The day started for me at 7am despite the late night before. With cigars and breakfast calling it was hard to sleep in with breathtaking views of the Dominican Republic and the cool morning air inviting you to awake from your slumber. As the crew slowly arrived we smoked some cigars and continued some of the chatter from the night before while dining on a breakfast of eggs, sausage and toast.
As 8am came calling we all boarded the bus to head to the La Aurora cigar factory. The 35 minute ride was filled with anticipation and as when we arrived we were greeted by Jose Blanco along with Guillermo Leon and led through the factory to a conference room where we take part in a seminar on tobacco.
The seminar held by Jose Blanco is a treat. It consists of smoking 5 puro cigars and trying to identify the country of origin based upon the notes and smoking characteristics. Sadly I had participated in this seminar prior where I failed in epic proportions (but to my defense, I was sick with that bad cough!). Allowing ourselves to taste the cigars in the puro format was a learning process and we used the information to create our own blends.
The next step had us creating percentages of tobacco to create our own cigar. Once we came up with percentages it was off to the sorting tables where Master Blender Manuel Inoa converted our percentages to the amount of tobacco needed for our blends which for me consisted of Peruvian, Nicaraguan and Dominican tobacco. Once we were all done we headed to the rolling room where we formed the binder and filler and put them in presses where they would sit for 3 hours.
After the binder/filling rolling catastrophe, Jose Blanco took the group and began showing us the inner workings of a cigar factory . Once finished with the first part of our tour we were taken back to the conference room where we had a catered lunch complete with white glove service. I believe we all appreciated the break in the day as we dined with Guillermo Leon who is the 4th generation owner of La Aurora Cigar Factory.
After lunch was completed we exited the room as they broke it back down into a conference room. It was here that I was caught off guard as they wanted our thoughts on there internet presence. During the session we were asked to be extremely candid with what we thought about their websites and we were not shy. As we looked at the website we tore it to shreds stating what we wanted to see. It was at this point that Amaury showed us the new version of the La Aurora website and it was exactly what we wanted in terms of information… talk about shutting us up!
We also took the time to sample the new cigar that will be introduced at IPCPR in August and should begin to ship in the fall. The cigar was wow. These are definitely not your fathers La Aurora cigars but they are cigars that cater to the new aficionado. Trust me when I tell you that if you liked the 107, you will love the <sorry, can’t disclose the name>.
Once done it was time to head back to the rolling room where we finished up our cigars. Yes we sat down and rolled the cigar right down to the cap on our own with the occasional help from one of the supervisors. I hate to sound like a snob but placing the wrapper on these cigars was much easier then setting up the binder and filler.
As our tour came to a close it was time to depart and we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and a change of clothing before we were taken out to dinner in the Villa Olga section of Dominican Republic at a restaurant called Nano’s that was simply outstanding. I got to sit at the end of the table with Guillermo Leon, and Jose Blanco to my right and Manuel Inoa, and fellow blogger to Juan Ulloa to my left. The topics of conversation covered made you realize you were not just down here on a trip but you were being treated like a very dear friend. We dined on plantain chips, longanesa, and tostones as an appetizer and I had Churrasco (Argentinian style skirt steak) for my main course with some Mofongo (Mashed Plantains).
We were each presented after dinner with a gift bag consisting of cigars, shirts, caps, and a framed picture of us rolling at La Aurora and I think it caught most if not all of us by surprise.
Some of us went back to the hotel after this and some of us went out to enjoy the Dominican nightlife… As far as details let’s just say what happens in the Dominican Republic, stays in the Dominican Republic.
Wednesday: In The Mountains @ Guillermo Leon’s Place