Do you know this man?
He is Danny DiFabio the sales manager of Rodriguez Cigars in Key West Florida. They are the oldest still operating factory and shop on the island. Even looking at their logo, which is ever present on their cigars and boxes, depicts Rodriguez as the King of the Keys.
I have been going to Key West for decades and I always stop into the Rodriguez Cigar Factory to pick up my sticks for the time I am there. Usually the family goes shopping for sandals at the famed Kino sandal factory next door while I select my stogies and then sit and fire one up. I remember the old Cuban gentleman there that ran the shop. It is been a few years since visiting America’s Caribbean island and as part of this issue we planned to do an interview with the Rodriguez family but when we arrived we learned sadly that the old man passed away. Taking over operations was Danny DiFabio the grandson of Mr. Rodriguez himself. Danny greeted us warmly as would his grandpa and we sat down for a few hours discussing the Rodriguez Cigar company, shop and family.
Rodriguez Cigars has been in operation since 1984 and they experienced the ebbs and flows of the cigar industry over those decades. When others closed, Rodriguez stayed the course, producing quality hand rolled, locally manufactured cigars that were revered by the many tourists visiting the island. It is still a family run business. Danny’s grandma still rolls the classic Rodriguez panatela; his mom manages the shop while Danny is responsible for the development and production of the Rodriguez cigar line.
Walking in the shop the one thing I noticed was that the shop has changed a little and there is a new humidor/aging room for the cigars. Danny has even taken the shop to a new level by building out a large aging room upstairs to store the cigars he receives from his manufacturer in Nicaragua. The room fills the whole second floor. His grandpa would be proud. I was certainly impressed. The shop itself is a veritable cigar museum with everything from old cigar presses and equipment to photos and newspapers and even original cigar bands from the old Cuban cigars. It would make any cigar aficionado drool in envy. One can easily understand why so many tourists visit the shop.
Born into the life of cigars, Danny was around his Grandma and Grandpa for years. He was more into baseball than cigars when he was growing up – playing baseball for the Key West HS Conchs and then further for St Thomas University in Miami. Even now with all the demands of running a cigar business, his passion for baseball is not lost, as he coaches his high school alma mater team. You could easily say he was living his dream, but when is Grandpa passed away he stepped into to some big shoes. During the few hours of casual discussion with Danny, I learned he is one of the most knowledgeable cigar men in the industry. His Grandpa, a simple man who just wanted to support his family taught him well, especially the family motto “Taking time helps secure Strength”.
Danny lives that motto every day. We discussed the introduction of a new Rodriguez cigar line, the Serie 84 and he is taking time on this blend and doing it right. It is his tribute to his Grandfather and the start of the small factory in Key West in 1984. The Serie 84 is collaboration with Guillermo Pena owner of the Guillermo Pena cigar factory in Miami. The Rodriguez family has connections to Guillermo Pena and Danny’s cousin even rolls for Guillermo. It was only natural that if Rodriguez Cigars were to expand the brand that they work with someone like Guillermo.
As we sat down to discuss the future plan of Rodriguez cigars we fired up a new Serie 84 torpedo and enjoyed some Glenlivet scotch. Danny noted that the shop produces roughly 50,000 Vintage 1925 cigars a year, a shop that is built on Love, Respect, Family History and Tradition. He went on to discuss how he plans on taking Rodriquez Cigars well beyond the borders of Key West with the new Serie 84 line. These will be produced in facilities in Miami and Nicaragua. They are working with the newly developed Gates Hotel to have a Rodriguez cigar lounge and have collaborated with the Key West Legal Rum Distillery to create special rum flavored cigars. To say this man is on a mission is an understatement. As you will read in our review of the Serie 84, there is no reason why Rodriguez Cigars should not be on the shelves of shops across the country and even the world.
Finishing off the Second Serie 84 I thanked him and his family for there time and noted that I still recall the dark Vintage 1925 beauties his Grandfather used to roll which are still rolled at the shop and available along with Grandma’s panatelas. But the Serie 84 is the story that will put them on the global map.