We left Puerto Plata with our driver going into the mountains that pass through many small communities of the rural countryside. Entering Tamboril in the Dominican Republic, you pass through a large sign “Bienvenidos a Tamboril Capital Mundial Del Cigarro” (Welcome to Tamboril, World Capital of Cigars). It is blue and green with a cigar and a green tobacco leaf. Driving into the industrial zone, you are met with security who ask the purpose of your visit, we showed them the La Aurora cigar tour information, and they let us through.
After entering the La Aurora factory, you are in the waiting area with coffee and couches and information on the walls to read. Two beautiful black model T cars are on your right. Past the waiting room is the store and on the left is where the tour begins. You may be greeted by Eugenio, in charge of tours for the factory. Before the tour, I had reached out to Kafie Cigars on Instagram, asking if they knew anything that could help. Whoever is running the page sent me a long-detailed message back to call and ask for Eugenio. He is an incredibly knowledgeable and friendly guide. We were very early, and he allowed us to explore the museum-like area where the tours start so we could get as many pictures as possible and information. I hope to use them for future articles. I talked with Eugenio for over forty-five minutes about cigars and tobaccos while drinking Dominican coffee until more people arrived.
You start by watching a short video about La Aurora’s long and rich history. Eugenio told me the whole video is on YouTube. The History of Tobacco by La Aurora Cigars. The museum room shows tobacco from seeds to matured plants and primings. A replica drying barn is in the back with tobacco leaves showing the fermentation process. There are also different types of leaves to reveal the wrapper differences. A table sits near the door labeling all the tools used to make a cigar. An old press used at the turn of the century holds the center of the museum. When we finished, we moved through the back door and were thrown into the factory as if you have now entered another world bustling with people, equipment, and, best of all, tobaccos of various kinds.
In front of us, we are watching the sorting of tobacco. I constantly stopped to read the paperwork to see what tobacco was inside and from where it came. If you nerd out on that stuff, this is the place for you. We saw a large portion of andullo tobacco being processed. Andullo is used in cigars like Sinistro’s Plata O Plomo Tiffany. It is not a typical way we are used to seeing tobacco processed. “Andullo tobacco is placed in yaguas made of the leaves of the Palma Real. Yaguas measure between 1.5 to 2 meters long each and aid the curing and fermentation processes” (La Aurora). Eugenio stopped us several times, grabbed large groups of leaves out of bales and boxes, and opened them like a book so that we could smell the variations of tobaccos from leaf to leaf. Next was the deveining and sorting room. A room of mostly women as they believe they have the best eye for color sorting. Men and women operated deveining machines, and the piles of leaves were moved to the color sorters, all moving effortlessly and not letting us distract them but smiling for our videos and pictures while they continued working.
The next room was where the magic happened – the rolling room! We walked into a massive area of people rolling different cigars. Eugenio disappeared for a moment into a particular room and returned with cigars for us to smoke. He brought lighters and cutters, but like a true cigar smoker, I already had the accoutrements on my person. Others listened as he gave a crash course on cutting and lighting while I was already smoking. I constantly stopped to watch true artists at work at every step of the process. The cigars were bunched, bound, molded, and moving down the line. We were gawking at the final touch of the added wrappers. The handmade products are genuinely cared for in this factory. I only saw enthusiastic people with smiles on their faces with hands moving effortlessly at a constant speed putting love into their work. As we moved out of the rolling room, I saw the lector’s desk. Eugenio said they stick with tradition and still read the newspaper and bible every morning. Since it was past, ten music was playing on the speakers at that time.
While smoking our unbranded complimentary cigars, we wandered through rooms where machines worked tirelessly, and people operated or assisted in the process of machine-rolled cigars. It was exciting but nowhere near the level of our premium handmade products. La Aurora makes the Principes which are not bad if you need a quick smoke. We could not enter certain areas; understandable that it is a factory like any other, and we did not have the proper safety equipment or permission to peruse. We would also get in their way, or they did not allow smoking when we were only halfway through enjoying our cigars.
We made our way back into the center of the factory, where there is another museum-like area of the history of the company or its leaders and La Aurora historical materials. Cigar molds, cigars tubes, and brands they had used when the company started decades ago. They are displayed in little windows so they cannot be touched, and information on the right side of them explains their importance. Eugenio would explain to us a lot of this information and answer any questions we had, showing that his decades of experience and knowledge could be used to inform any cigar smoker at all levels.
As our tour ended, Eugenio brought us to a familiar sight, the store, and past that, the lobby where we had begun our journey. To us, this was the sign that our time at La Aurora was ending but not before seeing something intriguing to buy before that time came. I purchased La Aurora cigars and a small bottle of their limited-produced rum. A ten-count box of the Family Reserve Fernando León Limited Edition cigar, a twenty-count box of 1985 Maduros were on sale, and a sampler pack showed off five different wrapper leaves. Eugenio spoke a little while some of us exchanged information like our Instagram names.
If you or anyone you know is ever in the Dominican Republic, especially near Santiago, I highly recommend you visit the free tour at La Aurora. Just call ahead and reserve a spot and ask for Eugenio and you will have a fantastic time and experience while enjoying a delicious La Aurora cigar free of charge. For anyone interested in how Kafie cigar’s new journey will be after moving to La Aurora, rest assured that the quality and care of his cigars will be maintained here.