Box Press Podcast

Quesada Cigars’ Raquel Quesada Reveals Never-Told Stories

When you share a stick, you open up to each other. It’s no different for Raquel Quesada who grew up in a cigar dynasty. She revealed some never-told stories to Box Press Host, Rob Gagner over Quesada 1974 cigars at 2021 PCA in Las Vegas. Raquel talked openly about:

  • Childhood hijinks
  • The least favorite training rotation of cigar operations
  • Secret grows on the Quesada tobacco farm
  • Blending swaps she pulled on her dad, Manuel “Manolo” Quesada

As president and owner of the family-owned cigar factory, Manolo raised two strong daughters to succeed in the C-suite boy’s club of premium cigars. In 2019, Raquel’s sister, Patricia Quesada moved on from cigar operations to focus on her master’s degree, according the halfwheel. Quesada Cigars is a family-owned Dominican cigar operation. Its best known lines are Quesada, Casa Magna and Heisenberg cigars.

Hear What It’s Like to Grow Up in the Family Cigar Business

Quesada Cigars protects its premium cigars by packaging with Boveda, 2-way humidity control.

– I asked you what your favorite quote was. So I’m gonna read it. “Growth doesn’t come with a single action. “It’s a consequence of persistence, courage and hard work.” So my question to you is how are you persistent?

– Never giving up.

– [Rob] Never give up.

– Never give up, always there on the battle, in the battle and just giving the best of me for this to be the perfect one.

– There’s a story inside every smoke shop, with every cigar, and with every person. Come be a part of cigar lifestyle at Boveda. This is Box Press. Welcome to another episode of Box Press. I’m your host, Rob Gagner. I’m here at PCA 2021 and I’m sitting down with Raquel Quesada of Quesada Cigars. Raquel, thank you for joining me.

– Thank you, hi–

– Yes.

– Rob, thank you for having me here. I’m very, very excited.

– [Rob] I love it.

– And I can’t wait to see what today brings.

– Exactly, great conversation, great company and great cigars.

– Thank you, enjoy.

Shaking her booty to Dance VXN

– Yes. I have to ask what is Dance VXN?

– Oh, that’s like a dance that I do, it’s just like, this girl in Miami, she came up with this dance. So, you know Zumba?

– Yeah.

– So it’s pretty much like that, but more dancing. It’s like a more sensual dance, but it’s, it’s not bad, it’s okay. But I do that all the time and then it’s become really popular worldwide.

– [Rob] Sure.

– And then there’s specific teachers in each country, it’s like-

– [Rob] So do you teach it?

– No, I don’t teach it.

– Okay.

– I just take it, but then we have a really nice group in my town and then it’s become really popular and people, every time I walk to even the bank or something, people like, “Oh, I saw you dancing.”

– I’m like, “Okay, thank you. Because there’s like-

– How do they see you dancing? Through the club?

– Because in the videos, yeah, my Instagram.

– Oh, through the videos.

– Yeah, you can watch that too.

– Perfect, I didn’t even think.

– I am like a Zumba teacher. I got certified and everything. But on this one my knees are not good anymore, and it’s a lot of, it’s hard work.

– Right. Zumba is, but this one’s not? Or this one is?

– This one is harder.

– [Rob] Oh wow.

– Yeah, on your knees and on your, specific muscles,

– [Rob] Sure.

– Because you do a lot of dancing, I guess.

– I danced competitively when I was from third grade until high school.

– Really?

– Yeah.

– [Raquel] What did you dance for?

– It was like production, you would compete on a stage against everyone else. So it was like tap, jazz, hip hop-

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

– Lyrical, the whole nine.

– Really?

– It’s a lot of fun.

– Oh my God, I love dancing. I think I was a dancer in my other life.

– Yes, exactly.

– I love it.

– It hits like a rhythmic soulful, like-

– Wow, yeah.

– Real passionate.

– For me, it’s like, no stress. Just like the whole day you leave it behind and you just like, express yourself and just be you and have fun.

– Exactly, exactly

– Wow, it’s amazing.

– And it has no language barrier.

– Exactly.

– Which I love.

– How come you just like, out of the blue, you just decided you wanted to dance?

Boveda Rob’s Dance Background

– No, my mom, my mom was like, “You should sign up for dance.” And I was like, “Dancing is for girls.” And then she brought me by the studio where they had pictures of boys, and I was like, “Uh,” and I made a bet with her or deal with her. I was like, “I’ll do it, “but I’ll only dance with the boys.”

– Okay, no girls.

– And that lasted all of a year because then I was like-

– Into it.

– Finally got to that maturity level of like, “Oh, I do like girls and I-

– Like the girls.

– “Wanna dance with them.”

– With girls.

– “Specifically with this one girl.”

– Yeah, exactly. So it got to be really contagious after that. Then it was like production after production, after production, and line and everything, it was a lot of fun.

– And then when did you decide that you’re not gonna do it anymore?

– Well, I went all the way until I graduated high school, because that’s basically what it is, right? It’s just like another recreational activity for students to do.

– Like a side thing.

– Yeah, like a sport.

– Okay, ah, instead of taking volleyball or like-

– Exactly, instead of doing baseball, I did that. Well, I did baseball too, but I was heavy dance. It was five days a week, Weekends, you would do competitions.

– [Raquel] Yeah, that’s like when you’re like an athlete.

– Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Kept me out of trouble-

– Exactly, exactly.

– It made me do my homework-because I couldn’t go to dance unless I got my homework done. So procrastination was nipped in the bud right away.

– Wow, my son’s like that, he’s like a professional, well, he’s like a high-end golfer. He’s young, but he’s like focused. He’s into training, no drinking, no going out. So that way it’s like.

– [Rob] So he wants to be on the PGA tour at some point.

– Yeah, he has like next week, we’re gonna go to Florida for a tournament. And then at the end of the month, he’s gonna be playing for Dominican Republic team, golf team.

– Wow.

– Internationally.

– So he’s all in.

– Yeah.

– Is he always on the golf course?

– Yeah, always, all day, all the time. And when he’s done, he wants to go back again and then it’s like big time.

– So do you have to tell him to get his homework done before he goes golf?

– [Raquel] He’s a good student though.

– Is he?

– He’s always like a straight-A student.

– Sure.

– That’s the blessing.

– Exactly, that’s a blessing.

– That’s a huge blessing.

– Especially in boys on this time of age, time.

– [Rob] How old is he?

– He’s gonna be 14 next month.

– [Rob] Okay, so he’s just entering that phase of like-

– But boys now, like when I was growing up, when I was 14, now when they’re 12, they’re already doing what I was doing when I was 15. So there are really ahead of time.

– [Rob] Right.

– Because times are fast. So at the end, he’s already, kids are drinking, and going to parties and doing all this.

– So can they drink at that age in the D.R.?

– They can’t, but they can get it.

– But they can get it.

– They can get the drink.

– Sure, just like everyone else in high school, it’s like, you’re not supposed to drink, but you can.

– But do you know what? I was brought up in a family where you could smoke and that ended up in drinking, too.

– [Rob] Sure.

– So it was, it was fine. My dad, I mean the cigars were all there. The drinking was all there. So for me, there wasn’t like a barrier of, “No, you can’t drink, oh, no, you can’t smoke.” So, “Oh, you want to, go ahead,” you know? So for me, with my son, I did the same. I mean, if you wanna, let’s do it with me.

