X
    Categories: IPCPR 2014

IPCPR 2014: General Cigar Co.

For a company with a portfolio as sizable as the one that General Cigar Co. has, it did a remarkable job at keeping its new releases under wraps until the 2014 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show opened. Yes, there were some rumors, but nothing from the company’s 60 booth spaces, which tied for the largest booth on the floor. As has been the case in recent years, several of the company’s brands got new additions, with Macanudo returning to its roots, CAO exploring new lands, La Gloria Cubana adding to a pair of series, and Cohiba going high-end while also joining the Nicaraguan revolution.

For the 2014 edition of the Macanudo Estate Reserve, the brand goes back in its history to Jamaica, as prior to the mid-1990s, there was Jamaican tobacco used in the blend, and the line was produced in Jamaica until October 2000, when it was moved to the Dominican Republic. For this release, the company is using a private reserve of tobaccos from the island for its filler, while the wrapper is a 10-year-old Connecticut leaf. There are three sizes being released, a 5 x 50 robusto ($16), 7 x 50 churchill ($17) and 6 x 57 belicoso ($18), with all three sizes coming in 10-count boxes and each cigar in its own coffin. There are 1800 boxes of each size being released, and they are scheduled to ship on September 11.

The Cohiba Luxury Selection pushes the upper end of the brand’s offerings both in terms of the cigar itself, its production and its packaging. The cigar uses a Meerapfel African Gold Cameroon wrapper that has been aged for five years, Mexican San Andrés binder and a filler of Dominican piloto cubano, Dominican olor and Brazilian Mata Fina. After the tobacco’s first fermentation, it undergoes a second fermentation in 300-pound circular pilones that are hollow in the middle. Natural flavors including lemon, herbs, spices and molasses are added to the leaves and to the open center before the pilon is covered in plastic to allow the leaves to absorb those flavors over the course of three months. Due to the uniqueness of the pilon, it has to be monitored even more closely than typical pilones, using thermometers at three levels of the pilon. Once that fermentation is done and the leaves are rolled into cigars, they are then aged in rum barrels with additional Cameroon leaves and cedar for five to six weeks to further enhance the flavor. The company says that the cumulative process that the cigars and tobacco undergo is something never seen before and is what truly differentiates the Cohiba Luxury Selection from the rest of the cigar market.

The Cohiba Luxury Selection is available in a single vitola, a 7 1/4 x 52 parejo called the LS No. 1. Prior to being packed in ten-count boxes, each cigar goes into sealed acrylic tubes. Only 500 boxes are being produced and they were sold out by the time we got to General’s booth on Tuesday afternoon. Suggested retail price is $400 per box and will begin shipping on October 16.

A new front mark was also introduced to the Cohiba line, Cohiba Nicaragua. The cigar is made at the company’s Nicaraguan factory with a Honduran Jamastran colorado oscuro wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. There are three sizes being released in 16-count boxes: a 4 x 45 ($9.99), 5 x 54 ($13.99) and 6 x 60 ($14.99), while a 5 x 50 robusto is being released in a crystal tube that will come in eight-count boxes with a single stick MSRP of $12.99.

CAO presented a pair of new releases at the trade show, both of which share a goal of exploring tobacco from parts of the world that aren’t as frequently used in current cigars.

The CAO Amazon Basin might very well be the most intriguing cigar not only in the General Cigar booth but on the entire trade show floor based on where some of the filler tobacco comes from. For this new release, the company came across a varietal of tobacco called Bragança that is grown in the Amazonian Rainforest by natives and harvested just once every three years. Unlike traditional tobacco plantations where the plants are arranged in neat rows, these seeds are planted wherever there is available sunlight. Once harvested, the leaves are rolled by hand into tubes called carottes and undergo six months of natural fermentation, a technique similar to that of Andullo tobacco. Once fermented, it takes four to six weeks to get them from forest to factory, a process that involves being hand carried to the river, put into canoes and rowed to the mainland, then driven to the port and shipped to Nicaragua where they are made. The Bragança tobacco is about 40% of the filler, both for burn properties and because it is such a strong tobacco that it needed to be balanced out with other leaves. The wrapper is an Ecuadorian Sumatra with Nicarguan filler.

