worker has already rolled over a dozen cigars and the factory’s quality levels bore well by the end of 1850.
Cigar prices skyrocket ridiculously as intuition seems to be just about the only way to secure the top quality of the tobacco leaves demanded for this job. For Don Inocencio Alvarez and Jose Manin, it’s all about excellence. A group of underground laborers has been dispatched to check on the country’s fi nest tobacco plantations in an eff ort to guarantee the perfect purchase and clinch quality for their upcoming manufactured products.
No wonder that back in those days, the latest auction sales provided the best leaves, those that had been aged for at least three years. But this time around different essences reveal more complex tastes. It’s not just fl ower, wood, coff ee grain or vanilla notes, but also the odd blend of all of them and an exclusive aftertaste in which none of them prevails over the other.
It’s been out there for a while and the most demanding smokers begin to notice the balanced and scented taste of a good blend. To the heat of the English drama and the beat of the cigar rollers’ hands, Romeo and Juliet have been reincarnated, though this time just like one: a habano cigar. Inspired by the lovers, the finest cigar rollers from Havana have named a brand-new, mild-tasting classic after the tragedy: Romeo y Julieta.
The local press has spread the news in the city’s Offi cial Gazette. The brand’s owners have registered the new product for the exclusive use of their factory on 87 San Rafael Street.
Competition with other brands is becoming increasingly tough in those days, yet Romeo y Julieta climb all the way to the top in terms of quality and presentation in the complex Cuban cigar market. Manin Garcia is far from wrong when he says that “making a good habano takes good tobacco.”
The small business grows on, and so does the commercial success of a good deal of new brands that hit the market. La Mar (June 1876), Los Amantes de Verona, Monteschi & Capuletti (June 1879), La Superfi na, La Flor de Lozano, Daniel Webster, La Cubana (1882), La Salamith, Entre las Rosas, La Mía, La Sonámbula, María Estuardo (1883), El Eco, La Cita and Sheba. Each and every one of them has amassed staggering revenues and brought tremendous popularity for the company, but the prestige of Romeo y Julieta remains eff ortlessly on a high note.
That prestige is so high that the brand has nabbed a number of accolades in exhibits and tradeshows in record time: Antwerp (1885), Brussels (1897) and Paris (1889 and 1900).
The Tragedy Turned into Success
Many changes have been going on since Don Inocencio and Jose Manin put the Romeo y Julieta brand on the map. The latter has his mind made up about leaving the factory and Mr. Inocencio has had no other choice but to sell it to Prudencio Rabell in early 1900.
But it won’t be for too long. Only three years have gone by and word has it that Mr. Rabell has sold both the brand and the factory because he’s failed to make an efficient use of them. Now they belong to the Rodriguez, Argüelles y Cia., a partnership founded by Jose Rodriguez Fernandez (Pepin) as chairman, Ramon Argüelles del Busto as deputy chairman, Antonio Roces and Baldomero Fernandez as members. Since then and with Pepin Rodriguez at the helm, a new shining era has begun for the recently opened Romeo y Julieta Cigar Factory in 1907.
Pepin travels around the world promoting his habanos. He’s gone to Europe, South America and mostly to the U.S., where he sells the entire stock of his factories’ outputs. What started out as a limited industry has blossomed by 1916 as a mighty company that now produces as many as 18 million cigars every year.