– [Rob] Yes.

– Go, come here and we’ll do it together.

– And educated.

– Yeah.

– I gotta ask, growing up in a cigar family, you said cigars were out, the alcohol was out, you learned-

– Everything was out.

– So do you have like some unwritten rule as family members? Like, “We’re not gonna talk about cigars,” at certain points, or at certain areas?

– Well, that was a little tough. We tried to do the rule, but we ended up breaking the rule.

– [Rob] Sure, and what was the rule? Like while you’re at home?

– It’s like, yeah, while we’re home or, like Sundays were like family lunch, always. So we decided if it’s Saturday, you can talk about it, but Sunday, it’s like, really, you can’t talk about it. But then we always ended up breaking the rule. And then my mom ended up being like really sad about it. It’s like, “Oh, we talked about it, “we said we’re not gonna do it “and you always end up doing this.” But you know, it’s inevitable, you can’t. With my dad, it’s like, there was always something he, “Oh, remember me a Monday that I have to do this and this,” or, “Remember me that the blend that I did last week, “I need to tweak it,” and I’m like, and then I used to take notes.

– Yeah, exactly, yeah, okay, I guess I’m just gonna be your secretary today.

– Exactly.

– I love it.

– So at the end we always ended up talking about, and then my dad is so passionate about it that, he can’t, it was always cigars, cigars-

– It’s what you’re always doing.

– Tobacco, yeah. So me and my sister, we were always on that.

– I love that. So you try to set some boundaries, but at the end of the day, if you break ’em, no one’s really upset.

– [Raquel] No, just my mom. Yeah, just your mom, just your mom.

– Because then we were all part of the team, just but her.

– Yeah, she’s like feeling out of the loop, I bet.

– Yeah, totally, always.

– Really?

– She was always like out of the loop. So she was always a little, but then we went back to the topics of just regular things, and then back to tobacco, and then back to family and then back and forth, back and forth.

– [Rob] Sure, does she like being out of the loop? Is that like refreshing to her?

– I don’t know, I think at times she wanted to be in it, but then at times she was just, “Well, just do your thing, “and enjoy your thing,” and that’s it. You know, Dominican families, or Cubans, or, we’re all like so mixed, but the mom is always more on the side. But then my dad had only girls, so he had no options. He had to like get us in the loop.

– [Rob] Wow, yeah.

– And at that time they told him we were gonna be boys. Because there was like no technology or anything. So my room was all blue-

– Oh, no.

– And I was gonna be Manuel. So then when I came in, it was Raquel.

– Guess they were wrong.

– I’m the oldest one.

– Of how many?

– Of two, two girls.

– Of two, got it.

– And then my sister was supposed to be another boy, and then it was another girl.

– You think that doctor was just like trying to say what they wanted to hear?

– [Raquel] I think so.

– “I’m sure you just want to hear this.”

– Yeah, because, I don’t know, but in Latin families, like boys are very important because they’re the ones that are gonna be like taking over the family business or whatever. So for my dad, it was a little tough, but then I think throughout the years, he really realized that it was better to have girls on board. Exactly. And now there’s no longer that stigma that girls can’t take over the family business.

– No, not anymore, and let me tell you something. Throughout the years, he tapped me like in the back and said, “You know, I’m so proud of you.” And that’s, that was really big for me at some point. Because you work so hard and then, and then your dad that always wanted to have something different is really telling you, “I’m so proud of you,” you know?

– Yeah, that affirmation is huge as a kid.

– It’s huge.

– And even still today.

– Yeah, he still tells me though.

– That’s awesome. That’s great.

– He did like a few weeks ago. He tells me, “I’m so proud of you.” And it’s hard for a man to, at least in my culture.

– Right, to be vulnerable-

– To realize that.

– And express that.

– Yeah, and express, yeah. And for my dad, coming from, leaving Cuba so early in his stage of life and then his mother passed away when they got to Dominican Republic, and then he went to Vietnam, and all these events in his life, so hard. It’s even harder to really express what he really feels. But then he, throughout the years, I mean, he was really, really, really like, “I’m so proud of you girls.”

– That’s awesome.

– I get goosebumps.

– I bet, because it means a lot.

– It does, it does, especially, you work so hard and you try to make him proud and someday he calls you out. Because he used to have this, when we were at the other factory, because we moved like 11 years ago from one free zone to the other. And he had this extension and a speakerphone on the whole factory. And he was like, “Raquel Quesada, 231.” And you’re like, your heart starts beating and it’s like, “Oh my God, what did I do wrong?” And then you ran to see him and then he’s just telling, “You know what? “Sit here and, I’m so proud of you.”

– He just wanted to tell you how proud he is of you.

– [Raquel] Yup, yup.

– That’s great.

– I know.

– At least he knows to do it when he feels it, right? Because some people feel it and then don’t express it. So that’s perfect.

– But I’m telling you, it’s hard to express it, but when you’re ready, you’re ready. And then you just tell ’em.

– [Rob] That’s awesome.

– So I do that with my son all the time. Because it’s really important, you know? On your growing stage of life.

– [Rob] Yes, and you just have the one son?

– Boy, yes, Rodrigo.

– One boy, nice. That’s awesome.

– He’s gonna be 14 next month.

– Congrats to him, let’s go.

– I know.

– Let’s go get on the PGA tour.

– We’ll see, like in a few years, I’ll tell Rob.

– Yes, yes, let’s do it.

– I told you. We talked about it.

– I wanna go to the inaugural PGA opening—

– Yes, and we’ll celebrate with Quesada Cigars.

– And we’ll celebrate and we’ll cheer him on.

– And Boveda.

– “We’re very proud of you.” Love it.

– Totally.

Tweaking tobacco blends in dad’s cigar recipe

– Speaking of being proud, you had shared with Ben when you did the live that you did a blend without your dad knowing.

– [Raquel] Yes.

– How difficult is it to try to do a blend without your dad who knows everything that’s going on at the factory—

– Oh, yes.

– How did you keep that under wraps?

– My dad, when you go blind tasting with him, you bring cigars and he knows. He knows like if this seed from this place and this thing, he knows. Like he tells you, “Oh, this is Carrillo ’98“from this place.” Or he, “This is Allure.” Or, “This is Cuban seed grown,” and whatever. And for me it was like this is very challenging. 13:52.29- 16:00.59But one day, he always used to tell me, he used to write on a little piece of paper like, “Do this plan and then go “and then bring it to me when it’s ready “in a few days,” or whatever. Sometimes we’ll do just like something fast, which is like no technique or anything, just like some cigars. But sometimes it was just like in a few days. So that day he gives me this little paper, just like usual and I leave. And then when I bring the cigars, I tweaked the whole thing. It’s like, I put another tobacco in—

– So you tweaked what he wanted.

– The whole, what he wanted.

– Was it even resembling the cigar blend that he wanted at all?

– No.

– What made you think that you could tweak it?

– Well, because I was like, I was on it and I was doing a few things without him knowing, and I said, you know what? I’m just gonna, this is my thing and I’m gonna do it. So I just went, I tweaked it. So what I did was when I came back, I put the cigars on his table and ran. I just like, I literally left—

– Out.

– And disappeared, like David Copperfield. And in a few minutes or sometime, he starts again, on that speaker thing, he said, “Raquel Quesada to the,” and his voice, I don’t know, it’s really like, strong voice. So I’m like, oh my God, I’m in deep trouble.

