In a project called Cuban Cigar Factory, Ventura Cigar Co. (makers of Cigar Aficionado’s No. 13 Cigar of 2017) has teamed up with two veteran cigarmakers for a pair of new lines. Called Benji Menendez for Cuban Cigar Factory and Manolo Quesada for Cuban Cigar Factory, the cigars were blended by Benjamin “Benji” Menendez and Manuel "Manolo" Quesada Jr., respectively, who worked with Michael Giannini, general manager at Ventura, to create these new brands. The cigars are expected to ship to retailers next month.
“We have a duty to engage this talent, not to let these great minds and their priceless knowledge fade away,” Giannini said, speaking of Menendez and Quesada. “They’re now our mentors, an inspiration to us all and they’re still here.”
Menendez, a life-long tobacco man with a lengthy career in the premium cigar industry, was born in Cuba and worked alongside his father at the H. Upmann factory in Havana. Forced to leave Cuba when Fidel Castro rose to power, Menendez made cigars in Jamaica and then later the Dominican Republic, working with industry giants Altadis U.S.A. and General Cigar Co.
For his latest project with Ventura, Menendez created a cigar with an Ecuadoran Connecticut wrapper, a Dominican binder and filler tobacco from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Benji Menendez for Cuban Cigar Factory will come in three sizes: Robusto, at 5 inches by 50 ring ($12.99); Toro, 6 by 50 ($13.99); and Belicoso, 6 1/4 by 52 ($14.49). The cigars ship in 20-count boxes and are rolled at the Quesada Cigars factory in the Dominican Republic.
Manolo Quesada, another storied cigarmaker, also fled Cuba with his family when Castro took control of the country. His father established a tobacco brokerage company in the Dominican Republic, and in the early 1970s the family founded a cigar factory called Manufactura de Tabacos S.A. (MATASA). The factory has since been renamed Quesada Cigars.
For his collaboration with Ventura, Quesada blended an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper with an Ecuadoran binder and Dominican fillers. Manolo Quesada for Cuban Cigar Factory will ship in the same three sizes as the Benji Menendez version, with the same pricing and box count. Like the Benji version, this brand is rolled at the Quesada Cigars factory in the Dominican Republic.