The Cigar King of Cabo

BY: FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ

One of the best, if not the ultimate cigar maker in Cabo San Lucas, is 25-year old Ulises Castillo, who rolls the finest tobacco in front of Pancho's Restaurant on Miguel Hidalgo Street. The soft-spoken, Ulises, originally hails from San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz and has been hand-rolling cigars for 5 years. An art and a trade he learned from his family, who have been in the cigar rolling industry since before he was born.

"My family sends me tobacco from my home town of San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz, but I also get tobacco from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic so I can make different "blends" and get a more complex flavor and therefore offer a mixed variety for people to choose from," said Ulises.

"I am only at the Pancho's location, once a week, specifically on Tuesdays, and have been rolling cigars there for about a year now,'' he added.

''Rolling cigars is an Artesanal craft, and everyone likes a hand made work of art instead of a manufactured box of cigars."

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Making good hand-made cigars requires rare ability and years of practice and hours of patience. People who have been rolling cigars for more than 15 years are considered "twist teachers."

According to Ulises, most cigar smokers are attracted to what is known in Spanish as "Puros" meaning "pure." The cigar tobacco rolling process, which begins with gathering the fermented leaves that are processed in a specific way to create their different flavors, is a long ordeal and requires a lot of work and care.

"Tasty tobacco like good wines, requires specific seeds, planted on good land, which must have specific characteristics; like the type of seed, the way it is grown, and the three-level process which are all very important. The first process is the cure (cured in the air, in the sun or in the fire) then the fermentation – which is done two times, and finally the ageing, which can take anywhere from 18 months or longer," explained Ulises.

"In all of this tobacco ageing process, it is necessary to take into account three important things; the humidity, the temperature and ventilation."

"As far as my time in Cabo,  this place is very beautiful. I like the year-round sunny weather, and I love the fact there is a lot of tourism here, of guests and visitors that enjoy a fine cigar. During my first year in Cabo, I was working to make my work here known, and so far, we have been invited to roll cigars in some of the hotels and high cigar consumption areas; like downtown San Lucas," said Ulises.

Adding that "smoking a good cigar is akin to drinking a good glass of wine, and there are cigars with flavors that remind us of the woods, others are more earthy, and yet others still taste more creamy, others bitter, and some even spicy. I would say in general, the taste of a cigar is complex and changes once it has been lit and is being smoked. Sometimes, it's not the same taste as when you first start smoking it, then when you're halfway through."

When asked about foreigners and tourists interest in freshly rolled cigars, Ulises noted that visitors don't always immediately smoke the cigars they buy because they are on vacation, but those who do smoke his cigars, usually purchase and take boxes back home with them.

Ulises studied at the University of Guanajuato and was living in León, Guanajuato, before making his move to Los Cabos. He can be found on Instagram as master_torcedor and besides rolling his specially crafted cigars at Pancho's Restaurant, he can also be found twisting them to every cigar smoker's delight at The Shore Bar, Omnia, Vidanta, and in Todos Santos on the main street in a place called La San Luqueña. Recently, Ulises was involved in a minor motorcycle accident which has sidelined him for a few weeks and Angel Hernandez from Veracruz stepped in to help and roll the hand-crafted cigars from back east after Ulises' motorcycle accident.

In his temporary absence, Angel has been in the cigar making line-up, substituting for Ulises for one week. The cigar rolling homerun hitting king, Ulises will be back in a few more days as of this writing.