Ever since the release of the HVC Black Friday 2019 Edition, I have become increasinginly enthralled by the blends being put out by Reinier Lorenzo. This seasonal release was my gateway into a catalogue comprised entirely of winning blends, exhibiting finesse, balance, complexity, and originality. Naturally then, I was particularly excited last year when word got out that Lorenzo was soon to be opening a factory all his own exclusively for his HVC brand.
Fábrica de Tabacos HVC S.A. opened its doors and began operations earlier this year and the first products from this new factory debuted at PCA this past July. One was a vitola expansion for the existing 500th Anniversary line in the form of a 6 ¾”x 54 Salomon. The other is an entirely new blend in the HVC line up, the Selección No. 1, featuring Nicaraguan long fillers and binder from Estelí and Jalapa, with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper leaf. The blend is sold in 3 vitolas, the Ponerosos (6”x54), the Esenciales (5 5/8 x 46) and the Short Robustos (4 1/2 x 52). All of these cigars have since become available in the U.S. market.
The opening of this new factory signals a pivotal moment for HVC, and I wanted to get details from the man himself. Fortunately, I was able to catch Reinier for a phone interview to discuss the new factory and of course his new blend. Reinier is a busy man and the best time to catch him was 9 am Nicaragua time. Despite the earlier hour, Reinier was an enthusiastic and very gracious throughout our conversation. Listening to him speak, I am first struck by his distinct voice. It carries with it the years of someone far older. Surely his wisdom surpasses his true age!
We spoke first of his upbringing, born and raised in Havana City, Cuba, the hometown from which HVC takes its name. He had worked on a farm and developed a love for farming and animals. In 2008, at the age of 23, Reinier and his family would leave Cuba. Like so many before them, the family would arrive in Miami, Florida. In 2009, he would first become introduced to the cigar industry upon meeting with the Fernandez family of Aganorsa Leaf. Even after that chance encounter, It would be two full years before he took the full plunge.
Lorenzo’s path, while at times familiar, remains entirely his own. “I was in veterinary medical school in Wisconsin at the time, and I just felt moved to finally take the chance and try to grow something of my own. I had watched farmers all my life and I always had the deepest respect for their work and their work ethic. Then Eduardo (Fernandez) showed me how the farming and the manufacturing coupled with each other in the cigar business, and I just fell in love with it. It is all I ever want to do.”
In 2011 HVC began its mission to create cigars that honored and preserved the Cuban style traditions of cigar making. As a result of his relationship with the Fernandez family, Aganorsa Farms would become the primary source of their tobaccos and the primary manufacturer for their cigars. “I learned so much from Eduardo about all parts of the tobacco business. I am very fortunate to know him” says Lorenzo. Now that the new factory is up and running, much of the tobacco is still sourced from Aganorsa. As for the cigars, each is now produced under the direct supervision of Reinier himself.
When asked about the size of his new factory, Lorenzo proudly replied, “We have just 10 rollers, all working in pairs, but we still put out close to 50,000 cigars every month”. Impressive numbers for just 10 rollers! Lorenzo continued, “We are not trying to keep up in numbers to the big companies, I just want to keep making cigars the way I want them, and it is much easier to monitor the quality of just 10 rollers’ work!”
In general, HVC Cigars are towards the middle of the spectrum in terms of flavor and body. That is until the release of the Selección No. 1 came onto the market, bringing a much fuller flavor profile and body than what is typical for the brand. As Lorenzo explained, “I fell in love with the old Cuban-style cigar, nothing too bold or big, very balanced and well-constructed. But there are some Cuban cigars that can be bolder and stronger while still being balanced, so that is what I wanted the Selección No. 1 to be”. This blend is made using the “entubar” rolling method, which means that the rollers will roll the individual filler leaves into little tubes. This method, while it does require more skill and time, is meant to enable the rollers to pack more tobaccos into a cigar while still maintaining a high-quality draw and burn.
My first experience with it was last month, and I opted for the Ponderosos vitola (6”x54). The cigar was quite dark and pretty, with a fine tooth to the wrapper along with a nice oil sheen on the surface. The prelight aromas were robust with notes of charred hickory, espresso bean and peaty earth. After giving it a clean straight cut, the cold draw gave me a preview of a genuinely nice draw resistance, demonstrating the effectivity of entubar rolling. Despite there being a hefty amount of tobacco packed into this stick, the draw still afforded plenty of air flow. More wood and peaty earth notes were noticeable on the cold draw.
On the first light I am met with an explosion of rich smoke, med-full to full bodied with a delicious level of red and black pepper spice. Following that I get notes of dark graham cracker, warm cashew and chestnut notes, and an excellent blend of cocoa and espresso that seemed to be tag teaming on the draw. The smoke flavors began to take on noted of tart red cherry, almost reminiscent of red licorice candy, red cinnamon, peaty notes, and a continuation of the overtones of red pepper spice. The retrohale brings out a very bold red pepper and cinnamon spice, along with aromas of smoky oak notes at the end. I also get notes of gumbo filet, savory herbs, more earthy cocoa, and a rebound of the warm nuttiness. I was able to get an easy 90 minutes out of this stick and not once did the burn err in any way. The ash was solid, strong, and white, holding for at least two inches each time. It was an hour and a half a true full-bodied enjoyment that kept my attention at each moment.
As my conversation with Reinier drew to a close, I asked him if he is noticing any trends in the industry that may affect what he does with his brand. He simply said, “I don’t really look at stuff like that. I am just making something that I believe in, something that I want to give to others. I am also trying to preserve something, you know? I don’t want this style of cigar to go away, so I am trying to keep it going as much as I can”. The Selección No. 1 promises many great things to come from Fábrica de Tabacos HVC. Reinier intimated that another new blend is in the works from his new factory, and if all goes well boutique cigar fans can look forward to another old Cuban style creation sometime in the coming year.
Have you tried either of the projects from HVC’s new factory? Do you have a favorite HVC cigar? Let us know in the comments below, and keep an eye out for more news surrounding their 2022 BLACK FRIDAY release!