Where Cigars Are Made vs. Where Tobacco is Grown.
In our “Where Do Cigars Come From” piece we took a broad look at the history of tobacco cultivation and cigar production. The truth is that handcrafting cigars is an art and skill. There are more countries and regions which produce tobacco for cigar wrappers, binders and fillers than are known for actually producing fine cigars. The talent and expertise of the boncheros (bunchers) and the torcedor (roller) are time-honored traditions passed from generation to generation. You can’t simply decide you’re going to set up a factory to make fine handmade cigars anywhere you want and then put an ad in the paper or on Indeed looking to hire torcedors. Even if you’re in a country that grows superb tobacco for cigars, that doesn’t mean the talent is there. So, traditionally the best cigars have only been made in a few countries and regions. Places where a long tradition exists so you can find the men and women who have the rarified skills the work requires.
Cigar Tobacco Origins
Tobacco for cigar wrappers, binders and fillers used in cigars comes from a few select places. These are the places where climate, soil, culture and history came together in just the right way to produce the some of the finest cigar tobaccos in the world. The list of countries that actually hand roll the finest cigars is a little shorter though. These are the places where most cigar tobaccos are sourced (in no particular order):
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- United States
Best Known Cigar Producing Countries
The 9 countries that are best known for producing fine cigars are Cuba (of course), The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, The United States, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil. The U.S. might seem like a surprising addition to the list for the uninitiated, but the truth is the United States factors into early cigar history. The U.S. was where some of the very first cigar factories began by colonial and western powers were built. To this day, the Connecticut River Valley still produces some of the finest cigar tobacco in the world. The U.S. has long been an important port of call and final destination for Caribbean, South and Central American peoples. So, it’s not hard to see how the people with the requisite skill and interests could find their way to U.S. soil. For this installment, we will focus on Dominican cigars and makers.
For this series, we’re going to focus on these big four:
- The Dominican Republic
- Costa Rica
The Origins of Dominican Cigars
The Dominican Republic is the largest producer of cigars in the world. Almost half of the world’s cigars come out of the D.R. The main reason for this is simple. The United States has always been a major cigar market. In February of 1962 the U.S. embargo against Cuba began as a byproduct of Cold War tensions. This meant Cuban cigar makers could no longer sell their products in the U.S. Cuban tobacco growers and cigar makers were faced with a dilemma. For the survival of their craft and the access to the lucrative U.S. market many of them migrated to the Dominican Republic. It was no doubt a difficult decision, but a logical one.
The D.R. offered the same climate as Cuba with very similar soils and growing conditions. It also meant the opportunity to build a future and a legacy for their families. Today, Tamboril in Santiago, D.R. is the center of the world’s cigar production. There are more cigar factories there than any other place on earth and they’re supported by 600,000 acres of local tobacco farms in addition to imports. The Dominican cigar industry is a true modern success story. If not for the courage of the Cuban cigar makers and tobacco growers who chose to migrate, who knows how many generations of talent and wisdom might have been lost to the world. The move to the D.R. kept the cigar industry’s heritage and centuries of wisdom and craft intact while giving them a safe and stable home and access to modern technology and world markets. The result has been Cuban-style cigars with modern quality control and distribution. A win-win for everyone, except perhaps Castro.
Makers of Dominican Cigars
The list of makers of Dominican cigars is a very long one. The D.R. makes almost half the world’s cigars now, but it’s not a matter of quantity over quality. They also make many of the world’s best cigars. Eight of Cigar Journal’s Top 25 of 2019 are Dominican cigars. We’ll never cover them all in one article. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t try to hit some of our favorites and some examples our favorite products from each. Like we said, the list is long, but it includes Arturo Fuente, Ashton, El Septimo, Montecristo, AJ Fernandez, Aganorsa, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Gurkha, Davidoff, La Flor Dominicana and a relative newcomer, ADVentura Cigars. There are so many more it’s really hard to do them justice in one article, but we’ll try and give you a broad cross-section. Some of these brands, like Arturo Fuente, were launched by Cuban immigrants, although Fuente actually began in Miami, Florida rather than Cuba, it soon found a home in The Dominican Republic.
Others like ADventura and Davidoff are the result of partnerships between tobacco growers, trader and entrepreneurs which eventually landed in the D.R. for some of the same reasons as all the others. The mild climate of the D.R. combined with its rich, loamy well-draining soil and mountainous terrain which makes growing high altitude tobaccos possible are all positive attributes for tobacco cultivation. It’s stable government and robust economy and easy access to major trade routes make it a good place to do business. Essentially it offered everything Cuba did, including generational Cuban cigar making talent, but without the yoke of a failing communist regime and crumbling infrastructure to stifle business. The D.R. just makes sense as a place to grow tobacco and to build a cigar factory.
Exploring Dominican Cigars
No list of Dominican Cigars would be complete without mentioning Arturo Fuente. The Fuente Fuente Opus X is not only a Dominican cigar, but also a puro. In this case, made from 100% Dominican tobacco from wrapper, to binder, to filler. These exclusive creations are made in ultra-small batches and only available at certain times. Using the finest tobaccos from the D.R. aged 5 years to perfection. The Arturo Fuente Opus X Lost City is a prime example. This elegant smoke is worthy of the most momentous occasions and celebrations. It showcases flavors of cinnamon, maple, zesty cabinet spices, leather, deep coffee, and toasted caramel.
If you’re looking for something a little easier to obtain, the Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva line is a great place to start if you want to explore the brand. It’s a diverse Dominican cigar line that features everything from a mild Candela to medium Connecticut Broadleaf (maduro) and fuller flavored Ecuadorian Sungrown. There’s a little something for everyone there and that’s one of their cigar lines.
Since we did mention puros, we have a puro Dominican cigar that’s available right now, check of the La Aurora Puro Vintage 2008. Only 1000 boxes of these were made, so it’s an opportunity to enjoy something truly unique. These beautiful salmon-shaped Dominican cigars feature a tasty Domincan Habano wrapper and are rolled at the La Aurora factory in the D.R. from 100% Dominican tobaccos. The flavor? Think full-bodied like a hot, frothy cup of robust Cuban coffee with notes of cinnamon and rich island earth.
If your tastes run more towards the subtler, lighter sticks, check out the Macanudo Gold Label. This is Connecticut Shade wrapped Dominican cigar combines a Mexican binder with Dominican and Mexican long filler. The silky, golden Connecticut Shade wrapper and proprietary binder and blend make it a treat especially for people who appreciate a fine, mild cigar that’s still flavorful and naturally sweet. It’s also a very approachable cigar that’s great for new smokers just beginning to explore. Another milder but delicious Dominican cigar with a complex flavor structure is the Ashton Cabinet Belicoso. The Cabinet Belicoso’s Connecticut shade wrapper is aged for an extra year resulting in a smooth and creamy flavor. The Ashton Cabinet includes no less than six different tobaccos which makes for a rich and complex flavor while remaining mild enough for just about any cigar smoker to enjoy.
Smoke Inn is Your Cigar Place
Your local cigar place is more than just a spot to grab some cigars and go. If they’re doing it right, and we believe we are, then there is a sense of atmosphere there. Your cigar place should have a vibe that makes you happy to be there and want to spend some time. We hope you liked our snapshot of the Dominican cigar industry. We’ll be following up with a look at a few other regions famous for cigar making and touch on their history and some examples of a few of our favorite products from them. Smoke Inn has some very cool stuff in store for you all in the second half of 2022, so stick around and we’ll see you at the bar.
As always, if you’re local or happen to be visiting South Florida, be sure to reward yourself with a visit to one of the country’s best cigar shops in person. We’d love to see you.
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