– “He knows that I tweaked it.”

– He knows that I changed the whole thing. So when I go in, I was like, “Yes?” You know, with my little face, good girl Raquel, because I was always a good girl. My sister was more of the—

– The rebellion, yeah.

– The rebel, yes. And I was always, you know. But that day I was rebellious. So he’s like, “What did you do to this? “Did you change my blend, Raquel? “Are you serious, are you telling me?” I’m like, “I did.” He’s like, “You know what, I love it.”

– Oh, you lucked out, you lucked out.

– So at the end, that cigar was Fonseca Cubano Limitado at that time, like many years ago. So the box came out with a sticker saying, Made by Raquel and Manolo Quesada.

– I love it.

– I know. It’s really exciting, that was like my first thing that I did big on, you know?

– I love it.

Coloring a box of cigars for consistency

– Blending. Because you know, like my dad always said you have to go through all the different stages because when you’re in a department and somebody comes with a problem or something that happened, you really need to know what’s going on. So you can either help them or make it better, or say “No, let’s do it this way.” At the end, I went from when I, ’cause I had studied abroad for a few years. So then when I came back, I spent several months just in different departments, like doing this, like classifying tobacco, classifying wrapper. I remember classifying colors for me was so exhausting because you have all these different colors and all these different cigars that have to be shipped all in the same color in a box. Because in the factory, they’re very, very rigorous with that. The boxes have to come out like—

– Yeah, you don’t want a lot of color variation in one box. It’ll look bad.

– And then the cigars have to be all on the same, rolled in the same way, and you’d have to so many different quality things. So at the end for me was exhausting. I used to be like, “Do I have to be here for so long?” “I don’t want to, can you just let me leave?” “No, no,” and let me tell you something. Now I go on the shipping department and I see the lady on the table with the cigars and I could be really far away and I would go like, “This out, this gone, this here.” And I really appreciate what he did because now I know the importance of that. And at the time it was like, “Oh my God, it’s really exhausting.” And it was frustrating because you can’t, it’s not easy. I mean, it’s like, because when you have seven hours working that—

– Mentally exhausting.

– You get all mixed. Exhausted, and then, but now I go and I’m like so fast.

– Yeah, you can’t learn it unless you do it.

– Unless you struggle there.

– Yeah, exactly, yeah.

Bunching versus Rolling Cigars

– For a few days, or weeks. So I did, I even rolled cigars. I’m not good at it, but I can roll the cigars and do the bunch and everything. I like more bunching than rolling because they have to have a lot of crafting on your hands. If you’re not born with that, it’s a little tough. But I can do it, but it’s not my specialty.

– Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Marking Tobacco Bales to Get What You Paid For 

– But so I did all the department’s things. But at the end, I ended up doing the, I ended up in production for a few years and I bought the tobacco, and I was with the cigar makers for a few years, and that was something that I really enjoyed. And I also have like another story with the supplier of one of the fillers that we had that my dad always used to go, but then when I started, then I used to go. And he used to call my dad’s like, “Please don’t send her back. “I’m gonna go bankrupt.” Because I used to go and put all the bales on a different line and I used to, with a Sharpie, mark all the ones that I wanted with my initials on.

– [Rob] Love it.

– And he was like, “Don’t, don’t send her back “Because she’s gonna—

– [Rob] He didn’t wanna deal with it.

– I know, Because I always just take the best ones. And he’s like, “Oh, you don’t want the bad ones, “you only want the good ones.” So I was like, I started marking all my bales and putting all my initials and I was like, so when I received my tobacco, I had all my bales marked.

– “No switching out my bales.”

– No switching my bales.

– That’s right.

– So that’s something I really enjoy. I love that, that part of the—

– That’s awesome.

– That was like one of my stages. I’ve been in the factory for 21 years, so.

– [Rob] You’ve been in the factory for 21 years.

– 21 years.

– Holy cow. Yeah, I’m a baby still, but it’s been 21.

– So growing up in a tobacco family, at what point in your life did it click that your dad or your family’s different than other families because of the global impact your brand has?

– Let me tell you something, Rob, I think when you’re born in this type of family, I think you realizes from the very beginning.

– Really?

– I mean, when I saw my grandfather smoking in the car with the windows up and it wasn’t even bothering me, I said, you know what? I’m in, and this is no turning back. And let me tell you something, if you don’t love it, you can’t be in it because it’s tough. I mean, smoking all day, being in the warehouses, being in the fermentation process. And my dad, I mean, we used to be like, he loves talking inside all these heated rooms and I’m like, “Can we talk outside?” “No, we’re gonna talk here.” I’m like, “Okay, I was just suggesting.” No, so, being a girl, your hair and your clothing and everything, it’s like, but for me it’s like, it’s a legacy that I inherited it and I’m really proud of it. And I’m here until, I get so many opportunity to keep on telling the world that I’m happy about it and I’m very proud of it.

– And you also did, so you talked about going stateside for some schooling at BA in Boston.

– [Raquel] That was exciting.

– Boston is my favorite city.

– Oh, no, after me.

– In, yeah, yeah, yeah. That is such an easy city to get around in.

– [Raquel] Oh my god, I love.

– I’ve got a good buddy who lives up on the Brookline, the Green Line, it’s a great area.

– [Raquel] The Green Line, yeah, yeah, yeah and it’s very easy to get around.

– I have to ask, did you ever eat Emack & Bolio’s ice cream? The ice cream, so it’s like a very ’70s themed shop—

– [Raquel] Oh, God, I missed it, I have to go back then.

– Oh, yeah, and they would take a waffle cone and run the outside around the rim in marshmallow and then stick cereal to it like Fruit Loops, or—

– Oh my God.

– [Raquel] Lucky Charms, I can imagine.

– Yeah, anything.

– I’ll die.

– And then amazing ice cream inside.

– Really?

– It’s my best, it’s—

– There’s like a specific place that you go?

– It’s called Emack & Bolio’s.

– And Bolio’s.

– It’s named after two homeless guys.

– Where’s it at though?

– It’s just in Boston, all over, kinda like just like a pop-up little ice cream shop.

– Because I remember Ben & Jerry’s was everywhere. There’s a few things that were everywhere.

– It’s kind of real local to the Boston area. I mean they have franchises—

– Oh, but I was there, I was there for four years, so. But I have to go back then and try it.

– Yeah, try Emack & Bolio’s, you’ll love it.

Returning to the D.R. After Studying Abroad in Boston

– You know, I didn’t want to come back from Boston, but then my dad said one day, ‘Either you come back or you’re on your own.” And I was like, “Okay.”

– “Okay, I’ll come back.”

– I think I’m packing my bags and leaving now.

– [Rob] You wanted to stay though.

– Yeah, well, I went for just one year and I stayed for four years.

– How did you eke out another four years on that?

– Well, you know—

– Did you tell Dad, “I gotta do this—

– We’re girls and we get around.

– “I gotta do this, “I gotta keep doing this.”

– “Well, there’s a really “good opportunity on this program, “at this university.”

– Yeah, you were working it hard. It’s a great town to be.

– Yeah, oh my God, I have—

– I love it.

– Amazing friends from that time that I still, we get together and I really connected, from a lot of different countries, like Venezuela and Colombia and all these places, Costa Rica, and we’re still friends. And now with all the social media, it’s even better. We’re so connected.

– When you first arrived to Boston, what was the most shocking thing that you experienced?

