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Cigar Aficionado's Hall of Fame Class of 2012

Andrew Nagy
From the Print Edition:
Cigar Aficionado's 20th Anniversary, September/October 2012

(continued from page 4)

Thirty-eight years ago, Manuel Quesada became the first cigar manufacturer to work out of the Santiago Free Trade Zone when he erected his Manufactura de Tabacos S.A. cigar factory. There he has produced numerous brands, the most popular being Fonseca and Quesada.

The Quesada family first got involved with tobacco when Manuel’s great-great grandfather started buying, storing and selling Cuban tobacco leaf in the 1880s. Like many other Cubans, though, the family lost all of its holdings to Castro’s Revolution, and the Quesadas moved to the United States.

Manolo, as he is known, and his brother pursued their education, while their father took out a loan and bought a warehousing facility in the Dominican Republic where he graded, selected, stored, sorted and sold tobacco. In 1968, Manolo was in graduate school when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. After his service and as a newly minted American citizen, he earned an MBA degree and went into partnership with a cigarmaker who was a client of the family tobacco business. Because the workforce in the United States was aged, production was begun, in June of 1974, in the Dominican Republic’s newly formed Santiago Free Trade Zone, where Quesada trained new rollers.

Manufactura de Tabacos S.A., or MATASA, created “with $100, a chair and a phone,” was one of the few cigarmakers in the country at that time and the first in the Free Trade Zone. Quesada, working with the Plasencia family, created the Casa Magna Colorado Robusto, Cigar Aficionado’s 2008 Cigar of the Year, and today at the age of 66 he works alongside his daughters Raquel and Patricia, part of a group of young family members he has dubbed the “Fifth Generation.”

Josè Seijas
Vice President and General Manager (retired), Tabacalera de Garcia Ltd.
La Romana, Dominican Republic

Sixty million: That’s the number of handmade cigars that Tabacalera de Garcia, best known for manufacturing the Dominican versions of Montecristo, H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta, is capable of producing in a year, and Josè Seijas was in charge of it all.

Seijas, who studied industrial engineering, started analyzing crops and performing other quality-control jobs at Tabacalera de Garcia at the age of 24. In 1984, he played an integral role in converting the huge facility, then used primarily to process tobacco, into a full-fledged factory that rolls handmade premium cigars.

Seijas introduced a number of innovations to Tabacalera de Garcia, including the idea of dividing workers by the brands they roll, as well as offering rollers the option of using a wheeled cutter that carves wrapper leaf more cleanly and efficiently than a traditional chaveta blade.

Seijas also ramped up the brand portfolio of Altadis, which owns Tabacalera de Garcia, with cigars that blend stronger, more flavorful tobaccos. His José Seijas Signature Series Churchill scored 92 points in a recent Cigar Aficionado tasting.

A soft-spoken man, Josechu, as he is called by his friends and associates, retired earlier this year, at the age of 61.


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