While most of the country was shivering in the arctic cold, about 300 lucky souls spent their time in the sunny Dominican Republic last week for Pro Cigar. This is the annual event put on by the Dominican cigar makers to showcase their products and to help educate retailers and consumers alike.
The Pro Cigar festival began in La Romana—home to Altadis USA’s huge Tabacalera de Garcia—the world’s largest cigar factory. Most of the first day was spent relaxing at Casa de Campo, the 7,000 acre resort in La Romana. Tuesday was the tour of Altadis where the visitors got a chance to taste the newest Romeo y Julieta..Anejo. Anejo is going to hit the shelves soon. From La Romana, the group made the 5 hour trek to Santiago, the capital of cigar country.
Santiago is home to literally dozens of factories ranging from large to tiny, but all are devoted to making the best Dominican cigars. Guests at the Pro Cigar Festival had to pick from the events, which made it impossible to visit everyone.
One of the new additions to the tour was Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma in Tamboril. Jochy has been growing tobacco and making great cigars for years and just last year he was voted into Pro Cigar. At his factory we got to see brands like Black Abyss, the highly rated Aging Room series and the new Señorial by Jose Blanco—Jochy’s cousin. At the factory Jose conducted his tasting seminar, having the participants try to determine which wrappers were being used on one cigar. There were a total of 5 different wrappers to taste—each one in a separate band.
General Cigar got the participants a bit more involved. There, attendees got the chance to make their own cigars. Everything from actually bunching the tobacco to make the cigar, to putting a wrapper on it. In the end, each box was a Macanudo—but most likely one that no one would ever recognize for the construction nor taste…but it looked nice. General also rolled out a bunch of tobacco for tasting.
In addition to seeing the different tobacco leaves, the company made up little puros—small cigars rolled from the single leaf of each tobacco. This way, you could taste the characteristics of each leaf. There was Maduro, Nicaraguan Viso, Ligero and Seco, Pennsylvania and Broadleaf tobaccos along with leaves from Peru, Nicaraguan Ometepe, Paraguay, Dominican Olor Ligero and Colombian..all in all 24 different leaves to try. One thing I did learn from Benji Menendez was that Paraguayan tobacco is good filler for certain blends because it has no discernable flavors so you can use it to make, say, a 60 ring gauge without messing up your blend.