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.
Arturo Fuente cigars are one of the most iconic and well-known brands around. Even non-cigar smokers known that when you say “Arturo Fuente”, you’re talking about a top-notch premium cigar. Today I’ll be providing my Arturo Fuente cigar review, and for the task I’ve selected the Chateau Fuente Natural vitola from the line as it is a personal favorite of mine. Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente cigars in the natural wrappers are identified by gold, red and green bands (as found on the Grand Reserva selections), and Spanish cedar sleeves with a green silk ribbon at the base. The cigars are rolled in Connecticut wrappers with a core blend of vintage Dominican long-filler from the company’s private reserve, and as you would expect from Fuente, the construction is first-rate. Offered in the following shapes, Chateau Fuente (4½” x 50), Pyramid (6″ x 52 with a red silk band), Double Chateau (6¾” x 50), and Royal Salute (7 5/8″ x 54), for this review I smoked the Rothschild-size Chateau Fuente. Continue reading
Rothschild cigars are classically defined as a parejo (straight-sided cigar) measuring approximately 4 1/2″ in length by a 52 ring gauge – roughly the same thickness as a Robusto, just a little bit shorter. The shape is named for the Rothschild family, a European banking dynasty which, for all its wealth and titles, cannot seem to buy a proper spelling of its name. Common misspellings include Rothchild, Rothchilde, Rothschilde, and Rothshield, among others. Even the pronunciation is frequently botched to “ROTH-child,” whereas a properly anglicized pronunciation would be “ROTH-shild.” Continue reading
Arturo Fuente Don Carlos cigars are among my list of personal Fuente favorites, and I’m glad to bring you my Arturo Fuente Don Carlos cigar review. I call this line “the original Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars,” because just as the latter were created by Don Carlos “Carlito” Jr., this selection was created a generation earlier by Don Carlos Sr., himself. Coincidentally, both cigars took years to create and are rolled with only the most select estate-grown Dominican tobaccos. From the very beginning, the filler leaves used for the Don Carlos line have always been aged for as long as 10 years, which accounts for their abundance of rich flavor and remarkable smoothness. Continue reading
I write about cigars so often that when I try to come up with something new I occasionally come up dry. That’s when I go to my trusty folder of questions from readers. For this post I refer to an email in which the writer had recently bought a sampler of all cigars that feature a Maduro wrapper. He noted that prior to this purchase he had mostly smoked cigars with Connecticut Shade wrappers. His beef was that the Maduro wrappers tended to burn unevenly and required “more relights than other wrappers.” So, the question for me was whether I thought Maduro wrappers normally have burn issues. Since he didn’t say what brands were in the sampler, I gave him an answer based on things that thicker wrappers can cause. But do I think Maduro wrappers have more burn problems than other wrappers? An emphatic “No.”
Wrappers aside, cigars can have burn problems for any number of reasons that might including bunching, rolling, quality of the leaf, how it was cured, fermented, aged, and so on.
Generally speaking, Maduro wrappers are thicker. The reason for this is the plants are exposed to more sunlight. The more sunlight, the more sugars the leaf produces. Additionally, the leaves become thicker to help resist all that extra sunshine. They’re also toothier, meaning the surface is also much rougher in texture as opposed to the silky feel of a fine Connecticut Shade leaf. That said, most tobacco leaves that are exposed to more sunlight will develop a thicker skin, so the same can be said for some sun-grown wrappers, like those found on the Rocky Patel Rosado cigars, for example.
One thing that actually can affect a cigar’s burn is if the wrapper is particularly oily. Although oily wrappers tend to be more appealing to cigar smokers, a cigar that looks like it’s wet is a sign that the leaf has most likely had less fermentation time. Even though the binder is designed to help the cigar burn, an oily wrapper can cause tunneling, canoeing, or may go out sooner than expected when left in the saddle of your ashtray.
Some experts suggest that Maduro wrapper cigars should be kept at a lower humidity level in your humidor, more like 64% – 65%, rather than the usual 68% – 70%. Actually, most cigars do very well at lower RH levels, but if your collection consists mostly of cigars with Maduro wrappers, you may want to consider keeping them in a separate humidor.
