"Here," says the cigar company president, handing a box-pressed robusto to a cigar-smoking visitor. "When you get tired of that thing, smoke a real cigar." Meet Nick Perdomo Jr., the 36-year-old owner of south Florida's Tabacalera Perdomo. Unlike most cigarmakers, who are soft-spoken men who use reserved, respectful tones when talking about the competition, Perdomo is…different.
He's a quantity guy, not a quality guy." Competitor C? "They just throw anything in there." Perdomo is an opinionated man. One imagines that he has a tongue without any scars -- he hasn't bit it in years. But his remarks can't detract from his skills. He makes a great cigar.
It's hard to miss, bright and colorful in a town defined by drab, smaller buildings. The factory is the staging point for a host of cigars: Perdomo Reserve, La Tradicion Cabinet Series, Dos Rios, Inmenso, Cuban Bullet, the cleverly named Perdomo2 line of squared cigars, and the C.A.O. L'Anniversaire line, one of the hottest cigar brands in America.
He makes flavored cigars in a corner of his factory for cataloguer Thompson & Co., and recently began making "Genuine Counterfeit Cuban Cigars" for 800-JR Cigars Inc. The intentional fugazies, which retail for about $50 to $60 a box, are made from Ecuadoran, Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos and are banded with a copy of the Cuban seal of guarantee, with the word "Counterfeit!" stamped over it in bright red ink.
The combination of low-end and high-end cigars, some retailing for $12 or more, has turned Tabacalera Perdomo into a growing powerhouse in the cigar industry, one that has thrived despite the end of the cigar boom. Sitting at his spacious desk in his Miami Lakes, Florida, headquarters, Perdomo takes out a calculator (which sports a "stolen from Nick Perdomo" label) and sorts through a stack of documents from Nicaragua.
Perdomo is a big man, heavyset with a round, cherubic face. He recently shaved a neatly trimmed goatee, which was mostly gray. One of his office walls is covered by signed photographs of sports legends such as Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. An electronic drum and a guitar sit in the office -- he used to play in a band.
It reads: "There's no limit to what a man can do, or where he can go, if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." "Nick is a genius," says an admiring Cano A. Ozgener, president of C.A.O. International Inc. of Nashville, Tennessee. "He has achieved so much in such a short time." One of Perdomo's best deals came from taking a call from Ozgener at two o'clock one morning.
His cell phone rang, getting him out of bed. His brother-in-law, Perdomo vice president Michael Argenti, was on the line from Dallas. He wanted Perdomo to speak to Ozgener. Perdomo stood on his balcony, clad in his underwear, to get a stronger signal. Ozgener was in a bit of a bind.
L'Anniversaire, a box-pressed maduro with a broadleaf wrapper and a red band that mimicked the distinctive Partagas Serie D No. 4 from Cuba. The cigars had been made by "Don" Douglas S. Pueringer at Tabacalera Tambor S.A. in Costa Rica, the factory best known for making Bahias. And that was the source of the problem.
It was four months to the big industry trade show, and Ozgener had a cigar brand without a cigarmaker. "Everyone wanted to make cigars for us," says Ozgener. "We had two finalists." Each company made a batch of cigars, which Ozgener and his family passed out to tobacconists to pick the winner.
Manufacturer B was Perdomo, and Ozgener recalls that 85 percent preferred the Perdomo blend. "So," says Ozgener, "the choice to us was very clear." Ozgener loved the blend, which has done well in cigar shops and in blind tastings. Perdomo's version of the C.A.O. L'Anniversaire has received several high scores in Cigar Aficionado, and a recent retailer poll by Cigar Insider, the magazine's sister publication, ranked the cigar as the fifth hottest brand in America.
"He didn't like my price," says Perdomo, who has a reputation for charging dearly for his work. "In Costa Rica, the prices are higher," says Ozgener. "In Nicaragua, we expected the prices to be lower. They were equivalent." Perdomo makes no apologies for charging what he does, and he owns one of the few cigar companies in America that seems to have no problem selling cigars at high prices.