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Considered by some to be the finest cigars outside of Cuba, Dominican cigars are crafted using top quality tobacco grown in a sub-region of the Cibao River Valley area, the Yaque Valley. The soil and climate rival Cuba’s famed Vuelta Abajo – home of the legendary Habano cigars. Premium Romeo y Julieta cigars, one of the most beloved brands in the world, are produced in the Dominican Republic as well as Cuba.
The art of creating premium Dominican cigars requires, as one smoker said, the same skills as a “master wine maker blending a fine Bordeaux.” After nurturing tobacco plantings in a nursery, the tiny seedlings are transported to the fields where they mature into tall plants. Months later, harvesters pick the leaves, starting at the bottom first. The Valdo leaves at the bottom of the plant have the mildest taste while Ligero (top) leaves have the strongest flavor.
The tobacco is cured for six to eight weeks. This fermentation process removes the ammonia and other chemical compounds that cause a bitter taste. Once cured, the tobaccos are blended to create the perfect Dominican cigar. The art of cigar making involves choosing tobacco binders and wrappers that complement the filler blend. Wrappers for Dominican cigars range from the most sought-after silky Connecticut Shade to varieties produced in Cameroon, West Africa, known for a light and sweet aroma.
The finest cigars from the Dominican Republic vary in flavor, with one type of coronas described as having a coffee bean taste with a hickory finish; another is known as a smoke with a sweet taste and a creamy texture; some are silky and spicy; and others are characterized as woody and lemony.
Like all cigars, Dominicans are sized by length and ring gauge (diameter measured in 64ths of an inch), known together as the vitola. Coronas are among the most iconic size (5-1/2 inches in length with a 42 ring size) and have what is considered an ideal wrapper-to-filler ratio of tobacco. The Corona Gorda is similar in length but with a 4 mm difference in thickness. Longer sizes include the Panatela, Lonsdale, Churchill, and Presidente.
A curious fact is that while the famous tobacco-growing regions of the world have gained a reputation for producing the finest cigars, many of the cigars made from tobaccos grown there are manufactured in other countries. Dominican or Cuban, it’s the smoke that counts.