There have been several cigar releases in recent memory that have used a special tobacco to make them unique, while often times paying homage to ancient traditions. We’ve seen fire-cured tobacco, rare leaves grown in virgin rainforests, tobacco from Italy, cigars made entirely of the same farm, barrel fermentation… there’s always opportunity to make old techniques new and/or usher in new flavor experiences from experimentation.
A year ago, at the 2017 Procigar festival, La Aurora debuted what was to be a Dominican exclusive cigar called ADN Dominicana. Luckily for us, these became available to the U.S. last September, and enthusiasts can discover a new/old style of tobacco called Andullo.
La Aurora ADN Dominicano is the latest release of La Aurora, a cigar with an exceptional blend whose soul is the Andullo. Using this type of tobacco, La Aurora pays tribute to the oldest Dominican tobacco process and although little known today is deeply ingrained as an essential part of the Dominican Republic’s tobacco culture and its processing practices for hundreds of years.
ADN is the Spanish translation of DNA, and La Aurora, being the Dominican Republic’s oldest cigar manufacturer, presents us with a tasty recollection of the genetic history of tobacco usage in the DR. What makes this old-is-new-again tobacco unique is the fermentation process. Instead of stacking the tobacco in the large pilones traditionally used, Andullo tobacco is rolled into long cylinders called yaguas—which are wrapped in palm leaves and tied down and rooted to the ground with pressure. Like many atypical tobacco processes, this is a labor-intensive and low yielding method.
La Aurora ADN Dominicana does not mark the first time Andullo tobacco—a style typically used in pipe tobacco or chewing tobacco—has been used in a cigar. In fact, La Aurora has used this tobacco for private label blends in the past. What makes the ADN Dominicana unique is its use of whole, long-filler leaves of Andullo, rather than the mixed filler versions of the past.
La Aurora, with this new release has rescued the use of Andullo as an essential and unique component in the cigar filler by using it as a whole leaf in the filler. Andullo is a hard-to-work tobacco that is unique in cigar making; its strength, inspiring aroma and sweetness, combined with a well-balanced blend provides a completely exceptional smoking experience.
Video provided by La Aurora
Can I just mention that, sometimes, coming up with new ways to say “brown” can be the hardest part of a cigar review? This cigar sports a beautiful, rich, caramel-brown wrapper that, when seen in the sunshine, has a sheen of oil that gives the leaf the appearance of an old copper penny. There’s a definite heft to this cigar, and the bunch is rock-solid. The wrapper seems to be stretched too tight, which concerns me somewhat. I wouldn’t say it has a toothy feel to it, more like it’s been dusted with flour. The binder has some pretty hefty veins pressing through the otherwise flawless-looking wrapper. I don’t see anything, either at the foot or from the clipped cap, that would visibly identify the cigar as containing a special leaf; all is uniform in appearance. I really like the asymmetrical shape of the band and the usage of the flag, which gives big and bright hits of color to back the warm-toned lion emblem—very eye-catching.
This is billed as a toro, but it’s both slightly shorter and fatter than the classic toro designation (6” x 50). I guess that some flexibility in the nomenclature is better than every single variance of size having it’s own name, so I’ll quit whining and move on.
The aromas from the wrapper bring to mind fairly generic, albeit pleasant, sweet tobacco and milk chocolate, as well as a fruit chew candy. There’s more fruitiness from the foot, with a nose-tingling hot pepper. The slightly-too-tight cold draw presents more fruitiness, reminiscent of a slice of chewy, dried mango or guava, backed with more generic tobacco.
The first impression here isn’t overwhelming. There’s a nice medium strength and spicy pepper through the retrohale, while the palate shows lots of roasty nuts, black pepper, and some grape-like fruit sweetness. This is the basis of the profile for a good portion of the cigar’s beginning. Drilling down on the nuttiness, it is somewhere in the middle of a Venn diagram of nutty, woody, and earthy components—more of a roasted peanut shell than the actual nut itself. Some raw cocoa powder notes keep the earthy component from being simply dirt flavored. The burn immediately gets wavy, and requires a couple of touch-ups before getting to the one-inch marker. The draw seems to start on the tight side of “okay” and quickly gets worse (not all samples showed this quality, but there were enough to warrant a mention). Smoke output is frustratingly lacking, due to the draw, and strength and flavor are on the light end of medium.
Into the second third, I notice an immediate shift of the flavor profile after some minor touch-ups/adjustments. There is a much improved savory, tangy bbq sauce that showcases smoky tamarind, charred sweet onions, molasses, and earthy cacao. Unfortunately, as the flavor improves, the construction faults worsen. Nearing the halfway point, the wrapper splits at the burn line, heading down towards the cigar band. With the split, the cigar has gained a couple points in ring gauge—it’s 54 at the head, and about 58 at the burn line. I delay removing the band in hopes that it’ll hold the cigar together, sliding it downward as the cigar burns closer. The burn line is still as wavy as the distant Rocky Mountains. A couple more touch-ups are required before getting to the final third. Despite this, the flavors continue to improve (including a surprising note of crispy, smokey bacon). The fruitiness remains, making the experience mouthwateringly pleasant and very well balanced, hitting savory/sweet/bitter/tangy in perfect harmony. At the end of the second third the profile is comfortably medium strength.
Moving into the final third, it’s a fantastic combination of smoky tamarind Mexican candy, ballpark peanuts, darjeeling tea, and savory meat drippings. Thankfully, there are improvements in the draw and construction at this point. I notice an extremely thick midrib from the binder leaf (it’s practically a twig!), which is poking through the wrapper at the base of the crack. It seems to be peeling off from the cigar, extending outward a quarter of an inch, and it eventually falls off. With this gone, the cracking issue is resolved. The cigar’s draw seems to dramatically improve around the same timeframe. At this point I reflect on the other samples I’d smoked a month prior and how they tasted somewhat flat. It occurs to me that perhaps the Andullo leaf requires a bit more humidor time to ensure proper humidification and enjoyment. Nearing the end of the cigar, the strength jumps up to medium/full, which has me giddy and really enjoying the final flavors of milk chocolate, smoky tamarind, and fruity sweet tea. Unfortunately, I have to set this cigar down a little sooner than I’d like, as the last inch gets pretty mushy and hot, due to the construction issues.
I would continue to experiment with this cigar. The first samples were lacking in flavor and not particularly enjoyable, but I suspect they just needed additional time to rest in the humidor. The final sample, smoked a month later, had some excellent flavors but was plagued with draw issues and having a tremendously large midrib in the bunch—these factors together wreaked havoc on the wrapper and the draw. It is my suspicion that the Andullo tobacco may require a little drying out, and that with a day or so of dry-boxing, these issues would have been lessened, if not altogether avoided. For the price these are offered, the La Aurora ADN Dominicana certainly shows a lot of potential to be an enjoyable experience.
This article originally appeared on cigardogo.com