As one of the first lands discovered where indigenous people—the Tainos—were smoking tobacco, the Dominican Republic has a long and well-established cigar culture. The Spaniards referred to the island as “the Small Continent” due to the diversity of soils that enabled tobacco to be easily cultivated here. Today, tobacco continues to play a major role in the culture and economy of the Dominican Republic, which is a major producer of tobacco and home to many prominent manufacturers—such as Arturo Fuente Cigars, Davidoff and General Cigar Company—as well as several prominent factories, including Tabacalera de Garcia S.A.S. (Altadis U.S.A.), Tabacalera La Alianza (E.P. Carrillo), La Aurora, De Los Reyes, La Flor Dominicana and Quesada.
Despite its rich cigar culture, many aficionados are unaware of the reason the Dominican Republic is important to the tobacco industry and why so many cigars are crafted here. In addition to offering breathtaking views, fertile soil and great weather, the Dominican Republic has been politically stable and therefore less likely to suffer production disruptions and more capable of consistently shipping products in and out of the country—making it an ideal place to grow tobacco and produce cigars.
The soil of the Dominican Republic also makes growing conditions for tobacco favorable due to its iron content, as well as the ratio of calcium and magnesium. Farms grow tobaccos used in every part of the cigar, from the binder to the fillers, making the Dominican Republic one of the key growing regions of the world and essential to the tobacco industry. As a result, Dominican Republic-grown Olor Dominicano, Piloto Cubano and other Cuban-seed hybrids can be found in some of the world’s most highly regarded cigars, including the Fuente Opus X, Macanudo, Davidoff Winston Churchill, Headley Grange, La Flor Dominicana La Nox and Montecristo White, among many other brands.
There are, however, some challenges in growing tobacco in the Dominican Republic, chief among them a short growing season that can be hampered by unpredictable weather events. Hurricanes and tropical storms can require many manufacturers to import tobacco from other countries to maintain year-round production and consistent quality. The Cibao Valley is the main tobacco growing region in the Dominican Republic, offering rich soil, plentiful sunlight and ample drainage. Breezes originating in the mountains of the region provide relief from the heat, which is key for the delicate tobacco plants. Other popular growing regions of the country are Villa Gonzalez, La Canela, San Victor, Navarrete, Jacagua and Mao.
For Davidoff, growing the best tobacco, searching the globe for new and exciting tobacco origins, and crafting innovative and high-quality cigars to delight those looking for new and unexpected taste experiences is essential. Part of the innovation is the development and identification of tobacco seeds, an important component to growing high-quality tobacco. Jhonys Diaz, vice president of operations at General Cigar Dominicana, notes that tobacco is both a fickle and fragile crop, requiring additional care at every step to ensure the tobacco leaves are disease-free and grow at maximum yield.
In recent years, the Dominican Republic’s climate has been less stable, though companies like Royal Agio Cigars report that the past year was nearly perfect due to a good combination of sun and rain that led to good crops for blending purposes.
Visiting the Dominican Republic
The only way to truly understand the Dominican cigar culture is to experience it firsthand. Traveling to the Dominican Republic is far easier than traveling to Cuba, and the manufacturers based in the country are usually accessible and welcome visitors. Many manufacturers offer annual trips for retailers—and sometimes consumers—to tour their farms and factories. Davidoff organizes various “Viaje al Origen” trips for its retail partners, allowing them to see the company’s tobacco growing and crafting operations firsthand [read more here]. General Cigar hosts retailers by invitation only several times throughout the year.
The annual Procigar Festival offers another opportunity for retailers and consumers to experience the Dominican Republic’s cigar culture firsthand. This weeklong festival offers attendees the chance to tour cigar factories and the farms of some of the leading cigar manufacturers. With many of the prominent figures of the tobacco industry on-site and a variety of insightful seminars, workshops, networking opportunities and parties on offer, the Procigar Festival has quickly become a must-attend event for anyone who wants to learn more about the cigar industry’s business and love for the Dominican Republic. More information on this event is available at procigar.org.
This story first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.
– Story by Antoine Reid, an editor and digital content director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid.