Held in the middle of the Dominican Republic's pre-Lent carnival celebration, the ProCigar festival is a yearly cigar-centric, cultural exposition of the Dominican cigar where manufacturers open their factories and fields for an informal education on the world of Dominican tobacco and its unique properties.
ProCigar wrapped up its eighth celebration in Santiago on February 21, ending the show with a record-breaking charity auction that helped to raise $100,000 for the Dominican Republic's sick and needy.
This year, ProCigar hosted 300 guests from around the world giving them all an intimate look at tobacco fields, cigar factories, and all the people in the Dominican Republic who have dedicated their lives to elevating the status of premium Dominican cigars. But the festival has always been more than just an academic series of field trips by day and jubilant gala dinners by night. Perhaps one of its most compelling attractions is that the festival allows guests to have one-on-one dialogs with some of the industry's biggest cigar makers all the while smoking their cigars and fraternizing with an international community of like-minded enthusiasts.
"What makes me proud to be part of this group is that the Dominican Republic has the best infrastructure for tobacco in the world," said Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana at ProCigar's press conference. "Everything that people first thought was wrong about the Dominican cigar—that they didn't taste like Cubans—is exactly what's right about Dominican cigars now."
There are two parts to the ProCigar festival. The mostly recreational first leg started on February 15 at La Romana at the Casa de Campo resort where guests could either tee off at the renowned Teeth of the Dog golf course, take a day trip to Catalina Island via catamaran or lounge on the white sands of La Minitas beach. The festival also showcased Altadis U.S.A.'s Tabacalera de Garcia, the largest premium cigar factory in the Dominican Republic.
After a bus ride across the Dominican Republic, the second leg began in the heart of cigar country on February 17 in Santiago. This portion revolved around field trips, factory tours and tasting seminars. Though impossible for anyone to see every factory tour at the festival, the schedules were structured in such a way that attendees could still cover a lot of ground in three days. Large facilities like those of Davidoff, General Cigar and La Aurora, were just as accessible as the smaller factories such as Tabacalera La Alianza, Quesada Cigars, La Flor Dominicana, Los Reyes Cigar (formerly Corporacion Cigar Export) or Tabacalera La Palma.
Other tours included trips out to the tobacco fields. While Davidoff showed off its farms in Jicome, La Flor Dominicana bussed out a group to its plantation in La Canela, one of the hottest, driest growing regions of the Cibao valley. New to the ProCigar itinerary, José "Jochy" Blanco, gave a rare look at his verdant farms in Jacagua. General Cigar also offered a field tour with an excursion to Mao. Though Arturo Fuente did not open up its iconic Chateau de la Fuente plantation this year, it did bring a portion of the tour out to see the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, an organization started by the Fuente family and J.C. Newman.
But ProCigar was as festive as it was academic. Each night ended with a cigar-smoking gala that included dinner, dancing and a gift pack of cigars carefully chosen to represent the best of the Dominican Republic. The first evening gala, dubbed the White Party, was held on the marble steps at the base of the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración. The second evening ended with a pig roast, and the tour officially concluded at the Centro Español, where a charity auction of one-of-a-kind humidors and cigars raised over $82,000.
Each year, ProCigar raises funds to benefit the Dominican Republic's sick children, afflicted families and elderly. This year, the organization raised a grand total of $100,000, which was the most money raised in ProCigar's history.