It would be no exaggeration to say that Fuente Fuente OpusX changed the cigar industry as much as the iPhone changed the mobile phone industry. It might even be an understatement.
When it came out in 1995, Fuente Fuente OpusX was an immediate sensation: a cigar so different in its taste, look and origin that cigar enthusiasts literally lined up to buy it. Retail shops sold out so quickly that some imposed a “one per customer per day” rule. It remains one of the world’s most coveted cigars, with each new release eagerly awaited by cigar enthusiasts, reviewers and retailers.
The entire premium cigar industry felt the impact of OpusX. Competing manufacturers introduced heavier-bodied cigars to try to compete with OpusX’s rich, robust flavor. Even the image of the industry changed. Suddenly, it seemed every cigar company, even huge multinational corporations, attempted to claim for themselves the Fuentes’ focus on tradition and family. They even copied the Fuente look, which has become as much an iconic image for cigars as Juan Valdez is for coffee. “Fuente Fuente OpusX has changed not only the taste of cigars, it’s changed the vision, the appearance and the way we think about cigars,” says Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr., the man who conceived OpusX cigar and who today runs the company with his father, Carlos Sr.
It wasn’t always this way. Because OpusX uses wrapper leaf grown in the Dominican Republic - a region other tobacco growers felt couldn’t produce good wrapper leaves - many industry observers initially doubted its quality, and even doubted the Fuentes could deliver a finished product. Shortly after Fuente Fuente OpusX finally hit the market, a major wine producer filed a trademark lawsuit that might have killed the entire project.
In this interview, conducted in New Orleans the night before the 2015 International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) trade show opened, Carlito Fuente considers the impact Fuente Fuente OpusX has had on the cigar industry, and recalls some of the struggles that nearly destroyed his family’s company as they worked to bring OpusX to market. (Excerpt from Page 2, 3, and 4)