Quality Time With The Cigar-Makers
Text: Colin C. Ganley / Photos: ProCigar
Attending ProCigar is like visiting Disney World. You will be constantly stimulated, your cheeks will hurt from smiling, and you will leave exhausted.
ProCigar in the Dominican Republic has so much to offer that no matter how much you do, you cannot possibly do everything. Two golf tournaments, visits to all member’s factories, tours of tobacco fields, lunches and dinners with the people behind the brands, brewery and distillery tours should be enough to keep a person busy. But of course participants smoke cigars late into the night, every night, enjoying one another’s company overlooking beautiful vistas.
Who Is There
The ProCigar festival is attended largely by passionate cigar smokers but also by the international press and some cigar retailers. Everyone seems to jump at the opportunity to spend quality time with the cigar-makers from Davidoff, Matasa, General Cigar, Altadis, La Aurora, and Juan Clemente. Cigar luminaries lead events and wander amongst the crowd throughout the entire week.
Barry White, a connoisseur from California said, “this was amazing, I got to see the cigar I smoke being made!” Barry, along with Jim Stewart, Jerry Lokcynski, Bardia Bahrami and Ed Rys, won their trips to ProCigar when they entered a contest run by Famous Smoke, an internet retailer.
Tears and Tobacco
Perhaps the most moving moment during the ProCigar Festival was Thursday morning in the Matasa factory. Patricia Quesada, daughter of Manuel, took the podium and began an extraordinarily emotional speech.
In 2002 their family suffered an incredible loss. In a plane crash, three men who were integral to the Matasa company perished. To honour their memory and their contributions to the company, a new cigar line called the Quesada Tributo has been dedicated.
Tears flowed throughout the factory as Raquel explained that the vitolas were named for their deceased grandfather Manolin, as well as Alvaro, Alvarito, and Julio who were lost by tragedy (Manolin 6 1/2 x 60, Alvaro 6 x 52, Alvarito 4 1/2 x 40, Julio 5 x 50).
The “Young Ones” as they are called are the extended Quesada family including Patricia, Raquel, Esther, Hostos, Jose Manuel and Terence. These six Quesadas were behind the company’s most recent offerings including the tribute to Manuel, the Quesada 35th Anniversary cigar. The new Tribute brand, elegantly housed in white boxes, follows in the footprints of the 35th anniversary cigar. “We were trying to follow the exclusive taste and concept we created in the Quesada 35th Anniversary cigar” said Patricia. They made the connection with a hybrid Ecuador wrapper.
Wrapper: Ecuador HCHS, Binder: Nicaraguan Ligero, Filler: Dominican and Nicaraguan Ligeros.
Enthusiasm and passion oozed from the Matasa factory. The cigars they are making now benefit from the knowledge and innovation of five generations.
Meat enthusiasts should include ProCigar on their lists of must-attend events every year. One expects to have fresh fruits and silky rums during a visit to the Dominican Republic. Those were certainly there. But the food most prominently on display during lavish meals was meat. If you like slow-cooked beef, well marinated goat, juicy chicken, or Cuban-style pork, this is the place to be.
All these culinary delights were on offer at meals throughout the festival. Wednesday’s “White Dinner”, where guests were advised to wear their finest white garments provided perhaps the most challenging dining situation. During the white dinner, a special auction was held to raise money for the relief efforts then taking place across the island in Haiti. Thanks to the generosity of the guests and sponsors, many thousands of dollars were raised.
One of the auction items was a humidor full of a cigar that was to be available only at ProCigar 2010. The ProCigar Cigar was created with the coopera-tion of each ProCigar member. Tobacco from each was used and it was rolled in Henke Kelner’s (Davidoff) facility. Each guest was given one cigar to enjoy that night and the big lot was auctioned for charity.
ProCigar takes place every February in the Dominican Republic and is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at procigar.org.