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From the plant to the cigar: processes of the tobacco leaf

Like all good products, tobacco leaves also take a long time since the plant is harvested until they become a cigar. The fresh, green and moist leaf collected from the fields in which the tobacco plants are grown must go through a series of processes to acquire the color, texture and moisture required for a cigar, as well as the aromas and flavors felt in the smoke.

Harvesting a tobacco plant takes about a month, from making the first cut to harvesting the last leaf. According to the Brand Ambassador of La Aurora, Wascar Aracena, the farmer gradually picks the lower level leaves from the plant, until the top level is reached, depending on the climate.

These are the steps a tobacco leaf undergoes from the moment the plant is harvested until it ends up in a cigar:

  • Curing: when the tobacco is collected in the field, it is taken to a farm, where it will be joined in bundles or “hands”, tied with different colored strings to identify the cut corresponding to the leaf level for the curing process.The curing takes about 40 to 50 days, depending on the tobacco variety. Three factors come into play: moisture, temperature and air velocity. Considering these factors, the bundles or “hands” are constantly moved so that the air aids in the curing.When the leaves are taken to the curing farm, they contain 80% to 85% water. This moisture is important to start the curing process, since it has an important role in the color changing process of leaves, from green to yellow. In the second step of the process, the yellow color turns into brown, and the last step of the curing process is completely physical: it’s when the tissue and the main veins of the leaves are dried. Finally, the dried tobacco is subjected intermittently to moisture and drying in order to make the colors in the leaf tissue uniform.

  • Pre-fermentation aging (raw tobacco):once the tobacco arrives the processors’ warehouses, it is sorted according to its texture, size, and dehydration. It is then subject to the first pre-fermentation aging process (minimum three months) before being destemmed. During this aging process, tobacco acquires the necessary consistency to withstand the humidity to which it will be subjected during the fermentation process.
  • Fermentation: it’s an intense and controlled process with a minimum duration of one year, in which the heat produces significant changes in the chemical composition of the leaves. The tobacco starches are converted into sugars and ammoniacal nitrogen is released, making the tobacco leaf smokable. “The more complete the fermentation, the more balanced the smoke will be”, says the Brand Ambassador of La Aurora.The bundles are undone and placed on piles, sorted by well-identified leaf levels, one leaf placed against each other. The fermentation process is completely natural. The combination of the moisture in the leaves and the pressure (density) of a leaf on top of another in the piles generates heat, which causes the bacteria responsible for fermentation to reproduce. This first process lasts about six weeks before the leaves are destemmed. Tobacco can be fermented 2, 3 and 4 times.
  • Destemming of the filler: in the tobacco leaves used in the filler, stems are cut at two thirds from the head of the leaf towards the ends; while in the case of the binder, stems are cut from the leaf removing completely the main vein. In both cases, they are sorted (selected and separated) by texture, by damage level, and classified according to size: big, medium and small.
  • Aging: normally, the leaves are placed in bales for two to five years. “The better the aging technique, the more flavor and aroma the tobacco will develop”, notes Aracena.

Since a cigar has three types of tobaccos (filler, binder and wrapper), each is handled with different moisture levels: the filler has 16/17 percent moisture; the binder 16/17 percent; and the wrapper 18/20 percent. The goal of the aging process is the homogenization of moistures, which will still be noticeable once the cigar is lit and burning: the tobacco burns irregularly, with the wrapper burning more slowly.

La Aurora is the only manufacturer with a double aging process in Super Premium lines (rum barrels). The making process of a Preferido cigar takes, on average, nine years with two aging processes. The second aging process is made in oak barrels, that previously contained rum, which gives a distinctive touch to La Aurora products: well accentuated notes of wood and toasted notes from the barrel. The last aging process occurs when the cigar is made.

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León Jimenes Prestige, an elegant presentation for a great interior

According to the dictionary, prestige is the public’s consideration for someone base on their own merit. And this is precisely what La Aurora León Jimenes Prestige cigar deserves: to have a good reputation, among other things, for its modern brand line with black tubes and boxes, which give it an excellent outer presentation.

However, beauty is always on the inside. In this case, its beauty lies in its typical tobacco flavors—like cedar or leather—thanks to its filler, a highly enriched mix of tobaccos from Valle del Cibao (Dominican Republic), Nicaragua and Peru. At the end of the smoke, it releases cocoa and nuts flavors, thanks to its Connecticut wrapper—clear, with extremely thin veins. The binding leaf is made of tobacco from Ecuador.

