El Titan de Bronze has been in the news lately, whether it is about the newest cigars they have produced or their distribution deal with General Cigar. Either way, you have probably heard about this boutique cigar manufacturer located in Little Havana, Miami, FL, USA. 

We were fortunate to spend a day with Sandy Cobas and her daughter, Giselle Herrera, at El Titan de Bronze on our most recent trip to Miami and learn all about Sandy, the factory, and the amazing, empowering story to how they got started. 

Let me start off by saying that, in all the time I have spent in the cigar industry and the unique and interesting people I have met, my time at El Titan was incredible. No shade to any of our prior interviewees, but Sandy is something of a “Don” when it comes to her business savvy, attention to detail and determination. She is also one of the sweetest, most kind people that I have ever met. Just don’t mess with her cigars! 

We have hours of footage from our discussions with Sandy and Giselle, so today, we decided to share how El Titan de Bronze got started. But don’t fret—we will have plenty more articles about this power duo and their adventures in the cigar industry coming soon. 

I would be amiss not to mention that the amount of laughter, cheer, and wit amongst these women is enormous. Spending time with the two of them is like being in the kitchen with them at a family gathering. They are yelling back and forth with each other, in their not-so-traditional to the cigar world Jersey accents. They are joking, yelling over each other, excited, and authentic to the core.


The Origin of Sandy Cobas and El Titan De Bronze

Sandy identifies as a Cuban-American. She moved to the US back in 1954 at the age of two but grew up speaking Spanish in her home. She mentioned that she loves apple pie and other American fare along with her rice and beans, though. Sandy did not get involved in the cigar industry until she was in her forties. Yes, you heard that right.

Although she is Cuban by heritage, she doesn’t come from a cigar family. She was running a high-end boutique liquor store in West Chester, where she provided many of her customers with gift baskets of the liquor and different items to pair with it. What pairs better with some liquor than cigars? “Nothing against cigarettes, but cigars are another level.” So, Sandy decided to add cigars to their shop. She searched for different companies that would sell their cigars to her, but she couldn’t find anyone, so she said, “Screw this shit. I’m gonna make my own cigars.” 

Being the go-getter that Sandy is, she hired a couple from Cuba to roll cigars for her in the shop. Unbeknownst to Sandy, you need to have a separate license to do this, but how would she know that? She thought tobacco would be tied into her ATF-issued liquor license.

In all her excitement, Sandy shared with one of her most loyal customers, an ATF agent, her newest addition to the liquor store. Now, if you were not Sandy, this situation could have gone very poorly, but as I have mentioned, Sandy is amazing, and everyone that meets her loves her, so this ATF agent, instead of fining her, turning her in, or shutting her down, decided to help her with this project. 

From there, Sandy took off. She eventually had eight rollers creating cigars for her. The name of their cigar factory used to be La Herencia Cubana—“Cuban Heritage Cigars,” but she lost the name in her divorce. After the divorce, her father found a location in Little Havana on Eighth Street, just two doors down from where they are now, and things started to get real. 

Sandy named her new factory El Titan de Bronze. El Titan de Bronze gets its name from Antonia Maceo, a Cuban general and second-in-command of the Cuban Army of Independence. Cubans gave him the nickname, “El Titan de Bronce” which is Bronze Titan in English, due to his exceptional physical strength and seeming resistance to injury from bullet or blade. Sandy wanted a name that was strong and powerful, so in honor of Antonio fighting for the Cuban revolution, Sandy named her factory El Titan de Bronze. There is a large statue of him riding a horse with a machete in Cuba, which is why you see the machete on the El Titan de Bronze cigars.

The Little Powerhouse on 8th Street

The factory is tiny, and that is not an understatement. When we asked Sandy what makes her factory unique and how she competes with the larger factories, she said, “We don’t use a Lieberman. Everything is handmade from start to finish. The same roller makes the same cigar. When we box and bundle the bundles of 50, that bundle is the same roller. When you have one roller making the same cigar, that is something I can do that the big factories cannot do. We are not just one of the pack. These are the little details we do. They can come here and see it. They don’t need to go to Nicaragua or Honduras to see it. “Made by Cubans and rolled here in Miami. We put the name of the roller on the back of each box.” 

Sandy gives much credit to her success from Maria Sierra, her roller from the infamous El Laguito Factory, for putting her on the map. Maria Sierra has an amazing story, which we were able to hear firsthand from Sandy, but that is for another article. (See how we keep teasing you.) Sandy feels that Maria really put El Titan on the map when she started to roll the La Palina Goldie Laguito No. 2. Maria was the only roller who worked on these cigars, so if you have ever smoked one, Maria Sierra made it. This cigar is best known for the fantail cap that Maria developed during her time at the El Laguito factory in Cuba. 

Did we mention that El Titan de Bronze is a family-owned and run business and that it is all a team of women? “We’re just two girls from Jersey in a man’s world,” Giselle told us in passing. Even Sandy’s mother, at the age of 96, still comes to the factory every day to help with different tasks. Sandy and her daughter Giselle Herrera are the accounting, marketing, customer service, operations, banding, boxing, and everything else dynamic duo. Most of the rollers at El Titan are Cuban, and women are as well. Did we also mention that Sandy only has level 9 rollers, the highest skill level that a roller can achieve? 

Sandy refuses to visit stores and asks them to try out or purchase her cigars. Eduardo Fernandez from Aganorsa Cigars calls Sandy’s front door at El Titan, the Sacred Door, because she has proven herself to be so noteworthy that all the companies walk through her door to get her business. Sandy will not work with just anyone. She must feel a connection and have good vibes with all her customers. She is also adamant that she needs to have creative control over the products that she produces, so be ready for her feedback because Sandy does not hold back. “Every box is us. Every cigar better draws right. Every cigar better look pretty. That cigar better taste good. That’s how we are.” 

Even with all the hard work and earned recognition, Sandy is eternally grateful for the people who have helped her over the years. John Oliva, whom Sandy refers to as Johnny, was one of the first people to sell tobacco to her. “You need a tobacco permit,” he said, so the moment she got one, Oliva was there to provide tobacco to her. She also mentioned La Flor Dominicana and A.S.P. as being huge supporters of her business.

After touring the factory which literally can take 5 minutes due to the size, I concluded that Sandy views everyone that works for her as family. All the rollers were smiling. Sandy had tiny one-off conversations with them while we were walking by. She knows about all their families, passions, and things they have going on in their lives. She genuinely cares about them, and that was obvious.

To wrap things up, because I could go on and on forever, what would you have to look forward to? El Titan de Bronze is a tiny powerhouse that has come a long way from jars of “Cuban Smuggled Cigars,” to being distributed by one of the largest cigar companies in the world. This success did not happen by chance. The hard work, dedication, respect for the industry, and attention to detail and quality made El Titan de Bronze into the titan it is today. 

When you are in Miami, make sure that you stop by and see Sandy, Giselle and the rest of the team at El Titan. This is an open factory that you can visit. We highly recommend you add this to your list of must-sees when you are in Little Havana. Oh, and don’t forget to ask Sandy about the fish.

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