Two of the biggest names in Dominican cigars are coming together in an ambitious joint venture aimed at producing cigars for the vibrant tourism industry in the Dominican Republic.
Jose Seijas, who ran the world’s largest handmade cigar factory for decades and oversaw production of Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo cigars, will be working with Litto Gomez, the man behind the hot La Flor Dominicana cigar brand. Seijas will be running a new cigar factory in the tourist town of La Romana called the La Flor Dominicana Experience, where a small group of rollers will begin rolling Gomez’s La Flor Dominicana Air Benders. The concept is to show the art of cigarmaking to the vast numbers of tourists who flock to La Romana every day, pouring off cruise ships in particular, and expand the reach of Gomez’s brand.
“This place is capable of having hundreds of thousands of tourists,” said Seijas during a meeting at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show on Saturday afternoon. “We want to expose them to the experience of how cigars are made.”
“This is a beautiful idea for what it represents for the country, for La Flor Dominicana and for the people involved,” said Gomez at the meeting.
Seijas, who was born and raised in La Romana, ran Tabacalera de Garcia Ltd. for many years, spending 37 years total at the company, which is owned by Altadis U.S.A. Inc. It’s an immense operation, believed to be the largest handmade cigar factory in the world, home to such brands as Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo, H. Upmann and Trinidad. Seijas left the company in January.
Gomez has been making cigars for 18 years. He and his wife, Ines Lorenzo-Gomez, own the La Flor Dominicana brand, which has long been produced in a boutique factory in the town of Tamboril, located outside Santiago about four hours away from La Romana.
Seijas has joined with brothers Charlie and Rubin Gonzalez, who have long sold cigars in the Dominican Republic and also organized tours to the Tabacalera de Garcia factory. The three partners have created New World Cigars, and their factory in La Romana will open on September 7.
Gomez is not a partner in the operation, but is embarking on a joint venture of sorts to bring his brand to La Romana and expose it to all the tourists the Gonzalez brothers and Seijas intend to bring through the factory.
The factory will open with six cigarmakers, half of them rollers, half bunchers. The group is currently being trained in Tamboril by Gomez’s staff to ensure they will make cigars in La Romana in the same manner as the cigars Gomez produces in Tamboril.
The new factory in La Romana will also stock other La Flor Dominicana cigars, as well as other Dominican cigars. “It will be the largest cigar shop in Latin America,” said Charlie Gomez.
It’s unusual for a cigarmaker to trust his brand to another manufacturer. But Seijas has moved brands before. “In my many years making cigars, I’ve had the opportunity of moving different brands from different places to the Dominican Republic.” He was instrumental in overseeing the move of several Canary Island brands to La Romana, he oversaw the move of VegaFina to his factory, and he had a huge success taking Romeo y Julieta from Santiago to La Romana. Today it is the largest handmade brand from Altadis U.S.A.
The project involves an immense amount of trust and respect on all levels. “I’m giving Jose my baby to take care of,” said Gomez. “It couldn’t be in better hands.”
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