By now you have read and seen the fun we all all had during the first two days of Dominican Big Leaguer (DBL) Cigars tour earlier this month. As promised, I am now going to take you through the last 2 days of this spectacular event hosted by Francisco Almonte, owner of DBL Cigars in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Unlike the first two days that was all about the factory and the fields. the 3rd day of the tour was focused on the fun that Francisco’s home country has to offer. The day started with breakfast and a some cigar smoking at the host hotel and then we boarding our DBL party bus around 9:30 AM for a short hour plus drive into the mountains to visit the beautiful USA El Cinturon Jarabacoa River Club Resort.
We arrived at the welcome area and all got wrist bands to enter the resort and proceeded to walk down a rocky path to the main resort area, passing a well maintained children’s play area that reminded me of the playgrounds growing up in Long Island NY. I actually spent some time on the swing reminiscing of my youth and recalling how we used to spin for hours on the merry-go-round trying not to let go, lest we fly into the dirt.
We walked past the large resort pool, where family’s were relaxing and enjoying the morning sun, and then down a small path that took us to a foot bridge that crossed a river fed by waterfalls and rapids. Of course this bridge was the only way to the other side of the resort, and that is where the party was. The resort management said that no more than ten people can be on the bridge at one time, but we figured with some of our weight we should limit it to five at a time.
Once we broke on over to the other side, we got settled for a enjoyable afternoon of fun, swimming, food, drink and a little more domino playing. The view of the river, resort, and mountain back drop was breathtaking on the backdrop of the blue sky.
The temperature was perfect as we were up in altitude and our gracious host Francisco Almonte kicked things off by doing cliff dive into the river. Good thing he can swim, or else we would have lost him to the rapid current of the river.
The day moved on and the group all had their fare share of of fine Dominican food, drinks, swimming and dominoes until it was time to walk up the road to get back on the bus to take us to the DBL Banquet at La Canas restaurant back in Santiago.
Off To Dinner
The bus drive was much quicker than the day before and we got to the restaurant with plenty of day light to chill out some more before the dinner. La Canas has a large outdoor area where we all sat around smoking cigars and enjoying pre-dinner drinks.
The restaurant is known for their steak dinners and they did not disappoint. By the end of the meal we were all pretty tired as we headed back to the hotel and finished out the evening on the rooftop with some late night cigars and rum.
Day 4 was check out time for most of the attendees as they had flights leaving in the early afternoon. But before they all departed, we boarded our favorite party bus and headed back to the DBL Cigar factory for one more visit. Francisco once again had a little surprise for us all. After we partook in some fine Dominican coffee (DBL has like the best in Santiago) along with a wee bit of rum, Francisco presented each attendee with a diploma. Well, actually better than a diploma. He handed out personalized DBL Cigar boxes with a 5 pack sampler of his best craft. Each person was called up by name and presented the box along with a handshake and a beautiful DBL cigar lighter.
Did I mention that Francisco knows how to treat his guests. Thank You Brother – you are the best.
But wait, there is more…We also headed to the the Artesania Estrella box factory where his and many other brands boxes are made. Here is a short video collage of the factory taking us from the raw material all the way to embossing the finished boxes.
Can I get a big amen for the box guys. These men and women are a crucial spoke in the hub of the cigar industry, for without the boxes, we would have nothing but bundles, and these boxes are part of the true artisan craft that makes the premium cigar industry so special.
So after we left the box factory the final stop was to visit Francisco’s good friend, fellow domino player, and son of Radhames Rodriguez Sr. the owner of Tabacalera El Artista. Radhames Jr. was our host as he took us on a tour of his expansive cigar manufacturing and processing facility. This is one of the largest factories in the Dominican Republic, producing millions of cigars a year both under their own name and for many small boutique and large cigar brands.
You may know them by some of their own brands such as the Big Papi, Exactus, and most recently the Cimarron, which was rated a 92 on Stogie Press.Rahm Jr. made sure we all had plenty of samples of the Cimarron to last us for the rest of our tour as we walked his factory and processing facility.
After the tour, those that remained, as some had to leave for their flights, headed over to Rham Sr.’s domino hut where we just relaxed with a late lunch, smoked cigars, and indulged in some more cervaza and rum as the group continued to thin out leaving for the airport. As for me and a few stragglers, that were leaving the next day, we hung around as local domino players came over for their evening of games.
Eventually, Francisco gathered the few of us remaining and we headed over to the high end Noah restaurant in Santiago, off Monument Square, to indulge in our final meal before heading back to the hotel and ultimately catching an early morning flight back to the states.
All in all, I would like to say a sincere thank you to Francisco and all his team at DBL Cigars for treating us to a stupendous and relaxing excursion to his home country of the Dominican Republic. I thank Kedwin Estrella and his partner Lic Miguel A Martinez from Artesania Estrella for enlightening us all in the craft of cigar box making. Last but least, I also would like to thank Radhames Rodriguez Jr. for his warm hospitality for a few hours at the end of the tour and adding just that much more to an already action packed event.
I enjoyed every minute of my time in the Dominican Republic, and like all great cigar events, it was nice to meet the many folks we share social media posts with and further bond over this thing we call the Brothers and Sisters of the leaf.