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A Conversation with Nestor Miranda

The founder of Miami Cigar & Co. talks about the rise, fall and rebirth of his Don Lino brand.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
David Caruso, Jan/Feb 2007

(continued from page 1)

A: I'm from the liquor business, so my mentality is geared to promotion, and to different concepts. In the tobacco business, it was the same people selling cigars, the same orders. I'm a different animal. I said, "What do we need?" La Aurora was making only a few sizes: No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5. I said we need names—we need a belicoso, we need a robusto.

Q: They didn't have a robusto? I can't imagine a cigar company without a robusto.

A: No. They didn't have what the people wanted. We changed the whole thing. La Aurora started getting into better sizes, and that improved things. When you go into a tobacco shop and you show two boxes, you're going to sell one. But if I go with eight boxes, I'm going to sell four.

Q: When did you leave the liquor business to focus exclusively on cigars?

A: We started making Don Lino in 1989, at the old UST factory in Honduras. It was 80,000 cigars a year. I doubled the business in 1990, and we started doubling the business every year. We established Miami Cigar & Co. in 1989. My wife was handling the cigar business. I didn't see any future, but it was something I liked.

Q: Tell me about those early days.

A: We were selling Don Lino for $19 a box, and the bundles we sold for $8. When the cigar boom came in 1994, 1995, we were already in. In 1995, we began distributing the UST cigar line. And then in 1995 I retired from Southern Wine & Spirits. I worked for Southern Wine for 15 years, and Seagram for 10 years. I retired from the liquor business to work at Miami Cigar & Co. with my wife. In 1996, I was interviewed by Cigar Aficionado, and that year we ended up selling 12 million sticks. In 1995 we were doing 3.1 million.

Q: You went from 3.1 million to 12 million that quickly?

A: You can't imagine—it was so crazy.

Q: Don Lino was hot.

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