The Toscano cigar celebrates 200 years

Passion and tradition, aiming for a worldwide market

02 October, 15:51

    Cigars before drying Cigars before drying

    LUCCA - The refined Toscano cigar has reached an enviable milestone, celebrating its 200th year in an evening gala at the original Manifatture di Firenze cigar factory in Lucca, where the "200" cigar (200 mm with an exceptional tobacco and smoke time) was created especially for the anniversary. The Toscano cigar's ingenuity, passion, and Italian tradition have all contributed to its constant growth on an international level.
    In 1815, a happy accident created the cigar, when a heavy rainfall drenched a batch of tobacco left out to dry; then left to dry and ferment, creating the basis for its unique character.
    The Toscano began production in 1818 in the Florentine factory, and has dominated the Italian cigar scene ever since, with a 96% market share today.
    Manifatture sigaro toscano (MST), the company that produces the Toscano, has been focusing in recent years on the international market, and has the results to show for it: nearly 20% of its total production in the first half of 2018 went to exports.
    The cigar can be found in 65 different countries worldwide, while its factories - in Lucca, where the "naturals" are produced; in Cava de' Tirreni, where the aromatics are produced; and at a plant in Pennsylvania where they are produced for the US market - turn out 212 million cigars a year.
    During the gala at the former Manifatture Tabacchi - an enormous complex designed in the rationalist style of architecture, build at the Cascine in the 1930s by Giovanni Bartoli and Pier Luigi Nervi - MST President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo; Vice President Gaetano Maccaferri, the company's majority shareholder; and Vice President Aurelio Regina all expressed satisfaction over the cigar's success.
    "I'm particularly pleased to celebrate the bicentennial of MST for two reasons: because I have always been a loyal customer and great admirer; and because I am convinced that this company, with its craftsmanship and quality, represents a true 'Made in Italy' product to the world," Montezemolo said.
    "The brand is strong and recognisable, with constant growth in recent years; the latest revenue was 102.1 million and the EBITDA was 32.8 million - extraordinary potential for international development," he said.
    Montezemolo highlighted growth in foreign markets such as the United States, Germany, and Turkey, as well as Serbia, Romania, and Eastern Europe generally, including international duty free shops.
    Maccaferri said the Toscano cigar represents Italian expertise, and the brand is experiencing a resurgence in its native Italy.
    "This means an important injection of resources, following considerable investments, and even more ambitious growth objectives," he said.
    Terry Nesti, director of client training for MST, said even the 200 cigar is within reach of the average consumer.
    "If you think about how much Cubans cost, which moreover have a low labor cost, a 200 costs seven euros, within reach of every wallet. And it's an extraordinary smoke," he said.
    But the only way to truly appreciate the uniqueness of this iconic product is by visiting the factory in Lucca.
    The cigar makers there, working by hand on each cigar, package 500 cigars in one work shift.
    The cigars also stand apart for the way technology is applied to tradition, the quality of the Italian tobacco expertly mixed with North American tobacco, and the long and patient aging.
    "The Toscano cigar allows for a very different smoke than those of the Caribbean," said MST CEO Stefano Mariotti, as he gave a demonstration of the various phases of the cigar's production.
    "You can interrupt it, cut it, and smoke it later; while a Cuban or Dominican can't be put out and lit again, because they're unsmokable, after. Moreover, in Italy we cut the leaves before they grow too much; this gives more strength to our tobacco," he said.
    Throughout the factory are signs of tradition, from the large rooms with their machines, the drying rooms, and even the workers wearing gas masks to protect them from the ammonia that gets released during fermentation.
    During his production tour, Mariotti showed the silver coins that were originally used to pay workers.
    "They got one silver coin for every 10 cigars, which they put on a stick inside this box, and every ten silver coins were worth one gold coin," he said.

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