Why The Dominican Republic Grows Great Tobacco
Though Nicaragua has become the breeding ground of choice for many tobacco growers, in terms of sheer numbers, The Dominican Republic remains El Rey (the king) of the Central American tobacco-growing nations. The DR accounts for more than half of the cigars sold in the United States. Of course, the Dominican had a big lead. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many of Cuba’s best growers and blenders emigrated to the DR. Most histories of Dominican tobacco production credit Carlos Toraño Sr. for introducing Cuban seed to the country, which we know today as Dominican “Piloto Cubano;” though it should be noted that many other Cuban tobacco men brought their seeds with them to other countries such as Honduras and Nicaragua. Due to their minuscule size – less than the size of a pinhead – they were easy to smuggle. When the Sandinistas overran Nicaragua, even more found their way to the DR. This helped further solidify the country’s cigar industry.
Like Cuba, Nicaragua, and Honduras, the Dominican Republic has a specific region that’s most favorable for growing the best Cuban seed tobacco – the Cibao Valley. Located between the northern Cordillera Septentrional and the southern Cordillera Central mountain ranges, if you follow the Yaque River northwest you’ll find several villages in the Yaque Valley, a sub-region of the Cibao valley, that are known for producing some of the world’s richest tobacco: Navarette, La Canela, and Villa Gonzalez. It is in the Yaque Valley region where you’ll find the richest and deepest topsoil, and where most of the black cigar tobacco is grown. Another reason the Yaque Valley is so ideal for growing tobacco is its microclimate is more conducive to producing hearty plants due to its excellent drainage, plentiful sunlight, and afternoon breezes which keep the plants from overexposure to heat. To put it another way, the Yaque Valley and Villa Gonzalez are to the Dominican Republic what the Vuelta Abajo and the town of Pinar del Río are to Cuba, respectively.
Southwest of Villa Gonzalez is Jacagua, renowned for its tropical microclimate and ultra-rich soil. Navarette, in the northwest region of the valley is drier; therefore, the soil is irrigated by a vast series of canals to make up for its drier microclimate. Because each village has its own unique climate and soil, the tobaccos grown on certain farms have their own unique flavor properties. The Dominican tobaccos which are considered “the industry standard” are La Canela, a very rich-tasting, full-bodied leaf which is grown northwest of Villa Gonzalez. The other is Jacagua which is grown just southwest of Villa Gonzalez and produces a finer and much more attractive leaf. This is why when you see the blend information on Dominican cigars and other premiums, the name of the leaf represents a specific region within the country.
Common Types of Dominican Tobacco
Tobacco production in the Dominican Republic starts in July or August when the growing areas are prepared. In September, 35 to 45 day-old plants are placed in the seedbeds where they are constantly monitored to avoid diseases, certain types of mold, and leaf-devastating insects.
Since under the right conditions, tobacco will grow just about anywhere, every tobacco-growing country has its own indigenous tobacco. The two primary families of tobacco grown in the Dominican Republic are “Olor Dominicano” and “Piloto Cubano,” But there is also a third type of tobacco grown in the D.R. called “San Vicente.”
Olor Dominicano is the D.R.’s native strain, and produces a leaf that is thinner and smaller than Piloto, but has a marvelous aroma (olor means “smell” or “aroma” in Spanish) and excellent burning qualities. This is why so many Dominican-made cigars use Olor Dominicano (or simply “Olor”) for the binder portion of the blend.
Piloto Cubano tobacco is grown from Cuban seed originating in Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo region. The result is a more malleable leaf with a fuller body and richer flavor than Olor, making it ideal for filler. Due to its ample flavor properties, you will also find Piloto Cubano in many cigars made outside of the D.R.
San Vicente is a hybrid of Piloto Cubano and was originally developed on the San Vicente farm in Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo. It’s less potent than Piloto Cubano and a little more acidic on the palate. This leaf is commonly found in the blend of most Avo cigars.
