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Davidoff's No. 1

Cigar Aficionado interviews Davidoff's director general Ernst Schneider.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 2)

C.A.: There are a lot of questions related to the new generation of Davidoff cigars. The first really deals with the fact that you have a factory where Zino is made in Honduras, and yet you selected the Dominican Republic as the source for your new generation of Davidoff cigars. What made you decide on the Dominican Republic as opposed to a country where you already had existing facilities and production?
Schneider: Well, I said, we have the three brand names: Davidoff, Zino and Griffin's. Zino is specially from Honduras. This is another line and also another category, pricewise. Zino and I traveled to Honduras, to the Dominican Republic, to Jamaica and also to Nicaragua to have a look where we would find the best situation and the best tobacco to make our new cigars. And we found it in the Dominican Republic with our friend, Mr. Kelner, who is one of the best tobacco specialists. Also, his is a family business, and mine is a family business. So we find in a short time the right place to make our cigars. Kelner was interested in working with Zino and me, considering our experience. He was also willing to go in our direction and to make every effort to reach our goal. We can now say that today we have the most modern cigar factory in the Caribbean. When you make a luxury product like Davidoff, you have to make sure it is produced in the best factory so that it comes out perfect every time.

C.A.: Well, I've been to the factory, and I know Kelner does a great job. There's no question about it. When we spoke two years ago, you always thought that the new generation of Davidoff cigars would be milder and lighter than the earlier version, which came from Havana. I am curious to know whether or not in the past two years you have in any way rethought that idea, given the fact that the market seems to be wanting more taste and more flavor. For example, some cigar brands from the Dominican Republic are changing their blends. They're making their cigars with a little more flavor, with a little more richness--and certainly the Cuban cigars are more in that direction. Are you changing your cigars? The wrapper of Davidoff cigars seems to have already gotten a little darker. Where do you stand in terms of lightness and mildness versus today's taste?
Schneider: That's very simple. We were analyzing the world market of cigars, and you know that not only in the cigar business, but also in all other sections, there is a trend to be mild, lighter. This was the basic decision. We will go to milder and lighter products because the trend is the same all over the world. So we decided to create the new generation with three, or today, four lines. We have the line of Davidoff No. 1, 2, 3, 4, and we have a line of the thousand: 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000. And we have the line of the Grand Cru.

The first line (those with No. 1 and so on) is the most light in style. The second is in between, and the strongest is the third. In addition, we have specialities like the Special T (a torpedo-shaped cigar) or the Special R (robusto-sized cigar), which are strong cigars. So, in each clear-cut category, you have what the consumer likes to smoke.

C.A.: I'm not sure that the consumer understands what you just explained, but I think that when he reads it in this interview, he may realize this for the first time. That is very useful to the consumer.
Schneider: Of course it is.

C.A.: Are the same cigars shipped to the United States and the European markets?
Schneider: Of course. They're exactly the same all over the world. We insist that we have the same cigars all over the world. The only difference is that--and I am being 100 percent truthful--when we have some lighter wrappers, we send those cigars to Europe and not to the States. Our cigars are not all the same color just like everybody else's.

C.A.: The last time I was in London, I noticed that the wrappers of Davidoff cigars were so much lighter. That's a curiosity because you would think it would be the opposite. The American consumer has been weaned on the milder cigar, the Macanudo if you will, and others like that--those with rather light wrappers. The European and British consumers have been weaned on the Havana, which is darker and stronger. So you would think you would send your darker wrappers to Europe and the lighter wrappers to the United States. Why does it work the opposite way in this particular case?
Schneider: Because in Europe we have no problems with lighter wrappers. The cigar smoker is willing to accept them without any problems.

C.A.: But two years ago, when you first released your cigars, they were much lighter--almost yellow in color. I was just looking at one in my humidor the other day. You must have changed even the lighter wrappers a little bit, or is that just a matter of differences in crops?
Schneider: This is just a question of the year in which the wrappers were grown.

C.A.: So it wasn't intentional.
Schneider: Not at all. Not at all.

C.A.: Is it fair to say that you are completely satisfied with the quality and taste of what is being produced in the Dominican Republic?
Schneider: We are really lucky and happy that we found such a nice and capable man. Today, we also have our own plantations, and we have total control and we can follow the production of our cigars from A to Z.

C.A.: One question that's probably on a lot of people's minds--and although nobody can really predict the future wth any certainty--under what circumstances do you think Davidoff might return to Havana?
Schneider: You see, you have your experience, and I have my experience. The older you get, you know that you can't say yes or no in every situation. All is possible. It's clear that when I say that if we go back to Havana, the situation can't be the same. We are flexible.

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