Similar to the recording industry, you need more than one big hit to build a career that lasts. As with the recording industry, consistency is the name of the game when it come becoming a legacy act in the world of cigars.
These days, there are no shortage of companies that will make a private-labelled cigar for anyone with the right amount of money. As a result, a litany of cigar brands and individual cigar options are available to consumers, especially in markets like the United States and Europe.
In these markets, there are currently more boutique-branded cigars than ever before.
Many new cigar brands however, often burst on to the scene only to disappear just about as quickly, for it takes a certain kind of company to develop true staying power for the long haul.
For new cigar makers, it can be a big climb from a small boutique brand to becoming a legacy brand name.
Of course, all cigar companies had to start somewhere. Today, there are many successful, decades-old cigar operations who could have all once been regarded as ’boutique’ at one point in time. For many of them, it wasn’t always booming sales and critical acclaim right from the get-go – it generally takes time to become cemented as a true legacy cigar brand.
The following brands are all family-owned companies that have been shown to stand the test of time through employing time-honored practices to cigar making.
They have accomplished this through repeatedly creating high-quality cigars that have consistently delivered a particular flavor profile that consumers have come to expect.
Similar to an artist like Madonna or U2, the following cigar makers have effectively delivered many ‘hits’ over the years.
Arturo Fuente was established in 1912 in West Tampa, Florida by Arturo A. Fuente, a Cuban immigrant.
Throughout its history, Arturo Fuente has survived natural disasters, political upheaval and even multiple factory fires. As a result, it underwent numerous geographical relocations, with at times a very dismal outlook on its future. It finally found stability and success in the 1990s under the helm of Carlos Fuente Sr. and his son, Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr.
Arturo Fuente has always remained a family operation. Today, patriarch Carlito Fuente and has grown the company to become one of the most critically-acclaimed makers of premium hand-rolled cigars in the world.
Arturo Fuente cigars are made at Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic.
Carlos Fuente Sr. was inducted into the Cigar Aficionado Hall of Fame in 1997.
Carlos “Carlito” Fuente was inducted in 2012.
Ashton Cigars were established in 1985 by Robert Levin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Unlike the other names on this list, Levin is the only one to have his cigars made for him by another company.
Levin had already worked in the cigar business for years under his father’s cigar shop, Holt’s Cigar Company. Holt’s was known for selling factory seconds to price-conscious consumers in the Philadelphia area. In the 1970s Levin struggled as a distributor while simultaneously managing Holt’s. He then decided to create the world’s first super premium cigar.
Ashton has consistently been a perennial ‘top 3’ brand in North America and is sold in over 60 countries worldwide. Holt’s is still operated by the Levin family, and is among the top 5 retail cigar establishments in the world.
Levin’s children Sathya and Meera now are heavily involved in the business, and the iconic Ashton cigar still exhibits the same hallmark quality and character that it did nearly 40 years ago.
Today, Ashton cigars are made for the Levin family by Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic.
Robert Levin was inducted into the Cigar Aficionado Hall of Fame in 2012.
Though Casa Magna was established by Manuel “Manolo” Quesada in 2008, the Quesada family have been making premium cigars since 1974, and have worked in tobacco since the late 1800s in Cuba as brokers.
Under the Castro regime, the Quesada family had their cigar factory seized from them and then fled for the Dominican Republic, where they have since been making cigars of great critical acclaim.
In 2008, the Casa Magna Colorado Robusto won Cigar Aficionado Magazine’s coveted #1 Cigar Of The Year.
Today Manolo Quesada runs his time-honored family operated business with a factory of over 300 people in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Manolo Quesada was inducted into the Cigar Aficionado Hall of Fame in 2012.
Success didn’t come overnight for Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, who is now enshrined as one of the most critically-acclaimed cigar makers in the world after having captured not one, but two Cigar Aficionado #1 Cigar Of The Year awards, all within a three year period.
Ernesto started out with cigars in the 1970s with his father under a struggling cigar company called El Credito that was established in Miami after defecting from Cuba. El Credito floundered for decades until Ernesto began making La Gloria Cubana cigars (one of the first cigars to be considered “boutique”), a name which his father owned the rights to.
