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The story of J.C. Newman is very much the personification of the “American Dream.” His Hungarian mother, Hannah, paid $3.00 per month so the then 14-year-old J.C. could learn the cigar-making trade; four years later in 1895 his enterprising spirit resulted in a $50 loan, affording him the ability to procure tobacco and roll in a barn behind the family home. The company’s beginnings were modest, but its namesake dreamed big, and instilling the same passion and drive into future generations is part of what makes the J.C. Newman Cigar Company still a premium powerhouse today.
Leading up to the company’s centennial in 1995, Stanford Newman had a vision: he wanted to develop a series of ultra-premium cigars regardless of cost or time. Stanford – one of J.C.’s two sons, and the man responsible for their relocation to the now-legendary “El Reloj” factory in Tampa’s Ybor district – knew there would be no better partner than fellow Ybor manufacturer Carlos Fuente, Sr.
Prior to the infamous “cigar boom,” a 50 or 52-ring gauge was considered large by the day’s standards. Stanford’s vision was to create a 54-ring in five sizes where the only variable was length, not width. The decision to move to a 54-ring would allow the rollers to compile six or seven individual leaves, ultimately resulting in a richer, but still consistent blend. Although he was met with resistance, Newman insisted he get what he wanted, and was later hailed as a visionary.
The Diamond Crown “recipe” was – and still is – expensive and time-consuming. For the Classic blend, Connecticut wrappers already aged five years are re-fermented to remove any instance of perceived “harshness;” a selection of long-filler tobaccos from the Caribbean Basin and South America are also aged four to five years to better complement the wrapper crop. (The same core blend is used on the Maduro version, but instead it’s topped with an oily, seamless Connecticut Broadleaf capa.) Each Diamond Crown is compiled by Fuente’s Master Rollers in the Dominican Republic, and subject to a specific set of high standards prior to release. Aged in cedar rooms for a minimum of 12 months post-rolling, those charged with creating these super-premiums are even paid on a different scale rewarded not only for their skills, but to ensure they are incentivized to make the very best rather than the most cigars per day.
Of course, not everything goes to plan… Stanford Newman selected California for the inaugural Diamond Crown release, and enthusiasts clamored for what were to be some of the most expensive handmades on the market. Due to how the rollers were paid, both Newman and Carlos Fuente, Sr. projected 150,000 cigars, but one of the two teams working this project in Fuente’s factory were lured away by new brands, and the first batch was short by over 50,000. Hindsight is 20/20, however, and the fact these initial cigars were over-sold before being released created a demand that continues to modern day.
With more milestones to celebrate, the Newmans created two other line extensions within the Diamond Crown portfolio, the first of which is Maximus, having launched in 2002. Still working with Fuente in the Dominican, Stanford Newman enlisted the help of another legendary family – the Olivas. The long-filler blend is shrouded in secrecy, but it’s extensively aged; the wrapper, however, is a special Sun Grown crop from Oliva’s El Bajo plantation in Ecuador. The result is a fuller-flavored and fuller-bodied premium which got its name due to the sheer weight of its components. (Maximus is Latin for “largest”.) To achieve such richness the tobaccos used are of the highest primings, and Carlos Fuente had to re-bulk and re-ferment various leaves to ensure that while being bold, each cigar still presented smoothness on the palate like the previous Diamond Crown releases.
Given its imagery, the Diamond Crown Julius Caeser is perhaps the most iconic of the entire portfolio. To celebrate J.C.’s 135h birthday and the company’s 115th anniversary, in 2010 the Newmans decided to salute its founding father. The sky blue, purple, and gold band features a bust of J.C. Newman in the style of Ancient Rome, wearing a Civic Crown just like the actual Julius Caesar. Back when young Julius immigrated from Hungary, he didn’t have a middle name. He was told that he needed one, so the strong-willed young man picked Caesar. Ultimately it was spelled as “Caeser,” and he never legally changed it.
Working again with the Fuente family, Stanford Newman’s sons, Eric and Bobby, continued with the precedent established by their father. Each Diamond Crown Julius Caeser is rolled in small batches in the Dominican, held to the highest of standards, and with choice tobaccos aged five years. Utilizing a Dominican binder atop Caribbean and Central American long-fillers, each Julius Caeser is encased in an Ecuadorian Havana-seed wrapper, ushering in yet another dimension of flavor within the company’s ultra-premium portfolio.
Around the time J.C. Newman Cigar Co. celebrated its 100th anniversary, a then 80-year-old Stanford proclaimed his family’s business could continue for another 100 years if they take heed to what his enterprising father told him. J.C. said, "If you make cigars of quality, you can stay in business for another 100 years, but if you make something cheap, somebody can always make them cheaper, and you'll go out of business in six months." 127 years later as the torch is slowly being passed onto the fourth generation with Drew Newman, the future looks bright. Drew proudly adheres to the same traditions and philosophies of his Great-Grandfather, and will undoubtedly continue to oversee the hand-crafting of some of the world’s finest cigars.
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