The global cigar market is worth over $20 billion in 2022 and is expected to exceed $25 billion by 2025. Most of these cigar sales can be credited to the balance sheets of big tobacco companies like Imperial Brands plc and Scandinavian Tobacco Group.
That said, the multigenerational cigar families in countries like Honduras are the true heroes behind this success story. In fact, many of the big cigar brands wouldn't be where they are today without these cigar families.
This article will discuss some of the long-established cigar families and provide insight into how the cigar industry got to where it is.
The Plasencia Family (Nicaragua)
The Plasencia family has been growing tobacco for five generations and is widely regarded throughout the industry as one of the world's largest producers of premium cigar tobacco.
As a matter of fact, the Plasencia family has been in the tobacco business for more than 150 years. It all started in 1865 when Eduardo Plasencia made his way from the Canary Islands to Cuba and started growing tobacco.
In 1890, his nephew, Sixto Plasencia Juarez, started working for him. Sixto was the great grandfather of Nestor Andrés Plasencia, the current vice president of Plasencia Cigars and Plasencia Tobacco.
Sixto got his own farm in 1898 and passed it on to his son (also called Sixto) to keep the family heritage alive. For the next 50 years, the Plasencia family had a reputation for being good cigar tobacco growers.
That was until Fidel Castro seized most of the tobacco farms (including theirs) in 1963. Two years later, Sixto and his family left Cuba for Mexico with nothing in their pockets.
At that time, his son, Nestor Sr., was 15 years old. After spending only two weeks in Mexico, they moved on to Honduras, where they stayed for a few months before settling in Nicaragua.
Here they got back into the cigar business until 1979, another tragedy struck. The Sandinistas revolution forced the family to flee Nicaragua, once again leaving everything behind.
Nestor Sr moved back to Nicaragua while Sixto moved to Miami. In Nicaragua, the family got into the cigar tobacco growing business for the umpteenth time!
This time they were faced with a totally new adversary. Through the 1980s, blue mold decimated the family's crops. The Plasencia family came to the brink of shutting down the family business multiple times.
They were only kept afloat through the lean years by loans and offloading of some of their tobacco fields.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Nestor Sr. had to find an additional way to generate income to buffer the low yields from the tobacco crop. In 1985, he decided to go beyond tobacco growing and start producing cigars.
That's how the Plasencia family started making cigars for distributors such as Cigars by Santa Clara.
With an unwavering commitment to quality, the Plasencia cigar brand slowly became popular, and production only ramped up over the years.
In the 1990s, they made their way back to Nicaragua and resumed their tobacco growing there. The Cigar Boom of the 1990s enabled the family to buy new farms and pay off their debts. Finally, things had taken a turn for the better.
Today the Plasencia family owns over 3,000 acres of tobacco plantations and four cigars factories (two in Nicaragua and two in Honduras).
The factories are responsible for the manufacture of over 40 million cigars annually for 30+ brands, including Oliva, Nat Sherman, Rocky Patel and Alec Bradley.
Most of the family members work for the family business. In 2017, Nestor Sr’s three sons, Nestor Jr, Gustavo and José Luis, launched their own brand of cigars.
This in-house cigar brand produces popular Plasencia branded cigars such as the Alma Series, which includes the Alma del Campo, Alma del Fuego and Alma Fuerte.
Eiroa Family (Honduras)
In the late 1800s, Generoso Eiroa emigrated from Spain to Cuba. His involvement with tobacco began around 1913 when he secured a job as a boat captain for the Cuban Land and Leaf Tobacco Company.
In 1915, he purchased a 99-acre farm and started growing tobacco for himself.
However, during Castro's revolution, his three sons were forced to leave the country and settle in Tampa, Florida.
One of Eiroa's sons, Julio Eiroa, traveled to Honduras in 1963 on behalf of a tobacco dealer called Angel Oliva.
After a year or two of handling affairs for Oliva, he decided to branch out independently. Soon he landed the opportunity to buy tobacco farms from the government.
He bought up a lot of fertile land and became the biggest grower of Candela wrappers in the world over the next two decades.
In 1987, Julio Eiroa founded Caribe Imported Cigars in Miami, Florida, to produce cigars and sell them through dealers and retailers in the United States.
In 1995, Caribe Imported Cigars bought Camacho, a cigar brand that had been started in Florida in 1961.
Three years later, Julio's son Christian Eiroa who at the time was 26 years old, took over the management of the family business. He quickly took to experimenting with new blends for Camacho.
The tobacco for the cigars was sourced from the family's tobacco farms in Honduras.
Somehow he was able to convince the owners of the Two Guys Smoke—a cigar retailer in New Hampshire— to test the blends with their customers. For a whole year, customers go to judge various cigar types, rings, packaging designs, blends, as well as various pricing models.