La Aurora’s Master Blender, Manuel Inoa, explains that this cigar has “very typical tobacco flavors, like cedar and leather,” which are the main flavors of León Jimenes Prestige. Nonetheless, its “clear, with extremely thin veins” Connecticut wrapper “also provides for a special flavor of cocoa and nuts”, says Manuel Inoa.

In the end, the smoke is very round in the mouth, has a smooth flavor without aggressive notes, where we can easily find “cinnamon, berries and pastry notes,” according to the Master Blender of La Aurora, who points out that this cigar is a bit stronger than the León Jimenes regular.

With a strength of 5.5, León Jimenes Prestige is perfect for people who want to start in the cigar consumption. But it can also satisfy advanced smokers, in which case we recommend enjoying it after a good breakfast.

Like other cigars of the León Jimenes brand, the Prestige line comes in distinct sizes and thicknesses to meet the preferences of all consumers:

  • Churchill: 7” long and ring gauge 47
  • Robusto: 5” long and ring gauge 50
  • Corona: 5” long and ring gauge 38
  • Ambassador: 4 ½” long and ring gauge 38/60
  • Sumo Short Robusto: 4” long and ring gauge 58
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León Jimenes Doble Maduro, for those who seek powerful flavors

Evolution is always a positive concept. Thus, La Aurora has given one step further in its León Jimenes line by creating the Doble Maduro version. This is a natural evolutionof the León Jimenes cigar brand, created with those who bet on powerful flavorsin mind, in thicker shapes.

Among the tobaccos that compose it, we can highlight its wrapper made of tobacco from Cuban seed sown in Brazil, called CuBra. This is a bright, ripe, velvety and oily leaf that grants the cigar a “spicier feel,so this is a stronger cigar, according to the Master Blender of La Aurora, Manuel Inoa.

However, the most distinctive feature is its attractive color, achieved through double fermentation—from which it got its name: Doble Maduro. The oils in the Cubra wrapper tobacco withstand this double fermentation. Besides darkening the color of the tobacco leaf, “it offers those chocolate notes, that are essential in mature cigars,” such as Manuel Inoa explains.

Thanks to this double fermentation, the León Jimenes Doble Maduro cigar has a much bigger strength than Prestige and the regular cigars in this line, adds the Master Blender of La Aurora. Its strength is 7.5, two points above the classic León Jimenes cigars (5.5).

In addition to that Cubra wrapper, there’s the binding leaf from Brazil and the filler made of a tobacco mix from Valle del Cibao (Dominican Republic), Brazil, Nicaragua and Perú. This combination gives it a “fine balance between sweetness and bitterness,” with notes of chocolate and tobacco scents—cedar and leather, with black pepper and citrus notes. “There’s a strong presence of berries, with a predominance of red citric notes, which are in perfect harmony with chocolate,” says Inoa.

Its smoke evolves from a medium strength smoke to a less intense one. This evolved version of León Jimenes is presented in several sizes to please all tastes, from the palate of consumers that bet on thicker cigars to those who enjoy thinner ring gauges. The range of León Jimenes Doble Maduro models is as follows:

  • Gigante: 7” long and ring gauge 58
  • Churchill: 7” long and ring gauge 47
  • Corona: 5 ½” long and ring gauge 42
  • Leyendas: 5 ½” long and ring gauge 47
  • Robusto: 5” long and ring gauge 50
  • Ambassador: 4 ½” long and ring gauge 48/60
  • Sumo Short Robusto: 4” long and ring gauge 58
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León Jimenes, to enjoy the Connecticut wrapper

One of La Aurora’s goals is to meet the preferences of all smokers. León Jimenes cigars are just that, a line of cigars to meet the demands of consumers; in this case, the requirements of those who opt for a quiet and elegant smoke. This type of smoke is partly provided by the famous Connecticut wrapper that covers this cigar.

This line of Premium cigars is a tribute to the founders of the company, so, it carries the surnames of its founders: Eduardo León Jimenes—creator of La Aurora—and his brother Herminio who took charge of the company when Eduardo died in 1937. In honor of their hard work, La Aurora released, in 1987—the León Jimenes cigars.

These cigars offer the classic flavors associated to the Connecticut wrapper, such as wood, cocoa, creaminess or nuts, explains the Master Blender of La Aurora, Manuel Inoa. The Connecticut wrapper, “very particular due to the notes of nuts it contains,” represents around 16–17 percent of the total mixture, adds the Master Blender of La Aurora.

