Davidoff’s Dominican Wrapper

I went to the launch of Davidoff’s newest cigar, the Davidoff Puro d’Oro, this week in New York City. It’s the first new Davidoff cigar brand (not counting limited editions) in a decade, and it’s a big deal because it has a wrapper grown in a new area of the Dominican Republic.

The launch, a quiet affair with a small crowd at Davidoff’s Madison Avenue store, featured a posh Davidoff humidor full of the new cigars, and an explanation of the line by Davidoff maker Hendrik “Henke” Kelner.

The cigars are much darker and stronger than traditional Davidoffs. They also don’t have Davidoff bands. Puro d’Oros are adorned only with slim, golden footbands, each bearing the name of the frontmark, but not the word Davidoff, giving the cigars a bit of a European look.

I spent most of the night chatting with Henke, a veritable scientist who can talk about tobacco for hours. Back in the early days of Cigar Aficionado, Henke thought you couldn’t grow high-quality wrappers in the Dominican Republic (and to be fair, he certainly wasn't alone in his opinion.) Now, several companies, most notably Fuente, as well as La Flor Dominicana and La Aurora, have proven how great a Dominican wrapper can be, and Henke's opinion has clearly changed.

Growing this wrapper and working with this tobacco certainly wasn’t easy. The project began when Kelner purchased a farm in an area where tobacco normally isn’t grown in the Dominican Republic, Yamasá, located a few hours from Santiago. There the soil is reddish and the weather, he said, is “perfect.” Idyllic weather aside, the soil in Yamasá proved tricky. “The sand was small,” Henke told me, squinting as he pinched his fingers together in front of my face. That caused the nutrients he added to the soil to leach out quickly. “It was too different,” he said. “Lots of iron, and aluminum.” Yamasá proved tough to master, one reason why the Puro d’Oro is one year delayed coming to market. 

Blending with this very different wrapper was tough, too. The Puro d’Oro comes in four sizes, all of them modest-sized parejos finished with pigtaisl wound tight to the cap, ranging in size from the 4 1/2 by 38 Sublimes to the 5 5/8 by 46 Notables. Prices go from $9.50 to $16.50. Each shape required a different blend of tobaccos inside.

Henke compared working with the farm and blending the tobacco to taming a fine horse. “It was a white horse, a stallion, difficult with lots of energy. Today, the stallion is domesticated.”

I’ve smoked two Puro d'Oros, and the minerality of the Yamasá soil comes through in the cigar, which has wet earth notes, a touch of coconut-like sweetness and lots of those minerals on the palate. The finish is medium length. Like many Dominican-wrapped cigars it doesn’t burn evenly, lacking the combustability of, say, Connecticut shade, Cameroon or Ecuador Sumatra. The stuff is thick. When you work with Dominican wrapper, one tends to sacrifice burn for more gutsy flavor. The cigar is stronger than traditional Davidoffs, but not overly powerful, maybe a medium-plus body.

The cigars are on sale at a trio of shops now, and will go national to Davidoff appointed merchants on Monday. The European rollout happens in late May.

Look for a vertical brand tasting in an upcoming Cigar Insider.