Former NYC Retailers Create Cigar Brand

Former NYC Retailers Create Cigar Brand
Photo/Cigar Aficionado
Viva la Vida comes in five sizes: Robusto, Toro, Torpedo, Gran Toro and Diadema Fina.

Viva la Vida, a new Nicaraguan cigar brand, was launched on the U.S. market in March. Created by Artesano del Tabaco and cigarmaker A.J. Fernandez, the cigars are rolled in Nicaragua from an all-Nicaraguan blend.

Artesano del Tabaco is a company formed by Billy and Gus Fakih, two of the three brothers who owned and ran the two Cigar Inn stores on the east side of Manhattan. (Bass Fakih is not involved in Artesano del Tabaco.) The brand has been in the works for the past three years, as the brothers began working with Fernandez not long after selling their stores to Britain’s Imperial Tobacco PLC (known today as Imperial Group PLC) in June 2015 for undisclosed terms. The stores were renamed Casa de Montecristo after the acquisition.

Viva la Vida comes in five sizes, which range in price from $10.50 to $14.50, before taxes. All are relatively fat, and the thinnest is a 52 ring gauge figurado called a Diadema Fina, which is 6 1/2 inches long. There’s a Gran Toro measuring 6 inches long by 60 ring, and the remaining three sizes are all 54 ring gauge: Robusto (5 by 54), Toro (6 by 54) and Torpedo (6 1/2 by 54).

The cigars are entirely Nicaraguan, made with a variety of Nicaraguan leaves including a wrapper grown by Fernandez himself, who is a tobacco farmer as well as a cigarmaker.

The Fakihs were in the cigar retail trade for 23 years, from 1992 to 2015. Billy Fakih told Cigar Aficionado that he and his brother Gus got to know A.J. Fernandez while running the stores, particularly Fernandez’s San Lotano brand. “Me and Gus, we fell in love with San Lotano. It was our everyday cigar.” Fernandez’s name appears on the black box of Viva la Vida, but not the band.

Fakih said the brand was already available in roughly 75 stores around the United States. He said he and his brother have plans for other cigar brands in the near future.

Look for a rating of Viva la Vida in an upcoming issue of Cigar Insider.