Manufacturers That Defined the Decade: 2010s
As the sun sets on another decade, it is a time for reflection on what the past 10 years have brought us. It’s been an exciting one for the cigar industry, and even more so than the cigar boom of the 1990s.
Several manufacturers that started in the post-boom really came into their own in the past few years and the impact they made will last for quite some time. Let’s take a look at the 10 manufactures that helped define the 2010’s.
Don Pepin Garcia
Don Pepin may have had his start in the cigar industry in Cuba, but it was his work out of Nicaragua that made him a household name. His blends with Tatuaje was critically acclaimed in the mid 2000s, but by 2010 he had come into his own with the My Father line.
Since then he has had two cigars be named cigar of the year and is considered one of the best and most respected manufacturers in the world. The Garcia name has now become synonymous with quality and excellence.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with a bigger name in the industry today then AJ Fernandez. He is known not only for his masterful work on his own brand but for his long list of collaborations on cigars such as Montecristo, H.Upmann and Southern Draw.
AJ began by working on in-house cigars for a few retailers before really establishing himself with the San Lotano line. Since then, he has become the biggest star in the industry and is looked at as one of the most prolific blenders of his generation.
Pete Johnson first began his Tatuaje line in the mid-2000s, and since then has become the truest representation of a boutique cigar company. His ability to combined top-notch blends with intriguing themes and names has made him among the most famous figures in the industry.
His Monster series, which was included on our Cigars that Defined the Decade list, is among the most sought-after and talked about cigars each year. Some of his more limited releases, like the Pork Tenderloin releases are not only highly-rated but are incredibly popular and go for huge money on the secondary market.
I’ve always said that the Aging Room is one of the most underrated brands in the industry. Raphael and his team consistently make highly rated cigars that don’t necessarily get the buzz they deserve. However, since joining the team over at AUSA, Rafael helped lead that company into the new decade.
His work on evolving brands such as Montecristo and Romeo into something for the newer generation of cigar enthusiasts has been critically acclaimed. Many feel he has helped revitalize some of the largest and best-known cigar brands in the world.
Even with generations of tobacco knowledge and experience, I feel that the Plasencia family is finally getting the recognition they deserve. After making highly rated cigars for other manufacturers, the 2010s saw Plascencia put out their own, named brands and the results have been fantastic.
The Alma series has been a game-changer and has launched the family into new heights. The Plasencias have gone from a respected company within the industry to a superstar family within the past few years and it is well deserved.
After a failed collaboration with Christian Eiroa, Robert Caldwell burst onto the scene a few years ago and is now one of the more well-known figures in the industry. While his blending practices are incredibly solid, it’s his personality and marketing skills that have made Caldwell cigars one of the fastest-growing companies in the industry.
From 2014 onward, Caldwell Cigars are among the most talked about in the cigar community. Each year, his booth at the trade show gets crazier and crazier, showcasing the growing love and respect cigar smokers have for the tall man with half a shirt.
The Duke of Nashville is among my favorite people in the industry for several reasons. First, you couldn’t ask for a nicer, more approachable guy. Even with his star-like status among the boutique elite, Jon is always humble and works hard to give his customers what they want.
The Crowned Heads portfolio has expanded greatly with their cigars being considered among the top echelon of boutique, limited cigars. The Las Calaveras is one of the most anticipated releases each year, and his collaboration with such respected blenders as E.P. Carrillo, Willy Herrera, and Pepin Garcia has helped make Crowned Heads a popular and beloved company.
Michael Rosales / Skip Martin
The team responsible for RoMa Craft has certainly earned its place on this list. Mike and Skip have created more than a cigar company, but a cigar phenomenon with a legion of dedicated followers. This is due to several factors, including dedication to quality and their very active roles in communicating with their customers.
Their cigars speak for themselves, with CroMagnon and Neanderthals constantly selling out around the country. However, it’s the personalities of Mike and Skip and the engagement they have within the community that has helped establish them as leaders of the industry and future cigar hall of famers.
This is the one name on this list that might not be well-known by the casual smoker, but his impact on the industry is incredible. Eladio is the master blender and head of quality control for Davidoff. Under his watchful eye, the company has grown exponentially and has really entered the mainstream of the cigar community.
While Davidoff was always seen as the Rolls Royce of cigars, many thought them to be one dimensional and a bit pricy. With Eladio at the helm, the company has expanded its portfolio to include new, intense blends including the Davidoff Black Label Series and a slew of limited editions that sell out immediately. Eladio is the perfect man to lead Davidoff into the new decade.
When you talk about the future of the cigar industry, Nick Melillo has to be in the discussion. A young man with the ability to combined outstanding blends along with a solid marketing structure, (and the personality to match), Nick is among our brightest stars.
Nick began his journey while being one of the master blenders for Drew Estate and helped develop the legendary Liga Privada series. After starting out on his own with Foundation Cigars, Nick has become one of the most talked-about guys in the community and his cigars are consistently rated among the best each year.
Steve Saka has been a non-stop force since starting Dunbarton a few years ago. Each of his cigars has received critical acclaim and his tobacco IQ is otherworldly. Each year I look forward to what Dunbarton is releasing and will continue to be excited for many years to come.
Erik is the perfect combination of blending genius and a big personality. His outstanding cigars and fun-loving ways have made him a favorite among the cigar community and La Zonapaloza is becoming of the most popular cigar events in the country.
There were a lot of changes to the team over at Drew Estate over the past few years, but one thing has remained the same. Jonathan Drew remains heavily involved with the company and continues to make sure the team’s focus is on quality and customer engagement.