We have never done this before—put cigar makers on the cover of Cigar Aficionado. But the Fuente family, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in the cigar business in 2012, deserves this honor as much as anyone in any industry deserves to be recognized. And for us, the recognition represents a special moment too because their anniversary coincides with the 20th anniversary year of Cigar Aficionado. And, that marks the beginning of our friendship with them.
We met the Fuentes for the first time in 1992, months before the first issue of Cigar Aficionado was even finished. After an afternoon spent touring their factory in the Free Zone in Santiago, we headed off to dinner at Camp David, a small hotel and restaurant located high on a hillside overlooking the cigar making capital of the Dominican Republic. A cigar followed dinner as we moved to the small terrace with a direct view of the stunning nighttime landscape, the lights of Santiago twinkling below. We laid out the vision for the magazine, and what we hoped it would achieve for cigars: the same kind of success the Wine Spectator had brought to the wine business. The family patriarch, Carlos Senior, or just Senior, as many know him, looked at us and said, “This is exactly what the industry needs, I will support every issue of the magazine as long as you publish it.” He has stuck to his word—every issue for the last 20 years.
During these 20 years, we have watched the Fuente family emerge as a true force in the global cigar business. Carlos Junior, or Carlito, defied all predictions and began producing a world-class wrapper on their farm at Chateau de la Fuente, and out of that project came the Fuente Fuente OpusX, a brand that helped set a new standard for Dominican cigars. They started a foundation to help families and children near the farm; the foundation has built a school that began to graduate its first alumni just a few years ago. Carlito talks with pride about helping families with medical emergencies, providing potable drinking water and helping to build a community. It is more than just a business, but a labor of love.
In David Savona’s cover story, you will read about the trials and tribulations as the family pursued its dream of making fine cigars. There have been fires in factories that destroyed tons of tobacco, political upheavals that forced them to move, hurricanes that wiped out barns. But through it all, the Fuentes remained true to their vision and commitment to make fine cigars that everyone can enjoy. For that, and for all the good works they have accomplished, we honor them.