In the beginning, León Jimenes Connecticut cigars were filled only with tobaccos from the famous Valle del Cibao, Dominican Republic; later, tobacco from Nicaragua was added to create more consistent flavors and aromas. The binding leaf is made of tobacco from Valle del Cibao. Even so, this cigar provides a“smooth and soft smoke,as described by Inoa.

With a medium strength of 5.5, this line is available in 14 different models, with a diversity of lengths and thicknesses or ring gauges. These are the following:

  • Número 1: 7 ½” long and thicknesses 50
  • Número 2: 7” long and thicknesses 47
  • Número 3: 6 ½” long and thicknesses 42
  • Número 4: 5 9/16” long and thicknesses 42
  • Número 5: 5” long and thicknesses 38
  • Petit Corona: 4” long and thicknesses 38
  • Sumo Short Robusto: 4” long and thicknesses 58
  • Petit Belicoso: 5” long and thicknesses 52
  • Robusto: 5” long and thicknesses 50
  • Leyendas: 5 ½” long and thicknesses 47
  • Torpedo: 6” long and thicknesses 58
  • Belicoso: 6 ¼” long and thicknesses 52
  • Gran Corona: 6 ½” long and thicknesses 50
  • León Jimenes Crystal: 6 ½” long and thicknesses 42
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La Aurora 107, the reflection of over one hundred years’ experience

Over one hundred years’ experience are noticeable in any profession, sector or product. The same happens with the Premium cigar making process. Thus, to celebrate La Aurora Cigars 107th birthday, we have introduced La Aurora 107 to the market—a cigar that reflects our extensive years of experience, with the best human team and tobacco leaves of unmatched quality. All this time devoted to manufacturing cigars places La Aurora in a near perfect position.

A good example of this know-how is La Aurora 107, a cigar born in 2010, a bit complex, with medium strength that increases to a medium-strong level. “At first, this is a smooth and slightly spicy cigar,” claims the Master Blender of La Aurora, Manuel Inoa. The expert adds that this is a cigar “rich in typical tobacco flavors, of leather and cedar, with a profound aroma of cocoa and spices, and a sweet tip of tropical fruit.”

La Aurora 107 is made of Sumatra Sun Grown wrapper, cultivated in Ecuador; binding leaf from Valle del Cibao, in the Dominican Republic; and filler from Valle del Cibao, Nicaragua, Brazil and Peru aged for six years. Inoa further explains that the wrapper is called Sun Grown because it is cultivated in the sun, which “gives it a somewhat rustic but very natural look, with a bright color, and very oily.”

This is a cigar that goes very well with wines made of Merlot or Tempranillo, but also with fruity beverages, due to the rich flavors of cocoa and spices, as recommended by the Master Blender of La Aurora. “It is best enjoyed at lunchtime. Preferably after meals that are not very spiced, with moderate seasoning,” Inoa recommends.

La Aurora 107 is available in nine formats to please a wide range of consumers:

  • Salomon: 7 ¼” long and ring gauge 52/60
  • Gran 107: 7” long and ring gauge 58
  • Lancero: 6 7/8” long and ring gauge 40
  • Belicoso: 6 ¼” long and ring gauge 52
  • Toro: 5 ½” long and ring gauge 54
  • Corona: 5 ½” long and ring gauge 42
  • Robusto: 5” long and ring gauge 50
  • Sumo Short Robusto: 4” long and ring gauge 58
  • 15 Minute Break: 3 ½” long and ring gauge 42
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How many parts does a cigar have?

For those who are now starting in the world of cigars or those who are used to smoking cigarettes, it may be useful to know the parts that make up a cigar in order to better appreciate its characteristics or to understand the differences between cigars and cigarettes.

