JRE Tobacco was founded by Julio R. Eiroa. He’s the patriarch of a tobacco growing company that is one of the most respected “crop to shop” organizations in the cigar industry and he’s been one of the foremost Corojo growers for decades.
Julio is one of the most renowned figures on the cigar landscape, but his son Justo shares the same attributes that his father holds–commitment to family and an innate ability to develop blends for all palates. His passion for honoring a business with a storied past, developing elite brands in the present and securing the future of the family and business is admirable.
The company brands–Aladino, Rancho Luna and Tatascan–have seen increasing demand by
consumers over the past few years.
We recently chatted with Justo about the past, present and future.
Cigar & Spirits Magazine: Please talk about your launch a few years ago.
Justo Eiroa: The brand had a soft launch in 2015. In 2016 we actually had a revamp of our presentation and everything. Our product got some better packaging. Our packaging is very simple, very Cubanistic and very traditional.
How rewarding is it that you drive the business with your father, and that it continues to grow as a respected brand in the industry?
One of the things I admire about my father is that he’s probably the premier tobacco grower in the industry. Separate from him being a premier grower, we’re the oldest farmers in the Central American area. At the same time, he has a palate that is magic. I kind of inherited that palate in a very humble way because he and I tend to like the same cigars. We like lots of flavor. We don’t like harsh tobacco.
People like flavor. They don’t like harshness. We give you so much flavor that even a person that smokes an intensely strong cigar, our cigar profile covers that palate, too. At the same time, it’s mild enough that you’re not going to get sick, and it’s extremely clean. You don’t get any aftertaste; you don’t get any extra salivation. Once people try our cigars, they keep coming back. They get used to this profile of having a clean cigar with lots of flavor, and automatically they catch on. It’s a very big win. Every manufacturer wants people to be extremely loyal. It’s a great success for us.
That’s really interesting because you have your go-to based on palate, but creamy, and flavorful, and aromatic go a long way.
Yes. If you look at anything you do… My daughter says, ”Oh, don’t say that.” I’m going to say it now…The most popular ice cream in the world is vanilla ice cream.
The most popular and best-selling cigar in the industry is the Connecticut. People like milder stuff, and we have a combination. Like you said, we give you mild, flavorful and creamy—no harshness. That for me is probably our distinct trait if they want us to know that, that we make a cigar for everybody.
You’re creating a premium artisanal cigar with Aladino, and you are also creating a premium artisanal experience. Do you know right off the bat if you have a winner?
When I brought my retailers down to the farm three or four years ago before COVID, I came out with a Connecticut for everybody to try it. I said, “Guys, I have Corojo, I have Corojo Reserve, I have Habano,” and nobody picked up the other cigars. The thing is, our Connecticut is so flavorful, so creamy, so wonderful. I said, “We have a winner.” It’s probably my top-selling wrapper.
It must be rewarding to know that your various vitolas more than hold their own with dominant brands in the industry.
Yes, it is very rewarding. I think one of the things you’ll see from us is now we have all the big boys trying to partner up with us. Because the quality of our tobacco, our manufacturing—we have very unique tobaccos that will really take a brand to the next level, and I think that we’re able to do that. That’s our forte. If you want to do a collaboration with me, you’re getting quality; you’re going to pay for it. It’s not going to be a cheap cigar.
Absolutely. I think consumers are very savvy. If they are in line with a brand, they like that exclusivity. It’s aspirational.
If you look at the older generation—we’re talking my dad’s generation, I would say 65-plus. Those are the guys that go for the real traditional brands, the Macanudos, all the other ones. One of the things we’re trying to do is appeal to that younger smoker, that 25 to 30-year-old. For us to focus on the younger generation and getting my daughters involved so they can start going after that younger generation is very important. At the same time, I think our profile is unique because we cater to everybody, everything when they go out and dine or they go out and drink, it’s about an experience. We provide everybody with an experience by the different wrappers that we have. The different flavor profiles without being very harsh.
Switching gears…What world you want your legacy to be? Professionally and personally.
The farming side is important there, that we help and support the communities we work with. These are the people it takes to get us there. When you look at the retail side, we want to be a partner they can count on. If you’re a consumer, we want to be a company that receives feedback. We want you to have the best experience with our cigars. At the same time, we’re very open-minded to all kinds of feedback.
We have farm trips now with our retailers. We like their input. I think a lot of times we get great ideas, and a lot of stuff that really resonates for both consumers and clients.
One of the things that’s very important for family–everything we do with friends and family is to set an example for the next generation on how to work. To instill a strong work ethic, be thoughtful, be courteous, and always try to protect your reputation as a good person.
What should we look out for in terms of new releases, consumer engagement in 2023?
We’re working on a couple of things that are very special. We’re working on an 85th-year anniversary for my father.
We’re also working on some event cigars. At events, consumers will experience that cigar, so we get feedback on those cigars and see how that new project is viewed and coming along.
We’re going to be more dynamic to see what we have. Our arsenal is good. We have a lot of stuff that we could come out with. One of the things we also try to do, we first want a blend to be established and then slowly grow.
We’re still pretty new when it comes to the company, so we have a lot of stores to grow into. When I provide a portfolio of five, six different blends, and four, five different sizes. You’re looking at 20 to 30 facings, and not all retail humidors have that capability. We have to be very strategic on how much product that comes out. We’re probably at 30 percent of all the retail stores that we want to be in, we still have two-thirds to grow.
Consumers can’t get enough of the newer premium artisanal cigar brands nowadays They really seek them out at the retail level.
We still have a long way to go. We’re very satisfied with the work we’ve already seen.