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Entertaining with Cigars

 

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Knowing how to entertain with cigars is the perfect prelude to business

There’s an old adage: “a cigar is just a cigar, but a good cigar is a smoke.” If you’ve ever puffed on a premium robusto, corona or Churchill, you know exactly what that statement means. Nothing quite compares to the fresh bouquet of the fine brown tobacco wrapper, the spicy or peppery taste that fills your mouth as you puff, the meditative feeling that comes over you as you watch swirls of smoke waft through the room.

Cigars have always been associated with success, accomplishment and conquest. In fact, one of the highlights of the BLACK ENTERPRISE/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge continues to be the annual smoker in which some of the nation’s richest and most powerful African Americans engage in banter, comradeship and deal making while puffing on coronas and sipping cognac.

But before you invite a client out for a smoke, make sure that you know how to identify a quality cigar. pick up a copy of TheĀ Cigar Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide, which gives you details on the history and structure of the cigar as well as important advice. For example, you should know that handmade cigars have three components: the wrapper, which gives the cigar its appearance; the filler, a series of tobacco leaves that provide for the passage of smoke and dictate how quickly the cigar burns; and the binder, which holds the tobacco together. The book also informs budding aficionados that cigars should be kept in a humidified environment–preferably at a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees with humidity at 65% to 70%.

 

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To get a better sense of the cigar culture and how you can use cigars as a part of business entertainment, we talked with Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr., president of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia, one of the world’s largest family-owned handmade cigar companies, which produces such top-notch smokes as the Fuente Fuente OpusX, a 100% Dominican cigar, and the Fuente Hemingway line, which was voted “the best of the best” among premium cigar brands by the June 1999 Robb Report, the lifestyle magazine for the rich. The company also makes such top sellers as Ashton, Diana Silvius and Diamond Crown. Here’s what Fuente had to say about cigars:

BLACK ENTERPRISE: Over the past few years, cigars have been extremely popular, almost faddish. Do you think the industry will be hurt now that the fad has ebbed?

CARLOS FUENTE JR: Fine cigars are like fine wine and watches. There will always be a demand. They will always attract connoisseurs, people who are sophisticated or successful in business and in life. At this point, the demand is still far greater than the supply, and I don’t see any change in the near future.

B.E.: What sets Fuente cigars apart from others in the marketplace?

FUENTE: Each cigar is an individual, natural product that has a personality. We grow our own tobacco and make our cigars by hand. We blend various types of Cuban seed tobaccos, depending on the cigar. But most of all, my family’s passion is in the product.

B.E.: You had a unique experience in creating the Fuente Fuente OpusX cigar. How did the production of that cigar come about?

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FUENTE: In the early 1990s, my father and I had this idea that great wrapper tobacco could be grown on our plantation in the Dominican Republic. [The most common wrappers grown in Connecticut, Cameroon, Honduras, Ecuador and Nicaragua.] Many tobacco experts doubted that we could do it. So we decided to keep it a secret. Besides my father and I, only two other people worked on it. We harvested the first crop in 1992 and the leaves were oily and rich, leading me to describe them as being opulent. By chance I came across the word “opus” in the dictionary, which meant “creative work,” “masterpiece,” “a work of a lifetime.” It was a dream come true. We were overwhelmed by the great response.

B.E.: How do professionals and entrepreneurs use cigars in business entertaining?

FUENTE: Cigars can be extremely valuable in business entertaining. You smoke a cigar in a leisurely fashion. It gives you an hour or two to communicate and connect with another person–whether it’s a business associate or a friend–when his or her guard comes down.

Premium cigars also serve as a great gift, since you would give them to someone as a sign of respect or to deepen a relationship. Like golf, cigars create the right atmosphere to bond [with a person] and find common ground.

B.E.: Cigars seem useful as a strategic tool as well.

FUENTE: I find that when you smoke a cigar in private, it relaxes you. It allows you to think and, in some cases, come up with creative solutions. I have been around cigars all of my life and I know that it has worked for me.