Enrique Sanchez Icaza, founder and CEO of Global Premium Cigars, has turned a long-time passion for smoking cigars into one of the most prestigious cigar brands in the industry. Armed with nothing more than a smile and a shoe shine, Sanchez launched the 1502 brand of cigars in 2012 with a single vision in mind.
“When starting my company my vision was to make a cigar that people will enjoy and relax. I follow my heart, not with a business plan or market research. I make what I like hoping everyone will enjoy,” said Sanchez.
1502 and its mantra, ‘Proudly Nicaraguan’ made its debut about 20 months ago at the 2012 IPCPR Trade Show in Orlando, Florida where it launched three core blends at its inception, an unprecedented feat in an industry that doesn’t exactly welcome new comers with open arms. The 1502 Emerald, Ruby, and Black Gold each bring a distinct flavor profile that meets the individual needs of today’s discerning cigar smokers.
“We have fun all the time. It has been a very short 20 months but with a lot of growth and a lot of success,” said Sanchez. “We have about 170 accounts. Growth has been tremendous.”
The brand name 1502 comes from the year that Christopher Columbus discovered Nicaragua and the band was inspired by the official currency of the kingdom of Spain in the year 1502, the Spanish Doubloon.
Despite the rich character and complex flavor profile that is present in all 1502 cigars, it is the flawless construction and impeccable draw that is unbeatable. The consistency with each cigar is phenomenal. Sanchez considers his cigars a work of art, and every cigar made by 1502 is box pressed, including the Lanceros. Each of the three blends is available in Sanchez’s favorite vitola, the Lancero.
“I like box-pressed cigars. It gives the cigar an extra edge, an extra push for strength and flavor,” he said. “You get more out of the cigar.”
The Lancero vitola is enjoying a resurgence here in America but it is extremely rare to find a box-pressed Lancero.
“It is difficult to take a small ring gauge like the Lancero because you don’t have a lot to work with. We make the cigar, then box press it, and to have a perfect draw like ours is a piece of art,” said Sanchez.
Another characteristic of the unique craftsmanship of the 1502 cigars is the ‘cigar lock’ that Sanchez is in the process of patenting. It is an elegant addition to the appearance that extends the wrapper slightly beyond the foot and folded over to create a ‘semi-closed’ foot.
“The cigar lock protects the wrapper from breaking and allows you to light the cigar from the outside in, the way a cigar should be lit. Plus, it allows you to really taste the wrapper flavor upon your first draw,” said Sanchez.
The 1502 Emerald, nicknamed the ‘fina fuerte’, is the company’s mildest smoke and Sanchez considers it his ‘breakfast cigar’.
“The Emerald is my after breakfast cigar, the Ruby is my after lunch cigar and the Black Gold is my evening cigar after a good meal,” he said.
The Emerald comes in five vitolas and is known for its honey sweetness and vanilla aroma with delicate apple fruitiness and citrus notes. It has earned two 92 ratings two years in a row. Despite its milder side, it is packed with complex flavors, another characteristic unique to 1502.
The Ruby is the company’s medium-strength cigar. It has earned 91, 92, 91 and 93 ratings and “14th Best Cigar of the World” in 2013 in its 20 months on the market. It boasts Jalapa and Estelí fillers with a dark Ecuadorian wrapper that yields a nice earthy sweetness coupled with a creamy spice.
The Black Gold is the strongest and most flavorful of the 1502 ‘Charlie’s Angels”. It has enjoyed 92 and 93 ratings during its short tenure on the market. It is blended with all Nicaraguan fillers, including three different types of Ligero enveloped by a Nicaraguan double binder and a Maduro Natural San Andres, Mexico wrapper.
Expected to be released this summer at the IPCPR Trade Show is 1502’s fourth blend, the 1502 Nicaragua. It is a Nicaraguan puro in honor of Sanchez’s third child. It will include tobacco from each of Nicaragua’s four major tobacco regions, Estelí, Jalapa, Condega and Ometempe. It will be released in one vitola only, robusto box press.
The story behind Sanchez’s grand entrance into the cigar industry is one for the ages. Sanchez began smoking cigars as a teenager when he went on a backpacking exploration across Europe. He was in Madrid, Spain, and while waiting for a train, he noticed a couple of guys smoking cigars. He said to himself, ‘that looks cool. I want to try’. So he bought the cheapest cigar at the train station’s cigar shop (he was on a high school student’s budget) and gave it a whirl. As a naïve youngster, he tried to light the cigar but didn’t realize he had to cut the cap before smoking it. So he tried and tried and tried to light and smoke the cigar, but to no avail.
“It didn’t have any instructions. I didn’t know I was supposed to cut it so I threw it away,” he said.
A year or so later he gave it another try when he saw his uncle smoking a Cuban cigar, Romeo y Julieta Churchill, at his home. He taught Enrique how to cut, light and smoke a cigar.
“I said ahhhhh, that’s how you do it,” he said.
He doesn’t come from a family of tobacconists; in fact he is the only person in his family to work with tobacco. He has an undergraduate degree in business strategy and holds an MBA as well. He was tired of colleagues telling him that he couldn’t smoke in his office so he decided to start a company where he was allowed to smoke.
Three years ago Sanchez had a business idea related to cigars so he pitched his plan to Nestor Plasencia. After 20 minutes of fruitless efforts, Plasencia told him not to waste his time, but that he should start his own blend instead. Plasencia took Sanchez to a corner of the room and after a little ‘arm twisting’ Plasencia said to Sanchez, ‘Just give me a chance’, hence the birth of Global Premium Cigars.
Sanchez’s uncle taught him how to smoke cigars and Nestor Plasencia taught him how to make cigars.
Sanchez’s charisma and heart are clearly defined by each 1502 cigar that has been sowed, sealed and delivered. His passion for the leaf and his love for life has allowed him the ability to produce one of the industry’s most prestigious brands, 1502, which is ‘Proudly Nicaraguan’
“There are just three rules at 1502: Relax, Enjoy, and Don’t forget rule one and two.”