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Richard L. DiMeola

Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Consolidated Cigar Corporation
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96

(continued from page 15)

CA: That's a machine-made cigar?

DiMeola: That's right. Without a peep from the market--we haven't had a single complaint in five years on A&C. We said nothing. The tobacco looks the same. You can't tell the difference. We continued to work with it, because they had to change the way it was processed. Change the fermentation. Put a little more fermentation on it, handle it differently. Once we learned how to work it, in '92, we converted Royal Jamaica from Cameroon to Indonesia. That was a "no-brainer" actually, because Royal Jamaica always had a Cameroon wrapper and an Indonesian binder. So all we did was reverse it. We used Cameroon binder and Indonesian wrapper. That was quite successful. No problems. A year and a half or so later, we converted Montecruz from Cameroon, and a little more than one year ago we converted H. Upmann, very successfully, to a wrapper from Indonesia referred to as TBN, which stands for Tabakau Bawah Nuangan, which means, 'tobacco under a tent.'

CA: What happened in Cameroon that caused George to become suspicious, and what actually happened that made it necessary to switch?

DiMeola: I'm not a leaf man, but as I understand it, I believe that the French financial supporters in Cameroon and the Central African Republic pulled their money out.

CA: How did that affect production?

DiMeola: Well, I think they're still growing tobacco, but the amount of tobacco that they're getting is much smaller, and the quality has been much lower. Fortunately for us, we were able to make a change.

CA: Was there any difference in price between Indonesia and Cameroon?

DiMeola: I think it's about the same. So today, they're growing 600 acres for us in Indonesia.

CA: Can you, for the benefit of our readers, put into words--your words--what you see as the taste characteristic of the Connecticut wrapper, the Cameroon wrapper, the Indonesian wrapper--so when they're smoking, they know what they're looking for?

DiMeola: We use Connecticut for eye appeal, because people smoke with their eyes, just like we eat with our eyes, and the taste characteristic is neutral, in my opinion, allowing the blend to take over a little bit more. I think Cameroon has less eye appeal, but it is sweeter and adds more to the flavor and aroma than does Connecticut. Indonesian is less sweet than Cameroon--more neutral and therefore similar to Connecticut wrapper, but it has the same color characteristics as Cameroon.

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