An Interview with Carlos Fuente Sr.

A discussion with the head of Arturo Fuente Inc., one of the world's largest producers of premium hand-rolled cigars.

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C.A.: When you say it's tobacco from 1984, you mean blended with its younger vintage as well, yes?
Fuente: The only tobacco that is younger is the wrapper. All the filler and binders are from the 1984 crop.
C.A.: When are you going to run out of 1984?
Fuente: That depends on how many cigars we make. The demand is forcing us to make more. We're going to skip the 1985 crop and then go to 1986. From all of the tobacco we've grown ourselves, we have saved a substantial amount of tobacco. But we have gone through, my son and I, more than expected for the Don Carlos.
C.A.: Are there other factories that have 10-year-old tobacco in inventory?
Fuente: I can't really give an honest answer on that because I really don't have any interest in what anybody else does. I don't even smoke anybody else's cigars. I have a lot of friends in the industry, and I might be with one of them and they open a cigar and I'll smoke it. But I was never the type of person that would buy a cigar of anybody else's just to see what they are doing. My main goal is just to make the best cigars possible.
C.A.: Obviously, Don Carlos is very small.
Fuente: We only have two cigar makers on that line and total production is about 300 cigars a day.
C.A.: So annually, you're talking about--?
Fuente: To be honest, I haven't even figured it out. You have to figure a couple thousand cigars a week. About 100,000 a year.
C.A.: As the cigars get more expensive, I assume they benefit from the process that selects higher quality leaves.
Fuente: Yes.
C.A.: Is Opus X on the market? Have you started to ship? Or when are you shipping?
Fuente: We're waiting for the packaging to come in from Europe. We are on the third crop now. We like to age our tobacco a minimum of three years.
C.A.: But you expect to release Opus X this year?
Fuente: Maybe May or June.
C.A.: Of 1995?
Fuente: Yes.
C.A.: The real news is the Dominican wrapper?
Fuente: Yes.
C.A.: The binder and the filler?
Fuente: Dominican.
C.A.: Is there anything unusual or unique about the blend? As, let's say, compared to the Hemingway or the Don Carlos?
Fuente: It's a totally different animal.
C.A.: What's the price range of the Opus X going to be?
Fuente: Well, I don't think we have sat down and figured it out exactly, but it's going to be expensive. I would assume over seven bucks.
C.A.: But you said that you have some other cigars that go as high as $9?
Fuente: The Hemingways.
C.A.: Wouldn't the Opus X likely be priced above that?
Fuente: Yeah, but we're going to have different sizes. I think it will probably be over $10 for the big cigars.
C.A.: So, $7 to $10, but not much more.
Fuente: Maybe as high as $12.
C.A.: $12? You're starting to get into the next price category. How many different sizes of Opus X and what sizes do you plan?
Fuente: We plan to come out with six or seven sizes.
C.A.: This year?
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