Cigar Co., of Austin, Texas, has announced the grand opening of its
Cigar Rollers School, also in Austin. Intensive seven and ten day courses,
taught by Dominican-trained rollers, are available. These rollers are
also available for in-store demonstrations. Courses include all aspects
of rolling, from leaf preparation to finished product. All supplies,
equipment, and leaf are available to course graduates. Contact Jeff
Lipton at Bobalu Cigar Co.
manufacturers outside of Cuba have tried for more than four decades to
reproduce the heady, distinct flavor of the Cuban cigar. Their efforts, even
by tobacco-growing families who fled Cuba in the late 1950s and early 1960s
with a stock of seed to set up farms in other countries, have met with varying
degrees of success. While many premium cigars with tobacco grown in the Dominican
Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and elsewhere provide excellent, nuanced
flavor, none has yet matched the taste unique to Cuban cigars.
that cigar makers don't keep trying.
most recent attempts to replicate the Cuban flavor involves the legendary
Cuban Corojo wrapper, varieties of which have found their way in recent years
to tobacco farms in Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic.
Varying challenges exist, however, about the authenticity of the Corojo tobacco
being grown outside Cuba.
the ironies is that as Corojo wrapper has become more popular outside Cuba,
Cuba has stopped growing the leaf because of its susceptibility to disease.
In Cuba, Corojo has been replaced with Habana 2000, Criollo Especial, and
other varieties of wrapper. Nonetheless, it's popularity among growers outside
of Cuba continues to flourish.
it adds a flavor element to non-Cuban cigars that gives it a certain taste
texture that resembles Cuban cigars," says Steve Barbella, president
of Gran Reserve Cigars Inc., Syosset, N.Y., manufacturer of Breton Corojo
Vintage and Corojo 2000 brands.
definitely not a cigar for everyone," says Selim Hanono, national sales
manager for Caribe Imported Cigars Inc., Miami, manufacturer of the Camacho
Corojo brand. "It's only going to appeal to the full-bodied cigar smoker,
or the smoker who likes the taste of a Cuban cigar."
Corojo plant is named for El Corojo Vega - the Cuban plantation where it was
developed in the 1930s to produce just one type of leaf, the wrapper for Cuban-made
appears to have emerged outside Cuba in the late 1990s with some degree of
mystery. For several years, manufacturers had whispered about growers who
were experimenting with second-generation Cuban seed in Mexico and Central
America. Some tales had the tobacco being grown for cigars to be manufactured
in Cuban factories - a circumstance to which, for reasons of national pride,
Fidel Castro's government would never admit. Cuban tobacco officials continue
to insist that Cuban cigars are made with tobacco grown only in Cuba. Published
reports suggest Cuba stopped growing the Corojo leaf in 1997 because of its
susceptibility blue mold and black shank disease.
talked about Corojo seeds being purloined from Cuba in envelopes stuck in
a visitor's back pockets or vials of seeds being handed to them furtively
on the airport tarmac in Havana.
how the seed migrated from Cuba, Corojo is now grown in Honduras, Nicaragua,
Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic, and is used by a handful of companies,
primarily to augment other brands in their line-up.
the Corojo leaf is delicate and difficult to work with, both in the fields
and on the rolling tables. Typically only the top set of leaves on the Corojo
plant has the quality to become a wrapper.
outside Cuba also are experiencing some of the same difficulties with Corojo
that Cuban farmers had. "It is a very expensive leaf to grow," says
Barbella, whose company grows Corojo on a farm in the Dominican Republic for
its Corojo 2000 and Breton Corojo Vintage brands. The later is named for Pedro
Breton, who developed the Corojo leaf grown in the Dominican Republic and
who currently is the country's minister of tobacco. "It doesn't get much
density and it is a very, very perishable leaf that requires a lot of attention,"
Wood, president of Burlwood Group Inc., manufacturer of La Pearla Habana cigars,
says he abandoned using Corojo as wrapper in La Pearla Habana's Black Pearl,
but continues to use the leaf as filler. "It didn't work for us, because
we couldn't keep up with the supply," Wood says. "We switched to
Connecticut broadleaf. That worked much better for us."
Perla began adding Corojo as filler to the Black Pearl ($8.80 retail) last
year, and plans to introduce two new sizes at the RTDA show in Tampa. "I
always look for flavor in a cigar," Wood says. "Corojo appeals to
me as a filler because of its flavor and its strength."
Imported Cigars president Christian Eiroa questions whether tobacco other
than that developed by agriculturist Diego Rodriguez on the Corojo plantation
in Cuba can be called Corojo. "Mostly what people call Corojo was developed
at the experimental station in Cuba," Eiroa says. "They call it
Corojo 98. It is revamped Habana 2000 and we suspect it is a blend of Habanos
and Connecticut wrapper."
nature, the yield on an acre of Corojo tobacco is less than a quarter that
of Connecticut shade tobacco, which is one of the reasons that it is grown
in limited quantities. "The problem with authentic Corojo is that it
is not commercially viable," Eiroa says.
who unsuccessfully attempted to register Corojo as a trademark after debuting
the Camacho Corojo ($3.95 to $5.95, retail), grows a plot of second-generation
Cuban Corojo seeds on a 1,000-acre farm in Danl’, Honduras with his
father Julio. Eiroa says that the Corojo used in Caribe cigars was acquired
from Rodriguez' family and that the company needed four years after acquiring
Cuban Corojo seed before a crop came in that was of sufficient quality to
produce a cigar line. Caribe uses Corojo not suited to be wrapper as filler
in the seven sizes of its Camacho Habano line ($2.85 to $4.70, retail).
