Pictures of
My Trip to the Dominican Republic


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 change.

Drive to Santiago Movie Zipping along a winding road in the mountains.

Drive to Santiago Movie 2 Nerves of steel are required if you want to drive around here!

22-drive-to-santiago.JPG (73177 bytes) 22-drive-to-santiago2.JPG (121273 bytes) Some of the many beautiful views as we drive up and over the mountains to get to Santiago

22-drive-to-santiago3.JPG (100865 bytes) 22-drive-to-santiago4.JPG (164711 bytes) A washed out section of road up in the mountains. Rather than fix the wash-out, they just detoured the road around it.

22-santiago-in-the-distance.JPG (99574 bytes) After about 40 minutes of driving, we are getting close to our destination. Here you can see Santiago in the distance.

22-santiago.JPG (80344 bytes) 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 ten minutes.

22-tobacco-field.JPG (132371 bytes) 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

22-tobacco-curing-barns.JPG (65322 bytes) After harvest, the tobacco leaves are hung to dry in barns like those seen here

22-luis-tobacco.JPG (130404 bytes) 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.

22-oscuro-leaf.JPG (32117 bytes) Soft and supple like the finest leather, this Oscuro leaf will eventually end up as the wrapper on one heck of a fine cigar.

22-tobacco-aging.JPG (116352 bytes) 22-tobacco.JPG (118293 bytes) 22-leaf-bundles.JPG (105020 bytes) Huge bales of tobacco in a warehouse where it ages and further ferments to get rid of the alkaloids and other harsh chemicals.

22-tobacco-skid.JPG (116824 bytes) Stored like this, it is no longer getting hot and fermenting

22-tobacco-sorting.JPG (109553 bytes) 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. 

22-tobacco-sorting2.JPG (88946 bytes) Here the girls are sorting the leaves by size and uniformity.

22-cigar-rollers.JPG (97790 bytes) 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.

22-cigar-rollers2.JPG (85307 bytes) More cigar rollers in action.

22-cigar-rollers3.JPG (84551 bytes) 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.

Cigar Rolling Movie Man, this guy is quick.

22-cigar-aging.JPG (111527 bytes) 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.

22-cigar-banding.JPG (113921 bytes) Applying the cigar bands to the finished product. Only a couple of more steps before it ends up on the store shelves.

22-cigar-bands.JPG (111575 bytes) 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 factory.

22-old-santiago.JPG (122096 bytes) You can't really see it in this picture, but in behind the trees are some of the original structures from old Santiago. 

22-banana-trees.JPG (53619 bytes) Field of banana trees in the Cibao Valley where they grow bananas, rice and some of the worlds finest tobacco leaf.

22-puerto-plata-in-the-distance.JPG (93950 bytes) 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 at

Click here for more pictures of Tobacco Farms