As noted above, Maduro wrapper leaves produce more sugars, so they tend to taste sweeter, as well, though a lot of new cigar smokers believe they are stronger. The type of Maduro leaf is also key to the taste, burn, etc. For example, Perdomo Lot 23 Maduro cigars have an appealing sweetness. When I asked Nick Perdomo Jr. about this he said it’s because he uses a Cuban seed leaf instead of a Connecticut Broadleaf. The Cuban seed maduro seems to be a little thinner than the Broadleaf, too. On the other hand, Arturo Fuente uses a Connecticut Broadleaf on their 8-5-8 Flor Fina Maduro, which I find deliciously sweet. On the contrary, the AVO Maduro, also a Connecticut Broadleaf, is not a sweet Maduro. When I asked Avo Uvezian about this, he told me that’s the way he likes it. So, you also have to account for how each manufacturer processes their wrapper leaves.
If a wrapper is darker as well as thicker, like an Oscuro leaf, it may also be a little stronger in flavor. You may also notice the seams in the roll are more prominent. This is another sign that the wrapper is thicker.
Of course, you never know how the cigar is going to burn until you light it up.
So, regardless of whether you smoke cigars with thin or thick wrappers, always make sure you get a good even burn at the foot when lighting up. You want to make sure the binder has fully taken, for as I noted earlier, it helps all of the tobaccos burn.
Cigars are sold in a number of ways. You’ve got your boxes, bundles, singles, and your cigar samplers. The latter has become the most economical way to buy cigars because you don’t have to commit to a full box, and five cigars is a comfortable enough amount to determine whether the brand in question is worth investing in a box or bundle, whatever the case may be.
Famous Smoke Shop has had a successful cigar sampler program for a number of years. The bulk of the 5-Pack cigar samplers generally comprise same-size cigars from one particular brand, whereas Variety type cigar samplers offer a mix of brands that can range from as few as three to as many as 24 different cigars, and even more with some samplers.
Recently, Famous Smoke Shop introduced a new 6-Pack Samplers program that offers the best of both worlds at very budget-friendly prices. As the name conveys, each sampler includes six cigars in total, presented in three different pairs of nationally recognized brands. Among them, household names like Arturo Fuente, Macanudo, Cohiba, Montecristo, Rocky Patel, Perdomo, Romeo y Julieta, CAO, and many more. Created to appeal to the entire spectrum of cigar consumers, the samplers are categorized by leaf type, strength, and country of origin, plus a few coffee-flavored cigar samplers. Not only do they offer a variety of cigars, but many 6-Pack Samplers include cigars of different sizes and shapes.
For example, the “Cameroon 6-Pack #2” includes a pair of Nub Cameroon 464T’s, Cohiba Robustos and Hemingway Signatures. The “Full Body 6-Pack #1” includes Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Gran Consuls, Camacho Triple Maduro 50/4.5′s and Oliva Cain Serie F 550 Habanos. The “Dominican 6-Pack #3” includes Montecristo White No.2′s, La Flor Dominicana Mambises and Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Presidentes. The “Coffee 6-Pack #1” includes Tabak Especial Negra, Tatiana Mocha and Java cigars.
Those are just a few examples, but there are many other 6-Pack Sampler categories such as “Criollo,” “Mild,” “Mild Maduro,” “Brazilian,” “Corojo,” “Broadleaf,” “Nicaraguan,” and even a “Bestsellers” 6-Pack.
“We really went all-out in trying to match up the best cigars in each category,” said Famous Smoke Marketing Director, Mike Vandenstockt. “This new sampler program will not only satisfy the cigar smokers who are looking for the big name brands at reasonable prices, but they’ll also be able to sample them in a whole new way.”
The Famous 6-Pack Sampler program is sure to get a lot of attention from newer cigar smokers, who love experimenting, now that it’s so easy for them to find cigars in different wrappers, sizes, and strengths, as well as specific countries of origin.