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.
Why the FDA Has It All Wrong
By now, we’ve all heard the news: the FDA has given us a look at what they’re thinking about doing to the cigar industry, vis-à-vis new regulations. Pending though they may be, it’s only a matter of time and outspokenness before they decide how hard to come down on cigar lovers. At the heart of the issue is how premium cigars are to be defined…they already have been, by various state legislatures; but now it’s time for the Feds to come up with something they feel is more formal. And the definition of what a premium cigar “is,” is really the subject of the debate if we’re to have any reasonable shot at the FDA moving away from regulating premium cigars. 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
Davidoff (the distributor of Avo Classic cigars) has always been synonymous with super-high quality offerings and this smoke fits that billing to a T. Let me first say that while it’s a medium bodied cigar (maybe leaning to the lighter side for some), that sure as hell doesn’t mean light on flavor. Let me be blunt by saying that this stick is drop-dead delicious – incredibly smooth with a toasty flavor and an aroma that has passersby saying, “Damn, that smells good, what are you smoking?”
I hadn’t enjoyed an Avo in quite sometime, mostly due to the fact that I’m always off trying so many of these new ligero-laced flavor bombs that seem to be all the rage these days. Now, I’ve always loved smoking Avo cigars in the past, and when I lit this one up for the review, I realized that there’s a damned good reason that this is referred to as the “Classic”. 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
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been reviewing a few mainstay cigars recently, such as this, the Excalibur Cigarillo. That’s not to say I have anything against them. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The truth of the matter is we got all the new stuff from IPCPR last year and had to review all of them. This left the poor mainstays in the darkness of the bottom shelf in my humidor. Alone, cold, and unloved. Well it was about time we dug them up and gave them some attention with today’s Excalibur Cigarillo review.
Now I know some of you out there are uninterested in cigarillos, and don’t consider them real cigars. I urge you to consider this: Excalibur Cigarillos are one of the most searched for cigars in the United States, and a top seller in the world. From the most stuffy café in the heart of Paris, Hollywood Boulevard in Cali, to the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, people world over smoke these little pups because they’re pretty damn amazing for what they offer- a cheap, quick smoke that offers a great flavor and appealing aroma. Continue reading
Talk about being taken for granted: the Romeo y Julieta 1875 – let’s call it the original Romeo – has been around in name form for better than 130 years. Some like to think of this cigar as “old faithful,” because they can go back to it time and time again for a quality cigar experience. But even though it’s got heritage, many smokers have “been there, done that” with it – and it doesn’t get a lot of looks anymore, as people develop their palates and look to move on in search of new tastes. In a way, it’s like the first girl you kissed: you might remember her name, but chances are you can recall a lot more of the situational details after you moved on to other girls and started playing “hide the salami.” But let’s be real – Romeo y Julieta cigars have launched a million cigar enthusiasts into the hobby…and that is why we pay it a visit today. Continue reading
Mild, small cigars… okay, you might be thinking that they’re not for everyone, but I’ll go on record saying, yeah, I think they are. Hence, the Macanudo Ascot.
When I took a trip to the General Cigar factory in Santiago in the Dominican Republic, there were just gazillions of premium hand rolled cigars everywhere. I not only had my pick of the litter of tasty treats to choose from, but so did the thousands of people working there. But what took me by great surprise is that so many of the employees were smoking the Macanudo Ascot. In fact, the guy who was enjoying them the most was then, CEO of the company, Daniel Núñez. Continue reading
I wanted to go back to my cigar smoking roots so I could do an Antonio y Cleopatra Grenadier cigar review, and no- I’m not talking about my college days at Groovy UV. Antonio y Cleopatra cigars have a certain… let’s say stigma about them. If you were ever rebellious or live in Colorado or Washington State, you know what I’m talking about. For those that don’t (most likely my mom and dad), don’t worry about it. But what’s terrible about this stigma is that we break away from how popular these cigars really are and what they offer. Continue reading
Here’s the simple and plain fact: we cigar lovers don’t always have access to a hand rolled premium smoke, or the time to kick back and enjoy one, either. Enter – the Dutch Masters Palma.
The Palma is a machine made cigar dating back to its beginnings in 1911, and is still one of the most recognizable cigars in the world today. To us premium cigar lovers, a machine made can definitely serve a purpose when one is jonesing for that quick smoke and a need for the taste of tobacco. I personally always keep a handful of the Dutch Masters Palmas in the center console of my car for, let’s just say those times in need. What’s great is that the manufacturer (Altadis) switched the packaging of the individual sticks from cellophane to a new foil wrapping that definitely keeps the tobacco fresh and moist for a longer period of time. Continue reading