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Edgar Cullman Jr.

CEO, General Cigar Company
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96

(continued from page 7)

Cullman: We don't have any specific new direction for Partagas. Partagas is unique, and is a different taste vehicle than Macanudo. It proves the rule that the wrapper has a huge impact on the taste of a cigar, because in essence, the binder and filler combination, with some small differences, is the same with a Macanudo and a Partagas. The big difference is the wrapper.

CA: In terms of the pricing of Macanudo and Partagas, how are they positioned against each other in terms of pricing for the consumers?

Cullman: They're very close, it's only about a 10 percent difference. Partagas is slightly higher. Early on--I mean this goes way back in history, when we first started with Macanudo--Macanudo was positioned as slightly less expensive than a Montecruz, and Macanudo and Montecruz were the two major smokes out there in the premium end. We introduced Partagas and we tried to make Partagas a little bit more expensive than Montecruz. So that was the position that we took and it sort of held.

CA: You have a number of other brands: Temple Hall, Bolivar, Cohiba, Ramon Allones, Canaria d'Oro, and very recently you came out with the Cifuentes brand, which must be playing off the life and history of Ramon Cifuentes. Why are you launching a new brand instead of focusing on some of the other brand names that have a richer tradition and higher market awareness?

Cullman: The proliferation of brands in the marketplace has been extraordinary. We are continually looking for tobaccos that will provide unique tastes. Unique in every sense while also being very good. We don't want to do something just for the sake of being unique. But we are stymied at this point. What we've done is come out with a Cifuentes that was an attempt to change some blends and use some different style wrappers. We are not convinced that it is a unique taste. It's a very good cigar, but it still is in the family of a Macanudo style. So, if we had to take a look at all of the brands that we have in our household, Cifuentes is probably the least well known. And so what we did was try to use our Connecticut wrappers but come out with something different.

CA: But, my understanding is that Cifuentes is never going to be a big brand or a big priority, so it's just another brand.

Cullman: Right.

CA: One obvious question is Cohiba. What are you doing with that? You own the American rights but you haven't done much with it. Why haven't you taken the brand to market and made it a priority given the awareness and the consumer demand for the brand?

Cullman: I think it's a very good question and the answer really lies in the fact that we don't have a blend and a unique taste for that cigar today that we would be happy with. We think it's such a blockbuster brand name that we must come out with something that is equal to the expectation of the brand. We're at a very difficult position because all of our time and energies have been on developing or creating the tobaccos for Macanudo and Partagas. We need to develop a third leg, in essence, a taste for Cohiba. If we just came out with something that was a variation of a Macanudo or a variation of a Partagas, we don't think that would cut it.

CA: As experts in the field, with growers and blenders who have access to an almost unlimited range of tobacco from all over the world, why can't you do it? Other brand marketers have launched new brands of very high quality, very successfully. If they can do it, then why can't you do it? If you went out to sell the brand, you could make a fortune.

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