The Aurora Effect

The oldest cigar company in the Dominican Republic does things its own way

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When asked his opinion on the current market, he responded: “I think people tend to confuse strength with flavor. We’re looking to make complex smokes with full flavor, but we don’t have anything that is too strong—too strong and it overpowers that palate.”
Another evolutionary factor was La Aurora’s use of many different tobaccos. When the company started, there were no Cuban-seed strains grown in the Dominican Republic, nor was there any Dominican wrapper to speak of. Now, there are myriad tobacco varietals grown in the country, (both wrapper and filler) and La Aurora keeps voluminous stores of
Nicaraguan, Brazilian, Ecuadoran and Peruvian tobacco. This allows the company a diverse portfolio and greater blending options. The Guillermo León brand contains tobacco from five different countries.
León says that the company has only seen growth since he took over. Part of that growth includes making third-party brands for other cigar companies, one if which is Felipe Gregorio cigars. Brands such as Black Pedro, ReFusion and Silencio (a line consisting of mostly figurados) come off the tables of La Aurora’s rolling gallery.
“In my case in particular I make blends with my own tobaccos and La Aurora rolls the cigars for me,” says Philip Wynne, owner of Felipe Gregorio. “Manuel Inoa, the production manager, is very knowledgeable and runs a very organized ship. Their chief roller Luis Lopez, is one of the best rollers I have seen in my 20-plus years in the business. What I like about the company is that they are very quality-control oriented. They make sure that all the steps and proper time is given to the aging process and fumigation. Guillermo León is in one word a gentleman, and his word is his bond—something rare in the tobacco world.”
Boutique brand Falto, which is located in Puerto Rico, has been working with La Aurora since 1995. “I wanted to make my own blends, know the torcedores that would be hand-crafting my cigars and most of all make them in very small quantities and maintain the strict quality control that La Aurora has been maintaining and recognized for more than a century,” says brand owner Luis Falto.
Along with Guillermo León, Aurora’s other new brands include Aurora 107, León Jimenes Prestige, and the limited edition Puro Vintage, a figuardo that recently scored 91 points in Cigar Aficionado. The previously unreleased Don Fernando, a corona blended for León’s father, is also scheduled for commercial distribution. It will be a blend of Corojo wrapper and Piloto Cubano tobacco.
“The consumer always wants something new,” León says resignedly. Most of these consumers are citizens of the United States. The U.S. makes up half of La Aurora’s premium production. Spain is its second-largest market, and, according to León, La Aurora is the No. 1 cigar brand sold in the Dominican Republic. Right now, León has 5 million cigars in his aging room, symmetrically stacked to the ceilings in cataloged wooden cases waiting to be boxed and shipped to various markets.
 León takes the final puffs of his cigar. He’s reminded of that odd-looking machine a visitor spied earlier on the factory floor, and once again he is asked what it is.
“Well,” he says, “I’ll tell you this—You won’t see those anywhere else.”
León smiles, and then laughs. He has over 100 years of history in his hands, and probably 100 more.
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