Cigars are divided into three main parts: the filler, the binder and the wrapper. Let’s see what these are made of and how they contribute to the cigar:

  • The filler is the most relevant and most distinctive part of a cigar, where we can find the mixture or blend of tobaccos, which offer a cigar its characteristic flavors and aromas. This is the most inner part of the cigar. In higher quality cigars, which are usually handmade, this area consists of large tobacco leaves ranging from one end of the cigar to the other, to allow for maintaining a uniform taste throughout the whole smoke. These cigars made of whole leaves are called Premium cigars.
  • The binder is the first layer wrapped around the filler and its purpose is precisely to bind the filler, so it must be resistant. It is also used to give a cigar its shape, to make it straight and easy to smoke. However, this tobacco also brings flavor and aroma, thus, it must be in harmony with the type of tobacco used both in the filler and the wrapper. This binder, that helps the cigar combustion, is glued with a bit of natural resin diluted in water. After applying the capote, the cigar is pressed for at least two hours, in order to acquire a cylindrical shape.
  • The wrapper is the final coating, one tobacco leaf with oils, that is smooth and uniform. This is like a cigar’s visiting card, since it’s the part a smoker can see better. It’s made from higher quality tobacco leaves to make it look more attractive: smooth, marbled and even, with a nice color and a soft texture.

In the following video, our master cigar roller Luis López demonstrates the three basic pillars of a cigar.

Once composed of its three main parts, we can discuss other areas of the cigar:

  • Head: the part of the cigar that is smoked, which is topped with a cap—a piece of the same leaf used in the wrapper to complete the cigar. It’s graded according to the size of the cigar.
  • Body or barrel: this is simply the body of the cigar. We can say it is parejo when it has a symmetrical size, with straight and parallel lines. And we can call it figurado whenever it is not straight, but rather having a curved or oval area on either end, or both (doble figurado).
  • Foot: this is the open part of the cigar, where we light it for smoking and where we can see the tobaccos that it contains.
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Training kit, a tool to make your own cigar tasting at home

To find out how to enjoy smoking a cigar, learning is the best way. Just like in wine or rum tastings, for example, there are tastings meant for savoring and tastings meant to turn you into an expert when it comes to defining the characteristics of a cigar. They serve to learn how to the detect the types of tobacco, the aromas and flavors it releases, or even if it has been rolled properly or there’s a manufacturing fault.

But attending a training class is not always easy, due to lack of time or because it’s not easy to access this type of training course. La Aurora Cigars has design a Training kit, a tool –used in tasting events or in cigar presentations, for example– that allows you to have your own tasting without traveling to a special location, and to understand how the blends are prepared, in order to become an expert.

At first, this training tool for new consumers was created for the tasting of La Aurora 1903 Doble Figurado Emerald (Preferidos). This first model of the Training kit consisted of four pure grade cigars, a multiwrapper cigar, one La Aurora 1903 Doble Figurado Emerald, an instruction booklet and a DVD with tips to optimize smoking, a lighter and a cutter “to allow smokers to perform their own cigar tasting event, without the presence of a brand representative”, as summed up by the President of La Aurora himself, Guillermo León.

La Aurora 1903 Doble Figurado Emerald is a cigar with a tobacco wrapper from Sumatra seed harvested in Ecuador and binding leaf from Valle del Cibao (Dominican Republic) and filler also from Valle del Cibao, with tobacco from Brazil and Ecuador. Later editions of this tool have been released with La Aurora 107 and La Aurora ADN Dominicano cigars. The first one is a cigar with a wrapper of tobacco from Sumatra harvested in Ecuador, binding leaf from Valle del Cibao (Dominican Republic) and filler from Valle del Cibao (Dominican Republic), Brazil, Nicaragua and Peru.

Finally, La Aurora ADN Dominicano has a tobacco wrapper from Valle del Cibao (Dominican Republic), binding leaf from Cameroon (Africa) and filler from Valle del Cibao (Dominican Republic), Pennsylvania (United States), Nicaragua and tobacco originated in the Andullo process. The most interesting aspect in this case is being able to taste a pure grade from the Andullo, given the aroma and the strength provided by this method.

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Andullo, a method that impart strength and flavor to tobacco

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.

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First birthday of La Aurora ADN Dominicano

Our cigar La Aurora ADN Dominicano celebrates its first year in the market. From its market launch in February 2017, those who have smoked this cigar have tasted the Andullo tobacco used in its blend. With the use of this hard-to-handle tobacco, La Aurora intended to honor the most ancient tobacco making process, which is a vital part of the Dominican tobacco culture.

This cigar was launched in the market a year ago, in February 2017, in the Dominican Republic. It was later introduced to the North American market in July 2017 during the IPCPR trade show (International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association) held in Las Vegas, USA. It was finally introduced to other markets in the InterTabac trade fair (The International Trade Fair for Tobacco Products and Smoking Accessories) held in Dortmund, Germany.

