Altadis U.S.A. introduced a rare strain of Dominican tobacco last year called Pilotico, which the cigar manufacturer featured in its limited-edition Montecristo 80th Anniversary. Now, for the first time, the varietal will be used in a regular-production line called Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez, and it will debut at this month's IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas.
The new blend is named both for the rare tobacco it contains and for José "Don Pepe" Mendez, founder of José Mendez & Co., one of the main tobacco suppliers to Altadis U.S.A. and the cultivators of this esoteric strain. It was Don Pepe who brought his family's tobacco business to the Dominican Republic in the early 1960s.
The new blend features an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper and Dominican binder, with Nicaraguan and Dominican Pilotico fillers. The cigars will ship in boxes of 20 and come in three sizes: Robusto, measuring 5 inches by 50 ring gauge; No. 2, 6 by 50; and Toro, 6 1/4 by 52. Pilotico will range in price from $15.60 to $17.60 each and will begin arriving at retail in September.
According to Altadis, the cultivation process behind Pilotico was a collaboration between José Mendez & Co. and the Grupo de Maestros, Altadis U.S.A.'s elite group of cigarmakers and blenders who oversaw the growing operation in the Dominican Republic's Cibao Valley. The cigars are manufactured at the Tabacalera de Garcia factory in the Dominican Republic.
José Mendez & Co., SRL. is a major leaf broker located in Moca, Dominican Republic. According to Siegfried P. Maruschke, the grandson of Don Pepe and operator of José Mendez & Co. (along with his father), his family's history in tobacco dates back to the late 1800s in Cuba.
Before the Cuban Revolution, the Mendez family owned the largest cigarette factory and the best-selling cigarette brand in the country. However, the business was seized by the government as a result of the Revolution and, in 1962, Don Pepe moved the family to the Dominican Republic where they began buying and selling Dominican tobacco.
Altadis has been purchasing tobacco from the Mendez family since they began cultivating in the Dominican Republic. According to Maruschke, a significant percentage of José Mendez & Co.'s production goes to their factories.