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2012 Big Smoke Saturday Seminars—Industry Veterans

Andrew Nagy
Posted: November 14, 2012

What do cigar enthusiasts and newbies alike do when they are privy to a conversation among tobacco men with more than a combined century's worth of cigar experience? They listen intently, if they are smart.

After Dion Giolito of Illusione educated the crowd on his Epernay Le Taureau, Cigar Aficionado's No. 3 cigar of the year, it was time for what was perhaps the weekend's most anticipated cigar seminar-Industry Veterans.

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and David Savona.
Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, left, fields a question from David Savona of Cigar Aficionado.
Scheduled to speak were seven of the industry's most famous names, six of them recent inductees into Cigar Aficionado's elite Hall of Fame. In order to make it easier for the audience to digest, the Industry Veterans seminar was broken up into two parts.

Additionally, the stage was set up to resemble a typical smoking lounge, replete with standing ashtrays and plush, leather chairs. With executive editor Gordon Mott and senior editor David Savona moderating, the seminar essentially conveyed the feeling of being a fly on the wall. Where else but the Big Smoke could this happen?

Eric Newman.
Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman Cigar Co.
The first group of veterans to take the stage was Carlos "Carlito" Fuente Jr., president of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., maker of Arturo Fuente and Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, owner of EPC Cigar Co. and former maker of the La Gloria Cubana brand, and Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman Cigar Co.

Throughout the conversation, the tobacco men offered anecdotes on such topics as the trials and tribulations of making cigars in Tampa, Miami and the Dominican Republic, the secrets of blending tobacco and how family is so important in their business.

Fuente started off the seminar by talking about what drove him to grow tobacco in the Dominican Republic.

Manuel Quesada, founder of MATASA.
Manuel Quesada, founder of MATASA.
"Origin," he said. "A Paris retailer told me I would never be able to be considered a real producer because I didn't grow my own tobacco." Having fallen in love with the Dominican, Fuente set up a farm with one goal in mind: to grow wrapper-quality leaf. Eventually, after much trial and error, Fuente was able produce the leaf that would cover the now legendary Fuente Fuente Opus OpusX brand.

When Perez-Carrillo was asked what was his secret to creating great tobacco, he offered a rather spiritual explanation. "No secret, just love. One really has to dedicate the time and learn as much as you can about tobacco. This may sound weird but the tobacco has to say something to me, to my heart."

Perez-Carrillo continued by explaining that he looked at a cigar as a living organism, a sentiment the other panelists nodded with in agreement.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

Armando Padron — Tampa, Florida, USA,  —  November 14, 2012 10:40pm ET

I have been reading Cigar Aficionado for quite sometime and when I saw the Big Smoke event in Las Vegas, I could not resist. I will turn 50 in 2 months so my family decided to send me all expenses paid for me and my wife to the event of the year celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Cigar Aficionado. I had the greatest privilege to speak with a true pioneer in the Cigar industry, Mr.Benjamin Menendez-Benji.. When I spoke to him it was like I had known him all my life. I will always treasure the moment.. Thank you Benji for being an inspiration, a pioneer, a visionary..y un gran orgullo de ser cubano.. Gracias amigo... Armando Padron

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