Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Premium Cigars, and More, Awaits You at the La Aurora Cigar Institute
“We have created a 360-degree concept about the world of tobacco. The first comprehensive training school for cigar lovers,” says Guillermo Leon, President of the La Aurora Cigar Factory, about his company’s first worldwide tobacco institute.
Located in Santiago, the Dominican Republic, the La Aurora Cigar Institute has one primary objective: “to create real experts in the field of premium cigars.” Taught by recognized professionals in the arts and sciences of Dominican tobacco culture, the Institute is the first school of its kind to educate students in a real-world, real-time, hands-on environment, and is endorsed by the Tobacco Institute of Dominican Republic.
Four years in the making, the Institute officially opened its doors in February, 2016. The courses cover every aspect of the tobacco-growing and cigar manufacturing process in great detail, including the development of the palate for distinguishing different type of tobaccos, as well as pairing cigars with both food and drink.
The Cigar Institute’s faculty comprises a who’s who of the world’s most distinguished cigar personalities such as Daniel Núñez, former General Cigar Co. president, Benjamin “Benji” Menéndez, a 62-year industry veteran and former Sr. V.P. at General Cigar Co., Guillermo León, the current President of La Aurora, as well as many other major figures working in the tobacco industry today.
Offered in two parts, “Introduction” and “Advanced,” the training classes are designed to accommodate participants based on the level of education they desire. As for the participants themselves, no prior level of experience with tobacco or premium cigars is needed. Everyone, from avid cigar smokers who want to learn about tobacco-growing, cigar-making, and how to properly taste a cigar, to cigar sommeliers who want to better understand how pairing different foods and drinks with cigars affects the palate, to cigar retail store owners who want to offer their customers the most qualified advice, are welcome.
That said, those who decide to take any of the La Aurora Cigar Institute training courses should be prepared to work hard. Following is a summary of what students can expect from the two major course parts.
Training Course Part 1: Introduction
This three-day course, which is divided into Theory and Practice, begins with the history of tobacco, followed by the economic and social importance of tobacco in the Dominican Republic. Participants also learn how climate, soil, and seed varieties affect the characteristics of cigars, including the entire process of making premium cigars from seed to finished product. At the end of the course, they will be able to properly assess a cigar’s balance, its degree of strength, and finally, come away with the ability to enjoy all of the sensory aspects of enjoying premium handmade cigars.
But even the above description doesn’t do justice to the vast scope of the curriculum, which also includes but is not limited to the following classes:
- Harvesting and curing
- Smoking perritos (small, one leaf cigars rolled with tobaccos grown in various zones)
- Processes of fermentation and aging of raw tobacco
- Pre-manufacturing preparation
- Destalking of filler tobaccos
- Selecting tobaccos
- Rolling cigars
- Ringing and packaging
- Tasting comparisons of fresh cigars vs. aged cigars
- Tasting seminar
At the completion of the course students are given a knowledge assessment test which, if passed, earns them the “Official Certificate of La Aurora Cigar Factory” endorsed by the Dominican Tobacco Institute.
Training Course Part 2: Advanced
A second “Official Certificate of La Aurora Cigar Factory” is earned by passing the Advanced training course. During this three-day session, participants learn about the different varieties of Dominican tobacco and cultivation techniques, while also receiving more in-depth instruction about the tobacco plant and its leaves. Product history, plus the how & why different tobacco varieties and plant parts are blended to create “the ideal cigar” are also covered in depth. Finally, using their newfound knowledge of tobacco, the students get to create their own custom cigar blends based on their personal tastes and preferences.
The Advanced curriculum includes, but is not limited to, the following classes:
- Flavours and aromas of Dominican fields and regions
- Mastering tobacco industry-specific terminology such as “dry,” “moist,” “medio tiempo,” “time” or “light;” ash colors; “third,” “strength vs. flavor,” “broken balance,” and “consistency.”
- Development of blends; A discussion on the development of blends using different areas of Dominican culture, and the development of blends using different sources, where the balance is broken.
- Blending Seminar
- De-stem layer, binder and filler
- Preparation of cigar blends
- Preparation of grip
- Rolling, ringing and packaging of cigars
- Pairing coffee and cigars
- Pairing rum and cigars
On day three, another knowledge assessment test is given, and participants who have completed and passed both tests for Parts 1 and 2 receive the “Dominican Tobaccos Expert” certificate, also endorsed by the Dominican Tobacco Institute.
Whether the participants complete Part 1 only, or Parts 1 and 2, they will come away with an understanding of the agro-cultural practices of tobacco in the Dominican Republic, while also having a newfound mastery and appreciation for the world of cigar tobacco in every form.
Optional Modular Courses
The La Aurora Cigar Institute also has a Modular course offering for those who can’t commit to three or six days of training. These modules are designed to introduce participants to the world of premium cigars by providing students with the basic foundations. Course times run about two and a half hours on weekdays, and are broken into four modules: “Starter,” “Advanced,” and two “Pairing” modules.
During the Starter module, students learn how to select cigars, cutting & lighting, and attend a tasting seminar followed by a cigar tasting session. The Advanced module includes a blending seminar and a tasting session, while the two Pairing modules cover pairing cigars with rum and coffee, respectively.
Due to the abridged nature of the Modular program, a certificate is not offered. However, even those who are only able to take these courses will benefit by acquiring the necessary skills for enjoying premium handmade cigars to their fullest.
One of the best parts about taking the courses at the Institute is that participants get to spend three days and four nights in the Dominican Republic at the Camp David Ranch, one of the country’s most beautiful hotels. Situated at the top of a mountain 2,000 feet above the city of Santiago, it offers visitors a 360-degree birds-eye view of the lush Cibao Valley. Course registration also includes meals, cigars, all instructional materials, and limited transportation. For a little more coin, the Institute offers an upgrade where participants can spend an extra day to experience the Dominican Republic’s beautiful beaches, while also getting to savor the country’s finest food and rums.
For anyone who’s serious about learning and experiencing one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating trades, the La Aurora Cigar Institute is a marvelous, once-in-a-lifetime adventure that will forever change the way they view and taste premium handmade cigars.
More information about the La Aurora Cigar Institute, including costs, can be found on the La Aurora World website.
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P.S. For those who want to get a literal taste of the La Aurora Cigar Institute, they also offer a La Aurora Training Kit that comes with everything you’ll need to learn about tasting tobacco and how to get the most enjoyment out of smoking premium cigars. Check it out by watching the La Aurora Training Kit video.
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