JC Newman unveils 116-year-old Cuesta-Rey cigars

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Photos/JC Newman Cigar Co.

116-year-old Cuesta-Rey cigars come in 20 different shapes and sizes and are technically still smokable today.

JC Newman’s historic El Reloj factory, located in the heart of Tampa, has been producing cigars since 1910. But the combination of cigar factory and museum has artifacts even older than the facility itself – the company recently acquired a box of 100 perfectly blank Cuesta. -Rey cigars from 1906. The cigars were added to JC Newman’s three-story museum where they will be preserved and displayed for future generations.

Although cigars are technically still smokable, after 116 years (many spent outside of a humidor) the tobacco flavor has surely diminished. The Newman family decided their value was much greater as an exhibit in their growing museum.

Cuesta-Rey cigars

Drew Newman, General Counsel for JC Newman, holds the Cuesta-Rey Ponce de Leon display case which is still in very good condition.

The cigar box is a sampler case that features what was then the new line of Ponce de Leon de Cuesta-Rey smokes, which were hand-rolled in the United States with Cuban tobacco, as were many cigars from the turn of the 20th century. The display case held 100 cigars in total, separated into five trays which were then designated by sections of five based on the 20 different shapes and sizes in the cigar range. The showcase was created by Tampa’s Cuesta-Rey Cigar Co., which commissioned a handful of traveling salespeople to visit retailers across the country to showcase the new cigars. But how have cigars fared so well after all this time?

JC Newman says a dark, dry basement in Texas played a role in the healthy survival of these smokers. A Dallas man kept them in his basement for years, but it’s unclear for how long or where he got them in the first place. Eventually, however, he decided to give them to a friend, Ralph Stow, who used the item in a charity auction to support Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that helps families of fallen and disabled military personnel. to obtain scholarships. Stow, who is attending the auction, quickly decided that these fumes deserved a better fate than ending up in the hands of an individual.

Cuesta-Rey cigars

Here are two of the five trays of cigars that come in this display case.

Stow began researching Cuesta-Rey, which led him to JC Newman, who had owned the brand since 1958. Seeing that JC Newman operated a cigar museum, Stow quickly realized it was the perfect home for the sampler box. With the auction still in mind, Stow offered a trade, the cigars in exchange for promotional items to be auctioned off in their place. Newman offered two four-foot-tall hand-painted cigar sculptures, and Stow accepted.

Cuesta-Rey was one of Tampa’s most important and well-known cigar brands for much of the 20th century. Its history dates back to the late 19th century, when a young Spanish immigrant, Angel LaMadrid Cuesta, opened a cigar factory and quickly earned a reputation as the first cigar roller. A few years later he formed a partnership with Peregrino Rey and Cuesta-Rey was born. Their cigars earned them the respect of high society, especially Spain’s King Alfonso XIII, who honored Cuesta with the title of “provider of tobacco to the king and court of Spain.”

Cuesta-Rey cigars

JC Newman’s Tampa headquarters and El Reloj factory shown here with a giant Cuesta-Rey sign on the roof.

JC Newman, originally operating in Cleveland, was also a 19th century design, so it was only natural that a few years after the company moved to Tampa, they bought the Cuesta-Rey brand, which happened in 1958. For a time, Newman transitioned Cuesta-Rey into a machine-made brand, but it was still a big seller in pharmacies and supermarkets. Eventually, Stanford Newman, longtime patriarch of the family business, will work with another industry legend, Carlos Fuente Sr., to transfer production from Cuesta-Rey to Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia in the Dominican Republic, making the mark by hand. rolled crafts. The partnership between the families continues today and Cuesta-Rey remains a top brand for JC Newman after years of serving as its flagship cigar.

To see the historic cigar box for yourself, visit El Reloj in Tampa, open to the public weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Factory tours are available for a fee of $15 per adult and $12 per person for seniors, students. and veterans.

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