There is a saying which can be applied to various fields of activity and even to some aspects of life: “if something works, do not change it”. This maxim could be applied to the oldest tobacco-processing method in the Dominican Republic, the Andullo (an-doo-yaw). Inherited from the Dominican ancestors, this handcrafted procedure has survived through the ages due to the superb qualities it imparts to tobacco. Namely, a potent strength and a wonderfully heady aroma.
La Aurora Cigars have picked up on this cultural legacy and applied it to produce one of its latest cigars: La Aurora ADN Dominicano. Only seeds from native Dominican varieties are selected to grow the tobacco plants processed with this method by Aurora Cigars. Likewise, the plots of land where they’re going to be sown are carefully chosen. When the tobacco plants are ready, the Andullo process starts, lasting for one year and going through the following phases:
- Harvesting: the first six leaves from the bottom of the plant are removed. Only the leaves from the upper middle and top of the plant are employed. Those are the leaves that impart the high degree of strength, flavour and aroma found in Andullo
- Curing: the tobacco leaves are tied up together in bundles or gavillas and sartas are made with ropes stringing them up. Around 55 to 60 bundles are held in every sarta, which ends up being some three meters long. These are hanged up for two weeks in the curing warehouses so that the leaves become more flexible by the time the midrib removal stage comes. In this way, the leaves can be folded with ease to best fit within the cilindrical shape of the Andullo. The tobacco leaves go from green to a yellow hue.
- Leaf Midrib Removal: the sartas are taken down from their drying slots and the leaves get cleared off 3/4ths of their midrib (the coarser central vein). Then the tobacco is weighed, with the ideal quantity to carry out the Andullo process being around 30 to 32 pounds (13.5 to 14.5 kilograms approx.)
- Preparation: the tobacco is placed in yaguas – the leaves of the Palma Real, a common palm tree in the Greater Antilles -. The yaguas measure between 1.5 to 2 meters long each and aid the curing and fermentation processes, as they are made of organic material that allows the tobacco to breath.
- Pressing: the tobacco is placed inside the yagua, which is rolled up around it. Then the pressing stage starts to facilitate fermentation and curing. Once inside, the tobacco is squeezed tight using ropes that go around the yagua This is done at least five times until the tobacco is completely dry. If, at any time during the process the yagua is damaged, then it gets replaced for a new one.
Around three weeks pass between the first and second pressing. Although, it is possible that the ropes might get untied before that if too much humidity is noticed. Otherwise, the tobacco could end up having stained patches due to excess water. At the time of the second pressing the ongoing fermentation is checked up, as well as the water content and the amount of sap coming from the yagua oils.
After the second pressing, the yagua is untied and then tied up again once per month until the fifth pressing is done. During this phase the tobacco receives oxygen and starts compacting. The pressings help the curing and fermentation to happen in a homogeneous, uniform way. All these processes take place without generating any heat, they are thoroughly cold processes.
- Aging: after the last pressing, the aging process begins until the tobacco completely dries up and its flavour and strength qualities become matured. The result is a paste hard to work up, which can be used for chewing, pipe smoking or cigar manufacture.