The AMAZING People of the CIGAR Biz, by Tommy Zman
I have been so incredibly fortunate during my time covering the cigar industry to meet and befriend many of the amazing people who have worked so hard to make this industry one of the greatest that anyone could ever work in. These people are in love with what they do and are committed to the lifestyle of the cigar smoker. And that’s why I’ve been on a rampage lately, being very vocal about supporting Cigar Rights of America and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. With the danger looming of the FDA regulating cigars, I have actually never been more appreciative of the dedicated industry people of the coveted leaf.
The coolest thing about spending time with these people is seeing and feeling the passion oozing right out of their very soul. I spent five whole days in the Dominican Republic and Honduras with then General Cigar CEO, Daniel Nunez, and I THOUGHT I knew about the cigar business before I met this wonderful and humble man. The guy was running an empire but catered to me and treated me like I was the most important person in the world. I will NEVER forget his unconditional kindness.
I was SO incredibly fortunate to spend some quality time with two cigar greats who are no longer with us – Frank Llaneza and Sal Fontana. Frank was a kind and caring soul who talked about the cigars he made like they were his very own children. And Sal, was one of the funniest and quick witted men I have ever met. Spending three days with him at the IPCPR show in Vegas a couple years back had me laughing non-stop, actually crying out loud at times. These are two men that are sorely missed by so many.
Then there are some of today’s great people who work harder and travel the globe more than any people I have ever known. People like Carlos Fuente, Rocky Patel, Benji Menendez, and Nick Perdomo are true patriots of the cigar biz. And then there are several who I can actually call my friends, guys who are making a tremendous impact on a personal level with the cigar fans – George Sosa of Alec Bradley, Jose Blanco of Joya de Nicaragua, Rene Castaneda of Miami Cigars, Jonathan Drew and Steve Saka, Pete Johnson, and Christian Eiroa. I like to refer to these guys as a part of the Extraordinary League of Gentlemen in the world of premium aged, hand rolled cigars.
Last, and certainly not least, I couldn’t write a piece like this without talking about longtime JR Cigars owner and chief funnyman, the great Lew Rothman. His JR Catalog pieces are forever legendary and were a definite influence on the way I write about cigars. I personally owe a hell of a lot to Lew, a guy who recognized some kind of talent or something in me, and gave me my shot at covering the cigar business. Guys like Lew Rothman NEVER retire, so I really don’t know how he eventually did it. Cigars are in his blood and I have never met a man like him. And Lew, if you’re reading this, I’ll never forget Honduras and the D.R. and you telling me on our layover in West Palm Beach, “Tommy, we all just took a vote… for you to shut the f@#k up!”
So that’s my personal ode to my friends whose labor of love is this amazing business. We cigar smokers cannot let these men down as we need to continue to fight the FDA, nanny state jurisdiction, and intrusive government intervention.
PLEASE SUPPORT Cigar Rights of America as they continue to deal with congress, the senate, and all US legislators who need to be made aware that our cigars are the best friends we know of and we will fight like hell to keep them in our lives! >>http://cigarrrights.org