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    Categories: IPCPR 2015

IPCPR 2015: General Cigar Co.

While it’s still one of the bigger booths on the trade show floor, the space that housed General Cigar Co. was noticeably smaller than it has ben in recent years and much tamer. There was no music, no flashy Foundry area, no sports cars, no river… you get the point.

What was in the booth was a fully stocked retail humidor full of General products, several rebranded lines, a few new regular production lines, a few limited editions, a new partnership and a few other surprises.

The tour starts in the humidor, which is where the Macanudo brand is on display. For the first time in 45 years, the brand is getting a new look as the name moves front and center on the packaging and the crest is updated to be a bit sleeker and modern.

The new version is on the left, while the current version is on the right. The bands are also getting update with a bit more shine, as you can see on the new version on the left compared to the current version on the right:

The rebranding extends to all Macanudo products, and while it may not be as drastic on the Cafe line, when it comes to the Cru Royale line it’s a bit more pronounced, as the wood boxes are gone in favor of a more unified look. A similar change is in store for the Macanudo 1968 line.

You’ll see the new look begin to arrive in the coming months as existing stocks are depleted and the new look boxes ramp up to full production. The company is also making additional signage available for retailers to further unify and promote the brand. One of the first places you may see the change is on a line of 10-count travel humidors that will ship in November, with prices between $121.99 and $129.99.

New under the Macanudo banner is this year’s Macanudo Estate Reserve, which once again returns to Jamaica for filler tobacco. While the country isn’t producing suitable wrapper or binder, there are a handful of small, independent farmers that General Cigar Co. worked with to source the tobacco for this cigar, some of whom are growing tobacco in their backyards.

The specific varietal is referred to as Silver Tongue, a native seed that comes from the Montego Bay area is used by locals as well. It’s an organically grown, low-yield tobacco that produces smaller leaves that what you may be used to seeing on traditional tobacco plants, and it’s also the most expensive long-filler tobacco in the world. Surrounding that is a 10-year aged Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and Mexican San Andrés binder, a combination that according to the company gives the cigar a rich and complex smoke with bold notes of leather and earth.

When it arrives on store shelves in October, it will come in three sizes: No. 7 (7 x 50, $17), No. 8 (6 x 57, $18) and No. 9 (5 x 50, $16). Each size is presented in 10-count boxes with production capped at 1,800 boxes per size.

If you’re wanting to try what Jamaican tobacco can add to a cigar, it’s recommended you pick this up as a representative from the company said it’s “probably” the last time you’ll see Jamaican tobacco used for a few years, at least in this series.

The next stop was Dunhill, and the brand appears to have rounded out its U.S. offerings with a new line, a new limited edition, and a new sampler that will give those who have yet to experience the cigars an easy opportunity to do so.

Headlining the Dunhill portion of the booth was the Dunhill Signed Range Selección Suprema, a limited edition that celebrates the 80th anniversary of the famed Dunhill Don Candido line, which traces its history back to the days when the brand was made in Cuba. It was the first cigar ever manufactured solely for Dunhill, and was a cigar that began the brand’s legacy of exclusivity, according to Steven Kron, regional account manager of Dunhill Cigars.

It uses a Nicaraguan Jalapa shade grown wrapper, Connecticut binder and fillers from Estelí and Jalapa in Nicaragua, as well as Brazilian Mata Fina tobacco.

It’s a single vitola release, a 6 x 50 Toro that comes in eight-count boxes for $160 each, or $20 per single stick, though the idea is to sell them as complete boxes, which the company believes will turn into collector’s items given their limited release.

The Heritage by Dunhill is a new regular production line that is heading to store shelves in August. It’s the company’s boldest offering, with an Ecuadoran habano ligero wrapper and Nicaraguan Jalapa binder both of which cover an assortment of aged fillers: 10-year aged Nicaraguan Ometepe, eight-year aged Honduran Jamastran and three-year-aged Nicaraguan Estelí.

Made in Honduras, Heritage by Dunhill comes in four sizes: Robusto (5 x 50 box-pressed, $10.15), Toro (6 x 50, $11.25), Churchill (7 1/2 x 50, $12.55) and Gigante (6 x 60, $12.95). All four front marks come in 10-count boxes.

Finally, Dunhill is putting out a three pack of robustos from its Aged, 1907 by Dunhill and Dunhill Signature Series line that will give consumers an easy way to try out the three current core blends. It’s due out in October and will sell for $24.99.

Next up is the Partagas Aniversario, which is being released in September in celebration of the brand’s 170th year. As expected, it uses a Cameroon wrapper grown for General Cigar by the Meerapfel family in Kadei. It’s organically grown and comes from the highest primings of the sun grown plants, a combination that the company says provides buttery notes with a rich, peppery flavor.

Underneath that is a Connecticut havano binder and a filler blend of lagers and viso leaves from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, including a proprietary Nicaraguan Gurdian leaf. It is coming in three sizes, Salomone (7 1/4 x 54, $17.99), Toro (6 x 54, $16.99) and Robusto (5 x 50, $15.99), each of which comes in 10-count boxes.

Cohiba’s Luxury Selection returns with No. 2, a 6 x 52 toro that sells for $38 per stick. It will be out in October with just 1,000 boxes produced, with the blend highlighted by a Meerapfel African Gold Cameroon wrapper that has been aged for five years, while the binder and filler are proprietary and undergo a special four-month fermentation process before getting six months of aging in rum barrels. The cigars are then placed in cases sprinkled with cedar shavings and tobacco leaves to further enhance the flavor.

