Thursday, April 22, 2004
Up at 5:30 am to get ready for the drive to Santiago for an
introduction to the real nitty gritty of the cigar business.
Our host for the day was a gentleman named Luis who goes by
the moniker "Hillbilly" He's been in The Dominican
Republic for 42 years and sure knows the country and people
like the back of his hand. I couldn't have asked for a better
tour guide. Super nice guy who has a small cigar business of
his own and was most helpful and informative.
Beautiful sunny day! Nary a cloud in the sky and about 26
degrees first thing in the morning. (It got up to 36 in
Santiago around noon.) It was nice and sunny all day for a
to Santiago Movie Zipping along a winding road in the
to Santiago Movie 2 Nerves of steel are required if you
want to drive around here!
Some of the many beautiful views as we drive up and over the
mountains to get to Santiago
A washed out section of road up in the mountains. Rather than
fix the wash-out, they just detoured the road around it.
After about 40 minutes of driving, we are getting close to our
destination. Here you can see Santiago in the distance.
And you thought traffic was bad in Toronto, try driving in
downtown Santiago! I think that stopping at street lights are
the only traffic laws that they obey around here. Sure glad
Dieter was driving and not me. I'd be a nervous wreck after
One of the many tobacco fields in the Cibao valley. The
tobacco leaves have already been picked from the plants, and
these plants are starting to flower
After harvest, the tobacco leaves are hung to dry in barns
like those seen here
This is Luis with a string of tobacco leaves as they come from
the barns above after drying and curing. It is called
"tobaco en sarta" and is from this year's harvest. The variety is Dominican Olor.
Soft and supple like the finest leather, this Oscuro leaf will
eventually end up as the wrapper on one heck of a fine cigar.
Huge bales of tobacco in a warehouse where it ages and further
ferments to get rid of the alkaloids and other harsh
Stored like this, it is no longer getting hot and fermenting
Here the workers separate the compacted leaves and get them
ready for the cigar rollers. There are several steps before
this process as the tobacco needs to be graded and sorted by
quality. All told, a typical cigar leaf will go through 153
steps from the field to the finished product.
Here the girls are sorting the leaves by size and uniformity.
Close to the end of the process, the tobacco is now being
rolled into various sizes and shapes using specific blends as
per each brand's requirements.
More cigar rollers in action.
Here they are making flavoured cigarillos. It is done in a
separate room from other tobacco so as not to have transference
of flavour to the premium cigars.
Rolling Movie Man, this guy is quick.
After the cigars are rolled and sorted for quality, they go
into climate controlled aging rooms for anywhere from a few
days to many months. You can not enter this room if you are
wearing any cologne or perfume as the tobacco will absorb it
in a heartbeat and ruin them.
Applying the cigar bands to the finished product. Only a
couple of more steps before it ends up on the store shelves.
This was in the office of one of the cigar rolling factories.
It shows examples of some of the many cigar bands used at this
You can't really see it in this picture, but in behind the
trees are some of the original structures from old
Field of banana trees in the Cibao Valley where they grow
bananas, rice and some of the worlds finest tobacco leaf.
Puerto Plata in the distance on the ride home.
What a fantastic and informative trip it was! I'll be back
to the factory on Tuesday morning to sample various cigars to
see if there is an existing blend I'd like to market under my
own brand name, or if I'd like them to create an unique blend
to call my own and offer for sale on my main business website
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