Famous Dominican Cigars
The center of the Dominican cigar production is in Santiago, home to Tabacalera La Aurora, the country’s oldest cigar factory and maker of La Aurora cigars. Other manufacturers, either in or near Santiago produce such renowned brands as Arturo Fuente, Avo, Macanudo, Partagas, La Gloria Cubana, La Flor Dominicana, Montecristo, Davidoff, Zino, Ashton, Fonseca, Aging Room, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, and so many more, space just won’t permit.
At one time, the Dominican Republic was considered the source for “milder” cigars. However, with the growing popularity of tobaccos from Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, and Peru, to name but a few, Dominican-made cigars now span the entire spectrum of strength and complexity. Moreover, since growers have been producing high-quality Dominican wrapper for over two decades, now there are more Dominican puros being made than ever before.
The Dominican Republic is also a popular tourist spot for its lush terrain, beautiful beaches, and challenging golf courses. If you’re planning a trip there and would like to see how Dominican cigars are made, tours of several top factories including La Aurora and La Flor Dominicana are also available.
Viva La Republica Dominicana!
Try some Dominican cigars!
All this talk about fine Dominican cigars have you hankering to sample some for yourself? Check out our Best of the Dominican Republic #3 Sampler! It contains 10 Dominican-made stogies that show off the best that the country has to offer. You’ll find Macanudo, Aging Room, Four Kicks, and more! Oh yeah, and did I mention that it’s currently on sale for a whopping 49% off MSRP? You won’t find a better bargain on these outstanding Dominican cigars.
Some things are so intuitively easy you hardly have to think about them. Starting a car, making coffee with a K-cup, buttoning a shirt. You’d think that refilling a cigar lighter would be just as simple, right? Yes, but there’s a little more to it than you think, and by following the instruction guide below, you’ll not only learn how to fill your cigar torch lighter correctly, you’ll add many more months, even years, to its lifespan.
First things first: Fuel
Torch or jet flame lighters are the most commonly used lighters among cigar smokers. They run on butane, a liquid gas that’s easy to find and relatively inexpensive. But when filling or re-filling your lighter you don’t want to use just any butane. You want the most refined butane, not the stuff they sell behind the counter at the corner convenience store. The reason for this is, the more refined the fuel, the less impurities in the gas. For example, Vector butane is refined five times, while Xikar’s Purofine™ butane is so highly refined that the level of impurities is less than 15 parts-per-million, making them both excellent for use in all jet flame lighters. The cleaner the fuel, the more efficiently your lighter will work, which means the chances of clogging are also greatly reduced. Never use any fuel that is not at least triple refined.
TIP: Before filling your lighter DO NOT SHAKE THE CAN of fuel. This will cause the gas propellant to seep into the fuel tank during filling.
Filling your cigar lighter
The first thing you want to do, even for a new lighter, is release all of the fuel tank’s pressure by depressing on the inlet valve located on the bottom of the lighter. To do this you can use a small screwdriver, a ball point pen, or a cigar accessory that comes with a “bleeder.” Some lighters even include a bleeder in the box. Depress the valve holding the lighter in its upright position, as you do when you light your cigar. Repeat until you no longer hear any hissing coming from the valve. You can also release the air pressure by pressing the ignition and holding the trigger down until any hissing ceases.
Next, turn the flame adjustment to the lighter’s lowest (-) setting. This keeps the opening tight for a more efficient filling, and helps limit the amount of air that could get in by keeping the adjustment dial open to full bore. Turn the lighter upside down and insert the tip of the butane valve over the fuel valve. Now, press down firmly and hold it for about five seconds. If your lighter has a fuel tank window and it looks like it hasn’t filled completely, you can repeat this procedure, but keep in mind that it will only fill-up so much. It’s almost impossible to “top-off” a butane lighter.
After filling you’ll notice that the can and the lighter will be very cold. Wait three to five minutes before igniting the lighter. This permits any excess butane to evaporate, and will bring the liquid gas up to room temperature.
