The Best Kept Secret of Tamboril
PDR Cigars (formerly known as Pinar Del Rio Cigars under Don Leoncio Cigars) is a boutique cigar manufacturer based out of Tamboril near Santiago in the Dominican Republic. For the last ten years, PDR has risen to prominence amongst cigar industrialists and aficionados for its consistently well-constructed brands, such as the A. Flores 1975 or the PDR 1878, as well as dozens of phenomenal contract cigars, such as Gurkha and La Palina. In 2013 and 2014, PDR won awards in the Robb Report and Cigar Aficionado for having some of the best cigars in the world. Despite being a smaller manufacturer in the world of Dominican giants, PDR punches well above its weight class thanks to the leadership and vision of Abe Flores, the company’s president and master blender. As the company website suggests, PDR is the industry’s best kept secret.
This halcyon period of PDR’s manufacturing history is especially surprising given the youth of the company and the comparatively large number of hurdles Abe Flores has overcome. Founded in 2004, Flores borders on being a millennial and likely is still known as a “kid” in the cigar industry. Indeed, Flores got his foot in the door as a graphic designer for cigar retail websites during the dot-com bubble and cigar boom in 1990’s. Nevertheless, Flores has proven a superior disciple of the industry. Taking guidance from Tabacalera Palma’s master blender Jochy Blanco and his own grandfather, a tobacco farmer who lived in the mountains of Bonao in the Dominican Republic, Flores is a highly respected cigar manufacturer. Producing fewer than ten million cigars a year, Flores’s operation allows him to have greater control over the quality of his cigars. This results in phenomenal boutique cigars known for good construction, good draw (thanks to a strict entubado standard for filler bunching), and phenomenal bouquet.
Salad Days with Aged Tobacco
PDR 1878, named after the founding of the Cuban province Pinar del Rio in 1878, was Flores’s first critical success. Released in 2009, PDR 1878 moved so quickly the boutique factory scaled up to a new 40,000 ft^2 facility to accommodate more rollers. The cigar was a blend of aged Cuban-seed tobaccos (e.g., Criollo-1998 or Piloto Cubano) grown in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The wrapper leaf for the PDR 1878 is a carefully selected Connecticut Shade, Ecuadorian Habano, Mexican San Andreas, or Brazilian Arapiraca capa. Of these cigars, the Brazilian Arapiraca or Capa Madura would go on to inspire one of the most successful line extensions in the boutique cigar world: PDR 1878 Café.
The PDR 1878 Café Dark Roast is a line extension of Abe Flores’s PDR 1878 cigar brand of Dominican handmade, long-filler cigars. The cigar features a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper, similar to the original PDR 1878. However, the café’s wrapper is naturally sweetened with cane sugar to give the cigar a more pleasant aroma for cigar aficionados unaccustomed to the heavier bouquet of Arapiraca. The sweetened tip and natural coffee flavor infusion gives the aficionado an amazing smoking experience from end to end. This cigar represents a bridge for a nascent aficionado seeking to move from infused or smoother shade wrapper cigars to fuller-bodied cigars while remaining in the realm of the boutique where construction and consistency have a greater sense of urgency compared to larger-scale manufacturers. Three cigars in the toro vitola, 6×52, were smoked for the sake of this review. None of the cigars smoked for this review had any draw or burn rate issues.
From the Aging Room to the Coffee Shop
At a glance, the cigar holds great promise. The wrapper is a beautiful chocolate-brown hue with faint veins and a nicely formed pig-tail cap which can be cut or peeled off. The aroma of the cigar pre-lighting smells very strongly of dark chocolate, dark fruit, and espresso coffee. Upon touching the wrapper to your lips, the aficionado is met with the grassy taste of the tobacco married with the sugary flavor of the sweetened tip. The cold draw of the cigar conjures forth the cash crops and botanicals of Latin America: chocolate, tobacco, sugar cane, coffee, vanilla, and tamarind. This is a very rich and aromatic cigar. The cigar aficionado should take care to taste the first few puffs of the cigar as the PDM 1878 Café has an untrimmed foot, allowing the aficionado to taste the wrapper exclusively. The cigar lights evenly and takes a few puffs to toast and begin burning in earnest.
The first third of the cigar retains the rich bouquet of chocolate and sweetened coffee evident in the cold draw. However, the saliva of the cigar aficionado neutralizes the sweetened tip of the cigar as it burns towards the second and final thirds of the cigar. The flavor, as a result, transforms into something akin to the original PDR 1878, albeit with a smoother bouquet and a more palatable retrohale. The Café, then, is not an infused cigar in the sense that the infusion comes first and totally smothers the tobacco. Instead, it brings forth the best elements of that rich blend of Brazilian, Dominican, and Nicaraguan tobaccos and marries them to the flavor of café con leche while smoothing out the sharper edges inherent in the Nicaraguan terroir. Furthermore, the cigar is available on www.lmcigars.com in boxes of twenty or as part of a five cigar sampler pack.