Tobacco Business Awards 2019: A Look at The Winners

    The Tobacco Business Awards–created to recognize the best businesses, products and professionals of the tobacco industry–were held in Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2019. This year’s awards included 13 categories that were voted on by retailers, businesses and consumers.

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    “You have no idea how humbled and excited I am that people chose me as the first Woman of the Year [award recipient],” Fuente says. “For so many years growing up in this industry, it was always about men. Honestly, women have been a crucial part of this industry. In 1912 my grandfather Arturo [Fuente] started his company in the back of his house. He didn’t do it alone—he did it with his wife, Christina. When times were tough, she said, ‘OK, baby. We’ll do it together,’ and she rolled cigars with him. After that, his sons and his daughters grew the business. Now, 107 years later, we are here to say, and I am proud to say, we’re a family business with women and men working together to keep the tradition and culture alive.”

    Liana Fuente was born into the cigar industry. When thinking about her childhood, cigars were as much a part of her family’s everyday life as food and water. She had many great mentors in the business, including her father, Carlito, her grandfather, Don Carlos, and her great-grandfather, Arturo, who showed her that hard work does pay off. In addition to being inspired by male figures, the women in her family have also shaped Liana’s approach to business and entrepreneurship.

    “We work in what has historically been a male-dominated industry, so it is inspiring to see so many women in it now,” she says. “I was raised and am always surrounded by strong and passionate women in the Fuente family, and I hope more and more women will join this industry. Their hard work and dedication will be an invaluable asset to our great cigar industry for years to come.”

    Fuente acknowledges the other women nominated alongside her this year, describing them all as strong and amazing, and saying that her win is also theirs. For the Fuente family, which has a long history in the premium cigar space that dates back over 100 years, her recognition as the first Woman of the Year is something she says they are very proud of.
    Her advice to other women is simple: Never forget that you have a place in the tobacco industry. “Women are as much a part of this industry as anyone else,” she explains. “Never forget that many women have come before you, working in the factories while providing for their families. When people say the word ‘sacrifice,’ it has no gender; ‘discipline’ has no gender; ‘grit’ has no gender. Stay strong, be creative, and always, always speak your mind. You bring a lot to the table, such as innate passion and dedication, and the cigar industry will be better for it.”

    Nestor Miranda, Miami Cigar & Co.

    LEGACY AWARD: NESTOR MIRANDA (MIAMI CIGAR & COMPANY)
    Nestor Miranda is one of the tobacco industry’s most endearing success stories yet. He migrated from Cuba to the United States when he was young and worked at the Beverly Hills Hotel as a busboy. It was his desire to become so successful that instead of working there he could one day afford to stay there as a guest that ignited his entrepreneurial drive and set him off in the pursuit of his own version of the American dream. With his wife at this side, the Mirandas launched Miami Cigar & Company in 1989—which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2019—and have built their business around cigars, family and the mantra, “one life.”

    “I’m very proud that I’m in the cigar business,” Miranda says. “I started in 1989, so this is our 30-year anniversary. This award means a lot to me because this year I’m going to be 76, and I’m still good! It’s been a beautiful journey, and I did it because of my wife. Without my wife, I couldn’t have done it all. A woman is always present in a business and the success of a business. My business will go on for a long time because I have my son-in-law, Jason Wood, who is handling the company. We’re going to go for many years.”

    Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, E.P. CarrilloHUGO CHAIRMAN: ERNESTO PEREZ-CARRILLO
    The Hugo Chairman Award is awarded to an individual who has made a tremendous contribution to the tobacco industry. This person isn’t just an entrepreneur. They are an inspiration, a success story and in many ways an iconic figure that oftentimes doesn’t get the accolades and recognition they deserve. This year’s Hugo Chairman Award recipient is famed cigarmaker Ernesto Perez-Carrillo.

    Perez-Carrillo has been the recipient of Cigar Aficionado’s No. 1 Cigar of the Year award for two years. He’s also in the hall of fame of cigarmakers and has become a sought-after collaborator within the industry for many seeking his expertise and unique handling of tobacco.

    “What can I say? I’ve only been in this business for 48 or 49 years, and during that time I’ve seen a lot of things in the business that have changed. This year, for me, has been an incredible year. We got the No. 1 Cigar of the Year [from Cigar Aficionado], and a lot of exciting things have happened in my life and the industry’s. I got the No. 1 cigar of the year—that was great—but this is very important to me also. This is great,” comments Perez-Carrillo.

    For a look at the 2019 cigar winners and Top 25 Cigars of the Year, click here.

    This story first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.