The Andullo process results in a tobacco with very peculiar flavor and strength characteristics, unique in cigar manufacturing, since its inspiring strength, aroma and sweetness, combined with a well-balanced mix, all provide for a completely exceptional smoking experience.

Specifically, the La Aurora DNA Dominicano cigar wrapper comes from the Valle del Cibao, the main source of tobacco in the Dominican Republic; the capote (binding leaf) is made with tobacco from Cameroon, Africa, and the filler is composed of tobacco from the famous Valle del Cibao, Pennsylvania (USA), Nicaragua, and Andullo.

La Aurora manufactures and markets this cigar in four different sizes: La Aurora ADN Dominicano Churchill (7 X 47); La Aurora ADN Dominicano Gran Toro (6 X 58); La Aurora ADN Dominicano Robusto (5 X 50) and La Aurora ADN Dominicano Toro (5 3/4 X 54).

MANUFACTURED WITH ANDULLO PROCESS

Tobacco produced with the Andullo process is extremely special and unique, because it is manufactured from selected seeds of varieties originating in the Dominican Republic and the lands for its cultivation are also selected. From the plant, only the leaves of the mid-high center towards the crowns—which give that degree of strength, aroma and flavor felt in the smoke—are chosen to produce tobacco with the Andullo process.

As for the drying process, these leaves are tied in bundles, or “hands”, and left to dry in drying houses for two weeks. Later, during the destemming stage, three quarters of the central vein of the leaves are removed and they are placed in 1,5 to 2 meters long yaguas—sheaves from the leaves of the Palma Real tree, a plant of the Greater Antilles—where they are cured and fermented.

This is where the tobacco shaping process starts, which consists in rolling the Andullo tobacco in at least five tightening operations. With each tightening, the tobacco receives oxygen and is compacted. This also makes the cure and fermentation (cold) process homogeneous. Then the aging process begins, in which the tobacco dries completely and its characteristics are settled.

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Cigars and rum, a perfect match

Smoking a cigar is, per se, an experience packed with sensations perceived with the senses: feeling the cigar through touch, observing the color of the layers and the veins on the leaves, smelling the cigar and appreciating the notes of flavor in the tobacco. If the adventure of tasting a La Aurora cigar is added to the pleasure of savoring another high-quality product as Dominican as our cigars, the sensation could not be more pleasurable.

La Aurora Cigars and Ron Barceló intended to demonstrate how this combination works by deciding to design a joint tasting program for cigars and rum, ‘The Perfect Match’. The initiative, that takes place in various locations of the Dominican Republic, was designed so that lovers of both products can enjoy their combination. In each event, participants can experience the matching of three types of cigars and three kinds of rum, by the hands of one of the Brand Ambassadors from the tobacco company and a Master from the rum company.

The event consists of matching cigars La Aurora 107, La Aurora 1903 Edition Black Diamond (Preferidos) and La Aurora 1903 Ruby Edition (Preferidos) with rum Barceló Imperial, Barceló Imperial Onyx and Barceló Imperial Premium Blend in the best restaurants and cigar lounges of the country.

The latest tasting events were held this year, on January 24 at Deck Bar Lounge, in Santo Domingo; Wednesday, on February 7 at the restaurant Zutros, in Santo Domingo East side; and Friday, on February 16, in the Nautical Club of Santo Domingo.

After these events, there are still 10 cigars and rum match-tasting in Santo Domingo; another one in Santiago, one in La Romana and yet another in Bávaro. This joint tasting of La Aurora and Ron Barceló has been held since last year, when a total of 11 events of this type were held between April and November.

CENTENNIAL TRADITION

From the cigars used in the tasting with rum, La Aurora 107 stands out for being a mild cigar at the beginning, and somewhat spicy, with a strength that increases to a medium-strong level. With very typical flavors, a deep aroma of cocoa and spices and a sweet tip, its wrapper is grown in the sun in Ecuador, giving it a rustic appearance, but also a natural color. The capote (binding leaf) is Dominican, from Valle del Cibao, and the filler is aged for six years and is composed of tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Brazil and Peru.

On the other hand, La Aurora 1903 Edition Ruby and Black Diamond (Preferidos) are part of an edition of six cigars manufactured in the scope of the centennial tradition of La Aurora, with different mixtures of tobacco, but with an equal shape and limited production, since La Aurora invests a minimum of eight years in the making of each of these cigars and because a skilled cigar maker can only make 100 of these cigars a day.

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