This past weekend, I was fortunate to be included in a group of bloggers that traveled to the Dominican Republic. The trip was organized by Jason Wood of Miami Cigar Company and also sponsored by La Aurora Cigars.
We were able to take a tour of the La Aurora Factory, participate in a cigar tasting seminar and also experience the beautiful island of the Dominican Republic and all it had to offer. In this particular post, I’d like to focus on the seminar portion of our trip.
The seminar was held in the conference room of La Aurora Cigar’s factory. José Blanco, La Aurora’s Sales Director guided us through various cigars while he shared his impressive knowledge of cigar blending and tobacco.
Some tidbits that José shared with us were:
No two tobacco crops are the same. If a crop receives a lot of rain, there will be big tobacco leaves that are thin with little to no oil. This leaf requires a shorter fermentation. If a crop receives very little rain, there will be small, thick leaves that are very oily. This leaf requires a longer fermentation.
The percentage of flavor from a wrapper depends on the size of the cigar. A smaller ring gauge will give you more wrapper taste. José mentioned that the corona vitola is used most often when coming up with new blends.
We then discussed what we should be looking for in a cigar. The wrapper should be shiny, with a naturally oily appearance. The cap should be smooth with no bumps. The foot should be well packed and even. There should be no soft spots along the body. Lastly, once we cut the cap on a cigar, the draw should neither be too loose or too tight.
While José passed out a very unusual cigar, we started out with some basic tasting information:
There are four taste sensations; sweet, sour, bitter and salt.
There are six things you need in a blend; flavor, strength, aroma, complexity, balance and finish (a long, tingly finish is desired, one that involves all parts of the mouth).
At this point, José drew our attention to the unusual cigar in front of us. This cigar had five different wrappers, in vertical strips. The first four were about one inch in height and the last wrapper took up the remainder of the cigar’s body.
After talking a little about the cigar, we were handed scoring sheets for our notes. The sheets were in Spanish and José helped us translate the six categories we would be judging the cigar on. The categories were; draw, flavor, bitterness, flavor, burn, strength and then an overall impression. In addition, each category had a one to ten scale from muy malo to excellente.
While we were smoking each different wrapper, we would jot down our thoughts and opinions. José would point to one of us and say “Tell me about the cigar”. We would share our findings and then Jose would ask us one at a time to guess the wrapper. This was much harder to do than you would think. Not many people were correct at any one time. It was very interesting to find out the answer at the end.
The tobaccos used in the vertically striped cigar were:
Connecticut from ecuador (a sweeter wrapper)
Cameroon (a strong spice sensation in the nose but also some sweet)
Sumatra from Ecuador (earthiness and richness)
Brazil (Mata Fina) (a sweet, sweet maduro)
Ecuador Habano Vuelta Arriba (the same wrapper that is used on the Guillermo León Signature)
We then moved on to a series of four cigars that only had one wrapper. We went through the same routine of smoking the first quarter of the cigar and then writing down our thoughts and sharing with the group. At the end of each session, José would ask us for our guess. Each of the four cigars had a Cameroon wrapper yet, no two cigars tasted the same. José would not say what, if anything was different about the four cigars.
We then put our scoring sheets away and José handed out one final cigar. This particular cigar looked different than the past four. Indeed, it also tasted much different than those four. It had a Dominican Corojo wrapper and was in fact the in-house blend that Guillermo León’s father, would smoke each day.
With that the seminar concluded and we headed off to the bus for a return trip to the hotel. Later that evening we would go out to an excellent local restaurant and enjoy some native cuisine and plenty of rum and cigars.