After some solid success with La Gloria, he eventually he sold it to General Cigar Co. and was kept on as an employee and ambassador.
It wasn’t until 2009 that Ernesto decided to go on his own and create E.P. Carrillo, which is now run alongside his son Ernie and his daughter Lisette. EPC makes cigars for companies like Crowned Heads and Alec Bradley, and has even created a cigar that has scored the highest rating of all-time, the Encore Majestic.
E.P. Carrillo cigars are made at Perez-Carrillo’s Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. factory in the Dominican Republic.
Ernesto Perez-Carrillo was inducted into the Cigar Aficionado Hall of Fame in 2012.
Joya de Nicaragua
Joya de Nicaragua was established in 1968, making it the first premium handmade cigar manufacturer in Nicaragua.
Throughout the years, Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua S.A. has endured civil war, air strikes, bombings, an embargo and nationalization.
Despite many hardships, today it is a successful operation located in the the fertile growing region of Estelí, which is becoming known as the tobacco capital of the world.
It is successfully run by the father-and-son team of Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca and his son, Juan. In Nicaragua, and around the world, Joya de Nicaragua is often regarded as “the most Nicaraguan cigar“.
As of 2023, La Aurora celebrates its 120th anniversary.
It was founded in the year 1903 by Eduardo León Jimenez. Throughout the years, it has overcome many hardships, including having its exports destroyed by warships during WWII, and the tyrannical 30-year Trujillo dictatorship.
My Father was born out of very humble beginnings when Cuban immigrant Jose “Pepin” Garcia, and his family established a very small cigar factory in Miami, Florida’s Little Havana back in the year 2003.
Pepin first began rolling cigars in Cuba at the very young age of 11.
In 2008, Pepin became recognized as “America’s Hottest Cigar Maker” by Cigar Aficionado. In 2009, the Garcia family the opened a seven-acre My Father complex in Estelí, Nicaragua, also known as the “Garcia Family Industrial Park”.
He and his son Jaime Garcia have since developed countless blends for My Father Cigars as well as several prestigious companies in the industry. To date, they won #1 Cigars Of The Year twice; the Flor de las Antillas in 2012, and the Le Bijou 1922 in 2015.
Cigars made at My Father are uncompromisingly robust and aromatic with highly rated and well-distinguished brands.
Jose “Pepin” Garcia was inducted into the Cigar Aficionado Hall of Fame in 2022.
The Oliva family began with tobacco in Cuba as far back in 1896, beginning with Melanio Oliva. Many generations later, Gilberto Oliva Jr., along with his family are Nicaragua’s second largest grower of Cuban-seed tobacco today.
Originally founded in 1995, Oliva Cigar Co. is now owned by J. Cortès Cigars N.V., a private family-owned business based in Belgium who themselves have been in the tobacco business for a few years shy of a century.
Using time-tested methods of curing, blending, and rolling that built an empire, the Oliva cigar lineup has garnered tons of top ratings from industry experts and consumers alike, culminating with Cigar Aficionado Magazine awarding the Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado #1 Cigar Of The Year in 2014.
Today, the Oliva Cigar Co. makes about 15 million to 16 million handmade cigars a year.
Angel Oliva Sr. was inducted into the Cigar Aficionado Hall of Fame in 1997. Gilberto Oliva Sr. was inducted in 2022.
Whether you smoked an Ashton Classic black in the late 90s, or just last week, you were likely to have encountered a cigar that delivered practically the same taste as it did 30 years ago.
The same holds true for so many of the cigars that have been made by the aforementioned.
Over the years, they have delivered hit cigars time and time again to ultimately foster a loyal following, develop international acclaim and gain legendary status in the cigar world.
For younger brands, it certainly takes perseverance to get to this level. However, there are scores of relatively new cigar makers that are gaining recognition fast, and are on well their way to also becoming legendary.
Out there somewhere, is the next generation of cigar maker that has the aspirations – and the gumption – to bring truly great cigars to the world.
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