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The Aurora Effect

The oldest cigar company in the Dominican Republic does things its own way
Gregory Mottola
From the Print Edition:
Jeff Daniels-The Newsroom, July/August 2012

(continued from page 3)

León admits that even before he took over the factory, he had been changing his philosophy about the business for the last few years and has tuned in to the demands of the consumer now more than ever before.

Preferidos Cameroon and León Jimenes are, in a sense, period smokes—stylistically old-fashioned brands made as close to the company’s original blend as current tobaccos will allow. In this case, old fashioned does not mean dated or irrelevant. They are still flavorful and enjoy a loyal following in the world of premium cigars, however León is willing to move forward.

“We still maintain tradition,” assures León, “but I’m listening to what the customer has to say.”

The relatively new Guillermo León brand is a perfect example. It came out in late 2010 and was blended to León’s personal taste and standards. The Corona Gorda is his size of choice and was the first prototype for the blend. Like the rest of the line, it is made with two binders (a first for La Aurora) and has scored 92 points with Cigar Aficionado. Certainly, this is a very flavorful cigar, but the name also seems to be making a statement. Guillermo is now running the factory, so it’s only befitting that he has a namesake cigar. But sizes like the Gran Toro, a 6-inch by 58-ring gauge cigar, were rolled more to meet customer demand and show an understanding of the market despite personal preferences. The brand is by no means a vanity project but a sincere symbol of La Aurora’s future. A short, stout, 4 by 60 cigar called the Sumo is another response to market trends.

“It can be very personal sometimes,” León says of the cigar-making process. “The size and the flavor of the Guillermo León Corona Gorda is very much a reflection of my personal taste and what I think a cigar should be.”

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.

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