Over a hundred of the tobacco industry’s leading retailers and manufacturers gathered together in Las Vegas, NV, for the first ever Tobacco Business Awards. The ceremony was held on Jan. 31, 2018 during the Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE) 2018 at The Sayers Club, located at the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. The Tobacco Business Awards were designed to identify and honor the best businesses, entrepreneurs, and products of different categories within the tobacco industry, from premium cigars to OTP and alternative products. Thousands of votes were cast between November and December 2017, exceeding expectations and showing that despite local and federal efforts, the tobacco, vape and alternative industries are not only growing but also are supported by many passionate retailers, manufacturing companies and consumers within each product category.
“We wanted to take an opportunity to honor the best in tobacco, the product that you guys sell, and the relationships you’ve built over the past 20-30 years or however long you’ve been in business,” said Ben Stimpson, Managing Director of Tobacco Media Group (TMG) and Tobacco Business Magazine. “We reached out to our audience of tobacco stores, retailers, people that read the magazine, and people that read the online newsletters that we send to to give us a list of names, products and companies that we could put into the hat and we could have an awards night. We had several thousand votes come in, which was great.”
The 2018 Tobacco Business Awards included five different categories. Before presenting the awards, a special award was announced and rewarded during the awards presentation. The Hugo Chairman Award–which in future years will be combined with the Legacy Award–was awarded to Kretek International’s Hugh Cassar, who’s contributions to the tobacco industry are plentiful, ranging from founding Kretek International, one of the largest distributors of tobacco products in the U.S., to launching the TPE trade show and the award-winning Ventura Cigar Company.
The other winners included:
- Best Tobacco Chain or Merchant: Corona Cigar Co.
- Best in OTP: Djarum Black from Djarum
- Cigar of the Year: Undercrown Sun Grown by Drew Estate
- Legacy: Hendrik “Henke” Kelner
- Entrepreneur of the Year: Jonathan Drew
It was a big night–and day–for Drew Estate. Earlier in the day, Jonathan Drew delivered an engaging and memorable keynote address tracking the origins of his premium cigar business and tips for entrepreneurs and other brands within the tobacco industry. By night, Drew Estate walked away with two big wins, having won both in the competitive Cigar of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year categories.
“Some years you get it right and some years you don’t. Sometimes we blow the place up and some times we do real good. This was and is definitely a beautiful moment for us as a company because we’ve been through a lot,” said Jonathan Drew during his acceptance speech for Entrepreneur of the Year. “You can build the greatest company in the world over a long period of time–15 years, 20 years, 50 years–and you could make very significant mistakes or bad judgements, or changes. This last year been a tremendous time in Drew Estate’s evolution and tonight really signifies the way we’ve been able to find our soul and our spirit and be able to continue with the blessings.”
Another winner of the night, Corona Cigar Co.’s founder and president Jeff Borysiewicz, also noted that despite challenges, the tobacco industry is enduring and continuing to prosper. “It’s nice to see the transformation that’s occurring in our industry because as you know, the places where you can smoke cigars is dwindling. As this industry transforms to where it’s more of a experience-type of industry or business, that’s the future, so congratulations to everyone and keep at it.”
Here’s a look at each of this year’s winners and highlights from their acceptance speeches:
TOBACCO BUSINESS CIGAR OF THE YEAR
On Feb. 1, 2018, Tobacco Business also revealed the remainder of its top-10 cigars of 2017 list. The list was based on votes during the Tobacco Business Awards nomination period and included some of the top newsmakers and new product releases of 2017. The Tobacco Business Top 10 Cigars of 2017 are as follows:
- Undercrown Sun Grown by Drew Estate
- The Late Hour Winston Churchill by Davidoff Cigars
- H. Upmann by A.J. Fernandez by Altadis U.S.A.
- Macanudo Inspirado White by General Cigar Company
- Venganza by Cornelius & Anthony
- La Flor De Ynclan by Villiger Cigars
- Camacho Nicaraguan Barrel-Aged by Camacho Cigars
- Alma Fuerte by Plasencia Cigars
- Hit & Run by Matt Booth and Robert Caldwell
- Archetype Axis Mundi by Ventura Cigar Company
The nominees for the 2019 Tobacco Business Awards will be announced during the final quarter of the year. For more recaps from this year’s Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE) 2018, click here.