– The weather, oh my God.

– [Rob] Oh, really, was it cold?

– Oh my God.

– What year was it, or what time of year did you end up going to Boston for school?

– It was ’97

– August?

– It was that winter of ’97.

– Winter of ’97.

– Yeah, so, and I got like really bad winters. It’s like, I even had a snow storm in the middle of me going to school in my car. Imagine this tropical girl just arrived in Boston with a snow storm in the middle of nowhere, and I was like crying.

– You’ve never experienced snow in your entire life?

– No, not even driving in snow, which is like a totally different experience.

– [Rob] Did you have a car in Boston?

– Yeah, I had a car.

– [Rob] That’s insane.

– Well, you get around. I learned my lesson like very fast because I used to go, I lived in Mass Ave and I used to go to Harvard extension school in Cambridge. So I started like taking the bus, but at one point I said, “You know what, dad, I need a car.” He’s like, “Okay, get whatever you want.” And I’m like, “Okay.”

– Great.

– Why not?

– I wouldn’t drive around, my buddy, he didn’t even drive his car for a year because of all the public transportation, it’s so easy to—

– It’s so easy.

– Jump on the train and get somewhere.

– The Metro is so, so easy.

– So easy, and that’s kinda what I loved about it.

– I had a bus like really like a stop right there. But then my classes were like really late until 10 o’clock at night. So I said, you know—

– That makes more sense.

– You know, it’s a little, it’s not dangerous, but it’s, let’s get a car because it’s more convenient for me to get at 10 o’clock after I get out, I get home like at 11. The bus has all these stops, let’s get a car. He’s like, “Okay, fine.”

– There you go.

– I convinced him.

– So then would you and your friends get out of the city and go to more, like I went to Worcester.

– Yeah, no we didn’t go to—

– That was a great town.

– But then we went to like Newport and different, yeah, and then—

– Would you ever go into New York City from there?

– No, no, no, I didn’t drive to New York.

– No?

– No.

– No, too much.

– I think we drove like one time, and that was it for me. Because we got lost and—

– [Rob] Oh, yeah.

– It wasn’t like a really good experience. So we decided we’re not gonna do that anymore. But we do, we drove to like Newport and, maybe like Martha’s Vineyard or whatever was close.

– [Rob] Sure.

– So at the end, yes, we drove to different places. Oh, we went skiing one time.

– [Rob] Skiing?

– I don’t remember where, something close, it was famous—

– How was skiing for the first time, never being on snow?

– Oh my God, I love it, I love it.

– You love it?

– I was really good at it too.

– Really?

– Yes.

– What made you good at it? You have no experience, do you?

– I don’t know, well, my dad was always like really into skiing, so we used to go like skiing to Colorado. And probably when I went to Boston, I had skied for like two years maybe before, so I wasn’t that good. But then we kept on skiing for other years. So we did like black ones and blue ones and—

– [Rob] So you already had some experience with the snow.

– Some experience, yeah, but let me tell you, it’s not easy. It’s tough.

– No, yeah, I know and if you’re a dancer—

– Especially with all that equipment you have and you have to carry.

– [Rob] But if you’re a dancer, you have good body awareness.

– Yeah, I was always like really sport. I was really into sport. I was a tennis player too, at one point.

– That’s right, you like tennis.

– I was a little good at it too.

– Nice.

– I got to be like sixth of Dominican Republic at one point.

– Really?

– Yeah.

– Tennis is not an easy sport.

– [Raquel] I know and I love it.

– Me and my wife tried to play, it’s not easy.

– No, but let me tell you something. If you start like when you’re young, it’s easier. It’s like riding a bike, once you start and you know—

– [Rob] It’s a lot of muscle memory knowing how to hit that ball.

– Exactly, the memory, you will not forget and you can ride a bike and even now, and you know, so tennis is pretty much the same. If you learn it when you’re young, then, I mean, I’ve been, I haven’t played like in two years. If I start right now, I’ll get my swing right away.

– So you still don’t play just for fun?

– I do sometimes, but I—

– Not regularly.

– Now I’m more into dancing and stuff, but I do play sometimes. And my husband plays, and my son plays too.

– [Rob] Sure, it’s a whole family affair. And my dad and my mom play too, and my dad—

– [Rob] You guys can play doubles.

– Yeah, and my dad played like few weeks ago.

– [Rob] Really?

– And he did good, yeah, he plays with Albert Montserrat from Cigar Rings.

– Okay, yep.

– You probably know. So they do, and Litto, they do the—

– Litto, Litto Gomez at LFD.

– Litto, yeah! They play all together.

– What is it growing up around all these like cigar icons—

– I know.

– And just like, they’re included in your family, basically.

– I know, and let me tell you something, in Dominican Republic, we’re all very like close. Like Mr. Kelner is like, he’s like my dad too. He was just in the booth a few hours ago and we were just like chatting and talking. And it’s really, it’s really important to have like that relationship with all these, I mean we’re competitors, but at the end we’re also like a big family. It’s like we have our boundaries, you know you’re my competition, but it’s very important also to get along so we can show the world that our cigars are important.

Playing Well with Competitors Strengthens the Whole Dominican Cigar Industry

– But do you think the idea behind competitors is different from an American perspective versus like a Dominican Republic perspective?

– We try to be like a big family and try to work together for the country. So as we work that hard, then we just get along really good as others may not get so good on.

– So there are other people in Dominican that you don’t get along with, as well.

– Yeah, another or maybe other countries maybe.

– Sure.

– But, in Dominican, the pro-cigar community, gets, I mean, we go like even for meetings that are not even meetings, just like cocktails and just talk about the world and what’s going on, and the cigar business and everything. So at the end, we get along really good. It’s like it’s not only business. We also do like more of our relationship. We just like build a relationship–

– Like you said, Henke Kelner is like another father to you.

– Like my other father.

– And Litto I mean he plays tennis with my dad and everybody else, who else is there? Abe Flores.

– Abe Flores.

– Abe Flores and then, there’s Ciro from Fuente and even Carlito too, and the daughter, she was here a little bit, a little while ago.

– Love her.

– We were just chatting and we’re gonna have another interview on Monday together. And then we write on Instagram, you know, “We’re gonna kill it, we’re gonna be, “we’re the women of this.”

– That’s awesome.

– So we’re always like, That’s so awesome.

The Next Generation of Cigar Makers, They’re Just Like Us

– So I think it’s very important that also our parents, showed us that that relationship is also important to build because we’re the ones growing, coming along.

– The next generation.

– Next generation, so that, even Tony, we did a Procigar, and Nirka from Reyes. We did like a few years ago, we played it like in a band and me and Nirka, we sang at a Procigar, and Litto and Henke were playing the guitar and Abe Flores too. And Tony was also singing, it was crazy.

– I love it. You guys could start a little band here after the show.

– Yeah.

– Here we go.

– And play at our booth.

– Exactly, I love it. No better way to entertain people than just have a good time playing, I love it. That’s amazing.

– So that relationship really, we got it from our parents, we’ll be building it and it’s gonna keep on growing.

– [Rob] That’s awesome. It’s really important.

Being Kids on the Quesada Tobacco Farm—Box Press Exclusive

– So growing up in a family that basically could be considered farmers.

– [Raquel] Exactly, because that’s another story. We were bakers.

– Did you run through the fields as children?

