In Memoriam: Frank Llaneza
Word came in late yesterday that cigar legend Frank Llaneza has passed away two weeks after turning 90. Sadly, I never met the man, but by all accounts, he was one of the best in the business. Humble, hard working and amazingly talented.
Cigar Aficionado did a fitting obituary on their site, a portion of which I have quoted below…You can find the whole article here:
Llaneza was the former president of Villazon & Co., the makers of Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey cigars, and was still active in the cigar business at the time of his death, making new cigar blends and traveling frequently to Nicaragua. He most recently created cigar blends for Altadis U.S.A. Inc., including Siglo and Frank Llaneza 1961, both of which are made in Nicaragua.
Llaneza forged new ground in the cigar business throughout his life. He was one of the trendsetters in the use of Ecuador Sumatra wrapper, one of the first men to make premium cigars in Honduras, and one of the early advocates of making bold, flavorful cigar blends with non-Cuban tobacco.
“He was the most honorable and humble guy in this business,” said John Oliva Jr. of Oliva Tobacco Co., the Tampa, Florida, leaf broker and tobacco grower. “He was truly one of the last guys in this business that you could do a deal with on a handshake.”
“Frank was one of the first people I met in the industry and his knowledge and understanding of cigars was unparalleled,” said Gordon Mott, the executive editor of Cigar Aficionado. “He helped me a lot learning about the industry.”
“When I first met Frank over 28 years ago, I noticed he used the word ‘honorable’ in describing people for whom he had obvious respect,” said Norman F. Sharp, president of the Cigar Association of America. “To me, he came to represent the living embodiment of an honorable man.”
Llaneza worked in the cigar industry since the age of 15. “I used to go after school to Schwab Davis [a large cigar factory in Tampa at the time] and work in the packing room, punching holes in the heads of cigars,” Llaneza told Cigar Aficionado in 1999. He spent many years in Cuba, and was in Cuba in 1959 when Fidel Castro rose to power. After the Cuban Revolution, his work was instrumental in getting Cuban seeds spread around Central America. His labors—conducted in faraway lands that were far less forgiving than they are today—was key to the development of the non-Cuban cigar industry.
Llaneza is survived by his wife, Diana, daughters Carol-Jean, Mary Frances, Ruth and Lynette, and many grandchildren.
Rest in Peace Frank, you will be missed.