Today's savvy and sophisticated cigar lovers know what they like — and know that what they like can be hard to come by.
Take the top-of-the-line Fuente Fuente Opus X, the pride and joy of the phenomenally successful Arturo Fuente cigarmaking and marketing enterprise in the Dominican Republic. For most tobacconists, supply is many months behind demand.
That in itself may be incentive enough for aficionados to turn out for the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas Hotel's Arturo Fuente Smoker, co-sponsored by A.H.Riise and Arturo Fuente, on Thursday night.
The evening is centered on a six-course dinner menu created for the occasion by Ritz- Carlton executive chef Alain Piraux. Accompanying the cuisine will be selected wines, ports, cognacs and single-malt scotches and four premium Arturo Fuente cigars.
Guests will light up three of the hand-rolled cigars at the appropriate times a Chateau Fuente Sun Grown, a Hemingway Classic Natural and the fabled Fuente Fuente Opus X Double Corona. (The fourth cigar, a Don Carlos #2, is to take home.)
As an added attraction, two Fuente representatives — Wayne Suarez, son-in-law of company founder Arturo Fuente Sr., and Alan Goldfarb of Fuente-Newman — will be on hand to share information on the history, philosophy and productivity of the firm.
The Fuente family has been making cigars for four decades. But it was a mere four years ago that Tabacalera A. Fuente began marketing the Opus X, the first hand-rolled cigar line to be produced entirely from tobacco grown in the Dominican Republic, where the company is based.
Carlos Fuente Sr., using Cuban techniques and Cuban seed, set up a small cigar factory in Tampa, Florida, in the 1960s. His son and daughter, Carlos Jr. and Cynthia, learned the business from childhood. In 1980, he opened a factory with seven workers in the Dominican Republic; a year later, he moved his family there. Today, Tabacalera A. Fuente has six plants, more than 1,800 employees and two tobacco plantations. Production last year was nearly 40 million cigars. The senior and junior Fuentes are in charge, with other family members actively involved.
In the '80s, it was the dream of Carlos Fuente Jr. to produce a cigar using only Dominican tobacco. The challenge was to cultivate a quality "shade wrapper" leaf to go around the filler and binder leaves. Local experts said it couldn't be done. But in 1992, he harvested the first wrapper leaves, and three years later, he introduced the world to the Fuente Fuente Opus X.
Production has gradually increased, to more than 750,000 Opus X cigars last year, but this is nowhere near enough to meet demand. Thus, those who find one at their place setting on Thursday night at the Ritz-Carlton smoker will have one more reason to believe that this is, indeed, America's paradise.
The Ritz-Carlton smoker begins with a champagne reception at 6 p.m. Dinner will follow at 7 p.m. Seating is limited and dress is semi-formal. The prix fixe of $140 includes gratuity and valet parking. Reservations (required) may be made by calling Gayle Poole at 775-3333, ext. 29.
(To learn more about Arturo Fuente operations, visit the company website at www.cigarfamily.com.)