The Dominican Republic produces some of the world’s top premium hand-rolled cigarros (cigars), and certainly its largest quantity; many aficionados consider the quality of its stogies equal to or in some cases superior to Cuba’s (in fact, much of the DR’s know-how, tobacco-plant seeds/stock, and producers are transplants from Cuba, fleeing expropriation in the 1960s). The bulk of the tobacco-growing heartland is in the Yaque valley near the inland city of Santiago, the countrys second largest, and centered around the towns of Villa González and Jacagua, with brands including Arturo Fuente, León Jiménez, and Davidoff.
So it goes without saying that the DR’s three Iberostar resorts offer guests easy access and opportunity to purchase swell smokes – and even to watch some being made right before their eyes. I caught up with Nelson Cruz Barrera, 40, a Santiago native and veteran of A. Fuentes and Davidoff who now works with the cigar shop at Iberostar Báavaro in Punta Cana and hand-rolls smokes here most mornings and evenings.
What percentage of cigars that you stock are Dominican, as opposed to Cuban, Honduran, and others?
More than half. Most people come in looking for Dominican products
What’s the range of quality like?
We carry inexpensive cigars like Flor de Oro, all the way up to the most premium, which for us would be an Arturo Fuentes Ojo X, costing US$25-30 apiece.
You also custom-roll cigars on the spot. How long does that take?
About 10 minutes, usually.
How much can you customize these cigars, for flavor, and so forth?
We have seven types of tobacco leaves on hand to throw into the mix – Dominican, Cuban, and Honduran. And we can adjust that mix depending on the customer’s taste – if he likes Romeo y Julieta, for example, I can go in that direction, or simply based on descriptions like “strong,” ”spicy,” or “smooth.” I have lady clients, too, who generally prefer more petite cigars, almost cigarette-size. Male or female, many love to smoke it on the spot – imagine the luxury of puffing a fresh-rolled cigar! But for those who don’t, we slip an Iberostar band on each cigar they buy.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve encountered while working here?
One guy asked me to make a massive two-foot-long (61-cm) cigar – not to smoke, but to hang on his wall. Hey, why not?
Photo| Andrew Albertson
DR’s three Iberostar resorts offer guests easy access and opportunity to purchase cigars . You can even to watch some being made right before their eyes!