It’s always a pleasure talking with Al Micallef from Micallef Cigars, so, even though I’ve interviewed him before, I decided I wanted to chat with him again at the 2019 IPCPR (now called PCA) trade show and just shoot the breeze and smoke some cigars.
But before we get to that, I first asked Micallef about their three new cigars they are debuting this year.
“We have 43 different offerings, 15 to 16 blends, and if my life depended on it, I couldn’t tell you what all the blends were,” Micallef laughs.
So, I asked brand manager Steve Henrickson instead.
The first new cigar is the Leyenda Special Edition, an extremely limited version of the Leyenda 1 and Leyenda 2. It’s the same blend, hand selected by the Gomez-Sanchez family, but it uses higher primings than those used in the Leyenda 1 and Leyenda 2. There are only 500 10-count boxes of this cigar.
The second is the Reserva Limitada Privada, a six-inch Toro version of the Churchill that has really helped put Micallef on the map and has received tons of accolades.
The third and final is the Migdalia. It’s a Corona Extra with a San Andres and Habano wrapper, Sumatra binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers.
“This is probably one of the most sought-after cigars right now by everyone at the show that knows our line,” says Henrickson. “Absolutely great flavor profile.”
Micallef chimes in, “The cigar is named after the mother of the guys who run our plant. She did the blending on it; she wouldn’t let the boys touch it. She also rolled for Castro for 20 some years, so she knows what she’s doing.”
Micallef also shows me the cigar he’s smoking, a Lancero that was specifically rolled for him and his closest friends.
“People are asking for them and bugging me to death,” Micallef says. “I give some to Steve every once in a while so he doesn’t steal them from me.”
The Lancero is only sold at the largest duty-free store in the world at the Dallas-Fort Worth terminal and is sold for around $80 per cigar.
All right, question time!
Do you remember your first cigar?
I do, very clearly, and it was 69 years ago. The first cigar I had, I made myself, actually. I used leaves from an oak tree, rolled it up in some Detroit Free Press newspaper, and smoked that. And that was my first cigar.
I developed a better palate as I got older, and I started smoking actual cigars.
What’s one of your favorite memories of smoking a cigar?
I had an uncle that was a big cigar smoker, and I once stole a White Owl or something from him and was smoking it behind the garage when he caught me. I’ll never forget that. He made me pay for the cigar, which was a nickel, and that was my total net worth at the time. It was a painful experience.
What do you love about the cigar industry?
You know, I’ve been in a lot of businesses, and this is the only business I’ve ever been in where your competitors say, “Hey, if you need anything, give me a call,” and they really mean it. I’ve had guys who I would consider big competitors give me information that helped me run my plant more effectively. It’s an industry that is more family than anything.
Do you have guilty pleasures? Books? Movies? Food?
Any book or movie that has to do with our military or the NSA or the CIA—I’ve always been interested in that end of our government.
What would you love to do if you weren’t in the cigar industry?
Well, I wanted to be a bikini waxer, but cigars would be the second most desirable industry to be involved in.