Cigar Industry Legends – Marvin Shanken

Industry legend Marvin Shanken. Every industry has legends. Some unsung heroes, some famous names. A few names that will remain in everybody’s memories forever, most will fade away over time. Some that have left us, some still alive. These legends all played their part to make the cigar industry what it is today. And they deserve to be remembered, to be recognized for their achievements.

Do you have to be a cigar manufacturer, brand owner, or tobacco grower to be on Cigar Inspector’s list of Cigar Industry Legends? No, as we are proving with today’s subject. Because many of the brands alive and thriving today would not be without this man. Many of us would not even enjoy premium cigars if it was without this man. Marvin Shanken is a publisher, and his idea of a cigar magazine was the start of the cigar boom in the 1990s. Just in time, cigar-smoking was at an all-time low. Numbers had been declining since the 1970s. Cigar manufacturers were advising the next generation to pick another occupation. And within 5 years after the publication of the first Cigar Aficionado magazine in 1992, cigar sales were doubled. Cigar Aficionado was a major part in starting the cigar boom, maybe even the only reason why the boom happened in the first place.

Publishing History

Before age of 30, Shanken was a realtor and an investment banker. But in 1973 went for a career change. He acquired a small Industry newsletter about wines and spirits. He then founded a few other magazines such as Shanken Daily News and Market Watch. In 1979, Wine Spectator became part of the family. But none of that is the reason why Marvin Shanken is a cigar industry legend. Cigar Aficionado is.

For years, Shanken had been dreaming about publishing a cigar magazine. So after thorough market research about the target audience, median income of cigar smokers, and more, Shanken saw potential in a cigar magazine. In the fall of 1992, the first edition of Cigar Aficionado rolled off the printers. It was the pivot that the cigar industry needed. The magazine was the start of a gigantic cigar boom. It turned small cigar manufacturers such as Ernesto Perez Carrillo into superstars by rating their cigars positively. Cigar Aficionado was able to interview Fidel Castro, many other high-ranking politicians, entertainers, and sports stars about their cigar hobby.

Big Smoke

The next step for Shanken was the ability for his readers to meet the manufacturers. So he came up with the Big Smoke, an event where consumers could meet the men and women behind their favorite cigars. Only a year after the first edition of Cigar Aficionado, more than 1500 attendees came together at New York’s Marriott Marquis hotel. With 17 cigar brands and 15 liquor brands present, it was one of the largest adult parties of the time. It was also proof that Cigar Aficionado and the Big Smoke struck a nerve with cigar smokers, and filled a need. There are now several Big Smoke events annually, with Las Vegas and New York as the main ones. And Shanken, smart as he is, is starting to combine big events from his other publications too. Big Smoke meets Whiskyfest in Florida for example. Shanken also published Whisky Advocate. Marvin Shanken is a cigar industry legend even though he never grew tobacco. He never made cigars. But his publication Cigar Aficionado was the start of the Cigar Boom. The annual top 25 of Cigar Aficionado is still the list of all lists, with guaranteed sales for every cigar on the list.

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