The cigar team at General Cigar Co. looked over their company's vast premium cigar portolio and saw a gap in their linchpin cigar brand, Macanudo—it was missing a medium-bodied version. The core Macanudo brand, Macanudo Café, was very mild, and its Macanudo 1968 was full bodied, but there was something missing in the middle. So about 18 months ago they set out to fill the hole.
"We knew we had a huge gap in the brand," said Bill Chilian, marketing director for General Cigar. "The middle is where the heart of the market is." General Cigar executives took note during a meeting of premium cigar shop tobacconists when the cigar shop owners answered a poll and said 72 percent of the cigars they sell are medium bodied. "That's what people are asking for," Chilian said.
To get that medium-bodied smoke, General Cigar began extensive test smoking. "We went through dozens and dozens of blends, starting a year and a half ago," said Chilian. The process began with a dozen samples prepared by Benjamin Menendez and the other members of General Cigar Dominicana in Santiago, Dominican Republic. The first samples were tremendously varied, which the tasting panel would narrow down. After finding preferences, the cigarmakers would create variations of the most intriguing blends, and more test smoking would ensue among the team from General Cigar before the best were sent to a consumer panel that tried them out. A blend coded as MP2 won, becoming Macanudo Crü Royale.
"MP2," said Chilian. "It won every single time."
Macanudo Crü Royale has a blend quite unlike traditional Macanudos, beginning with the wrapper. Where Macanudo made its bones on being wrapped in Connecticut leaf, Crü Royale has a leaf from Ecuador (ironically, the country giving Connecticut shade farmers their stiffest competition). The wrapper is Habano seed from Ecuador, a variety that has become increasingly popular on fuller flavored premium cigars sold in the United States. The binder is a proprietary leaf from the Dominican Republic known as La Vega Especial, and the filler blend includes Brazilian Mata Fina, Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos.
The Crü Royale was packaged in an expensive looking box, complete with a metal plate built into the lid, but the price of the brand is rather reasonable, $5.79 to $6.99 per cigar. It comes in four sizes: Robusto (5 by 50, $5.79); Lonsdale (6 1/2 by 42, $5.79); Toro (6 by 54, $6.49) and Gigante (6 by 60, $6.99). The cigars are expected to ship in October.
"We wanted to prove to people that Macanudo is a full-line brand," said Chilian.
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