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The Wide World Of Cigars

Sep 5, 2008
To look at the rankings, the world's best cigars seem to come from only a few countries: Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and (unfortunately for Americans, who can't buy the country's products) Cuba. But excellence actually comes from all over the world - and in fact, some of the tobacco that makes many of the most highly-ranked cigars comes from places you might not immediately think of: Mexico, Brazil, the Middle East, Connecticut, and the American South.

Here, for example, we look at two cigar-producing countries - one of them not well-known for its wares, the other perhaps the world's leading cigar powerhouse, not excluding Cuba. But both countries deserve the attention of cigar aficionados.

Bahamas

This former British protectorate, a world-class tourist destination with an impressively high literacy rate of ninety-five percent, has a world-class cigar to match. Though the island's own smoking population is low (eleven percent), smokers looking to sample Bahaman cigar craftsmanship should start with Graycliff cigars.

Associated with the famous Graycliff resort hotel, this unique company makes a small line of well-crafted handrolled luxury cigars. This odd combination - resort hotel and cigar company? - resulted from the purchase of the sprawling Graycliff property by the Garzaroli family in 1973. As a resort, Graycliff was a more than sensible investment for the Garzarolis' - with its eighteenth-century colonial house, its restaurant with an internationally-famous 250,000-bottle wine cellar. In 1997, the Garzaroli family decided their profitable resort needed its own line of luxury premium cigars, and they contracted with Avelino Lara, a Cuban cigar legend who once rolled cigars for Fidel Castro himself, to assist in the creation of a line of six cigars that, say aficionados, vary in taste but not in excellence.

The red-banded Graycliff and blue-banded Graycliff Professionale are recommended for new smokers, while the Graycliff Crystal, Graycliff Emerald, Graycliff Espresso, and Graycliff Chateau Grand (all identifiable by corresponding-colored bands; the Chateau Grand is purple-banded) are recommended for those who prefer a fuller taste and more aged tobacco.

Dominican Republic

Twenty percent of the population of this Latin American nation uses tobacco. But probably near one hundred percent of serious premium cigar smokers in the United States have enjoyed cigars from the Dominican Republic. The FuenteFuente Opus X is one of its more recent hits, but the country is one of the world's oldest sources of tobacco. The crop has been cultivated in the Dominican Republic for many centuries, especially in the fertile Cibao Valley. For many decades its produced-in-country cigars were overshadowed by the worldwide dominance of the Cuban cigar.

But the Dominican Republic benefited from the same Castro-era stogie diaspora that lifted the cigar industries of Nicaragua and Honduras. In 1959, as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, with their revolutionary guerilla army, overthrew the Juan Battista dictatorship that had dominated Cuban politics for decades, many of the island's most prominent cigar-producing families, fearing that Castro's state-socialist regime would expropriate their homes, companies and fortunes, departed in search of new and politically safer places to live.

Between the departure of many of Cuba's best cigar makers, several of whom chose the Dominican Republic as their new home, and the soon-in-coming United States embargo on trade with Cuba, which put an end to that country's US sales, the cigars of the Dominican Republic had a chance to attract notice. The embargo outlasted generations of activist efforts to change it, even becoming federal law due to the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, all of which allowed the Cuban cigar industry to be challenged, some might even say eclipsed, by cigar makers in neighboring countries.

Some of the Dominican cigar makers thus enabled to win dedicated United States fans included here include La Aurora (the oldest continuously-operating factory in the Dominican Republic), Arturo Fuente, Davidoff, La Flor Dominicana, and La Gloria Cubana. Three strains of tobacco are used by most of these Dominican cigar makers - the native Olor Domicano, a mild salty leaf seen most recently as the wrapper for Davidoff's Dominican puro; Piloto Cubano, a strong strain derived from Cuban seeds stolen by Carlos Torano on his way out of that country in 1959, and used now often as filler; and light, slightly acidic San Vicente, used for both binder and filler.
About the Author
CigarFox provides you the opportunity to build your own sampler of the finest cigars that include cigar brands like Montecristo, Romeo & Julieta, H Upmann, Macanudo, Cohiba, Partagas, Gurkha and many more. Choose from more than 1200 different cigars! Other cigar products include cigar humidors, cigar boxes, and cigar accessories like Zippo Lighters.
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