Carlos Fuente Jr. has become one of the most recognizable people in the cigar business. While at the helm of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., he has seen the company rise to one of the preeminent positions in the industry.
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I would like to go back to Cuba one day, be able to visit Cuba, and meet the great cigarmakers of Cuba and the great tobacco growers and hug them. Hug them out of respect for what they achieved for tobacco and be able to enjoy a cigar with them--but not necessarily to open a factory. I believe my responsibility is to the Dominican Republic and to our customers. I have a great love for the Dominican Republic and that is where my heart is.
CA: Would you buy Cuban tobacco and produce the cigars in the Dominican Republic?
Fuente:I hope the day when the embargo's lifted that there will be tobacco available. Tobacco can once again be great in Cuba, and it would be very, very interesting to have Cuban tobacco available to blend for our cigars.
CA: Given your earlier answers about the lawsuit, I can't keep from going back to it before ending our interview. What did you learn from somebody coming and trying to take away part of your business by virtue of a lawsuit?
Fuente:I was definitely consumed emotionally. This was about the Fuente Fuente OpusX, the culmination of all my dreams. I think it would be any cigarmaker's dream to achieve something that has never been achieved before and to really offer something very special to their customers. Our family honor was challenged. It wasn't about a cigar, it wasn't about the name of a cigar; it was our family's honor and our family's integrity. One thing that I learned from this--and I like to look at the positive side--during this very, very difficult time, I started to realize how important it was to us to dedicate our lives to continuing to make great cigars.
Every time I traveled, people came up to me to express support for our family and their belief in our integrity and our honor, people that I never even met before: cigar lovers, retailers, people in the business, people outside the business--all of them. The kind of support we received during this very challenging time made me realize that in life you have to have purpose and meaning. I realized that our struggles, our long hours of hard work, our drive to do something to the extent of obsession in making great cigars, was something that had great meaning.
CA: Do you have any message to give to people from Mondavi or Mouton-Rothschild should they read this interview?
Fuente:It's not necessary for them. But it's just sad that all this happened. Cigars are not meant to be battled over. Cigars are meant to be enjoyed, and for people who enjoy cigars, there's a certain bond or bridge that brings them together. This is something that's very sad that happened, but it did happen and we learned. I think that today our family is stronger because we were able to persevere during the struggle.
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