Though Manuel Quesada’s heritage can be traced back to pre-Castro Cuba, where the family once owned one of the country’s largest tobacco-exporting companies, he is justifiably proud of the cigars he makes at Matasa, his factory in the Dominican Republic. These products, which include Fonseca and Casa Magna, embody the knowledge and skill of four generations of the Quesada family, which has passed its traditions down through the decades from father to son. For this reason, Quesada experienced a bit of a culture shock when, one day in 2009, his daughters Raquel and Patricia announced that they wanted to start making cigars and promptly took over the blending of what would become the Quesada 35th Anniversary limited edition. "In effect, they kicked me out of my own factory," Manuel recalls.
The sisters created the factory’s first box-pressed cigar, a medium-full-bodied 6 × 49 toro triple-banded in silver, gold, and black—the colors of Patricia’s favorite pair of shoes. The 1,000-box release sold out within two months. Patricia and Raquel have since made other cigars with new tobaccos and themes, including the Tributo, issued in 2010 and dedicated to late members of the Quesada family, and the Oktoberfest, introduced in 2011 and reissued in 2012. The sisters blended the latter to complement medium-strength beer.
"The main goal originally was to honor our father and his 35 years in the business," Raquel says. "We realized that the best way to achieve that was through a cigar made by the fifth generation."
The Quesada sisters’ entry into the business marks the beginning of a new era of female cigar makers. While women have always had a role in the cigar business, Cynthia Fuente Suarez—a granddaughter of Arturo Fuente and the president of Arturo Fuente Cigars USA—has been nearly alone in its upper ranks. But some of the most talked-about releases in recent years have been created by the daughters of two of the industry’s most renowned cigar makers.
The Quesadas’ counterpart is Janny Garcia, the vice president of My Father Cigars and the daughter of its founder, Pepin Garcia. Last year she created La Dueña, a semisweet and robust cigar tailored to her own tastes. She enlisted her brother, Jaime, and Pete Johnson of Tatuaje to assist in experimenting with a blend of Connecticut broadleaf and Nicaraguan tobaccos.
"I was looking for a cigar I could smoke every day," Garcia says. "As for the cigar’s name, my inspiration came from a Mexican soap opera where the leading role was a strong female. Therefore the name fit: I am the only female in a company run by my father, my brother, and myself."
Last year she collaborated with the Quesada sisters to create Tres Reynas, a medium-full-flavored robusto, gordo, and torpedo made with hefty dark Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binder. Tres Reynas is a powerful smoke that lives up to its name, which pays homage to women of stature in a man’s world.
Yet, as Manuel Quesada acknowledges, that world is changing. "A few years ago, I had just finished the blend for our Fonseca Cubano Limitado, so I said to Raquel, ‘The blend’s done; let’s start production,’" he recalls. "She came back a few minutes later and put a cigar on my desk. I lit the cigar and immediately realized she’d taken my blend and tweaked it. She thought I’d be furious. But instead I said, ‘Yours is better. Let’s go with it.’"