Several months ago I was approached by Jason Wood of Miami Cigars to see if I was interested in a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit La Aurora Cigars. Need less to say, it didn’t take me long to answer with a YES. I’ve never been out of the country before so this would be a first for many things with the two biggest being in a foreign country and touring a cigar factory. After confirming with Jason my flight itinerary, I went to the post office and applied for my passport. I had no idea that passports cost so much and take so long to make. My flight left out of New Orleans at 6 am, which meant I had to be at the airport at 4 am (Thanks Jason!) to clear security and catch my flight. My flight landed in Miami around 8:45 am, but I had a 10 hour lay over. I wasn’t the only one as several of us had early flights. Brian and Jerry from StogieReview.com, Mario from CigarExplorer.com, Barry from acigarsmoker.com all arrived on the early flights. Being a good host, Jason picked us up and took us to his cigar shop, Cigar 1, in Miami to hang out until our flight to the Dominican Republic. We also met up with Tom of the Tampa Cigar Examiner who drove down from Tampa. Jason, along with Chris and Sheila, made us feel welcome as we smoked cigars, Jason gave each of us a sampler pack of cigars Miami Cigars distributes for us to smoke, and had Presidente Beer. Cigar 1 has a great selection of smokes including some rare La Aurora cigars which most of us purchased before our trip.
Jason, Chris and Sheila
Didn’t seem like long before we were headed back to the airport on our way to the Dominican Republic. When we got to the airport, we were met by the rest of our crew, David of the TikiBarOnline.com, The Doc aka Doc Stogie Fresh and Charlie of TheCigarFeed.com. After landing in the Dominican Republic, we were met at the airport by Jose Blaco and Jose Manual of La Aurora Cigars with our mini bus (how appropriate) that would shuttle us around the whole weekend. The bus took us to our home base for the weekend, Camp David Ranch.
Camp David Ranch
The hotel and rooms were beautiful and the view was spectacular. We woke up the next morning to a great meal prepared for us by the Camp David staff and, afterward, enjoyed some Dominican coffee on the balcony over looking Santiago while waiting on the bus that would take us to the La Aurora factory.
View of Santiago off Camp David’s balcony
Our short bus
After a short trip through Santiago, we arrived at La Aurora and was met by Jose Blanco who gave us a whirlwind tour of their expansive and state of the art cigar factory. La Aurora Cigars is the only cigar factory that is ISO 9001 compliant.
La Aurora, Santiago, DR
Paco and Jose’s Stinky ashtray with the ashes of 6700 cigars in it. His goal is 7000.
Working loading the press with filler bundles
Binder and filler bundles and finished cigars
Jose in the tobacco fermentation room. The heat is set to 130 degrees
Tobacco storage area which was cooled to slow down fermentation
Rehydration device to rehydrate the tobacco to make it safe for handling
The workers are removing the large stems from the tobacco leaves
The workers are sorting the tobacco leaves by color and quality
This room is where they add the bands and put them in tubes
La Aurora 1495 Short Robustos – European market only….for now
La Aurora Aging Room
Freezer for killing the tobacco beetle. It must be below -20 degrees for 72 hours to be effective
After our tour, Jose brought us into the La Aurora conference room to give us a tobacco seminar. Let me tell you something, if you THINK you know something about tobacco, take Jose’s seminar then you’ll realize you don’t know jack about tobacco. We all sat down around the conference table where Jose presented us with a churchill cigar, but not your ordinary churchill cigar. This one had 5 wrappers!
Professor Jose Blanco
Seminar Cigar – 5 wrappers
After we smoked each wrapper Jose would ask us what flavors we got out of wrapper. Then, he asked us where do we think the wrapper is from and what kind. I can tell you that we get failed with an almost 100% failure rate on each wrapper with our answers. That’s the beauty of it. Jose made you broaden your mind and think more about the cigar you are smoking. I won’t reveal what the wrappers were since Jose does this seminar often, but I can tell you after smoking this cigar, I was amazed about little I really knew. After that, he gave us 4 sample cigars to rate on flavor, burn, irritation, strength, aroma, quality and balance. All four cigars had a distinct flavor, but one major part was all the same. When in doubt, answer Cameroon.
