History of Dominican Cigars and Tobacco
On the island of Hispaniola which is now the current day Dominican Republic and Haiti, the, Tainos, historically smoked primitive cigars made with leaves bound together by thin vines. When Christopher Columbus first visited Hispaniola, the Tainos gave him tobacco which he took back to Europe. This is believed to be the first-time tobacco was introduced to Europe. Later, Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal, introduced tobacco to France. Later nicotine was named after him. After Europe developed a craving for tobacco and cigars, Spain set up the first cigar factory in Cuba.
While things might be changing in Cuba, previously all companies where owned by the government and employees received a salary. With the absence of the ability to take full advantage of being an entrepreneur, many of the experienced cigar rollers and growers knew that if they could leave Cuba, they had a trade that would pay them very well. With the Cuban seed in their pocket and the experience in their hands, many rollers and growers set out to other islands in the Caribbean in hope of flourishing in the cigar industry as bonified entrepreneurs. Several found their way to the Dominican Republic, and, with their experience, the seed they brought with them, and the model conditions the Dominican Republic offers for growing tobacco, many of the rollers and farmers flourished in the Dominican Republic. While Cuban cigars may be the most famous of all cigars, the Dominican Republic cigars are arguably some of the best in the world -if not the best.
General Cigar Information
The cigar has three main parts: the wrapper, the binder and the filler.
The Wrapper (Capa) is the leaf that makes up the outer layer of the cigar, and the variations of this leaf help determine the flavor and the characteristics of the cigar. The best leaves are used for the wrapper and these leaves are grown in shady warm areas. The year-round warm temperatures of the Dominican Republic and the shady areas in the valleys near Santiago allow the Dominican Republic to be one of the best countries for growing tobacco.
The Binder (Capote) usually comes from the top part of the leaf and is the part that receives the most sun. It is elastic, durable and thick. The binder often has imperfections such as color which prevents it from being used as a wrapper.
The Filler can be made from any part of the plant, with the top of the plant having the strongest flavors and the bottom of the plant having the best burning properties. The best cigars (hand-rolled) usually incorporate blends from the different parts of the tobacco plant along with different plant styles. By combining different styles of plants with the different parts of plants, rollers are able to change both the taste of the cigar and how the cigar burns which is why hand-rolled cigar are far superior to a machine-rolled cigar.
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How To Buy A Dominican Cigar
Just like cuts of steak, beer, and spirits, it all comes down to personal preference, but the main characteristics when selecting that perfect cigar are: the color, the shape, and the size.
Color of Dominican Cigars
In short, the lighter the cigar, the milder it will be, and the darker the cigar, the stronger the flavors.
- Double Claro (very light, slightly greenish) – mild with a sweet taste
- Claro (very light tan, or yellowish) Mild
- Colorado Claro (medium brown) – smooth
- Colorado (reddish-brown) – robust & rich in flavor
- Colorado Maduro (darker brown) – aromatic with a medium rich flavor
- Maduro (very dark brown) – sweet with a strong flavor
- Maduro Oscuro (black) – full bodied flavor
Shapes & Sizes of Dominican Cigars
Before we get into the details of the shapes and sizes of Dominican cigars, the main take aways from the size and shape is the bigger the cigar, the longer it will burn and If you are looking for a blended filler for a more complex flavor, typically this will be found in the fatter cigars as it is hard to blend the different fillers into a thin cigar.
There are two classifications for the shapes:
Parejos are the traditional cylinder-shaped cigars that have straight sides, an open flush cut (foot) and a closed head.
Figurados encompass any cigar that doesn’t fit into the definition of a parejos. One of the more exotic figurados is the culebra (snake) that consists of 3 cigars intertwined and held together with twine.
The size of the cigar is its length and it circumference. Neither the length nor the circumference has an exact measurement, just estimates. The circumference is measured by ring size. The standard to compare all cigars to is the corona which is about 6 inches with a ring size of 42.Here are some classic sizes and all but the torpedo are parejos:
Name Length (in.) Ring Size
Corona 5 ½ to 6 42 to 42
Panatela 5.5 to 6.5 36 to 38
Lonsdale 6 to 6.5 42 to 44
Lancero 7 to 7.5 38 to 40
Churchill 6.5 to 7 46 to 48
Robusto 4.5 to 5 48 to 50
Toro 6 to 6.5 48 to 50
Presidente 7 to 8.5 52 to 6
Gigante 6 60
Torpedo 5 ½ to 6 ½ 46 to 52
Which Dominican Cigars To Buy & Where To Buy Them
There are many well-known cigar stores, bars, clubs, and factories, and here are few of the best the Dominican Republic has to offer.
Arturo Fuente Cigars & Club
One of the best internationally known Dominican Brand of cigars is Arturo Fuente, and these can either be bought at the Arturo Fuente Cigar Club located in Santo Domingo or in almost any general retail cigar store in the country. With an excellent selection of prices and flavors mixed with history of this brand, this is very popular cigar for visitors to try.
La Aurora Cigars
La Aurora Cigars was the first factory to open in the Dominican Republic. You can either tour their factory in Santiago and then try/buy cigars on your way out or they too can be found in almost any general retail cigar store in the country.
Tabaco & Ron Cigar Club
Tabaco & Ron Cigar Club in the Colonial Zone on Calle Mercedes building 212 is an excellent place to enjoy a cigar and then purchase some to take home with you.
La Leyenda del Cigarro
La Leyenda del Cigarro is a small manufacturer in Santo Domingo that has 3 retail stores. On most days you can find one of its rollers rolling cigars in the corner of the store. My favorite location is in the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo. We typically take our clients there as part of the historical tour. They are located on Calle Mercedes, building 107 in the Colonial Zone.
The Dominican Republic produces some of the greatest variety and the highest quality cigars in the world. While Cuba is best known for its cigars, arguably the Dominican Republic may have the best cigars in the world. Don’t take my word for it. Cigar Aficionado magazine created the “The Top 25 Cigars of 2017” and several Dominican cigars made that list with the #1 spot going to the Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Eye of the Shark.