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It's Not Easy Being Green

Candelas, once hugely popular, are latter-day oddities that must fight for respect among their tawny cousins
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Steve Wynn, Jan/Feb 03

It's not an error. The cigar in the photograph is, truly, green. Not green as in young, raw or inexperienced, but green as a dollar bill, a lime or a frog's back. It's a candela.

You may have done a double take reading the reviews in the last issue of this magazine, which included one candela cigar, an Arturo Fuente 8-5-8. And the big surprise is that it scored well -- 87 points.

Green cigars are latter-day oddities, but they once were the preferred smokes of Americans, so popular in the United States that cigars with candela wrappers became known as American Market Selection. (Natural cigars, the ones that make up the vast majority of today's cigar market, were dubbed English Market Selection.) From about 1958 to the early 1970s, Americans smoked billions of cigars, and nearly all of them were as green as your front lawn after a May rain. The popular tint was not a function of the use of underage leaf, however. It resulted from a unique process by which the wrapper tobacco was being cured.

"Everyone out there was selling candelas," says Bob Franzblau, owner of Tampa, Florida, retailer Thompson & Co. Everyone, that is, but Thompson. The company, which made its own cigars at the time, was not a player in the candela business when Franzblau acquired Thompson in 1960. Franzblau had no experience in the cigar industry, but he was wise enough to know the first rule of Business 101: give the customer what he wants. He chucked the old product line and started selling candelas, and turned an unprofitable company into a moneymaker. "Right from day one," he says, "we were in the black."

The Hulk-colored cigars went out of favor in the early 1970s, replaced by cream-colored smokes with Connecticut-shade wrappers, and were all but absent during the cigar renaissance of the 1990s. Candelas just might be the anchovies of the cigar world, loved by a small group but abhorred by the majority -- even if they've never tried one.

Pockets of candela aficionados are out there, most of them smokers of machine-made brands such as Antonio y Cleopatra Grenadiers, Garcia y Vegas and Dutch Masters, which proudly display their bright green wares from beneath cellophane. The candela choices among handmade cigars are rather limited, but several notable additions have surfaced in recent years. Bering has long made several candela sizes, and the same man who makes and owns the brand, Nestor Plasencia, grows its green wrappers. There's also the Fuente, as well as a few Macanudos. (Natural-wrapped Macs are called Cafés; candelas are called Jades.)

At least some cigarmakers see promise in the wrapper. Two years ago, La Gloria Cubana's Ernesto Perez-Carrillo began making candela versions of his three best-selling La Gloria sizes -- the Wavell, Churchill and Corona Gorda -- for Thompson. This summer, U.S. Cigar Sales Inc. created a candela version of its Don Tomás brand, which it now sells across the United States.

In a cigar market driven by smokers' desire to try something different, firing up something as retro as a candela is appealing to a very small but growing number of cigar consumers.

In a September poll on www.cigaraficionado.com, nearly half (45.5 percent) of smokers said they had smoked a candela cigar. Some offered their thoughts using screen aliases. Their opinions were mixed.

"I love 'em," wrote Bloofington, one of 36.8 percent of respondents who reported enjoying the experience. "Had a candela for the first time just the other day," wrote Humordor. "This is a surprisingly good smoke. Going to an event at the tobacco store tonight and I'll probably pick up a few more." BigTom47 wrote: "I have found that they are a very nice golf cigar. Since they are milder than most of the cigars I smoke, I can still putt with the cigar in my mouth."


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Comments   1 comment(s)

Guy Buscema — Calvisson, Gard, France,  —  June 12, 2013 11:35am ET

Hi all ,
Well , I see that with GREEN CIGARS,History does repeat itself in the old ways. Good thing it's an American thing and with only
N.C.'s
Amicalement,
Guy


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