General Cigar Dominicana Trip 2011 – Day 4

Writing about the trip went as fast as the trip, and as we hit our last full day on the ground a sense of sadness came over me. While the trip was different then my trips of the past it was great to spend time with my fellow bloggers and build some new friendships within the community. The last day started like all others, breakfast, and the deck to enjoy a cigar. At 8:30 we all boarded the bus to head to the General Cigar factory where we would be put to work.

For this gringo, it would be like working in a sweatshop. The areas that workers are in is temperature controlled by a long tube that tunnels cool air through the factory floor. For a person from the Northeast, this wasn’t cool enough to keep me comfortable. The amount of time spent walking around the factories and the farm is the greatest weight loss plan. I lost 8 lbs from the trip even though we ate like kings.

Our blends were set up at rolling stations with a worker to help us through the process. The general factory uses the entubar style of bunching and this was pretty easy to grasp due to the wonderful teacher I had, Maria. On a side note there is something about Dominican girls that are so easy to like. Their smiles, love of life, and thickness is oh so attractive. They exude passion and happiness that is contagious to those around them. After we rolled each stick, we places them in the press. 20 cigars in total, and when we were done we headed back to the conference room.

While the cigars were sitting in the press, we took a ride to the box factory that General owns in the same tax-free zone as the factory. Before we entered the factory we had to done masks due to the sawdust, ink fumes, glue, and painting inside the walls. It was here that a few surprises were in store. As we toured the printing presses, the wood cutting, construction and painting areas of the factory I was shocked to see some boxes being made for other companies. 2 that stood out were the La Aurora Cigars Guillermo Leon Signature and the EP Carrillo Dark Rituals (Limited Edition 2011). Considering that Ernesto Carrillo used to own La Gloria I was surprised to see his boxes being made by General. The factory was interesting to see how the boxes are made and the process involved, and the amount of time it takes to make a box.

Before lunch, we returned to the factory floor and rolled our cigars. 20 of them in total, 10 for us, and 10 for judging. The process was harder them I remembered and to be honest I only rolled about half of my cigars, letting the roller assigned to me do the rest. I didn’t feel the connection I did with Maria and just wanted the process over. It was no longer about rolling the cigar, but rather smoking the cigar. Major props though to Stephen from The Cigar Network who was nursing a major hangover, as he rolled the majority of the cigars himself. When we were done with the rolling, it was off to lunch in the training room.

The work day wasn’t over as we had to band the cigars, cello the cigars, and box the cigars. Putting them in cello, and boxes were easy, but getting the bands on, I have no idea how it was done to this day. I tried my hand at putting a few on and getting them tight, was nearly impossible. The 3 failed attempts I made took longer then the 17 successful attempts by the worker who was laughing with me at my pathetic attempts. We slid the cigars into cellos with out name on them, and places them into a macanudo 10 ct box. From here it was to quality control where the boxes were stamped with codes before being shrink wrapped.

Upon completion we had the chance to do some sightseeing or conduct interviews with the members of the factory and President of General, Dan Carr. As I asked questions as we strolled through the factory I opted to do some sightseeing. The first stop was Centro Leon, which is a museum owned by the Leon family, including my friend Guillermo Leon. The museum housed histroical artifacts and an art collection from the family. Sadly no photographs were allowed inside the museum. From there we went to the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración for which a La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Obelisco is molded after. The cigars are bunched by hand before being put in a special press before being rolled. The monument which is made of marble was originally built by the dictatorship in his own honor before being renamed in honor of those who fought in the Restoriation War of the 1860s.

We ended our night with dinner at Camp David which offers a spectacular view of Santiago. We drank, we dined, we laughed and we smoked before Dan Carr addressed those in attendance thanking us for our visit to the factory. At the end of dinner we were presented with certificates for the completion of the course in The Art of Cigar Making. Also we were given gifts of cigars, and the winners of the judging were announced.

Best Overall: Stephen Boyajian from The Cigar Network
Best Blend/Flavor: Barry Stein (Me!)
Best Construction: Craig Vanderslice, Cigar Craig

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and the bloggers were left alone on the deck once again with Presidente Beer and Cigars to enjoy our last full night in the Dominican Republic.

Tomorrow: Closing Thoughts