Here to offer you, the consumer, a unique insight into the minds and processes of the world’s finest cigarmakers, “Manufacturer Spotlight” is honestly my favorite section of Cigars.com. Last month, we looked at the prince of Nicaragua, A.J. Fernandez, and this month we’ve got a guy with not only got three decades of tobacco knowledge under his belt, but also a mind as innovative and progressive as any that I’ve seen. I’m talking, of course, about the great Steve Saka.
What makes Steve Saka’s story unique his is journey, which is unlike many manufacturers today. Steve’s path toward cigar stardom began not a century ago in Cuba, but in the 1980s—and that path was one he forged on his own; he hadn’t been born into a prestigious tobacco family, and he didn’t have the cigar lineage of Padrón, Fuente, or A.J. Fernandez.
After receiving his engineering degree, Steve took his passionate interest in premium cigars with him as he began travel the world, learning all he could about tobacco during trips deep into Central and South America, in the years before festivals and factory tours were considered the norm.
After becoming a master of tobacco and the cigar-rolling technique, Steve became one of the first to start using the internet to share his knowledge. In 2000, this caught the attention of Lew Rothman, founder of JR Cigar—the world’s largest cigar store. Brought on as an executive consultant, Steve immediately used his Internet savvy to make his wealth of cigar information accessible to everyone by implementing online communities through JR’s burgeoning web presence. This innovative approach created big changes to the way the world viewed premium cigars and, in turn, helped JR to become the online retailer it is today.
Four years later, Steve was again approached with a job, this time on the manufacturing side. Jonathan Drew, at that point a relatively unknown cigarmaker, offered Steve the position of president at La Gran Fabrica de Drew Estate. It was here that the Steve Saka we know today was born. Working directly with the blenders, including present-day Foundation cigar founder Nick Melillo, Saka had a hand in crafting one of the most prestigious cigars ever created, the Liga Privada. Though this blend was originally created by Nick and Steve as a private brand just for Steve to smoke, the cigar garnered amazing reactions after only just a few samples—what else could the team do but make it available to their fellow cigar fans, whose more thsan positive reception turned it into the juggernaut of a brand that it is today.
It was also at Drew Estate that Steve established his reputation as a master of Connecticut broadleaf tobacco. Today, this wrapper practically defines him, as he was one of the men responsible for its increased popularity. After almost 10 years at Drew Estate, Steve retired in 2013. Although it wasn’t known at the time he stepped away from his post, he was looking to strike it out on his own…and planned to do it in a big way.
Enter the year 2015, when Steve made his return to the industry in remarkable fashion by announcing the formation of his own company, Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust, which has earned critical acclaim for each product its released since then to firmly establish Steve as one of the greatest blenders in the industry. His initial release, the Sobremesa, is a handrolled smoke crafted in the Joya de Nicaragua factory. His follow-up, Mi Querida, showcases his heralded love for broadleaf. Rolled at the NACSA factory, Mi Querida is an oily, rich powerhouse that has fast become a worldwide favorite. The there’s Umbagog, his most recent. While it is a value-based brand, it maintains all of the qualities that define a super-premium cigar line.
Steve Saka may have had an odd journey for a cigar manufacturer, but he is now known as one of the industry’s most knowledgeable experts on cigar tobacco. Though we at Cigars.com had only a short time to sit down with him, we actually learned what could amount to years’ worth work, research, and experimentation on different tobaccos. Needless to say, we are ecstatic to feature Steve’s lines on our website and we’re definitely looking forward to working with him for years to come.