If you've smoked cigars for any period of time, the name Toraño Family Cigars is sure to ring a bell. They have been making cigars and growing tobacco since 1916 when Don Santiago Toraño started growing tobacco in Cuba. After Castro’s takeover and nationalizing of all the farms in 1959, the Toraño family, led by Carlos Sr., left and went to the Dominican Republic where they started to grow and produce tobacco with Cuban seed. Today the Toraño name is one of the most highly respected in the business.
With factories and facilities in every major cigar producing nation, they have been growing and producing some of the finest tobacco on the market. Under Charlie Toraño’s leadership (a third-generation Toraño in the cigar business) the company has expanded its footprint and now, not only do they grow and produce tobacco for their extensive lines of cigars, but they also have a distribution arm. In addition they produce cigars for a number of other cigar brands on the market today.
I recently was able to catch up with Charlie to ask him a few questions.
CCC- Charlie, can you tell us what drives your passion for cigars?
CT- My passion for cigars is driven by three things: First and foremost is the legacy of the three generations that came before me. I feel connected to my ancestors knowing that we share the love of the leaf and the love of the culture that is growing, manufacturing, and enjoying cigars. My grandfather died when I was too young to remember him. It wasn’t until I started working in the cigar business that I felt connected to him. Although I wasn’t always aware of it, the love of cigars is in my DNA.
Secondly, I truly enjoy the experience of smoking cigars. Everything is better with a cigar: work, poker with the guys, watching the Heat on the patio, any conversation . . . . There isn’t one morning when I’m in the office in Miami that I don’t appreciate the fact that my first task is to choose my first cigar of the day.
Finally, before I joined my father in the cigar business, I was a lawyer. As a litigator, both my clients and my opposing counsel were never happy to see me. Cue the cigar business, and everyone is pretty darn happy. The cigar fraternity is filled with people who just want to relax and forget their troubles. It’s easy to be passionate about being a member of this club.
CC- Who is the one person you most admire in the cigar industry?
Assuming I cannot include my father, I would say the person I most admire in the cigar industry is Nestor Plasencia. Nestor is probably one of the greatest tobacco growers in the world, he is one of the best manufacturers of handmade cigars in the world, he is an incredible businessman, extremely personable, a fantastic communicator, extremely wise in all of his dealings, and I can say without reservation, he has to be among the hardest working person I’ve ever encountered in any industry. I’ve always been grateful for his friendship and look to him as one of my mentors in the cigar industry.
CC- Do you have a defining moment when you knew you would make it in the cigar industry?
I truly believe that if I ever feel that “I’ve made it in the cigar business,” it’s the beginning of the end. I don’t think you ever “make it” in this business. You have to go out and earn it every day. Whether you’re growing, manufacturing, or distributing a cigar brand, the process is intense and requires constant vigilance. I recently saw an interview with Shannon Sharpe, the NFL Hall of Famer from the Denver Broncos. He said he missed going to the White House reception after they won their first Super Bowl because he was working out in the gym. He said he knew that some young guy was in a gym somewhere gunning for his job and he could not let that happen. I think the cigar business is the same thing. There are too many good cigar brands and good people in this industry for anyone to think that they have “arrived.”
CC- Anything new on the manufacturing side....plans for new lines?
Later in 2013 we are launching a new blend from the Vault. This blend was created back in 2004 and we are excited to get this new Vault blend to the market. We are also launching a limited edition cigar under our Exodus line called “Exodus Finite.” We’ve also decided to repackage our current Reserva Selecta line. We are moving away from the glass tubes and offering this great blend in a new presentation.
CC- Where do you see your company five years from now?
The goal is to continue on a steady growth path, offering new and exciting cigars, expanding our distribution, both domestically and abroad, and enjoying the ride.
CC- Favorite person from history-And why?
Jesus. He preached love and forgiveness and gave hope to the world.
CC- Stranded on a deserted island what three things would you want with you?
Cutter, lighter and cigars!