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Trial by Fire

Fires, hurricanes and legal battles haven't dampened the Fuente family's passion for making cigars
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00

(continued from page 3)

He brought them into his factory, put them in the Fuente cigar school under the tutelage of Juan Sosa, a fourth-generation cigarmaker from Cuba and the man behind Sosa cigars. Fuente Jr. forbade the trainees from coming into contact with experienced cigar rollers, fearing that they would pick up bad habits from the older workers. Sosa trained the kids to make cigars his way, and Fuente Jr. paid them a higher wage. Today the Fuentes entrust the youngsters with their most precious brands. The result is that the best cigar rollers at Tabacalera A. Fuente are some of the youngest.  

"Every year [is] a little bit better," says Fuente Sr. "Right now we've got to a point where we want to make the cigars better. We don't want to grow anymore."  

Fuente Jr. looks upon the gallery of young faces, and remarks that the scene is much like the one that first caught his grandfather's eye as a tabaquero in Cuba. His grandfather is immortalized in the company's most popular size, the Arturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8; the numbers recall that Arturo died at the age of 85.  

Fuente Jr. is happy here in his rolling gallery, watching his dark, aged tobacco slowly being shaped into the cigars he loves. He brings out a handful of cigars shaped like chili peppers, others like baseball bats, still others like crazed perfectos. "I remember my grandfather making all the perfecto shapes," says Fuente Jr. "I remember the molds and I always wanted to do that." Odds are the crazy shapes will never see a cigar shop, but that doesn't stop him from trying them out, stretching the boundaries. "It's very likely that 60 years ago this was the same way in Cuba," says Fuente Jr. "I'm proud of this."

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