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Cigar Diary: Mexico's Cigar King

Max Gutmann is one of the world's great collectors of Cuban cigars as well as Mexico's official Cuban cigar agent.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008

Max Gutmann, 60, is the owner of Importadora y Exportadora de Puros y Tabacos, the Cuban cigar agent in Mexico. In the mid-1990s, he also started La Casa del Habano in Mexico, which today is the worldwide franchise of cigar shops under the auspices of Habanos S.A., the Havana-based global marketing and distribution organization for Cuban cigars. About 120 Casas operate around the world, selling only Cuban cigars.

Gutmann is also one of the world's great cigar collectors, with a trove of more than 1,500 boxes in a large room just below a terrace at his villa in Mexico City. Last year, he began selling a special regional cigar in Mexico—Edmundo Dantes Conde 109. The 50 ring gauge by 7 inch cigar has been acclaimed as one of the best yet in the series.

I sat down with Gutmann recently in his cigar room in Mexico City, smoked a 109 and spoke with him about his business and his passion for cigars.

CA: Why the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109?

Gutmann: For 18 years I have been smoking Partagas Lusitania double coronas in cabinets of 50. They always have been my favorite. The problem is that they have gone a little out of fashion. People don't have time to smoke them anymore. So I thought if we were going to come out with a new brand and a new cigar, let's go back to a big cigar, something special like the 109. It was last made in 1995 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Partagas.

CA: The 109 came in a special humidor.

Gutmann: Yes. It came with 50 robustos, 50 corona gordas and 50 109s. They have a beautiful band in red, with gold saying "150th Anniversary." It was sold for the first time at the Meliá Cohiba hotel in Havana in 1995. You were there.

CA: How could I forget?

Gutmann: The name "109" is the name that the rollers call it in the factory and it is conical at the end, instead of flat or rounded like a normal cigar. It is a cigar that is very hard to make. Only highest-classified rollers in Cuba can make it—those with ratings of eight or nine.

CA: Where were they made?

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