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That Old Black Magic

Maduros created using time-honored methods are sparking a rebirth for the mysterious dark-wrapper cigars
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Sharon Stone, July/Aug 2004

Smoke a dark cigar lately? Odds are you have. Maduros are becoming ever more popular on the U.S. market, and cigar shop humidors that once were a sea of golden-brown Connecticut-shade cigars are now awash in dark colors, ranging from rich browns all the way to BMW black.

Even as maduros grow in popularity, mystery surrounds the cigars, the methods by which they are made, and even how they taste. Done right, the production of maduros is a time- and labor-intensive process that mellows and sweetens a cigar rather than making it stronger. As more manufacturers return to the traditional methods of curing maduro tobacco, the market is responding favorably—whether it understands the sublime alchemy or not.

"Years ago, the trend was all Connecticut wrapper and light cigars," says Gary Pesh, chief executive officer of the Old Virginia Tobacco shops in the Washington, D.C., area. "The market has changed."

Most non-Cuban cigar brands now have a maduro version. The biggest sellers in the handmade-cigar world, Macanudo and Arturo Fuente, have long come in maduro. Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey were two of the earliest brands to have maduro wrappers. There are maduro La Gloria Cubanas, Ashtons, Fonsecas, La Flor Dominicanas,

Avos, Padróns and many others. Some brands, such as Onyx Reserve and Arturo Fuente Añejo, consist entirely of maduros.

And the dark cigars keep coming. Romeo y Julieta and El Rico Habano added maduro versions last year. C.A.O. created a double maduro called the MX2 in 2003, the first Camacho maduros went on sale in April, and Altadis U.S.A. Inc. was planning on debuting a maduro Trinidad at a July trade show.

"The biggest success we had last year was with Romeo maduro," says Jim Colucci, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Altadis U.S.A. "Onyx Reserve is a big one—it just keeps growing. Maduros definitely are in demand."

Dark cigars have great appeal to cigar smokers. In an April poll conducted on cigaraficionado.com, 94 percent of respondents said they had smoked maduros and 21 percent named them as their smoke of choice.

"I prefer a maduro wrapper to everything else," writes user brianbzed on Cigar Aficionado Online. "Up until six months ago," writes forum member Tiny Tim, "I didn't smoke maduro cigars at all. But then I tried some of them and now they're almost all I buy!"

Because of their dark wrappers, maduros can scare off less seasoned smokers, who assume a dark brown or black exterior means the cigar will be strong. "The newer people tend to see maduros as very strong and tend to shy away from them," says Pesh.


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