Hitting All The Right Notes with Rafael Nodal

By: Antoine D. Reid | 10/18/2022


" The vision is something I take very seriously. It's very scary sometimes, but the amazing amount of great people, knowledge and professional team we have has allowed us to introduce products that have been very well received." 

It’s a mild fall day in New York City, where Nodal is visiting for an event. He’s been on the go for weeks now, traveling to meet with retailers and making appearances at consumer events. That is in addition to spending time in the Dominican Republic, where Tabacalera’s factory is located. New York City holds a special place in Nodal’s life. It’s a city he called home for several years after his family left Cuba in the 1980s. Nodal instantly fell in love with life in New York City—the people, the city’s charm and character, its sunsets and the music.

“If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” he says with a laugh.

As a teenager, Nodal learned a great deal about music while living in the Big Apple. He had every intention of pursuing music as a profession, but after moving to Miami, he realized how hard it would be and went in a different direction with his career. Music, however, remained a part of his life, even when cigars took center stage. Even after all of the cigars he’s worked on, the positions he’s held and the accomplishments he’s achieved, one can only surmise that Nodal is just getting started in his career. From retail to one of the earliest successes in the boutique cigar category, Nodal is a man who’s finding his rhythm, setting the tempo and bringing the world of boutique cigars to the masses.

Cuban Overture

Nodal was born in the small Cuban town of Ciego de Avila in 1964. As many would imagine, growing up in a communist country was very challenging, especially for a young child. When Nodal was just 10 years old, he spent 45 days in a work camp, away from his family and everything that was familiar to him. This was a requirement, and it was the only way he’d gain access to a decent education while in Cuba. When he was 13 years old, Nodal attended a school in the countryside where he would work part of the day and then attend school for a few of the day’s remaining hours. Nodal valued learning and education, though it was difficult having to work and be separated from his family in order to receive an education. Though these were difficult times, Nodal learned many things during these times that would guide his life for years to come.

In 1980, Nodal and his family took part in the Mariel boatlift, the mass emigration of Cubans who made the perilous journey from Cuba’s Mariel Harbor to the United States. Nodal’s father had come to realize that the oppressive conditions of Cuba and the promise of freedom and opportunity in America were worth the effort and the risks. The boat that carried the family away from Cuba was a 50-foot-long shrimping boat. Those on the boat, which Nodal places as being around 300 passengers, encountered many storms that prolonged the already dangerous journey. By the time the U.S. Coast Guard found their boat, its motor had broken and four days had passed since its passengers left Cuba, but the sun was rising on not just a new day but a new chapter in Nodal’s life.

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