Editor’s Note: One of the most interesting stories I got to write over at Puffing Cigars was my piece on the Jose Blanco seminar I attended in the Dominican Republic. It was fun to learn about all of the different types of tobacco used in rolling cigars, and I figured it would be a fitting piece for some easy reading on the fourth. Happy fourth of July Everybody!
As the timeless saying goes, “a wise man knows that he knows nothing.” This philosophy can be applied to many arenas in life, and it is a statement that is relatively simple in its meaning. Essentially, don’t assume you know everything, because there is always room to grow when it comes to the knowledge game. And so it is true of the cigar game! A few weeks ago I had the privilege to venture out to the tropical cigar Holy Land of the Dominican Republic, to spend some time with the La Aurora family. They generously had sponsored and picked up the tab of our trip, so that I and a few other bloggers around the industry could come and participate in an enrichment exercise. Their purpose was simple, it was to make all of us better subject experts in the field of cigars. As Jose Blanco, their amicable showman put it “an informed cigar buyer is the best type of buyer.”
So our lessons began and each one of us was enriched for having gone through the seminar on “pure grades.” Pure grades or Grado Puro in Spanish, are corona sized cigars that are fashioned to taste specific flavors of tobacco. Each pure grade is taken from one particular bale of leaves, and all of its components, i.e. filler, binder, and wrapper are all from the same stock. Now this differs from most cigars the consumers smoke, because those are an amalgamation of different tobacco blends to bring about a unique flavor signature. What pure grade allows you to distinguish and pick up are the unique flavor profiles of different regions. This was highly invaluable, because it allowed each of us to finally put geographical locales with specific flavors. The following paragraphs are five different pure grades we smoked, and hopefully helpful to you, the consumer and enthusiast, in identifying specific tastes you like on your palate.
The first pure grade we sampled was from Peru. Many people don’t often necessarily think of Peru as an active tobacco region, but the truth is that they are a major contributor when it comes to producing leaves that are used for the body of the cigar. Chances are you have had Peruvian tobacco mixed in to your stick, and not even known that it was there. Its chief characteristics are a sweet initial aroma, some liken it sweet hay and a strong bitter taste. Eventually the sweet and bitter aspects give away to a leathery note.
The next pure grade we sampled was from Brazil. Brazil is known as a great mixing tobacco as well, and tends to have sweetness as its chief characteristic. Some of its aspects include dry bread like notes, some called it yeasty in composition, and then it also had a tendency to develop spice and floral aromas. The floral aroma can be best equated as one walking through a rose garden, and the resultant pleasant smell that accompanies that experience.
The Nicaraguan tobacco was one of the most easily identified by the group due to its unique dry and nutty flavors. It tends to be very distinct, and the key here, I think, is really its nutty flavors. It also can take a shift towards the floral realm in its flavor. A great cigar that embodies a lot of this profile in my mind is the new Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta series.
Dominican Criollo Tobacco:
The Dominican Criollo is known for its strength and cedar notes. Some call it a wood like taste, to me it specifically reminds me of the cedar chips that I grew up with in the Seattle area. Either way, the Dominican Criollo packs a wonderful woody flavor, and can tend to punch up the potency of the cigar in the strength category.
Dominican Corojo Ligero Tobacco:
The Corojo blend was interesting in the fact that it offered so many flavor shifts. Its no wonder that many cigar makers tend to favor corojo as a chief component of their cigars. While smoking the corojo I picked up floral earthy tones and then a shift towards dry leathery tones the further I got into the smoke. At one point I even detected some soapy notes in the profile.
The above mentioned sampling is not definitive in the profile department, and all palates are different, but hopefully it gives you the reader an idea of what you can expect from different geographical locales. Knowing what you like and don’t like is an important part of any sale, and being able to go to your local tobacconist and asking them about geographically specific cigars should be a nice way for you to verify these flavor signatures for yourself. Remember most sticks tend to have a mixture of tobaccos in them, so asking for a corojo stick might offer your more than just the corojo flavors, if it is mixed with other tobaccos. So the next time you go to your local B&M think about what type of profile you like and remember to always mix it up. As Jose Blanco once said when asked what the best way to develop your palate was, he replied back with a grin “smoke many different cigars from many different countries!”