General Cigar Co. has gone into its archival seed banks and regenerated an heirloom tobacco varietal for its upcoming release: Macanudo Mao. According to the company, Macanudo Mao contains filler tobacco derived from the same seed type used for original Macanudos when they were sold in the 1960s.
Macanudo Mao is the result of General's extensive seed regeneration program. For this project, the company planted many different seed varietals in both the Connecticut River Valley and in the Mao region of the Dominican Republic. By planting in different regions simultaneously, General was better able to ascertain the qualities of the different tobacco types, its adaptability to climate and its disease resistance.
"We started the experiment with 21 seed [types]," said Ernest Gocaj, General's director of tobacco procurement. "It's important to note that while we were able to recondition the seeds over four years, we had started this experiment years earlier and were unfortunately not successful. At this moment, we have two successful seed types that bear the desired characteristics of the original seeds. Normally, reconditioning seeds takes eight years."
Here's the approach General took: First, the company found the heirloom Dominican seed from the 1960s, which it dubbed seed M. Then, it crossed the M seed with another seed called D3, which is a strain that resists black shank disease. After that, General continued to backcross the resulting seeds in order to create a seed type that inherited the disease resistance of D3 yet still retained the desired flavor and aroma characteristics of the original M seed.
"Backcrossing preserves the most desirable attributes while crossing gives the original seed new characteristics such as disease resistance," Gocaj explained. "Through crossing and backcrossing, we achieved the original characteristics of the M seed with the added resistance to black shank from the D3 seed. We named our new, improved seed M02."
Once the M02 seed was established, Gocaj said that General planted nearly three acres in Mao, which was just enough to supply a limited edition run of cigars.
Macanudo Mao cigars are draped in a Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Connecticut while the binder is from Mexico. In addition to the Dominican M02 tobacco, the filler is fortified with leaves from Nicaragua and Colombia.
It will come in three sizes, but only 1,800 boxes per size are scheduled for production, or a total of 5,400, 10-count boxes. No. 10 measures 5 inches by 50 ring and has a suggested retail price of $16; No. 11, 7 by 50 at $17; and No. 12, 6 by 57 at $18. Each cigar comes individually coffined.
Macanudo Mao will be introduced at the IPCPR trade show in July, but will not ship until the last quarter of this year.
This article first appeared in the June 21, 2016 issue of Cigar Insider.