Feature Interview2020-07-27T12:26:40-08:00

Feature Interview

Behind the Leaf: Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley Cigars Twenty-five Years In, and the Future is Now

By Randy Mastronicola Alec Bradley Cigars is celebrating twenty-five years in the cigar industry this year. This is no small feat in the competitive cigar industry as we know it today. I’ve come to know Alec Bradley Cigars, first as a brand fan, and now as industry colleagues, over the past eight years. Their beginnings were fairly humble, and they experienced a learning curve, with some trial and error. Two-and-a-half decades after they started, the company is globally respected, is thriving and is one of the top innovators in the industry. Today, their brand and blends are globally respected. Alan Rubin is the architect of the Alec Bradley brand. His vision as founder of the company is compelling, as our conversation shows. Randy Mastronicola: Twenty-five years in the cigar industry now. Congratulations. Not too shabby. How does that resonate for you? Alan Rubin: It surely doesn't feel like it's been twenty-five years. Sometimes I look back and I start thinking I feel like I've been in the business three or four years. It's still exciting. I'm still very passionate about it. I think there's more wisdom in my decisions after twenty-five years, [...]

The Cigar Box Guitar Revival: David Sutton and his CBG Obsession

By Joe Bosso A dozen years ago, David Sutton’s young daughter expressed interest in playing the guitar. Sutton, a Chicago-based photographer and amateur musician, owned some beautiful vintage guitars, but he thought he should start his daughter off on something smaller–and less valuable. “I’d had some experience in woodworking, and I had vaguely heard of these things called cigar box guitars–these three or four-stringed instruments made from cigar boxes,” he recalls. “So I decided to see if I could build one myself.” After doing some Googling, Sutton found some basic information on building a cigar box guitar. “The biggest issue was locating the right boxes,” he says. “But once I located some nice cedar boxes, I was off and running. I really enjoyed the process.” So much so that he built two models, one for his daughter and the other for himself. It didn’t take long for Sutton to become a passionate cigar box guitar aficionado, and he discovered that there was an underground community of enthusiasts. So he decided to spread the word: His first book, Cigar Box Guitars, published in 2012, is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to cigar box guitar building. A year later, he [...]

One Century at a Time: The Legacy of Old World Tobacconists

By Audrey Pavia Sustainable. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it means “able to continue over a period of time.” For some old world tobacco shops in the United States, you can modify that description to “...over a very long period of time.” Tobacco shops are part of our history, connecting old and new America. Many landmark establishments have closed over the decades, leaving just a handful of historic shops left around the country. The following businesses are survivors and thrivers. They are a testament not only to their uniqueness, but also to their ability to look the future in the eye and say “Bring it on.” Federal Cigar Portsmouth, N.H. Federal Cigar began in 1904 with a flagship store called United Tobacco, located in downtown Portsmouth. Several other locations in the surrounding areas soon opened but they were short-lived. A tobacconist by the name of Goodman purchased the original, remaining store in 1921, and changed the name to Federal Cigar. The shop is currently located in a building constructed in the 1700s, and provides an old world atmosphere, with low, wood-beamed ceilings; stone walls and brick columns. The adjacent cigar bar provides [...]

Behind the Leaf: Michael Giannini of The Ventura Cigar Company

By Joe Bosso Michael Giannini wasn’t looking to get back into the cigar business when he joined the Ventura Cigar Company in 2017. The longtime East Coaster had just left the General Cigar Company after a 16-year run, moved out to California, and was looking forward to segueing into a career in the fashion and jewelry industry. Realizing that trends in the cigar business—like most industries—can fluctuate year to year, what’s your long-term vision for the company? Long-term, it’s to grow the division. After I came in as a personality and creative director, I was actually made the GM of the whole organization, so I get to run the business, which is kind of cool. I get to go to the factories. I get to create the packaging with my team, and then I gear up my sales people to go out there and sell the product. So I’ve got complete control from creative to execution in the field. My vision is to grow the company, but it’s something more than that: I get to be a disrupter. But I can only do that because we’re not in a box. There’s some [...]