La Gloria Cubana re-ups the Trunk Show line with a look back at three years of Trunk Show releases; a pair of humidors contain six cigars each from the MG-08 and YG-23 blends released in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

It’s the last year for the La Gloria Cubana Trunk Show as it is being retired with this release. For a brand that has been the focal point of the last several trade shows, it was almost eerily underrepresented this year, and I didn’t see Leo Peraza, the brand’s master roller, at his usual rolling table.

Moving toward the back left corner of the booth, we find Michael Giannini of Foundry Tobacco Co., but there are no spaceships, steampunk machines, periodic tables of the elements or other things that have accompanied him to past trade shows. Instead, there are two familiar brands with new looks.

Giannini has brought his design aesthetic to the Bolivar and Ramon Allones brands, giving them similar makeovers both in terms of the blend and the packaging that pay homage to their long histories while also bringing them into the current day and beyond.

For Bolivar, the blend gets a bold flavor makeover with tobaccos from six different countries that uses a prominent mix of viso and ligero tobaccos with a Sumatra wrapper on top.

Ramon Allones is a Nicaraguan puro that comes with an unfinished foot and is described as full-flavored and fully Nicaraguan.

Both the Bolivar and Ramon Allones remakes will come in three sizes: 550 (5 x 50, $6.49), 652 (6 x 52, $6.99) and 660 (6 x 60, $7.49) and are due in September.

When asked if the changing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba had anything to do with the decision to reinvigorate the two brands, Gianni offered a simple shrug and said it was an appropriate time to remind everyone that these two brands are part of the General Cigar Co. portfolio.

Next was a new face to the General Cigar booth, Sam Leccia and Leccia Tobacco, who had announced his new line, Luchador El Gringo, in late June.

The blend is made up of a Nicaraguan oscuro wrapper, Nicaraguan habano binder and ligero fillers from Pennsylvania and Nicaragua, which comes together for a full-bodied, punchy but smooth flavor, according to Leccia.

There are four sizes in the line, Chin Music (6 x 48), Pile Driver (6 x 60) Squared Circle (6 1/2 x 64, what Leccia describes as a “pyramid square press”) and Frog Splash (4 1/2 x 70 with what’s called a “mat press”). To help explain the names, Leccia invited current Big Time Wrestling Heavyweight Champion Flex Armstrong to the booth:

With the left half of the booth completed, it was onto CAO, a brand with a number of new projects to talk about. First up is a brand new line, CAO Pilón.

For this project the CAO blending team wanted to add a new cigar to the brand’s Classic Series, and in the process of coming up with what that new blend might be, came across a fermentation technique that dates back to 19th century Cuba, the round pilón. Because this particular style is time consuming, it was abandoned in favor of more efficient techniques, but it offers a noticeable reduction in ammonia and the sugar content of the wrapper, which not only helps with flavor but burning and combustion.

The blend starts with an Cuban seed Ecuadorian wrapper with the filler and binder coming from Nicaragua’s Estelí and Ometepe regions, which give the cigar notes of wood, spice and touches of sweetness. It’s shipping next month in three sizes, Corona (5 1/2 x 44, $6), Robusto (5 x 52, $6.50) and Churchill (7 x 48, $7.25), all in 20-count boxes.

Since adding the Flathead line in 2013, it’s become one of CAO’s most popular lines, but one complaint that Rick Rodriguez said he has heard is that it’s geared towards car and truck lovers, leaving motorcycle fans out of the party. To address this, the CAO Steel Horse line was created, and while it shares some aesthetics with Flathead, it is a new blend, and the only thing it shares with the Flathead line is the flat head cap.

Arriving this August in two sizes, Bullneck (6 1/2 x 66, $9.99) and Apehanger (5 1/2 x 58, $8.99), the blend uses a proprietary Connecticut habano grueso wrapper, Brazilian Arapiraca binder and filler from Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic and is heralded as a full-bodied cigar perfect for the road or a pitstop. Both are sold in 20-count boxes with individual packaging.

There will also be an Steel Horse Collection sampler that features both sizes of the cigars and a Gremlin Bell, which will sell for $49.99 when it hits stores in October.

The next CAO release is one for the Parrotheads, as the brand has struck a deal with Jimmy Buffet for Margaritaville by CAO, which features the Margaritaville and Havana Daydreamin’ lines, both coming in October.

The former is part of the Flavours collection with a pina colada flavoring added to a Cameroon wrapped blend of Dominican tobaccos. It’s available in a Corona (5 1/2 x 42, $6.99) and Petit Corona (4 x 40, $5.49).

The latter is a premium cigar with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over Nicaraguan fillers. It’s mild-to-medium bodied and comes in three sizes, Robusto (5 x 50, $6.99), Toro (6 1/2 x 50, $7.49) and Torpedo (6 1/4 x 52, $7.99).

Finally, Toraño’s The Brick line will grow by a pair of sizes and be available in a new 20-count format. Come October, there will now be the BFC (6 x 60, $4.99), Churchill (7 x 56, $4.99), Torpedo (6 1/2 x 54, $3.99) and Robusto (5 1/2 x 56, $3.99).

(Select images courtesy of General Cigar Co.)

Davidoff is the official sponsor of halfwheel's coverage of the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show. [adrotate group="16"]
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.