The tobacco barns are filling up at La Flor Dominicana’s farm in La Canela, which is located in the Cibao Valley of the Dominican Republic.
La Flor Dominicana is a family-owned company started by Litto Gomez in 1994, who previously was in the jewelry business. A traumatic experience convinced him to switch careers—he was bound and robbed at gunpoint in his jewelry store. When Gomez began his new path, his cigars were called Los Libertadores, and they were quite mild. Things have obviously changed.
Today, La Flor Dominicana is defined by its ligero, the strongest type of leaves found on the upper portion of a tobacco plant. It’s always been an industry term, but Gomez normalized the word and brought it to the cigar-smoking public with his Ligero and Double Ligero brands. Inside those cigars are binder and filler that he grows today on his farm in the Cibao Valley of the Dominican Republic. According to Gomez, he couldn’t find the strong ligero tobacco he was looking for so he decided to grow it himself.
Gomez’s desire for self-sufficiency has paid off and he’s become as much farmer as he is cigarmaker. He grows his tobacco in La Canela, a dry, hot microclimate within the Dominican Republic’s Cibao Valley. It’s precisely these conditions that make his tobacco stronger, spicier and more concentrated. Gomez runs La Flor with his wife, Ines, and two sons, Tony and Litto Jr. We visited the La Flor Dominicana tobacco farm on a windy day during the ProCigar Festival and followed the tour with a visit to his cigar factory in Tamboril, where he made around 4.5 million cigars last year.
In the greenhouse, La Flor Dominicana owner Litto Gomez shows a nursery full of Criollo ’99 tobacco to a tour group. The seedlings will later be transplanted to the fields.
Gomez takes a walk under the tents, also called tapado. The tenting filters the sun’s rays, making for cleaner, thinner tobacco pristine enough to be used as wrapper. Here, this field of newly planted Habano 2000 tobacco will soon grow to more than seven feet tall.
Along with members of the ProCigar tour, Tony Gomez, Litto’s son, emerges from a field of Criollo ’99, which is nearing maturity.
With a rotunda and Adirondack chairs right in the middle of the rolling room, Tabacalera La Flor is a most unusual factory.
The factory floor is quite busy, where rollers produce brands like the La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero and Andalusian Bull, a former Cigar of the Year.
A worker rotates cigar bunches in a mold. After cigars are bunched, they are placed in a mold for a few hours to take shape. Then, each one is turned and placed back in the mold so that the cigars form evenly.
Now that he’s put the wrapper on this cigar, a roller meticulously applies its cap.
If you think you see an exotic dancer on a stripper pole, your eyes are not deceiving you. It’s one of the many unique patterns that La Flor Dominicana puts on its beautifully-made Salomon cigars.
In the stripping room, an employee removes the central vein of each leaf so that this tobacco can be used as binder.
A pile of cigars build up on this sorting table. These will be sorted by color so that all the cigars in each box have a consistent, uniform look.