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Romeo Goes Maduro

Romeo y Julieta is one of the best-known brand names in the cigar world. Now, for the first time, it's available in maduro.

Romeo y Julieta Reserve Maduro, which owner and manufacturer Altadis U.S.A. Inc. originally intended to have on the market in 2002, was officially launched on February 1. (A pair of diminutive cigars packed in tins, the No. 4 and No. 5, were unveiled at the 2002 Retail Tobacco Dealers of America trade show last summer.) Holding up the release of the seven-size brand was the wrapper, a dark-brown broadleaf grow in the Connecticut River Valley. Altadis uses broadleaf on its high-scoring Onyx Reserve premium brand, as well as its ever-popular machine-made product, Backwoods, so the company had to ensure ample supply to wrap the Romeos before shipping them to market.

"The cigars are aged," said Jim Colucci, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, company, which is the U.S. subsidiary of Madrid's Altadis. "We've been building up the inventory. We wanted to make sure we had enough wrapper, because we were so short on Onyx Reserve."

Some maduro cigar brands have identical blends to the natural versions, the only difference being that the maduro uses a darker shade of wrapper tobacco, might be grown in a different country. The Romeo Maduro is different inside and out.

Described by Colucci as "three-quarters full body," the Romeo Maduro is a pumped-up cousin of the natural version, which is medium in body. The maduro is made with a Cuban-seed Dominican binder and a mix of Dominican, Nicaraguan and Peruvian filler tobacco, finished with the Connecticut-broadleaf wrapper.

Natural Romeo y Julieta cigars 1875 are all Dominican on the inside, with an Indonesian TBN wrapper. Romeo y Julieta Vintage cigars have Ecuadoran wrappers, Mexican binders and Dominican filler.

The Romeo Maduros seven sizes are: Belicoso, which measures 6 1/8 inches by 52 ring, with a suggested retail price of $7; Churchill, 7 by 50, $6.50; Toro, 6 by 50, $6; Robusto, 50 by 5, $5.50; Lonsdale, 6 5/8 by 44, $5; No. 4, 5 by 44, $4.50; and No. 5, 4 by 45, $4.25.

The cigars were first shipped to some 250 American retailers; Janelle Rosenfeld, vice president of advertising, said they are now available at some 700 shops in the United States.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Romeo Goes Maduro