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, we used to like run around on the fields and on the bales, that’s like another, like inside joke that we have in our family. It’s like, oh, we used to like run in the bales, and just like hop on them and be like kids.

– Just hop on ’em, run all over ’em, do whatever you want.

– Yeah, there’s people in the factory that have been working for 45 years or more because our factory has like 40, it was like 1974. So it’s gonna be, it’s 47 years. So they’ll tell me like, “Oh my God, “I remember when you were a little girl, “this little blonde girl, like running around everywhere.” And I remember, and it’s really like so satisfying, like these people are still rolling cigars in my factory in our factory, and they saw me come grow up in this fabulous industry.

– Yeah, they seen you come up.

– Come up and all these stages and now…

– Did you ever get yelled at by somebody then while you’re playing around and you go, “Oh shoot, “I overstepped my bounds.”

– Oh yeah, we did. It’s like, I remember one time, one of my cousins, oh my God, he wrote his signature in one of the, on the aging room, you know? That’s all covered in cedar and everything. So he wrote, he started writing his signature all over the All over the cedar.

– All over the cedar and he, we got really like grounded. I remember I think that story, I never told that before.

– [Rob] That’s a good one.

– And he’s now like a grownup and he has his own company and everything, so.

– Don’t write on the cedar in the aging room. You are going to get in trouble.

– No, and I remember like also growing up, the cigars, we used to leave ’em maybe like on, and just like keep on running around, and it was like, it’s dangerous, you know? It’s like, just be careful. So we were always like being watched out.

– There’s a lot of workers probably watching you guys as you ran around.

– [Raquel] Yes, it was fun though.

– “Those are the Quesada kids, watch out for them.”

– Yeah, we were a few, so it was hard.

– I know some of the Kelners always talk about, you gotta be careful when you run through the field so you don’t break the tobacco leaves because otherwise you’re really gonna get in trouble.

– Yeah, oh my God, I remember my dad always like picking up leaves from the floor, maybe somebody like, that’s something that I learned, like always be aware of what’s on the floor because one leaf, you’re saving the whole world, the whole factory. So that was something that I learned from—

– So you learned to be mindful of your surroundings in case something got misplaced.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, or like a cigar that might have misplaced or something. You’re always aware and my dad is very strict on that.

– Is he?

– Yes, he’s very strict.

– Don’t screw up the operation.

– Yes, always be careful about it and save, like you save a tree, save the factory.

– Save everything. Because it takes a long time to grow all this.

– I know, I mean, once you see the whole operation thing, you really realize, oh my God, this is so, such a hard work and these people, they have their own families and their own things at home. And then they come here at seven in the morning and it’s like they’re there 6:45 AM and then it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and they’re still rolling cigars. I mean, it’s a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifices you do day to day that you really have to be aware to really enjoy, you know? This, that that you’re smoking that you maybe take for granted, you know? And it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of people.

– Yeah, it doesn’t take just a couple months to produce this, this takes years.

– No, years, and a lot of hands, you know?

– Was there any part of the cigar process, you’ve already talked about the parts that you didn’t like, which was coloring, and of course, you like the buying part, but was there anything that actually shocked you? You’re like, “Wow, I didn’t know we actually had “to do this in order to make cigars.”

– Well, overall, per se, I mean, just the whole process. Once you realize it’s such hard work, then you realize, oh my God, this is really hard. But specifically, I think everything, I mean from getting the tobacco from the fields, all the processes you have to do, like wet the tobacco and then just fermenting it, and then, the day-to-day. If it’s heated, if it’s already from a, I mean all the, all those different things is, it’s a lot of, for me was shocking. It’s like you never realize, once you learn of it or you are aware of it, then you say, oh my God, this is gold.

– Right, was there ever a time where you saw your dad struggle or get stumped by something and you thought, oh, wow.

– Yeah, I mean that, when you experience with different seasons and tobaccos that you don’t know how they’re gonna react, I mean, I experienced with them working together, like growing up and just like learning. Sometimes tobacco got messed up and sometimes a whole crop, maybe because it was a lot of rain or a lot of dry and you lose a lot of time and money. And you’re like, oh my God, this is, it’s like the passion keeps you going. But it’s tough.

– Sure.

– I saw my dad struggle at times with different tobaccos and maybe they put it in a different fermentation process or in a different packaging. I remember that maybe the Tercios that you do with the palm bark, and you do a different process. He struggled with that because that’s like a Cuban thing they did like back in the times, and he wanted to do it in Dominican. So they started doing it and it was hard. I mean, now it’s a piece of cake.

– Is it the one where you wrap the tobacco really tight in palm leaves?

– Yeah, yeah, exactly.

– Like a pole?

– Like a pole, uh-huh, and then you put it–

– What is it called, andullo?

– Uh-huh, andullos.

– Okay.

– And then you just put it in and those, it’s like a palm tree, like dry. And then I remember that was about more than 20 years ago because now it’s very easy. You learn your lesson well, but at the time it was tough. So I saw my dad struggle at times with some tobaccos. But at the end you just learn and you keep on going.

– What about a project that you thought, “This is gonna be great,” and it turned sour—

– Oh my God.

– And you were like, “This isn’t happening.”

– No, you know what I’m gonna tell you better? The one that we decided we were gonna do, and it was a success.

– [Rob] Oh good, thank God.

Putting the Quesada Name on a Cigar for the First Time with the Quesada 35th Anniversary Blend

– Well, my dad never wanted to put the Quesada last name in our products. He was very hesitant all the time. He was always, we had our brands and different names, but then the younger generation wanted to do. Because it’s our, it’s our last name, it comes from Cuba, from Spain, that has a whole history behind it. So we said, “We have to do this.” So, but he was really like, “No, no, no, “we’re not gonna do that.” So we started blending behind his back. We came with the Quesada 35th anniversary, it was like—

– More blending behind your dad’s back. What are you doing, Raquel? What are you doing?

– But this time, I have a back-up because–

– Oh, you had other constituents with you.

Box press

– There are other, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, like my cousins and my sister. At that time, we all work together. So, we did that, and even Michael Herklots too, helped a little that. And then we came out with the Quesada 35th. So what we did was, this was like, really mind-boggling. So we went to New York at the townhouse, in Nat Sherman‘s townhouse at that time, and we did this really big event. So we’re gonna release the 35th and he didn’t even know we were gonna release the cigar. He thought—

– He didn’t know a cigar was gonna come out of his factory?

– No!

– How did you guys keep that under wraps?

– We told them we were just gonna, like his legacy, we were just gonna honor him on all that he had done in the cigar industry.

– Oh, at the townhouse. That’s what the party’s for.

– Yeah, so we’re gonna honor him.

– [Rob] So he’ll go along.

– Yeah, he was like, “Oh, perfect, we’ll do that.” And then everybody came along, even my mom was there. And so when we started, because everybody spoke and we spoke about him and we talked about, we talk about the project and the cigar. It was very, very emotional.

– Oh, I bet.

– He approved of it, and then when we came to the PCA, at that time, IPCPR, we sold, we only did like a certain amount of boxes, ’cause it was the first product we were making. So it was probably like about 2,000 boxes or 3,000. I can’t remember the exact quantity. But we sold like the first day of the show, all the boxes of the 35th. And let me tell you something, people like write to me, “Do you have any of those 35th boxes over there “that I could buy?”

– It was a coveted cigar. It’s a unicorn now.

