As we speak, the future of cigars is being handed over to a new generation of leaders. One by one, the titans of the cigar boom and the resurgence of the early '00s are handing over the reins to their sons, daughters, or savvy corporate acquisitions teams. Few are even still left around to guide their brands. Some notable losses include Jose Orlando Padron and Gilberto Oliva, who both passed away in 2017 and Carlos Fuente, Sr., who passed in 2016. And those who are still involved in their brands are gravitating towards cultivating the tobacco and leaving the blending to younger hands – most notably Jose “Pepin” Garcia of My Father and Tatuaje fame.
Perhaps no master-blender represents the passing of the torch better than Nestor Andres Plasencia. He represents the fifth generation of Plasencia's to cultivate tobacco for use in premium cigars. His great-great-grandfather Don Eduardo Plasencia first planted tobacco in Cuba in 1865 and his father, Nestor Plasencia Sr, built the largest tobacco empire in the world.
Nestor Sr. guided the family through its return to Nicaragua after the Nicaraguan Revolution and spearheaded its production of cigars for other brands on a contract basis. His tobacco and his blending skills went into the cigars that made a name for the likes of Rocky Patel and Alec Bradley. And Plasencia tobacco can now be found in 70% of all cigars in the US market.
That's quite a legacy to live up to, but 45-year old Nestor Jr. is up to the task. He is forging his own path the Nestor Plasencia Way: one-half tradition and one-half innovation.
He is still working closely with his father to cultivate tobacco the traditional Plasencia way across thousands of acres in Nicaragua and Honduras. He honors his family's history, keeping count of every harvest since 1865, and has taken over his father's duties creating cigars for their client brands while Nestor Sr. mostly manages the farms. But his father still comes into the factories regularly and Nestor Jr joins his father in the fields at least once a week. In interviews, Nestor Jr frequently refers to or quotes from his father – his pride in his father's work is evident in everything he does.
But cigars represent something greater than just family heritage to Nestor Jr. They mean good times with friends and family and a break from everyday life. When asked about his family and his attitude towards cigars by Cigar Aficionado, Nestor Jr. had this to say,
“I remember my dad, my uncles, my dad’s friends—they were happy people, like the people you would see in a cigar store. I remembered that. After work, they would sit and play dominoes, or on the weekends, and even though we had bad times, I remember people smoking cigars, laughing and having fun. There’s something about cigars that has those good vibes. I had a friend tell me: 'This is the cheapest psychoanalysis: for $10 I can relax for two hours.'”
And that's exactly how Nestor sees cigars. He feels he has a duty to cigar smokers to deliver the best possible experience when they light up one of his cigars, saying “If are going to give us two hours of their precious time, we take it very seriously, so we want the best product possible,”
In his quest to fulfill the promise of delivering the best product possible, Nestor Jr. has been drawn towards the other half of his cigar philosophy: innovation.
As soon as Nestor Jr. joined the business, he started pushing his family towards more innovative solutions. Rather than just grow tobacco the way his father had always grown it, the recent agricultural school graduate was determined to create the first modern organic cigar in the US market. He spent years developing organic techniques to fertilize tobacco plants and protect them from pests, including investing in earthworm farms and weaponizing garlic and beneficial fungi in the war against pests and disease. He grew his first organic-certified crop in 2001 and has worked tirelessly to expand the organic operations ever since. And in 2017, he released his dream cigar: The Organic-Puro Plasencia Reserva.
But Nestor Jr.'s biggest innovation yet doesn't come from the farm. It comes from the factory floor and the salesroom. Nestor Jr. and brothers Gustavo and Jose Luis launched Plasencia Cigars in 2017. After decades of successful contract-blending under Nestor Sr., the Plasencias finally went into business for themselves under Nestor Jr.'s leadership.
In the years since launching the brand, Nestor Jr. has created hit after hit by combining his thirst for innovation and his passion for his family's tobacco. Nicaraguan puros in the Alma line have showcased Plasencia tobacco in a way that's never been seen before – and won accolades and devoted fans along the way. His cigars have made the Cigar Aficionado Top 25 Cigars of the Year list every single year since he started the brand. And he started with a bang, securing a coveted Top 10 spot in the 2017 list with the aptly-named Alma Fuerte Generacion V.
By combining tradition and innovation, Nestor Andres Plasencia is forging a new path for himself and his family while building upon the astounding success of his renowned father. He's accomplished amazing things and we expect that things will only be uphill from here.
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