If you’ve spent some time at Roland Wines, Mint Valley Golf Course or Ashtown Brewing lately, you may have seen Jaime Lara rolling cigars.
Lara has recently started up his dream business: Lara Casa Real Cigars, a premium cigar-rolling business. Lara doesn’t have a brick and mortar store, instead opting as a kind of cigar “catering” business that sets up shop at events around town.
“I’ll set up the table and people see the whole process,” Lara said, from unpacking the ingredients to cutting and lighting the cigar.
“I see too many people at my events... who have been smoking cigars for years but have no idea what is inside,” Lara said.
Though he’s a millwright by trade, Lara became intensely curious about cigar-making three years ago after a vacation to Florida.
When he saw that there were no businesses that provided cigar-rolling services around Longview or Southwest Washington, he decided he had found his niche. For the past six months, he’s focused on getting all of the requisite licensing, branding and marketing for his business.
Lara’s event packages include three-hours of tabling at any event, from baby showers to weddings to business openings. Customers have their pick of packages depending on how many cigars they want for their event. Lara will bring pre-made cigars and then demonstrate rolling during the event as well.
Each cigar has three components: a wrapper, a binder and filler. Each piece must have a different moisture content and thickness. The outside wrapper, for example, shouldn’t be too thick or too dry, and contains a lot of a cigar’s flavor.
The binder, which holds the filler in place, is usually a little thicker and comes from the bottom of the plant. The filler leaves can come from any part of the tobacco plant − most cigars have “blended” fillers, or fillers that come from varying parts of the plant and multiple sources.
Lara says often his cigars will have three different tobacco sources: one type for the wrapper, one type for the binder and three types of tobacco for the filler.
Lara said he sources his fillers from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Honduras, and started mixing and matching them and creating his own “recipe.”
For events, Lara wraps three different sizes of cigars: Gordo (six inches and about an inch in diameter), Toro (six inches and about 3/4s of an inch), and Churchill (7.5 inches and a bit thinner than the toro). And while he has his own cigar label with his company’s logo, he’ll also create custom labels for events.
And Lara’s company logo, which adorns his regular labels, does have a story.
“This is my family crest but more simplified,” Lara said, pointing to the blue, red and yellow label on the cigar. The image depicts two cauldrons stacked on top of one another on a red shield, topped by an armored helmet. On the sides are two symmetrical, winding vines that frame the image.
He said the imagery is not specifically significant, though he was attracted to the design and its colors.
Though Jaime was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, he said his family has held onto the crest, which dates back to his Spanish ancestry. His father was born three hours away from Guadalajara in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, known as the most European-influenced region in Mexico, where 80 to 90 percent of the population is of European descent.
But Lara said he prefers Longview to the sunnier climes of his home town. He’s been in Longview since 2008, when he moved to the area for construction work. He plans on sticking around a while and working on his next big dream: opening a cigar bar.
“Not like a restaurant with a smoking area,” Lara said. Rather a place with low light, nice upholstery, good music and of course, great cigars.
“For me, a cigar is for a special occasion,” Lara said. “For me, you need two or two and a half hours for smoking a cigar. The cigar... involves relaxing, a good view, good conversation, good friends and good drink.”