FrontRunners: Smoking Out Counterfeiters

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Ever since the cigar boom of the late 1990s, impostors of some of the most popular non-Cuban brands have flooded the market. One of the first was the Fuente Fuente OpusX cigar, which is almost always in short supply because all of the leaf is grown in the Dominican Republic, and it is aged a minimum of one year. Recently Carlos Fuente Jr., the company’s president, supervised the destruction of more than 25,000 bogus OpusX bands that were discovered in New York.

Padrón, another company whose cigars are frequent targets of counterfeiters, has devised a plan to help cigar smokers discern the real deal from forgeries. As of September, each cigar in the top two premium lines (1964 Anniversary and the new 1924 Serie) is now double-banded, assigned a serial number, and packaged in boxes with engraved hinges. The need for an anticounterfeiting initiative became apparent to Padrón two years ago when U.S. Marshals seized a stash of phony Padrón cigars, bands, and boxes from a Florida warehouse. A more recent incident in which a bystander tipped off police at the Managua airport in Nicaragua to a vendor selling the not-yet-released 1926 cigars accelerated the measures to counter the counterfeiters. “These are the kind of people we now have to deal with in the cigar business,” says vice president of marketing George Padrón.

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