You may have seen them on social media, you may have read my reviews of them, you may even have smoked some but to fully appreciate what Dominican Big Leaguer cigars has to offer, you need to visit their factory in Santiago in the Dominican Republic.
It was the second day of our visit to Santiago and while my buddy’s had their agenda I had one also. I needed to visit a few select factories during our visit. I especially needed to visit one of my sponsors – Dominican Big Leaguer (DBL) Cigars. We had a 12 noon appointment with DBL. The directions I received from my friend and Owner of DBL, Francisco Almonte, were typical for Santiago:
- ask for the La Flor Dominicana factory
- after the gas station turn left
- look for the municipal baseball park
- after passing the baseball park take the third entrance on the right
- you will see a red building with the DBL logo on it
I am glad Bernardo our driver understood that. I thought it would be easier to just tell him Avenida Presidente deVasquez #37 – Los Pizones, Tamboril, Santiago, but Ryan just said nope, it’s “Santiago” . That became the code word every time, something just didn’t make sense – Santiago! We pulled up a few minutes after 12 noon and the place looked closed. I told the guys, no way, and proceeded to walk up the long stair case that ended at the door of the factory. Looking over at Ryan I just had to say, with a Boston Jimmie smirk, “Santiago!”
Having been in two rather large factories so far, I was surprised how modest and unpretentious the DBL factory was. Yes, this is what boutique is! Since Francisco was not in country the week we visited, his brother Martin greeted us cordially as we sat down and enjoyed some amazing (actually the best), Dominican coffee in town. I have had only one other Espresso since we landed, but Ryan was impressed and he visits the country often so I will agree.
As we sat around a small coffee table and chairs, Martin spoke to us about DBL Cigars and the family operation that it is. I have to give a big shout out to Bernardo as he was able to do some English-Spanish translations as we sipped coffee and smoke some fine DBL cigars.
As the story goes, Dominican Big Leaguer (DBL) cigars was founded by Francisco Almonte in 2013, who learned the art, craftsmanship, and business of cigars while working for two giants in the industry, Carlos Fuente (A. Fuente Cigars) and Litto Gomez (La Flor Dominican Cigars). His brother Martin spent 19 years with A. Fuente where he was the supervisor of quality of the Hall Of Fame Room where Carlito made the Opus X, Hemingway, Don Carlos and others. Francisco and Martin have been growing the DBL brand for 3 years now.
Their humble factory in the heart of the cigar capital has grown to 22 employees in the factory including have 7 torcedors (cigar rollers) that pump out 6000 cigar per week and are on target to producing 300,000 cigars this year.
Having a man like Martin on the floor is critical to the quality that every DBL cigar demonstrates. It not just your every day vitolas that this factory produces either. They have experienced torcedors that produce special limited edition vitolas like the signature baseball bat cigar and special perfectos. Each one demonstrating their craft.
Since starting operation in 2013, Francisco and his brother Martin have not only been producing some of the finest cigars on the market, but they contribute back to their community, never forgetting where they came from. DBL has supported local children by bringing to them an opportunity to learn a special craft in their life. After school they teach them about the business, about making cigars, and DBL supports them with some bonuses to motivate them. The company wants to very hard to support the children in the Dominican Republic.
I learned this is not just a factory but DBL owns thier own farms, in fact they have over 25 acres of tobacco fields in the Dominican Republic where they grow Piloto Cubano, Corojo 99, Criollo 98, and Habano leaf which are all used in their cigars. The plan is to grow this to 49 acres this year. Business is good for DBL.
They also purchase leaf both inside and outside the country. It is interesting to note that any leaf they buy, they put through a second fermentation process.
Martin took us a walk through the factory. The first floor, where we were meeting, is where the leaf is sorted out and classified by color and quality to determine wrapper, filler, and binder leaf. There are 7 rolling tables which is the center of attraction. The aging room is located on the first floor also. Here is where they store the cigars prior to boxing them. DBL cigars are kept in the aging room for 6 months before being packaged and shipped to the consumer.
The second floor is where they do the fermentation. There a couple of rooms dedicated to this process. If you have ever been in a fermentation room you will know why you always want to smell the foot of a cigar for ammonia. You can be knocked out with the ammonia that exhausts from this process.
So if you smell ammonia on that foot it means the fermentation may not have been complete. This is why DBL does a second fermentation on anything they purchase.
Also on the second floor is a where the leaf is deveined before being sent down to the sorting area on the 1st floor. Deveining is where you remove the center vein from the leaf.
As we head back down to the meeting area, Martin handed me a La Hoja 1962 Creama box pressed torpedo. I looked up and asked; “Do you make this cigar too?”. Martin smiled and said; “yes they do!”
So we sat down and smoked another cigar and chatted for a while longer drinking some more delicious coffee. I asked about what is next for DBL with respect to new blends. The first is the DBL #2 that is a small box pressed torpedo and they are working on finishing the blend for the “2nd generation” to compliment their “1st Generation cigar”. Martin gave me some samples of the new #2 which I will have a review up soon.
Meanwhile, if your local shop carries DBL, you should try them if you have not already. Of course if they don’t, you may want to ask them about getting the brand in.