Six of the Best ALL Dominican Cigars You Should Smoke at Least Once
By Gary Korb
The Dominican Republic has sold more premium handmade cigars in the U.S. than any other country in Central America since 1962, the year President John F. Kennedy place an embargo on Cuban cigars. While the embargo continues to be a topic of debate today – often a passionate one, too – American cigar smokers have grown to love the remarkable quality and variety of Dominican cigars for more than two generations. Moreover, a number of these cigars sport familiar labels that were once hailed as some of Cuba’s best cigars. Included among these “heritage” brands are Cohiba, Montecristo, Hoyo de Monterrey, Romeo y Julieta, and Davidoff.
Nurtured by tobacco growers who left Cuba after the Revolution of 1959, their smuggled Cuban seeds quickly adapted to the rich Dominican soil, which changed the map and marked a whole new chapter in cigar-making history.
Of course, cigars were being made in the Dominican Republic long before the wave of Cuban exiles arrived. The best known manufacturer is La Aurora S.A. which was founded in 1903. During the 1970’s, companies such as Arturo Fuente and Davidoff moved their operations to the D.R.; General Cigar Co. and Altadis U.S.A followed suit. Having licensed several Cuban cigar brands, they set up their own farms and factories to manufacture Dominican-made versions of Partagas and Montecristo cigars respectively (among others), for sale in the U.S.
Because they could not use Cuban tobacco in their blends, these manufacturers used mostly Dominican-grown tobaccos for their fillers, while the wrapper leaves were imported from Indonesia, the U.S. (Connecticut), Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.
The most fertile area for growing tobacco is in the Yaque Valley. Home to the villages Villa Gonzalez, Navarette and Jacagua, among others, “Each village has its own climate and soil and therefore its own style of tobacco,” said Hendrik Kelner in a 1996 article on Dominican tobacco growing. “Moreover, you can even say that particular farms within the boundaries of each village have their [own] specific character of tobacco,” he added. Since then, many other areas of the D.R. have been used to develop new hybrid tobaccos. (For more on Dominican tobacco see the Cigar Advisor article on Dominican cigars.)
With the exception of the Dominican Republic, countries like Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua were able to make cigars with tobaccos grown entirely in their countries of origin. Referred to as “puros,” it wasn’t until 1995, when Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr. introduced the Fuente Fuente Opus X, that an all-Dominican filler, binder and wrapper blend entered the market. Here is where I’m tempted to say, “and the rest is history,” because the legendary “Opus X” is still one of the hottest cigars on the market – more by reputation than anything else.
Other tobacco growers eventually succeeded in growing, fermenting and aging their own Dominican wrapper. Some excellent examples of Dominican cigars – and almost all of them boutique cigars, too – are the puros listed as follows:
The Aging Room M356 cigars from Boutique Blends have already earned a “94 rating from Cigar Aficionado, including the zine’s “Top 25 Best Cigars” list in 2011. Due to the very limited supply of homegrown wrapper on these Dominican cigars, the M356 series is made in small batches. The Rothschild-size “Paco” supplies a complex, full-bodied smoke teeming with creamy flavors of sweet cedar and earthy tobacco with notes of peppery spice.
One attribute found in wrapper grown in the D.R. is its natural spiciness, which is evident in Cusano Corojo Dominicano cigars. Made with 18 year-aged fillers, plus a Criollo ’98 binder and a Dominican Corojo wrapper, the smoke, while sufficiently thick and creamy, is medium-bodied and less complex than the M356 above. Earthy flavors of leather, nuts, and sweet cedar prevail throughout with a subtle peppery finish.
Two of the industry’s premier boutique cigar makers are Abe Flores and Juan Rodriguez. They offer several Dominican cigars across their lines, many of them puros, including a Cabinet Selection rolled in a dark and toothy Dominican maduro wrapper. The construction is first-rate, and once lit, the smoke greets you with an earthy mix of pepper, coffee bean, cocoa and leather. Sweeter and creamier flavors emerge later as the cigar opens up and the pepper fades, culminating in a well-balanced, full-flavored smoke.
This Petite Corona comes by way of Tatuaje cigars, which should immediately tell you something about Para Ti cigars. Pete Johnson doesn’t give his blessing to just anyone, but he did to Napa Valley wine blender, Fred Schrader, and the result is a stunning puro made, not in Nicaragua, but in the D.R. The cigar’s flavor profile comes from a medium-bodied blend of long-fillers rolled snugly inside an oily Dominican wrapper. The smoke is predominantly nutty, woody and well-balanced revealing more complexity in the later acts.
Besides being made with all Dominican-grown tobaccos, SWAG Puro Dominicano cigars are blended with Dominican tobaccos all grown on the same farm. A high-priming Habano wrapper encases spicy ligero long-fillers for a full-bodied smoke with a peppery finish. More conspicuous flavors of wood and nuts enter the mix tamping down the spiciness, and settle-in for a robust and well-rounded cigar.
The La Hoja (pronounced, La “O-hah”) Autentico Maduro Torpedo is box-pressed in a handsome Corojo 2006 wrapper. This figurado has a full-flavored profile that greets the palate with a heavy dose of pepper, moving into layer upon layer of flavors that range from nutmeg, to leather, to allspice, and dark roasted coffee. Since palates differ, you really have to smoke this cigar with virtually no distractions to fully appreciate it. In a word, a “stunner” which illustrates the diversity of flavors that can be found in Dominican tobacco.