Pro Cigar 2010: Davidoff Tobacco Field Tour
by David "Doc" Diaz
Monday, March 8, 2010
by David “Doc” Diaz
I have had the good fortune of visiting the Dominican Republic on four occasions and on each visit I have had the opportunity to visit the farms and/or factories of Tabadom Holdings, makers of Davidoff. Part of the attraction for me has been the rigorous quality standards set by the company and their ultra-systematic approach to cigar production. As a student of the cigar industry, I appreciate their meticulous attention to detail.
Above: Henke Kelner and Doc share a moment
Davidoff is more than rigorous when it comes to understanding plant biology and chemistry, and when it comes to implementing exacting fermentation processes. Their standards of leaf selection, aging and quality control in the factory are second to none. In many ways, Davidoff defines a "cerebral system" of cigar production.
This may not appeal to everyone, but it does to me. I am the type of person that enjoys the minutia of the study of cigars. I want to know as much as possible about every facet of the industry and I always come away from my visits to Davidoff with more great nuggets of information.
This year I skipped the factory tour and instead chose to attend the tobacco field tour. After driving to the farms, we disembarked from the bus to the sight of a cooler full of cold drinks and to a beautiful Davidoff humidor filled to the brim with cigars. After a quick trim and light of our cigars, we began walking around and through the tobacco fields.
Above: The majestic beauty of tobacco, curing barns and the mountains that surround the fields
Henke Kelner Sr. and his son Hendrik were definitely "on their game" that day. They were prepared to visually demonstrate tobacco seed planting, seedling transplantation, growth cycles of tobacco, tobacco varietals and much, much more.
Above: Seedlings being transferred to individual growing cups
Below: Hendrik Kelner explains the tobacco transplantation process
Then, the tour took us through the curing barns, where Henke Kelner talked about leaf curing and answered questions about the process. Curing is the process of drying the tobacco that has just come from the farm. During the curing stage, the tobacco loses chlorophyll and the color of the leaves changes from green, to yellow to brown. The process also slows the maturation process, while fixing the sugar in the leaves.
Below: The Kelner's show prized tobacco in the curing barn
After the curing barns, we were escorted through a special fermentation factory where they ferment ultra-premium wrapper leaves like those found on the Winston Churchill and Davidoff Selección 702 cigars. In this factory we were able to see these special wrappers up close and touch and even smell the leaves. These wrappers are precious and a 120-pound bale will cost around $5,000 dollars. That's over $40 per pound! (Compared to just $4–$5 per pound for filler leaf.)
Lunch was served in the Davidoff dining hall and I used that time to make a presentation to Henke and Hendrik Kelner. I brought a few bottles of Roxo Port with me for the purpose of presenting them to different folks on the trip. These were a way of saying "thanks" for the hard work they put into making the event so enjoyable and educational. It was also an opportunity for me to share one of my local wines with cigar friends in the Dominican Republic. So I presented a half-bottle of Paso Melange Port, which is Roxo's Metodo Portugues interpretation of a traditional Bordeaux blend. It is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Cabernet Franc (33%) and Petit Verdot (11%). Henke Kelner seemed pleased with this California Port-style wine and he showed his appreciation by presenting me with a Dominican style straw hat.
Below: Henke Kelner leads tobacco tasting seminar
After lunch, Henke presented a tobacco tasting seminar in which he talked about the factors that lead to great cigars and we tasted samples of different tobacco types. This seminar was so interesting because it demonstrated, experientially, the contributions made by the three common Dominican tobaccos: Dominican Olor, San Vicente and Piloto Cubano. These three tobacco varietals are used often in Davidoff cigars and I was never quite sure how they individually contribute to a cigar's overall flavor until that day.
To vividly display the characteristics of the tobaccos, we were given small cigars that were made of only one tobacco varietal; one each for Olor, San Vicente and Piloto Cubano. Smoking these small "puros" allowed us all to experience how these tobacco types provide different taste sensations including salty, acid, bitter, grassy, dry, sweet, and more. Individually, these tobaccos would never make a good cigar, but thanks to the experience and expertise of the master blender, these tobaccos can be blended into a cigar with perfect balance, harmony and complexity of flavor, body and strength.
As the seminar came to an end, the student in me wanted to stay and talk about the finer points of cigars until I could no longer think of more questions to ask. However, our tour, which seemed to have flown by, was now over. As we made our way back to the tour bus, which would take us back to our hotels, there was still electricity in the air. We left there with a good deal more knowledge about how tobacco is grown and fine cigars are made. And yet, we also left with a keen appreciation for how much we still did not know and how complex and wonderful is the art and science of producing a premium cigar. (Photo right: Seminar included smoking "puros" of individual tobacco types.)
About the Author
David "Doc" Diaz is the publisher and the editor of the Stogie Fresh Cigar Publications. He has served as an educator, researcher and writer and has taught in the Health Education and Health Science field for over 30 years. He possesses an earned doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. Doc is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT), having received this certification from the Tobacconist University and is a member and Ambassador of Cigar Rights of America (CRA).blog comments powered by Disqus