2023 Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest Seminars: The Fuente And Padrón Cigar Project
The Fuente and Padrón families have been fierce competitors in the cigar industry for several decades. But despite this competitive dynamic, the two families hold an unbreakable bond forged through shared principles, a passion for cigars and a love for family. At the 2023 Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest seminars this past Saturday, attendees had the pleasure of peering behind the curtain of this layered relationship from the men leading the charge, Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr. and Jorge Padrón, who have set off on a joint venture to make cigars honoring their fathers, Carlos Fuente Sr. and José Orlando Padrón.
The audience members were given prototypes of these yet-to-be-released cigars, one made by Fuente in honor of José Orlando Padrón and the other made by Padrón in honor of Carlos Fuente Sr. The cigars were a first, as neither one had been smoked before, aside from people from each company, prior to Saturday. During the seminar, the two men were joined by executive editor David Savona and senior features editor Gordon Mott as they discussed the joint project, their fathers and the bond between their families.
Fuente and Padrón took the audience back to the moment of conception, when following a CRA (Cigar Rights of America) board meeting in 2020 at the Padrón’s offices in Miami, the two men sat down for whisky and cigars. Fuente was drinking Chivas, his father’s favorite brand, while Padrón sipped on Pinch, the preferred whisky of his father. “Those were probably the most stressful times we’ve all lived in the cigar industry. We were fighting for our lives,” said Fuente, referring to proposed regulations from the FDA that were mounting, which posed a massive threat to the entire cigar industry.
It was in this dire context that the idea was born, a project where each man could honor the other’s father, of whom they both deeply respected. “Both of us were in deep pain and had gone through a lot of stress fighting the FDA. We were both missing our fathers like hell,” said Fuente. “After several drinks, I lost count, somehow the idea came up.” But their proposition wasn’t solely based out of respect, the two patriarchs wanted to show regulators that this industry offers much more than just a product. “The most important thing is by making this project we can show that the industry is an industry of family, of unity, and while we may have our differences, at the end of the day there’s a lot of respect for what we all do and for those who came before us,” said Padrón.
Fuente and Padrón grew up in the cigar industry and watched as their fathers competed, going all the way back to the 1970s. But amidst this battle, respect and companionship never faltered. Whether it was the devastating fire the Fuente’s had just before its 100th anniversary or when they made the cover of Cigar Aficionado in 2012, Fuente noted that the one call they could always depend on was from the Padrón family. “He was raised by a totally different family, but he was raised by the same testament, the same book I was taught,” said Fuente when speaking about Padrón. “There’s a tremendous amount of respect from our side to the Fuente family for their accomplishments and for the way that they conducted themselves in the industry for all these years,” said Padrón.
Since these two families have joined forces for this project, many inquiries have been made about the cigars and their blends, but to little avail. As Fuente and Padrón sat on stage, each smoking the other’s cigar, Mott tried valiantly to pry the blend information out of the two, but they expertly side-stepped. Savona wasn’t keen on letting this slide and pressed the issue once more to Fuente: “Am I right in saying there might be some Chateau de la Fuente tobacco in this blend?” he asked. Fuente quickly quipped back “You’re right on—there’s tobacco in the blend,” which got a good laugh out of the crowd. Though no blend information was revealed, it was clear the cigars were of exceptional quality. “Right from the first puff, both of these cigars are incredible,” said Mott, who was remarkably smoking both at the same time.
Some information was divulged, however, as the crowd was pleased to learn that the cigars are intended to be released on Father’s Day of this year. Though Carlito had an important clarification to make, “everyone please take note, I’m not responsible for the distribution, Jorge Padrón is. If you see me outside I have his personal information.” The duo also announced that all proceeds from the cigars will be split in two, with each half going to their family’s charitable foundations, the Fuente Family Foundation and the Padrón Family Foundation. “Jorge said we’re gonna give it all to charity and when he said that, it was like music to my ears because that’s what we do,” said Fuente, who noted the two men are not alone in their endeavors. “That’s become the business of the cigar industry.”
As the end of the seminars neared, Savona asked each man what they thought their father’s would think if they saw them today engaged in this special project. “I think he would’ve been very proud and said I understood what the cigar industry is all about. Which for me is about making the best possible product we can, standing behind it and building your family,” said Padrón.
“He’s right next to me, I feel it. My father speaks to me everyday.” said Fuente, who was a bit emotional. “He would be extremely proud. But not only of the accomplishments of our families and all my colleagues who are here. He would be so proud and so amazed of what has happened to our industry.” Fuente pointed out some notable occurrences over the last seven years: the influx of women as cigar smokers, the industry rallying during Covid and the relentless passion among fans at cigar events like this. “He would be so happy to see this. It’s any cigarmaker’s dream, because honestly, if you’re a cigarmaker, you have to love people.”
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