Head of Product Capability for Tabacalera USA: Rafael Nodal
We’re here to talk about the newly released VegaFina 1998 but many consumers may remember the original VegaFina, which was a very mild cigar. How has the brand changed over the years and how does this release differ from the original?
The original VegaFina, which was established in 1998, was indeed a very mild cigar. However, throughout the years there have been many limited editions, which have continued to increase in body and flavor. The VegaFina 1998 is a blend that represents those 22 years of the brand’s evolution. It is a little more complex; it has a little bit more body and a fantastic aroma. It’s one of the few cigars in the market that features tobaccos from five countries, which itself increases the level of complexity.
That combined with the different primings brings the strength up a bit as well. For example this wrapper is an Habano Ecuador from a higher priming so it is very well fermented and it brings a lot more flavor and aroma to the blend. Also the tobacco from Colombia brings some unique flavors that add to the complexity.
We know that VegaFina as a brand is very popular in Europe and Asia. How is this release being received in those markets?
VegaFina enjoys a tremendous amount of success in Europe and Asia; it is one of the best-selling brands in those markets. The VegaFina 1998 was released in Europe a little over a year ago and it has become extremely popular. As a matter of fact it is becoming the core part of the VegaFina brand.
This blend was developed by the famed Grupo de Maestros. What do you think of it and what is one characteristic about it that you like most?
Although I did not have any input on the blend, I did have the opportunity to smoke it very early in the process and I enjoyed it from day one. From the beginning it was created looking for something stronger and more flavorful than the original line and I can tell you that I am a fan of the final product. I think that our consumers in the United States will really enjoy it.
One of the things that I really love about this cigar, and by the way it is one of the most difficult characteristics to achieve, is the sweetness. Sometimes you get too much sweetness and it overpowers the rest of the blend, other times you get too much strength and it throws the cigar out of balance. But in this cigar, the Grupo de Maestros created an extremely well balanced blend with a lot of sweetness. It is even more difficult to maintain that sweetness as you smoke the cigar and I think they did an incredible job of achieving that.
What type of cigar smoker do you think this cigar appeals to more, the novice or the seasoned cigar smoker?
One of the best things about this cigar is that it appeals to connoisseurs but it still has something that is attractive to novices because it isn’t too strong. What I think people enjoy the most is the flavors. It is extremely flavorful and that wrapper has a lot to do with it! We’re very excited about it because we believe that this blend, in this new presentation, will appeal to smokers who perhaps would have never tried VegaFina in the past.