Passion for Premium cigars can arise at any time. Not all fans have been so for many years. Not all of those who work in artisanal manufacture of cigars have a family tradition behind them. In the case of the brand ambassador of La Aurora Cigars, Wascar Aracena, he is the pioneer in his family to have immersed himself in the world of Premium cigars.
He has gone so far in what is now his passion, that he is an expert in everything that concerns this world. Not only does he know about flavors, blends and matching—offering his opinions to master blender, Manuel Inoa—but he is also an expert in the art of smoking, providing important and very useful tips when it comes to cutting, lighting and enjoying a cigar.
So, when he talks about all of this, he talks with wisdom and enthusiasm. In this interview, Wascar Aracena, who is also Coordinator of Cigar Manual and Automated Manufacturing, shows his passion both for everything surrounding the manufacture of cigars and how it feels to smoke Premium cigars.
How did you get into the world of tobacco?
When I was in college studying Industrial Engineering, I dreamt of working with the E. León Jimenes group. After graduation and several years later, I applied for a vacancy in the area of Production Supervision at La Aurora, I started working there and that is where the “click” for tobacco, its processes and dedications happened.
Is there a tobacco tradition in your family or are you the pioneer?
In my family, I am the first to be fully in the area of tobacco.
And in La Aurora? How long have you been working in the company? Always with the same function?
I began working in La Aurora in 2005 and, since then, I have been through different departments, such as Automated Cigars, Occupational Health and Safety, and finally, Packaging. Recently, I have been appointed Coordinator of Hand Made and Machining Made Cigars.
What does it mean to you to be the brand ambassador of the oldest cigar company in the Dominican Republic?
I’m proud, it’s a distinction to be part of the legacy of La Aurora, its history, and it also represents a commitment to our tradition of being a country brand. Having the opportunity to show and teach about our products and its stories makes me feel amazed at the opportunity I’ve been given, and I do it with passion and dedication.
What do you think distinguishes La Aurora from other tobacco companies?
The relationship with employees, respect for tobacco, history, passion and dedication that is imprinted on each and every area to offer a high-quality product at a good price. And also the presence we have in the local market and worldwide.
What level of knowledge of the Premium cigar world can the Cigar Institute offer?
As I always say, people involved in the activities of the Cigar Institute learn and know everything there is to know about tobacco, from A to Z. Having the opportunity to show new and experienced cigar lovers the processes tobacco goes through in order to become a finished cigar, takes them on a journey through time where they feel part of the life experiences of farmers, growers and roleros (cigar rollers).
What is your role in creating cigars? At what point in the process do you give your opinion about the blend?
The role I play is that of an evaluator of new and existing cigars in our company, together with our master blender, Mr. Manuel Inoa. I give my opinion at the beginning, during and after the creation of the blend by the master blender.
How does the smokers panel work? What’s your working method?
The smokers panel consists of a group of employees from different areas in the company that is responsible for assessing on a daily basis, for an hour or so, the cigars we are making and the ones we have in our aging room, as well as the tobacco we are going to buy to be used in our blends. We analyze a cigar each day (which is a blind test) to avoid influencing the mind. Here, we evaluate the aesthetics of the cigar (construction) and other variables such as the draw, aroma, flavor, strength, combustion and balance of the smoke.
Taste a cigar, a fun from start to finish
What type of cigars do you prefer?
I like all cigars. Each tells a story and gives us a pleasurable feeling in every smoke.
Out of work, what are your favorite moments for smoking?
Accompanied by my friends, on a terrace talking about tobacco or at home, in the quiet of the night, thinking about life and projects.
With what do you prefer to match cigars? Why?
I like to match them with coffee and rum. Coffee to start the day—that smell of a new morning—and rum to highlight the nuances of each cigar, especially if it’s our rum, E. León Jimenes.
What do you think is the part of the cigar that brings more flavors to the smoke?
The whole cigar brings flavors to the smoke, every third of the cigar tells us about notes, feelings. Even when we are about to finish, that last bit, we don’t want to let it go. Ha ha ha.
How does one detect the notes in a cigar?
They are detected according to our sensory memory, our experiences and especially the education of our palate and nose to search those notes. Hence, it would be good to participate in our classes at the Cigar Institute.
At what time during the smoke do we feel the notes more intensely?
Notes are felt from the beginning to the end of the smoke, so it’s fun to enjoy a cigar.
What advice would you give to cut the cigar?
If the cigar is a parejo, the first thing is to identify that last bit of tobacco that is located on the head (chupi, cap) and cut it there at about two millimeters.
If the cigar is a figurado, you must make a small cut on the tip and put in your mouth to test if the draw is satisfactory for you as a smoker.
I always recommend a round cut, as this type of cut allows us to get more smoke into the mouth, and with it, more information to evaluate and enjoy.
And to light it?
For this part, I always recommend time, lighting a cigar is a spiritual relationship created between the smoker and the cigar. Always light the whole foot of the cigar, evenly, with patience. We can use flame lighters (butane gas), wooden matches and cedar spills.
Can we get any information on the cigar from its ash?
It depends, the ash speaks to us about the making of the cigar and about the leaves that were used to compose it.
What advice would you give to those who are getting started in the world of cigars? What kind of cigars should they start with?
I would welcome new cigar tasters into this world of pleasure and enjoyment by recommending that they start with a soft, low strength cigar, in order to get used to the smoke, and that they smoke patiently. I would also invite them to know our factory and its processes I would recommend flavored and low strength cigars, such as our León Jimenes and Traditional Aurora lines, in their small formats, from robusto (5×50) under.
What factors should be considered when buying a cigar?
The first thing is to know what we’re looking for, what notes we like, the time we have available for smoking; ask about the cigar features, its level of strength, the company that manufactures it, its history, and price.