Tobacco Business Awards Woman of the Year

Tobacco Business Magazine held its second annual Tobacco Business Awards at an exclusive invite-only ceremony held in Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2019. This year’s event took place at The Sayers Club within the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and had close to 270 premium tobacco retailers, manufacturers and media in attendance.

Held in conjunction with the Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE), the Tobacco Business Awards was designed to honor and recognize exceptional businesses, professionals, and products of the tobacco, vapor and alternative industries. This year’s ceremony was a full-on featuring of who’s who within these industries as the magazine announced the winners of the 2019 awards. This year’s awards expanded to 12 categories that could be voted on by the magazine’s print and digital readers and one non-publicized award given to an industry icon that was announced and revealed for the first time during the ceremony. New categories introduced at the 2019 awards included Nicaraguan Cigar of the Year, Dominican Cigar of the Year, Boutique Cigar of the Year, Accessory Manufacturer of the Year, Tobacconist of the Year and Woman of the Year. This year’s awards had close to 8,000 votes, nearly four times the votes of the 2018 awards.

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Arturo Fuente Cigars back in Nicaragua!

On Jan 26th, Carlito Fuente surprised those in attendance at Puro Sabor 2018 when he announced that “Carlito’s Back!” in Nicaragua. Having had a presence in the country in the 1970s, Arturo Fuente has returned to build a cigar factory in the heart of Esteli with the name “Gran Fabrica de Tabacos La Bella y La Bestia.” The concept of the colonial design, which is a tribute to Nicaragua, was created by Carlito and designed by Manny Iriarte. In addition, Carlito announced that Felix Mesa, an experienced tobacco man and owner of El Galan Cigars, will oversee operations at the new Fuente facility. Finally, Carlito shared his desire to bring to Nicaragua his United Nations-recognized Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, which has helped so many children in the Dominican Republic. Aside from Carlito, Felix and Manny, Liana Fuente was in attendance at the announcement representing the 4th generation of the Fuente family.

2016 Big Smoke Saturday Seminars—The Next Generation Cigar makers

NOVEMBER 16, 2016 | By Jack Bettridge Cigar Aficionado
“The Next Generation” seminar, from left: editor Gregory Mottola, Raquel Quesada of Quesada Cigars, Liana Fuente of Arturo Fuente, Tony Gomez of La Flor Dominicana and editor Andrew Nagy.

As in life, the one certainty of the cigar business is change. Tastes change, styles change, seed varietals change and, inevitably, so do the people who run the industry. If “The Next Generation” seminar held on Saturday at the Big Smoke Las Vegas is any indication, the cigar world is in good shape as it prepares for the changing of the guard.

Three scions, each heir to family cigar businesses, discussed what it was like to grow up under large presences in the industry with an eye towards replacing them in the future. Panelists included: Liana Fuente, creative marketing director at Arturo Fuente, the daughter to Carlos Fuente Jr.; Tony Gomez, vice president of La Flor Dominicana and son of Litto Gomez; and Raquel Quesada of Quesada Cigars, daughter of Manolo Quesada. Moderating were two members of Cigar Aficionado’s own next generation: senior editor Gregory Mottola and associate editor and website manager Andrew Nagy.

All the panelists related the hard work and weighty responsibility that goes with their positions. “I am very lucky to be here, to follow the tradition, to follow the passion,” said Quesada. “My family has been surrounded by history. Talk about big shoes to follow.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, certain perquisites go with being born into the cigar industry. Quesada spoke of growing up around the factory, playing hide-and-go-seek with her sister Patricia as a small child. As they grew older they held the estimable position of living in the only house in the neighborhood where smoking was allowed…cigars only, of course.


Fuente, whose great-grandfather Arturo founded the company and passed it to her grandfather Carlos Sr. and her father, Carlito, stressed the strong work ethic running through the family. “They wanted us to know what it was like to work,” she said. “There’s no nine-to-five in our business, but it’s sure as hell fun.”

For Gomez, the saturation in the cigar business didn’t start until he was a bit older than the two women. When he was in grade school, his father, who had run a jewelry business, abruptly left it to join an industry he had no background in. The younger Gomez pointed with pride to his father’s tenacity in sticking to his goals in the face of naysayers. “People said it was a crazy idea, but that’s what made him want to do it. He pulled off something that was impossible.”

Gomez, a talented musician, who once had ambitions of working in the film industry, added that he was never pressured to enter the family business. “My father wasn’t pushy about it. He wanted me to do whatever made me happy,” he said. “But when I thought about my future I realized this is a tremendous opportunity. I would be foolish to pass it up.”

A Century and Still Going Strong

When a family-owned business makes it for 100 years, it’s a big deal. For the Fuentes, it’s even bigger because the road has been neither smooth nor easy. In fact, the family has endured many a setback, only to come back stronger than before. Next spring, the Fuentes will celebrate their history, and now refer to 2013 as “year one” of their family’s second century in the cigar business.

The story begins in 1906 when 19-year-old Arturo Fuente left his home in Cuba for America. Like thousands of others, he arrived in Key West looking for opportunities in the wake of the Spanish-American War, which had left Cuba’s economy in shambles. He was soon rolling cigars in the area’s now-fading cigar operations… but he did not stay long.

The remote locale offered precious little real estate, and the constant threat of !re forced cigarmakers to look elsewhere after a devastating blaze swept Key West in 1886. Vicente Martinez Ybor finally settled in Tampa for its huge bay, proximity to the railroad, and favorable climate. There he created Ybor City, which would become one of America’s premier cigar-manufacturing areas.