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A Conversation with Angel Daniel Núñez

The man behind Macanudo cigars—and the Connecticut shade tobacco grown to wrap them.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Dennis Haysbert, Nov/Dec 2006

Angel Daniel Núñez, the president and chief operating officer of General Cigar Co., is not your typical executive. He oversees all aspects—from seed to store shelf—of the 8,000-employee company by walking the myriad fields where General grows its tobacco, staying directly involved with the processing of that leaf and regularly visiting the factories in Honduras and the Dominican Republic where General makes millions of cigars by hand each year. He has spent more than three decades with General, which makes Macanudo, Partagas, Cohiba, Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey. The Richmond, Virginia, company is a unit of Swedish Match AB of Stockholm, and going from tobacco fields to cigar factories to the company's various offices as well as customer visits keeps Núñez on an airplane nearly every week.

In June, the 55-year-old Núñez sat down in New York City with senior editor David Savona for a wide-ranging discussion about himself and his company.

David Savona: We just lit up your new Partagas 160, which is made from the same batch of Cameroon wrapper from the 1970s used to make the Partagas 150. Can you talk about the wrapper?

Angel Daniel Núñez: It was 1995 when we bought the whole wrapper lot. It made such an impact on me that since then, I always keep the best 10 bales of every crop we grow or finance. I call it my personal library. Sooner or later somebody—it doesn't have to be me—they have something that is special. It's expensive, but it's romantic.

Q: Let's talk about this particular cigar. The wrapper is from 1977?

A: The batch was a mix of 1977 to 1981. So there were five crops, 947 bales.

Q: That's a lot of tobacco.

A: A huge amount. It was like going into a gold mine.

Q: Who owned it?

A: It was Tabacalera of Spain, and Alfons Mayer [the now retired tobacco buyer from General] and I made a trip to Malaga in 1995, and they had a beautiful warehouse. That's when we first saw the product. In those days there was a shortage on Cameroon tobacco. When we saw the grades and the sizes, we were a little bit discouraged. I remember we were going all over the list and the sizes were so discouraging, because they were medium to small sizes. So we said, "Now that we're here, let's look at it, and if it's not good maybe we'll use it in machine-made product." And we opened up a couple of bales, and what came out of it—the aroma, the smell—it was magic. It was like a genie from a bottle. But it was dry, so I asked for a bucket of water. I had nothing to lose. So I dumped [the tobacco] into the bucket of water, shook it out, took a few hands, and we wrapped it in a piece of cotton cloth and we said we'll come back in the morning. I have to be honest, my expectation was we would come back and it would be all smeared, maybe rotten, but what a surprise. That tobacco started to talk, and the sheen came out, and right there we understood this was something special.

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