Chiusano, president of DomRey Cigar Ltd., Sarasota, Fla., manufacturer of
four sizes ($2.99 to $3.89, retail) in the Cusano Corojo brand, disagrees
with Eiroa that only the strain of Corojo originating at El Corojo Vega should
bear the name Corojo.
split hairs and say our Corojo is not the original, non-resistant strain,
I will grant him that," says Chiusano. "The way I would officially
reference what we are talking about is that our Corojo, grown in Ecuador,
is genetically altered to make it disease resistant." Chiusano added
that Cuban agriculturists attempted unsuccessfully for years to crossbreed
Corojo plants with other tobacco to provide resistance to blue mold and black
shank. "You can make an orange pest-resistant without turning it into
something other than an orange," Chiusano says. "Cubans have crossed
Corojo with a number of other seeds."
Although General Cigar Co. subsidiary Villain & Co. manufacturers the
Punch Rare Corojo, the company doesn't claim to be using a Corojo leaf as
wrapper. "A real Corojo would have been seed grown on the plantation
in Cuba," says Sherwin Seltzer, vice president of special sales and trade
development for General Cigar. "So, of course, it's not."
however, describes the Punch Rare Corojo wrapper as a "special"
Ecuadorian-grown Sumatra leaf - leaving the impression that the Punch Rare
Corojo wrapper has Corojo origins.
advertising literature goes a bit further as it talks about its subsidiary,
Villain, years ago offering a limited-production Corojo cigar. The literature
promotes the Punch Rare Corojo as being "...more robust and flavor-rich
than the original."
says the company was aiming to market the dark red color of the Sumatra wrapper
- a primary characteristic it shares with Corojo. "It was the color we
were after," he says. "Many, many years ago, Villain made this color
wrapper and then it stopped selling. We developed some recently in an attempt
to revive this particular color.
made 600,000 and we sold them all out. We have more of the tobacco, but we
aren't going to bring it back until next year."
Borhani, president of Tony Borhani Cigars Inc., manufacturer of Bahia Cigars,
says the company last year replaced the Ecuadorian-grown Sumatra wrapper in
the five cigars ($6 to $8, retail) that comprise its Trinidad brand with a
is not all Corojo," says Borhani, who this summer moved the manufacturing
of Trinidad and the company's other brands from Costa Rica to Nicaragua. "It
is somewhat immune to most diseases, but it retained the spices and the flavor.
We can use 90 percent of the crop, which is amazing considering the problems
the Cubans had growing Corojo."
definitely is not a light cigar," Borhani says. "But it smokes very
mild, which means it has no harshness.
grew the first 20 acres in Ecuador. Although the first year was decent; the
second year was exceptional."
Mark Ginzo, chairman of Brown Lean Inc., Gunthersville, Ala., says the company
grows original Corojo leaf obtained in Cuba on its own 550-acre plantation
near Navarrete, in the Dominican Republic for the six cigars in its Yumuri
Colorado brand ($3.75 to $7.50, retail), which came to the market in January.
"We got the seed from Cuba about five years ago," Ginzo says. "The
tobacco was ready to be used about a year ago. Curing alone takes two or two-and-a-half
are one of the companies that uses true Cuban seed. We will change our seed
every two or three years so that there is no cross pollination. We use all
of our Corojo in our own cigars."
Lipton, president of Bobalu Cigar Co. Inc., Austin, Texas, compares the shade-grown
Corojo grown for his company in Nicaragua to the Connecticut shade wrapper.
"But it's got a lot more spicy taste to it," Lipton says. "We
like working with it, although some of the other wrappers might be easier.
We found that it burns very well."
wrapper is found in the Bobalu Orange Label in five sizes ($4.50 to $7.95,
retail) that make up part of ten different Bobalu blends, each distinguished
by the color of its label.
cigars are manufactured both in the Dominican Republic and by a small cadre
of rollers Bobalu employs in Austin.
isn't convinced that smokers will be drawn to a brand because of the origins
of its wrapper. "Most people don't know what Corojo is," Lipton
says. "What they know is that they are smoking a cigar that gives them
a strong flavor and a better idea how a Cuban cigar tastes."
says that Bobalu, which manufactured about 300,000 cigars a year, intends
to make 50,000 cigars with Corojo wrappers this year.
close as cigar makers outside Cuba may be to duplicating the Cuban cigar,
"It's hard to replicate the blend," Lipton says, adding: "It's
never been done yet."