Finally, set the flame adjustment dial or wheel to the height you prefer. Do not open the valve all the way. This will not only cause the flame to shoot out like the exhaust pipes on a dragster. It can also cause the flame to cut out, and more importantly, you’re wasting fuel. Start by adjusting the dial to its midway point. This should give you a good strong flame and then you can adjust it up or down from there.
TIP: An optional trick that will help you fill your lighter more efficiently is to place your lighter in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes. This lowers the air pressure in the lighter. By doing this, when the sub-zero gas hits the freezing cold lighter the fuel will enter faster and more completely. If your lighter has a fuel window, you’ll notice the increase in speed that it fills-up.
Filling a lighter at high altitude
If you happen to live in a high-altitude part of the country like Denver, CO, it is critical that you use fuel that is at least quadruple-refined and higher. Also, make sure that you keep your lighter’s fuel tank as full as possible at all times.
As before, you want to allow the fuel temperature to reach room temperature. One way to do this is by simply holding the lighter in your hand for a minute or two. You can also put the lighter in your pants or a shirt pocket.
Next, adjust the flame dial or wheel to the (-) setting. This will allow more oxygen to enter the combustion chamber and will improve your lighter’s ignition and flame height, by compensating for the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. At lower altitudes, turning the adjustment wheel towards the (+) setting will increase the fuel flow.
When igniting, depress the trigger slowly until you hear the gas hissing out, then finish depressing the trigger to ignite the flame. Do not do this repeatedly to ignite the flame faster. A slow, deliberate, motion will decrease ignition failure.
In-between cigars, when you’re not using your lighter, keep the adjustment setting at the midpoint as mentioned above. The next time you light your cigar adjust it by turning the dial higher or lower as needed.
Storing your lighter after use
If you plan on storing your lighter for a long time period, wait until you’ve used up as much fuel as possible, then empty all of the remaining fuel. If you did not completely empty the lighter before storing and the lighter has not been used for a long period of time, when depressing the ignition trigger it may appear to be no longer working. If so, simply empty all of the fuel from the lighter as described in the first paragraph under “Filling your cigar lighter” above, then refuel and adjust the flame level as noted. This should help fix the problem.
One of the email questions I receive on a pretty regular basis is, “After delivery, how long should I keep my cigars in the humidor before smoking them?” For all intents and purposes, the cigars should be “smoke ready” right out of the box. Just about all of the leading manufacturers age their cigars for a minimum of 6-months in Spanish cedar-lined rooms before shipping. Depending on the cigars, it could be as long as three to five years, and in some cases, even longer; then you have the tobaccos, themselves, which may have been aged for any number of years. It’s safe to presume that a sizable segment of cigar smokers smoke that first cigar out of the box within the first few minutes the package arrives, or at least within the first 24 hrs. Why not, right? OK, but based on my experience and what I’ve learned from other cigar smokers, letting your cigars rest for even a few days after placing them in your humidor results in a better smoke. This is generally referred to as “settling.” There are any number of things, that can “upset” your cigars while in transit. By letting them settle in your humidor the tobaccos should return to their pre-shipping state. As for cigars bought in a retail store, each store’s humidor set-up is different, and some are better or worse than others. Therefore, even in the case of a same-day sale, it doesn’t hurt to let your new cigars buddy-up with your other smokes for a day or two. The choice is yours.
So what if you were to let your cigars rest even longer? Say a month, six months, a year, two, even several years. Of course, it depends on the cigar and how much patience you can muster. There’s no specific time period, which is why this topic can make for a sticky debate among cigar smokers. Let me give you a recent example which demonstrates that even a home aging your cigars period as short as a week can make a difference. I recently bought a box of cigars from a very reputable manufacturer. Though I had smoked this brand in the past, I hadn’t smoked this particular line extension which used a different wrapper. I based my purchase on the quality of the brand, the blend, my past experience with the company’s cigars, and the price. I placed half of them in my office humidor and took the remaining cigars home. As tempted as I was to light one up, I waited until the next day. Not only did the cigar not live up to my expectations, I was constantly relighting it. They were probably still too moist. Two days later, I smoked another. Not much difference, but they were tasty. One week later – actually, as I was writing this very article I had one going – the flavor had improved significantly. So, I decided to wait another week before I had the next one. I concluded that after a month they’d be even better, and by the time I get to the last few, they’ll be wonderful.
