Twenty years! In August, 1992, we held the first copy, fresh off the printing presses, of Cigar Aficionado. Holding that glossy magazine in our hands was an exhilarating moment, filled with hopes and dreams, and a touch of fear too. Would the world respond to our quest to create a guidebook for the Good Life, a magazine meant for men of good taste? We didn’t have the answer. But we got a lot of polite feedback that, while superficially positive, was filled with the unspoken message—you’re crazy, this won’t last long.
There were a lot of apparent reasons to challenge the success of the magazine. First of all, the vast majority of new magazines fail within a couple years of their launch. We had jumped into the magazine world at a time of recession (remember the 1992 election—Presidential candidate Bill Clinton rode the discontent to the White House), so it made the drive for advertisers all the more uncertain. And, the anti-tobacco campaign was reaching a fever pitch, with the crusade against cigarettes and smoking in public as strong as it had ever been. Cigars weren’t as much in the crosshairs in 1992, but tobacco was.
What everyone, including us, underestimated was the power and energy of the cigar community. In 1992, it was a community without a voice, without a platform to express its feelings of shared passion for something that was more than just a bunch of rolled up tobacco leaves. But the magazine’s arrival served as a catalyst for what most cigar smokers knew intuitively—a fellow cigar smoker was a brother or a sister. And a cigar ignored politics, gender and racial origins to create a common bond.
We suspected the truth pretty quickly. The deluge of requests for subscriptions surprised us. When more than 100,000 issues were mailed for the premiere issue, we guessed there might be a bigger audience than we had ever hoped. But both of us remember one of the moments when the reality hit home; the first Big Smoke in New York City, about eight months after the launch, when 1,500 people showed up for a night of smoking, drinking and friendship.
Over the years, this editorial page has talked about the reasons for the cigar boom and the reasons for cigars’ enduring appeal: camaraderie; shared experience; quiet moments to reflect with people of like mind. All have played an essential role in our success. More than the celebrities we’ve encountered, the places we’ve gone, the wonderful events we’ve participated in, it is the creation of a cigar community, and the people who we have met there, that are the true highlights of the last 20 years.
This moment, this 20-year celebration, is about you. We are happy to be a part of your community.