Marvin R. Shanken interviews the man behind Hoyo de Monterrey and Punch.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
(continued from page 10)
Blumenthal: We had some special tobacco and special wrappers that were more expensive, and we decided to make an upmarket cigar. I felt there was a need. From the marketing angle because of the better tobacco, we had to get more money for the cigar. What we really do is use special wrappers and special tobacco with great care in making these cigars. And obviously people like them. We can't produce them fast enough.
C.A.: How would you describe the difference in blend or style or taste between Hoyo and Punch?
Blumenthal: I think that Punch is a little heavier cigar than the Hoyo. There's a little more flavor, to me, than in the Hoyo de Monterrey. There is a difference. The blends are made by Frank Llaneza.
C.A.: You've been in the cigar business your entire life. From your perspective, having been both a retailer as well as an importer-distributor, did you ever dream or expect there would be a renaissance in the cigar market such as the one occurring today?
Blumenthal: No. From the day I started in the cigar business the only thing I heard was that it was dying. People said that before World War I most men smoked cigars, and they didn't smoke cigarettes. The situation changed, and cigarettes took over. I think the renaissance in cigars is largely due to the magazine. I think it has promoted interest with people who read it, and then they try cigars.
Young people are afraid to smoke cigarettes. They actually believe that cigarettes will do all these things to them that they say, but there hasn't been that much adverse publicity about cigars. They don't have to inhale the cigars. Cigars have a distinct taste where cigarettes don't. And [young people] are into the good life. They're into wine, they're into brandy, they're into fancy food, French cooking--everything that people didn't do in the past, unless they were very wealthy. So cigars are part of that lifestyle. And the young people today are emulating their superiors.
C.A.: Do you see this as a short-term increase in popularity or do you see this continuing for many years to come?
Blumenthal: I hope it'll continue for many years to come. I think that it'll peak at one point, but at what point I don't know. Right now, we have a lot of young smokers. As they grow older they'll probably continue to smoke. Now we need the next generation to come along.
C.A.: What are these young people looking for in terms of brand names, in terms of flavor, in terms of strength? Is the industry giving them what they want?
Blumenthal: I think the industry is giving them what they want. I think that they're getting better cigars than have ever been made before because, for one thing, prices have gone up considerably, so the cigar manufacturers can afford to make a better cigar and take more time with it.
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