Home aging your cigars tip: Always have a good supply of cigars to smoke on hand while your new arrivals are aging.
So what about long-term aging, like two years and beyond? An email I received within the last few weeks begged the question. Three years ago the customer purchased a 5-pack of a certain high-profile cigar.
“The one I had then was only so-so,” wrote the customer. “However, after 3 years, the remaining ones were amazing. I guess the whole ‘aging improves cigars’ thing really is true! What do you think the ideal time is for aging? 3 years on those [cigars] was great. [Is] 4 better? 5? More? I’ve heard that cigars can keep improving for decades…is that true?” My answer was basically this: I have some top-flight cigars that have been in my humidor for almost 10 years. Mainly because, like a lot of smokers, I was “waiting for the right time” to smoke them. I should know better. Some of those extra-long-aged cigars have held up, but some haven’t. That said, three years could have been right for those cigars. By the customer’s logic it made sense that the longer he aged those cigars, the better they’d get. Then again, they may have tasted just as good after one or two years. The thing is, like some wines, if you age a cigar too long it will lose its bouquet; that is unless it is under very special conditions that can slow the aging process down long enough to keep them fresh for a decade or more. There’s no reason to age most premium cigars more than two to three years. Even some cigars that are blended using a lot of oily ligero long-filler will mellow-out nicely after just one year.
Some cigar makers like Jorge Padrón and Pete Johnson will tell you there’s no need to age their cigars any longer. Light ‘em up and enjoy them for Pete’s sake (no pun intended). Without a doubt, some cigars require extra aging, and almost all do taste better with more time on them, say six months to a year. Again, it depends on the cigar. Secondly, if you prefer smoking the finer cigars on the market, why wait so long when it’s not all that necessary?
At the risk of sounding like your grandmother, you could be hit by a bus tomorrow…then what? You get the idea. In other words, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em and enjoy ‘em, but age them on a per-cigar basis. You’ll eventually know which cigars improve best or least by experimenting with different time periods. Two to three years max? Perhaps. But four to five years or more? I think that’s pushing it.
Even with all the wild, wacky and dumbass hijinks you see daily on the internet, there’s one place where etiquette is still the norm – the cigar lounge. Not surprisingly, Zino Davidoff is credited for what we call “cigar etiquette” today. He even wrote a book about it, and I can’t think of a better person to write such a book than Mr. Davidoff. Zino was the quintessential “gentleman,” from his grooming, to his clothes, right down to the way he smoked his cigars. I’m talking “Old World” manners; when men opened doors for women, and removed their hat when entering a room. Though some of those customs have survived, today anything goes. But step into a traditional cigar lounge and you’ll think you stepped into the Bizarro world. I’m not saying that cigar lounges are for the stiff upper lip type; quite the contrary. That said, there are some guidelines that will help you become a better cigar smoker. Even some of Mr. Davidoff’s rules are a little too Victorian by today’s standards. For example: holding the cigar between your index finger and thumb, rather than your index and middle fingers. Zino felt the former method was more “elegant.” He may have had a point, but the way you hold your cigar is pretty much considered your own business. Another is removing the band so as not to “advertise” how costly (or cheap, for that matter) your cigar is. Though many cigar smokers still apply this rule, it appears to have faded over time, since a lot of other smokers want to know what you’re smoking. It’s also a great conversation starter. More often than not today, the band comes off when the ash gets too close. Continue reading
It would be easier to weigh than count the number of emails I’ve received over the years with questions about cigar humidors, especially on how to season one. I’ve written about how to season a humidor on more than one occasion; I’ve even done a video on how to season a humidor which you’ll see at the end of this article. But before you watch the video, read what to do first, since there are some things covered in this article that may not be in the video, and vice versa; then it will all come together nicely.
