A cruise through Whittier Boulevard in La Habra on any day will have you zipping by a surprising amount of smoke shops. But only one offers handmade cigars rolled right in front of you, and that's El Beso (which means “the kiss” in habla.)
El Beso was founded in 1997 by a Nicaraguan immigrant named Gloria Gomez whose unique style of cigar making is a family tradition passed down a matrilineal line that goes from her mother and abuela all the way back to Gloria's great-grandmother, who began rolling cigars in the late 1800s. It's this family touch that makes El Beso a standout in the cigar scene in Orange County. You can even get members of the Gomez family to roll El Beso cigars at special events such as weddings or maybe even Mad Men cosplay parties.
The El Beso shop initially looks like a saloon out of a Western because of its white rustic exterior and porch. The interior offers slightly more modernity but not too much, as three charming and antiquated cigar rolling stations line the back. Blankets of large, beige tobacco leaves are piled atop each station's table alongside vintage wooden cigar presses. It's a scene straight outta Anna in the Tropics, to days when steady and artful production was valued more than quick labor.
A polished woodgrain humidor (which houses 29 styles of El Beso cigars) proudly stands steps away from a modest counter with a register usually manned by an older Nicaraguan varón named Edwin. An expert cigar maker, Edwin is helpful and humble especially to any first timers that need a little guidance in their cigar shopping. The 29 in-house cigar styles are divided into 5 categories; Maduro, Flavored (choose from vanilla, amaretto, K
Here's an old KABC-TV Channel 7 clip on El Beso:
The cigars range from light to full-bodied (with Flavored and Aniversario being the lightest) to mild/medium Reserve and Classic. Maduros, unsurprisingly (“mature,” or “strong) are the strongest full-bodied cigars available at El Beso and recommended only for the pros.
While cigarettes and marijuana are sought after because of their effects on smokers, cigars are smoked to enjoy taste, aroma and the classiness each cigar represents. El Beso heightens cigar elegance in OC by providing cigars made in a way that cherishes a quality product above anything else. While smoking an El Beso cigar, I noticed that it had a slow-burning ash that stayed intact throughout the entire smoke—a sign of a high-quality cigar. They don't make all those cigars by hand just to look cool, you know.
El Beso Cigars, 205 W. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, (562) 690-7707; elbesocigars.com