Last year, we had a three-way tie for this award.
This year, some of us considered whether even giving out the recognition made sense.
As has been mentioned before, 2019 was a problematic year for the cigar industry. Most companies, particularly once a select group of smaller and newer companies is removed, had a down year in 2019, especially financially.
Yet, this isn’t the award for the best financial performance. We also struggled to find companies that did the things that have helped decide this award in previous years. It’s tough to point to a single company having a breakout year in 2019. It’s not easy to point to a single company as producing cigars clearly above the rest of the industry. It’s even tough to find a candidate for most improved, another way we’ve determined who gets this recognition.
There were just seven companies nominated for this recognition and it ended up being extremely close amongst three companies.
2019 COMPANY OF THE YEAR — ARTURO FUENTE
For the last four years, Arturo Fuente has been on the most aggressive modernization campaign this industry has seen. Its main factory in the Dominican Republic has been renovated, new buildings are up at its Chateau de la Fuente tobacco field, the company is buying more fields in Nicaragua, there are plans for an ornate factory in Estelí, a box factory—perhaps the largest in the western world—is set to open soon and the company built a new bonded warehouse in Tampa. Most of these things didn’t happen in 2019, but the Arturo Fuente Construction Co. has been as active as any in the cigar industry and 2019 was no exception.
Beyond buildings, Fuente has revamped its international distribution with the launch of Arturo Fuente International. Perhaps most importantly, the company has made massive commitments to supplying these markets with products. There are new partnerships with companies like Stefano Ricci, and new developments in partnerships with its longtime partners: the Newmans and Meerapfels.
What is perhaps the most interesting aspect to this is that 2020 might be Fuente’s biggest year to date: it marks the 25th anniversary of OpusX and the 20th anniversary of Añejo.
If there is one metric where Fuente stands clearly above everyone else, it is popularity on halfwheel in 2019. If we focus solely on the articles we write about a singular company or a singular cigar, i.e. no legislation or editorial, half of the 10 most read articles about a singular company were about Fuente.
So while there might be no singular metric or moment that crowns our winner, Fuente’s body of work was as good as any in 2019.
Honorable Mentions: AGANORSA Leaf & RoMa Craft Tobac.