After a thorough trial period, Camacho was launched in the US and internationally with staggering success.
By the mid-2000s, the Camacho brand was a household name producing north of 13 million cigars annually.
Christian was now feeling the pressure of running the fastest growing brand on his own. So he decided to sell the company to Oettinger Davidoff in 2008.
He took a break from the industry until 2012, when he returned to the cigar business. He formed CLE cigars in Honduras and Asylum Cigars in Nicaragua. Just like Camacho, Christain has been able to take his extensive business acumen to build not one but two successful cigar brands.
Today, his new cigar lines are sold across the US and European countries like France and Germany.
Fuente Family (The Dominican Republic)
The Arturo Fuente cigar brand was formed in 1912 in West Tampa, Florida, by a 24-year-old Cuban emigrant named Arturo Fuente. Unlike most other cigar families that started with tobacco growing, Arturo jumped straight into cigar production.
By importing first-rate tobacco from Cuba, he was able to roll quality cigars that proved very popular among his clientele in Tampa.
Sadly, in 1924 disaster struck the 500 employee company, and their factory burned to the ground. Production of the brand was halted for the next 22 years. Fuente didn't resume rolling cigars until 1946, and this time his two sons Carlos and Arturo, Jr. were drafted into the family business.
When Carlos took over the company in 1958, the factory was only producing a few thousand cigars per year.
A few years later, the US embargo on Cuba in 1962 made it impossible for the business to continue as they no longer had access to Cuban tobacco.
Not necessarily a bad thing for Fuente, as he believed it leveled the playing field and wiped out his biggest competitors.
He decided to move production to Esteli, Nicaragua, in the early 1970s. At the time, Nicaragua had become the hotbed for cigar production due to the immense support from the government.
However, before they could fully establish themselves, the Sandinistas' revolution in 1979 forced them to flee Nicaragua.
The A. Fuente Company settled in the Dominican Republic. This was their big break. By the 1980s, the family-owned a huge cigar factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Carlos's son Carlos "Carlito" Fuente Jr. joined the family business around this time. Having mastered tobacco growing and blending skills from his father and grandfather, he proved to be a great addition to the company.
In the 1990s, he created new shapes and blends that helped define the modern-day cigar. For example, the creation of the now-legendary Fuente OpusX—a cigar made entirely from Dominican-grown tobacco—is credited to him.
This cigar, the first Dominican Puro, has contributed significantly to the rise of the Dominican Republic cigar industry.
Fuente Jr. is now president of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia, which has become the largest family-owned, premium cigar company in the world.
Headquartered in Santiago and operating four factories in the DR, they employ 4,000 people and produce upwards of 30 million cigars a year.
In 2001, Fuente Jr co-founded the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation to assist local families around the Chateau de la Fuente farm (the same farm where wrappers for Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars are grown).
Carlito's daughter currently serves as vice president of brand development for the company.
She's been quoted saying that her grandfather once told her, "If you do not see the smoke from my cigar and you do not smell my after-shave, you're too far. I want you right next to me learning everything I know."
The Turrent Family (Mexico)
The Turrent family is known as the first family of Mexico's cigar industry. The family not only makes Mexico's best-known cigar, Te-Amo but owns Nueva Matacapan de Tabacos S.A. de C.V., the largest grower of cigar tobacco in the country.
They began growing cigar tobacco in 1880 under Alberto Turrent I. Over the next 80 years, the tobacco-growing enterprise was passed from one generation of Turrents to the next.
Alberto Turrent IV began working in the family's cigar business in 1960. At the time, he was a truck driver tasked with transporting tobacco leaves.
Their main business was exporting Maduro wrappers to Europe. To date, they are still the leading producer of Maduro wrapper tobacco worldwide.
But following the US embargo on Cuba, the company also began exporting tobacco to the United States. In 1966 they created the Te-Amo cigar brand, which sold really well in New York in the 1970s.
They even had 170 stores around the New York City area selling the cigars.
Alberto's son Alejandro Turrent got into the business in 1998 at the age of 25. Alejandro is currently president of the family-owned Nueva Matacapan de Tabacos.
Most of the cigars they produced in the early years were made wholly with Mexican tobacco. This is because the county had very stringent rules about importing tobacco from other cigar countries like Honduras and Nicaragua.
In 2014, A. Turrent cigars launched their new Casa Turrent brand. This is the only cigar brand that carries the Turrent name in its title. Alejandro Turrent actually discontinued all the other Turrent-branded lines.
Under his leadership, Casa Turrent cigars have become some of the most popular Mexican cigars loved by enthusiasts all over.
What cigar from this cigar families is your most favorite? Let us know over at our Instagram page @compass_longview.