Don Lino

Don Lino

DON LINO

Don Lino Cigars by Miami Cigar & Co. was named after a worker at the old UST cigar factory in Honduras, and for years was just a popular name that sold well. Now, Don Lino stands for the passion and resilience of the Miranda family—a family which celebrated great success in the Cigar Boom of the 1990’s, endured personal tragedy, battled a billion-dollar giant and won, and traversed it all without wavering in their dedication to bringing fine, premium smokes to aficionados around the world.
Nestor Miranda was a respected representative in the world of fine liquor and spirits. Throughout his career he worked with Seagram, Southern Wine & Spirits—some of the most prolific names in the business. However, he could never forget his love for cigars that began in Cuba as a young man. Growing up, Nestor would see his father and grandfather enjoying cigars together; his grandfather walking around with up to ten large Churchill cigars tucked into the pocket of his guayabera. Nestor wanted to feel like those men he most admired. So much so that at 17 he began stealing his father’s cigars to enjoy them out in the park on his own.
While Nestor continued to smoke cigars, he finally got to reengage that passion in 1987 when he met a torcedor who worked for Guillermo León of La Aurora S.A..
After trying one of his freshly rolled smokes, Nestor could not help but recall those fond memories in Cuba. He immediately proposed a partnership between León and Cardenal Mendoza, a fine brandy maker that Nestor represented. The pairing was such a success that in 1989 Nestor and his wife, Marianna Mendoza, founded Miami Cigar & Co. and began selling cigars to liquor stores.
Nestor used his relationship with UST, cultivated from his years with Southern Wine & Spirits, then a subsidiary of UST, to found Miami Cigar & Co.’s first in-house brand, Don Lino. Each Don Lino Cigar was rolled by hand at the UST factory in Honduras, and production began with 80,000 cigars per year.
Marianna ran the cigar business while Nestor continued working in liquor. Marianna would drive to each liquor store in the Miami area with a trunk full of cigar boxes, and sell out of each and every box.
Don Lino proved to be such a beloved entry that by 1990 sales increased to 160,000 cigars. By the time the Cigar Boom hit, in 1994, sales leaped to 1.5 million cigars.
In 1995 Nestor finally left the liquor business to work full time with Marianna at Miami Cigar & Co., and that same year landed contracts to distribute Don Tomás and Astral by UST, as well as Guillermo León’s La Aurora and Leon Jimenes. Those contracts, alongside increased production of Don Lino, led to a spike in cigar sales from 1.5 million to 3.5 million cigars, with an all-time high in 1996 of 12 million cigars sold.
The Miranda family was living the American dream. Nestor, and his Don Lino brand, became the face of Miami Cigar & Co., being featured on several magazines, with Nestor even being interviewed by the eminent Cigar Aficionado.
In early 1997, however, everything changed. UST saw the ever-increasing popularity of their brands under Miami Cigar & Co. and decided to distribute for themselves. UST abruptly canceled their contract with Miami Cigar& Co., gave distributions to Southern Wine & Spirits, and refused to continue production of Don Lino, despite Don Lino being backordered by 3.5 million cigars.
Business plummeted from 12 million, to 3.5 million. Don Lino was put on a hiatus, while Miami Cigar & Co. managed to survive as Guillermo León struggled to increase production and divert some supply to help the Miranda family meet the immense demand.
After two years off the market, and several failed attempts to find a cigarmaker fit to make the Don Lino line, Guillermo León agreed to make Don Lino, and the brand finally made its return in 1999.
The same year Nestor had to participate in a deposition in Colorado for a lawsuit where another company sued UST. During his time in Colorado, however, the attorneys showed Nestor a letter dated August of 1995, in which representatives of UST planned on how to eliminate Miami Cigar & Co. as a distributor.
Nestor spoke with Marianna and their family, and decided that this could not stand. Miami Cigar & Co. sued the billion-dollar UST and Southern Wine & Spirit for $100 million in damages in Miami, FL. Judgment was rendered in favor of Miami Cigar & Co. for $42.5 million, and was finally settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in 2002.
Since the suit, Miami Cigar & Co. has only grown introducing other acclaimed brands, including Tatiana, a line of flavored cigars named after the Miranda’s only daughter, and Nestor Miranda, celebrating Nestor’s achievements for the brand.
In 2008, Miami Cigar & Co. introduced a new line, Danno, in honor of its Director, and the Miranda’s only son, Daniel Miranda, who passed away that year after a three-year battle with brain cancer. Daniel had joined the company in 1994, after leaving Suffolk University in Boston to return to Miami and work in the family business, while finishing his studies at Florida International University.
Despite it all, the Miranda family keeps producing acclaimed cigars, and Don Lino remains the first, and one of the most cherished lines by Miami Cigar & Co. and the Miranda family. While Don Lino has not enjoyed the same popularity it did during the days of the Cigar Boom, it is a wonderfully smooth premium smoke that carries with it the venerable Miranda family passion and heritage.
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