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Marvin R. Shanken

A Return to El Laguito

Posted: Feb 28, 2011 12:00am ET

September, 1991. The world was a very different place. The world was still in the midst of the Cold War as the Soviet Union was in its death throes, its member nations breaking off. Soviet troops, some 11,000, were to be withdrawn from Cuba, along with the Soviet aid that had kept that nation afloat.

It was far from an ideal time for a person to make their first trip to Cuba, but there I was, ready to spend a week touring Cuba's cigar factories and tobacco fields for a cover story for Wine Spectator.

Cigar Aficionado did not exist.

I write this only days after returning from my most recent trip to Cuba, a homecoming of sorts. It had been about ten years since my last visit, too long a time to spend away from the birthplace of the premium cigar industry. I most recently spent a few days on the island, smoking its wonderful cigars, speaking to its beautiful people, and returning to El Laguito, the mother factory for Cohiba cigars.

That visit to El Laguito, a majestic former school where cigars are made slowly, carefully, was emotional for me. For it brought back memories to that day nearly 20 years ago when I first stepped inside, smoking Cuba's most famous cigars. For it was on that visit, when I walked inside those tiny rooms where cigars are made, that I felt inspired to create a cigar magazine. To create Cigar Aficionado. That was the trip when I decided that before I died, I wanted to have a cigar magazine.

We shot a short video while we were there. You can watch it by clicking here.

Cuba, and in particular El Laguito, will always hold a special place in my heart. I can't tell you how glad I am that I returned, and I can guarantee you that it will not be ten years before I visit again.

Comments   14 comment(s)

stantine972 February 28, 2011 6:25pm ET

Mr Shanken It is good to see you in the blogs. I'm glad you made it back to the cigar motherland and most of all that you decided to make a cigar magazine. (and web site). George NY

Clint Summers — Huntersville, NC, USA,  —  March 1, 2011 7:44pm ET

A little inspiration can lead to great outcomes. The Cigar Aficionado magazine is one of those. What a great homecoming to the birthplace of your inspiration. I look forward to the results each issue.

Sen Luo — Dover, Kent, UK,  —  March 2, 2011 7:09pm ET


Thank you for turning your dream into reality. How has El Laguito changed in this time? Cuban workers are generally suffering in a weak local economy; how was morale at the factory?

On another note, I visited Edward Sahakian at Davidoff London and in the course of our chat I was disappointed to find that Cigar Aficionado was not heavily stocked there (the same for the JJ Fox store at Harrods, London). I would love to see the full stock of my favourite Cigar magazine alongside my favourite cigars. Your thoughts?

With best wishes,

Sen Luo, London, England

Guy Buscema — Calvisson, Gard, France,  —  March 26, 2011 7:48am ET


Great to see you on the video and in Cuba again.
I'm glad to see that you were able to take some time off from the golf courses and to get back to some real cigars.

Chris J. Sexton — Saint Michael, Minnesota, USA,  —  June 18, 2011 10:37pm ET


I was lucky and bought the First Issue of Cigar Aficionado off of a guy in Mint condition. I had been looking for years for a good one. The one I bought has the Bar Code on the Front Cover and most of the others I have seen don't have it on the front cover? Do you know if I have a fake or somthing?

Richard Gangi — Melbourne, Fl, USA,  —  September 24, 2011 9:28am ET

Marvin, as you might be aware by now-Bert Gottfried has passed. His impact to the industry and more specifically his contribution to the Oliva family are unmeasurable...I am hoping that there will be special recognition and an article outlining his life's achievements and contributions to the industry in you next print issue, and online...thank you.

J H November 30, 2011 12:54am ET


I have been a loyal reader since the begining. As I sit here in my Bradington Young chair bought for $35 dollars at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in San Pedro California, I'm surrounded by all the faces that have ever been on our literary cigar mag. I can't help but think about why a poet hasn't graced us yet. Tonight I smoke a Padilla Series 68 and ask that you might consider plastering the cover of a future edition with Charles Bukowski; the underword poet laurete of Los Angeles and perhaps the greatest cigar aficionado that ever wrote poesy.

In the clouds of Blue,

John "tori inu" Holt
Active Duty AF Boston MA

Robert Marland — Glen Allen, Virginia, USA,  —  June 15, 2012 7:20pm ET

I read with intrest your August editors note about yoir mayor bloombergs effort to eliminate smoking i'v worked inbgovernment for over 35yrs snd what he is doing comes at no surprise he is a founding member of the nannystate on a lighter note as a novice cigar smoker your magizine has been a great addition to my readings i lookforward to seeing it in my mailbox looking forward to this years big smoke in NY had a great time last year

Peter J — Sherman Oaks, California, USA,  —  July 6, 2012 1:13pm ET

Guy, I can say almost certainly that Mr. Shanken has never left "real" cigars, and has smoked cigars others only dream of- in the company of some of the finest men in the world.

As a fine wine, spirits, and tobacco retailer, I can tell you that almost nobody has done for the wine and cigar industry what Marvin has done.

He earned that time on the golf course.

Justin O'Brien — Ontario, Canada,  —  March 2, 2013 6:57am ET

What a wonderful, inspiring story. A place where time stands still and people still live for each moment and in each moment. You've accomplished so much and have brought so much joy to the world of cigar enthusiast's. Thank you for your hard work-to 20 more years +. Kind regards,

firoz sabuz — kushtia, khulna, Bangladesh,  —  April 21, 2013 5:54am ET

i have been reading for this since several months. this is very wonderful post i like it to have the cigar with most important to be looked good.

firoz sabuz — kushtia, khulna, Bangladesh,  —  April 21, 2013 5:55am ET

I earned and inspiring this blog history. I like the each moment to earn happiness.

Steve Omans — Chicago, IL, USA,  —  June 6, 2013 8:43pm ET

My wife and I rebranded, does CA ever run stories on the "good life", and clothes, History of a Chicago Store that started from a push cart, 40 years and the invention of the "Zoot Suit" and "Smoking Jackets"? June 13, 2013 10:49am ET

Dear CA,
I have received your new issue With Jeff Bridges. I am disappointed in the first two features I have looked at. I understand the name of the game is selling ads, but you have obliterated the cover feature with ads (10 pages) within article. Additionally, the left page ad after the opening spread is a disaster aesthetically speaking. The layout is clearly stretched to include advertisers and the reuse of studio image on interior is poor choice. You article on online poker misses a golden opportunity as well as ignores the elephant in the room. Why was various US companies strategically maneuvering with infrastructure and acquisitions to reenter the online game soon after it was made illegal. Interesting that US Casinos were left in the dust by off shore online gaming companies and the only way to get back that market share was to shut it down and then bring it back years later. Some powerful back room influences politically speaking to make that happen. You guys missed the boat on that! Pandering does not make good edit!

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