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Davidoff's No. 1

Cigar Aficionado interviews Davidoff's director general Ernst Schneider.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 3)

I can give you another answer. We told people for 22 years that the Havana cigar is the best, and we still say Havana tobacco is the best for cigars. But it is not always the best cigar, depending on the moment.

C.A.: What do you mean?
Schneider: The trend for the moment is going the other way. The market trend today is for a milder and lighter cigar. That's the reason we were doing what we are doing. On the other hand, with the current conditions in Cuba, it's not the best situation (for making cigars).

C.A.: Do you mean in terms of quality?
Schneider: I am sorry for the Cuban people because I like them. They are the sort of people that would give you their last shirt off their back if you are kind to them. I am really sorry for the Cuban people.

C.A.: I understand what you are saying, but I am still somewhat confused. I assume that your Davidoff store in Geneva and your other stores in Europe still continue to do a sizable business selling Havana cigars.
Schneider: Naturally. We are selling all Havana cigars. We never fought against Havana cigars. That's not our goal. With our own cigars, we are simply going with the trend. We are all in the same boat; so we should help each other (whether you make cigars in Havana or the Dominican Republic). All manufacturers should accept this idea.

C.A.: But it's a little confusing because what I think you're saying is that from the standpoint of building an international brand, the trend is toward lightness. So in terms of building volume business in a luxury-cigar brand, the Dominican Republic is the taste you have sought to meet that growing demand?
Schneider: That's correct.

C.A.: But at the same time, there is a certain segment of the market--I would like to say the more sophisticated or connoisseur segment of the market-- that has always enjoyed Havanas and will continue to enjoy them. There are also Americans who may smoke a Cuban cigar and say, "too strong, not for me," and Europeans who will say, "too light, not for me [about Dominican cigars]. I smoke Havanas!"
Schneider: It depends on your personal taste. It depends on my personal taste. What I can analyze, however, is the general trend in markets, and this is the reason why we go in this direction. For example, my grandfather smoked Stupend, a Swiss product, and today this product is finished. So, the times are changing, and the tastes can change --but we still believe that Havana tobacco is the best for cigars.

C.A.: What you're saying is that under the proper conditions, you would welcome the opportunity to reestablish a brand of Davidoff made from Cuban tobacco.
Schneider: Naturally, naturally.

C.A.: One other aspect of Davidoff's past Cuban cigar line was the Chateau series. It was a brilliant public-relations and marketing effort. Do you see the day when you will have a line of Chateau cigars again?
Schneider: They are all our friends. The proprietors of the five grands crus wine estates are all Zino's and my friends, and I am sure when the day comes, there will be the possibility when we can create again the same quality and cigars.

C.A.: Would that be in Dominican or Havana then?
Schneider: That's not decided. It depends on the situation.

C.A.: You mean the château owners would have to decide on that?
Schneider: Yes.

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