Pleasure / June 2016

Holy Smokes: Cigars From The Exotics

Cigar sommelier Mike Choi dips his toes in the New World of exotic smokes from the Dominican Republic.

Now who said “good things come in small packages”? I pondered this question as I opened a package from Scott Vines of Tor Imports. When it comes to New World cigars (a generic term I use for any cigar not made in Cuba), I’m a novice. I turn to Scott Vines, with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with in the past on an event at the Edward Sahakian Cigar Shop and known for several years. His company, Tor Imports, has the distribution rights of a number of New World cigar brands as well as accessories. I asked Scott to send me something that matches June’s travel & speed theme for The Rake magazine but nothing too large in the ring gauge.

La Flor Dominicana (LFD) was founded in 1996 in the city of Santiago in the Dominican Republic by Litto Gomez. Litto was a former jeweller who turned to cigars, after being robbed at gunpoint in his Miami shop. Litto always cuts a swathe through crowds with his trademark Panador Panama hat, sun tanned skin, impeccable grooming and Hollywood smile. His passion for cigars is unquestionable and it’s no surprise that his son, Antonio, is also involved in La Flor Dominicana.

I was thoroughly looking forward to trying this cigar, having just returned from a weekend in New York, where it’s impossible to buy any Cubans legally, as the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba is still in place. I got to smoke some very interesting cigars (La Hoya, Don Donato and Arturo Fuente) from the New World and buy some of the brands I had only read about (Protocol, Freyja and Senorial). People may think I’m a Cuban cigar snob but, the main reason for this is that Cuban tobacco was my first taste and in the UK, Cuban cigars are readily available everywhere, whilst New World cigars make up around 15% of UK cigar sales. This may be small but it is certainly growing. Thanks to people like Scott Vines (Tor Imports), Paresh Patel (Havana House), Mitchell Orchant (Cgars Ltd) and Hunters and Frankau who are pushing a small number of New World brands to the UK cigar scene.

If you haven’t smoked a New World cigar then you must. Open your mind and taste buds to something different. New World brands have a few advantages over Cuban cigars (oh man, I’m going to get shot for saying this):

They can blend tobacco from all over the world to produce uniquely flavoured cigars, whilst Cubans only have one type of tobacco to blend.

  • Quality control is second to none. Better rolling practise and quality control means that New World cigars are usually faultless from a draw and plugging (a blockage in the cigar usually due to twisting the tobacco by the roller)point of view. Cuban cigars are known to have a 10-20% failure rate from a box of 25.
  • the rake cigars

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Contributor

Mike Choi

These views are my personal views and you are welcome to yours and I respect that. They come from my experience of both smoking and managing a cigar shop. I have my own vintage cigar company called Casa Puro, I am a Master of Havana Cigars, Runner Up Habanosommelier World Championships, Winner UK Habanosommelier Championship and also won Cigar Journal’s World’s Best Cigar Lounge Award.