2019 Big Smoke Saturday Seminars: Women in Cigars
Contrary to popular belief, women do enjoy smoking cigars. While no one can deny that the industry is certainly male dominated, in the past 20 years more and more women have not only picked up the hobby, but have taken leadership positions within the cigar industry.
This was one of the main themes touched on during the Women in Cigars seminar, moderated by Cigar Aficionado’s Gordon Mott. “One of the big changes in the industry is just the amount of women that are now a part of it,” said Mott.
Joining Mott on the panel were three such women: Cynthia Fuente-Suarez, of Arturo Fuente Cigars; Ines Lorenzo-Gomez, of La Flor Dominicana; and Lissette Perez-Carrillo, of EP Carrillo Cigars.
Fuente-Suarez has worn many hats during her time at Fuente, a cigar company her grandfather founded in 1912. She grew up doing homework on tobacco bales, and eventually joined the company as a saleswoman, traveling from coast to coast in her earlier years with the company. She recalled not seeing many other women back then.
“When I first joined the industry, women had more of a supportive role,” said Fuente-Suarez, while puffing on an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Between the Lines. “Nowadays, social media and other means have helped women exude success. They now have leadership roles.”
Lorenzo-Gomez said she also believes that social media has brought more attention to a lot of women smoking cigars. “Positive attention, too,” she added.
Perez-Carrillo said that one of her earliest cigar memories was sitting next to her grandmother in the family’s Miami factory as she put bands on cigars. She also recalled tagging along with her father, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, on his trips to tobacco brokers in Miami “that were only 10 minutes away up the street.”
Before she worked with her father at his eponymous company, Perez-Carrillo was a lawyer. She said that her decision to join her father’s new company in 2009 was partially based on her fond memories of growing up in the business. “It’s in our blood,” she said.
Unlike the other panelists, Lorenzo-Gomez did not grow up in a cigar family. Despite being born in Cuba, she had little experience with cigars when her husband, Litto, talked about getting into the cigar business in 1994. It was then that she lit up her first cigar, a mild smoke that their company (then called Los Libertadores) rolled.
Lorenzo-Gomez said she fell in love with the cigar culture in those early days of their company, but admits that she faced many challenges. “Everything was a challenge because we had to build up an entire company.”
All three panelists concurred that there have been times when men in the cigar industry have shown disrespect simply because they are women. Each of the panelists, though, were quick to point out that, for the most part, the cigar industry is ripe with respectful, classy men.
“My father taught me that gender wasn’t an issue or an option to blame failure on,” said Perez-Carrillo. “He insisted that I needed to just be the best person I could be.”
When asked what type of cigars most women prefer to smoke, all three confirmed that women, like men, enjoy all kinds of cigars.
“Years ago, women may have preferred asking for smaller, thinner cigars,” said Lorenzo-Gomez. “But it’s not like that now.”
“Cigars are about a mood. What time of day is it? Where are you smoking, and with who?” said Fuente-Suarez. “And women go through moods just like men, so it makes sense that women smoke all kinds of cigars.”
Save The Date
The next Big Smoke takes place in Hollywood, Florida, April 3-4, 2020, with Big Smoke meets WhiskyFest, an event combining the best of cigars and whisky.
The Big Smoke Las Vegas returns to the Mirage November 20-22, 2020.
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