The Ghost of Kardus Past
Ten years ago, Swedish Matched launched a new brand name; Kardus, as a once a year super-premium loose snus offering. The exotic hand-cut tobacco and flavorings were just not possible to manufacture at production snus volume levels.
Kardus was a tribute to the art of snus making and a showcase for Swedish Match snus. Only 500 boxes of Kardus 2005 were produced; subsequently that number rose to 600 each year. Each Kardus Superior Blend loose snus after 2005 came in hand-made wooden boxes constructed by some cantakerous old man whose name escapes me.
Begining with Kardus Superior Blend 2008, a new element was added: liquor.
In 2008, it was Highland Single Malt Whisky; in 2009 (my personal favorite) it was a 23-year-old dark rum from Guatemala. This theme continued through the last Kardus Edition made in 2012, Kardus Cincho which was flavored with Cachaca, the national liquor of Brazil.
Swedish Match has stated there were no tobacco combinations worthy of a Kardus offering in 2013. I'm not sure that is the complete story.
Conny Andersson, tobacco expert and snus designer, left Swedish Match in June 2012. Andersson had played a huge role in the creation of the earlier Kardus Superior Editions, his final being Kardus Cincho 2012. It is said that he was not happy with the budget constraints placed upon him when it came to the 2012 tobacco choices.
As well as being the last Kardus until now, Cincho 2012 was considered by many, myself included, as something of a disappointment compared to previous years.
Whatever the complete story is, there was no Kardus offering in 2013. Swedish Match went through yet another internal reorganization in 2014.
Increased focus was placed on their flagship brand of snus, General. New General snuses, the Variation series and the Generation 3 (G.3) added four new snuses to the General Brand. With General Kardus Selection 2015 a fifth General Snus enters the market, abeit for a very short period of time.
What is General Kardus Selection 2015?
Let us start with the name: General Kardus. Previously, Kardus was its own brand. 2015 marks the first year in which the Swedish Match Kardus Special Edition snus will wear the General Snus banner.
Peter Hagberg, Manager of eCommerce for Swedish Match, reinforced the intense focus being placed on General Snus. He feels the General brand should have one signature product which showcases its perfection because General Snus is the world's most popular and largest selling brand of snus.
The first question which popped into my head was will General Kardus Selection have at least a hint of the General brand flavor profile? Since General Kardus hasn't been released as of this writing and all 4000 boxes (officially) are locked away in a Swedish Match secure snus chiller, this is a difficult question to answer.
Lars Öberg, Product Developer at Swedish Match, said the following today: "If you have the opportunity to experience the General Kardus Selection, I think you should start by inhaling the fragrance of the snus. Look for a fruity scent with an element of nutmeg. When inserting the portion you might feel a strong tobacco flavor characterized by shades of dried apricots and raisins. Some people also experience a taste of lemon and rose hips".
Hagberg described the flavor to me as having a "pure tobacco flavor of the finest sort".
My mouth is already watering in anticipation of General Kardus 2015.
This harkens back to the first Kardus Edition in 2005. With General Kardus Selection 2015, Swedish Match is returning to their original vision of what Kardus should be.
In Kardus 2005, three different tobaccos from Hungary, Vietnam, and Spain were used.
For General Kardus 2015, there are four tobaccos; Green River from Pennsylvania, One Sucker from Guatemala, Criollo from Argentina and Malawi Western from India.
This tobacco blend looks like a very good one but will not have the General Snus flavor profile. I became a huge fan of Pennsylvania tobacco during the short life of the excellent General Green Harvest Snus, the world's first pesticide-free organic snus.
The tobacco from Guatemala and Argentina will give the mix a refined edge. Indian tobacco is good in taste and it is little fermented; it boosts it up. Child labor laws in India are somewhat lax which results in a top quality tobacco being available at a lower price than one would expect. Just an observation, not an endorsement of child labor.
While two of the tobaccos are sun cured and two are air cured, all four tobaccos used in General Kardus Selection 2015 share the same care. Only the center leaves of the tobacco plant are taken. The stalks and stems are stripped out and the tobacco is cut "precisely" to 0.72 millimeters.
I'm guessing this means the tobacco isn't hand-cut if each cut is exactly 0.72 millimeters but the mad snus scientists at Swedish Match have pulled off some pretty amazing things in the past. Constructing a knife which will only make 0.72mm cuts is certainly not beyond imagination.
If you're wondering why 0.72mm is mentioned three times in the last two paragraphs, its because that number is significant. Cutting the surface to 0.72mm releases more flavor and flavor nuances than normal ground tobacco. The flavor also lasts much longer than other loose snus.
According to a Swedish Match source speaking on condition of anonymity since he probably wasn't supposed to have tried General Kardus 2015 yet, if you make your prilla slightly looser than normal, the flavor lasts up to four hours!
Reduced Harm Tobacco advocates will also be happy to know that General Kardus Selection 2015 has been pasteurized.
When it comes to timing, think of General Kardus as a wine, not a snus. The flavor improves with age and is at its best 8-12 weeks from the date of manufacture. Beyond that, the character changes although that may not be a bad thing.
Swedish Match finds it very hard to establish any kind of firm expiration date for General Kardus 2015 since the flavor, like a fine wine, grows with age.
Swedish Match did specifically mention refrigerated storage in their press release. For those who don't have enough room in their fridges, keep it as cool a place as possible where the temperature is constant. A wine cellar comes to mind...but if you have a wine cellar, you probably have space in one of your fridges.
General Kardus - Presentation, Availability and Price
Unlike previous versions of Kardus, 150 grams of General Kardus will come in a tin guilded pewter can with a black oak lid. The vessel is set within a presentation box which is numbered just as the seal on the can is. If your receive number 4001, then you bought a counterfeit Kardus since only 4000 have been made.
Speaking to price, General Kardus Selection is not a pleasure which will come cheaply. Aside from the very limited Thunder Unz Edition 2009, General Kardus 2015 is the most expensive snus in the world.
The suggested retail price in Sweden is 799 Swedish Krona which at today's exchange rates, comes out to around 112 USD. In Norway, the retail price is being published as 1200 Danish Krone or 208.80 USD! This no doubt explains the great popularity of the Skvenskt Snus store in Strömstad, which sits in Sweden right next to the Norwegian border...
The release of General Kardus 2015 will be staggered beginning 6 December through 8 December to shops in Sweden and Norway, starting with the Swedish Match Svenskt Snus stores in Stockholm and Strömstad.
Moe Unz, Manager of the SnusCentral.com Snus eShop announced on Friday 5 Dec. that SnusCentral's allocation of General Kardus Selection 2015 will available for pre-order on 12 December 2014. The SnusCentral.com price for General Kardus Selection 2015 is $109.38.
After the pre-orders are filled, the remaining (if any) stock of General Kardus 2015 will be available for public sale.
If General Kardus is in your budget and you love snus, order your box as soon as they become available. Act quickly as allocations to individual stores are small. Even using the Unz name, Moe was unable to increase SnusCentral.com's allocation.
Unlike Kardus Cincho 2012, General Kardus Selection 2015 will not be around for very long at all.
Enjoy your Swedish snus; General Kardus or not,
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting From Sweden and the USA for SnusCENTRAL.org