So, you’ve just purchased a new humidor because your cigars are starting to pile up and you want to keep them fresh for as long as necessary. Here’s what to do: Continue reading
If “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” could the same be said for cigar lighters? Maybe, but like cigars, the tools for igniting them are almost as multitudinous as bird species. For the purposes of this post we’re going to focus on the most popular jet lighters used for lighting cigars, as well as how and when to use them. From single jet designs like the XiKAR EX Windproof lighter, to lighters with special tools, like the Vertigo Golf lighter with its built-in divot tool, to the Vertigo Intimidator with its four jets and futuristic design, there’s a torch lighter for every cigar lover. Continue reading
We all do it. When buying cigars, we leaf through the catalog or dissect the website looking for a deal. Open emails that scream about savings of 50, 60, 70% or more on great cigars, then pore over the coupons to find out which deal saves the most cash while bringing home the most cigars. Inside all of us is a hardcore cigar value hunter – which, I assume, is why you’re here as well. But even the most budget-conscious among us is willing to drop a little extra coin now and again for a “good” cigar. But are we really just burning up money that could be better – or more smartly – spent?
In a word, “yes.” Continue reading
This is an article about Nicaraguan cigars. It’s not about Cuban cigars, Dominican cigars, or cigars from any other country, for that matter. If you look at the brands that have been scoring some of the highest marks these days, the Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne cigars, or the My Father Le Bijou 1922 cigars, for example, they are produced in Nicaragua (primarily in Estelí), using a decent dose of Nicaraguan tobaccos in their blends, or a mix of Nicaraguan and other tobaccos.
One of the reasons Nicaragua is so ideal for growing great-tasting tobacco is that the geography and climate are very similar to Cuba’s. The cigar tobacco growing region has three valleys – Estelí, Condega, and Jalapa – each with its own unique soil and minerals, which respectively impart their own distinctive flavor to a cigar’s blend when properly fermented and aged. Continue reading
One of the subjects I’m often asked about is, how to spot fake Cuban cigars. That’s a good question, too, because despite the fact that Cuban cigars are still illegal for American cigar smokers to purchase, some choose to do it anyway. Is it because they’re still considered “forbidden fruit,” or is it that most cigar smokers believe Cuban cigars are still the world’s best? It’s more like a combination of the two; cigars made in Cuba are so great you just have to get your hands on some, even if it means risking losing them to U.S. Customs. And they’re not cheap, either. That is unless you’ve been bamboozled by a hustler who will sell you a box of so-called “Havana’s” at a great price while you’re vacationing somewhere in the Caribbean. Chances are, they’re fakes. What’s that old saying? “A fool and his money…” More on that later.
Yes, at one time Cuban cigars actually were the best and had virtually no competition. Zino Davidoff realized this in the early part of the 20th century, and was one the first European retailers to introduce Cuban cigars to the world. Later, when he began producing cigars under his own name, they were made in Cuba. Additionally, when you see someone smoking a cigar in old movies from the 1920′s to the 1960′s (and very likely even after the 1962 embargo), you can bet they were smoking Cuban-made cigars. Continue reading
So, you’re ready to smoke your first Torpedo cigar. Congratulations! You’ve moved up to one of the big boys, but you’re not entirely sure how to cut a Torpedo cigar it because the head is rolled to a point. Cigars of this type are categorized in cigar speak as “figurados,” which also includes Belicosos, Pyramids and the like. They’re rolled in this bottle-neck style so the smoke is more concentrated, and therefore, richer in flavor when it hits your palate. But don’t let that pointy little head intimidate you. It can be cut just like a round or flathead cigar. The main difference is how you cut it and the type of cigar cutter you use. Continue reading