The Yamasá Line


After months of anticipation the prestigious companies latest launch, ”Davidoff Yamasá” stays true to its prolific hysteria. The new line, which debuted at the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, takes inspiration and tobacco from Yamasá, a region in the central Dominican Republic located about 20 miles north of the capital, Santo Domingo.

Total palate invigoration has been Hendrik “Henke” Kelner’s doctrine since he first made cigars over 30 years ago. The philosophy holds true with their latest launch, the Davidoff Yamasa, a premium 20 years in the making luxe cigar. Traveling to the ideal climate and mineral-rich land of the Yamasa region in the Dominican Republic coupled with the expertise of the exceptional master blender, Henke, Davidoff Yamasa is one exceptionally fervent experience.

The last three launches from the Davidoff umbrella have showcased tobacco sourced from diverse regions. Starting with the Nicaragua, then the Escurio (Brazil), and now the prestigious Yamasa (Dominican Republic). It took 20 years of Henke Kelner’s and his team’s expertise, of nurturing and cultivating soil that was reluctant to change. The development of the Yamasá is a classic example of men who confronted the impossible in the pursuit of their dream.

For the Yamasá soil to deliver up to its true potential, Henke Kelner and his team- Eladio and Manuel Perlata, had to first foster nature. To raise the pH levels to those that best suit the growing of tobacco. They worked on the soil by adding calcium carbonate, dolomitic lime and agricultural lime every two months. It was done by trained professionals to every single tobacco plant. Henke Kelner relied only on his own expert intuition, defying the laws of science. Prelimniary seed selection saw the selection of just three out of thirty samples, only the best in terms of colour, shine and lamina were selected. The site in Yamasá covers 100 hectares, but only 21 are currently being used. They would rest the land between each harvest to let nature take its course, and to ensure that the unique quality of the Yamasá leaf is maintained for years to come.

Once the leaves turned pale yellow, Henke and his team selected the point where it could be conditioned that the “wrapper” would live up to its true potential.

Entirely new climate controlled curing facilities were developed to ensure this.

The technical expertise attained over the years by the Davidoff team in refining the wilder predispositions of Nicaraguan Estelí and Condega tobaccos has helped to create a unique Yamasá blend with all the intensity, enhancement and complexity aficionados would expect from Davidoff.

Interview with Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard CEO of Oettinger Davidoff AG

So tell me about yourself. You’ve been holding very high positions and many varied entities, there’s the Timex Watch brand, Guerlain which is cosmetics. We take Davidoff which is cigars and I get the impression that you are doing something you love?

It’s a good point. I’ve always enjoyed what I have been doing, being in the luxury and premium market. But its true that the environment of premium cigars is something that I enjoy even more, because it is extremely personable. It is a luxury, but it’s also affordable in the sense that a lot of people can enjoy it. It’s something that you could say democratizes a little bit of luxury because there are affordable price ranges.

Were you looking for a challenge?

Absolutely. You know what I like about leadership is being able to make an impact. And if there is a challenge in front of me or a turnaround situation, not necessarily financially but brand wise or equity wise or consumer wise, I find that extremely stimulating. In the first part of your career it’s all about me it’s all about you. And now it’s about everyone else. Now I enjoy putting a team together.

So what is the plan for Davidoff. I mean when you started off you had something in mind. You had a vision, are you coming down that path?

Absolutely and the vision was very clear that we needed to move from products to brand to experience. And then, five and a half years into this journey, we’re clearly tapping into the search piece. We have made fantastic progress on establishing the brand on the cigar front.  Now we are moving into that experience piece which our consumers are seeking. You must be more than the brand; you must be more than the product; we are part of that movement.

You are working with distributors and lounges.

With Davidoff we have our own set up in all key markets including here in Dubai. Sometimes you need a logistical set up and support, in terms of lounges it’s usually operated by the hotel. We get into a partnership with them. We aim at becoming an indispensable business partner because we have a concept. We have an idea. We have a program.

What is the life cycle of something like this? How long does it take for you to conceptualise, design, package and roll it out in the market?

The life cycle depends on the size of the project. We are a luxury product from nature. It’s fundamentally an agricultural commodity. So typically, the project takes about eighteen months from idea to execution. But that means that before that you already need to have three, six or ten-year-old aged tobacco that can go into the product. Once you have that blend the concept, packaging and everything takes place within eighteen months.

Is there anything else you want to add into the mix?

I think Yamasa is obviously the most complex project we ever had. And also a very complex blend, we have a Yamasa wrapper, we have a binder, even in the filling tobacco we have five different origins three Dominicans and two Nicaraguans.

In terms of complexity. it’s a masterpiece. Which is where we are unique compared to our competitors, we always have this very high degree of blending.

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