A Conversation with Angel Daniel Núñez
The man behind Macanudo cigars—and the Connecticut shade tobacco grown to wrap them.
From the Print Edition:
Dennis Haysbert, Nov/Dec 2006
(continued from page 1)
Q: You didn't have enough tobacco to make regular Partagas at that point, right?
A: Yes, we even stopped production. Then we met in Puerto Plata [in the Dominican Republic], and the idea came out—why don't we make something special, because it's the 150th anniversary of Partagas. And in those days there wasn't a market for a four [inch] by 46 [ring gauge] cigar, short-size cigars were not in demand. We did what we could with the sizes, I said, OK, let's make this amount, put it in the market, and then I would take care of the rest.
Q: I don't think a lot of people knew that you had more of this wrapper, and that you could use it to make more cigars.
A: We did say that we didn't have enough to make those sizes, but we did have more to make small sizes, but there was no market for it. Last year we started to think, let's use the tobacco. The smoke is so mature and clean, it's a fresh smoke.
Q: Describe what you've gone through to hold on to this leaf. I know you have a lot of tobacco, but you went through special precautions with this.
A: One is making sure the humidity and temperature was as constant as possible, to prevent breakage but still allow the tobacco to keep working, having adequate humidity and temperature. And for safety reasons, we divided the lot into four locations. We have it in two locations in the U.S.A., and two locations in the D.R. Two months ago, we started bringing some from each of the locations and blending them. Most of these cigars are made already, because we are going to age them four months.
Q: For those who don't know, explain why you would further age a cigar that is made with a component that is 30 years old.
A: When the tobacco is in the bale, it is trapped. But every time you add water to the tobacco leaf, then you start the reaction again. Ammonia is going to be liberated. From my point of view, what we owe to the consumer is to sell and provide a product with the least amount of ammonia as possible. Once we case, or humidify the tobacco, it starts to take life again and starts the process, which creates ammonia. And that's the reason for aging—put it in a place where the cigars have time to breathe and release the ammonia slowly. Once it dries out, there is no more ammonia released.
Q: Did you have to handle this old tobacco differently?
A: Much, much more care. We set the bale to absorb humidity for one month in an 85, 90 percent humidity environment, so the tobacco would slowly absorb humidity. Tobacco is very hygroscopic. If we had opened the [dry] bale and tried to handle it, the breakage would have been enormous.
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