1 of 4 review cigars
After we sampled these, we were given two special treats. A Don Fernando maduro and a Cien Anos churchill that was aged for about 8 years. We all smoked the Don Fernando immediately while waiting for lunch. This cigar is a special cigar in the Leon Jimenez line that was the personal cigar Don Fernando Leon. The cigar comes in a special Cameroon wrapper, but this was a special maduro wrapper. Amazing smoke.
After lunch, typical of a tropical climate, the storms started to roll in. This threw our afternoon plans into disarray as we were going to tour the tobacco fields. The rains finally let up and the sun came out long enough for us to at least to get some pictures of one of the fields we pass on the way back to Camp David.
La Aurora Tobacco Field
After our day at La Aurora, we were taken out to dinner by the La Aurora gang to a place called Nano’s that is the favorite restaurant of Nestor Miranda. The food was amazing. The appetizers were spectacular and our main entre was Dominican style steak with rice and plantains. I could not get enough of the great Dominican food.
All the Gang at Nano’s
After a great meal, what do you follow it up with? Right, cocktails and cigars. The bus meets us at the front to take us back to Camp David, but before we boarded the bus, Jose and Guillermo gave Doc a large La Aurora humidor full of 107s and 1495 cigars for us to enjoy back at the hotel. Can’t get much better than that. We stayed up drinking Presidente beer, Ron Barcelo rum and Macallan scotch, smoking La Aurora cigars and shooting the bull until the wee hours of the morning. The next day we arose to a beautiful day, which was great because Jose, Jason and Jose Manual had an outing planned to one of the Dominican Republic’s beautiful beaches, Costámbar Beach. We all grabbed a chair and sat under the trees in the sand, lit up a La Aurora Preferidos Ecuador and cracked open some Presidente beer (see a theme developing here?) and just…..relaxed. We were in front of a place called Pascual’s Fast Food. This is hilarious because it took 2 and a half hours to get my food! When your smoking a great cigar with some great beer and rum with great friends….time is irrelevant.
Later that day, after all the craziness we could stand, we were in for a special treat. Guillermo, and his wife Michelle, invited us back to their home for a traditional home cooked Dominican meal. As a foodie, this was a special treat for me. They cooked a traditional stew called sancocho. We ate to our fill then Guillermo had another surprise for us….karaoke! Now, I will tell you I didn’t sing. I saved everyone that torment, but Jose Blanco and Guillermo rocked that mic! David from the Tiki Bar, Barry from acigarsmoker.com and Mario from cigarexplorer.com all sang too. I was impressed. Barry, David and I were going to sing Big Balls by AC/DC, but thought better of it when Guillermo’s wife and children showed up.
Guillermo addressing the renegades
Some guy named Douc….something
The renegades watching Mario from CigarExplorer.com tearing up the mic
Something that Guillermo pointed out to us was that the moon was at it closest orbit to the Earth and is 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter. We were perfectly set up at his house to get a great view of this “Supermoon”. What a great way to end a great trip.
What an amazing trip. I will never forget it. The Dominican Republic is a beautiful place with gracious people. I would like to think Guillermo Leon, Jose Blanco, Jose Manual, Amaury Abreau and Jason Wood for allowing us on this amazing adventure. This is something I will never forget and a return to Republica Dominicana could not come soon enough.
(Stolen from Brian Hewitt aka The Drunk)
- Guillermo Leon – La Aurora – @GuillermoLeon_
- Jose Blanco – La Aurora – @joseblanco809
- Amaury Abreu – La Aurora – @LaAuroraCigars
- Jason Woods – Miami Cigar Company – @MiamiCigar
- Jerry – Stogie Review – @jcruz
- Barry – A Cigar Smoker’s Journal – @nyisles
- David “The Doc” – Doc StogieFresh – @Doc_StogieFresh
- Charlie – The Cigar Feed – @thecigarfeed
- Tom – Tampa Cigar Examiner – @cigarsmokingman
- Mario – Cigar Explorer – @cigarexplorer
- David Jones – The Tiki Bar Online – @dmjones1009
- Brian – Stogie Review – @brianhewitt