– Yeah, exactly, so it was very successful. We had a great time. Even the sneaking part of it was really fun. So at the end—

– Was he shocked?

– He was very shocked, but he was very, very, very emotional. We even like cried and everything. He was very proud of us at the end. He just put his foot down and said, “You know what? “Let’s go,” and then after that, we came with a Quesada Tributo, and then Quesada Espana, the Quesada 1974. So we have all these different lines on the Quesada line, and the Quesada Reserva Privada, the barber pole, we have so many different ones that at the end, it was a success and we had a point.

– [Rob] Exactly.

– But if it wouldn’t been a success, I don’t think I would be sitting here, talking to you, Rob.

– Yeah, no, no, no, you’re not gonna talk about that one, we know.

– But let me tell you, I don’t think I remember one that it wasn’t, maybe not a success—

Origin Story of the of Quesada Oktoberfest

– [Rob] Something that never hit the shelf?

– No, no. Maybe some blends that he didn’t agree on, but per se, the Oktoberfest was something else that he didn’t agree on. And then my cousin, TJ—

– I am so surprised by that. The Oktoberfest, no one else does an Oktoberfest cigar.

– No, but then that was like, at that time, TJ, Terence Reilly used to work with us, was my cousin, is my cousin. He was the one with the idea. He says, “We have to come out for the season again “and then just do the Oktoberfest.” And then my dad’s like—

– Is that what your dad didn’t like about it, it’s seasonal, or what?

– Not the seasonal, just the idea of something new. So random, like Oktoberfest. Who knows about Oktoberfest? You know, the U.S.  is gonna–

– “Who knows about it?” Pretty much the whole world celebrates it.

– Yeah, but the thing is, 10 years ago, or whatever years ago, he wasn’t that open-minded. He was more on the conservative side, just a regular sizes of the regular cigars. And now, we’re coming up with this box with like the beer mugs and all these different names.

– The Keg. The box looked like a little barrel of beer.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, they were put on the boxes and he was like, “You’re not gonna do that, are you insane?” “That looks terrible. “No, you’re not gonna sell one box of that.” And then, all these names, like Uber and DasBoot, and it’s like, I mean, Bavarian. And then TJ came up with all these different names that you go to Germany—

– Oh, beer names.

– No, no, no, you go to Germany and they probably would never make sense to them.

– Yeah, Germans, right, oh.

– So it was for the U.S. market. And then, and he’s like, “You’re,” I mean, I think we ended up convincing him, but he wasn’t convinced at all. So we came to one of the PCAs, at that time, IPCPR, and it was a sort of success. And then this year we’re celebrating the 10th year of Oktoberfest. So at the end, so I’m telling you, maybe he was not convinced at the moment when we had the projects. But then he kind of like put his foot down and then we ended up being in a good place, on a good path.

– I coveted some of those boxes because they’re kind of like wine. When they come out with a specific—

– [Raquel] Exactly.

– Because it wasn’t always the same blend every time.

– No, no, it wasn’t, always a different blend, but the one for this year, the 10th anniversary one, is very, very related to the first one we made in the first year. So we kind of got, we went back to—

– And what year was that, 2015?

– So 10 years ago, so ’11.

– Okay, 2011.

– 2011, so we went back to the roots. Yeah, you have it there, I brought you. Yeah, so it says like 10th anniversary and everything.

– I love it. Yeah, I think that was the one that I was chasing that, did the band change every year?

– Yeah, the band changed every year. But I think like for the last four years or three years, we use like the one on top and then this year, we just put the 10th anniversary one, yeah.

– Great cigar, went great with Oktoberfest beer too.

– My dad, and I quote, because if not, I’ll get in trouble. “It’s the best one so far.”

– [Rob] This one.

– The 2021.

– Go out, and get you— Oktoberfest 10th Anniversary.

– 10th Anniversary. 10th Anniversary.

– That’s a mouthful.

– Exactly.

– Don’t say that five times fast.

– 10th Anniversary, yeah.

– I love it.

– I know, he says it’s the best one out so far, so.

– So something he didn’t think would succeed succeeded.

Bringing Back the Quesada Heisenberg

– Succeeded, and then at the end he had to, when we came up out all these different crazy ideas, he was like, “Okay, fine, don’t even tell me about ’em.”

– It softened the blow of like other unique projects, Like the Heisenberg.

– That was something else, exactly.

– I love that cigar, the shape was like an Al Capone style—

– Yeah, all different shapes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

– Very trumpeted-looking cigar, I loved it.

– Yeah, that was another of TJs, yeah.  It’s like a box-pressed, trumpeted torpedo.

– We don’t make ’em anymore, but.

– I’m asking you personally now to come back with that cigar.

– Okay, I will take that—

– That shape, everything. You guys still have the molds for that?

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course.

– Make a blend, I love that shape.

– I will, we will do.

– It’s so unique.

– Will do, will do.

– Aw, it’s awesome. And you had to–

– I’ll send you the first ones.

– Please do, and you had to put the cigars every other upside-down because of how–

– [Raquel] Oh, yeah, one to the one side and the other one to the other side.

– Angled that cigar was, it wouldn’t fit in a box nicely, you had to, every other.

– In a box, totally.

– It was awesome, and the story behind it was even better.

– Yeah, yeah, yep, yep.

– Nobody knows what the blend is all made of.

– Embrace uncertainty.

– Embrace the idea that you have no idea, good luck.

– Exactly, and don’t even ask me about the blend because you’re not gonna get it.

– So what is the blend? No, I’m just kidding.

– I totally forgot about that. My mind is not working well.

How Raquel Quesada is Similar to Manolo Quesada

– Whoops. I gotta ask, how are you similar to your dad? Anything, one particular thing stick out that you’re like, “Yeah, this, I got this from my dad.”

– Very perfectionist.

– Perfectionist.

– Yes. And very, like I’m always on time.

– Really?

– Yeah. That’s not Dominican.

– I am always not on time. I was even late for this interview, so I apologize.

– Yes, you were! I was here like 20 minutes behind, before.

– Yeah, you were here early.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m always on time and he’s always on time too. And if we’re going the airport, it’s like four hours before, because if not, we’ll get nervous. We’re very similar on those.

– I do like that, airports, I’d rather get there early.

– [Raquel] Early, because you never know.

– I don’t like rushing, and I don’t like connectors.

– Like to come here, I had my alarm, and a snooze. It’s like 12:30 alarm, and then a snooze 10 minutes, and I’m here 20 minutes before.

– The backup. The backup alarm to the backup alarm to the backup alarm.

– I don’t think I recall being late for any big event.

– Really?

– No.

How Raquel Quesada is Different From Manolo Quesada

– How are you totally different than your dad?

– I’m more, I’m very sensitive person. Like, and he’s very strong. So sometimes I would be like crying. He’s like, “Stop crying, that’s for like,” but I’m like that, you know?

– [Rob] That’s how I express my emotions.

– Exactly, and for me, it’s not even good or bad. It’s just it is what it is, and if you’re like that—

– It’s the way—

– You’re like that.

– You release energy. Exactly, so I’m very, very sensitive. And then he’s very, very, very like strong and he’s very hard-hearted.

– Hard-hearted.

– And I’m very like, sensitive heart hearted, I guess. I don’t know how you call it in English.

– Delicate.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– But I guess it’s a girl thing.

– I love it, well, no, anybody, right? Anybody could be sensitive.

– But now, but then throughout the years, if I cry now, he’s like, he’s fine with it. He’s like used to it.

– He knows, he’s like, “All right, she’s just doing her thing. “She’ll be back—

– It’s like tears— “In 20 minutes.”

– Coming out and all. “She’ll be back in two minutes.”

What Brand Ambassador for a Cigar Company Is a Perfect Fit

– Yeah, it’s fine. I have to say, being, I mean, your title is Key Account Director, Brand Ambassador, shareholder, whatever you wanna say there. But I think one of the things that I picked up on is this idea of being a brand ambassador. Because your brand is your name, like you said earlier.

– I know, I know.

– Are you really feeling like you’re, I think Americans have a different perspective of brand ambassadors. Do you really feel like a brand ambassador or do you just feel like you’re carrying on what your family’s always done?

– Yeah, that’s what I feel like. It’s like the passion and the history behind my name is something that I’m responsible for and the life gave me that opportunity because I was born in this family, and at the end, I’m so proud of it and of what my ancestors have made throughout all these years, that I wouldn’t have, I can’t see myself without being here. And now with all these social media, I’m like more active on it and I’m more committed to it and I’m loving it.

– [Rob] That’s awesome.

– It’s like, let me tell you, I’m not, I don’t love these interviews, but I think I’m starting to love it.

– Good! Well, this one, she likes, folks. That’s a home run.

– I know, it’s like I get really nervous before, but then once, like once when I start, I’m like, well, it’s not that bad at all.

– [Rob] No, we’re just talking.

– Exactly

– Learning about the Quesada brand.

– Exactly. In the kitchen, like you said.

– Yeah, we’re in the kitchen, havin’ a good conversation, cigar—

– Exactly, cigars.

– I don’t have coffee, I do, I mean, if you want one.

– Water. There’s water.

– What do you think makes your perspective unique in bringing something new to the Quesada name?

– I think something that my father always said that I grew up with listening to others is like quality and consistency all the time. I mean, you really have to work hard on that with our products. Something that you had maybe smoked 10 years ago, that you smoke it now, and if it’s the same brand, you resemble to it. And it’s the same thing, you know?

– Right, you’re connected to that.

– Exactly, it’s not like—

– Like the Oktoberfest for me.

– Exactly, like, oh, I, maybe last year I smoked one and then I’m smoking now and it doesn’t make any sense. It’s like something that you really have to work hard. And I remember, working in a cigar factory, you have to see there’s three turns to one cigar. And then that the head is like perfectly made, and then when they draw, they draw perfectly. And then one day, and then when you smoke, the ash, so many details that he always really, really pushed so hard on us. That for me, that quality and that consistency is very, very branded on the Quesada name. And also the way that we make our clients feel at home. I mean, my goal is like a perfect example of it. Michael comes through our factory and it’s like his home. He knows everybody, he knows the cigar makers by their names, and it’s just like, he goes around everywhere. He knows where this is and that is, and where the wrappers being classified. The lady has been there for 20 years, all that. It’s like, we make people feel at home and that’s very important because you really want to come back, and Michael always wants to come back. He wants to live there, I think. That’s my Dominican, my American brother and I’m Dominican sister. So that’s something that it’s really important

– When you came to Boston to go to school did you ever lie to anyone on what you did or what your family, did or if they ever asked?

– I don’t think they, they were aware of it.

– No.

– I mean, now, my friends, they even, like one of my friends that texted me yesterday and was like, “Bring me those cigars.” Because I’m gonna see her now in Miami after here. She’s like, “Bring me cigars. “You never ever show those.”

– [Rob] You never carried around cigars?

– Exactly, and now it’s like, they’re so, they’re well known and like, “Bring me some, “because I wanna try, I wanna smoke with you.” So it was kind of underground.

– So when you went to college you weren’t the cigar-smoking friend.

Working Incognito at a Tobacco Shop

– No, and let me tell you something, no, but I worked at a cigar store in my hours that I didn’t go to school, and people will come in and buy cigars and they didn’t even know I was Raquel Quesada.

– “My dad made that.”

– I know, it’s like, “Oh, I really love this!” And I’m like, “Oh, really? “Oh, I hope you enjoy them.”

– Interesting.

– So I worked there for a few years and it was, and then, but then eventually they realized it because like maybe my dad was in the Cigar Aficionado or whatever, or in a magazine, or I was in it too And then they resembled it and then they came back and was like, “Oh, you, you!” “You never told me.”

– You’re sneaky.

– “You were mean.”

– Sneaky, sneaky.

– So at the end, yeah. It was tough but it was fun.

– So you weren’t getting your friends into cigars.

– No, no, not at that time. I mean, they knew that, like my close, close friends, maybe yes, but not the other ones that were not as close.

– Well, you’re lucky because then I’m sure a lot of people would’ve been like, “Hey, bring cigars to the party next time.”

– Yeah, to the party, I get that a lot.

– Now you do.

– And let me tell you, sometimes I don’t even have the ones, because I forget, or maybe at the minute of it, I don’t have them to hand out, and they’re like, “Raquel, where are the cigars?” And I’m like, oh my gosh.

– Your cigars! You’re supposed to be the one that has—- You’re not carrying all of them.

– You’re gonna have to bring a suitcase.

– But now I’m like always on top of it. It’s like, “The cigars, the cigars, where are the cigars?” Because I never carry them and now I should.

– [Rob] It’s that brand ambassador coming out of you.

– I know, it’s like—

– Just hand ’em out like candy.

– “Where are the cigars?” Exactly, so now I do.

– But how do you escape? What is your favorite thing to do to escape and just do you?

– Well, to get away from that hectic day-to-day thing, I dance a lot, I was telling you about it—

– Yeah, it’s Dance VXN

– It’s like a dance, yeah, it’s a VXN dance. It’s similar to Zumba, but you work harder and dance more. It’s like more specific moves.

– It’s supposed to be for exercise, right?

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, totally.

– Get your heart rate up—

– Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– And have fun.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, so I just get away from the day-to-day stress and all that, and—

– [Rob] And this can be seen on Instagram, folks.

– Yeah, shh.

– That’s why, oh, the cat’s out of the bag, secrets.

– It’s like me dancing. My dad said the other day, he’s like, “I saw you dancing, Raquel, what were you doing?” I was like, oh my God.

– [Rob] Your dad said this?

– Yeah, because he’s an Instagram too. So he follows me and then I’m dancing, and then he’s like, and then he clicks on a like, it’s really fun. It’s like, “Manolo Quesada just liked you.”

– Yeah, just like that.

– Really, Dad, you like that?

– Yeah, and I also, I love the beach and in Dominican Republic, you have the best beaches. And then I’m always on the golf course all the time.

– [Rob] Do you golf as well?

– No, I’m really bad at it.

– You just like to be there to support your son.

– Yeah, I’m really good on the scores and the techniques and everything, I know which pole to use or which one on the yard.

– [Rob] You could be his caddy.

– Yeah, I could be his caddy, he wants me to be his caddy. But I don’t know if I can do the bag.

– We’ll get you can electronic cart.

– Oh, they’re not allowed.

– Oh yeah, that’s, right.

– I’ve caddied for him—

– You have to earn your pay.

– And a few times, but it’s tough. Because you walk like 10 kilometers in one–

– [Rob] It’s a long day.

