2023 Person of the Year

Rafael Nodal, Vice President of Product Capability for Tabacalera U.S.A., and co-owner of Aging Room Cigars, is the winner of the Prime Time Award for 2023 Person of the Year. This award looks at the individual who had the most significant contributions to the cigar industry during the year.

There perhaps is no better ambassador for the premium cigar industry as a whole than Rafael Nodal. Every day he engages with his base. He is seen on social media all of the time, but he is also out on the road quite a bit, talking with retailers and consumers. What is the most notable thing is how positive he is.

For many years, Rafael has served as Director of Product Capability for the brands at Altadis U.S.A. This year, Rafael got a promotion, becoming Vice President of Product Capability for all of Tabacalera USA, expanding his responsibilities for JR Cigar and Casa de Montecristo. Whether he is working with Tabacalera USA’s own factories (Tabacalera de Garcia, Flor de Copan) or working with his Nicaraguan manufacturing partners with AJ Fernandez and the Plasencias, Rafael has his pulse on what is going on.

In 2023, Rafael released extensions to two of the most popular cigars he collaborated on. The first was the  Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Edición Diamante, an extension to Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua. The second was the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Sonata, an extension to Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua. In both cases, he delivered a softer, more refined blend to complement the existing offerings.

In addition, Rafael worked on products under other brands such as Romeo y Julieta, H. Upmann, Trinidad, Onyx, and others.

Each panelist uses and weighs many different attributes when nominating and voting on this award. This includes industry leadership, commitment to innovation and quality, and brand development. In the end, 2023, Rafael’s achievements stood out to capture this award in a competitive field of nine finalists.

For more details on our selection process, click here.

The full vote results appear here.

The complete list of awards winners is below:

2014 Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard and Jim Young
2015 AJ Fernandez
2016 Carlos Fuente Sr.
2017 AJ Fernandez
2018 Terence Reilly
2019 Alan Rubin
2020 Michael Herklots
2021 Pete Johnson
2022 Pete Johnson
2023 Rafael Nodal