Less than 5,000 pounds of Bragança were able to be purchased, and as such when this batch of cigars is sold out it is uncertain whether or not it will be possible to make more. It is being released in a single 6 x 52 toro vitola with an MSRP of $9.25. It will come in 18 count boxes and is slated to ship on August 14.

For its second release, CAO turns to Colombia as it releases the CAO Colombia. Interestingly, the Colombian tobacco in the cigar is found in the filler, as the company thinks that Colombian wrapper is still nearly years away from being produced with regularity. Instead, the CAO Colombia has a Honduran Jamastran wrapper and Cameroon binder. It’s a mild-to-medium bodied cigar that will come in four sizes: the 6 x 60 Bogota ($7.75); 6 1/4 x 54 Magdalena ($7.50); 5 x 56 Vallenato ($6.75); and 5 x 50 Tinto ($6). All come in 20-count boxes and will be arriving in mid-August. Now if you’re thinking hasn’t CAO done a Colombian cigar before? The answer is yes, or at least, sort of. The CAO Escaparate series that was released in the late 2000s had a Colombian version that was often found at Serious Cigars in Houston, whose website indicates that it was a 100% Colombian cigar.

La Gloria Cubana has brought back three new versions of its Trunk Show line for 2014, two of which are being reserved for brick-and-mortar retailers. All three versions are 7 1/4 x 54 vitolas with an MSRP of $9.95 and feature smokeable bands; the YG-23 uses a Connecticut habano maduro wrapper from 2010, while the MG-08 uses a three-year-old Habano Ecuador wrapper. They are the two versions headed to B&M stores.

Master Blender Jhonys Diaz’s JD-05 will be sold exclusively through internet and catalog retailers. It uses an Ecuadoran wrapper with a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos underneath to create a medium-bodied flavor that progresses to a hearty, peppery smoke. 13 cigars to a box.

500 boxes of each version are being released in October.

The La Gloria Cubana Rival Twin series wraps up with Chapter Three and Chapter Four that are scheduled for an early August release. Both cigars are 8 x 52 parejos with and MSRP of $9.50. Chapter Three is made by General’s Dominican factory and uses an Ecuadorian habano ligero for the wrapper, while Chapter 4 is made in Honduras and uses a Honduran rosado oscuro. The boxes are magnetic and create an eye-catching piece of art when aligned next to each other.

The Dunhill Signed Range is adding two sizes, a 5 1/2 x 52 double robusto ($13.75) and a 6 x 60 gigante ($14.50), which will arrive in late September in ten-count boxes, a move that is being expanded to all sizes in the line. Additionally, the Signed Range is getting a revamped look with new imagery on the boxes that both capture the history of the brand while modernizing the overall look, which includes a new band. One specific image that is being added to the front of the box is that of Dunhill’s 1a St. James location in London, the company’s flagship store.

There is also a new Dunhill Aged Range sampler coming out that features three each of the line’s 2003, 2006 and 2009 versions. While not only enjoyable on their own, the sampler would make for a great experiment in smoking the three side by side for a tasting comparison.

Partagas is releasing what is said to be the absolute last of the Partagas 150, with its wrapper that was grown in 1977. Only 150 boxes of 10 individually coffined cigars were available and were sold out long before the show closed. They will ship on October 2 and have a suggested retail price of $1,500.

Beyond that, the Cohiba Comador is being released in a five-pack with a branded quad lighter and will sell for $149 for the holidays, while the Cohiba Comador travel humidor is also being released on its own in October and will sell for $199.

Patrick Lagreid: I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the Spring Training public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies, PA announcer for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, and PA announcer for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. I'm also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice talent and writer, among other things. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.