– And then sometimes it’s like four days and three days. So I’ve done it for one day, but I’m not—

– Another cigar rep was telling me he tried to caddy for one of his buddies.

– It’s tough.

– And the guy was like, “So how far are we to the pin?” And he was kinda like, “Well, I don’t know, like 150 yards.” And the caddy next to him was like, he goes, “168 yards.” Like he had paced it out, I was like, “Whoa.”

– Was like, “Whoa.” It’s tough.

– These guys know every inch of that playing field.

– Oh, no, no, no, my son, he has a little notebook here with all the holes and you know, the breeze—

– Where he likes to hit it—

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

– And where are the best approach is and how far out and what club he’s gonna use on that.

– And the—

– I love it.

– If it’s against it or–

– With the wind, against the wind.

– With the wind, against it, or if it’s like going down—

– Does all that stuff factor into the swing, do you think?

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

– All that matters.

– Everything matters, and let me tell you, for me, at the beginning, because I don’t play, and I’ve tried, but I’m really good in sports, but I can’t play golf for the world. And I’ve tried and I try, and he knows that I’ve tried. And I can’t, it’s so frustrating for me at the beginning because one, I mean, you could be 17 holes, you’re doing great, and then the last one, you do one shot and it damages the whole day.

– For me—

– Super psychological.

– Oh my God, no, it’s all psychological. If your brain is not where it has to be, you’re not gonna do the first hole.

– [Rob] It’s like sitting at the coloring table.

– Exactly.

– For eight hours, like, whoa, whoa, whoa.

– Exactly, you’re like, “What is going wrong?”

– [Rob] Wow.

– So that’s what I enjoy the most, pretty much.

– You like the dancing, you like the beach, get away from it all, get a little reprieve.

– And just be after my son all the time. I think I know all the golf courses around Dominican Republic and the people think I’m just having fun at the beach. And I’m like, no, I didn’t even go to the beach,

– [Rob] Right, “I’m on the golf course.”

– Because the thing is like, it’s five, six hours in the call, and then when he’s done, with the tournament that day, then he goes to the driving range and he, and I always, I like to be there with him. So I go to the driving range and he just like shoots, shoots, shoots until seven o’clock at night and we just go to bed because we were exhausted.

– Yeah, there’s no time for fun.

– No, no, no, so they’re very, very exhausted.

– I asked you what your favorite quote was, so I’m gonna read it, it’s very good. “Growth doesn’t come with a single action. “It’s a consequence of persistence, courage and hard work.” So my question to you is how are you persistent?

– Never giving up.

– Never give up.

– Never give up, always there on the battle, in the battle and just giving the best of me for this to be the perfect one.

– I love it, appreciate it. What are we smoking today?

– Oh, we’re smoking a 1974, Quesada 1974. This is a new size for the show, it’s a six by 52 Toro. This blend, I don’t know, I’m enjoying it a lot. I love this blend, it’s very smooth, very, have a lot of complexity.

– Very smooth, very.

– It’s not mild, but it’s not strong. It’s more between the two.

– No I’d give this to anybody.

– Yup, yup, yup, I mean, if you—

– And I would have a box of this.

– I mean, if you, exactly, if you’re starting, it’s great. If you’re been smoking for a long time, it’s also good because you’ll enjoy it either way. So it’s got Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers and binders and it’s an Ecuador Cameroon and wrapper.

– [Rob] Ecuador Cameroon?

– Yeah, it’s like a Cameroon seed in Ecuador. Yeah, we just buy it from—

Growing Wrapper for an Upcoming Quesada Cigar Release—Box Press Exclusive

– Do you grow—

– No, we don’t grow. We don’t grow wrapper.

– Right.

– Well, we grew wrapper to one year, like 2018 and Havana 2000, but that’s been for an specific project that we have coming along.

– Coming up? Oh, in 2017 you said you did?

– We’re working on that, ’18.

– ’18, you grew wrapper—

– Yeah, so we’re letting it there and—

– For a project that’s coming up. You heard it here first on Box Press.

– [Raquel] Yes, yes.

– I get the story, I get, it get it.

– You get the first news.

– I get it out, it’s coming.

– Thank you. Thank you.

– So we’re working on that.

– I love it.

– But it’s still our baby.

– So is there a big difference between African Cameroon and Ecuadorian Cameroon wrapper? Or do you not know?

– Yeah, just the taste, depending on the blend that you’re working on, then you use–

– Could your dad blind sample it and be like, “Yeah, that’s Ecuadorian–

– Yeah, that’s it.

– “That’s African.”

– Exactly. I was the other day telling somebody I haven’t blind-tasted him in a few years, in a few months or years and I’m gonna do that again.

– Good, with the Cameroon, be like, “Let’s see, Dad, what do you know?”

– Yeah, or something–

– “Where’s this Cameroon coming from?”

– Or just like a new seed that we’re working on and see if he’s like so good at it now than before. And I’ll trick him.

– Can he taste the priming level of it too? Like the quality level or more just the–

– [Raquel] No, it’s more general, I would say.

– More just the region–

– Just like the seeds and–

– And the seeds.

– Yeah, the regions, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah and the different countries.

– [Rob] I love it.

– I know.

– Amazing.

– I’m not that good at it, but he’s really good at it.

– Right, yeah, it’s not easy.

– It takes a lot of years. and knowledge.

– Exactly. Amazing. Raquel, I appreciate it so much.

– Oh my God, I’ve had so much fun.

– I’m so glad you had fun and you weren’t nervous. This is super easy.

– Well, I hope it’s given you all the expectations you had.

– Absolutely, great stories, learning more about you.

– Thank you.

– Quesada Cigars.

– [Raquel] I’m really, really thankful.

– We appreciate you guys very much for always–

– [Raquel] A lot of gratitude towards you and–

– Yes, appreciation all around.

– I’m a fan.

– Thank you, I appreciate that. As always, here’s another episode of Box Press. If you need more Quesada Cigars, ask your retailer, go to

– Yes,

– Find out where to get ’em.

– And my @raquelquesadaofficial on Instagram.

– @raquelquesadaofficial–

– @raquelquesadaofficial.

– On Instagram, follow @quesadacigars. They have new stuff coming up, you heard it here first. They’ve never made wrapper and they’d gone ahead and made it in 2018 coming up for a new blend in the future. We don’t know when, stay tuned.

– Thank you.

– Appreciate it.

Highlights of the cigar conversation with Raquel Quesada include:

  • (1:07) Shaking her booty to Dance VXN
  • (13:52) Tweaking tobacco blends in dad’s cigar recipe
  • (16:07) Coloring a box of cigars for consistency
  • (18:47) Making your mark to get what you paid for
  • (21:20) Studying and working at a tobacco shop in Boston—a tropical girl in the snow
  • (27:41) Playing well with competitors strengthens the Dominican cigar industry
  • (30:21) Jamming in a band with Nirka Reyes, Abe Flores, Litto Gomez and “Henke” Kelner
  • (31:44) Being kids on a tobacco farm—Quesada exclusive
  • (38:16) Putting the Quesada name on a cigar for the first time with the Quesada 35th anniversary blend
  • (41:51) Hatching crazy ideas to expand the cigar brand—origin story of the of Quesada Oktoberfest
  • (46:44) How Raquel Quesada is similar to Manolo Quesada
  • (47:47) How Raquel Quesada is different than her dad
  • (1:00:15) Growing wrapper for an upcoming cigar release—Quesada exclusive

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