Behind the Leaf: An Interview with Liana Fuente of Arturo Fuente & Company

By Randy Mastronicola The late Carlos Fuente Sr. was a pioneer in the cigar industry, and his backstory is compelling. He had humble beginnings and some challenges as a young man that might have taken a lesser person down. Ultimately, he built an enduring international cigar company powerhouse. The patriarch of the Fuente family passed away in August of 2016 at the age of eighty-one. Randy Mastronicola, Editor-in-Chief of Cigar & Spirits Magazine, recently met with Liana Fuente to reminisce about her grandfather and talk about what’s on the horizon as the company continues to maintain its standing in the cigar industry. Liana has become a high-profile presence in the cigar world herself. She’s a fourth generation Fuente to work in the family business, and serves as the company’s Creative Marketing Director. (Editor’s Note: Fuente’s third generation is well represented, too. Carlos P. Fuente Jr. is the President of the company and Cynthia Fuente-Suarez is Vice President.) Can you share some thoughts about the impact your grandfather had on you? It’s funny because as a child growing up, he was just abuelo, a very kind, patient soft spoken, hard-working man. He never [...]

Cigar & Spirits Magazine Q&A Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey: The Greatest Whiskey Maker The World Never Knew

By Randy Mastronicola Nathan “Nearest” Green (aka Uncle Nearest) is regarded as the first African-American master distiller on record in the United States. A formerly enslaved African-American, he’s been credited with teaching Jack Daniel distilling techniques that helped form the brand in the 1800s. Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey was created to honor his legacy. The award-winning Uncle Nearest has made a splash in the market in just over a year—garnering 13 medals in 13 months. Uncle Nearest captured a Double Gold Medal at the China Wine and Spirits Awards, a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, New York World Wine and Spirits Competition, and two Gold Medals at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition. Cigar & Spirits Magazine also named it one of the Top 5 Whiskies in its most recent World Spirits Competition. We caught up with Fawn Weaver recently. She’s the co-founder of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, serving as CEO and chief historian. What makes a great premium whiskey? It’s different for everyone, but for us, a large part of it is time and cost. The amount of time the whiskey has spent in the barrel and [...]


by Randy Mastronicola | Portraits by Greg Gorman I recently met with Andy Garcia at the legendary Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank, Calif., for an evening chat. The stars aligned, and I was able to catch up with him a couple of days before he would set off to Croatia to film the prequel to Mama Mia!, with Cher. IT was a cool and damp, late-summer Monday night, and I was waiting for Andy under a passageway off the greens. I saw his distinct figure coming toward me through the darkness. He received me with a warm handshake and walked me through the esteemed club, making chit chat in Spanish with the staff as he toured me around. He explained that the club is his golfing home-away-from-home, where he mingles with friends like Ray Romano and George Lopez, who all share a passion for golf. We pretty much had the venue to ourselves since only a couple of members were in the club room. Andy told me I’d need to remove my hat because Lakeside is a very traditional club. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and W.C. Fields were once members, along with Frank Sinatra and Gene Autry. Current stars who are known to enjoy the Lakeside links are Jack Nicholson, Joe Pesci, Justin Timberlake and [...]

The Cigar & Spirits Q&A with Dan Tyminski

Alison Krauss & Union Station Member Flies Solo Dan Tyminski is well-known in music circles for being a Grammy-winning guitar player and vocalist with the country/bluegrass band Alison Krauss and Union Station…for being the singer who gave voice to  George Clooney’s “Man of Constant Sorrow” in the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou”…and for his surprise, genre-breaking version of Swedish producer Avicii’s electronic dance hit, “Hey Brother.” What this longtime collaborator and self-described sideman is less known for is...being Dan Tyminski, songwriter and solo artist. That’s likely to change with the recent release of a Tyminski solo album, “Southern Gothic” – a project that finally moves the 50-year-old Vermont native out of the penumbra of the spotlight and into its bright center. The 13-song album was co-written with an all-star team of country luminaries, but it mines a wide array of influences that defies pigeonholing it into any one genre. “When people ask, I jokingly say to them, it’s a country, pop-y, church-y, swampy, bluegrass-y, electric-y album,’’ Tyminski says. But as the “gothic” part of “Southern Gothic” would suggest, it’s also a serious exploration of some the darker dichotomies of human nature – which the listener learns from the title cut’s very first words – Blackbird on the old church steeple Spanish moss hanging in the setting sun Every [...]

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