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Staff Reviews

Macanudo Cafe Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

The immeasurable ubiquity of the Macanudo brand is impossible to ignore. You can find Macanudo in practically as many places as you can find chewing gum. Or so it seems. Regardless, one has to ask, how did Macanudo get so big? Fans of fine cigars will have a nearly impossible time trying to avoid Macanudo, so let’s celebrate the brand’s availability and give it a try.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Benji Menendez, who was at the time Vice President of General Cigar, the parent company of the Macanudo brand. Although he is now retired, Menendez brought a wealth of cigar-making expertise to the entire General Cigar portfolio, which includes famous brands such as Cohiba, Partagas, and La Gloria Cubana, in addition to Macanudo. His father, Alonso Menendez, created the original Montecristo brand in Cuba in 1935. Benji’s roots as a cigar-maker in his own right trace back to a pre-Castro Cuba where he began as an interpreter for American machinists who visited his father’s cigar factory to make equipment repairs.

The Macanudo brand rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s as Edgar Cullman Sr., the owner of General Cigar, oversaw the company’s growth as a supplier of non-Cuban premium cigars to an eager U.S. cigar market, still in its post-embargo infancy. Early experimentation in growing tobacco in Connecticut, particularly wrapper leaves, ushered in a new genre of milder, creamier cigars that many consumers in the U.S. came to embrace. Although Macanudo was initially made in the company’s factory in Kingston, Jamaica, the brand has certainly evolved. Macanudo Cafe, the brand’s flagship cigar, is now handcrafted in the Dominican Republic from an approachable blend of Mexican and Dominican filler tobaccos rolled under a dark-blond Connecticut Shade wrapper.

I’m taking the Macanudo Cafe Tudor for a test drive today, a classic 6 x 52 Toro. A recent marketing revamp to the Cafe series reimagines the iconic Macanudo crest with a shiny, reflective gold insignia on the brand’s recognizable green and white band. Perhaps lacking the romantic detail of competing cigar bands today, we can also draw parallels between the simplicity of the Macanudo logo and other seminal brands, including Coca-Cola and Nike.

Packaging aside, let’s address the taste. The cold draw reveals a grassy astringency while a bit of sweetness hits the sides of my palate. Upon ignition, Macanudo Cafe starts off on the slightly bitter side, although it does not chauffer a noticeable dose of strength. It’s an entirely smokable cigar with notes of nuts, cedar, pine, and an easygoing creaminess. Although the blend is mild and digestible, it bears a dry chalkiness that is less embraceable. The burn is very consistent and reveals a seamless ash. As I meander past the halfway point, the blend displays a lack of the perceivable transition I am accustomed to in other mild cigars. Or, perhaps Macanudo is somewhat less sweet than other Connecticut-wrapped cigars I’ve enjoyed, and as a result the flavor is less appealing. The finish grows a bit woody and delivers additional hints of white pepper with a texture that falls on the dryer side. I am not necessarily turned off by Macanudo Cafe, but I’m also not blown away. Perhaps another size will reveal the blend from a more satisfying perspective.

All that said, Macanudo Cafe still fills an important role. For me, Macanudo is a fair choice during a casual round of golf, or for nonchalantly lighting up on a summer day. It’s price point (most sizes under $10) and availability make the brand accessible to wide a range of consumers, even when they’re only peripherally curious about cigars. Many connoisseurs began their cigar odysseys with Macanudo once upon a time.

In closing, the iconic presence of Macanudo can be attributed to a handful of crucial factors. One rests in the willingness to pivot cigar factories outside of Cuba and fill in the demand for premium cigars in the U.S. in the wake of the Cuban embargo, a strategy the Cullman family followed early on in their tenure at General Cigar. Additionally, the stewardship of dedicated cigar-makers like Benji Menendez made it possible to grow a number of brands at scale. With so many premium Dominican and Nicaraguan brands available today, we can debate the place of name brands, including Macanudo, in the hierarchy of contemporary premium cigars. But, it’s influence cannot be underestimated. Regardless of mine, or your, final impressions, we can thank Macanudo for exposing a number subsequent generations to handcrafted cigars and for encouraging their intrigue.

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