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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

(continued from page 3)

Q: Was it tough?

A: I was too young to understand. In my mind, in my culture, there was no color segregation. That was something, thank God, we didn't have in the Dominican Republic. Since I didn't speak English, whenever the cowboys would talk to me, they realized I was a rare animal. They would come up and say, "What the hell are you?" But I made a lot of friends. I studied agronomy, I graduated, and I went back home, and my first job was in tobacco. I knew that was what I wanted.

Q: Tell me about your early days with tobacco, and then with General Cigar.

A: I started in the Tobacco Institute in 1972, and with General Cigar in 1974. Edgar [Cullman] Sr. [the former chairman of General Cigar] looked at me and said, "You know young man, I'm going to make a tobacco man out of you." And that was so true. Even when I see him today, I admire him so much, because of the sense of quality that he had. I started growing wrappers, then for General Cigar I developed Connecticut shade wrappers in the D.R. It was all natural wrapper, and it had a problem—it did not taste like Connecticut shade. And believe me, Dave, I can, without any mistake, say that until the boom, any wrapper that did not look or taste like Connecticut shade, Cameroon or Sumatra was not a factor on the market. Except, of course, Cuban wrapper. I remember the first reasonable batch, I presented it in 1978 to Angel Oliva. He said, "Daniel, this is a great wrapper, but I can't sell it." It was strong, the flavor was strong. It's different. And that's when we decided in 1980 to move it into candela, because we can use it all.

Q: So it was Connecticut seed, but it tasted much stronger than the Connecticut grown in Connecticut?

A: Yes, due to the soil and the conditions. Back in 1979, we had 135 acres of Connecticut shade natural [in the Dominican Republic]. Extremely good—I wish I could have a crop like that today.

Q: If you had that wrapper today?

A: I would make a fortune. (Laughs) If I had it today that would be fantastic.

Q: People's impressions of tobacco have changed dramatically. What changes have you made?

A: General Cigar, for example, 1958 through 1994, we had two basic blends. Just two blends. We had Partagas, and we had Macanudo. Very consistent, always using the best tobaccos, but it was Connecticut-shade wrappers and Cameroon wrappers. And we were the leaders in the market. I remember sitting down with Edgar and Edgar [Cullman Jr.], and saying, "How many decades are we going to be just that? We have to open this portfolio."

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