Part 2 of Tobacco Business Magazine’s special feature “The Fantastic Four,” which looks at the cigar making super team behind Davidoff Cigars. In this part, we take a look at Hamlet Espinal, Oettinger Davidoff’s vice president and head of global production. For part 1 on Henke Kelner, click here.
Hamlet Espinal: The Mastermind
Nearing 40 years of age, Espinal is the youngest member of the Tabadom management team. He is also the newest member, having worked at Tabadom for “only” 21 years. Like Kelner, Diaz and Peralta, Espinal grew up around tobacco; his father owned a tobacco processing facility that included Tabadom as one its customers. When he was 18, Espinal began working for his father but felt uncomfortable that some might think his presence at the company was a result of nepotism. Understanding his son’s reservations about working there, Espinal’s father called Kelner and explained that his son wanted to work at another tobacco company. Kelner immediately hired the younger Espinal and put him to work at Tabadom’s tobacco processing facility, PTP.
Since his earliest days at Tabadom, Espinal has worked in every department of Tabadom’s tobacco growing and processing and cigarmaking operation, and he has learned every facet of the business. He also earned more responsibility through the years and was groomed by Kelner to be his replacement, which happened in 2015 when Espinal became Tabadom’s general manager.
“Henke has been a great teacher in my personal and professional career,” Espinal says. “Throughout all these years, I have really learned a lot from him. This is why, since I took over the management of Tabadom, I have always felt it to be a great honor and immense responsibility, taking into account everything Henke has developed throughout his career.”
Espinal is also Oettinger Davidoff’s vice president and head of global production. He now not only works tirelessly to ensure that every cigar coming out of the Tabadom factory in the Dominican Republic is perfect; he also oversees production at Davidoff’s Camacho factory in Honduras. While based in the Dominican Republic, Espinal is a hands-on leader who thrives on meeting his team members in both countries face-to-face as much as he can.
“I travel to Central America every month,” he explains. “I know that technology allows me to do my job from a distance, but I am one of those who thinks that direct contact with your employees is fundamentally important. This year is my second year as head of global production, and I am very happy with the results we have obtained. Our team is focused, passionate and responsible.”
Before becoming the head of global production of Oettinger Davidoff, Espinal leaned on his varied experiences working all facets of tobacco production and cigarmaking at Tabadom to analyze best practices and to develop new production techniques that streamlined the production process and improved Davidoff’s already sterling reputation for producing quality products. Termed “crop to shop,” Espinal’s ideas incorporated a complete overhaul of the company’s production philosophy and engendered better cohesion among all of Davidoff’s assets at all levels of a product’s life. While Tabadom had already established its reputation as an industry leader in producing quality cigars, Espinal’s ideas have helped the entire Tabadom and Davidoff organizations to improve their processes even more.
“I have had the opportunity to analyze all the production processes in a very detailed way through all the jobs that I worked at Tabadom, and I planned a program of activities which we have gradually implemented throughout those years,” Espinal explains. “Based on the consolidation of what we are as a company and the efficiency of our processes, we have developed successful projects ensuring the consistency and quality of our cigars over time. The success of all the changes consisted mainly in the implementation of new quality controls throughout the production process, in the development and diversification of our tobacco seed bank and executing our plans for growing our own tobacco in Honduras. These steps enhance our ability to meet not only the highest quality standards but also the satisfaction of all of our aficionados.”
This story first appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.
– By Stephen A. Ross, senior editor of Tobacco Business Magazine.